Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 31, 2015

U.S. Military Again Delays Training Of Jabhat al-Nusra Recruits

The U.S. had plans to train Syrian insurgents who are then supposed to fight the Islamic State. But Turkey, where the training is supposed to take place, wants those fighters to attack the Syrian government.

The U.S. plans, unrealistic to begin with, have again been delayed:

A U.S.-led program to train Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants will start in May, Turkey's Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency on Tuesday.
Details on the training - due to take place in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - have been scant, although it had previously been planned to start this month.

This delay comes after Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, captured the Syrian city of Idlib. The Syrian military accuses Turkey of directly supporting Jabhat al Nusra:

Echoing more general comments by President Bashar al-Assad, the military source accused both Turkey and Jordan of supporting the insurgents in their Idlib offensive, saying they were "leading operations and planning them". The insurgents were using advanced communication apparatus that had been supplied to them via Turkey, the source added.

The Turkish foreign ministry declined to comment.

The Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who is near to the centers of power in Saudi Arabia, confirms the Syrian allegations:

Saudi Arabian and Turkish sponsors, [Mr. Khashoggi, the Saudi editor,] said, had backed the coalition of jihadist groups that recently captured the Syrian city of Idlib in the first major victory in months against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

One participant in the coalition was the Nusra Front, the Syrian arm of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group in the eyes of the West. But members of the jihadi coalition “are the ones who captured Idlib, it is an important development, and I think we are going to see more of that,” Mr. Khashoggi said. “Coordination between Turkish and Saudi intelligence has never been as good as now.”

Also this:

Trita Parsi

Western diplomat tells me Saudi has decided to provide al-Nusra (al-qaeda) in #Syria with whatever it needs.

If the U.S. military would train those fighters in Turkey they would likely turn into Jihadis attached to Jabhat al-Nusra as soon as they re-enter Syrian land. The Pentagon does not like to be seen in direct support of Al-Qaeda.

The CIA though ...

Posted by b on March 31, 2015 at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

March 29, 2015

Open Thread 2015-16

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 29, 2015 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (156)

March 28, 2015

Is The Fall Of Idlib Part Of The Nuclear Negotiations With Iran?

Some ten days ago there were rumors of an imminent jihadist attack on Idlib in north west Syria. Idlib, a governate city that once had 100,000 inhabitants, is only a few miles from the Turkish border and the Syrian government forces only held a narrow corridor towards it.

Three weeks ago the Turkish government closed all nearby border crossings between Turkey and Syria to  civil traffic. Four days ago a coalition of Jabhat al-Nusra (the alQaeda affiliate in Syria), the Islamist Ahrar Al-Shams group and a few smaller groups started an all out attack on Idlib. At least 1,500 fighters took part in the attack. Four huge vehicle borne suicide attacks on government held road barriers broke the outer government defenses.

The Syrian army sent a few reinforcements but those were not enough to hold the attacks coming simultaneously from three sides. Today the government forces retreated and formed a new blocking line south of the city. Jabhat al-Nusra published videos showing some of its fighters in the center of the seemingly empty city. This map by Peto Lucem shows the current situation.


Other videos and pictures out of Idlib show only very few captured vehicles. One T-62 seems to have been destroyed and only one more plus three infantry carriers were captured. This suggest that the government side had already pulled out its heavy weapons and was ready to cede the city to its opponents.

Under current circumstances the city was of little strategic, military or economic value but it took rather large efforts to hold and resupply it. Giving it up while intensifying efforts in the more strategic areas in the south and around Damascus is the right decision from a purely military point of view but is still a loss in the propaganda and political ground of the war.

But with obvious nearby Turkish (and U.S.) support for Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist groups any further efforts to hold the city against a determined attack would have taken disproportionate forces and would have weakened defenses elsewhere.

It is an interesting coincidence that three simultaneous events in three countries,

all seem to be designed to weaken Iran-allied forces. This at the same time as the negotiations over Iran nuclear program in Switzerland reach their climax. Does this coincidence suggest a central coordination of these attacks designed to weaken Iran's (psychological) position in the nuclear negotiations?

Posted by b on March 28, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (44)

March 27, 2015

U.S. Role In Iraq Endangers Anti-Islamic State Fight

Some 4,000 Iraqi army troops and some 25,000 Shia militia have surrounded Tikrit in Iraq. There are  few civilians left in the city but some 1,000 Islamic State fighters have barricaded themselves inside and digging them out would be a very bloody and costly affair. Up to recent days the U.S. was not involved in the Tikrit campaign.

The Iranian advisers who accompany the militia had therefore decided not to storm the city but to revert to siege tactics cutting off electricity, water and all other supplies to weaken their opponents. They are using artillery against the Islamic State positions and plan to eventually storm the city but they see no urgent need to do it now.

But somehow that situation was disliked in Washington and the U.S. is has muscled itself into a position to command the campaign. But doing so endangers the whole anti-Islamic State campaign. There is suspicion that this is the indented purpose of the scheme.

Some elements in the Iraqi army, trained by the United States, have insisted on U.S. air strikes on Tikrit. The Shia militia and their advisers have insisted that these are unnecessary. Under U.S. pressure the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sided with his U.S. trained military staff and allegedly ordered the Iranian general Suleiman to leave. Now the U.S. bombs the city but the bigger Tikrit campaign is falling apart.

Consider this:

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the United States had insisted that the militias and their Iranian advisers, including top Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani, withdraw from the battle before the U.S. would agree to launch airstrikes. Suleimani, a once shadowy figure who’d become an increasingly public presence in Iraq, left the Tikrit area over the weekend and may have returned to Iran.

and this:

Iraqi militia forces that have led the fight against Islamic State militants in Tikrit balked at U.S. intervention Thursday, saying that they would stop thousands of fighters under their influence from joining an offensive on the city.
Washington has pushed for Shiite militias to leave the battlefield, even as it is drawn into a fight against their enemy, the ­Islamic State militants. But the Shiite militias, many of which are hostile to the United States, play a dominant role among the Iraqi forces. Around Tikrit, they outnumber the regular Iraqi government troops by more than 6 to 1.
“All the popular mobilization will refuse to fight until the American airstrikes stop,” said Moeen al-Kadhimi, head of the popular mobilization committee on Baghdad’s provincial council. “Let them try to do it without us. America is just trying to steal our victory.”

That the U.S. wants "to steal the victory" is not the real concern. Many of the "Hashd" volunteers and their leaders believe that the U.S. created the Islamic State and that it has interests in keeping it alive:

“We don’t trust the American-led coalition in combating ISIS,” said Naeem al-Uboudi, the spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the three groups which said it would withdraw from the front line around Tikrit. “In the past, they have targeted our security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake,” he said.

The U.S. bombing of Tikrit started yesterday. Here are two results. Consider how the volunteer militia fighting the Islamic State will interpret these.

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai

#BreakingNews: 6 killed and 13 wounded of Kataeb Hezbollah #Iraq & the federal Police by the #USA led coalition south of #Tikrit (c.damage)
12:02 PM - 26 Mar 2015

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai

#Iraq Hashd al-Sha'bi #Tikrit Brigade seems hit by an air strike today.Many casualties. Confidence between #USA and Hashd is lower than ever
3:05 AM - 27 Mar 2015

The awesome reconnaissance capabilities the U.S. air force uses and its expensive precise weapons managed to directly hit the "friendly forces" which are laying the siege on Tikrit. Twice within less than 24 hours?

