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November 21, 2018

Keeping Bin Salman In Place Will Hurt Trump's Middle East Policies

Against the advise from his intelligence services U.S. President Trump decided to leave the effective Saudi ruler, clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, in place. That move is unlikely to help with his larger policy plans.

Bruce Riedel, a (former) high level CIA analyst, long warned of betting on Mohammad bin Salman. Even before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Riedel wrote that Saudi Arabia is at its least stable in 50 years (also here):

The stability of Saudi Arabia is becoming more fragile as the young crown prince’s judgment and competence are increasingly in doubt. Mohammed bin Salman has a track record of impulsive and reckless decisions at home and abroad that calls into question the kingdom’s future.

Riedel warned that the Trump administration, by betting on Mohammad bin Salman, put everything on one dubious card. MbS is unstable and made himself many internal enemies. If King Salman suddenly dies there will probably be a leadership crisis. Saudi Arabia could end up in chaos. U.S. Middle East policy, largely build around MbS, would then fall apart.

The CIA disliked MbS since he replaced Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince. MbN is a longtime U.S. asset with a proven record of cooperation. MbS came from nowhere and the CIA has no control over him. That he is indeed impulsive and reckless only adds to that. That the CIA feared that MbS meant trouble even before the Khashoggi disaster, explains why it sabotaged Trump's attempts to exculpate MbS over the murder of Khashoggi.

While Riedel was writing about the Saudi danger, Jamal Khashoggi, a longtime Saudi intelligence agent who had aligned himself with the wrong prince, went to Istanbul to build the public relation infrastructure for regime change in Saudi Arabia:

Jamal Khashoggi, a prolific writer and commentator, was working quietly with intellectuals, reformists and Islamists to launch a group called Democracy for the Arab World Now. He wanted to set up a media watch organization to keep track of press freedom.

He also planned to launch an economic-focused website to translate international reports into Arabic to bring sobering realities to a population often hungry for real news, not propaganda.

Part of Khashoggi’s approach was to include political Islamists in what he saw as democracy building.
...
Khashoggi had incorporated his democracy advocacy group, DAWN, in January in Delaware, said Khaled Saffuri, another friend. .. The project was expected to reach out to journalists and lobby for change, representing both Islamists and liberals, ...

Khashoggi's projects were allegedly financed by Qatar but probably also had CIA support.

MbS got wind thereof. He told his private office chief Bader Al Asaker to send his bodyguards to kill Khashoggi. They did so on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. But it was a much too large and too complicate mission. They Saudi agents made too many mistakes. They also underestimated the Turkish intelligence service.

The Turks had bugged the Saudi consulate and have records of all phone calls. When they learned from Khashoggi's fiancee, a well connected daughter of a co-founder of Erdogan's AK Party, that Khashoggi was missing, they wound back the tapes and unraveled the story. The killers had made four phone calls to Al Asaker to report back. In one of the calls the mission leader told him: "Tell your boss" that "the deed was done." The Turkish president Erdogan was delighted to receive such a gift. It allowed him to cut his strategic competitor down to size.

The Saudis were too slow to recognize the danger. They came up with all sorts of unbelievable claims over what happened in their consulate. Trump sent Secretary of State Pompeo who told them to find a sufficiently high ranking scapegoat:

Cont. reading: Keeping Bin Salman In Place Will Hurt Trump's Middle East Policies

Posted by b at 12:48 PM | Comments (3)

November 20, 2018

U.S. Busts APEC Summit With Tariff Demands - New York Times Blames China

A New York Times report about last weekend's summit in Asia demonstrates how U.S. media misinform their readers about international events.

The recent summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Papua New Guinea failed to come up with a joint statement. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of Papua New Guinea, who hosted the summit, promised to issue a "chair's statement" instead. None can be found so far on the APEC website. This was the first time since 1989 that no joined 'Leaders' Declaration' was issued.

The reason was a spat between the U.S. and China about a clause the U.S. tried to insert into the joint declaration.

But as the Times tells the story, the failure of the summit was solely China's fault:

At a major international gathering in Papua New Guinea over the weekend, the United States wanted to end with a group statement emphasizing free trade. China objected.

But instead of working out the disagreement through dialogue, Chinese officials barged uninvited into the office of the host country’s foreign minister demanding changes in the official communiqué.
...
“China doesn’t care if it looks like a boor. If you are a tough guy, you don’t care what others think,” said Hugh White, a former military strategist for the Australian government and author of “The China Choice.”

