Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 27, 2015

Human Rights Watch Accuses Syria Of "Barrel Bomb" Damage Created By U.S. Attacks

Human Rights Watch has been part of a sectarian anti-Syrian propaganda campaign. It is hyping the "barrel bombs", allegedly used by the Syrian government, as inhumane weapons. I have yet to see Human Rights Watch equally damning the indiscriminate use against civilians of improvised rockets by the Jihadist "moderate rebels".

Yesterday Human Rights Watch send out this tweet:


According to HRW the picture of the destroyed town is somehow related to Syrian "barrel bombs". That is not the case.

The picture was published in the New York Times on February 13, 2015.


The NYT caption says:

The predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani is devastated after months under siege by Islamist forces and airstrikes by a United States-led coalition

The picture's credentials are "Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images".

Massive U.S. bomb attacks obviously destroyed the city of Kobane. The U.S. no longer uses improvised "barrel bombs" dropped from planes and helicopters. It did use "barrel bombs" extensively in Vietnam.

Syrian "barrel bombs" did not destroy the city of Kobane. It was destroyed by regular U.S. air force bombs. Damage by "barrel bombs" could hardly be worse. Indeed "barrel bombs" thrown out of hovering helicopters are likely much better targeted and more precise than unguided bombs dropped from fast moving jets.

The Human Rights Watch tweet includes another deception. It links to a February 24 piece by the NYT as if that piece would somehow confirm HRW`s claim. But that NYT piece is not a neutral report. The piece, headlined "Syria Dropped ‘Barrel Bombs’ Despite Ban, Report Says", is solely about a HRW report about "barrel bombs" in Syria. The HRW tweet is in effect linking to its own claims disguised as a link to a reputable source.

It is interesting, and non-credible, that Human Rights Watch feels the need to use a picture of "good" U.S. created destruction to demonstrate destruction created by the "bad" Syrian army in its fight against U.S. supported Jihadis. The picture is obviously not the only thing HRW gets wrong.


This is not the first time HRW is using pictures of the "wrong" side. In October 2014 it used a picture of a woman crying over Ukrainian federalist who were burned to death by Nazi-hordes in Odessa to call for a "stand against Putin's repressive policies".

Posted by b on February 27, 2015 at 03:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (53)

February 26, 2015

Open Thread 2015-10

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 26, 2015 at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (243)

February 25, 2015

Yemen: Reuters Sells Unfounded Activist Claims As U.N. Expert Findings

Reuters is supposed to be a high quality news agency but some of its reporting is ridiculously wrong or slated in ways that turn rumors into "facts". Consider this current Reuters piece on Yemen.

Yemen ex-president amassed up to $60 billion, colluded with rebels: U.N. experts

(Reuters) - Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh is suspected of corruptly amassing as much as $60 billion, equivalent to Yemen's annual GDP, during his long rule, and colluding in a militia takeover last year, U.N.-appointed investigators have told the Security Council.

The report by the world body's Panel of Experts on Yemen echoes criticism by his opponents that Saleh's rule from 1978 to 2012 was marred by graft, and that even out of office he is fomenting instability - allegations he has consistently denied.

The headline lets it seem that U.N. experts claim that Saleh amassed up to $60 billion.

But that is wrong. The U.N. experts do not claim such. In their report (Word download) they repeat anonymous allegations which seem unfounded and unsourced. They write:

182. Ali Abdullah Saleh, on the other hand, is in a very different situation. Ali Abdullah Saleh was President of Yemen for 33 years, until 2012, and during that time he is alleged to have amassed assets between $32 billion and $60 billion, most of which are believed to have been transferred abroad under false names or the names of others holding the assets on his behalf. These assets are said to take the form of property, cash, shares, gold and other valuable commodities. At the time of writing this report, these assets were believed to be located in at least 20 countries.

The U.N. experts repeat hear-say without any factual evidence to support it. How do such claims pulled from hot air justify a headline claim of "Yemen ex-president amassed up to $60 billion"?

A footnote in the U.N. expert report point to the possible source on which they may have based the above. It is link to an article written by one Catherine Shakdam for Shakam writes:

According to Abdul Ghani-Iryani, a Yemeni development analyst, Yemen’s former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his cronies skimmed about $2 billion a year for private gain over the last three decades – money stolen from the fuel-subsidy programme that uses up to 10% of Yemen’s GDP, as well as other ventures involving abuse of power, extortion and embezzlement. It has been estimated that Saleh's family holdings alone run well into tens of billions of dollars, much of it held overseas.

Some $2 billion per year over 30 years and there is your $60 billion claim. But note that this claim, again without any evidence, is not solely about Saleh but includes "his cronies" and various corrupt schemes that may have been used.

In an interview on Democracy Now Abdul Ghani-Iryani, the source of the claim, was introduced as "political analyst and co-founder of the Democratic Awakening Movement". The Middle East Institute says says

Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani is a businessman and a political consultant based in Sana‘a. He received an MA from Portland State University and an MPH from Boston University.

So Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani is U.S. educated, businessman, political consultant, development analyst, political analyst or whatever. But he mainly is an anti-Saleh activist (U.S.paid?) making some unfounded claims about Saleh which are then quoted as pure "allegations" by U.N. experts and turned into U.N. expert findings by Reuters.

The Reuters assertion that the U.N. expert report "echoes criticism by his opponents" is true. But that is not, as readers would assume, because the experts independently confirmed those claims but because their report is solely based on and sourced to those Saleh opponents claims.

The collapse of the government (recommended) in Yemen has many reasons but the main ones are not at all related to Saleh or to corruption. Yemen's oil production has plummeted and the government revenues with it. Yemen lacks water and other resources and has to import much of its food. There is a demographic youth bulge and very high unemployment which pushes the young into the various fighting forces. It is difficult to see how any government, even a non-corrupt one, could have prevented those problems.

A society that is historically based on tribes and patronage simply does not work like a liberal democracy. The real world examples (recom.) of corruption in Yemen do not point to only one man or only one institution that is corrupt but to a "way of life" where disguised bribes need to be paid to whatever entity one needs to work with. Those in positions of power need those funds to pay off those they need to support for family or tribal reasons and to pay off those they need to support their position. They will also skim off some money to allow themselves a more affluent life style.

Those who lose out in these schemes and are not connected to the money flow, and there are many, will of course rally against them and increase the general insecurity.  The corruption problem must be tackled over time through changes in law and new incentive structures. But it will not be done in a day or through a simple change at the top of the pyramid.

To claim that all bad, all corruption and all vanished money in Yemen is somehow to be blamed on the former president Saleh, as his opponents, the U.N. experts and Reuters seem to do, is nonsense. It is not based on facts but on lazy thinking and more dubious motivations. It does not help in understanding Yemen and it does not help in solving Yemen's problems. It can only lead to more misguided and ill advised interferences.

Posted by b on February 25, 2015 at 11:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

February 24, 2015

U.S. Pushes For Escalation, Arms Kiev By Laundering Weapons Through Abu Dhabi

The U.S. is circumventing its own proclaimed policy of not delivering weapons to Ukraine and is thereby, despite urgent misgivings from its European allies, increasing the chance of a wider catastrophic war in Europe.

The Ukrainian coup president Poroshenko went to an international arms exhibition in Dubai. There he met the U.S. chief military weapon salesman.

ABU DHABI – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is expected to meet with U.S. defense companies Tuesday during a major arms exhibition here even though the American government has not cleared the firms to sell Kiev lethal weapons.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acquisition executive is scheduled to meet with a Ukrainian delegation Monday evening, however Poroshenko is not expected to be there. Kendall, in an interview, said he will be bringing a message of support from the United States.

