Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 30, 2014

Open Thread 2014-29

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 30, 2014 at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (102)

November 29, 2014

Obama Falsely Claims Human Rights Law Does Not Apply To Syrian Mercenary Training

Buried down in a report about Pentagon plans to train more mercenaries to fight against Syria we find this declaration of intend by the Obama administration to (again) break the law:

The military screening plan came together after the Obama administration determined that the training program for the Syrians would not be subject to what are known as the Leahy laws, which typically govern U.S. security assistance to foreign forces.

Under those laws, a small office at the State Department works with U.S. embassies overseas to ensure that recipients of State or Defense Department security assistance aren’t linked to major human rights abuses.
Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said.

Wait a second. The U.S. congress has set aside $500 million to train, equip and pay these fighters. The U.S. military will do the training. And the Obama administration claims that these are not "state-sponsored forces"? Is the U.S. no longer a nation state?

Besides that the Leahy law as codified for the Pentagon in Section 8057 of the 2014 Omnibus bill does not say anything about "state-sponsored forces":

(1) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for the members of a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

(2) The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall ensure that prior to a decision to provide any training, equipment, or other assistance to a unit of a foreign security force full consideration is given to any credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by such unit.

There is nothing about "state-sponsored" in the Pentagon relevant portion of the Leahy law. Will these trained be "foreign"? Yes. Will they be "security forces"? Arguably because they will likely bring more insecurity to Syria than security. But they will have weapons, will be organized in units and will fight. That seems to fit the expression "foreign security force".

Additionally the Pentagon Leahy law parts differ from the parts (Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as amended most recently in January 2014)) relevant to State Department sponsored training which explicitly refers to a "unit of the security forces of a foreign country".

When Congress codified the law it decided to limit the State Department version to "security forces of a foreign country". The Pentagon version was limited to "a foreign security force" which is a wider frame and does not necessitate those forces to be related to a foreign country.

The Obama administration obfuscation of Leahy relevance is faulty on two counts. If the Leahy restrictions were really to "state-sponsored forces" than the state sponsoring by the United States should count too. But the Leahy law as relevant is not restricted to "state-sponsored forces". It applies to "a foreign security force" which any Syrian group trained by the Pentagon will actually be. (Though again one might argue correctly that these forces will bring more insecurity to Syria and thereby are no "security forces" but the Obama administration does not make that claim.)

All the groups the CIA has trained and equipped to fight against Syria have committed major human rights violations. But the Leahy law does not apply to the CIA. Now as the Pentagon takes over the training of such groups the Leahy law becomes relevant. I dare anyone to find a group of Syrian insurgents fighting against the Syrian government that has not indiscriminately shelled civilians and not committed other major human rights abuses. There is none.

The Obama administration wants to avoid the applicability of the Leahy law because applying it would leave the Pentagon without any potential recruits to train as mercenaries against the Syrian government. It decided to break the law by using an interpretation that actually not covered by the laws wording. It has thus decided to break the law.

Posted by b on November 29, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

November 28, 2014

AP: U.S. Mercenaries Working With Al-Qaeda No Scandal - Just A "Difficulty"

Moon of Alabama September 15 2014:

There are serious active preparations for a new attack on Damascus. Anti-government forces, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have been trained and equipped in Jordan and are now moving into their starting position in Quneitra governate in south-west Syria.
The rather empty Quneitra area makes little sense to conquer except to be used as a launching pad for an attack from the south towards Damascus. The distance to the capital is only some 40 miles (60km). While two Syrian army divisions are stationed between Quneitra governate and Damascus coordinated air attacks against them could open and secure a route from Quneitra governate into the capital. Recent truce agreements between the U.S. supported Syrian Revolutionary Front and ISIS in the area south of Damascus may have been concluded with these attack plans in mind.

Associated Press November 28 2014:

Syrian rebels backed by the United States are making their biggest gains yet south of the capital Damascus, capturing a string of towns from government forces and aiming to carve out a swath of territory leading to the doorstep of President Bashar Assad's seat of power.
The rebel forces are believed to include fighters who graduated from a nearly 2-year-old CIA training program based in Syria's southern neighbor Jordan.
Notably, in the south, the rebels are working together with fighters from al-Qaida's Syria branch, whose battle-hardened militants have helped them gain the momentum against government forces. The cooperation points to the difficulty in American efforts to build up "moderate" factions while isolating militants.

Ten weeks behind Moon of Alabama the Associated Press is recognizing the southern attack on Damascus. They get paid for (not) reporting, I don't.

But notice the last graph I copied and the last sentence in it. U.S. trained, supplied and supported mercenaries are openly cooperating with Jabhat al-Nusra which is al-Qaida's Syria branch. This is not a "conspiracy theory" of some nutcase but official AP reporting.

The people accused of bringing down the world trade center on 9/11 are openly working with U.S. (proxy) forces. And what does AP make of this? The cooperation points to the difficulty in American efforts to build up "moderate" factions while isolating militants.

Ah - no. This is no difficulty in the effort. It is a huge scandal. The U.S. could simply tell its mercenaries (many of whom I believe are disguised al-Nusra followers) to stop cooperating with al-Nusra. It has all the leverage over these guys than one can possibly have. It provides them with money, weapons and ammunition. Their families are cared for in Jordan and anyone wounded during fighting will be taken to a hospital in Jordan or Israel. If the U.S. did not want these guys to partner with al-Nusra it would not provide for them.

I find it quite astonishing that there is not any critical reporting in the Main Stream Media about this quite direct U.S. cooperation with al-Qaeda. It is nearly certain that this cooperation with al-Qaeda will, in two, five or ten years, come back to bite the U.S. in its ass. It will hurt U.S. people.

But that by now seems to be not a bug but a feature. The "fear business" James Risen talks about is now driving billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars per year into a few private hands. Another 9/11 like event every few years will keep that business going. Letting al-Nusra get experience with U.S. tactics and weapons can only help to further that.

But that's just another "conspiracy theory" featured on MoA.

How long will it take AP to report it as official news?

Posted by b on November 28, 2014 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

November 27, 2014

Obama Regime Thugs Kill American Citizens

In Ferguson Obama regime thugs and shabiha beat up and shoot peaceful protesters. The regime even uses soldiers, SOLDIERS, against its own citizens. In Cleveland the regime kills (video) a twelve year old boy in cold blood. The kid wasn't even protesting but just playing around in a park. Why is Obama killing children?

How long will the international community allow this illegitimate regime to continue its war against its own people?

Posted by b on November 27, 2014 at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.): "Syrian, Iraqi Soldiers Are Klingons"

The Hill reports: US in talks over Arab boots on the ground

The U.S. and allies are discussing the possibility of deploying ground forces from Arab nations to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a top Republican lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee.

"At the current time there are no Arab-country forces on the ground in either Iraq or Syria. There are discussions on how to do that but right now it's the Kurds or the Peshmerga that are fighting," said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) in an interview Tuesday with The Hill.
Wittman said military commanders told him the air campaign is indeed degrading ISIS's capability but that there is a need for more boots on the ground, though not necessarily U.S. forces.

Wittman wants to deploy Jordanian soldiers in Iraq and Syria. He apparently believes that Jordan is an Arab country while Iraq and Syria are, in his mind, not Arab countries. In his view Iraqi and Syrian troops, who have been fighting the Islamic State and other Jihadists daily for several years now, do not wear "Arab boots". He likely believes that those soldiers are Klingons or some other alien form of life.

Who elects such idiots?

Posted by b on November 27, 2014 at 08:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

November 26, 2014

A Rescue Raid In Yemen That Might Not Have Happened

As we recently wrote about Yemen:

The state of Yemen was destroyed by the clueless U.S. sponsored interventions. The Islamic State might get destroyed the same way. But the outcome will not be a new order but, like in Yemen, utter chaos and bloody anarchy.

The chaos and anarchy was added to yesterday, according to the NYT, by a U.S. special force raid somewhere in Yemen:

In a predawn raid on Tuesday, United States Special Operations commandos and Yemeni troops rescued eight hostages being held in a cave in a remote part of eastern Yemen by Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, officials from both countries said.

The freed captives were six Yemeni citizens, a Saudi and an Ethiopian, who were unharmed, Yemeni officials said in a statement. Earlier reports that an American hostage was freed were incorrect, according to Yemeni and American officials.

