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August 17, 2019

Long Range Attack On Saudi Oil Field Ends War On Yemen

Today Saudi Arabia finally lost the war on Yemen. It has no defenses against new weapons the Houthis in Yemen acquired. These weapons threaten the Saudis economic lifelines. This today was the decisive attack:

Drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked a massive oil and gas field deep inside Saudi Arabia’s sprawling desert on Saturday, causing what the kingdom described as a “limited fire” in the second such recent attack on its crucial energy industry.
...
The Saudi acknowledgement of the attack came hours after Yahia Sarie, a military spokesman for the Houthis, issued a video statement claiming the rebels launched 10 bomb-laden drones targeting the field in their “biggest-ever” operation. He threatened more attacks would be coming.
New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces

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Today's attack is a check mate move against the Saudis. Shaybah is some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Houthi-controlled territory. There are many more important economic targets within that range:

The field’s distance from rebel-held territory in Yemen demonstrates the range of the Houthis’ drones. U.N. investigators say the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). That puts Saudi oil fields, an under-construction Emirati nuclear power plant and Dubai’s busy international airport within their range.

Unlike sophisticated drones that use satellites to allow pilots to remotely fly them, analysts believe Houthi drones are likely programmed to strike a specific latitude and longitude and cannot be controlled once out of radio range. The Houthis have used drones, which can be difficult to track by radar, to attack Saudi Patriot missile batteries, as well as enemy troops.

The attack conclusively demonstrates that the most important assets of the Saudis are now under threat. This economic threat comes on top of a seven percent budget deficit the IMF predicts for Saudi Arabia. Further Saudi bombing against the Houthi will now have very significant additional cost that might even endanger the viability of the Saudi state. The Houthi have clown prince Mohammad bin Salman by the balls and can squeeze those at will.

Cont. reading: Long Range Attack On Saudi Oil Field Ends War On Yemen

Posted by b at 20:16 UTC | Comments (92)

August 16, 2019

Epstein Suicided - Thread 2

There are nearly 550 comments on the Epstein Suicided thread. A second one is thus justified.

As I did not follow the development of that case as diligently as some commentators here I have, for now, little to add.

The British Daily Mail reported that Epstein had this painting in his New York mansion.


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One wonders if Bill and/or Hillary knew about it.

Please use this thread for the continuing discussion of the Epstein issue.

Posted by b at 16:59 UTC | Comments (255)

August 15, 2019

Syria - Frontline Breach Opens Door To A Deep Battle For Idlib

During the last months the Syrian government made some progress in the norther part of Hama governorate on the border to the jihadi held Idlib governorate. The breach of the jihadi defense lines must now be used to develop a larger campaign.

The maps show the progress between May 15 2019 and today (Red - government control; Green - jihadi control).

North Hama Front - May 15 2019

via LiveUAmap - bigger

North Hama Front - August 15 2019

via LiveUAmap - bigger

The current operation is a pincer movement on the western and eastern side of Khan Shaykhun. It is designed to envelope the jihadi held towns Al Lataminah, Kafr Zayta, Khan Shaykhun and Morek.

Cont. reading: Syria - Frontline Breach Opens Door To A Deep Battle For Idlib

Posted by b at 17:28 UTC | Comments (76)

August 14, 2019

Violent Protests In Hong Kong Reach Their Last Stage

The riots in Hong Kong are about to end.

The protests, as originally started in June, were against a law that would have allowed criminal extraditions to Taiwan, Macao and mainland China. The law was retracted and the large protests have since died down. What is left are a few thousand students who, as advertised in a New York Times op-ed, intentionally seek to provoke the police with "marginal violence":

Such actions are a way to make noise and gain attention. And if they prompt the police to respond with unnecessary force, as happened on June 12, then the public will feel disapproval and disgust for the authorities. The protesters should thoughtfully escalate nonviolence, maybe even resort to mild force, to push the government to the edge. That was the goal of many people who surrounded and barricaded police headquarters for hours on June 21.

The protesters now use the same violent methods that were used in the Maidan protests in the Ukraine. The U.S. seems to hope that China will intervene and create a second Tianamen scene. That U.S. color revolution attempt failed but was an excellent instrument to demonize China. A repeat in Hong Kong would allow the U.S. to declare a "clash of civilization" and increase 'western' hostility against China. But while China is prepared to intervene it is unlikely to do the U.S. that favor. Its government expressed confidence that the local authorities will be able to handle the issue.

