Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 30, 2015

Open Thread 2015-23

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 30, 2015 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (108)

May 29, 2015

Imperial NYT: Each FIFA Member One Secret Vote Is "Strange Electoral Math"

The New York Times was tipped off about last weeks U.S. induced Swiss police raid on FIFA functionaries in Geneva. It seems to hold some grudge against the football association maybe because the U.S. lost its bid for the World Cup 2022 to Qatar.

It is obvious that the U.S. is trying to install its own puppet on top of FIFA. Their candidate is a member of the corrupt family of Jordanian king. It is not that the U.S. is against corruption. How would the situation be today if FIFA, like some huge banks, had given to the Clinton Foundation, Obama's presidential library or "lobbied" some Representatives and Senators?  Corruption is just fine in the U.S. as long as it works in its interest. But FIFA rules make it difficult for the U.S. to get its will.

The reason, says the New York Times, is "the strange electoral math of FIFA".

So what is strange with that math?

The members of FIFA are the national football associations. Each gets one vote. The voting is secret.

Imagine that. Every member has an equal vote and can vote as it likes without any real way to pressure it. That's strange? From the NYT piece:

Mr. Blatter is widely expected to win a fifth term on Friday — in a vote only miles from the luxury hotel where Wednesday’s arrests took place — in part because of FIFA’s electoral math. The FIFA president is elected by a one-vote-per-country poll of its 209 member federations, making the many smaller countries who support Mr. Blatter an effective counterweight to his unpopularity elsewhere, most notably in Europe.

One country one vote is indeed strange math. Imagine the UN would be run this way. How would the U.S. and other Security Council members get their will if every country had a real vote?

There is no proposal in the NYT piece on how to change that strange math. How would the U.S. like to have the votes arranged? Countries ranked by population numbers? China, India, Nigeria, Brazil would certainly love that arrangement. But their votes would likely not go the way the U.S. wants them to go. Countries'  votes ranked by local football popularity or historic football success? Portugal or some other small country might then have the greatest weight. The U.S. vote would rank somewhere at the very end of the list.

No. There is no better way to run FIFA than the way it is run today. A World Cup is a billion dollar business. The money collected by FIFA through TV licenses, advertisement and merchandizing is flowing back to the national soccer federations. They are supposed to use it to support and promote the sport. Unfortunately some corruption is inevitably involved in such a huge and complex business. The world will have to live with that. The alternative is to relinquish control over football to some totally unaccountable, likely U.S. controlled conglomerate. That would be the end of the game.

I suggested that the U.S. assault on FIFA for corruption cases going back to the early 1990s comes now  because FIFA will today vote on a Palestinian proposal to eject Israel for impeding Palestinian football. Taking the 2018 World Cup from Russia is a convenient but secondary target. Israel has conceded that it is guilty of hindering Palestinian football by offering concessions in bid 
to avert vote to oust it from FIFA. But those concessions are likely not enough:

The source said FIFA president Sepp Blatter welcomed Israel’s proposal but stressed it would need [chairman of the Palestinian Football Association] Rajoub’s consent before removing the vote on banning Israel from FIFA’s slate.

The source said Rajoub acceded, but added another demand – that FIFA ask UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to issue a decision within three months on whether the five Israeli teams based in West Bank settlements were within Israeli territory.

FIFA regulations stipulate that teams not located within Israeli territory require the Palestinians’ consent to participate in Israeli leagues. Since the UN does not recognize the West Bank as part of Israel, the decision would de facto force Israel’s soccer federation to expel these teams from the league or run the risk of breaking FIFA’s rules.

The Palestinians should stick to this demand. Israel, like apartheid South Africa, should be kicked out of FIFA. There must be no tolerance for racism and occupation in the world's most beloved sport.

Posted by b on May 29, 2015 at 05:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (112)

May 28, 2015

Reuters Exclusive: Russian Troops Near Ukraine's Border

European Union sanctions against Russia are up for renewal. To prevent them from being lifted some additional NATO propaganda hyping the Russia threat and warning of an imminent invasion if Ukraine is necessary.

Reuters is always willing to be helpful with this. Consider its record of uncritical Exclusive News on the topic:

In none of the above stories have I seen any real reporting with a critical assessment of the veracity of such news.

Russia, like any normal state, always has some troops near its borders as well as training areas for larger unit exercises. Troops moving within the wider border area is simply normal.

Some 90% of the Canadian army is stationed less than a hundred miles from the U.S. border. When will Reuters finally manage to report that threat of an immediate invasion?

Posted by b on May 28, 2015 at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

May 27, 2015

Ahead Of Israel Expulsion Vote U.S. Orders Raid On FIFA

Today the U.S. ordered Swiss police to raid, incarcerate and extradite to the U.S. six FIFA officials for alleged corruption. The raid, with obviously pre-alarmed New York Times reporters on the scene, comes shortly before a FIFA vote to expel Israel from the association.

This Friday the world football association FIFA is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, for its 65th regular World Congress. One of the votes on the agenda (pdf) is about the "Suspension or expulsion of a member". There is also an "Update on Israel-Palestine".

The Palestinian Football Association has called for a vote to suspend Israel from FIFA:

The Palestinian group objects to Israeli teams playing in the West Bank. They also say Israel restricts movements of Palestinian players between the West Bank and Gaza as well as for international matches.

"They keep bullying here and there, and I think they have no right to keep being the bully of the neighborhood," Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub said of Israel. "If the Israelis are using the issue of security, I can say that their security concern is mine. I am ready to fix parameters for security concerns, but security should not be used ... as a tool in order to keep this racist, apartheid policies."

He declared the situation in the West Bank far worse than apartheid that existed in South Africa because right-wingers and extremists in Israel want to "delete Palestine." In the 1960s, FIFA suspended South Africa for decades after it failed to comply with the association's nondiscrimination policies. The nation was also expelled from FIFA a month after the Soweto Youth Uprising of 1976.

"I am not asking for the suspension of the Israeli association; I am asking to end the suffering of the Palestinian footballers," Rajoub said. "I am asking to end the grievances, the humiliation we are facing."

The vote requires a 75% majority of the 209 FIFA members. There was a good chance that it was going to be successful.

But now, just by chance, the U.S. government ordered the Swiss police to raid the hotel where the main FIFA functionaries are residing to arrest some of them on corruption charges going back to the early 1990s. The U.S. wants these to be extradited to face a U.S. court.

Also, just by chance, reporters and photographers of the New York Times happen to be in that very Swiss hotel lobby, at 6 am, to capture the incident live:

As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get keys and proceeded upstairs to the rooms.
The charges allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals, according to three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case. The charges include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and officials said they targeted members of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, which wields enormous power and does its business largely in secret.

While some of the indicted persons are U.S. citizens one wonders what contorted maneuvers the U.S. justice department will make to claim jurisdiction over foreign national FIFA functionaries:

United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.

Is there corruption involved when FIFA decides to run the World Championship in this or that country? Are there kickbacks when it sells media rights? Might there be gambling going on in the casino?

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds? Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: Your winnings, sir. Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.

Additional to their U.S. ordered raid the Swiss also feel compelled to open criminal proceedings around the 2018 and 2022 World Cup FIFA votes. The U.S. lost out against Russia and Qatar in its bid for those games and U.S. hawks still want to change that. It is not that paying bribes to be chosen for world games is unfamiliar to the U.S., but being rejected necessitates regime change at the top of the responsible organization.

