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December 07, 2021

Open Thread 2021-95

@all - I will be offline for the next three days for a preplanned medical procedure (nothing serious) that requires a short hospital stay.

Please behave.

- b.

Posted by b at 13:00 UTC | Comments (170)

December 06, 2021

Nuclear Talks - Israel Makes Funny Demands

This, from Israel, is somewhat weird:

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Mossad chief David Barnea will push during their meetings this week in Washington with senior Biden administration officials for the United States to carry out a military strike on Iranian targets, Israel’s three main TV news broadcasts reported Sunday night.
...
Along with calling for tougher sanctions, the Israelis will reportedly ask the US to take military action against Iran.

Channel 12 news said the target of a US potential attack would be not a nuclear facility in Iran, but rather a site like an Iranian base in Yemen. The aim of such a strike would be to convince the Iranians to soften their positions at the negotiating table.

For starters: Iran does not have a base in Yemen.

Any U.S. strike on an Iranian target would of course not convince Iran to soften its position. It would in fact harden it. A strike would also necessitate a violent response from Iran. The foremost targets would likely be U.S. troops in Iraq.

Last weeks talks in Vienna about a U.S. return to the nuclear deal with Iran were disappointing for the 'western' participants. The new Iranian negotiation team is not as weak as the previous one. It will not compromise Iranian sovereignty and has made serious demands. But that does not mean that the talks have failed:

Russia’s chief negotiator in the Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that “disappointment” in the talks “seems to be premature.”

“In multilateral diplomacy there is the rule: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So changes are possible as a matter of principle.”

The “technical break” in the talks until next week, Ulyanov said, was “an opportunity for each participant, including Iran and the U.S., to consult with the capitals and to think how to proceed further, taking into account the positions of other counterparts.”

It is also quite incomprehensive that the Israeli government 'leaks' that it will demand U.S. strikes. It usually would do such lobbying silently.

Any strike would most likely end further negotiations about the nuclear deal. But during the last months dozens of high ranking former Israeli officials have spoken out in favor of the nuclear deal:

Bucking the official line, some Israeli security officials, many of whom were heading into retirement, admitted that the policy was a failure.

“Iran is far from falling to its knees; it has not folded,” the outgoing head of the Israeli military intelligence’s research division told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in October 2020. “It has not yet been proven that the exit from the nuclear agreement served Israel.”

This past March the outgoing deputy head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service told the same newspaper in no uncertain terms that the situation in 2021 was worse than in 2015 and that former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s sprawling “12 demands” of Iran — including a halt to its nuclear program, missile development and support for regional proxies — was pie in the sky, “like seeking to transform the Iranians into Meretz,” an allusion to a left-wing Israeli political party.
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Another former Israeli military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, recently admitted to the Jerusalem Post that a new nuclear deal with Iran “will likely be worse” than the 2015 original, and yet “even such an inferior deal is better than no deal.”

During one week alone in late November, at two separate conferences, multiple former Israeli security officials who served under Netanyahu slammed the former prime minister’s policy on Iran.

All those former official were calling the old Israeli tactic of pressing the U.S. into a war on Iran instead of following the nuclear deal a major failure. I find it therefore implausible that the current Israeli government wants to follow the same failed path.

Today's widely spread call by the Israeli government for an attack on Iran is thus most likely for domestic consumption. Gantz and Barnea know quite well that such al illogical appeal will find no echo within the Biden administration.

To focus on China Biden wants to leave the Middle East as much as possible. He is not interested in starting another war there. Certainly not one that would seriously hurt all U.S. assets in the region, including Israel.

Posted by b at 17:47 UTC | Comments (80)

December 05, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-094

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

CM - Zero Covidista @xuchuanmei - 9:46 UTC · Nov 20, 2021
I'm sure the since deleted Weibo post by #PengShuai has been translated into En by ppl, but I haven't seen a properly translated version, & sounds like many others havn't read her post yet. Here's an attempt by myself, content in square brackets were added by myself... #WTA
...
Many int'l media & commentators claimed #PengShuai accused Zhang Gaoli of "sexual assault", some even say "rape". While Zhang's behavior was dispicable & inexcusable, I don't think his sexual misconduct breached CN's criminal law bc in the end he persuaded Peng into agreeing...
Sadegh Ghorbani @GhorbaniSadegh - 10:36 UTC · Dec 5, 2021

Notice! it's going to be a sort of long THREAD 🧵.
A Senior Iranian MFA official has held a briefing about Vienna talks. Here comes the highlights.
To start, the official says it was predictable that other parties planned to start blame game and accuse Iran of being not serious.
...

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Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-094

Posted by b at 13:57 UTC | Comments (231)

December 04, 2021

U.S. Intelligence Has Found ... Easy To Disprove Claims Of A Russian Attack On Ukraine

A few years back:

In his State of the Union message in January, President Bush approvingly cited the report. “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” said Bush.
...
On Thursday, standing beside British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said of Britain, “Not only our intelligence, but the intelligence of this great country made a clear and compelling case that Saddam Hussein was a threat to security and peace.”

