Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 31, 2018

How Many People Read This Blog And What Does It Take To Run It? - A Donation Request

As I ask you to donate for this blog I feel compelled to detail some numbers.

The system Moon of Alabama runs on does not store individual user data. It only delivers summary statistics. Here is the available overview.

Over the lifetime of this blog its pages have been viewed -in total- about 31,200,000 times. Some 7,000 posts were published here and the readers contributed about 350,000 comments (screenshot [link corrected] taken at 14:30 UTC today).

During the last few months page-views per day varied between 20,000 and 30,000. Each individual reader will view two to three pages per visit. The total average readership is thus up to 10,000 people per day.

Once a while some bigger blog or news site will link to Moon of Alabama. This creates peaks of 100,000 and more page-views per day.

Screenshot taken at 14:30 GMT/UTC today - bigger

The daily number depends on the season, day of the week and other such variables.

The most important factor though is the subject-matter and quality of what I write and post. The pieces about the recent Skripal affair were especially well received.

The average Moon of Alabama post is about 1,000 words long. The aim is to publish one of these per day.

Continuous research is the most time-consuming part of the work. It takes six to eight hours per day to stay current in the fields the blog seeks to cover. An average length piece takes between two and four hours to write and another one or two hours to edit. (Inevitably there will still be mistakes in it.) Reading and policing the 100+ reader comments per day takes another hour. Writing for and running Moon of Alabama is truly a full time job.

That is why your support is absolutely essential to continue this site. Your donations are the only income I have. 

A big thank you to everyone who already contributed to the current Poor Poet campaign.  

bigger

Those who have not done so can still chip in.

Each donation to this Poor Poet - be it $5, $50 or $500 - is equally welcome and needed.

Transaction costs are the smallest when you send cash or a check. You can also use a bank transfer (SEPA/IBAN). Send email to MoonofA @ aol.com (remove the spaces) for the necessary details. (They are the same as before.) You can use a credit card or other means when you donate through the PayPal button below. (The receiving account is in Euro - 1 Euro is about US$ 1.20)

Thank you very much!

Bernhard aka b.

Posted by b on May 31, 2018 at 01:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (47)

The Purpose Of The Babchenko Hoax

The Ukrainian secret service SBU claims it plotted the fake murder of the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko in Kiev to uncover a real murder plot by the Russian state. That makes no sense at all.

The hoax is one of several incidents which dangerously escalate the new cold war.

As former British ambassador Craig Murray comments on the SBU's explanation:

Craig Murray @CraigMurrayOrg - 19:24 UTC- 30 May 2018

If you believe that particular piece of Ukrainian propaganda you are even more stupid than I had already deduced. I wore a book on my head today to prevent Boris Johnson stealing my fridge. My fridge is so there, which is undoubted proof that my scheme worked and Johnson guilty.

Here is how the BBC presents the Ukrainian fairytale:

Ukrainian security chief Vasyl Hrytsak said a sting had been set up to catch hitmen paid by Russian forces.
...
Babchenko said he had been informed a month ago about an alleged Russian plot to kill him. He said he had agreed to co-operate with a counter-operation and had been in constant contact with Ukrainian security services over the course of the past month.

He added that he thought security services had been planning the operation for up to two months.

Mr Hrytsak said the operation had begun after Ukrainian security services were informed about a Russian plot to kill the journalist.

He alleged that Russian security forces had recruited a Ukrainian citizen to find hitmen within Ukraine. He said the citizen had approached several acquaintances, including war veterans, offering $30,000 (£22,600) for the contract killing, one of whom revealed the plot to the security services.

The story as the SBU tells it:

  • the Russian secret service FSB hired a Ukrainian citizen to find someone to kill Babchenko
  • the Ukrainian citizen hires a killer
  • the hired killer tells the SBU about it and cooperates
  • the SBU knew from him who the Ukrainian middleman of the plot was and has now arrested him

If that is the story why would the SBU stage the murder hoax? They cooperated with the hired killer and had contact or access to the man who allegedly hired him. What else was there to know to prevent the alleged plot? What is the evidence they gained?

The official reason for the murder hoax was:

... to detain those responsible and prove the direct involvement of the Russian special service in the preparation of attempted murder of Mr. Babchenko.

That first part was achievable without the hoax. What about the second one? Was that achieved?

Mascha Gessen writes in the New Yorker:

Ukrainian security services claim to have proof that the middleman was hired by their Russian counterpart, the F.S.B. Babchenko offered one piece of evidence: the ostensible assassin, he said, had been shown a photograph of Babchenko taken twenty-five years ago, when he obtained his first internal passport (at the time, the document, a sort of universal domestic I.D., was issued three times in a Russian citizen’s life: at sixteen, twenty-five, and forty-five). Babchenko claims that the photo could be obtained only from security-service files.

Babchenko is 41 years old. There were plenty of recent Babchenko pictures on Facebook and the Russian social network Vkontakte as well as in the media. Are we to believe that Russian security services would use a picture of the sixteen year Babchenko dug up from an old passport file when a three seconds search would have found them hundreds of more recent pictures? Even this 'Holy Babchenko' fake is more useful to identify him than a 25 year old passport picture. The claimed 'evidence' makes no sense.


bigger - source

Babchenko is by no means a holy man. There are reasons why he is despised in Russia:

Дepлorabлe Russian @TeamTrumpRussia - 6:50 UTC - 31 May 2018

Russian opposition journalist who was "killed by Putin" Arcadiy #Babchenko mourning the death of 71 passengers of a small Russian airline domestic flight crash on February 11, 2018.


bigger

While Babchenko was "dead" a staged photo circulated that allegedly showed him killed.


bigger

Where did it come from? Is it another "White Helmets" production?

The U.S. propaganda outlet RFL/RE, seemingly miffed about the Babchenko fake, points to a U.S. connection:

The photo was first published on the Facebook page of a former Ukrainian reporter who says he now works for a shadowy consultancy organization based in the Washington, D.C., area.
...
Yevhen Lauer, the reporter who published the photo along with a caption reading “Damn It, Bitches,” told RFE/RL late on May 29 that he received it from a law enforcement source, whom he declined to identify.

Lauer, who has worked for various Ukrainian media outlets in the past, has more recently been affiliated with Trident Group LLC. Based in the Washington suburb of Arlington, the company says it specializes “in law enforcement, investigations, intelligence gathering and analysis, conflict prevention and conflict resolution, international risk control, executive protection and special operations.”

The company’s president, Yuri Koshkin, confirmed to RFE/RL that Lauer had done work for Trident but said he knew nothing of Lauer’s involvement with the SBU sting operation to nab Babchenko’s would-be killers.

Trident Group is a small company of Washington 'beltway bandits' which consults U.S. companies who want to operate in the former USSR. It is run by two former Russian military officers. Does that make it "shadowy"? It says it has offices in Arlington, Moscow and Kiev. Is it involved in the hoax or does it get framed?

The story of the fake murder of Babchenko made a big wave in "western" media. In 2016 alone 14 journalists were killed in the Ukraine after their names were put on a public hit list maintained by some Ukrainian Nazi outlet. The series of murder received less attention than the recent hoax. What drives the extraordinary sensation?

On the John Batchelor Show Professor Stephen F. Cohen points (@8:00+ min) to the accumulation of defaming anti-Russian stories just before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He sees a parallel to the recent stories and the upcoming soccer Worldcup in Russia. 

Russiagate, the deadly Skripal poisoning and their resurrection, the new sanctions against Russian oligarchs and functionaries, the reissuing of the old report accusing Russia for the downing of the MH17 flight over the Ukraine, the same false allegations of Russian hostility towards gays and now the Babchenko hoax all serve the same purpose. To "isolate" Russia in the global public opinion.

This is all part of the new cold war launched in 2014 by then President Obama after his failed attempt to nab the whole Ukraine out of Russia's sphere.

Another aspect of this cold war are the upcoming large NATO maneuvers near the Russian border just in time for the Worldcup start. I plan to detail those in a future post.

Russia is, as Prof. Cohen argues, far from being isolated. Since the launch of the U.S. campaign against it Russia gained more international standing. Despite U.S. sanctions the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) was attended by some 15,000 business people and politicians from over 120 countries. Japan's Prime Minister Abe, France's President Macron and many other high ranking personalities took part. A week before the Indian Prime Minister Modi and the German Chancellor Merkel visited Putin in Sochi.

It is the Ukraine and the U.S. who are losing international support. Even the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Reporters Without Borders condemned the Babchenko hoax. The new steel and aluminum tariffs against Europe will further split the U.S. from its core allies.

The new cold war propaganda and its various hoaxes have a dangerous aspect. They make it more difficult for the parties to talk. President Trump would be harshly condemned in the cold-war media if he would hold a summit with President Putin. Small incidents, which under normal circumstances would be solved by a phone call and in a peaceful manner, can escalate when the parties don't know and trust each other and no longer talk.

 It is in everyone's interest to avoid that.

Posted by b on May 31, 2018 at 05:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (105)

May 30, 2018

Propaganda Killing Kills Propaganda - First The Skripals, Now Arkady Babchenko Come Back From The Dead

An "enemy of Putin" is attacked. Authorities immediately raise accusations against Russia and the Kremlin. Public condemnation follows. There are calls to sanction Russia.

But the information is murky. The details don't make sense. Critical questions follow. After the while the "dead" come back from death.

The above was the script followed in the Skripal affair. The "deadly nerve agent - of a type developed by Russia-" did not kill at all. Now a similar case happened.

Arkady Babchenko: Ukraine blames Russia for journalist murder - BBC:

Ukraine's Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman has accused Russia of being behind the killing in Kiev of the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko.

"I am confident that the Russian totalitarian machine did not forgive him his honesty and principled stance," the prime minister posted on Facebook.

A Kremlin critic, Babchenko was gunned down outside his apartment on Tuesday.

There were hundreds such headlines since yesterday, all directly or indirectly accusing Russia, the Kremlin or Putin.

Despite lack of any evidence that Russia was involved, one German union of journalists, the DJV, demanded a EU boycott of the worldcup soccer championship in Russia .


bigger

But the case was murky. Babchenko was critical of all Russians who did not protest against the Russian involvement in Syria and Ukraine. When the TU 154 with the Red Army Choir crashed and 92 artists died, Babchenko said that it did not bother him. In his eyes those too were guilty people. That did not make him any friends. When he moved to the Ukraine he was just as cynical towards the people and the Ukrainian government. He raised harsh accusations against the Ukrainian President Poroshenko. Many common people hated him, many issued threats.

After his murder was announced and everyone had had time to "blame Russia", contradicting tales of how the murder happened emerged.

Babchenko was killed by shots in the back or front, the public was told. He was killed while either leaving the apartment or while coming home, depending on which sources the media spoke to. He died in place or in the emergency vehicle. Not even the number of shots that had hit him was consistently reported. The police did not get the story straight. Then news broke in Kiev that the police had been in Babchenko apartment block hours before he was killed. They had manipulated the CCTV. Something was deeply wrong with their story.

Now it turns out that Babchenko is alive and well. No one shot at him. An hour ago he appeared in a press conference (video).

The internal Ukrainian security service SBU said it had created a stunt together with Babchenko. It says that this was done to catch someone who had threatened him.

Reuters Moscow correspondent Polina Ivanova translated live:

#breaking Russian journalist Babchenko that was declared murdered last night is... alive
Says he had to stage his own murder in order to capture someone, apologises to his wife.

#Babchenko: "Special apologies to my wife. Olechka, I am sorry, but there were no options here. The operation took two months to prepare. I was told a month ago. As a result of the operation, one person has been captured, he is being held."

#Babchenko said that he had found out about an assassination that was being planned against him and joined up with Ukrainian security services to catch the killer, and add that according to their info, Russia ordered the murder

#Babchenko, smirking on live TV, says "I did my bit of the job. I'm still alive. Didn't give you the satisfaction."

#Babchenko says person involved in preparing the assassination has been arrested. Says his murder was ordered for $40,000

There have been hundreds of obituaries for #Babchenko published in Russia today by his colleagues, friends, enemies ... which he can now read. Speechless

This will not go down well for Babchenko or the Ukraine. The Ukrainian Prime Minister officially accused Russia of killing the man. But it turns out the the Ukrainian state faked the murder. Babchenko comes back from the dead, proving that the accusations against Russia were false. Just as one false claim is undone the Ukrainian security service says that Russia ordered the failed assassination? Why would anyone now believe a word of what they say?

Russia should be happy. Both affairs, the Skripal and the Babchenko stunt, have been proven to be factless propaganda against Russia.

The German "journalist" union deleted its tweet and an editorial (pic) demanding sanctions against Russia from its website. Tomorrow it will be back attacking those who say that such "journalism" is fake news and propaganda.

More people will wake up to these obvious manipulations. They will ask questions. The usual accusers will have to become more cautious in raising their propaganda claims. Their propaganda "killings" will - in the end - kill their propaganda.

Posted by b on May 30, 2018 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (94)

May 29, 2018

Please Support The Poor Poet

Dear reader, your support is absolutely essential to continue this site.

Moon of Alabama provides news and analysis which mainstream media cover late or not at all. This site is free. It serves original thought and no-nonsense writing on a (nearly) daily basis. It has an open and lively comment section. It is the full-time effort of this single person.

bigger

The growing readership of the blog and your feed back keep me going. But I also need to eat and pay rent. I have little other income. Each donation to this Poor Poet, be it $5, $50 or $500, is welcome and urgently needed. A recurring contribution or institutional sponsorship would be great.

Transaction costs are smallest when you send cash or a check. You can also use a bank-wire transfer. Send email to MoonofA @ aol.com (remove the spaces) for the necessary details. (They are the same as before.) You can use a credit card or other means when you donate through the PayPal button below. (The receiving account is in Euro - 1 Euro is about US$ 1.20)

Thank you!

Bernhard aka b.

Posted by b on May 29, 2018 at 06:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)

Italy - The Beginning of the End of the European Union - by Debs is Dead

by Debs is Dead
lifted from a comment

The news out of Italy over the last two days has the potential to completely change the game as it could end in the destruction of the EU.

The original Euro Community was an admirable ideal as it emphasised the rights of all citizens of member states, guaranteeing them a range of protections from unjust and stupid demagogues. Unfortunately the neolib corporatist globalists took over the machinery and turned it over to a gang of cold-hearted technocrats who used the once estimable governance structure to enforce a draconian monetarist policy. - see Greece.

Now Italy has finally jacked up and the EU, mimicking Amerikan methods that have wreaked so much havoc upon the world (see the 1975 dismissal of the elected Australian Labour Government by the englander queen), the EU has bribed, blackmailed or extorted the Italian president Mattarella, into destroying Italy's newly elected government just because he suspects this government sees Italy's future outside the Franco-German dominated Eurozone (Germany bludgeons with money, France has the military power). Italy's prez just like Australia's Governor-General is alleged by the PTB to be apolitical then when the ordure hits the ventilator citizens discover that the loudmouths weren't nutter conspiracy theorists, they had been speaking the truth.

The new government is a strange marriage of left and right which perplexes neolibs but makes sense to voters who aren't over the moon about the innate racism of the rightists or the old school leftists regard for centralisation, but who consider that the extreme tendencies will be cancelled out with the new government unifying around their shared belief in the primacy of the Italian people. Mattarella has completely ignored the election result and is trying to install an IMF technocrat as the leader of an unelected government. Even that worthless neolib whore england's grauniad sees Matarella's move as problematic:

Privately, some analysts who were supportive of Mattarella said it was far from clear whether he had made the right moves and whether his actions would inflame populist sentiment at a fragile moment in Italian history.

It pays to remember that unlike Greece who had suffered the effect of being oppressed and robbed by the Amerikan installed fascist military junta for 40 years, a junta which simply took control of the pre-1945 German Nazi machinery, Italy has been somewhat luckier. Although Amerika used the likes of heroin pushers/pimps Meyer Lansky and Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano to install a mafia government, Italians successfully used their system, which was freer than Greece's to push back The Italian economy is number 3 after Germany and France in the EU. The EU needs Italy.

Remember when the same stunt was attempted in Greece, the people chucked out the cold hearted arsehole at first opportunity (even though they reckoned without the spineless puppet Tsipras (of course the Italians have checked out their nominees thoroughly to ensure there should be no repetition), but the Italian constitution which Mattarella has so shamelessly used and perverted to pull his stroke, will bring his strategy undone.

That same constitution gives parliament the power to veto the President's pick, which it almost certainly will do, meaning there will be an immediate new election, one where a majority of Italians appalled by their Presidents tyranny will swing behind M5S and the Northern League with a vengeance and the odds of Italy staying in an unreformed EU must be considered to be extremely slim.

The real question is will Merkel and Macron have the good sense, will and political control to recognise that the jig is up and it is long past time to make the remote Brussels EU mechanism far more responsive to the wants and needs of its members' citizens?

Such a move would almost certainly take the momentum out of the little englander's Brexit as while it wouldn't do a thing for that dying out breed of "Let's put the 'Great' back into Great Britain" mob, it would slice off the somewhat conflicted humanist base who are torn between a desire to be a part of Europe and the need to GTFO of such a crudely undemocratic mess that is the EU in 2018.

I reckon that although Merkel has the balls to force a change she now lacks the political power and though Macron may be able to convince his neolib cronies, every one of whom owes his/her gig to Macron's corrupt deceit skills, Macron lacks the strength of purpose to make changes and save the EU.

Unfortunately that means that Europe is likely to fall into the millennia old warring factions that finally kippered it from 1914 onwards. Amerika will be happy in the short term, but without a unified Europe to back it up, the Amerikan empire will be buggered pretty quick.