“I expect the conversation will be about their needs,” Kendall told Defense One a few hours before the meeting. “We’re limited at this point in time in terms of what we’re able to provide them, but where we can be supportive, we want to be.”

Poroshenko, urged on by his neocon U.S. sponsors, wants total war with Russia. Porosheko's deputy foreign minister, currently on a visit in Canada, relayed the message:

Ukraine's deputy foreign minister says he is preparing for "full-scale war" against Russia and wants Canada to help by supplying lethal weapons and the training to use them.

Vadym Prystaiko, who until last fall was Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, says the world must not be afraid of joining Ukraine in the fight against a nuclear power.

In the mind of these folks waging a "full-scale war" against a nuclear superpower like Russia is nothing to be afraid of. These are truly lunatics.

Russia says that U.S. weapons delivered to Ukraine would create real trouble. They mean it. To hint how Russia would counter such a move it just offered a spiced up S-300 missile defense system to Iran:

Sergei Chemezov, chief executive of the Russian defense corporation Rostec, said Tehran is considering its offer to sell an Antey-2500 anti-ballistic air defense system,

The Antey-2500 is a mobile surface-to-air missile system that offers enhanced combat capabilities, including the destruction of aircraft and ballistic missiles at a range of about 1,500 miles, according to its manufacturer, Almaz-Antey.

The system was developed from a less advanced version -- the 1980s-generation S-300V system -- which has a 125-mile range. A 2007 contract to supply the S-300 system to Iran was canceled in 2010, after the U.S. and Israel lobbied against it, ...

Such a system in Iran would, in case of a conflict, endanger every U.S. airplane in the Middle East.

But that threat did not deter the U.S. As the U.S. arms dealer in Abu Dhabi said: "where we can be supportive, we want to be". The U.S. will now disguise its arms-to-Kiev program by laundering it through its sponsored Middle East dictatorships:

Christopher Miller ‏@ChristopherJM 
Poroshenko, UAE agree on "delivery of certain types of armaments and military hardware to #Ukraine."

The United Arab Emirates is not known as arms producer. But it buys lots of U.S. weapons. It will now forward those to Ukraine while the U.S. will claim that it does not arm Ukraine. Who do they think will believe them?

This is again a dangerous escalation of the conflict in Ukraine by U.S. machinations. It comes at the same moment that Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine meet in Paris to push for faster implementation of the Minsk 2 accord for a ceasefire and for a political solution of the civil war in Ukraine:

On Monday spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Yevhen Perebyinis said that during their Paris meeting, the foursome of foreign ministers will focus on the implementation of the Minsk agreements and withdrawal of heavy artillery in Donbas.

The Ukrainian government has said that it will not withdraw its artillery as long as there are still skirmishes around a few flashpoints along the ceasefire line. In Shirokyne east of Mariupol the government aligned neo-nazi battalion Azov continues to attack the federalists. The Ukrainian propaganda claims that the federalists plan an immediate attack on Mariupol. That is nonsense and the federalist have denied any plans for further fighting. Unlike the Ukrainian government the federalist started to pull back their artillery and will continue to do so.

The Ukrainian government is breaking the Minsk 2 agreement by not pulling back its heavy artillery from the ceasefire line. The U.S. is arming the Ukrainian army and will soon train its volunteer neo-nazi "national guard" forces.

The major European powers, Germany, France and Russia, try to tame the conflict down. The U.S. and its poodles in Kiev continue to poor oil into the fire. If the Europeans do not succeed in pushing back against Washington the Ukraine with burn and Europe with it.

In Further Escalation U.S. Delivery Of Weapons To Kiev Will Be Laundered Through Abu Dhabi

Posted by b on February 24, 2015 at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (61)

February 23, 2015

White House Denies Interference In Venezuela - Promises More Of It

White House Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 2/20/2015

To Question 1: "We, of course, do not interfere in Venezuela!"

Q: What is the reaction of the administration to the latest events in Venezuela? And also, President Nicolás Maduro accused the government, the U.S. government of trying to overthrow his government in a plot that they say they discovered last Wednesday.

MR. EARNEST: These allegations that we’ve seen from the Maduro government, like all previous such allegations, are ludicrous. The fact is the Venezuelan government should stop trying to blame the United States and other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. The Venezuelan government actually needs to deal with the grave situation that it faces.

The United States is not promoting unrest in Venezuela, nor are we attempting to undermine Venezuela’s economy or its government.

To Question 2: "We, of course,  do interfere in Venezuela! We obviously will now do even more of it!"

Q The U.S. government has already taken some actions against Venezuelan individuals with some sanctions. Are you considering any other action? Are you seeking -- maybe seeking help from other countries in the hemisphere, like Brazil, that could put pressure on the government of Nicolás Maduro?

MR. EARNEST: Well, I can tell you that the Treasury Department and the State Department are obviously closely monitoring this situation and are considering tools that may be available that could better steer the Venezuelan government in the direction that they believe they should be headed. That obviously means that we’re continuing to engage other countries in the region in talking about operating in coordinated fashion as we deal with the situation there.

Do these spokespersons even recognize how those proclaimed positions, uttered just seconds apart, conflict with each other?

Posted by b on February 23, 2015 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

February 22, 2015

What Did Turkey Pay To Free The Süleyman Şah IS Hostages?

Last night some 700 heavily armed Turkish soldiers invaded Syria and evacuated some 40 of their comrades. Those 40 had guarded the tomb of the 12th century military leader of the Seljuk Empire, Süleyman Şah. The area of the tomb was seen as a Turkish enclave since a 1921 agreement with the then colonial administrator of the Levant, France:

During the operation that was launched late Feb. 21, airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft, military helicopters and drones were on duty as 39 tanks and 57 armored vehicles penetrated the border with support teams from Turkey’s Special Forces. Live footage and other data from the field were followed in an operation room at the General Staff’s headquarters.

Without engaging in any clashes, Turkish troops left Syria early Feb. 22, after detonating the symbolic building to prevent ISIL militants from using it as a base.

Davutoğlu announced in a series of tweets on Feb. 22 that the artifacts had been “temporarily” brought to Turkey, while the Turkish army “took control of an area in the Ashma region of Syria, raising our flag, where Süleyman Şah will later be transferred.”

So Turkey wants to steal more Syrian land next to the Turkish border to put the remains of the Shah there. Why should that be considered legal?

But back to the reason of the evacuation. The troops at the tomb, only some 40 kilometers from the Turkish border, were surrounded by Islamic State fighters. Usually Turkey would rotate the guards every three or four weeks but those evacuated now have been at the tomb for over 11 month. They were practically hostages of the Islamic State. So why did the Islamic State let them go?

It is very unlikely that the Turkish operation was not known to IS. Turkey used nearly 100 armored vehicles. With Islamic State fighters swarming all over south Turkey the assembling of this force near to the border will not have gone unnoticed. Two days ago Turkey had informed the Kurdish YPK, who fight IS in the area, of the operation. When the troops entered Syria they were filmed (vid) passing a huge Islamic State flag at the border station.

The Islamic State does not like tombs. It has demolished hundreds of important historic tombs in the areas it rules in Iraq and Syria. It did not touch the tomb of Süleyman Şah but kept the troops guarding it under its control. IS must have known that the Turks were coming to evacuate the soldiers and the remains but it did nothing against them. How come?

As Elijah Magnier remarks

We can say loudly: The "Islamic State" group allowed a NATO member army to enter its territory and gave it a free passage.

Indeed. Which leads me to this question:

What did Turkey give to the Islamic State to get the Süleyman Şah hostages freed without a fight?

Turkey already has a free trade agreement and bilateral touristic facilitation with the Islamic State. Something additional and very valuable for the Islamic State must have been agreed upon in exchange for the return of the hostages. What is it?