About two dozen United States commandos, joined by a small number of American-trained Yemeni counterterrorism troops flew secretly by helicopter to a location in Hadhramaut Province near the Saudi border, according to American and Yemeni officials. The commandos then hiked some distance in the dark to a mountainside cave, where they surprised the militants holding the captives.

So why did U.S. special force raid some hostage takers if none of the hostages is American? The Saudi freed may have been the Saudi deputy consul to Yemen who was captured two years ago. But I find it unlikely that the U.S. would risk boots on the ground in Yemen to free a minor Saudi diplomat.

Rumor has had it for a few month that a U.S. marine had been taken hostage by the local al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. Yesterday's raid may seem to confirm this. But the news about it still much too uncertain to know this.

The BBC says the raid was in the Hajr al-Sayar district of Hadramaut governate. But local lawyer Haykal Bafana finds problems with a raid in Hajr al-Sayar described as in a "remote area" and a rescue from a "cave":

"Hadhramaut mountain cave hostage rescue" claim by #Yemen & #US govts? Shows how easy it is to fool the press, even with a ridiculous story.

What if I tell you Hajr Al Sai'ar district in Hadhramaut is a wadi system with 136 villages & a substantial population of wandering nomads?

Or that Hajr Al Sai'ar district has not a single mountain, and has not been known in its geographical history to have mountainside caves?

Or that Yemen's Al Anad airbase in Lahj, hosting hundreds of US Marines, had a 48 hour period where military ops were clearly taking place?

Nothing happened in Hajr Al Sai'aar district of Hadhramaut : no hostage rescue, no US forces, no helicopters. That all happened in Al Anad.

So the U.S. military, as well as the Yemeni government, are lying about at least the location of the raid.

An earlier AFP report in Pakistani media said that that one U.S. soldier was freed by Yemeni forces soon after al-Qaeda attacked the air base in Al Anad and captured him there:

A US soldier was freed Tuesday by Yemeni forces just hours after being captured in an Al-Qaeda attack on an air base in the violence-wracked country, military officials said.

The American was seized along with seven Yemeni soldiers in the militant assault on Al-Anad base in Lahij province, an official said.

Yemeni forces launched a dawn raid to free the hostages, killing seven kidnappers. One member of the security forces was reported to have been lightly wounded during the rescue.

The militants captured seven soldiers on guard during the night before advancing into the base and seizing the US soldier, the official said.

Though I also doubt the veracity of the AFP report it might be nearer to the truth than the NYT and BBC accounts which are based on U.S. government sources.

Al Anad is indeed a few hundred kilometers away from Hajr Al Sai'aar and the air base there is home to some U.S. drone operations in Yemen.

Iona Craig, an independent journalist in Yemen, has some additional bits of confusing information:

1) Intel suggested multiple foreign hostages held in one location in Hadhramut. American citizen amongst them. #Yemen

2) Intel said some hostages were moved. Unclear which hostages remained. Operation launched in hope US national/others still present. #Yemen

3) Briton(s) also believed to be amongst those held, but in group moved before op. #Yemen

The official story on this stinks from a-z and we do not know what really happened.

What we are told about the hostages and the location of the raid is spin and obfuscation and it is likely that about everything else in the published "official" NYT and BBC versions of the story is also wrong. Was there a raid at all or just some local fighting around Al Anad?

Posted by b on November 26, 2014 at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

State Department Changes Rhetoric On Civilian Casualties In Syria

The Syrian air-force attacked some Islamic State targets in the eastern Syrian city Raqqa. Many were killed and wounded including civilians.

During the last years the U.S. government would condemn and comment such an attacks as "Assad is killing his own people".

That has changed. The US State Department Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) commented on Twitter on the air-raid on Raqqa:


So instead of a demagogic "Assad kills his own people" State CSO now comments "civilians caught in the crossfire".

That quote demonstrates a remarkable change in the State Department's position. Unsurprisingly supporters of the Jihadists and mercenaries fighting the Syrian people were quite enraged about that comment calling it a "new low".

That "new low" change in rhetoric may have come because the air raids by the U.S. air force on Jihadists in Syria also cause civilian death. Or it may be the expression of a genuine change in the position towards the Syrian government. We can not yet tell how far this may go.

How will the State Department now comment when Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State or U.S. supported mercenaries kill civilians during their attacks on the Syrian government? Will those also be "caught in the crossfire"?

When the State Department condemns those civilian death in stronger words than those killed during  government action then a genuine, not just rhetoric, change of positions will have occurred.

Posted by b on November 26, 2014 at 04:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 25, 2014

Hagel Firing Points To More War

Yesterday U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice fired Defense Secretary Hagel. It was a huge mistake for President Obama to agree to that move. There are many foreign policy problems the White House created for itself. None of those are the fault of Hagel but nearly all of them can be traced back to Susan Rice herself and her surreal management style:

Earlier this year, the decision on how many U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan in 2015 was the subject of 14 meetings of NSC deputies, four gatherings involving Cabinet secretaries and other NSC “principals,” and two NSC sessions with the president, according to a former senior administration official.

The consequence of those meetings was to pare back the military’s request by just 700 troops — from 10,500 to 9,800.

After Obama and Rice, against earlier promises, secretly extend U.S. combat in Afghanistan, the number decided after 20 NSC meetings is already again up in the air and likely to increase. Such decision making exemplifies mismanagement by Susan Rice, not by Hagel.

Rice wanted Hagel fired because she was pissed when Hagel called her out on the chaotic non-policy she developed against the Islamic State and with regard to Syria. As a realist he knows that the U.S. will need the Syrian army under President Assad to push the Islamic State back into the underground. Against the advice of the military Rice, a "liberal interventionist", insists on ousting Assad.

The neocons, including the writers on Fred Hiatt's funny pages in the Washington Post, want Michèle Flournoy as replacement. She is a COIN propagandist who argued for both surges, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both surges as well as COIN failed to deliver what Flournoy and others promised.

Adding more incompetence to the U.S. foreign policy process as a Flournoy nomination would assure will not promote world peace but more war.

Posted by b on November 25, 2014 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

November 24, 2014

Extended U.S. Iran Talks Likely To Fail Again

The recent negotiations over limits of Iran's civilian nuclear program were unsuccessful. But instead of coming to that conclusions all parties agreed to prolong the deadline for another seven month. In fact two new deadlines were introduced. One in four month to reach a framework agreement and one in seven month to reach a complete understanding. The first deadline is very fuzzy as a "framework agreement" could be just anything. The second deadline is likely one that will not see any further extension.

The open points at the end of this negotiation round were the same as at its beginning. What maximum numbers of centrifuges would Iran be able to use? What is the timeline for lifting sanctions? How long is the whole agreement to run?

The first point, number of centrifuges, is irrelevant. The whole concept, introduced by the U.S., of a "possible breakout time for Iran to get material for one bomb" is nuts. If Iran would be interested in nuclear weapons it would produce those in secret and in numbers that would make them a viable deterrence. The difference between five thousand or fifty thousand centrifuges running under IAEA supervision would not influence that.

The timeline for lifting sanctions could also be simple. As soon as Iran fulfills x% of the agreed upon steps x% of the sanctions should be lifted. Some U.S. sanction are related to other than the "nuclear Iran" issues and can only be lifted by the U.S. congress. Those would likely stay in place but could be reduced in their effects by executive orders.

The timeline for the whole agreement is something that is also easy to do. Iran offers a three or five year limit, the U.S. wants a double digit number of years, the compromise is right in the middle.

All this is easy and could have been done in a 30 minutes phone call. That the last days of negotiations in Vienna, with seven foreign ministers in attendance, could not reach a simple solution is likely because one side does not want one. I am sure that Iran wants a reasonable agreement. I am also quite sure that the U.S. is the blocking side. It wants to keep sanctions as future pressure points even as Iran agrees to limit its nuclear capabilities.

The U.S. needs Iran to solve conflicts in Iraq, in Syria and elsewhere. But that need is not yet urgent enough to allow for some sensible position change in the general attitude towards Iran and its interests. Only if the U.S. faces more pressure from its deteriorating position in the Middle East is a change of mind in Washington likely. The seven month extension of the talks is too short to allow for that. I therefore find it likely that the next talks and the whole negotiation round will fail (again) and that the cooked up conflict will prevail.