Now:

As tensions mount between Washington and Moscow over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. intelligence has found the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops, according to U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post.
...
“The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 with a scale of forces twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders,” said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. “The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment.”

The unclassified U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Post, which includes satellite photos, shows Russian forces massing in four locations. Currently, 50 battlefield tactical groups are deployed, along with “newly arrived” tanks and artillery, according to the document.

I am convinced by now that the U.S., NATO and the Ukraine have planned to attack the rebel held grounds in eastern Ukraine in early February 2022. 'Western' propagandists and media will not report of the Ukrainian attack on its eastern rebels.

(The August 8 2008 attack on Russian peacekeepers in Georgia took place when Putin attended the opening of the Olympics in Beijing. Russia has confirmed that Putin will attend in the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on February 4 2022.)

The Ukrainian attack will likely have only little success. But the rebels can not hold for long without significant reinforcement. The Ukrainian army attack will thus provoke Russia into intervening. That counter-intervention will then get reported as the 'long expected Russian attack on Ukraine'.

The current U.S. propaganda of an Russian attack on the Ukraine is pure bullshit designed to prepare the public for the above preplanned narrative.

When the Russian counter-attack takes place the Ukrainian army will get destroyed by a rainstorm of Russian missiles. But Russian forces will not invade the country. Russia will only hold, via its proxy forces, on to the rebel republics around Donetzk and Luhansk. Russia's aim is to federalize the Ukraine as laid out in the Minsk agreements with the east having a veto against any NATO membership of the country. That aim does not require an occupation of the Ukraine.

We know that the above 175,000 troops number is totally made up just as the numbers claimed by the Ukraine. As the Washington Post report describes it:

While Ukrainian assessments have said Russia has approximately 94,000 troops near the border, the U.S. map puts the number at 70,000 — but it predicts a buildup to as many as 175,000 and describes extensive movement of battalion tactical groups to and from the border “to obfuscate intentions and to create uncertainty.”
...
The Russian military moves come as Moscow has raised eyebrows in Washington with a sudden mobilization of reservists this year and a dramatic escalation of its rhetoric regarding Ukraine.

Russian officials have defended the reserve mobilization as a necessary measure to help modernize the Russian armed forces. But the administration official raised concerns about the “sudden and rapid program to establish a ready reserve of contract reservists,” which the official said is expected to add an additional 100,000 troops to the approximately 70,000 deployed now.

The somewhat murky BARS-2021 program to establish a combat army reserve (BARS) in Russia was only launched in the mid of this year:

We are talking about reservists who will conclude a contract with the Ministry of Defense, receive certain money for being in the reserve and regularly participate in military training and exercises.

Such reservists have been participating in military exercises since 2016, as an experiment.

The message from the Ministry of Defense on the increase in the number of reservists also refers to the exercises in the Kaliningrad region, to which they were transferred in early September.

The aim of building that reserve force is to eventually do away with compulsory conscription. It has nothing to do with a war in Ukraine. The 100,000 "ready reserve of contract reservists" do not exist today. There are currently only experimental units some of which took part in exercises in Kalinigrad.  It will take years to stand up and train a 100,000 strong force of weekend warriors before it can be taken into any serious action.

The whole claim of a 175,000 strong Russian force by early next year is thus pure bullshit.

As is the claim of "100 battalion tactical groups". The Russian army has in total only 136 of those:

According to Defence Minister Shoigu, in every regiment and brigade, two battalions are formed by contractors, while one is formed by recruits, who are not involved in combat missions. Currently, there are 136 tactical battalion groups in the armed forces formed by contractors.

Russia is a county spanning 11 timezones. It is totally unfeasible for it to throw three quarters of its professional tactical units against the Ukraine as this would leave all other borders bare of protection.

The satellite pictures the report mentions are also not relevant. They simply show troops on their regular training grounds hundreds of kilometers away from the Ukraine. Troops train for war all the time. It is their job.

All together the claims made today are cheep propaganda not even intended to be taken seriously by any professional in the field.

"The British government has learned" was a lie. Saddam had not sought uranium from Africa. The  "U.S. intelligence has found" claim is likewise a lie.

The lies told today are to build a narrative that can later be used to obfuscate and hide the real initiator of a preplanned war in the Ukraine.

That is not going to be Russia.

Posted by b at 16:44 UTC | Comments (109)

December 03, 2021

Nuclear Talks - Western Negotiators Fail To Recognize Iran's Position

This week new negotiations about a U.S. return to the nuclear deal with Iran took place. To set these into context and to understand the various positions it is helpful to look back at how this came to pass.


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In 2015 the Iranian government, the five members of the UN Security Council and Germany agreed on a deal (JCPOA) that would lift sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on Iran's nuclear developments. The deal happened after a lengthy period during which Iran had been under global sanctions.

But even with the deal in place then U.S. president Barack Obama did not lift all the sanctions he had agreed to lift. Iran's economic situation recovered a bit after the deal but never to the extend that had been expected. Still in general both sides stuck to the deal. Iran limited its nuclear program which was also put under continuous IAEA inspections.

