Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 11, 2015

UK Accuses U.S. Of Supporting Terrorists But Sells Out To Saudi Arabia

On October 30 an international conference on Syria  agreed on a framework for ending the conflict in Syria. The communiqué states:

While substantial differences remain among the participants, they reached a mutual understanding on the following:

1) Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity, and secular character are fundamental.
...
6) Da'esh, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the U.N. Security Council, and further, as agreed by the participants, must be defeated.
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Ministers will reconvene within two weeks to continue these discussions.”

Secretary of State Kerry had already accepted the "secular" point in earlier talks with his Russian colleague. The next meeting this Friday will mainly be about the question of who is a terrorist and must thereby be defeated. Propagandist for the Jihadis call this a "Russian trap".

So far the U.S. and its allies have supported various fundamentalist groups who's deeds and proclaimed philosophies surely put them into the same category as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

The British Foreign Minister accuses the U.S. of supporting such terrorist groups and said that this needs to change:

The world powers trying to end the civil war in Syria are drawing up a list of "terrorist" groups, Britain said Tuesday, warning that some countries may have to drop support for allies on the ground.

"It will require deep breaths on several sides, including the US side," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned, speaking to reporters in Washington.

Some of the groups that qualify as terrorists, so Hammond, do get support from the U.S. and it will take a "deep breaths" by the U.S. to refrain from further supporting them.

As part of this, Hammond said, the countries backing various factions within the country would have to decide which are moderate enough to be included in the political process and which would be excluded.

"I'm not so sure I would write off the possibility of agreeing on who is a terrorist," he said, in remarks at the British embassy the morning after talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

But he warned that there would be horse trading ahead.

Can one "horse trade" who is a terrorist? Is it "moderate enough" to only cut off the heads of prisoners of war instead of burning them alive? How much would that "trade" cost?

Hammond seems to believe that a money-for-values deal is possible and needed. Here is his horse trade: On one side the Saudis want the Jihadists they support to be recognized as non-terrorists:

"The Saudis are never going to sign up to Ansar al-Sham being categorized as terrorists," he said, citing the example of one Sunni armed group reported to receive outside Arab backing.

"So we have to see whether we can reach a pragmatic solution on these areas," Hammond added.

On the other side Hammond wants to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia despite its abysmal human rights record:

In an interview with Newsnight, Mr Hammond was asked if he would like to see the current £5.4billion of weapons trade with Saudi Arabia increase.

He replied: “We’d always like to do more business, more British exports, more British jobs and in this case very high end engineering jobs protected and created by our diplomacy abroad.”

So there is the Hammonds "pragmatic solution" - the UK will support the Saudi position on the terrorist groups Ahrar al Shams, which is related to and closely cooperating with al-Qaeda, and the Saudis will buy more British weapons.

There is only a slight problem. The framework submitted by the October 30 conference, excerpted above, agreed of the fundamental "secular character" for the Syrian state. But even a now revisionist Ahrar al-Shams insists that Islamic law must the constitutional base of Syria. A state build on Islamic law is certainly not "secular". Unless of course one redefines what secular means. And that is exactly what Hammond, hearing the cash register ringing, now proposes:

While Mr. Hammond declined to offer any details on which groups could eventually take part in political negotiations, his comments suggested that the West might be prepared to back Sunni Islamist groups with close ties to allies, including Saudi Arabia. “What we mean by a secular constitution, and what people in the Muslim world will understand by secular will be two different things,” Mr. Hammond said.

British orientalism at its finest: The Salafi jihadists of Ahrar al-Shams are not "terrorists" because the Saudis will buy more British weapons. A Syria based on Islamic law will be "secular" because those [censored] Arabs don't even know what that means.

Maybe the U.S. should also offer to buy more British weapons? Foreign Minister Hammond would than surely recognize that the terrorists the U.S. supports in Syria are "moderate enough" hardline Islamists to fit his deranged definition of "secular".

 

Posted by b on November 11, 2015 at 11:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (135)

November 10, 2015

Yemen: UN Gives Cover For U.S. Spies - Endangers Its Employees

On October 26 UN reporter Mathew Lee of InnerCity Press scooped all other media with this nugget on Yemen:

Inner City Press' sources exclusively tell it of a new low, that the UN brought into Sana'a what the Houthis call two members of US intelligence, with the cover identification that they work for the company running the former hotel now occupied by the UN. But, the sources say, security in Sana'a recognized the two and they are now detained.