The U.S. wants to cooperate with Turkey to train Syrian fighters to fight against the Islamic State. It will be quite important to have the answer to the above question before continuing down that road.

Posted by b on February 22, 2015 at 07:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (68)

February 20, 2015

Biden Donates Counter Mortar Radar To Russian Weapon Exhibition

via TASS - The Technical Institute of the Army of the Russian Federation would like to express its gratitude to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden for donating the AN/TPQ-48A Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar, NSN 5840-01-541-8783, Serial #369 to our museum. We intend to add the system, after a short period of technical evaluation, to our permanent public exhibition.

The above press release has not been written yet. But it might well soon be published. Consider:

November 21, 2014 - US delivers anti-mortar radars to Ukraine: Pentagon

Washington (AFP) - The US military has delivered three radars to Ukraine designed to detect incoming mortar fire, the Pentagon said Friday, amid appeals from Kiev for Washington to send weapons to help fight pro-Russian rebels.

The counter-mortar radar systems were flown to Ukraine in a C-17 cargo plane that accompanied US Vice President Joe Biden, who paid a visit to Kiev on the first anniversary of protests that unleashed a year of upheaval.

Before Biden flew to Ukraine a Presidential Drawdown Notfication documented the serial number of the three counter mortar radars he took with him. The value of one such radar was noted as $117,968.


A recent photo of one of the boxes of the counter radar system with the serial #369.


The above picture is a screenshot from about 4:20min into this video which shows the collecting of battle field trophies by east Ukrainian federalists in Debaltseve. The video shows the opening of the box and a view of the packed system. It looks complete and unused. This is not astonishing as the battle was fought with heavy artillery over long ranges and not with rather short ranged mortars. In such a scenario the Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar is of little use.

It will still be an interesting addition to the Technical Institute's exhibition.

Posted by b on February 20, 2015 at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)

Open Thread 2015-09

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 20, 2015 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (185)

February 19, 2015

Syria: Special Forces From Turkey Attack The Syrian Arab Army

Yesterday the Syrian Arab Army tried to relief the insurgent-besieged villages of Nubl and al-Zahraa and to close the corridor between the city of Aleppo and the Turkish border to the north. The troops captured three villages and nearly closed the gap in their ring around Aleppo but were pushed out again in an onslaught by hundreds of enemies coming from the direction of the Turkish border.

The map shows the areas gained and lost again by the SAA in light green. (bigger)

A bloody video from the aftermath (now deleted) showed several dozens of dead Syrian Army fighters massacred in what looked like a well executed ambush.

This was curious as the usual insurgent groups in the area are not know for good military planning:

Regime sources say that the defining characteristic of yesterday’s “ferocious” battle was Turkish support for the armed groups, as evidenced by the transfer of fighters and military supplies from inside Turkey to Aleppo’s northern countryside, including Caucasian fighters who answer directly to Turkish intelligence.

On Twitter one Ömer Khãn, who claims to be a Turkish soldier and is an avid supporter of the Syrian opposition, looks at the gruesome pictures of the dead soldiers and remarks (1, 2, 3):

Who where these SAA up against in #Mallah ? Shooting only Head is feat for a Regular Army, much less for #Rebels.

SAA skulls shattered/shot in/bet Eyes. this is only work of special units, unlikely any Rebel Org.

#Aleppo Whoever killed those SAA was no Mere Rebel, Pro-Reg cry about Turkish Intervention.

I concur. Whoever attacked those Syrian troops must have had, unlike the usual insurgents or jihadists, some extensive and professional special forces experience.

This is not the first time that Turkey actively intervenes in Syria. Recently released Turkish court documents show that Turkey, on top of logistic help, gave direct artillery fire support to the insurgents in several case.

There are new reports that the U.S. plans to give the insurgents radios and other equipment to call in air strikes especially to the Kurds. But the U.S. has already given such equipment to a few selected Kurdish fighters in Kobani for use against the Islamic State. I doubt very much that these will be given to "moderate rebels" or will be used against the Syrian army.

I also doubt that the U.S. will really train or further equip additional "moderate" anti-Syrian fighters. The biggest lobbyist for such arming was the former U.S ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. He has now changed course and admits that there are no "moderates" who could sensibly be armed:

Ford has accused the rebels of collaborating with the Nusra Front, the al Qaida affiliate in Syria that the U.S. declared a terrorist organization more than two years ago. He says opposition infighting has worsened and he laments the fact that extremist groups now rule in most territories outside the Syrian regime’s control.

Ford said part of the problem was that too many rebels – and their patrons in Turkey and Qatar – insisted that Nusra was a homegrown, anti-Assad force when in fact it was an al Qaida affiliate whose ideology was virtually indistinguishable from the Islamic State’s.
“It becomes impossible to field an effective opposition when no one even agrees who or what is the enemy,” he said.

Ford said the latest U.S. approach of ditching the old rebel model to build a new, handpicked paramilitary to focus on the Islamic State was doomed; Syrian rebels are more concerned with bringing down Assad than with fighting extremists for the West, and there are far too few fighters to take the project seriously.
Ford said the time had come for U.S. officials and their allies to have a serious talk about “boots on the ground,” though he was quick to add that the fighters didn’t need to be American. He said a professional ground force was the only way to wrest Syria from the jihadists.

With Ford's support lost the Syrian opposition lobbyists and their friends in the Obama administration will not be able to get the U.S. support they want.

Ford is right that a professional ground force is needed to "wrest Syria from the jihadists". That ground force already exists. It is the Syrian Arab Army and its allies. But when NATO member and U.S. ally Turkey sends special forces to support the jihadist in ambushing and slaughtering those forces without getting rebuffed from Washington it will take years and lots of bloody slaughters until the jihadists are finally finished.

Posted by b on February 19, 2015 at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (78)

February 18, 2015

The "West's" Dilema After Debaltseve: What To Do About Poroshenko?

Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people — the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Emperor Hirohito acknowledging Japan's defeat

The Ukrainian puppet president Poroshenko should have delivered a similar speech. Indeed the war situation in Ukraine has developed not necessarily to his governments advantage. But the speech Proshenko gave (see below) was even more delusional than Hirohito's whitewashing.

Since six days ago several thousand Ukrainian government troops were surrounded in the Debaltsevo pocket. The only road out towards friendly lines was mined and under direct and indirect opposition fire. Several attempts to break out and also into the pocket were defeated with lots of lives and material lost.

Since yesterday and after severe artillery preparations the federalist troops are storming the city. They claim that some 3,000 government troops died there and some 1,000 capitulated (vid) and went into captivity. A few hundred sneaked out at night mostly by foot and today reached the government controlled Artemivsk some 30 kilometers to the north of Debaltsevo. Others fled south away from their own lines and deeper into the pocket. They will be mopped up in due time. Huge amounts of weapons and ammunition was left behind for the federalists to pic up. Reporters in Artemivsk observed some 40-50 dead and some 200 wounded arriving. These were, reporters said, mostly casualties of the escape under fire, not of the earlier fights in Debaltseve. Those who made it out alive are in seriously angry about their higher-ups.

The Minsk-2 meeting was urgently arranged by the German chancellor Merkel when the situation around Debaltsevo deteriorated. But during the negotiations in Minsk Poroshenko insisted that there was no pocket and that his troops were in total control of the situation. The French president Hollande tried to explain the real situation to him but to no avail.

The ceasefire was arranged but the Debaltsevo pocket was not mentioned in the protocols. The federalists reasonably concluded that the pocket was within their acknowledged lines and could be eliminated without breaking the general agreed upon ceasefire. Over the last days we have heard very little protest against this move from the "western" side. Was there a silent agreement to make Poroshenko eat his necktie over the issue like his new adviser Saakashvili once did?

