Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 30, 2013

Megan Thee-Brenan And My Celibate Streak

Apparently not wanting to rape Megan Thee-Brenan exhibits a celibate streak. How else can one explain her choice of words in this opening graph:
Americans are exhibiting an isolationist streak, with majorities across party lines decidedly opposed to American intervention in North Korea or Syria right now as economic concerns continue to dwarf all other issues, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Is it certainly not isolationist to not wanting to wage another useless war. There surely are other means to interact with other countries.

But one wonders how Megan Thee-Brenan's sex-life is going along. With violence apparently being the only acceptable communication to her, she might have trouble to find some caring partner.

Posted by b on April 30, 2013 at 08:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (91)

Water Problems At Fukushima Daiichi Foreseen

The New York Times reports on increasing water problems at the nuclear reactors that melted down at Fukushima Daiichi:

Flow of Tainted Water Is Latest Crisis at Japan Nuclear Plant

Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world’s second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater that workers are struggling to contain.
“The water keeps increasing every minute, no matter whether we eat, sleep or work,” said Masayuki Ono, a general manager with Tepco who acts as a company spokesman. “It feels like we are constantly being chased, but we are doing our best to stay a step in front.”

While the company has managed to stay ahead, the constant threat of running out of storage space has turned into what Tepco itself called an emergency, with the sheer volume of water raising fears of future leaks at the seaside plant that could reach the Pacific Ocean.
“We were so focused on the fuel rods and melted reactor cores that we underestimated the water problem,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a government body that helped draw up Tepco’s original cleanup plan. “Someone from outside the industry might have foreseen the water problem.”

"Might have foreseen" the water problem?

No. Not "might have". We did foresee this problem two years ago and we even suggested a solution:

While TEPCO is saying little about what it is doing at Daiichi it seems that their plan is to continue this "feed and bleed" cooling for the several month the nuclear fuel will need to cool below boiling temperature.

I believe that this is not sustainable. So far more than 60,000 tons of water were fed into the complex, got highly radiated and flowed out uncontrolled through various leaks. The turbine buildings with needed equipment are flooded. Some highly radiated water did flow into the sea. The measures to stop leaking to the sea are unconvincing. Groundwater radiation at the site has increased tenfold which suggests other additional leaks.
Feeding, contaminating and leaking additional hundreds of tons of water per day over several month is not a viable plan. TEPCO urgently needs to come up with a different cooling strategy. I stand by my suggestion to push a slurry of sand/boron/lead into the reactors which eventually will dry and form a solid mass preventing further leakage. Cooling would then take place through convection just like in Chernobyl.

While this would certainly make future disassembling more difficult, it would also prevent further leakage and radiation releases.

It is sad to see that the Japanese regulators and professional nuclear engineers could not see the problem, and a solution to it, when an amateur like me clearly could. It is still not too late to try a more permanent solution at Fukushima Daiichi. But with the incest between Japanese nuclear industry, politics and bureaucracy elites the more likely solution will be to pump the radioactive water into the sea. Have fun eating those glowing fish ...

Posted by b on April 30, 2013 at 04:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

WaPo Lies About Arab War Support

Dear Washington Post,

is the Jordan king Abdullah asking for a diplomatic solution in Syria or for military intervention?

On April 26 you reported: Jordan’s Abdullah urges diplomatic action to end Syrian conflict

Jordan is urging the Obama administration to intensify efforts to find a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, ...
Despite the failure of previous initiatives, the king urged a renewed attempt at a negotiated settlement as the only realistic path toward ending the conflict without splintering the country or condemning it to endless bloodshed.
On April 29 your news report claims:
The Obama administration worked Monday to preserve thinning hopes for a political deal that could end the Syrian civil war and to hold off rising pressure from lawmakers and Syria’s Arab neighbors for more direct U.S. involvement.
Several of Syria’s Arab neighbors, led by close U.S. ally Jordan, are lobbying for a more forceful U.S. role in Syria. There is no consensus about what the United States should do, however. Options include giving heavier gear to the rebels, providing protection for refugees or rebel fighters with missile batteries or aircraft, or authorizing precision airstrikes to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles or key air defenses.
So now you claim that "several of Syria’s Arab neighbors" want a U.S. war on Syria. Only Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan are Arab countries which share borders with Syria. None of then, according to your own reporting, has indeed asked for a military intervention. So how come you are now lying to your readers with such nonsensical claims?

Posted by b on April 30, 2013 at 02:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 28, 2013

Times Of Israel Falsifies Iranian Quote

Under the headline Hezbollah will ‘wipe out’ Israel in war, Iran says one Aaron Kalman writes for the Times of Israel:
The semi-official FARS news agency quoted Sepehr as saying that Hezbollah’s sizable stockpile of rockets can overcome Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, and if Israel and Hezbollah engage in war, “the resistance front will wipe out Israel.”

The link in that ToI paragraph goes to a Fars News Agency piece headlined IRGC Official Warns Israel against Invasion of Lebanon. That piece includes this paragraph:

He warned Israel of the heavy costs of any possible aggression against Lebanon, and stated, "If a (similar) 33-day war (against Lebanon) happens again, Hezbollah and the resistance front will wipe off Israel."

It would be wrong to wipe out hasbara liars like Mr. Aaron Kalman. But they should be wiped off the pages of the Internet.

(h/t Nima Shirazi)

Posted by b on April 28, 2013 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Syria: NYT Starts Telling The Truth About Syria

After more than two years of obfuscating the obvious the New York Times finally decided to write something truthful about the Syrian insurgency:
Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.
The Islamist character of the opposition reflects the main constituency of the rebellion, which has been led since its start by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, mostly in conservative, marginalized areas.
From the very start in Daraa the violent protests started at mosques. In late March 2011 a weapon cache was found inside the Omari mosque in Daraa. All of the "battalions" founded by the various insurgent groups were named after venerated Sunni figures or themes. It was therefore absolutely clear that this was a sectarian insurgency, with foreign support, from the very beginning.

The U.S., as the NYT, so far promoted this sectarian monster as some kind of civil rights movement. As the NYT now removed that mask (likely due to some White House proding), how long will it take until it helps to kill it off?

(Media note: Today's A1 NYT piece is the first written for the paper by Ben Hubbard. Hubbard, an Arabic speaker, earlier reported for the Associated Press. So far most NYT pieces on Syria were written by Anna Barnard from Beirut. Barnard speaks Russian but no Arabic and her news often comes straight out of the sectarian Sunni Hariri press office. One hopes that Hubbard will get more space for reality based reporting on Syria.)

Posted by b on April 28, 2013 at 06:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (69)

April 27, 2013

Syria: This Intervention Threat Is Not Credible

As I wrote a few days ago:
Due to considerable progress by the Syrian government against the foreign sponsored, jihadist insurgency new allegations have to be found to justify additional foreign intervention.
Mahir Zenalov, who writes for the Turkish paper Today Zaman, concludes the same. The "chemical weapons" scam is just an excuse to justify a wider use of force against the Syria.

Zenalov points out that other "western" interventions, in Bosnia and in Libya, came when the "western" proxy forces were in serious difficulties and the anti-"western" government forces on the cusps of winning. The state in Syria is just that. The opposition is on the run and  the government troops are progressing.

Zenalov writes:

Successful military gains of the Syrian regime forces over the past few weeks have pushed the US and its allies to reconsider intervening in Syria.
In the past few weeks, government forces have launched major offensives in Homs, Idlib, Kurdish-populated areas and in and around Aleppo and the capital Damascus. It is evidently clear that the military balance on the ground is tilting back toward government forces again after a counteroffensive.

This change in the military balance made the case for intervention much stronger in Washington and other European capitals. Along with Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Ankara also voiced concerns over the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Other nations will follow suit in the days to come.

