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May 17, 2021

How The Military Slow Rolled Trump

Axios has a series of deep dives into the last two and a half months of the Trump administration. Yesterday it publish Episode 9: Trump's war with his generals which explains how a weak Trump was pushed and tricked into approving policies which were contrary to his own preferences and instincts:

Once in office, though, Trump's ambitions to withdraw from Afghanistan and other countries were subdued, slow-rolled, and detoured by military leaders.

Trump was not assertive enough to use the power of his office to get things done. He also was not smart enough to beat the deep state in its own game.

As Kelley Vlahos of Responsible Statecraft comments:

This is an important read, which also includes new speculation about whether Gen. Milley was actively working against the civilian leadership in the Pentagon during this period. Interestingly, while Trump was railing about “stop the steal” he wasn’t doing what everyone had accused him of doing on the military side: he wasn’t using Macgregor, Miller, et al., to stay in office. Rather, he seemed to believe that following through with his pledge to “end forever wars” would be the ultimate revenge against Esper, Milley, and Generals H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis. Too bad he did not achieve this one post-election fantasy.


Posted by b at 15:13 UTC | Comments (73)

May 16, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-037

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

>  In a recent book, Luke Harding, an investigative reporter at The Guardian, described how Mr. Steele had dispatched his “collector” to surreptitiously approach a real estate broker, Sergei Millian, who was a peripheral figure in the Trump/Russia saga. “Millian spoke at length and privately to this person, believing him or her to be trustworthy — a kindred soul,” Mr. Harding wrote.

But the trouble for Mr. Harding, who is close to both Mr. Steele and Mr. Simpson, was that he wrote those lines before the release of the F.B.I. interview of Mr. Danchenko.

In the interview, the collector said that he and Mr. Millian might have spoken briefly over the phone, but that the two had never met.

Mr. Harding did not respond to requests for comment.  <

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-037

Posted by b at 13:15 UTC | Comments (178)

May 15, 2021

Israel Punishes Media For Reporting Its Escalation In Palestine

Today is Nakba day which commemorates the violent expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes which began 74 years ago and is still continuing.

Just yesterday Fares Akram. Associated Press reporter in Gaza, wrote in a diary about his families expulsion and his life under colonist bombing:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — On Friday morning, a military airstrike smashed my family’s farm in the northern Gaza Strip into a jagged mass of metal and splintered trees. An Israeli bomb had slammed into the yard, carving a crater into the dirt and leaving rubble in its wake.

The conflict, once again, hit home.

The first Gaza war taught me that while our lush citrus grove might offer some breathing space from the congestion and difficulties of city life, it’s no refuge. A previous Israeli airstrike killed my father, Akram al-Ghoul, on January 3, 2009. As fighting raged, he’d insisted on sleeping at the farm to tend to the cattle and chicken, and to nurture the trees.

In all, six of my relatives, three close friends and several colleagues have died in the three bloody wars and countless battles between Israel and Hamas. Each time the violence erupts and I report as a journalist on the people who lost their homes, their children or their lives, the memories creep back. I always think, “That could be me.” When the thundering bombs, buzzing drones and pounding artillery refresh the pain and trigger the old fear, I seek refuge in work.

The Associated Press office is the only place in Gaza City I feel somewhat safe. The Israeli military has the coordinates of the high-rise, so it’s less likely a bomb will bring it crashing down.

Today Fares Akram and Joseph Krauss report:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets hours after another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children, on Saturday.

The strike on the high-rise came nearly an hour after the military ordered people to evacuate the 12-story building, which also housed Al-Jazeera, other offices and residential apartments. The strike brought down the entire structure, which collapsed in a gigantic cloud of dust. There was no immediate explanation for why it was attacked.

This was the second high rise housing media studios, offices, telecommunication equipment as well as residential apartments that Israel destroyed in its current attack.

Earlier today AP had accused the Israeli military of intentionally misinforming the media to trick the resistance in Gaza. (The trick did not work.)

In a statement AP's president condemned today's strike and wrote:

The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.

Well, yes. The Israeli military will congratulate itself for achieving that aim.

Tow days ago I developed the idea that the resistance, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Hizbullah in Lebanon and Ansar Allah in Yemen, may be planing more of the events than a superficial view reveals:

Cont. reading: Israel Punishes Media For Reporting Its Escalation In Palestine

Posted by b at 15:37 UTC | Comments (205)

May 14, 2021

Turning The Clock Back To 2001 - CIA, Others Prepare A New Resistance Against The Taliban

On September 9 2001 Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander of an anti-Taliban front in north Afghanistan, was killed by two suicide bombers. Massoud, an ethnic Taijik, had fought against the Soviet occupation, then against rival warlords and finally against the Taliban. Massoud and the groups under his command controlled less than 10% of Afghanistan. They were financed by U.S., French and British secret services. (In the late 1990s Amrullah Saleh, Massouds intelligence chief, received CIA training.)

After 9/11 the CIA and U.S. special forces met with Massoud's allies, gave them lots of money to hire more fighters and supported their march on Kabul with massive airstrikes. Two month later the Taliban gave up, went home or retreated to Pakistan. The U.S. installed the various warlords and criminals who had fought under Massoud as the new government.

