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April 21, 2019

Happy Easter

Easter echoes the older human festivities that celebrate the arrival of spring. The dark and cold days of winter are gone. The bright time of fertility has come.

Today's fertility symbols of Easter, the egg and the hare, relate to the old Germanic fertility goddess Eostre (Ostara).

The Christian resurrection of Jesus is probably a transformation of the story of Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess of love who stepped down into the underworld of death but was revived.

When the Christian belief spread from its eastern Mediterranean origin, the incorporation of old local gods and fables helped to convert the old multi-theistic societies to the new believe. The gods of the pre-Christian religions were not completely discarded, but their tales transformed to support the message the Christian preachers were spreading.

 


Faberge egg with spring flowers and music box - bigger - detail

A personal Easter ritual, inherited from my father, is to read out loud the Easter Walk from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's, Faust, Part I:

Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,

Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.

They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.

For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world's night,
All have come out to the day's broad light.
...
How it hums o'er the fields and clangs from the steeple!
This is the real heaven of the people,
Both great and little are merry and gay,
I am a man, too, I can be, to-day.

Happy Easter!

Posted by b at 08:14 AM | Comments (62)

April 20, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-23

Note: Your host is traveling and visiting family. Posting throughout Easter will be light.

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The piece and issue was picked up by several other blogs and outlets:

No children or ducks harmed by novichok, say health officials - Guardian

Wiltshire council clarification follows claims Donald Trump was shown images to contrary

New York Times Accidentally Unravels UK Government's Official Skripal Narrative - Sputnik
The Official Skripal Story is a Dead Duck - Craig Murray
Trump in Dumps as Spook Picks Sick Kids’n’Dead Duck Trick Pics - The Blogmire
Wie Großbritannien und CIA Donald Trump gegen Russland manipulierten - RT Deutsch
Hospitalized children & dead ducks? The ‘official’ Skripal narrative goes completely quackers - RT English

  • April 18 - First Thoughts On The Mueller Report Release
  • Still reading it. Mueller left out many important issues. The genesis of Russiagate is missing from the report as is any word on the falsehoods in the Steele dossier. The DNC "hack" is taken as fact even though the allegation of Russian involvement is solely based on the word of Crowdstrike, a company with well known anti-Russian bias hired by the DNC.

See also: Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators - The Hill
and Interview with George Papadopoulos (audio) - Michael Tracey

---
A handy reference to counter the dozens of smears against Julian Assange:

Debunking All The Assange Smears - Caitlin Johnstone

Syria:

The war isn't over. Over the last days Syrian troops were attacked by ISIS remnants in desert and by Al-Qaeda fighters around Idleb. Dozens of soldiers died. There is also a fuel scarcety as U.S. sanctions interrupted oil and fuel supplies from Iran.

Two pieces on how the U.S. and its allies nurtured al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria:

A Brief History of the Destruction of Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria - William Van Wagenen
EXCLUSIVE: How CIA & allies helped jihadists in Syria - Interview with Maxime Chaix (Recommended)

Maxime Chaix, an expert on clandestine operations, intelligence and US foreign policy, is a journalist and regular contributor to GlobalGeoNews.com. He has written La guerre de l’ombre en Syrie (The Shadow War in Syria, published in French by Éditions Erick Bonnier), a shocker of a book in which he reveals insightful information on the support which several Western intelligence services provided to jihadist militias in Syria, starting with the CIA. His investigation reveals a multi-faceted state scandal and points out the murky game played by the Western powers and their Middle Eastern allies in the Levant.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (134)

April 19, 2019

Libya - U.S. Reveals Support For Hafter's Side

The situation on the ground in Libya has changed little since we last looked at it two weeks ago.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) troops of General Hafter attack the militias which support the UN recognized government in Tripoli from the south. The LNA still lacks forces for a larger break through. Several objects at the front changed hands several times. There are bloody skirmishes but no big fights. Those are still to come.


Map by South Front - bigger

Some people doubt that Hafter can be successful:

Analysts believe that Haftar over-estimates the strength of his LNA.

They say the controversial field marshal, who backs an administration rival to the GNA based in eastern Libya, was counting on a quick collapse of Tripoli militias.

But pro-GNA reinforcements from around Tripoli rushed to assist in driving back his forces.

