Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 31, 2011

Foreign Policy Success: Rising Al-Qaida's Flag

[W]ith longtime U.S. nemesis Moammar Gaddafi dead and Libya’s onetime rebels now in charge, the coalition air campaign has emerged as a foreign policy success for the Obama administration and its most famous Cabinet member, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton credited with key role in success of NATO airstrikes, Libyan rebels, WaPo

"Foreign policy success"? Like Al Qaida's flag flying above the courthouse in Benghazi, Libya?

via vice

Or maybe this?

The cycle of retribution appears already to have started. The town of al Jemel, a scattering of sandy homes in the palm-studded desert southwest of Tripoli, is one example.

Residents said brigades from faraway Misrata had appeared at their doorstep a week ago, breaking into people's homes and looking for Gaddafi loyalists.

Dozens of young men have disappeared and four have been killed in detention, said Al Koni Salem Mohammed, the uncle of one of those killed.

Speaking at a mourning ceremony on the edge of town, he shook with grief as he showed the death certificate listing "electric shocks" as a cause of death. He said the body had been dumped outside the detention centre with its tongue and genitals cut off.
Cycle of revenge hangs over Libya's fragile peace, Reuters

As Clinton is now, through that sycophantic WaPo piece, taking full credit for what happened with Libya, we should never forget her responsibilty as that country falls further apart.

Posted by b on October 31, 2011 at 03:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

October 30, 2011

Open Thread - Oct 30

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 30, 2011 at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

October 29, 2011

Israeli Journos Warn About Netanyahoo Lunacy Towards Iran

The "Israel will bomb Iran" meme has been used so often that it doesn make much sense to take it serious anymore.

So why even discuss when it, as now, comes up again?

The difference is that the old campaign, via IDF jail guard Goldberg in The Atlantic and others in U.S. venues, was supposed to influence the U.S. to do the dirty work.

The new version of the meme is coming through major commentators in the Israeli press and its purpose seems is to publicly warn Israelis about some lunacy Netanyahoo and his defense minister Barak are seemingly committed to.

Alex Fishman wrote about it in an OpEd in Yediot Aharonot/Ynetnews on the 12th, Amin Oren on the 14th in Haaretz, colomnist Sefi Rachlevsky on the 17th also in Haaretz. And now teasered on page one of the weekend edition of of the Hebrew dead tree version of Yediot Aharonot the "the best-connected, most influential journalist in Israel" Nahum Barnea (partly translated here, here and here) issues the same warnings.

All these well know writers revolve their pieces around three issues:

First: The Shalit prisoner deal was done to "clean up" for the next big issue.

Second: Recently former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin, Mossad head Meir Dagan and former head of the Israeli air force Amos Yadlin were replaced. The new people in these jobs are more willing to defer to the politicians. As Nahim Barnea sets it:

But as far as is known, on the Iranian issue, their view matches that of their predecessors: all four, it seems, rule out a military strike at this time. The difference is in their willingness to fight [for their viewpoint]: the previous directors arrived at meetings after years of success, each in their organization, enjoying strong public standing. Toward the politicians they projected determination and self-confidence. The new ones are less well known, less emphatic, less consolidated.

Third: There are serious signals that Netanyahoo and Barak will go for it shortly without any regard of the consequences.

All these writers warn that this is a dangerous road ahead and ask the new heads of those agencies and the public to interfere.

This all may, like before, come down to nothing. But when four well know Israeli journalists from different political quarters warn the Israeli public of the same issue something is happening beyond the usual rumor mill stuff.

Posted by b on October 29, 2011 at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

October 28, 2011

I Was Wrong: Turkey Is Still Plotting Against Syria

Time to eat some craw. It seems that I have been wrong with this analysis:

That lets me believe that Turkey has now accepted that a conflict with Syria (and Iran) is not in its interest.

Instead Turkey is escalated the conflict with Syria:

Once one of Syria’s closest allies, Turkey is hosting an armed opposition group waging an insurgency against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, providing shelter to the commander and dozens of members of the group, the Free Syrian Army, and allowing them to orchestrate attacks across the border from inside a camp guarded by the Turkish military.
On Wednesday, the group, living in a heavily guarded refugee camp in Turkey, claimed responsibility for killing nine Syrian soldiers, including one uniformed officer, in an attack in restive central Syria.
The interview was held in the office of a local government official, and Colonel As’aad arrived protected by a contingent of 10 heavily armed Turkish soldiers, including one sniper.

To allow such a terrorist group to have official shelter and protection in Turkey is near to an outright declaration of war. on Syria

Syria (and Iran) can not allow such outside terrorist group to fester. If Bashir Assad wants to keep the backing of his army, he has to respond to the killing of its officers and soldiers and the response has to be towards Turkey.

The Turkish foreign minister Davutoğlu, who once was so proud of his zero problems with neighbors policy, now sounds quite different:

“We clearly see Assad is no more capable of orchestrating the process [of democratization],” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying by the Bugün daily on Wednesday, as he repeated his take on the Syrian issue as a struggle already lost by Assad, who “refused to lend an ear to what Turkey had to say and walked away from his promises every time.”

He is wrong in that analysis. Over the last days very large pro-Assad rallies took place in Damaskus, Aleppo and Lattakia. Assad is far from falling. Even the NYT has to admit that:

[W]ith mass pro-government rallies and a crackdown that has, for now, stanched the momentum of antigovernment demonstrations, the Syrian government appears in a stronger position than it did this summer.

Syria and Iran can still play the Kurdish card and unleash the PKK. Davutoğlu does not believe this will  happen:

Davutoğlu ruled out fears that Syria may go back to its policy of mobilizing PKK forces to terrorize Turkey in the face of the fallen alliance between the two countries, telling the Yeni Şafak daily that “Syria should not even think about doing that, based on previous experience.” “Everyone knows where that road leads.”

Davutoğlu is again flawed. Deterance does not work if the opposite side has no good alternative. If the only alternative for Assad and his followers is to go down, or to take "that road", I believe "that road" will be taken.

As Turkey is now openly supporting terrorism against Syria, it can not expect the other side to refrain from such measures.

Posted by b on October 28, 2011 at 04:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

October 27, 2011

Thoughts On #Occupy

State violence against the #Occupy movements seem to increase. In certain ways that's a good sign. It helps the movement to grow. It helps to unmask and show the real face of the 1% state. Authoritarianism looks the same all over the world.

The rules must continue to be to not demand anything and to not put forward any leader.

Just occupy. It worked in Tahrir square and can work everywhere else.

The right moment for everything else will come over time.

Posted by b on October 27, 2011 at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Libya Asks NATO To Keep Them In Or Out?

The Libyan regime is requesting further NATO help. (One wonders who gave it the idea.) But is not clear what the purpose of further NATO support should be.

According to AlJazeera the purpose is to keep Gaddhafi supporters from fleeing to neighbor countries:

NATO should stay involved in Libya until the end of this year to help prevent loyalists of Muammar Gaddafi from leaving the country, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the interim leader, has said.
"We look forward to NATO continuing its operations until the end of the year," Jalil said at a conference in Doha, the Qatari capital, on Wednesday.

Stating that stopping the flight of Gaddafi supporters to other countries was a priority, he said: "We seek technical and logistics help from neighbouring and friendly countries."

According to the New York Times the purpose is to keep Gaddhafi supporters from invading from neighbor countries:

“We have asked NATO to stay until the end of the year, and it certainly has the international legitimacy to remain in Libya to protect the civilians from Qaddafi loyalists,” the interim leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the Transitional National Council, said in an interview with the pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera.

“Qaddafi still has supporters in neighboring countries, and we fear those loyalists could be launching attacks against us and infiltrating our borders,” he said. “We need technical support and training for our troops on the ground. We also need communications equipment, and we need aerial intelligence to monitor our borders.”

To keep them in or to keep them out? Which is it?

Libya's desert borders are too long to be controllable by any force. People will always be able to come in or leave the country without anyone noticing. Even if one could control the borders how is one supposed to differentiate between a coming or leaving Gaddhafi supporter versus the coming or leaving anti-Gaddhafi Libyan?

The situation on the ground is, as Tony Karon points out, comparable to Afghanistan in 2002 or maybe even 1992. There is no central power accepted by all parts of the country and the new government has no real power over the various militia.

To put NATO boots on Libyan ground would be the repeat of the NATO adventure in Afghanistan with, ten years later, a likely comparable outcome.

Posted by b on October 27, 2011 at 04:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

October 26, 2011

Boeing's 787 Balance Sheet Scam

Boeing profit lifted by commercial, defense sales says Reuters. But that isn't true. Boeing was only profitable by using an accounting trick that may risk its long term survival.

Boeing's new 787 airliner has sold well as discount pricing was introduced even before the first machine was flying. But it turned out that the jet had construction problems and was first late, then later and then even later.  The first few dozens of those machines, three years after they were supposed to be flying, are still sitting on the tarmac in Seattle and will have to be reworked.

It is normal to make losses on the first few hundred machines of a new commercial jet model. The development costs and new tools have to be accounted for and their cost usually gets spread out over the first few hundred sales of a new model. These sales thereby to not produce a large profit. But every additional machine hopefully sold after that will not have to carry the burden of being accounted against the then paid off development and tool costs. It will thereby likely be very profitable and it will provide cash for the development of future products.

