Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 31, 2012

Obama Raises The Price Of Oil

Obama Finds Oil in Markets Is Sufficient to Sideline Iran

After careful analysis of oil prices and months of negotiations, President Obama on Friday determined that there was sufficient oil in world markets to allow countries to significantly reduce their Iranian imports, clearing the way for Washington to impose severe new sanctions intended to slash Iran’s oil revenue and press Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The White House announcement comes after months of back-channel talks to prepare the global energy market to cut Iran out — but without raising the price of oil, which would benefit Iran and harm the economies of the United States and Europe.

Obama could have waivered the sanctions by pointing out that they are likely to increase oil prices. As the piece describes it the administration says it believes that oil prices will not increase when it implements the sanctions. It is obvious that there are three big flaws with this thinking.

First it depends on an increase in Saudi Arabia's oil production. If such an increase is possible and sustainable at all it would take away the only world wide reserve production capacity. Any additional disruption in any oil supply from elsewhere -which eventually will happen- will therefore lead to high price spikes. The idea is to use the limited stored strategic petroleum reserves to control price spikes. Thus this whole idea only works with a limited time horizon. It is not sustainable.

The second flaw of the thinking that oil prices will not increase is that it does not anticipate any Iranian countermeasure. What happens if a pipeline in south Iraq blows up? What if some sabotage in the Saudi oilfields -most of them are in its restive Shia populated areas- takes away some of their capacity? What if Iran simply stops selling a large chunk of its oil?

The third flaw is the idea that oil prices solely depend on available supply and demand. Instead they also depend on expectations. As this strategy to press Iran and to keep oil prices from increasing is not sustainable what is the endgame to this "squeezing" of Iran?

For strategic and domestic policy reasons Iran can and will not cry uncle and give up its civilian nuclear program. Neither can the Obama administration, in an election year, make the necessary comprises for a negotiated resolution of this manufactured conflict. It seems then that there is no peaceful endgame possible and the only way to solve the issue will be a long war.

Oil markets, like all other markets, base their price finding also on expectations of future supply and demand conditions. As it is obvious that the Obama strategy will increase risks and leaves war in the Gulf as the only resolution of the crisis oil prices will increase further from their already high level.

As this seems obvious why is the Obama administration not seeing it? What is the larger plan behind this feigned naivety that "squeezing" Iran will not increase the price of oil?

Posted by b on March 31, 2012 at 06:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

March 30, 2012

Open Thread 2012-09

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 30, 2012 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (107)

March 23, 2012

Open Thread 2012-08

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 23, 2012 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (199)

March 22, 2012

NYT Misrepresents UNSC Statement On Syria

NYT writer Rick Gladstone commits serious journalistic malpractice in his piece about the UNSC Presidential Statement on Syria. He writes as if the statement was a climbdown of Russia from its position and as if the statement is what the U.S. tried to achieve for month. The opposite is the case. The U.S. was forced to change its position while the Russians won on each of their points. But Gladstone writes:

Overcoming months of bitter division, the United Nations Security Council delivered a diplomatic setback to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Wednesday, unanimously embracing efforts by Kofi Annan, the former secretary general, to negotiate a cease-fire in the year-old Syrian conflict, funnel aid to victims and begin a political transition.
The plan closely resembles an Arab League proposal that Mr. Assad has rejected.
Russia’s endorsement of the statement is an embarrassment for Mr. Assad, who has refused to negotiate with his political opponents and has characterized the uprising as a terrorist crime wave.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had expressed anger over Russia’s support for Mr. Assad, praised the Security Council’s action as “a positive step.”

“The council has now spoken with one voice,” she added.

There are at least three factual errors in Gladstone's piece:

  • The Annan plan does not by far resemble the Arab League proposal which called for the immediate step down of Assad
  • The Russian endorsement is not an embarrassment for Assad but is consistent with its 5-point plan which China and Bashar Assad endorsed
  • Assad has not refused to negotiate though the rebels rejected Annan's plan
  • Clinton's praise is just hiding that she lost the cause

For comparison read how Colum Lynch reports on the same issue for the Washington Post:

The United States and its Arab and European partners have pressed for passage of an Arab League proposal that would have required Assad to yield considerable powers to a transitional government. But Russia, backed by China, recently vetoed a resolution endorsing that plan, insisting that the Syrian government should remain central to any negotiations on a political settlement in Syria.

To secure Russian support, the council’s Western and Arab powers were forced to offer several concessions. A council statement, as a result, includes no condemnation of Syria, no specific timetable for a political transition and a watered-down threat of possible action against Syria if it fails to comply with the Annan plan.

At the last minute, the statement’s sponsors also stripped out a U.S. amendment demanding that Syria immediately allow U.N. humanitarian workers unimpeded access to civilians.
U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice characterized the council’s action as a “modest step” but added that it offered the greatest hope of reuniting the 15-nation council.

That report sounds quite different from what the New York Times published.

It is clear that the U.S. had to retreat from its position to only condemn violence by the Syrian government side and to call for Assad to go. But no NYT reader will get that point from reading the paper. One wonders what intention Gladstone has with his serious misrepresentation of what happened at the UNSC.

Posted by b on March 22, 2012 at 02:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

March 21, 2012

The Syrian Rebellion One Year On

One year after the crisis in Syria started the UN Security Council today issued a non-binding Presidential Statement(scroll down) on Syria supporting Kofi Annan's mission there. It will have little effect.

The danger of civil war in Syria is for now over. The terrorists who came in via Lebanon and have been killing people in Syria since April last year are unable to hold any ground.

While Human Rights Watch falsely claims that the protests where "overwhelmingly peaceful until September 2011" it now at least acknowledges the brutality of the armed activists:

Armed opposition elements have carried out serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today in a public letter to the Syrian National Council (SNC) and other leading Syrian opposition groups. Abuses include kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters, and people identified as members of pro-government militias, called shabeeha. Human Rights Watch has also received reports of executions by armed opposition groups of security force members and civilians.

The only ability the terrorists have left is to commit random acts of terrorism like exploding bombs or assassinating people. While such terrorism is certainly a danger it alone can not bring down the Syrian state and its government. But it is alienating the people that earlier took part in peaceful protests against the regime.

Meanwhile the so called international community is not willing to support the rebellion and even Turkey is urged to pull back from its anti-Syrian policies:

Turkey seems to be the only country fully focused and devoted to toppling al-Assad’s regime. Talks of establishing a buffer zone or a safe haven to protect fleeing Syrians and leading the international community in imposing more pressure are part of this policy. Such interventionist policies would not only break the image Turkey has built in the region but are also inconsistent with its general foreign policy principles, the main pillar of which is peace.

