Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 31, 2012

The Iranian "Pull Back" And The Astonishing Effects Of Sanctions

The Telegraph interviewed the Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak. The headline though is wrong: Israel says Iran has pulled back from the brink of nuclear weapon - for now
An immediate crisis was avoided in the summer when Iran quietly chose to use over a third of its medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes, delaying the moment when it could have built a nuclear bomb.
Tehran has amassed 189kg of uranium enriched to 20 per cent purity, a vital step towards weapons-grade material. In August, the country’s experts took 38 per cent of this stockpile and converted it into fuel rods for a civilian research reactor, thus putting off the moment when they would be able to make uranium of sufficient purity for a nuclear bomb.
MoA, not Israel, was, as far as I can tell, the first to report that "pull back" on August 31: IAEA: Iranian "Nuclear Danger" Decreased
Iran has now 10% less "dangerous stuff" in the form of further easily enrichable 20% UF6 than it had in May 2012. Further enriched this stockpile would not be enough by half to create even one nuclear device. The "imminent danger" of a "nuclear Iran" has thereby decreased.
I shared those facts on an email list from which Gareth Porter picked it up to publish a piece on the issue through the IPS news agency. (Gareth is now writing a book on the history of the manufactured crisis of the Iranian nuclear scare and could use your help for that.) After Gareth (and my) piece were out some of the mainstream media also wrote about the Uranium conversion it but only as a side fact in other stories and without any analysis.

Ehud Barak now says that this Iranian step was the reason that Israel stopped its "bomb Iran now" screaming. But that is just a convenient excuse. It was Obama's unwillingness to launch an attack and, with the help of some former Israeli officials who declared an Israeli attack on Iran a lunatic undertaking, it was Obama who made Netanyahoo stand down.

As long as the world economy stays in the doldrums the U.S. will not attack Iran. The economic disruption would be too big. Additionally the disastrous results of the recent mine sweeping maneuver in the Persian Gulf makes the people in the Pentagon very reluctant to risk their precious bathtub toys in a conflict with Iran. Netanyahoo's claim that war on Iran would be "good for Arabs" is lunacy. An escalating war that at some point would hit the Gulf states' desalination plants would be a humanitarian disaster for them.

But when the elections in the U.S. and in Israel are over the Israeli "Iran scare" campaign will come back:

Mr Barak said this decision “allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months”. As for why Iran had drawn back, the minister said: “There could be at least three explanations. One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer. It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time. It could be a way of telling the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] 'oh we comply with our commitments’.”
All three reasons Barak gives are wrong. Iran converted the UF6 into fuel elements primarily because it needs fuel elements for its research reactor and secondarily because it wanted to signal continued readiness for serious negotiations. My conclusion two month ago was that Iran will continue to convert its UF6:
We can reasonably assume that Iran is doing this decrease on purpose and will in future convert any newly produced UF6 into fuel plates. This will keep its stock of UF6 at a level below what is needed to make a quick run towards a nuclear device.
Meanwhile look what the sanctions are doing to Iran:
A bit of news that you will not probably hear coming out of the Western media is that the Tehran Stock Exchange has hit an all time high in the last days. The market closed today at 30615.7 points on the TEDPIX which is a combination of around 400 companies in a diverse line up of industries.
Today Ali Sahraei the deputy for the Tehran Stock Exchange talked to Iranian media on this new historic high for the market and the reason for it is also the same reason that the Western media will ignore this bit of news - sanctions causing the drop in the value of the rial.

The rise has come because companies that export non-oil products are seeing huge profits and windfalls in their sales as they can now sell their foreign currencies in Iran for a huge profit as opposed to before.

For largely psychological reasons the Iranian government had kept the value of its currency, the Rial, too strong. While the recent hype about hyperinflation in Iran is simply wrong, Iran has and had significant inflation between 10-20% over the last few years. It currency's value should have dropped at an equivalent rate but was artificially kept too high. This was good from importers of foreign luxury goods but bad for Iran's own industry. The recent drop in the Rial helps domestic Iranian producers and will thereby decrease unemployment (see the comments by Baddu here).

While the sanctions on Iran decrease its oil exports the value of its other exports will, over time, compensate for that. The sanctions might well turn out to be a net positive for Iran. When Washington DC will finally wake up to these facts it will have to come up with a new strategy. It might then even give a real thought to negotiations towards an end of the conflict.

Posted by b on October 31, 2012 at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

October 30, 2012

Troll Alert

There is, for some weeks, now a disruptive troll in the comments of this blog.

He has used the following names: ahem, Star69, unohu, Zio-Weiss?, SF, SufferingFools, hu bris, crazy_inventor. It is all the same person.

The guy is attacking regular longterm commentators and adds less than zero to the value of the discussions.

Attempts to block his IP address from commenting failed because the IP addresses he uses are changing every few comments and are jumping all over various quite diverse IP-address blocks. (I am interested to learn what tool is enabling this.)

To my regular commentators: Please do not, in any case or any form, respond to comments that you suspect to come from this troll. Do not feed him.

I have contacted the operators of the platform this blog is running on and they are looking into the problem.

If anyone has a good idea how we can get rid of that idiot please let me know.


Posted by b on October 30, 2012 at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

October 29, 2012

Declare Sandy A Foreign Terrorist Threat

There is a bit of wind and some flooding coming up to the U.S. eastern shore. While the storm covers a huge area its wind speeds seem to be rather normal.

I have often visited and for some time lived in some of the east cost states. When I did several infrastructure issues let me shake my trained engineer head. The unburied local electricity lines were obvious prone to fall down and fail. Because of leaky supply lines tap water in some areas was chlorinated and unusable for consumption. Those plywood houses that were being build everywhere would hardly sustain natures regular wrath. In Manhattan I saw no flood protection at all. I wondered: "There is an ocean right out there. Don't they ever get storms?"

I was born in northern Germany and now live in Hamburg. We regularly have quite gusty storms and some flooding. Flood protection is always a high priority local political issue all along the North Sea coast. As the height of flooding is predicted to increase due to the changing climate dikes are constantly heightened to withstand the predicted higher waves. With few exceptions the local electricity lines are all buried. The tap water is drinkable and the houses are build with stones.

This seems to be a cultural issue. U.S. citizens are probably willing to live with more risk than old Europeans. But why then is there always this craze about terrorism? A negligible threat with hundreds of billions wasted on to prevent its occurrence.

Now here is an idea. Why doesn't someone smart declare Sandy and her relatives a foreign terrorist organization? Isn't she from somewhere in Central America? Hasn't she already breached several red lines and her international obligations?

Declaring bad weather a terrorist entity and the now running media craze of the imminent threat would allow politicians to move hundreds of billions of dollars towards fighting it and to work on mitigating its consequences.

Posted by b on October 29, 2012 at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

Repeating The Libya Mistake in Mali

Military intervention in foreign countries always leads to unintended consequences. These often occur in neighbor countries of the original target. One example is the Vietnam war which lead to the destabilization of and military intervention in Laos and Cambodia.

The U.S. is prone to correct such unintended consequences by further military intervention. Algeria had warned of intervention in Libya and voted against the Arab League resolution calling for a no-fly zone in Libya:

In March [2011], Algeria voted against the Arab League’s resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Libya, fearing that it would lead to the intervention of foreign ground forces and stressing the need to preserve Libya's security and territorial integrity.