Posted by b on November 24, 2014 at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

November 23, 2014

Haykal Bafana on Yemen, Three Years On

Some recent tweets, storified here, by Haykal Bafana, a Yemeni lawyer in Sanaa:

Way too quiet in #Yemen's political, news, rhetoric, propaganda & social media circles for the last 5-6 days. I'm not sure if that's good.
Key danger points in #Yemen now : Draft constitution, GPC internal strife, Houthi expansion to Marib, 3 year mark of 23 Nov 2011 GCC Deal.
We have a president, ministers, all that state-like jazz. But there is no government in power right now in the republic of #Yemen.
23 Nov 2011 3 years ago, the UN-managed GCC Deal suspended #Yemen's constitution, granted immunity to Saleh & began fucking up Yemeni lives.
For 3 years, #Yemen has had to put with diplomats talking rubbish, doing nonsense & lurching cluelessly from one disaster to another.
Diplomats who suspended #Yemen's Constitution & threw a 1-candidate election now draft a new constitution for Yemenis. In Abu Dhabi.
The same cabal of diplomats witlessly restructured #Yemen's armed forces while not realizing they were causing its disintegration.
Then the very same diplomats were surprised when Houthi militia and AQAP started to rampage all over #Yemen & the disintegrated Army.
3 years ago today, on 23 November 2011, the problems were much simpler in #Yemen.
3 years after 23 November 2011, the GCC Deal has made #Yemen into an unmitigated disastrous diplomatic fiasco.
In #Yemen capital Sanaa, one can get away with anything right now, all the way down to murder. I am not shitting you.
The worst that will happen is that the President will set up a committee to investigate, if the murdered man is reasonably important. #Yemen
But even then, the committee meets a few times over qat, and will always decide that they can't find out fug all about who murdered the chap
#Yemen | No govt news (hell, no govt actually) but Marib power lines to capital Sanaa repeatedly attacked today. 9 power cuts in 24 hours.
There are many ways to make #Yemen better faster. None of them are being pursued at the moment. Signing out : stay in one piece, people.

We wrote about the 1-candidate election "ballot":

Despite the demand in the Yemeni constitution that there must be, at least formally, several candidates, the sole candidate is Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who has for 17 years served as vice-president under President Saleh. There isn't even a Yes and No vote to gauge his support. The only candidate is Hadi, the only vote is a Yes and there is no way that he will not win by a 100% majority.

We predicted:

In a letter to Hadi Obama said that Yemen has become a model for peaceful transition in the Middle East. He did not mention the thousands of people maimed and killed during the last year up to this fake change no one can believe in.

The southern separatist, who were betrayed by the southerner Hadi when he joined Saleh to be made vice-president, the defected general Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar and his tribe, the Salafist and AlQaeda groups in the south and the Houthi tribes in the north boycotted the election. Some polling stations were attacked and at least 4 people were killed today.

The U.S. missed the chance to use the movement against Saleh for some real transition in Yemen. This will come back to bite it.

Obama recently called Yemen a "model" for the fight against the Islamic State. He is right in one sense. The state of Yemen was destroyed by the clueless U.S. sponsored interventions. The Islamic State might get destroyed the same way. But the outcome will not be a new order but, like in Yemen, utter chaos and bloody anarchy.

Posted by b on November 23, 2014 at 07:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

November 22, 2014

Open Thread 2014-28

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 22, 2014 at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (206)

November 21, 2014

How The U.S. And Israel Support Al-Qaeda in South Syria

When the Obama administration said it bombed the "Khorasan group" in north Syria experts wondered what that meant. There was and is no such group. What the Obama administration called Khorasan group were leadership people of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syria branch of al-Qaeda, which years ago had been active in Afghanistan and Pakistan before coming to Syria. So why make a distinction between Jabhat al-Nusra active all over Syria and a leadership group of Jabhat al-Nusra situated in north Syria?

My hunch is that there is active cooperation between Jabhat al-Nusra and the U.S. especially in south Syria and the distinction was made to keep some form of alliance in the south alive. The mercenaries of the Fee Syrian Army in south Syria have been trained and armed by the CIA in Jordan and are controlled through a multinational operations room somewhere in Amman.

In the south Nusra is actively fighting on the side of the Fee Syrian Army which is also getting support from Israel. During the last months the FSA, with al-Nusra fighters as storm troopers in the lead, captured large parts along the Jordanian and Israeli border with Syria. There aim is, as we reported two month ago, to open a corridor towards Damascus. There progress against the Syrian army in the border area was made with the help of supporting Israeli artillery fire.

Reuters confirms today that Nusra, as we wrote, is leading the fighting in the south:

Fighters from Al-Qaida's Nusra Front and other insurgents attacked and briefly entered Baath City in southern Syria on Thursday, the army's last major bastion in a province flanking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Hundreds of Nusra fighters who fled from the eastern Deir al-Zor province after being driven out by Islamic State earlier this year have regrouped in southern Syria, boosting the rebel presence there, activists say.

"It gave the fighters in the area the upper hand," said Abu Yahya al-Anari, a fighter from Ahrar al-Sham.
Insurgent gains since earlier this year have been mainly achieved by Nusra Front together with other Islamist brigades and rebels fighting under the umbrella of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. Unlike rebel in-fighting further north, they have coordinated well so far.

In the north Jabhat al-Nusra fought mercenary groups supported by the U.S. and Turkey. In the south it cooperates well with such groups supported, equipped and trained by the U.S. from Jordan and by Israel. Al-Nusra in the north was renamed "Khorasan group" so it could be bombed without endangering the Fee Syrian Army alliance with al-Nusra in the south.

The Nusra fighters in the south will of course use the weapons and other equipment the Fee Syrian Army groups receive from the CIA and other secret services. These groups are fighting together and are naturally sharing their resources.

In October, a month after I reported about the operations in the south, the Washington Institute, part of the Israel Lobby in the U.S., acknowledged those plans and pushed for more U.S. and Israeli support at the southern front. It did of course falsely minimize the participation of Nusra.

Coordinated Israeli, Jordanian, and allied assistance in the south could boost the moderate Syrian rebels there, stave off an extremist takeover, and facilitate the ongoing international campaign against ISIS.

So far, most Israeli support for moderate, local, non-Islamist rebel battalions along the border has been limited to humanitarian aid, such as treating 1,400 sick and wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals, supplying medication, food, and heaters to villagers, and so forth. Some rebel groups maintain constant contact with the IDF, including frequent secret meetings reportedly held in Tiberias, but only a modest amount of weapons have been provided to them, mainly rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

The operation in the south has nothing to do with ISIS which has so far little presence in the south but is solely directed against the Syrian army, the government of Syria and the people of Damascus. The fighting is led, as Reuters today acknowledged, by Jabhat al-Nusra fighters and U.S. and Israel support is given to local Fee Syrian Army groups strongly aligned with al-Nusra.

The U.S. and Israel will certainly have know what Reuters reports today and what we claimed earlier. They have been and are actively and knowingly arming groups who strongly cooperate and share their resources, received from the U.S. and Israel, with al-Qaeda.

Posted by b on November 21, 2014 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

November 20, 2014

Samantha Power Warns Against Intervention Fatigue, Performs In "Rise Up" Stunt

ISIS comes to Libya

(CNN) -- The black flag of ISIS flies over government buildings. Police cars carry the group's insignia. The local football stadium is used for public executions. A town in Syria or Iraq? No. A city on the coast of the Mediterranean, in Libya.

Fighters loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are now in complete control of the city of Derna, population of about 100,000, not far from the Egyptian border and just about 200 miles from the southern shores of the European Union.

UN Ambassador Warns Against Intervention Fatigue

Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, warned the American public against a kind of intervention fatigue, emphasizing that U.S. leadership is needed now more than ever amid global threats from Ebola to the Islamic State.

I think there is too much of, ‘Oh, look, this is what intervention has wrought’ … one has to be careful about overdrawing lessons,” Power said Wednesday during the Defense One Summit.

What lessons, if any at all, has Power drawn from her Libya "intervention"?