The usual production quantity used for such amortization calculation of commercial airplanes is 300-400. As the Aviation Week Flightblogger points out that 300-400 number was what the 1998 Boeing Annual Report argued and was, so far, used in every Boeing program even when the total sales number was reasonably expected to be much higher.

But for the 787 and this years "profit" Boeing used a much different number. From the Reuters report:

Boeing said on Wednesday it would calculate the profitability of the program based on 1,100 planes.

Boeing has some 800 orders for the 787 plane on its books though some of those may get canceled. The production rate is supposed to be 10 machines per month but only starting in 2013, and likely later, onwards. The new calculation then spreads out the amortization costs over more that the next ten years.

What will happen when by then a competitor - Airbus, the Chinese, Russians, Brazil or Japan - come up with a competitive product? What will happen if a new global economy slump leads to more cancellations of orders? What happens if the plane turns out to burn more fuel than expected or, being the first model with major carbon-fiber structures, turns out to have less longevity than expected?

Usual accounting would limit those future balance sheet risks by putting all the development and tool costs onto the first batches of the model. Stretching those costs over a much larger number of planes, as Boeing does now, creates short term book profits but puts serious risks to the future survival of the company.

Using the established calculation Boeing would have had to report a big loss for this quarter and this and probably the next year. By changing the amortization base that loss was turned into a book profit.

The CEO and the top management of the company get their bonuses paid for the short range balance sheet results. Putting the amortization costs of the product development onto a larger, probably unrealistic, number of sales will increase their short term personal income. But it does risk the companies long term survival.

Creative destruction, in the neoliberal sense, at its best.

Posted by b on October 26, 2011 at 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

October 25, 2011

NYT Whitewash Of Gaddhafi Killing And Other Libya Issues

A rather weird piece in the NYT reports on earlier discussions in the White House about what to do with Gaddhafi:

Last Wednesday evening, the White House convened a 90-minute meeting to tackle a looming, delicate question: What should be done with the Libyan dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, if he were captured alive, either in Libya or in a neighboring country?

Less than 24 hours later, the debate was moot. Colonel Qaddafi was dead, after being pulled alive from a drain pipe and succumbing later to gunshot wounds.

"Succumbing to gunshot wounds" is a quite evading expression for a direct pistol shot into the head and another into the heart of Gaddhafi after he was captured alive, only lightly wounded, and after he was sodomized.

There is also an issue with the timeline here. The NYT piece puts the discussion about what to do with Gaddhafi to Wednesday the 19th. But the White House decision was already announced on Tuesday the 18th by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Tripoli:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton encouraged the country's unsteady new leadership to commit to a democratic future free of retribution, and acknowledged in unusually blunt terms that the United States would like to see former dictator Moammar Gadhafi dead.

"We hope he can be captured or killed soon so that you don't have to fear him any longer," Clinton told students and others at a town hall-style gathering in the capital city.

Indeed the NYT piece seems to be an after-the-fact whitewash, based on the typical anonymous senior officials, of what really happened.

From the very beginning this was about regime change and the earlier attacks on Gaddhafi compounds by NATO bombers were clear attempts to kill him. Not one of the three stooges, Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama, wanted Gaddhafi to stand in court and tell about all the cooperation and money he provided to them. There never was a serious discussion about "what to do with Gaddhafi." They wanted him dead all along.

Meanwhile, as anticipated, the situation in Libya is getting worse. The revolutionaries are now doing away with their pro-western attitude, the "western" face Mahmoud Jibril resigned, and start to show their real face:

In his landmark speech on Sunday announcing the liberation of the country from the rule of Col Muammer Gaddafi, Libya’s provisional leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil vowed to suspend the law requiring a man to obtain permission from his first wife before marrying a second one and to outlaw interest on loans in accord with fundamentalist Islamic rules.

The declarations, major legal changes which did not appear to be within his authority as leader of a self-declared government, shocked many.

Well, what did those "many" believe what those rebel fighters in Libya were about? That they were motivated by religion was visible in many of the video clips from the rebels side in which each shot was accompanied by Allahu aqbar shoutings.

[T]he statements sparked a minor furore, especially among women activists. Others considered the entire tone of the speech and the day’s ceremony a gratuitous slap in the face to women, not one of whom took to the podium to speak during the commemoration.

The women of Libya can now thank those three American feminists, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, who launched this war on them that will now push them back into a medieval role model.

Mr Abdul-Jalil’s comments on banking also struck some as strange, given the country’s need for foreign investment. “There are good intentions to regulate all banking law,” he said. “We especially seek to establish Islamic banks that don’t deal with interest and abolish all banking interests in the future according to Islamic tradition.” Interest, he said, “creates disease and hatred among people”.

The IMF and Worldbank bankers will hate such talk. But their is no reason why they should be involved in Libya at all. Libya is rich, it does not need foreign investment. Thanks to Gaddhafi tens of billions of Libya's money are parked in its national wealth fund and can be repatriated and invested into what the country needs. Now watch how the "western" powers will try their best to prevent that. Indebted countries are easier to control than those who have lots of money available to them and controlling Libya is what they want.

The news from Tripoli isn't good either:

[T]he capital, in particular, has become a patchwork of armed fiefdoms, as wannabe power brokers backed by hometown militias made up of former clerks, students and engineers battle with each other and with natives of Tripoli for the spoils of war, a slice of the country's wealth and a share of political power - all of it, in their way of looking, up for grabs.

Kidnappings and disappearances are the new currency in the swelling conflict, with outright shootings a tactic of last resort. The creeping mayhem is fuelled by an infusion of weapons that has turned Tripoli into a virtual armoury.

Welcome to the post-revolutionary hell. If you think Baghdad 2006 was bad welcome to Tripoli 2012. It may well become worse.

Posted by b on October 25, 2011 at 08:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (55)

U.S. Special Operations In Mexico

Three puzzle pieces about operations against Mexican drug cartels let me assume that U.S. Special Forces are involved in recent mass killings of alleged Zeta Cartel members in Mexico.

From a piece which ran on October 20 in the LA Times: Mystery group targets Veracruz drug cartel

VERACRUZ, Mexico — Callers to the radio program were voicing support for the Matazetas, the Zeta killers.

Better they fight among themselves. Let them kill each other. Anything to rid us of thugs who long ago took control of our city and are slaughtering our people.
Yet, it also comes with a disturbing question: Just who is behind the killings of Zetas? Another drug gang? Agents acting on behalf of the government or military? An ad hoc group whose presence is tolerated by authorities as well as the public?
On Sept. 20, nearly three dozen half-naked bodies were dumped in broad daylight on a busy highway underpass in a well-to-do tourist area of Veracruz, the state capital. Fourteen more turned up days later — during a convention of the nation's top state and federal prosecutors. Then, on Oct. 6, barely 48 hours after announcing a major security offensive, military and police found 36 bodies, and 10 more turned up the next day.

In videotaped presentations, a group of masked men with military bearing have claimed responsibility for the spate of killings, portraying it as a cleansing operation. Many bodies had a "Z" for Zeta written on the back with ink marker, a witness said.

The mystery group announced it was in Veracruz as "the armed branch of the people, and for the people."

My first though after reading the above was "That's JSOC".

The U.S. Joint Special Operation Command and its Special Mission Units does dirty work against terrorists, often in cooperation with the CIA. It sometimes uses local forces which it trains, supplies with information and leads into combat. It is also quite good at Information Operations, i.e. issuing propaganda in support of its operations. Those callers to the radio program supporting these mass killings may be something other than random radio listening Mexican civilians.

Are such U.S. units involved in extralegal killing of assumed drug gangsters in Mexico?

The Zeta Cartel was founded by 30 former Mexican Army Special Forces. Anyone who wants to fight them needs some superb military capabilities. The success of the Matazetas, the Zeta killers, points to high qualified military trained personal with additionally very good access to information about the gangs.

Today's NYT adds to the picture on the intelligence side:

As the United States has opened new law enforcement and intelligence outposts across Mexico in recent years, Washington’s networks of informants have grown there as well, current and former officials said. They have helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and midlevel drug traffickers, and sometimes have given American counternarcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they are trying to dismantle.

Typically, the officials said, Mexico is kept in the dark about the United States’ contacts with its most secret informants — including Mexican law enforcement officers, elected officials and cartel operatives — partly because of concerns about corruption among the Mexican police, and partly because of laws prohibiting American security forces from operating on Mexican soil.
[T]he United States, hoping to shore up Mexico’s stability and prevent its violence from spilling across the border, has expanded its role in ways unthinkable five years ago, including flying drones in Mexican skies.

U.S. drones over Mexico do not only allow for visual surveillance, which is often useless, but also for the more effective SIGINT, signal intelligence, side of the drone capability. IMSI catcher on board of the drones allow the operators to know the location of each mobile phone in the surveillance area and to listen to what is said through them. If one has the number of a mobile phone of a suspect the drone can find out where the person who carries it is and which other phone carriers that person is meeting. This method of finding assumed suspects and their networks has been used in Iraq and is widely used by JSOC in Afghanistan, often with deadly consequences for innocent civilians.

A third piece for the puzzle comes from a blog post Col. Pat Lang wrote in December 2009: JSOC and the Mexican drug lords

I suggest that [JSOC] should be unleashed on the Mexican drug cartels. Kill or capture. Kill or capture. Those should be the instructions. The legal niceties could be "cleaned up" through arrest or execution warrants. On the other hand, maybe that is not necessary if recent history is a guide.

