Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 13, 2014

Ukraine: Those Tanks ...

Rebels drive 3 tanks from Russia into Ukraine, Kiev says headlines the Washington Post:

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the tanks and several armored personnel carriers entered eastern Ukraine through a checkpoint manned by rebels in the Luhansk region. He said government troops attacked the convoy when it reached the neighboring Donetsk region, destroying part of it. The claim could not be independently verified.

Why bother to verify this "news" when one can just easily write "The claim could not be independently verified". Is that supposed to be journalism?

The New York Times is a bit more careful. Tanks, of Unknown Origin, Roll Into Ukraine:

The Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov, told reporters in Kiev, the capital, that the armored column included three tanks, as well as armored personnel carriers and armored cars, and had traversed the border at a separatist-controlled crossing.

A video posted online appeared to show a tank, spewing exhaust, clanking down a street in Snizhne, a town about midway between Donetsk, a provincial capital controlled by separatists, and the Russian frontier. Reuters reported that two of its journalists saw the tanks in Snizhne but could not establish where they had come from; separatists on the scene said the tanks had been taken from a Ukrainian military warehouse.

The pictures I have seen seem to show a variant of the T-64 tanks that are modified and sold by the Ukrainian weapon industry and are used in the Ukrainian military. As far as I know Russia does no longer have such tanks in service. How difficult would it be for real journalists to verify that?

Other news from Ukraine:

The Ukrainian coup-government claims to have taken Mariupol, a city so far held by federalists. Taking is one part. Can they hold?

The coup government rejected a Gazprom offer to buy Russian gas for $385 per 1,000 cubic meter. That is about the same price that Ukraine's neighbors pay. But the coup government, likely advised by Washington, rejected that offer. It still did not pay the debt it owns to Gazprom and the flow of gas will accordingly reduced soon. There will be no immediate crisis as some reserves are kept in storage but the issue is destined to further escalate.

The "western" media start to report bits of the humanitarian crisis the Ukrainian government is creating with fight against its own people or "terrorists" as it claims. The honeymoon most "western" media have had with the coup government in Ukraine seem to end. Bits of the truth come into play. Unless of course the media that "reports" is the Washington Post.

Posted by b on June 13, 2014 at 11:20 UTC | Permalink | Comments (20)

June 12, 2014

Cordesman Laments, Confirms Russian "Radically Different" Views

The Russian Foreign Ministry held a conference for Arab military experts to explain its view on U.S. "regime change" endeavors:

On May 23, 42 Arab military and security officials attending the third annual Moscow International Security Conference were briefed by a team of top Russian government officials on the growing danger of “color revolutions.” The uniform message presented by the Russian speakers was that the United States and NATO have adopted a new mode of warfare, focused on the use of irregular warfare forces, religious fanatics, and mercenaries, combined with the heavy use of information warfare. In a series of English language power-point graphs and maps, presenters gave a detailed chronology of the past decade, highlighting Western regime change operations in Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Anthony Cordesman, éminence grise of U.S. military analysts, attended:

Russian military officers now tied the term “Color Revolution” to the crisis in Ukraine and to what they saw as a new US and European approach to warfare that focuses on creating destabilizing revolutions in other states as a means of serving their security interests at low cost and with minimal casualties. It was seen as posing a potential threat to Russian in the near abroad, to China and Asia states not aligned with the US, and as a means of destabilizing states in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia.

Such is certainly not solely a Russian view but are facts that many "western" observers have also written about and which are confirmed by official U.S. policy papers. But Cordesman will not have any of that. "Color revolutions" must be just a Russian phantasy and U.S. engineered "regime change" is simply a wild idea.

The end result [of the Russian view] is a radically different reading of modern history, of US and European strategy, their use of force, and US and European goals and actions from any issued in the West and in prior Russian literature.