Who will believe that these direct hits were made in error and are just collateral damage?

Why is the U.S. pressing for a role in the Tikrit affair when the result, for lack of feet on the ground, is now likely to be a complete failure? 

Posted by b on March 27, 2015 at 07:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (52)

March 26, 2015

The Wahhabis' War On Yemen

Just yesterday I wrote that the Saudis would not dare to attack Yemen. I was wrong with this:

While the Saudi army is now sending some troops to its southern border with Yemen neither the Saudi army nor the Egyptian will want to fight and lose again against the Yemeni tribes. The Pakistanis are unwilling to send troops. The request for troops the disposed president Hadi made will therefore be ignored. No foreign troops will invade Yemen and the Houthis will for now remain the ruling force.

Over night the Saudi air force attacked the Dulaimi military airbase in Sanaa, the capitol of Yemen.

Yesterday the Houthi led rebellion had kicked the Saudi/U.S. installed president Hadi out of the country and took control over most of its cities including the southern capitol Aden. The Houthi are allied with the former president Saleh, himself a Houthi and replaced two years ago with his vice president Hadi after a U.S. induced light coup. Saleh and the Houthi are supported by significant parts of the Yemeni army. The Saudis had warned that any move against Aden whereto Hadi hat earlier fled would have consequences but no one took that serious.

The Saudis have now announced, through their embassy in Washington(!), that a coalition of Sunni led countries will attack Yemen. These include at least nominally Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. The Saudis say that 100 of its warplanes and 150,000 soldiers will take part in the campaign. They also announced an air and sea blockade against the country.

The U.S. is "supporting", i.e. guiding, the campaign through a coordination cell. The White House statement says:

In response to the deteriorating security situation, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, and others will undertake military action to defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government. As announced by GCC members earlier tonight, they are taking this action at the request of Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The United States coordinates closely with Saudi Arabia and our GCC partners on issues related to their security and our shared interests. In support of GCC actions to defend against Houthi violence, President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations. While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support.

While bashing Obama the usual warmongers in Congress support this attack.

There seems to be the idea that Saudi/U.S. selected president Hadi, out now, could be reintroduced through force. The U.S. claims that Hadi was "elected" but with a ballot like this any "election" is a mere joke. There is no way Hadi can be reintroduced by force. The chance to achieve the war's aim is therefore low.

Someone warned the Houthis of the imminent attack and they evacuated their offices before they were hit. They declared that all agreements between Yemen and Saudi Arabia , including the 1934 Taif border treaty line, are now null and void and the Saudi provinces of Najran, Asir and Jizan, long claimed as historic parts of Yemen, would be taken back.

The Yemenis are fiercely independent and dislike the arrogant Saudis. The Houthis especially have been at war for over a decade. There are tons of weapons in the country including some $500 million worth the U.S. "lost" after it delivered them to its allies on the ground. The chances for the Saudis to win in a fight against Yemen are very low. Pat Lang, former military attache in Yemen, writes about the Houthi:

Spectacularly gifted in field craft, endowed with a wry, dry sense of humor and fiercely independent among the clans and against whatever government might be, these perpetually armed little hill men make good friends but bad enemies.

Gregory Johnson, who studied Yemen, explains the roots of Houthi's campaign against the various U.S. supported governments in Yemen. Emad Mostaque describes the economic background. There are two Wikileaks cables (1 2) about the Saudi fight with Houthis in 2009. The Saudis ended that campaign after enduring unexpected losses.

While the Houthi have also enemies inside Yemen, and would likely not rule for long without a new internal political compromise, the attack by outsiders is likely to unite all Yemeni forces except maybe Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula.

To see this whole conflict as a sectarian Shia-Sunni proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is wrong:

While the chief combatants in the civil war are certainly playing the sectarian card to some degree, there is reason to think that Yemen will not necessarily become part of some regional sectarian conflict. Regardless of their foreign ties, both the Shiite Houthis and their Sunni opponents are deeply rooted in Yemen, and they are motivated primarily by local issues.

The main danger now is that the Western powers, Saudi Arabia or Egypt will overreact and seek to intervene, ostensibly to counter Iranian influence or to quash the efforts of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to gain territory. Yet foreign intervention could very well be the worst approach now—further regionalizing what is still a local fight, injecting a stronger sectarian tone into the conflict while threatening to push Yemen closer to implosion.

As Pat Lang concludes:

The Houthi descendants of my old acquaintances are not servants of Iran. They are not dangerous to Western interests. They are dangerous to AQAP. Get it? Salih will return.

Seen like this the U.S. supported Saudi campaign is actually in support of their Wahhabi Al-Qaeda brethren, not in support of the majority of Yemenis. It is stupid (but typical) for the U.S to support such a move. The fight will, like the British dirty campaign against Yemen in the 1960s which Adam Curtis describes, not result in any progress or success for any of its participants.

The only immediate winners those oil producing countries which are currently distressed by low prices. Oil went up by 6% after the Saudis' plans were announced.

Posted by b on March 26, 2015 at 02:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (78)

March 25, 2015

Yemen Joins The Axis Of Resistance

The tribal groups in north Yemen that make up the Houthi movement  have always been distinct in their fighting spirits. When the Saudi army was send to beat them it was thoroughly defeated. They have also always felt that they did not receive a fair share of Yemen's not so big oil revenues and other spoils. During the last decades they fought some six small wars against the Yemeni army.

In 2012 the U.S. and its Wahhabi Arabic Gulf allies expelled the longtime Yemeni president Saleh and replaced him with his vice president Hadi. There was some hope that Hadi would change the quarrel on the ground and teh dysfunctional state but the unrest in the country kept growing and as the oil prices went down so went the Yemeni government.

Hadi could only beg the Saudis to finance him and in return had to fulfill their political demands. Meanwhile al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula kept growing in Yemen, U.S. drone strikes killed more and more tribe members in the south and deserved revenge and a southern independence movement added to the tumult. All this led to the rise of the Houthis (video, 45min).

The Houthis, allied with the former president Saleh and some parts of the dysfunctional Yemeni army, decided to take on the state. In 2014 they captured parts of the capitol Sanaa and expanded the territory they controlled. In January Hadi fled to Aden in the south. Many people belonging to the Houthi groups are Zaidi Shia. Their believe differs from Iranian 12er Shia believe and their religious rituals have more in common with Sunni rituals than with mainstream Shia. Yemen is in general not as sectarian as other gulf countries. Various variants of believe mix and often use the same mosques.

But Houthi, like many other Yemenis, despise the Saudis and their Wahhabism. It is mostly therefore that they are accused of being allied with Iran. While there are certainly some sympathies between Iran and the Houthi groups there is no evidence of outright support.

Today the Houthi expanded their rule to southern Yemen including to the southern main city Aden. President Hadi, deposed by the now ruling Houthi leaders, fled the city and allegedly went into exile in Oman. The Houthi are now the main force in the country and in control of the government.

The Gulf countries and the U.S., who supported Hadi, shut down their embassies and U.S. troops left the country. Hadi has called on the United Nations, Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council to send troops into Yemen. Egypt had troops fighting in Yemen during the North Yemen civil war between 1962 and 1970. It was a disaster and some 26,000 Egyptian soldiers were killed. In 2009 the Saudi army fought against north Yemeni tribes in a small conflict over the Saudi Yemeni border barrier, the smuggling of drugs, weapons and immigrants, as well as grazing rights. Within three month the Saudis lost at least 133 men and the overall conflict. In March the Saudis requested troops from Pakistan to fight its war against the allegedly Iran allied Yemeni Houthi groups. To their surprise Pakistan rejected the request.