That was a mistake. It had been the utter criminal behavior of those warlords that had led to public support for the rise of the Taliban in the first place. To install the warlords who looted the country as government guaranteed that the Taliban would come back.

By 2006 the Taliban were back. Since then they have regained control of more than half of Afghanistan. Despite the enormous amount of 'western' firepower the U.S.and its allies applied they found no way to prevent the reestablishment of the Taliban's rule. Finally President Trump negotiated a ceasefire with the Taliban that would allow a  retreat from Afghanistan without taking further casualties.

Yesterday the last U.S. soldiers left Kandahar airport, once the largest U.S. base in south Afghanistan:

The United States has completed its withdrawal from Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, once the second largest military base in the country for US forces, officials said Friday.

Kandahar province was the birthplace of the Taliban and has in recent months seen intense clashes between the resurgent militants and Afghan forces.

US airstrikes were launched from the base just last week to help Afghan forces push back a major Taliban offensive.

“They have not officially handed over the base to us but I can confirm they left the base on Wednesday,” said Khoja Yaya Alawi, a spokesman for the Afghan army in Kandahar.

“They have handed over all the facilities to Afghan forces,” added Massoud Pashtun, the director of Kandahar Airport.

The retreat from Afghanistan does not sit well with the CIA and other secret services. They know that the Taliban will soon overwhelm the Afghan government and again rule the country. But they want to keep their foothold in Afghanistan to continue their meddling and to act against various presumed enemies be they Iran, Pakistan or China. There is also the drug business which makes for some nice off-the-books funding.

They now think about turning the situation back to September 2001 and to have a do over:

Cont. reading: Turning The Clock Back To 2001 - CIA, Others Prepare A New Resistance Against The Taliban

Posted by b at 17:51 UTC | Comments (71)

May 13, 2021

Escalation In Palestine - Hizbullah Is Ready To Join The Fight

The current war the occupiers of Palestine wage on the indigenous population has some unusual features.

While the conflict was, without doubt, started by the colonial occupiers the course of the recent escalation seems to be managed by the resistance side. It may well be part of a larger plan.

The Israeli army had for some time planned a large scale 30-days long maneuver to rehearse an attack on Hezbullah in Lebanon. Last week Hizbullah reacted to that:

The Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization has announced it is on high alert following the IDF’s launching of its largest-ever military exercise.

The IDF launched on Sunday its “Chariots of Fire” month-long exercise simulating war on several fronts, and primarily against Hezbollah in the north, including the massive firing of missiles and rockets from all arenas on the home front.

This is the largest and most comprehensive IDF maneuver in its history...

The maneuver had been announced for some time. Hizbullah has feared that the maneuver was a deception for a planned Israeli assault on Lebanon. It came at an interesting moment.

The International Day of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) was inaugurated by Imam Khomeini in 1979, the year of the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, to revive the Palestinian cause, and is celebrated on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan.

The last Friday of Ramadan was May 7. On May 5 the Secretary General of Hizbullah Hassan Nasrallah gave his yearly Al-Quds day speech:

[O]ur responsibility for Al-Quds Day is to provide all possible help to the Palestinian people, to the Palestinian Resistance; the Axis of Resistance must be even more united and attached to the cause, and it already is, it must increase its readiness (for the final war), it must strengthen itself further, because it is the Axis of Resistance that will shape the future of the Middle East.

If we follow the development of the current phase of the conflict in Palestine those words may getting a deeper meaning:

Cont. reading: Escalation In Palestine - Hizbullah Is Ready To Join The Fight

Posted by b at 19:03 UTC | Comments (245)

May 12, 2021

Open Thread 2021-036

News & views ...

Posted by b at 15:42 UTC | Comments (279)

May 11, 2021

More Hacks, More Baseless Accusations Against Russia

In January police in various countries took down the Emotet bot-network that was at that time the basic platform for some 25% of all cybercrimes.

Based on hearsay Wikipedia and other had falsely attributed Emotet to Russian actors. The real people behind it were actually Ukrainians:

The operating center of Emotet was found in the Ukraine. Today the Ukrainian national police took control of it during a raid (video). The police found dozens of computers, some hundred hard drives, about 50 kilogram of gold bars (current price ~$60,000/kg) and large amounts of money in multiple currencies.


Emotet had nothing to do with Russia.

Now the U.S. is accusing Russia of somehow having part in another cybercrime:

President Joe Biden said Monday that a Russia-based group was behind the ransomware attack that forced the shutdown of the largest oil pipeline in the eastern United States.

The FBI identified the group behind the hack of Colonial Pipeline as DarkSide, a shadowy operation that surfaced last year and attempts to lock up corporate computer systems and force companies to pay to unfreeze them.

"So far there is no evidence ... from our intelligence people that Russia is involved, although there is evidence that actors, ransomware is in Russia," Biden told reporters.

"They have some responsibility to deal with this," he said.

Three days after being forced to halt operations, Colonial said Monday it was moving toward a partial reopening of its 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) of pipeline — the largest fuel network between Texas and New York.