In April, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci once again expressed Algeria's fear that some forces were aiming to split Libya and that terrorists could take advantage of the resulting instability, turning the country in a major regional black market for weapons.
The greatest concern for Algeria is that an unstable Libya could turn into a major safe haven and source of weapons for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). [...] A Libyan implosion could provide AQIM with greater opportunities to buy weapons from Libyan arsenals and to expand its activities to new territories. Algerian officials have strongly stressed this point since the very beginning of the conflict. Moreover, these concerns are shared by other regional countries such as Chad, Mali and Niger.

It is obvious that the Algerian and other African governments were right in their prediction. Tuareg who had served in Gaddhafi's army took their weapons with them and revolted against the government in Mali. They were supported by newly armed AQIM forces. These are now the new rulers of northern Mali with Timbuktu as their new center.

The military intervention led, as predicted by Algeria and others, to bad unintended consequences. This should, one might think, give those who intervened some second thoughts. Could it be that Algiers was right? Could it be that military intervention creates more problems? Could it be that we should listen to those people who actually know their area?

But the people who rule in Washington and Paris are not capable of such thinking. The problems the military intervention in Libya created in Mali must, they says, now be solved by military intervention in Mali:

The United States and France have launched a diplomatic offensive to secure Algeria's vital backing for such action in Mali after the UN Security Council urged ECOWAS nations to prepare for a military force against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which is tightening its grip on the north.

This month the council called on West African nations to step up such preparations to reconquer the territory held by AQIM and other jihadist groups.

Today Hillary Clinton was in Algeria to press the Algerian government to support a war on Mali.

For about the same reasons that proved to be right with regard to Libya Algeria and other countries in the region are against such a war:

Algeria, along with Mauritania, has called for dialogue in a bid to reach a political solution, after initially ruling out sending troops. [...] [A]n Algerian Tuareg chief, MP Mahmud Guemama, spelled out why he opposed military intervention, in an interview with Elkhabar newspaper published on Monday.

"What the United States and France are asking will cause a lot of problems," he said, warning that such action had "colonial objectives."

"We are more concerned about Algerian towns in the Sahara than northern Mali," he said. "We know how military intention starts but never know the end. Libya was a good example."

Algeria will likely not provide troops for anything in Mali.

The U.S. and France are pressing and bribing several African countries to provide a much too small force of some 3,500 soldiers to somehow kick AQIM out of northern Mali, an area that is bigger than France.

But just as they are unable to learn that any intervention will inherently lead to more problems they are also incapable of learning to use the right intervention forces.

[T]he basic idea is for forces from Nigeria and other West Africa countries to help Mali’s military mount a campaign against the militants.
The use of Christian led Nigerian troops as proxy against indigenous Islamic forces in Mali will lead to the same result as the proxy use of Christian Ethiopian troops against indigenous Islamic forces in Somalia did. The Ethiopian troops there were thoroughly beaten and retreated while the original conflict intensified in brutality.

Nigeria already has problems with its own Muslim population. This have mostly social reasons but the terrorist activities of the radical Islamist Boko Haram in Nigeria will certainly increase when Nigerian troops start to fight Boko Haram's ideological AQIM friends in Mali.

It seems obvious that any intervention in Mali will only increase and spread the problem. Algeria is right to reject it. Should Nigeria really be bribed to send troops to Mali it can expect a huge blowback.

There is only a small chance that Washington, geographically far away from the area, will feel any immediate consequence of what it now tries to arrange in northern Africa. France, with a quite high migration population from northern Africa, is more likely to receive backlashes from this lunatic policies.

Posted by b on October 29, 2012 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

October 28, 2012

Obama To Erdogan: Don't Trick Us

It seems that the Obama administration was fearing to be duped by the Turkish premier Erdogan into a NATO Article 5 case of common defense. Severe attacks from Syria onto Turkish soil could trigger such a case. Erdogan had already claimed that some artillery shells that killed five people in the border town of Akçakale were fired by the Syrian army.

To prevent that Erdogan pulls off some Gulf of Tonkin incident a U.S. general was send out to preempt him:

It is not clear who is shooting shells from Syria into Turkey, the commander of the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling has said, private television channel NTV yesterday.

"We are not sure if these shells are from the Syrian army, from rebels who want to get Turkey involved in the issue or from the PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party]," he said.

Translation: "Dear Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, don't even think of using some fake artillery incident or some similar stunt to draw us further into your war on Syria. Signed: Obama (+ Romney)"

It is obvious that Erdogan's neo-ottoman plan to take over Syria is in deep trouble. Assad will not be overthrown and with no international help coming Turkey has run out of options. For Erdogan the about only thing he can still do to prevent more damage of Turkley's position is to stop all transfer of weapons and personal to Syria and to thereby let the rebels run out of ammunition and money. The war would then die down. Erdogan would need to blame someone for the huge mistake he made with supporting the overthrow of Assad. He will have to fire his foreign minister Dovatogu and blame him for the mess he created with all of Turkey's neighbors.

The killing of the Lebanese Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan has likely shut down most of the organized weapon transfer from Lebanon to Syria. Little seems to come from Jordan. Whatever is coming from Iraq seems to be no more than the usual local smuggling. The only big pipeline of weapons, which was organized by the dead U.S. ambassador Stevens, came from east Libya via Turkey into Syria. When that transfer route is blocked the end of the war on Syria will be in sight.

Posted by b on October 28, 2012 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (62)

October 27, 2012

The "Permanent War" Will Just Create More Enemies

The Post's three parts series about the "permanent war", the institutionalization of the assassinations by drones, currently especially in Yemen, is largely election propaganda for the Obama administration: "Look how tough we are."

But to me it expresses something different. The people described in it, especially White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennen, are amoral ruthless servants of an ideology of almightiness that strives for global hegemony.

While they claim that their killing program is somehow reducing the risks of attacks on the United States they must know, as it is obvious, that this is not the case:

[I]n many ways since the US started bombing there in December 2009, Yemen has been a laboratory for the US to try out different approaches in its war against al-Qaeda. But I'm not so sure the results are as positive as Brennan and many of the other anonymous officials quoted suggest.

To begin with, I'm not sure how Yemen can be viewed as a model - at least in the positive sense Brennan seems to indicate - when AQAP has tripled in size since the US started bombing.
Additionally, I would argue that events from this spring - when an undercover agent came away with AQAP's latest underwear bomb - shows a couple of things: 1. despite the US bombing campaign in Yemen, which has been partially designed to keep AQAP on its heels so that it can't plot attacks against the US, the organization is still actively plotting and attempting to launch new attacks. 2. The more recruit AQAP gains the bigger of a talent pool it has upon which to draw.
[W]hen the US has carried out at least 36 attacks this year in Yemen in an effort to kill 10-15 men something is wrong.

Mass assassinations by drones, as the U.S. practices in Pakistan and in Yemen, have in both countries increased antipathy towards the U.S. and the number of people willing to actively fight against it. Currently U.S. drones also create new enemies in east Libya:
Locals considered the drones they now hear buzzing overhead “a form of occupation,” he said, and Libyans would wage “jihad” to force them out.
Obama and Brennen must know of this effect of their assassination campaign.

There is another danger in this war by drones. They are complicated machines and the software they use, which will make drones increasingly autonomous, is faulty and will always be so. As someone who has worked developing and implementing information technology this doesn't surprise me at all:

In March 2011, a Predator parked at the camp started its engine without any human direction, even though the ignition had been turned off and the fuel lines closed. Technicians concluded that a software bug had infected the “brains” of the drone, but never pinpointed the problem.
Currently software is getting developed that automatically scans through drone reconnaissance videos to find the "signature" of "terrorist behavior". That guy is loading the trunk of his car? Now that might be a car bomb. The visual recognition software will pick that out and when further bits of circumstantial "evidence" gets added it may well recommend the assassination of that person in a "signature strike".