As one can tell from the dates of the comments to the piece, Pat Lang reissued that post three days ago on the front page of his blog. It is now back in the archives. But why did he republish it?

In recent days there were reports about mysterious mass killing of Zetas by high qualified military personal, acknowledgment of high-tech U.S. intelligence operations against the drug cartels in Mexico and a former Defense Intelligence Agency head relaunched a two year old blog post that demanded JSOC "kill or capture" operations against drug cartels.

Looks like a duck, walks like a duck, ...

Unlike the Taliban the Zetas do have the capability to hit inside the United States. If JSOC is really operating those death squadrons in Mexico we can soon expect some violent retributions on the northern side of the border.

Posted by b on October 25, 2011 at 01:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

October 24, 2011

The Clinton On Iraq

The Clinton says:

"No one should miscalculate America's resolve and commitment to helping support the Iraqi democracy. We have paid too high a price to give the Iraqis this chance. And I hope that Iran and no one else miscalculates that."

It is not astonishing that Clinton falls for sunk cost fallacy, she is a lawyer after all, but can't she even understand the basics of the situation in Iraq?

A democratic Iraq is good for Iran.

Iraq's democratically elected government just kicked out the U.S. military from its launching position for an attack on Iran. Iran has no interest to change that. Any elected government in Iraq, voted in by the Shia majority, will likely take the same stance. A democratic Iraq is better for Iran than for the U.S.

That's what the U.S. is supporting? I do not believe that for even a minute. I am sure it would rather have Saddam Hussein back.

Posted by b on October 24, 2011 at 12:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

October 23, 2011

As Predicted Here: Diplomatic Presense In Iraq Will Be Downsized

A week ago AP reported that all U.S. military will leave Iraq by the end of the year. The retreat was first denied by Pentagon sources, but then officially announced by Obama two days ago. Still, according to those reports, 10,000 diplomats and 5,000 contracted security personal were supposed to stay in Iraq. That seemed unlikely to me and I wrote:

[The] embassy is a fixed target which can easily be harassed with by rocket and mortar fire. Its logistic lines of communication are also open to permanent challenges. The mercenaries guarding it will have severely restricted rules of engagement and will not be able to prevent attacks.
Additonally there is pressure from Congress to reduce the State Department's budget.

This all will soon lead a reduction of the now planned immense U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq. A year from now that presence may very well come down to more normal levels of just a few hundred people.

Today a New York Times report confirms my analysis:

Beyond the final withdrawal of troops that President Obama announced Friday, America’s fiscal troubles are dictating a drastic scaling back of plans for diplomatic, economic and cultural programs once deemed vital to steadying Iraq, building a long-term alliance and prying the country from Iran’s tightening embrace.
[T]he expansion of a diplomatic presence will be much smaller than imagined, a victim not only of budgetary constraints but also of a growing awareness that the decision to withdraw American soldiers makes it much harder for diplomats to safely do their work. The State Department’s more extensive plans were drawn up at a time when military officials were pushing to keep up to 20,000 soldiers in Iraq next year.

There will be no U.S. consulates in Mosul, Kirkuk and Dilaya province and allover the plans will be harshly reduced. The piece gives no new numbers for the currently assumed diplomat and contractor presence but one can guess that the plans are now down to a total of some 5-10,000. This will come down further and in the end there will be nothing left but a normal embassy and an oversized static security ring manned by contractors around it.

That will still be an attractive target and al Sadr calls to take it on:

In response to a query of one of his followers [...], Muqtada said “they are all occupiers and resisting them after the end of the agreement is an obligation.”


Posted by b on October 23, 2011 at 12:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

October 22, 2011

Foreign Aid Gets Pledged But Not Delivered

There is always some political screaming in the U.S. about foreign aid which is why the Republican candidates want to slash it.

A lot of this is because people do not know how much foreign aid the U.S. is giving. A poll found that people believe that 25% of the government budget goes to foreign aid. In reality it is about 1%.

One reason for this impression may well be that U.S. politicians like to make large pledges of foreign aid even though they do not have the intent of holding such pledges. This leads to tables like this one (pdf) from an analysis of aid pledged and given to Afghanistan since 2002 by Global Humanitarian Assistance.

Less than 30% of the U.S. money pledged to Afghanistan was actually disbursed.


The money publicly pledged will often not be committed and the money committed might or might not be disbursed. Additionally the disbursement does not say anything about who gets the money and it is more often then not that some civil contractor in Washington DC will get more of the disbursed money than the people it is supposed to reach. And of course none of those numbers says anything about the achieved or not-achieved results.

The diverging numbers on aid to Afghanistan are not much different than pledges to other countries. Of $4.1 billion USAID commitment to Pakistan between 2005 and 2010 only $1.9 billion was disbursed. Numbers on Haiti tell a similar story.

The misperception the people have about foreign aid may well be because the politicians like to use the deceptive numbers. Big pledges make for positive the headlines, real spending does not.

Posted by b on October 22, 2011 at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

October 21, 2011

Kurdish Attack On Turkey Disrupts Plot Against Syria

With Gaddhafi gone the Lidless Eye of NATO turns to its next target, Syria, for a repeat of the successful model that was applied in Libya. But the plan for Syria has a flaw in that it depends on Turkey. But attacks by Kurds can press Turkey to abandon the plan.

Alastair Crooke explains the plans that have been made to engineer the downfall of Assad and Syria's fall into post-revolutionary hell. The main actors behind this plot:

In operational terms, Feltman and his team coordinate, Qatar hosts the "war room", the "news room" and holds the purse strings, Paris and Doha lead on pushing the Transitional Council model, whilst Bandar and Turkey jointly manage the Sunni theater in-country, both armed and unarmed.

For details please read Crooke's piece. It is quite good and makes sense.

There are two weak points in these plans. Crooke only points out that control of the Salafi's, as is shows in Libya, is difficult and there are others then Prince Bandar in the house of Saud, that may have very different ideas on how to use them.

Another weak point in the plan is the role of Turkey and the role of the Kurds. Turkey's prime minister Erdogan supported some Syrian opposition folks to set up their National Transitional Council in Turkey. But the Syrian Kurds were not amused when they were not included.

The killing of the Kurdish activist Mashaal Tammo in Syria was not followed, as the plans provided, by the Kurdish main parties joining the insurgency against Assad. They smelled the rat and did not blame him for that death.

Then Erdogan was suddenly confronted with a big attack by 100 fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on his military at the Iraqi border. He responded with a division size invasion of North Iraq.

I do not believe that the two issues, Turkey plotting against Syria and the Kurdish attacks in south-eastern Turkey are unrelated. As I wrote back in August:

Some people hope for the Turks to get involved in Syria. Forget about it. Syria, Iraq and Iran have, like Turkey, partly Kurdish population. If they want to pressure Turkey to stay away from an intervention in Syria they only need to unleash some of the Kurdish rebels into east Turkey.

The countries with Kurdish populations, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, have always used the various Kurdish groups to challenge their respective neighbors when they found it necessary or convenient to do so.

After recently damaging the relations with Iran by accepting a NATO anti-missile radar on Turkish ground and by plotting against Syria, Erdogan now had to again sue for piece:

Turkey is seeking Iran's support for its fight against Kurdish rebels, as thousands of troops press ahead with an air and ground offensive against militants in northern Iraq for a third day.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in Ankara on Friday to discuss closer cooperation against the separatist rebels, who have also attacked Iran in the past.

The Iranians will, of course, support Turkey against the Kurds. Provided, as they will have quietly requested, that Turkey leaves its hands off their Syrian ally. That Turkey has now given in to Iranian demands  is visible in its public rejection of the U.S. allegations of an Iranian plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington. This even after having been shown evidence by U.S. emissaries.

That lets me believe that Turkey has now accepted that a conflict with Syria (and Iran) is not in its interest.

Turkey leaving the revolutionary club takes a big and necessary piece out of the plan: A safe base like Benghazi inside Turkey from where the revolutionaries could jump off their attack on Syria under NATO air cover. One wonders how the plotters will adapt their plans to that.

Posted by b on October 21, 2011 at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

October 20, 2011

Gaddahfi's Death Is Not The End Of The Fighting

First the news was that Gaddhafi had been captured alive in Sirte with two wounds in his legs.

Then the news was that he has been killed and a picture of what may be a dead Gaddhafi.

I guess it would have been too embarrassing for those revolution leaders and former Gaddhafi functionaries and for those "western" politicians (I am looking at you Sarkozy) who earlier embraced him to have him testify in court.

This will not be the end of the fighting in Libya. With Gaddhafi dead the various groups which made up this revolution will now fully turn to fighting each other over their share of the loot. Without a strong common leadership and without a common ideology the different interests of the people from Benghazi, Misurata, Tripoli and the south will be unable to agree on a new government structure. Additionally guerrilla and sabotage activities by Gaddhafi followers are likely to continue. This revolution then, like others, will eat its children.

I am sad for the people of Libya.

Posted by b on October 20, 2011 at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (64)

The "Iranian" Plot: What Are The Administration's Motives?

The doubts about the alleged plot by the Iranian Quds force to assassinate a Saudi ambassador keeps growing.