It was never clear if Hafter really hoped that a lightning attack on Tripoli would achieve a fast victory, or if his sudden move was intended to rally support from outside. He is now certainly getting such support and that will be to his decisive advantage in the longer play.

As we described it:

Hafter has open support from France, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia. The Trump administration is not interested to step into the mess. Hafter is an old CIA asset and if he takes control there is a good chance that the U.S. will have influence over him. As long as Libyan oil flows and keeps the global oil price down Trump will be happy. Russia is trying to stay in the background to not give the anti-Russian forces in Washington an excuse to intervene.

The Muslim Brothers, supported by Turkey and Qatar, are still in play in Misrata but have otherwise lost their influence on the ground.

Since then the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia pledged tens of millions of dollars to support Hafter's move on Tripoli. During the last week Hafter visited President Sisi of Egypt.

Cont. reading: Libya - U.S. Reveals Support For Hafter's Side

Posted by b at 01:30 PM | Comments (82)

April 18, 2019

Security Breach At U.S. Embassies In Tunisia And Kuwait Almost Caused A Disaster

by L. W.

A U.S. security intelligence officer at the U.S. embassy in Kuwait said: "Kuwaiti authorities discovered 200 gram of C4 high explosive packed in a hole inside a book in a rucksack belonging to a U.S. Marine, minutes before the bag was to be placed on a U.S. civilian carrier flight with destination the U.S.  The airline and passengers were spared a real catastrophe."  This took place several days ago but US authorities declined to reveal the breach in security at two U.S. embassies, one in Tunisia and the other in Kuwait.

According to the source, who requested anonymity, an "investigation by U.S. intelligence personnel was carried out to find out the origins of the explosive and the responsibility of the soldier involved."

"The soldier, on duty in Tunisia, was supposed to be posted to a U.S. base in Kuwait. His belongings were sent from the U.S. embassy in Tunisia, following the usual inspection, to the embassy in Kuwait. On the same day that his luggage was sent to Kuwait, he was asked to depart from Tunisia to the U.S. because the post in Kuwait was no longer available. By the time the transfer of the U.S. soldier to Kuwait was revoked his belongings were already in Kuwait and certainly had already been inspected by U.S. personnel", said the source.

When the US soldier’s posting was revoked, his belongings were supposed to follow back home. The U.S. embassy in Kuwait contacted a contracted private company to send the package to the U.S. on board of an American airline. A rapid inspection was carried out by the U.S. carrier during which the content was cleared for shipment.

The source confirmed that the belongings of the U.S. soldier were sealed in Tunisia and sent to Kuwait. The seal remained and the luggage was delivered as such to the contracted carrier who accepted it, among other goods, for shipping to the Kuwait airport on a scheduled day.

"At the airport, Kuwaiti security officers were doing their routine check for explosives when a bag set the monitor’s red-light beeping, signaling suspicious content.  Personnel from the U.S. embassy were called upon and asked to open the package. After meticulous inspection, 200 gram of highly explosive material, C4, were found encased in a book", said the source.

The source revealed that the soldier is not a Muslim. An interrogation carried out by U.S. authorities determined that the soldier was apparently not aware of the content of his package. The source refused to deliver further information about the investigation but said the breach is very serious and could have ended in disaster had the explosive been triggered.

No further information was disclosed. However, the source confirmed that 200 gram of C4 are enough to blow up an entire airplane in the air with all its passengers. According to the source, the US embassies in Tunisia and Kuwait have taken further security measures following this incident.

---
Note by b:

L.W., the writer of the above, is a person I trust. S/he has the connections and sources needed for such a story. It is however difficult to verify.

Assuming that it is correct, who might be the most likely culprit?

Posted by b at 04:14 PM | Comments (52)

First Thoughts On The Mueller Report Release

The report (pdf) by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is out. Russiagaters will now try to find any word in there that they could use to contradict the report's conclusion. While I intend to read the full report and to write about it, that will require more time.

For now we are left with the remarks of Attorney General William P. Barr on the release of the report:

As you know, one of the primary purposes of the Special Counsel’s investigation was to determine whether members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, or any individuals associated with that campaign, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. [..] As you will see, the Special Counsel’s report states that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Barr says that the Mueller report insists that Russia attempted to interfere in U.S. elections:

First, the report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.