Aside from the incredible stupid believe in the existence of any "terrorist signature", how many bugs will such a software have? Would their users even be able to identify a software mistake? Would they find its cause? Of course not.

No one with any bit of moral left in them should argue for the "permanent war" the Obama administration is implementing here. What it really creates is a permanent growing number of enemies and certain blowbacks to come. Drone assassinations and harassing drone critics create more terrorism. They are a problem, not a solution. As the people in the White House are not all stupid the must know this and their motivation to wage a permanent war must be a different one than the one they claim.

Posted by b on October 27, 2012 at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

October 25, 2012

Neocon WaPo Editors Endorse Obama

The neoconned editorial board of the Washington Post, famous for always calling for more wars, endorse Barack Obama as president for another four years.

The first reason they give is Obama's plan to cut Social Security:

He did not end, as he promised he would, “our chronic avoidance of tough decisions” on fiscal matters. But Mr. Obama is committed to the only approach that can succeed: a balance of entitlement reform and revenue increases.
The second reasons are more wars.

Obama has not yet delivered all the wars the WaPo editors want, but he has waged enough, he introduced "kill lists" and a "disposition matrix" to eliminate whoever is though to be a "terrorist" including all the bystanders and he has shown no consciences. The editors hope for more of that.

While Mitt Romney has lots of neocon foreign policy advisers he himself is not one and there are concerns that he might actually turn out to be a realist:

The sad answer is there is no way to know what Mr. Romney really believes. [..] At times he has advocated a muscular, John McCain-style foreign policy, but in the final presidential debate he positioned himself as a dove.
Imagine that. A possible dove in the oval office. There is no way the WaPo editors would allow for that.

Posted by b on October 25, 2012 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

October 24, 2012

Open Thread 2012-27

Sorry for not posting. I am busy with a deadline project plus some urgent family stuff. I hope to be back posting tomorrow. Please behave.

Posted by b on October 24, 2012 at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

October 22, 2012

Open Thread 2012-26

Tonight the TV in the U.S. will have some competition show. Two guys will put out as many lies as possible without being outright caught on them. The prize is a blender.

You might want to talk about that or whatever ...

Posted by b on October 22, 2012 at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (213)

October 20, 2012

Only Idiots Try To Eat Soup With A Knife ...

... or to occupy Afghanistan.

John A. Nagl is der Führer of the COINdinistas and author of “Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife.” Nagl can not admit that the counterinsurgency campaigns he argued for failed both in Iraq and in Afghanistan to achieve their goals. While everyone acknowledges that war in Afghanistan is already lost and all politicians are looking for a faster way out of there he still claims that the "west" is Not losing in Afghanistan. Nagl starts his OpEd with this false claim:

Americans haven’t lost a war in so long, we’ve forgotten what doing so looks like — and what it costs. The only war that we undeniably lost was the Vietnam War; thrown out of the country literally under fire, we abandoned our allies to a horrific fate and left behind a legacy of terror in the region, breaking our Army in the process.
Hmm - wasn't there, beside Vietnam, this other war where Nagl promoted his ideas? Does he believe that Iraq war was not lost? Wasn't the U.S. kicked out of that country? Doesn't the terror there continue? Are the suicide numbers in the U.S. army not at a record height?
Despite the miasma of discontent with the effort, the United States and its many allies are not losing in Afghanistan. ... We are proceeding with our plan to hand over primary responsibility for security to the Afghans by the end of 2014.

This will allow the United States to accomplish our national security objectives in the region: defeating al-Qaeda; preventing al-Qaeda and its affiliates from establishing permanent bases in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan; and maintaining our own bases in the region from which to operate drones, manned aircraft and Special Operations forces. Calls for a more rapid and complete withdrawal ignore the geopolitical realities and threats that first led to U.S. intervention after the Sept. 11 , 2001, attacks — and that will continue to require armed U.S. assistance for decades to come.

Since when were these "national security objectives" Nagl lays out the aim of the war on Afghanistan? Who has ever defined them as the war's aims? The U.S. wants, according to Nagl, keep troops in Afghanistan and continue to wage war there until, well, when? Forever?

Somehow I do not have the impression that the Afghans will agree with that:

President Hamid Karzai has warned there might be no immunity from prosecution for foreign troops after 2014 if the insecurity in Afghanistan does not come to an end and the country's borders are not properly protected.

Karzai discussed the matter with visiting Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday, saying that the Afghan people may not allow the government to allow the foreign soldiers this leniency if poor security continues, according to a presidential statement released Saturday.

Afghans might "not permit their government to grant immunity... if the war and insecurities continue in Afghanistan, Afghan borders are not protected, and the immunity for foreign forces comes on top of these issues", the statement said.

Translation: "Unless you are not needed you will not be welcome here anymore. That's because you are the problem."

It has been obvious for a while that Karzai is copying the strategy Maliki used in Iraq to kick the U.S. troops out. Iraq signed some longer term agreements with Bush but the Status Of Force Agreement that would have given U.S. troops immunity in the country was left out of the package to be negotiated later. When the Obama administration tried all it could to keep U.S. troops in Iraq the Iraqis simply rejected to sign the SOFA and the U.S. troops left. The war was lost. The aim of pulling Iraq into the U.S. client camp and to keep it as a fighting base in the Middle East was not achieved. The U.S. left with its tail between its legs.

In May Obama and Karzai signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. The U.S. had tried to get a SOFA included. But Karzai wanted to keep that card to play it at a later moment. He could for example use that in his own negotiations with the Taliban. They do want the U.S. out and as long as Karzai does not sign the SOFA he has the capability to guarantee that the U.S. will go. He might get something in return for that.

Besides a SOFA there is one other legal move that could give U.S. troops continued immunity in Afghanistan and thereby enable Nagl's dream. A UN Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 could order a new UN peacekeeping mission for Afghanistan and designate U.S. troops as participants or even leaders. But to get that resolution will require to overcome a potential Russian and Chinese veto. They would of course have certain conditions, they would restrict the size, tasks and time of that force and would demand a high political and even financial price. I doubt that the U.S. will be willing to pay such a price for continuing an endless mission under guaranteed continued enemy fire.

Back to Nagl's hogwash:

We will bear the heavy burden of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan for years. U.S. soldiers will continue to serve in the region, assisting Afghan (and sometimes Pakistani) security forces against threats to the stability of both nations, conducting raids on insurgents and terrorists and preventing a broader war in South Asia. This is what success looks like in such wars.
To continue war for years and without any defined aim or end is what success looks like?

Whoever makes such a statement must be a regular consumer of Afghanistan's premier export product. Or that persona must be a unscrupulous lobbyist for the military industrial complex that makes loads of money by continues war. Then again no sane lobbyist would argue, like Nagl, for an open ended war because lobbyists know that the U.S. tax payer will not agree with such.

I believe that Nagl knows that war in Afghanistan is lost. Just like the war in Iraq was lost. But Nagl is a weak and rather stupid man who can not admit that he is wrong and that he has been wrong for a long time.

This has been evident for quite some time. Only a stupid man could come up with idea of eating soup with a knife and only a real idiot man would attempt to learn it.

Posted by b on October 20, 2012 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (62)

U.S. Administration Claims Iraqn Allied With AlQaeda

Can anyone make sense of this State Department announcement of new entries in its reward for justice headhunter program?
The Department’s Rewards for Justice program is offering rewards for information on two key Iran-based facilitators and financiers of the al-Qaida terrorist organization.

