Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 30, 2013

NSA Taps Google - But What About Economic Spying?

As I once told a company I consult: "I urge you not to use ANY of those cloud based service. You are giving control of your data into many unknown hands." Using cloud services is a stupid rage. How can the New York Times expect any privacy in its news gathering when it outsources its email systems to Google? It can't.

Barton Gellman reports for the Washington Post: NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.

I doubt that this scheme is restricted to inter-data-center-traffic of Google and Yahoo. It is likely that such traffic from other large cloud services - Apple, Microsoft, Amazon etc - is also sniffed off by some NSA system.

Immediately after Gellman's report came out today the NSA head Alexander was asked about it during a Congress hearing:

National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander was forced to respond to the latest bombshell report on the agency’s surveillance activities on Wednesday, first saying he hadn’t heard of the story and then denying the substance of the story.
“I don’t know what the report is,” Alexander said. When asked if the NSA tapped the data centers, he replied “Not to my knowledge, that’s never happened.”
The transcripts of the hearing are not out yet and it may well be that Alexander is literary right - the NSA may not tap into individual data centers - while factual incorrect. In a cloud based service multiple data centers are from a system point of view seen as one. That is also what the above NSA graphic shows. Tapping into traffic between them is no different than tapping into one of them. Alexander knows that and that makes his above statement a non-denial denial commonly also known as a lie.

It is all about 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 claim the NSA talking points (pdf) prepared for its officials and now FOIAed by AlJazeerah. The talking points are also full of lies about oversight over the NSA. Effectively there is none. None at all. The NSA is the deep state.

NSA spying is of course not about 9/11. It is in its ends about control of individuals and companies, societies and economies.

That last item is missing from all the recent reports though we can be sure that economic spying is one of the major NSA tasks. Back in 1995 an NYT piece explained:

Spying on allies for economic advantage is a crucial new assignment for the C.I.A. now that American foreign policy is focused on commercial interests abroad. President Clinton made economic intelligence a high priority of his Administration, specifically information to protect and defend American competitiveness, technology and financial security in a world where an economic crisis can spread across global markets in minutes.
At the Treasury Department, the trade representative's office and the Commerce Department, officials say they now receive a torrent of information from the C.I.A.

Economic spying is likely the major reason why the NSA keeps taps on militarily allied heads of states like chancellor Merkel. Knowing her likely decisions on economic issues allows the United States and NSA connected U.S. banks to take advantages before those decisions are made public. One wonders how many billions per day U.S. companies steal through these schemes.

One also wonders how much longer it will take for other countries, and people like my customer, to wake up to this fact and to enforce a much stricter security regime over all their information. What about the NSA's "access it all" attitude have they yet to understand?

Posted by b on October 30, 2013 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (106)

October 29, 2013

Who Lost The Western Pacific? Obama did.

Today the claim that the U.S. is the leader of the free world was again refuted. No one but a racist West-Asian colony of a few East-Europeans follows its lead:
The U.N. General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba for the 22nd year in a row.

The vote Tuesday was 188-2, with three abstentions. The United States and Israel voted against it.

The vote was lost despite Obama's alleged recent order to the NSA to curb some of its illegal spying on the United Nations. The outcome of the vote was worse than expected. Under Obama the United States has lost the western Pacific. This year Micronesia voted against the U.S. after abstaining last year. Palau abstained after voting with the U.S. last year.

Posted by b on October 29, 2013 at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Muslim Brotherhood Burns Dogs, Tortures Kittens, Eats Children

CBS New York reports:
Refugee Puppies From Egypt Looking For Homes In U.S.

Dogs Were Nearly Set On Fire By Muslim Brotherhood, Rescuer Says

DUMONT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — They were nearly casualties of the ongoing violence in Egypt. Now two puppies rescued from the streets of Cairo are in New Jersey and looking for homes.

As CBS 2′s Amy Dardashtian reported, about two weeks ago, members of the Muslim Brotherhood marching toward Tahrir Square to demand that ousted President Mohamed Morsi be reinstated were using puppies as gas bombs — dipping them in gasoline and lighting them on fire, said Robyn Urman, a pet rescuer in Tenafly.

Urman received a Facebook message from Mervat Said, an animal rescue volunteer in Egypt, who said two puppies, Cleopatra and Cairo, were saved moments before they were to be used as weapons.

Three young kittens were tortured and two little children were grilled and eaten by the mob before the rescuers could intervene.


(h/t Erin Cunningham)

Posted by b on October 29, 2013 at 03:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

October 28, 2013

Vali Nasr - Wrong Premise, Bad Advice

Vali R. Nasr is the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In an op-ed in the New York times he writes:
The coup last July in Egypt opened a new divide in the Middle East, alienating the Gulf monarchies from the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a momentous change in the region’s strategic landscape that promises to influence governments and regional alliances for years to come.

For six decades, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood were comrades in arms. Theirs was an Islamic alliance, formed in the 1950s to defend against the secular Arab nationalism that Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had unleashed. The alliance survived the end of that ideology, and since the 1980s it had defended the Sunni claim to Islamic leadership against the Shiite challenge from Iran.

How wrong is it necessary to be to stay in such a prestige job?

While the Saudis have at times financed some parts of the Brotherhood and used them internationally when convenient, like sending them out against the Soviets in Afghanistan, while suppressing them in Saudi Arabia. There never was a major alliance between them and they were certainly never "comrades in arms". It is, and has always been, a serious danger to the Saudi family regime. At least since the early 1990s the Saudi regime sees the Brotherhood as one of its major foes.  The "new divide" Nasr sees is  nothing new but is decades old. 

From a long 2004 piece on the Brotherhood:

The Brotherhood began to fall out of favor with the Saudis in 1990, when the Ikhwan backed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Kuwait. The Saudis slowly cut off funding.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Saudi leaders began describing the transnational Brotherhood as the germ of al Qaeda while playing down the role of its government-backed clergy. Recently, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef repeatedly denounced the Brotherhood, saying it is guilty of "betrayal of pledges and ingratitude" and is "the source of all problems in the Islamic world."

From his wrong premise Nasr argues that the U.S. should meddle more in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan and through economic help somehow miraculously create coalitions of secular democrats with "willing elements of the Muslim Brotherhood" in these countries. That he says would then somehow cure the current rift with the Saudis.