How exactly was it established that the IRA intended to "sow social discord". Is there any IRA witness that said so? Any documents? No. It is a made up reasoning. The IRA activities were driven by commercial interests. To get as many page-views as possible IRA personnel posted memes on both sides of the political spectrum simply because that is where the viewership is. Just ask Foxnews or CNN. There was no political intent in the IRA's activity. To claim that it intended to "sow social discord" is baseless nonsense.

The claims by social networks that "Russians" did this or that are dubious. Twitter for example recently revised its count of "Russian trolls":

Cont. reading: First Thoughts On The Mueller Report Release

Posted by b at 12:24 PM | Comments (107)

April 17, 2019

Open Thread 2019-22

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:06 PM | Comments (184)

April 16, 2019

CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump

CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump

An ass kissing portrait of Gina Haspel, torture queen and director of the CIA, reveals that she lied to Trump to push for more aggression against Russia.

In March 2018 the British government asserted, without providing any evidence, that the alleged 'Novichok' poisoning of Sergej and Yulia Skripal was the fault of Russia. It urged its allies to expel Russian officials from their countries.

The U.S. alone expelled 60 Russian officials. Trump was furious when he learned that EU countries expelled less than 60 in total. A year ago the Washington Post described the scene:

President Trump seemed distracted in March as his aides briefed him at his Mar-a-Lago resort on the administration’s plan to expel 60 Russian diplomats and suspected spies.

The United States, they explained, would be ousting roughly the same number of Russians as its European allies — part of a coordinated move to punish Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.

“We’ll match their numbers,” Trump instructed, according to a senior administration official. “We’re not taking the lead. We’re matching.”

The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials — far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on.

The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.

The expulsion marked a turn in the Trump administration's relation with Russia:

The incident reflects a tension at the core of the Trump administration’s increasingly hard-nosed stance on Russia: The president instinctually opposes many of the punitive measures pushed by his Cabinet that have crippled his ability to forge a close relationship with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

The past month, in particular, has marked a major turning point in the administration’s stance, according to senior administration officials. There have been mass expulsions of Russian diplomats, sanctions on oligarchs that have bled billions of dollars from Russia’s already weak economy and, for the first time, a presidential tweet that criticized Putin by name for backing Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Today the New York Times portraits Gina Haspel's relation with Trump. The writers seem sympathetic to her and the CIA's position. They include an anecdote of the Skripal expulsion decision that is supposed to let her shine in a good light. But it only proves that the CIA manipulated the president for its own purpose:

Cont. reading: CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump

Posted by b at 08:37 AM | Comments (137)

April 15, 2019

Notre Dame On Fire - Updated

Notre Dame, the 800 years old central cathedral of Paris, is on fire.


bigger

Cont. reading: Notre Dame On Fire - Updated

Posted by b at 01:28 PM | Comments (195)

April 14, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-21

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

---
The Washington Post again laments that the U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela failed:

Venezuela’s military, despite U.S. expectations, has not turned on Maduro

Nearly three months later, Venezuela’s top-heavy military remains largely intact under President Nicolás Maduro. The once-brisk pace of defections to neighboring Colombia has slowed to a trickle. Fewer than 1,500 Venezuelan soldiers, relieved by the Colombian government of their weapons and uniforms and housed in sparsely furnished hotel rooms near the border, now sit waiting for something to happen.

The idea that the Venezuelan army would defect was always crazy. Anyone with a bit of knowledge of Venezuela could predict that it would never do so. Reports of lonely soldiers isolated in fourth class hotels in Columbia will not incite any further defections. While the random opposition guy promised amnesty for any soldier moving to his site, the U.S. seeks to arrest one of the few who did:

Venezuela’s ex-spy chief arrested in Madrid on US warrant

Venezuela’s longtime spy chief was arrested Friday in Madrid by Spanish police acting on a U.S. drug warrant a few weeks after he threw his support behind opponents of President Nicolas Maduro.
...
The opposition saw Carvajal’s criticism of Venezuela’s socialist government as a stimulus to prod other military figures to defect, but the country’s armed forces have remained largely loyal to current Maduro.

With the situaton stalled the U.S. is ramping up talk of a military attack on Venezuela:

US Military Attack on Venezuela Mulled by Top Trump Advisors and Latin American Officials at Private DC Meeting

EXCLUSIVE: Away from the public eye, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank hosted a top-level, off-the-record meeting to explore US military options against Venezuela.