In another appearance yesterday Power was interrupted by "protesters" at an event that launched a cable channel dedicated to "regime change" youth protests:

The protesters were very on-message for Fusion’s event, a gathering of young activists from around the world under the “Rise Up” brand the cable channel — a joint-venture between Disney-owned ABC and Spanish-language broadcaster Univision — has been attaching to its coverage of protest movements around the world. They raised signs saying “Millennials think you’re a war hawk” — a nod to Fusion’s self-declared target demographic — while one yelled “we’re here to rise up.”

The whole story has the smell of an utterly staged "reality" show. "Protester on stage in three, two, one, now!" Power played her role as attacked "war hawk" - knowingly or not - pretty well.

The new channel's main task will be the enrichment of its owners. But it will also be used to further the projects of its political backers, including of Samantha Power. Its mission:

Fusion is about independent, isolated elements interacting to create world-changing energy. Fusion media platforms offer engagement and influence with millennials who are leading and participating in global protest movements and a strong point of view in the areas of news and current events, politics, lifestyle and pop culture.

Translation: This is a propaganda shop that will engage pseudo liberal "youth" to created political "grassroot support" for U.S. regime change operations.

That fits perfectly with Samatha Power's projects. The new channel certainly has not "overdrawn lessons" from earlier interventions. Its purpose is to further new ones.

Posted by b on November 20, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (48)

November 19, 2014

How Can We Solve The Problem Of Fully Automated Production?

This 40 minutes video shows the production of the BMW i3 car. It is a fully electric car made from carbon fiber on an aluminum structure.

(An ever longer video series showing more of the pre-production process - part 1, 2, 3 and 4.)

The factory and the production process is all new. What is impressive and depressing is the lack of people. There are hundreds of robots doing their jobs and in total maybe 20 people feeding them materials and later on another 20 people outfitting the car interiors.

An in depth report of the production process gives some impressions from the car body production line:

Body Shop head Ralf Brüggemann, like Koschkar, manages most of the operations in the facility from a mezzanine that overlooks the plant floor. At first glance, the Body Shop visitor confronts a sea of orange robots (173 in all, supplied by ABB Robotics, Zurich, Switzerland), constantly turning, rotating, lifting and placing black carbon fiber parts and structures in an array of discrete, enclosed assembly cells. Only occasionally does one see shop personnel move components from one cell to another.
“We are at 99.7 percent quality,” Brüggemann claims, but adds, “we are always chasing higher quality.”

Brüggemann, who has experience in other BMW assembly plants, also says that the i3 Life Module Body Shop is “less complex than a steel body shop. Lighter weight makes product handling much simpler.”

A high quality product, simpler to make than the older ones and in a nearly totally automated environment. In total some maybe 400 people are producing 40,000 new cars per year. Many of those cars will likely be sold through automated processes on a few internet sides.

The factory shows a very high degree of automation that will become the standard of all production. In future hardly anyone of the population of industrialized nations will work in manufacturing industries. This immense automation push is historical comparable to the industrial revolution which put many people into poverty, emigration or death.

One wonders then how people are supposed to get enough income to buy products like the i3. How can we handle the social disruption such technology leaps produce?

One interesting concept I am learning about is a machine tax used to distribute a part of the income from production into a guaranteed basic income for everyone. Is that a possible solution?

Posted by b on November 19, 2014 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (68)

November 17, 2014

IS Promotes Its Bloody Multinationality - Obama Says Assad Stays

With a well planned media campaign in three acts the Islamic State announced its growth into a multinational entity and into more countries. Meanwhile the U.S president finally accepted that president Assad of Syria will, at least for the time of a "transition", continue in his position.

A week ago Jihadist groups in five Arab countries published videos in which they pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State and its Caliph. The groups are in Algeria, Egypt (Sinai), Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The videos seemed to have been edited by the same professionals that edit all Islamic State official videos but they included local footage from each country.

Last Thursday act two happened when a new audio tape with a speech from the Caliph was published:

Baghdadi’s speech was divided into two main parts. The first one took around two-thirds of the time of the recording and lasted 17 minutes. Baghdadi tackled the failure of the international alliance’s operations, which he called “Crusade campaign,” and he mocked the Arab participation in them. In the second part, which was the most dangerous, he announced that IS is expanding and new provinces are rising in several Arab countries. Both parts were under Baghdadi’s main headline, which stated that jihad would persist and would target all people and lands at all times.

As a third step a well produced video was published, some 16+ minutes long, which showed a row of 18 Islamic State fighters each beheading a captured Syrian officer or pilot. This is a picture from the video:


In the scene before this picture there is a bucket with all new bowie knifes and each beheader takes one. Notice that all have the same new uniform which are not standard Western military but with a shirt length as is usual in Afghan cloth. (the digital cameo pattern is probably from the UAE). Each has a uniform backpacks and cap. The captives have all the same overalls. The only beheader not in uniform and the only one with his face covered is from Britain (nicknamed "Jihadi John") and was seen in earlier beheading video. He plays a special role at the end of the clip. All the beheaders are from different nationalities and they represent the internationalization of the Islamic State. There is one French, one Saudi, one Yemeni, one Pakistani, one Afghan and so on.

The actual beheadings are shown in full length, in detail and partially in slow motion. They happen slowly and without any hesitations. When the heads are off they are placed on top of the decapitated bodies. There is no screaming and no fighting. Judging from their eyes and calmness both, the beheaders as well as the beheaded, seem to have been at least slightly drugged.

The video has an imprint that says it was taken in Dabiq in Syria which has a lot of symbolic meanings. Dabiq is a valley in northern Aleppo, where Ottoman Sultan Salim I had defeated the Egyptian Mamluks in the 16th century. Dabiq is also the place where, according to some Islamic texts, the battle of Armageddon as the final historical confrontation between good (muslim) and evil (christians) will be fought.

The beheading of the Syrian officers takes some 12+ minutes and only after that is another beheading shown that likely took place earlier. The beheaded is Abdul-Rahman Kassig, a "former" U.S. Ranger special force soldier who had fought in Iraq and turned up as "aid worker" in Syria on the opposition side. He had been captured by the Islamic State in 2013. The actual beheading is not shown but the severed body and head are. The beheader is "Jihadi John" and he is threatening the U.S. and the UK: "We will slaughter your people in your streets". That is likely no joke but a serious announcement of already planned operations.

The video and the staging are of very good quality. It was certainly edited by someone who knows "western" style drama and production very well.

The symbolic values of the video is not so much in the act of beheading though the goring details may be intended to recruit a certain type of psychos. The symbolic points are in the special place that Dabiq represents and in the very multinational group of beheaders who are now all uniform soldiers of the Islamic State.

This last point is what makes the video the third part of a well planned media campaign to announce and demonstrate the multinational character of the Islamic State.

While there have been several piece being written over the last weeks of the demise of the Islamic State and its losses in a few unimportant small battles in Iraq the media campaign IS launched points to the opposite. The Islamic State is growing into a multinational, geographically distributed entity. That makes it harder and more difficult to fight it. But it also means that the Islamic State will need more financial resources which will be difficult to obtain. It also means more communication between its entities which are probably detectable and interruptible.

The video discussed above also includes a passage where it is explains that the Islamic State and it's foundation in "Tawheed and Jihad" is a DIRECT consequence of the "crusader" hostilities and occupation of Iraq. This should finally stop "experts" from blaming Assad or Maliki for the IS menace.

I had assumed earlier that to fight the Islamic state president Obama will refrain from removing president Assad. The Turkish prime minister Davutoğlu claimed Friday that he received strong signals that the U.S. would change its Syria policy and dispose of president Assad. Obama refuted that directly in a press conference at the G-20 in Brisbane:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: [...] Now, we are looking for a political solution eventually within Syria that is inclusive of all the groups who live there -- the Alawite, the Sunni, Christians.And at some point, the people of Syria and the various players involved, as well as the regional players -- Turkey, Iran, Assad’s patrons like Russia -- are going to have to engage in a political conversation.

And it’s the nature of diplomacy in any time, certainly in this situation, where you end up having diplomatic conversations potentially with people that you don’t like and regimes that you don’t like.But we’re not even close to being at that stage yet.

Q But just to put a fine point on it -- are you actively discussing ways to remove him [Assad] as a part of that political transition?


So far the U.S. had always said that president Assad could not be part of the transition, something that Russia and Iran insisted on. This the is a change in U.S. policy and, in sight of the expanding Islamic State, a sensible one.