Such behavior was only surprising because it had been more than 30 years since the world had witnessed such edginess, Mr. White said.

The Chinese deny that the APEC incident happened at all. Mr. White seems to have missed the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks during which the U.S. president and his secretary of state boorishly busted a meeting, held by China, Brazil, India and others, they were not invited to join:

Once they found the makeshift conference room where the meeting was being held, Obama, Clinton, and their aides approached a "commotion" as she describes it — foreign aides and security guards outside the door. According to Clinton, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confronted a Chinese guard. "In the commotion the president slipped through the door and yelled, 'Mr Premier!' really loudly, which got everyone's attention. The Chinese guards put their arms up against the door again, but I ducked under and made it through," Clinton wrote.

Back the NYT's APEC piece:

The American official said the Chinese had taken issue with two portions of the draft communiqué that Washington supported and other members embraced.

One paragraph said the APEC member economies agreed to fight against unfair trade practices. Another paragraph said that members of the group would work together to improve the “negotiating, monitoring and dispute settlement functions” of the World Trade Organization.

The NYT report does not say what the U.S. promoted paragraphs actually said. Nor does it quote any Chinese source. What are "unfair trade agreements"? What WTO changes were asked for? Why are these "improvements". Why is that supposed to be an APEC issue?

The AFP's has a way more informative take of the talks:

Cont. reading: U.S. Busts APEC Summit With Tariff Demands - New York Times Blames China

Posted by b at 11:57 AM | Comments (39)

November 19, 2018

Syria - Back In The Arab Fold

Following Syria's military success against its enemies, Arab states which supported the war on Syria are again making nice with it. The United Arab Emirates will reopen its embassy in Damascus. Kuwait and Bahrain will follow. Today a delegation of parliamentarians from Jordan visited Damascus and met with President Assad.

The members of the delegation affirmed that the pulse of the Jordanian street has always been with the Syrian people in the face of the terrorist war against the, as Syria is the first line of defense for the entire Arab region and the victory in this war will be a victory for all the Arab countries in the face of Western projects aimed at destabilizing and fragmenting these countries in service of Israel’s security.

First signs that this was going to happen appeared a few month ago when a Kuwaiti TV personality spoke about the pleasure of visiting an again peaceful Damascus. In June the Foreign Affairs Minister of UAE called the expulsion of Syria from the Arab league a "mistake". In an interview with a Kuwaiti paper Assad said that he had reached "major understanding" with Arab states.

The Saudis though are not yet welcome back in Damascus. They were one of the largest financiers of the Jihadis and will have to pay an equally large price to come back into good standing. Negotiations are ongoing. A formal reentry of Syria into the Arab League can not be far away.

Behind this change is a fear of renewed Turkish ambitions. Not only Saudi Arabia but all the Arab states do not want Turkey to expand and become more powerful. They do not want to see Arab land in Syria under Turkish control. The sole exception so far is Qatar which is allied with Turkey and has Turkish troops on its land to protect it from Saudi imperialism.

The three blocks that form the larger Middle East, Turkey, Iran and the Arab states north of the Red Sea are roughly of the same population size. Each block also represents a religious-political stream with Turkey leading the political-Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, Iran the political-Shia and with the third block consisting of Sunni majority countries with more or less dictatorial rulers. The three blocks compete in their borderlands of Iraq and Syria. The Arabs finally noticed that their attempts to dispose the Syrian government led to gains for Iran and Turkey and put them on the losing site.

For Syria the new Arab position is a very welcome change. While it will certainly not end its alliance with Iran, it will welcome any help against the Turkish ambitions. It also needs investments to rebuild and the rich Gulf states will surely provide some. That will also sabotage  U.S. and European plans to starve Syria of money unless it submits to their will.

Posted by b at 12:33 PM | Comments (61)

November 18, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-61

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

We were first to point out that the NYT's characterization of an old North Korean missile site as "deception" was pure nonsense. Newsweek, 38north.org, NKNews.org, The Nation and others now also condemned the neo-conned NYT propaganda.

The war let to the loss of Netanyahoo's majority in the Knesset. He is now trying to stall new elections in which he could lose his job.