While the Saudi army is now sending some troops to its southern border with Yemen neither the Saudi army nor the Egyptian will want to fight and lose again against the Yemeni tribes. The Pakistanis are unwilling to send troops. The request for troops the disposed president Hadi made will therefore be ignored. No foreign troops will invade Yemen and the Houthis will for now remain the ruling force. As they lack, like the whole country, money and other resources they will soon look for a "sponsor". Iran might give a bit but the Saudis will have to really pay up to keep their border with Yemen quiet. Unlike before that money will no longer buy them any influence but only keep trouble away.

Yemen has now joined the Iran led axis of resistance consisting of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The Saudi Wahhabis see these mostly Shia forces as their eternal enemies. Like the other axis members Yemen will now fight against the Saudi sponsored AlQaeda and Islamic State jihadis.

The U.S., while allied with Saudi Arabia and the other anti-Shia Arab countries at the Gulf, needs Hizbullah to keep Lebanon from falling apart. It does not want the Syrian government to fall. It supports the Iraqi government against the Islamic State and it is likely to soon request support from the Houthis for its drone campaign against AlQaeda in the Arab peninsula.

This is a remarkable turn around from a decade ago when the resistance side was a major U.S. enemy and seemed to be losing the fight.

Posted by b on March 25, 2015 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

March 24, 2015

Blog Trouble (Meta)

As you will have noticed there was a bit of trouble with the blog. Typepad, the provider of the blog hosting service, closed the comments and prevented me from posting because of a payment issue.

The story behind that problem:

The credit card through which Typepad bills me had expired. I entered the renewed credit card data -only the expiration date had changed- and thought everything was fine. Then I received an email from Typepad saying they could not verify the credit card data. I again entered the data but that would not verify either and they blocked the blog because the credit card issuer assumed fraud.

After some back and forth we found that my office address attached to my Typepad account, and which is also used for credit card verification, did not fit the credit card address to which the card was issued to. But the credit card belongs to my office checking account and to my office address or so I thought. Everything looked correct to me.

After two days of phonecalls with the credit card issuer and my bank I found that the bank had issued the new credit card to the address of my private checking account instead of the office account where it belongs.

So I again entered the data and changed the address to my private one to which the credit card was now suddenly issued. That did not end the problem though. It still doesn't verify but Typepad now says that the problem for that may be with a changed verification process on the credit card issuer side. But after some SCREAMING at their help desk they also reopened the blog.

I 'll be back with some regular posting tomorrow.

Posted by b on March 24, 2015 at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

March 21, 2015

Open Thread 2015-15

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 21, 2015 at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (114)

March 20, 2015

Created A Mess in The Middle East? Just Blame Iran.

A disgraced former U.S. general, who gave away top government secrets to get laid, has some opinion on the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq:

"I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran."

With that logic the U.S. should help the Islamic State in its fight against militia who are backed by Iran.

Years ago the very same general created those sectarian Shia militias he now tries to sell as a threat. The Wolf Brigade, a Shia militia in Iraq created by the U.S., was under his direct command when it randomly tortured and killed Sunnis in Mosul. The sectarian war in Iraq is for a great part his personal doing:

[I]n order to advance to a still higher command and get his fourth star, Petraeus needed the support of Wolfowitz and the White House. The evidence that has emerged in recent years indicates he was involved in the key decisions to using Shi'a sectarian paramilitary forces for counterinsurgency operations in Sunni population centers.

It is the same general who created the new generation of warlords in Afghanistan under the deceiving label Afghan Local Police:

“This program mobilizes communities in self-defense against those who would undermine security in their areas,” Petraeus told congress in March 2011. “For that reason, the growth of these elements is of particular concern to the Taliban, whose ability to intimidate the population is limited considerably by it.”

It turns out that while Petraeus was burnishing his bio with black book fodder for Paula Broadwell’s 2012 hagiographical All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, his “community watch” was becoming a village horror show for Afghan civilians in a number of ways—right under the noses of the U.S. Special Forces who armed and trained them, and who in many cases insisted on appointing their commanders, sometimes against the locals’ adamant opposition.

Petraeus is a specialist in creating violent militia. But wiping away his own sponsoring of sectarian forces Petraeus is now blaming the creation of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State on Iran:

The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State were created in U.S. prisons in Iraq when Iraq was under U.S. occupation. Their creation had nothing to do with Iran.

While Petraeus sees the Islamic State still somewhat as an enemy of the United State it is clear that he is excusing their being as a somewhat natural answer to a perceived bigger role of Iran. But it was the U.S. that took down the anti-Iranian Taliban government in Afghanistan. It was the U.S. that took down the Sunni led anti-Iranian government in Iraq. It is the war the U.S. is waging against Syria that created the Jihadist forces there which then drew in Iran on the side of the Syrian government. That Iran's role in the Middle East now looks bigger than fifteen years ago is the direct consequence of U.S. policies and military operations.

Like Tom Friedman Petraeus is blaming Iran for the consequences of polices he supported. Like Friedman, who even calls to arm the Islamic State, he shows sympathy for lunatic Jihadis by excusing their existence while blaming Iran.

There is little doubt where this late hand wringing over the fate of Iraqi Sunnis comes from. The Israel lobby and the neocons are afraid that the U.S. will make some kind of peace with Iran, at least on the issue of Iran's nuclear industry. Any U.S. deal with Iran will diminish Israel's position and it will lower the profits of U.S. weapon manufacturers. They want to prevent this and want to ally with the Sunni dictatorships and their bastard child Islamic State against Iran.

They should not worry so much. I doubt that the Obama administration is sincere in getting an agreement with Iran unless Iran offers an unconditional capitulation. The talks will end nowhere and the U.S. will blame Iran for U.S. intransigence. The Chinese government seems to also have the impression that the U.S. is stalling the talks:

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday that talks on Iran's nuclear program must not fall at the last hurdle, and that all sides should meet each other half way.
"China is willing to increase communication with the United States on all levels, to together run the 'last mile' of the marathon that is the Iran nuclear talks."

Blaming Iran for the sectarianism in Iraq -which the U.S. created- for the rise of radical Jihadists -who developed in U.S. prisons- and for the consequences of the U.S. wars in the wider Middle East is against all historical facts. Blaming Iran for the failure of the nuclear talks will be added to that collection.

Posted by b on March 20, 2015 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

March 19, 2015

China Warns U.S. Not To Interfere With Its Spying

Syria yesterday zapped a U.S. spy drone over Latakia in north-west Syria. Latakia is a well protected pro-government area and fully in government hands. There are no Islamic State' nor any other anti-government fighters in the area.

"Did the drone come into Syrian territory just to have a picnic?" asked the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"As soon as it entered Syrian air space, we considered it to be gathering security and military information on Syria's territory," he told AFP.

The source said the aircraft was not immediately identified as being American, but was "dealt with as a hostile target".

Syrian air defences shot down the aircraft over the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, state media said Tuesday.

There is a silent agreement between the Syrian government and the U.S. that U.S. strikes on Islamic State targets in areas held by forces hostile to the Syrian government will not be interfered with.