Iran now says that the number two person accused in the plot is an MEK agent.

Interpol has found new evidence showing that the number two suspect in connection with the alleged Iranian government’s involvement in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington is a key member of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), the Mehr News Agency has learnt.

Gholam Shakuri was last seen in Washington and Camp Ashraf in Iraq where MKO members are based.

The person in question has been travelling to different countries under the names of Ali Shakuri/Gholam Shakuri/Gholam-Hossein Shakuri by using fake passports including forged Iranian passports. One passport used by the person was issued on 30/11/2006 in Washington. The passport number was K10295631.

Interpol declined to comment on this which makes me wonder a bit. If this would be wrong why would Interpol not reject it?

Via Richard Silverstein we learn that there is some confirmation for Shakuri's ties to the MEK:

[I]n fact, a former high-ranking MEK leader, Massoud Khodabandeh (he has allowed me to use his name), writing in the Gulf2000 listserv, confirmed that Shakuri is in fact an MEK member.

(The Gulf2000 listserv is run by Iran scholar Gary Sicks and includes many Middle East scholars.)

The evidence is piling up that the whole plot was an intelligence operation against, not by, Iran.

This again makes me wonder why the administration is still sticking to its fairytale of an Iranian plot. Officially that tale is supposed to help convince other countries to agree on further sanctions, but it now has so many holes that I seriously doubt that it can be achieved.

Still the administration is pumping the scheme of a bumbling but at the same time seemingly almighty and "increasingly aggressive" Qods force:

"They're being more aggressive ... not only in Iraq but worldwide," one senior U.S. official said in an interview.
U.S. officials who spoke to Reuters declined to provide details of the evidence that the Quds Force may have other plots in the works. But two officials stressed they were based on more than just speculation or analysis.

"These are not merely aspirational plots dreamed up by the Quds Force. In fact, there is active planning around them," a second senior U.S. official told Reuters. Both senior officials played down concerns any attack was imminent.

A third U.S. official said the recklessness of the alleged attempt to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in Washington suggested that Quds "may be involved in other actions."

Who do those anonymous "officials" want to convince with such a talk? No evidence, no explanation of motives and then the "analysis" that the alleged and likely false plot may be proof that further plots are in the making.

This is so obviously lowest level propaganda that even a Fox news viewer will be unlikely to fall for it. So, again, why is the Obama administration keeping this up?

Posted by b on October 20, 2011 at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 19, 2011

Pincus Asking The Right Question

At the age of 78  old time Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus is in a position where he can write without fear of career consequences.

This is a good use of such liberty:

As the country reviews its spending on defense and foreign assistance, it is time to examine the funding the United States provides to Israel.

Let me put it another way: Nine days ago, the Israeli cabinet reacted to months of demonstrations against the high cost of living there and agreed to raise taxes on corporations and people with high incomes ($130,000 a year). It also approved cutting more than $850 million, or about 5 percent, from its roughly $16 billion defense budget in each of the next two years.

If Israel can reduce its defense spending because of its domestic economic problems, shouldn’t the United States — which must cut military costs because of its major budget deficit — consider reducing its aid to Israel?

Any other Washington insider asking this question (and indirectly, as Pincus does, answering it with yes) would get destroyed by The Lobby. The only thing they can do to Pincus is to call him a self-hating Jew.

They will start doing so tomorrow, if not today.

Posted by b on October 19, 2011 at 01:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

October 18, 2011

Open Thread - Oct 18

Your news & views ...

Posted by b on October 18, 2011 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

October 17, 2011

U.S. Build Up At Pakistan's Border Could Be In Vain

The U.S. has pressed the Pakistani army to attack the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. The Pakistanis have made clear that they do not want to do so. Now the U.S. seems to go for it alone. But is it the right target?

The Pakistani resistance against attacking its own people and to further incite domestic terrorism in their own country has led Obama adviser Bruce Riedel to calls for A New Pakistan Policy: Containment. The U.S. believes that the Haqqani network, which it says is responsible for the recent attack on its embassy in Kabul, is residing in North Waziristan. Right wing authors have for some time called for invading it.

But are the Haqqanis really in North Waziristan?

During the war against the Soviets the tribal Pakistani area most often used for attacks towards Kabul was the Kurram agency where the border points to Kabul like a beak. It provides the shortest route to Kabul. 

For some time the Taliban were fighting with the significant local Shia population there and could not use the province as their jump-off base into Afghanistan. But recently it emerged that peace deals have been signed between those groups and the way through Kurram into Afghanistan is again open.

Bahukutumbi Raman, former head of the counterterrorism division of India's secret service RAW, believes that the Haqqani network has moved there:

My assessment is that the Haqqani network no longer operates from North Waziristan. It now operates from Pakistan’s Kurram Agency. The cadres and the training camps are in Kurram, but the leaders, who are high-value targets for U.S. drone attacks, are spread out across the country to avoid airborne attacks. The cadres carry out hit-and-withdraw raids into Afghanistan.

But the U.S. insists on doing North Waziristan and, as the Pakistanis ain't doing, it now seems to want to do it on its own:

The United States shifted hundreds of its troops to the Afghan area bordering North Waziristan on Sunday along with heavy arms and gunship helicopters and sealed the Pak-Afghan border for all types of movement.
Pakistani security officials and tribal sources in Ghulam Khan area said US forces had arrived there during the night between Saturday and Sunday and occupied nearby hilltops and established observation posts. Sources said US forces had set up a huge military base across the border and shifted gunship helicopters, heavy tanks, long-range artillery guns and other heavy weapons to the border area. The villagers in Ghulam Khan said Nato warplanes were also seen flying over the border region several times during the day.

It is not yet clear if the U.S. is a just putting up a blocking position or if this the build-up for a large raid across the border. Just putting troops there is, like violating Pakistani airspace in Baluchistan, a threat on its own. The troops will draw fire and with that long range artillery the response might well land in Pakistan.

There it could expect resistance:

Tribesmen in North Waziristan were concerned about the arrival of US forces at their doors, but vowed to render every sacrifice for the defence of their homeland in case foreign troops crossed over into Pakistan.

However, they said they did not expect US forces to cross the border to enter Pakistani territory. “It will be a blunder on their part if the Americans enter North Waziristan,” said a noted tribal chieftain, Malik Mamoor Khan, in Miramshah. Another tribal elder, Malik Nasrullah Khan, said Waziristan was the land of brave and peace-loving tribespeople and they would never allow any outside power to invade it.

Whatever may happen with the new U.S. build up, blocking all border movement, artillery duels or an invasion into North Waziristan, it may all be in vain. If B. Raman is right the Haqqanis are not there anymore and will not care.

Posted by b on October 17, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

October 16, 2011

U.S. Presence In Iraq Likely To Be Reduced Further

All attempts to press Iraq into keeping U.S. troops in Iraq failed. The U.S. is giving up:

The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned.
A Pentagon spokesman said Saturday that no final decision has been reached about the U.S. training relationship with the Iraqi government.

But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.

A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in Iraq if requested.

The U.S. still plans to keep a division sized embassy with a brigade of contractor guards.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world, and the State Department will have offices in Basra, Irbil and Kirkuk as well as other locations around the country where contractors will train Iraqi forces on U.S. military equipment they're purchasing.

About 5,000 security contractors and personnel will be tasked with helping protect American diplomats and facilities around the country, the State Department has said.

But that embassy is a fixed target which can easily be harassed with by rocket and mortar fire. Its logistic lines of communication are also open to permanent challenges. The mercenaries guarding it will have severely restricted rules of engagement and will not be able to prevent attacks.

Aside from those problems I find it dubious to believe that Iraqi politicians and government functionaries are willing to talk to all those diplomats. Why should they?

In the end most of the diplomats will sit in their offices with nothing to do but to be ready to jump up and head to the bunkers when the next rocket alarm goes off. Additonally there is pressure from Congress to reduce the State Department's budget.

This all will soon lead a reduction of the now planned immense U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq. A year from now that presence may very well come down to more normal levels of just a few hundred people.

Posted by b on October 16, 2011 at 04:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

October 15, 2011

Those Who Cannot Remember The Past Are Condemned To Repeat It

Isn`t there anyone remembering the impossibleness of successful jungle warfare against local guerrilla?

In a letter to Congress announcing the deployment, President Barack Obama said that up to 100 U.S. special-operations trainers and military advisers would assist African forces in their search for Joseph Kony, the fugitive head of the Lord's Resistance Army.
U.S. to Pursue African Rebels


May 1961 - President Kennedy sends 400 American Green Beret 'Special Advisors' to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers in methods of 'counter-insurgency' in the fight against Viet Cong guerrillas.
America Commits 1961 - 1964

Update (2:15pm):

The media make this a Lord's Resistance Army/Joseph Kony "bad guy" - Ugandan government "good folks" show which is, unsurprisingly, a very skewed view of a long ranging ethnic and civil war. Short version: After Idi Amin was finally out the first governments, somewhat elected, were mostly ethnic Luo from the Achoi and Langi people in north Uganda. The ethnic Bantu from south Uganda had some problems with that and in 1986 the today still reigning dictator Museveni overthrew the government. Since then the Lord's Resistance Army acted as a northern resistance against the government. It has support from the northern population which resulted in the government's tactic to put most Achoi into concentration camps know for very high death rates.