Posted by b on November 17, 2014 at 03:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (61)

November 16, 2014

This "Putin Isolated" Nonsense Is Dangerous

These headlines are silly:

Even more silly then those headlines was the German prime news Tagesschau which used a picture of Putin seemingly sitting alone at a lunch table to prove his "isolation". But news service pictures show that he is sitting with the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff waiting for the other lunch guests to sit down next to them. These were simply not visible in the frame Tagesschau selectively used.

And do these headline writers, TV correspondents and politicians know what the 20 in G-20 means? The people who publicly miffed Putin in Brisbane were Obama, Cameron, Harper, Abbott and Abe. I count five out of twenty.

Those leaders who did not "isolate" Putin by grandstanding in front of the media were from Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea and Turkey. Many of the leaders of those countries had one on one talks with Putin. Merkel alone had a three hour talk with Putin. Did that make him feel lonely?

Fact is Putin is about as isolated as the Pope.

Fact is also that those "world leaders" who "isolated" Putin represent a minority of people, military and economic power of the world. As Putin himself correctly pointed out before the G-20 meeting:

Incidentally, the combined GDP of the BRICS countries calculated using purchasing power parity is already bigger than that of the so-called G7 countries. As far as I know, the BRICS countries have more than $37 trillion calculated using purchasing power parity, while the G7 has $34.5 trillion. And this upwards trend is in favour of the BRICS, not vice versa.

Now all this silly isolation talk would be funny if the people in power would recognize it for the bullshit it is. Unfortunately a lot of stupid people in Washington DC, politicians as well as media folks, believe in their own propaganda bullshit and therefore tend to miscalculate in their assessments of global policies. This is dangerous as it often has bloody consequences.

Posted by b on November 16, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (120)

November 15, 2014

Obama's Mercenary Attacks On Syria Are Breaking The Law

According to the Washington Post the U.S. administration is discussing to increase the numbers of CIA trained mercenaries in Syria:

The Obama administration has been weighing plans to escalate the CIA’s role in arming and training fighters in Syria, a move aimed at accelerating covert U.S. support to moderate rebel factions while the Pentagon is preparing to establish its own training bases, U.S. officials said.

The proposed CIA buildup would expand a clandestine mission that has grown substantially over the past year, U.S. officials said. The agency now vets and trains about 400 fighters each month — as many as are expected to be trained by the Pentagon when its program reaches full strength late next year.

The piece mentions training in Jordan and Qatar.

Hurriyet reports that training is also to start in Turkey:

Officials from both the United States European Command (EUCOM) and the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and high-ranking Turkish military officials agreed on a number of points about the training of Syrian opposition fighters in Turkey.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) members, including Syrian Turkmens will be trained at the Hirfanlı gendarmerie training center in Kırşehir, sources told to the Hürriyet Daily News. U.S. officials will also take part in the training.

The U.S. will primarily provide weapons and ammunition for the Syrian opposition, with the costs of the training also expected to be provided by Washington.

Around 2,000 Syrian fighters are slated to be given military training, which is set to begin at the end of December.

No journalist seem to have asked the administration on what legal basis this training and inserting of mercenaries against the Syrian government is taking place. What please in international or even U.S. law allows a U.S. president to send a proxy mercenary force against the state of Syria or any other state?

The administration knows very well that the legal ground it is standing on is very, very weak. The people it trains are criminals and do not observe basic laws of war or human rights. The administration's solution to breaking the law is trying to change it:

The Obama administration has asked Congress repeatedly to exempt its military effort against the Islamic State from a longstanding ban on U.S. assistance to torturers and war criminals, ..
Two similar exemption requests were quietly rebuffed by Congress in a defense bill passed in September, Senate aides said. That bill provided $500 million to train the Syrian rebels and a $1 billion counterterrorism fund for the Middle East.
In both cases, the Obama administration sought to exempt the funding from all human rights restrictions, records show.

Congress so far rejected any change or exception from the Leahy amendment:

The 1997 Leahy Law, named after Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, bars the U.S. from funding military units suspected of "gross human rights violations," which include murder, torture and extrajudicial imprisonment.

All the groups of the Fee Syrian Army the CIA and the Pentagon are training have committed such crimes and are cooperating with terrorist groups.

Reuters recently lauded the success of the Fee Syrian Army in the South where, as we reported two month ago, FSA mercenaries trained by the CIA came from Jordan and, under Israeli artillery protection, captured the Golan height to proceed from there towards Damascus. Reuters deceptively writes:

Assad's forces control Damascus, the Mediterranean coast and much of the area in between. Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, controls the east, while Nusra controls much of the northwest and is expanding at the expense of moderates.

The southern provinces near the Jordanian border are an exception, where rebels calling themselves the "Southern Front" still control territory and have managed to resist Assad while avoiding direct clashes with the Nusra Front.

The FSA/CIA in the south did not only avoid "direct clashes with the Nusra Front" it intensively cooperated with the it. Nusra fighters have been the storm troopers in every battle in the south. (The Syrian army has started a wide counter offensive against these attacks in the south and will likely stop them before they endanger Damascus.)

Extensive human rights violation documented since early 2012 and strong cooperation with terrorists groups are the mark of the anti-Syrian mercenaries the CIA and Pentagon are training. Such training then is illegal under U.S. national law. Obama knows this and that is why he is trying, unsuccessfully for now, to change that law.

Would not Obama's obvious breaking of the law be a nice basis for impeachment procedures?

International law forbids the attacks on sovereign Syria Obama is committing with sending mercenaries to fight the Syrian state. Obama himself just yesterday offered such reasoning:

We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace; that an effective security order [..] must be based -- not on spheres of influence, or coercion, or intimidation where big nations bully the small -- but on alliances of mutual security, international law and international norms that are upheld, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Typical Obama platitudes of course - but one wonders why no mainstream media journalist is, for ones, questioning the administration for offering such while doing the opposite of what it proclaims.


Posted by b on November 15, 2014 at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

November 14, 2014

Open Thread 2014-27

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 14, 2014 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (113)

Masha Gessen Is A Fact-Challenged "State Propaganda Agent"


Anti-Russia propagandist Marsha Gessen is a pet of neolibcons with regular space in Fred Hiatt's funny pages. Whenever she writes about Russia she gets, like the U.S. president, nearly every fact wrong. It is almost as if she has opinions and then creates facts to argue that her opinions are right and the only possible ones to have.

Ohh - the paragraph above is prejudice and slander?

But Gessen now confirms that she, in her own words, is not a journalist but a "state propaganda agent". She also confirms (again) that the facts she uses never cross the realm of reality.

Yesterday Mahsa Gessen stormed out of the taping of a radio show as she was upset about the professional background of one of the participants of the show. Explaining herself Gessen wrote:

The reason was that after a detailed preliminary discussion on topics and possible guests, the lineup had nothing in common with what was discussed and included a woman who was identified as a "Russian-American journalist." Neither the host nor the producers seemed to know anything about her - except that until earlier this yea she had worked for the Kremlin propaganda holding Russia Today and now is flogging a book supposedly critical of Putin. I have not read the book, but I do know that people who work for Russia Today are not journalists.
I tried to explain to [the producer] that my problem is not with a difference of opinion - it's with the misrepresentation inherent in calling state propaganda agents journalists.

So if people who work for state sponsored media, like Russia Today, are not journalists but "state propaganda agents" what then is Masha Gessen?

In September 2012, Gessen was appointed as director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, a U.S. government funded broadcaster based in Prague.

Besides her obviously total lack of self awareness Gessen, who did not name the person she ranted against but used slander like "that woman", was completely wrong about the facts. Anna Arutunyan, the journalist with whom state propaganda agent Masha Gessen would not discuss, now responded:

Since Masha Gessen decided to bring this up, I need to clarify some of her incorrect claims: I have never worked for RT. I have never worked for Voice of Russia. The quotes about Pussy Riot that she ascribes to me actually belong to Anton Fedyashin (all of which can be Googled). I worked at The Moscow News for ten years, until Dmitry Kiselyov took over RIA Novosti and work there became impossible due to my critical reporting. As I understand, Gessen was informed of who would be on the show well in advance (my info was on the Open Source website).