But that certainly does not extend to areas where the Syrian military is the only force worth to spy on. It is obvious that the drone, unidentified when it was shot down, was an imminent danger to Syrian interests. It had no legitimate business in the area and was correctly identified as hostile.

But U.S. hubris has no bounds so the spokesperson of the State Department, Jen Psaki, asked about the incident threatened Syria:

[W]e, of course, reiterate our warning to the Assad regime not to interfere with U.S. aerial assets over Syria.

In other news the Chinese government reiterated its warning to the Obama regime not to interfere with Chinese cyber assets on U.S. computer systems.

How will Psaki respond to that?

Posted by b on March 19, 2015 at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

March 18, 2015

Kerry Renews Assault On Syria

The U.S. launched a renewed push for regime change in Syria.

It started with an interview Secretary of State Kerry gave to CBS with a question on Syria. Kerry's answer was (intentionally?) misreported as the U.S. position softening and being ready to negotiate with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But that was not a new position, nor was that the remarkable part of Kerry's answer. Here is what he really said:

[T]he fact that there isn't something visible to the eye every day right now does not mean we haven't upped what we are doing, because we have, and our allies know that. [...] But we're also increasing our efforts in a very significant way, working with the moderate opposition, but doing much more than that also. We're also pursuing a diplomatic track.
[This] may require that there be increased pressure on [Assad] of various kinds in order to do that. We have made it very clear to people that we are looking at increased steps that can help to bring about that pressure. [...] I'm personally engaged in that effort, and President Obama is extremely seized of the issue and focused on it with the intent to see what we can do to change the dynamic.

Kerry announced that the U.S. will increase the pressure and use more force to pursue its lunatic plan for regime change in Syria. The Syrian government dismissed Kerry's words as meaningless.

These Kerry remarks come after the Syrian Arab Army and its allies failed to close the corridor between the insurgency occupied parts of Aleppo and the Turkish border. Their ill planned offensive in the area of Handradat broke down under a sustained counterattack from insurgency forces, mostly foreign mercenaries from Jabhat al-Nusra allegedly led by Turkish special forces. By supporting the Jihadists Turkey is now the becoming the new Pakistan.

The U.S., allied with various Islamists, has pushed for forced regime change since the earliest days of the conflict in Syria. According to the usually reliable Lebanese paper As-Safir the U.S. was directly responsible for the July 2012 terror attack which killed a high ranking crisis team of the Syrian government in Damascus. The attack was supposed to be the initiator for the regime to fall. In that it failed.

Even after most of the U.S. supported "moderate rebels" failed in recent months and handed the weapons the U.S. provided to al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria Jabhat al-Nusra new weapons seem to reach the battlefield. The U.S. also just provided another $70 million to the 5-star exile government including some $15 million for media activities. This is the money that pays for the anti-Syrian Twitter hordes and for fake anti-Assad videos.

It is in this context of the continuously supported insurgency that Kerry's remark came. Cued by Kerry a renewed media push for international condemnation and legal action against the Syrian government was launched. Yesterday an obviously fake video of "Victims of chemical attacks on Sarmin, Syria March 16, 2015" made the rounds. In it three small, naked kids are provided with "first aid" after what is said to have been a helicopter attack with chlorine gas. Some of the persons running around in played panic carry gas masks, others just surgery masks. The care the children receive is superficial and some of the kids seem to be sedated to emphasize their helplessness.

What is missing are explanations on why the Syrian government would throw ineffective chlorine, which is not a chemical weapon, from helicopters when simple bombs are likely to be more effective. What is also missing are other casualties than three naked kids. What is missing is an explanation for their nakedness when all people around them are clothed. And why, if they were really injured by gas, are people running around and filming instead of giving first aid?

Recently the UN Security Council had adopted a resolution that condemned the use of chlorine in Syria by all parties of the conflict. But chlorine has only been used by the insurgency sides, especially Jabhat al-Nusra which two years ago had captured Syria's sole chlorine factory. The Islamic State has recently also used chlorine as a weapon in improvised roadside bombs in Iraq.

The UN resolution was under Chapter 7 of the UN charter which, in principle, allows for force to be used to enforce it. One wonders why Russia and China agreed to it when it was likely and predictable that the U.S. or one of its allies would initiate a false flag event to abuse this?

But this campaign of UN resolution and fake video of a chlorine attack were not the only elements of Kerry's push for renewing the conflict. Yesterday a U.S. drone was shot down over western Syria. It had been coming from Incirlik airport in Turkey but was obviously flying in Syrian air space. What are U.S. drones doing over Syria?

There is also another push at the U.N. to initiate a "special tribunal" against the Syrian government. It is likely to fail but adds to the current propaganda onslaught.

Instead of concentrating on the real danger in the Middle East, the lunatic Jihadists of the Islamic State and al-Nusra, the U.S. continues its efforts to destroy the Syrian state and is thereby creating more space for the Jihadis to move into.

Posted by b on March 18, 2015 at 04:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (51)

March 17, 2015

Towards The End Of The U.S. Dominated International Money System

Welcome to the end of Brenton Woods and the Washington Consensus that defined the world money systems around U.S. controlled institutions and the U.S. dollar as the sole reserve currency.

Defying U.S., European allies say they'll join China-led bank

Germany, France and Italy said on Tuesday they had agreed to join a new China-led Asian investment bank after close ally Britain defied U.S. pressure to become a founder member of a venture seen in Washington as a rival to the World Bank.

The concerted move to participate in Beijing's flagship economic outreach project was a diplomatic blow for the United States, reflecting European eagerness to partner with China's fast-growing economy, the second largest in the world.

It comes amid prickly trade negotiations between Brussels and Washington, and at a time when EU and Asian governments are frustrated that the U.S. Congress has held up a reform of voting rights in the International Monetary Fund due to give China and other emerging economies more say in global economic governance.

Especially under the Obama administration the U.S. abused its important role in international finance to further its political pet projects at the cost of other participants in the system.

On Washington's insistence the International Monetary Fund is breaking its rules to finance a civil war in Ukraine. U.S. spying on the SWIFT banking information exchange is used to sanction U.S. enemies by excluding them from the international banking system. Foreign banks get punished with huge fines because they conduct business with countries the U.S. sees as unpalatable. Wall Streets huge mortgage scam and selling of worthless derivatives to foreign entities left the world economy in shambles and investors and whole countries bankrupt but went completely unpunished.

Enough. Over time the world will no longer adhere to the rules set in Washington. The global banking system will evolve into a multipolar system where different public international banks will act and where monetary information exchanges can be conducted on various systems under various jurisdiction.

This will be a huge loss to the coercive power of the U.S. and thereby a good step towards a more Westphalian world where power is more equally distributed. International sanctions against countries that defy U.S. regime change orders will no longer be sustainable.

Posted by b on March 17, 2015 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (163)

March 15, 2015

Leader Of The Jewish People Reveals Vast Jewish Conspiracy

Many people have claimed that a vast Zionist conspiracy, funded by rich foreign Jews with communist leanings, is manipulating the people through the Zionist owned and controlled media. The purpose of this conspiracy is to overthrow the government and to implement policies which are against the will and the best interest of the people.

The above is an antisemitic slur? An excerpt from the fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion? A Nazi fantasy?