In the United States it is legal to bribe politicians, via campaign financing, in practically unlimited amounts. Not one U.S. banker has been indicted for the massive Wall Street fraud that brought the world economy to a halt. The world is aware of this and it does not like the U.S. to lecture it about moral outrages. FIFA, while certainly corrupt, is also the soul of world football and the organizer of the most beloved championship in the world. If the U.S. believes that using something similar to terrorism charges against FIFA will have a positive echo in the world it is very mistaken.

Especially as the just by chance motive for this is pretty obvious.

As an Israeli journalist already gloats:

Anshel Pfeffer
Poor Jibril Rajoub. Doesn't look like his gimmick is going to get much attention right now #FIFA

Let me guess: That was a main purpose of this raid?

Posted by b on May 27, 2015 at 03:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (84)

May 26, 2015

Lack Of U.S. Air Support In Ramadi Points To Disguised Darker Aim

Why were there so few U.S. air attacks on the Islamic State attackers when they took Ramadi?

The first excuse put out by the U.S. military was "a sandstorm ate my lunch". That excuse was placed as news in the NYT:

Islamic State fighters used a sandstorm to help seize a critical military advantage in the early hours of the terrorist group’s attack on the provincial Iraqi capital of Ramadi last week, helping to set in motion an assault that forced Iraqi security forces to flee, current and former American officials said Monday.

The stenographer writing the piece did not bother to ask eyewitnesses or to check with some weather service. The myth of the "sandstorm" was thus born and repeated again and again. But people looking at the videos and pictures from the fighting could only see a bright blue sky. The military, though not the NYT, had to retract:

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today that last weekend's sandstorm had not affected the coalition’s ability to launch airstrikes in Ramadi, though “weather was a factor on the ground early on.”

Now the U.S. military needs a new excuse to explain why it does not really bother to attack the Islamic State troops. Again it is the NYT that is willing to stenograph:

American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians. Killing such innocents could hand the militants a major propaganda coup and alienate both the local Sunni tribesmen, whose support is critical to ousting the militants, and Sunni Arab countries that are part of the American-led coalition.

The alleged restrain in in fear of killing civilians in bonkers. The few U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State targets, though not admitted, have already killed hundreds of civilians.

This excuse for not helping the defenders of Ramadi is also nonsense as many occasions for potential attacks, like the Islamic State parade in this picture, are in areas with no or few civilians around. Why are Islamic State fighters free to travel the roads between Syria and Iraq in mass?

Nether the "sandstrom" excuse nor the "fear" of accidentally killing civilians seem to be an explanation for the decision to not support the Iraqi troops against the Islamic State attacks. A sound explanation can be found in the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment, recently revealed, that says that the U.S. and the Gulf monarchies do want an Islamic State covering east Syria and west Iraq:

“… there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

In a recent Sunday show the neocon and former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton put it on the record:

I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists. What's left of the state of Iraq, as of right now, is simply a satellite of the Ayatollahs in Tehran. It's not anything we should try to aid.

The U.S. military in the Middle East is not helping the legitimate state of Iraq against the illegitimate Islamic State. It is shaping the environment so that it will allow for a delimited "Salafist Principality" in Syria and Iraq, mostly independent Kurdish areas and a rump state of Shia Iraq.

Not unrelated the Associated Press is running a home story about a nice, Islamic State financed, honeymoon in Raqqa:

The honeymoon was a brief moment for love, away from the front lines of Syria's war. In the capital of the Islamic State group's self-proclaimed "caliphate," Syrian fighter Abu Bilal al-Homsi was united with his Tunisian bride for the first time after months chatting online. They married, then passed the days dining on grilled meats in Raqqa's restaurants, strolling along the Euphrates River and eating ice cream.

It was all made possible by the marriage bonus he received from the Islamic State group: $1,500 for him and his wife to get started on a new home, a family — and a honeymoon.

"It has everything one would want for a wedding," al-Homsi said of Raqqa ...

Who paid how much to AP for that  Islamic State recruiting advertisement?

The only sound explanation for the very, very limited air support the U.S. is giving to Iraq is its aim of dismembering the Iraqi state and creating a new Sunni state entity under its tutelage. The Iraqi government should finally recognize this and should stay away from U.S. advice and dependency.

Posted by b on May 26, 2015 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

May 25, 2015

U.S. Military: Local Militia Are Bad Unless We Create Them

The U.S. military and the New York Times now rally against local militias in Afghanistan:

Afghans Form Militias and Call on Warlords to Fight Taliban

Facing a fierce Taliban offensive across a corridor of northern Afghanistan, the government in Kabul is turning to a strategy fraught with risk: forming local militias and beseeching old warlords for military assistance, according to Afghan and Western officials.

The effort is expected to eventually mobilize several thousand Afghans from the north to fight against the Taliban in areas where the Afghan military and police forces are losing ground or have had little presence.
Gen. John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, said he was skeptical of any plan that involved paying warlords to deploy their men. “I think if they’re looking for people that have volunteered to protect their villages, you know, that’s one thing,” he said. But if the government’s plan involved “going to a warlord and saying, ‘I need to take you, and pay you and move you, and go do something here,’ that’s a completely different thing,” he told reporters on Saturday. “We would not be supportive of that.”

Not one word in the NYT piece mentions that this same tactic, setting up local militia, has been tried and fiercely defended five years ago by the then American commander in Afghanistan:

Petraeus’ First Big Afghanistan Gamble: Militias Local Cops

General David Petraeus has persuaded Karzai to set up a new force to supplement Afghan soldiers and police. It’s not really Anbar Awakening 2.0, since it doesn’t involve insurgents switching sides. And don’t use the M-word, Pentagon officials say. “They would not be militias,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday. “These would be government-formed, government-paid, government- uniformed local police units.” Specifically, the new units will be paid by the Interior Ministry — or, rather, the foreign money that bankrolls the Afghanistan government will be disbursed to these new units through the ministry.

Stenographed the NYT at that time:

“Our position has been to develop a solution that bridges between having nothing and having Afghan National Police, and this program does that,” said the senior NATO official. “So it’s a good development and especially so since it has consensus within the Afghan government and the ownership that come with that,” he said.

The Afghan local police units the U.S. created in 2010 turned out to be unreliable local warlords who preyed on the civilian population. The new local forces the Afghan government now wants to create will turn out to be likewise but they are currently the only chance to keep the Taliban somewhat away from ruling over bigger chunks of the country.

Today's fierce resistance by the U.S. general against such forces has a certain "not invented by me" feeling. The total amnesia in today's NYT piece of the Petraeus program five years ago underlines that impression. It is like nothing can ever be good or useful unless the U.S. military invents and supports it.

Posted by b on May 25, 2015 at 03:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

May 23, 2015

Open Thread 2015-22

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 23, 2015 at 05:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (135)

May 21, 2015

U.S. Intelligence Predicted: U.S. Support For Rebels in Syria Would Lead To Fall of Ramadi

Three new news items provide that the Obama administration, as well as Turkey and other countries, have knowingly created the current situation in Syria and Iraq. They knew that their support of the opposition which from the beginning included Al Qaeda would likely lead to the creation of an Islamic State. The administration was warned as early as August 2012 that this would then lead to the fall of Mosul and Ramadi to an Al Qaeda entity.