Posted by b on May 29, 2018 at 06:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (134)

Syria - Israel Falsely Claims Iran Pull-Back Deal With Russia - Again

Israel loves to pretend that it is an important country which can move other governments to do its bidding.

During last fall, when Russia, Jordan and the U.S. negotiated about a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria, Israel demanded to exclude Iranian troops  and militia supported by Iran from a 40 or even 60 kilometer zone from the occupied Golan heights. Later Israel media announced success: Russia agrees to keep Iran, Hezbollah forces away from Israeli border wrote JPost in October.

But such an agreement was only rumored by Israel. It was never made. Israel had demanded an exclusion zone but neither Syria nor Iran accepted that. The Russian/U.S./Jordan agreement was not published but it obviously included no such clause. In November 2017 Hizbullah successfully fought Syrian "rebels" in the Beit Jinn pocket, a stone throw from the Golan Heights. Iranian advisers have regularly visited and advised Iranian paid pro-government militia, marked green on the map, near the Golan line.


full size with full legend

Now Israel tries the same trick again. It sets expectations and announces agreements where none exist.

The teaser came yesterday when Haaretz headlined: Russia Considers Pulling Back Iranian Forces From Israel-Syria Border

Russia fears Israel's strikes in Syria will undermine Assad's rule. Israel believes Moscow may agree to move the Iranians 60 kilometers away from the Israeli border

Israeli political and military leaders believe Russia is willing to discuss a significant distancing of Iranian forces and allied Shi’ite militias from the Israel-Syria border, Israeli officials say.

The change in Russia’s position has become clearer since Israel’s May 10 military clash with Iran in Syria and amid Moscow’s concerns that further Israeli moves would threaten the stability of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Russia recently renewed efforts to try to get the United States involved in agreements that would stabilize Syria. The Russians might be willing to remove the Iranians from the Israeli border, though not necessarily remove the forces linked to them from the whole country.
...

Israel's Channel 2 followed up by announcing success: Israel, Russia agree to keep Iran and Hezbollah from border

After months of diplomacy between Jerusalem and Moscow, the two sides reached an understanding that Iran should be kept away from Israel's northern border with Syria, Channel 2 News reported on Monday evening.

According to the report, Israel and Russia agreed the Syrian army will be allowed to re-take control of southern Syria up to the border with Israel. Iran and Hezbollah, though, will not be permitted to take part in the takeover.

This is again nonsense for at least two reasons.

1. Russia has no way to keep Iran out of Syria or to tell Iranian advisors and militia where to go or not to go. The Syrian government will not do away with its best ally, Iran, which came to its help before Russia came in and will continue to help while Russia lowers its presence in the conflict. Were Russia to play "either-or" hardball with the Syrian government the decision would likely be against Russia and for Iran.

2. Iran already announced that it will not take part in the upcoming Daraa operation in southwest Syria.

Damascus, May 23, IRNA – Iranian Ambassador to Jordan Mojtaba Ferdowsi-pour said on Wednesday that Iran has no role in military operations in southern Syria and has no presence in the area.

Iran is concentrating the other militia it supports in east Syria for the continuing fight against ISIS and the U.S. occupation forces. (Hezbullah will stay where it is.)

The Iranian announcement was ignored by other media.

The shrewd Russian foreign minister Lavrov used the Iranian decision to offer a deal to the U.S.:

Russia said on Monday only Syrian army troops should be on the country's southern border with Jordan and Israel, ..
...
"Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in on Monday.

The U.S. is holding the border station of al-Tanf at the border triangle of Syria, Jordan and Iraq. In the same news conference Lavrov accused the U.S. of hiding ISIS forces in a nearby refugee camp. When Lavrov says "the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis" he is offering the (already announced) Iranian pull-back from southwest Syria in exchange for a U.S. pull-out from al-Tanf in the southeast.

The Israeli defense minister Liberman was asked to come to Moscow on Thursday for talks with the Russian defense minister Shoigu. The Russians will likely reinforce earlier warnings against Israeli overreach in Syria. They will also press Israel to pull its strings in Washington in favor of the "mutual bases" deal.

Posted by b on May 29, 2018 at 05:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (43)

May 27, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - ISIS and U.S./Saudi Weapons - Open Thread 2018-26

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

U.S. Secretary of State Pomous Maximus laid out 12 demands towards Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei responded with 6 demands to the Europeans.

How the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the Zionists bought the White House.

Since the Central Bank intervention on Wednesday the Lira stopped its scary drop. I expect it to resume soon.

With their flurry of action the Korean President Moon and Chairman Kim are running circles around the Trump team. This is not the "maximum pressure" on North Korea U.S. president Trump envisioned.


 bigger

Please drop us a dime or two or more.

Here are two more items for you to read:

Hersh describes for Harpers how his classic shoe leather reporting dug up the evidence. A quite amusing read.

CAR with detail data on who supplied ISIS with weapons and ammunition. Unsurprising for those who read here it finds:

Unauthorised retransfer—the violation of agreements by which a supplier government prohibits the re-export of materiel by a recipient government without its prior consent—is a significant source of IS weapons and ammunition. The United States and Saudi Arabia supplied most of this materiel without authorisation, apparently to Syrian opposition forces. This diverted materiel, recovered from IS forces, comprises exclusively Warsaw Pact calibre weapons and ammunition, purchased by the United States and Saudi Arabia from European Union (EU) Member States in Eastern Europe.
...
Supplies of materiel into the Syrian conflict from foreign parties—notably the United States and Saudi Arabiahave indirectly allowed IS to obtain substantial quantities of anti-armour ammunition. These weapons include ATGWs and several varieties of rocket with tandem warheads, which are designed to defeat modern reactive armour. These systems continue to pose a significant threat to the coalition of troops arrayed against IS forces.
...
The report concludes that international weapon supplies to factions in the Syrian conflict have significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to IS forces—in numbers far beyond those that would have been available to the group through battlefield capture alone.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on May 27, 2018 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (89)

May 26, 2018

Syria - U.S. Moves To Protect Al-Qaeda And ISIS in Daraa

The Syrian government and its Russian ally plan to clean up the southwest region of Syria around the city of Daraa. The move should open the M5 highway, Syria's lifeline, between Damascus and Jordan and secure the border with Jordan as well as the demarcation line with the Israel occupied Golan Heights.

The operation was supposed to start in a day or two, but the U.S. has now threatened to intervene. As the southwest Daraa governorate is infested with a large Islamic State (ISIS) group as well as al-Qaeda and associated groups the U.S.move must be interpreted as protection for these terrorists.


On July 7 2017 The U.S, Russia and Jordan agreed to set up a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria. The parameters were not publicized and the implementation lagged. Russia had offered to let its military police supervise the zone but the U.S. rejected that. The opening of the important M5 highway to Jordan which was originally part of the plan did likewise not happen. The ceasefire in the region was broken several times. There was also infighting between ISIS and al-Qaeda.

In November 2017 the presidents of the United States and Russia met and agreed to a Memorandum of Principals which covered southwest Syria. The memorandum was not published.

The neo-conservatives at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) disliked the agreement. It headlined Southern Syria Deal Fails to Constrain Iran, al Qaeda. Israel had demanded that no groups associated with Iran should come near the zone, but no such rule was agreed upon. ISW also noted:

Al Qaeda has exploited the ‘de-escalation zone’ to develop a new durable safe haven along the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Neither al-Qaeda nor the Islamic State are covered by the de-escalation and ceasefire agreement. UN Security Council resolutions 2249 and 2254 demand that all UN members fight Al Qaeda, ISIS and individuals and groups associate with them. It calls upon UN member states "to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria".

At that time ISW published a map of southwest Syria which shows the strategic positions taken by ISIS (grey), al-Qaeda (brown) and aligned groups (light brown):


full size with full legend

In December 2017 the U.S. stopped payments to "rebels" in the south west. Some of the groups, including al-Qaeda, receive money, weapons and fire support from Israel.

In April 2018 ISW published a new version of its map of the area. Amusingly al-Qaeda had vanished from it:


full size with legend

Over the last days Syrian helicopters have dropped leaflets over "rebel" held towns in the western part of the rebel held areas. They demand that the rebels give up fighting and reconcile with the Syrian government.

The Iranian ambassador to Jordan Mojtaba Ferdowsi-pour publicly declared that Iran has no role in any military operation in south of Syria. He added:

'After ending its mission in Syria, Iran will not remain in Syria and whenever Syrian government ask us, Iran will leave the country.'

It is obvious that the Syrian government and its Russian allies have all rights to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda independent of any de-escalation agreement. The UNSC resolutions even demand that. But the U.S. thinks different.

Last night the U.S. State Department published this threat:

The United States is concerned by reports of an impending Assad regime operation in southwest Syria within the boundaries of the de-escalation zone negotiated between the United States, Jordan, and the Russian Federation last year and reaffirmed between Presidents Trump and Putin in Da Nang, Vietnam in November. The United States remains committed to maintaining the stability of the southwest de-escalation zone and to the ceasefire underpinning it. We also caution the Syrian regime against any actions that risk broadening the conflict or jeopardize the ceasefire. As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations.
...

One wonders what "firm and appropriate measures" the U.S. has planned for. Strong words? Cruise missile attacks? Nukes?

I have not seen any reaction yet from the Syrian or Russian side.

---
[Moon of Alabama is currently asking for donations. Please support this site.]

Posted by b on May 26, 2018 at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

May 25, 2018

On Sources And Information - The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR) claims to be a one person shop in Coventry, Britain. But that is only the front story. It is part of a larger organization and the intelligence infrastructure used to wage war on Syria.

A few commentators have recently criticized that I used SOHR as a source in some of my pieces. Here is why.

SOHR is not a pure propaganda operation like the White Helmets are. It is relatively truthful in its reporting of events and casualties in Syria. The total casualty count of the war SOHR gives is likely too high due to some estimates it uses in its bottom numbers. But an early check of its detailed accounts showed that its reports from incidents on the ground were mostly correct.

SOHR's numbers have been quoted by about every news outlet in the world, usually in pro-rebel propaganda pieces. But it is not the observatory that turns the information it collects into propaganda. The media do that when they quote SOHR without the necessary caveats or when they disregard it where its information contradicts the official story. The examples below show that this is now often the case.

One of the first descriptions of the one man who allegedly runs SOHR is in a Reuters portrait from late 2011:

With only a few hours sleep, a phone glued to his ear and another two ringing, the fast-talking director of arguably Syria’s most high-profile human rights group is a very busy man.

“Are there clashes? How did he die? Ah, he was shot,” said Rami Abdulrahman into a phone, the talk of gunfire and death incongruous with his two bedroom terraced home in Coventry, from where he runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

When he isn’t fielding calls from international media, Abdulrahman is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife.

The idea that one man alone could keep track of all casualties in Syria, or stay in contact with so many local contacts on the ground, never made sense. It is simply too much work for one man who also runs a shop and cares for a family. It was obvious that there was more behind it.

SOHR's main function was to keep a current casualty count of the war in Syria. The Reuters piece noted:

According to the observatory’s latest figures, 3,441 civilians and 1,280 security forces have been killed.

The overall number in the casualty count SOHR gave did make sense. The categorization of the numbers did not. The numbers led casual readers assume that only one side of the war in Syria was armed. The numbers could not explained how the security forces were killed. It took a while before people woke up to that mismatch and asked SOHR. It willingly answered the question. But only few reports, like this one from June 2012, used the answer and explained the mismatch to their readers:

Those killed since March last year comprised 9,862 civilians, 3,470 soldiers and 783 army deserters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog counts rebel fighters who are not deserters from the army as civilians.

This was a technical correct but crude mislabeling of killed "civilians", most of which were in fact anti-government fighters. But SOHR did not hide its dubious categorization. Anyone who asked was provided with the caveat above. But only few journalist asked despite the obvious mismatch in the casualty numbers and even fewer put the caveat into print. You will hardly find it in any current news piece that uses SOHR numbers.

Patrick Lang, a trained military spy and former Middle East chief of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, asserted several times that the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" is run by MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service.

Peter Hitchens recently reported that SOHR is at least partially financed by the British Foreign Office:

Talking of war, and Syria, many of you may have noticed frequent references in the media to a body called the ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’, often quoted as if it is an impartial source of information about that complicated conflict, in which the British government clearly takes sides. The ‘Observatory’ says on its website that it is ‘not associated or linked to any political body.’

To which I reply: Is Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office not a political body? Because the FO just confirmed to me that ‘the UK funded a project worth £194,769.60 to provide the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights with communications equipment and cameras.’ That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? I love the precision of that 60p. Your taxes, impartially, at work.

MI6 is subordinated to the British Foreign Office. The paltry sum of £195,000 pounds was surely not the only money Rami Abdulrahman received for more than seven years of daily work. There must be a rather large organization behind the dozens of news items and tweets the observatory puts out each and every day.

The SOHR reports often contain valuable information.

Over the last year, as the Syrian government side regained more and more ground, a new phenomenon arose. SOHR appeared less in western media reports on Syria. Its version of events was often missing in stories that involved U.S. operations. The reason was simple. SOHR continued to report somewhat truthful versions of events while the propaganda moved further away from reality.

Here are several incidents of many more where SOHR contradicted the official western propaganda tale. In reports about these incidents in the New York Times and elsewhere the SOHR's version of the events was simply ignored.


On October 13 2017 the U.S. coalition made a deal with the Islamic State to give free passage for ISIS fighters from the besieged Raqqa to south-east Syria. The U.S. military, which leads the coalition, loudly denied that it was involved.

SOHR disagreed:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights received information from Knowledgeable and independent sources confirming reaching a deal between the International Coalition and the Syria Democratic Forces in one hand; and the “Islamic State” organization in the other hand, and the deal stated the exit of the remaining members of the “Islamic State” organization out of Al-Raqqah city.


In January 10 2018 SOHR reported that the U.S. coalition released 400 ISIS fighters from prison and that at least 120 of them joined the Syrian Democratic Forces led by Kurdish fighters and U.S. special forces. It confirmed several U.S. attacks which had killed dozens of civilians in east Syria. The U.S. military denied that it let ISIS fighters go and it denied all civilian casualty claims.


On April 8 2018 the White Helmets propaganda organization claimed that a chlorine gas attack in East-Ghouta had killed dozens.

SOHR disagreed. It reported of people suffocating after their shelter came down on them. It did not report of any gas incident or casualties:

[A]mong the casualties there are 21 civilians including 9 children and 3 women were killed as a result of suffocation caused by the shelling which destroyed basements of houses as a result of the violence bombardment that stopped about an hour ago on Douma area.

Witnesses on the ground and especially the doctors in the field hospital in east-Ghouta also spoke of suffocation and breathing problems caused by dust clouds after intense aerial bombing and artillery strikes.


On April 16 the U.S. launched a large cruise missile attack against Syria "in retaliation" for the fake gas attack in east-Ghouta. It claimed  that all 105 cruise missiles hit the three intended targets.

SOHR disagreed:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights managed to monitored interception by the regime forces to tens of missiles which targeted their positions and military bases in the Syrian territory, where several intersected sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory, that the number missiles that were downed, exceeded 65 missiles, of the total number of missiles fired by the Trio Coalition ...

SOHR also said that eight targets were attacked but only three received hits. The SOHR report is consistent with witness reports, earlier published U.S. targeting plans and with statements by the Syrian and Russian military.


On May 24 2018 Syrian positions in east Syria near the T-2 pumping station were first attacked by ISIS and then by U.S. airplanes. The U.S. denied to have attacked there.

SOHR disagreed:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned from several reliable sources that the airstrikes that were carried out on sites of the pro-regime gunmen in Desert Deir Ezzor; have caused human losses, where the Syrian Observatory documented the killing of at least 12 pro-regime gunmen of non-Syrian nationalities, as a result of the airstrikes that were carried out by warplanes believed to belong to the International Coalition, which targeted positions of the above-mentioned forces near the 2nd Station “T2”, which is more than 65 km away of al-Bokamal city in Deir Ezzor Desert, while others were injured with varying severity, and the death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situation.

The Russian, Syrian or Iraqi air force are generally not operating in the east, southwards of the Euphrates. Only U.S. coalition planes are flying there. It is thus very likely that the SOHR report is correct.


Patrick Lang, the former DIA Middle East chief and trained spy, always urges to distinguish between information and its source. A reputable source can give bad information. A source with a bad reputation may nonetheless make correct claims.

There are a few simple rules I use to come nearer to the truth:

  • Every source is biased.
  • One has to compare bits of information from different sources.
  • One must apply logic and reasonability checks to further weed the good from the bad.
  • If a report cites another source go to the original to check if the quote is correct, complete and not out of context.
  • If it does not sound or feel right the information is probably wrong.
  • If an alleged act of a rational entity is against the interest of that entity it probably did not happen.
  • If a claimed behavior of an entity is inconsistent with earlier observed behavior of that entity the claims are likely wrong.

SOHR, despite being an intelligence outlet of a government hostile to Syria, can be regarded as a relatively reliable source. Some of its reports may well be wrong or slandered. It is on us to discriminate them. It should not prevent one from using it.

 

[Moon of Alabama is currently asking for donations. Please support this site.]

Posted by b on May 25, 2018 at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

May 24, 2018

How John Bolton Sabotaged The North Korea Talks

U.S. President Trump just canceled the planned summit with North Korea's chairman Kim Jong-Un. The two were supposed to meet on June 12 in Singapore. In a letter to Kim Jong-un, released to the media, Trump accused North Korea of hostile statements which, according to him, make the summit impossible:

Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I fell it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long planned meeting.