No. The above is the publicly proclaimed, learned opinion of the current Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahoo:

Leftist activists and the foreign and international media are conspiring to get [the opposition] elected via illegitimate means, using innuendo and foreign money.
We have received many reports from people who work for Yedioth Ahoronoth regarding [publisher] Noni Mozes, who is leading a carefully orchestrated campaign against me. He is aided by various organizations that function with the support of tycoons in Israel and abroad, and also with the support of foreign governments.
The only response to Noni Mozes’s campaign of seduction and to the millions of dollars that are flowing in from abroad to leftist organizations, is to go next week and cast the only ballot possible: only Likud.

Who will deny any claims of greedy Jewish manipulations of the public when even the self-proclaimed leader of the Jewish people is publicly asserting such?

Whatever happens in politics musts be the result of a conspiracy by wealthy Jewish businessmen, Zionist media barons, foreign government interests under the influences of some despicable ideology.

Just ask Netanyahoo.

Posted by b on March 15, 2015 at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (81)

March 14, 2015

Neocons Probably Going Wobbly On Bombing Iran

Fred Hiatt's funny pages again and again come up with ever same demand "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran". But the neocon crew now seem a little bit unsure about the issue.

Today's funny page "Bomb Iran" piece is by the notorious neocon Joshua Muravchik. It has astonishingly a somewhat qualified headline: War with Iran is probably our best option.

One wonders why this is qualified. Why only probably? Why not the guaranteed best option? Why not for sure?

Joshua Muravchik, a one trick bomb Iran pony, is usually much more assertive when calling for bombing Iran. Here he is straight out and unqualified in a 2006 op-ed in a LA Times headlined simply as Bomb Iran. In 2007 he is quoted in The Guardian with no reservations: Target Iran: US able to strike in the spring. In a 2009 in a Foreign Policy letter to his fellow neoconservatives: Operation Come back. 2011 in an American Enterprise piece: TWO CHEERS - Second Thoughts on the Bush Doctrine. 2014 in Hoover Institute paper: Time to Combat the Spreading Virus of Radical Islam

[W]e must stop Iran’s nuclear program, and the only likely way to achieve this is by military means.

It was always "bomb Iran" demanded as response to the ever false claim that Iran is striving for nukes. Bombing Iran was not "probably" the best option but "the only likely way". "Bomb Iran!" straight away, fully lunatic and unqualified.

Why is it now only probably good to bomb Iran?

Posted by b on March 14, 2015 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

March 13, 2015

Open Thread 2015-14

News & views ... (and NOT evermore 9/11 theories)

Posted by b on March 13, 2015 at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (183)

March 12, 2015

The "Most Outlandish" Empire Semantics

The government of the Unites States (GDP US$ 16,768,100 million) declares that the situation in Venezuela (GDP US$ 371,339 million):

... constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States

This, the White House says, requires to:

... declare a national emergency to deal with that threat

"Why," ask the Venezuelans, including the U.S. sponsored opposition, "do you think we are an unusual and extraordinary threat which requires you to declare a national emergency?

"We do not believe for a moment that you are an unusual and extraordinary threat which requires us to declare a national emergency", is the answer:

Officials in Washington said that declaring Venezuela a national security threat was largely a formality.

"A formality?" ask Venezuelans. "Why is it a formality to see us as an unusual and extraordinary threat to your national security? That does not make sense. What's next? Will it be a simply a formality to kill us?"

"It is formality needed to be able to sanction some of your government officials," an anonymous U.S. senior official explains. "To do so the law requires that we declare you to be an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security which requires us to declare a national emergency."

"But we ain't no such threat. You yourself says so. So why would you sanction our officials when you yourself say that there is no real basis for this? On what legal grounds are you acting? Why these sanctions?"

"Because the the situation in Venezuela ... constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States which requires us to declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."

"That is like declaring war on us. That does not make sense".

"Well, it's just a formality."


On might have hoped that the above would be the "most outlandish" nonsense the U.S. government could produce. But that is not yet the case.

The Venezuelan President Maduro responded in the National Assembly:

“The aggression and the threat of the government of the United States is the greatest threat that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, our country, has ever received,” he said to applause, [...] “Let’s close ranks like a single fist of men and women. We want peace.”

He spoke of past American military interventions in Latin America and warned that the United States was preparing an invasion and a naval blockade of Venezuela.

“For human rights, they are preparing to invade us,” he said, ...

During the last 125 years the U.S. intervened in South America at least 56 times through military or intelligence operations. This ever intervening country is the same country that just declared Venezuela to be an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States that requires to declare a national emergency.

It is certainly not outlandish for Maduro to believe that such a declaration will be followed by one of those continued interventions. Especially not when disguised U.S. officials travel around Venezuela and distribute money to opposition parties. Maduro is not alone in seeing the threat of another U.S. intervention. All South American nations have condemned the U.S. declaration and even pro-American opposition politicians in Venezuela were outraged about it.

But for the ever anonymous U.S. officials it is the victim of their outlandish exaggerations that doth protest too much:

“It’s remarkable that the [Venezuelan] government can say the most outlandish things about the U.S. government — what is this, the 16th or 17th coup attempt that we’re doing? And now we’re invading?” the official said. “The shelf life of all of these accusations is what, a day or two? Even the dullest of media consumers is going to see that there is no invasion.”

Noting the U.S. doublespeak in this whole affair it advise to be very careful in believing that "there is no invasion" claim.

Posted by b on March 12, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

March 11, 2015

Another "Let's Ally With Nusra" Campaign

In October 2013 a media campaign tried to sell Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda's arm in Syria, as the "good terrorist" worthy of "western" support against the "bad terrorists" of the Islamic State. Other jihadist groups like Ahrar al-Shams were also seen by some as favorable allies.

Qatar, the main sponsor of Jabhat al-Nusra, is now again trying to sell the al-Qaeda terrorists as the solution against the Islamic State everyone has been waiting for. This as more and more U.S. sponsored "moderate rebels" defect towards al-Nusra.

The new campaign started with a claim in a Reuters piece, based solely on a the words of one unreliable Syrian "rebel" and anonymous Qatari sources, that Jabhat might loosen ties with al-Qaeda central in exchange for Qatari money and "western" help. Latter an official Jabhat al-Nusra paper only somewhat denied that. Then two pieces by "western" experts were launched which both try to sell al-Qaeda in Syria as the "good" side that deserves "our" support. These are not, like earlier, slightly hidden propaganda suggestions but straight out arguments to ally with al-Qaeda.

At the BBC site one Dr. Roberts is arguing for better relations with Jabhat al Nusra. In reference to the Reuters report of intensive Qatari contacts with Nusra (which Nusra somewhat denied) he writes:

Indeed, there is no chance that Qatar is doing this alone: the US and UK governments will certainly be involved in or at least apprised of Qatar's plans.

And, with increasing desperation in the face of IS and Bashar al-Assad's resilience, a reformed, effective fighting force would be welcomed by the West.
In such a changeable, fractured operating environment, Qatar will not be able to engineer a clean break of the Nusra Front from al-Qaeda.

But, in a context where the best that can be hoped for is the "least worst" solution, Qatar's plan is as viable as any other.

So working with al-Qaeda in Syria, which Dr. Roberts himself says can not really reform, is "as viable" as, for example, making peace with the Syrian government?

Dr Roberts "was the Director of the Qatar office of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi). His book Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City State will be published in 2015." He is clearly a lobbyist for Qatar paid, in whatever way, to promote the policies of that Wahhabi dictatorship.