Thanks to Brad Hoff for pointing in the comments here to the Defense Intelligence Agency reports from August and October 2012 about the war on Syria. The DIA was the one U.S. intelligence agency that got the Iraq WMD case right but its appraisals, for example that the famous "aluminum tubes" were ordered by Iraq to build mortar tubes, were suppressed by the Bush administration. The now published heavily redacted DIA reports were released after Freedom Of Information Act litigation by the conservative Judicial Watch.

One report is mostly concerned with the attack on U.S personal in Benghazi in Libya on September 11 2012. My first analytic post on the issue was on September 12 2012 and it was headlined: U.S. Ambo in Benghazi Killed In AQ Operation. The Obama administration long denied that the attack was an obviously planned AQ operation and that it was related, as I wrote, to arms smuggling from Benghazi to Syrian "rebels". The released DIA report dated October 2012 confirms my take from a day after the attack. It includes this:

Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The weapons shipped during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG’s, and 125 mm and 155mm howitzers missiles.

During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the ((Qaddafi)) regime in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012, weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The Syrian ports were chosen due to the small amount of cargo traffic transiting these two ports. The ships used to transport the weapons were medium-sized and able to hold 10 or less shipping containers of cargo.

These weapons were shipped on Turkish vessels. A few hours before he was killed the U.S. ambassador met the with a Turkish diplomat likely to coordinate more such weapon shipments.

Another released DIA document written in August 2012 and also highly redacted explains that Al Qaeda was, from the beginning, a big part of the Syrian "revolution". It foresees and warns of the creation of an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Some quotes (emph. added):

3 B: AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning ...
3 C: AQI conducted a number of operations in Syrian cities under the name of Jaish al-Nusra ...

These are the moderate rebels and activists the main stream media wrote and is still writing about. More from the report:

8 C: If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.

The "supporting powers" are earlier listed (in 7 B) as:

western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey

The DIA warns that the creation of such an Salafist principality would have "dire consequences" for Iraq and would possibly lead to the creation of an Islamic State and:

create the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi

These DIA folks really earned their salary.

The Obama administration, together with other supporter of the Syrian "opposition", knew that AQ was a large part of that "opposition" from the very beginning. The U.S. and others wanted a Salafist principality in east Syria to cut Syria and Lebanon off from a land route to Iran. It was warned that such a principality would create havoc in Iraq and to the return of AQ in Iraq (today the Islamic State) to Mosul and Ramadi. As this scenario was predicted and followed directly from the situation the U.S. and its partners wanted to achieve we do no longer have to wonder why the U.S. was so reluctant to prevent the fall of Ramadi. It is part of the plan.

Steve Chovanek at Reports From Underground investigates the recent fall of Palmyra to the Islamic State and finds that it is The Result of US-Coalition Ramping up Aid to Extremists. Steve draws from several reports (I had also mentioned here) and finds:

The Obama administration recently approves the shipment of heavy weaponry to the Syrian opposition after long hesitation, the US-led operation rooms in Turkey and Jordan openly encourage working with al-Qaeda to defeat Assad’s army, and the new Saudi King Salman, whose country is the main funder of ISIS, openly has ramped up support to Islamists in Syria, all the while al-Qaeda makes recent gains in the northwest and south, while ISIS makes its gains in the eastern region of Palmyra.

All just one big coincidence? I think not…

I agree that there is obviously some plan behind the seemingly coordinated advances of Al-Qaeda in Syria under the name Jabhat al-Nusra or now also as Army of Conquest and the advance of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Not only the facts but also the DIA report point to such a plan.

The third item of interest is a Reuters report that picks up on news that had so far only been locally reported in Turkey: Exclusive: Turkish intelligence helped ship arms to Syrian Islamist rebel areas:

Testimony from gendarmerie officers in court documents reviewed by Reuters allege that rocket parts, ammunition and semi-finished mortar shells were carried in trucks accompanied by state intelligence agency (MIT) officials more than a year ago to parts of Syria under Islamist control.

With the publishing of the DIA reports, of reports on active military Turkish support for Al Qaeda Islamists and of pieces that admit the U.S. support for the current Al-Qaeda offense in Syria the Obama administration will probably come under some pressure to change course. The fall of Sirte in Libya to the Islamic State may add to the pile. The Obama administration could at least be pressed to refrain from further supporting Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.

But the Obama administration is notoriously difficult to shame and when in doubt always chooses the worst alternative. The best we can hope for is that information like above gets spread further around and will over time drain support for such policies.

Posted by b on May 21, 2015 at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (76)

May 19, 2015

Obama Administration Dilly-dallying On Islamic State Action

The Islamic State took Ramadi with the help of armored bulldozers and some 10 suicide vehicles. That many of the nominal defenders of the city had no real will to fight also helped. But there is another important actor that allowed it to happen. In the critical 24 hours the U.S. coalition which had promised to defend Iraq and to defeat the Islamic State launched just seven air strikes and all only against minor IS targets around the city. That's like nothing.

Now the paltry "dog ate my homework" excuse is a sandstorm no one but the U.S. air support group noticed.

Yesterday the Islamic State held victory parades around Ramadi. A hundred vehicles with black flags parading on a wide open road with black flags on every streetlight pole.

The pictures show a bright and sunny blue sky. No U.S. air interdiction was seen. Remarks one knowledgeable tweep looking at those pictures:

The Islamic State in Ramādī yesterday. Quite amazing the coalition didn't take them out actually. Makes one wonder about the coalitions rules of engagement. Now it "looks" as if Ramādī was offered to them on a silver plate ...

Indeed. The Obama administration and the Pentagon tried their best to play down the strategic loss of Ramadi as something minor that could be somehow repaired within a few days or weeks. But as McClatchy notes: Ramadi joins lengthening list of Pentagon misstatements on Iraq and Experts: U.S. claims Ramadi a mere setback are ‘delusional’.

The U.S. does not take the Islamic State seriously. It is as if Obama has decided that a Jihadist state in east-Syria and west-Iraq is a bright idea that should be given full support. Do his people and those U.S. experts on Saudi/Qatari payrolls tell him that the Islamic State is no danger to U.S. interests? They are wrong.

In his last speech the Islamic State Caliph announced something bigger then 9/11 probably during Ramadan which will be mid-June to mid-July. A big event on June 29, the date Caliph Baghdadi announced the creation of the Islamic State one year ago, would make for a great anniversary.

No mainstream media has followed up on that threat. But at the very end of one McClatchy piece today there is this short paragraph:

Meanwhile, an intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the ground rules of his agency offered a caution: With the anniversary of the Islamic State’s declaration of a caliphate coming next month, “it would not be surprising if the group sought to mount a major attack or propaganda blitz to demonstrate its capabilities, and attract additional recruits.

I hate fear mongering and would advise against any panic reaction to that threat. But one could a least show some effort to keep the Islamic State busy and under steady pressure. That would not only probably prevent another Ramadi surprise but could keep important Islamic State actors on the run and too busy to harm even more people.

But whatever warning the Obama administration will get, its current behavior shows that it will, like the Bush administration, not take it seriously.