There are rumors that some Hong Kong oligarchs were originally behind the protests to prevent their extradition for shady deals they made in China. There may be some truth to that. China's president Xi Jingpin is waging a fierce campaign against corruption and Hong Kong is a target rich environment for fighting that crime.

The former British colony is ruled by a handful of oligarchs who have monopolies in the housing, electricity, trade and transport markets:

The book to read is Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong (2010) by Alice Poon, which explains how the lack of competition law created outrageous wealth for the tycoons. It’s a complex subject but the key point is that in Hong Kong all land is leasehold and ultimately owned by the government, which uses it as a means of raising revenue. This goes back to the days of empire when British policy required colonies to be self-funding. The system kept taxes down and attracted business – but one side-effect was that it gave the government an interest in rationing land to keep it expensive. That didn’t matter much when the local economy comprised a few traders but, in the modern technological world of 2012, it puts the government at odds with every person and business wanting affordable space. Indeed, it induces the government to distort and damage the economy, and indeed society.

This system paved the way for a handful of Hong Kong families to become unimaginably wealthy by getting their hands on cheap land back in the days before the city started to boom.

Rents and apartment prices in Hong Kong are high. People from the mainland who buy up apartments with probably illegally gained money only increase the scarcity. This is one reason why the Cantonese speaking Hong Kong protesters spray slurs against the Mandarin speaking people from the mainland. The people in Hong Kong also grieve over their declining importance. Hong Kong lost its once important economical position. In 1993 Hong Kong's share of China's GDP was 27%. It is now less than a tenths of that and the city is now more or less irrelevant to mainland China.

Democracy in Hong Kong is restricted to further the interests of the oligarchs:

Cont. reading: Violent Protests In Hong Kong Reach Their Last Stage

Posted by b at 15:14 UTC | Comments (246)

August 13, 2019

The Man Who Weaponizes And Loses Everything

Many news outlets documented that Putin's Russia weaponizes everything, including humor, health information, giant squids, robotic cockroaches, tedium and postmodernism.

At the same time these outlets tell us that Putin is losing many things, or already lost them.

Which bears asking: Is there a causality between weaponizing and losing stuff?

Cont. reading: The Man Who Weaponizes And Loses Everything

Posted by b at 12:46 UTC | Comments (163)

August 11, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-47

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related: Inside Kashmir, Cut Off From the World: ‘A Living Hell’ of Anger and Fear - NYT

Imran Khan @ImranKhanPTI - 9:58 AM · Aug 11, 2019

The curfew, crackdown & impending genocide of Kashmiris in IOK is unfolding exactly acc to RSS ideology inspired by Nazi ideology. Attempt is to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing. Question is: Will the world watch & appease as they did Hitler at Munich?
I am afraid this RSS ideology of Hindu Supremacy, like the Nazi Aryan Supremacy, will not stop in IOK; instead it will lead to suppression of Muslims in India & eventually lead to targeting of Pakistan. The Hindu Supremacists version of Hitler's Lebensraum.

Related:
Kim Jong Un fired off another new missiles type: North Korea tests 'short-range ballistic missiles' - BBC

Related:

Daily Mail: >Jeffrey Epstein told prison guards and fellow inmates that he believed someone had tried to kill him in the weeks before his death, a source has revealed to DailyMail.com

The insider, who had seen the disgraced financier on several occasions during his incarceration at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, also claims that the normally reserved Epstein seemed to be in good spirits.<

Whitney Webb wrote a well researched series on Epstein for MintPress News:

NY Post: >Kasman said he heard US Attorney General William Barr personally made a hush-hush trip to the [Metropolitan Correctional Center] two weeks ago, about the time Epstein was found in his cell with bruises around his neck.

“When does that happen?” he asked. “The attorney general never visits jails. Something’s not right there.”<

---
Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-47

Posted by b at 17:45 UTC | Comments (286)

August 10, 2019

Epstein Suicided

Unsurprisingly Jeffrey Epstein was found dead, presumably by suicide, as that is what 'officials' claim:

Jailed multimillionaire financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein has died by suicide, according to two law enforcement sources.

He was taken from New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center on Saturday morning in cardiac arrest and died at an area hospital, the sources told CNN.
...
Just weeks ago, Epstein was placed on a suicide watch after he was found July 23 in his Manhattan jail cell with marks on his neck, a law enforcement source and a source familiar with the incident told CNN at the time.