Biden however is badly informed. There is no evidence that DarkSide has anything to do with Russia. It is, like Emotet, a commercial 'ransomware-as-a-service' criminal entity that wants to make money and does not care about geopolitics. 

Yes, a version of the DarkNet software does exclude itself from running on system with specific language settings:

Cont. reading: More Hacks, More Baseless Accusations Against Russia

Posted by b at 17:31 UTC | Comments (87)

May 10, 2021

Escalation In Palestine

The already tense situations in Palestine escalated today:

Israeli police firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site on Monday, the latest in a series of confrontations that threatened to push the contested city toward wider conflict.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by ultranationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The marchers were ordered to avoid the area and sent on a different route circumventing the Muslim Quarter on their way to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

But tensions remained high after Monday morning’s violence.

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque [video], one of Islam’s holiest sites, as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Smoke rose in front of the mosque and the iconic golden-domed shrine on the site, and rocks littered the nearby plaza. Inside one area of the compound, shoes and debris lay scattered over ornate carpets.

More than 305 Palestinians were hurt, including 228 who went to hospitals and clinics for treatment, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Seven of the injured were in serious condition.

At the al-Aqsa mosque, Palestinian youth gathered sponge rounds,
tear gas canisters, and stun grenades that Israeli forces fired at them today and
created a model of the Dome of the Rock.
At the top, they wrote, لن تمروا -- "You will not pass."

This afternoon the Al-Qassem brigade in Gaza gave an ultimatum to the Israeli occupiers to leave the al-Aqsa compound and to release prisoners. An hour later missiles were fired from Gaza towards Jerusalem. Additionally an anti-tank missile was fired against an Israeli army jeep (vid) near the Gaza border. Later on more missile volleys were fired by other resistance groups against targets near Gaza.

The Israeli army canceled the start of a large scale maneuver it had planned to run the next 30 days. That maneuver was seen as a preparation for an all out attack on Hezbullah in Lebanon. Yesterday Hezbullah had announced a general mobilization of its forces to deter a potential surprise attack. The Israeli troops are now on alarm for a potential escalation within Israel and Gaza.

After four elections Israel still has no new government. Prime Minister Netanyahoo is on trial for corruption. A larger war that can be spun into a victory could help him to avoid a judgment and gain votes for the likely soon coming next election.

Posted by b at 15:56 UTC | Comments (157)

May 09, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-035

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> “We deny any involvement or awareness of our forces in such act,” reads a statement from the CTG sent to Rudaw English. “General Qasem Soleimani was a close friend of the late Mam Jalal [Talabani], and counter-terrorism units once fought on the frontlines against terrorism where Qasem Soleimani was also fighting.” <

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-035

Posted by b at 12:43 UTC | Comments (126)

May 08, 2021

U.S. Officials Claim That Iraqi Kurds Helped To Kill Qassam Soleimani

Yahoo has prominently posted a long piece about the early 2020 murder of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the Iraqi resistance leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

'Conspiracy is hard': Inside the Trump administration's secret plan to kill Qassem Soleimani

This article, based on interviews with 15 current and former U.S. officials, reveals new details about the Soleimani strike and the Trump administration’s long-running deliberations about killing the Iranian general and other top Iranian officials and proxies. It depicts an operation that was more sophisticated, and with a broader list of people potentially targeted for killing, than was previously known. And it describes previously unreported threats to U.S. officials in the aftermath of the strike.

MoA has extensively discussed the consequences of the assassination and most of what is said in the Yahoo piece is not new at all. That makes it suspicious.

Soleimani and Muhandis during a battle against ISIS

To recap: On January 3 2020 U.S. drones killed Major General Qassim Soleimani, the famous commander of the Iranian Quds ('Jerusalem') force, while he left the airport of Baghdad where he had just arrived. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the top leader of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, had been there to great him and to pick him up. Both had planned to attend the funeral in Najaf of the 31 Iraqi soldiers the U.S. had killed on December 29 at the Syrian-Iraqi border near Al-Qaim. Soleimani was also supposed to meet the Iraqi prime minister who at that time was a mediator in Iran-Saudi talks. Soleimani carried a letter with the Iranian response to a previous Saudi one.

In consequence of the killing of Muhandis the Iraqi parliament decided to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq. There are nearly daily attacks on U.S. forces which are still in Iraq. As revenge for the killing of Soleimani Iran and its resistance axis of Hizbullah, Syria and Ansar Islam in Yemen decided to remove all U.S. military from the Middle East. This is understood to be a decades long project.

Hardly anything of that - besides the murder of Soleimani - is mentioned in the Yahoo piece. There is not one word on Muhandis, his role in Iraq or the consequences of his death. There is no mention of the Iraqi parliament vote or of the ongoing attacks on U.S. units in Iraq.

Instead the piece prominently emphasizes alleged Kurdish collaboration in the assassination:

Cont. reading: U.S. Officials Claim That Iraqi Kurds Helped To Kill Qassam Soleimani

Posted by b at 15:50 UTC | Comments (109)