Posted by b on May 19, 2015 at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (77)

May 18, 2015

NYT And Kerry Use Retracted Propaganda Claim To Blame & Shame North Korea

The South Korean spy and propaganda agency makes an obviously ludicrous claim about something in North Korea. Hours later, after the nonsense made the news, it completely retracts it.

A few days later the U.S. cites the original false claim to put more blame and shame on North Korea. The NYT stenographers note the blame and shame but completely ignore that the false claim it is based on had been retracted.

NYT today: Kerry Calls for More Pressure on North Korea Over ‘Horrendous’ Acts

“The world is hearing increasingly more and more stories of grotesque, grisly, horrendous, public displays of executions on a whim and fancy by the leader against people who were close to him, sometimes on the flimsiest of excuses,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to Mr. Kim, during a news conference in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

Mr. Kerry made the comment in response to a recent report that Mr. Kim had ordered one of his top generals, the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Hyon Yong-chol, executed with an antiaircraft gun for disloyalty. General Hyon was accused, among other crimes, of dozing off during a meeting Mr. Kim presided over, the National Intelligence Service of South Korea said last week.

UPI on May 13: North Korea defense chief was purged, maybe not executed, says Seoul's spy agency

South Korea's spy agency said it cannot confirm the execution of North Korea defense chief Hyon Yong Chol, hours after making the opposite claim to South Korean lawmakers.

South Korean lawmaker Kim Kwang-jin told ABC News that Seoul's National Intelligence Service had said in a closed briefing that Hyon was publicly executed for napping and "behaving disrespectfully."

The NIS also said Hyon was executed on April 29 or 30 through the use of anti-aircraft machine guns in an area 13 miles north of Pyongyang – as hundreds of high-ranking military personnel watched.
By late afternoon, the spy agency revised its statement, saying Hyon was purged, but maybe not executed.

The "execution by anti-air gun for napping" was a lie invented, like most "North Korean horror" fairy tales, by the South Korean spy service to push some selected lawmakers to up its budget. When those idiots then talked to the press, people asked why the "disgraced" and "brutally killed" North Korean general was still presented favorably on North Korean TV. The spy agency had to retract its claim.

South Koreans who will have noted the retraction will now have learned that Kerry is really the dumb buffoon they probably had already assumed he is. Stupid propaganda stunts like this one is one reason why U.S. foreign policy is no longer seen as a serious endeavor.

Note to State Department briefers: Most people on this planet ain't as shallow-brained as your secretary.

Posted by b on May 18, 2015 at 05:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

May 17, 2015

A Movie Recommendation And Open Thread

Adam Curtis' new masterpiece, Bitter Lake, was unfortunately only released for the iPlayer platform. But there are now some free sources available online. 

The movie, again with fantastic music and pictures, tells the grant political story of the last seventy or so years using historic and current footage. The (non-)development of our world is investigated using the example of Afghanistan and the outer forces involved in it.

From Curtis' own description:

It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence - and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened - because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.
[I]t is important to try and understand what happened. And the way to do that is to try and tell a new kind of story. One that doesn’t deny the complexity and reduce it to a meaningless fable of good battling evil - but instead really tries to makes sense of it.

The movie is quite long, some 140 minutes, but highly recommended.

Part 1, 2 and 3.

Use as open thread.

Posted by b on May 17, 2015 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (191)

May 16, 2015

Was The Killing Of The IS Oil Minister A Combined Syrian-U.S. Operation?

Compare these two success announcements about the killing of an alleged Islamic State oil functionary:

Reuters Sat May 16, 2015 7:30am EDT:

Syrian army kills Islamic State's "oil minister"-state TV
May 16 The Syrian army has killed an Islamic State leader responsible for oil-related affairs along with 40 other militants in an attack in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, Syrian state media reported.

A news flash on state TV identified Islamic State's "oil minister" as Abu al-Taym al-Saudi. It said he had been killed in a special operation in the Omar oil field, Syria's largest, which Islamic State captured from rival insurgents last July.

U.S. National Security Council press release Sat May 16, 2015 8:19am EDT

Last night, at the President’s direction, U.S. personnel based out of Iraq conducted an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged U.S. forces.
Abu Sayyaf was a senior ISIL leader who, among other things, had a senior role in overseeing ISIL’s illicit oil and gas operations – a key source of revenue that enables the terrorist organization to carry out their brutal tactics and oppress thousands of innocent civilians.
This operation was conducted with the full consent of Iraqi authorities ..

It is usual that people in the Arab language world are identified by multiple names. "Abu al-Taym al-Saudi" might well be also known as "Abu Sayyaf". The "Omar oilfield" may also be written as "al-Amr".

A later update of the Reuters/SANA version added this paragraph

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation that tracks the war, said around 19 Islamic State members had been killed in an air strike on the oil field. Twelve of the dead were foreign fighters, it said.

So what was this? A combined operation of U.S. and Syrian special forces coordinated through Baghdad? An airstrike by either side? Or did one side, the Syrian government or the U.S. administration, "steal" the success from the other side for their own propaganda purpose?

We know that the story the U.S. told over the Bin Laden killing was almost completely false. We therefore have reason to doubt the truthfulness of the NSC statement. The Syrian SANA news agency may not be the most accurate source either but here it was the first to announce the raid. SOHR, while paid by the "west", has proven to be at least somewhat independent. We will need more information before we can really stitch up the story. My bet for now is on a combined Syrian-U.S. operation that neither side has interest in to publicize in full.

Posted by b on May 16, 2015 at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

May 15, 2015

As Propaganda Fails Baghdadi Announces A Bigger 9/11

The propaganda war in Iraq and Syria is shifting into a higher gear.

The U.S. led International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria announced on May 9:

DAESH defeated in al-Anbar – DAESH was beaten in Ramadi, Kurma, and Tharthar.#CJTFOIR

Well, not so fast. There were also rumors that the Caliph Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, was incapacitated and that his number two was killed in an air strike. The death of the Baathist leader of the Naqshbandi Order Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri had also been announced. Al-Douri's men had fought together with the Islamic State in its first big offense in Iraq but were shunned as soon as the Islamic State took over Mosul.

Today it turned out that none of those propagandized successes was sustained:

The Islamic State on Friday took control of the provincial government center of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, in a major defeat for the Iraqi government.

Islamic State forces also appeared to be closing in on two other key locations in Anbar province, the towns of Baghdadi and Kharma, in a broad offensive that if successful would end the government presence in any of the province’s major population centers.

The announced defeat of DEASH, or IS, in al-Anbar did not hold very long. Six huge suicide car bombs were enough to completely change the situation in Ramadi.

The "dead" Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri today released an audio message to his followers. He sounds a bit old and tired but also very much alive. Some excerpts via Aymenn J Al-Tamimi:

"What's happening in our land today is a direct and comprehensive Persian occupation"- Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri #Iraq in new speech
Notable Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri singles out Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim as some of those who could have stood up for Iraqi sovereignty.
In reality, says Duri, the "opportunity has come to an end" and no one can truly express their opinion or stand against Iran.
Notable Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri mentions Islamic State by name in latest speech: he says 90% of Anbar province under them & 'armed men'.
Superficial cross-sectarianism: Duri appeals to the people of Karbala too about the problem of "Safavid" schemes, militias etc.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri says no real 'Popular Mobilization' (Hashd Sha'abi): just cover for Iran militias like Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Badr etc.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri attacks those in the media who might want to portray his speech as pro-IS. Clearest distancing from IS by name yet.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri on "Da'esh" (IS): "They declare the Ba'ath to be kuffar"
Towards end of speech Duri praises the Saudi-led intervention against the Houthis in #Yemen.