Trump's Middle East policy is in total disarray. Nothing is working as planned. Netanyahoo will probebaly fall. Saudi Arabia will not make nice with Qatar. There will be no Arab NATO or anti-Iran alliance. MbS is despised but will stay on the job. Yemen is starving. The U.S. is at odds with Turkey over support for the Kurds. Trumps knows and hates this:

The adviser who talks to Trump said: “If the president had his way, he would stay entirely out of the Middle East and all of the problems."

The piece was the first to point out the difference between the Saudi investigation, which put blame on Major General Ahmed al-Asiri, and the names on the U.S. sanction list published at the same time. The Treasury declaration blamed MbS advisor Saud al-Qahtani as mastermind behind the Khashoggi murder, while the Saudis carefully avoided that. We now learn that the person in the U.S. National Security Council who put al-Qahtani on the list was fired:

On Friday evening, Kirsten Fontenrose, the National Security Council official in charge of U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, resigned, administration officials said. The circumstances of her departure weren’t clear. But Fontenrose had previously been placed on administrative leave, according to people familiar with the matter.

Fontenrose had played a key role in the administration’s decision about which Saudis to sanction in response to Khashoggi’s killing, these people said.

I suspect that MbS tried, via Trump's son-in-law Kushner, to save al-Qahtani (and himself). Trump clearly wanted to do that, but Fontenrose blew the plan by pushing for al-Qahtani to be sanctioned. The CIA also sabotaged the planned exculpation of MbS by 'leaking' its judgment about MbS' personal responsibility to the press. (WaPo published the CIA conclusion in Arabic, another point the Saudis will hate.) Trump is furious that the CIA (again) sabotaged his policy:

Asked about reports that the CIA had assessed involvement by Mohammed, the president said: “They haven’t assessed anything yet. It’s too early.”

 

Other stuff:

Naked Capitalism with a review of Michael Hudson’s new book, And Forgive Them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure, and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year. It digs into the ancient history of debt and forgiveness which is, for obvious reasons, not taught in the neo-liberal 'west':

Nowhere, Hudson shows, is it more evident that we are blinded by a deracinated, by a decontextualized understanding of our history than in our ignorance of the career of Jesus. Hence the title of the book: And Forgive Them Their Debts and the cover illustration of Jesus flogging the moneylenders — the creditors who do not forgive debts — in the Temple. For centuries English-speakers have recited the Lord’s Prayer with the assumption that they were merely asking for the forgiveness of their trespasses, their theological sins: “… and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us….” is the translation presented in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. What is lost in translation is the fact that Jesus came “to preach the gospel to the poor … to preach the acceptable Year of the Lord”: He came, that is, to proclaim a Jubilee Year, a restoration of deror for debtors: He came to institute a Clean Slate Amnesty (which is what Hebrew דְּרוֹר connotes in this context).
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Back in July I wrote that there is no Jewish race or Jewish people. There are only followers of the Jewish religion strewn all over the world. Prof. Shlomo Sand makes a similar point and also debunks some other religious fairytales:

The Twisted Logic of the Jewish ‘Historic Right’ to Israel

Our political culture insists on seeing the Jews as the direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews. But the Jews never existed as a ‘people’ – still less as a nation

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The UAE/Saudi alliance stopped their latest attempt to conquer Hodeidah port in Yemen. They try to sell that as a humanitarian step. But the attack was failing when their mercenaries ran into a wall of mines and missile attacks. They took a large number of casualties. Videos: 1, 2.

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Masha is "Putinesque" and You-know-who uses her to control our children's minds, say British neo-cons and Baltic Russophobes. I say #JeSuisMasha and promise to watch her even more.


Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:20 AM | Comments (167)

November 17, 2018

Syria Sitrep - Army Wins Al-Safa Battle - More Troops Move Towards Idelb

Today the Syrian army won the al-Safa battle. Al-Safa is a barren area around an old volcano southeast of Sweida where in July ISIS abducted dozens of hostages. The last of those hostages were freed in a commando raid ten days ago.

With the hostages out of the way the Syrian army could finally use heavy weapons against ISIS which hid in the caves of the al-Safa field. Under heavy artillery cover the troops made good progress (video). Then came three days of unprecedented rain fall. ISIS fighters drowned in their caves and fighting positions. The commander of ISIS in the area, a Chechen, was killed. Those ISIS fighter who were left fled towards the al-Tanf area, which is under U.S. control, and into the desert in east Homs. The Syrian army is now in full control al-Safa.