Does that sound confused? That is likely because it is confused. Nasr, despite being a so called Middle East expert, seems not to understand the basic history, believes and interests of the various powers in the Middle East. Vali Nasr is a member of the State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board. He is one of the reasons why U.S. Middle East policy is a chaos.

Posted by b on October 28, 2013 at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

October 26, 2013

Merkel Sells Out For 5 Eyes Access

President Obama allegedly claims (German report) that he did not know about the 10+ years long NSA wiretap on the German chancellor Merkel's cellphones. I do not believe that. He will have been briefed about Merkel, her thoughts and positions each and every time he was calling or meeting her. Did he never ask where the information he got in those briefings was coming from?

(If he indeed did not know that Merkal was tapped by the NSA he should chop off not only the heads of the NSA and the DNI but also of his National Security Adviser who is supposed to know and explain such stuff.)

But I assume there is deal behind Obama's "I did not know" assertions. Merkel does not want to get rid of the "collect it all" spying on Germans and other people. She, who some believe was herself an nonofficial associate (IM) of the infamous East German state security service (Stasi), does not mind the violation of German citizens' rights to privacy. She wants to be, against German public opinion, part of the club that does the spying. She wants to have Germany accepted in the 5 eyes club which consists of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Those countries have pledged not to spy on each other but to share everything they have. But in effect the secret services of these countries are just NSA appendages. The NSA even pays for many of the other services efforts.

To make a deal Merkel will have to claim that she can trust Obama. His claim that he did not know about the wiretap on her is supposed to make that possible.

I doubt that such a deal will happen. Neither the UK nor the United States ever really trust Germany especially over its relatively good relation with China, Russia and Iran. They do not want to share with its services. They will probably offer some 5-eyes-light agreement that will give them more information from the German services but will not allow full access to the 5-eyes secrets. Merkel may even fall for that.

As Swoop remarks this week:
The first instinct of many members of the Intelligence Community is to dismiss the French and German complaints as naïve and hypocritical. However, a more conciliatory attitude is developing, motivated in part to prevent the Europeans from developing alternative Internet infrastructure that would be impermeable to US monitoring. With German intelligence officials due to visit Washington soon for talks on this issue, we expect a modus vivendi to be reached.

Posted by b on October 26, 2013 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (65)

October 25, 2013

A Syria Expert - Twelve Month Ago

Twelve 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 October 25, 2013 at 12:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (117)

October 23, 2013

Syria: After CW Removal, Obama May Again Go For Regime Change

The NYT has a long piece on the development of Obama's policies towards Syria. While some on his staff pressed for outright open war on Syria others were going along the "let them kill each other" line. Their idea was and is to let both sides fight each other until no one is left standing. To this purpose the stream of weapons and ammunition to the mercenaries fighting the Syrian government was switched off when the mercenaries were in advantage and switched on again when the government seemed to win.

That position has somewhat changed after the agreement by Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons. The Obama administration had to give the preference to the Syrian government. But what happens after those chemical capabilities and weapons are dismantled, which is likely to be soon the case?

The world's chemical weapons watchdog says it is confident that Syria will meet an important early milestone in its disarmament, the 1 November deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production and mixing of poison gases and nerve agents.
With the equipment destroyed Syria will still have some mustard gas and the precursor chemicals for Sarin. But whoever will get hold of those will no longer have the capability to use them effectively in any serious fight.

If there is therefore no longer any fear that the dangerous stuff might fall into bad hands Obama's former strategy to "let them kill each other" may come back and U.S. support for the mercenaries may return. Dan Drezner for one sees this coming:

Once the chemical weapons infrastructure is removed -- and the evidence to date suggests that this is proceeding apace -- then I don't see what keeps the administration from ratcheting up pressure on the Syrian regime. If Assad can't secure his position over the next 3-6 months, then he's facing a potentially more precarious situation afterwards.
When the deal over the chemical weapon removal was done there was talk about a Russian security guarantee to Syria. We do not know if such a guarantee has indeed been given or what form it might take. But I, like Drezner, believe that it may well be needed as soon as Syria's chemical weapons are gone.

While - 30 years after the Marines barracks bombing in Beirut - the U.S. should have learned about such useless interventions and the danger of attacking Syrian forces it definitely has not done so. There is always the chance that it will commit another such blunder.

Posted by b on October 23, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

October 22, 2013

Prince Bandar's New Hissy Fit

When the Saudis rejected their just won UN Security Council seat I, like others, asked Why and "What is their plan?".

I still don't get it. The new additional hissy fit the Saudis are throwing today towards the U.S. in the Wall Street Journal and via Reuters makes no sense either.

From the WSJ piece:

Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington's policy in the region, participants in the meeting said.
In Washington in recent days, Saudi officials have privately complained to U.S. lawmakers that they increasingly feel cut out of U.S. decision-making on Syria and Iran. A senior American official described the king as "angry."

Another senior U.S. official added: "Our interests increasingly don't align."

From Reuters:
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
"The shift away from the U.S. is a major one," the source close to Saudi policy said. "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent."
"Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.," the source close to Saudi policy said. "This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine.

Prince Bandar, who was ambassador to U.S. for 22 years and now runs the campaign against Syria, is leading this move. One wonders if the foreign minister and King Abdullah fully agree with it. Threatening to change the 80+ year old relations with the U.S. is quite offensive and the Saudis seem to believe that the U.S. has no choice but to follow their way.

They are wrong in this.

Reuters suggest that changes could come in Saudi arms purchases, in their oil sales or in their investment in U.S. government bonds. But these threats are not credible. The Saudis just ordered more ammunition for a cool $10 billion and their oil sales are fungible. There are also few other safe assets to invest in.

Prince Bandar and his media shills suggest that the Saudis could go rogue over Syria where Bandar's project to get rid of Assad has failed despite him spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the mercenary Jihadists. But what else but paying more can Bandar actually do? The Saudi's military logistics are run by unreliable foreigners. The Saudi army has good equipment but zero expeditionary capability.

There are also no other partners that could prop up the Saudi family regime. While Bandar suggests that France may be a candidate, that country does no longer have the serious military capability to support such a colonial scheme. The Chinese may well be willing to sell arms to the Saudis but, as I wrote:
China will deliver but will be smart enough to not interfere in Gulf politics like the U.S. is doing day by day.

Bandar will also know that the open U.S. attack on Syria, which he demands, will not come as the U.S. public and the U.S. congress are overwhelmingly against it. Washington has no interest in a longterm broken Syria that is run by Saudi supported Al Qaeda types.