Since the very first summit talk National Security Advisor John Bolton set impossibly high expectations for the results. Trump fell for it.

The various 'hostile statements' go back to remarks by Bolton who has for some time compared disarmament of North Korea to Libya. On April 29 Bolton again asserted that the 'complete de-nuclearization' of North Korea would follow the 'Libya model'. North Korea never really offered to 'de-nuclearize'. It rejects the 'Libya model' for two reasons:

  • When Libya made peace with the U.S. it was not a nuclear capable state which North Korea is. North Korea demands to be seen as equal to other nuclear armed states.
  • Libya's transfer of the little nuclear production equipment it had was followed a few years later by a full fledged war waged by France, the U.K. and the U.S. against Libya and its government under Muhammad Ghaddafi. The war destroyed the country. North Korea has no intent to allow a repeat of such treason.

North Korea pushed back against the Bolton statement. On May 16 the White House made amends by not endorsing what Bolton said:

Referring to the Libya comparison, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that she hadn't "seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using.

"I haven't seen that that's a specific thing. I know that that comment was made. There's not a cookie cutter model on how this would work."

But a day later Donald Trump was asked about the Libya comparison and he seemed to agree with it:

“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.”

We called that the 'art of the mafia deal': "Sign here or we will kill you." Signing under threat is something North Korea will never do.

The U.S. media played down Trump's talk as somewhat off-the-cuff. North Korea did not react to it. The summit train was still on track.

But on May 21 Vice President Pence revived the issue in an interview with Fox News:

PENCE: We really hope that Kim Jong-un will seize the opportunity to dismantle his nuclear weapons program and do so by peaceable means. You know, there were some talk about the Libya model last week. And you know, as the president made clear, you know, this will only end like the Libya Model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn't make a deal.

MACCALLUM: Some people saw that as a threat.

PENCE: Well, I think it's more of a fact. President Trump made it clear the United States of America under his leadership is not going to tolerate the regime in North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that threaten the United States and our allies. We've made it clear that we are continuing to bring economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea that all options are on the table to achieve that end.

It was clear from the beginning that North Korea would not negotiate a complete de-nuclearization and would not talk while under such a threat. As the Washington Post noted: The more Pence and Trump say ‘Libya,’ the angrier North Korea gets.

The continuation of the Libya comparison was now a tactic to avoid the little prepared summit talks while blaming North Korea for the failure. The response from North Korea to Pence's remarks was quite salty but not overly hostile. Unlike Trump it did not threaten "total decimation":

Choe Son Hui, the DPRK's vice foreign minister, said she would put forward a suggestion to DPRK top leader Kim Jong Un for reconsidering the DPRK-U.S. summit scheduled for June 12 if the United States continues with hostile remarks and actions, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
...
Calling the remarks of Pence "ignorant and stupid," she said that Pence should seriously consider the "terrible consequences of his words" before making such remarks.

"We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that has simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them," she said.

Trump's cancellation letter refers to that statement.

The cancellation comes hours after North Korea, in the presence of a dozen international journalists, blew up several tunnels it had used for nuclear tests. This was a confidence building measure even while it is of little practical value. North Korea is mountainous and has several more tunnels it can use for further nuclear tests.

I now expect another phase of huffing and puffing from both sides. The U.S. will do more fly-bys with nuclear capable bombers and push for more sanctions. North Korea will respond with more nuclear and missile tests.

Trump had expected a fast victory and probably even a total de-nuclearization of North Korea. He dreamed of a Nobel Peace Prize. But North Korea had offered de-nuclearization only as a long term aspiration for the whole world. Giving up its nuclear capabilities would be suicidal as the U.S. will not honor any security guarantees it might give in exchange. Trump proved such when he canceled the JCPOA deal with Iran.

When the summit between North and South Korea took place on April 27, I had identified several potential spoilers for a disarmament and peace process. John Bolton was one of them. His introduction of the 'Libya model', which Trump and Pence who are both novices in international talks then took up, sabotaged the deal.

The largest known rare earth deposit of this world will continued to be out of Washington's reach.

Posted by b on May 24, 2018 at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (114)

British Hostage Video Of Yulia Skripal Released

Yesterday the British news agency Reuters published a hostage video and a statement of Yulia Skripal:

[Miss] Skripal was speaking from a secret location in London as she is under the protection of the British state. She was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital about five weeks after the poisoning and has not been seen by the media until now.

bigger

We had earlier noted the Silence of the Skripals, the D(SMA)-notices issued by the British government to prevent deeper British media reporting on the case and the obvious disinformation peddled by British government sources. (All previous Moon of Alabama reports on the Skripal case are linked at the bottom of this piece.)

The British government claims that the 'former' British spy Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by a deadly nerve agent of the Novichok group. According to British government leaks to the media the nerve agent was applied either through a suitcase, a box, flowers, spiked drinks or food, car vents, mini drones, a front door, cereal or a door handle in the form of a spray, gel or liquid. The British government loudly accused "Russia" of being responsible for poisoning of the Skripals but has not identified any individual who might have carried out such an attack.

In the new Reuters video Yulia Skripal gives a memorized and pressed monologue which declares that she does not want to be contacted by her cousin, grandmother, the Russian government or anyone else. The statement was pre-written in stilted, bureaucratic English language. On camera Yulia Skripal used a Russian version of the English text which she likely had not translated herself.

If this would have been a video and statement of a British citizen in 'protective custody' of the Russia state the British media and government would surely claim that these were made under duress.

Yulia Skripal looked well but for a scar on her throat which might be from an earlier trachea cut.


bigger

Reuters published an additional report and video which also shows her signing a handwritten statement (pdf) with the same text she read on camera.

The statement is quite similar to the earlier one issued by the Metropolitan Police on April 11 "on behalf of Yulia Skripal". Both statements include a bureaucratic expression directed at the Russian embassy which no freely speaking person would ever use:

At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services.

The English version of the handwritten statement is without mistakes, the Russian version has several corrections.


bigger

The Russian embassy in Britain expressed its concerns:

We are glad to have seen Yulia Skripal alive and well. The statement she read out contains new information. However, the video shown only strengthens our concerns as to the conditions in which she is being held. Obviously, Yulia was reading a pre-written text. More than that, judging by quite a few elements, the text was a translation from English and had been initially written by a native English-speaker. The handwritten letters signed by Yulia in Russian and English confirm this impression.

With all respect for Yulia’s privacy and security, this video does not discharge the UK authorities from their obligations under Consular Conventions. The UK is obliged to give us the opportunity to speak to Yulia directly in order to make sure that she is not held against her own will and is not speaking under pressure. So far, we have every reason to suspect the opposite.

On May 18 Yulia's dad was reported to have been released from the district hospital in Salisbury:

Mr Skripal is being protected by 24-hour armed guard at an MI5 safe house after leaving hospital earlier this week, sources have revealed.

No pictures or statements of Sergej Skripal were published.

While still in hopsital Yulia Skripal had once called her cousin in Russia. Until yesterday Yulia Skripal's grandmother and her cousin in Russia had heard nothing else from their relatives:

Meanwhile, Skripal's mother has demanded she be allowed to speak to her son. Yelena, who has not heard from the former spy since he was poisoned, has told a relative today that she wants to speak to him.

Yelena's carer Viktoria Skripal, who has been twice refused a British visa to see him and her cousin Yulia said: 'We have just told the news to his elderly mother who has been waiting for more than two months for any word from him or Yulia,' said Viktoria. 'She is begging the hospital, or whoever now decides Sergey's freedom of movement and speech, to please allow him to call her.'

Some of Yulia Skripal's "handwritten letters" (plural) the Russian embassy mentioned above might address her relatives.

The British government blamed the Russian state for the presumed attack on the Skripals. Its sole argument is that the alleged nerve agent used was from a group of chemical agents which were originally developed in the Soviet Union. That argument was always nonsense. The Novichok groups of chemicals was well known, a book had been published about them, Iranian scientist had synthesized them and added their data to the international chemical weapon database. The Czech republic had admitted that it produced some of them.

In the early 1990s German spies acquired some Novichok substance from a contact in the former Soviet Union. It was analyzed in Sweden and the results were shared with some NATO allies:

The Germans were privy to the poison’s chemical formula in the 1990s thanks to a sample from a Russian scientist who defected, German media reported. The compound was first analyzed in a laboratory in Sweden. Afterwards, the formula was sent to Germany’s Ministry of Defense and the BND.

It was under orders from former German chancellor Helmut Kohl that the BND informed the CIA and MI6, the respective intelligence agencies of the United States and Britain. Since then, small quantities of the poison have been produced to test antidotes, gauges and protective gear. The Czech republic had also produced some Novichok.

The British government accusations against Russia have no sound basis. Its chemical weapon laboratory in Porton Down, a few miles from Salisbury, surely has made Novichok agents. These are simple compounds anyone with knowledge of organic chemistry and access to a decent laboratory can create. Dave Collum is professor for organic chemistry at Cornell University. He had criticized the British claim that only Russia could have produced the agent that allegedly hurt the Skripals. He put his thesis to a test. Only one of his 15 students did not manage the task:


bigger

The claims the British government made about the Skripal case are nonsensical. It is entirely possible that the Skipal's were victims of simple food poisoning or suffered from an overdose of Fenatnyl. The British government used the case to increase hostility towards Russia while diverting the public from its failures in the Brexit negotiations. There is historic precedence for such false accusations against the Russian state.

The Skripal case is also related to the "Dirty Dossier" the "former" British spy Christopher Steele created to defame U.S. President Donald Trump. Sergej Skripal may well have written parts of it. A fact which the British government is trying to hide.

The Skripal's were probably hurt. The British accusations against Russia caused huge damage in international relations. But the biggest casualty of the case might be the trustworthiness of the British media.

Where are the deep investigations, the intriguing questions, the door stepping of witnesses in this case? Why are no serious questions asked about the dubious claims made about the case? How did the Skripals survive a nerve agent "ten times as deadly as VX"? Why is there no further digging into the Steele dossier relation?

More questions need to be asked. Who is the media servicing with its obsequious behavior? Why?

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the Skripal case:

March 8 - Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
March 12 - Theresa May's "45 Minutes" Moment
March 14 - Are 'Novichok' Poisons Real? - May's Claims Fall Apart
March 16 - The British Government's 'Novichok' Drama Was Written By Whom?
March 18 - NHS Doctor: "No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury"
March 21 - Russian Scientists Explain 'Novichok' - High Time For Britain To Come Clean (Updated)
March 29 - Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection"
March 31 - Hillary Clinton Ordered Diplomats To Suppress 'Novichok' Discussions
April 3 - Operation Hades Blamed Russia - A Model For The 'Novichok' Claims?
April 4 - It's The Cover-Up" - UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies
April 5 - Novi-Fog™ In Fleet Street - Truth Cut Off
April 6 - The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still ... Food Poisoning
April 7 - A Very British Farce
April 12 - New Developments In The Skripal Drama - Police Statement, OPCW Report Release
April 15 - Were the Skripals 'Buzzed', 'Novi-shocked' Or Neither? - May Has Some 'Splaining' To Do
April 28 - The Silence Of The Skripals - Government Blocks Press Reports - Media Change The Record
May 4 - Media Use Disinformation To Accuse Russia Of Spreading Such

Posted by b on May 24, 2018 at 06:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (99)

May 23, 2018

Turkey's Lira Troubles Threaten Erdogan's Rise To Full Power

In May 2016 Turkey elected a parliament dominated by the AK Party. At that time a prime minister and a cabinet were supposed to run the government while the Turkish president was supposed to be neutral. But Recep Tayyip Erdogan, AKP leader, former prime minister, then president was still the dominant figure and the government was practically chosen and run by him. Two months later a coup attempt against Erdogan failed. Since then Erdogan ruled by emergency decrees. More than 100,000 people were sacked or suspended and 50,000 arrested in an unprecedented crackdown. All independent media companies were taken over or eliminated.

A spring 2017 referendum, barely won, officially changed Turkey's executive into a presidential system. The government would no longer be elected by the parliament but picked by the president. The new system would come into full force by the next election in late 2019. The wannabe-Sultan Erdogan would thereby achieve near absolute power. 

In April 2018 Erdogan called for a snap election on June 24. He feared that a worsening economic downturn would otherwise diminish his chances to win. But the downturn has since accelerated. Today the Turkish currency fell rapidly and the presumed surety of Erdogan's reelection is now in doubt:

The Turkish lira has fallen more than 5% to hit a record low against the US dollar.

The currency has lost more than a fifth of its value this year as fears grow that the government might undermine the powers of Turkey's central bank.

Many investors want to see a rise in interest rates to bring down inflation, which is in double figures.

For consumers of foreign products in Turkey the effect of the currency drop is noticeable:


bigger

Tourists to Turkey will like the move, the Turkish people not so much.

The Turkish government is blaming, as usual, foreign powers:

[Erdohgan's] deputy Bekir Bozdag has implied that foreign powers were to blame for the lira's collapse.

"The people have seen the game and the player, the people have seen the puppet and puppeteers. They will not allow them or give an opportunity," he said.

Two weeks ago Melkulangara Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat, also opined that foreign powers were causing the downturn in Turkey:

Turkey already seems to be facing an intensifying economic and financial storm originating from Washington. On April 30, the International Monetary Fund posted a warning that Turkish economy is showing “clear signs of overheating” (after expanding 7.4% in 2017 as against potential growth pegged at 3.5% to 4%.) On May 1, Standard & Poor’s dealt a surprise blow by downgrading Turkish economy to double-B-minus, on the specious plea that it feared a “hard landing.” Such things do not happen by coincidence.

I believe that Bhadrakumar is wrong. This is not a foreign induced crisis but has been coming for a long time. Already in 2013 I wrote:

Throughout the last years Turkey's economic boom depended on foreign investment -hot money that can leave overnight- and on an increase in consumer debt. With the Lira falling, credit tightening and interests increasing the Erdogan boom will become a bust.

The process took longer than I anticipated at that time, but it has now reached its critical point.

Turkey has a consistently high current account deficit of about 5% of the its GDP. It imports way more than it exports and needs a constant inflow of foreign capital to keep going. Over the last years Qatar was one of Turkey's biggest investors. It inserted huge amounts of money in exchange for Turkish troops protecting Qatar from a Saudi invasion. But even Qatar's capability and willingness to take risk is limited.

Internationally Turkish debt has been downgraded to junk, but not for political reasons. International lenders demand high interest rates from Turkey because they see a high risk.

Erdogan is an Islamist. He has an ideological problem with interests which are (on first sight) prohibited by Islam. The central bank has held the nominal interest rate at 8% even as the core inflation rate rose above 12%. Its primary lending rate is at 13.5% which is lower than the real overall inflation rate. The bank would like to hike rates and run a more restrictive monetary policy to a. lower inflation and b. lower the current account deficit. But Erdogan has bullied the central bank for years to keep its rate (too) low. He believes that higher central bank interest rates causes higher inflation rates. I am not aware of any economist who agrees with that theory. Erdogan has long threatened the political independence of the central bank. On May 14 he was most explicit:

[Erdogan] said the central bank, while independent, would not be able to ignore signals from the new executive presidency that comes into effect after the June polls. A self-described “enemy of interest rates”, Erdogan wants borrowing costs lowered to fuel credit and new construction.

“I will take the responsibility as the indisputable head of the executive in respect of the steps to be taken and decisions on these issues,” he said in the interview broadcast on Tuesday.

Turkey has called snap presidential and parliamentary elections for June 24 and polls show Erdogan as the strongest candidate to win the presidential vote. Turks narrowly backed a switch to an executive presidency in a referendum last year. That change is due to go into effect after the vote.

If Erdogan wins the June 24 election he will practically end the autonomy of the central bank. The bank will have to lower its interest rate and run an even more expansionary monetary policy. An already high inflation rate will increase further, the Turkish Lira will drop even deeper and Turkey will - in the end - default on its debt.

Since the beginning of the year the Turkish Lira fell 20% to currently 4.9 Lira per dollar. On January 1 4.5 Turkish Lira were needed to pay back a 1 Euro loan. Now 5.65 TL are needed. Turkish companies who bought European machinery on credit will get ruined by this fall.

Turkey has an external debt of about 450 billion dollars. While the government debt is relatively small with 23% of GDP, the total private debt is above 170% of GDP and constantly rising. With the drop in the Lira it will be very difficult for Turkish banks, companies and private households to pay back their foreign denominated loans. With interest rates lower than the inflation rate and an ever dropping currency new foreign investments in Turkey lack profitability.

Nominal growth is still high at about 7.5%. But even with that high growth the unemployment rate is still above 10%. Youth unemployment is about 20%. A lack of investment will cause the nominal GDP growth to come down, unemployment will rise and the crisis will accelerate. Consumer confidence, already in negative territory, just dropped further.

This was all inevitable under the expansionist Erdogan program of constant private debt expansion and an ever higher current account deficit. It is quite astonishing that the model worked this long. His public bullying of the central bank has finally destroyed the trust of the foreign investors his model depended on.

Turkey's economy long needed a cooling period to tame inflation and to weed out bad loans. Erdogan has managed to avoid such a period again and again. But that only increased the severity of the eventual downturn which may now end up in a full blown debt crisis.

There is no need to blame "foreign powers" or the "interest mafia" for this outcome.

Depending on how the crisis will develop over the next days and weeks Erdogan may be in big trouble. It is for now still likely that he will win the presidency but his AK Party may well lose its parliamentary majority. That would create a quite interesting "cohabitation" of an executive president with an opposing parliament.