Such talks are poor attempts to create some psychological pressure. There are no sound military options. The U.S. is not going to invade Venezuela. It will ramp up sanctions and press its 'allies' to do the same. Venezuela and its people will suffer but they will not give up on resisting U.S. pressure. The current situation will only resolve itself when the regime in Washington or in one of Venezuela's neighboring countries changes.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:00 PM | Comments (152)

Why Is Europe Trying To Sabotage Iran's Nuclear Deal? - (Updated)

Updated below
---

The Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), limits Iran's nuclear activities for 15 years. After that period Iran would still be bound by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Additional Protocol. But Iran would be free to produce enriched Uranium for its nuclear reactors.

In October 2017 the U.S. left the treaty and reintroduced economic sanctions against Iran. But the European signatories, France, Britain and Germany, said they would stick to the deal. Gérard Araud, France's ambassador to the United States, tweeted around that time:

Gérard Araud @GerardAraud - 19:25 utc - 8 Sep 2017

France doesn't support any reopening of JCPOA which should be implemented as it is.

France and Germany created a complicate structure to allow some commercial dealing with Iran while escaping secondary U.S. sanction threats. Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei called the construct "a joke" as it will hardly allow any serious trade.

Last week Germany, Britain and France also stepped up nagging Iran about its ballistic missile programs. Iran harshly rejects (vid, recommended) any such criticism. It has long voluntarily limited the range of its missiles to 2,000 kilometer. As it has no modern air force, missiles are its only means to hold its enemies' assets in the Middle East at risk. It will never give up on them.

Iran sticks to its side of the JCPOA deal. It limits its nuclear activities while allowing the IAEA full access to inspect the country. With U.S. sanctions piling up while the Europeans are unwilling to support regular commercial exchange and waffle about Iran's ballistic missiles, it becomes more and more difficult for Iranian politicians to justify the deal. If the U.S. and the EU do not stick to their side of the deal why should Iran do so?

The Europeans continue to drag their feet. Last week the Royal Mail in Britain said that it would no longer accept parcels to Iran. No sound reason was given. Yesterday Gérard Araud, who in 2017 defended the nuclear deal, set out to put it under doubt:

Gérard Araud @GerardAraud - 19:10 utc - 13 Apr 2019

It’s false to say that at the expiration of the JCPOA, Iran will be allowed to enriching uranium. Under the NPT and its additional protocol, it will have to prove, under strict monitoring, that its nuclear activities are civilian.

Gérard Araud @GerardAraud - 19:17 utc - 13 Apr 2019

As we said in 2002 that enriching uranium without a credible civilian program was illegal under the NPT, we’ll be able to react likewise in 2025 if necessary. Sanctions were imposed. Sanctions could be reimposed. There is no “sunset” after the JCPOA.

Gérard Araud @GerardAraud - 19:20 utc - 13 Apr 2019

Russia is providing enriched uranium to the Busheer nuclear power plant. So there won’t be any conceivable reason for Iran to massively enriching uranium after the JCPOA.

Germany should stop to build the Nord Stream II pipeline because it is supposedly dangerous to depend on gas imports from Russia. But Iran should trust Russia with providing Uranium for its nuclear plants? Why is Germany allowed to enrich Uranium for its nuclear plants? Russia could surely provide that too.

After the 15 year moratorium under the JCPOA ends, Iran is of course free to produce its own Uranium for its own nuclear plants. There is nothing in international laws that demands that Iran continues to buy it from Russia. Araud's statement makes no sense.

This morning Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister replied to Araud:

Cont. reading: Why Is Europe Trying To Sabotage Iran's Nuclear Deal? - (Updated)

Posted by b at 10:04 AM | Comments (53)

April 13, 2019

CIA's Vault 7 Files Launched New Case Against Assange - Attack Intends To Prevent Further Leaks

After the arrest of Julian Assange by British police and the unsealing of the U.S. indictment against him, the question is why is the U.S. doing this and why now?

The indictment alleges that Assange 'conspired' with Chelsea Manning by giving support to her attempt to find a password to an account that would have allowed her to conceal her pilfering of U.S. documents. Glenn Greenwald argues that the case is quite thin and clearly an attack on press freedom. That a reporter or editor has to help a source to conceal its identity is part of the job description.

The Obama administration, not known for reluctance to go after whistleblowers, had already weighed the 'conspired' case and decided against prosecuting it.