Saudi Arabia does not have the means to seriously pressure the United States. It also does not have a strategic alternative to staying in the U.S. realm. In the end the relation is a protection racket. The Saudis pay the U.S. military industrial complex for not getting attacked by it. Throwing hissy fits in such position is senseless nonsense.

The only thing that this Saudi strategy may achieve is a faster reconciliation between Washington and Tehran. Should the U.S. sympathies move to the eastern side of the Persian Gulf Saudi Arabia could soon become the target of new animosities.

Posted by b on October 22, 2013 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (87)

October 21, 2013

Obamacare Meets Brooks' Law

Obama is making a big mistake by continuing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) enrollment while the main software this enrollment depends on, the website, is buggy:
“There’s no excuse for the problems,” he added, “and they are being fixed.” He said the government is “doing everything we can possibly do” to repair the site, including 24-hour work from “some of the best IT talent in the country.”

Ahh -- the "best and the brightest" will now "surge" to win this decisive battle. Haven't those concepts failed before?

Throwing more resources onto a broken mammoth software project is likely to increase the problems and to delay a bug free version. Software engineers and IT managers have known this law for decades:

"adding manpower to a late software project makes it later"
Engineers who have not been involved with this software so far will now have to be trained by the people who know it. Total productivity will therefore sink. Discussions about design issues that had been held and decided months or years ago will start anew. Bugs that had already been cleared will be reintroduced. Communication within a 24 hour team will be very difficult, lead to miscommunications and further delays.

If this report about the site's problems is halfway correct the troubles will not end within a month or two:

In interviews, experts said the technological problems of the site went far beyond the roadblocks to creating accounts that continue to prevent legions of users from even registering. Indeed, several said, the login problems, though vexing to consumers, may be the easiest to solve. One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.

“The account creation and registration problems are masking the problems that will happen later,” said one person involved in the repair effort.

The website's task is to mask the very complicate process that is demanded by the law with an easy user interface. Currently parts of the user interface are in trouble and will be fixed but the real problems are more likely in the various back end connections to other databases and the complicate rule base that transfers the letters of the laws into a product choice decision.

The reasons for this failure are the usual ones and were foreseeable at the project's start. An inexperienced integration management team, ever changing requirements and a lack of testing:

One major problem slowing repairs, people close to the program say, is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge of the exchange, is responsible for making sure that the separately designed databases and pieces of software from 55 contractors work together. It is not common for a federal agency to assume that role, and numerous people involved in the project said the agency did not have the expertise to do the job and did not fully understand what it entailed.
In the last 10 months alone, government documents show, officials modified hardware and software requirements for the exchange seven times. It went live on Oct. 1 before the government and contractors had fully tested the complete system. Delays by the government in issuing specifications for the system reduced the time available for testing.
Throughout my IT managing career I have seen dozens of such project disasters. They are quite normal. About every second big IT project fails to reach its intended usefulness. Most of the projects will not meet the proposed timeline. But those projects were not about political legacy and most of the processes they covered had some alternatives that, though more costly and time consuming, could replace them.

So what should Obama do? He should stop the current enrollment process and push all relevant dates at least six month out. Stop the customers from coming, repair the shop and only open anew when you are sure that you can serve everyone. By sticking to the current process and the buggy software Obama will only increase the mess and the political damage.

All these problems were of course unnecessary and Obama can only blame himself for them. Medicare is a quite well run system that already does for some parts of the U.S. population what the new law wants to achieve: Provide some reasonably prized health insurance. Expanding medicare, an established system, would have been much easier than this new process which is more about shuffling money to insurers, and now also software developers, than about getting healthcare for everyone.

Posted by b on October 21, 2013 at 02:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

October 20, 2013

Looking For Somebody’s Ass To Kick?

From a preview on Peter Baker's new book on the Bush administration:
As one senior official who came to rue his involvement in Iraq put it, “The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy.”

Were they really all just braindead primitives like "suck on this" Thomas Friedman? To me this sounds like a rather silly excuse for collectively committing a supreme crime.

Posted by b on October 20, 2013 at 01:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (49)

Open Thread 2013-22

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 20, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (63)

October 19, 2013

Africa Beware - These Troops Don't Come To Help

This New York Times piece on the U.S. army attempts to justify its existence by preparing for wars in Africa reads like an official army press release: U.S. Army Hones Antiterror Strategy for Africa, in Kansas
Here on the Kansas plains, thousands of soldiers once bound for Iraq or Afghanistan are now gearing up for missions in Africa as part of a new Pentagon strategy to train and advise indigenous forces to tackle emerging terrorist threats and other security risks so that American forces do not have to.

The first-of-its-kind program is drawing on troops from a 3,500-member brigade in the Army’s storied First Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One, to conduct more than 100 missions in Africa over the next year. The missions range from a two-man sniper team in Burundi to 350 soldiers conducting airborne and humanitarian exercises in South Africa.

The plan behind this is certainly not honest. If one wants to seriously train foreign troops or help the population one must send specialists who also understand the culture of their guest countries. But here the army plans to send troops that are trained to fight in main battle tanks and who get only 6(!) days of minimalistic cultural training by graduate students of African heritage without any additional language capacities.

What good can such troops do in those 50 African countries which are about all internally diverse and sociological complicate? What but trouble could they create?

The official army answer is this:

Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said in an interview that the goal was to field an Army that could be “engaged regionally in all the combatant commands to help them shape their theaters, set their theaters, in order to sustain and execute our national security strategy.”
U.S. national security strategy, Obama's pivot to Asia, is to contain China. As China has made many investments in African good-will and resources the countries there have now come under new U.S. scrutiny. "Shape their theaters" and "set their theaters" means to prepare the country and area in question for an onslaught of U.S. military might.

The countries in question would be well advised to reject such U.S. intrusions. Their leaders should notice that it are usually those native troops which were trained by the United States who, like recently in Mali, overthrow the government in military coops.

P.S. Notice that the comments to that NYT propaganda piece are by very wide margin negative towards such deployments.

Posted by b on October 19, 2013 at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

October 18, 2013

Why Do The Saudis Want Then Decline A UNSC Seat?

Today Saudi Arabia got itself elected as non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It was the first time that Saudi Arabia gained this position and an experienced diplomat expected great Saudi influence:
No doubt, it is a show of determination that the Saudi voice should be heard lest it is taken for granted by the big powers. It is a conscious decision to be assertive on the international stage.
Clearly, the Saudis are flaunting their prerogative to pronounce on the Syrian conflict. Many crucial decisions on Syria’s future will be taken at the Security Council through the coming year or two and Saudis want to influence them instead of being a passive onlooker.