The above is very simplified and others will certainly know much more about the detailed background than I do. But the point is that "good" and "bad" is a concept that doesn't work well in usually very complex ethnic conflicts as the one in Uganda. A solution there as for many other conflicts in Africa may be a realignment of the arbitrary borders the colonial overlords established along major ethnic (and language) lines.

As for human rights and the alleged brutality of the Lord's Resistance Army, well, Human Rights Watch says the Ugandan army is just as bad.

Posted by b on October 15, 2011 at 01:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

October 14, 2011

A Successful Fox Hunt

A while ago a headline in Great Britain read: Unashamed 'country boy' David Cameron makes passionate defence of Fox hunting

So people went hunting and here is the result:

BBC: "BREAKING NEWS: UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox has resigned, his office confirms"

Fox held his young friend, best man and rumored gay partner, Adam Werritty as an unofficial adviser while Werritty was on the payroll of some Israel lobby folks, U.S. defense industry companies and a hedge fund that held defense investments.

There were additional issues with Fox acting against the established rules of his former ministry plus the non-disclosure of other lobby contacts (including rumored Israeli intelligence contacts).

Fox was, through is non-profit Atlantic Bridge, one of the main contact persons between the British conservatives and the U.S. neo-conservatives. His resignation could lead to a U.K.policy that is less U.S. centric. He was a Thatcher man and more to the right than his rival Cameron who will now likely feel some relief over this resignation. But with Cameron's own problems over his connections to Murdoch's News Corp he could well be the next fox to be hunted down.

Posted by b on October 14, 2011 at 11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

What Happened To The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office?

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF/NATO) in Afghanistan is in a media war with civil organizations about its success in Afghanistan. One organization, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, may have become a casualty in this fight.

In the most recent ISAF spat it responds to a study Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn did for the Afghan Analyst Network. They took a detailed look into ISAF press releases about night raids. Their study was the base for a recent Guardian feature which includes some interactive maps:

The study shows that for every "leader" killed in the raids, eight other people also died, although the raids were designed to be a precise weapon aimed at decapitating the Taliban on the battlefield by removing their commanders.

The report notes that in briefings to the US media, aggregate claims made for the number of Taliban leaders killed or detained over a given period were sometimes much greater than the numbers recorded in the daily press releases.

ISAF shot back against the study essentially saying "Please don't believe what we are putting out in our daily press releases. Our real data looks much better. Trust US!"

Even Anthony Cordesman, the grey eminence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says ISAF media briefings are "taking on the character of the daily press follies in Vietnam."

But aside from ISAF there are unfortunately few sources for real data of what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan.

Two weeks ago the United Nations reported a 39% increase of violent incidents in Afghanistan compared to 2010. ISAF, which claims that incidents were down, immediately disputed those numbers:

"Following an initial evaluation, ISAF found (the U.N. report) inconsistent with the data that we have collected," ISAF said in a statement.

Another reliable source about incidents in Afghanistan was, until recently, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO). The organization was founded to provide other NGOs with daily information about local security issues in the country.

Since 2008 ANSO also provided detailed bi-weekly and quarterly reports about security incidents in all Afghan provinces. Supported by EU Humanitarian Aid, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Norwegian Foreign Office it had western and Afghan staff on the ground in five regional and a central office. Its reports were published on its website and through the United Nations' Reliefweb and the Canadian Conflict Monitors.

ANSO reports provided the facts for many critical media reports about the situation in Afghanistan. The last big media echo for ANSO was in late May when its director coined the phrase "perpetually escalating stalemate" for the situation in Afghanistan:

"We anticipate 2011 will be the most violent year since we have been keeping records," said the organization's quarterly report, which was released over the weekend.
Attacks by "armed opposition groups" soared 51 per cent in the first three months of this year when compared with the same period in 2010. The total number of attacks -- 1,102 -- surpassed those conducted in the run up to the 2009 presidential election, which was considered one of the most violent periods in recent memory.

Just like with the recent AAN report and the UN data ISAF/NATO immediately disputed the bad news:

NATO officials downplayed the violence overall, pointing out the Taliban have only been able to conduct small-scale suicide assaults.

Curiously a month after that spat, and amid ISAF attempts to push good news up, ANSO mysteriously vanished. The last report available at Reliefweb is the June 16-30 2011 bi-weekly one. On the last page of the report it says (pdf):

Please note that as of the 1st of July 2011 management of the ANSO project will permanently transfer from Welthungerhilfe (formerly known as GAA) to the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO).
I take the opportunity to reassure all ANSO stakeholders that the transfer, which has mostly occurred already, will not result in any disruption of normal service. Additionally, there is no requirement to reregister for any of the distribution lists. ANSO will remain named ANSO.

Kind Regards,
Nic Lee
Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO)

Despite the announcement of no "disruption of normal service" and "no requirement to reregister" ANSO vanished immediately. On July 10 2011 its domain name expired. It is now parked by some domain hosting company.

"International NGO Safety Organisation" is established as a company and charity in England and Wales with the domain name registered by Nic Lee. The website displays the ANSO logo but is otherwise "In Development", has no content at all and seems dead. Since the June report no new ANSO/INSO reports have appeared at Reliefweb or anywhere in the media.

(There is also The International NGO Safety and Security Association in Washington DC financed by USAID but that seems to be unrelated.)

One wonders why, in the mids of an ISAF media war against civil organizations reporting on security incident numbers, ANSO, reliable but critical of ISAF numbers, vanished this fast and why, despite its announcement, the important services it provided discontinued.

Posted by b on October 14, 2011 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 13, 2011

The "Fast And Furious" Used Car Salesman "Threat" Falls Apart

The failed used car salesman Mansour J. Arbabsiar, who is accused in the "Iran kills Saudi ambassador" movie plot, is a hapless idiot and petty criminal whose businesses deals always went wrong. He couldn't even match his socks, smoked marihuana and drank a lot of alcohol, was nonreligious, an opponent of the Iranian regime and only cared about money. A business man who knows him calls him "worthless" and his neighbors believed he was dealing in drugs.

But Arbabsiar had some money through inherited land holdings in Iran. Those holdings may well be the source of the $100,000 wired from Iran to the Drug Enforcement Administration informant. Israel's Mossad, the MEK cult or some drug dealers in Iran are other possible sources for the money.

The Obama administration insists that it has proof of Iranian government involvement in the assassination plot. Some anonymous officials though are already walking back that claim. It seems that they have no proof at all, just a hunch.

Every Iran expert interviewed thinks the story as presented is nonsense: Alireza Nader from Rand Corp, Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service, former CIA agent Robert Baer, Carter era NSC official Gary Sicks, Bush 2 NSC official Hillary Mann Leverett (also here), Muhammad Sahimi of PBS/Tehran Bureau and Iran scholar Hamid Serri.

To me the indictment reads as if a nutty Mansour J. Arbabsiar attempted a drug deal which was then turned into an terrorism entrapment by and through the paid criminal Drug Enforcement Administration informant.

The Obama administration seems to use this case for three purposes:

  • Diversion from the subpoena to AG Holder in the Fast and Furious gun running case which was served yesterday, from the #OccupyWallStreet movement and the general economic malaise
  • To get some momentum for additional international sanctions on Iran
  • To prop up the connections with the Saudi regime as that had threatened to distance itself from the U.S. over the U.S. veto of a Palestinian state

The administration's case for the "plot" is now falling apart. Yesterday's hype in the media has by now been replaced with doubts and mistrust. Given the obvious weakness of the case this was predictable.

But why then did the Obama administration use this case at all? Why come up with such a weak case that was sure to make it a laughing stock?

Posted by b on October 13, 2011 at 08:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

October 12, 2011

The Shalit Deal - Why Now?

Israel has finally agreed to let 1,000 Palestinians out of jail in a deal to get the captured IDF soldier Shalit released by Hamas.

The deal has been negotiated over for years and offers looking quite similar to the current deal were rejected by the Netanyahoo government several times.

I wonder why Netanyahoo agreed to this deal right at this point in time. Why not earlier? Why not later? Why does he think that this is the right moment?

Any ideas?

Posted by b on October 12, 2011 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

October 11, 2011

That "Iranian" Plot Is Nonsense

The Obama administration is offering us this Hollywood movie script. I do not believe a word of it. It makes no sense at all. Iranian officials agreeing on such a flimsy plot? Never. This is just another entrapment fantasy by the ignore-the-constitution organization of AG Holder.

The United States on Tuesday accused Iranian officials of plotting to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in a bizarre scheme involving an Iranian-American used-car salesman who believed he was hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million.

The alleged plot also included plans to pay the cartel, Los Zetas, to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina, according to a law enforcement official.

The plotters also discussed a side deal between the Quds Force, part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Los Zetas to funnel tons of opium from the Middle East to Mexico, the official said. The plans never progressed, though, because the two suspects — the Iranian-American and an Iranian Quds Force officer — unwittingly were dealing with an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, officials said.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who announced the murder plot at a news conference in Washington, said it was “directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government and, specifically, senior members of the Quds Force.” He added that “high-up officials in those agencies, which is an integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible for this plot.”

Emptywheel looks at the the details the criminal complaint and also thinks this is utter bull****.

