Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 30, 2013

Catching Up

I am back home now and catching up on the news. Some issues:

The Daily Star picks up what we assessed ten days ago:

A corruption scandal in Turkey may see embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad outlast his Turkish adversary Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the latest sign Turkish foreign policy on Syria is undergoing a major recalibration, analysts say.

Along with supplies from Turkey the Syrian insurgents are still getting weapons and (western) military advice through Jordan: Aid to Syrian rebels flows through a complex maze and Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command centre in Amman.

The Saudis will spend $3 billion on French weapons for the Lebanese army. That sum is double the yearly budget of the rather toothless Lebanese army. Those arms will certainly not be sufficient and used to fight Israel. Is this Saudi support for the Lebanese Salafis? And will those weapons really go to Lebanon or will they end up elsewhere? How much of this is simply to bribe Hollande?

C.J. Chivers at the NYT has to retract his missile "trajectory" analysis of the chemical weapon use in Syria. We told you that it was wrong as soon as the NYT published the original claim.

A big story at the NYT whitewashes the Benghazi attack that killed the U.S. ambassador. It is missing a whole lot of points: the diplomatic outpost was the cover for a CIA operation

  • the CIA bought weapons there to ship them to Turkey and to their proxies in Syria
  • the ambassador was involved in the weapon transfer
  • "AlQaeda" groups had an interest to acquire those weapons for their own groups in Syria
  • some AQ-affiliates (the brother of AQ leader al-Zawahiri in Egypt) started an international protest over some anti-Muslim video as an operational diversion and cover for taking over the CIA arms depots in Libya

Without some deeper digging into the above points, missing in the NYT, the whole Benghazi story is just a fairy tale.

Posted by b on December 30, 2013 at 7:16 UTC | Permalink


plus Benghazi was presumably meant as an october surprise
and that is what the NYT whitewash is for - preparing for Hillary Clinton's election campaign.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 30 2013 8:19 utc | 1

December surprise
2nd Volgograd terror bombing

Yulia Shapovalova @Yulisha 13m
Mobile phone connection is partially jammed in Volgograd according to Rossia24 correspondents.

Yulia Shapovalova @Yulisha 1h
Reports say the new blast this morning in Volgograd was triggered by a remote control bomb.. no suicide bombers involved..

Posted by: brian | Dec 30 2013 8:28 utc | 2

'Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?"

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

Posted by: brian | Dec 30 2013 9:22 utc | 3

There is a CNN report on the CIA angle from August 2013 - it went largely unnoticed - time to dig it up:

Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.

CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 30 2013 9:59 utc | 4

The C.J. Chivers story linked to above does refer to the Postol-Lloyd analysis, which Hersh spotlights in his London Review of Books piece, debunking the NYT-HRW claim, made back in September based on azimuth data taken from impact craters, that the SAA was to blame for the Ghouta sarin attack; but Chivers does everything he can to downplay and fault the findings of Postol and Lloyd, relying on a quote from Brown Moses to assert that "the new analysis of the rockets’ range aligned with assertions that the government was culpable."

So Chivers is not issuing a retraction; he's just muddying Postol's argument, which is quite simple. The Ghouta attack required a fat chemical payload. The rocket engine could propel such a payload only 2.5 to 3.5 km, a far shorter distance than speculated by NYT-HRW "smoking gun" interpretation of the azimuth data.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Dec 30 2013 16:54 utc | 5

the CIA bought weapons there to ship them to Turkey and to their proxies in Syria

I keep coming across this but I've never seen any sources. Do you have one?

Posted by: Steve J. | Dec 31 2013 8:52 utc | 6

I can't pin anything down without extensive googling, but I well recall that the argument was that these weapons were awash in Libya in large quantities, and all the CIA had to do was organise their covert transshipment. There was evidence, but of course it was anecdotal, it was Libyan or Syrian Jihadis actually telling reporters that it was happening (and they do talk a lot, these Jihadis).

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 31 2013 10:26 utc | 7

    "the CIA bought weapons there to ship them to Turkey and to their proxies in Syria"

    I keep coming across this but I've never seen any sources. Do you have one?

    Posted by: Steve J. | Dec 31, 2013 3:52:43 AM | 6

FOX News

Posted by: foff | Dec 31 2013 11:49 utc | 8

Does anyone have any hard sources on the flights landing in Incirlik, US base in Turkey, filled with both weaponry and Salafist/Jihadi fighters?

Posted by: jawbone | Jan 2 2014 5:29 utc | 9

There is a video showing jihadis passing by Turkish soldiers at the Turkish border inside Syria. The soldiers don't give a damn.

Posted by: Shoes | Jan 2 2014 7:31 utc | 10

9) no. The "hard source" is Reuters quoting "unnamed officials" from the Obama administration.
Part of Obama's dance telling critics that he does enough in Syria short of invading.

I doubt it is done from Incirlik airbase as all the actors use a studied deniability.

