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May 12, 2021

Open Thread 2021-036

News & views ...

Posted by b at 15:42 UTC | Comments (76)

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.

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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 (86)

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."
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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 (135)

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 (124)

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 (108)

May 07, 2021

Open Thread 2021-034

News & views ...

Posted by b at 5:32 UTC | Comments (121)

May 06, 2021

Aiming At China U.S., UK Launch Ethnic Guerilla War On Myanmar

If you wonder what is happening in Myanmar there is no need to look further than these maps.

China needs oil but its sea main supply route through the Strait of Malacca is vulnerable.


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Pipelines through Pakistan and Myanmar provide for alternative routes.


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The pipe, road and rail lines through Myanmar are not only in China's best interest but also a great chance for Myanmar to further develop. They are in its national interest.

The U.S. and its allies are hostile to China. Threatening to cut its oil supplies is probably the most powerful tool in their box. Any alternative supply routes for China make this tool less powerful. The idea then is to prevent the possible use of these routes.

Since its foundation after World War II Myanmar was ruled, sometimes more sometimes less brutal, by its anti-colonial military.

The first U.S. plan to gain control over Myanmar was to install a 'democratic government' that would do its bidding. In 2010, under pressure of U.S. instigated color revolutions, the military conceded to allow a civilian government but kept much of its constitutional and economic power. In 2016 the U.S. preferred candidate Suu Kyi, the daughter of the former military leader and Father of the Nation Aung San, was installed at the head of a new government.

But Aung San Suu Kyi turned out to be a nationalist and soon failed in the eyes of the U.S. regime changers. She was as friendly with China as the military and was equally aggressive against Myanmar's many ethnic minorities. Her eventual fall out with the military was not over those issues. The military owns key industries in Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi, and the 'civil society' people behind her, wanted a place at that trough.

Elections in 2020, which excluded voting in many ethnic regions, brought overwhelming support for Aung San Suu Kyi. This alarmed the military as it feared that its main source of income would soon be endangered. On February 1 it launched a coup and put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.

This brought a new chance for the U.S. to intervene. It immediately re-activated the 77 'civil society' organizations in Myanmar which it is financing through the CIA offshoot National Endowment for Democracy. Protest were launched together with attacks on Chinese companies and property.

As I described it at at that time:

Cont. reading: Aiming At China U.S., UK Launch Ethnic Guerilla War On Myanmar

Posted by b at 16:44 UTC | Comments (84)

Afghanistan - Taliban Capture Baghlan

The Taliban spring offensive in Afghanistan is more successful than expected.

Today they took the center of Baghlan, a city north of Kabul with some 150,000 inhabitants.

Dr. Drexluddin Khan Spiveyzai Kayani (Drexy Baba) @RisboLensky - 6:10 UTC · May 6, 2021

Old #Baghlan town fell to #Taliban after surrender of 100 cops and soldiers. Local account reports that remaining troops are besieged in new part of the city
#Afghanistan

The above thread and this one include several videos showing the Taliban moving freely around and inspecting captured Humvee's and weapons.

Badr-ul-huda Media 'بدرالھدی @Badr_ul_huda - 7:44 AM · May 6, 2021

#BREAKING
#Baghlan : The Taliban captured Shahr-i-Kohna (the old bazaar) of Baghlan and surrendered about 200 soldiers with weapons and ammunition.
#Afghanistan #Taliban #Alfath @QariYunusRashid

The city and Baghlan province, marked in pink on the map below, are on the road from Kabul to Tajikistan. This is one of the few 'escape routes' towards a safe country.


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That 200 government police and troops laid down their weapons - other reports even say they changed sides - points to the immense fragility of the Afghan forces. Nearly twenty years of U.S. 'training' has had little effect.

Ghazni, south of Kabul, is also under attack and may soon fall to the Taliban.

Yesterday the U.S. launched airstrikes on the southern province Helmand where the Taliban are besieging the province capital Lashkar Gah:

Officially, the US is presenting this as “support of Afghan national security forces.”