If all this is going to be a good thing or not, time will tell. The notorious P5 gang will be looking quizzically at the great pretender. But, the point is, Security Council will now have five-and-a-half veto holding members. This never happened before and a new alchemy is called for.

But shortly after news of the election by the General Assembly ran over the ticker and the diplomats piece was published the Saudis backtracked. They declined to take the Security Council seat citing three reasons:
“The continuation of the Palestinian Cause without a just and lasting solution for 65 years, resulting in several wars that threatened international peace and security, is irrefutable evidence and proof of the Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

“The failure of the Security Council to make the Middle East a region free of all weapons of destruction, its inability to subdue the nuclear programs of all countries in the region without exception…is more irrefutable evidence of its inability to shoulder its responsibilities,” it added.

“Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people through the use of chemical weapons, while the world stands idly by, without applying any deterrent sanctions against the Damascus regime, is also proof of the Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties and responsibility,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

Notice that the first two very important and longstanding Arab issues will be barely mentioned, if at all, in "western" news reports. The Associated Press report  includes "Syria" nine times but mentions the Palestinian and WMD-free zone issue only in its thirteenth and last paragraph.

The Saudi move is a bit weird. A country does not get elected to the UNSC seat without wanting it. There is usually quite a competition about that position and bribes flow here and there to get the votes.

The Saudi foreign minister Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has his position since 1975. He by now certainly knows his job. Did he really attempt to get the UNSC seat only to decline it?

This is the second time the Saudis are throwing a temper tantrum at the United Nations. The Saudis canceled their planned speech at the last UN General Assembly also citing lack of action by the United Nations as their reason. Nobody really cared about that just like nobody will care about Saudi Arabia rejecting the UNSC position.

Why then are the Saudis doing this? What is their plan?

Posted by b on October 18, 2013 at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

October 17, 2013

U.S. Campaign Against Turkish Spy Chief Continues

Human Rights Watch and the Wall Street Journal blamed Turkey and especially its intelligence chief Hakan Fidan for supporting the "bad" insurgents and terrorists in Syria and to thereby hindering the U.S. plans to use the "good" insurgents and terrorists to achieve regime change there. The recent allegations were also covered in the Turkish press, often in support of the Turkish government strategy. 

U.S. interference and the recent campaign against Hakan Fidan continue. The unofficial CIA-spokesperson, Zionist defender and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius now peddles allegations, based solely on mysterious "knowledgeable sources", that the Turkish intelligence service outed ten Iranians who worked as informants for the Israeli Mossad:

The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.
Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a “significant” loss of intelligence and “an effort to slap the Israelis.”

First allegations against Hakan Fidan about contacts with Iranian services were made by Israeli officials back in 2010. Ignatius surely knows about the poisonousness of Turkish-Israeli relations. It was Ignatius who in 2009 in Davos denied (vid) the Turkish premier Erdogan a chance to respond to Israel's president Peres defense of the deadly Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Now Ignatius is defending Israel again. He alleges that it is Turkey which is responsible for bad Israeli behavior. In May 2010 Israel attacked a Turkish ship, on its way in international waters to bring aid to Gaza, and killed nine Turkish activists on board. Turkey demanded an apology. Only earlier this year, which the Turkish president Gül called "too late", did Israel apologize. Ignatius now claims that the apology came so late because the Turks in 2012 outed the Iranian Mossad agents:

Israeli anger at the deliberate compromise of its agents may help explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became so entrenched in his refusal to apologize to Erdogan about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident.
So according to Ignatius an incident that happened, allegedly, in spring 2012 prevented the Israelis to give an apology for the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Either the Israelis have some mysterious capabilities of foresight or Igantius has the cause and effect relations backwards.

If the Turks indeed outed Mossad spies it was likely in response to Israeli drone support for the Kurdish liberation movement and terrorist group PKK.

The Ignatius attack on Hakan Fidan must be seen in light of a change in U.S. strategy towards Syria as the focus of U.S. policy moves from regime change towards the prevention of a new Al-Qaeda stronghold in northern Syria. The Turkish intelligence services actively supported the Jihadists and that support must now be starved off.

There are signs that the campaign against such support is somewhat succeeding. On Tuesday the Turkish army claimed to have shelled a Syrian hill next to its borders after Jihadists in Syria had taken it as a new military position. If that shelling indeed took place it did not help. Today ISIS and the Tawhid brigade took control of the Bab al Salama border gate with Turkey. Thanks to Hakan Fidan and his boss Erdogan Al-Qaeda is now a direct neighbor of Turkey.

Posted by b on October 17, 2013 at 03:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

October 15, 2013

The 'de-Americanized' World

Congress is in a game of chicken over minor domestics political issues with both sides holding the world economy as hostage. With this and its generally reckless behavior in international policies, including spying on everyone, the U.S. has displeased too many other countries to keep its position as a leading nation. As the moment of one sole superpower ends new alliances will have to be formed and new arrangements for a stable international system will have to be found.

Pepe Escobar picks up this extraordinary Xinhua editorial which I also had planned to write about.

Long gone are the Deng Xiaoping days of "keeping a low profile". The Xinhua editorial summarizes the straw that broke the dragon's back - the current US shutdown. After the Wall Street-provoked financial crisis, after the war on Iraq, a "befuddled world", and not only China, wants change.

This paragraph couldn't be more graphic:

Instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.

The solution, for Beijing, is to "de-Americanize" the current geopolitical equation - starting with more say in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for emerging economies and the developing world, leading to a "new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant US dollar".

That is exactly what I see coming over the next decade.

One big change will come in the Persian Gulf where China is now a bigger customer than the U.S. is. One day it will inevitably pay with Yuan instead of dollars for the oil it buys. As we foresaw, the "extraordinary privilege" of the U.S. being able to print the global reserve currency and therefore petro-dollars at will is coming to an end. Saudi Arabia, also disgruntled about the United States policies, already bought its old strategic missile force in China. Negotiations about a newer generation are rumored to be ongoing. Other weapon orders may follow. China will deliver but will be smart enough to not interfere in Gulf politics like U.S. is doing day by day.

Even the British admit that in international foreign politics the Russian foreign minister Lavrov is now the most grown up and leading voice.