On Saturday, Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış acknowledged that Washington is preparing to intervene in Syria and that the possible use of chemical weapons are not the main drive.

Washington says the evidence of chemical weapons use is only “preliminary.” The evidence will get “rock solid” if Damascus wins major battles against the opposition next week. In previous months, there had also been reports of alleged chemical use by the Syrian army. True or not, there is no reason why Assad’s regime would use chemical weapons if it knows that that means inviting Washington to intervene.

Mahir Zenalov thinks that the Syrian government knows that winning too much would only invite immediate intervention. He suggest that Damascus will therefor, after cleaning up around Damascus and along the major road arteries, stop the current offensive and, again, offer negotiations:
Damascus faces a major dilemma: If it continues with its so far successful offensive, it will make the case bolder for intervention. Western powers don’t want Assad to win and they were expecting opposition forces to finish the fight. If the opposition fails to make any further gains, the West will come to its aid.

If Damascus is smart enough, it will strengthen its bases in and around the capital to have an upper hand in possible negotiations and offer dialogue to solve the crisis.

That may be an option. But I will not bet on it. The intervention is certainly not a done deal. The recent drone intrusion from Lebanon into Israel was a serious warning. If Syria is attacked Israel will get hit - no matter what. There is no way to avoid that. This fact alone is a serious impediment for any "western" move. There is also a Russian fleet underway which will reach the Mediterranean in mid May and will stay there permanently. It is a wild card in any air attack or submarine launched cruise missile raid on Syria. A ground attack is even less likely. Neither Britain nor any other country is willing to send ground troops.

Aside from those military problems the public in all concerned countries seems to be against any intervention. Judging from the comments at various news sides the chemical attack scam convinced no one.

That is why I disagree with Mahir Zenalov conclusion. The current threat of intervention is not credible.

The Syrian government will therefor not stop its offensive for fear of an intervention. It will not start to negotiate. With whom should it do so anyway? If its current offensive is successful it will continue to build on it and will pursue the enemy as much as it can.

Posted by b on April 27, 2013 at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

April 25, 2013

A Syria Expert - Six Month Ago

Six month ago an often quoted academic and so called expert on Syria tweeted the following:

Aleppo falling to FSA. Rebels take al-Syrian Jadide, heart of Christian area. #syria #aleppo
4:46 AM - 25 Oct 12

al-Syiraan Adime just fell to rebel militias as well. Center of Aleppo fallen. #syria #aleppo
4:52 AM - 25 Oct 12

Syria Regime Gives up Aleppo. FSA sharpshooters on top of all buildings in a-Syrian jadide and Qadime, Christian heartland #Syria #Aleppo
4:54 AM - 25 Oct 12

Shooting has stopped totally in Aleppo. Eerie silence overtakes city as government relinquishes control and Rebels take over. #Syria #Aleppo
5:09 AM - 25 Oct 12

@FareedZakaria #syria Aleppo has fallen to rebels. Government gives up control as eerie silence decends over city.
5:12 AM - 25 Oct 12

Those hilarious illusions though, ended a few hours later:
Gov tanks descend on Faisal street - main road near al-Syriaan jadide, Rebel troops retreat into Ashrafiya. #syria #aleppo
12:33 PM - 25 Oct 12

Depending on the insurgency's propaganda for information, working with a simplistic sectarian mental model of the complex Syrian society and having zero experience in the art of war is the base of such sorry expertise.

Experience based realistic interpretation of all available facts would certainly provide for better analysis. Unfortunately there are few real practitioners of such a process in U.S. foreign policy discussions.

Posted by b on April 25, 2013 at 06:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (95)

April 24, 2013

Syria: Shaving Cream As Chemical Weapon

Due to considerable progress by the Syrian government against the foreign sponsored, jihadist insurgency new allegations have to be found to justify additional foreign intervention.

These now come in the form of alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government:

"Shrunken pupils, foaming at the mouth and other signs indicate, in our view, that lethal chemical weapons were used."
The U.S. government does not support these unsubstantiated allegations. While "foaming at the mouth" can be a sign of chemical weapon exposure other possible causes for apparent "foaming at the mouth" do exist.

A man "foaming at the mouth"

One therefore should be cautious about the "proof" under the Telegraph's headline Syria doctor's Facebook video proof that Assad used chemicals in Aleppo:

Syria's regime dropped chemical weapons from a plane on a district of Aleppo earlier this month, killing two infants and a woman, experts said after a doctor in Aleppo posted a video of apparent victims to his Facebook page.
Niazi Habash, a British-trained doctor who treated the Aleppo victims, said they showed symptoms of exposure to chemicals, including breathing difficulties, foaming at the mouth and pinprick pupils.
The short video posted at the Telegraph site shows three persons laying on hospital stretchers. All three persons have some white foam around their mouths. None of them shows any acute breathing problem. All three seem rather relaxed. Here are three screenshots from the doctor's video showing each of the three "victims". You may judge yourself what kind of "chemical weapon" might have produced their "foaming at the mouth" symptom.

A man "foaming at the mouth"

Another man "foaming at the mouth"

Another person chewing on a tube and with heavy "foaming at the mouth"

This "foaming at the mouth" video proof of chemical weapons usage is fake. That is not to say that the above people are not under chemical attack:
[M]any of these shaving creams feature more harmful ingredients than beneficial ones. Here's what to keep an eye out for.

Propolene glycol is a humectant like glycerin, but unlike glycerin, it's more frequently found in antifreeze and brake fluid. Triethanolamine, better known as TEA, is an emulsifying agent, meaning it helps keep the oil and water from separating. It's also a very controversial ingredient in the cosmetic industry because not only is it a skin irritant, but many formulas containing TEA are found to be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are linked to cancer. Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) are two more controversial skincare ingredients. These make a great lather, but they also have a number of health implications. Lauryl mimics estrogen, which is especially problematic for women, and laureth often hosts a known carcinogen called dioxane.

Should we bomb Assad for this massive chemical shaving cream attack? Maybe not.

Faking videos of alleged bombing and allegedly wounded victims has been a standard practice of the Syrian insurgents. This "foaming at the mouth" shaving cream video posted by a doctor who is on the side of the insurgency is just another example of such fakery.

But the Telegraph has an additional "expert" judging about the "chemical weapon" usage:

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former British Army specialist and director of a biological consultancy, said the most likely explanation was the chemical sarin had been used.

"From what we've seen, and the descriptions of containers being dropped from the air, it certainly seems that the regime is using sarin in an unprepared state in these attacks," he said.

That a is somewhat funny "expert opinion" by a former tank regiment commander from a "biological consultancy" about "chemical weapons" as "foaming at the mouth" is NOT a standard symptom of sarin exposure. Yet, looking at fake videos with shaving foam, he claims to see sarin usage.

These fake videos and fake experts are not proof of anything but of warmongering by certain "western" media.

Posted by b on April 24, 2013 at 04:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (49)

April 23, 2013

The Literal Diplomatic Blowbacks In Libya

Three nations led the attack against Libya's leader Gaddhafi. They supported the jihadist inspired insurgency against the Libyan government by bombing any Libyan military target they could find.

Britain and France trained for this intervention in the Southern Mistral 2011 maneuver which was eventually merged into the real war on Libya. The U.S. joined in on the campaign by providing the "break in" capability that defeated the Libyan air defense network.

The hope of all three nations was to increase their diplomatic leverage and economic advantages by installing a friendly puppet government in Libya.

Since then all three nations had to learn that there diplomats are not welcome in Libya.

On July 11 2012 the British ambassador convoy was attacked in Benghazi. The ambassador escaped the assassination attempt but two man of his protection detail were wounded.