The rumored to be seriously wounded or dead Caliph Baghdadi also released a long audio message as well as transcripts of it in several languages. The Soufan Groups, which sells Middle East "intelligence", wrote in a brief (excerpts):

He begins by castigating any Muslim who won’t immigrate (hijra) to the Islamic State, and who won’t wage a violent war in its defense. For al-Baghdadi, joining him is an obligation, and that “there is no excuse for any Muslim who is capable of performing hijrah (immigration) to the Islamic State, or capable of carrying a weapon where he is.”
He then focuses on the Arab governments that he insists are lying in their claims to represent and protect the beleaguered Sunni population. He makes specific mention of the anti-Islamic State Arab forces being trained both by regional governments such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey but also the hated West.
In his litany of complaints against perceived Sunni oppression and abdicated Arab leadership, al-Baghdadi effectively covers the globe in his attempt to be seen as the worldwide supreme leader of the Sunni. He wonders where is the protection for Muslims in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Burma, India, China, “Indonesia, the Caucasus, Africa, Khorasan, and everywhere else”. He then focuses on the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. He dismisses the fact the main targets of the Saudi air strikes are the Shi’a Houthis, and describes the effort as “not a storm of resolve, rather it is the kick of a dying person.”
In the speech’s most bizarre segment, al-Baghdadi talks about the sadness he and his group feel at the Iraqi Sunni “seeking refuge in the areas controlled by the Rāfidah (Shi’a) and Kurdish atheists in Iraq, ignoring that it is the savagery of the group that has caused so many people to flee before its advance.

It is interesting to observe the different positions al-Duri and Baghdadi have on the Saudi-U.S. war on Yemen.

There was more in Baghdadi's speech though possibly not in the transcripts. This seems to be quite sensational. Elijah J. Magnier reports:

I made a mistake in reading Baghdadi's voice message:
#ISIS al-Baghdadi is preparing something very big against the West, bigger than 9/11
#ISIS Baghdadi is also giving an approximative date and could be around the coming month of Ramadan (July).
I hope I am wrong but he is saying "the reaction will be huge on all Muslims living in the West". I believe him.
I have listen2 his speech 5 times. Minute 15. Moreover, other core accounts insinuate "something big coming up".
But the "possible date" is hinted and not as explicit as his intention.

So should we really expect some big event?

In other news the Islamic State also attacked in Deir Ez Zor in Syria. But that battle there, around a big military base and the city, has been going back and forth for months without decisive results. Meanwhile Hizbullah is attacking the Islamic State and Jabhat al Nusra in the Qulamoun mountains near the Lebanese border. Hizbullah head Nasrallah is expected to give some kind of victory speech tomorrow which lets me assume that the battle goes well.

The former U.S. National Security Advisers Brzezinski and Snowcroft took part in a Congress hearing on Syria. Brzezinski remarks (vid) that of all groups in Syria the Syrian president Assad is clearly the one with biggest following:

“I'm not really sure we knew what we were doing when we [i.e. the U.S. government] made a statement [against Assad]”

The wars in Syria and Iraq will continue until there is a decisive political break on either side. Such a break is nowhere in sight though Baghdadi's 9/11, if it became real, could give an impetus to either side. I therefore agree with Aron Lund who warns of falling for the various "analyst" declarations of victory for this or that side:

Four years after the uprising began, Syria has gained a reputation as the graveyard of political analysis, and it is well deserved. Many more confident statements, reports, and articles will undoubtedly be added to the pile before the war is over—and given the extraordinary complexity of this tragic and brutal conflict, some humility would be in order before pronouncing in favor of either side.

Posted by b on May 15, 2015 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

HRW's Kenneth Roth Continues Unfounded Accusations With Another False Picture

Last week we found that Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth used an image of destruction in Gaza caused by Israel to accuse the Syrian government of indiscriminate use of "barrel bombs". We wrote:

This is thereby at least the third time HRW is using a wrongly attributed pictures to depict current enemies of U.S. imperialism as having causing the damage the U.S. empire and/or its friends have caused.

That is not mere bias by HRW. It is willful fraud.

After our post and many protests on Twitter Kenneth Roth retracted and deleted that tweet. He posted:


Not being happy about having to retract the accusing tweet he sent out a new one again accusing the Syrian government of causing the depicted destruction through "barrel bombs":


The picture is, of course on must say by now, not of destruction caused by Syrian government "barrel bombs".

For this tweet Kenneth Roth appropriated an AFP picture taken by George Ourfalian and distributed by the the Gettyimages agency.


The caption of the original Getty image reads:

A general view shows destruction in the Hamidiyeh neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as local popular committee fighters, who support the Syrian government forces, try to defend the traditionally Christian district on the third day of intense battles with Islamic State group jihadists on April 9, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OUFALIAN

The destruction in the picture is of a neighborhood attacked by anti-Syrian Jihadists and defended by pro-Syrian forces in support of the government. Is Kenneth Roth insinuating that the Syrian government caused that damage by "barrel bombing" its supporters? Or did rather the "moderate rebels" he seemingly supports destroyed those buildings.

Judging from the pattern of image usage by Human Rights Watch and Kenneth Roth we can safely assume that the second is the case.

And while Kenneth Roth is waxing about "barrel bombs" in Syria, which are no different than any general purpose air delivered bomb, we are still waiting for his tweet against the use of U.S. made thermobaric bombs by the Saudi government in Yemen where such weapons against hardened structures are incidentally killing and maiming many innocent people.

With his very selective accusations and false pictures Kenneth Roth has turned Human Rights Watch into a mere outrage-for-profit public relation agency on the payroll of "western" governments and various Gulf dictatorships.

Posted by b on May 15, 2015 at 02:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

May 14, 2015

U.S. Military To Defend Feng Shui Of Southeast Asia

President Obama today issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the violation of the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia.

China said it was “deeply concerned” on Wednesday about a reported U.S. proposal to consider sending naval ships and aircraft toward man-made islands in the South China Sea as tensions escalate between the two nations over the vital waters.
“Reclamation isn’t necessarily a violation of international law, but it’s certainly violating the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia, and it’s certainly violating China’s claim to be a good neighbor and a benign and non-threatening power,” Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said in a telephone interview.
As it does for a range of regional developments, the U.S. Pacific Command has drawn up contingency plans related to China’s buildup of artificial islands in the South China Sea, U.S. defense officials said.

The plans have not yet been examined at the most senior levels of the Obama administration, and officials said there had been no decision to immediately deploy assets near the artificial islands. Because the islands are in international waters, U.S. planes or ships could transit near them as a matter of course, the officials said.

To further defend the feng shui of Southeast Asia the U.S. is stationing B-1 strategic nuclear bombers and long range surveillance drones in Australia.


Posted by b on May 14, 2015 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

May 13, 2015

Light Posting - Several Issues

(Due to a (harmless) medical procedure my eyesight is temporarily restricted. For a few days I'll have some difficulties to read and write and to post here. Please bear with me.)