The EU and the European monetary union will probably fall apart over Merkel's insane and destructive deflationary policies which destroys the southern European countries' and even the French economy. We soon may see the Frexit and a new French franc. The lunatic Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a race to the lowest possible common regulation level, is unlikely to ever get signed. The U.S. will have to look for growth elsewhere as the European countries have had enough of its predatory financial behavior.

Africa will, unfortunately, become a new ground for competition by proxy as China, the U.S. and Europe will try to grab resources as well as market shares there.

In South America those leaders who oppose U.S. influence have high popular ratings while those who work with the U.S. are disliked by their populations. There is a lesson in that.

Obama has missed the recent international Asian meetings and will have lost some face over it. It was also the third time that he canceled an announced visit to Indonesia, a country with a population of some 250 million people. While the U.S. may continue to have some control over Japan and South Korea even these two countries will see the bigger potential in good relations with China.

A deeper connection with China and Asia in general will also be good for European countries. The new currency swap agreement over some 50 billion Euro/Yuan is only a start. What is now needed is the "beer express", one of my long time dreams. An all new fast freight railroad to connect Hamburg with Qingdao ("Beer express" because the Holsten and Tsingtao breweries are sisters). Using that railroad the transport from East South Asia to Europe and on to the U.S. east coast would be faster than by any other sea and land route. There are already some rudimentary plans for such a project.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union the U.S. has been the uncontested global leader. Its behavior over the last decades has shown that it is not suited for such a role. The coming decade will see a new era arise.

Posted by b on October 15, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (93)

NYT's OPCW "He Said, She Said" Reporting Misses Major Judgement

In 2002 José Bustani, the then head of the now Nobel prized Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was fired because his insistence on bringing Iraq into the Chemical Weapon Treaty conflicted with the war plans of the Bush administration.

The New York Times recently picked up on the story:

Mr. Bolton, then an under secretary of state and later the American ambassador to the United Nations, told Mr. Bustani that the Bush administration was unhappy with his management style.

But Mr. Bustani, 68, who had been re-elected unanimously just 11 months earlier, refused, and weeks later, on April 22, 2002, he was ousted in a special session of the 145-nation chemical weapons watchdog.

The story behind his ouster has been the subject of interpretation and speculation for years, and Mr. Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, has kept a low profile since then.

That bold sentence is wrong. The NYT presents the story as a mere "he said, she said" that misses any unambiguous judgement even as the case has been decided decisively in favor of Mr. Bustani:
Mr. Bolton insists that Mr. Bustani was ousted for incompetence. In a telephone interview on Friday, he confirmed that he had confronted Mr. Bustani. “I told him if he left voluntarily we would give him a gracious and dignified exit,” he said.

As Mr. Bustani tells the story, the campaign against him began in late 2001, after Iraq and Libya had indicated that they wanted to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international treaty that the watchdog agency oversees.
“We had a lot of discussions because we knew it would be difficult,” Mr. Bustani, who is now Brazil’s ambassador to France, said Friday in his embassy office in Paris. The plans, which he had conveyed to a number of countries, “caused an uproar in Washington,” he said. Soon, he was receiving warnings from American and other diplomats.

“By the end of December 2001, it became evident that the Americans were serious about getting rid of me,” he said. “People were telling me, ‘They want your head.’ ”

The "interpretation and speculation" the Times insists on in giving this account has long been ended. After being fired on the U.S.'s insistence Mr. Bustani went to court and the International Labor Organization, which has jurisdiction over international organizations, was unambiguous in its judgement 2232:
The court found that undue political influence by the United States led to Mr. Bustani's dismissal and that allowing such dismissal for purely political reasons was contrary to the principle neutral position of international organizations like the OPCW. The OPCW was ordered to pay Mr. Bustani not only for moral damage and legal costs but also his full salary up to 2005 when his term would have regularly ended.

But in the NYT's account that ILO judgement never happened. It is not once mentioned in the story. For the Times the issue is still one of "interpretation and speculation" even as a court has judged fully in support of Mr. Bustani's version of the story. By that it defends the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration who would not for a moment care about law but only about their megalomaniac project of global hegemony.

Posted by b on October 15, 2013 at 01:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

October 13, 2013

The Afghan SOFA Farce Continues

Secretary of State Kerry was in Afghanistan to convince the Afghan President Karzai to sign a Status of Force Agreement that would allow U.S. troops to stay in the country beyond 2014. While the long meeting was depicted as a success the main issue is still not agreed upon:
“Tonight we reached some sort of agreement,” Karzai said through an interpreter. “The United States will no longer conduct operations by themselves. We have been provided a written guarantee of the safety of the Afghan people. And a clear definition of invasion was provided.”

Kerry and Karzai broke an impasse in negotiations during two days of intensive talks in the Afghan capital, as an Oct. 31 deadline approaches for negotiating terms for some U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after combat forces depart in 2014.
“The one issue that is outstanding is the issue of jurisdiction,” Kerry said at an evening news conference with Karzai. “We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement.”

The U.S. wants Afghan immunity for its soldiers and that any prosecution of their crimes should be handle in a U.S. court. Karzai can not agree with that. He will call a Loya Jirga to decide and will also ask the parliament for a vote on the issue. The United States will therefore have to pay a lot of bribes to get the vote it wants. But even if it should get a yes, which I doubt, it would not solve the problem of continued hostilities. In his Eid message the Taliban leader Mullah Omar warned against such a vote:
The Kabul Administration and the invaders are not only bent on playing havoc with Afghanistan domestically, but are marginalizing the country at regional and global level by signing colonial agreements and thus procure reasons for continuation of the war. Therefore, the invaders and their allies should understand that the strategic agreement will accompany grave consequences for them. Though they may get these documents rubberstamped by a fake Loya Jirga but it will not be acceptable to the Afghans. Throughout the history, the real representatives and Loya Jirgas of the country have never signed documents of slavery. So those who would sign this (document), could not be called a representative Loya Jirga of the country. Their decisions are not acceptable. The invaders should know that their limited bases will never be accepted. The current armed Jihad will continue against them with more momentum.
That promised resistance is still looking strong and even seems to get stronger. A week ago, in what seems to have been a well prepared trap, four U.S.Rangers, considered to be elite forces, were killed and 13 were wounded in a raid on a well prepared house:
A Ranger regiment that included 36 troops and a canine unit were attempting to capture a high value target in Panjwai in southern Afghanistan. When the troops arrived at the home, U.S. military officials said, the unit did a typical “call out” asking for those inside to come out.