Thus Turkey had better revise its policy toward its southern neighbor ...

Only the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which leads the opposition, is still uncompromising and in this interview its leader Mohammed Riad Al-Shaqfa still calls for more arms. He also admits that the opposition is financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This Dutch TV interview (in English) with the spokesperson of the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Jihad Makdissi shows the regime as much more realistic and more open to compromises.

The biggest problem Syria will have in the next months are the 200,000 internally displaced and the economic pressure from sanctions. Like with all sanctions it will be difficult to get these lifted. But with Iraq open to Syrian trade and the Turkish position likely to change the sanctions, as well as the terrorists, will not be able to endanger the regime.

Posted by b on March 21, 2012 at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

March 19, 2012

Open Thread 2012-07

As I am currently on a family visit to greet my new born niece and to help my brother with some computer problems I am too busy to write up something meaningful. Please use this post as an open thread.

Posted by b on March 19, 2012 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (114)

March 17, 2012

The "Nightmare" Withdrawal From Afghanistan

In its weekly analysis the well plugged in Swoop says about U.S. plans in Afghanistan:

Top US policy makers are coming to grips with the realization that the assumptions on which the ISAF's exit from Afghanistan were based are unlikely to be fulfilled. Pentagon contacts tell us that behind Defense Secretary Panetta’s hurried visit to the country following the killings of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier lies a deep debate in Washington about the timelines of the mission. Officials had hoped that at the forthcoming May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago it would be possible to announce a credible strategy for the Afghan endgame. They are now increasingly gloomy that this and that, instead, an accelerated withdrawal will take place, with few guarantees of continuing stability inside Afghanistan. One senior Pentagon officer put it to us this way: “We are revisiting the Soviet nightmare.” For President Obama, the Afghanistan confusion seems unlikely to damage him politically. With the Republican presidential candidates also calling for expedited withdrawal, Afghanistan does not appear likely to feature as a controversial election issue – at least at this juncture.

The analysis is likely correct. But the "revisiting the Soviet nightmare" the senior Pentagon officer says is serious historic misjudgement.

For the Soviets the exit from Afghanistan was no nightmare at all. It withdrew its forces from the country in a well planned, over five years prepared and orderly manner. A rather stable regime was in place and a quite capable Afghan military with even its own full fledged air-force and missile artillery. Treaties with other countries were arranged and, even as the U.S. immediately broke its part and continued to finance the Mujahideen, there was a much better formalized pull out the U.S. is likely to manage.

Consider that the U.S. is currently on hostile terms with two of Afghanistan's biggest neighbors Iran and Pakistan and the other relevant neighbors in the north are Russian client state. Talks with the Taliban were broken off before they started because the U.S. could not even deliver on the agreed upon the confidence building prisoner exchange. Karzai can not be re-elected and it is completely unclear what the results of a new election in 2014 will be. It could be civil war within the current regime or a military coup.

The Soviet backed regime in Kabul was able to stay in its place for more than three years after the complete Soviet withdrawal. It only fell apart when the disintegrating Soviet Union cut off the money flow.

It seems unlikely to me that the current graft regime in Kabul, no matter how much finance it will get, will continue to function after the major U.S. forces leave.

The reasons for that are plentiful but the major one is, compared to the centralized top-down Soviet Union approach, a seriously dysfunctional foreign policy process in Washington with too many stakeholders, the president and his NSC, the state department, congress, the military and various other forces having a say on each and every tiny issue.

Posted by b on March 17, 2012 at 02:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

March 16, 2012

WaPo: Those Dead And Wounded Afghans Do Not Exist

One big problem with U.S. foreign policy is that foreigners, unless they are falsely comparable to Hitler like Saddam, Gaddhafi or Ahmedinejad, do not exist in the mind of the U.S. people. The public seems not to care about the suffering of the people its rulers maim and kill.

But that is not really the fault of the U.S. people. It is a major fault of the media which only seldom present the view from the recipient side of the various U.S. bombing campaigns. Those people seem not exist.

The Washington Post just posted: 12 Turkish troops killed in chopper crash in Kabul

The report was filed from Kabul by Ernesto Londoño, Friday, March 16, 11:14 AM.

It begins:

KABUL — Twelve Turkish soldiers were killed Friday when their helicopter crashed on the outskirts of Kabul, officials said. It was the deadliest incident for international troops in Afghanistan so far this year.

A statement on the Turkish General Staff's Web site said the aircraft appears to have crashed accidentally, rather than under enemy fire.

All 12 troops killed were Turks, the statement said, making the crash by far the biggest loss of life for Turkish troops in Afghanistan during the conflict.

Not one word of the report mentions that besides the Turkish troops two Afghans were also killed and three wounded as the helicopter crashed onto their house:

Abdul Qadus, a local resident, said “there were two helicopters in the air passing through the area when one of them, all of a sudden, went down, hitting a house.”

He said two women, one in neighbouring house, were killed and another two women and a child were wounded in the accident.

There is not one word on that in the two hundred word Washington Post report. That is not because it was filled as facts still evolved. Various tweets from reporters in Kabul had the civilians deaths included almost immediatly. But death and carnage of Afghans seem not to exist for the Washington Post and therefore not for its readers.

Below is a screenshot of the complete report from the Washington Post website.

(click the image for a full size version)


Posted by b on March 16, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

March 15, 2012

Afghanistan - Towards The Exit Without Negotiations

Negotiations with the Taliban were said to take place in Qatar where the Taliban opened a office for this purpose. As a confidence building measure before starting real negotiations a prisoner exchange was agreed upon between the U.S. and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Five Taliban imprisoned in Guantanamo were to be exchanged for one American held in Taliban custody. But that move is opposed by the majority and minority leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee and is therefore unlikely to happen.

But even with the agreed upon confidence building measure not yet fulfilled the U.S. tried to press the Taliban on some other points. The conditions the U.S. tried to set so far, an integration of the Taliban into the exiting political framework of the Karzai government and the current Afghan constitution, are unexceptable to the Taliban.

At the same time and after several deadly recent incidents in Afghanistan the sentiment in the political establishment in the U.S. as well as in the UK has turned decidedly towards an exit from Afghanistan. Within Afghanistan the foreign troops are more and more seen as a burden and today Karzai called for a retreat of all foreign troops from all villages on outposts back into the main bases. He also calls for a faster handover of all security tasks to native Afghan forces.