Update - just during the final editing of this piece came news that the Turkish central bank increased one of its primary lending rates from 13.5% to 16.5%. The lira jumped from 4.9 to 4.63 per US$ but is still below yesterday's opening value. Even this relatively large move may have been too little and too late to stop the coming tide.

Posted by b on May 23, 2018 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

May 22, 2018

A Dive Into Washington's Swamp

One year ago Trump pledged allegiance to the Wahhabi Orb. The one Orb that rules them all:

This swearing of an oath to the Wahhabi death star was part of the opening of the potemkinesque "Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology" in Riyadh.
...
The Saudis arranged the whole theater to flatter Trump into fighting Iran for them. They hope to have bought Washington's obedience.

bigger

The Saudi "anti-terrorism" effort was directed at its local rivals Qatar and Iran. Trump strongly supported the Saudi anti-Qatar campaign until the Pentagon finally told him that Qatar hosts the biggest U.S. air-base in the Middle East, which can not be moved at a moments notice.

Now an interesting AP story gives some backdrop to Trump's deference to Riyadh. It is the result of many bribes and lots of shady dealings. If or rather how Trump or his family profited from these is not yet known.

The princes, the president and the fortune seekers:

After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.

He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”
...
Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.
...
In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Broidy and Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP included work summaries and contracting documents and proposals.

Since the UAE and Saudi Arabia opened a feud against Qatar they have sought to win U.S. support for their position. The anti-Qatar campaign is related to the anti-Iran campaign and both have strong Israeli backing. In response to the Saudi efforts Qatar hired a company to hack the emails of the UAE ambassador in Washington DC and of other people involved in the Saudi lobbying effort. Both sides spent huge amounts for bribes, disguised as U.S. campaign donations to Congress and the White House, to influence U.S. legislation and behavior:

Summaries written by Broidy of two meetings he had with Trump — one of which has not been disclosed before — report that he was passing messages to the president from the two princes and that he told Trump he was seeking business with them.

By December of last year, the partners were riding a wave of success in their campaign to create an anti-Qatar drumbeat in Washington.

Saudi Arabia was finding a new ascendancy following Trump’s election. Broidy sought to claim credit for it, emails show, and was keen to collect the first installment of $36 million for an intelligence-gathering contract with the UAE.

It all might have proceeded smoothly save for one factor: the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

There was no "Russian interference" in the U.S. election. All that Mueller found in one year of investigations was some minor old misbehavior by some Trump aides and a Russian Internet marketing company which tried to sell advertisements on its click-bait websites.

The real collusion happened between the Trump family and Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Huge sums from Zionist interests and from the oil dictatorships flew into campaign funds and the relevant pockets. One of their main aims was and is to incite war against Iran. Those with access and influence over Trump, like Broidy and Nader, were hugely rewarded.

The swamp which Trump said he would drain, swallowed him whole.

The protagonists in the AP story include Erik Prince, the private military contractor of Blackwater fame. George Nader, a convicted pedophile, has known Prince for years. He negotiated solatia payments to families of Iraqis who Blackwater mercenaries had killed. In 2012 George Nader helped broker a $4.3 billion arms deal between Russia and Iraq. Erik Prince continues his mercenary business selling his private armies to the UAE and whomever else is willing to pay the right price.

Broidy was involved in the fleecing of the Malaysian development fund 1MDB by the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Up to $4.5 billion have allegedly vanished. While Broidy was pitching the Saudi plans to Trump he also scored a big Pentagon contract.

The question not answered in the long AP story is how Trump or his family profited from the Saudi largess. One benefit was probably through his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who needs a large amount of money to keep his investment in a New York sky-scarper afloat. In early 2017 Kushner met George Nader in New York. Privately Nader referred to Kushner as 'clown prince':

Broidy met Trump once again on Dec. 2. He reported back to Nader that he’d told Trump the crown princes were “most favorably impressed by his leadership.” He offered the crown princes’ help in the Middle East peace plan being developed by Jared Kushner. He did not tell Trump that his partner had complete contempt for the plan — and for the president’s son-in-law.

“You have to hear in private my Brother what Principals think of ‘Clown prince’s’ efforts and his plan!” Nader wrote. “Nobody would even waste cup of coffee on him if it wasn’t for who he is married to.

Days after Broidy’s meeting with Trump, the UAE awarded Broidy the intelligence contract the partners had been seeking for up to $600 million over 5 years, according to a leaked email.

In early 2017 Kushner's family tried to get Qatari money for the family’s distressed asset at 666 Fifth Avenue. The Qataris declined. A few weeks later Jared Kushner supported the Saudi blockade against the "funder of terrorism" Qatar. In March 2018 Qatar was finally willing to pay up to save the Kushner's real estate. Shortly thereafter Trump endorsed Qatar as an ally in the fight against terrorism.

This sequence of events is of course pure coincidence. Trump and his family can not be bribed. They float way above the swamp. (Just kidding.)

In related news the Psy-Group, an Israeli company which influenced social media for the Trump campaign, has now been shut down:

According to the New York Times report, Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met with Mr. Zamel months before the elections. At the time, Psy-Group was developing a proposal for a "covert multimillion-dollar online manipulation campaign” to aid Mr. Trump to win the elections, the New York Times reported, citing four people familiar with the matter.

The campaign had been reportedly canceled after Psy-Group learned its involvement in the elections would be illegal. The New York Times reported Mr. Zamel still received a payment estimated at around $2 million from a Trump associate.

Paid by whom? And for what?

One year after the launch of the Mueller investigation of undue foreign influence in U.S. campaigns and politics, it is finally looking at the real culprits. No one has more influence in U.S. elections and policies than the Zionists and the Gulf monarchies. This is then the point where the Mueller investigation will likely be shut down. There are too many people benefiting from the swamp and all the slush money moving around. Neither party in Congress has an interest in publicizing their relations to Zionist campaign money and Gulf monarchies' bribes.

With Mueller gone it will be another free for all. The swamp will grow bigger.

 

Posted by b on May 22, 2018 at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (100)

May 21, 2018

Trump's New Campaign Against Iran Will Not Achieve Its Aims

The Trump administration made it perfectly clear today that it wants regime change in Iran by whatever means it has.

In a well promoted speech at the Heritage Foundation Secretary of State Pompeo laid out twelve demands towards Iran. He threatened the "strongest sanctions in history" if those demands were not fulfilled.

But the demands do not make sense. They only demonstrate the incompetence of the Trump administration. The means the Trump administration laid out to achieve its aims are not realistic and, even if they were implementable, insufficient to achieve the desired results.

Iran is asked to stop all uranium enrichment. Stopping enrichment is a no-go for Iran. The program has wide support in Iranian politics as it is seen as an attribute its sovereignty.

Pompeo demands that Iran closes its heavy water reactor. Iran can not close its heavy water reactor. It does not have one. The one it was building in Arak was disabled under the nuclear agreement (JCPOA). Concrete was poured into its core under supervision of IAEA inspectors. How can the Secretary of State of the United States make such a fact-free demand in a prepared speech?

Another demand is that Iran ends its support for the Palestinian resistance. This is also a no-go for Iran as long as the Zionist occupation of Palestine continues. There is a demand that Iran does not develop "nuclear capable" missiles. Iran had already committed to that under the JCPOA Trump killed. Another demand is that Iran pulls back all troops from Syria,and ends all interference in Iraq, Yemen,  Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Together these demands ask for a wholesale change of Iran's national character and policies. It is apparently supposed to become Lichtenstein.

The Trump administration has no way to achieve that goal.

With painstaking work the Obama administration managed to get much of the world to agree to sanctions on Iran. It was possible because the other countries trusted Obama's assurances that he would keep his side of the deal and seriously negotiate. International unity and trust was necessary to achieve the nuclear agreement.

Now Trump wants much more but he has no united international front behind him. No one trusts his word. The Europeans are enraged that Trump s threatens them with secondary sanctions if they stick to the agreement they signed and continue to deal with Iran. While they may eventually fold and to some extend stop dealing with Iran, they will also try to circumvent those unilateral U.S. sanctions.

Neither China nor Russia nor India will stop doing business with Iran. For them the unilateral U.S. sanctions are opening new markets. The French oil company Total announced that it will stop the development of Iran's South Pars gas field to avoid secondary U.S. sanctions on its other interests. China said "thank you" and took over the work. Russia will likewise jump in where it can. Its agricultural industry will deliver whatever food stuff Iran wants and needs. It will continue to sell weapons to Iran. China, India and others will continue to buy Iranian oil.

The Trump administration will cause some economic pain. It will also make the U.S. and Europe weaker and Russia and China stronger. The threat of secondary sanctions will eventually lead to the creation of a sanction-secure parallel global economy. The SWIFT banking information exchange which routes international payments between banks can be replaced by country to country systems that do not depend an sanctionable institutions. The U.S. dollar as a universal exchange medium can be avoided by using other currencies or barter. The nonsensical use of economic and financial sanction will end up destroying the U.S. ability to use them as a tool of foreign policy.

The Pompeo speech will unite the people in Iran. The moderate neoliberals around the current president Rouhani will join the nationalist hardliners in their resistance. The demands go way beyond what any Iranian government could concede. An Iran in which the will of its people counts will never agree to them.

The only way the Trump administration could possibly reach its aims is by regime change. But regime change has already been tried in the current Iran and it failed. The "green revolution" was strongly supported by Obama. But it was easily derailed and failed. Various assassination campaigns within Iran did not change its policies. Iran's size and geography make a direct military campaign like in Libya impossible. Iran can retaliate against any strike by hitting U.S. interests in the Gulf.

The U.S. can and likely will continue to attack Iranian forces and interests in Syria and elsewhere. Its military will hassle Iran in the Gulf. The CIA will try to fuel internal Iranian unrest.  Mounting sanctions will damage the Iranian economy. But none of this can change Iran's national spirit as expressed in its foreign policy.

A year or two from now the Trump administration will find that its sanction campaign failed. There will be a push for a direct military attack on Iran. But plans for such an attack were also made under George W. Bush. Back then the Pentagon advised that such a war would cause it very serious losses and was still likely to fail. I therefore doubt that it will ever happen.

What else then is there that the Trump administration can do when its announced Plan A has failed?

 

Posted by b on May 21, 2018 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (122)

May 20, 2018

The MoA Week In Review and Open Thread 2018-25

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Yesterday I planned to write about the FBI spy who tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign. But the Syria piece took longer than anticipated. Now Glenn Greenwald beat me to it:

    The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election

The Intercept should not have used "monitored". Prof. Stefan Halper, a man with deep CIA and MI6 connections, spied on the Trump campaign for the FBI. He wasn't an informant, he was an operator. Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller reported the story on March 25 and was the first to name Halper. Larouche Pub and the American Thinker also ran the story and expanded it further.

After the Daily Caller report came out the FBI tried to hide the name of its spy, telling Congress that revealing the name would endanger the man as well as other 'informants' and secret investigations. The main stream media played along and the anti-Trump 'resistance' feigned outrage that anyone would attempt to look into this. But the name was out there all along for everyone to see, as was the whole story.

Greenwald concludes:

Whatever else is true, the CIA operative and FBI informant used to gather information on the Trump campaign in the 2016 campaign has, for weeks, been falsely depicted as a sensitive intelligence asset rather than what he actually is: a long-time CIA operative with extensive links to the Bush family who was responsible for a dirty and likely illegal spying operation in the 1980 presidential election. For that reason, it’s easy to understand why many people in Washington were so desperate to conceal his identity, but that desperation had nothing to do with the lofty and noble concerns for national security they claimed were motivating them.

Amen.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on May 20, 2018 at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (149)

May 19, 2018

Syria Sitrep - Liberating The M5 Highway, Syria's Economic Lifeline

In this situation report we look at the consolidation of the Syrian government space, discuss the upcoming operatitwelons to secure the vital M5 highway, clear up the S-300 confusion and provide a bit on the political developments.

Over the last twelve months the Syrian Arab Army and its allies made a lot of progress.


May 20 2017 - bigger

The government held area was extended to the Euphrates and the Syrian-Iraqi border. Deir Ezzor was liberated. The border to Lebanon was secured. All "rebel" enclaves within the government held areas (except the ISIS desert pocket) were consolidated.


May 19 2018 - bigger
After clearing up east-Ghouta east of the capital Damascus the  Syrian government forces were concentrated around the Yarmouk camp south of the city. Yarmouk, originally a Palestinian refugee camp, is a densely build-up area which was held by Islamic State fighters as well as "rebels" paid by foreign countries. The "rebels" have since given up and were evacuated to Idleb governorate. The ISIS held area is reduced to less than a square mile of dense urban terrain. There were contradicting reports today that the ISIS fighters had given up and were ready to evacuate. Whatever they decide the area will be liberated in a week or so. The Syrian capital will then be completely secure.

Until two weeks ago a large area around al-Rastan between Homs and Hama was still held by mostly local "rebel" forces. The Syrian government sent its Tiger forces and an ultimatum - give up or die. The "rebels" decided to avoid a fight which they would surely have lost. They agreed to be evacuated and were dumped into Idleb. Al-Rastan is back in government hands. This move freed the M5 highway between Homs and Hama.

The M5 highway is the main north-south artery of Syria. It connects Gaziantep in Turkey with Amman in Jordan. The highway runs through the main Syrian cities of Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus. Before the war started all transit traffic between Turkey and the rich Gulf countries as well as most of the internal Syrian commerce ran along this road. Turkey, Syria and Jordan have a common economic interest in securing and reopening this important lifeline.


M5 highway - bigger

The next strategic task for the Syrian army is therefore to secure the M5 highway in its full length.

In the south of Syria the M5 connection to Jordan runs through the eastern part of the "rebel" held area (green) towards al-Mafraq in Jordan. The border to Jordan is closed for the "rebels" and tightly controlled. There have been talks between Jordan and some of the "rebel" groups with the aim of ending the conflict in the south but they have so far failed.


bigger

The Syrian army has two possible ways to proceed in the south.

It could move from the northern border triangle of Lebanon, Syria and the Zionist occupied Golan heights (purple) southwards along the demarcation line and down to the border of Jordan. UN observers could return to the Golan demarcation line, monitor the operation and prevent it from escalating into a war with Israel. The move would isolate the al-Qaeda and ISIS "rebels" in the area from their Israeli supplies. The Takfiris could then be pressured from the west, north and east and a general cleanup would follow. The move would be militarily and politically dicey as Israel would probably try to prevent it. But it would also solve an important political problem once and for all. The Russian command should talk with Israel and discuss this plan. 

The politically and militarily easier move is to proceed from Daraa to the Jordan border and to thereby encircle the eastern part of the rebel held area. The eastern part can then be liberated slice by slice. This would allow for unhindered M5 traffic from Damascus towards al-Mafraq and Amman but it would leave the ISIS/al-Qaeda pocket along the occupied Golan heights as a festering problem.


In the north the M5 highway between Hama and Aleppo runs through the eastern part of the "rebel" held Idleb governorate. The Syrian army will have to take control of it before the road can be reopened. North of Aleppo towards Turkey the highway goes through an area which is currently controlled by Turkish forces. These are for now able to secure the road.

Idleb governorate is held by various "rebel" groups with the the al-Qaeda aligned Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) being the strongest one. Idleb had been declared a de-escalation zone under Astana rules and Turkey set up twelve observation points to watch over the border of the area. There has been an immense amount of infighting between HTS (dark green) and other "rebel" groups (light green).


by Suriyakmaps - bigger

On May 14 and 15 Turkish, Russian and Iranian negotiators met for the ninth round of Syria negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan. There was no announced progress but the joint statement again emphasizes "the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria."

It was probably in Astana that an agreement was made about the northern part of the M5 highway. Shortly after the Astana talks a report by a well connected source (nicknamed after a Russian sniper hero) said that Turkey informed the "rebels" in Idleb governorate that they will have to evacuate the area east of the M5 highway between Hama and Aleppo. The Syrian army would move in to secure the highway. Should the "rebels" not follow the Turkish advice the Syrian army will move into Idleb governorate by force from the east and south to push the "rebels" westwards beyond the highway line.

As soon as the M5 is under full control Syria's commercial lifelines to all neighbors will be reestablished. The economy of Syria will then experience an urgently needed significant boost.

---

There have been discussion in the comments here and elsewhere about the Russian on and off announcement of S-300 air defenses in Syria. These discussions lacked military knowledge.

Air defenses are layered:

  • Local air defense uses man portable air defense missiles (MANPADs), 20 mm machine cannons and machine guns. Its reach is about 2,000 meters.
  • The next level are systems with a range of up to 20 kilometers. Syria has about 40 Pantsyr-S1/2 systems mounted on trucks. (The Russian forces in Syria have about 20 additional Pantsyr-S systems to protect their bases.) These are mobile and an excellent point defense for airports and other significant assets. During its last attack on Syria an Israeli missile could destroy one Pantsyr system only because it was being reloaded and could therefore not react. 
  • The next air defense layer are mid range systems like the Syrian S-200 or the more modern Russian BUK-2. These systems have a reach of about 150 kilometers. The old S-200 systems Syria currently uses are fired from fixed positions. That makes them extremely vulnerable to pre-programmed precision missile attacks. Israeli strikes have destroyed several such systems in Syria.
  • The fourth layer of air defense are high attitude, long range area defense systems. The U.S. has THAAD and Russia has the S-300/ S-400 systems. These have ranges beyond 300 kilometers.

The longer range systems of the higher layers always need additional protection by the lower layers. An S-300 missile costs several ten-thousands of dollars but can not defeat a small toy drone of the kind ISIS uses to drop hand-grenades onto targets. It needs be protected against these. Pantsyr systems and a few dozen men with MANPADs and machine-guns can do that. 