Just yesterday a court released the first 2,000 pages of a civil case against Epstein's madame, Ghislaine Maxwell:

The documents, the largest cache to be released in the 13 years since Epstein’s case began, offer brutal details about Epstein’s trafficking of teenage girls in Palm Beach, New York and overseas — as well as Maxwell’s obsessive and often abusive quest to provide him with new girls over a span of years in the early to mid 2000s.
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[Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre], who turned 36 on Friday, names a number of other men in politics, academia and business that she says she was directed to have sex with. In a 2017 interview with the Miami Herald, Giuffre said that Epstein wanted her to please various influential people then so that he could learn about their sexual peccadilloes and use them as leverage if he needed to.

While there’s no direct evidence contained in the court record substantiating her accounts with prominent men, Giuffre did provide testimony and evidence to corroborate her claims of exploitation at the hands of Epstein and Maxwell through photographs, plane logs and even a medical record from Presbyterian Hospital in New York where Giuffre was taken by Epstein after a particularly abusive sex episode.
...
Some of the testimony released Friday is difficult to read, as when one 15-year-old Swedish girl, shaking and crying in fear, told a butler who worked for two of Epstein’s closest friends that she had been taken to Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean and ordered to have sex with him and others. The butler, in a sworn statement, said the girl, visibly traumatized, told him that Epstein and Maxwell had physically threatened to harm her and seized her passport to keep her on the island, according to the butler’s statement.

The released court papers can be found via Courthousenews.

Some of those influential people who Epstein, or the organization behind him, blackmailed, will be quite happy that he is gone. They will now try to bury the rest of the case. Giuffre and other witnesses better watch their backs.

Posted by b at 13:50 UTC | Comments (547)

August 09, 2019

North Korea Dislikes U.S. Plans To Occupy It

The borg in Washington DC will not be happy about Trump siding with the North Korean chairman Kim Jong Un:

US President Donald Trump told reporters Friday he agreed with Kim Jong Un's opposition to US-South Korea war games, after receiving what he was a new letter from the North Korean leader.

"I got a very beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un yesterday," Trump said. "It was a very positive letter."

"He wasn't happy with the war games," Trump added, referring to new military exercises between US forces and the South Korean military that began this week.

"As you know, I've never liked it either. I've never been a fan. And you know why? I don't like paying for it," the US leader said.

Trump received Kim's three-page letter on Thursday after Pyongyang undertook four missile tests in the past two weeks that it said were a response to the joint exercises between the South and the United States.

We once explained how the usually big U.S.-South Korean maneuvers lead to economic pain in North Korea:

Each time the U.S. and South Korea launch their very large maneuvers, the North Korean conscription army (1.2 million strong) has to go into a high state of defense readiness. Large maneuvers are a classic starting point for military attacks. The U.S.-South Korean maneuvers are (intentionally) held during the planting (April/May) or harvesting (August) season for rice when North Korea needs each and every hand in its few arable areas. Only 17% of the northern landmass is usable for agriculture and the climate in not favorable. The cropping season is short. Seeding and harvesting days require peak labor.

The southern maneuvers directly threaten the nutritional self-sufficiency of North Korea. In the later 1990s they were one of the reasons behind a severe famine. (Lack of hydrocarbons and fertilizer due to sanctions as well as a too rigid economic system were other main reasons.)

On Trump's order the current maneuvers in South Korea have been toned down. They no longer involve a huge mobilization of forces as they are mostly done in software and as staff exercises. North Korea no longer needs to counter mobilize for them.

But Kim Jong Un is still bitching about the issue:

On Tuesday North Korea threatened more weapons tests, and said the US-South Korea war games were "an undisguised denial and a flagrant violation" of the diplomatic process between Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul.

Why is he so miffed?

The reason is likely not the form of this year's maneuver but its content:

Cont. reading: North Korea Dislikes U.S. Plans To Occupy It

Posted by b at 18:13 UTC | Comments (104)

August 08, 2019

No, There Will Be No Russian Base In Iran

A somewhat weird report published at Oilprice.com claims that Russia will station troops, ships and fighter jets in Iran. The piece was reproduced at Yahoo.com and Zerohedge even as it is obviously bonkers.