The piece by one Barak Mendlesohn in Foreign Affairs is worse and even headlined Accepting Al Qaeda - The Enemy of the United States' Enemy":

Since 9/11, Washington has considered al Qaeda the greatest threat to the United States, one that must be eliminated regardless of cost or time. After Washington killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, it made Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s new leader, its next number one target. But the instability in the Middle East following the Arab revolutions and the meteoric rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) require that Washington rethink its policy toward al Qaeda, particularly its targeting of Zawahiri. Destabilizing al Qaeda at this time may in fact work against U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS.

So further attack against al-Qaeda should be avoided? What would the victims of 9/11 say about such a demand?

That lunatic call comes from a "former" officer in the Israeli army assigned as "analyst of international affairs and strategy". The Israeli army is directly supporting Jabhat al-Nusra in south Syria and especially along the Golan heights.

The U.S. helped to create al-Qaeda as well as the Islamic State. In the Middle East its NATO ally Turkey is the logistic backbone for both groups. U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf are financing these terrorists. Now there are calls to accept al-Nusra as official ally against the Syrian government.

The Iraqi and the Iranian government are quite right to not believe that the U.S. wants the jihadi forces destroyed or even defeated. Their current success against the Islamic State around Tikrit demonstrates that IS and al-Nusra can be beaten with the forces they have on the ground and notably without any U.S. support. They have the reasonable suspicion that the U.S. would be happy to keep Nusra as well as IS alive if only to have reason to "stay involved" in the affairs of their nations. They therefore decided to keep the U.S. out of their fight against the Islamic State, to disregard its advice and to not inform it of their plans.

In light of the "let's ally with Nusra" campaign this looks like a sound decision.

Posted by b on March 11, 2015 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

March 10, 2015

Open Thread 2015-13

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 10, 2015 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (145)

March 09, 2015

Another Netanyahoo Flip-Flop The U.S. Will Ignore

The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo has to address two different audiences. A foreign one that sponsors and protects his racist colony of east-Europeans in west-Asia and the colonists themselves who votes for him. Doing so requires some rather twisted rhetoric and leads to intellectual dissonances.

To attract voters Netanyahoo must insist that no occupied land will ever be given back to its rightful owners. To receive continued U.S. support he has to promise that the stolen land will be given back. Those positions are hard to unify but Netanyahoo insist on both at the very same time.

Netanyahu says Israel will not cede land to Palestinians

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel will not cede any territory due to the current climate in the Middle East, appearing to rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremism and terror organizations supported by Iran. Therefore, there will be no concessions and no withdrawals. It is simply irrelevant," read a statement released by his Likud party.

Netanyahu's office said the statement reflected the prime minister's long-held position.

Netanyahu says Israel won't cede land to Palestinians, despite reports, docs claiming otherwise

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will not cede territory due to the current climate in the Middle East, appearing to rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state, in statements which contradict his famous 2009 Bar Ilan speech in which he vowed his commitment to the two-state solution.
The statement by Netanyahu comes after Ynet published a secret list of concessions made by Netanyahu during his previous term to the Palestinians, concessions which stand in stark contradiction to Netanyahu's current talking points.

Why Bibi Nixed Two-State Solution

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, following a series of contradictory versions from Likud headquarters, Netanyahu himself told a press briefing that the Bar-Ilan speech is indeed “no longer relevant, in light of the current reality in the Middle East.”

As soon as the above statements hit the newswires Netanyahoo was told to paddle backwards. The result:

Netanyahu denies report he's backed off two-state solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office denied reports on Sunday he has backed away from a 2009 commitment to seek a two-state peaceful solution with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu "never said such a thing," his office said in a statement responding to the reports.

That would be the same Netanyahoo office which shortly before confirmed his statements.

But does Netanyahoo really holds the two irreconcilable commitments at the same time?

The Jewish Daily Forward, not suspect of peddling the Protocols of the Elders on Zion, has a possible answer. Netanyahoo is, like other Israelis, simply lying to the Americans:

“Most Israelis think Americans are pro-Israel and we can sell them anything, especially mud from the Dead Sea,” said David Lifshitz, the lead writer for the Israeli comedy show “Eretz Nehederet,” or “Wonderful Land.”

“Or — just regular mud with a ‘Dead Sea’ sticker on it.”

But it’s not just American tourists whom many Israelis see as guileless. American foreign policy is held up to similar scrutiny here, even as Israel receives billions of dollars in foreign aid from the United States each year.

Americans are perceived to be naive, especially when it comes to the Middle East,” said Uri Dromi, who served as a spokesman for the Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres governments.

"Whatever we tell them, the Americans will swallow it," seems to be the Israeli position. And that assessment is likely correct. The U.S. public can be endlessly duped and should it ever be wavering in its support of the colony one only has to remind it of those not-so-mystical shared values:

In a harsh comment Sunday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman advocated “cutting of the heads” of Arabs who were not loyal to Israel. “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe,” Liberman said at an election event Sunday.

Chopping of heads, droning a wedding - what is, after all, the difference?

Posted by b on March 9, 2015 at 07:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

March 07, 2015

A Europe-U.S. Divorce Over Ukraine

The German government finally wakes up, a little bit at least, and recognizes the obvious fact that U.S. neocons want to drag Europe into a war. It is now openly blaming certain circles within the U.S. government and NATO of sabotaging the Minsk ceasefire agreement. Especially offensive is the fantasy talk of U.S. and NATO commander General Breedlove::

For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove's numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America's NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.

The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove's comments as "dangerous propaganda." Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove's comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

But Breedlove hasn't been the only source of friction. Europeans have also begun to see others as hindrances in their search for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. First and foremost among them is Victoria Nuland, head of European affairs at the US State Department. She and others would like to see Washington deliver arms to Ukraine and are supported by Congressional Republicans as well as many powerful Democrats.

Indeed, US President Barack Obama seems almost isolated. He has thrown his support behind Merkel's diplomatic efforts for the time being, but he has also done little to quiet those who would seek to increase tensions with Russia and deliver weapons to Ukraine. Sources in Washington say that Breedlove's bellicose comments are first cleared with the White House and the Pentagon. The general, they say, has the role of the "super hawk," whose role is that of increasing the pressure on America's more reserved trans-Atlantic partners.

The U.S., including Obama, wants to strengthen the U.S. run NATO and thereby its influence in Europe. And Europe, by losing business with Russia and risking war, is supposed to pay for it.

The German public, despite tons of transatlantic propaganda, has well understood the game and the government can not escape that fact. It has to come back to some decent course and if that means trouble with Washington so be it. The foreign ministers of Germany, France and the U.S. are currently meeting in Paris and Secretary of State Kerry will not like what he will hear:

In Berlin, top politicians have always considered a common position vis-a-vis Russia as a necessary prerequisite for success in peace efforts. For the time being, that common front is still holding, but the dispute is a fundamental one -- and hinges on the question of whether diplomacy can be successful without the threat of military action. Additionally, the trans-Atlantic partners also have differing goals. Whereas the aim of the Franco-German initiative is to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, it is Russia that concerns hawks within the US administration. They want to drive back Moscow's influence in the region and destabilize Putin's power. For them, the dream outcome would be regime change in Moscow.

Europe has no interest in regime change in Russia. The result would likely be a much worse government and leader then the largely liberal Putin.