On September 11 an attack on a U.S. "consulate" that was a cover for a large CIA station killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Today a car bomb exploded in front of the French embassy in Tripoli and wounded two of the embassy security detail as well as a Libyan civilian.

The three nations that intevened all had their diplomats attacked by very same jihadist insurgents they "helped" to take over the country.

One would hope that politicians would learn a bit or two from such blowbacks. Unfortunately that is not the case. The same three key countries are now supporting the jihadist insurgency against the Syrian government. The only thing that will prevent similar blowbacks is a victory of the Syrian government over the insurgency, something that still looks likely.

Posted by b on April 23, 2013 at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

Israeli General Watches Youtube Video - Finds WMD

This is currently "news":
A senior Israeli military intelligence official said on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons last month in his battle against insurgent groups.
In his assessment, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the head of research and analysis in Israeli military intelligence, told a security conference in Tel Aviv that Assad has used chemical weapons multiple times. Among the incidents were attacks documented by the French and British near Damascus last month.

"To the best of our professional understanding, the regime used lethal chemical weapons against the militants in a series of incidents over the past months, including the relatively famous incident of March 19," he said.

But what, if any, is the evidence the Israelis have?
"Shrunken pupils, foaming at the mouth and other signs indicate, in our view, that lethal chemical weapons were used."
These are only visual signs. Instead of doing a chemical analysis that would be required to find chemical weapons the Israelis seem to have simply been looking at videos provided by the insurgents in Syria.

"Shrunken pupils, foaming at the mouth and other signs" in videos, if genuine at all, could have come from a variety of causes. These symptoms could be a sign for heroin and other drug use. Medical issues like seizure could also explain these symptoms. Sarin exposure though leads to lots of additional symptoms and would likely also effect those giving first aid to, or is making a video of, anyone who was seriously exposed to that stuff.

In the "famous incident of March 19" there were no chemical weapons but chlorine that, according to a Reuters reporter, was used against a government held barrier. Several Syrian army soldiers died. The attack came after insurgents had captured a factory east of Aleppo that produced chlorine for disinfecting drinking water.

So lets call the Israeli claim what it is: Factless propaganda.

Posted by b on April 23, 2013 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

April 22, 2013

The Rise And Fall Of The "Friends Of Syria" Group

After big participations in earlier "Friends of Syria" meetings the number of countries involved in these has shrunk to less than a dozen.

The "Friends of Syria Group":

The Group of Friends of the Syrian People (sometimes: Friends of Syria Group or Friends of the Syrian People Group or Friends of Democratic Syria or simply Friends of Syria) is an international diplomatic collective of countries and bodies convening periodically on the topic of Syria outside the U.N. Security Council. The collective was created in response to a Russian and Chinese veto on a Security Council resolution condemning Syria; American president Barack Obama has stated that it was organized by the United States.

The group met for the first time on February 24 2012 in Tunisia:

Representatives of more than 70 nations have gathered for a “Friends of Syria” conference in the Tunisian capital aimed at finding ways to end bloodshed in Syria's increasingly violent uprising.
The group met for the second time on April 1 2012 in Istanbul:
Representatives of the 70-plus nations comprising the group decided to recognize the Syrian National Council, the largest opposition body, as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people and the opposition as a whole.
The group met for the third time on July 6 2012 in Paris:
Over 100 countries have sent delegations to the third meeting of "Friends of Syria" held in Paris, where foreign ministers and senior diplomats were expected to further back Syrian opposition by equipping them with communication tools to improve their organisation.
The group met for the fourth time on December 12 2012 in Marrakech:
The 114 states attending the conference as well as 15 NGOs, meanwhile, expressed their serious concern regarding the dire situation of the internally displaced people and those who seek refugee outside Syria due to the domestic violence.
The group met for the fifth time on February 28 2013 in Rome:
The new US Secretary of State John Kerry met for about an hour with opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib before the 11-nation Friends of Syria meeting kicked off at the 16th-century Villa Madama on a hilltop above Rome.
The group met for the sixth time on April 20 2013 in Istanbul:
In a joint statement by the 11 countries attending the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, extreme concern was expressed over the Syria conflict and condemnation for the brutal campaign of the Syrian regime.

From 114 down to 11 participants seems to express diminished support for the ever complaining Syrian opposition:

These 11 countries besides Turkey are the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Italy, Germany and France.

A Syrian opposition figure, who asked to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor that the main challenge in the meeting was “for a millionth time to persuade the Westerners to agree to provide arms to the opposition, but they still have reservations because of the radical elements.” One senior opposition figure also told Reuters: “The world must know if they don’t agree on our right to receive weapons this will be the last meeting the opposition attend. We will not attend any meetings after this.

Yesterday's inconclusive meeting may well have been the last occurrence of the "Friends of Syria". Meanwhile the head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) Moaz al-Khatib resigned again.

Around Damascus the Syrian army seems to make more progress in wrestling down the Jihadist insurgency. The Free Syrian Army spoke of "tactical withdrawal" and, as usual in its forced retreats, alleged that the Syrian Army committed a "massacre". Translation: "The Syrian army beat the shit out of us."

Posted by b on April 22, 2013 at 03:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (39)

April 21, 2013

U.S. Targeted By Russian, Chechen Insurgency Propaganda

The Russian government induces some smart propaganda by buying advertisement space in U.S. media. This to make the connection between the Boston marathon bomber, Chechen insurgents and U.S. sponsored terrorism in Syria.

The right advertisement column of the Washington Post homepage is currently filled with links to Russia Beyond The Headlines, a multi-language site run by a Russian government paper.


The current top story at the RBTH site is Suspected Boston bombers linked to Russia’s Caucasus but the top story featured in the RBTH advertisement at is Chechen ‘Jihadist International’ emerges in Syria.

It is a prominent reminder for U.S. citizens that their government is promoting the same terrorism is Syria that hit them in Boston. Well done Mr. Putin.

Meanwhile the insurgency in Chechnya, the Command of the Mujahideen Vilayat Dagestan IR, just released their own statement (in Russian) about the Boston incidents. Points gleaned from the auto-translated text:

  • Any relation of the Boston event with our fight is just speculative
  • We don't fight the United States. We are at war with Russia for its occupation of the Caucasus and for its "heinous crimes against Muslims"
  • We do not strike civilian targets
  • The media should stop their speculations and the repetition of Russian propaganda.

The last paragraph is the most interesting as it introduces a conspiracy theory that could gain some grounds with neoconned, rightwing Russia bashers like the Washington Post editors:

If the U.S. government is really interested in establishing the true organizers of explosions in Boston, and are not complicit in Russian play, then they should focus on involvement in the events occurring Russian security services.
The theory of Russian security services involvement in the Boston event does not make much sense. Why did those services alarm the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev back in 2011 if he was, knowingly or unknowingly, one of their agents?

Aside from that plausibility the Chechen insurgents, like their neocon friends, do not have a good record on truth. Their assertions not to strike at civilians runs counter to the record. The Russian propaganda is more believable.

Posted by b on April 21, 2013 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (275)

April 20, 2013

So The FBI Investigated "The Marathon Bomber" ...

One might guess that the Russians told the FBI to come clean on this issue "or else ..."

FBI Press release: 2011 Request for Information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev from Foreign Government

Once the FBI learned the identities of the two brothers today, the FBI reviewed its records and determined that in early 2011, a foreign government asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.

In response to this 2011 request, the FBI checked U.S. government databases and other information to look for such things as derogatory telephone communications, possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity, associations with other persons of interest, travel history and plans, and education history. The FBI also interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2011. The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government.

