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July 21, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-41

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related: Boeing faces largest quarterly loss in its history after a $4.9 billion financial hit due to 737 MAX grounding

The total so far is about $8 billion. Each month of grounding will add another $1.6 billion.

The above take was correct: La Stampa, published on July 17 confirms it (machine translated):

The MATRA operation of the DIGOS in Turin, which in recent days has led to the discovery of a weapons depot belonging to a pro-Ukrainian neo-Nazi group from Turin, does not seem to be over. This morning, Wednesday 17 July, two LR-0 "Rockets" were seized for rocket launchers used to arm MB339 aircraft also supplied to the Italian Air Force.
The entire operation started following the activity of some Italian fighters with extremist ideologies, who took part in the armed conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

How Trump’s arch-hawk lured Britain into a dangerous trap to punish Iran - Tisdall/Guardian
UK navy heard in audio trying to thwart Iran ship seizure - AP
Khamenei’s three commandments for the Iranians: the Middle East is heading towards “maximum danger" - E.J. Magnier

Iran's foreign minister:

Javad Zarif - @JZarif - 0:48 UTC Jul 20, 2019
Unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold int'l maritime rules.
As I said in NY, it is IRAN that guarantees the security of the Persian Gulf & the Strait of Hormuz.
UK must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US.

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-41

Posted by b at 14:44 UTC | Comments (112)

July 20, 2019

Putin Confirms: Sergei Skripal Wanted To Go Back To Russia

Filmmaker Oliver Stone recently interviewed the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. The transcript was published yesterday evening. Most of the interview is about Ukraine. A separate piece will cover that country. There is also a passage about the U.S. election.

But the most interesting bits from Putin are about the Skripal affair.

The British and Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia were impaired by some chemical substance in early March 2018 in Salisbury. Britain blamed the incident on Russia. CIA Director Gina Haspel, a former CIA station chief in London, used fake pictures of the incident to deceive Trump and to push him to kick out 60 Russian diplomats. (The NYT later ran cover for Haspel.)

We have speculated since the very beginning of the Skirpal case that the 'former' spy wanted to go back to Russia. Putin now confirms, to my knowledge for the first time, that this was the case (underline added):

Oliver Stone: What has happened to Skripal? Where is he?

Vladimir Putin: I have no idea. He is a spy, after all. He is always in hiding.

Oliver Stone: They say he was going to come back to Russia. He had some information.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I have been told that he wants to make a written request to come back.

Oliver Stone: He knew still and he wanted to come back. He had information that he could give to the world press here in Russia.

Vladimir Putin: I doubt it. He has broken the ranks already. What kind of information can he possess?

The information Sergei Skripal possessed might have been related to the U.S. election and the Steele dossier which alleged that Russia had dirt on Trump. On March 8 2018, only a few days after the Sergei and Julia Skripal were allegedly poisoned, we discussed the connection in our first post on the Skripal affair:

Cont. reading: Putin Confirms: Sergei Skripal Wanted To Go Back To Russia

Posted by b at 16:55 UTC | Comments (153)

July 19, 2019

Britain Pirates Iranian Ship 'Grace 1' - Iran Responds - Takes British Tanker Hostage - (Updated 3x)

Updated 3 x  below

On July the Brits used their colonial outlet Gibraltar to steal the Iranian tanker 'Grace 1' and its load of 2 million barrel of oil. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps then threatened to take similar measures against British ships. Today Gibraltar announce that it will hold the 'Grace 1' for another month. We can guess that those plans will soon change.

It seems that today, at about 16:00 UTC, the IRGC got lucky.

via Marinetraffic - bigger

The British tanker 'Stena Impero' was on its way from Fujairah, UAE to Jubail in Saudi Arabia.

Reading the track below we can speculate what happened. Just when the ship had passed through the Straits of Hormuz from east to west it was approached by IRGC fast boots. The ship made a sharp turn south towards Oman but could not outrun the IRGC boots. It was boarded. It then slowed down, made a sharp 180 degree turn and sailed towards north. It is now in Iranian waters. The last Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal it emitted came in at about 17:30 UTC.

via Marinetraffic - bigger

The Stena Impero, IMO 9797400, is a British flagged oil products and chemical tanker. Build in 2018 it has a deadweight tonnage of 49,682 metric tons. The owner is Stena Bulk XIII Cyprus Limited, which is likely controlled by the Swedish company Stena Bulk AB in Goteborg, Sweden. The operator is Northern Marine Ltd in Glasgow, Scotland. The ship sails under the British flag.

