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July 15, 2014

UK Foreign Minister William Hague Fired - But Why?

Reshuffle Surprise As William Hague Quits As Foreign Secretary , July 15

William Hague surprised Westminster on Monday evening by announcing he would quit as foreign secretary, as David Cameron culled male ministers of all ranks as part of a wide-ranging reshuffle expected to see the promotion of several women to top jobs.

Hmm ...

There is currently another inquiry into pedophile rings in the UK which, allegedly, included major British politicians since the 1960s and several, some seemingly still ongoing, cover-ups by those and other "elite" figures.

Some recent headlines:

Butler-Sloss had to quit the inquiry because she was, allegedly, related to the cover up in an earlier inquiry.

But what does have to do with William Hague? We do not really know.

But could it be that the British PM Cameron, in sight of the 2015 election, considered the recent paedophile flare up and its possible implications together with this older news item when he decided to fire Hague?

Steve Messham said Mr Hague had "questions to answer" over why a public inquiry by Sir Ronald Waterhouse was restricted under terms of reference laid down by the then Welsh secretary.

And, as Jam,es in the comments reminded us, some time ago there was also this curious "incident" with Hague's "special advisor":

Posted by b on July 15, 2014 at 15:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (63)

Gaza: Hamas Rejects Tony Blair's Cease-fire Scam

The war Netanyahoo launched on the people of Gaza has so far killed over 192, 80% of them civilians, wounded 1,400 people, completely destroyed 990 houses, damaged another 1,700 houses, and created billions of damage to the infrastructure in Gaza, including the already fragile water distribution system. For what?

In total Israel air force and missiles hit more than 2,000 "targets" while some 1,000 rockets were fired from Gaza. No Israeli was killed by the unguided rockets Hamas and other organizations launched from the strip.

This morning there was some talk of a cease-fire allegedly after an agreement was negotiatated by the Egyptian dictator Sisi. Israel's security cabinet immediately accepted it.

But this cease-fire agreement was actually written by the war-criminal and Zionist Tony Blair. No Palestinian had even seen it or was involved in its creation. They learned of the "agreement" through the media. It included nothing but a stop of fighting and some vague promise of further talks. For what then did so many people die?

Hamas and other groups rejected this scam and continued their ineffective rocket fire. Hamas, which has also to keep consensus with more radical Palestinian groups in Gaza, had set several conditions for stopping the fighting:

  • an end to all Israeli attacks on Gaza
  • opening of the border crossings to Israel and Egypt
  • release of the Hamas prisoners Israel, without reason, took in the West Bank over the last three weeks
  • payment by the Palestinian Authority for the government workers in Gaza.

Rocket launches from Gaza have continued over the day and Israel is now back to bombing whatever is left to bomb in Gaza. It's politicians have set the elusive aim of "dismantling Hamas". But Hamas has support of the people and unless all people are killed it will exist and a longer conflict will only make it stronger.

Posted by b on July 15, 2014 at 12:20 UTC | Permalink | Comments (95)

July 13, 2014

#Ger #Arg

Hummels Reveals Germany's Half Time Team Talk

German defender Mats Hummels has revealed that the team agreed at half-time that they would stay professional and try not to humiliate Brazil.

That was appropriately done. The German team would be well advised to do the same with Argentine ;-)

Posted by b on July 13, 2014 at 17:56 UTC | Permalink | Comments (46)

Iran: The Nuclear Negotiations Scam

Four "western" Foreign Ministers flew to Vienna today to further negotiate about Iran's nuclear achievements. It is quite dubious why Kerry thought that such a meeting now would be helpful. It looks like this was planned as an attempt to intimidate Iran into further concessions but failed because neither Russia's nor China's Foreign Minister are attending.

The negotiations are supposed to find a compromise until July 20. After that the negotiations would have to be prolonged for another 6 month which would only give more time to those who are against any deal to sabotage it.

The two sticking points are "breakout capacity" and the length of the period Iran would restrict itself to a certain limits of its industrial nuclear capacities. The "breakout capability" is a quite weird concept described as the total centrifuge capacity and thereby capability to produce enough enriched Uranium for one sole bomb in a certain time frame. Of course no state wanting a nuclear deterrent would use its officially declared, and highly controlled capacities to produce the materials needed. Nor would the reach of a "one bomb" capability be significant in any strategic sense.