Some points and questions:
  • The Russians knew for years that the elder brother was radicalizing.
  • They told the FBI.
  • The FBI investigated him. It talked with the family and the person. (This confirms what the mother and the father said.)
  • Did the FBI try to "turn" or entrap him like it did with so many other nuts?
  • If not why not?
  • If they did turn him did he do their bidding or was he running as a double agent (compare David Headely)?
  • The man was in Russia January to July 2012.
  • Why wasn't he (or was he?) under observation at that time?
  • Did the brothers really do the marathon bombing or were they, like their parents assume, set up as culprids?

The early FBI involvement with the brothers leads to many interesting questions. We can think of a dozen possible conspiracies here. It is unlikely though that we will ever find out which of them is the real one.

Posted by b on April 20, 2013 at 03:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (136)

April 19, 2013

Following The Boston Hunt

Updates below (last 2:00pm)

It is pretty amazing that I can follow the bomber hunt in Boston from Germany minute by minute through live TV, live Boston police scanner and via several twitter streams. There is even a Google map to follow the various incidents.

According to AP the two suspects of the marathon bombing are Chechen brothers from Russia's Daghestan. The area like Chechnya has been a hotbed that has exported Jihadists to allegedly Afghanistan, Syria and now probably the U.S. too. There is no need for Obama to bomb that country though. These brothers have been living in the U.S. for several years plus Putin already did that.

It seems they robbed a 7/11 at around 10:30pm local time somewhere near Cambridge.

Next an MIT police officer gets killed in his car with several shots.

The two suspects then highjack a Mercedes SUV and its driver. After 30 minutes the car driver is led out at a gas station.

Police pursue the Mercedes SUV to Watertown. The car rams a police car and a violent shoot out develops through which the suspects throw some grenades at the police. One of the suspects gets shot multiple times and also receives shrapnel from the explosives. One policemen is also shot. The wounded suspects dies on the way to the hospital. The officer is seriously wounded. There is some video and a photo of the intense shoot out.

The second suspect flees in the car.

Police puts Watertown under lockdown and started searching houses in the area. Public transport in Boston is shut down.

At 6:30am some black sedan is stopped by police at Charles Circle in Boston. Lots of police is send there though it is unclear what happened.

The fleeing suspect is now identified as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev (this Djohar Tsarnaev?), aged 19, who has been living with his brother and sister in Cambridge, Mass. for several years. His dead brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev had a youtube channel. The last channel he subscribed to is titled "Allah is the One". He also links to several AQ or Jihadist videos. That does not mean that we know why these folks did what they did.

Update 8:00am

All of Boston is now ordered under lockdown. People are supposed to stay home. All public traffic, including taxis, has been shut down.

Tamerlan Tasarnaev, photographed as Will Box For Passport, has been in the U.S. for at least 5 years. On one of the photos caption he is quoted: "I don't have a single American friend, I don't understand them." He wanted to learn how to fake IDs.

In 2011 Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev received a Cambridge city scholarship.

Police radio traffic just warning extreme caution when approaching subject. Possible "suicide vest".

Update 8:55am

SWAT teams are currently surrounding a few houses in Watertown.

Update 2:00 pm

Search in Watertown ongoing but the guy probably got away.

The WSJ has a pretty good fact collection about the brothers.

There is still no proof that these guys were the marathon bombers. It seems likely but not more.

There is still no known motive, just speculations about motives.

Everyone who knew the brothers thinks it is impossible for them to do such a thing.

What is the religion of the owner of the neglected fertilizer factory that blew up in Texas?

Posted by b on April 19, 2013 at 07:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

April 17, 2013

Syria: U.S. Deploys Headquarter Elements

According to CNN the U.S. is sending headquarter elements of the 1st Armored Division to Jordan. These could become the first elements of a full taskforce.

For now those are only 200 soldiers. But unlike the Special Forces the U.S. already deployed to Jordon to train Syrian insurgents these are not for immediate operations. A headquarter element of a division is for planing the eventual deployment of bigger parts of that division. The 1st Armored has four fighting plus one aviation brigade. Altogether more than 15,000 soldiers.

For now I believe this to be a precautionary measure as well as a part of psychological warfare. I do not expect further troops to deploy. The situation on the ground is extremely complex and should the U.S. venture into Syria it surely would be in for another Iraq like quagmire.

Obama is unlikely to want to have such a quagmire as his legacy.

Posted by b on April 17, 2013 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (68)

April 16, 2013

Venezuela: This Looks Like Another Coup Attempt

In 2002 the Bush administration orchestered a coup against the Venezuelan president Chavez. After the coup failed the U.S. embassy in Caracas continued to plot against the Venezuelan government. A cable sent by the U.S. ambassador was published by Wikileaks:
Dispatched in November of 2006 by Brownfield -- now an Assistant Secretary of State -- the document outlined his embassy’s five core objectives in Venezuela since 2004, which included: “penetrating Chavez’ political base,” “dividing Chavismo,” “protecting vital US business” and “isolating Chavez internationally.”
Chavez did win the 2012 election but died soon afterwards. Last weekend his successor Nicolas Maduro was elected as new president though with much less an advantage than polls had predicted. There are some genuine reasons for the relative tight result, won by some 250,000 votes, but there is no sound reason to suspect fraud.

But fraud is what the losing U.S. supported candidate for president Henrique Capriles Radonski alleges and he send his followers into the the street to demand a recount. This, predictably, led to riots with now at least seven people killed.

Doubting election results without evidence of fraud, demanding recounts, riots in the street are all signs of a typical "color revolution" like attempt to overthrow a legal government. As the U.S. has in the past actively supported a coup against Chavez and, even after that failed, worked hard to create an anti-Chavismo "civil society" with the aim to overthrow Chavez, we can assume that similar schemes are behind the current disturbances.

The U.S. is, predictably, intervening, and supports the oppositions demand:

"Given the tightness of the result - around 1 percent of the votes cast separate the candidates - the opposition candidate and at least one member of the electoral council have called for a 100 percent audit of the results," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing.
According to the lasted results with 99% of the votes counted the candidates are separated by 1.77%, not 1% as the White House claims. By demanding a "100% audit" of the results the U.S. just makes sure that this demand will never be fulfilled and creates a new propaganda claim of "fraudulent elections" for which there is zero evidence.

Nicolas Maduro has won and he and his followers will now have to work hard to not fall in this coup attempt. As the legal winner he can and should use the force of the government to defend the result. At the same time he will have to recognize that the aims of Chavez's revolution have not yet been achieved and that there is still much work to do to get the economy back on a sound footing and to win back those voters that Chavez could count on but Maduro failed to win.

Posted by b on April 16, 2013 at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

Earthquake in Iran

A massive earthquake with an 8.0 7.8 magnitude hit Iran near the border to Pakistan. The tremor was felt from Dubai to Delhi. Reports show the quake at 15.2 kilometers (9.2 miles) depth 86km (53mi) east south east of Khash (population  57,000), Iran. The U.S. geographic service has changed the deapth estimate to 82.0km (51.0mi) which is likely less damaging.

In 1978 a similar strong quake in the general area killed about 15,000 people. The current impact estimate predicts "severe exposure" with "moderate/heavy damage" for over 340,000 people. The impact estimate was lowered, probably because of the new depth estimate. The immediate area is sparsely populated with mostly nomads living in tents. Iranian officials expect "hundreds of dead". Phonelines between Tehran, where the quake was not felt, and Zahedan, a 550,000  people city about 150 km from the quake center, are down.

AlJazeerah reports 1,000 buildings in Pakistan (often mudstructures) were destroyed by the quake.

According to Russia Today no damage was done to the Busher nuclear reactor which is operated by a Russian and Iranian crew.