Now the above is the reality. And here is Proshenko's delusional version delivered in a speech today:

I can inform now that this morning the Armed Forces of Ukraine together with the National Guard completed the operation on the planned and organized withdrawal of a part of units from Debaltseve. We can say that 80% of troops have been already withdrawn. We are waiting for two more columns. Warriors of the 128th brigade, parts of units of the 30th brigade, the rest of the 25th and the 40th battalions, Special Forces, the National Guard and the police have already left the area.
We were asserting and proved: Debaltseve was under our control, there was no encirclement, and our troops left the area in a planned and organized manner with all the heavy weaponry: tanks, APCs, self-propelled artillery and vehicles.
It is a strong evidence of combat readiness of the Armed Forces and efficiency of the military command. I can say that despite tough artillery and MLRS shelling, according to the recent data, we have 30 wounded out of more than 2,000 warriors.

Many "western" journalist are no streaming into Debaltsevo and their will soon be reports about the real disaster and the real losses the Ukrainian government troops had there. Those will be hard to hide.

It will then be difficult for the "west" to continue working with Poroshenko. He has now been shown to be completely off his rockers. He can no longer be sold to the public as the bearer of the truth, the sincere white knight against the dark forces of Russia.

How will the "west", Obama and his neoconned State Department react to that? Will they prepare a coup against Poroshenko or do they have other means to get rid of their useless puppet or to save the situation?

Posted by b on February 18, 2015 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (192)

February 16, 2015

Ukraine - The Ceasefire Stalemates

So who moves first? "No one," say these current news items:

From the first piece:

A shaky new truce in Ukraine was already at risk on its second day Monday as Kiev said there was "no question" of its troops pulling back heavy weapons, and the EU ratcheted up sanctions on Russia.

"There is no question at the moment of us withdrawing heavy weapons" from the frontline because of persistent attacks by pro-Russian rebels, a Ukrainian military spokesman, Vladyslav Seleznyov, told AFP.

From the second report:

The self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic is not planning to pull back heavy weaponry until Kiev troops halt shellings, the deputy commander of the DPR’s Defense Ministry’s corps, Eduard Basurin, said on Monday.
"The heavy weaponry withdrawal starts only after the ceasefire. And if the Armed Forces of Ukraine do not stop shellings, which come in violation of the Minsk agreements, the DPR militias will not pull back their weaponry," Basurin was quoted by the Donetsk news agency as saying.

The Donetsk troops are pummeling the Ukrainian government troops in the Debaltseve cauldron. Meanwhile the fascist Azov battalion is bragging (video) about attacking Donetsk troops in Shirokino east of Mariupol and Ukrainian artillery is again hitting the destroyed Donetsk airport.

Pressure on both sides is needed to actually implement the ceasefire. But no one is pressuring Kiev. Instead the EU just implemented new sanctions against Russia just after Russia helped to negotiate this ceasefire. The EU did the same after the first Minsk ceasefire agreement. That will not help to convince Russia that good behavior will be honored and rewarded.

The lack of pressure against Kiev is difficult to understand. The federalists had offered to let the government troops encircled in Debaltseve go free, though without their weapons. The government in Kiev rejected that and ordered those troops to keep on fighting. They will all die if they continue to do so. Their big hope is that OSCE observers will come to them and help them to retreat. That will not happen. Their only chance now is to capitulate.

Kiev seems not to understand that it is about to lose at least a quarter of its usable front line troops in that cauldron. But the incompetence of Ukrainian leadership knows no bounds. How can any army, while having superior numbers, lose troops in four cauldrons within just six month?

The "western" European countries arranged the Minsk 2.0 ceasefire especially to first avoid and, when that became impossible, to relief the cauldron:

Debaltsevo was one of the reasons Merkel and Hollande launched their most recent diplomatic offensive nine days ago.

An immediate ceasefire after Minsk would probably have avoided the full enclosure of Debaltseve. But the Ukrainian government held out:

Poroshenko, too, seemed to prefer a delayed cease-fire -- apparently not fully understanding the situation facing his military. The Europeans were trying to protect the Ukrainians from themselves.

Someone other than the Europeans is telling Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, to sacrifice those troops and to keep the fighting going.

One wonders to what purpose. 

Posted by b on February 16, 2015 at 08:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (162)

February 15, 2015

NYT Commits Orange Jumpsuit Trademark Infringement

A New York Times piece about new Islamic State offshots infringes on the U.S. military's trademark of using orange jumpsuit when torturing prisoners by assigning that trademark to the Islamic State:

A publication released by the central group last week included a photograph of fighters in Libya with its affiliate there parading 20 Egyptian Christian captives in the Islamic State’s trademark orange jumpsuits, indicating at least a degree of communication.

This is like saying the Statue of Liberty is a trademark of the Islamic State because some of its propaganda videos depicts the Statue as falling down.

It is obvious that the orange jumpsuit trademark is fully owned by the U.S. military and has been used  by it for at least a decade now. Here is some photographic proof.

The Times suggests that the use of orange jumpsuits for prisoners by Jihadi groups is "indicating at least a degree of communication" with the Islamic State. As the trademark attribution by the NYT is wrong the correct conclusion in the NYT's logic is that the Libyan Jihadists have "at least a degree of communication" with the U.S. military.

That conclusion would also be supported by the historic fact that the U.S. in 2011 actively supported the Libyan Jihadist in overthrowing the Libyan government.

But the NYT would like you to forget that. Just like it wants you to forget that the NYT itself propagandized for the war in Iraq and that the U.S. military used the orange jumpsuits for torturing prisoners there, many of whom turned out to be not guilty of anything.

The trademark infringing NYT article itself is a shill piece to propagandize for more global war of terror and for Obama's requests to Congress to give him limitless authority to wage it. But the NYT will conveniently forget that too when the guaranteed blowback will hit home.

Posted by b on February 15, 2015 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

February 13, 2015

Open Thread 2015-08

News & views NOT related to current events in Ukraine.

For commenting on current events in Ukraine please go here.

Posted by b on February 13, 2015 at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (126)

Ukraine Ongoing Thread

Please use this thread for collecting and discussing news and opinions about the current events in Ukraine.

Posted by b on February 13, 2015 at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (168)

February 12, 2015

Minsk 2.0 Is Just The Pause Button

After 15 hours of negotiations in Minsk Poroshenko, Putin, Merkel and Hollande achieved a renewal, with a few changes, of the Minsk 1.0 ceasefire for Ukraine framed as the new Minsk 2.0 ceasefire. The two heads of the federalists in Donetsk and Lughanks also signed the agreement. There was no common press conference to announce the deal.

The terms, as far as I can tell, are nearly the same as in Minsk 1.0. twittered the main points:

1.Ceasefire 2.Heavy weapons 3.Monitoring (OSCE) incl satellites & drones 4. Regional elections & self-gov 5. 'special status' in 30 days 6. POWs 7.Humanitarian corridors 8.Pensions & social ties 9.Kiev controls borders 10. Foreign fighters out 11. Disarm irregulars 12. reform by end 2015, decentralization 13.Donbass elections under 3-party contact group (3PCG) 14.3PCG to intensify activities

The full, original text in Russian is here, a preliminary English translation here. There is also a Declaration of Minsk in support of the "Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements" from the German and French side.

The actual ceasefire will start on February 15. We can expect some heavy fighting up to the last minute as each side will try to consolidate its position. There will surely be different interpretations of the clauses on both sides. It is also questionable if the paramilitary groups, especially on the Ukrainian state side, will follow orders to cease fighting.