Map via South Front - bigger

The situation in the U.S. controlled northeast is complicate. The Kurdish YPG/PKK forces the U.S. allied with do not get along with the Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces and vice versa. Isolated attacks on Kurdish SDF units happen each day. It is unknown if these are by ISIS sleeper cells, local Arabs who despise the new Kurdish overlords, or some third party under Turkish direction.

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - Army Wins Al-Safa Battle - More Troops Move Towards Idelb

Posted by b at 12:43 PM | Comments (36)

November 16, 2018

The White House Spat With Jim Acosta Is Not A First Amendment Issue, Julian Assange's Indictment Is One

U.S. media support a questionable First Amendment case when one of the network reporters was rebuked by the White House. They are quiet on another case where the danger to the rights of a free press is much more serious.

On November 9, during a White House press conference with U.S. president Donald Trump, CNN reporter Jim Acosta staged a confrontation. His 'questions' to Trump during the press conference amounted to political statements and personal accusations. The situation escalated when Acosta insisted to make more statement while the president invited other reporters to ask their questions.

The first Acosta statement/question was about the so called caravan of immigrants that traveled through Mexico to the U.S. border. Trump had used it as a boogeyman during the midterm election campaign and had called it an "invasion". Trump answered the question by explaining that he wants immigrants to go through the legal immigration process and to not pass the border illegally. Acosta interrupted Trump's answer and asked a follow up, again in an accusing tone. Trump also answered that second question.

Acosta made another attempt to involve Trump into a political discussion about the issue. The president rejected that by telling Acosta to do his job as reporter while he, Trump, would do his as president. He moved on to the next reporter.

A White House aid got up to fetch the mobile microphone Acosta held in his hand. He more or less pushed her away and tried to ask another question, this time on the "Russian investigation". Trump told him "That's enough. That's enough." Acosta continued to ask. Trump relented and answered the question by saying that the whole "Russia investigation" is a hoax. Acosta tried another question, number five, asking if Trump was worried about indictments in the case. Trump turned away.

Acosta finally gave up the microphone. Trump then told Acosta that he is a "rude, terrible person" and that CNN "should be ashamed" to have him as a reporter.

Trump turned to another reporter to continued the press conference. While the next reporter asked his question Acosta got up again, interrupted the other reporter and again tried to get Trump into a discussion. He failed.

A video of the full exchange is here.

When I watched that segment on that day I found the behavior of Acosta obnoxious and primitive. He, and a few other reporters, did not ask questions to elicit answers, but tried to provoke Trump by making partisan political statements which were only superficially framed as questions. Acosta's behavior was impolite and disrespectful not only towards Trump but also to fellow reporters.

Later that day the White House revoked Acosta's White House 'hard pass' which gives the holder expanded access to the White House. CNN went to court claiming that the revocation violated Acosta's first and fifth amendment rights.

The First Amendment is about free speech. It has nothing to do with a 'right' to enter the White House. Neither does the right to free speech include a 'right' to get invited to press conferences. The Fifth Amendment is, among other things, about due process.

CNN asked the court for a preliminary restraining order against the White House revocation of Acosta's 'hard pass'. It was granted today based on case law related to the Fifth Amendment due process argument. Preliminary orders are not final judgments. They are granted to prevent potential additional damage while a legal case goes on. The court seemed to disagree with the underlying precedence the CNN lawyers had cited:

As [judge] Kelly began to offer his view on the components of CNN's request, he said that while he may not agree with the underlying case law that CNN's argument was based on, he had to follow it.

"I've read the case closely," he said. "Whether it's what I agree with, that's a different story. But I must apply precedent as I see it."

He left open the possibility that the White House could seek to revoke it again if it provided that due process, emphasizing the "very limited" nature of his ruling and saying he was not making a judgment on the First Amendment claims that CNN and Acosta have made.

The judge seems to thinks that the White House was justified but acted in a too chaotic manner when it revoked Ascota's 'hard pass' without citing rules or regulations. It is most likely that the White House will now create such rules pertaining White House access and press conferences. It will then use those to again limit Acosta's access.

I would be fine with that. The news value of White House press conferences has steadily been going down. That's to some part the fault of the White House press secretary. But it is also to a large part the fault of the press corps and the media who do not ask real questions but are unreasonably hostile and seem to be more interested in creating political strife than in facts. Some disciplinary measure may help to change that.