The damage and loss of live now seem to be much less than was feared in the first hour after the quake occured.

Last Update (11:00am): Iranian authorities now says "Zero death, only a few wounded". That is amazing for a quake of this size. It will be interesting to read how geologists will explain this event.


Posted by b on April 16, 2013 at 07:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Bloody Monday

Not really in the news:

At least 75 Iraqis were killed and 356 more were wounded in a series of attacks across the country. Only the far south and Iraqi Kurdistan were spared. Many of the attacks were apparently coordinated and occurred at about the same time this morning. They also came a few days ahead of local elections in most provinces. Nineva and Anbar province, both heavily Sunni, had their elections postponed by the Shi’ite-led government.

In Baghdad, the bombings left 30 dead and 92 wounded. Among them, a blast in the Kamaliya neighborhood left four dead and 13 injured; security forces then fired into the air to disperse crowds. Near the airport a pair of bombs killed three people and wounded 16 more. Four people were killed and 15 more were wounded in a bombing at a market and bus station in Umm al-Maalif. In Karrada, another bomb left two dead and 15 injured. A car bomb in Shurta killed two people and wounded nine more. A roadside bomb wounded five policemen in Baladiyat. Two people were killed and nine more were wounded in a blast in Habibiya.

In Kirkuk, at least nine people were killed and 79 more were wounded in a string of six car bombings. The downtown bombs exploded in three different ethnic neighborhoods, suggesting that no particular group was targeted. Those explosions took place in Arab, Kurdish, and Turkmen neighborhoods. The other three blasts hit neighborhoods outside of the city. One bombing targeted the home of a Shi’ite politician. Also, gunmen wounded a doctor last night.

Explosions in Tuz Khormato left six dead and 67 wounded.

In Mosul, gunmen killed a civilian. Two people were wounded in roadside bombings. Gunmen killed a married couple. Security forces killed a bomber. Another blast left no casualties. A soldier was killed in a clash. Three policemen were wounded in a bomb blast.

In Falluja, a suicide car bomber killed two policemen and wounded six more at a checkpoint. A civilian was shot dead. A sticky bomb killed two civilians. Another bomb south of the city left no casualties.

A car bomb in Mussayab killed four people and wounded 13 more.

Four people were killed and three more were wounded in a Tikrit bombing at political office. Another bombing left 13 policemen wounded.

In Nasariya, a car bomb killed two people and wounded 14 more.

A policeman was killed in Buhriz when a sticky bomb exploded.

Near Ramadi, a bomb targeting a Sunni cleric and leader of anti-government protests killed two bodyguards and wounded at least one more. His cousin was killed in a sticky bomb blast in Falluja.

A policeman was shot dead in Tarmiya.

A bomb in Khalis killed one child and wounded eight more.

Nineteen people were wounded in bombings in Babil province.

In Dowr, 13 people were wounded in a blast there.

Bombs wounded seven people at a political candidate’s home in Salah ad Din province.

In Muqdadiya, a car bomb wounded seven people.

In Tal Abta, a blast killed a policeman and wounded two more.

In Baquba, two policemen were wounded during a bombing. Three people were wounded in a blast.

Gunmen in Sabeen killed a captain and wounded two soldiers.

A young man was gunned down in Shirqat.

On a rural road in Bani Saad, a bomb wounded a civilian.

Two explosions in Boston killed three and wounded at least 144.
May all the dead rest in peace and best wishes to all the wounded.

Posted by b on April 16, 2013 at 01:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

April 15, 2013

Syria: Two Moral Boosts For the Government Forces

The current offense of the Syrian army produced another success:
Syrian government troops have broken through a six-month opposition blockade in northern Syria and are now fighting to recapture a vital highway, opposition and state media said on Monday.
[Rami Abdelrahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,] counted more than 50 fighters dead or missing from the battle on Sunday. The army advance was not yet a decisive victory but could reopen battlefields in the north where opposition fighters had the advantage, he said.

"We will see now what happens but if the opposition can push back the regime, they can avoid a major setback. If the regime is able to hold this opening it could take back the whole road and that will have major strategic consequences," he said.

This comes on top of other successes in the southern suburbs of Damascus and near the Jordan border.

The foreign supported insurgents have stretched their forces. They have tried to occupy too many areas and places. They also had heavy losses. That leaves them vulnerable to concentrated actions by Syrian government troops.

Meanwhile the U.S. tries to put the Jihadis genie back into the bottle. It will find that only the Syrian government is able to do that:
Turkey, which has been focused on seeing Assad's downfall, allegedly is of the opinion that al-Nusra is an effective fighter against Assad and that Ankara can control this radical Islamic group.

“Any means necessary for Assad to go, even if it means through al-Nusra, appears to be valid for Turkey. But this is a very short-sighted view,” the Western intelligence sources believe.

In his third visit to Turkey in two months due to take place on April 20, US Secretary of State Kerry will try to convince both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that allowing al-Nusra to gain a lead position in Syria is unwise.

It will need real heavy pressure from Kerry to achieve a change in the Turkish support for the Jihadis. Erdogan, and especially Davutoglu, have bet too much on an Assad fall. I doubt that the U.S. is yet willing to press enough to achieve a change in the Turkish position. But that time will come. It is harder and harder to explain to the public why the "west" is supporting the Jihadists in Syria when it is fighting them in other countries.

Jabhat al-Nusra's recent open pledge of allegiance to Al Qaida was a win for the Syrian government. It will hinder some material support for the opposition. It is also a moral boost for its own troops. They know they are justified in their fight. Together with building military success such a moral boost can be decisive.

Posted by b on April 15, 2013 at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

April 14, 2013

We Ream Them As Best We Can

While the context of this statement is about "human rights" in Africa, it rings true as a general description of general U.S. foreign policy:
“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”
Not remarkable in itself, but remarkable that someone admits it.

Posted by b on April 14, 2013 at 12:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Open Thread 2013-07

Found nothing to write about. Maybe you did.

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 14, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (67)

April 13, 2013

Putin Hits Back And He Doesn't Miss

In an international spat between Washington and Moscow this Russian response to U.S. measures will be widely applauded:
Russia on Saturday named 18 Americans banned from entering the country in response to Washington imposing sanctions on 18 Russians for alleged human rights violations.

The list released by the Foreign Ministry includes John Yoo, a former U.S. Justice Department official who wrote legal memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques; David Addington, the chief of staff for former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney; and two former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay detention center: retired Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson.

The move came a day after the United States announced its sanctions under the Magnitsky Law, named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. He died in prison the next year, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment.

I can think of a lot more names Russia and others should put on such lists. How about McChrystal and Petraeus for running the torture campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan? How about any Senator who voted for the Iraq war? How about those editors and journalists that cheered for those wars?

The current Russian measure is exactly the right one. Dear U.S., do your really think you have any credibility when it comes to human rights? Here is the mirror. Just take a look.

The international public will give Putin three full points for this response.

Posted by b on April 13, 2013 at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (43)

April 12, 2013

Thatcher, Dead, Kills British Humor

In case you do not know the Ding Dong song here is a video and these are the lyrics:

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below. Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead!

Each Sunday BBC Radio 1 has a chart show with the top 40 singles of the week. The number 1 song of the week is, of course, played in full length.

Not this week though. For the first time since 1967 the top song will not be played:

[W]e will play a brief excerpt of it in a short news report during the show which explains to our audience why a 70-year-old song is at the top of the charts. Most of them are too young to remember Lady Thatcher and many will be baffled by the sound of the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.
I would have expected more from the BBC. Where is all that British humor gone to? It seems the witch killed that to.