So Masha Gessen, through her most recent hissy fit, proved what the first paragraph said. She acknowledges that she is no journalist but, as she worked for a U.S. government sponsored media outlet, is a state propaganda agent. She also proved again that she has no factual base for her opinions and seemingly does not even care enough about those to do some two minute research.

But let me assure you that U.S. media will continue to love and pay her for her anti-Russian nonsense and for her oh-so-democratic calls for a popular coup against an elected Russian president with a 88% public approval rate.


Gessen now posted a response to criticism of her rant. In it he gets, as you might have guessed, the "facts" wrong:

A few facts. I said Anna Arutunyan worked for the holding Russia Today. This holding owns the newspaper Moscow News. The newspaper has lived through many incarnations - it was most recently reinvented by the state as a hip offshoot of the propaganda machine, one that would kill the independent city magazine Bolshoi Gorod. The independent magazine has since essentially stopped to exist. Arutunyan worked there until earlier this year. What I said about VoR is that Arutunyan hosted an unconscionable show on Pussy Riot there right around the time Nadya and Masha were being shipped off to prison colonies. Here is a transcript of that show. There is a lot more where that came from, like an article accusing those of us who were calling Putin authoritarian a few years back hysterical. So no, I am not confusing her with anyone. And no, Alexey Kovalev, being a critic of the regime when/if it suits you does not make a journalist of someone who works or has worked for the Kremlin's propaganda machine. And yes, that goes for you too

The facts marked bold are completely wrong. I dod not check the other claims.

There was and is no holding named Russia Today. The Moscow News was since 2007 partially owned by RIA Novosty. At the end of 2013 RIA Novosty was merged with the international radio service Voice of Russia to create Rossiya Segodnya (which can be verbally translated as "Russia Today" but is a different organization than the well known TV station Russia Today). The Moscow News was killed in that process and Anna Arutunyan left. The TV station Russia Today was and is largely independent but is since a few month ago under the same top management as Rossiya Segodnya.

Arutunyan never "hosted" a show on Voice of Russia. As one can clearly see from the transcript Gessen herself linked the host of the show was one Dmitry Babich and Arutunyan was one of five guests on a panel about Pussy Riot. Arutunyan has a total of six sentences in that panel and those are mostly about the church and the state. It is nothing nefarious about Pussy Riot in those.

Gessen again is completely away from any reality. She is even wrong about the content of the transcript she herself links to. Then again - as she claimed herself she is no journalist but a "State Propaganda Agent" for the United States. Facts then don't matter.

Posted by b on November 14, 2014 at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (64)

November 13, 2014

NYT Editors - Liars and Hypocrites

NYT Editorial Nov 13 2014: A Response to President Xi Jinping

The Times has no intention of altering its coverage to meet the demands of any government — be it that of China, the United States or any other nation. Nor would any credible news organization.

NYT Dec 16 2005: Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.
A "credible news organization"? Not.

Posted by b on November 13, 2014 at 05:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (43)

November 12, 2014

Obama Excludes "Black Sites" From Torture Prohibition

Obama to United Nations Committee Against Torture: "We tortured some folks. We'll keep our options open to do that again and again."

The Obama administration, after an internal debate that has drawn global scrutiny, is taking the view that the cruelty ban applies wherever the United States exercises governmental authority, according to officials familiar with the deliberations. That definition, they said, includes the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and American-flagged ships and aircraft in international waters and airspace.

But the administration’s definition still appears to exclude places like the former “black site” prisons where the C.I.A. tortured terrorism suspects during the Bush years, as well as American military detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq during the wars there. Those prisons were on the sovereign territory of other governments; the government of Cuba exercises no control over Guantánamo.

Obama says that the convention against torture does doesn't apply where torture by U.S. goons is most likely.

Is there anything which tells us that the Obama administration is not using this self-defined exclusion?

Posted by b on November 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

November 11, 2014

Kerry In Search Of Genie Magic

Taking a break from stuck talks with the Iranian delegation Secretary of State Kerry visited the bazar of Muscat, Oman to enlist a new spirited member for his policy team. "Sometimes one has to resort to unusual measures to solve all these difficult problems," Kerry explained. "This genie lamp will magically enlighten the world about your wisdom," market vendor Ali Baba assured the secretary.


Posted by b on November 11, 2014 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

November 10, 2014

(Not) U.S. (Not) Israel Utilized Anti-Iranian Terror Group Jundallah

Jundallah is a radical Sunni group based in Baluchistan near the Pakistani-Iranian border. It has attacked Iranian soldiers as well as civilians. There were many rumors in the media that some U.S. operation was utilizing the group for terror attacks against Iran. But a 2012 story claimed that it was not the U.S. but Israel which sponsored the group's attacks. A story published yesterday refutes this and admits U.S. involvement though it tries, unconvincingly, to blame this on one "bad apple" rogue actor.

In January 2012 Mark Perry wrote an impressive story about the Jundallah group:

A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.

Several bloggers, including me, expressed doubt about the story:

Why is this whitewash of the CIA coming out right now, just two days after the assassination of another Iranian engineer?

Why is there no mention at all of JSOC, the U.S. military Joint Special Operations Command forces who are, according to Sy Hersh, operating in Iran? What is their relation to the Israelis?

Why is the U.S. now doing so much to say it has nothing to do with the assassination? Notice that this changed. State Department spokesperson Nuland when asked on January 11 immediately after the event issued no denial at all.

As Marc Wheeler pointed out:

Israelis and Americans have long hidden behind each other when working with Iranians, going back at least to the Iran-Contra ops that Dick Cheney had a fondness for. Hiding behind Israelis lets American officials pretend we’re not doing the taboo things we’re doing. Hiding behind Americans lets Iranian partners working with Israelis pretend they aren’t working with the Zionist enemy. That false flag business works in many different directions, after all.

I concluded:

The Mark Perry story may well be right in the detail. I doubt its value in telling something of the bigger picture though. It it does not tell us anything of what the U.S. agencies and military are currently doing in Iran and it certainly should not be used to exculpate the U.S. from the killing of the Iranian scientists.

Nearly three years after the Mark Perry story blamed Israel for cooperation with Jundallah a new story by James Risen and Matt Apuzzo now admits intense U.S. involvement with the group. The guy allegedly culpable for running Jundallah is claimed to be a New York Port Authority officer:

The Port Authority police are responsible for patrolling bridges and tunnels and issuing airport parking tickets. But the detective, a hard-charging and occasionally brusque former ironworker named Thomas McHale, was also a member of an F.B.I. counterterrorism task force. He had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and developed informants inside Jundallah’s leadership, who then came under the joint supervision of the F.B.I. and C.I.A.

So a local officer from New York is working with the FBI, the CIA and the military Joint Special Operations Command in Pakistan and Afghanistan to run operations with an anti-Iranian Jihadist group? Does he also sell bridges?

Reading the report, the C.I.A. officer became increasingly concerned. Agency lawyers he consulted concluded that using Islamic militants to gather intelligence — and obtaining information about attacks ahead of time — could suggest tacit American support for terrorism. Without specific approval from the president, the lawyers said, that could represent an unauthorized covert action program. The C.I.A. ended its involvement with Mr. McHale’s informants.

Yeah. Sure. The U.S. would never ever run operations that would suggest "tacit support for terrorism" or have itself operational responsibility for terrorist acts. That the CIA ended its involvement after several years of running it with Mr. McHale as "rogue actor" is also not convincing:

Some federal officials blame Mr. McHale for what they describe as an operation that veered out of control. They said that if the United States and Jundallah had too close a relationship, Mr. McHale’s go-it-alone attitude was to blame.

But friends and former colleagues say this characterization of Mr. McHale as a rogue operator is unfair. They point out that the relationship persisted for more than a decade, and Mr. McHale’s actions were approved and applauded by several United States agencies over those years. “I’m not sure what to say about this case,” said Mr. Holt, who is retiring from Congress this year. “Everything is plausible in the freewheeling intelligence world.”

The last sentence is correct. It is entirely plausible that the CIA some three years ago fed some papers to Mark Perry to claim the Israelis are running Jundallah. It is also entirely plausibly that the CIA now fed the "rogue guy" material for the new story to James Risen to again exculpate itself from the terrorism it committed. What is not plausible though is that both stories are correct. They contradict each other.