One wonders about the lack of self-awareness of Cordesman (and others) who write such nonsense. Cordesman is right, the Russian view is radically different if you start from "western" propaganda in the media. "Regime change" seldom occurs there and when it is clad in "freedom" and "democracy" camouflage. So how could the Russians ever get the idea that "color revolutions" and "regime change" are instruments of the "west"? Could it be that the Russians know because they read what Anthony Cordesman writes?

The United States and its allies, however, face a second threat. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has become steadily more authoritarian, corrupt, and repressive.
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Yes, the United States might have to help in spite of his total unfitness to rule and Iraq's desperate need to expel him and his cronies from the country, but U.S. aid must be conditional and tied to the fact that al-Maliki is an authoritarian thug. The United States should also quietly do everything possible to push him out of power and into exile.

So the solution of the crisis in Iraq, rooted in U.S. "regime change" there, is to instigate another regime change in Iraq. That would certainly, like the Iraq war, not further destabilize the situation?

Not the Russians that are crazy in there analysis but rather people like Cordesman who evidently fit Albert Einstein's definition of "insanity".

Posted by b on June 12, 2014 at 15:59 UTC | Permalink | Comments (115)

June 11, 2014

Iraq: The Civil War Restarted

After Mosul yesterday the insurgents in Iraq, the Jihadists of ISIS, but also other groups including Baathists, have now taken Tikrit and are threatening to take Samara which its important Shia shrines.

This would not have been possible without the help, or at least acquiescence, of the local population. Paul Mutter at the Arabist explains at length how the situation developed over the last years and why the Sunni population hates the Shia leaning government of Prime Minister Maliki and its rather sectarian security forces. It explains why those security forces fled while being pelted (vid) with stones by the locals. Many people have fled Mosul and other areas but this may be less out of fear of ISIS than out of fear of Iraqi army artillery fire and bombing against it.

There is certainly no need for conspiracy theories here. The local reasons fully explain the conflict and the current events. Sure, the situation would not have developed as such without the U.S. "war of terror" and the "regime change" attacks against any ruler noncompliant towards Washingon's demands. The decapitation campaigns against the leaders of Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria managed to isolated al-Qaeda and fellow Jihadist outfits in the small patch between Afghanistan and West Africa. Some success ...

A few developments of today deserve special mentions.

The Turkish consulate in Mosul was taken by ISIS and the Turkish personal there is now in ISIS custody. I had earlier seen tweets that mentioned an offer by Kurdish forces to evacuate the consulate to safety. The Turks had rejected that. Now the Turkish Prime Minister is demanding NATO consultations about the captured diplomats. This is pretty ridiculous. Without logistic support from Turkey for the insurgents in Syria ISIS would never have developed as it has.

ISIS march towards Samara now seems to meet some resistance. The Iraqi air force is bombing some of ISIS's convoys and the shrines are fiercely protected by Shia militia. Muqtada al-Sadr has called for a formal reintroduction of such sectarian militia and support was also expressed by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Maliki is pulling all reliable troops towards Baghdad to prevent ISIS from entering in force. The civil war between Shia and Sunni in Iraq, temporarily suppressed under U.S. occupation, bribes and torture during the "surge", has restarted. Iraq may now well fall apart.

What will the U.S. "elite" say about this fantastic mess it created? "It sure is a good thing that Iraq does not have WMDs..."

Posted by b on June 11, 2014 at 17:49 UTC | Permalink | Comments (172)

June 10, 2014

A Syrian War Spillover: ISIS Attacks Mosul

While the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is fighting other Islamists in Syria's east it has gained enough resources to also launch capable attacks in Iraq. In January it captured Fallujah, a conservative Sunni city. Last week it attacked Samara and threatened to capture the Shia shrine of Imam Al-Hassan Al-Askari. The Iraqi army reinforced there. But that attack on Samara seems to have been a diversion.