The Ukrainian President Poroshenko seems to have severe illusions. As the Russian President Putin mentioned in his short press conference (video) Poroshenko does not believe that his several thousand troops in Debaltsevo are surrounded and cut off. That is ludicrous as even major, though unofficial sources on the Ukrainian side had confirmed the closing of the cauldron two days ago. It seems that the military leaders of the Ukrainian army do not tell him what is really happening in the field. Putin also said that the federalist expect the Ukrainian troops in the cauldron to put down their arms. Will they be given orders to do so or will they be ordered to fight on?

The U.S. inserted itself into the negotiation via the International Monetary Fund which it controls. The IMF announced new $17 billion plan for Ukraine, over four years, two hours before the negotiations ended. That was the U.S. joker telling Poroshenko that he would get enough money to continue fighting and does not have to give up any position. Merkel and Hollande, who tired to wring more concessions out of Poroshenko, must have fumed at that news.

For the moment the Minsk 2.0 plan is welcome relief. This certainly for the people in Donetsk and Luhanks who are under constant Ukrainian artillery fire. The EU countries will be happy that the pressure for new sanctions is off and the U.S. hawks will have to shelf their "arm Ukraine" campaign for now. But the ceasefire does not solve the main questions. The radical constituency of the Ukraine coup government will demand more "punishment" of the east while the people there will, without more representation, reject any demands from the central government.

We can therefore expect that the fighting will stop in the short term only. The violent conflict will likely resume in a month or two or so.

Posted by b on February 12, 2015 at 06:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (152)

February 11, 2015

Who Murdered Kayla Jean Mueller?

The U.S. claims that the Islamic State killed its hostage Kayla Jean Mueller. But the sequence of events and the surrounding circumstance point to her being killed, willful or not, by an U.S. ally and based on U.S. intelligence.

Last Thursday the Jordanian air-force attacked targets U.S. intelligence associated with the Islamic State in Raqqa. The next day the Islamic State said that a hostage, a U.S. citizen, was killed in the attack:

The terrorist group claimed Kayla Jean Mueller was killed by Jordanian aircraft rockets that a struck the building in which she was being held.
"[..] we can confirm the death of an American hostage by the rockets which targeted that area."

The group released images showing a damaged building it said had been targeted in air strikes, but no photos of the hostage.

Jordanian fighter jets bombed Islamic State sites on Thursday, after the militants burned to death a captured Jordanian pilot.

The White House, State Department and Pentagon said they could not confirm the unsubstantiated report.

How are official statements after a confirmed attack with pictures of the destroyed location "unsubstantiated"?

Over the weekend the Islamic State sent pictures of the dead body of the hostage to her family. The family acknowledged and the FBI confirmed that the hostage is dead:

The U.S. government has confirmed that Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old American woman held hostage by the Islamic State in Syria, was killed, reaching that conclusion after the group sent pictures of her body to her family.
The information available to intelligence officials, [White House press secretary Josh] Earnest said, “did not allow them to arrive at a conclusion about her precise cause of death” or when it occurred. He and other U.S. officials said they would not provide details of the pictures her family received, “out of respect for the family.”
U.S. officials have expressed strong skepticism that she was killed in an airstrike. Earnest repeated earlier Jordanian statements that the target hit in the Friday strike by the Jordanian air force — a building that militants showed in photographs posted online at the time they announced Mueller’s death — was a “weapons compound” near Raqqa that had also been hit in earlier strikes.

“The information that we have, because this airstrike was coordinated with the United States military, is that there was no evidence of civilians in the target area prior to the coalition airstrike taking place,” Earnest said.

Absence of evidence of civilians being there does not mean absence of civilians. So was this like one of the usual "wedding bombed" U.S. intelligence screw ups?

The Islamic State has killed other foreign hostages in propaganda stunts. It distributed high quality videos of the ritual killings. If the Islamic State killed Miss Mueller why did it not use the killing for another propaganda snuff movie?

The path of action - air-strike by Jordan - IS claim of her death - photos of the hit building - photos of the dead hostage - are all consistent with the hostage dying in the air attack. There is no information that allows a different conclusion and, as the White House spokesperson claims, there is no certainty about the cause of her death. That at least tells us that she was not beheaded.

How then can the Pentagon claim, with no evidence supporting it, that the Islamic State killed the hostage?

The Pentagon says American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller died at the hands of Islamic State and not in a Jordanian airstrike targeting the militant group.

Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby was asked Tuesday if there was any doubt who killed the aid worker.

He replied: “No doubt. ISIL,” using the initials the group is known by.

Kirby says U.S. officials still don’t know how Mueller died. But he added that officials are certain it was not in one of the airstrikes Jordan launched in retaliation for the killing of one of its pilots.

"We don't know how she died but it wasn't us" is quite weak in my view. I do not believe this indeed "unsubstantiated" claim of the Pentagon.

It is highly likely that the hostage, as the Islamic State consistently claims, was killed in the Jordanian air-strike which was based on U.S. intelligence of Islamic State compounds in Raqqa. The willful killing of a hostage taken by an enemy, to avoid negotiations and blackmailing, is not unheard of. Whether this attack was planned and executed with the knowledge of the hostage being there or without such knowledge can not (yet) be concluded.

Posted by b on February 11, 2015 at 04:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

February 10, 2015

The Syrian Government Counterattack In The South

Notice the wording in this Reuters headline: Syrian government launches offensive against rebels in south

For Reuters Syria now has - again - a "government", and not a "regime" as Reuters had labeled the Syrian government for a quite a while. That is an important change.

The report says:

Syria's army gained ground from rebels in the south on Tuesday in what a monitoring group described as a large-scale offensive in the region backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters against insurgents including al Qaeda's Syrian wing.
"The operation started two days ago and is very big," Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, said on Tuesday.

Abdulrahman said the offensive aims to take a triangle of rebel-held territory from rural areas southwest of Damascus to Deraa city to Quneitra. Syrian media and rebel sources said on Tuesday that battles raged in several areas of southern Syria.

The south eastern triangle of Syria between the Golan and and Deraa had been taken by Jabhat al-Nusra (disguised as "moderate rebels") with the help of the Israelis and the U.S. dominated "operations room" in Jordan which distributes the weapons Saudi Arabia and others supplied. The general U.S. operation plan was, as we reported in September, to let Nusra attack Damascus from the south.

The current Syrian government operation, long in planning, is aimed at rolling back the Jabhat al_Nusra attack if possible down to the Jordan border. It is supported by Hizbullah (and Iranian?) fighters who will likely do most of work on the Golan heights.

Earlier Elijah J. Magnier reported on the operation:

#BreakingNews: #SAA called d mil ops n Quneitra/Daraa "Shuhada' al-Quneitra" referring 2 d #Israel/i attack killing 6 Hezbollah & 1 #Iran/ian

The ongoing huge military operation is run by #SAA and #Hezbollah in the south and SW of #Syria .

#Hezbollah considers this ops as a prevention to an ongoing #JN plan to attack #Lebanon from Hasbaiya and to endanger #Damascus". #Syria.

This is no doubt the communique' N. 2 of #Hezbollah to #Israel following the Shebaa Farms attack last week. #Syria #Lebanon.

("Shuhada" is the plural of "Shaheed" which means Martyr. "Shuhada' al-Quneitra" means "Martyrs of Quneitra".)

Several towns and areas were already reported cleared today but this likely will be a difficult and long fight.

The question is if or how Israel will try to disrupt this campaign by again supporting Jabhat al_Nusra with air attacks, artillery strikes and supplies. Hizbullah will surely have prepared some "surprises" to challenge any Israeli support to its enemies. Will the U.S. led operations room try to counter the Syrian attack? How? Will Jordan, now heavily involved against the Islamic State, now also shun the IS brethren Jabhat al-Nusra?