The "contractors" flew to Sanaa from Djibouti where the U.S. has a large military and intelligence base. The plane the "contractors" came on was rented by the UN.

The Houthis surely wondered why at that time, with Sanaa being under intense Saudi-U.S. air attacks, "hotel contractors" would arrive in Sanaa.

Now one of the "contractors" died, allegedly by suicide, while imprisoned by the Houthis. USAToday reports that his name is John Hamen from Chesapeake, Va. and that his body is currently repatriated to be buried at Arlington Cemetery. For a "hotel contractor" Hamen has a rather interesting resumé:

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told CBS that she could not confirm the contractors' nationality but said they arrived on a U.N. aircraft from Djibouti on Oct. 20 and were detained by "the authorities at the airport in Sanaa."

He said the two "are not U.N. contractors" but work for the company that manages the facilities that the U.N. is using in Sanaa, CBS reported.

Hamen's LinkedIn professional page lists his occupation as "Diplomatic Support" and described his previous employers as the U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. Army, and the Joint Communications Support Element.

Is that the qualification one needs to run a former hotel for the UN?

The Joint Communications Support Element is an interesting shop:

JCSE [..] is composed of joint active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel who can globally deploy within hours of notification to provide communications packages tailored to the specific needs of a full joint task force headquarters and to a joint special operations task force.

These two "contractors" and "former" U.S. special forces were anything but regular civilian staff. The were probably preparing to set up a new U.S. military or intelligence communications hub in Sanaa.

The UN has bungled the Yemen issue since the moment that former president Saleh left his office. It was tasked with setting up a new governance structure that would administrate Yemen and organize elections to replace the interim president Hadi. But the UN driven National Dialog Conference left out the interests of the most important forces on the ground which had helped to push for Saleh's ouster, the Houthis. Left without representation in the UN advised structures the Houthis took over Sanaa and the government. Under Saudi pressure the UN envoy to Yemen resigned.

Now the Saudis and the U.S. wage war on Yemen to kick out the Houthis and to reinstall Hadi who no Yemeni wants back in power. While the Saudis are committing war crimes in Yemen they now also occupy an important seat at the UN Human Rights Council. The UN also bungled the current ceasefire negotiations between the Houthi and the Saudi-U.S. alliance:

Inner City Press previously reported on and published the Houthis' letter denouncing UN envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed as little more than a Saudi tool. Now it's gotten worse: even Kenny Gluck who works for the envoy and went to Muscat trying to meet the Houthis was unable. He waited then returned to Riyadh.
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The Saudis, asserting control, have told Ould Cheikh Ahmed to try to cut Oman out, sources tell Inner City Press, hence the idea the talks will be in Geneva. But what talks, if the Houthis won't talk to Ould Cheikh Ahmed or his Kenny Gluck.

The Houthis accused the new UN envoy of falsely asserting that they agreed to all Saudi conditions while ignoring the spread of al-Qaeda in southern Yemen. The Russians, also haggling with the Saudis, seem to be the only other party concerned over the spread of al-Qaeda and terrorism in Yemen under the Saudi war cover.

The UN has completely abdicated any neutrality on Yemen. It serves as a mere mouthpiece and servant of misguided U.S.-Saudi policies. The now confirmed, though not admitted, transporting of "former" U.S. special forces under UN cover is an inexcusable breach of its independence and a danger to all its employees.

Any UN envoy or contractor all over the world will now be under suspicion of being a U.S. military or intelligence agent. This will endanger the lives of thousands of UN employees working under difficult circumstances in various conflict areas.

Meanwhile the Saudis and the UAE are pulling all ground forces out of Yemen and are outsourcing their war to soldiers from Sudan, Mauritania, Senegal and Eritrea as well as to mercenaries from Columbia. After the UAE pullback the Houthis have recovered several southern Yemeni cities and are planing to re-capturing the Al-Anad airbase near Aden.