The U.S., the empire of chaos, does not care what happens after a regime change. In the view of U.S. politicians trouble and unrest in the "rest of the world" can only better the (relative) position of the United States. If production capabilities in Europe get destroyed through war the U.S. could revive its export industries.

It seems that at least some European leaders now understand that they got played by Washington and they are pushing back. A Eurasian economic sphere is in Europe's interest. Will Obama accept their view and turn off the hawks or will he escalate and risk the alliance with Europe? A first sign looks positive. The U.S. called off, on short notice, a plan to train Ukrainian National Guard (i.e. Nazi) forces:

[O]n Friday, a spokesman for US forces in Europe, confirmed the delay in a statement and said: "The US government would like to see the Minsk agreement fulfilled."

"The training mission is currently on hold but Army Europe is prepared to carry out the mission if and when our government decides to move forward," the statement said.

Some Europeans, like the writers in the piece above, still see Obama as a reluctant warrior pushed to war by the hawks in his own government and the Republicans in Congress. But the surge in Afghanistan, the destruction of Libya, the war on Syria and the trouble in Ukraine have all been run by the same propaganda scheme: Obama does not want war, gets pushed and then reluctantly agrees to it. It is a false view. The buck stops at his desk and Nuland as well as General Breedlove and other official hawks concerned about their precious bodily fluids are under Obama's direct command. He can make them shut up or get them fired with a simple 30 second phone call. As he does not do so it is clear that he wants them to talk exactly as they do talk. Obama is the one driving the neocon lane.

The Europeans should finally get this and distance themselves from that destructive path.

Posted by b on March 7, 2015 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (121)

Why Is The NYT Doubting The Syrian Airstrike Against Nusra?

The airforce of the Syrian Arab Army bombed a military leadership meeting of Jabhat al-Nusra in north Syria and killed four of Nusra's leading military commanders as well as some other Nusra members. This is a huge success for the Syrian government and a probably catastrophic loss for Nusra. This facts of the story are obvious when one reads the report Reuters put out. But reading the New York Times one has to dig down deep, deep into its piece to find a mealy mouthed paragraph about the Syrian success.

The Reuters version:

BEIRUT— Al-Qaida's Syrian branch was left reeling on Friday after its military chief was killed in an apparent army air strike, adding to confusion over the future path of the most powerful group opposing both President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State.
The Syrian military said it had carried out Thursday's attack, which also killed a number of other Nusra leaders. A Syrian military source said the headquarters had been struck from the air.

Jihadist sources had initially said Thursday's blast was the result of an air strike by a U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing Islamic State in Syria. However, the coalition denied mounting any strikes in the province in the preceding 24 hours.

It is obvious who did this. It was an air attack as confirmed by Nusra sources and the U.S. had no planes in the area. The Syrian airforce is the only one that could have done this and it claims the strikes.

So why does the New York Times its best to confuse the issue and to not acknowledge the important victory of the Syrian government?

It starts out:

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A loyalist of Osama bin Laden who trained fighters to battle American troops in Iraq and became a commander of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria was killed there in the last week along with three fellow leaders, according to Syrian insurgents and a monitoring organization.

Reports differed on exactly when and how the commander, Samir Hijazi, and the other leaders of the affiliate, the Nusra Front, were killed. But the deaths of so many top figures, if confirmed, would signal a sharp blow to the Nusra Front, one of the strongest insurgent factions fighting the Syrian government.

Following the lead-in are sixteen additional paragraphs of conspiracy theories on how, when and where the Nusra leaders might have been killed or not. None of those is confirmed and the sources are dubious. Only down in paragraph nineteen (19) do we learn:

The Syrian state news agency, SANA, also reported the death of Mr. Hijazi, but said he had been killed by Syrian government forces further south of the Turkish border.

What is the NYT's motivation to not report that the Syrian government killed the Nusra leaders? Does it have sympathies for Nusra because Nusra, at least in south-west Syria, is allied with Israel? Does it want to obfuscate that Syria is fighting against the same jihadi enemies the U.S. claims to fight?

Posted by b on March 7, 2015 at 09:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (39)

March 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-12

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 6, 2015 at 02:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (102)

March 05, 2015

Where The "Neutral" OSCE Mission in Ukraine Blames The Wrong Side

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has a military observer mission in east Ukraine. The mission is supposed to equally watch both sides of the conflict and to report incidents and military compliance with the agreements reached in the Minsk 2 ceasefire.

The OSCE's role is supposed to be neutral.

But its daily report of 18:00hrs, 4 March seriously calls this neutrality into question.

In an unusual long general footnote to the March 4 collection of observations the OSCE mission writes:

* Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement:

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by security considerations including the lack of information on the whereabouts of landmines, and restrictions imposed by third parties.

The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the cease-fire does not hold everywhere. For this reason, the SMM requires security guarantees from “DPR” and “LPR” which are not always provided. Where such guarantees are limited to escorted movements, and escorts are not provided for all planned patrols or are delayed, this also represents a restriction on SMM freedom of movement.

From this one assumes that only the side of the eastern federalist, the Donetzk Peoples Republic and the Luhansk Peoples Republic, are hindering the observers movement. Only these are blamed.

But wait:

In particular during the reporting period:

- At the beginning of government-controlled Novodimytriivka village (51km north-west of Donetsk) the Ukrainian Armed Forces commander told the SMM that it could not continue to follow the convoy from government-controlled Selydove (43km north-west of Donetsk) and that he was not allowed to disclose its final destination.

- South-west of government-controlled Bohoyavlenka village (48km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM was told by a commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that it could not continue to follow the convoy.

- In government-controlled Klynove (64km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM could not continue to follow the convoy as a representative of the Ukrainian Armed Forces told the SMM that it was not allowed to do so.

- At the entrance of Novoaidar (government-controlled, 57km north of Luhansk) the Ukrainian Armed Forces commander of a convoy of heavy weapons coming from government-controlled Raihorodka (34km north-east of Luhansk), told the SMM that it could not follow the convoy further.

- A representative of the Ukrainian Armed Forces told the SMM that it was not allowed to monitor the further movement of self-propelled 152mm howitzer from government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (88km north-east of Luhansk) towards a northerly direction.

- At a “DPR”-controlled checkpoint, north of Olenivka (22km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM was held up for 20 minutes until the local “DPR” commander came and escorted the SMM through Olenivka to the last “DPR”-controlled checkpoint south of the town.

- At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint, 10 kilometres north of Mariupol, the SMM was held up for 35 minutes – and allowed to proceed only after contacting Ukrainian authorities.

There were a total of eight restrictions of movements. Six of those were outright denial of freedom of movement by the Ukrainian government side. A seventh was a temporary denial of movement by the Ukrainian government side which was resolved after contacting higher Ukrainian command levels.

Only one incident of a temporary restriction of movement was reported to be caused by the federalist military. This was resolved when the local commander arrived.

The Ukrainian government is not only blocking the movement of OSCE monitors. (It is also blocking the movement of ever Ukrainian who wants to or has to move between the two sides.)

The restrictions to the OSCE's freedom of movement on March 4 were in seven of eight cases caused by the Ukrainian government. Why then is the leading paragraph pointing out DPR and LPR forces as responsible for hindering OSCE movements?

h/t cy80s

Posted by b on March 5, 2015 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

March 04, 2015

U.S., Qatar Plan To Rebrand AlQaeda Into "Moderate" Rebels

The CIA supported and equipped "moderate" rebels in Syria are losing out against al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. The last "moderate" group active in north Syria, Harakat Hazzm, had to give up its headquarter -including a warehouse full of U.S. weapons- to Jabhat al Nusra and dissolved. Many of its members then joined Nusra.