Posted by b on April 12, 2013 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

April 10, 2013

Syria: Recent Developments

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the head of Al Qaida in Iraq, announced yesterday that his organization and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria are one and the same. He also confirmed that his organization was involved in the uprising from the very beginning just like the Syrian government has claimed:
According to the Al Qaeda leader, there were already jihadist cells in Syria before the conflict erupted. These cells were “awaiting the chance” to expand their operations and when the civil war started Abu Muhammad Al-Julani was dispatched along with other Iraqi jihadists to establish al-Nusra and to set strategy. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been splitting its funds with al-Nusra, he says.
Al-Baghdadi's announcement was a surprise for the head of Jabhat al-Nusra:
The head of Syria's jihadist Al-Nusra Front on Wednesday pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri in an audio message, but distanced his group from claims it had merged with Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"The sons of Al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri," Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said in the recording.

But, he added, "we were not consulted" on an announcement on Tuesday of a merger of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Al-Nusra Front.

That little spat is about the marketing name of the organization will not make any difference in the U.S. plan to intensify the conflict:
To try to counter the rising influence of Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamic extremists in the civil war, the U.S. and its allies have boosted their support for rebel factions deemed to be more moderate.
As McClatchy provided that this idea is not working. Weapons that are supposed to go only to U.S. vetted "secular" groups have been seen in the hands of Jihadi groups that fight along with them.

These new weapons are not decisive. They only intensify the fight and will lead to more destruction. Instead of an announced attack by the foreign supported insurgents on Damascus the recent weeks have seen a counteroffensive by the Syrian government that cleared much of the Damascus countryside:

The major development, however, took place in the eastern Ghouta, where the Syrian army came to the aid of a battalion that had been under siege for weeks. The offensive was launched in the vicinity of the Damascus International Airport, and has effectively severed the opposition’s supply routes. Scores were killed or injured in the fighting, according to Syrian officials.

For their part, Syrian opposition sources confirmed that the eastern Ghouta is practically under siege, and spoke about preparations underway to fend off army attacks

Official sources asserted that the above developments are proof that the regular army has fully regained the initiative. Other informed sources claimed that the army has greatly improved its intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance operations, and infiltrated the armed rebel groups.

In east Syria first clashes between "secular" fighters and the Jihadists have occurred. Some of the original civil protesters have noticed that an end of the Syrian government would not bring an end to the fighting but rather intensify it:
Manna noted that army defections were decreasing, amid growing fears on the part of minorities due to the militancy and the “Islamization” of the opposition, a reference to the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Manna said in response to a question: “I am convinced that the departure of President Bashar al-Assad would not spell the end of violence in Syria,” pointing out that “his violent overthrow will only lead to further violence.”

Syrian insurgents also recognize that they will have to fight the foreign Jihadis who are currently helping them.

The may also have to fight militia that Israel is supports in the northern Golan heights:

Israeli military personnel are operating in non-combat capacity in an area across Israel's border with Syria, GlobalPost has learned.
This indicates a much higher level of activity by Israel in rebel-held lands than has previously been acknowledged. It also is a sign that Israel is willing to put some of its own personnel in significant peril in order to retain some semblance of order at the national boundary line.
Should the Syrian government fall Israel will try to use those militia, likely Druze, to create a "buffer zone" which in effect means that it will steal more Arab land.

A UN panel found that weapons from Libya have spread to more than a dozen countries including Syria. Imagine what would happen when Syria would break down and its heavy weapon depots were open for sale.

Posted by b on April 10, 2013 at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (79)

April 09, 2013

Misreading Xi On North Korea

Updated below

There are dozens of recent reports which assert that China's new president has somehow rebuffed North Korea's stand up against the U.S. driven campaign against it. A close reading of Xi's speech shows that these reports are wrong. Xi was clearly talking about  U.S. aggressiveness, not about North Korea's. The misreading of Xi's speech is characteristic for a U.S. centered media. They never seem able to understand that U.S. action in the world is perceived much different than what the selfish U.S. propaganda they distribute says.

The culprits:

Reuters: China rebukes North Korea, says no state should sow chaos

China's leaders issued thinly veiled rebukes to North Korea for raising regional tensions, with the president saying no country should throw the world into chaos and the foreign minister warning that Beijing would not allow mischief on its doorstep.
No country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain", President Xi Jinping told a forum on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. He did not name North Korea but he appeared to refer to Pyongyang.
LA Times: China signals North Korea to stop throwing the 'world into chaos'
In a sign of China’s exasperation with its rogue ally, North Korea, newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday condemned nations that throw the “world into chaos.”

Without mentioning North Korea by name, Xi told delegates at an international forum in Boao, southern Hainan province: “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains.’’

WaPo: Chinese President Xi Jinping expresses concern over North Korea’s rhetoric
Responding to regional worries over North Korea’s bellicose threats, China on Sunday expressed concern and what appeared to be veiled criticism of its longtime ally.

“No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said at an economic forum in Hainan province. Avoiding mentioning North Korea by name, Xi said, “While pursuing its own interests, a country should accommodate the legitimate interests of others.”

NY Times: China Hints at Limits to North Korea Actions
In an indirect but clear reference to the North Korean crisis, China’s president,Xi Jinping, said Sunday that world peace should not be put at risk because of a single country.

“No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain,” Mr. Xi said in a speech at an annual regional business forum in Boao, China. Mr. Xi did not single out any countries or disputes, but in separate remarks, China’s Foreign Ministry repeated its “grave concern” over the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

All the above sources assume that Xi actually meant North Korea when he said "No one should be allowed ..." But what is the evidence for that?

The CSM gets nearer to the truth: China's Xi signals limited shift away from North Korea

In a speech Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping insisted that “no one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains.”

That was a slap at both North Korea and the United States, whose current military maneuvers in South Korea first prompted Pyongyang’s vitriolic response, say Chinese scholars. “He was trying to kill two birds with one stone, but his primary target was North Korea,” explains Professor Cheng.

A closer reading of the official translation of the speech shows that the part that includes the "no one..." phrase is clearly about global superpowers and global governance, not about a minor impoverished mountainous range on China's southern border:
The international community should advocate the vision of comprehensive security, common security and cooperative security so as to turn our global village into a big stage for common development, rather than an arena where gladiators fight each other. And no one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains. With growing interaction among countries, it is inevitable that they encounter frictions here and there. What is important is that they should resolve differences through dialogue, consultation and peaceful negotiations in the larger interest of the sound growth of their relations.
This paragraph is certainly not about North Korea. North Korea is not a "gladiator" in the global arena. The paragraph is about global governance and global actors who operate outside the governance framework that Xi envisions. That could only mean that Xi was pointing at the United States and its campaigns against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria.

Confirming my take is an editorial in today's People's Daily, one of China's official newspapers. The rough automated translation:

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote talk at the Boao Forum, said: "The international community should promote comprehensive security, common security, the concept of cooperative security and seek common development on the big stage, so that our global village, rather than mutually wrestling arena, more can not be selfish to confuse a region and the world. "During this speech, the last sentence of the subject discusses the most interesting, the Chinese and foreign media have speculated, who harbor" selfish "? Who in trying to mess up a region and the world "?

In fact, such speculation does not make much sense. The thrust of the original words to promote a new concept of international security, against the narrow, isolated, absolute security concept.
Review the security situation in the world in the new century, a lot of "hot spots" and "chaos point". Which, when the devaluation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the two places have been chaotic than ten years,
Western countries is considerable excitement in the beginning, to fan the flames, direct military intervention against Libya. Since then, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other countries have emerged new social integration is characterized by "Islamic", which is something that Western countries did not expect. Syria's chaos has lasted for two years, the situation is still deadlocked.