Posted by b on November 10, 2015 at 11:33 UTC | Permalink | Comments (68)

November 09, 2015

No, This Is Not The Anti-Syrian Twitter Campaign

Via Club des Cordeliers we find an army of Twitter bots which is, on first sight, spreading negative propaganda about Syria.

These robots, hundreds or thousands of them, are artificial Twitter accounts which tweet every few minutes around the clock. They seem to be programmed to recite single short sentences on Syria. Many of these accounts add the hash-tag #NaturalHealing to their tweets.

Currently a search on twitter for "syria's media outlets" produces a long list with similar tweets:


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The tweets are all the same basic sentence: "Nearly all of Syria's media outlets are state-owned, and the Ba'ath Party controls nearly all newspapers." with some of them attaching the "#NaturalHealing" hash-tag. A Internet search for that sentence points to the Wikipedia article on Syria as the source. A closer look at several of these bot accounts and their tweets shows that this is a recurring phenomenon.

It is thereby somewhat dubious that these bots were hired for anti-Syrian propaganda. They just quote random sentences from the Wikipedia entry on Syria which have no specific propaganda value like:

Cami Vestal ‏@CmVstl530 1h1 hour ago
#NaturalHealing The Abbasiyyin Stadium in Damascus is home to the Syrian national football team.

Other tweets these robot accounts currently put out are from the Wikipedia entry of Richard Nixon, the Wikipedia entry of the city of Manchester in England, the entry on Academic dress and several others. None of which have of course anything to do with "natural healing" but also nothing to do with anti-Syrian propaganda interests.

All the robots have English sounding names, have the registered country USA and the attached photos of their personalities are mostly attractive and young Caucasian people. The quoting of Wikipedia articles and endless retweets of other bots in that network are just fillers to make these accounts seem "alive" and to then use them to deliver paid-for advertising for health related products.

I have some reason to believe (but can not prove) that this bot army is run (or rented) by the British company Marketing Runners which says it is:

Assisting Businesses and Individuals to Increase Their Online Presence, Generate Leads, and Discover Opportunities.

The Twitter account of Marketing Runners has some unbelievable 83,500 followers of which 99.9% are likely artificial. Marketing Runners is registered by Ad Easy Ltd, Kemp House, 152 City Road, London, UK which is run by one Derin Cag. Cag is involved in various "new media" marketing companies in London.

So while this on first sight seemed to be an anti-Syrian campaign a deeper look shows that it just a run-of-the-mill marketing scam. Its twitter bots are programmed to put out quotes from various Wikipedia articles to make them look "human", attractive and seemingly alive.

All of which does not mean that there are no anti-Syrian campaigns on Twitter and elsewhere. There surely are. But those I have come across are run more intelligently. They use sock-puppets, dozens of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts with similar propaganda but run by one human or a human group. Such accounts are better individualized with more specific content that random Wikipedia quotes. In March 2011, just in time for its Syria campaign, the U.S. military purchased software that helps running such sock-puppet armies. Unfortunately they are hidden and hard to detect.

Posted by b on November 9, 2015 at 11:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (38)

November 08, 2015

Open Thread 2015-42

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 8, 2015 at 19:08 UTC | Permalink | Comments (181)

November 07, 2015

WaPo Peddles Crackpot Idea - Fears Russia Will Steal It

The Washington post editors peddle the crackpot idea that the CIA smuggled a bomb on board of the Russian airline that went down over the Sinai peninsula. Or something like that. No one else, as far as I can tell, has offered such an idiotic conspiracy theory.

So far there is not even a shred of real evidence that a bomb took down the plane. All we know is that the black boxes on board of the plane suddenly stopped recording. This points to a sudden rupture and decompression of the plane after which it disintegrated and fell down. The cause of such ruptures can be manifold. Metal fatigue or faulty repairs are a frequent cause (see Japan Airlines Flight 123). As the plane's tail separated from the main cell a tail strike the plane suffered years ago might be relevant. A turbine blade may have cracked and hit the nacelle at a critical point (see Delta Air Lines Flight 1288). A Lithium ion rechargeable battery pack in some luggage in the rear luggage hold may have exploded (see UPS Airlines Flight 6).