But the U.S. negotiators seem to stick to the concept of arbitrarily limiting enrichment capabilities while even very seasoned U.S. proliferation experts find that it not helpful and that it risks to make any deal impossible:

So the most realistic goal in Vienna isn’t to make breakout impossible, but to make it a difficult and unattractive option for Iran. Once you see that as the goal, you realize that the gains in transparency from any likely deal—extremely close monitoring of declared facilities and the power to inspect undeclared facilities—should be at the forefront of American thinking about this problem. It would be a mistake to sacrifice such transparency in a failed attempt to reduce Iran’s breakout capacity by some arbitrary increment that is actually less valuable than many in Washington think it is.

The Chinese and Russian seem see the U.S. concept of "breakout capability" as a sham that is used to sabotage the talks:

Vladimir Evseyev of the Russian state-run CIS institute says Washington’s insistence that Iran shut down uranium enrichment facilities and negotiate on its missile program violates the accords outlining the scope of the talks. The U.S., he said, wants negotiations to “to be lengthy and painful,” so as to keep sanctions in place for its own political agenda.

Diplomats familiar with the talks say Moscow shares Washington’s desire to reach a deal but is significantly less demanding of Tehran. While the U.S. wants deep cuts in Iranian programs that could be used to make nuclear arms, Russia would settle for pervasive monitoring, they say.

The Chinese and Russians are agreeing with the U.S. proliferation experts. The "breakout capability" is nonsense and good monitoring is much more important than any numerical capacity restriction.

That "western" states use the concept of "breakout capacity" at all can only be interpreted as their unwillingness of reaching a deal with Iran.

Posted by b on July 13, 2014 at 15:07 UTC | Permalink | Comments (26)

July 11, 2014

Ukraine: Pro-Coup-Government Forces Hit Hard

The pro-federation forces in east Ukraine seem to have severely hit the coup-government's army which is attempting to surround and attack them.

The Ukrainian 79th and 24th brigades from Lviv, western Ukraine, bunched up over night in some place around Zelenopliya between the south-eastern rebel positions and the nearby Russian border. They were hit by a barrage of grad rockets fired by the pro-federation forces. First pictures available on the Internet show many destroyed vehicle - main battle tanks, APCs, trucks - probably the result of secondary (ammunition) explosions.

The not yet confirmed casualty count is 67 killed and 175 wounded government soldiers.

This major loss could lead to a new assessment of the situation by the government side and then to serious attempts to negotiate a ceasefire. It could also lead to further military escalations.

Posted by b on July 11, 2014 at 12:55 UTC | Permalink | Comments (115)

Gaza: The Media Coverage

This Latuff cartoon is spot on:

There have, as of now, 103 people killed in Gaza with more than 700 people injured. Most of them are women, children and elderly. 200 houses were completely destroyed and more than 1,500 houses partially damaged.

On the Israeli side no one was killed and one person was injured after a gas station, allegedly, was hit and exploded.

About 800 Israeli bombs have hit Gaza while some 400 unguided missiles were launched from Gaza onto Israel proper. A Israeli Defense Force spokesperson boosted that the IDF hits the densely populated Gaza every 4 1/2 minutes and would continue to do so.

But, despite reporting in Jewish media that Netanyahoo obviously planned and started this war, main stream media continue to depict the Jewish side as the sole victim of this very one sided conflict.

Posted by b on July 11, 2014 at 12:11 UTC | Permalink | Comments (118)

July 10, 2014

Open Thread 2014-15

News & views ...

Posted by b on July 10, 2014 at 17:50 UTC | Permalink | Comments (108)

July 09, 2014

What Does Netanyahoo Want?

After Kerry's fake peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians predictably failed, the Palestinians decided to form a unity government. Hamas and the PLO under Abbas would create a common technocrat government to have more legitimacy for their next efforts in the international realm for the Palestinians' rights. Israel decided to try everything to destroy that effort.