There are credible sources that most support is run from the refugee camps.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2 2014 7:59 utc | 11

This here is al monitor on the Reyhanli "military refugee" camp.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2 2014 8:29 utc | 12

This here is CNN on the "secret" Jihadi route through Turkey

It is very clear from the article that Turkey is doing nil to stop it, and that there is nil NATO pressure to make Turkey stop it.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2 2014 8:41 utc | 13

It was actually Sibel Edmonds who first reported these flights, and the whole CIA-driven arms & Jihadis covert program. This was in Nov 2011. She was months ahead of any other source. I would say it was her last big scoop, and I have seen no reason since to think she was wrong, whoever her sources were. I kept pushing this story of hers, and the people at, who are usually pretty quick on covert action stories, kept systematically ignoring it. I have a detailed record of Sibel's scoop, with a summary I made for convenience:

Col Riad al-Assad, head of the Free Syria Army, has been working since May 2011 with the US & NATO from inside the USAF base at Incirlik, smuggling US weapons into Syria, participating in US psychological and information warfare inside Syria as the middle-man whom Syrian protesters tend to trust, and helping to funnel intelligence and military operators across the border and organise night-time drop-offs by air. The joint US/NATO secret training camp in the USAF base at Incirlik began operations in Apr-May 2011 to organize and expand the dissident base in Syria. Since then, in addition to Col Riad al-Assad, several other high-ranking Syrian military and intelligence officials have been added to operations HQ in the USAF base. Weekly weapons-smuggling operations have been carried out with full US/NATO participation since last May. The HQ also includes an information warfare division where US-NATO crafted communications are directed to dissidents in Syria via the core group of Syrian military and Intelligence defectors.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 2 2014 9:17 utc | 14

The news in Lebanon of the arrest of the Saudi leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades is really big.

The name of this brigade is such a clue

Political Islam's Great Communicator and traveling salesman, Azzam trotted the globe during the 1980s to promote the Afghan jihad against the Soviets. By the time of his death in 1989, he had recruited between 16,000 and 20,000 mujahideen from 20 countries to Afghanistan, visited 50 American cities to advance his cause, and dispatched acolytes to spread the gospel in 26 U.S. states, not to mention across the Middle East and Europe. His Mujahideen Services Bureau in Peshawar, Pakistan, served as a way station and training ground for fresh recruits as they arrived. Among those inspired by Azzam: Mohammed Salameh, convicted of conspiracy, assault, and explosives charges for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Wadih El-Hage and Mohammed Odeh, convicted for their roles in the 1998 East African embassy bombings; and Osama Bin Laden. The Encyclopedia of the Afghan Jihad, an 11-volume al-Qaida training manual, names two men in its dedication. One is Bin Laden, who is listed as the "faithful helper" of the other man, Abdullah Azzam. ...

Azzam had redefined the conflict: For many, Palestinians were no longer engaged in a nationalist struggle to establish a state. They were conducting an uncompromising battle to reclaim lost Muslim lands. "There will be no solution to the Palestinian problem except through jihad," Azzam wrote in accordance with his motto, "Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences, no dialogues."

In other news the Al Assam Brigade is on the US Terrorism List but for some reason not its leader Majid bin Mohammad al-Majid, however Majid bin Mohammad al-Majid is on the list of Saudi Arabia's most wanted men.


Posted by: somebody | Jan 2 2014 10:00 utc | 15

Certainly that's the obvious explanation: Majid's is a hard-core AQ faction resistant to Saudi control. But when you look at the details, I think this simplistic picture begins to blur a bit. Note that (a) by some reports he was on his way to a meeting at Lebanese Army HQ when he was arrested, suggesting an Army double-cross; (b) he had just concluded an alliance with Nusra, which would put him on the wrong side of ISIS; (c) he had for a long time resided in the Fatah-controlled Ain el-Hilweh camp, which now disavows all knowledge of him.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 2 2014 10:12 utc | 16

Hezbollah (Nasrallah) clearly stated that they consider the group linked to Saudi intelligence.

There is a dance around when he was arrested though the place seems to be uncontested - Beirut - the announcement is strangely close to the Chatah assassination and the 3 Billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese army.

Whatever - Saudi got egg on its face.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2 2014 11:28 utc | 17

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2, 2014 6:28:43 AM | 17 Whatever - Saudi got egg on its face.

Is that what you think, what what about the hundreds innocents who will die, injured as a result of this justified action. Be a little more sentimental in your comments!

Posted by: hans | Jan 2 2014 13:07 utc | 18

18) Contrary to you, I don't consider terrorist acts nor wars "justified". Even in Lebanon, the chance to die of terrorism presumably is pretty low compared to the following causes.

For 2000, the study attributed 176,000 deaths to racial segregation and 133,000 to individual poverty. The numbers are substantial. For example, looking at direct causes of death, 119,000 people in the United States die from accidents each year, and 156,000 from lung cancer.

I cannot see anybody expressing outrage at these numbers though people should.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2 2014 13:22 utc | 19

what what about the hundreds innocents who will die, injured as a result of this justified action. Be a little more sentimental in your comments! Posted by: hans | Jan 2, 2014 8:07:13 AM | 18
This is exactly the craving for moralistic hysteria that I attack when it appears in other people. It serves no purpose to parade your feelings. Period.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jan 2 2014 13:25 utc | 20

19 It looks like the statistics may change, with Bandar's answer today in Beirut. He will now play an extension of the conflict to Lebanon and Iraq as his last card.

Posted by: Mina | Jan 2 2014 17:27 utc | 21

For French speakers, always interesting to listen to Vedrine's analyses

Posted by: Mina | Jan 2 2014 17:32 utc | 22

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