Also plausible and even very likely is a third story hidden behind the limited hangouts the above two stories provide. That the CIA and JSOC, with presidential support, ran Jundallah to commit terrorism against Iran.

Obama may hope that the current negotiations with Iran will be successful and renewed cooperation with Iran will rescue him from the dilemma of the failed invasion of Iraq and the failed operation against the Syrian state. Within that context the publishing of the new story about a "rogue actor", even though its content is more half-truth than truth, makes at least some political sense.

Posted by b on November 10, 2014 at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (43)

November 08, 2014

WaPo Blames Syria But U.S. Iraq Invasion Created The Islamic State

One Missy Ryan at the Washington Post wants her readers to swallow this nonsense:

While the Obama administration is expanding its effort against the Islamic State, it has resisted calls from some of its Middle Eastern allies to more directly pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose long civil conflict has created the conditions that gave birth to the Islamic State and other extremist groups.

The conflict in Syria, started by the U.S. and other international supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, had nothing to do with the "birth" of the "Islamic State and other extremist groups".

Academic accounts of the genesis of the Islamic State, Jabhad al-Nusra and others point to a much earlier creation of these groups:

A popular narrative holds that the surprising recent events in Iraq can be attributed mainly to the unraveling of Syria.
[This] is just part of a picture, one constructed by connecting the dots from events that we can observe, rather than from a careful analysis of the group known as the Islamic State. Consider another possibility: the Islamic State’s resurgence since 2010 in both Iraq and Syria is the result of a carefully crafted plan. The Islamic State counteroffensive in Iraq, conducted under the noses of a waning U.S. presence in the country, created conditions for the Islamic State to establish a new political coalition that remains intact to date. The high-level of military excellence achieved by the Islamic State in their campaign as much as any political factor, has influenced their return and creates a host of challenges for the military, intelligence, and diplomatic professionals tasked with their defeat.

The Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra were both part of AlQaida in Iraq (AQI). The were created in reaction to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. After having been temporarily defeated during the "surge" of U.S. troops AQI revived and fought an intense war against the Iraqi government. When the conflict in Syria started the war in iraq was again raging. A part of AQI transferred to Syria under the name of Jabhat al Nusra. It used the eastern part of Syria primarily as a retreat and training space. AQI split in two when the Iraqi part detached itself from AlQaida central in Pakistan as well as from Jabhat al-Nusra and transformed itself into the independent Islamic State.

The conflict in Iraq ignited by the United States is the creation point of these extremists group. The conflict in Syria allowed the growth of these groups into the geographically near eastern parts of Syria but the Syria conflict had no relation to those groups founding. Ahrar al-Shams and the Islamic Front, other extremist group in Syria, were also founded and led by senior AlQaeda members mostly from Iraq. Like the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra these groups do not originate in the Syrian conflict but in a wider and older context.

The origin of these groups lies in the the U.S. war on Iraq. To accuse the Syrian government for their creation is propagandistic nonsense.

Posted by b on November 8, 2014 at 09:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (114)

November 07, 2014

Pentagon Team To Learn How To Commit War Crimes

I once had a bit of respect for the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey. That is gone:

The highest-ranking U.S. military officer said on Thursday that Israel went to "extraordinary lengths" to limit civilian casualties in the recent war in Gaza and that the Pentagon had sent a team to see what lessons could be learned from the operation.

Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged recent reports criticizing civilian deaths during the 50-day Gaza war this year but told an audience in New York he thought the Israel Defense Forces "did what they could" to avoid civilian casualties.

Amnesty International as well as Human Rights Watch are usually reluctant to criticize Israel. Some of their big donors are Zionists and they also receive money form "western" governments which support Israel. Still: HRW:

Human Rights Watch investigated four Israeli strikes during the July military offensive in Gaza that resulted in civilian casualties and either did not attack a legitimate military target or attacked despite the likelihood of civilian casualties being disproportionate to the military gain. Such attacks committed deliberately or recklessly constitute war crimes under the laws of war applicable to all parties.

Amnesty (pdf):

Amnesty International examines targeted Israeli attacks carried out on inhabited civilian homes in the light of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law, specifically the rules on the conduct of hostilities. It does so by focusing on eight cases, in which targeted Israeli attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 111 people, of whom at least 104 were civilians, including entire families, and destroyed civilian homes.
In all the cases documented in this report, there was a failure to take necessary precautions to avoid excessive harm to civilians and civilian property, as required by international humanitarian law. In all cases, no prior warning was given to the civilian residents to allow them to escape.

Someone should ask Dempsey why he believes that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are wrong in their assessments. And does the Pentagon really need to send a team to Israel to learn how to commit war crimes? Is there too little experience of bombing this or that wedding?

Posted by b on November 7, 2014 at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (64)

November 06, 2014

U.S. State Department (Again) Behaves At Kindergarten Level

A few days ago there was a preparatory meeting for a nuclear security summit, a global meeting initiated by the U.S. to control access to nuclear resources. Russia, which believes that the IAEA is the agency that should take care of the issue, did not take part. The State Department pretended to be surprised by Russia's no-show:

Russia has failed to show up at a meeting planning the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, U.S and European officials said Monday, in a potentially serious blow to efforts by President Barack Obama to cement his legacy as leaving the world safer from nuclear terrorism than when he took office.

The officials said it was not immediately clear whether Moscow intended to boycott the summit itself or was just temporarily showing displeasure over Washington's harsh condemnation of Moscow's role in Ukraine unrest and the U.S. lead in orchestrating Western sanctions and other punitive measures in response.

The State Department now admits, after Russia pushed back, that these "officials" lied:

Russia has told the United States that it will not attend a 2016 nuclear security summit, the State Department said on Wednesday, in the latest sign of frosty ties between Washington and Moscow.

Explaining why it would stay away, Moscow said it doubted the value of the summit, which is to be held in Chicago in 2016, and believed the views of states which disagreed with the event's organizers would be ignored.
"Russia delivered a demarche to the United States in advance of last week's preparatory meetings informing us that it no longer planned to participate in the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

There was no explanation for why the "U.S and European officials" lied about the issue. Who was stupid enough to believe that such lies would be helpful for anything? By lying these "officials" achieved two points:

  1. No one can trust any news based on "U.S and European officials" claims. These "officials" may well be or are even likely lying as the above case shows and anything those "officials" say, even on trivialities, may be the opposite of what they will say tomorrow.
  2. Russia is pissed off even more and any future cooperation with it will become more difficult.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had informed Washington in mid-October about its decision. "We regard the recent leaks about (the decision) in the American media as an unsuccessful attempt to put pressure on the Russian side in order to change our position," the ministry said. "We consider such efforts counterproductive."

I for one do not understand what the people at Foggy Bottom are thinking. Kindergarten behavior like this will achieve what?

Posted by b on November 6, 2014 at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

November 04, 2014

"Western Training" And The Fight Against The Islamic State

"Training" foreign troops seems to be some magic solution for various foreign policy problems. "Training" a new Iraqi army against the Islamic State is the latest of such a hoped for miracles. But all recent "western training" has been more problematic than successful.

The various foreign troops trained at the infamous U.S. Army School of the Americas, turned out to be capable, but only as torturers and death squads:

Observers point out that School alumni include: 48 out of 69 Salvadoran military members cited in the U.N. Truth Commission's report on El Salvador for involvement in human rights violations (including 19 of 27 military members implicated in the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests), and more than 100 Colombian military officers alleged to be responsible for human rights violations by a 1992 report issued by several human rights organizations. Press reports have also alleged that school graduates have included several Peruvian military officers linked to the July 1992 killings of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta University, and included several Honduran officers linked to a clandestine military force known as Battalion 316 responsible for disappearances in the early 1980s. Critics of the School maintain that soldiers who are chosen to attend are not properly screened, with the result that some students and instructors have attended the School after being implicated in human rights violations.

Foreign officers trained over the last decade in various military "anti-terrorism" programs seem somewhat prone to coup against their government:

The army officer who has seized power in Burkina Faso amid popular protests in the West African country was twice selected to attend counterterrorism training programs sponsored by the U.S. government, U.S. military officials said.
Although the training he received was relatively brief, Zida’s experience carries echoes of other African military officers who went on to topple their governments after being selected by the U.S. government for professional military education courses.

In March 2012, an army captain in Mali who had attended a half-dozen military training courses in the United States led a coup that deposed his democratically-elected government.