So the People's Daily is clearly pointing out that it is not North Korea that saws chaos for "selfish gain", but the United States and its allies. It is those countries that Xi rebuked, not North Korea.

The Chinese, like me, will have asked who is actually provoking in the Korea stand-off. From their point of view it is clear that the U.S. created this crisis and is escalating it bit by bit. By now the White House has even acknowledged that these escalations are part of a planned campaign:
The U.S. is putting a pause to what several officials described as a step-by-step plan the Obama administration approved earlier this year, dubbed "the playbook," that laid out the sequence and publicity plans for U.S. shows of force during annual war games with South Korea. The playbook included well-publicized flights in recent weeks near North Korea by nuclear-capable B-52 and stealth B-2 bombers, as well as advanced F-22 warplanes.
The U.S. has planned the current crisis and even written a "playbook" for its escalation. Nuclear capable B-52 and B-2 are a clear threat to North Korea. It is no wonder that it responds to such threats by upping its own propaganda.

China is concerned about the Korea crisis. But if that concern influenced that paragraph in Xi's speech at all it did so in a rebuke to the United States not to North Korea. China Will Not Help To "Punish" North Korea.

That mainstream U.S. media have read the Xi speech differently just shows their sorry intellectual state and their inability to see the world, not through their own propaganda glasses, but through the eyes of the "other".

UPDATE: Xinhua now carries an official but shortened translation of the above mentioned Chinese piece: Xi's security outlook. The core that points to the U.S.:

This new concept of shared security is in stark contrast to the parochial approach, which tends to view security based on one's own interests and needs. Driven by such an undesirable approach, a country will always calculate its own gains first whenever there is a regional or global security crisis.

From the Syria crisis to maritime territorial disputes in the East and South China seas, in the final analysis many of the world's security woes today can, one way or another, be traced back to the pursuit of selfish gains in disregard of regional and global security needs.

Posted by b on April 9, 2013 at 01:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (56)

The Washington Post's Warped Reality

On August 31 2012 a new IAEA report on Iran provided that Iran had converted parts of its 20% enriched Uranium into fuel plates it needs for the Tehran Research Reactor.

On September 28 2012 Israels prime minister Netanyahoo came to the United Nations with a cartoon bomb that depicted a spurious "red line" that, he said, Iran should not be allowed to cross.

Today a Washington Post editorial warps that timeline:

[T]he Israeli leader’s explicit setting of a “red line” for the Iranian nuclear program in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September appears to have accomplished what neither negotiations nor sanctions have yielded: concrete Iranian action to limit its enrichment.

A host of commentators both in the United States and Israel scoffed at what they called Mr. Netanyahu’s “cartoonish” picture of a bomb and the line he drew across it. The prime minister said Iran could not be allowed to accumulate enough 20 percent enriched uranium to produce a bomb with further processing, adding that at the rate its centrifuges were spinning, Tehran would cross that line by the middle of 2013.

Iran, too, dismissed what its U.N. ambassador called “an unfounded and imaginary graph.” But then a funny thing happened: The regime began diverting some of its stockpile to the manufacture of fuel plates for a research reactor.

Funny indeed. We had pointed to an early Wall Street Journal piece that had made the same false claim.

This warping of the factual reality leads to false arguments, conclusions and, in the end, war. In this case it is also used to imply a Netanyahoo "success" where none has been made. It is just another sorry example of why the Washington Post is about to die.

Posted by b on April 9, 2013 at 07:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

April 08, 2013


One of Thatcher's legacies in a tweet:
Reuters Top News @Reuters

British PM Cameron cutting short visit to Europe to return to Britain after death of Thatcher: spokesman

What a bitch. Great that Nelson Mandela outlived her.

Posted by b on April 8, 2013 at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

April 07, 2013

False Choice Propaganda As Drone War Justification

The NYT publishes an excerpt of a new book about the U.S. drone war in Pakistan. The drone war started with the killing of one of Pakistan's restive Pashtun gang leaders, not of an Al Qaeda fighter. The killing was the "payment" for being allowed by Pakistan to use further drone strikes to go after alleged Al Qaeda fighters.

But the story includes a very sorry excuse for launching these drone strikes. It presents the drone war as an alternative to the CIA's torture prisons and is thereby justifying it in a false choice:

As the negotiations were taking place, the C.I.A.’s inspector general, John L. Helgerson, had just finished a searing report about the abuse of detainees in the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. The report kicked out the foundation upon which the C.I.A. detention and interrogation program had rested. It was perhaps the single most important reason for the C.I.A.’s shift from capturing to killing terrorism suspects.
The ground had shifted, and counterterrorism officials began to rethink the strategy for the secret war. Armed drones, and targeted killings in general, offered a new direction. Killing by remote control was the antithesis of the dirty, intimate work of interrogation.
By presenting the drone war as an alternative to torture prisons it is explained as a lesser evil even though there were many other alternatives the CIA could have chosen.

For one there was no need to torture. Why not just put the wanted people into a regular prison? Why not put them in front of a court? Why not, instead or killing them and their families and thereby creating more "terrorists", remove the grievances that make them fight in the first place?

By presenting the problem as false choice the author is making a sorry propaganda excuse for an evil program.

Posted by b on April 7, 2013 at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

April 05, 2013

Obama Destroys The New Deal

Most of those who voted for Obama will be quite disappointed with his attempts to pass the Republicans at their right. But they have no reason to be disappointed. This is exactly what he had announced in several of his speeches before the election: cuts to Social Security, cuts to medicare/aid and higher regressive taxes. Here they come:
Besides the tax increases that most Republicans continue to oppose, Mr. Obama’s budget will propose a new inflation formula that would have the effect of reducing cost-of-living payments for Social Security benefits, though with financial protections for low-income and very old beneficiaries, administration officials said. The idea, known as chained C.P.I., has infuriated some Democrats and advocacy groups to Mr. Obama’s left, and they have already mobilized in opposition.

As Mr. Obama has before, his budget documents will emphasize that he would support the cost-of-living change, as well as other reductions that Republicans have called for in the popular programs for older Americans, only if Republicans agree to additional taxes on the wealthy and infrastructure investments that the president called for in last year’s offer to Mr. Boehner.

Mr. Obama will propose other spending and tax credit initiatives, including aid for states to make free prekindergarten education available nationwide — a priority outlined in his State of the Union address in February. He will propose to pay for it by raising federal taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

A chained consumer price index is based on idea that price changes should not be measured as inflation when they result in behavior changes that compensate for the price change. You like to eat beef. Beef and other meat go goes up 10%. As you do not have more money you change to pork which now costs as much as beef once did. Measure in the regular CPI inflation is 10%. Measured in a chained CPI inflation is zero percent. Next year meat prices go up another 10%. As your c-CPI adjusted income does not increase you will again have to change your consumption behavior. You replace pork with cheaper chicken. The regular CPI again shows 10%, the chained CPI would still be zero. Next year prices go up again and you will have to change to cat food.

Adjusting Social Security cost-of-living payments with a chained CPI will lead to constant downward pressure on the recipients standard of living. They will have to do with less and less. Not even a republican would have dared to offer such a proposal.

Starting new wars, "signature" drone strikes on people because the "behave like terrorists", extreme secrecy, Guantanamo still open, no prosecution for any Wall Street crime and now the destruction of the New Deal as an "offer" to the republicans.

The good news: When Obama is finished with his turn it will be hard to come up with a worse U.S. president.


Posted by b on April 5, 2013 at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

April 04, 2013

Open Thread 2013-06

News, views and whatever ...