The U.S. Department of State has authorized a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to the location of Iran-based senior facilitator and financier Muhsin al-Fadhli and up to $5 million for information leading to the location of his deputy, Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi.

So the State Department will pay a reward to locate these people. Thus it is obviously the department does not know where they are. Why then does it claim that these are "Iran-based" people?
Al-Fadhli and al-Harbi facilitate the movement of funds and operatives through Iran on behalf of the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Al-Qaida elements in Iran, led by al-Fadhli, are working to move fighters and money through Turkey to support al-Qaida-affiliated elements in Syria. Al-Fadhli also is leveraging his extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey.
So these people sit in Iran and provide people and money to the fighters that try to overthrow the Iran allied Syrian government? Why would Iran allow for that?
Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi is an Iran-based al-Qaida facilitator and deputy to al-Fadhli. In this role, al-Harbi facilitates the travel of extremists to Afghanistan or Iraq via Iran on behalf of al­-Qaida and is believed to have sought funds to support al-Qaida attacks.
Again are we to believe that there is some organisation in Iran that lets Al Qaeda fighters travel to Iraq to fight the Iran allied Iraqi government?

Does anyone really believe that the Shia Iran government is supporting the activities of Wahabbi Sunni extremists against Shia governments it is allied with? That claim defies all logic. Why supposedly would Iran do that?

What we obviously have here is a false claim by the Obama administration that is similar to the false claims the Bush administrations made about Iraq. As was later admitted Saddam Hussein was never allied with Al Qaeda. He was indeed as staunch opponent of radical Sunni extremists.

Now another administration is making the same stupid Al-Qaeda claims about Iran.

The Obama administration also makes ominous claims that Iran wants weapon of mass destruction which Iran says it does not want and for which there is not even one bit of evidence. It arranges "devastating" sanctions on Iran just like former U.S. governments put such sanctions on Iraq.It threatens the use of force against Iran. Is there then any real difference between the Bush and Obama regime?

Posted by b on October 20, 2012 at 07:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

October 19, 2012

AP Whitewashes Israel's Deliberate Starving Of Gaza

The Associated Press is whitewashing the intentional slow starving of the people in the Gaza strip due to Israel's economic blockade.

After a legal battle the Israeli government had to release a paper which it had used to calculate the nutrition need of the people in Gaza for the purpose to restrict imports into Gaza to a certain level.

As the AP writes it:

In the January 2008 document, Israel determined how to ensure that Gazans eat 2,279 calories of food each day, a figure in line with World Health Organization guidelines.

It broke down the calorie allocation by various food groups, and in minute details. It said that males aged 11 to 50 required 316.05 grams of meat per day, and women in the same age group needed 190.47 grams of flour. The analysis also included adjustments for locally grown farm products as well as an assessment of the kinds of food imports that would be needed to sustain the population.
Israel controls the only official cargo crossings into Gaza, and greatly limited the flow of goods into the territory following the Hamas takeover.

Here is the point that AP is missing. The Israelis calculated the minimum needs of the Gazans and then deliberately delivered less than what was needed. As Haaretz noticed in its report on the issue:
Altogether, therefore, COGAT concluded that Israel needed to allow 131 truckloads of food and other essential products into Gaza every day ...
The point of the "red lines" document was to see if this number of trucks in fact met Gaza's needs. But according to Gisha, UN data shows that the number of trucks allowed into Gaza each day often fell below this level.

That is something the AP does not mentioned at all. Its readers will believe that Israel delivered what it calculated. It did not. Israel intentionally delivered less than the minimum quantity it had calculated the people in Gaza would need.

Instead AP gives us lots reminders that Hamas is a terrorist organization that fires home made rockets, but there is not a word in it about frequent Israeli bombing attacks on Gaza or of operation cast lead.

Then the AP inserts a serious lie:

Despite the shortages and hardship, at no point did observers identify a nutritional crisis developing in the territory, whose residents rely overwhelmingly on international food aid.

Even a cursory search for "Gaza malnutrition" gives these organizations which wrote reports about the nutritional crisis in Gaza and the related headlines:

Many organization again and again pointed to rising malnutrition in Gaza. Even AP reported on their findings. How then can AP now declare that "at no point did observers identify a nutritional crisis"?

Posted by b on October 19, 2012 at 10:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

October 18, 2012

Syria's Obvious MANPAD Counterstrategy

Tony Karon, who writes sane analyses for Time, points to piece about Man Portable Air Defense Missiles (MANPADs) in the hand of the foreign supported Syrian insurgents. He remarks:
MANPADS proliferate in Syria. Bad news for Assad forces. May also be bad news for civil aviation in the Levant...
My response:
Bad news for Turkey. Obvious MANPAD counterstrategy is giving them to Kurds.

It is simply an eye for an eye strategy.

Turkey has a very large tourist industry. If the PKK, which fights for Kurdish independence from Turkey, gets its hands on MANPADs, either obtained from the insurgents in Syria or from the Syrian government, the Turkish tourist industry is dead.

After it becomes known that the PKK has SA-7s, probably after they take down some Turkish helicopter and post the video on Youtube, would anyone still fly to Antalya without having fear of being shot down?

A few SA-7s in reliable PKK hands would also likely do wonders in changing Erdogan's stand towards arming the Syrian insurgents. I bet that right now some Syrian intelligence officer is giving this idea some deeper thoughts.

Posted by b on October 18, 2012 at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (84)

October 17, 2012

U.S. Minesweeping Failures Make War On Iran Unlikely

The U.S. can not attack Iran because the attack and any Iranian retaliation would increase the price of oil to new record levels. Even if Iran were not to react to any attack the expectation of a possible reaction would be enough to explode the insurance premiums for any ship entering the Strait of Hormuz. With record oil prices over more than a few weeks all major economies would experience serious damage. Poorer economies would experience high price increases for staple food with social upheavals, like the Arab spring, certain to follow.

The Iran hawks argue against this. They say that U.S. navy is capable of keeping the Strait of Hormuz open even if Iran intends to close it. Even if the Strait were temporarily closed the U.S. navy would be able to reopen it immediately. They are wrong:

A major international naval exercise last month in and around the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, led by the U.S. Navy with more than 30 other nations participating, located fewer than half of the practice mines laid at sea.

This outcome of the highly publicized military drills — not publicly known until now — underscores how difficult it may be for the United States and its partners to detect and incapacitate waterborne explosive devices that Iran has threatened to plant if its nuclear facilities come under attack.

Out of the 29 simulated mines that were dropped in the water, “I don’t think a great many were found,” retired Navy Capt. Robert O’Donnell, a former mine warfare director for his service, told the NewsHour. “It was probably around half or less.”
“I just felt that they should have done better,” said O’Donnell, clearly disappointed with the outcome of this key measure of performance. “That’s the point of the exercise, to do mine-countermine [operations] in an area, and to find the mines.”

Now a consultant, O’Donnell was invited by the Navy to observe the September exercise firsthand as it unfolded.

The maneuver was disaster. But for people knowledgeable in the field it was also unsurprising. The U.S. Navy is traditionally incapable of serious mine clearing efforts. Even official documents (pdf) acknowledge this. The proposed solution to this disability is a combined effort by various navies under U.S. command:
The threat of mines presents a Unified Commander-in-Chief (CINC) with problems affecting the time-space-force aspects of his command. Further complicating this matter, is the U.S. Navy's inability to adequately address the mine threat problem unilaterally. History demonstrates that the U.S. Navy's inability to maintain a mine countermeasures (MCM) force sufficiently large enough and technologically advanced enough has been nominally off-set by the strengths of a combined MCM force.
The recent maneuver was a "combined" effort. Over 30 nations took part and even then only half of the dropped mines were found.