It would make no sense to drop S-300 systems into Syria without having established and secured sufficient air-defense layers 1, 2 and 3 below the long range class. They would soon go up in smoke. There are also additional elements of reconnaissance (radar and electronic warfare systems) and communication, command and control that need to be more sophisticated and widespread to operate S-300 systems. All these high end long range systems need highly trained operators and are very expensive.

What Syria currently needs are more Pantsyr systems. It urgently needs to replace the old S-200s with the modern and mobile BUK-2. These systems make way more sense for the Syrian battlefield than the famed S-300. They also have the advantage of being significantly cheaper. 

For a more general discussion of Russia's role in Syria beyond the S-300 nitpicking, I highly recommend the latest piece by Elijah Magnier: Russia is in the Middle East to halt the war, not take part in the Iran-Israel Conflict.

---

On May 14 the Syrian President Assad met the Russian President Putin in Sochi. They discussed the political process needed to bring an end to the war. Assad committed to UN supervised negotiations about constitutional changes in Syria but rejected the significant changes of the Syrian system which the outside powers wanted to impose. He said:

"We focused on the issue of the Constitutional Committee that should be established following the results of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. We expect to start the corresponding work with the UN. I have confirmed to President Putin today that Syria will send the list of its delegates to the Constitutional Committee to discuss amendments to the current Constitution. It will be done as soon as possible."

That this was said after a meeting with Putin confirms that the Russian attempt to write a new constitution for Syria is dead. There will be no semi-federalization for the Kurds or others which would weaken the central government and no measures that would weaken the position of a Syrian presidency. Amendments can be made, but the basic structure will stay.

Posted by b on May 19, 2018 at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

May 18, 2018

Trump's Newest Threat To North Korea Makes A Deal Impossible

President Trump again derailed the negotiations with North Korea. It will be difficult to get them back on track. The attitude he showed  makes it unlikely that any deal will be made.

Tuesday night North Korea threatened to cancel the summit with U.S. President Trump. Remarks by U.S. National Security Advisor Bolton that the "Libya model" would be applied to North Korea were taken as insult.

Libya had bought some equipment that could be used to eventually start Uranium enrichment. But it never had a coordinated program to develop nuclear weapons nor did it have the industrial and academic base to pursue such a project. To get out of sanctions Libya gave up the little material it had. All was shipped to the U.S. before the sanctions were lifted. Bolton probably referred to only that part of the "Libya model".

But there is also the other part. A few years after Libya had given up its minuscule nuclear stuff France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. (FUKUS) waged a regime change war against it. With U.S. help Muhammad Ghaddafi was murdered by radical Islamists and Hillary Clinton even joked (vid) about it. Libya has since devolved into total chaos and a multi-sided tribal war with continued foreign meddling.

North Korea naturally rejects both parts of the Libya model. It sees itself -quite rightly- as a full fledged nuclear state. It demands negotiations on an equal base.

On Wednesday, after the North Korean threat to cancel the summit, the White House spokesperson pulled back on Bolton's "Libya model":

Referring to the Libya comparison, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that she hadn't "seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using.

"I haven't seen that that's a specific thing. I know that that comment was made. There's not a cookie cutter model on how this would work."

The train to the summit seemed back on its track. Then Donald Trump derailed it again.

During a press conference yesterday he was asked about the "Libya model" issue (vid) and, in a seemingly off the cuff remark, managed to push the divisive comparison to a new level:

“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.”

One might call that the 'art of the mafia deal': "Sign here or I will kill you."

Some media pretend that Trump was only "assuring" Kim Jong-un. Reuters headlined Trump seeks to placate North Korea's Kim over uncertain summit; the New York Times: Trump and North Korea Rebuff Bolton’s ‘Libya Model’; Politico: Trump offers North Korea’s Kim assurances and a warning.

In my book a thread of "total decimation" is a quite a bit more than "a warning".

The British Guardian had a more realistic take: Donald Trump's threat to Kim Jong-un: make a deal or suffer same fate as Gaddafi.

The threat Trump made shows North Korea that it was right to acquire nuclear weapons and the capability to launch them onto the continental United States. Giving them up would be suicidal.

Trump also mumbled that he would give "strong assurances" to North Korea and Kim Jong-un for their safety should they make a deal. He did not explain what those assurances would be. The way Trump destroyed the nuclear agreement with Iran, which came with "strong assurances" from a U.S president and a UN Security Council endorsement, demonstrates that no assurance the U.S. ever gives is worth the paper it is written on.

When the summit was announced I gave it little chance to succeed because there were too many potential spoilers with interests to keep the conflict with North Korea going. These include John Bolton, the U.S. military and the Japan's president Abe.

North Korea will surely respond to Trump's "total decimation" threat. It will likely pull out of the summit, planned for June 12 in Singapore.  It may come back if the White House backtracks on Trump's remarks. China, which is nudging North Korea and the U.S. towards making a deal, will let the White House know what it needs to do.

But I now believe that the summit, if it takes place at all, has zero chance to succeed. Trump has no knowledge of the political and technical details and no feel for Asian culture. He will huff and puff and insult his negotiation partner. He will likely demand the total nuclear disarmament of North Korea. He will end up with no deal.

Only after that failure will he learn that a "total decimation" of North Korea is not an option he can pursue.

Posted by b on May 18, 2018 at 04:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

Afghanistan - U.S. Military Finds No Fault With Special Forces' Potential Drive-By Murder

On January 9 we wrote about a video some U.S. special force veteran had posted online to promote his tactical clothing brand. The U.S. military launched an investigation into the issue and has now announced its conclusion. Here are the first graphs of the original Moon of Alabama report:

Afghanistan - U.S. Special Forces Commit Drive-By Murder (Video):
A recent video mashup provided by some U.S. Special Force soldiers in Afghanistan seems to show evidence of a warcrime.

A military truck passes a civilian truck on a paved road at normal traveling speed. A soldier fires directly and intentionally at the driver of the civilian truck without any discernible reason.

This is the relevant two second long cut (repeated 5 times) from a private video mix of scenes taken during the last few months in Afghanistan.

The reporting on the video was taken up by several mainstream news sites. The U.S. military in Afghanistan launched an investigation into the incident. Stars & Stripes, a newspaper for the U.S. military, now reports of the official result:

Probe: ‘No criminality’ in incident of soldier shooting into Afghan truck caught on video:
An American servicemember seen in an online video shooting into a moving truck in Afghanistan acted in accordance with military rules, an investigation has found.
...
After a thorough investigation, [the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command] found that the Americans had “acted in accordance with the rules of engagement,” Christopher Grey, a spokesman for the command, said in a statement.

“An Afghan driver ignored several warnings not to encroach on the U.S. convoy, so a non-lethal beanbag projectile was fired at the driver,” Grey said.

It’s not clear where the shooting took place, what units were involved, or whether the driver was injured. Officials did not immediately release a copy of the investigation.

Some critics found the results of the investigation troubling. Matthew Nasuti, a former Air Force captain and military lawyer, said via email that the findings were not credible. He suggested a shot into the driver’s window was too risky and could have caused more harm than warranted.
...
U.S. military officials declined to comment on the incident and referred questions to CIC. A spokesman there declined to provide comment beyond Grey’s brief statement.

Note:

The scene discussed above was only one short take in the longer video. Other scenes were from special force action in Afghanistan. I had  uploaded the full video to the MoonofA Youtube account and linked the unlisted video in the above piece. Youtube took the video down and sent a warning (three warnings and you are out ...). The original link now goes to a page which says:

This video has been removed for violating YouTube's policy on violent or graphic content.

As the video was unlisted, no Youtube search would have found it. Someone must have seen the video on Moon of Alabama, disliked the content or the fact that it was published on, and complained about it to Youtube.

For documentary purposes a copy of the full video is provided here (video, 46 MByte).

Posted by b on May 18, 2018 at 07:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

May 17, 2018

Syria - Inconsistent, Incomplete And Implausible - The OPCW Report On Saraqib Is Another Disgrace

On February 4, two days before a UN Security Council meeting on chemical weapon issues, a Syrian army helicopter flew into Idelb governorate which is held by al-Qaeda. Escaping the quite effective air defenses of the terrorists it dropped two chlorine gas cylinders near a militarily irrelevant agricultural warehouse 40 kilometers away from the front line of the war. Eleven men of fighting age who are living in the al-Qaeda ruled territory were allegedly impacted by the released gas but none of them was seriously hurt.

The implausible story above is the base of a recent report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. All 'evidence' for the tale comes from organizations which tightly cooperated with al-Qaeda and other militant 'rebel' groups in Syria and are paid by 'western' governments opposed to Syria. The implausible story is repeated in the 'western' press without any journalistic skepticism.

The British Guardian writes:

The fact-finding mission by the OPCW on the Saraqeb attack determined that “chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact on 4 February,” it said on Wednesday. The team’s conclusions were based on finding two cylinders that were determined as previously containing chlorine.
...
The incident is by no means the worst chemical weapons attack during the seven-year civil war, but it led to 11 people being treated for breathing difficulties. Western observers said the use of helicopters in the attack suggested Syrian government involvement since the opposition did not have access to helicopters.

Saraqib in Idleb governorate has been in the hands of the Syrian 'opposition' since late 2012/early 2013. In April 2013 Syrian 'rebel' forces alleged that a chemical attack with Sarin took place in Saraqib. However only one person died, allegedly from of Sarin intoxication, while no Sarin traces were found on two other affected persons.

On February 4 2018 new claims were made of a 'chemical attack' in Saraqib. The war front line is far away from Saraqib. No military operation has taken place there for years. The 'chemical attack' allegations came (us usual) at a political convenient time:

Amnesty International has accused the Assad regime of showing “utter contempt” of international law following a chlorine gas attack on the town of Saraqib Sunday. This latest chemical attack comes just one day before the U.N. Security Council failed to agree on a U.S.-proposed statement Monday condemning the continued use of chemical weapons in the war-torn nation.

The Amnesty International report is solely based on anonymous 'witness testimony' from propaganda organizations financed by countries which oppose the Syrian government:

Amnesty International spoke to a volunteer with the Syria Civil Defence who described arriving several minutes after a barrel bomb – the apparent source of the gas – landed in a field 50 metres from an agricultural warehouse. There was no sign of any military targets in the vicinity of the bombing in Saraqeb, which lies in the northwestern province of Idleb and is 41 km from the nearest front-line.

A second member of the Syria Civil Defence team in Saraqeb told Amnesty International that he witnessed the casualties being brought to a medical post. “When they arrived, I saw the rescue team also breathing with difficulty, and they collapsed. The doctors told me that the symptoms of the 11 people - including the three civil defence volunteers - were consistent with a chemical attack, probably chlorine,” he said.
...
The casualties, all of whom were men, have since been discharged.

The so called "Syria Civil Defence" is the White Helmets propaganda organization.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is a intergovernmental organization with the task to implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention. Its acting body is the Technical Secretariat which is currently led by the Turkish career diplomat Ahmet Üzümcü. It is financed by all 192 convention members.

The OPCW report on Saraqib to which the Guardian refers is headlined:

REPORT OF THE OPCW FACT-FINDING MISSION IN SYRIA REGARDING AN ALLEGED INCIDENT IN SARAQIB, SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC ON 4 FEBRUARY 2018 (pdf)

There is one immediate problem with the headline. It insinuates that an OPCW fact-finding mission IN Syria took place. However the report itself says that no OPCW fact-finder entered Syria to investigate the alleged incident in Saraqib.

The OPCW fact-finders interviewed 'witnesses' while being outside of Syria. Access to those witnesses was provided by shady "Non-Government-Organizations" which are financed by governments hostile to Syria. All environmental samples tested by the OPCW laboratories were taken by paid 'volunteers' of the White Helmets propaganda organization. There is no documented 'chain of custody' for the samples.

From the report:

On the morning of 5 February 2018, the OP CW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) became aware of allegations of use of a toxic chemical as a weapon in Saraqib, Idlib Governorate. The FFM assessed the credibility of the allegations based on information collected from open sources and information received from several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

1.2 The FFM interviewed a variety of witnesses including casualties, health workers, and first responders. The team also received environmental samples, which had been collected from the incident location.

Open source material of unknown origin, hearsay from witnesses provided by NGOs which claim that some of their own staff was affected in the incident, and environmental samples of dubious providence is all the OPCW had. That it would base any investigation or report on such weak grounds is already concerning.

The narrative in the report, given by the alleged 'witnesses', is implausible:

5.9 At approximately 21:00, eight men were taking shelter in a basement in the eastern neighbourhood of Al Talil in the city of Saraqib when they heard a notification via radio from a spotter that a helicopter had entered the airspace of Saraqib from the south-east. At approximately 21:15, witnesses reported hearing a helicopter flying above the city and the sound of two “barrels” falling and impacting in close proximity to their location. They also indicated not hearing any explosion.

5.10 According to witness statements, two cylinders (or “barrels” according to most witnesses) fell in an open field surrounded by building structures approximately 200 metres to the south-west of the Agricultural Bank in the eastern part of Saraqib (see Figure 3 below), and 50 to 100 metres to the south-west of the basement mentioned in paragraph 5.9 above.

5.11 Both impact points were in this open field approximately 200 x 200 metres in size, which is in a depression 3 to 4 metres lower than the surrounding urbanised area. The impact locations, as given by witnesses, are shown in Figure 3 below.


bigger

I have highlighted the points in the above quote that let me doubt the story:

  • There are no reports of any Syrian army or air attacks on Saraqib during the last several years. It has been in 'rebel' hands since late 2012/early 2013. The frontlines of the war are far away and have not moved for quite a while. Saraqib is out of reach of the usual battlefield artillery. There was and is no reason for anyone in Saraqeb to take "shelter in a basement" nor is there any reason to have "a spotter" in the area.
  • Just a day before the incident 'rebels' in Idleb shot down a Russian fighter plane. Would the Syrian army risk a helicopter and crew over hostile territory to drop two cylinders with a militarily ineffective gas into an open field far away from the front line and any military position? What for? The Russian air defense radars controls the air space over Syria. Where else should a helicopter have come from?
  • Many MoA readers will recognize this distinct sound of falling barrels (vid). But would one really hear gas canisters falling through the air while sitting in a basement 50 to 100 meters away?
  • The chlorine cylinders that allegedly fell from the air landed in a depression. Chlorine is heavier than air and hugs to the ground. Did the chlorine raise 3 to 4 meters to then creep into a house to then sink down into a basement? How? The description is inconsistent with documented U.S. military experiments (video) in which a large amount of Chlorine released in a depression does not rise beyond 60 centimeters from the ground.

bigger
  • Chlorine, like in toilet cleaners, has a strong smell in even very low concentrations. It effects health only in quite high concentrations. Walking away from a chlorine release and moving to higher ground is sufficient to be safe.

The further descriptions in the report by the 'witnesses' and of the alleged symptoms of the victims by 'medical personal' make likewise no sense.

The UK operated 'White Helmets', (erroneously called the Syrian Civil Defense in the OPCW report), took pictures of two damaged yellow gas cylinders laying in a field and provided various samples to the OPCW. The OPCW gave the samples to two of its certified laboratories to analyze.

Daniel Schulz, a German post-doc scientist specialized in cell biology, points out several problems with the chemical analyses documented in the OPCW report:

〕Daniel Schulz〔 @daniesch - 11:30 UTC - 16 May 2018

Funny enough, one of the designated laboratories found a lot of "Sarin" breakdown products while the other did not. Table 4

Also, puzzlingly, the report states adamantly that no explosion was heard by "witnesses". How do you explain finding TNT in provided samples then? - Table 4

In addition, recall Chemistry 101. Should Cl2 react with humidity in soil, an increase in Cl- ions is to be expected. But where does excess K+ come from? Almost like somebody poured KCl on the ground? - Table 6

Another startling inconsistency is Cl- content in wipes from the inside of cylinders (red) and how it mismatches with soil contamination (green). - Table 5


bigger

The OPCW report does not answer any of the questions raised above. It instead concludes:

7.4 The FFM determined that chlorine, released from cylinders through mechanical impact, was likely used as a chemical weapon on 4 February 2018 in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqib.
...
7.5 The FFM also noted the presence of chemicals that can neither be explained as occurring naturally in the environment nor as being related to chlorine. Furthermore, some of the medical signs and symptoms reported were different to those that would be expected from exposure to pure chlorine. There was insufficient information and evidence to enable the FFM to draw any further conclusions on these chemicals at this stage.

The last paragraph is devastating. How can the OPCW say that chlorine was "likely" used as chemical weapon when it has no explanation, none at all, for the inconsistencies of the 'witness' reports and the samples it was provided with?

The credibility of the OPCW was already damaged in its investigation of the Khan Sheikoon incident. According to the report of that case half of the 'victims' of the incident arrived in hospitals BEFORE the alleged incident happened. The report noticed, but did not explain, that discrepancy.

Both of the OPCW reports, on Saraqib and Khan Sheikhoun, pretend to deliver clear scientific evidence. Reading beyond the summaries one finds that both are full of inconsistencies and implausibilities. Important questions raised in the reports themselves are not answered. Contradictions in the timelines and the documented evidence are left unresolved. No explanation is given why anyone could have ordered a military attack on targets of zero military value. The conclusions of both reports suggest a degree of certainty that is not justified at all.

Since 2011 the Turkish government of the wannabe Sultan Erdogan  provides support of all kinds for the radical 'Syrian rebels' who attack  the Syrian state. Turkey currently occupies the north-west of Syria and has at least twelve observation points in Idleb governorate. The Turkish government continues to be hostile to the Syrian government under President Assad.