This is a particularly surprising time for such a move, as it comes just a day after the US transferred the Helmand Post to the Afghan Army. The Afghan military was fighting the Taliban in several provinces, including Helmand, but the US was not involved. Conspicuously, as part of the ongoing talks the Taliban had not been attacking the US forces, seemingly trying to avoid starting up a big fight as deals near for a pullout.

The US clearly is less concerned with avoiding lengthening the war, as having taken the provocative step of reneging on the May 1 pullout date, they are now attacking Taliban targets outright, which certainly isn’t going to lend credence to the idea that they are willing to pull their small remnant force from Afghanistan in just two more months.

The U.S. and other foreign troops could have moved out peacefully if the Biden administration had stuck to the May 1 deadline that had been agreed upon between the Trump administration and the Taliban. It instead dithered for three months before deciding that it was really time to finally leave Afghanistan.

Still, many in the Pentagon and CIA do not like the idea and they will do their best to sabotage the retreat by provoking new Taliban attacks on U.S. forces. The White House should demand more discipline from the Pentagon and prohibit airstrikes and other interventions. 

The U.S. should move out as fast as possible, let the inevitable happen, and forget about further interference.

Posted by b at 11:31 UTC | Comments (52)

May 05, 2021

CIA Wokeness

Michael Tracey writes about a weird CIA video that is making the rounds (emphasis added):

In a mind-blowing marketing video first published on March 25, but which had escaped widespread notice until recent days, the CIA enthusiastically endorsed several key tenets of what has now indisputably become a hegemonic left/liberal ideological and rhetorical construct:

I am a woman of color,” the video’s protagonist, an unnamed CIA officer, triumphantly proclaims. “I am a cisgender millennial who’s been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional, but my existence is not a box-checking exercise.”

She continues, “I used to struggle with imposter syndrome. But at 36, I refuse to internalize misguided patriarchal ideas of what a woman can or should be. I am tired of feeling like I’m supposed to apologize for the space I occupy.”

I have to admit that I do not know what the words in bold are supposed to mean. (Nor does my Firefox spellchecker. It flags them.)

I also do not understand the italicized phrases.

To me they sounds like utter bullshit.

But if the CIA wants to hire more such people I am all for it. Folks who can not leave their personal issues at the door typically muck up their workplace and create productivity problems.

A less effective CIA will be a plus for the rest of the world.

Posted by b at 13:55 UTC | Comments (189)

May 04, 2021

Afghanistan - Taliban Launch Spring Offensive, Ghani Begs For Ceasefire

When the Biden administration announced the retreat from Afghanistan I tried to predict what the Taliban would do:

With Biden announcing a final day for the retreat the Taliban are likely to prolong their ceasefire with the U.S. until that day but will continue their fight against Afghan government forces and ISIS. They will probably wait with overrunning the cities the government forces currently still hold until the last foreign soldier has left. Then the government forces are likely to fall apart and the warlords who currently rule in Kabul will fight with each other and the Taliban. A year or two later the Taliban will have the whole country under control.

The first sentence seems to hold so far. On Saturday one lonely missile was fired at Bagram airbase. But it caused no damage and was not part of a larger attack.

The second sentence turned out to be wrong. As the U.S. has breached its agreement with the Taliban by staying longer the May 1, the Taliban have also stopped to fulfill their part of the deal. The so far postponed spring offensive has now been launched with strong attacks all over the country.

Yesterday the Taliban made the first attempt to catch Lashkar-gah, the capital of Helmand province in the South.


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Before the attack some 18 Afghan army outposts along the road between Kandahar and Lashkargah and between Farah and Lashkagah were overrun. With the roads closed the commando units that defend the city had a difficult time:

Cont. reading: Afghanistan - Taliban Launch Spring Offensive, Ghani Begs For Ceasefire

Posted by b at 16:41 UTC | Comments (91)