This was only a maneuver. A scripted training event without any threat from real mines or from other forces. Under the threat of fire from Iran's Silkworm derived anti-ship missiles fired from this or that cave or truck on the Iranian coast plus under the threat of real mines the clearing percentage would likely be worse.

What conclusion will those ship insurers in London draw from this? Right.

The U.S. navy has for some time tried to develop new mine hunting systems to be put on the new class of oversized unarmed speedboats Littoral Combat Ships. These efforts have so far failed. When they eventually succeed the capability of the new system will likely be much less than expected.

Unless there is technological leap in mine hunting and clearing coming up (unlikely), the threat and the capability of mining the Straits is likely enough to keep Iran safe from serious military aggressions.

Posted by b on October 17, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Qatar Provides More Than Money

Qatar funds major project to rebuild Gaza
Qatar on Tuesday launched a $254 million plan to rebuild and modernize Gaza, the biggest injection of reconstruction aid for the Palestinian enclave since parts of it were devastated in Operation Cast Lead nearly four years ago.

For first time, Palestinians in Gaza fire missile at IAF helicopter
A Strela (SA-7) anti-aircraft missile was fired at an Israeli helicopter over the Gaza Strip for the first time last week, the Israel Defense Forces has confirmed. Although the aircraft was not hit, the incident bears out intelligence assessments over the past few years that such missiles had reached the hands of terror groups in Gaza, principally Hamas.

Doha's Four Seasons Hotel Tea Lounge a painful exile for Syrians in Qatar
An assortment of opposition leaders and businessmen are passing through Doha, hoping to attract Qatar's arsenal of quickly-deployed cash and considerable diplomatic clout to their cause.
Qatar's prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, has denied reports that his country is providing weapons to the opposition in Syria - but few here doubt that his country is providing financial backing and non-lethal aid.

Heat-Seeking Missiles in Syria: The SA-7 in Action with Rebels
Throughout this year, as fighting intensified in Syria and antigovernment fighters grew in numbers and in strength, it had seemed inevitable that they would acquire heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles and turn them against the Syrian military aircraft.
Two videos recently posted on YouTube suggest that what had been expected is now occurring.

Posted by b on October 17, 2012 at 12:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

October 15, 2012

How A War On Syria Could Escalate

Pat Lang, the former head honcho of U.S. Defense Intelligence in the Middle East, commented at his blog that an attack of Turkey on Syria could lead to a "Guns of August" like process. The book "The Guns of August" describes the political and military maneuvering that eventual led to the, then rather unintended, start of the first world war.

Is Lang's comparison exaggerated? I don't think so. There is a lot of brush in the area and a small flame could easily become a big fire. One area where an open war over Syria could escalate is to the east of Turkey. That and a Turkish Armenian skirmish today is reason enough to take a deeper look into the various issues there.


About 150,000 Armenians are living in Syria. These Armenians are partly descendents of those who were ethnically cleansed by the Ottomans from Armenian parts of east Turkey. They are followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which itself is part of the Orthodox Church. Armenians anywhere do not think favorably about the Salafi fighters Turkey is supporting against the secular Syrian government.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union the powerful Russian Orthodox Church regained its enormous influence within Russian politics. This is one reason why Russia supports Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan over the quasi independent Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR), an Armenian region within Azerbaijan that gained quasi independence and some land in a war during the early 1990s.

The conflict over the region has not ended. The Armenians are opening new airports in Nagorno-Karabakh, further integrating it into their country. The Azerbaijanis do not like this:

Step towards the commissioning of Khojaly airport in Nagorno-Karabakh is dangerous, violates international law and harms the peaceful settlement of the conflict, Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said at the press conference.
Earlier, Armenian media reported about the commissioning of the airport in Khankendi.
Azerbaijan has banned the use of the airspace of Nagorno-Karabakh occupied by Armenia, as no one can guarantee flight safety in the area, the head of the Azerbaijani Civil Aviation Administration, Arif Mammadov said.

He said Armenia's steps directed to the operation of the airport in Khankendi are attempts to violate international legal norms. This air space belongs to Azerbaijan, so its use by Armenia is impossible.

Not really impossible. In recent years Russia sold some highly sophisticated air defense weapons to Armenia (Khojaly is right next to Stepanakert, the capitiol of the region):
Deployment of the mobile S-300PS batteries in Syunik province places the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region under the protection of Armenia’s air defense network. Furthermore, the S-300PS enjoys mobility that the S-300PT does not, enabling rapid relocation when required. As such, either S-300PS complex represents a possible occupant for the S-300P complex constructed near Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh, supplementing or replacing extant 2K11 or S-125 batteries in the region. The siting of the S-300PS batteries permits target track assignment from either the Yerevan-based 64N6 battle management radar or a Nagorno-Karabakh-based 36D6 EW radar. Furthermore, the current siting of the S-300PS batteries closes a pre-existing air defense gap, allowing Armenia to deny air travel into the Azeri province of Nakhchivan.

Following his strategy to piss off every neighbor the Turkish foreign minister Davutoğlu today threw himself into the issue. First an Armenian civil airplane that carried humanitarian relief to Aleppo was told to land in Turkey for an inspection of its load. After a few hours it was allowed to continue its flight. Then Davatoglu let off a totally hypocritical missive about the Khojaly airport:

Armenia’s step was not friendly, Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey had been in solidarity with Azerbaijan on the question of the airport as well as other issues.

Turkey was ready to do everything to establish peace and stability in the south Caucasus, the foreign minister said.

Everyone should respect all countries’ borders to maintain peace,” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying.

Turkey wants the problem of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity to be solved, Davutoğlu said.

Russia has some 5,000 soldiers permanently stationed in Armenia. This summer it announced to double that presence. Russia has no over land access to Armenia. It is believed that it has plans to create, if needed, an access route through Georgia to Armenia to supply its troops there. Its recent Caucasus 2012 maneuver seemed to be designed to train for such an event:
As part of the exercise, the Black Sea Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla were given objectives to ensure a favorable operating environment for naval operations, security, and joint actions with land units during a special anti-terrorist operation.

The maneuvers involved the missile cruiser Moskva, several large assault ships, two small anti-submarine ships, four sea-going trawlers, two small missile ships, missile and assault launches, and also contingents of marines. Both marine forces achieved their objectives.

Airborne Forces also took an active part in the “Caucasus 2012” exercise. Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the airborne forces, said: “Units of the 7th (Alpine) Air Assault Division were landed on the Kapustin Yar training area during the exercise. The 247th Air Assault Regiment, which is part of this unit, took part in a bilateral tactical exercise with the 5th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade in the Ashuluk training area. At the same time, units of the division fulfilled a number of objectives in the Rayevskoye training area in cooperation with the Black Sea Fleet.”

As Saakashvili's lost 2008 war over border provinces amply proved that the Georgian military would be unable to hold off such a force.

Like Georgia the oil rich Azerbaijan, under the dictatorship of president Aliyev, has friendly relation with "western" countries. There is speculation that Azerbaijani airfields could be used during an Israeli attack on Iran:

[D]espite official denials by Azerbaijan and Israel, two Azeri former military officers with links to serving personnel and two Russian intelligence sources all told Reuters that Azerbaijan and Israel have been looking at how Azeri bases and intelligence could serve in a possible strike on Iran.

"Where planes would fly from - from here, from there, to where? - that's what's being planned now," a security consultant with contacts at Azeri defense headquarters in Baku said. "The Israelis ... would like to gain access to bases in Azerbaijan."