That the ostensible neutral OPCW is led by a Turkish career diplomat while it investigates alleged chemical incident in Syria is already a very problematic constellation. That its reports of such incidents, based on hearsay, shoddy evidence and unverified open sources, then make conclusions that insinuate Syrian government culpability while ignoring serious discrepancies is a disgrace.

It is high time to bring that organization back onto neutral and scientific grounds.

Update - May 18

Michael Kobs asks additional questions about the evidence the OPCW used. He especially points out that the ruptured chlorine canisters have impressions at their top which are inconsistent with a damage due to a fall from the sky. They mechanical marks evident at the top of both cylinders as well as the form flow of the ruptures are consistent with the use of a hydraulic press.

Posted by b on May 17, 2018 at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

May 16, 2018

North Korea May Cancel Summit Over Bolton's 'Absurd' Demands - Updated

Updated below
---

The Trump administration thought it was an easy path in its negotiations with North Korea. Trump was euphoric when North Korea released three U.S. prisoners and proudly announced the June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore where North Korea would agree to give up all its nuclear weapons and nuclear development programs. Trump would get a Nobel peace prize and all would be well.

This was a serious miscalculation based on a lack of understanding. It misread each and every statement North Korea made. The Trump administration has no ambassador in South Korea, the most experienced North Korea expert at the State Department left in disgust. The National Security Council is run by a maniac who had sabotaged earlier agreements with North Korea and wants to do it again.

North Korea's overarching aim is to gain enough security to cut its military expenses and to then use its resources for economic development. The method to achieve peace with the U.S. was progress in its nuclear weapons program. Each time a milestone was reached in the nuclear field North Korea sought talks with South Korea and the United States. It offered some concessions - to stop or slow its progress in its development of nuclear warheads and missile - in exchange for a peace agreement and economic support. Each time a deal was made the U.S. did not stick to its commitment. The promised oil supplies were not delivered, the civilian nuclear reactors the U.S. promised were not build. Each time an agreement failed North Korea started the next phase of its nuclear weapons program up to the next milestone.

Last year it finally reached the apex. It tested a thermonuclear device, the ultimate destructive weapon. It launched an intercontinental missile that can carry such a bomb to the continental United States. North Korea is now a full fledged nuclear state. After this achievement North Korea was again ready to negotiate.

When Donald Trump came into office promising that he would not condone a nuclear weapon capable North Korea that could threaten the United States. He launched a "maximum pressure" campaign to take away North Korea's nuclear weapons. The UN security council put strong sanctions on North Korea.

North Korea was already ready to negotiate. It were not the sanctions that brought it to the table. It was its new status as a nuclear power. The Trump administration never understood that. It believed that its "maximum pressure" campaign brought North Korea to offer "complete denuclearization". North Korea used that wording but it was meant as an aspirational aim for the whole world, not a unilateral disarmament of its new capabilities.

The Trump administration did not get it - or did not want to get it. This was partly out of stupidity and lack of knowledge, it was partly mischievous:

Trump and others are presenting this process as a route that leads to North Korea’s disarmament — even though Kim has said nothing that deviates from statements that every North Korean leader has made. And in our collective self-delusion, we have a surprising cheerleader: national security advisor John Bolton.

It is worth asking why Bolton is busy giving interviews in which he raises hopes for a complete elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons that can occur in a matter of months. He has repeatedly called for a “Libya style” deal — one in which the United States simply shows up and collects the weapons and supporting infrastructure.
...
This is madness. There is no reason to think that Kim has any intention of agreeing to such a thing.
...
Bolton isn’t suddenly naive. He’s working an angle. And that angle is almost certainly misaligning the president’s expectations. Bolton won’t try to kill diplomacy by opposing it. Rather he’ll kill it by making the perfect the enemy of the good. By raising the prospects of a Libya-style surrender, the much more modest settlement offered by Kim looks sad by comparison.

This is a very cynical — and dangerous — game that Bolton and others are playing.

A side effect of the false belief that "maximum pressure" worked against North Korea is the Trump administration's belief that the same will work against Iran. It is why it aborted the nuclear agreement with Iran:

The Trump administration is convinced it has an opening for a nuclear deal with North Korea because of its maximum pressure campaign. “They call it the North Korea scenario,” the European official said. “Squeeze the North Koreans. Squeeze the Iranians … and they will do the same thing as Kim Jong-un … surrender.”

When the CIA chief, now Secretary of State, Pompeo came to North Korea on May 10 to prepare further negotiations, the North Korean side warned that Washington was wrong in its thinking:

Once they arrived, Pompeo met for about an hour with Kim Yong Chol, discussing the Trump-Kim summit and Pompeo's schedule, before Kim hosted a luncheon on the hotel's 39th floor, where he formally welcomed the Americans.
...
Kim then told the Americans that "we have perfected our nuclear capability," adding that "this [meeting] is not the result of sanctions that have been imposed from outside."

One condition North Korea had asked for at the beginning of the negotiation cycle was a freeze of 'strategic' military exercises by South Korea and the U.S. in exchange for a freeze of nuclear and missile tests by North Korea. This was understood by both sides. The condition had held for a while but a few days ago the U.S. and South Korea announced a new exercise:

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States will begin massive combined air force drills this week, officials here said Thursday, in an apparent move to strengthen their hand ahead of denuclearization talks with North Korea.

The two-week Max Thunder exercise will begin on Friday, involving some 100 warplanes, including eight F-22 radar-evading fighters as well as an unspecified number of B-52 bombers and F-15K jets, the officials said.

It is the first time that the allies have decided to deploy eight F-22 jets to a combined exercise. Observers said the planned show of formidable air power appears aimed at further pressuring the North to give up its nuclear ambitions.

F-22 stealth fighter and B-52 are nuclear capable and thus strategic assets. Incorporating them in an exercise breaks the previous understanding. In response to the exercise North Korea canceled high level talks with South Korea:

The North's Korean Central News Agency said the Max Thunder drills between the South Korean and U.S. air forces are a rehearsal for invasion of the North and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties.
...
"This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula," the KCNA report said. "The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities."

The State Department as well as the Pentagon were seemingly unaware that the exercise would have such consequences.

North Korea feels cheated. It has stopped its missile and nuclear tests. It is dismantling its "northern test site" for nuclear weapons. It pardoned three prisoners and let them leave to the States. It held several rounds of hopeful talks with South Korea and the United States. Why does it now have to endure more pressure? Why should it allow the U.S. and South Korea to breach the agreement of test freeze in exchange for exercise freeze?

Trump thought he had already won. Finally North Korea is setting him straight. It will not give up its weapons under threat only to get smashed like other countries which made such mistakes:

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan made clear that the communist regime is not interested in any nuclear talks in which it is coerced into giving up its nuclear arsenal, according to Pyongyang's state news agency KCNA.
...
Kim expressed displeasure with the U.S. bringing up previous denuclearization methods, including the one used for Libya.

The full statement singled out the 'repugnant' John Bolton:

High-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State including Bolton, White House national security adviser, are letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment, "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization", "total decommissioning of nuclear weapons, missiles, biochemical weapons". etc, while talking about formula of "abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards".

This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue.
...
It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development.

We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.

If the Trump administration fails to recall the lessons learned from the past when the DPRK-U.S. talks had to undergo twists and setbacks owing to the likes of Bolton and turns its ear to the advice of quasi-"patriots" who insist on Libya mode and the like, prospects of upcoming DPRK-U.S. summit and overall DPRK-U.S. relations will be crystal clear.

We have already stated our intention for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States.

Trump's Noble peace prize is drifting away ...

If Trump really wants the June 12 meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore and an agreement he will have to stop Bolton from making overarching demands.  Secretary of State Pompeo will have to issue some conciliatory statements. The Pentagon, which dislikes peace talks that may diminish its position in South Korea, will have to end its provocative "strategic" maneuvers.

There is no military alternative to further talks. The nuclear armed North Korea is allied with the nuclear armed China. Any attack on North Korea might cause a mushroom cloud raising over Washington DC. Risking that is irresponsible.


---
UPDATE

The North Korean protests helped on both points. The U.S. military exercise was dialed back and the White House disowned the Libya disarmament concept that Bolton introduced to sabotage the talks. Trump really wants that Nobel.

The "strategic assets" - i.e. nuclear capable bombers - North Korea lamented about have now been withdrawn from the current U.S.-South Korean military exercise:

Contrary to the original plan, nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bombers will not participate in the ongoing combined air drills between South Korea and the United States, a military source here said Wednesday.

"In the Max Thunder exercise that began on Friday, the U.S. F-22 stealth fighters have already participated, while the B-52 has yet to join," the source said on condition of anonymity. "B-52 will not take part in the exercise, which runs through May 25."
...
The South Korean defense ministry also formally confirmed B-52's absence from the exercise.

In a related move, Moon Chung-in, a special security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, said in a lecture at the National Assembly that the decision was made at an emergency meeting between Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea.

The nuclear bombers were clearly a threat to North Korea and their taking part was in breach of the silent agreement that a freeze of nuclear testing by North Korea would be honored with a freeze of strategic maneuvers by South Korea and the U.S..

North Korea's second complain was about John Bolton's demand of immediate full disarmament.

This morning the White House downplayed that Libya disarmament scenario that Bolton promoted during Sunday's talkshows:

Referring to the Libya comparison, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that she hadn't "seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using.

"I haven't seen that that's a specific thing. I know that that comment was made. There's not a cookie cutter model on how this would work."

She continued, "This is the President Trump model. He's going to run this the way he sees fit. We're 100% confident, as we've said many times before, as I'm sure you're all aware, he's the best negotiator and we're very confident on that front."

The White House folded quite fast. I see that as a sign that it really wants a deal.

North Korea may further insist that the 'repugnant' John Bolton does not take part in the June 12 summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. It would surely be helpful if he would be left out of any and all Korea negotiations.

Posted by b on May 16, 2018 at 07:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (188)

May 14, 2018

Trump's Family Applauds Zionist Massacre Of Palestinians In Gaza

U.S. President Trump's family applauds Zionist massacre of Palestinians in Gaza:


bigger

At some settler event in the capital of Palestine Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, mentioned today's Gaza massacre in which Israeli soldiers murdered at least 52 and maimed 1,200 unarmed Palestinians. He accused them of being the guilty ones because they protest  against the Zionist theft and occupation of their land:

"As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution."

The White House omitted that sentence in its official transcript. In its daily press briefing the White House called the murder committed by the Zionist army "a propaganda attempt" by Hamas and Palestinians.

In response to today's massacre South Africa recalled its ambassador from Israel. It is so far the only country which did so. South Africa knows apartheid and colonial violence. It no longer condones it.

Posted by b on May 14, 2018 at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (203)

The 'Kingmaker' Is Back - Muqtada Al-Sadr Wins The Election In Iraq

On Saturday the people of Iraq voted for a new parliament.

The surprising winner is the Sairoon coalition of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Communist Party of Iraq. According to the preliminary results it gained 54 parliament seats. There are a total of 320 seats in the Iraqi parliament and complicate multiparty coalitions are necessary to gain a majority and to elect a new Prime Minister.

The Fatah Coalition headed by Hadi al-Amiri came in second with 47 seats. The Nasr coalition of the current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is third with 42 seats. The party of former premier Maliki is lagging behind with 25 seats.

Two, three or four of the larger blocks will have to find a coalition agreement that will also accommodate dozens of smaller parties with two or three parliament seats.

For outsiders Iraqi politics can be somewhat surprising. The female candidate of the Communist Party in the Shia holy city of Najaf, Suhad al-Khateeb, wears a Hijab. She is a scion of the Marjaiyya (religious establishment) family Saleem Adel. The Communist Party is allied with rabble rouser Moqtada al-Sadr. She won her parliament seat.


bigger

Muntaza Al Zaidi (vid), the Iraqi journalist who in 2008 threw his shoes at George W. Bush (vid) also won a seat.

This was the first election after the war against ISIS in Iraq has been won. It was feared that ISIS underground cells would interrupt the election by attacking candidates or voting locales but nothing significant happened.

With only 44.5% of the people voting the participation was abysmal. The last elections had participation rates above 60%. One reason might have been the generic election campaigns of the establishment parties. They lacked arguments on issues and policies. Fortunately sectarianism played only a small role with some Shia candidates winning large shares of Sunni votes and vice versa.

The low participation rates favored those parties and personalities with a large direct following. These "whale parties" will now have to make further coalition deals. It is quite possible that Prime Minister Abadi, whose party lost significantly, will stay in his office and lead a new coalition government in which he has less say. Muqtada al-Sadr will be the one who decides that.


Muqtada al-Sadr after voting in Saturday's election - bigger

The forty-four year old Muqtada al-Sadr is the son of a Grand Ayatollah who was assassinated under Saddam Hussein. The traditional political base of the al-Sadres is in the poor of Baghdad. Sadr city in Baghdad is named after his father. Muqtada and his followers in the Mahdi Army viciously fought the U.S. occupiers as well as sectarian Sunni gangs. In 2006 the U.S. planned to kill him and al-Sadr fled to Iran. U.S. media called him "anti-American" but Sadr is simply an Iraqi nationalist. He settled in Qom and tried to acquire higher theological credentials. Academically he was said to be a rather dim bulb and his studies went nowhere. He still lacks higher clerical credentials. Al-Sadr is disliked by the Iranian government and clerics as an unreliable and unthankful maniac.

During the U.S. occupation of Iraq we wrote quite a bit about Muqtada. Commentators at Moon of Alabama nicknamed him Mookie.

Over the last ten years Muqtada took the non-sectarian position traditionally associated with his father. He criticized the corruption of the political class but mostly from the sideline. Muqtada has lately partnered with the Iraqi communists and with secular candidates. His coalition campaigned on an anti-establishment note. His regained significance might help to clean up the patronage policies and corruption that long paralyzed Iraqi politics.

Muqtada has good contacts with the Saudis. His meeting with the Saudi Clown Prince Mohamad bin-Salman in July 2017 took place in an airport conference room. It lacked the usual gold and glitter of Saudi royalty. One wonders which side proposed the low drama location.


bigger

The Saudis will likely find, like everyone else before them, that Muqtada is uncontrollable. After this election neither the Saudis nor Iran nor the U.S. will have much political influence in Iraq. While Iran has strong economic and religious ties with Iraq its political meddling is much despised. The U.S. is seen as manipulative. Everyone believes that it created ISIS and Al-Qaeda and most Iraqis want all U.S. troops to leave.

Iraq has many serious problems. The economy is in bad shape. As the Turks build more and more upstream dams water in Iraq is getting scarce. The Kurds are not loyal to the Iraqi state. They think of vengeance after Baghdad took Kirkuk back from them. The Islamic State will try to come back. U.S. threats and machinations against Iran will make Iraqi foreign policy more complicate.

After the crushing experience of the last two and a half decades the people of Iraq truly deserve peace and a government that cares about their needs. Muqtada al-Sadr's strong position will help to form a less corrupt and more technocratic government that actually solves problems.

The next Iraqi government will try to keep Iraq out of the U.S.-Iran conflict. That will likely be in vain.

Posted by b on May 14, 2018 at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

May 13, 2018

The MoA Week In Review And Open Thread 2018-24

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

On this day in 1985 the police of Philadelphia engaged in a gun battle with members of the black radical group MOVE. After it had fired some 10,000 shots without much result the police built an improvised "barrel bomb" from military grade explosives and and dropped it from a helicopter onto the groups house. The bomb killed 5 adults and 6 children. The resulting fire destroyed 61 homes and made 250 people homeless.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on May 13, 2018 at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (79)

John Bolton Once Sabotaged A Deal With North Korea - He Will Try To Repeat That Feat

The Washington Post published a half-truth story today about the U.S. occupied al-Tanf border station between Syria-and Iraq. Downplaying the possibility of military action around al-Tanf it inserts this strange nugget:

Mattis’s main focus of late has been preparing for possible conflict with North Korea.

Why is the Defense Secretary Mattis preparing for conflict with North Korea? Why is this his "main focus"? Ain't we all gonna have peace and love after Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meet on June 12 in Singapore? No? Why am I not surprised?

I suspected all along that the whole theater between Trump and Kim Jong-un is a setup designed to fail. North Korea offers a phased denuclearization in exchange for a peace treaty and (partial?) U.S. withdrawal from South Korea. The U.S. is unlikely to accept that. For U.S. hawks nothing less than total capitulation is acceptable. But even if North Korea offers all its nukes at once the U.S. will demand more. It will likely ask for intrusive verification access to all North Korean military facilities and the like.  North Korea will surely reject such inspections as a danger to its defense capabilities and as a breach of its sovereignty. The Trump administration will spin that into a reason to heat up the conflict.

That would be a replay of the situation in 2008. Following the six-party-talks North Korea blew up (vid) the cooling tower of its sole reactor. It submitted information about its nuclear program as had been agreed. The U.S. did not fulfill its part of the deal, taking North Korea off the "terrorist supporter" list, but demanded additional verification access. That ended the deal.

From a forensic report at that time:

The unraveling of the landmark deal to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs began just weeks after its high point -- the televised destruction of the cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear reactor in late June -- when U.S. negotiators presented Pyongyang with a sweeping plan for verifying its claims about its nuclear programs.
Under the proposal, heavily influenced by the State Department's arms control experts, the U.S. requested "full access to all materials" at sites that might have had a nuclear purpose in the past. It sought "full access to any site, facility or location" deemed relevant to the nuclear program, including military facilities, ...

The United States pressed ahead with the proposal despite warnings from China, Russia and other countries that it was asking too much of the xenophobic North Koreans, officials said. North Korea immediately balked and the once-promising talks were at an impasse.