The war on Afghanistan now seems to come to a faster than expected end.

The Taliban have drawn the right conclusion, they will outlast their enemy, and announced that they will no longer negotiate with the U.S.:

A memorandum of understanding which was agreed upon earlier was not yet fulfilled when an American representative presented a list of conditions in his latest meeting with the Islamic Emirate which were not only unacceptable but also in contradiction with the earlier agreed upon points. So it was due to their alternating and ever changing position that the Islamic Emirate was compelled to suspend all dialogue with the Americans. We must categorically state that the real source of obstacle in talks was the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans therefore all the responsibility for the halt also falls on their shoulders.

As the rush to the exits begins the only good news is that Pakistan seems to be willing to reopen its roads for passage of goods to, and more important now, from Afghanistan. That will allow for a faster and less complicated retreat.

Posted by b on March 15, 2012 at 08:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

March 14, 2012

How False Human Rights Claims Create War

The Humanitarian War is a film by Julien Teil which shows the absurdity of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine that is now in fashion to launch colonial wars. I recommend to watch at least the first two parts.

In the first episode we can see the leader of Amnesty International France asserting that Gaddhafi paid black mercenaries to fight the rebels attacking his state. This was of course before Gaddhafi was overthrown. After that happened, the same person was on TV trolling concern about the plight of black Libyans being chased, imprisoned and killed by the rebels based solely on "rumors" of them being mercenaries. So who, one might ask, planted those rumors if not the head of Amnesty International France?

Yesterday Amnesty International claimed it had documented that "widespread torture" is used in Syria.

The London-based human rights group issued a report Wednesday based on interviews with 25 Syrians who said they endured torture in various detention centers before fleeing across the border to Jordan.

One wonder what those interviewees got for or what other interests they might have for coming up with those black mercenaries torture claims. And no, I do not doubt that some people get mistreated in Syrian prisons. But I do doubt the veracity of "widespread torture" that Amnesty claims based solely on witnesses which have an interest in making such claims.

In the second part of the film The Humanitarian War the head of the Libyan League of Human Rights, an organization linked to the International Federation of Human Rights, is interviewed. That League compiled a dossier of "humanitarian crimes" Gaddhafi was supposed to have committed. It included ten thousands of dead, hundreds of alleged rape cases and other ghastly stuff. That list was presented by the League in front of the UN's Human Rights Council and led to Gaddhafi's Libya being removed from that council and referred to the UN Security Council. The same list was used by the prosecutor of the International Cangaroo Criminal Court in his case against Gaddhafi.

But as that head of the League, Dr. Soliman Bouchuiguir, later admits in an interview all his numbers and cases were solely based on hearsay from the rebels National Transitional Council of Libya. Three of those council members and current members of Libya's provisional government are part of or related to his organization and are now directly profiting from making the false case against Gaddhafi.

Yesterday Human Rights Watch made a splash across the media claiming it had first hand accounts of witnesses that the Syrian army is mining the boarder with Lebanon and Turkey. Human Rights Watch claims that those mines are supposed to keep refugees from fleeing from Syria.

But there is nothing new to those land mines. Indeed it was the Syrian government which in November 2011 said that it was planting mines along its borders to keep smugglers from smuggling weapons, like these Kornet Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles the rebels use, into Syria.

And what by the way did Human Rights Watch say when Israel mined its border with Syria to prevent civilian refugees from Syria from coming into Israel?

Of note - neither the U.S. nor Israel nor Syria is part of the Ottawa Treaty that would prohibit them from using mines. Unlike some of the news reports about the HRW finding claim, using those mines is not internationally prohibited.

Amnesty International as well as human rights organizations have been wrong with regards to Libya. One might even claim that they were the willingly tools used for the colonial destruction of the Libyan state.

Any claim such organizations make should be scrutinized very carefully. Anything they say that is without hard proof should be ignored. No policy decision or judgement, especially for war, should be based on their reports.

Posted by b on March 14, 2012 at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (50)

March 13, 2012

Afghanistan Is Not A Land Of Isolated Incidents

Whenever some bad event happens in Afghanistan the officialdom likes to explained it away as an isolated incident

That may be an effective propaganda method for addressing a western public. We can read and write, we have books and we use a formalized frame for time, days, month and year. We can look up the date a certain incident happened and as such isolate it. Having books also allows us forget incidents because, when needed, we can again look them up. We remember birth- and other special days as distinct dates and in that aspect we do have a digitized memory that often makes us miss the context of single events.

Those things are different for a farmer in Helmand. He likely can neither read nor write. He doesn't know the date of his birth. The history he knows is the one he heard from his grandpa during long winter nights in the form of songs, tales and poems. He will add to those what he remembers from his own live when he will -inshalla-  one day tell them to his grandchildren. His is then a cumulative memory.  Single events are remembered by being put into a historic context.

The farmer's tale to his grandson about the British people will include parts of poems he once heard about the first Anglo-Afghan war (1839–1842) mixed with some bits from the Battle of Maiwand during the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878–1880) added to some tales from the attack on Spin Boldak during the third Anglo-Afghan war (1919). To that he will add his own memory of the unsuccessful attempt of the British army to pacify Helmand during 2006 to 2009. There are no isolated incidents in his oral, cumulative history. In the Helmand farmer's mind there is no 'lone' gunman.

The attempts by the officialdom to use the isolated incident excuse, as documented below, are therefore bound to fail in addressing Afghans. They should fail on us too.

The alleged slaying of 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan will not affect plans to turn over security operations to local troops, NATO and member countries said as they called for a quick investigation into the deaths.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu called for a swift, thorough probe, but said the killings were an "isolated incident" and as such would not affect the alliance's overall plans to turn over security operations to Afghan troops by the end of 2014.
NATO: Afghanistan rampage won't affect timeline - March 12 2012

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul went into lockdown as the violent protests entered a second day over Quran burnings. U.S. Embassy said in its official Twitter feed.
"This is not who we are. These are very, very isolated incident”, General Allen said nervously as he tried in vain to placate reporters who see this as a “big story”...
U.S. Embassy in lock down over Quran burning as Marine guards go on high alert - February 22 2012
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai says the killing of four French soldiers by an Afghan army soldier was an "isolated and individual" action and did not represent the anger of the Afghan people.
Killing of French troops an isolated incident, says Afghan President Karzai - Jan 21, 2012
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed condolences on Friday for the four French soldiers that were shot and killed by an Afghan solider, but said the attack is an "isolated" incident.