That Aliyev, an autocratic ally of Western governments and oil firms, has become a rare Muslim friend of the Jewish state - and an object of scorn in Tehran - is no secret; a $1.6-billion arms deal involving dozens of Israeli drones, and Israel's thirst for Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea crude, are well documented.

Joby Warwick, who has written several, anti-Iran propaganda pieces in the Washington Post adds another one today favorable comparing the mafia dictatorship of Azerbaijan with Iran because, ya know, some Azerbaijanis like Jennifer Lopez.

Also today the NATO propaganda shop Atlantic Council called for the deployment of NATO assets to Turkey:

It is time for NATO to send proportional support to Turkey during its hour of need. Reinforcing this embattled ally with a small number of AWACS radar aircraft and/or units from the NATO rapid reaction force will strengthen Ankara militarily and politically.

It will also send a powerful message to the Assad regime in Syria and its allies to prevent any further attacks against Turkey. By acting now, NATO can help de-escalate the confrontation along the Turkish-Syrian border and decrease the possibility of Turkey intervening unilaterally in Syria.

Propaganda and the buildup and positioning of military forces for "de-escalation" was one of the policies described in the book "The Guns of August" that eventually led to World War I.

Not only Syria but also the Kurdish areas of Turkey and north Iraq and further east the Caucasus area are tinderboxes that could easily go up in flames. Any military move against Syria, which has a military alliance with Iran, could easily extend into the wider area.

The situation is of increasing complexity. An all out accidental war involving the whole area, including war between NATO and Russia's CSTO, is no longer unthinkable.

Posted by b on October 15, 2012 at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

EU Increases Sanctions On Iran While U.S. Increases Trade

One would think that economic problems from simple minded austerity policies within Europe would at least lead to policies that increase exports to solvent customers. But no. The European Union, under pressure from the U.S. and Israel, just increased the sanctions on Iran thereby cutting off all exports to a good customer:
The Council prohibited all transactions between European and Iranian banks, unless they are explicitly authorised by national authorities under strict conditions.

There will be a ban on short-term export credits, guarantees and insurance. Medium- and long-term commitments are already banned.

Others are benefiting from this policy:
U.S. exports to Iran rose by nearly a third this year, chiefly because of grain sales, according to U.S. data released last week, despite the tightening of U.S. financial sanctions.

The jump to $199.5 million in the first eight months of 2012 from $150.8 million a year earlier, according to Census Bureau data, ...

The U.S. wants to achieve regime change in Iran. It presses for Europe to adopt more sanctions and to cease all trade with Iran. At the same time it is using the loopholes in its own sanction regime to increasing its trade with Iran.

It is beyond my how and why those European politicians can fall for this scheme. Any ideas?

Posted by b on October 15, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

October 13, 2012

An October Surprise That Leads To The Guns Of August

Jon Williams is foreign editor for the BBC. A few hours ago he tweeted:
Some NATO allies growing suspicious of #Turkey. Fear Istanbul provoking #Syria. One official says Damascus "v restrained" in circumstances!
Those NATO allies are not alone in growing suspicious. Abdullah Bozkurt is Bureau-in-Chief of the Turkish Today's Zaman newspaper. That paper is part of the Gülen movement and in general friendly with the current Turkish AKP government. Bozkurt also has extensive experience has Today's Zaman U.S. correspondent. His latest column is headlined: The pro-war lobby rallies in Turkey
It should be obvious by now that there is a pro-war lobby in the Turkish capital, one that is itching for a major confrontation with Syria and one that also has considerable influence over the government decision making process. This lobby is determined to drag Turkey into an adventurous conflict with Syria, one that is certain to escalate into region-wide hostilities with traditional backers of the Bashar al-Assad regime facing off with Turkey in the proxy of the Syrian swamp.
The relentless war lobby is after a “fait accompli” to commit the government and the country to a permanent war in Syria, but is afraid of the repercussions of presenting such a plan in the public.
Bozkurt does not give any names but points at certain other interests that might want to get a war going:
The last thing Obama wants at this point is a Syrian crisis spiraling out of control that would put him in a weak spot in regard to his Republican challenger. Maybe that is exactly what the war lobby in Ankara wants. Creating an outrageous incident in response to which Turkey would feel the need to invoke Article 5 of the NATO military alliance, the clause on collective defense, might force Obama into a corner on the eve of presidential elections and prompt an American intervention.

I can think of some blowhart in Tel Aviv who would like to have Obama defeated and who might have the capabilities to order up some event, a certain "Syrian provocation" that kills many Turks but which's origin would be rather mysterious, that would allow the Turkish pro-war lobby to achieve its "fait accompli".

But, as Bozkurt writes, a war over Syria would not be confined to Syria. It would have disastrous consequences. As the military Middle East expert Pat Lang remarked:

A "Guns of August' scenario is quite possible in which Syria, Hizbullah Russia and Iran line up against NATO, Israel and the US. The catastrophic implications of such an evolution are obvious.
Any serious event on the Turkish Syrian border could now be an October surprise to unleash a Guns of August like situation. It is not something anyone in this world should wish for.

Posted by b on October 13, 2012 at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

Daalder's Peace Prize Envy

The European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It is obvious that the Nobel award is a political price given by the committee to further this or that peculiar political interest. I personally do not regard it as much of an honor.

Still one has to admit that the European Union was from its very beginning a peace project especially between France and Germany. It was driven by European politicians who had lived through the terrible times of two huge wars and were eager to avoid more of those. Nearly 70 years of peace between the big European countries who had been fighting each other for centuries is certainly a notable success.

But getting a price for that leads to envy. Just see this official tweet by Ivo Daalder, the U.S. ambassador to NATO:

Congrats to #EU for that #Nobel. As for peace in #Europe, maybe #MarshalPlan, US troops, & #NATO had something to do w/ it as well

Yes Mr Daalder, the Marshall Plan helped a bit. (Even as it was solely driven by ideological U.S. self interest.) But the Nobel Price committee already recognized that back in 1953 and awarded Marshall the peace prize. But as Daalder can not even spell Marshall's name he likely did not known that. Is lack of historic knowledge a quality of U.S. ambassadors?

As for U.S. troops and NATO. No, they had (and have) little to do with peace in Europe. There was this thing called the cold war that has cost us Europeans a lot and would likely not have happened without them. That war planed to use my country as its nuclear battlefield and thereby for its total annihilation. Neither the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet army nor NATO and U.S. troops deserve a peace prize for that.

Posted by b on October 13, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

October 12, 2012

Israeli Bombs Against Gaddhafi And The GCC-Israel Coalition

A report about the war on Libya by the Danish Air Force reveals that Denmark used Israeli bombs during that campaign:
The ammunition deficiency problem eventually forced the Danish Air Force to seek precision-bomb munitions parts from Israel, a highly controversial move given that the NATO mission in Libya was backed by the Arab League, consisting of many member states have less than amicable political relations with Israel.

There will be no repercussions over this for Denmark.

There is by now serious doubt about the Arab League's "less than amicable political relations with Israel". Indeed there seems to be a silent coalition of the Gulf Counterrevolution Club with Israel with the common enemy being Hizbullah, Syria, Iraq and Iran as the axis of resistance against Israel or, in the GCC terminology, the Shia crescent. That coalition is actively fostered by the U.S. and its western clients.

The coalition is sure to fall apart when the wave of change eventually reaches those monarchies and brings in governments that will have answer to their people. That point is likely less far away than today's conventional wisdom anticipates.

Posted by b on October 12, 2012 at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

October 10, 2012

This Land Is Mine

While I am busy ...



This Land Is Mine from Nina Paley.