The Islamic State claimed it had something to do with the downing of the plane but that announcement was unusual as it contained zero evidence. Other Islamic State attacks were announced with video or other evidence of its misdeeds. Here the Islamic State might just piggyback on a mere technical accident.

Maybe some farting goats on board released methane which exploded? Maybe. But there is no evidence that there were goats, or a bomb, on board of the flight.

Non the less, the Washington Post editors suggest that, maybe, the CIA took down the plane and that, maybe, Russian or Egyptian peoples might be told such:

[W]e won’t be surprised if Russians and Egyptians are told the CIA is somehow responsible for the tragedy in the Sinai.

How come the editors "won't be surprised"? I "won't be surprised" if Russians and Egyptians are told that one plus one is two because I know that one plus one is two. So when the editors "won't be surprised" do they know something about CIA involvement that we do not know?

The editors suggest that the governments of Egypt and Russia might lie about the incident:

The Egyptian and Russian regimes are far less adept at fighting terrorism than they are at lying.

This from the media of the country that peddled the falsehood of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and wages a "war of terror" which increased the membership of al-Qaeda from some low hundreds in 2001 to a hundred thousand in 2015.

There is little chance for Russia or Egypt to lie about the incident. The investigation of the plane wreckage and circumstances will be done by several countries and technicians from Airbus will be involved:

Under international aviation rules, representatives from France, Ireland, Russia and Germany are included in the official committee investigating the crash because of various connections to the plane or the flight.

So how would Russia or Egypt lie about it? The WaPo editors accuse both countries of some nefarious mindset:

While Mr. Putin suspended Russian flights on Friday, his spokesman was still insisting there was no reason to conclude that there had been an act of terrorism. When not issuing his own denials, Egypt’s transport minister was obstructing the British evacuation effort, reducing the number of London flights from 29 to eight.

But the Putin spokesman is right - there is no reason to conclude that this was terrorism because there is no evidence to support such a conclusion. And the "obstruction" by the Egyptian transport minister was a well founded decision after the British government said the British passengers flying home could only take carry-on luggage:

“The British airlines opt to fly without the hold baggage of the British passengers,” Hossam Kamal, the minister of civil aviation, said in the statement.

“The airport will not accommodate more than 120 tons of left-behind luggage,” he added. “This big volume affects the smooth operation of the rest of the domestic and international flights.” The burden of the British baggage, he suggested, had caused the airport to reduce the number of British departures to eight instead of the 19 flights previously scheduled, thus prolonging the plight of the stranded vacationers.

There is no doubt that the neoconservative Washington Post editors hate the Russian and the Egyptian governments. But that is hardly a good reason to wrongly accuse those governments of falsehoods or for suggestions that the CIA may have taken down the Russian plane.

Posted by b on November 7, 2015 at 13:09 UTC | Permalink | Comments (96)

November 06, 2015

More Chaos And Catastrophes in Yemen

Yesterday at about noon a Russian plane brought 23 tons of humanitarian aid to Yemen:

AFP journalists saw the plane at Sanaa airport -- which is controlled by Shiite Huthi rebels -- and were told it contained aid.

The plane was then set to fly back to the Russian capital Friday with some 75 people on board who wanted to quit the strife-torn city, the ministry said.

The Saudis together with the UAE and under advise from the U.S. now regularly bomb Yemen. The Saudis effectively control the Yemeni airspace and Saudi air controllers are directing all traffic. According to the Yemeni lawyer Haykal Bafana in Sanaa they compelled the plane not to fly back to Russia without a stopover in Saudi Arabia:

Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3
This #Russia plane landed in Sanaa, #Yemen today. Now #Saudi Arabia threatens to attack plane if it takes off. pic.twitter.com/zgpAxOOGDE

Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3
Riyadh-Moscow standoff over Russia plane trying to depart from Sanaa #Yemen : Who's on board the plane?

Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3
#Yemen : #Saudi Arabia orders Sanaa Airport runway lights off, #Russia plane exit taxiway or KSA jets will bomb it.

مدهش ™ @Dip_Ye
To be exact, KSA threatens to attack 2russian 1omani airplanes if they take off. Pilots refuse inspection @BaFana3

A few hours later

Abu Hud Al Hadhrami @BaFana3
Saudi military spokesman Gen Al-Assiri dismissed Sanaa Airport standoff as "Houthi hysteria". Planes will leave Fri.