"Such tragic incidents are terrible and grab headlines, but they are isolated," he said in a statement.
NATO chief downplays attack on French troops in Afghanistan - January 20 2012

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said the two French soldiers had been deliberately fired on by an Afghan soldier present at their position in the Kapisa valley.
The "isolated incident" would not affect the process of eventually handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces, the minister said in a statement, adding that his thoughts were with the families of those killed and their fellow service members.
2 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack - December 29 2011
An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier allegedly killed his Australian colleague whilst on guard duty today, May 30, 2011. Another Australian soldier died during a Chinook's hard landing on a resupply mission within hours of the initial incident.
Australians have mentored thousands of Afghans in the past 6 years and whilst this is seemingly an isolated incident, such Afghan sentiment towards mentoring troops is on the rise.
Two More Australian Soldiers Die In Afghanistan - May 30 2011
International Security Assistance Forces confirmed one Afghan civilian was killed by an ISAF servicemember in the Ali Sheng district of Laghman province Sunday.
"We take allegations of civilian casualties very seriously and we will conduct a thorough investigation of this isolated incident," said Maj. Patrick Seiber, Combined Joint Task Force - 101 and Regional Command - East spokesman.
ISAF investigates death in Laghman - September 27 2010
In a possibly isolated incident, ISAF recently attacked a convoy of cars in Takhar, a small province in northeast Afghanistan. They remain adamant that they killed some previously unknown insurgent figure. One of the occupants of those cars, however, was a candidate running parliament — he was injured, and several of his companions were killed.
Half the violence, twice the fraud: The Afghan elections - September 20 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — A seemingly routine training practice in marksmanship went fatally wrong on Tuesday when an Afghan Army sergeant turned his weapon on an American trainer and a gunfight began. When it was over, the sergeant, two American trainers and an Afghan soldier who had been standing nearby lay dead.
General Patton said that he was uncertain about the motives of the Afghan sergeant, but that the military considered it “an isolated incident.”
Gunfight Kills 2 Americans Who Trained Afghan Army - July 20 2010
The attack came under the cover of darkness at 2.45am, when Gurkhas on duty in the operations room of a British army patrol base in Helmand province were cut down by fire from an Afghan comrade.

As he fled, the renegade Afghan soldier targeted others with a rocket-propelled grenade; one British soldier reportedly died in his sleeping quarters.
But Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said it was an isolated incident.
Killings shock troops on joint patrols vital to Afghanistan exit strategy - July 13 2010

An Afghan policeman opened fire on British soldiers in the volatile southern province of Helmand, killing five before fleeing, authorities said Wednesday, raising concerns about discipline within the Afghan forces and possible infiltration by insurgents.
Presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said it was an isolated attack.

"These are incidents that can happen anywhere. The crazy man who has done this has also attacked the Afghan police," he told the AP. "You can't use this isolated incident to say that there is a problem with the police force of Afghanistan. In the U.S., people shoot up people in a shopping mall. There are crazy people everywhere."
Afghan Policeman Kills 5 British Soldiers - November 4 2009

As expected, the U.S. military quickly denied that the video released on Sunday by Al Jazeera is evidence that our troops proselytizing Muslims in Afghanistan, claiming that what was shown in the video was an isolated incident, and that the chaplains’ statements were taken out of context.
Rights Group Uncovers Other Cases Of Military Proselytizing Christianity to Muslims - March 8 2009

Posted by b on March 13, 2012 at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (87)

March 12, 2012

Open Thread 2012-06

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 12, 2012 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (89)

March 11, 2012

Drunk Soldiers' Have Fun By Murdering Afghan People

Sixteen people were killed and five wounded by a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan today.

The first version of the story that came out was this:

An American soldier wandered outside his base in a remote southern Afghan village shortly before dawn Sunday and opened fire on civilians inside homes, killing at least 16, Afghan and U.S. officials said.
Officials shed no light on the motive or state of mind of the staff sergeant who was taken into custody shortly after the alleged massacre.

“It appears he walked off post and later returned and turned himself in,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Williams, a military spokesman.

U.S. military officials stressed that the shooting was carried out by a lone, rogue soldier, differentiating it from past instances of civilians killed accidentally during military operations.

But that story made little sense to me. Why would someone go out into the dark of the night and break into three houses and deliberately kill everyone there with shots to the head? That didn't sound like a panic reaction. And why then return to the base?

Now a different version is emerging and it seems that the military spokespersons lied in their first reports:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 11 (Reuters) - Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.

One Afghan father who said his children were killed in the shooting spree accused soldiers of later burning the bodies.

Witnesses told Reuters they saw a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar's Panjwayi district at around 2 am, enter homes and open fire.
Haji Samad said 11 of his relatives were killed in one house, including his children. Pictures showed blood-splattered walls where the children were killed.

"They (Americans) poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them," a weeping Samad told Reuters at the scene.

"I saw that all 11 of my relatives were killed, including my children and grandchildren," said Samad, who had left the home a day earlier.

Neighbours said they awoke to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, whom they described as laughing and drunk.

"They were all drunk and shooting all over the place," said neighbour Agha Lala, who visited one of the homes where the incident took place. "Their bodies were riddled with bullets."

The only good one might say about these soldiers is that they probably held back from filming themselves pissing over the children they killed.

The incident reminds me of the Haditha massacre:

The Haditha killings (also called the Haditha incident or the Haditha massacre) refers to the incident in which 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children were killed by a group of United States Marines on November 19, 2005 in Haditha, a city in the western Iraqi province of Al Anbar. All those killed were civilians.
An initial Marine Corps communique reported that 15 civilians were killed by the bomb's blast and eight insurgents were subsequently killed when the Marines returned fire against those attacking the convoy. However, other evidence uncovered by the media contradicted the Marines' account.
The investigation claimed it found evidence that "supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot civilians, including unarmed men, women and children", according to an anonymous Pentagon official.

The whole issue was then processed through military courts for over six years and in the end not one of the soldiers involved was indicted or faced penalties.

It is likely that the same processing will happen on today's case and that six years from now everyone involved, including those who made up the lone-wolf cover-up story, will walk off free and without any serious penalty.

But it is also likely that six years from all U.S. soldier will have left Afghanistan. It is a sad thing to say, but if today's murder accelerates the retreat of western forces from Afghanistan the deaths today may not have been completely in vain.