Then three Israeli colonists were kidnapped and killed by some rogue Palestinian clan and under quite murky circumstances. Netanyahoo, despite knowing that the three were dead and who was responsible for it, used the frenzy "search" for the three to dismantle Hamas in the West Bank. He also attacked Hamas in the Gaza strip. The retaliation and escalation then went like clockwork just as Netanyaoo had expected.

A large scale occupation operation against the people of Gaza is now again on the horizon. Such could easily escalate further into a third intifada.

One wonder what Netanyahoo hopes to, in the end, win by this. He can not dismantle Hamas or kill the efforts for the Palestinians' rights. People on both sides, the Palestinians much more though, will suffer. This all will only increases the push to further delegitimize Israel and its occupation.

Posted by b on July 9, 2014 at 17:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (201)

Sorry Brazil

The football (soccer) game yesterday was somewhat embarrassing for all players and watchers.

Yes, the German team played well with an exceptional emphasis on "team". Everyone worked for everyone. But the Brazilian team was just a shadow of itself. The first German goal came after a massive hole in the Brazilian defense left Müller uncovered during a simple standard situation. The following four goals for Germany within just 6 minutes were all well played and maybe even deserved but against a ridiculously lame defense, a Brazilian midfield that couldn't pass a ball without losing it and an offense that was unable to defeat the German goal keeper Neuer. After the first 30 minutes Brazil was defeated, the Germans stopped playing in earnest and took their pace back to the level of a training game. Had they kept going a double digit win would have been possible or even likely.

Schürrle, coming fresh from the bench in the second half, scored two more without much effort before in the 90th minute a lone Brazilian Oscar was let go by the German defense to score a sole one for Brazil.

The 7:1, bad as it was, wasn't the only defeat for Brazil. the German goalgetter Klose, with now 16 world-championship goals, took the record away from Brazil's Rinaldo. The German team also defeated the Brazilian record for total goals in world-championships.

The fellow Germans with whom I watched felt, like me, sorry for the Brazilians. There was likely too much pressure on them and we were sure that they would have been much better without all those expectations their nation had put onto them.

On Sunday Germany will play against either Argentina or Netherlands. That game will be more difficult than yesterdays shooting spree against Brazil. The ball is round. May the best team win.

Posted by b on July 9, 2014 at 16:08 UTC | Permalink | Comments (50)

July 08, 2014

The ISIS Is A U.S. Tool "Conspiracy Theories"

Is ISIS a creation of the United States government?

I do not have enough data to judge on that question. My gut instinct on this trends towards "no." But there is some data that points into the "yes" directions and it seems that many people have judged "yes" on that basis.

In 1957 the CIA and MI6 conspired for regime change in Syria:

The plan called for funding of a "Free Syria Committee", and the arming of "political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities" within Syria. The CIA and MI6 would instigate internal uprisings, for instance by the Druze in the south, help to free political prisoners held in the Mezze prison, and stir up the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus.

Starting from that confirmed conspiracy Mohsen Abdelmoumen suggests with some current data that a similar plan, with the endgame of breaking up Syria and Iraq, is in motion and that ISIS is an instrument in this.

Al-Maydeen TV, a Lebanese channel allegedly financed by Iran or Syria or Hizbullah or someone else, interviewed the Egyptian Sheikh Nabeel Naiem. The 40 minutes interview with English subtitles and a transcript can be found here. Sheikh Nabeel Naiem (the transliteration of the name may be wrong) claims to have been with Bin Laden in Afghanistan and explains why he believes that ISIS is a U.S. project using Jihadis to incite a "100 year war" between Sunni and Shia in the Middle East. The sheikh is very critical of the Muslim Brotherhood and I am not sure about some of his more propagandistic claims but he is well read and connects some well known U.S. documents to the current situation on the ground. He also alleges that there is a U.S. plot against the Saudi regime.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese academic and resistance supporter, just adds the facts and concludes on her blog:

[S]everal developments this week reveal that ISIS has effectively become the US’ (and of course Saudi’s) new weapon of choice in confronting the Iran- Hizbullah-Syria-Iraq Axis:

Obama acknowledges that the notion of a “ready-made moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat Assad” was a “fantasy”, and only days later, requests $500 million from Congress to fund this fantasy; the following day, the leader of one of the leading “moderate” Islamist groups Obama was alluding to, the Syrian Revolutionary Front, tells The Independent that the fight against al-Qaeda was “not our problem” and admits that his fighters conduct joint operations with al-Qaeda’s representative in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra; a Kurdish intelligence source reveals to The Telegraph that his people had informed the US and British governments of an imminent ISIS takeover of Mosul but that the warning “fell on deaf ears;” PM Maliki blames the US’ delayed delivery of 36 F16s Iraq had purchased for ISIS’ advance into northern and western Iraq; Netanyahu warns Obama against military intervention in Iraq, arguing “when your enemies are fighting one another, don’t strengthen either one of them. Weaken both;” ISIS declares war on Lebanon.

The facts speak for themselves.

Well? Are these all the facts and do they speak for themselves? I am not ready to decide.

Posted by b on July 8, 2014 at 18:22 UTC | Permalink | Comments (114)

July 07, 2014

Syria: ISIS Against The States

This New York Times op-ed by Matt Atkins is another propaganda piece for the moderate cuddly homegrown al-Qaeda:

[C]an the West meaningfully influence the military situation in Syria while continuing to eschew Islamist groups, now that they are dominant among the rebels? “The Free Syrian Army has been weak and divided,” said Richard Barrett, a former British intelligence official. “And so the Islamic Front is really the only game in town if you want to attack ISIS in Syria.”
...
If Washington and its partners want to push back against both Assad and ISIS at once, they will have to be less squeamish about picking allies in Syria. Otherwise, they may not find any left at all.

The only game in town if one wants to attack ISIS is the Syrian Arab Army under Bashar al-Assad. Anything else is just wishful thinking.

In a few month the Islamic Front will no longer exist. It will vanish like that phantasy of a Free Syrian Army. Parts of it will swear allegiance to the Islamic State, parts will give up fighting and parts will change over to the government side. Then the real war against ISIS will start.

As there is no alternative in sight Iraq will then likely still be ruled by Prime Minister Maliki despite U.S. demands for regime change. He will receive weapons, intelligence and advice from Russia and Iran. Unlike Syria Iraq will even be able to pay for those. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps will help Maliki to build up a force of strong (religiously) motivated national guard battalions which will be the manpower needed to reconquer and hold the cities ISIS has so far taken.

By the end of the year ISIS will be squeezed from the west, south and east by Syrian and Iraqi government forces and from the north by the Kurd. The ISIS (or IS) will meanwhile implement the Management of Savagery (recommended) before it really starts to consolidate its caliphate.

While ISIS has plundered lots of weapons and resources it still lacks the political and military dimensions of a nation state. With overwhelming air and artillery power the Iraqi and Syrian government sides can and will win the bloody and ferocious war.

Posted by b on July 7, 2014 at 17:19 UTC | Permalink | Comments (88)

July 06, 2014

Ukraine: Retreat From Slaviansk Far From End Game

The Saker is somewhat depressed that the insurgents in east Ukraine retreated from Slaviansk. But that retreat was in good order and with few losses despite being surrounded by enemy forces. As their commander Strelkov explains there was no way Slaviansk could be defended against superior artillery and air superiority with little means to counter those.

Strelkov is now setting up defenses in Donetsk which is a nuch bigger city with more resources and likely easier to defend. As the Ukrainian army and the National Guard stormtroopers from the Right Sektor now move forward they may soon find that they have some "left behind" enemies in their back who can seriously influence their operations.

Supporters of the insurgents seem to blame Russia's President Putin for lack of (visible) support. But that is, in my view, thinking too small. It is far too early to have any idea of who has won or lost in Ukraine. What Putin is currently trying to do, with growing success, is to separate the Europeans from the ever meddling United States. Last Thursday a new agreement on a ceasefire was negotiated and agreed upon with Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine at the table. When the German chancellor Merkel informed U.S. President Obama about it it was the U.S. which again threatened Russia and urged the Ukrainian President Poroshenko to continue his "Anti-Terrorist Operation". The Germans and French will have taken note of this and will again move a bit more further towards the Russian side.