AlArabia, a Saudi news outlet in English, reported

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Iranian-backed Houthi militias delayed on Thursday the departure of a Russian plane from the capital Sanaa that was carrying more than 20 tons of humanitarian aid, the spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed group there said.

“The militias have prevented the departure [of the Russian aid plane] ... in an attempt to attract international attention,” Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri told Al Arabiya News channel.

“The plane is now scheduled to fly back to the Russian capital tomorrow,” Asiri said.

Why and how would the Houthis hold up a Russian plane that just brought aid to Sanaa? That sounds rather fishy.

Today a news outlet from the United Arab Emirates published a different story than the mouthpiece of its Saudi coalition partner:

Deposed Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to flee the capital Sanaa aboard a Russian plane but he was prevented by the Saudi-led coalition imposing a ban on flights over the conflict-battered Arab country, Yemen’s media reported on Friday.

A Russian aircraft carrying diplomats and relief aid landed in Sanaa airport on Thursday apparently after getting permission from coalition air force.
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It said the coalition ordered the pilot of the Russian plane to fly first to Bisha airport in Southern Saudi Arabia for inspection but he refused.

“This confirms the information that the deposed President tried to flee the country,” the report said, adding that Saleh visited the Russian embassy in Sanaa on Tuesday.

Saleh is allied with the Houthi (Ansar Allah) and pays the parts of the Yemeni army which together with the Houthi fight against the Saudi/UAE/mercenary invasion of Yemen. That Saleh should leave is a demand of that coalition. Why, if he really was on board of that plane, would the Saudis stop him from leaving?

The Russian seem pissed and their ambassador found some quite clear words to press the Saudis:

Saudi Arabia is a key to resolving the Yemeni crisis, Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin said.
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According to the envoy, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorist groups in recent years strengthened their positions in Yemen "like never before, since the entire eastern part of Yemen, nearly 70 percent of the country, is largely controlled by extremists."
"Now only Ansar Allah fights al-Qaeda at the same time withstanding the onslaught of the coalition and the army of President [Abd Rabbuh Mansour] Hadi," Dedushkin told RIA Novosti.
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He added that as the Yemeni crisis increases anarchy in the country it creates a breeding ground for terrorists, who arrive in Yemen from abroad, including from Syria.

"Therefore, there is a serious risk that if the Ansar Allah recedes from their positions, they will be occupied by the terrorists," the ambassador stressed.

The multi-front fighting in Yemen is ongoing with no changes in the lines of the conflict. The Saudis brought in additional mercenaries from Sudan and Eritrea while the UAE is sneaking out of Yemen under the disguise of a "troop rotation" which has no new "rotating" troops arriving. The last UAE task before leaving was to stop violent fighting in Aden between their allied Yemeni troops under former president Hadi's son and their allied Yemeni troops from the southern resistance movement.

Due to the war and the U.S.-Saudi blockade of Yemen's harbors and roads the economy has fallen off a cliff and some 6 million people, always depending on food imports, are under imminent threat of famine. Two days ago the cyclone Chapala brought several years of average rainfall within a few hours to Yemen and at least some 10,000 houses are believed to be destroyed by the flood. Another tropical storm will probably make landfall in Aden on Tuesday. There is no reporting from the ground and "western" media mostly ignores the catastrophic events in that country.

Meanwhile Yemeni army soldiers and Houthis continue to bring the war into Saudi cities (vid, long version).

The Saudi-U.S. war on Yemen is a complete failure. Will someone give the Saudis a helping hand to get out of their mess without a complete loss of face?

Posted by b on November 6, 2015 at 16:18 UTC | Permalink | Comments (53)

November 05, 2015

IBTimes' "S-300 in Syria" News Nothing But Hot Air

The International Business Times creates fake news. Today it claims: Russia deploys S-300 anti-aircraft missile system in Syria after Sinai plane crash

Just days after a Russian civilian plane was suspected to have been shot down by a radical Islamist group, Moscow announced that after evaluating the threat it has deployed the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system around the Latakia airbase in Syria to counter any threat.