Posted by b on March 11, 2012 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (111)

U.S.-Turkish Air Exercise Part Of Bigger Plan For War On Syria

Before the war on Libya, France and Britain planned a military exercise against an assumed north African country. That maneuver turned into the war on Libya. Currently the U.S. air force is training with the Turkish air force how to defeat other countries' air defenses. Syria has a capable air defense and there is intensifying planing for a war against it.

We can conclude that the current maneuver is part of a bigger plan, like the British and French one was, and that it will probably turn into a war on Syria.

In June 2011 I wrote about Libya: Military Exercises As War Deception. Here is the first part of that post:


In November 2010 Britain and France signed a new defense cooperation pact. Under the umbrella of the agreement a week long common air force exercise was announced in January 2011:

The French Air Force has organized a large-scale, weeklong exercise with the British Royal Air Force - which is expected to send over Tornado fighters, aerial tankers and AWACS aircraft - as part of the enhanced cooperation agreed between the two countries, an Air Force spokesman here said Jan. 13.

The exercise, dubbed Southern Mistral, will be held March 21-25 in France, the spokesman, Maj. Eric Trihoreau, said.


On March 20 the U.K., France and the U.S. started to bomb Libya. Southern Mistral was superseded by a real war:

Due to the current international events, exercise Southern Mistral has been suspended.

There is a long history of announced military exercises as cover for starting a shooting war.


So far the excerpt from my June 2011 post. Now we read this: U.S. pilots plant SEAD with Turkish counterparts

SEAD is the acronym for "Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses". From the piece:

3/9/2012 - KONYA, Turkey (AFNS) -- The Turkish and U.S. air forces continue to combine their air assets and share tactics in large-force employments during Exercise Anatolian Falcon 2012 here March 5-16.
SEAD, the 480th FS's specialty, is any action taken to deter enemy surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft artillery. The objective is not the destruction of the ground-based threats but to subdue those threats until an air mission is complete.
For Anatolian Falcon 2012, each air mission has an objective such as the destruction of a plotted target or the defeat of enemy aircraft. Mission planners assign groups of aircraft-specific tasks, either offensive counter air, SEAD or ground attack.

Both nations employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a multi-faceted fighter aircraft that can combat threats in the air or on the ground.

While this warm up exercise happens the Washington Post today reports about intensifying administration planing for attacking Syria:

The Obama administration and its allies and international partners have begun serious discussions about potential military involvement in Syria, even as they continue to press for nonviolent solutions to the carnage there.

With little progress made in the two weeks since 70 countries and international institutions pledged in Tunis to concentrate their efforts on humanitarian and diplomatic fronts, there is a growing willingness to consider additional options.

Possibilities include directly arming opposition forces, sending troops to guard a humanitarian corridor or “safe zone” for the rebels, or an air assault on Syrian air defenses, according to officials from the United States and other nations opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Are we seeing the same plan that was executed in Libya now being executed against Syria?

  • Incite demonstrations against the foreign government
  • Have special operations snippers shoot at the demonstrators to turn them towards violence
  • Have a trained rebel force of extremists come in from the outside and supply money, weapons and communication equipment to anyone who wants to fight
  • Implement paralysing economic sanctions against the foreign government
  • Embed western media with the armed rebels to run an information campaign against the foreign government as "killing its own civilians"
  • Make exiles form an alternative government that can be recognized as legitimate
  • Prepare your air forces to fight against the foreign government troops
  • Spread rumors of air-attacks against the rebels to justify a "no-fly zone"
  • Should the rebels not be able to win on their own reinforce them with "no-fly zone" air attacks and more weapons

These steps were followed in Libya and we seem them being followed in Syria. It now seems obvious that the rebellion in Libya as well as current ongoings in Syria are each part of larger long range plans concocted and executed by the U.S. and its allies.

Posted by b on March 11, 2012 at 05:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (43)

March 10, 2012

McClatchy On Israel's Nuclear Iran Scare Campaign

McClatchy has a great three part series by Sheera Frenkel on Israel and its nuclear Iran scare campaign. There are at least three major points to take away from it:

  • The systematic campaign to incite war on Iran started, more or less secretly, immediately after Iraq was defeated in the first Gulf war.
  • When in 2006 the U.S. was on the verge of defeat in Iraq the anti-Iran campaign was turned into a public one.
  • Israel's plans are political, not military. Israel will not attack Iran but wants the U.S. to do the job.

But the piece is missing the strategic points why the nuclear issue is played up at all:

  • The nuclear issue is not the real issue. The real issue is to achieve regional hegemony in the Middle East for the U.S. as much as for its junior partner Israel.
  • That requires to destroy Iran's military and economic capacity (see Iraq) or regime change towards a U.S. friendly dictatorship.

Here are some excerpts from those pieces:

Part 1: Israel push on Iran included a steady dose of media leaks

Shimon Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany and former head of arms control at the Foreign Ministry, said that Israel slowly developed its outreach and media efforts on Iran over more than two decades.

"We were diplomatically actively pursuing the Iranian issue for decades," he said. But the Israeli campaign moved into the public sphere five years ago when the Israelis decided they needed public opinion to also drive Iran policy. "Now it is a new ballgame," Stein said. "Now we added extra resources to mobilize our government and also world opinion."
As Israeli diplomats were working to convince governments of the Iranian nuclear threat, other organizations, such as the Washington-based Israel Project, were pressing the Israeli position with journalists and others.
Israeli officials also said it was no coincidence that a flurry of reports on Israel's imminent strike on Iran filled the press last fall just ahead of a report from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Guzansky said the possible Israeli strike leaks to the media were "an important tool" for the government.

"It is psychological warfare. You leak to get the enemy or your friend to think X or Y," he said.

Part 2: After years, uncertainty still colors talk of Iran's nuclear capability

On the morning of May 9, 2006, Amos Yadlin, Israel's head of military intelligence, walked away from his parliamentary committee meeting with a sense of triumph. He knew he had successfully shifted Israel's national agenda.
Yadlin's statement that morning was calculated to garner the most attention possible, and it did. The next day, it was on the front pages of all of Israeli's daily newspapers. Within months, Israeli politicians would pick up the refrain and begin routinely referring to Iran as an "existential threat." It is an expression Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is particularly fond of.

Six years later, concern over that threat has reached a fever pitch, even as the date predicted for Iran's having built a nuclear weapon has slipped. Israeli officials who once talked about 2010 now talk about 2012. The existential threat line has moved from Israeli politicians to the United States, where it is repeated by nearly all the Republican presidential candidates as well as politicians of all stripe.