Today ISIS set out to capture Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city. The government troops there were, allegedly, told to not resist or deserted and fled. ISIS took over prisons and police stations and released some 3,000 of the prisoners - many of whom will now join its ranks. It robbed banks and replenished its already large financial resources. It captured tons of new weapons, ammunition and trucks. The civilian airport is in its hands. Civilians are fleeing the city.

Prime Minister Maliki, with a yet unstable coalition after he won a recent election, has little capabilities to fight back. The Iraqi army alone is unlikely to be able to take on ISIS and the Sunni Anbar tribes that support it. The Iraqi air force is too small to make a difference. Maliki will have to resort to sectarian Shia militia and will have to arrange a new coalition with the Kurds. ISIS has helped him there as it recently attacked political offices of President Talabani, one of the two major Kurd leaders.

Iraq will need further support to push ISIS back. We may soon see some rather weird coalitions growing against it: Iraqi Kurds allied with Shia Iraqi Arabs and the more secular Iraqi Sunni tribes; the U.S. air force riding shotgun for the Iraqi military in coordination with special forces from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Without its bases in east Syria ISIS would be incapable to achieve such gains. This spillover of the Syrian conflict should be an alarm signal even Washington can not deny. The Syrian government troops will be needed to tear ISIS down. The U.S. must now turn away from the insurgents in Syria and support the Syrian government troops in their fight against the common enemy. Unless that happens the ISIS problem will only fester and threaten more states in the Middle East including Jordan and Turkey.

Posted by b on June 10, 2014 at 9:38 UTC | Permalink | Comments (84)

June 09, 2014

Ukraine: Time Is On Russia's Side

The Saker now calls for immediate Russian intervention in east Ukraine.

It would be a mistake if Russia would do this. The U.S. is only waiting for such a move. It could then again push the "Russia=Aggressor" meme and gain even more influence over Europe. The Cold War Version 2.0 that would ensue is in Washington's interest, not in Moscow's.

Russia has all the economic means it needs to press the U.S. puppet in Kiev into some agreement. That may take a bit of patience though. The Saker thinks time is on the Kiev side and prolonging the situation would help the coup government. I do not agree with that. There is no harm to Russia when it just sits back and waits until the economic crisis in Ukraine lets the Kiev regime crawl to Moscow and declare its defeat.

Posted by b on June 9, 2014 at 18:06 UTC | Permalink | Comments (137)

Peace Moves On Syria

Some news with regard to Syria let me believe that there is a deal in the making to end or at least lower the level of the conflict.

Consider:

Syria's Assad grants amnesty after re-election

In a decree published by state media, Assad commuted some death sentences to life imprisonment, reduced jail terms for many offences and canceled some others altogether.

Foreigners who entered the country "to join a terrorist group or perpetrate a terrorist act" would receive an amnesty if they surrender to authorities within a month, the decree said. Kidnappers who free their hostages and army deserters would also be covered, it said.

This amnesty, especially for foreign fighters, comes just as the Iranian President Rouhani visits Turkey, the country that gives the main logistic support to those foreign fighters:

“Regional and international issues are on both countries’ agenda. Violence, radicalism, and the fight against terror are important issues Iran is following in the region and in the world. We will continue our dialogue and cooperation on this issue with all friendly countries. We will exchange views with Turkish officials during my talks today and tomorrow on issues such as violence, terrorism, sectarianism and radicalism, and on the ways to combat them.” Rouhani said in the press conference in Tehran.

Rouhani’s plane was carrying an Iranian delegation composed of one vice president, seven ministers and a number of businessmen.

Iran seems to offer business deals in exchange for less hostile Turkey position on Syria. But nothing will of course change unless the Saudis, the main financial supporter of the insurgency in Syria, cuts the money pipeline. That is where Russia comes in:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal discussed in a telephone conversation on Monday the developments in the Middle East, as well as the settlement of the ongoing conflict in Syria.
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“Particular attention was paid to the task of political and diplomatic resolution of the crisis in Syria and other conflict situation in the region.”