One man appeared. Reports from the battlefield suggest he dropped to his knees and lifted his shirt to show the U.S. forces that he was not wearing a suicide bomb vest.

As several members of the Ranger unit moved toward the man to begin questioning him, a woman wearing a suicide vest emerged from the house and blew herself up, killing several members of the unit instantly, along with the dog, and injuring others.
As U.S. army medics, explosives specialists and others in the unit moved in to help the wounded, 13 improvised explosive devices went off, killing and injuring more U.S. forces.

Thirteen IEDs plus a female suicide bomber were ready to welcome the Ranger raid. It was a serious intelligence failure to fall for such a well set trap. It again shows that the U.S. enemy in Afghanistan can keep the initiative and continues to be able to inflict significant casualties. Even with a smaller footprint U.S. forces on the ground would still be in constant danger. In the fifteenth green on blue attack this year another U.S. soldier was killed today.

What is the significance of Afghanistan that makes the Obama administration seek a continued U.S. participation in the war? After twelve full years no success has been achieved in Afghanistan while hundreds of billions have been spent on it. Why continue for longer at such immense costs?

Posted by b on October 13, 2013 at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

October 11, 2013

Syria: Turkey Blamed For "Regime Change" Failure

Ten days ago the Guardian was the first "western" media to report on a massacre U.S supported insurgents and terrorists had committed back in August in Syria's Latakia governate. U.S. media did not follow up on this. But now Human Rights Watch, a U.S. influenced para-government organization which has intensely propagandized against the Syrian government, is publishing a report on Executions, Unlawful Killings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside.

The fact that such a report is now published by HRW can be interpreted as a sign that U.S. policies on Syria are changing sides and will now, slowly slowly, turn against the insurgents and in favor of the Syrian government. While this will not yet change U.S. calls for "Assad must go" it is a significant change of the direction the winds are blowing.

This change is confirmed by other sources:

“I am beginning to think that the regime’s hardliners could win,” says the [European] ambassador [in Beirut], who maintains close contacts with sources inside the Assad regime and opposition forces. “They are turning the opposition into Al Qaeda and we are all playing into it. I hear this from my colleagues. The main fight now is against Al Qaeda, it's not against the regime."
We have maintained all along that the insurgency was never a "peaceful protest" but an organized attack of sectarian radical Islamists on the Syrian state. As the true picture of the insurgency is now filtering into the "western" public, only 36% blame Assad for the chemical attack on August 21, someone will have to be blamed for the change of direction.

The HRW report sets up Turkey as the guilty party:

Given that most foreign fighters in these groups reportedly gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and retreat to for medical treatment, Turkey should increase border patrols, restrict entry of fighters and arm flows to groups credibly found to be implicated in systematic human rights violations. [...]

The UN Security Council and Turkey’s allies should call on Turkey in particular to do more to verify that no arms are passing through Turkey to these groups.

A Wall Street Journal piece published yesterday also takes shots at the head of Turkey's intelligence service MIT for enabling the radical insurgents:
Syrian opposition leaders, American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats who worked with Mr. Fidan say the MIT acted like a "traffic cop" that arranged weapons drops and let convoys through checkpoints along Turkey's 565-mile border with Syria.
In meetings with American officials and Syrian opposition leaders, Turkish officials said the threat posed by Jabhat al Nusra, the anti-Assad group, could be dealt with later, say U.S. officials and Syrian opposition leaders.
Mr. Obama told the Turkish leaders he wanted a close relationship, but he voiced concerns about Turkey's approach to arming the opposition. The goal was to convince the Turks that "not all fighters are good fighters" and that the Islamist threat could harm the wider region, says a senior U.S. official.
Meanwhile the Syrian army has some further successes against the insurgents. The logistic corridor to Aleppo has been reopened, some more suburbs around Damascus have been cleared and the insurgency siege on a chemical facility has been broken.

Turkey will now be pressed to stop providing to the insurgency in Syria. Without the very significant steady flow of fresh fighters and ammunition coming through Turkey the insurgency will slowly be starved off. This while the international mission to destroy Syria's chemical weapons continues according to the plans, without any trouble and with full support of the Syrian government. The flawless Syrian cooperation with the Nobel Peace Prize carrying OPCW enhances the Syrian governments standing.

The tide has turned and the earlier defamed international legitimacy of the Syrian government and President Assad is now on a steady rise. But Assad is right to be careful and to distrust any U.S. commitment:

Those who perceive that by abandoning our chemical weapons and signing the chemical weapons convention we have protected Syria from war are naïve because the US - with its history of aggression and destruction for decades, particularly after World War II - does not need pretexts. It can create new ones every day, and if it loses one pretext, it will look for another in different areas.

The destruction of Syria's chemical weapons was unlikely to change the "regime change" course of the U.S. government. The propagandists of the military industrial complex are still pressing for war. But the slow recognition that the only realistic alternative to the "regime" is an Al-Qaeda friendly broken state like Libya has become now seems to create a sufficient momentum to change Washington's course.

This may also be the sign of a much wider metamorphosis of U.S. interests which is driven by a change in the public mood and the U.S. "system's" opinion about a U.S. led global empire and the costs to achieve and maintain it.

Posted by b on October 11, 2013 at 04:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

October 10, 2013

Libya: PM Kidnappers Cause "No Trouble"

MoA on Oct 6: Two Failed U.S. Raids
The various gangs that are the now the major powers in Libya will see this raid as (another) attack on Libya's sovereignty. Some major blowback against the interim government and other targets can be expected.
The blowback that this raid will create in Libya will only add to the severe problems the "western" friendly interim government there already has.
CNN on Oct 10: Armed rebels kidnap Libyan PM, take him to undisclosed location
Rebels kidnapped Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at dawn Thursday and took him to an undisclosed location, his spokeswoman told CNN.

Armed rebels escorted the prime minister from the Corinthian Hotel in Tripoli into a convoy of waiting cars, said a hotel clerk who was not authorized to speak to the media.

The witness reported no gunfire during the incident, and said the gunmen were respectful and "caused no trouble."

Tellingly one of the groups involved in the kidnapping is the Libyan "Committee for the prevention of crimes". Detaining the man who allegedly gave tacit approval to U.S. military invasions and kidnapping of Libyans certainly fits such committee's name.