Some issues that (still) caught my eyes:

The Telegraph, like may other propaganda outlets, claims that the Syrian government is falling apart:

Ali Mamlouk, the head of the country's National Security Bureau, has been removed as the regime of Bashar al-Assad begins to show divisions over the role of Iran

Utter nonsense:

Syria's security services chief Ali Mamluk attended a meeting between President Bashar Assad and an Iranian official on Wednesday, after a newspaper claimed he was under house arrest for plotting a coup.

Mamluk's presence at the meeting, which was reported by the official news agency SANA, came after Britain's Telegraph newspaper said the top regime official had been sidelined.

SANA said Mamluk was among the attendees at the meeting between Assad and the head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, Alaedin Boroujerdi.

The false Telegraph piece was cited as support in today's David Ignatius CIA kool-aid column which claims that the Jihadists are winning but therefore(?!) need more U.S. help. Or something like that. At least he somewhat admits that the "moderate rebels" are led by Al-Qaeda. A Saudi mouthpiece calls for opening "dialogue with moderate forces in Al-Qaeda such as Al-Nusra Front." The moderate cuddly homegrown Al-Qaeda? Where did he pick that up?

The Israelis do not mind Al-Qaeda and other Jihadists. The son of Ariel Sharon now prefers ISIS at the Golan border over a secular President Assad. His kool-aid:

Analysis: If the Syrian leader is toppled, Israel would have Islamic State on its doorstep, but it wouldn't have to face it alone; it would also mean the end of Hezbollah and leave the Golan permanently in Israel's hands.

Nice plan. Not gonna work.


One Sy Hersh hit piece follows dozens others. The authors of these piss poor laments have zero credentials compared to Hersh. But they are all invested in the White House fairy tales of the Bin Laden killing and even used it to market their books. They are mad that Hersh is taking them to the cleaners. Losers.

Hersh claims that the Pakistanis held Osama bin Laden as prisoner/guest on request of the Saudis. A Pakistani brigadier walked-in and told the CIA in exchange for money. The U.S. pressured the Pakistani generals to cooperate. The Seals flew in with the knowledge of the Pakistanis who held back their own troops. The Seals killed Bin Laden and White House fairy tales covered up the whole political mess.

The Hersh story makes sense. The News in Pakistan confirmed the walk-in part of the story. The Bin Laden house was known to be a ISI safe house with prison features. The longtime NYT correspondent to Pakistan finds the Hersh story quite plausible and fitting with her knowledge.


The Ukrainian coup parliament voted for "war time powers":

According to this law, the military command and the local administrations have the right to establish a regime of enhanced protection of critical facilities, to introduce labor service for able-bodied persons, forcibly confiscate private and communal property for state needs, to prohibit peaceful assemblies, meetings, marches, demonstrations and other public events, to prohibit activities of political parties, to carry out the evacuation of the population, and other actions.

Ahh - "western values" ...


The Israeli military had a press briefing to explained how it will commit more war crimes during its next war on Lebanon. The NYT of course "reports" the Israeli claims that Hizbullah is hiding with civilians and that Israel will therefore have to kill them all without any actual fact checking.

Notes a critic:

[The NYT] fails to recognize the irony of officials in their central Tel Aviv military headquarters lambasting Hezbollah for embedding among civilians.

Posted by b on May 13, 2015 at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

May 11, 2015

Why Is The Hersh Abbottabad Story Coming Out Now?

The Hersh story about the killing of Osama bin Laden gets trashed by the usual suspects in the main stream media. They have fallen for, and "reported", the story the White House and the CIA told them. To acknowledge that Hersh is mostly right on this would embarrass them too much.

But they could have known better. The Hersh story is not new. It is pretty much the same story R.J. Hillhouse told back in 2011. Her take was also somewhat confirmed by the former Pakistani Brigadier FB Ali at Pat Lang's site.

Hillhouse is now pissed, rightly, that the current Hersh story does not mention her account:

On August 7, 2011, I wrote, among other things:
  • The US cover story of how they found bin Laden was fiction
  • OBL was turned in by a walk-in informant, a mid-level ISI officer seeking to claim $25 million under the "Rewards for Justice" program.
  • The Pakistani Intelligence Service -- ISI -- was sheltering bin Laden
  • Saudi cash was financing the ISI operation keeping bin Laden captive
  • The US presented an ultimatum to Pakistan that they would lose US funding if they did not cooperate with a US operation against bin Laden
  • Pakistani generals Kiyani and Pasha were involved in the US operation that killed OBL
  • Pakistan pulled out its troops from the area of Abottabad to facilitate the American raid
  • The Obama administration betrayed the cooperating Pakistani officials
  • The Obama administration scrambled to explain the crashed helicopter when their original drone strike cover story collapsed

That all make sense and, as I do not believe that Hersh has a need to simply plagiarize her, is now confirmed by his sources.

The great heroic tales of the seals, the "torture let to bin Laden" claims by the CIA and all the other nonsense told about the event were just propaganda.

But one wonders why the story is coming out now. Sure it makes the White House look bad. It also lets the Pakistani generals look bad but only in the eyes of the Saudis. But it surely lets the Saudis look bad - those people who financed Bin Laden and paid the Pakistanis to keep him locked up. Who might have been that?

Coincidentally a piece in today's NYT about the new Saudi king gives hints:

In increasing the kingdom’s regional role, King Salman risks escalating the conflict with Iran, fueling further instability. And his support for Islamists could end up empowering extremists, just as Saudi support for the Afghan jihad decades ago helped create Al Qaeda.
King Salman has a history of working with Islamists. Decades ago, he was a royal point man and fund-raiser for jihadists going to Afghanistan, Bosnia and elsewhere.

Salman just snubbed Obama by declining an invitation to Camp David. He is ignoring U.S. "advice" to stop the bombing of Yemen. Is someone trying to apply pressure on him.

It is always interesting when one sees such issues - the Hersh story, the NYT tale of his AlQaeda financing and Salman's resistance to the White House orders - come together at a single point in time. Is that directed or just coincidence?

Posted by b on May 11, 2015 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (79)

May 10, 2015

Open Thread 2015-21

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 10, 2015 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)

May 09, 2015

Human Rights Watch Again Accuses Syria Of "Barrel Bomb" Damage Done By Others

In February we pointed to a Human Rights Watch tweet that showed a picture of the Kurdish-Syrian city Kobane destroyed by U.S. bombing. The HRW tweet falsely claimed that the damage was caused by Syrian government "barrel bombs".

HRW is at it again. Today Kenneth Ross, director of Human Rights Watch tweeted this:


Neither does the picture fit to anything in Aleppo, nor could the damage shown reasonable have been achieved by "barrel bombs" thrown form helicopters.

The Kenneth Roth tweet links to a video uploaded by some Armanian website owner on May 5.

But as Adam Johnson of points out the picture is a still from a pirated copy of a video produced and uploaded on March 8 by the Danish TV station DR Nyheder. The original caption to that video is:

Unikke tv-optagelser med drone viser omfanget af ødelæggelserne efter Israels bombardement af Gaza i sommer.

The drone video shows the immense damage done by last summer's Israeli bombing of Gaza.

HRW also used a wrongly attribute picture to claim that a person hurt by Nazis in Ukraine was a victim of the Russian president Putin.