The Under Secretary of State for Arms Control was -up to 2005- one John Bolton. He had hired the hawkish "experts" and continued to influence the department after he had moved to the American Enterprise Institute. The intrusive inspection issue is said to have been his idea.

John Bolton is back selling Kool-Aid to those around him. He is now Trump's National Security Advisor. In February he published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal which falsely argued that an attack on North Korea is legally justified. On March 9 Bolton was on Fox news and said (video @~4:00 min) it would be an upside to have top level talks as fast as possible because they would fail and the U.S. could then take the next step.

Bolton is now described as the man most influence over Trump:

Mr. Bolton is emerging as an influential figure, with a clear channel to the president and an ability to control the voices he hears.
...
Even if Mr. Mattis had wanted to fight for the [nuclear deal with Iran that Trump nixed], it is not clear how much he would have been heard. Mr. Bolton, officials said, never convened a high-level meeting of the National Security Council to air the debate. He advised Mr. Trump in smaller sessions, otherwise keeping the door to his West Wing office closed. Mr. Bolton has forged a comfortable relationship with the president, several people said, channeling his “America First” vocabulary.

Bolton has long argued for waging war against North Korea and he is now in charge. It is thus not by chance that Mattis is working on plans to attack North Korea.

But now, ten years after Bolton sabotaged the six-party-deal, North Korea has, thanks to Bolton, high-yield nukes and can hit targets within the continental United States.

Would Trump be willing to risk an attack on North Korea and the inevitable retaliation?

Posted by b on May 13, 2018 at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (75)

May 12, 2018

Countdown To War On Iran

John Bolton is a ruthless man:

In early 2002, a year before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration was putting intense pressure on [José] Bustani to quit as director-general of the [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons].
...
Bolton — then serving as under secretary of state for Arms Control and International Security Affairs — arrived in person at the OPCW headquarters in the Hague to issue a warning to the organization’s chief. And, according to Bustani, Bolton didn’t mince words. “Cheney wants you out,” Bustani recalled Bolton saying, referring to the then-vice president of the United States. “We can’t accept your management style.”

Bolton continued, according to Bustani’s recollections: “You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you.”

There was a pause.

“We know where your kids live. You have two sons in New York.”

José Bustani successfully negotiated to get OPCW inspectors back into Iraq. They would have found nothing. That would have contradicted the U.S. propaganda campaign to wage war on Iraq. When Bustani did not leave voluntarily, the U.S. threatened to cut the OPCW's budget and "convinced" other countries in the executive council to kick him out.

John Bolton was also behind a campaign against the IAEA and its chief Mohamed ElBaradei. ElBaradei's phone was tapped and rumors were launched against him to oust him from his office.


bigger

The U.S. administration, the neoconservatives and the media are running a remake (recommended) of the propaganda campaign they had launched to wage war on Iraq. This time the target is Iran:

As with Iraq, it’s easier for Bolton and Netanyahu to achieve that goal if they discredit the current system of international inspections. Bolton has called the inspection efforts established by the Iran nuclear deal “fatally inadequate” and declared that “the International Atomic Energy Agency” is “likely missing significant Iranian [nuclear] facilities.” In his 2015 speech to Congress attacking the Iran deal, Netanyahu insisted that “Iran not only defies inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them.”

Anyone who counters their propaganda must go. Bolton, who demands to bomb Iran, is back in charge. One of his natural targets is the IAEA which certifies that Iran sticks to the nuclear deal. It seems that Bolton succeeds with his machinations:

The chief of inspections at the U.N. nuclear watchdog has resigned suddenly, the agency said on Friday without giving a reason.

The departure of Tero Varjoranta comes at a sensitive time, three days after the United States announced it was quitting world powers’ nuclear accord with Iran, raising questions as to whether Tehran will continue to comply with it.

Varjoranta, a Finn, had been a deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and head of its Department of Safeguards, which verifies countries’ compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, since October 2013.

Another casualty is the State Department bureaucrat who certified Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal:

One of the State Department’s top experts on nuclear proliferation resigned this week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in what officials and analysts say is part of a worrying brain drain from public service generally over the past 18 months.

Richard Johnson, a career civil servant who served as acting assistant coordinator in State’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation, had been involved in talks with countries that sought to salvage the deal in recent weeks, including Britain, France, and Germany — an effort that ultimately failed.
...
The office Johnson led has gone from seven full-time staffers to none since Trump’s inauguration.

The man who launched the war on Iraq now gets awards. Netanyahoo is agitating for war on Iran just like he agitated for war on Iraq.  Shady groups of nutty "experts" peddle policy papers for 'regime change'. U.S. "allies" are put under pressure. With their willingness to "compromise" they actually further the prospect of war. When they insist on sticking to international rules malign actors prepare measures to break their resistance. All that is still just a "shaping operation", a preparation of the battlefield of public opinion. This buildup towards the war will likely take a year or two.

What is still needed is an event that pushes the U.S. public into war fever. The U.S. typically uses false-flag incidents - the Tonkin incident, the sinking of the Maine, the Anthrax murders - to create a psychological pseudo-rationale for war. An Israel lobbyist begs for one to launch war on Iran.

One wonders when and how a new 9/11 like incident, or another Anthrax scare, will take place. It will be the surest sign that the countdown to war on Iran has started.

Posted by b on May 12, 2018 at 06:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (179)

May 11, 2018

Open Thread 2018-23

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 11, 2018 at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (146)

May 10, 2018

Syria Sets New Rules For Israeli Strikes

When Trump killed the nuclear deal with Iran he gave Israel the chance to start a wider war with Syria. An earlier Israeli simulation of the situation had concluded:

The crisis created by the administration regarding the flaws of the nuclear agreement could be exploited to promote issues more urgent for Israel (mainly Iran’s missile program and presence in Syria).

The Israeli government claims that Iranian support for Syria is a threat to its country. That is a bogus claim. The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo uses the "Iran threat" as boogeyman to divert attention from other issues like the various corruption cases against himself.

Over the last years Israel attacked Syrian army positions more than 100 times, often in support of al-Qaeda aligned "Syrian rebels". Syria did not respond as it was busy fighting against the Takfiri invasion within the country. In April Israel upped the ante when it attacked the T4 base in the middle of Syria from where Russian and Iranian forces support Syria's fight against ISIS. Iranian soldiers were killed in the attack. The Syrian air defense shot down at least one of the attacking Israeli F-16 jets. This shooting down of the Israeli jets was thought to have established a new balance, but Israel continued to provoke.

On Tuesday, just as Trump announced his breaking of the nuclear deal, Israel launched another strike on what it claimed were Iranian missiles in Syria targeted at Israel. The strike hit a Syrian army depot. Fifteen soldiers, some of them allegedly Iranians, were killed. Even the Israeli media had trouble to find an excuse for the illegal 'preemptive' attack:

Even if Iran had no intention of launching missiles at Israel on Tuesday, the alleged Israeli strike came along and conveyed the following message to the Iranians: You raised the likelihood of an attack on Israel, so we’re raising the threat level, despite the tensions.

It is not Iran's job to respond to Israeli strikes on Syria. The Syrian government wanted to retaliate immediately to Tuesday's strike but was held back by Russian concerns. Russia saw these provocations as an Israeli trap. Yesterday Netanyahoo visited Moscow. The Russian president warned him to stop the provocations. Netanyahoo did not listen.

Last night Israel again attacked Syrian military positions in al-Quneitra in south-west Syria. This time the Syrian missile forces responded with a barrage of more than 20 missiles against Israeli positions in the occupied Golan Heights. Israel escalated further with 70 strikes against Syrian positions.

The Syrian opposition outlet SOHR confirms this chain of events:

The Israeli shelling came just before the dawn of Sunday after the fall of missiles after midnight, launched from al-Quneitra area and southwest Rif Dimashq adjacent to the occupied territories of Golan, following the Israeli shelling which took place last night and targeted locations near al-Ba’ath city in the central countryside of Quneitra.

Pictures and video from Damascus show that the Syrian air defense intercepted many of the Israeli missiles.


bigger

Israel now claims that it eliminated the "Iranian threat" in Syria:

Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel's forces struck "nearly all the Iranian infrastructure in Syria" and said that no objects were hit on the territories of Israel.

The claim of success is a signal that it does not want to go any further:

"I hope we've finished this episode and everyone understood," Lieberman added, stressing that Israel doesn't want an escalation, but "won't let anyone attack us or build an infrastructure to attack us in the future."

The propagandist praise of an Israeli success reminds one of previous similar claims.

On the second day of the 2006 war on Lebanon Israel loudly boosted that it had destroyed "all long-range Hizbullah missiles" in a 34 minutes long air campaign. But more than 100 missiles per day continued to hit Israel, including targets in Tel Aviv far away from the Lebanese border. Thirty one days later Israel sued for peace. Its invasion of Lebanon had been defeated. Its "successful" strike against Hizbullah's long range missiles had hit mostly empty positions.

The Israeli targeting in Syria is not much better than its targeting in Lebanon twelve years ago.

Syria will now continue to respond to Israeli attacks. This time it limited its strikes to military positions in the occupied Golan heights. The next strikes will go further. This time Israel sent its population in the occupied Golan heights into bunkers. The next time half of Israel may have to go underground. How long could Israel sustain that?

Iran will also retaliate for attacks on its forces in Syria. But it does not need to do so from Syria. There are also other ways and means than sending missiles.

That Syria, after much suffering, now retaliated for the Israeli strikes draws a new line in the sand. If Israel wants a wider war it will get one. The destruction in the involved countries in the Middle East, including Israel, might thrown them back 100 years. Syria, Lebanon, and Iran could live with that.  A 100 years ago Israel did not exist.

Posted by b on May 10, 2018 at 07:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (254)

May 09, 2018

Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek - The Turncoats Deliver A Poor Excuse - by Daniel

by Daniel
lifted from a comment

I see b’s Twitter linked to the "Moderate Rebels" discussion of Blumenthal / Norton / Khalek. I hope y’all don’t mind my posting the below. I originally wrote it as an "open letter" to the above triumvirate, but changed pronouns for this audience.

Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Rania Khalek talk about their late “evolution” on the war against Syria in this episode of “Moderate Rebels.”

For those who don’t know, each was pro-"opposition", anti-Syrian government for years, but changed positions sometime in around 2016.

I'm glad to hear Max finally directly address his anti-Syrian stance from 2011 to 2016. He acknowledges that Sharmine Narwani was correct all along. It would be nice to hear him actually apologize to Sharmine and other journalists he disparaged, but especially to the Syrian people who sure could have used the support of a well known Arab/Palestinian Rights advocate with a large audience and influence.

Yes, Max "didn’t take a serious look at what was actually going on" in Syria. And didn't for five more years. He began writing for Al Akhbar in Lebanon in July, 2011. As a journalist, he was obligated to inform himself about what was happening before writing about it. Syrian police and military had already been massacred by then. Post office workers had been thrown to their deaths from the roof because they were "government supporters." The violence of the "protesters" was even being reported in Israeli newspapers.

He says he "didn’t think it was going to become, you know, the 7-year devastating conflict that it became." That is apparent. Libya was already descending into the F-UK-US “Mission Accomplished” with NATO bombers warming up to finish the job. Perhaps Max’s dad had assured him that Syria would follow the same pattern his emails with Hillary Clinton show he had helped plan and define in Libya.

BTW: Has he ever addressed his father's role in the destruction of the once most prosperous country on the African continent? I haven't read or heard anything from Max on Syd Blumenthal's pre-Qaddafi "removal" explanation that Libya had to be destroyed to:

  1. Steal their nationalized oil.
  2. Confiscate the hundreds of tons of gold and silver Libya held.
  3. Prevent Libya from establishing a gold-backed currency and pan-African development bank to compete with the US petro-dollar and IMF, and lift Africa out of neo-colonial subservience.

Yeah. Max was "pretty quiet on Libya and not really - didn’t really make any coherent statements on that either."

That newspaper that Max publicly maligned and quit ("grandstanding" as he now says) "had taken an anti-imperialist agenda." Did that paper ever reject any articles Max wrote defending "the Syrian revolution"? I didn’t think so. Who had "an agenda"? Because it sure sounds like it was Max who was so focused on his new book release and two upcoming book tours that at the least he abandoned journalistic values. Or did he fear that "being associated" with a paper that also published articles critical of "the revolution" could hurt book sales?

After all, he thought it was all going to be over soon anyway.

It would also be nice for Max to explain why, once he changed his position on Syria after Russia had helped turn the tide, he, Ben and Rania scrubbed all their anti-Syrian/pro-"rebel" posts from the internet without explanation. How Orwellian.

But he "just haven’t really had the chance to sit down and write" an apology and explanation.

And once Russia stepped in, Max was "pretty relieved" he didn’t "have to engage in" the Syrian disaster and so he "sort of tapped out." Wait. I thought he just said that was when he finally "tapped in" and began investigating and writing about what had really been going on.

So, he goes on to say that after the "eastern Aleppo operation", he "started to come to" his "senses" "BECAUSE I STARTED TO REALIZE THAT AN INTERVENTION AT THIS POINT BY THE US WOULD BE A RECIPE FOR CATASTROPHE"! Wait! What? It was too late for "intervention", so Max changed horses? And then he finally took a few weeks to read what he could about Syria and do his "due diligence."

Another BTW: Why did Max write those articles on the White Helmets without crediting Cory Morningstar, Vanessa Beeley and other journalists whose work he so obviously relied on? I read those articles, and saw NOTHING that I hadn’t already read at 21st Century Wire. What "independent investigative journalism" did Max and Ben do?

Rania says she has Druze Syrian relatives, and somehow that kept her from investigating and reporting on the sectarian "rebels" in Syria. Huh? Everything I hear is that most Syrians don’t really classify people by their religion. Yes, as she says, the Syrian war has engendered the most deluded propaganda. Yes, the reporting (MSM that is) was horrible. But those are not excuses to avoid it. Those are reasons for her to have deeply investigated and reported the truth.

Ben notes that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine always supported the Syrian government against the Zionist-supported "rebels" and wrote that quite clearly by 2013. Ben specifies that one cannot support Palestinian Liberation AND the "rebels" in Syria. Yet, he did. For years. Ben's explanation of his "evolution" on Syria is the least legitimate of this group. But they ran out of time while Ben was talking, so maybe he’ll do better in episode 3.

[Daniel added an additional comment here.]

b says:

Here is an earlier piece on Moon of Alabama which includes evidence for the claims Daniel makes:

Syria - The Alternet Grayzone Of Smug Turncoats - Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek

The most abhorrent issue with their talk is that these folks whine and lament how they are being condemned by supporters of war on Syria for their "brave stand" against the war. This from the folks who for five long years harshly condemned everyone who was pro-Syria in their writings and public talks. From the folks who in two years have found no time to write an apology to those who they condemned or publish an explanation for their deleting of the tweets and blog-posts that documented their former position.

For a further discussion of the turncoats self-serving exculpation in the Moderate Rebel (what a stupid name) podcast see this partial transcript by Red Kahina and these threads (also 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) by her as well as this one by Nyusha.

 

Posted by b on May 9, 2018 at 03:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (127)

May 08, 2018

Trump Ends The Nuclear Deal With Iran - What's Next?

With a very belligerent speech Trump nixed the nuclear deal with Iran. He also lied a lot in it. Neither is a surprise. The United States only keeps agreements as long as they are to its short term advantage - just ask native Americans. One can never count on the U.S. to keep its word.

Trump will reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran because:

  • The nuclear deal was negotiated by the Obama administration and thus must be bad;
  • Israel wants to keep Iran as the boogeyman;
  • the Zionists and right wing nuts in the U.S. want the U.S. to attack Iran;
  • MAGA - Trump needs Iran as enemy of the Gulf states to sell more U.S. weapons.

Three European countries, Britain, France and Germany, were naive enough to think they could prevent this. The EU3 offered the U.S. to put additional sanctions on Iran for other pretended reason - ballistic missiles and the Iranian engagement in Syria. I was disgusted when I first read of the plan. It was obvious from the beginning that it  would only discredit these countries AND fail.

Luckily Italy and some eastern European countries shot the effort down at the EU level. They were not willing to sacrifice their credibility over the issue. The nuclear agreement was signed and should be followed by all sides. They pointed out that there was no guarantee from Trump that any additional European effort would change his view.

Over the last weeks some last EU3 attempts to influence Trump were made. They were in vain:

On Friday, Pompeo organized a conference call with his three European counterparts. Sources who were briefed on the call told me Pompeo thanked the E3 for the efforts they had made since January to come up with a formula that will convince Trump not to pull out of the nuclear deal — but made it clear the President wants to take a different direction.
...
After Trump's statement, the European powers want to issue a joint statement which will make it clear they are staying in the Iran deal in an attempt to prevent its collapse.

The sanctions Trump will reintroduce are not just limiting U.S. dealings with Iran, but will also penalize other countries. That will lead to a flurry of protective measures as at least some of those other countries will limit their exposure to U.S. rules and may even introduce counter sanctions:

“We are working on plans to protect the interests of European companies” Maja Kocijancic, EU spokeswoman for foreign affairs, told reporters in Brussel.

Iran will largely stick to the nuclear deal if the EU effectively defends it and does not hinder Iranian deals with European companies. If the EU fails to do so the nuclear agreement will be null and void. Iran will leave the deal. The neoliberal Rouhani government that agreed to the deal will fall and the conservatives will be back. They will defend Iran's sovereignty at all costs.

The U.S. seems to believe it can go back to the same position Obama had build up in the years before the nuclear deal. Iran was under UN sanctions and all countries, including China and Russia, held them up. The Iranian economy was in serious trouble. It needed to negotiate a way out. That situation will not come back.