It is thus likely that the case, as unsealed now, is only a pretext to extradite Assange from Britain. The real case will only get unsealed if and when Assange is in U.S. custody.

National security reporter William Arkin, who left NBC News over its warmongering, is likely right when he writes that the issue behind this is Wikileaks' publishing of the CIA's hacking tools known as Vault 7.

While the publishing of the Vault 7 files received little coverage in the media, it seriously damaged the CIA's capabilities. Arkin wrote on April 11 about the Vault 7 connection. The Guardian and the Daily Beast were offered the piece but declined to publish it:

The American case, which shifted completely in March 2017, is based up WikiLeaks’ publications of the so-called “Vault 7” documents, an extensive set of cyber espionage secrets of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Vault 7 was little noticed in the emerging Russian collusion scandal of the new Trump administration, but the nearly 10,000 CIA documents that WikiLeaks started publishing that March constituted an unprecedented breach, far more potentially damaging than anything the anti-secrecy website had ever done, according to numerous U.S. officials.

“There have been serious compromises – Manning and Snowden included – but until 2017, no one had laid a glove on the Agency in decades,” says a senior intelligence official who has been directly involved in the damage assessments.

“Then came Vault 7, almost the entire archive of the CIA’s own hacking group,” the official says. “The CIA went ballistic at the breach.” The official is referring to a little known CIA organization called the Center for Cyber Intelligence, a then unknown counterpart to the National Security Agency, and one that conducts and oversees the covert hacking efforts of the U.S. government.

Wikileaks acquired the Vault 7 files in late 2016 or early 2017. In January 2017 a lawyer for Julian Assange tried to make a deal with the U.S. government. Assange would refrain from publishing some critical content of the Vault 7 files in exchange for limited immunity and safe passage to talk with U.S. officials. One issue to be talked about was the sourcing of the DNC files which Wikileaks published. U.S. officials in the anti-Trump camp claimed that Russia had hacked the DNC servers. Assange consistently said that Russia was not the source of the published files. He offered technical evidence to prove that.

On March 23 2017 Wikileaks published some Vault 7 files of minor interest.

The Justice Department wanted a deal and made on offer to Assange. But intervention from then FBI director Comey sabotaged it:

Cont. reading: CIA's Vault 7 Files Launched New Case Against Assange - Attack Intends To Prevent Further Leaks

Posted by b at 02:19 PM | Comments (121)

April 11, 2019

Met Police Arrests Julian Assange

An hour ago the Metropolitan Police arrested Julian Assange, the publisher and editor of Wikileaks, in the Embassy of Ecuador in London. RT has video of the arrest from outside the embassy.

A police statement said:

Julian Assange, 47, (03.07.71) has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Met Police (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador, Hans Crescent, SW1 on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court on 29 June 2012, for failing to surrender to the court.

The MPS had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates' Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum.

He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates' Court as soon as is possible.

This was inevitable.

Ecuador has a new government that asked to receive a loan from the International Monetary Fund. The U.S. conditioned its agreement to the loan on the lifting of the asylum for Assange which the previous Ecuadorian government had granted to him.

After some legal hustle in the Britain, which will take time, Assange will likely be extradited to the United States where the Justice Department holds at least one warrant against him.

Wikileaks was the media outlet for several embarrassing leaks of secret U.S. government papers. It is unclear for which of these publications the Justice Department will indict him.

But the case against Assange is not about justice. His publication of state secrets was obviously an act of journalism and free speech. But the deep state was embarrassed and demands revenge.

The best Assange can hope for, after the judicial process ran its course, is a pardon by the president of the United States.

Posted by b at 06:31 AM | Comments (405)

April 10, 2019

Open Thread 2019-20

I've got nothing ...

Posted by b at 12:07 PM | Comments (171)

April 09, 2019

The Demise Of The 'Western' System

A U.S. made fighter jet that is claimed to evade radar, finally evades radar:

Japan's Air Self-Defense Force says an F35A fighter jet disappeared from radar over the sea off Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan, at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Japan Time.

ASDF officials said the aircraft took off from Misawa air base at around 7:00 p.m., and disappeared at a point about 135 kilometers east of Misawa City.

