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February 25, 2021

U.S. Further Complicates Its Return To The Nuclear Deal With Iran

A week ago we found that Biden's slow walking of a U.S. return to the nuclear deal with Iran makes no sense if we presume that doing so is really his aim:

Why Is Biden Creating Himself An Iran Quagmire?

The Biden administration demands that Iran fully come back under the restrictions of the deal, to agree to an extension of some restriction under the deal and to agree to talks about its missile programs and its role in the Middle East. Only after that, says the Biden administration, would the U.S. remove some of its sanctions.

The demands are nonsense and have absolutely no chance of being fulfilled.

It is the U.S. that is in breach of the deal. Biden could simply reenter it by lifting the sanctions Trump imposed. Iran had promised that it would follow through by coming back into the technical limits of the deal. But instead of agreeing to that the Biden administration is trying to create a more complicated process by coordinating its negotiation positions with Saudi Arabia, Israel and other opponents of the deal: ...

Then came the announcement of a brigade strong deployment of NATO forces to Iraq with the obviously aim to put pressure on Iran:

It is likely that the U.S. sees the additional troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as a pressure point that can be used against Iran in the rather hopeless attempt to renegotiate the nuclear agreement with Iran into a larger surrender document. Iran will not surrender.

The NATO troops will become hostages of U.S. policies and may well take casualties.

Why the European NATO countries agreed to put themselves into this no-win situation is beyond me.

In between Iran reached an agreement with the IAEA which, under the nuclear deal, is tasked with inspecting Iran's nuclear program:

In response to the murder by Israel of Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh the conservative parliament passed a law that compels the moderate government under the Iranian President Rohani to further reduce its adherence to the JCPOA deal. As part of this the Iranian government will soon reduce the ability of the international inspectors from the IAEA to observe parts of its civilian nuclear program.

The Iranian parliament had instructed the government of President Rouhani to restrict the IAEA's activity. But Iran's President Rouhani wants to hold up good relations with the IAEA. He agreed on a compromise under which IAEA surveillance cameras, installed at various nuclear sites in Iran, will continue to work. The captured video and data will be archived for three months before it will be deleted:

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said Sunday that the two sides had reached the temporary "technical understanding" following his trip to Iran, which had recently signaled plans to scale back cooperation with the global nuclear watchdog.
...
The interim deal reached Sunday would alleviate the impact of Iran pulling out of the additional protocol, Grossi said. "What we agreed to is something that is viable, it's useful to bridge this gap that we are having now, salvages the situation now," he said.

If the U.S. returns to the deal within the next three months the IAEA will receive all the stored data. If no deal is reached the data will be deleted and the IAEA will lose insight to Iran's program. Rouhani was lambasted by conservative in the Iranian parliament for agreeing to this and for thereby giving the U.S. more time.

But neither words nor deeds by the Biden administration show a real effort to return to the deal. It presumably did not like the IAEA's effort to prolong the negotiation time frame before Iran takes stricter measures. Today it started efforts to use the IAEA to further sabotage the relation:

Cont. reading: U.S. Further Complicates Its Return To The Nuclear Deal With Iran

Posted by b at 19:06 UTC | Comments (73)

February 24, 2021

Censorship Gone Bonkers - 'Be A Good Citizen!'

Yesterday the censorship department at Twitter went bonkers.

Twitter Safety blogged: 

Disclosing networks of state-linked information operations

Today we are disclosing four networks of accounts to our archive of state-linked information operations; the only archive of its kind in the industry. The networks we are disclosing relate to independent, state-affiliated information operations that we have attributed to Armenia, Russia and a previously disclosed network from Iran.
...
Russia

Today we’re disclosing two separate networks that have Russian ties.

1. Our first investigation found and removed a network of 69 fake accounts that can be reliably tied to Russian state actors. A number of these accounts amplified narratives that were aligned with the Russian government, while another subset of the network focused on undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.
...

Be a good citizen!

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Do not amplify narratives that are aligned with the Russian government.

Do not undermine faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.

Everyone got that now?


Also this:

Cont. reading: Censorship Gone Bonkers - 'Be A Good Citizen!'

Posted by b at 15:16 UTC | Comments (137)

February 23, 2021

Biden Commits To Forever War On Afghanistan

The forever war on Afghanistan will continue.