In judging the current situation I agree with Anatol Karlin who finds that Putin is playing a clever but cynical game:

[T]he lack of *direct* [Russian] intervention is more likely just the product of a series of cold calculations that show it more likely to be effective in a few months than today, when:

a) The Ukrainian Army has become weaker and more demoralized;

b) Photos of bisected, bloodied, and burnt corpses have been filling the Russian and international airwaves for a few months;

c) The resolve of the West and its unity are weaker;

d) The Russian economy is more prepared for any sanctions that are forthcoming; and

e) Austerity is biting Ukraine hard, and (gas-less) winter is coming.

Too bad that it is the residents of Donetsk who will be playing the blood price for this.

The Twisted Genius (TTG), who is former Green Beret trained in creating and directing local insurgencies, has a somewhat similar take on the situation:

[Putin] he is another hard hearted empath. He knows that Novorossiya must be forged from fire if it is to survive. They must want it and be willing to fight for it themselves.
...
Additionally, Putin disdains the West’s penchant for R2P and aggressive interference in the affairs of others. He will move if he thinks it is necessary and when he thinks it is necessary. For now, I believe he is content to provide covert support as necessary, push for a real ceasefire and political solution, and bide his time as a new nation that intends to span from Kharkov to Oddessa and Transnistria births itself.

Posted by b on July 6, 2014 at 14:58 UTC | Permalink | Comments (236)

July 04, 2014

Germany Getting Ready To Divorce U.S. Ally

From recent talks and discussions in Germany I conclude that the U.S. is losing more and more support and sympathies. The admiration of earlier times has turned into disgust. While a lot of higher politicians and some journalists still cling to some (well paid) myth of U.S. friendship the party base in all political parties as well as the general public has changed its opinion.

The NSA spying headlines are only one, though important issue. Consider how you would feel about such an intrusive "ally":

The German constitution, as interpreted by the constitutional court, defines privacy as a basic human right. That the U.S. is so casually violating the basic human rights of all German citizens is met with utter disgust. Even the paid and trained Atlantic Council (a U.S. lobby) trolls in German news-site comments have problem defending this issue.

But the NSA spying is not the only problem. The economic breakdown after 2008 clearly had its roots in the United States and is, in Germany, blamed on lax U.S. regulations. And while Germany itself pressed for a change in government in Ukraine the outbreak of violence, the bloody coup and the fighting in the east is considered as "Fuck the EU" U.S. intervention in European affairs.

It may still take a decade or more but my sense is that the U.S.-German alliance in on its way to an unfriendly divorce. Something that 15 years ago seemed unthinkable.

Posted by b on July 4, 2014 at 15:28 UTC | Permalink | Comments (168)

July 02, 2014

Stephen Walt Confuses Marketing Claims With Products

I admire Stephen Walt for his work exposing the Israel Lobby in the United States and I do like his general realist position. But this is some serious claptrap nonsense not worth the electrons it is traveling on:

All three post-Cold War presidents have made their fair share of errors, but there is a common taproot to many of their failings. That taproot has been the pervasive influence of liberal idealism in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, an influence that crosses party lines and unites Democratic liberal internationalists with Republican neoconservatives. The desire to extend liberalism into Eastern Europe lay behind NATO expansion, and it is a big reason that so-called liberal hawks jumped on the neocon bandwagon in Iraq. It explains why the United States tried to export democracy to Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, instead of focusing laser-like on al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks.

This is utter bullshit. All the "liberal idealism" is just a marketing ploy to sell imperial wars for global hegemony. The wars and actions of the post cold-war presidents had nothing to do with liberalism and all to do with resource grabs and general hatred against any independent entity.

If there were a "liberal idealism" based foreign policy how could the U.S. be allied to the Saudis, to a colonial Israel and dozens of nefarious dictatorships throughout the world? When have the neocons or the liberal interventionists ever argued for overthrowing the Saudi regime or the playstation king dictator of Jordan?

Any talk of "liberty" or "promoting democracy" by Washington think tanks and politicians is ALWAYS just a marketing argument that has nothing to do with the real products they are peddling.

That a supposed realist is selling this false claim of "We are only exporting liberal values. If that creates a mess it was not intended" is disturbing especially because the reality is quite different. The creation of the "mess" is what the policy intends and its result.