This is thereby at least the third time HRW is using a wrongly attributed pictures to depict current enemies of U.S. imperialism as having causing the damage the U.S. empire and/or its friends have caused.

That is not mere bias by HRW. It is willful fraud.

Posted by b on May 9, 2015 at 05:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (60)

May 08, 2015

Saudi Arabia To Indiscriminate Bomb Yemen, U.S. Reportedly Amused

Saudi Arabia has reportedly beheaded five foreigners and hung their corpses from helicopter to set an example.
According to a report published in 'The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula' on Wednesday, the men were found guilty of murdering an Indian guard and stealing his money. After their beheading, which took place in Jeddah, Saudi officials hung the bodies from a helicopter so as to deter others from committing such crimes.

Secretary of State John Kerry was reportedly amused.


Saudi-led forces carried out air strikes on Friday in Yemen's Saada province, a bastion of Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, and warned all civilians to leave a day after Riyadh promised a harsh response to cross-border Houthi attacks.

Saudi state television channel Al Ekhbariya said the whole of the northwestern province would become a military target from Friday evening, hinting at an escalation in the Saudi-led coalition's six-week-old intervention in Yemen's civil war.

After six weeks of Saudi bombing and a total Saudi-U.S. blockade of Yemen there is no means of transport available for lack of fuel. The some 850,000 people of Saada have no way to leave to anywhere let alone anywhere to leave to. Indiscriminate bombing of Saada city and governate will lead to a huge loss of lives. And what use is a warning when all communications systems in the area have been bombed and when there is no electricity.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen notes:

With or without advanced warning, direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under #IHL. #Saada #Yemen

Issuing warnings of impeding attacks does not absolve warring parties of their obligations under rules and principles of #IHL. #Saada #Yemen

Warring parties must take all necessary precautions to spare civilian life and property. #Saada #Sanaa #Aden #Taiz #Yemen

Not that the Saudis will care. As I already remarked on April 1:

This is essentially the same strategy Israel uses against Gaza, only on a ten times bigger scale.

One wonders how many Israeli "consultants" are advising the Saudi general staff.


John Kerry

Having security talks in #Paris w some of our best partners: #Bahrain, #Kuwait, #Oman, #Qatar, #SaudiArabia & #UAE.
5:18 AM - 8 May 2015

Posted by b on May 8, 2015 at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Using Head-To-Head Polls To Decide Elections

One trick in national electioneering is to portrait the likely though narrow incumbents as the underdog in the run up to election day. Those doing the pools and the media who favor the likely winner will then propagandize a head to head race in which the opposition is slightly in front.

This helps the incumbents in two regards. It mobilizes their own marginal voters who now fear a victory of the demonized opposition. FUD - fear, uncertainty, doubt is their election tool. It also lets opposition leaders feel somewhat secure and to let them soften their campaign promises and announced policies. This then turns off their marginal voters.

We have seen this scheme over and over again. The German election in 1965 was a prime example. The poll institutions in favor of the conservatives published numbers that showed a possible and even likely opposition win. The conservative press and the conservative voters were mobilized by this and the opposition was distracted from more radical and popular policies it should have promoted. The outcome was defying the false polls and a conservative win by a wide margin ensued.

The recent elections in Israel saw the use the same trick. The likely outcome, so was said, was a loss for Netanyahoo to the (slightly) more liberal opposition. This helped Netanyahoo to mobilize the more radical parts of his base by warning of the "great dangers" a opposition win would lead to. He won.

The Conservatives in Britain, their supporting pollsters and the conservative supporting press (most of British media) also used this tactic. Even the final polls showed Labour and Conservatives being head to head but the election was a wide win for the Conservatives. While party leaders will resign over the "unexpected" losses no pollster will be disqualified, even when they should be, and they will therefore use the same trick again in the next elections. Instead of going for a more social policy, as it should have done during the campaign, Labour will continue to move to the right. This will marginalize it further just like several such moves by the social-democratic SPD in Germany which are leading to its demise.

Next time you see a head to head prognosis by this or that pollster be aware that the real numbers may well differ and that the published polls are just one trick of the campaign trade.

2020 may see a not-so-great-anymore Britain without Scotland and outside of the EU. I can't think of anyone who would lose tears over that turn of history.

Posted by b on May 8, 2015 at 06:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)

May 06, 2015

It's Official: The U.S. Collaborates With Al Qaeda

The propaganda against Syria is milking the capture of Idlib city by Jabhat al-Nusra and assorted other Islamist groups. The general tone is "Assad is losing" illogically combined with a demand that the U.S. should now bomb the Syrian government troops. Why would that be necessary if the Syrian government were really losing control?

A prime example comes via Foreign Policy from Charles Lister, an analyst from Brooking Doha, which is  paid with Qatari money but often cooperating with the Obama administration. That headline declares that Assad is losing and the assault on Idlib is lauded in the highest tone. Then the piece admits that this small victory against retreating Syrian troops was only possible because AlQaeda was leading in the assault.

The piece admits that the U.S. which wants to balance between AlQaeda and the Syrian government forces prolonging the conflict in the hope that both sides will lose, was behind that move:

The involvement of FSA groups, in fact, reveals how the factions’ backers have changed their tune regarding coordination with Islamists. Several commanders involved in leading recent Idlib operations confirmed to this author that the U.S.-led operations room in southern Turkey, which coordinates the provision of lethal and non-lethal support to vetted opposition groups, was instrumental in facilitating their involvement in the operation from early April onwards. That operations room — along with another in Jordan, which covers Syria’s south — also appears to have dramatically increased its level of assistance and provision of intelligence to vetted groups in recent weeks.

Whereas these multinational operations rooms have previously demanded that recipients of military assistance cease direct coordination with groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, recent dynamics in Idlib appear to have demonstrated something different. Not only were weapons shipments increased to the so-called “vetted groups,” but the operations room specifically encouraged a closer cooperation with Islamists commanding frontline operations.

The U.S. led operations room encouraged cooperation between the Islamists of the so called Fee Syrian Army and AlQaeda. A U.S. drone, shot down over Latakia in March, was gathering intelligence for the AlQaeda attack on Idlib. More that 600 TOW U.S. anti-tank missiles have been used against Syrian troops in north Syria. These are part of the 14,000 the Saudis had ordered from the U.S. producer.

Even if the U.S., as now admitted, would not officially urge its mercenaries to cooperate with Jabhat al-Nusra such cooperation was always obvious to anyone who dared to look:

In southern Syria [..] factions that vowed to distance themselves from extremists like Jabhat al-Nusra in mid-April were seen cooperating with the group in Deraa only days later.

The reality is that the directly U.S. supported, equipped and paid "moderate" Fee Syrian Army Jihadi mercenaries are just as hostile to other sects as the AlQaeda derivative Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. They may not behead those who they declare to be unbelievers but they will kill them just as much.

While the U.S. is nurturing AlQaeda in Syria, Turkey is taking care of the Islamic State. Tons of Ammonium Sulfate, used to make road side bombs, is "smuggled" from Turkey to the Islamic State under official eyes. Turkish recruiters incite Muslims from the Turkman Uighur people in west China and from Tajikistan to emigrate to the Islamic State. They give away Turkish passports to allow those people to travel to Turkey from where they reach Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile the Saudis bomb everyone and everything in Yemen except the cities and areas captured by AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula.