Soma reasons why this doesn't add up:

  • The current political situation isn't bad for Iran. Why mess this up?
  • The Los Zetas cartell is a business that hates to be disturbed by U.S. law enforcement. Why agree to such a deal which would make it a target for just $1.5 million when the real business makes billions. Iran knowns this and would not work with such a group.
  • Iranian secret service using a phone call to the U.S. to talk about an assassination plot?
  • Iranian secret service wiring money from a known Quds Force account to the U.S.?
  • Why smuggle raw opium when you can easily make and smuggle the higher value product heroin?

I judge this to be an attempt to divert from #OccupyWallStreet and the general economic situation.

This does not mean that it is irrelevant. Some Congress folks and the Zionist lobby will certainly use this and try to incite war against Iran.

Posted by b on October 11, 2011 at 10:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

What The EU Understands As "Rule Of Law"

This is embarrassing for anyone who, like me, would like to see a real European Union.

Tymoshenko Sentenced to Jail Despite EU Warnings

Prior to the verdict in the trial against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the European Union made it clear that there would be consequences should she be found guilty and jailed.

But in a ruling announced on Tuesday morning, Judge Rodion Kireyev said that Tymoshenko abused her position as head of government and "used her powers for criminal ends." The verdict? Guilty. She was sentenced to seven years in prison, just as state prosecutors had requested.

Isn't intervening in a a running legal case before the court has found a judgement against the rule of law?

In mid-September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought up the Tymoshenko case with Yanukovych and told him that EU assistance depended on Ukraine's commitment to democracy. And a group of European politicians likewise expressed their concern during a September meeting in Yalta. "I hope we brought to (Yanukovych) very clearly the message that the rule of law is of critical importance," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said following the meeting.

Indeed, many observers felt that an adjournment of the trial late last month was called in order to give Yanukovych more time to consider the possible repercussions of a guilty verdict. The president, for his part, has insisted he has no influence over the court.

Which is of course as it should be. The "rule of law" calls for independent courts and the EU attempts to press the president of the Ukraine to interfere in the court procedures only shows that the EU has no interest in following those rules.

Tymoshenko made billions through gas deals. Does anyone believe that money was made in a just and legal way?

Posted by b on October 11, 2011 at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

October 10, 2011

Egypt Needs Another Revolution

Yesterday the Saudi-U.S. counter-revolution in Egypt showed its ugly face. Protest by Coptic Egyptians over attacks on Coptic churches by Salafists were used by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to stoke more sectarian strife. Copts and other Christian groups are about 10% of the Egyptian population.

Private media were shut down and the state media went into full propaganda mode against the Copts. TV anchors called to “protect the army from the Copts” while the army was killing protesters.

The date the SCAF promised to give up its rule to a civil government has been moved to 2013 without major protests by the civil political parties. The council clearly wants to stay in power and the sectarian ploys will help it to achieve that. The $4 billion the Saudis invested in it seems to pay off.

If its people want a democratic Egypt they will need another revolution to create it.

Posted by b on October 10, 2011 at 11:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

October 09, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

It is not about "Demands":


Posted by b on October 9, 2011 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

German Government Trojan Will Help The Pirates

Under certain circumstance and with the agreement of a judge the German police can wiretap private phone calls. With regards to wiretapping voice-over-Internet connection a big public policy discussions lasted over several years. In the end the German constitutional court finally allowed for wiretap capabilities for voice-over-internet connection like through Skype and the use of special police software smuggled onto a suspects personal computer for such purpose.

But the court sharply distinguished between the capability to listen in to phone communication and the capability to sniff through general content of a personal computer. It demanded that tools which provide the police with the first capability should not have the capability to do any other things. To do the second was a big no-no for the court and it judged such would be illegal as it would severe the basic human right to privacy.

So what did the police do? It, of course one might say, broke the law.

As the Chaos Computer Club, a 25 year old hacker organization which promotes privacy, found, the "Federal Trojan" software the police uses for sniffing into Skype calls allows full manipulation of the hosting PC. The software can install additional programs and it can upload, download and manipulate files.

"This refutes the claim that an effective separation of just wiretapping internet telephony and a full-blown trojan is possible in practice – or even desired," commented a CCC speaker. "Our analysis revealed once again that law enforcement agencies will overstep their authority if not watched carefully. In this case functions clearly intended for breaking the law were implemented in this malware: they were meant for uploading and executing arbitrary code on the targeted system."

Even worse, the software is written on an amateur level, uses unsecured communication methods and, once installed, leaves the computer open to be manipulated by anyone on the Internet.

A scandal will now ensue and is likely to have political consequences. Someone, likely the head of the German Federal Police, will have to step down.

Politically this will help the German Pirate Party to win further political support. To the astonishment of the established parties the Pirates, pro-privacy and contra unreasonable copyright laws, captured 8.9% of the votes in the recent city/state elections in Berlin. They have the potential to top 10% in the next federal elections.

Vettel wins world-championship, the hawkish German federal "terror, terror" police will likely be decapitated and the content/copyright mafia will see more political resistance. What a nice Sunday.

Posted by b on October 9, 2011 at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

October 08, 2011

Open Thread - Oct 8

What's one your mind?

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 8, 2011 at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

October 07, 2011

Obama Lacks Basic Understanding of Foreign Policy

Obama Warns Pakistanis on Militants

President Obama said his administration was concerned about Pakistan’s commitment to American interests, ...

Why the f*** should Pakistan be committed to American interests? This while the U.S., through its India and Afghanistan policy, is acting against Pakistani interests. Pakistan, like any other nation, takes care of its own national interest, not any foreign one.

The headline to the piece should have been: "Obama Lacks Basic Understanding of Foreign Policy".

Posted by b on October 7, 2011 at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

October 06, 2011

Excerpts From Steve Jobs' Wikipedia Entry

To consider today's Steve Jobs hype citing some excerpts from the Wikipedia entry about him seems appropriate.

Jobs returned to his previous job at Atari and was given the task of creating a circuit board for the game Breakout. According to Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Atari had offered $100 for each chip that was eliminated in the machine. Jobs had little interest in or knowledge of circuit board design and made a deal with Wozniak to split the bonus evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips. Much to the amazement of Atari, Wozniak reduced the number of chips by 50, a design so tight that it was impossible to reproduce on an assembly line. According to Wozniak, Jobs told Wozniak that Atari had given them only $700 (instead of the actual $5,000) and that Wozniak's share was thus $350.
While Jobs was a persuasive and charismatic director for Apple, some of his employees from that time had described him as an erratic and temperamental manager.
In the coming months, many employees developed a fear of encountering Jobs while riding in the elevator, "afraid that they might not have a job when the doors opened. The reality was that Jobs' summary executions were rare, but a handful of victims was enough to terrorize a whole company." Jobs also changed the licensing program for Macintosh clones, making it too costly for the manufacturers to continue making machines.
After resuming control of Apple in 1997, Jobs eliminated all corporate philanthropy programs.
In 2005, Jobs responded to criticism of Apple's poor recycling programs for e-waste in the U.S. by lashing out at environmental and other advocates at Apple's Annual Meeting in Cupertino in April.
In 2005, Steve Jobs banned all books published by John Wiley & Sons from Apple Stores in response to their publishing an unauthorized biography, iCon: Steve Jobs.

The article doesn't go into the outsourcing of the production of Apple products to a Chinese company which is essentially using slave labor with 16 hour work days and a series of employee suicides. This while Apple products are beyond real price competitions and the company is making extraordinary profits.

Jobs was reported to be the 42nd of the richest men list in the United States.

He marketed some good products. The NeXT cube was nice. Jobs though wasn't a nice man.

Posted by b on October 6, 2011 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

NATO To Intervene In Libya's Multisided Civil War

It was utterly predictable that the war in Libya would not be over even if Gaddhafi would be pushed away. The various fractions of the rebels could always be expected to start fighting over the loot. Frankly - why shouldn't they? This is happening now and NATO is preparing to go into Libya to clean up the mess the three stooges, Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron, created.

Nato officials are also concerned that fighting could break out among the factions that brought down Gaddafi's regime.

They believe the alliance would be under an obligation to intervene under the terms of its UN mandate to protect the Libyan population.

"If it degenerates into a big fight between factions, we will have to take action," a senior official said.

"If the scale and scope is of an order that justifies Nato intervention, we will intervene."

The situation is of course already degenerating and there is already fighting between various rebel factions. But a multisided civil war situation like this can not be refereed from the air. To intervene here means ground troops and a lot of them. Those will then be, as in Afghanistan, just another faction in an ever widening civil war.

From various news items:

Remember what happened after they did this in Iraq?

Libya's new government is setting up a security agency whose main task would be to root out those who remain loyal to deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi in towns and cities it now controls.

Ahmed al Dharrat, Libya's new interim internal affairs minister, told Reuters the new agency would replace a much-feared security service which ruled the North African nation through fear and arrests throughout Gaddafi's 42 years in power.

"Regarding internal security, there has been an order to abolish it. And we are studying a way of creating a body," al Dharrat said in an interview.

In Tripoli - people from Ziltan versus the LIFG:

An NTC spokesman who did not want to be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media about the incident told CNN "immediately after the journalist left the area, members of the rival Zintan-based Kekaa militia surrounded members of the Tripoli Brigade and stopped them from leaving."