The Russian defence ministry has said the deployment of the anti-aircraft system will not only secure its airbase in Syria, but also deter any attempt to hijack its warplanes.

Russia's Aerospace Forces Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Viktor Bondarev told Russian dailies on Thursday the country was taking all measures to secure its assets in Syria.

"We have studied all the possible threats," said Bondarev, adding that it has also sent in missile systems besides "fighter jets, attack aircraft, bomber aircraft, helicopters," Tass reported.
...

I would be astonished if Russia would now deploy the ground based long range air defense system S-300 to Syria. A complete S-300 unit is quite bulky with several radar and command vehicles plus the launcher vehicles and the logistic elements. There is also the Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva at sea near the Syrian coast which has an equivalent system with 64 missiles on board. There is no need to now deploy a similar land based system.

So where did IBTimes get that S-300 information from? It helpfully links to TASS at its source which says:

Russia sends missile systems to Syria to counter possible threats — air force head

Russia has deployed missile defense systems in Syria to counter a possible strike against its forces in the country and also to prevent attempts to hijack a warplane, Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Aerospace Forces Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev has said.

"We have studied all the possible threats. We sent there not only fighter jets, attack aircraft, bomber aircraft, helicopters but also missile systems. As various force majeure circumstances may occur," Bondarev said in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper published on Thursday.

There is nothing in the TASS bulletin that claims deployment of an S-300 long range air defense system.

We know since mid September that Russia deployed the short range air defense system Pansir-S1 (NATO designation SA-22 Greyhound) to Syria. Reuters reported on September 11:

Moscow is sending an advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Syria, two Western officials and a Russian source said, as part of what the West believes is stepped-up military support for embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

The Western officials said the SA-22 system would be operated by Russian troops, rather than Syrians. The system was on its way to Syria but had not yet arrived.

Since then tracked as well as wheeled versions of the Pansir have been seen in Russian TV reports from the Russian airport in Syria.

The Russian general said nothing new. He just mentioned what Russia "sent" to Syria in the past. The TASS headline gets that wrong as the present "sends". And the IBTimes S-300 claim is a lie pulled from hot air and without any factual base.

But such scaremongering will surely reverb in the various Internet echo chambers. It will then be used as "justification" for the U.S. to throw more weapons to jihadists in Syria.

Posted by b on November 5, 2015 at 14:45 UTC | Permalink | Comments (105)

November 03, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: Russia's Position On Assad Unchanged Since 2011 - Reuters, BBC

A typical part of propaganda campaigns is to claim that the "villain" has very recently changed his political positions. Then follows "analysis" which interprets the "change" as a sure sign that the villain is under pressure and on the verge of loosing the fight. Often such claims are completely unfounded as the villain only repeated a long standing position. They are only made to repeat, repeat, repeat ... that the villain is or was up to something bad.

When Iran, for example, states again that it does not want nuclear weapons it is repeating a decades old political position. But "BREAKING NEWS" headlines will claim that the position is new "Ayatollah: Iran to refrain from nuclear weapons". This lets people assume that Iran was planing to make nuclear weapons and that it just now changed that position.

Here is a live example of this propaganda technique.

Reuters


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BBC


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How do we we know that this "BREAKING NEWS" is pure propaganda? Because Russia said over and over again that it is not supporting the person of Bashar Assad but the Syrian state and its people. A few examples:

June 5 2012: Russia says Assad could go in Syria settlement

Russia said Tuesday it was prepared to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leave power in a negotiated solution to 15 months of bloodshed that has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
...
"We have never said or insisted that Assad necessarily had to remain in power at the end of the political process," Gatilov told the ITAR-TASS news agency in Switzerland.

"This issue has to be settled by the Syrians themselves."

September 15 2012: Russia says not 'clinging' to Syria's Assad

"We are not clinging to any political figures," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said in brief comments reaffirming the country's official position.

"And anyone who claims otherwise is distorting the picture," Gatilov told the Interfax news agency.
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"It is only through the political process -- and not through any decision of the UN Security Council -- that the Syrians should determine the future of their state and its make-up," he added.