The press service [of the Russian Foreign Ministry] added that the high-ranking diplomats also touched upon the issues of bilateral cooperation development in the trade and economic, as well as energy spheres.

Again the offer is business in exchange for less hostility. Maybe greed can win? The three above points together seem to be part of an initiative by Iran, Russia and Syria to move the other side away from its current position. It is not clear that such a move will work now but it is a good opening for further talks.

Meanwhile the so called opposition is doing its share to finish the conflict:

Deir Ezzor Province: 17 fighters from the Islamic battalion and 28 other at least from ISIS were killed in yesterday clashes in the village of Khasham and in south of Sor town in the western city of Deir Ezzor.

More of that please.

Posted by b on June 9, 2014 at 17:54 UTC | Permalink | Comments (10)

June 07, 2014

Ukraine: Poroshenko's Hope For "Western" Help Is Deluded

This means a lot of trouble for the people in the Ukraine, east AND west:

Ukraine's new president Petro Poroshenko said his country would never give up Crimea and would not compromise on its path towards closer ties with Europe, spelling out a defiant message to Russia in his inaugural speech on Saturday.
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Poroshenko stressed the need for a united Ukraine and the importance of ending the conflict that threatens to further split the country of 45 million people. He said it would not become a looser federalised state, as advocated by Russia.
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Poroshenko's speech drew an ovation from guests at a ceremony attended by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and senior EU officials.

The Saker calls the speech a declaration of war. That may well be right.

Russia will need to tighten the screws a bit. Be polite at the outside, concede in public but make sure that Kiev will feel more and more pressure through secondary channels.

I doubt that the "west" will take any real risk over Ukraine or even put up enough money to save it from ruin. In the end Ukraine will be alone facing a rather angry bear. If Poroshenko, as it seems, thinks different, he is clearly deluded.

Posted by b on June 7, 2014 at 15:13 UTC | Permalink | Comments (146)

June 06, 2014

D-Day Propaganda Misses The Soviet Contributions

While it is given much emphasis in the "western" view of the second world war Operation Overlord, the invasion on D-Day and the following month of fighting at the Western front, were strategically less important than the Soviet operations on the Eastern front. Without the parallel Soviet Operation Bagration the invasion of fortress Europe in the west would likely have failed. Looking at the numbers of forces involved and German forces destroyed one might even argue that Overlord was just a diversion to keep a few German divisions busy while the Soviet attack in the East destroyed whole German armies.

At the Tehran conference in winter of 1943 Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin aligned their strategies:

The declaration issued by the three leaders on conclusion of the conference on 1 December 1943, recorded the following military conclusions:
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The cross-channel invasion of France (Operation Overlord) would be launched during May 1944, in conjunction with an operation against southern France. The latter operation would be undertaken in as great a strength as availability of landing-craft permitted. The Conference further took note of Joseph Stalin's statement that the Soviet forces would launch an offensive at about the same time with the object of preventing the German forces from transferring from the Eastern to the Western Front;

Stalin more than kept his promise:

The partisan brigades, including many Jewish fighters and concentration-camp escapees, planted 40,000 demolition charges. They devastated the vital rail lines linking German Army Group Centre to its bases in Poland and Eastern Prussia.

Three days later, on June 22 1944, the third anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, Marshal Zhukov gave the order for the main assault on German front lines. Twenty-six thousand heavy guns pulverised German forward positions. The screams of the Katyusha rockets were followed by the roar of 4,000 tanks and the battle cries (in more than 40 languages) of 1.6 million Soviet soldiers. Thus began Operation Bagration, an assault over a 500-mile-long front.
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[T]he Soviet summer offensive was several times larger than Operation Overlord (the invasion of Normandy), both in the scale of forces engaged and the direct cost to the Germans.

By the end of summer, the Red army had reached the gates of Warsaw as well as the Carpathian passes commanding the entrance to central Europe. Soviet tanks had caught Army Group Centre in steel pincers and destroyed it. The Germans would lose more than 300,000 men in Belorussia alone. Another huge German army had been encircled and would be annihilated along the Baltic coast. The road to Berlin had been opened.