The ships arrest today is another consequence of Trumps idiotic anti-Iran policies which the British minions seem to support. The U.S. tries to build some military escort service for ship in the Strait of Hormuz. But no other country wants to join:

The United States is struggling to win its allies’ support for an initiative to heighten surveillance of vital Middle East oil shipping lanes because of fears it will increase tension with Iran, six sources familiar with the matter said.
“The Americans want to create an ‘alliance of the willing’ who confront future attacks,” a Western diplomat said. “Nobody wants to be on that confrontational course and part of a U.S. push against Iran.
The British security source said it was not viable to escort every commercial vessel, a view shared by several other countries.
“It’s just impossible. The Strait is already too crowded,” an Asian official said of an escort system in the Strait of Hormuz which is 21 miles (33 km) wide at its narrowest point.

The dimwits in London who listened to John Bolton and ordered to pirate the Iranian ship are now in deep trouble. It was an utterly stupid move. There is little they can do now except to let the 'Grace 1' go. But who in Britain can now give the order? Theresa May is about gone and Boris Johnson is still busy collecting votes to become the next prime minister.

Added: The IRGC now confirmed that it took the ship:

The IRGC Navy announced in statement that British oil tanker “Stena Impero” has been captured on Friday evening because of violating the international maritime regulations when crossing the Strait of Hormuz.

The UK oil tanker has been seized by the IRGC Navy forces in the first naval zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran at the province of Hormozgan, a statement said.

The British vessel has been taken to the port and delivered to the Ports and Maritime Organization for the legal and judicial processes, it added.

Update 19:00 UTC

Another ship seems to have "violated international maritime regulations". The 'Mesdar', IMO 9452672, passed east to west through Iran's territorial waters north of Abu Musa island when it suddenly made a 90 degree turn and sailed north towards the Iranian coast.

via Marinetraffic - bigger

With 333 meter length and 60 meter breadth the Liberian flagged ship is a very large crude oil carrier. It has a deadweight tonnage of 315,802 tons. The ship came from Lanshan, China and was supposed to go to Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia. The last AIS signal from the ship was received at 17:30 UTC. The manager/operator and owner(?) of the Mesdar is Norbulk Shipping Ltd in Glasgow, Scotland.

Update 20:15 UTC

The IRGC let the 'Mesdar' go after reminding her of the relevant rules. The ship has turned southwest to continue its planned voyage.

Update July 20 - 15:30 UTC

Iran now says that 'Stena Impero' was accompanied by a British military ship. The IRGC forces boarded the tanker by roping from a helicopter. There is video from inside the helicopter and of the boarding scene as observed from other boats. The capture was too fast for the British military ship to react.

When the British military pirated the 'Grace 1' it also used a helicopter to bring its Marine commandos on board. Iran now demonstrated that it can act on the same operational level.

Posted by b at 18:08 UTC | Comments (207)

July 18, 2019

Open Thread 2019-40

News & views ...

Posted by b at 16:43 UTC | Comments (198)

July 17, 2019

A US Led Naval Coalition In The Persian Gulf Will Raise The Threat Of War

by Seyed Mohammad Marandi

While Bolton and Pompeo push the region towards maximum tension and Trump makes despicable threats to obliterate Iran, the US military has announced its intention to create and lead an anti-Iranian naval coalition in the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, by Trump's own admission, the United States is engaged in economic war against Iranians, as its armed forces have aggressively violated Iranian airspace and territorial waters, resulting in the humiliating downing of its most sophisticated drone by an Iranian surface to air missile.

A few naval ships from far off nations will not change the balance of power, but they will increase confusion and the chances for major regional conflict. Iranians will also view such an entity as an extension of a belligerent American naval presence.

Since the illegal and tragic US occupation of Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been constructing a vast network of underground missile defense facilities alongside the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Gulf of Oman in anticipation of possible US attacks. Iran and its powerful allies have also developed formidable asymmetrical capabilities across the region. It has both the will and means to decisively engage with a belligerent power.

In order to prevent any appetite for all-out war, Iran will respond to a limited military strike with a massive and disproportionate counterstrike targeting both the aggressor and its enablers. Regional regimes such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia that facilitate aggression in any way or form should expect the swift destruction of their oil assets and critical infrastructure. On the other hand, all-out war would mean the obliteration of all oil and gas installations as well as ships on both sides of the Strait of Hormuz. Under such circumstances, the closure of the Strait would be the least of Bolton's problems.