The Trump administration is doing some horrible stuff in dismantling environmental and legal regulations. Its foreign policy is devastating whole countries. Its fiscal policies are catastrophic. There are many good question that could be asked about these issues, but they no longer come up. Instead the press corp, especially the network reporters, play gotcha and use the press conferences for political stunts.

A number of other media organizations supported the CNN case by filing amicus briefs. That is probably a mistake. The legality of Acosta's case is quite dubious. The more the media engages on his site, the more will the White House push back by creating stricter regulations. These regulations, once they are laid out, will be used against all media. If not by this administration then by the next one.

It would also be nice if these first amendment defenders would take up a real first amendment case instead of the phony Acosta issue.

Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, has been indicted by the Justice Department for publishing truthful information about illegal and outrageous behavior of the U.S. government and U.S. politicians.

I don't see any of those who defend the obnoxious behavior of Acosta, taking a first amendment stand in the case against Wikileaks and Assange. None of those media, who all reported on and profited from the material Assange published, has filed an amicus brief to his case. The indictment of Assange is a grave threat to press freedom. Where are the editorials defending him?

 

Posted by b at 02:43 PM | Comments (115)

November 15, 2018

U.S., Saudis Fight Over Crown Prince Advisor - White House Tries To Appease Erdogan

The chief prosecutor of Saudi Arabia cleared his boss, clown prince Muhammad bin Salman, of involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. A number of easily replaceable people were indicted. In a coordinated move the U.S. Treasury sanctioned a number of the people who played a role in the Khashoggi case. There is an interesting difference between the Saudi and the U.S. list of the involved people. Meanwhile the White House is looking for ways to induce Turkey to finally settle the case.

The Saudi prosecutor indicted eleven people and demands the death penalty for five of them. It is not yet known under which article of Saudi law the people were indicted. Death penalties under some articles often end with pardons. Ten other persons are still under investigation.

The story told in the briefing of the Saudi investigation results gives a new version of the events. (No names are given in the briefing. They were added below based on earlier reports.) The briefing says:

  • The former Deputy President of the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), Major General Ahmed al-Asiri, issued an order to the mission leader Maher Mutreb to bring Kashoggi back to Saudi Arabia by means of persuasion or by force.
  • ‏The leader of the mission formed a 15-member team that consisted of three groups (negotiations/ intelligence/ logistics) to persuade and return the victim. Mutreb consulted with the now fired advisor to MbS, Saud al-Qahtani, because Qahtani knew Khashoggi.
  • A forensic expert was included in the team "for the purpose of removing evidence from the scene in the case force had to be used to return the victim."
  • The mission leader contacted a collaborator in Turkey "to secure a safe location in case force had to be used return the victim."
  • "After surveying the Consulate, the head of the negotiation team concluded that it would not be possible to transfer the victim by force to the safe location in case the negotiations with him to return failed. The head of the negotiation team decided to murder the victim if the negotiations failed."
  • The investigation concluded that the crime was carried out after a physical altercation with the victim where he was forcibly restrained and injected with a large amount of a drug resulting in an overdose that led to his death.
  • The bod was dismembered. Five people carried the parts out of the consulate and one of them later handed them over to a collaborator.
  • One member of the mission put on Khashoggi's clothes, walked outside for a while and disposed them in a trash can.
  • The leader of the mission agreed with the leader of the negotiation team to write a false report which claimed that that Khashoggi had left the consulate.

So far the story the Saudi investigation tries to sell.

It effectively absolve the clown prince. It absolves his media advisor Saud al-Qahtani and MG Ahmed al-Asiri. The leader of mission will probably be sentenced for falsifying his report, while the head of the negotiation team and some of his helpers will take the brunt of the penalties. They are commoners, three or four levels below the top, and of no further value.

The story is of course not believable. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. No low level employee would dare to decided to kill a person of higher interests when the order says to bring the person back alive. Neither the mission leader nor the negotiation team leader would take such a step without consulting with Riyadh.

The murder was clearly planned at a higher level and well before the team landed in Istanbul. One does not bring a person that looks like the victim to make it look like the victim walked out 'just in case' something bad happens. If an abduction is planned one does not bring a 'forensic expert' -who in reality is a well known doctor specialized in autopsies- to 'cleanup' the scene.