Posted by b on February 10, 2015 at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

February 09, 2015

Ukraine: Use Of U.S. Ambassador's "False Flag" Offer Aborted

In an interview this morning a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine made a completely speculative statement on Russian air attack plans against Ukrainian forces reported the Ukrainian propaganda outlet

If Putin uses aviation in Donbas, US response will be swift - former Ambassador to Ukraine Herbst"
"Certainly, everyone is concerned that the Kremlin is making this war in Ukraine increasingly open. They used to hide all their steps, all their aggression. Now it's increasingly clear what Moscow is doing. So, conceivably, Moscow can decide to use its Air Force," he stated, adding that if it does that even the most skeptical Europeans who doubted the hand of the Kremlin in the conflict will see that Russia is conducting war.

"Our report (on the situation in Ukraine to President Obama - ed.) did not specifically recommend anti-aircraft weapons … but we talked about it," Herbst said. He added that the reason for that is a possible major escalation of the conflict. The former ambassador stated that if Putin were to use his Air Force, the United States' reaction would be swift.

That statement by the former ambassador was a huge invitation for a "false flag" event. As the Ukraine and Russia fly similar types of air planes a "false flag" attack by Ukrainian planes on Ukrainian forces could easily be "sold" as a Russian attack. The ambassador seemingly offers that as a way to get the U.S. militarily involved.

The propaganda managers of the neo-Nazi Ukrainian Azov battalion immediately picked up the offer.

A group of Azov battalion members with their most revered flags.

On its Facebook page Azov proclaimed (auto translated original):

The battalion of special purpose "Azov" - new page

2 hours ago

Russia used aircraft during Debaltseve 2 Su-25 attacked the positions of the 40th Battalion.

Russian aircraft attacked the Ukrainian viyskovosluzhbo SRO near Novohryhorivka.

2 Su-25 Russian Air Force 20 minutes ago inflicted airstrike on positions 40th Battalion in the area under Novohryhorivka Debaltseve.

#Polk_Azov #Debaltseve #Aviation

Other Ukrainian propaganda outlets and Twitter propaganda accounts immediately jumped on that "report" by the Azov battalion.


Russian SU-25 airstrikes in Ukraine near #Debaltseve @LIGAnet |EMPR Breaking News

Davin Ackles

More and more reports in Ukraine that Rus. forces attackd Ukr. position at #Debaltseve w/ jets

But they were unlucky. The Ukrainian high command had not yet been informed of, or was not yet willing to jump onto, the promising "false flag" wagon prepared by Ambassador Herbst. The "Anti Terror Operation" headquarter denied (auto translated original) Russian air attacks:

At the headquarters of anti-terrorist operation (ATO) did not confirm the information about the air strikes, which the positions of the Ukrainian military allegedly paid a Russian aircraft. On this edition of the commentary "Gordon" said Speaker ATO Andrei Lysenko.

"Information is not supported by air strikes. Moreover, in the area non-flying weather. All this is fake," - said Lysenko.

Today edition "Tsenzor.NET" citing its sources reported that Russian aircraft attacked the Ukrainian troops in the village Novogrigorevka, which is located near the town of Debaltsevo Donetsk region.

Nice try everyone ...

While Andrei Lysenko did not support the SU-25 attack reports he came up with his own version of fake events by claiming yet another Russian invasion into Ukraine:

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko, meanwhile, said Monday that about 1,500 Russian troops had crossed the border into Ukraine via rebel-controlled border posts over the weekend. He did not provide any proof.

It is funny how even the Associated Press now emphasizes the lack of proof when Ukrainian officials claim that another big Russian army invasion just happened. If all such claims had been true the Russian army would by now have some 100,000 men stationed in Ukraine.

The story shows that any promise made by the "west" - "If Russia does this, we will do that" - can and probably will be abused for false flag incidents by forces who want "that" to be done.

Posted by b on February 9, 2015 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (158)

February 08, 2015

The Islamic State Is In Retreat

The Islamic State is in retreat. It has lost several towns in north Iraq to the Kurdish Peshmerga. It is under attack in central and west Iraq from Iraqi security forces and militia. In Syria U.S. air attacks and the supported Kurdish YPG forces defended (and destroyed) Kobani and IS had to give up its plans to capture that border route to Turkey. The Kurdish forces have now pushed the Islamic State away from some 75 settlements and towns in the Kobani area.

At the same time as the much published attack on Kobani happened the Islamic State tried to capture the city of Deir Ezzor in east Syria and the important Syrian air force base next to it. For a few days it looked like the air base would fall but air support from the Syrian air force and powerful counterattacks have relieved the air base and the city is at least partially back under Syrian army control.

In last two days the Islamic State left several areas in central and west Syria. It is giving up positions it had fought for, now passing them back to local Islamist or warlord forces it had earlier kicked out of their positions. It is likely that this move has two reasons. The Islamic State can no longer supply its forces in west and center Syria and it needs to concentrate its forces for the defense of the core areas it still holds - Mosul and Fallujah in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

The Islamic State is under aerial attack from Syrian, U.S. and now also again from Jordan forces. While these attacks are not as intense as they could be they do destroy and kill enough material and people to make the movement of Islamic State fighters difficult.

The Pentagon claims (take with lots of salt) that it damaged or destroyed 3,222 Islamic State targets since August including 58 tanks; 184 Humvees; 673 fighting positions; 980 buildings or barracks; 26 APCs vehicles; 303 technical vehicles; 94 other vehicles; 79 artillery, anti-aircraft weapons or mortars; 41 staging areas; 11 improvised explosive device positions; 16 command posts; 92 checkpoints; 17 guard shacks; 52 bunkers; 14 boats; 23 stockpiles; 259 oil infrastructure sites. According to the head of the Royal Jordanian Air Force the Islamic State has in total lost 20% of its military capabilities. I believe that the damage rate is higher than 20% with regard to heavy weapons like tanks which are easy to kill from the air and lower with regard to IS men under arms. The Islamic State has lots of infantry as it can recruit from several million people under its rule but it has only a very limited capability to replace material losses.

In the last two days the Islamic State gave up some 15 villages in Al-Qamishli district in eastern Syria. It offered the Al-Bab border crossing with Turkey in northeast Aleppo governate and the Qweiris military airport east of Aleppo to the local Islamist group Jamat Ansar-eddine. It pulled its forces out of Jarabulus next to Turkey and out of Ayn Issa and Sarrin. All these positions were on the most northern and most western positions in Syria under Islamic State control. These are all quite strategic positions but the Islamic State no longer has the resources to hold onto them. It had paid quite some blood to gain these position but now has to give them up without a fight.

All these moves may be because IS wants to consolidate and concentrate forces for a new attack against maybe Jordan or Saudi Arabia but my hunch is that its material capabilities are now in serious decline and that the Islamic State is no longer able to project and supply large forces and heavy equipment over longer distances.

Posted by b on February 8, 2015 at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

February 07, 2015

More War In Ukraine Needed So Lindsey Graham Can "Feel Better"


There was a lot of stupid talk today at the Munich Security Conference where U.S. hawks are trying to instigate a big war in Europe. Such war would result in a lot of destruction in Europe but the U.S., secured by oceans, would hardly be touched. Especially in the current deflationary environment the destruction of European production capacity would be to the economic advantage of the United States.

The U.S. hawks (and their European puppets) want to deliver more weapons to Ukraine, they want to instigate Russia to harsher reactions to their coup in Kiev and they want to strongly escalate the situation there. That is not in Europe's interest.

The U.S. commander of NATO Breedlove's talk of the "military option" in Ukraine is dangerous nonsense. But even more nonsense came today in Munich from Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He is, together with John McCain and the lunatic editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, one of the loudest voices screaming for more war.