The United Kingdom offered to train 2,000 Libyan "soldiers" to clean up the anarchy its attack on Libya created. In a first tranche 325 were recently selected, "vetted" and flown to the UK for some basic infantry training. Some 90 of them decided they did not want to be soldiers and asked to be flown home. Additionally some 20 claimed asylum. The rest tried to have some fun. Two stole bicycles, rode to Cambridge and sexually assaulted several women. Some others raped a male person. The training program has been abandoned and the rest of these "vetted" and "trained" gang was send home to presumably reenforce the anarchy there.

The U.S. trained the Iraqi army over several years and at a cost of billions of dollars. As soon as that army was assaulted it fell apart. Four divisions fled when attacked by rather minor forces of the Islamic State.

But do not despair. The U.S. has found the perfect way to solve the Islamic State problem in Iraq. It will now simply train a few new divisions and those freshly trained folks will then surely be able to defeat and destroy the Islamic State.

Iraqi security forces, backed by American-led air power and hundreds of advisers, are planning to mount a major spring offensive against Islamic State fighters who have poured into the country from Syria, a campaign that is likely to face an array of logistical and political challenges.
United States officials say that the initial force they are planning to advise consists of only nine Iraqi brigades and three similar Kurdish pesh merga units — roughly 24,000 troops.

The counterattack plan calls for at least doubling that force by adding three divisions, each of which could range from 8,000 to 12,000 troops.

The United States is relying on allies to augment American trainers. Australia, Canada and Norway have committed several hundred special forces to one or more of the training or advisory missions, a senior United States military official said.

For the expected quality of that farce and its training just see above.

The Islamic State is currently ruling over some 4 to 6 million people. It is recruiting and drafting among these to increase the size of its own army. How many able young men of fighting age can be generated from a millions strong, traditionally child rich population? 100,000? 300,000? The Islamic State has capable trainers from the old Baathist Iraqi army and it uses a fighting style that mixes guerrilla tactics and conventional warfare. It has captured enough weapons and ammunition to fit out several tens of thousands soldiers.

Even with air support the few forces the U.S. plans to train will be mince meat as soon as they will try to enter areas the Islamic State wants to hold.

The "western" military model is simply not fitting to the kind of conflicts encountered in other parts of the world. The mentalities, traditions, ideological incentives and education levels are much different.

"The west" still feels superior to "the rest" because it has, in the past, won so many colonial wars. But as Samuel Huntington once remarked:

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.

It was an advantage in technology that allowed "western" forces to win in colonial wars. But at least in ground wars both sides now basically use the same technology and similar weapons. There is no longer a technical advantage and some basic "training" does not help much to escape from an incoming stream of hot machine gun bullets. The U.S. war of independence is a good example for this. While the British army still could win in other colonial wars a colonial fight against an enemy at a similar technical level but with higher motivation ended in defeat.

Any force that is supposed to grind down the Islamic State and its army needs an ideological motivation and will to fight that is at least equal to the one of the Islamic State fighters. As an attacking force it will also needs superior numbers. The U.S. and other "western" armies are unable to create such a force in Iraq. The only entities which can do such on short notice are the Iranian revolutionary guard and Hizbullah. Any efforts of "training" a new force against the Islamic State that does not involve those will be in vane.

The recent history of "western training" of foreign forces is a history of failures and defeat. It is stupid to assume that this time will be different. If the U.S. wants to defeat the Islamic State it will have to make nice with its other "enemies" and it will have to let them lead the training and the fighting. Anything else will likely fail and end up in a few decades with the embarrassing acceptance of a new state in the former territories of Iraq, Syria and whatever other country the Islamic State decides to slice apart.

Posted by b on November 4, 2014 at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (100)

November 03, 2014

Open Thread 2014-26

More news & views ...

Posted by b on November 3, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (309)

Syria: "Sunni ... form Assad's chief power base"

(Sorry for light, boring posting while I am busy with some urgent personal issues.)

As predicted the consolidation of insurgent groups in Syria is continuing with the more radicals ever winning:

The Obama administration’s Syria strategy suffered a major setback Sunday after fighters linked to al-Qaeda routed U.S.-backed rebels from their main northern strongholds, capturing significant quantities of weaponry, triggering widespread defections and ending hopes that Washington will readily find Syrian partners in its war against the Islamic State.

The ousted groups were supported by the CIA and had U.S. weapons including tank-killing TOWs. Those are now in the hands of al-Nusra which already prepares to take more ground.

The Obama administration will have difficulties to further deny the obvious. The idea of training some "new FSA" gangs and to supply them with U.S. weapons is nuts. The only force on the ground in Syria that can take on the Islamic State is the Syrian army. Two days ago I smelled some turn in the media towards a more benign presentation of the Syrian government. It earlier was nearly always depicted as sectarian and as solidly run by minority Alawi. That was always wrong but it was the leitmotif of all "western" Syria reports. Here is now another Associated Press piece about Sunni refugees within Syria that challenges that view:

Sunnis, who form the country's majority faith group, form Assad's chief power base, even as the rebellion is dominated by Sunnis. Minorities, like the Alawites, Shiites and Christians, mostly support the government or have remained neutral.

It also shows that the Syrian administration is still able to govern decently:

Government services, while scrappy, still exist. Workers receive salaries, even if the local currency is falling. There is still power, though cuts are routine. Health care is still free, although residents say waits are long as doctors leave their posts.

So what is really not to like with the Syrian president Assad the readers of those AP pieces will ask themselves. Isn't he better than all alternatives?

Posted by b on November 3, 2014 at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

November 01, 2014

Syria: New Hints Of A Changing U.S. Position

Here are some remarkable media mentions of Syria.

From RAND, the Pentagon think tank, on Alternative Futures for Syria.

Among the Key Findings:

Regime collapse, while not considered a likely outcome, was perceived to be the worst possible outcome for U.S. strategic interests.
It is regime victory that now appears to be most likely in the near to mid-term, due to the confluence of military and political factors favoring pro-Assad forces.

An Associated Press reporter visits the Latakia area and talks to the people who are all staunch supporter of the Syrian government: Syria's Alawites pay heavy price as they bury sons.

The piece includes this fact that has been true since the fighting in Syria started:

Syria's army represents the sectarian makeup of the country: it is largely Sunni Muslim, fighting mostly Sunni Muslim rebels.

This was so far hardly ever mentioned in "western" media" which was thereby propagandizing sectarianism and further war.

Another remark that does not fit the usual picture. Some people protest against President Assad not because he is fighting against the insurgents but because he is not waging enough war:

"If anything, their critique of Bashar is that he is too weak, so they would rather have a hard-line guy in power," said the aid worker, who requested anonymity because he wasn't meant to speak to reporters.

Also remarkable. Who does the U.S. trust to have the best intelligence to fight the Islamic State? Syria of course. But as official collaboration is not (yet) allowed, the arrangement is covered up as espionage: U.S. Spying on Syria Yields Bonus: Intelligence on Islamic State:

U.S. Spies Have Been Tapping the Communications of President Bashar al-Assad’s Regime for Information on Islamic State Militants

I am sure that the U.S. could not listen to Syria government communication about IS, and would not make the fact that it can public, if the Syrian (and Russian) government would not want them to.

The U.S. plan was to let some of its "enemies", the Syrians, Iranians, Russians, fight it out with some of its other "enemies", the radical Islamists and by proxy the Saudis and Qataris. All would be weakened and the relative U.S. role in the Middle East would be strengthened. But with the Islamic State blowback in Iraq, in Lebanon and in future likely in further places, the plan to let the enemies destroy each other is increasingly risky.

What we are seeing now, and the Associated Press report above is in my view not just a coincidence, is a slow change in the U.S. position. It is starting to lean towards a more appreciating view towards the Syrian government. How far that change will go is not yet knowable.

My take on the letter Secretary of Defense Hagel sent to the White House is that his demand for a clearer strategy on Syria is not, as Reuters assumes, a request for more help to the insurgents but a request to let go of the animosity towards the Syrian government and to further cooperate with it in the fight against the Islamic State. That is the essence of the RAND study quoted above which Hagel's house paid for. If my reading of it is correct the White House would be wise to follow Hagel's view.

Posted by b on November 1, 2014 at 03:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)