December 20 2012: Putin Says Russia Not Wedded to Assad, Wants End to Strife

Russia isn’t wedded to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its main goal is to end the civil war in the country, President Vladimir Putin said.
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“We aren’t concerned about Assad’s fate, we understand that the same family has been in power for 40 years and changes are obviously needed,” Putin said.

This point was made over the years again and again. It has been Russia's position from the beginning of the Syria conflict and had never changed.

September 15 2015: Russia's Vladimir Putin Says Only Syrian People Can Decide The Future Of President Assad

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that only Syrian people are entitled to decide who should govern their country and how. He was reacting to the reference of the U.S. coalition partners who want to see Syrian President Bashar Assad leave his office.

Most recently the ever unchanged position was stated on October 30 by Russia's Foreign minister Lavrov in a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State:

Lavrov: As John has said, we have no agreement on the destiny of Assad. Russia believes that it is up to Syrian people to decide within the framework of the political process. It is said in the joint statement that the political process should be done by the Syrian people and belong to the Syrian people, and the Syrian people should decide the future of their country.
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"Journalist": [...] Russia has said, as you said just a few moments ago, that you do not necessarily believe that Mr. Assad needs to go?
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Lavrov: I did not say that Assad has to go or that Assad has to stay. I said that Assad’s destiny should be decided by the Syrian people, as well as all other aspects of further development of the Syrian state.

So there. Nothing changed in Russia's position from 2011 through 2012, 2013, 2014 up to 2015.

Any journalist who follows the news on Syria knows this:

@DavidKenner Retweeted Reuters World

This is something Russia has said again and again, but will now be touted as some sort of breakthrough.

How then, if not for nefarious reasons, can a restatement of the unchanged Russian position be "BREAKING NEWS" for Reuters and the BBC?

It is not Russia but the U.S. which has been totally inflexible in its position regarding Assad. It arrogantly demands, without having any authority over the issue, that Assad must leave. Since 2012 at least it delivers weapons to jihadists who kill the Syrian people. It is thereby the U.S. which is blocking any solution and prolonging the war on Syria.

Posted by b on November 3, 2015 at 15:43 UTC | Permalink | Comments (143)

November 02, 2015

Open Thread 2015-41

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 2, 2015 at 18:35 UTC | Permalink | Comments (133)

November 01, 2015

Erdogan's AKP "Wins" Snap Election - Successful Challenge Unlikely

The snap election results in Turkey are somewhat surprising and strongly diverge from recent opinion polls. And the result will, as predicted, not check Erdogan. This snap election than "corrected" the June vote in which the AKP had lost its former majority.

With 98% of the vote counted the announced preliminary result is about

  • AKP 50%
  • CHP 25%
  • MHP 12%
  • HDP 10%

With this count Erdogan's AKP would have some 317 seats, 13 less than the 330 needed for constitution changing supermajority. But should the lefty/Kurdish HDP fall, by whatever means, under 10% its seats would practically go to the AKP and a supermajority would be likely.

But the election commission has now, for unexplained reasons, shut down its website and we do not get updated results. Pre-election polling, which was quite to the point in the June election, is now off by 6 to 8%. No pollster predicted the AKP above 44%.

We can therefor expect that many people will call this a fraudulent election. It may well have been one. Erdogan certainly does not refrain from playing dirty. But do not expect much success for any challenge. The police, prosecutors, and courts are all under tight AKP control. Internationally Erdogan is getting a lot of support from "western" states.

Just two day before the vote the U.S. announced that it approved long held back ‘smart bomb’ sale to Turkey. The EU held back a report critical on political and human rights in Turkey. Just twelve days ago Merkel visited for a photo op on the Sultan's throne and offered billions for Turkey to stop sending migrants to northern Europe. There was little criticism of Erdogan for seizing the Koza-İpek Group and the various media channels it owns. These "western" measure were, all together, very supportive for Erdogan and likely brought him some additional voters. So do not expect any criticism from these sides even if some evidence of vote manipulation emerges. The fix is now in.

The larger question though is what does this mean for Turkey? What does it mean for the civil war in Turkey against the Kurds? And what does this mean for the Jihadi war on Syria that Erdogan and others are waging?

Posted by b on November 1, 2015 at 18:36 UTC | Permalink | Comments (85)