Graham has problems justifying any escalation. He admits that pushing more weapons into the Ukraine would not change much. But he says it would make him "feel better". Now that is really good reason to escalate a war? You can see and hear him saying that at 33:40 in this video:

I don’t know how this will end if you give [Ukraine] defensive capability. But I know this: I will feel better because when my nation was needed to stand up to the garbage and to stand by freedom I stood by freedom. They may die, they may lose ...

More war, more death, more destruction so Lindsey Graham "will feel better"? And that is supposed to be a good reason for war?

I doubt that Graham meant that seriously. It is simply his usual neocon sales-talk for more war and while such talk works in certain segments of the U.S. public it is unlikely to win him any following in Europe.

Fortunately some leading figures in Europe have at last recognized what the U.S. wants to do and are now strongly pushing back. The German chancellor Merkel said several times, including today, that "there is no military solution" to the problem and that the only way to go is through negotiations. She, together with the French president Hollande, is just back from long negotiations in Kiev and Moscow. The renewed Minsk agreement they talked about would freeze the war at the current front line and give the eastern parts of Ukraine autonomy.

Moscow would likely agree to that. But it seems that Kiev is the bigger problem because the Ukrainian president Poroshenko is unwilling to adopt the Minsk agreement for a ceasefire to his loosing positions on the actual battlefield. He also spoke out against autonomy for the east or a federalization of the Ukraine. He probably fears to be kicked out of office in another coup if he agrees to compromise. The Ukrainian prime minister Yatsenyuk, the puppet of the U.S. neocons, is an even stronger hawk and could be the one Victoria Nuland wants to use to replace Poroshenko.

The picture above, taken at a side meeting in Munich today, is quite symbolic. Poroshenko is sitting next to Biden and Kerry and the German government, Merkel and Steinmeier, are sitting at the opposite side of the table. It is obvious who's puppet Poroshenko is.

Hollande made clear today that the position Kiev, and the U.S. behind it, hold is the one he does not agree with:

French President Francois Hollande called for “quite strong” autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions while speaking on France 2 TV.
The French President also revealed part of the joint document under negotiation between Berlin, Moscow, Paris and Kiev. He said it will feature a 50- to 70-kilometer demilitarized zone on each side of the current line dividing militia-held and Kiev-controlled territories.

The Ukraine is bankrupt, loosing militarily and no amount of "defensive" weapons (which are of course also offensive ones) would change the power relations in the field. The U.S. attempt to push Europe into a wider war has for now failed but it is unlikely that this was the last one. The government in Kiev will have agree to the compromise Merkel and Hollande are pressing for or it will lose even more soldiers, land and money.

Posted by b on February 7, 2015 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (146)

February 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-07

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 6, 2015 at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

February 05, 2015

U.S. Pushes For War In Europe

Updated below

It is pretty obvious that significant forces in Washington push for a big war in Europe, cold at least but hot if possible. European countries, aside from some small U.S. puppets, are well aware that they would be hit hard in such a war, and do not want it.

The U.S. wants to deliver additional weapons to Ukraine and to thereby goad Russia into such a wider war. The arguments made that such weapon delivers would somehow restrict Russia are just stupid and only hide the real plans: Escalation until Europe is (again) up in flames.

There is full steam lobbying by the U.S. to widen the conflict in Ukraine which it instigated in the first place:

As President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Pentagon said Wednesday he’s inclined to support lethal weapons transfers, Ukraine’s president said he was confident the U.S. would do so. Meanwhile, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry were flying to discuss Ukraine and other issues with allies in Europe. Vice President Joe Biden is due to follow them Thursday.

France, the U.K., Germany and other Europeans have spoken out against any such weapon deliveries and the escalation they bring.

Kerry has flown to Kiev today to push for the Ukraine puppets into escalation. Merkel and Hollande will also fly to Kiev and will hopefully try to convince Poroshenko to deescalate and to make peace with the federalists in east-Ukraine. I have my doubts about their independence though and it may be that their appearance is is just part of the show. Why else did they agree to NATO's increase in capacities and infrastructure in east Europe?

The solution for the Ukraine is simple. Federalization, official acceptance of the Russian language which is spoken in the East and democratic elections of local governors. These have been the demands in the east and these have been solutions even U.S. foreign policy luminaries urged to accept a year ago.

The Ukraine is bankrupt. This morning its currency lost 30% in just a few hours. Instead of further instigating a civil war and pushing for its escalation it is urgently time to discuss how that problem can be solved. The solution can not be waging war and permanent subsidization of Europe's most corrupt country.

Federalization and constitutional reform (i.e. Point 3 Decentralization of power ...) are a major point agreed upon by both sides in the Minsk protocol about a ceasefire in east-Ukraine. But despite insisting on other points of the agreement himself Poroshenko still rejects those most important agreed upon conditions.

Should the U.S. win in its drive to escalate the situation by delivering more weapons to Kiev Russia will not cave in. History suggest that a Ukraine under NATO at its border is a deadly danger. Russia must and will take countermeasures. The U.S. will then cite those countermeasures as signs of "further aggression" and as justification for another round of escalation. A few more rounds of such and Europe will be up in flames.

That would be good for the U.S. economy but terrible for the Ukraine and Europe.

Update Funny. What "important" people are told:

1. Carnegie Endowment VP Andrew Weiss at 4:20 AM - 5 Feb 2015:

Russian sources: Merkel-Hollande plan freezes #Ukraine conflict along lines of Transdniester h/t @CoalsonR

2. NPR correspondent Michele Keleman at 6:27 AM - 5 Feb 2015:

Western dip describes Russia's peace plan for Ukraine as roadmap to creating a new Transnistria/Abkhazia

So who's plan is this?

Posted by b on February 5, 2015 at 07:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (145)

February 04, 2015

CNBC Uses Daft Economic "Logic" To Spred Anti-Venezuelan Propaganda

This anti-Venzuela propaganda segment by CNBC doesn't even get basic economics right:

For many countries, cheaper oil is helping boost economic growth. But if you're a struggling Caribbean nation dependent on energy subsidies from Venezuela, the crash in oil prices is not welcome news.
[The fall in oil prices] has also jeopardized generous financing terms extended to more than a dozen Caribbean nations that rely on Venezuelan oil to fuel their own economies.

Venezuela launched the so-called Petrocaribe accord in 2005 as it sought to become a low-cost energy provider and win political favor among small island economies heavily reliant on oil imports. But as oil prices have fallen, Venezuela's energy blessing has turned to something of a curse.
Under the terms of the Petrocaribe agreement, the drop in oil prices has—paradoxically—raised members' oil import costs. That's because, as crude prices fall, they lose access to extremely generous financing terms that amount to subsidies.

When oil was over $100 a barrel, Petrocaribe member countries paid just 40 percent of the upfront costs, and Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, covered the rest of the expense with a low interest rate loan payable over 25 years. Some have also paid their oil bills with bartered agricultural products or services.

The extra cash from deferred payments helped some countries finance infrastructure projects and other spending programs.

But those finance terms become much less generous as the price of oil falls, forcing member countries to pay more upfront, with payment in full when prices fall below $40 a barrel, according to RBC economist Marla Dukharan.

Lets unwrap that with an example.

When oil was at $100 per barrel the Caribbean countries paid $40 in cash plus $60 in deferred payments which were spread over 25 years.

When oil is at $50 per barrel the Caribbean countries pay $40 in cash plus $10 in deferred payments which are spread over 25 years. The money they will owe to Venezuela and will have to pay is less than it was at higher oil prices. That is certainly very good for them.

Now how is that "not welcome news"?

How has that "jeopardized generous financing terms"?