The U.S. and its NATO proxy force have spent nearly 20 years and a trillion dollars to "do something" in Afghanistan. What that something was to be was never clear. There were attempts to impose some kind of enlightened model of governance on the Afghan people. But anyone with knowledge of that country knew that this would never work.

Bribes were handed out left and right and Afghan warlords, many of whom hold government positions, enriched themselves by scamming the occupation forces. They naturally do not want that to end. There are also Afghans who do not want to live under the heel of corrupt warlords and ignorant occupation troops. They are called Taliban and get support from Pakistan and Arab countries which the U.S. calls 'allies'. The occupation forces tried to fight them but after nearly 20 years of wars the Taliban again rule over half of the country. Even while the warlords still have military support from the occupation forces their troops are losing in nearly every engagement.

Militarily the war against the Taliban has long been lost. Even with the 100,000 'western' troops the Obama administration had sent there was no way to win it.

President Donald Trump made efforts to end the useless war on Afghanistan. He negotiated with the Taliban to remove all 'western' forces by May 1. The agreement also commits the Taliban to not attacking those forces and to negotiate with the warlord government in Kabul on power sharing. They agreed to that after the U.S. promised that Taliban prisoners of war, held by the Afghan government, would be released.

The Afghan government had and has of course no interest in losing power. At least not as long as still gets sponsored by 'western' money. It also did not want to let prisoners go as those would just turn around and again fight against it. A year ago the Trump administration threatened to withhold money should the Afghan government not follow the negotiated terms:

Facing collapse of Afghan peace talks before they even start, the Trump administration has threatened to withhold up to $2 billion in aid unless President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival put aside their political differences and open negotiations with the Taliban.
...
The threat was the sharpest sign yet that the Trump administration is distancing itself from its Afghan ally and moving closer to the Taliban. The longtime U.S. adversary has in effect become a wary partner as President Trump seeks to withdraw thousands of American troops before the November election and end America’s longest war.
...
The Kabul government is heavily dependent on international assistance. U.S. aid was expected to total $4.3 billion this year, all but $500 million of which was earmarked for training and equipping the Afghan army.

The threat worked as expected. But when it became clear that a new management would take over the White House the Afghan government again tried to stall the process. Today the talks resumed but they are unlikely to achieve any results:

Cont. reading: Biden Commits To Forever War On Afghanistan

Posted by b at 17:19 UTC | Comments (135)

February 21, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-015

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> [E]very U.S. president since Bill Clinton has, at Israeli insistence, signed a secret letter upon entering office that effectively pledges the United States will not “press the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons so long as it continued to face existential threats in the region.”
...
the U.S. government has promulgated a regulation—described in the U.S. Energy Department’s Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities—that threatens government employees with severe punishment if they acknowledge Israel has nuclear weapons. Naturally, the regulation is withheld from public release. <
> "Nothing has changed. Biden claims that Trump's policy of maximum pressure was maximum failure... But for all practical purposes, they are pursuing the same policy," he said.
...
Elsewhere in his remarks, Zarif said that those alleging that the JCPOA has to encompass more subject matters than it already has should be sure that it will “absolutely not.”

The US and some of its regional allies have demanded that Iran’s missile program and regional influence be included in the nuclear talks. Tehran has roundly rejected any such prospect, saying it will not renegotiate “a done deal” and that its defensive activities and regional might are not open to any negotiation. <

> And in fact, Joe Biden’s administration will not cancel anything which was done by Donald Trump except for leaving the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Democrats are returning there now. <

---
Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-015

Posted by b at 13:45 UTC | Comments (333)

February 20, 2021

NATO Deployments To Iraq Are Supposed To Put Pressure On Iran - They Will Instead Become Hostages

The U.S. is increasing pressure on Iran by surrounding it with NATO troops.

On Thursday, after a meeting of NATO defense ministers, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced a larger occupation force for Iraq:

Today, we decided to expand NATO’s training mission in Iraq. To support the Iraqi forces as they fight terrorism and ensure that ISIS does not return.

The size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000. And training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions, and areas beyond Baghdad.

Our presence is conditions-based, and increases in troop numbers will be incremental.

Our mission is at the request of the Iraqi government. It is carried out with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I spoke with Prime Minister Al—Kadhimi this week and assured him that everything will be done in full consultation with the Iraqi authorities.