The Saudi release was coordinated with the White House. Shortly after the Saudi prosecutor went public, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned several persons under the Global Magnitzky Act over the case:

Cont. reading: U.S., Saudis Fight Over Crown Prince Advisor - White House Tries To Appease Erdogan

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (104)

November 14, 2018

Netanyahoo's Likely Fall Destroys Trump's Middle East Strategy

The political upheaval in Israel is a problem for the White House and its Middle East plans.

Today Israel's defense minister Avigor Lieberman resigned and called for new elections. He disagreed with prime minister Netanyahoo over the renewed ceasefire in Gaza.

Netanyahoo had worked towards the earlier ceasefire to split Gaza under Hamas from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas. That split is along the ideological line of the larger split in the Middle East between Qatar and Turkey as the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the absolute rules like the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman. Qatar is now financing Hamas in Gaza while the Saudis prop up Abbas.

This splitting up of the Palestinians is an intended part of the Jared Kushner 'peace' plan for the Middle East. The Palestinians shall no longer be recognized as a people but must be splintered into small local groups without a common identity who can then be more easily suppressed.

Lieberman seems to disagree with this plan. He wants to wage war against Hamas and defeat it. Any such attempt would of course reunite the Palestinians. But there is a loud constituency in the Zionist population that supports Lieberman's way.

This photo was taken today shortly before Lieberman resigned. Netanyahoo was not happy about the dilemma he is now in.


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He wanted to avoid an early election. His Likud party just lost seats in local elections and he is afraid of a campaign that would play out over Gaza and his 'dovish' stand in the latest conflict.

But with only a two seat majority and an unstable coalition Netanyahoo will have trouble to hold on.

Cont. reading: Netanyahoo's Likely Fall Destroys Trump's Middle East Strategy

Posted by b at 03:23 PM | Comments (109)

November 13, 2018

The Short War With Gaza Exposed Israel's Weakness - Updated

Updated below
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Last week a ceasefire was agreed upon between Palestinian factions in Gaza and Israel:

The aim of the change, in a plan mediated by Egypt and with money supplied by Qatar, is to provide much-needed relief for Gaza, restore calm on the Israeli side of the border and avert another war.

On Sunday night Israeli special forces broke the ceasefire by invading Gaza under disguise. Such incursions happen quite often but are usually left unreported. The invaders wore civilian clothing and some were cloaked as women. Their cars arrived at the house of a local Qassam commander but suspicious guards held them up. A firefight ensued in which 7 Palestinians and 1 Israeli officer were killed. It is not clear what the intent of the Israeli raid was. A car left behind held what appeared to be surveillance equipment. The intruders fled back to Israel.

It is likely that rivalry within the Israeli government was behind this provocation:

[T]he perception that Israel, by allowing the fuel and cash shipments into Gaza, was paying off Hamas set off acrimonious wrangling between two rival right-wing members of Israel’s security cabinet.

Earlier Sunday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called the cash infusion “protection money.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Mr. Bennett of having supported such payments and of having opposed in recent weeks the more aggressive military reprisals against Hamas that Mr. Lieberman favored.
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By night’s end Mr. Netanyahu had cut short his trip [to Paris] and was flying back to Israel in response to the Gaza hostilities.

Did Lieberman order the incursion to undercut Netanyahoo ceasefire and his rival Bennet?


Map via SouthFront.org - bigger

The breach of the ceasefire by Israel set off another round of tit for tat strikes. A commando unit of Hamas' Qassam brigade launched an attack against a bus that had carried Israeli soldiers to the border. To avoid further escalation the shooter waited until the soldiers were out of the way before hitting it. Only the driver was injured. Then the Israeli air force destroyed the al-Aqsa TV station in Gaza city after notifying the Palestinians of its intent. It also damaged a university building. Rocket volleys from Gaza followed and the Israeli air-force hit several buildings. After 48 hours the ceasefire was renewed.

During the conflict the Palestinian side demonstrated a series of new capabilities:

Cont. reading: The Short War With Gaza Exposed Israel's Weakness - Updated

Posted by b at 02:52 PM | Comments (104)

November 12, 2018

False Reports In U.S. Media Suggest A Great Deception

The New York Times is lying to its readers about the commitments of an adversarial state. It did not learn a single lesson from its fake reporting that led the Iraq War. It again furthers hostile aggression.


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In a piece published today, In North Korea, Missile Bases Suggest a Great Deception, the paper lies about North Korea's commitments:

North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat.