Posted by b on October 10, 2012 at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

October 07, 2012

Syria: False Flag Attacks To Clear A Border Zone

It seems I was wrong in suggesting that Erdogan was made to step back from the brink. The false flag mortar shots from Syria onto Turkish grounds are said to continue. It defies any logic that the Syrian army would do such continues provocations. The Syrian government has no interest in giving Turkey a pretext for using its troops against Syria.

Each time such an unverifiable event happens the Turkish military is now using it (Dutch video report) to hold down Syrian army units with its artillery while the foreign sponsored insurgents take this or that town or army position.

This all together looks like a coordinated plan to push the Syrian army out of the border region with Turkey and to establish a zone there that the rebels can control and use for training and rest. It is Erdogan's solution for the increasing problem those insurgents create for him on the Turkish side of the border.

It is also an escalation that deserves a response.

Posted by b on October 7, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (134)

October 06, 2012

Open Thread 2012-25

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 6, 2012 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

October 05, 2012

The Outrage Industry

In 2008 a satirical German TV magazine made an episode about a Palestinian entrepreneur in the outrage industry. He produced and sold flags of various countries to be burned in protests. He also offered otherwise not available specialties of such countries so one could boycott those. The star spangled banner was usually his best selling product but at the time of the show Danish flags were in high demand by the flag burners to show outrage over some cartoons. As said the show was meant as pure satire.

But as happens quite often satire was beaten by live. Some recent anti-Islamic movie by some crazy people led to a boom in a real version of the outrage industry:

When the mobilization against the U.S. film began, “I knew the tills would start ringing”, said the manager at Panaflex printers, housed in a dilapidated building in Rawalpindi, the twin city of Islamabad and headquarters of the military.

“Whenever we have these demonstrations, I make 10 times as much money as normal,” he told AFP in a tiny room that stank of ink, as two huge rollers spat out Stars and Stripes.

Sold for between 120 and 1,500 rupees ($1.25 to $16) depending on size and quality, the flags have been snapped up for demonstrations against the film in recent weeks, and Haider watched in delight as his products went up in smoke day after day on the TV news.
In Shah's shop 1,500 rupees will get you a three-square-metre Stars and Stripes in cloth, with a guarantee it will catch light with no problems -- a key concern for protesters, particularly with TV cameras around.

As the flags are pretty expensive and only at certain times high in demand various political groups have organized their own just-in-time production:
Jamaat-ud-Dawa, blacklisted by the United Nations and the United States as a front for terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, says it has a “special team” dedicated to making US and Israeli flags for demonstrations.

“They end up costing us 50-60 rupees each,” said Asif Khurshid, one of the group's officials in Islamabad.

Satire or real, funny or not, I'd rather have an outrage industrial complex than a military one.

h/t T.W.

Posted by b on October 5, 2012 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Erdogan Made To Step Back From The Brink

Some mortars fell on Turkish ground and killed five people. It is unknown who has launched those mortars.

The Turkish prime minister Erdogan used the event to get himself war powers and ordered some limited artillery strikes onto Syrian positions.

He also, again, tried to get NATO to back up his urge to escalate the conflict in Syria. NATO smelled a rat and did not agree with Erdogan. He was ordered to deescalate. Big anti-war demonstrations in Istanbul helped to convey the message.

Erdogan then sent out his deputy to declare that Syria had admitted that it fired the mortars and apologized. This was widely reported:

Syria has admitted it was responsible for a shelling that killed five civilians on Turkish soil and apologised, Turkey's deputy prime minister said today.

"The Syrian side has admitted what it did and apologised," Besir Atalay told reporters.

But as the Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari made absolutely clear (video) there was neither a Syrian admittance of guilt nor was there any apology. Syria only send condolences to the Turkish people and promised to investigate the case.

When the Syrian army shot down a Turkish jet that had crossed into Syrian air space it immediately took responsibility for it and apologized. The Syrian behavior in this case is different.

If this incident was a false flag operation, which seems more and more likely, it only achieved a part of what it was supposed to achieve. Erdogan did get the Turkish parliament to give him war powers. But the more important backing from NATO did not come through.

His deputy prime minister Besir Atalay's lie about the Syrian "apology" had the purpose to allow Erdogan to step back from the brink he had walked up to. There will be, for now, no further escalation of the war the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are waging against Syria.

Posted by b on October 5, 2012 at 02:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

October 04, 2012

Erdogan's Gets War Powers

Update (11:30am)

The neocon Israel mouthpiece and supporter of the Syrian insurgents Michael Weiss just tweeted this:

Important to note: Turkish bill for authorizing force deployment was dated September 20. Erdogan knew trouble lay ahead.
The FSA insurgents captured the border crossing point Tal Abyad right next to the town Akçakale on September 19 to build a supply line for their attack on the city of al-Raqqa. A day later Erdogan prepares a bill giving him war powers. This certainly increases the suspicion that this was a false flag attack with the purpose of getting Erdogan war powers.

/end update/

Turkey, led by its premier Erdogan, fell into a trap. Other countries applauded the insurgency in Syria and provided weapons and money to it. Erdogan joint them and delivered himself much support. But when the insurgency did not provide the expected immediate success no other country agreed to help Turkey with regular outside forces to overthrow the Syrian government. Meanwhile Turkey's economy got damaged, the influx of over 100,000 refugees brought increasing problems and the resurgence of the PKK in Turkey led to several spectacular attacks. The Turkish public continues to be against Erdogan's interventionist policy in Syria.

Before yesterday's mortar attack on the Turkish border village Akçakale Russia had warned of such a false flag incident:

Both Syrian and Turkish authorities “should exercise maximum restraint” since radical members of the Syrian opposition might deliberately provoke cross-border conflicts for their own benefits, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said yesterday. The diplomat said Moscow has been worrying about the situation on the Syria-Turkey border.
Just a day later such a conflict happened. Someone launched mortars from Syrian territory onto Akçakale and killed five people in Turkey. Turkey responded with heavy artillery fire against Syrian Arab Army positions.

Did the Russians knew what a false flag attack was in the making? As even the NYT remarked:

It was unclear if the mortar that struck Turkey was fired by government forces or by rebels fighting to oust the government of Mr. Assad
Still the Turkish government waxed about a violation of its sovereignty by the Syrian government. Just a few days ago Iraq had called on Turkey to leave the bases it has in northern Iraq since the 1990s. Turkey rejected that call. That and Turkish support for the insurgents in Syria tells you all you need to know about how Turkey really feels about sovereignty.

Not being able to pull others into the conflict which the insurgents lack the manpower to see through and not willing to risk the loss of face a climb down from his position would entail Erdogan has chosen to escalate.

With a 320 to 129 vote the Turkish parliament just adopted a motion that gives war powers to the Turkish government. The core text:

This situation has reached a stage that poses serious threats and risks to our national security. Therefore, the need has developed to act rapidly and to take the necessary precautions against additional risks and threats that may be directed against our country. Within this framework, on the condition that the extent, amount, and time will be appreciated and determined by the government, I submit according to Article 92 of the Constitution a one-year-long permission to make the necessary arrangements for sending the Turkish Armed Forces to foreign countries and having it [TSK] mandated, according to the principle causes that will be designated by the government.
An opposition member in the parliament called this a license for a bigger war:
"This motion has no limits," İnce said. "You can wage a world war with [the motion]."
Indeed one wonders what the plural in "foreign countries" and "principle causes" mean. Will Erdogan order the invasion of Armenia?