Donald Trump, the next U.S president, did not like the deal. Israel and his donors told him to end it to later goad him into attacking Iran. In May 2018 the U.S. left the deal and reimposed sanctions.

Iran waited for a full year. It then started to expand its nuclear program under a clause in the deal that allowed it to do so when other participants do not fulfill their promises. The program has since made quite significant progress towards higher enriched Uranium.

Cont. reading: Nuclear Talks - Western Negotiators Fail To Recognize Iran's Position

Posted by b at 18:00 UTC | Comments (101)

December 02, 2021

The 'Missing' Star Athlete Peng Shuai Is Not Missing At All

The New York Times has falsely claimed that the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai accused her former lover of sexual assault. She did not do that.

In her post on the Chinese website Weibo (English translation) Peng Shuai only lamented that the relation with her old lover had come to an end. She did not accuse him of anything that could be considered an assault. The NYT made that up.

Peng Shuai did write:

Romantic attraction is such a complicated thing that explain it clearly. From that day on, I renewed my love for you. Throughout my time with you after that, purely based on our interactions, you were a very good person, and you treated me well. We talking about recent history, as well as ancient eras. You educated me on so many topics, and we had discussions about economics, politics. We never ran out of things to talk about. We played chess, sang, played table tennis, played pool and also played tennis together. We always had endless fun. It was as if our personalities fit perfectly together.

What an 'assault'!

Still the Times has continued to wrangle the non-issue into various 'news' pieces and editorials. It is obviously using it to bash China.

On today's front page we find this nonsense.


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Cont. reading: The 'Missing' Star Athlete Peng Shuai Is Not Missing At All

Posted by b at 11:30 UTC | Comments (96)

December 01, 2021

Open Thread 2021-93

News & views ...

Posted by b at 16:56 UTC | Comments (288)

November 30, 2021

With Vaccine Fairness China And Russia Are Beating The 'West'

For a moment I thought that I had caught the Associated Press in reporting a wrong number.


But in fact both headlines are right.

XinhuaXi announces supplying Africa with additional 1 bln COVID-19 vaccine doses, pledges to jointly implement nine programs 

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday announced that China would provide an additional 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa and pledged to jointly implement nine programs on China-Africa future cooperation.
...
To help the African Union (AU) achieve its goal of vaccinating 60 percent of the African population by 2022, President Xi announced that China would provide another one billion doses of vaccines to Africa, including 600 million doses as donation and 400 million doses to be provided through such means as joint production by Chinese companies and relevant African countries.

"In addition, China will undertake 10 medical and health projects for African countries, and send 1,500 medical personnel and public health experts to Africa," Xi added.

By Nov. 12, 2021, China had provided over 1.7 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 110 countries and organizations, including 50 African countries and the AU Commission.

Associated PressChina to donate 600 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa 

China has pledged to donate 600 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccines to Africa as the world grapples with the unequal distribution of the shots between rich and poor countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made the promise Monday in a video speech to the opening ceremony of a China-Africa forum on economic cooperation.

He said China will supply 1 billion doses in all. The other 400 million are to come through other routes such as production by Chinese companies in Africa.

Both headline can be justified. While Xinhua highlights the top number the AP emphasizes the donation.

China is putting the 'west' to shame with its donations and the additional vaccine doses it distributes. In exchange it will surely receive some good will:

Cont. reading: With Vaccine Fairness China And Russia Are Beating The 'West'

Posted by b at 17:23 UTC | Comments (287)

November 29, 2021

How NGOs And Newspapers In Germany Propagandize Chinese 'Querdenker' Zhang Zhan

Today a number of U.S. aligned non government organizations launched an anti-China campaign in Germany.

Reporters Without Boarders (RSF) led the campaign together with PEN, Amnesty International and a Germany journalist union. They called for an hour long tweet storm to demand of that German politicians should act to get the Chinese 'journalist' Zhang Zhan released from prison in China.


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The campaign was somewhat successful. A search for the #ZhangZhan hashtag used show that a lot of ill informed people, including many journalists, tweeted or retweeted the issue.


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The misinformation spread by Robin Alexander in the above tweet is pretty heavy but not unusual.

Zhang Zhan is not a journalist. She was not one of the first to post video from Wuhan. She did not report on the COVID-19 but protested against the successful lockdown. She is not in jail for that reason.

Cont. reading: How NGOs And Newspapers In Germany Propagandize Chinese 'Querdenker' Zhang Zhan

Posted by b at 18:59 UTC | Comments (153)

November 27, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-092

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Flashback:

Joe Biden @JoeBiden - 3:16 UTC · Feb 2, 2020

Trump further diminished the U.S. in the eyes of the world by expanding his travel ban. This new “African Ban,” is designed to make it harder for black and brown people to immigrate to the United States. It’s a disgrace, and we cannot let him succeed.

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Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-092

Posted by b at 17:56 UTC | Comments (295)