The Emirati and Saudi regimes would most probably swiftly collapse. Millions of indentured servants would overrun Abu Dhabi and Dubai while Yemeni forces and their regional allies would overwhelm Saudi Arabia as western occupation forces would be expelled from the region. Millions of people would stream towards Europe, even as the EU and the rest of the world would be facing an economic catastrophe.

Iran does not welcome confrontation nor does it desire war and its massive and extensive military deterrence is designed to prevent such circumstances. Instead of pushing the world closer to tragedy, potential US partners should push the US back to the nuclear deal and the negotiating table.

Seyed Mohammad Marandi is professor of English Literature and Orientalism at the University of Tehran.

Posted by b at 9:49 UTC | Comments (178)

July 16, 2019

How The News About Italian Far-Right Fighters In Ukraine Got Confused

Fast pacing news can be confusing. Reports appear which contradict each other. They miss some significant details. News that was fake news can suddenly becomes right. Correct versions of the news can become fake news.

Here is a live case that shows how and why this can happen.

Yesterday the Italian state police arrested a number of neo-nazis who had fought against the Russian supported separatists in Ukraine. The police found their large weapon cache. The arrest became international news because the haul included a complete French air-to-air missile that was originally delivered to Qatar. (It was likely sent from Qatar to Libya, in support of the Muslim Brotherhood side of the conflict there, and then sold off to some Italian smugglers.)

Mark Ames noted that the reporting about the case seemed to contradict the Italian police statement:

Mark Ames @MarkAmesExiled - 20:34 UTC - 15 Jul 2019

Official Italian police statement says the Nazis with the missiles fought "against [pro-Russian] separatists". But BBC says the Italian Nazis fought *for* Russian-backed separatists. Someone's dezinformatsiya-ing 🤔 …

Ames added screenshots of several retweets of the BBC report and of the original police statement. They support his assertion.


The BBC report as well as the police statement have since changed. Fortunately both were saved multiple times at

The original BBC report, archived on July 15 at 15:04 UTC, read (emphasis added):

Cont. reading: How The News About Italian Far-Right Fighters In Ukraine Got Confused

Posted by b at 17:04 UTC | Comments (80)

July 15, 2019

The New Delay Of Boeing's 737 MAX Return Will Not Be The Last One

The fall out from the unprecedented grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX planes keeps growing. The return of the planes to the sky will need to be delayed again and again.

The Wall Street Journal writes (also here) that the MAX is unlikely to be back in the air by the end of this year:

Fixing the Boeing Co. 737 MAX's hazardous flight-control software and completing other steps to start carrying passengers is likely to stretch into 2020, an increasing number of government and industry officials say, even as the company strives to get its jet back into service still this year.

This confirms our previous reports which showed that several of the issues the regulators marked will require extensive fixes.

The issues the WSJ names as problematic are exactly the ones we highlighted:

in March, just as Boeing was slated to submit a long-awaited proposal with the goal of jump-starting the process, new questions arose about related software systems and emergency checklists, requiring weeks of additional intense evaluation.

The topics included concerns about whether the average pilot has enough physical strength to manually crank a flight-control wheel in extreme emergencies.

In late June, Boeing and the FAA disclosed still another flight-control problem on the MAX, involving failure of a microprocessor that meant test pilots couldn't counteract a potential misfire of MCAS as quickly as required.

Moon of Alabama earlier detailed the trim wheel problem and pointed out that it also effects the older 737 NG:

Cont. reading: The New Delay Of Boeing's 737 MAX Return Will Not Be The Last One

Posted by b at 19:26 UTC | Comments (102)

July 14, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-39

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related: US-Iran escalation: It’s message-sending, but the risks are high - CS Monitor

“Iran’s strategy has shifted from strategic patience to escalation-for-escalation,” says Hassan Ahmadian, a political scientist at Tehran University and research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

“That’s because Iran cannot afford, I think, to live in a situation of strategic stalemate, so it has to change the situation, it has to create a way out of a stalemate that the Trump administration is trying to box Iran in,” says Mr. Ahmadian.

The Iranian aim, he says, is to impress a “realization of danger” upon the White House in a way that leads to “de-escalation at the end of the day.”