This again proves that Donald Trump is right:

"Amazing job … so amazing we are ordering hundreds of millions of dollars of new planes for the Air Force, especially the F-35. You like the F-35? ... you can't see it. You literally can't see it. It's hard to fight a plane you can't see," Mr Trump said in October.

Or is he?

The F-35 may have some good electronics but is not a good plane to fly against any competent competitor. The Marine version which can take off and land vertically, is a remake of the Soviet Yakovlev 141 which first flew in 1989 (vid). The derived Air Force and Navy versions do not have the vertical take off and landing capabilities, but inherited the disadvantages the basic design brings with it. The F-35's stealth does not work against modern radar:

[T]o shoot down F-35 one has to have two different bands radar, good sensor-fusion algorithms and decent signal processing protocols and voila'. S-300 PMU2 Favorit can do this, certainly S-400, and its inevitably coming iterations for which there is literally a line of customers, can. In general, this whole BS about "stealth" should end at some point of time--it was a good propaganda while it lasted. Reality is, with modern processing power and radar design F-35 is not survivable against modern cutting edge air-defense and air-forces.

The Turkish President Erdogan knows this. That is why he is not deterred by U.S. threats to not sell F-35s to him while he buys Russian air defense systems. He just flew to Moscow to discuss futher purchases which will likely include a Russian designed fighter:

The two sides must "strengthen cooperation in the military-technical sphere," Putin told Erdogan as they met in the Kremlin. "These regard first of all the completion of the contract to supply S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Turkey," he said. "There are other promising projects on the agenda related to the supply of modern Russian military products to Turkey," Putin added.

The U.S. no longer builds capable weapons. As Ian Welsh wrote yesterday in America: A Failing State:

The US military is showing signs of being unable to create effective advanced military equipment: as with the F-35, which basically can’t fly. It is showing signs of intense incompetence, as when it let multiple planes be destroyed on the ground by a hurricane rather than, uh, fly them out or get them under effective cover.

Other examples of the incompetence of U.S. military design are the Littoral Combat Ships, which are essentially unarmed fast boats. The "stealth" DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyers were supposed to support ground troops with their long range guns. Built at $4 billion a piece the ships are now losing their guns because the ammunition turned out to be too expensive to buy. Before that they lost much of their stealth capabilities because some necessary communication equipment was left out of the original design. The ships new task will be that of a missile launch platform, a job that any commercial ship, carrying containerized Russian missiles (vid), can likewise fulfill.

Ian points out that the lack of military competence is just a symptom. The real problem sits much deeper:

Cont. reading: The Demise Of The 'Western' System

Posted by b at 12:55 PM | Comments (155)

April 08, 2019

Why Is Trump Designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps As Foreign Terrorist Organization?

After their failed coup plot in Venezuela, the Trump administration launched another crazy plan:

The United States is expected to designate Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist organisation, three U.S. officials told Reuters, marking the first time Washington has formally labelled another country’s military a terrorist group.

The White House just issued the designation (no link yet).

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a part of the general Iranian military. It was founded after the 1979 revolution in Iran to protect the state from a coup by the regular Iranian army that served under the Shah.

With some 125,000 men during peacetime the IRGC is only about a third the size of Iran's regular military. It has a similar structure with a groundforce, a navy and an aerospace branch. The IRCG has two additional small branches that are of foreign policy interest. One is the missile force which controls Iran's medium range missiles. The other is the Quds Force, a brigade size unit with some 4,000 men trained for special operations abroad.

The IRGC size during wartime is about triple its peacetime size. Like Iran's regular army its personnal is made up of professionals, conscripts and reservists. Attached to the IRGC is the voluntary Basji force, local paramilitaries that can be called up for internal security issues. There are several endowments and charitable trusts (bonyads) with strong relations to the IRGC. They own commerical enterprises but their profits are distributed to IRGC veterans and to widows and orphans of deceased soldiers.

In 2007 the U.S. Treasury already designated the Quds Force for its "support of terrorism". It also sanctioned several enterprises that are connected to the IRGC. It is totally unclear what the designation of the IRCG as a whole is supposed to achieve. It could be a symbolic move or, as some assume, a step towards a war on Iran:

Former Under-Secretary of State and lead Iran negotiator, Wendy Sherman, said she worried about implications for U.S. forces.

“One might even suggest, since it’s hard to see why this is in our interest, if the president isn’t looking for a basis for a conflict,” said Sherman, who is director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. “The IRGC is already fully sanctioned and this escalation absolutely endangers our troops in the region.”