There is no doubt that the idea for this is coming from the U.S. side:

Earlier this week, a senior US defense official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that Pentagon leadership was “enthusiastic about and welcomes NATO’s increased focus on Iraq.”

Al-Kadhimi is a weak prime minister Iraq has asked for a new $6 billion IMF loan. The U.S. will have conditioned that on a request for an 'incremental' NATO occupation force.

After the U.S. murder of Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January 2020 the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution that called for all foreign troops to leave the country. The U.S. has ignored that. Resistance fighters in Iraq then started to fire missiles on U.S. occupied encampments. Earlier this week a rocket barrage hit a U.S. base in Erbil:

Cont. reading: NATO Deployments To Iraq Are Supposed To Put Pressure On Iran - They Will Instead Become Hostages

Posted by b at 17:41 UTC | Comments (129)

February 19, 2021

The No Change Presidency

After a month as president Joe Biden has already broken several major campaign promises.

There will be:

  • No $2,000 checks.
  • No minimum wage rises.
  • No student debt forgiveness.
  • No halting of deportations.
  • No end of the war on Yemen.
  • No return to the JCPOA.

As Alan MacLeod summarizes:

Biden began his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in June 2019 at a Manhattan hotel, telling wealthy donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” under his presidency. After one month in office, it appears as if that is one campaign promise he is likely to keep.

The U.S. will also continue its wars on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

We are left to guess where, not if, Biden will start another one.

Posted by b at 18:46 UTC | Comments (148)

February 18, 2021

Why Is Biden Creating Himself An Iran Quagmire?

Since he came to power President Joe Biden has done nothing to revive the nuclear agreement with Iran. The JCPOA was breached by the U.S. in 2018 when then President Trump left the deal and renewed a 'maximum pressure' sanction campaign against Iran. For over a year Iran stuck to its commitment under the deal. It then began to gradually exceed some of the technical limits of the deal. Those step were legal under the JCPOA because the U.S. had left the deal. All of them are reversible.

In response to the murder by Israel of Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh the conservative parliament passed a law that compels the moderate government under the Iranian President Rohani to further reduce its adherence to the JCPOA deal. As part of this the Iranian government will soon reduce the ability of the international inspectors from the IAEA to observe parts of its civilian nuclear program. As the Ambassador of Iran to the UN announced:

Gharibabadi @Gharibabadi - 16:11 UTC · Feb 15, 2021

Act of Parliament will be executed on time (23 Feb) and the IAEA has been informed today to ensure the smooth transition to a new course in due time. After all, goodwill brings about goodwill!

The Biden administration demands that Iran fully come back under the restrictions of the deal, to agree to an extension of some restriction under the deal and to agree to talks about its missile programs and its role in the Middle East. Only after that, says the Biden administration, would the U.S. remove some of its sanctions.

The demands are nonsense and have absolutely no chance of being fulfilled.

It is the U.S. that is in breach of the deal. Biden could simply reenter it by lifting the sanctions Trump imposed. Iran had promised that it would follow through by coming back into the technical limits of the deal. But instead of agreeing to that the Biden administration is trying to create a more complicated process by coordinating its negotiation positions with Saudi Arabia, Israel and other opponents of the deal:

Israel’s envoy to the United States suggested Tuesday that Israel may not consult with the new administration on its steps to reenter [JCPOA].

Biden has pledged to engage with allies and partners, including Israel, before making any moves to join the deal. But Reuters reports that some Israeli officials believe consulting with the Biden administration could backfire for Israel “by falsely signaling its consent for any new deal that it still opposes.”

During informal talks held by the Trump administration with Iran the U.S. had made similar demands as Biden is now making. Iran has rejected all of them.

Cont. reading: Why Is Biden Creating Himself An Iran Quagmire?

Posted by b at 18:44 UTC | Comments (143)

February 17, 2021

Open Thread 2021-014

News & views ...

Posted by b at 16:07 UTC | Comments (286)

February 16, 2021

U.S. Focus On Narratives Will Let It Collide With Reality

The impeachment narrative circus is leaving the town and the real world work can now begin:

With the distraction of the impeachment trial of his predecessor now over, President Biden will quickly press for passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan before moving on to an even bigger agenda in Congress that includes infrastructure, immigration, criminal justice reform, climate change and health care.