Related: Global Power Shifts Sparked in Syrian Hornets’ Nest - Lobe log / Helena Cobban

A look at Turkish media shows that Erdogan's S-400 purchase has support from all political parties except the Kurdish aligned HDP. The Turkish cooperation with Russia will not end if/when Erdogan loses power. Some U.S. experts begin to understand that:

Why Turkey Turned Its Back on the United States and Embraced Russia - Foreign Affairs

[S]ince the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which paved the way for a more assertive Kurdish regional government, Turkey has viewed the United States as a destabilizing force in the Middle East. U.S. support for Kurdish militias in Syria has cemented that view in Ankara, driving Turkey into Russia’s arms and raising questions about the country’s commitment to NATO.

Other issues:

Form a portrait of Seymour Hersh in the German weekly Die Zeit (my translation):

The whole story of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is "crazy," he says. Hillary Clinton had done everything wrong as a candidate, had led the Democratic Party into misfortune. There was no need for anything Russian. "Where is the evidence? There is none."

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 13:16 UTC | Comments (189)

July 13, 2019

A Plausible Theory Of What Jeffrey Epstein Was Actually Doing

The first Jeffrey Epstein thread has grown a bit long. Here is a follow up.

For an introduction to the Epstein case please read this.

A question that no one could so far answer is how Epstein got as rich as he appears to be. A person who calls himself Quantian has an interesting theory of what Epstein was actually doing.

Here is the short version:

Epstein offered the post puberty teenyboppers he seduced and/or bribed to the rich people he knew. He invited lots of interesting people - artists, scientists, politicians, rich businessman - to his exclusive parties. There were always these young girls around. There was always a free bedroom. There were also cameras in place. When one of the rich guys messed with a girl Epstein would blackmail him.

But instead of taking cash he asked them for investments in his offshore hedge fund. For someone who owns billions it is peanuts to put a few dozen millions into a fund. It is legal. The money isn't gone. It will even bear interests.

Epstein is not known for having done much currency trades or other larger Wall Street transactions. His company is small, he didn't work a lot. It is likely he mostly re-invested the money in a simple index stock fund which follows the S&P 500. Those type of funds brought over the years quite a good profit.

Epstein would have taken the typical hedge fund fee of 2/20 which is 2% of the investment per year plus 20% of the profits. The hedge fund would be completely legal and there would be no tax troubles. The entrapped people would simply have to stay invested to keep Epstein quiet and the video tapes off the broadsheet market. Some billionaires might have invested upfront to gain access to the girls.

For Epstein the scheme would have been a very elegant way to pursue his personal 'hobby' while creating an ever growing income.

Quantian's theory sounds very plausible to me. It conforms with everything that is publicly known about Epstein and about what he was doing. It does not require any additional conspiracy theory about Mossad/Mafia/CIA involvement. But it also doesn't exclude that there is some.

Posted by b at 17:30 UTC | Comments (406)

July 12, 2019

Turkey Announces The Targets Of Its New Air Defense System

Today first parts of the Russian S-400 air defense systems arrived in Turkey. The Russian Ministry of Defense posted a video of the arrival on Facebook. The Turkish Ministry of Defense video showed the unloading of six support vehicles belong to a S-400 set. A complete S-400 set consists of two radars, a command post, eight launch vehicles with four missiles each, and various loader and other support vehicles. Turkey has ordered two complete sets for which it will pay about $2.5 billion.

The U.S. is threatening economic sanctions against Turkey for ordering and receiving the system. It will also kick Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program. Turkey was one of the main partners for the F-35 program. It was supposed to receive 100 of the planes and it manufactures parts of the system. Turkey will not receive the ordered planes and those parts will now be made by a U.S. company.

The S-400 system Turkey receives is an export version. It will at first use the 48N6E missiles which have a reach of 250 kilometer. The systems Russia uses include the 40N6E missiles with a reach of 400 kilometers. It will take several months until the first system set in Turkey is complete and operational. So far only 20 Turkish soldiers have been trained on it. 80 more soldiers will arrive in Russia around the end of July to receive their training.

NATO is not amused about the Turkish acquisition:

A NATO official told CNN on Friday that: "It is up to allies to decide what military equipment they buy. However, we are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey's decision to acquire the S-400 system."

The official added that, "interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions."

The S-400 in Turkey is not supposed to be interoperable with NATO. The most likely initial deployment area for the new system will be around Ankara to protect the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan from potential U.S. or Israeli attacks.

The government controlled Turkish news agency Anadolu made it abundantly clear what the system is supposed to target. When it announced the news of the arrival it attached the picture below to its tweet:

Cont. reading: Turkey Announces The Targets Of Its New Air Defense System

Posted by b at 16:27 UTC | Comments (138)