In total some 70-80% of German losses occurred in the East. In 1944 there were 228 German divisions in the East compared to a total of 58 divisions in the West (and South). In June, July and August 1944 alone the Soviets completely destroyed some 28 German divisions. A bigger German force than the 15 divisions that existed on the Western front in France on D-Day and the weeks thereafter.

It is embarrassing to see how many propaganda lines are spend on D-Day compared to the few acknowledgments of the much huger Soviet efforts and casualties on the Eastern front.

Posted by b on June 6, 2014 at 7:28 UTC | Permalink | Comments (120)

June 05, 2014

Ukraine: Kerry Urging For "Evidence" Of Russian Involvement

Somewhat funny.

April 8 - U.S. and NATO Warn Russia Against Further Intervention in Ukraine

Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Kremlin of fomenting the unrest, calling the protests the work of saboteurs whose machinations were as “ham-handed as they are transparent.” Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he added: “No one should be fooled — and believe me, no one is fooled — by what could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea. It is clear that Russian special forces and agents have been the catalysts behind the chaos of the last 24 hours.”

Russia (recommended reading)

QUESTION: But, Mr President, the United States and the White House claim they have evidence that Russia intervened in the conflict, sent its troops and supplied weapons. They claim they have proof. Do you believe that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Proof? Why don’t they show it? "Any evidence?" ...

June 5 - Obama, Seeking Unity on Russia, Meets Obstacles

Secretary of State John Kerry also spent time talking with Mr. Poroshenko, privately urging him to provide evidence of Russian involvement with separatists with which to confront Russian officials.

What a lying piece of shit.

Posted by b on June 5, 2014 at 14:48 UTC | Permalink | Comments (95)

June 02, 2014

Unveiling "Western" Hypocrisy Russia Connects Syria And Ukraine

A few days ago we read this:

Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan are planning to circulate a new U.N. Security Council resolution that diplomats say would authorize the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria through four border crossings without approval from President Bashar Assad's government.
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Diplomats familiar with the draft said it is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which means it could be enforced militarily. It would authorize humanitarian access at three crossings from Turkey and one from Iraq.
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Some diplomats doubt Russia would approve a new humanitarian resolution under Chapter 7, but they say it could be a bargaining chip in negotiations.

That "bargaining chip" is worth nothing. Russia will veto any Chapter 7 resolution on Syria. There is nothing to bargain about that. But using that "bargaining chip" is now firing back.

For June Russia will be take up the presidency of the UN Security Council which allows it, to a certain extend, to set the agenda. The first point on that agenda is now the question of "human corridors" from Russia into east-Ukraine:

Russia will submit a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Monday calling for an immediate end to worsening violence in Ukraine and the creation of humanitarian corridors in the east of the country, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
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[The draft resolution] will also include "a demand for the creation, without delay, of humanitarian corridors though which peaceful civilians could leave combat zones if they wish," he said. The text would also call for guarantees of unhindered access for humanitarian aid.

"Now how about a Chapter 7 clause for that?" Lavrov will ask his colleagues.

Russia is actively linking the cases of Syria and Ukraine. That may not bring any progress on either issue. But by connecting the cases Russia can publicly demonstrated the utter hypocrisy of "western" policies. The target of this is the "western" public which is already against further "western" meddling in Syria as well as in Ukraine. I expect more such political "mirroring" of the two situations in the coming weeks and month.

This morning the Kiev regime sent jets and bombed the regional administration building in Luhansk which had been taken over by federalists. At least five people were killed. This is another escalation by Kiev and the puppet players behind the regime with the larger intend to openly draw Russia into a fight with NATO. Moscow will not fall for the bait.

Posted by b on June 2, 2014 at 16:09 UTC | Permalink | Comments (132)