The U.S. and its allies are now in full support of violent Sunni Jihadists throughout the Middle East. At the same time they use the "threat of AlQaeda" to fearmonger and suppress opposition within their countries.

Charles Lister and the other Brooking propagandists want the U.S. to bomb Syria to bring the Assad government to the table to negotiate. But who is the Syrian government to negotiate with? AlQaeda?

Who would win should the Syrian government really lose the war or capitulate? The U.S. supported "moderate rebels" Islamist, who could not win against the Syrian government, would then take over and defeat AlQaeda and the Islamic State?

Who comes up with such phantasies?

Posted by b on May 6, 2015 at 03:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (53)

May 04, 2015

Open Thread 2015-20

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 4, 2015 at 12:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (154)

May 03, 2015

The Lies Of Anne Barnard

Anne Barnard is the New York Times’s Beirut bureau chief covering Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East region. Like her Washington Post's colleague Liz Sly she reports along the established Washington propaganda lines emphasizing Arab sectarianism and "U.S. does good" claims.

Here she writes on the killing of at least 52 civilians in Fridays bombing of Bir Mahli, in Aleppo Province by a U.S. led "coalition" air attack. The last sentence of her short report reads:

The Observatory said that members of at least six families were killed, along with some Islamic State fighters, and that 13 were missing.

Now compare that with the AFP report on the issue:

"Not a single IS fighter" was killed in the strikes on Birmahle, said Abdel Rahman, adding that the village is inhabited by civilians only with no IS presence.

The Associated Press report of the incident:

On Saturday, the Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said the strikes hit only civilians in their homes in Bir Mhali, a mixed Kurdish and Arab village, killing 52, including seven children and nine women.

How can Barnard claim the Observatory said the civilians were killed "along with some Islamic State fighters" when the Observatory, according to AFP and AP, said the opposite?

What Barnard wrote is not some fudging or misunderstanding. It is a clear lie.

That lie lets her readers believe that the murdered families were "collateral damage" of a well intended,  legitimate strike. But that is clearly not the case. No IS fighters were killed and none were even nearby.  The killing of these civilians may even have been intended from nefarious reasons.

McClatchy, with its own reporting and a historically much better record than the NYT, finds no IS fighters killed but suggests that the airstrikes and killing was part of an ethnic cleansing campaign by Kurds, supported by the U.S. "coalition", against the Arab population in the area:

The reported deaths of the villagers also embroiled the United States in Syria’s fierce ethnic rivalries, with activists pointing out that the fishing and farming village of about 4,000 Arabs has had tense relations with Kurds living nearby – especially with the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” or YPG.
The activist, who spoke to McClatchy by Skype on condition of anonymity out of fear of both the YPG and the Islamic State, said the coalition may have received flawed intelligence about the target from its allies on the ground, a reference to YPG forces. “ Kurdish hostility towards Arabs in the area has been pretty clear for a long time,” the activist said. “Otherwise, how would you explain the Kurds burning Arab houses under their own control?”

He added that the coalition had bombed a bridge at the town of Karakozak some months ago that he said was the only crossing over the Euphrates River in the area. The bridge’s destruction had “put the whole area under siege.”

If the U.S. relies solely on YPG information about targets we can expect a lot more bombing of Arab civilians in the areas next to YPG positions. We can also expect that Anne Barnard will then again claim that all those murdered in such strikes were killed "along with some Islamic State fighters".

Posted by b on May 3, 2015 at 06:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (50)

May 02, 2015

May 1 - A Terrific Day For U.S. Target Intelligence In Syria And Yemen

The U.S. military and intelligence groups involved with Central Command in the Middle East celebrated May 1 with a little competition and two terrific target selections:

US-led air strikes targeting the Islamic State group killed at least 52 civilians in a village in northern Syria, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

"Air strikes by the coalition early on Friday on the village of Birmahle in Aleppo province killed 52 civilians," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"Seven children were killed, and 13 people are still trapped in the rubble," he said.

Abdel Rahman told AFP that Kurdish militiamen and Syrian rebel fighters were clashing with IS in a town roughly two kilometres (1 mile) away.

"But Birmahle is only civilians, with no IS positions and no clashes," he said.

Abdel Rahman said "not a single IS fighter" was killed in the strikes on the village,...

Well done. But the CentCom military intelligence group supporting the Saudi war on Yemen showed that it could do better:

A series of Saudi airstrikes hit a hospital and medical camp in southwestern Yemen on Friday, killing at least 58 civilians and injuring at least 67, two local Yemeni government officials said.

Most of the dead and injured were medics and patients, they said.

Raheda Hospital is one of the largest and busiest in the area. The medical camp is part of the hospital.
Three local Yemeni government officials said the hospital was not being used by Houthi rebels and that none of the dead was a rebel fighter.

Seems like the war on Yemen targeting group won the sixpack.

The best overall briefing on the war of Yemen comes in today's Independent. It is a bit speculative on the Saudi motive though when it suggest that King Salman and his son saw the war on Yemen "as a way of securing their power and removing rival factions in the royal family from power." That may be a side motive but the real is more likely the one suggested by Hillary Mann Leverett:

[W]hat we’re seeing is a product of Saudi disorientation and terror at a region that could become more representative in terms of its governance, more independent in terms of its foreign policy. The Saudis are trying to prevent that kind of independence in foreign policy from emerging in Yemen, and they have yet again gone down this road with the United States to a war that has no end.

That description fits the fact that the Saudis started the bombing just in the moment a UN brokered power sharing deal in Yemen was about to be signed. As the Independent piece describes it:

[T]he beginning of the Saudi air war five weeks ago put a stop to negotiations which were about to succeed in establishing a power sharing government in the capital Sanaa according to the UN envoy Jamal Benomar. He told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that “when this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis.”

The U.S. supported the bombing from the very beginning by giving the Saudis the necessary intelligence. This stopped the peaceful solution of the political competition in Yemen. No wonder that the UN envoy resigned in protest. From March 26:

Saudi Arabia told the Obama administration and Persian Gulf allies early this week that it was preparing a military operation in neighboring Yemen, and relied heavily on U.S. surveillance ­images and targeting information to carry it out, according to senior American and Persian Gulf officials.

Since than the U.S. intelligence support for the Saudis has increased. From April 10:

The United States is expanding its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to provide more information about potential targets in the kingdom's air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters.
The U.S. officials said the expanded assistance includes sensitive intelligence data that will allow the Saudis to better review the kingdom's targets in fighting that has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands since March.

What will those Yemenis who's relatives were killed in the hospital strike yesterday think about such U.S. targeting support?

The Independence piece linked above also includes this sentence which is I believe as a first in the main stream media:

[King Salman] has not only started an air war in Yemen but has given stronger backing to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qa’ida affiliate, and other jihadi groups in Syria. These have recently won several victories in Idlib province over the Syrian army and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The Saudis are also supporting Al Qaeda in Yemen and are even pushing others to join them:

Haykal Bafana @BaFana3
Journalists need to wake up & write about the pressure being applied by Saudi Arabia on tribes & leaders in Hadhramaut to accept AQ rule.

The Saudis rush more support to Al Qaeda and U.S. intelligence is selecting civilian targets to be bombed.

Is there anyone who believes that this will end well?

Posted by b on May 2, 2015 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)