Mohammad al Shabani lists additional reasons:

Mohammad Ali Shabani @mashabani - 14:36 utc - 8 Apr 2019

THREAD. Usual suspects pushed Trump to designate #IRGC as FTO. Why?
- Constrain Trump’s deal-making instincts
- Box in next US president on Iran (Dems say will rejoin JCPOA)
- Force Lebanon/Iraq into picking between Iran/US
- Force Europe to further cut whatever meager outreach
- provoke Iran to scrap JCPOA
- and, ideally, initiate military confrontation

Colonel Pat Lang likewise presumes that the move is an attempt to provoke a war:

The AUMF on terrorism has been used far and wide as a hunting license to attack any armed group that could even distantly be thought a terrorist enemy. The anti-terrorism AUMF makes such attacks legal under US law.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) is a law passed after the 9/11 attack that allows the president:

to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.

In an October 2017 speech President Trump accused Iran of having supported and harbored al-Qaeda:

Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who were later involved in al Qaeda’s bombing of the American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania, and two years later, killing 224 people, and wounding more than 4,000 others.

The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son. In Iraq and Afghanistan, groups supported by Iran have killed hundreds of American military personnel.

Trump's accusations agaimst Iran are false. Iran had nothing to do with the bombing in Kenya. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan some family members of al-Qaeda leaders fled to Iran. They were put under house arrests and were held as hostages to prevent al-Qaeda operations against Iran.

But the facts will not matter. The designation of the IRGC as "foreign terrorist" will likely make the AUMF relevant, at least under U.S. law.

Pat Lang continues:

Cont. reading: Why Is Trump Designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps As Foreign Terrorist Organization?

Posted by b at 10:25 AM | Comments (150)

April 07, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-19

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

It seems that Boeing has trouble to get the 737 MAX software changes certified. The MAX will be grounded much longer than anticipated, probably for 6 to 8 month:

Boeing’s decision Friday to reduce the production rate on the 737 MAX was a surprise in timing and scope.

This came so quickly and was steep, cutting production from 52 MAXes per month to 42. It comes on the heals that a second software problem was found, delaying submission of the MCAS software upgrade to the FAA for review and approval.
...
Boeing hasn’t announced what the second software problem is. LNA is told it is the interface between the MCAS upgrade and the Flight Control System, but specifics are lacking.

The Flight Control Computer of the 737 was designed in 2000 by Rockwell Collins. These systems have limited computation capacities. Processor speed and RAM will be 1/100s of those in a modern cellphone. One wonders if the additional MCAS software will break some inherent capacity limit.

Jason Pack - The backstory to Hifter's march on Tripoli

[E]ven though Libya's civil war is witnessing its biggest escalation since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and violent skirmishes are bound to break out and troops get captured, the safe money is still that a genuine blood bath will be avoided and the end result will be some sort of fudge with certain factions switching sides and columns of tanks darting forward and retreating. Yet, when the smoke clears, no one faction will control the country and a political compromise will still remain the only way forward.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:01 AM | Comments (132)

April 06, 2019

Libya - From Ghaddafi To Hafter

Libya is back in the news as the so called Libyan National Army under General Hafter is moving to attack Tripoli. How did we get here?

In March 2011 the United Kindom, France and the U.S. set out to destroy the government of Libya. Muslim Brotherhood militia and al-Qaeda aligned forces, equipped by Qatar and supported by Britain, took the easten city of Benghazi. The U.S. airforce destroyed government troops on the ground and helped the militants to capture and murder Muhammar Ghaddafi. Chaos ensued as various tribal forces, local militia and Islamists fought over control of the cities and the spoils.

One person who tried to insert himself into the chaos as new leader of Libya was the former general Khalifa Haftar. He had taken part in the coup that brought Ghaddafi to power but later fell out with him and changed sides. The CIA sponsored him to launch a coup against Ghaddafi. The coup failed and since 1990 Hafter has lived in Virginia where he also became a U.S. citizen.

Haftar's attempt to take power amongst the chaos of 2011 failed. The Muslim Brotherhood aligned militia saw him as a secular Ghaddafi follower and rejected him. The situation changed in 2014 after the military in Egypt ousted the Muslim Brotherhood aligned president Morsi from power. Egypt, under the new president Sisi, feared the Islamist gangs in Libya and wanted to eliminate them. Hafter was called upon to build an army and to take over Benghazi. The United Arab Emirates financed the project. With UAE money, Egyptian air support, Russian supplies, French intelligence and special forces support Hafter slowly defeated the various Islamist gangs and took control over Benghazi.