Part 3: Still no certainty on how, or if, Israel would strike Iran

On a drawing pad in his office, Alon, a senior Israeli military intelligence officer, sketches out the possible scenarios facing Israel and Iran.
"Maybe once a week someone calls me wanting to know the possibilities. How would we launch a military strike on Iran? What type of aircrafts would we use? What kind of bombs? Would we alert our allies in advance? Would it work?" he said. "Lately it has been more than once a week."
[But r]ather then a detailed military plan, Alon's drawing pad contained a series of flow charts on possible diplomatic and political initiatives that could be carried out as alternatives to a direct military confrontation with Iran.
Other military experts predict that the U.S. and other Western allies would lend their military might to an attack on Iran.

"In the end, Israel is the most nervous about doing this on its own. I would say, in fact, that it is impossible Israel will act without the support of the U.S.," said one official in the foreign minister's office.
"Israel is smarter then the rest. It saw the risk of Iran a long time ago and it has done its job and convinced the world to help," he said. "We are a small country but smart."

He then added, as an afterthought, "Iran is a smart country, too, maybe that is the problem. They are both countries who think they are smarter then the rest."

Posted by b on March 10, 2012 at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

March 09, 2012

As Usual Facts Oppose NYT's Iran Reporting

Reading this New York Times piece on the IAEA and Iran one is supposed to get the impression that: a. the IAEA board of governors and the 5+1 group is united against Iran and that b. its "demand" for access to the ammunition factory in Parchim is a somewhat extraordinary development:

The six world powers that have agreed to resume negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program issued a blunt request on Thursday that the Iranians allow international inspectors unfettered access, most notably to Parchin, a large restricted military complex that the inspectors suspect may house a testing chamber for explosives used in atomic weapons triggers.
The tone of the statement also suggested that the historic sympathies Iran has received from Russia and China over its nuclear activities have diminished, as Iran has flaunted its increased ability to enrich uranium despite repeated calls for a suspension.

Both impression suggested by the NYT piece are false.

As the Associated Press reported:

Three days of protracted negotiations held under the specter of war highlighted the diplomatic difficulties ahead for nations trying to ensure that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

In a statement Thursday that was less than dramatic, six world powers avoided any bitter criticism of Iran and said diplomacy, not war, was the best way forward.
Indeed, the language was substantially milder than the tough approach sought by Washington and allies Britain, France, and Germany at the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board meeting. Agreement came only after tough negotiations with Russia and China.

That is exactly the opposite of what the NYT suggest. Instead of a "blunt request" the AP speaks of a "less than dramatic" statement and of "substantial milder" language. Instead of "diminished sympathies" by Russia and China towards Iran there are "tough negotiations" with China and Russia which suggests the opposite.

On Parchim the "blunt request" the NYT reports also seems a bit less blunt when one recognizes that Iran  agreed to this "blunt request" three days before it was made:

Iran says it will allow UN inspectors access to a secret military complex where the UN nuclear agency suspects secret atomic work has been carried out.

A statement issued by the country's permanent envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran says it will allow UN officials to visit the Parchin complex, southeast of Tehran in a gesture of good will.

Parchin is not a site of nuclear activities but Iran's biggest ammunition factory. As a non-nuclear site it is not covered by Iran's Safeguard Agreement with the IAEA and the IAEA has no right at all to demand access to it. Despite that fact Iran had allowed the IAEA to inspect Parchin back in January 2005 and in November 2005. Both times the IAEA took environment samples and inspected some buildings but did not find anything relevant to a nuclear program. Like this time the requests to visit Parchin back in 2005 were based on secret intelligence the U.S. had provided and which turned out to be worthless.

There is no reason to expect that the outcome of this IAEA visit will be any different. But we can expect that the NYT will, like today, again be reporting the opposite of the facts as soon as the new visit happens.

PS: For another sorry NYT-like attempt by U.S. journalists to spew nonfactual propaganda on Iran see this recent CNN interview with Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA.

Posted by b on March 9, 2012 at 04:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (60)

March 08, 2012

The Kony 2012 Campaign Is Fraud And Its Cause Is A Difficult Problem

There is a stupid campaign in the asocial media to go after Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. First thing wrong with that is that he isn't in Uganda and hasn't been for some six year.

I regard the campaign as total fraud which has only one real aim which is to enrich its initiators. The charity that runs the campaign, Invisible Children, uses 70% of the money it gets for administration and marketing. As it is not even audited the number that really goes to the cause may be far less than 30%.

But there are lots of other issues with this and other such campaigns and by now a lot of smart people have written about those (see links below).

The first issue is that killing someone like Kony and his gang, as the U.S. tried three years ago and is now again trying, may not be the solution of the problem:

‘Kony 2012′, quite dubiously, avoids stepping into the  ‘peace-justice’ question in northern Uganda precisely because it is a world of contesting and plural views, eloquently expressed by the northern Ugandans themselves. Some reports suggest that the majority of Acholi people continue to support the amnesty process whereby LRA combatants – including senior officials – return to the country in exchange for amnesty and entering a process of ‘traditional justice’. Many continue to support the Ugandan Amnesty law because of the reality that it is their own children who constitute the LRA. Once again, this issue is barely touched upon in the film. Yet the LRA poses a stark dilemma to the people of northern Uganda: it is now composed primarily of child soldiers, most of whom were abducted and forced to join the rebel ranks and commit atrocities. Labeling them “victims” or “perpetrators” becomes particularly problematic as they are often both.

Furthermore, the crisis in northern Ugandan is not seen by its citizens as one that is the result of the LRA. Yes, you read that right. The conflict in the region is viewed as one wherein both the Government of Uganda and the LRA, as well as their regional supporters (primarily South Sudan and Khartoum, respectively) have perpetrated and benefited from nearly twenty-five years of systemic and structural violence and displacement. This pattern is what Chris Dolan has eloquently and persuasively termed ‘social torture‘ wherein both the Ugandan Government and the LRA’s treatment of the population has resulted in symptoms of collective torture and the blurring of the perpetrator-victim binary.

As many smart people have written about the campaign by now I have an excuse to be lazy and to just leave you with links to them.

This campaign is just proof that the rise of the 'White Savior Industrial Complex' is one of the worst developments in recent years.

Posted by b on March 8, 2012 at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (64)

March 07, 2012

U.S. Nearer To War On Syria

The Obama administration seems to be slowly moving to McCain's position on Syria. Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran Syria.