The U.S. military plans to recruit, pay and train new "moderate" rebels but the effort is starting veeerrry slow. Just 100 have been vetted so far to be "moderate" enough for the program. There are simply too few non-Jihadi rebels and warlords available who are willing to die for U.S. dollars.

A solution to the lack of qualified "moderate" personal is the rebranding of non-moderate groups into "moderates". James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, recently moved into that direction:

Moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who is not affiliated with ISIL. And so, you know, we are attempting to engage with them, and that's the whole point of the train and equip proposal -- project that the Department of Defense is gearing up for, is to vet, recruit and train and equip opposition in sufficient size and capability to actually make a military difference.

And so one of our challenges is, again, the recruiting and vetting part. So we picked people that not only are moderate, whatever that is, but also we have to be sensitive to complying with the international rules of law, which in this environment is a pretty tough order.

"Moderates", Clapper used gestural scare-quotes, is anyone who is not part of the Islamic State. That would, it seems, include Jabhat al-Nusra who three years ago parted from IS and kept their allegiance to AlQaeda. Jabhat al-Nusra has been fighting the Islamic State ever since.

That Clapper thought of Jabhat and similar Jihadi groups like Ahrar al-Sham, is obvious from his reference to international law. The United Nations Security Council classified Jabhat as an international terrorist organization. Supporting it, like Israel does in south Syria, is a violation of UNSC resolutions. As a veto wielding member the U.S. would not like to be caught doing that.

Jabhat al-Nusra is a Jihadi group following al-Qaeda. It is obviously a non-moderate groups but as it fights against the Islamic State it is now, under Clappers new definition "moderate" and thereby qualified to receive U.S. support. Still there is the damned international law issue that has to be circumvented.

Now just in time a U.S. puppet entity in the Persian Gulf, which already though silently arms and pays Jabhat al-Nusra, comes up with a solution for that problem:

Leaders of Syria's Nusra Front are considering cutting their links with al Qaeda to form a new entity backed by some Gulf states trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad, sources said.

Sources within and close to Nusra said that Qatar, which enjoys good relations with the group, is encouraging the group to go ahead with the move, which would give Nusra a boost in funding.
Intelligence officials from Gulf states including Qatar have met the leader of Nusra, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, several times in the past few months to encourage him to abandon al Qaeda and to discuss what support they could provide, the sources said.

They promised funding once it happens.
The Nusra Front is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and has been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. But for Qatar at least, rebranding Nusra would remove legal obstacles to supporting it.

A "rebranded" Jabhat al-Nusra would of course still fight the Syrian government as its primary enemy. Destroying the Syrian government is also the primary aim of the Wahhabi government of Qatar. New-Nusra would fight the Islamic State only after having secured enough resources and geography to be able to expand further. Its ideological essence would not change and its aim in the end would be to create its own version of an Islamic state.

[I]f Nusra is dissolved and it abandons al Qaeda, the ideology of the new entity is not expected to change. Golani fought with al Qaeda in Iraq. Some other leaders fought in Afghanistan and are close al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahri.

Rebranding Jabhat al-Nusra to then declare it "moderate" in the new definition of DNI Clapper may be the plan. It worked in Libya. But I doubt its feasibility in the much longer Syria conflict. It would be a very difficult sale even for the mighty U.S. propaganda brigades. It would also mean that the organization Jabhat al-Nusra, as it now exists, would fall apart. Many of Nusra's fighters have joined for ideological reason and to be members of alQaeda. Should Nusra revoke its oath to al-Qaeda those fighters would leave and very likely join the Islamic State.

The only reason to stay with New-Nusra would be the Qatari and U.S. money and equipment that would flow to it. But as the demise of earlier U.S. supported "moderate" groups show money and weapons are not the decisive factor in winning the fights on the ground.

Posted by b on March 4, 2015 at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (72)

March 03, 2015

The Failing Clinton Candidacy

As opined earlier I believe that a Clinton candidacy for president will inevitably fail. Besides having too much historic baggage through her husbands presidency Hillary Clinton is a person that has been shown to be too brutal and irresponsible in her personal and political behavior to succeed.

This alone should be enough to disqualify her from any public office other than dog catcher:

Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Throughout four years as secretary of state Clinton used insecure, off-the-record,  private email to conduct state business. This to avoid public and historic scrutiny of her management and personal attitudes. At the end of the Bush presidency several Bush figures were condemned by Democrats for using exactly such a scheme. That Clinton then did the same, despite strengthened laws against it, is baffling. How did she expect to avoid the shit-storm this was sure to raise?

This scandal comes right after one about the Clinton Foundation where her family was taking in millions in foreign and domestic bribes without any scrutiny of conflict of interests by the State Department's ethics lawyers.

Her political carrier at the State Department is littered with failures. The "reset" with Russia failed when she installed an amateur ideologue as ambassador to Moscow. Here "pivot to Asia" as well as her "new silk road" phantasies never materialized. Her bragging over her attack on Libya - "We came, we saw, he died" - ended in the death of a U.S. ambassador and the Jihadist anarchy throughout the country. She installed the neocon Victoria Nuland in the State Department who failed on Ukraine. Indeed Clinton herself is the neocon "vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes".

Only Republican strategist say that her campaign could still succeed. They do so because she would be the easiest target for them to beat. If the Democrats want a serious chance in taking the next presidency they will need a more plausible candidate.

Posted by b on March 3, 2015 at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

March 02, 2015

Open Thread 2015-11

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 2, 2015 at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (92)

March 01, 2015


So someone killed Boris Nemtsov while the 56 year old man walked with his 22 year old Ukrainian "model" on a bridge in Moscow. There is some CCTV coverage of the crime scene.

As vice-premier under Boris Yeltsin Nemtsov was at least partially responsible for the mafiazation of the Russian economy. Everyone but some oligarchs and the "western" neoliberals was happy when he and the Yeltsin gang had to leave.

After he was kicked out and until yesterday Nemtsov was a very minor opposition politician polling at some 1%. The communists, the real opposition party in Russia, poll at about 20%. No one in the government had reason to care about or fear Nemtsov.

The former Soviet president Gorbachov points to those who will gain from Nemtsov's death:

Asked if he thought anti-Russian forces abroad might exploit the crime in pursuit of their own ends, he argued this would definitely happen.

"Of course, certain forces will try to take advantage of this crime for their own ends - all of them are thinking how to get rid of Putin, aren't they? But I don't think, after all, that the West will go as far as that, that it will use that crime to attain its own purposes. However, that was unquestionably the goal of the criminals who murdered Boris," he said.

"Crimes of this kind are taken on by executors who are hard to find. All efforts must be made to find the criminals," the ex-president said.

Gorbachov still uses rose colored glasses when locking at the "west". The "west" would never use a crime to attain its purpose? That is laughable naive.

And what about all those legitimate and popular opposition politicians currently getting suicided in Ukraine?

So whodunnit?

Someone with relations to the "model"? Someone hurt in the gangster "privatizations" executed under Nemtsov's rule? Some Ukrainian oligarch interested in creating more schism between the "west" and Russia? Some "western" government plotting the destabilization of Russia?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Posted by b on March 1, 2015 at 08:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (301)