The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.

There is no North Korean deception. It agreed to dismantle a missile test site, not an operative "launching site", and it agreed to a moratorium of nuclear and missile testing. Nowhere has it made any commitment to stop productions or deployments of missiles.

The Singapore Declaration Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump signed says nothing about ballistic missiles. It agrees on four step to be taken in sequence: 1. establish new US-DPRK relations, 2. build a lasting and stable peace regime in all of Korea, 3. support of the Panmunjom Declaration between North and South Korea, 4. North Korea commits "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

There is no public or secret commitment by North Korea to stop its production of ballistic missiles just as there is not commitment by the United States to stop its continuing arms buildup.

There is in fact the opposite. North Korea openly said multiple times that it would increase its ballistic missile capacity. In May 2017 Chairman Kim Jong-un ordered to start mass production of the medium range Pukguksong-2 (Poseidon-2) missile:

Cont. reading: False Reports In U.S. Media Suggest A Great Deception

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (67)

November 11, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-60

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Other stuff:

Syria Comment has a good piece on the situation of the Druze in Sweida, south Syria. The fight against the ISIS holdout in the nearby volcanic al-Safa hills was handicapped as ISIS still held Druze women and children as hostages. The Syrian army could not use heavy weapons for fear of killing the them. Last week the last hostages were freed in a commando raid. The battle against ISIS in the southeastern semi-desert can now recommence with full air and artillery support. Then comes Idleb ...

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A longread I enjoyed: Cesspools, Sewage, and Social Murder - Environmental Crisis and Metabolic Rift in Nineteenth-Century London. How a change in fertilizer usage and urbanization developed into a social crisis from human waste.

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Last week a suddenly stiff shoulder due to a pinched nerve disabled my capability to type. Resting the arm and some mild medication helped. But I also changed the mouse I use from a conventional type to a more ergonomic (and expensive) one. The more natural positioning of the hand is one advantage. The other is the (adjustable) higher resolution that allows me to use a big screen with very little movement. It took a few days to get used to it by I would not want to miss it.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:04 AM | Comments (130)

November 10, 2018

Yemen - Holding Hodeidah Is The Houthi's Last Chance

From last weeks MoA review:

The UAE and its mercenaries have renewed a large attack on Hodeidah. Should they capture it they will control all supplies to the Houthi areas. The Saudis and the UAE seem to use the 30 days Trump has given them for maximum gain.

The attack led by the United Arab Emirates has nearly achieved to surround Hodeidah. The city and its port are the only way left to provide food to some 20 million people living in the capital Sanaa and the northern highlands. Should Hodeidah fall, the Houthi and their allies will have to submit to the Saudis or see their people die of starvation.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which works in Hodeidah, notes:

There is now only one viable overland route from Hodeidah city to Sana'a, and a very high risk that further aerial or land attacks on roads or bridges could sever access roads between the cities entirely, cutting the last remaining supply route for food, fuel and medicine to many of the estimated 20 million Yemenis who depend on imports through Hodeidah to meet their basic needs.

Currently the Houthi try the same tactic that broke earlier UAE attempts to conquer Hodeidah (upper left). They cut the long UAE supply line coming from the south along the western coast over which the attacking force (red) is provided with food, fuel and ammunition. If the latest news is correct they achieved that in two places.


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Cont. reading: Yemen - Holding Hodeidah Is The Houthi's Last Chance

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (69)

November 09, 2018

ISIS Again Claims Cyber Attacks Which Were Falsely Blamed On Russia

Since late 2014 the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had its own hacking group. It waged cyber attacks against media and military targets. The group became known as United Cyber Caliphate (UCC).

Later on some "experts" attributed the UCC attacks to Russia. They claimed that the Cyber Caliphate did not exist but was a Russian false flag operation. There is now new evidence such claims are nonsense.

The attacks claimed by the Cyber Caliphate included:

  • Jan 2015 - Twitter and Youtube account of the U.S. CentCom taken over and filled with pro-ISIS messages.
  • Mar 2015 - United States Air Force's pilots list with detailed personal information posted online.
  • Apr 2015 - French TV5Monde live feed and social media hacked and defaced with the message "Je Suis ISIS".
  • Apr 2015 - Australian airport website defaced with ISIS message.
  • Aug 2015 - United States' military database hacked and data of some 1400 personnel posted online.
  • Sep 2015 - British government emails hacked. Email addresses of top cabinet ministers published.
  • Apr 2016 - UCC successfully hacks 20 Australian business websites, redirects them to ISIS content.
  • Apr 2017 - UCC released a kill list of 8,786 people.