How has that "turned to something of a curse"?

How are they now to "lose access to extremely generous financing terms"?

Venezuela did not simply hand out money. It granted vendor loans bound to the purchase of its product. Not having to take out additional loans because the product is cheaper now is not losing "extremely generous financing terms" because those terms were never available for anything else.

It is unclear from the piece how the financial amateurs at CNBC got their crazy ideas and claims.

They provide a link to the RBC "analysis", written in November, which says:

PetroCaribe member countries "pay 40 per cent upfront when the price is over US$100 per barrel; 50 per cent upfront when the price is between US$80-100 per barrel; 60 per cent upfront when the price is between US$50-80 per barrel; and full payment upfront when the price is below US$50 per barrel.

So its full payment starting at $50/bl and CNBC got it wrong when it wrote "with payment in full when prices fall below $40 a barrel". The CNBC writers are obviously unable to correctly copy from the sources they linked to.

Now looking at the RBC numbers CNBC was unable to copy and paste some economically ignorant people, like those CNBC folks, might argue that the $40 upfront at above $100/bl is less than the $50 upfront at a $50/bl price. But at a price of $40/bl the cash payment would be again the same as at $100/bl. To argue from one extreme price-point when there are ranges is wrong. But that $50 cash versus $40 cash argument is also incorrect as the $40 at a $100/bl price is not the total payment. When one includes the cost to pay off a $60 per barrel loan including the interest at a $100/bl price the $10/bl additional cash payment at $50/bl will be a lot cheaper. 

At the end of the CNBC piece we get to know who likely came up with the whole stupid argumentation (and also why):

With the future of Venezuelan oil sales in doubt, the White House last month invited Petrocaribe countries to Washington for a Caribbean Energy Security Summit, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden.
Over the weekend, Maduro claimed in a televised address that Biden had tried to foment the overthrow of his socialist government during the Caribbean energy summit. Maduro claimed that Biden told the Caribbean leaders that the Venezuelan government's days were numbered and it was time they abandon their support, a claim Biden's office dismissed.

Why would anyone think that the "future of Venezuelan oil sales" to the Caribbean countries is "in doubt"? It is not as long as the dully elected government of Venezuela is in its place.

But should the U.S. be successful with its current, renewed (pdf) "regime change" attempts in Venezuela the Petrocaribe scheme would likely be in jeopardy. As the leaders of the Caribbean countries are certainly smarter than the CNBC writers they will know that the Petrocaribe deal is incredibly good for them.

Why Biden believes that he can convince the Caribbean countries otherwise is beyond me.

Posted by b on February 4, 2015 at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

February 03, 2015

AFP: Calling Americans "A Great People" Is "Anti-American"

This, by AFP, is one of the most misleading propaganda efforts I have ever seen.

The headline:

Ukraine run by 'miserable' Jews: rebel chief

80% of the readers will not read more than that headline.

The first paragraph:

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine's pro-Russian rebel chief on Monday branded the country's leaders "miserable" Jews in an apparent anti-Semitic jibe.

Of those 20% of the readers who will read the first paragraph only one forth will also read the second one. The "anti-semitic" accusation has thereby been planted in 95% of the readership. Now here is the second paragraph:

Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, claimed that Kiev's pro-Western leaders were "miserable representatives of the great Jewish people".

Saying that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were "miserable representatives of the great American people" would be "anti-American"? What is anti-semitic in calling "the Jewish people" "great"?

The AFP reporter and editor who put that up deserve an Orwellian reward. It is one of the most misleading quotations I have ever seen. Accusing Zakharchenko of anti-semitism when he is actually lauding Jews.

Now I do not agree with Zakharchenko. There is no such thing as "the Jewish people" in the sense of a racial or national determination. There are people of various nationalities and racial heritages who assert that they follow, or their ancestors followed, religious Jewish believes. Some of them may have been or are "great". But that does not make them "the Jewish people" just like followers of Scientology do not make "the Scientologish people".

Posted by b on February 3, 2015 at 06:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (83)

February 02, 2015

Financial Warfare As The New Regime Change Instrument

Just two weeks ago some idiot published this on "War Is Boring":

After six years of massive expenditures and lurid propaganda, on Jan. 9 Tehran shut down its troubled space program. The unceremonious cancellation occurred without notice in the Iranian press.

Authorities are spreading the space agency’s manpower and assets across four ministries including the telecoms ministry and the ministry of defense.

That story was likely planted to instigate some riffs within Iranian politics. That did not work well. Here is notice in the Iranian press:

Tehran, Feb 2, IRNA - Manager of Electronic Industries Space Projects Mehdi Sarvi on Monday declared that Fajr satellite has established its contact with ground station, hours after it was launched and put into the orbit.
During the ceremony, Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said the project was accomplished only thanks to the sincere endeavors of the Iranian scientists.

Developed by indigenous technology and know-how, he noted, the satellite which is called 'Fajr' indicated the high capabilities of Iran's satellite-carriers.
The minister referred to the chance to develop and design a new generation of satellite-carriers and also enter the world market of space services, using domestic potential and planning complicated space missions as some of the achievements of the project.

Congrats to Iran for this successful launch.

The above just demonstrates again that one can not trust any "news" on countries not liked by Washington. Consider this headline by NBC: Ex-Los Alamos Scientist Gets 5 Years in Venezuelan Nuclear Bomb Plot. A headline fitting the story would be something like "Crazy old scientist falls for FBI sting". The story has nothing to do with Venezuela and the whole "nuclear bomb" stuff was just phantasies an FBI agent used to entrap some poor old person. But Venezuela is on Washington's shit list and the CIA is currently busy instigating another coup against the elected Venezuelan government.

The CIA and the State Department are also involved in instigating the current demonstrations in Hungary. Another attack on an elected government that does not walk the line the U.S. administration orders it to walk. Next in line is likely the new government of Greece.

But instigating color revolutions, protests and coups is often not enough to destroy a government that the U.S. dislikes. In a recent interview Alastair Crooke points to the newest weapon in Washington's regime change arsenal - financial warfare:

The International Order depends more on control by the US Treasury and Federal Reserve than on the UN as before.

It started principally with Iran and it has been developed subsequently. In a book, “Treasury's War,” the tool of exclusion from the dollar-denominated global financial system is described as a “neutron bomb.” When a country is to be isolated, a "scarlet letter" is issued by the US Treasury that asserts that such-and-such bank is somehow suspected of being linked to a terrorist movement -- or of being involved in money laundering. The author of "Treasury's War" [Juan Zarate], who was the chief architect of modern financial warfare and a former senior Treasury and White House official, says this scarlet letter constitutes a more potent bomb than any military weapon.

This system of reliance on dollar hegemony no longer requires American dependency on the UN and hands control to the US Treasury overseen by Steve Cohen -- a reflection of the fact that the military tools have become less available to the US administration, for domestic political reasons.

Crooke believes that the drop in the Russian ruble a few weeks ago was engineered by the U.S. Treasury. He is not completely right though about David S. Cohen, the U.S.Treasury man who has implemented the financial warfare instruments against Iran and Russia. That man is no longer with the U.S. Treasury but is the new number 2 in the CIA. That tells you all you need to know about the intensity with which the U.S. plans to use these new weapons.

Any country that does not do do what Washington wants is now threatened with financial ruin. China and Russia are preparing defenses against such a threat but smaller countries have little chances to escape such attacks.

The media though will not delve into that. Should some country's economy drown (see Venezuela) because of U.S. financial marked manipulations all blame will be put on the foreign government and its "irresponsible economic policies" and the media will again call for and support "regime change".

Posted by b on February 2, 2015 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

February 01, 2015

Open Thread 2015-06

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 1, 2015 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (158)