Panetta Says U.S. Weighs Military Action on Syria

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. is reviewing potential military action to ease the crisis in Syria even as he cautioned that the opposition and international support aren’t unified enough to intervene now.

We see dumb arguments like A Post-Assad Syria Might Not Be as Bad as We Think. The same was of course said of Iraq without Saddam and Libya without Gaddafi. Both are still in bloody civil wars, often with more dead per day than on any recent day in Syria.

A recent AFP report finds Jihadi fighters from Libya, Lebanon, Iraq and Pakistan on the side of the Syrian rebels. Some demonstrators in Syria are using the AlQaeda flag.

With that and the mix of various religious sects in Syria the result of a war on Syria is sure to be worse than any supporter of such a war might think.

Posted by b on March 7, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (108)

March 06, 2012

If Attacked Iran Could Legally Make Nukes

Iran is a Non-Nuclear Member State of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. As such it is not allowed to make or own nuclear weapons. If Iran were to build a nuclear weapon it would be in breach of the NPT.

(The U.S. intelligence community has judged that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon program and there is no sign that it will ever attempt to make any nuclear weapon.)

But if attacked, despite being a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran would have the right to build nuclear weapons. That is at least the legal standpoint of the United States government and of other NATO members.

NATO's doctrine and treaties include nuclear sharing which is:

a concept in NATO's policy of nuclear deterrence, which involves member countries without nuclear weapons of their own in the planning for the use of nuclear weapons by NATO, and in particular provides for the armed forces of these countries to be involved in delivering these weapons in the event of their use.
As of November 2009, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey are still hosting U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO's nuclear sharing policy.

The countries mentioned are, like Iran, Non-Nuclear Member States of the NPT. But they do host US-owned nuclear weapons and their pilots regularly train how to use them.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty says:

Article I: Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; [...]

Article II: Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; [...]

Nuclear sharing, the planed handing over of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapon states in case of war, as practiced by NATO, would clearly breach Article I and II of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But that is fine, say NATO and the US ever since the NPT came into force. They state, as discussed in detail here, that the NPT:

"does not deal with arrangements for deployment of nuclear weapons within allied territory as these do not involve any transfer of nuclear weapons or control over them unless and until a decision were made to go to war, at which time the treaty would no longer be controlling".

In case of war, says the U.S. and NATO, the Non-Proliferation Treaty is "no longer controlling" and can therefore, they argue, then be breached without legal consequences.

If the United States, Israel or whoever attacks Iran (which would be illegal under national and international law) the NPT would be "no longer controlling" and Iran could, using the U.S. argument, build nuclear weapons without breaching its legal obligations under the NPT.

The argument might look practically irrelevant but it is not. If the U.S. attacks Iran a state of war with Iran would continue even after the immediate shooting is over until an official peace treaty would be signed. That could take years. If Iran would, during that time, build nukes there would then be no legal basis for a United Nations Security Council resolution to censure Iran for breaching the NPT.

The U.S. often likes to interpret international laws and treaties like the NPT liberally for itself. But such a view of the law can also be used by others and the above shows the implicit danger of such interpretations.

Posted by b on March 6, 2012 at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

March 05, 2012

Putin Did Win - The Fraud Allegations Make No Sense

The western media is again alleging election fraud by the leading party in Russia. It also did so in December after the elections for the Russian Duma, the parliament. But those allegations made no sense at all:

United Russia's share of the vote was less than all the independent polls predicted. If the party or the government it leads really manipulated the election why would that be the case? Did they really give themselves less votes than the pre-election polls have led anyone to expect?

Would someone manipulating an election in the U.S., local or nationwide, organize for less votes to their cause than independent pre-election polls would suggest? Why?

The same question has to be asked today. The independent Levada Center polled 1,600 Russians and on March 2 published the result (Google translation):

Forecast the results of voting in the presidential elections in 2012, filed with the CEC March 2, 2012 to participate in the contest forecasts prepared on the basis of a series of surveys conducted from February 24 to March 1, 2012 on representative samples of urban and rural population of the Russian Federation, 1600 at the age of 18 years and older in 130 localities 45 regions of the country. The statistical error of the survey data does not exceed 3.4%

These are translated to the number of intending to vote and decide on their choice. Projections free from systematic sampling error, defined according to the prediction of voting in elections to the Duma in 2011

They polling result is an expected turnout of 60.3% and a vote for Putin of 61.5%.

The turnout in yesterday's election was 64% and thereby slightly higher than expected. Putin won 63.7% of the vote, also slightly higher than expected but well within the 3.6% margin of error of the Levada poll.

One should notice that Putin got less than 50% of the votes in the big cities, Moscow and Leningrad, and as usual more than 70% in the more conservative countrysides. This might also explain the slightly higher turnout and Putin result than in the poll as such polls tend not to include smaller villages.

As I wrote back in December:

Russia is a big country. It is likely that there were some irregularities in this or that polling station. Such manipulations happen everywhere and that is why we have laws against them. But given the pre-election polls and the election result it is not plausible that the manipulations in Russia were organized by, or in favor of United Russia.

Stoking up rumors and creating serious unrest in Moscow is still a wet dream for "western" cold-war warriors, neocons and their "liberal" allies in Russia. They wish back the days of Yelzin when they robbed Russia blind. But as the election showed those times are over and Russians will no longer fall for their false promises.

We can now expect the usual claims of fraudulent elections and an attempt of color-revolution theater the west is always using when the public opinion and the politics of certain countries are not in its favor.

And sure, the U.S. financed GOLOS Center claims it has received over 5,000 calls with allegations of fraud. That sounds like a lot until you notice that there were over 96,000 polling places in Russia with webcams installed in 91,000 of them and over 300,000 election monitors watching for the various candidates.

There is therefore no reason to fall for the fraud accusations. Putin, with the advantage of being the best known public figure and the incumbent, has won fair and square. His people will see him as their fully legitimated leader.

Posted by b on March 5, 2012 at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (102)

March 03, 2012

How Avaaz Is Sponsoring Fake War Propaganda From Syria

There are fake video reports coming out of Syria and we have good reason to believe that these are at least sponsored by the U.S. Avaaz foundation.

Let me recommend to watch this video. A Syrian citizen journalist "Danny" is preparing for a live call by CNN's Anderson Cooper.

The area is quite. Nothing really happens, no shots are heard until he is on live TV. Then he suddenly screams of mortar attacks and "200 death in the last 3 hours" and the sound of shots is played in the background. It is all Wag The Dog part II.