"They had issued an arrest warrant from the Zintan Military Council for Belhaj and his deputy," the NTC spokesman added.
More members from the Tripoli Brigade based in Metiga airport arrived in pickup trucks armed with heavy artillery and surrounded the Kekaa Brigades and "convinced" them to leave after accusations were exchanged between the two groups and tension that may have escalated to fighting, the spokesman said.

In the South - Berbers versus Arabs:

Berbers from Nalut and Arabs from nearby Seaan clashed Saturday with Kalashnikov rifles and machine guns in the Nefusa mountains. A family of three caught in the crossfire was killed in the incident, Ahmed Hussein who witnessed the incident, told CNN.
Tripoli - lot of loyalist who will not stay silent:
"I am a Gadhafi loyalist. I want Moammar. Some people are afraid to speak out, but I'm not," he says. "All I've known is Gadhafi. And I felt secure back then. There are many of us who feel the same way, but we are afraid to speak out because we might get beaten or shot."
By some estimates, up to 30 to 40 percent of the population in Libya remains sympathetic to Gadhafi.

Sirte - fighting to death:

For the grim truth is that this battered city, the last strategically important target for anti-Gaddafi forces, is home to elements who know there is no point in surrendering.

These men know that death is their only option. If they surrender they will tried and executed for so-called "blood crimes".

The rebels know it too.

Near Sirte - Benghazis versus looters from Misurata

Fathi al-Shobash, an eastern revolutionary, said that when he tried to stop Misrata fighters from raiding homes, they would push him away and say this was their time to treat the Gadhadhfas the way they were treated by their leader. Gadhafi drew heavily on the Gadhadhfa and other loyalist tribes for his military and other key parts of his regime.

“I came to sincerely fight for freedom and my one goal is to rid Libya of Moammar Gadhafi,” said al-Shobash. “Why take it out on innocent people from his tribe?”

The tensions between east and west have begun to percolate on a national level as the interim government — set up by easterners — tries to solidify its authority after the fall of Tripoli and Gadhafi’s ouster in late August. Already, some in the west have rankled at what they see as attempts by easterners to dominate.


Posted by b on October 6, 2011 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Drone War Against Somalis and Yeminite Isn't "Deterrence"

The WaPo's David Ignatius claims that the U.S. is using drones only against those who want to directly attack the U.S. The drones are thereby supposed to "deter" from doing so and not to intervene in civil wars on the ground.

A hint of deterrence in U.S. drone-war strategy

[I]n recent weeks a subtle limit has emerged in drone policy: Despite calls by some U.S. officials for drone attacks against the training camps of AQAP and al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, neither has been targeted. That’s a deliberate policy decision — aimed partly at preventing the spread of a Taliban-style insurgency to new theaters, such as Yemen and Somalia.
[A]s a matter of policy, Brennan and other top officials have decided (for now) against such strikes in the new battlegrounds, in part to prevent an ever-widening war that fosters the very Islamic insurgency we want to contain.

One wonders why WaPo even bothered to print the piece as the facts very obviously differ from that narrative.

Despite its claims the U.S. is openly engaged in the civil wars in Yemen and in Somalia on the sides of the U.S. supported dictators. 

US drone strike kills six in Somalia - Oct 5, 2011

The US drone attack left six civilians dead and many more injured in the Dhoobley town located near Kismayo, the capital of the lower Juba region and a port city located some 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Wednesday.

Hassan Ali, a Somali military official, told Press TV that the strike sought to target an al-Shabab base in the area. However, the casualties were all civilians.

The drone attack comes as 20 civilians, among them eight women, were wounded in a US aerial attack on the outskirts of Kismayo late on Tuesday.

US drone kills 5 al-Qaida militants in Yemen - Oct 5, 2011

A U.S. drone strike killed five al-Qaida-linked militants in southern Yemen on Wednesday, Yemeni officials said.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity according to military rules, said the dawn strike targeted militant hideouts in the al-Arqoub area east of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province.

Somali militants in key port 'attacked by US drones' - Sep 25, 2011

The United States has launched a series of attacks by unmanned drones on the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, local residents say.

At least three targets were hit around Kismayo, the southern port which is under the control of the militants.

Drone attack kills 10 Qaeda suspects in south Yemen - Sep 21, 2011

ADEN — Ten Al-Qaeda suspects were killed while a top leader in the network escaped death as US drones carried out several air strikes on their strongholds in Yemen's south, local officials said Wednesday.

"US drones carried out two air strikes on Al-Mahfad (in the southern Abyan province) where Al-Qaeda militants -- among them Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP) number two Saeed al-Shehri -- are present," said a local official in the village.

Four suspected militants were killed while Shehri escaped, said the well-informed official who requested anonymity.

Another local official from the town of Shaqra -- controlled by the militants since June -- said that six other "Al-Qaeda gunmen" were killed and three were wounded in two separate air raids on the town.

It is very unlikely that all those people killed were engaged in any direct action against the United States. This is open warfare against the people of Yemen and Somalia, not "terrorism" deterrence.

Posted by b on October 6, 2011 at 05:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 05, 2011

Imperialist Pot Calls Imperialist Kettle Black

For the imperial war on Libya Qatar provided the propaganda via Al Jazeerah, it provided the crucial Arab League request for a "no-fly zone", its Special Force troops -like the Egyptians, French, British and Bulgarian- trained the rebels. Quatar took care of the oil the rebels wanted to sell and gave them money, it also provided lots of arms, Belgian FN assault rifles and Milan anti-tank missiles, to the rebels and its air-force took part in the bombing of the country.

Now it wants a say in what happens next in the "new" Libya.

But here it gets funny. "Western" imperialists do not like other imperialists, especially not darker skin Muslim imperialists in funny garbs, to do as they do.

Which brings us to this rather comical Guardian piece:

Qatar accused of interfering in Libyan affairs
Western diplomats say Arab state is bypassing international agreements, to pursue its own agenda.

The tiny Arab emirate of Qatar, a leading supporter of the revolution in Libya, has been accused by western diplomats of interfering in the country's sovereignty.

The claims come amid growing concern among Libyans in the National Transitional Council (NTC) and western officials that Qatar, which supplied arms to Libyan revolutionaries, is pursuing its own postwar agenda at the cost of wider efforts to bring political stability to the country.
A senior diplomat said: "There is a question now about what foreign players like Qatar are doing in Libya – whether it is being helpful and respectful of Libyan sovereignty. "Qatar is not being respectful, and there is a feeling that it is riding roughshod over the issue of the country's sovereignty."

One might think this is satire fresh out of The Onion. How could anyone dare to interfere in Libya's sovereignity? Such is just unthinkable!

But that "senior diplomat", after having broken the UN resolutions on Libya on several issues, after having ignored the sovereignty of Libya in all aspects and after having bombed the Libyan people, seems serious in this.

All foreign powers with an interest in Libya, among which are the US, Britain and France, have had their own agendas. However, the source said: "There is a feeling that Qatar has been providing money and support to certain individuals."

But that is exactly what the other countries have done as well. The National Transitional Council is filled with expats from Washington, London and Paris, financed by the various secret services of those countries.

The guy Qatar is accused of supporting is no other than Abdelhakim Belhadj, former CIA prisoner and freed from jail by Saif al-Islam Gaddhafi. Belhaj, commanding a large gang of experienced folks from his Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is currently the military commander of Tripoli.

At the centre of concerns are allegations that, rather than supporting the NTC, Qatar has chosen to back favoured key figures with financial and other resources. Most prominent among these would be the Islamist head of Tripoli's military council, Abdul-Aziz Belhaj.

The CIA abducted and tortured Belhaj and then provided him to Gaddhafi who kept him in jail for some years before he got freed. How come those "western" countries would object to this guy now? Is someone afraid of revenge?

Of particular concern over the last month has been how Qatar has chosen to throw its weight behind a group of Libyan individuals including Sheikh Ali Salabi, a Libyan cleric who resides in Doha and has close relations with Belhaj.

There has been the growing friction between Salabi and the NTC's interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril. Salabi has appeared on television to suggest Jibril is a "tyrant in waiting".

Salabi may be right on that.

He is, by the way, the senior cleric that brokered the deal between the senior LIFG leadership, including Bejhaj, and Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, for their release from prison. I would not be astonished to learn that Salabi is still in contact with Seif al Islam Gaddhafi.

Posted by b on October 5, 2011 at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

October 04, 2011

Panetta Tries To Hold Israel Back From Attacking Iran

U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta was in Israel today meeting with Defense Minister Barak for a second time in only two weeks.

Before his arrival the newspaper Haaretz in its Hebrew version (via Richard Silverstein) headlined that the meeting as an "Urgent Consultation on Iran".

Silverstein suspected that Bibi Netanyahoo and Ehud Barak were planing a surprise attack on Iran and that Panetta was send to whistle them back.

I thought that a bit outlandish but this Haaretz piece now at the end of the visit makes is theory quite believable.

It starts with a former Mossad chief, who had earlier warned against an attack on Iran, but then adds a long part on Panetta and his press conference with Barak:

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan said Monday that a military strike on Iran was "far from being Israel's preferred option," telling the Council for Peace and Security that "there are currently tools and methods that are much more effective."

Dagan also said Iran's nuclear program was still far from the point of no return, and that Iran's situation is "the most problematic it has been in since the revolution" in 1979.
Dagan made his remarks on the same day that visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta passed on a clear message from his boss in Washington: The United States opposes any Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

At a joint press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Panetta stressed that any steps against Iran's nuclear program must be taken in coordination with the international community.