Posted by b on October 10, 2013 at 01:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

October 09, 2013

Kerry In Bali

As I am too busy to write a decent piece here something to talk about. (And no, it is not photoshopped.)

Any wonders that some do not take him serious?

Posted by b on October 9, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

October 07, 2013

Syria: False NYT Claim May Serve U.S. Policy Change

The New York Times suggests that the admittance that "mistakes were made" in recent interviews with Syrian government official and its president is something new and unexpectedly conciliatory:
President Bashar al-Assad himself has declared that he and his government have made mistakes and that they share some blame for the crisis with rebels. Mr. Assad told the German magazine Der Spiegel, in an interview to be published on Monday, that he could not claim that the insurgents “did everything and we did nothing.” Reality, he said, has “shades of gray.”

After years of describing the country’s civil war in black and white, as an international terrorist conspiracy, Syrian officials in recent days appear to be trying to sound more conciliatory, as global powers try to arrange peace talks in Geneva to end the bloody stalemate, and as international weapons inspectors began on Sunday to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.

The claim that the Syrian government has so far painted a black and white picture and that the "mistakes were made" message and offers to the opposition are something new is pure propaganda and defies the historic record. 

May 18, 2011: Security forces made mistakes, says Assad

Syria’s president says the country’s security forces have made mistakes during the uprising against his regime and that thousands of police officers are receiving new training.
August 10, 2011: Syria's Assad: "Some mistakes had been made"
Syria's President Bashar Assad met with envoys from India, Brazil and South Africa on Wednesday and "acknowledged that some mistakes had been made by the security forces in the initial stages of the unrest" and reassured the delegations that reforms were coming, according to a statement from the envoys.
July 5, 2012: Assad: We can make mistakes
UC: Do you regret the fact that last year you crushed the first democratic protests by using arms?

BA: Well, at the end of the day we are human also. We can make mistakes. You can always say, it would have been better if we did not do this, but did that, etc. And this is very normal.

August 29, 2012: President Bashar al-Assad's interview with the Syrian TV station, Addounia
President al-Assad: [...] There were mistakes that happened, there were transgressions that happened, there were violations, thefts, some of which was uncovered but in a limited number and those were referred to the judiciary many months ago. Everyone who made a mistake or wanted to prolong the crisis for different reasons must be held accountable.
November 9, 2012: Assad: There is no civil war in Syria
Asked if he has any regrets, he said: “Not now,” although he acknowledged that “when everything is clear” it would be normal to find some mistakes.
July 11, 2013: Bashar Al Assad: Baath party made mistakes in Syria
Ruling party leaders removed in a reshuffle this week had made mistakes while in office, Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad told the Baath party’s mouthpiece in an interview published on Thursday.
The NYT's false claims of the historic standpoint of the Syrian government may serve to allow for a change in the U.S. position towards it. If the longstanding position of the Syrian government can be depicted as something "new" that claim allows the U.S. politicians to also take a new stand to towards it. "Look, Assad has changed his position and now we can change our position too."

There is hint of such a change of the U.S. position in today's remarks by Secretary of State Kerry:

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry offered qualified praise Monday for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, crediting Syrian authorities for cooperating with a United Nations mandate to destroy the nation’s chemical stockpiles.
“I think it is also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly as they are supposed to,” Kerry said at a joint newspress conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government helped craft the Syrian chemical disarmament plan, averting threatened U.S. airstrikes against Syria. “Now, we hope that will continue. I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road. But it is a good beginning and we should welcome a good beginning.

Posted by b on October 7, 2013 at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

October 06, 2013

Two Failed U.S. Raids

Yesterday two U.S. raids attempted to abduct a man in Libya and a man in Somalia. The raid in Libya did get the target but already has some bad impacts for the Libyan government. The raid in Somalia, by so called elite SEAL forces, failed completely.

The raid in Libya caught one Abu Anas Al-Libi, accused in connection with the bombing of a U.S. embassy in Kenia some 15 years ago. It also killed some 15 Libyan soldiers. The man, one Abu Anas Al-Libi, has lived away from Libya and came back after U.S. and NATO forces waged war against the Libyan government under Ghaddafi. He seems to have lived quite openly in the capitol Tripoli:

His brother Nabih told The Associated Press that just after dawn prayers on Saturday, three vehicles full of armed men approached Abu Anas’s home and surrounded him as he parked his car. The men smashed his window, seized his gun and sped away with him, the brother said.
The raid will surely lead to some controversies:
CNN said that the Libyan government knew the raid was being carried out. This has been denied today by the government, which has posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying it knows nothing about the reported seizure. It went to to say that it had contacted the US “for clarification”.
The various gangs that are the now the major powers in Libya will see this raid as (another) attack on Libya's sovereignty. Some major blowback against the interim government and other targets can be expected. There was already a tribal response against the government but the only mentioning of it is buried deep in the 25th paragraph of the NYT version of the story:
The capture of Abu Anas also coincided with a fierce gunfight that killed 15 Libyan soldiers at a checkpoint in a neighborhood southeast of Tripoli, near the traditional home of Abu Anas’s clan.
Some "coincidence" ...

The botched raid in Somalia was on a beach house allegedly used by the local Al Shaabab jihadists. The raid was first reported by locals and then by the Al Shaabab itself:

Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Musab, spokesman for Al Shabaab’s military wing, confirmed the raid and disclosed in a recorded press statement that the militants “repelled a midnight raid by white infidel soldiers”.

Abu Musab said: "We fought back against the white infidel soldiers with bombs and bullets, and they ran back to their boats. One member of Al Shabaab was killed and the white infidel soldiers failed their mission. We found blood and equipment near the coast in the morning,” he added in a recorded press statement posted on militant websites.

There was a lot of confusion about this raid and it took nearly a day until the U.S. confirmed that it forces had been beaten back. At one time the NYT and Fox News said that a senior Shabaab boss was killed while NBC said he was captured and AP said he was not found. This reminds one of all the propaganda claims made about the Bin Laden raid. This time though we will immediately know for sure as the book about this SEAL raid has already been written (/snark).

But what is obvious is that this attack by SEAL personal by boat was somehow detected and responded to with heavy fire. The SEALs were said to had to call in helicopters and they had to retreat under fire.