ISIS delivered flawless propaganda material with well edited videos and created its own glossy magazines. Producing these required computer expertise. It was thus not astonishing to learn that some hackers had joined ISIS and worked with its media team. From an ISIS perspective the above listed targets all made sense. There was no reason to doubt the ISIS claims.

But then the 'Russia scare' nonsense took over. Suddenly each and every assumed computer attack, including those by the Cyber Caliphate, were attributed to Russia:

Cont. reading: ISIS Again Claims Cyber Attacks Which Were Falsely Blamed On Russia

Posted by b at 03:33 PM | Comments (44)

November 08, 2018

Two 'Russian Influence' Campaigns Claim Victory - One Is Real, The Other One Fake

Two new 'Russian' campaigns claim victory in their disinformation acts against the 'west'. One is real and the other one is fake. But - as usual by now - 'western' media mistake one for the other. For them the real one is fake and the fake one real*.

Proud Bear, a collective of GRU spies, celebrates its success in arranging Britain's exit from the European Union. It rented billboards in London to claim victory.


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Last night the GRU agents launched their @Pr0ud_Bear Twitter account and their webpage proudbear.ru to proudly confess their deed and to celebrate success.

Cont. reading: Two 'Russian Influence' Campaigns Claim Victory - One Is Real, The Other One Fake

Posted by b at 05:17 PM | Comments (79)

November 07, 2018

A Short Take On The Midterm Elections

The midterm elections in the United States had mixed results. Both sides will claim victory. There was no landslide in either direction.

The Republicans extended their majority in the Senate while the Democrats took the House of Representatives.

My hunch, that the Republicans would keep a majority in the House, was wrong. I underestimated the turnout for the Democrats. Some 114 million people voted yesterday compared to 88 million in the 2014 midterms.

The Democrats won at least 26 additional seats in the House. They needed 23 seats to gain a majority. Republicans increased their majority of 51 seats in the Senate to at least 54 seats.

The Democrats will chair all House committees and will run dozens of investigations against President Trump and his administration. They will subpoena his tax records, launch more 'Russian collusion' investigations and will question the ethics of Trump administration members. It will be a lot of political theater with little value. With a solid Republican majority in the Senate there is no chance that Trump will be impeached.

Trump's domestic agenda will be hindered by the new House majority. He may well compensate for that with a more aggressive foreign policy.

With more than $5 billion spent on midterm election campaigns the elected people are more indebted to their rich donors than ever before.

Florida passed an amendment that will restore the voting rights of some 1.4 million people with past felony convictions. This will change the political landscape. Most of the felons are people of color, often convicted for very minor crimes. In 2016 Trump carried the state by 100,000 votes.

Brothel owner Dennis Hof, who died on October 16, defeated Democrat Lesia Romanov and wins a Republican seat in the Nevada state assembly.

The campaign for the 2020 election has begun.

Posted by b at 03:04 AM | Comments (200)

November 06, 2018

Open Thread 2018-59

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:18 PM | Comments (134)

November 05, 2018

This NYT Cartoon Helps Trump To Win

The New York Times cartoonist claims that:

  • Protecting U.S. borders from illegal entry by foreigners is not a valid mission for the U.S. military.
  • Illegally invading and destroying countries in the Middle East, to the benefit of the Zionist entity, is a valid mission.

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It is highly doubtful that U.S. voters agree with that take. Most of them seem to believe in the "Defense" moniker of the War Department.

Cartoons like the above can only help Trump win the midterm elections. One wonders why the NYT is willingly playing into his hands with this.

Posted by b at 07:44 AM | Comments (174)

November 03, 2018

The MoA Week in Review - OT 2018-58

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The SDF is very much in trouble. ISIS is still attacking. There is trouble between the locally recruited Arab footsoldiers of the SDF and the Kurdish command. The U.S. is again bombing but the defense front of the SDF has largely broken down.

The UAE and its mercenaries have renewed a large attack on Hodeidah. Should they capture it they will control all supplies to the Houthi areas. The Saudis and the UAE seem to use the 30 days Trump has given them for maximum gain.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:19 AM | Comments (195)