The United States, he said, is "very concerned, and we will work together to do whatever is necessary" to keep Iran from posing "a threat to this region." But doing so "depends on the countries working together," he added.

He repeated the word "together" several times in this context.

As the U.S. for strategic reasons has currently no interest at all in bombing Iran Panettas "together" means "we won't and you won't either".

It seems that Netanyahoo and Barak really had some crazy ideas here. An Israeli attack now would indeed have some preferable circumstances that are likely to vanish. The U.S. still controls airspace and flies over Iraq and could let Israeli planes take that route, the current weather before the onset of winter is favorable, Obama is under pressure to support Israel and succumbed to it before the UN. An attack would of course also let the issue of the Palestinian statehood bid in front of the UN vanish from the international agenda.

A surprise attack on Iran by Israel alone, while useless against Iran's nuclear program, would inevitably be followed by some acts from Iran against Israel to which the U.S. would than be pressed to respond by the Israel-firsters in Congress and the media.

Let's hope that Panetta has given his warning in such a way that it really deters Netanyahoo. With carzies liek Netanyahoo and Barak simply saying "no", without some believable threat in case the no is not followed, will likely not be enough.

Posted by b on October 4, 2011 at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

October 03, 2011

First We Take Manhattan ...

#OccupyWallStreet is a quite amazing open source insurgency which has a good potential to grow into something much bigger.

That it is already fought by the establishment, paid by the banks, is a sign that the powers that are are afraid of it and take it seriously.

For some serious success the movement has to be copied and extended to every financial district all over the world. That seems to be starting now.

Learn from Tahir. Do not allow any agenda. Accept no leadership. Just occupy.

I'm guided by a signal in the heavens
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Just block the corrupt and inhuman business that Wall Street symbolizes and that has affected and injured so many people all around the world. Others will follow. I do.

Posted by b on October 3, 2011 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

Maliki: Zero Foreign Soldiers In Iraq

There were several U.S. attempts to keep its troops in Iraq. The U.S. offer was lowered from 30,000 to 10,000 to 3,000 to trainers. This seems to settle it and the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq looks to be about zero.

Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said on Thursday that the presence of foreign experts and trainers during the purchase of weapons is a natural thing, reiterating that the presence of the US troops in his country would end by end of the current year

“The presence of the American troops is settled and shall end by the end of the current year, according to an agreement between both sides, and there won’t remain a single foreign soldier in the country,” a statement by the Prime Minister’s office reported.

But Prime Minister Maliki said that the “presence of foreign experts and trainers during the process of purchase of weapons is something natural and is followed in other parts of the world.”

Those few trainers, mostly civilians anyway, that will be needed for the F-16s and other stuff Iraq buys will not be relevant. They can not influence Iraqi operations nor will they be able to influence anything with regards to Iran.

This outcome is the best for all involved.

Posted by b on October 3, 2011 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

October 02, 2011

Change On Afghanistan Negotiations May Yet Get Spoiled

Pakistan has long demanded a seat at the negotiation table about Afghanistan's future. It did its very best to prevent direct negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S. and its attached Afghan puppet Karzai. It earlier arrested Taliban politicians like Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar who were involved in direct negotiations and it may have been involved in the recent attack on the Peace Council head Burhanuddin Rabbani who was trying to establish other direct contacts with the Taliban.

It seems that now the U.S. and its Afghan puppet Karzai have given in to this Pakistani demand:

A spokesman for Mr Karzai, Siamak Herawi, reiterated on Sunday that peace talks with the Taliban were suspended and that a new peace strategy would be spelled out "very soon".

On Friday, Mr Karzai made it clear where the efforts should focus.

He said: "[Taliban leader] Mullah Omar doesn't have an address... their peace emissary turns out to be a killer, whom should we talk to?

"The Afghan nation asks me who's the other party that you hold talks with? My answer is, Pakistan."

This is a very significant step Karzai is taking and it is unlikely he would take it without U.S. support. Direct negotiations with Pakistan which include its interest could indeed lead to a solution that is more stable and peaceful than the current situation.

The quite bellicose accusations by Admiral Mullen against Pakistan were walked back first by annonymous officials and then by Obama himself:

President Barack Obama is declining to endorse strong criticism of Pakistan leveled by the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while saying Pakistan must do more to deal with insurgents.

This suggests that the fight between the military industrial complex, which wants to see the war to continue to keep the money flowing towards it, and the administration which needs to get the U.S. out of the $12 billion per month wars for overall economic reasons has for now been won by the civil side.

But the internal fight in the U.S. is not yet over. The U.S. military can easily spoil any new negotiations by enraging the Pakistani side. A special force raid into Pakistan that leaves some Pakistani soldiers dead is all that is needed to prolong or even escalate the issue. India, which has no border with Afghanistan, is of course also still working against Pakistan's negotiation interests.

If Obama really wants to set a new route out of Afghanistan he must now take serious steps to prevent such spoilers of a comprehensive Afghan peace solution even after the tenths anniversary of the war.

Posted by b on October 2, 2011 at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Libya Done, Next Is Syria

The military mission in Libya is largely complete, and NATO's involvement could begin to wrap up as soon as this coming week after allied leaders meet in Brussels, Belgium, the top U.S. commander for Africa said.

Well, well. Just in time:

Syrian activists formed a council to coordinate efforts to end President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and stop his deadly crackdown that has claimed more than 3,600 lives this year.
Syria’s opposition is following the path taken by Libya’s rebels, who formed a National Transitional Council during that country’s uprising.
While the council rejects any outside intervention in Syria’s internal affairs, it seeks United Nations protection for the Syrian people, Ghaliun said.

Does anyone believe that these news items appearing on the same day is just a random coincident?

Posted by b on October 2, 2011 at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

An Odd Airstrike In Yemen

This incident which happened yesterday evening seems quite odd: Yemeni jet mistakenly bombs army post, kills 30.

It is neither clear who really bombed those troops nor if it was indeed "mistakenly".

The attack happened near Zinjibar in the south of Yemen. There has been fighting around Zinjibar for several month and there is complex mix of groups and interests involved.

Since late May Zinjibar, a town with some 20,000 inhabitants, has been in the hand of rebels which are said to include militant Islamists and "al-Qaida in the Arab peninsula (AQAP)" fighters. Yemens military has fought bloody battles with those militants since then and several hundred fighters died on both sides. There is some suspicion that the take-over of the town was secretly supported by President Saleh to raise the specter of "al-Qaida" and to demonstrate to the U.S. that only his continued rule can deny its rise.

During June and July the barracks of the Yemeni 25th Mechanised Brigade near the city were surrounded and cut off by the rebels for over a month until the brigade was relieved through heavy tanks, aerial bombing, naval rocket strikes and tribal fighters who had earlier supported the rebels and are otherwise also anti-Saleh. Their tribal leader explained that there were now too many unwanted foreigners, mostly Saudis, with the Islamists and they did want these in their area.

In late July an air strike, allegedly by the Yemen air force, killed 15 to 25 of the tribesmen supporting the military offensive. The tribesmen claimed that they had given their own position coordinates to the government and accused it of intent. Another similar "friendly fire" incident happened shortly thereafter. Throughout June and July the U.S. was also involved in air attacks on the militants in Zinjibar with fixed wing aircraft as well as drones.

Another brigade in the area, the 119th Artillery Brigade defected to the opposition which is demanding for President Saleh to step down. The brigade did not join the Islamist rebels but just stepped aside. But in August the brigade was suddenly back on the side of the government and helped to fight the rebels. It is thought to have received significant support from the U.S. military.

The town was reported to be back in government hands on September 10 but that turned out to be premature as fighting has continued since then.

Today's bombing hit a position of soldiers of the 119th Brigade.

It is possible that this was an unintended "friendly fire" strike by the Yemeni air force. It is also possible that this was an intended strike as the 119th brigade is still thought to be anti-Saleh. It might have been a strike by U.S. planes which was probably given the coordinates to hit by Saleh's government. Saleh has used such a trick last year when he gave coordinates of a rival army commander's headquarter to the Saudis claiming they were for Houthi positions the Saudi troops were then fighting and bombing.

The story makes clear that the issues in Yemen are very, very complex.

But what is somewhat unexplainable in the whole Zinjibar story is that several brigades of the Yemeni military have not been able to free the town for over three month even with tribal help and U.S. support and against militants who have no obvious support or supply lines from outside. This makes the rumors of Saleh's secret support for these Islamists quite believable.

Saleh's strategy towards the U.S. is to present himself as the only man who can keep AQAP down and the country together. While the U.S. had earlier called for Salh to step down as president it recently allowed him to leave Saudi Arabia, where he had been for medical care after an assassination attempt, and to come back into the country.

It seems that Saleh's strategy has so far worked quite well for him and yesterday's air strike may have been just another of his tricks to keep the AQAP problem alive and himself at the top.

Posted by b on October 2, 2011 at 01:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 01, 2011

The Libya Mess

Some recent headlines make clear that Libya is now on the way to become another Somalia. There is the  difference that Libya is plagued with oil which makes the possible loot and thereby urge for "western" intervention even bigger. It seems sound to expect at least a decade of internal war and destruction before the situation there will again resemble a kind of functioning state.

Posted by b on October 1, 2011 at 05:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)