In Somalia, the Navy SEAL team emerged before sunrise from the Indian Ocean and exchanged gunfire with militants at the home of a senior leader of the Shabab, the Somali militant group.
The SEAL team was forced to withdraw before it could confirm that it had killed the Shabab leader, a senior American security official said. Officials declined to identify the target.
On wonders what the Obama administration wants to achieve with such raids. The case for the guy snatched in Libya is fifteen years old. To bring him to court and prove his guilt will be costly. The blowback that this raid will create in Libya will only add to the severe problems the "western" friendly interim government there already has.

Likewise the botched raid in Somalia. Not only will it create further trouble with Al Shaabab but it will also incite Somalian nationalists against such a breach of Somali sovereignty. It also shows that twenty years after the Blackhawk Down failure even the most elite U.S. forces have little luck in successfully operating there.

These raids make little sense. They are driven by some silly concept of revenge, they scare off no one from joining Al-Qaeda or its affiliates while they create more and more future enemies. In this sense both raids are massive failures.

Posted by b on October 6, 2013 at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (109)

October 04, 2013

Open Thread 2013-21

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 4, 2013 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (97)

Remembering Giap

General Võ Nguyên Giáp died today at the age of 102.

A man who defeated two colonial powers and united his country is surely a great man. The message he send to the world was that the histories tide had turned on colonialism.

We will remember him. Here are some pictures of him throughout the years (vid) and excerpts from a French reporter's interview with him in the 1960 (vid, English subtitles). Notice the "Viet Cong? What do you mean?"

The AP's obit is deluded and in that somewhat funny. Notice how the French are depicted as colonists while the U.S. attempt to colonize it was to "a grueling effort to save the country from communism":

Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant and ruthless self-taught general who drove the French out of Vietnam to free it from colonial rule and later forced the Americans to abandon their grueling effort to save the country from communism, has died. At age 102, he was the last of Vietnam's old-guard revolutionaries.
General Giap would certainly have laughed at that differentiation.

Posted by b on October 4, 2013 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (80)

October 02, 2013

Syria: Your Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-Qaeda

There seems to be a media campaign designed to differentiate between the "really bad Al-Qaeda terrorists" in Syria and the "maybe good moderate Al-Qaeda rebels".

The bad Al-Qaeda is the Saudi financed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) while the good Al-Qaeda are those Salafi jihadist groups other than ISIS that are paid by the Saudi state:

“We want to keep Syria together as a country of freedom and equality,” a leader in an Islamist rebel group opposed to ISIS, called Suqour al-Sham, who gave his name as Abu Bashir, said via Skype. “They want to form an Islamic state that comes together with Iraq.”
Although the group sometimes cooperates in battle, ISIS is separate from the first Qaeda group to emerge in Syria, the Nusra Front, whose leader rejected a proposed merger this year.

Since then, foreign fighters have flocked to ISIS, while the Nusra Front has been more clearly accepted by mainline rebels for keeping its focus on the fight against Mr. Assad.

It is well known that ISIS has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. But Jabhat al-Nusra has also sworn allegiance to Zwahiri. That is of course not mentioned in the above NYT piece. What is the supposed meaning of this differentiation when both groups accept the same leader and the Al-Qaeda organization's ideology and aims?

The Washington Post is on the same day (really by chance?) running a similar toned piece that also emphazises the alleged difference between JaN and ISIS:

Rifts have also emerged between the more radical Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, the original Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate that has since sought to cast itself as the more moderate — and Syrian — of the two. But although an alliance announced last week between Jabhat al-Nusra and more-secular rebel groups was cast by some as an attempt to create a front against the ISIS, an organized effort would need a far greater influx of money, support and enthusiasm from fighters on the ground, most observers say.

In Foreign Policy, part of the Washington Post company, an apologist for the Saudis claims that this is all well and good:

The rise of Salafi-leaning rebel groups offers an opportunity to combat the real extremists -- al Qaeda-linked groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have recently started wreaking havoc in Syria's north and east by fighting among themselves and against more moderate groups. Syria is no longer witnessing a struggle of moderates versus extremists, but of extremists versus both moderates and religious moderates. While recent developments are a setback for the FSA, they also have marginalized the truly radical factions.

This, again, neglects to mention that the newly united groups, especially in north Syria, include Jabhat al-Nusra. And what please is the difference between "moderates and religious moderates"? The first are those psychopaths who eat their dead enemies lungs and the second are those cuddly homegrown Salafis who hack off any Christian's head?

This campaign is supporting the alleged "uniting" of Saudi paid Salafist bands in the northern Idlib and south of Damascus. The Saudis are said to do this to prevent the bad ISIS Al-Qaeda to gain more power in Syria. It is unlikely that any such risky scheme will ever work:

If Riyadh's aim is to thwart al Qaeda enemies by rallying local Syrian Islamists in the way Washington did with Iraq's Sunni tribal Sahwa, it may be miscalculating, said commentator Hazem Amin. Unlike the Iraqi fighters, he said, Syrian Salafists were increasingly embracing radical views close to al Qaeda.

"Syria is different," Amin wrote in al-Hayat newspaper. "The social fabric is less cohesive ... At its core, the new Syrian Salafism is jihadist in nature. It is moving towards extremism."

And lets not forget that even those Free Syrian Army gangs that are not officially endorsing religious extremism are quite beyond the pale. The Guardian finally reports, two month after it happened, on the massacres these terrorists perpetrated in Alawite villages in the north Latakia province:

Shadi, a 32-year-old officer in a local defence unit that is separate from the Syrian army, was lightly wounded during the government's counter-attack. "When we got into the village of Balouta I saw a baby's head hanging from a tree. There was a woman's body which had been sliced in half from head to toe and each half was hanging from separate apple trees. "
[T]he Guardian has obtained lists, compiled by local activists, with the names of victims from Hambushiya, Balouta, and five other villages. They include 62 people listed as killed, 60 kidnapped and 139 people who are missing. The dead range in age from a toddler of two to a man of 90. The vast majority are women, children and the elderly since most men in the villages were away on duty as part of the volunteer defence forces elsewhere in the region.

There are not many differences between any of the the insurgency groups in Syria. The Syrian insurgency was, from its very beginning, a brutal religiously motivated one that was run out of Sunni mosques and financed with money from the Wahabbi Gulf states. As this insurgency can no longer be sold in "western" media as "peaceful protesters" it is now depicted as somewhat moderate if only compared to the real savages of ISIS Al-Qaeda. But such differentiation makes no sense at all. Hanging baby heads from apple trees is psychopathic no matter what shade of religious extremism is used to justify it.

Posted by b on October 2, 2013 at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (110)