Without the spectacle of a constitutional clash, the new president “takes center stage now in a way that the first few weeks didn’t allow,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who served as communications director for former President Barack Obama. She said the end of the trial means that “2021 can finally start.”

"Wait!" screams the narrative industry. That does not fit our business model. The 'left' side of the media is set up to beat up Trump every damned minute and the 'right' side is there to constantly condemn the 'left' for beating up Trump. Over the last five years that system produced record ratings for everyone.

Wolf Blitzer @wolfblitzer - 16:11 UTC · Feb 15, 2021

The Trump trial is over but local, state & federal investigations continue. There might be a 9/11-type commission. News organizations continue to investigate. And @realBobWoodward is working on a book on Trump’s final days in office. Bottom line: we are going to learn a lot more.

"I hear you," responds Nancy Pelosi. And what better way to hide that Biden will pursue the same policies as Trump (but sprinkled with some LBGTQWERTY quackery) than to extend the narrative circus:

Congress will move to establish an independent commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, including facts “relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced on Monday.
...
Calls have grown for a bipartisan, independent investigation into the law enforcement and administrative failures that led to the first breach of the Capitol complex in two centuries, particularly after the Senate acquitted former President Donald J. Trump in his impeachment trial on a charge of inciting the rioters. For some lawmakers, such a commission offers the last major opportunity to hold Mr. Trump accountable.

Yes Nancy, lets investigate this and other such question: Why was Capitol police chief’s request for National Guard denied ahead of riot? Republicans ask Nancy Pelosi.

Keeping the eyes on Trump is of course the best way to guarantee that Republicans will continue to stick to his narrative and that he will come back:

Cont. reading: U.S. Focus On Narratives Will Let It Collide With Reality

Posted by b at 19:08 UTC | Comments (129)

February 15, 2021

New Documents Reveal More British Efforts To Undermine Russia

In 2018 we wrote about:

The 'Integrity Initiative' - A Military Intelligence Operation, Disguised As Charity, To Create The "Russian Threat".

The reporting was based on the British Integrity Initiative's internal files which some 'anonymous' organization had acquired and published.

Data acquired from Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office by the same group revealed large British propaganda programs in support of Jihadis in Syria as well as British influence operations designed to undermine the security institutions of Lebanon and to secretly influence its population.

Now another large set of files has been published by the same source. These describe an extensive British government program designed to undermine Russia by organizing and financing 'independent' Russian language media, by 'training' Russian journalists and by secretly paying Russian influencers. It is certainly not the only British anti-Russia program but it probably has, secretly, the most public influence.

The anonymous author has laid out the complete Undermining Russia program in four extensive parts: One, two, three, four.

The information discussed is from government files which outlay various projects and from companies and -interestingly- from the media charities of Reuters and the BBC who made bids to run the FCO projects. All underlying files are available for download as one archive file (~80 MB).

The most interesting files are the bids the companies make for projects. They reveal previous projects, methods and people and thereby create the larger picture.

The budget for the various anti-Russian projects runs at dozens of millions pounds per year. The first programs were launched in 2016 and some continue through this year.

A 'Supplier Event' for one of the projects laid out the general idea:

Programme Strands
  • ENGAGE – working through the British Council to implement people-to-people activities between ethnic Russians and local communities to develop links along the lines of 21st century skills – includes English language skills and media literacy, social enterprises and cultural activities;
  • ENHANCE – supporting independent media in Russia’s near abroad to bring balance and plurality to Russian language media, in the Baltic States and Eastern Partnership countries;
  • EXPOSE – by debunking and exposing Russian disinformation in real time, which can be reported in mainstream media with the goal to expose malign state disinformation in countries that are targeted by it. If you expose disinformation, it is less likely to be impactful; therefore, the Russian State becomes less credible.
  • ENABLE – working with allied governments through the Government Communication Service to improve their strategic communications to their populations.

Note that 'Russian disinformation' is whatever Britain does not like about Russia. 'Exposing' such 'disinformation' is best done by spreading one's own. These are not defensive programs but attacks on Russia.

Projects to achieve the above were to be implemented in nearly every country that borders Russia and has a Russian speaking minority as well as in Russia itself.

The British government does not want you to know about such projects. The 'Supplier Event' sheet says:

Cont. reading: New Documents Reveal More British Efforts To Undermine Russia

Posted by b at 19:24 UTC | Comments (140)