The headline: Russia Gains Stranglehold Over Persian Gulf:

In a potentially catastrophic escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf, Russia plans to use Iran’s ports in Bandar-e-Bushehr and Chabahar as forward military bases for warships and nuclear submarines, guarded by hundreds of Special Forces troops under the guise of ‘military advisers’, and an airbase near Bandar-e-Bushehr as a hub for 35 Sukhoi Su-57 fighter planes OilPrice.com has exclusively been told by senior sources close to the Iranian regime. The next round of joint military exercises in the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Hormuz will mark the onset of this in-situ military expansion in Iran, as the Russian ships involved will be allowed by Iran to use the facilities in Bandar-e-Bushehr and Chabahar. Depending on the practical strength of domestic and international reaction to this, these ships and Spetsntaz will remain in place and will be expanded in numbers over the next 50 years.

Where to start?

1. The Persian Gulf is a lake with an average(!) depth of less than 50 meter. It is a place where one might use small and nimble midget submarines. But no one serious will put a nuclear submarines there.

2. Sukhoi Su-57 fighter planes have yet to be built. Those currently flying are test planes which still lack the required new engines. Russia recently ordered the first batch of Su-57 but the first deliveries will only be in 2022-24. 35 of these planes may be available in a decade or  so. When they are they will protect mother Russia from NATO and not some Iranian oil wells.

3. Spetsnaz (not Spetsntaz) are expensively trained special forces. They do not do guard duty for bases.

4. Iran's constitution (pdf) does not allow the stationing of foreign troops. Article 146 is pretty clear about that:

The establishment of any kind of foreign military base in Iran, even for peaceful purposes, is forbidden.

In August 2016 the Russian and Iranian military agreed to to set up a logistic base in Hamedan, Iran, for the Su-22M3 bombers used over Syria. A few days after the deployment became publicly known the agreement was shunned:

On 22 August, Tehran called a halt to the military cooperation and barred the Russians from using its bases. One reason for this surprising turn of events is the political tussle in Iran where Defence Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan was accused of ‘disrespecting parliament’ and of violating the country’s constitution.

5. The "next round of joint military exercises" between Iran and Russia in the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Hormuz will be the very first one. It required a special agreement. That is why it made news:

MOSCOW, August 5. /TASS/. Tehran expects to hold joint naval drills with Russia this year and preparations for the maneuvers will begin soon, Iranian Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Monday.

"Earlier, we signed an agreement [on joint exercises] with Russia’s Armed Forces and the Russian Fleet’s command. Soon the preparations and maneuvers’ planning will start and they will be carried out this year," Khanzadi was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.
...
In late July, the Iranian Navy commander paid a visit to Russia. He told the IRNA news agency that Russian-Iranian drills could soon be held in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, including in the Strait of Hormuz.

An "expert on Iran-Russia relations" remarked:

Ariane Tabatabai @ArianeTabatabai - 21:34 UTC · Aug 5, 2019

Iranian media are reporting that #Iran and #Russia have signed a military cooperation agreement.

The details of the agreement aren't public but this is the first time such an agreement has been concluded by the two countries.

It is the "first time such an agreement" was signed only when one ignores the Joint Military Cooperation Agreement between Russia and Iran signed in January 2015 as well as the one found in August 2017. The new agreement is only the first in that it regulates joint exercises.

It seems that "experts" working for western think tanks and random authors with mysterious "senior sources close to the Iranian regime" are not the best informed people when it comes to Iran.

Each of the five points above demonstrate that the report is nonsense and that its author is not the least familiar with military and strategic issues. It is no wonder then that the rest of the Oilprice piece is a shoddy as its first paragraph. Mysterious sources who are bad mouthing Iran, half baked knowledge of facts and speculative interpretations of those do not make a reliable story.

Iran and Russia had at times difficult relations. In 2010 then President Medvedev signed on to the U.S. driven UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. The relations went cold after that. The intense military cooperation between both countries during the war on Syria revived them. But the relations are certainly not deep enough to allow for a Russian base in Iran.

Iran needs weapons and Russia likes to sell those. That is about it. There may be some common maneuvers but those are symbolic and do not constitute an alliance. Iran is very proud of its independence and its parliament would not agree to one while Russia is not interested in overextending itself. Only a U.S. attack on Iran could change that. 

It is easy to get the issue right. One simply has to ask: A Russian base in the Persian Gulf? What for?

Posted by b at 15:34 UTC | Comments (76)

August 07, 2019

Open Thread 2019-46

I got nothing ...

Posted by b at 17:44 UTC | Comments (295)