It took him more than three years to consolidate his control and to build up his Libyan National Army (LNA) that would allow him to take the western parts of Libya.

Those western parts, including the capital Tripoli, are controlled by various feuding familes, clans and tribes, each with their own militia. There is also a nominal Government of National Accord under Fayez al-Sarraj. It is recognized by the UN but has no forces of its own. It depends on the support of local militia in Tripoli and support coming from the coastal city of Misrata. That city has a strong tribal militia which even operates a small air force.

Libya - January 1 2019

bigger

Misrata is also what blocked Hafter from moving his troops from Benghazi in the east along the coast towards Tripoli in the west. The blocking force made it necessary for Hafter to move through the thinly populated south and then west and again north towards Tripoli. An attempt to do so in 2018 failed when local forces in the southwest (pink), supported by Algeria's military, resisted Haftar's move.

Cont. reading: Libya - From Ghaddafi To Hafter

Posted by b at 02:26 PM | Comments (94)

April 05, 2019

Ethiopian Airline Crash - Boeing Advice To 737 MAX Pilots Was Flawed

The preliminary report on the March 10 Ethiopian Airline crash shows that the advice given by the FAA and Boeing to 737 MAX pilots was incomplete. The pilots followed the advice but it was phyisically impossile for them to bring the plane back into a stable flight.

In October 2018 a brand new Boeing 737 MAX airplane, flown by the Indonesian Lion Air airline, crashed into the sea shortly after take off. 189 people died. An investigation found that Boeing had added a 'maneuver characteristics augmentation system' (MCAS) to the MAX that could directly influence the stabilizer, a primary flight control surfaces, but based its decisions on the input of only one sensor. When the sensor failed the system went wild and destabilized the airplane.

Neither the pilots nor the airlines knew about the system. The regulators. which certified the plane as safe to fly, were misinformed about it. They had directed Boeing to include the new system into training material for the pilots which Boeing, for commercial reasons, did not do.

After the Lion Air crash the Federal Aviation Administration issued an Airworthiness Directive 2018-23-51 which adviced 737 MAX pilots how to handle an MCAS failure.


full picture

The FAA told 737 MAX pilots to use the Stabilizer Trim Cutoff switches to interupt the power supply for the system's actuator, a motor driven jackscrew in the back of the airplane. The pilots should then use the manual trim wheels in the cockpit, which move the jackscrew and stabilizer via steel cables, to righten the aircraft.

On March 10 a 737 MAX flown by Ethiopian Airline crashed shortly after take off. 157 people died. Radar data and debris found showed that the cause was likely a similar MCAS failure as had happened on the Indonesian Lion Air flight.

All 737 MAX planes were grounded with the U.S. being the last country to order it.

Some U.S. pilots, as well as some commentators here, publicly blamed the darker skin pilots for not using the simple procedure the FAA had put out: "Why didn't they just flip the switches? Stupid undertrained third-world dudes."

It now turns out that the well trained and experienced pilots on the Ethiopian Airline flight did exactly what Boeing and the FAA told them to do. From the Ethiopean Airlines press release (pdf):

The preliminary report clearly showed that the Ethiopian Airlines pilots who were commanding Flight ET 302/10 March have followed the Boeing recommended and FAA approved emergency procedures to handle the most difficult emergency situation created on the airplane. Despite their hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistence of nose diving.

The procedure Boeing and the FAA advised to use was insufficient to bring the aircraft back under control. It was in fact impossible to recover the plane. The possibility of this to happen was discussed in pilot fora and on specialized websites for some time.

The MCAS system moves the front of the stablizer up to turn the nose of the airplane down. The plane then decends very fast. The aerodynamic forces (the "wind") pushing against the stabilizer gets so strong that a manual counter-trim becomes impossible.

Avionics engineer Peter Lemme details the physics involved in this.


via Seattle Times - full picture

Lemme concludes:

Cont. reading: Ethiopian Airline Crash - Boeing Advice To 737 MAX Pilots Was Flawed

Posted by b at 05:53 AM | Comments (124)