Posted by b on April 4, 2013 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (67)

April 03, 2013

Syria: U.S. Creates New Gang - Ignatius Doubles Insurgent Numbers

Purposely leaked form the Obama administration to the Washington Post:
The United States and Jordan have stepped up training of Syrian opposition forces that may be used to establish a buffer zone along Syria’s southern border, according to U.S. and Jordanian officials.
Jordanian security officials said a previous timetable to complete training of about 3,000 Free Syrian Army officers by the end of June has been moved up to the end of this month in light of the border victories.
“Buffer zones on the Syrian side of the border is the only way to keep the conflict away from Jordan,” said Mahmoud Irdaisat, head of the Amman-based Center for Strategic Studies at the King Abdullah II Defense Studies Academy
Rebel officials who say they have taken part in the U.S.-Jordanian training at a Jordanian military base say they are being prepared to maintain the zones using surface-to-air missiles and heavy artillery without military invention from outside forces.
Several senior Israeli military officials have voiced support for buffer zones.
The leak to the Post is message to AIPAC and other hawks who are increasingly impatient with the progress in Syria. The U.S. is training its own gang for creating safe zones in Syria on behalf of Israel and Jordan who do not want the conflict to further cross their borders.

The U.S. hopes to have vetted those gang members enough to trust them with manpads. Good luck with that. How these troops are to handle heavy artillery without a very capable logistic chain is not yet clear. Heavy artillery is notorious for using very large amount of resources for often dubious military gain.

There are of course many other gangs in Syria and the Post's David Ignatius is trying to sort them:

The biggest umbrella group is called the Jabhat al-Tahrir al-Souriya al-Islamiya. It has about 37,000 fighters ...
The second-largest rebel coalition is more extreme and is dominated by hard-core Salafist Muslims. Its official name — Jabhat al-Islamiya al-Tahrir al-Souriya — is almost identical to that of the Saudi-backed group [...] Rebel sources estimate about 13,000 Salafist fighters are gathered under this second umbrella.
A third rebel group, known as Ahfad al-Rasoul, is funded by Qatar. It has perhaps 15,000 fighters.
The most dangerous group in the mix is the Jabhat al-Nusra, which is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq. By one rebel estimate, it has grown to include perhaps 6,000 fighters.

Idriss and his Free Syrian Army command about 50,000 more fighters, rebel sources say.

Realistically, the best hope for U.S. policy is to press the Saudi-backed coalition and its 37,000 fighters, to work under the command of Idriss and the Free Syrian Army.

If one adds those Ignatius numbers up there are 65,000 in three big Islamist groups, 50,000 under Idriss and 6,000 Jabhat al-Nusra Jihadists. In total an army of some 120,000 men.

That sounds impressive but, as Aron Lund points out, is completely wrong.

Idriss does not have any troops at all. The first and second group Ignatius mentions are nominally under his command, take the money and weapons he offers but otherwise do not care what he says. The third group Ignatius mentions does not really exits. If one adds the still dubious numbers  after correcting for Ignatius (willful?) errors the total is 50,000 plus the 6,000 al-Nusra Jihadists, less than half the force size Ignatius claims.

My best guestimate for the real numbers is less than half of Ignatius' corrected numbers. These are roving gangs that sometimes work together for a while to create a temporary Schwerpunkt and to attack and take this or that small military base. Another type of their action is to take some town or city block and fight from there until they get kicked out again. Rinse, repeat. There isn't that much manpower needed do those two type of action and we have seen little else. All the insurgencies "brigades" are actual the size of small companies, some 100 to 120 men. Their "battalions" are little more than platoons. Then one has to account for the insurgency's combat losses which are significant.

Without U.S. air support the new gang trained in Jordan will have problems to hold any larger area. The safe zones will be anything but safe. U.S air support will not be coming. The BRICS countries have taken a clear position and the U.S. is not willing to, again, piss off more than half of the world for little gain.

The numbers in play and movements under way still very much favor a positive outcome for the Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad.

Posted by b on April 3, 2013 at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

April 02, 2013

Iran And The Danger of One's "Own Reality"

There is a concept of "strategic messaging" used to let the public know how it is supposed to think about this or that policy or country. There are problems with such messaging. It often exaggerates or even invents "facts" and thereby turns into propaganda lies. It also creates an echo chamber where the strategic messengers over time comes to believe their own bullshitting.

When a senior aid to president Bush said:

”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
He was right in a specific way. The Bush administration, through its propaganda, created its "own reality" especially with regard to Iraq. But that reality was not the reality of other actors. Especially not the reality of Iraqi resistances. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" banner was his reality while the reality of the besieged U.S. occupation of Iraq looked much different. When more and more people became aware of that Bush political position sank to record lows. One can created one's own reality but it is to one's own peril.

Such "strategic messaging" disease has captured Washington with regards to Syria as well as to North Korea. Claims that Assad is about to fall or that Kim Jong Un is crazy does not turn such assertions into facts. But repeat them often enough and people, especially those doing the messaging, may come to believe them. These politicians then themselves react as if their propaganda assertions were true. The White House believed its own rhetoric that Assad would fall as soon as protests started and tried to plan for his immediate downfall. It took a quite for that view to change and even now there is only little of alternative planing. Empty but calculated threats from North Korea are seen as serious danger because "everyone knows" that North Korea is "crazy" and are therefor answered with risky military provocations.

A piece in today's Wall Street Journal seems to confirm that a similar disease is growing with regards to Iran.

Iran converts its 20% Uranium to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor. It does so because, as is well known, that reactor is indeed in dire need of fresh fuel and because many cancer patients' lives depend on the medical output of that reactor.

The "strategic messaging" U.S. administrations have done with regard to Iran are full of lies. False claims are made that Iran would want to rush to a nuclear weapon. False claims are made about the 2009 election. False claims are made that Iran is concerned over the threat of an Israeli attack.

Thus we now get this piece which attributes Iran's conversion of 20% enriched Uranium to all the false claims made about Iran but not to its indisputable real-live motivation:

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to keep Iran's nuclear program within limits demanded by Israel for now, according to senior U.S., European and Israeli officials, in a move they believe is designed to avert an international crisis during an Iranian election year.
Seeking to ward off international pressure, Iranian nuclear officials have kept the country's stockpile of uranium enriched to 20% purity below 250 kilograms (550 pounds). Iran would need such an amount—if processed further into weapons-grade fuel—to produce one atomic bomb, experts believe. It is also the amount Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations in September that the world should prevent Iran from amassing, through a military strike if necessary.

Iran did convert the Uranium because it needed it. It didn't convert it because of "international pressure". It did not convert it because Netanyahoo made a cartoon performance at the UN. It didn't convert it because Iran will soon have another election. There is no real data that would support any of the assertions made in the WSJ piece. There is real data that says Iran needs the fuel.

It is difficult to detect where the "strategic messaging" turns against its own creators. The point where people start to believe their own propaganda is not always clear. The WSJ journal piece has a tone to it that lets me fear those "senior U.S., European and Israeli officials" are near or already in a state where their self created "reality" makes the blind for the real one. If that is the case the danger for miscalculations and in the end war has increased.

Posted by b on April 2, 2013 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

April 01, 2013

An April 1 Assassination Story

April 1 story or real?

Accusations US contre les Russes de préparer l’ assassinat de l’émir du Qatar

As I do not find the story on the English version of the site some excerpts per auto-translate:

U.S. accusations against the Russians preparing the assassination of the Emir of Qatar:

According to Russian intelligence sources quoted by the website ArabiPress the Kremlin investigate the involvement of Russian parties private plot in Doha and Jeddah the triple murder of the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hamad bin Jassem, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
Such assassinations would be a creative way to change the current situation in the Middle East, especially on Syria. But I doubt that Putin would condone such a plot.

Do these rumors true have some truth in them or are they an April fool joke?

Posted by b on April 1, 2013 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)