The "Danny" guy is a partner of Khalid Abu Salah who's various fake videos of him being wounded we wrote about here. You can see them together in this video with "Danny" playing the panicked civilian asking for help and Khaled Abu Salah again playing a wounded person.

As As'ad AbuKhalil wrote yesterday:

It seems that Syrian regime had agents among the rebels; or it seems that the Syrian regime obtained a trove of video footage from Baba Amru. They have been airing them non-stop. They are quite damning. They show the correspondent or witness (for CNN or from Aljazeera) before he is on the air: and the demeanor is drastically different from the demeanor on the air and they even show contrived sounds of explosions timed for broadcast time. I have to say that Aljazeera and the affiliated Ikhwan media win the award for the largest volume of lies in this crisis. Their lies have been rather helpful to the Syrian regime which now fills its airtime with exposing the lies and exaggerations of the Ikhwan-led Syrian opposition.

PS This is really scandalous. It shows the footage prior to Aljazeera reports: they show fake bandages applied on a child and then a person is ordered to carry a camera in his hand to make it look like a mobile footage. It shows a child being fed what to say on Aljazeera.

(I haven't yet found the video As'ad AbuKhalil describes in his last paragraph. Please drop a link to it in the comments in case you find it.) The video with the not-wounded wounded child is here (hat tip to sate3) and with English subtitles here. The video shows Kahled Abu Salah preparing the child for its testimony on AlJazeerah and the actual AlJazeerah appearance.

This whole rebellion, at least in the western media, is much made from such video propaganda. Notice that the equipment for such TV stunts has come through Avaaz, a progressive U.S. activist foundation that originally did global online clicktivism but has now become an operation that is smuggling journalists and equipment into and out of Syria:

First off Avaaz sent in hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of communications equipment – satellite phones and internet connections known as BGANs – that gave the protesters a link to the outside world.

As with earlier Arab spring engagements in Tunisia and Libya, they realised that equipment alone was not enough: the protesters needed to know how to use it if they were to be effective. So Avaaz sent in trainers who could give grounding in how to use the satphones as well as basic training in citizen journalism.
Reports coming from Avaaz-trained citizen journalists in Homs and other key conflict zones, channelled through the Avaaz communications hub outside the country, has been a major source of information on the uprising and the regime's bloody response, used by news outlets around the world.

That would be those fake propaganda reports by "Danny" and Khaled Abu Salah and their like. Notice that Khaled Abu Salah was also in the video of the wounded western journalist Edith Bouviers who Avaaz had smuggled into and later out of Syria. So there definitely is a connection between Avaaz and these fake reporters. So where would you guess the rather expensive equipment "Danny" and Khalid are using and which enables them to appear with their fakes on CNN and AlJazeerah is coming from?

Avaaz says on its about page that it "is wholly member-funded." While the web-page has a donation button, it is unclear what this "member-funded" thingy means. According to its latest 990 form the "Avaaz Foundation is comprised of two members: Res Publica (U.S.) Inc and Civic Action." So these are the two members funding the "member-funded" Avaaz? From the 990 form, which seems redacted, it is not clear to me where the money to Avaaz, over $6 million in 2010, is actually coming from or where it is going. Could this be another U.S. government funded non-government organization like the National Endowment for Democracy or the International Republican Institute which act as fronts for the CIA and other secret services?

Posted by b on March 3, 2012 at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (152)

March 02, 2012

Iran Sanctions And A Saudi Pipeline Fire

Moon of Alabama on January 9: Sanctions On Iran - Economic Pain For The "West"

More sanction means more pain for "western" economies. As it has already shown with its recent maneuver Iran can easily inflict such pain. One does not even have to consider a full closure of the Strait of Hormuz and the economic panic and military consequences that would cause. An explosion on a pipeline in Iraq, a mishap in a Saudi refinery or one lone old mine in the Straits of Hormuz damaging an empty (even Iranian?) old tanker would be enough to push oil prices to even higher levels. Just as the U.S. uses clandestine methods, the killing of scientists and cyber attacks, to inflict damage on Iran, Iran can, if it wants to, use such methods to increase the price of oil without leaving its fingerprints.

The Arab Digest on March 1: Saudi Arabia's Eastern Revolution hits the oil sector: pipeline under fire

For the first time in decades, the Eastern Saudi Arabian volatile situation has reached the vital oil sector. A pipeline between Awamiya and Safwa has been reportedly targeted, and is under fire; ...

As the Arab Digest piece explains, the Shia Saudi people living in the area of the pipeline fire have plenty of reasons to hate the Wahhabi regime. So Iran may or may not be involved in this. But there is no way to be sure about this and Washington will have to include the possibility of Iranian involvement into its calculations.

Does it really want sky high oil prices and another global recession? For what? To satisfy Tel Aviv's craving for more blood?

Posted by b on March 2, 2012 at 01:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

March 01, 2012

The 'Syrian Revolution' Is Likely Over

The little horror show around Baba Amr, the rather small quarter on the outskirts of Homs, is over. The military pushed in and what was left of the rebels is fleeing. They have now lost the only small stronghold they had managed to establish.

The conglomerate of exiles, the Syrian National Council, saw some twenty hawks split away to form the Syrian Patriotic Group and to endorse the separate Free Syrian Army. That and the offer from the Libyan NATO government to give some $100 million to the cause led the Syrian National Council to create a "military bureau" and to now officially endorse violence.

"The creation of the military bureau was agreed upon by all armed forces in Syria," SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun told a news conference in Paris. "We will be like a defense ministry."

The head of the Free Syrian Army was just on Al Jazeerah Arabic and complained that he had not been informed of that step and openly rejected it. It seems certain that the split between these groups will deepen. This is now all about the dough the various Wahhabi regimes are promising to any group which claims it can take Bashar Assad down.

All this is very much in favor of the Assad government. It can now rightly claim and prove that these groups are nothing but terrorists supported by foreign governments with the intent to destruct the Syrian state. It will make it very difficult for these groups to find support within the Syrian people.

The armed groups will surely continue their dirty work for a while. Attack some army patrols, use this or that bomb and other terrorist tactics. But without a decent backing in the population, they have little chance to become more than a nuance. Meanwhile Assad has time to implement the reforms the new constitution promises to deliver. That will further lessen support for any violent change.

I find it possible, even likely, that have seen the apex of the Syrian revolution attempt and that the situation will from now on calm down.

Posted by b on March 1, 2012 at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (102)