Here Noam Chomsky looks at the factual record of the real U.S. foreign policy and finds that it is nothing but a corporate protection racket that has nothing to do do with "liberal idealism".

After the cold war ended and the "threat" of the Soviet Union vanished Washington continued to rape other countries just like before. With the "threat of communism" gone it simply used different arguments, all of the false, to sell the rape of Panama, El Salvador, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, Libya and other not so open wars.

Non of these wars had anything to do with "liberal idealism". That claim only helped to sell the wars at home. In none of these wars and their aftermath were "liberal ideals" any concern for those who implemented U.S. policies. The money spend in and after these wars ended in the pockets of U.S. fat cats and the policies implemented in those foreign countries were only to ensure that those countries would stay enslaved to Washington's demands.

How a "realist" studying the actual historical records can not see that is beyond me.

Posted by b on July 2, 2014 at 18:14 UTC | Permalink | Comments (103)

July 01, 2014

Syria: A Slight Breeze of Change

Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, in an NYT op-ed:

The greatest threat to American interests in the region is ISIS, not Mr. Assad. To fight this enemy, Mr. Obama needs to call on others similarly threatened: Iran, Russia, Iraqi Shiites and Kurds, Jordan, Turkey — and above all, the political leader with the best-armed forces in the region, Mr. Assad. Part of the deal would need to be that the Syrian regime and the rebels largely leave each other alone.

The Obama administration now seems to take the threat of the Islamic State for real as it increases the troop deployment to Iraq to secure an eventual embassy evacuation:

The deployment includes "a detachment of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, which will bolster airfield and travel route security," [Pentagon spokesman] Kirby said in a written statement.
...
The 300 troops are in addition to 300 U.S. advisers who will help train Iraq's security forces. They will bring the total of American forces in Iraq to about 800 troops.

From earlier deployments we can assume that there will be at least one additional contractor for each soldier deployed. All together it is quite a capable force and any attempt of a raid against the embassy would likely be defeated. But the threat thereof is now obviously a serious concern.

I take the Gelb op-ed as an early sign that at least some "serious people" in Washington are changing their position towards the Syrian government. Will others follow?

Posted by b on July 1, 2014 at 15:34 UTC | Permalink | Comments (84)

NYT Claims "Russian Hacker" Attack Without Any Supporting Evidence

A 800 words New York times story on some alleged computer hacking of some energy companies mentions "Russian hackers" ten times.

From Hackers in Russia ... Russian hackers have ... Russian hackers are targeting ... The Russian attacks ... an unusually sophisticated and aggressive Russian group targeting ... believed the hackers were backed by the Russian government ... The Russian hackers ... the Russian hacking group ... The Russian hackers have ... the Russian group intended ...

The story includes zero (as in nil, none) evidence and no reasoning at all why the hackers involved are supposed to be "Russian".

It is the nature of the internet that geo-localizing the original source of an attack is nearly impossible. There are myriad ways hackers from anywhere could frame one country or group as an attacker. It is therefore highly irresponsible and nothing but pure hostile propaganda to attribute any such attack to a certain source, group or country without any further evidence and very sound and detailed technological reasoning.

The NYT story links to a Symantec report about the hacks. Symantec's sole reasoning on the source location, unmentioned in the NYT story, is this:

Analysis of the compilation timestamps on the malware used by the attackers indicate that the group mostly worked between Monday and Friday, with activity mainly concentrated in a nine-hour period that corresponded to a 9am to 6pm working day in the UTC +4 time zone. Based on this information, it is likely the attackers are based in Eastern Europe.

Such reasoning is much too basic to be of any evidence. The UTC +4 timezone includes not only west Russia but also other countries like Iran. It is also just as possible that the computers used for the compilation of the malware were sitting in Ohio, Tel Aviv or Nanking but had their clock settings changed to make it appear that they were in an UTC +4 working environment. Notice that Symantec named the source in question "Dragonfly" probably hinting that the attacks were originally though of as having an Asian origin.

It is highly irresponsible to publicly accuse a certain country as the source of this attack without having any further evidence to support such a claim. Doing so exposes the NYT as a vile propaganda paper again doing the U.S. war-hawk's bidding.

Posted by b on July 1, 2014 at 10:00 UTC | Permalink | Comments (41)