One also has to wonder how the Turkish military would perform in an all out war. Over 300 Turkish officers are in jail, including 71 former and active generals, for allegedly planing a coup. More are likely to be indicted. What Turkish officer will show any initiative when any act without an explicit written order may put him in danger of getting hauled in front of a court?

And how will the proverbial Arab street react when Turkey with openly neo-ottoman ambitions invades an Arab country?

War powers or not. In the end the big loser in this conflict might well be Erdogan himself.

Posted by b on October 4, 2012 at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

October 03, 2012

Five Turks Killed Along FSA Supply Line

This incident could lead to a wider war on Syria:
Five people were killed and at least eight were wounded Oct. 3 when at least three Syrian shells struck the Akçakale district of eastern Şanlıurfa. One of those killed was a 6-year-old child, according to officials.

Akçakale is a few steps north of the border with Syria. There is a crossing point with the name Tal Abyad that the Free Syrian Army captured on September 19. During the following days' fighting over the area a petrol station went up in flames which allegedly caused many casualties.

Some 70 kilometer (~40 miles) south of that crossing point lies al-Raqqa around which there have already been clashes and which the insurgents want to destroy next. This even while the people in the city, including opposition supporters, are begging thze insurgents not to liberate them (video report):

More than 500,000 people are estimated to have fled to the northern city of al-Raqqa over the year-and-a-half long conflict in Syria.

That influx of internally displaced Syrians has doubled al-Raqqa's population.

Now, as opposition fighters say they plan to take the city from the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, civilians are pleading with the fighters to spare them the violence that would ensue.

It is not known who fired the mortars that landed in Turkey. That might have been Syrian Arab Army troops firing on insurgents. But it also might have been the insurgents from the Free Syrian Army that have an interest in getting Turkey to fight for them.

The Turkish prime minister Erdogan is under a lot of pressure for his support of the insurgency in Syria. The Turkish public opinion is by a large margin against this policy.

It is obvious that the insurgencies supply route for their attack on al-Raqqa is through Tal Abyad and the Turkish town of Akçakale. Those five Turkish people killed there today along that supply line are a direct consequence of Erdogan's material support for the insurgency.

Any further dead in an escalation would be, like the dead today, his direct responsibility.

The Obama administration is just as guilty as Erdogan is. Three bombs the insurgents exploded today in Aleppo killed 34 and injured over 120 people. This only days after Hillary Clinton increased the material support for especially those insurgents in Aleppo. The "non-lethal" radios the U.S. is giving to the insurgents are just as deadly as the bombs those radios trigger.

Posted by b on October 3, 2012 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

Gordon's Iran Air Defense Report Is Nonsense

Michael R. Gordon, who together with Judith Miller promoted the war on Iraq with false stories about Iraqi nuclear weapons, comes up with new fairytale:
The Iranian military was so apprehensive about the threat of an Israeli airstrike on its nuclear installations in 2007 and 2008 that it mistakenly fired on civilian airliners and, in one instance, on one of its own military aircraft, according to classified American intelligence reports.
Iran does not fear an Israeli strike:
"Fundamentally we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists.... We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves," Ahmadinejad told reporters.
This is the situation now just as it was the situation in 2007 and 2008.

Gordon continues:

In June 2007, the report noted, a Revolutionary Guards air defense unit fired a TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile at a civilian airliner. In May 2008, an antiaircraft battery fired on an Iranian reconnaissance drone and a civilian airliner. That same month, an antiaircraft battery fired on an Iranian F-14 fighter jet.
If Iran fired a TOR-M1 missile at a civilian airliner the chance is about 100% that the plane, without defensive measures, would have been hit:
The system's high lethality (aircraft kill probability of 0.92-0.95) is maintained at altitude of 10 – 6,000 m'. The vertically launched, single-stage solid rocket propelled missile is capable of maneuvering at loads up to 30gs. It is equipped with a 15kg high-explosive fragmentation warhead activated by a proximity fuse.
There is no report of any civilian airliner going down at that time.

Gordon makes another silly claim:

Less than two weeks after Israeli warplanes practiced over the Mediterranean in June 2008, a classified Pentagon report noted, the commander of the Iranian Air Force ordered fighter units to “conduct daily air-to-ground attack training (GAT) at firing ranges resembling the Israeli city of Haifa and the Israeli nuclear facility at Dimona,” according to a classified 2008 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Iran does not have any fighter jet that could fly from Iran to Haifa and Dimona and come back home. While it has some in-air refueling capacity any such refueling would have to be done over Turkey, Iraq or Saudi Arabia. In 2008 the U.S. Air Force was still flying over Iraq. There was zero chance that Iran could successfully launch fighters against Israel. Why then should it have trained for such an impossible mission?

The whole story and whatever report it might be based on is bunk. Having kept Gordon after the false Iraq reporting and letting him continue to write such nonsense is showing the New York Times' contempt for its readers.

Posted by b on October 3, 2012 at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

October 01, 2012

Just Another Night Raid In Kabul

Mustafa Kazemi is an Afghan journalist. He has a blog and twitters as @combatjourno.

Starting 10:10pm in Kabul (1:10am EDT) today he twittered this:

BREAKING NEWS -- Afghan & ISAF forces just conducted a raid on this guest house in Shahr-e-Naw in front of MTN HQ arresting a suicide bomber

When I got out of my room suddenly a Special Force operator held a gun on my face & laid me to ground. They then raided the room beside me.

The operators were Afghan Intelligence & ISAF Special Forces operators. They then told me they arrested a suicide bomber.

The suspect was an Etisalat employee and was suspected of being a suicide bomber, An Intelligence official just said.

I've a lot of scratches on my hands and thigh pain as a result of kicking and pushing me down to the ground by NDS & ISAF Special Forces.

An intelligence operator warningly told me to hide myself so they won't "shoot me instead of the terrorists".

The foreign SF operator left off the handcuffs when I told him I'm a journalist and spoke English to him. But kept the gun on my head.

The hotel manager tells me that the arrested person is a trustable customer of him since a long time & he doubts him being a terrorist. I can now see the truth behind the night special operations. Led by foreigners obviously. Afghans cant even run an op independently in Kabul

After they arrested the suspect I saw a military attorney was brought inside to draft the inventory & condition of the room during operation

Downstairs, @AmiriEhsan was about to come upstairs to me, the troops told him to get away from the scene, because it's gonna get 'bloody'.

NB: the foreign special forces didn't speak a word so I couldn't make out their nationality. One of them had an Australian flag insignia.

I must expect getting arrested by Domestic Intelligence for live-tweeting their classified operation for letting people know the truths.

This was a night raid on a hotel with a long time trusted customer of the hotel being hauled off as a terrorists which he is unlikely to be. During the raid Afghans like Mustafa Kazemi were roughly manhandled by foreign special forces. Is it any wonder that many Afghans do not want such forces in their country?

The German spy service BND made some dark predictions about Afghanistan. Certain politicians and the SPIEGEL writers use this as an argument for the continuation of the military occupation of Afghanistan by western military beyond 2014. The questions they never answer is "What for?"

What are they expecting to change by keeping 35,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014? How will that change be achieved? If 11 years of foreign occupation of Afghanistan were not enough to achieve the desired end state how long will take and how much will it costs? Can those changes be achieved at all?

Many of the perceived problems of Afghanistan that are supposed to be changed by further western interference are the consequences of this interference. Epic corruption, rampant warlordism, high drug production and drug addiction rates were not the big problems in the Afghanistan of 2001.

Removing the foreign troops and influences will allow Afghanistan to find back to a balance where those problems can slowly heal away. Keeping troops in Afghanistan will only prolong the ordeal.

Posted by b on October 1, 2012 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)