U.S. credibility has been seriously damaged. Its soft power is gone. Its hard power has shown to be inadequate in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

China and Russia are both making huge deals with Iran and are now effectively its protectors. While they have no common ideology all three oppose a globalized world under exclusive "western" rules. They have the economic power, the population and resources to do so. Neither the U.S. nor Europe has come to terms with that.

Iran has not only new allies but gained in the Middle East because of U.S., Israeli and Saudi stupidity. The wars on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen have all strengthened Iran's position while it largely kept largely out of them. The recent election in Lebanon went well for the 'resistance' camp. Within Lebanon Hizbullah can no longer be challenged. The upcoming elections in Iraq will result in another Iran-friendly government. The Syrian army is winning the war waged against the country. The U.S. position in Afghanistan is hopeless. Saudi Arabia is now in a fight with the UAE over the war on Yemen. The GCC spat with Qatar is still unsolved.

While Israel wants to keep Iran as a boogeyman to divert attention from its genocidal campaign against Palestinians, it does not want a large war. Hizbullah in Lebanon has enough missiles to make modern life in Israel untenable. A war on Iran could easily end up with Tel Aviv in flames.

There are some people in the Trump administration who will want to wage war on Iran. The Bush administration also had such plans. But any war gaming of a campaign against Iran ended badly for the U.S. and its allied states. The Gulf countries are extremely vulnerable. Their oil output could be shut down within days. That situation has not changed. The U.S. is now in a worse strategic position than it was after the invasion of Iraq. As long as somewhat sane people lead the Pentagon they will urge the White House not to launch such an endeavor.

The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal is a huge mistake. Defense Secretary Mattis spoke against it. Will Trump make an even bigger mistake despite the opinion of his military advisors? Will he wage war on Iran?

Posted by b on May 8, 2018 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (309)

May 07, 2018

'Black Cube' First Denies, Then Obfuscates, Then Admits Spying On Iran Deal Negotiators

Yesterday we published a piece about "Black Cube", an Israeli spy company with deep state relations. The piece was updated earlier today.

Black Cube used false identities to trick two former members of the Obama administration, Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, as well as the pro-Iran lobbyist Trita Parsi, to find out if they had profited from the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran. The Observer, which broke the story without naming Black Cube, reported that people related to the Trump administration had hired the company to get information that could help Trump to dump the nuclear deal with Iran.

Now the company is in panic and tries to cover its trail.

It is why we got mail:


bigger

Referring to the Moon of Alabama piece Black Cube writes:

"Please add our full comment ASAP! It causes us damage and it's defamation without our full denial."

I have cut their "full comment" from the above pictured email. I see absolutely no reason to publish their lying "comments" and denials.

How do I know that Black Cube lies?

Well, that is what spies do.

In their first comment to Israeli media after the Observer story broke without naming the company Black Cube denied any involvement. We then connected Black Cube to what the Observer reported. Early today the New Yorker confirmed our take and got a different comment from Black Cube. The company's denial was no longer clear-cut but included suspiciously specific formulations:

In a statement, Black Cube said, “It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work.” The statement also read, “Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran Nuclear deal.”

"Black Cube has no relation whatsoever ... to the Iran Nuclear deal." Hmm, did anyone claim that very specific "relation .. to" point?

Then the company told Haaretz that, yes, the Iran deal was the reason why it tried to spy on Obama administration people who had worked on it:

Israeli intelligence company Black Cube was hired to spy on former aides in the Obama administration last year. A source close to the company says that the Israeli intelligence company was acting on behalf of a business entity, however, and not on behalf U.S. President Donald Trump’s aides.

A source close to the company said the purpose of its data collection was to serve the client’s business or legal interests, and had nothing to do with Trump. The source also said correspondence regarding Iranian nuclear issues related to the business interests of the client who hired the spy firm.

Emmanuelle Elbaz-Phelps works for the Israeli channel 10 news. Here she documents the development of those lies from her personal interaction with the company:

Emmanuelle Elbaz-Phelps @manuelbaz - 17:09 UTC - 7 May 2018

Thread :

1. Right after the report published in the #Observer, I asked the #BlackCube spokesman if Black Cube is in fact the Israeli firm. His answer (yesterday morning) was : "Not related to us".
2. @lrozen tweeted here yesterday that it is confirmed the Israeli firm in question is #BlackCube. He denied again. "BS, It's not us". I reported his denial here.
3. This morning, after @RonanFarrow 's publication in the @NewYorker , his version changed: "We didn't know the @guardian meant us. We didn’t know it was us because this report was about #Trump. But then we saw the emails reported by the New Yorker and we know those emails."
4. He insisted "there is no connection to Trump or the #IranNuclearDeal" but he didn't deny #BlackCube was hired by a private company and even told me the client is "somebody that profits from the sanctions on Iran".
Question : who is the client and how they connect to Trump?

Now other Israeli media are given more specific information, likely also false, about the "private company":

Neri Zilber @NeriZilber - 17:13 UTC - 7 May 2018

Black Cube op targeting former Obama staffers was allegedly about business dispute bw 2 shipping companies - 1 of which Taiwanese - involving Iranian sanctions regime. Per Israel Ch2 news

It is obvious that the Black Cube statements are not the truth but denials which change into obfuscating lies when they are contradicted by new evidence. Black Cube's "dispute between two shipping companies" explanation is certainly just as false as their earlier statements.

Neither this nor other sites are defaming Black Cube. The spy outlet is doing that all by itself.

The original Observer claim that people near to Trump hired Black Cube has neither been confirmed nor debunked by any other reporting.

That Black Cube is suddenly so eager to point to some far away "Taiwanese shipping dispute" trail convinces me that Trump circles are indeed involved.

Posted by b on May 7, 2018 at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

May 06, 2018

The MoA Week In Review And Open Thread 2018-22

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Netanyahoo presses for the end of nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran. But that is only step one. He wants the U.S. to destroy Iran. First its forces in Syria, then the Islamic Republic itself. Amos Harel: Israel Hopes Trump Scrapping Nuclear Deal Could Ultimately Lead to Iran Regime Change. Some Israeli thinkers are waking up to the danger of such nonsense: Former Israeli General: U.S. Exit From Nuclear Deal Would Help Iran. But it is too late. Trump will dump the JCPOA deal. From there on we will be on very uncertain territory. Patrick Cockburn remarks: It’s not clear if Trump and Netanyahu want a war with Iran – but they may fall into one all the same. Lee Camp points out that Iran recently ended doing business in U.S. dollars. He points to other cases where such a decision had serious consequences: I Know Which Country the U.S. Will Invade Next. The Saker walks us through a possible war on Iran scenario: The Warmakers.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on May 6, 2018 at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (104)

Trump Circles Hired Israeli Spy Company 'Black Cube' To Dig Up Dirt on Iran Deal Negotiators

Updated below

Someone tipped off the Observer, the Guardian's Sunday edition, about an attempt of Donald Trump flunkies to find dirt about the people who negotiated the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran. An Israeli spy company was hired to set up traps. One of the victims describes how that happened. The modus operandi seems similar to one described in another dirty story which surfaced about a year ago. The company, not named by the Observer, in question is Black Cube.


bigger

The Observer: Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal

Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.
...
Sources said that officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago, his first foreign tour as US president.
...

According to incendiary documents seen by the Observer, investigators contracted by the private intelligence agency were told to dig into the personal lives and political careers of Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Kahl, a national security adviser to the former vice-president Joe Biden. Among other things they were looking at personal relationships, any involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists, and if they had benefited personally or politically from the peace deal.
...
Both Rhodes and Kahl said they had no idea of the campaign against them.

The last sentence no longer holds. Colin Kahl now remembers that something fishy was going on:

Colin Kahl @ColinKahl - 5:33 UTC - 6 May 2018

According to this story, in May of last year, Team Trump asked an Israeli intel firm to dig up dirt on me as part of an effort to discredit the Iran deal. Tonight, as my wife read this story, that date triggered a very creepy memory. www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/05/ …

Last year, my wife was serving on the fundraising committee of my daughter's public charter school in DC. One day, out of the blue, she received an email from someone claiming to represent a socially responsible private equity firm in the UK.

This "UK person" said "she" was flying to DC soon and wanted to have coffee with my wife to discuss the possibility of including my daughter's school in their educational fund network.

This was not a generic "Nigerian prince" scam. This person had all sorts of specific information on my wife's volunteer duties at an obscure DC elementary school.

There was a website for the firm (which no longer exists, by the way), but it had no depth to it, and there was no detailed information about the "UK person" who reached out to my wife.

My wife shared the email with me and a few people we know in both the finance and education fields. All agreed that the entire scenario seemed implausible and seemed like an approach by a foreign intelligence entity.

To test the implausibility, my wife kept trying to encourage the "UK person" over email to meet with other school fundraising officers & leadership while "she" was in DC, providing relevant contact info. But the "UK person" kept insisting that "she" had to meet with my wife.

At that point, my wife stopped corresponding. This all happened in late May and early June of last year.
...

The way the operation was run against Colin Kahl sounds familiar. I remembered reading about a similar attempt a while ago and, after some searching, dug up this New Yorker story from last November:

In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations. According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort, the firms that Weinstein hired included Kroll, which is one of the world’s largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to its literature.

Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women’s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan.

In both cases we see a 'private' Israeli spy company, with deep government connections and operating from London, which uses false identities and meets its targets under false pretense. I bet a cup of coffee that Black Cube is the company behind the attempts to spy on the JCPOA negotiators. The company is notorious for such dirty work.

Compare this from Colin Kahl above:

One day, out of the blue, [my wife] received an email from someone claiming to represent a socially responsible private equity firm in the UK. This "UK person" said "she" was flying to DC soon and wanted to have coffee with my wife to discuss the possibility of including my daughter's school in their educational fund network.

With this from the Weinstein case as described in the New Yorker:

In May, 2017, McGowan received an e-mail from a literary agency introducing her to a woman who identified herself as Diana Filip, the deputy head of sustainable and responsible investments at Reuben Capital Partners, a London-based wealth-management firm. Filip told McGowan that she was launching an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace ...

The same pattern is used: A surprise contact from London pretending to have money from some rich fund to disperse for a good cause the targeted person is known to support. The false person is persistently asking for a personal meeting. There are multiple additional details about the spies approach in both cases that look quite similar.

Black Cube claims to deliver "Creative Intelligence". But to use the same method and false story over and over is not creative at all. The company has had some press lately. The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Whyle alleges that Black Cube was hired to hack the personal data of Nigerian President Buhari prior to his election to get access to his medical records and private emails. Cambridge Analytica also worked for the Trump campaign.

One wonders why the Observer did not name the Israeli spy company. One also wonders why the story is coming up now. Who leaked it? And is it true?

One of the Guardian/Observer authors of the story is Julian Borger who was long notorious for writing manipulating stories about Iran's nuclear program. Borger is pretty much in the anti-Trump camp and his 'official' sources are sometimes shady. His additional frame piece to the story above reveals nothing new. Who gave him the story? The British government which wants to keep the JCPOA alive?

Could someone have made up the whole story, modeled after the Weinstein case, in an attempt to discredit Trump and his planned termination of the JCPOA deal?

Then again - hiring 'former' spies to dig up dirt about people was actually a specialty of the Clinton campaign. It paid the 'former' British spy Christopher Steele to make up the "Dirty Dossier" about Trump.

It would be hypocritical to now condemn the Trump circles for doing similar stuff.

Update (May 7 12:30pm est):

An hour ago the New Yorker author who wrote the original Black Cube/Weinstein piece confirmed that Black Cube was indeed the company which targeted the Obama administration officials Colin Kahl and Ben Rhodes. Mr. Kahl points to several news-pieces in mid 2017 in which Trump administration officials blamed him and Mr. Rhodes for the Iran deal. It is unclear though how deep the current White House was involved in hiring the spy company. From the new New Yorker piece:

The Observer reported that aides of President Trump had hired Black Cube to run the operation in order to undermine the Iran deal, allegations that Black Cube denies. “The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it,” a source told the Observer. One of the sources familiar with the effort told me that it was, in fact, part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran. (A Trump Administration spokesperson declined to comment to the Observer on the allegations.)

It could of course be both. The Trump administration officials Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon pushed against the Iran deal and went to news outlets complaining about Kahl and Rhodes. The company denies that the White House hired it. While some private company, (uber-Zionist and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson?), may have paid Black Cube these efforts were likely coordinated. Another target was the pro-Iran deal lobbyist Trita Parsi. The Black Cube spies, and the Trump administration flunkies, insinuated that the Obama people pursued the Iran deal in exchange for personal financial gains. I do not believe that to be the case. But it is interesting that the Trump people can not think of other reasons for making such a strategic deal.

This is the kind of scandal the media will love to dig into. We can thus expect to hear much more about the case. Was a crime committed? I do not see such an angle yet but a good prosecutor may make the case.

Unlike the whole anti-Russia/anti-Trump campaign and investigation, which has no merit at all, this one would be on target. It was and is Israel that is the most influential foreign country in Washington DC and within the Trump administration. Any dirt coming up now will help to make that point more visible to the general public.

Posted by b on May 6, 2018 at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (63)

May 05, 2018

The Historic Background of China's Perception of the West - by Carl Zha

Carl Zha publishes the Clash of civilizations and empires podcast.

This illustrated history was originally tweeted yesterday, May 4th 2018. It is slightly edited and republished here with the author's permission.

 

How the West’s betrayal of China in Versailles after World War I led to the long Chinese Revolution that shaped today's Chinese perception of the West


(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

99 years ago, on May 4th 1919, the original Tiananmen student protest broke out. The students protested the Allied Powers' betrayal at Versailles: The German Shangdong colony was given to Japan instead of returning it to China. This despite China's sending of 140,000 men to work on the Western front.

 

The story begins with the first Sino-Japanese War 1894-95. Japan, after going through a full westernization program, decisively defeated China which had a half-hearted 'Self-Strengthening' modernization program that tried to preserve Confucian traditions while adopting Western technology.

Japan defeating China triggered a new round of Imperial Powers scramble to carve up China. Germany was particularly eager to not be left out.

Germany took the port city of Qingdao (Tsingtao) on the Shangdong Peninsula where they brought over beer tech giving birth to Tsingtao Beer.


Qingdao(Tsingtao) became the major German base for its newly acquired Pacific colonies until the eve of World War I.


In 1890 Germany played a leading role in attacking the Chinese capital Beijing to suppress the Boxer Rebellion together with the 8 Nation Alliance of Britain, France, United States, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and Austria-Hungary.



Britain viewed German presence as threat to its colonies in China. After World War I broke out, Britain allied with Japan to besiege Qingdao. 23,000 Japanese and 1,500 British troops attacked 3,650 Germans and 324 Austro-Hungarians. Woodblock print and the Japanese flagship Suwo.



Britain promised the German Pacific colonies to Japan including Qingdao. Students explore a scale model of the Qingdao area depicting the city during the siege of the city by British and Japanese forces in October and November 1914.

As World War I wore on longer than anybody expected, the Allied Powers faced acute labor shortages. Britain came up with a scheme to recruit Chinese labors. But China was neutral so she had to be persuaded to join the war

China wanted to have the German Shangdong colony returned. Entered U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson asked China to join the war and promised support for China to gain Shangdong back after Germany’s defeat.

While the young republican China sees Britain and France as ruthless Imperial Powers, it has an enormous regard for the U.S. which it hopes to model itself after. Top Chinese diplomat was the American educated Wellington Koo. Madam Koo, an international style icon, popularized Cheongsam/Qipao dresses.

China did as Wilson asked, entered the war against Germany and send 340,000 men to help with the Allied war effort. 140,000 went to the Western Front, 200,000 went to Russia. Chinese comprised the largest non-European labor force on the Allied side during World War I.

On the Western front, the 140,000 Chinese labor were know as the Chinese Labour Corp. They dug trenches, worked in timber yards, build steamers, repair railroads. 6,000 were even sent to Iraq to work in Basra.

Chinese Labour Corp men load 9.2-inch shells onto a railway wagon at Boulogne for transport to the front line, August 1917.

Chinese Labour Corps men and a British soldier cannibalize a wrecked Mark IV tank for spare parts at the central stores of the Tank Corps, Teneur, spring 1918.

Chinese Labour Corps workers washing a Mark V tank at the Tank Corps Central Workshops, Erin, France, February 1918.

In other cases, Chinese workers staffed munitions factory during World War I.

Chinese Labour Corp men practice martial arts with swords in Crecy Forest, 27 January 1918.

200,000 Chinese men toiled in Russia. 10,000 Chinese build the Murmansk railway in the Arctic Circle. After the October revolution, 40,000+ Chinese would join the Red Army in the Russian Civil War.

The bulk of the 340,000 Chinese men sent to work in the World War I frontlines were recruited from Shangdong province, where Germany's colony of Qingdao was located. The map shows British and French transport routes for Chinese workers to Europe. Little is known about routes to the Middle East and Russia.

Unbeknownst to China, while China joined the war on the allied side at the U.S. urging, hoping to gain back Shangdong province, the U.S. and Japan signed the secret Lansing-Ishii Agreement in 1917 where they recognized each other’s special 'interests' in China. Japan’s interest is the German colony Qingdao.

Fully believing Woodrow Wilson’s promise of self-determination, the top Chinese diplomat Wellington Koo, who won the Columbia-Cornell Debating Medal in his American school days, argued passionately for the return of the Shangdong Peninsula at the Paris Peace Conference.

Opposite of Wellington Koo is the Japanese diplomat Baron Makino, a skilled go player. Makino played his hand tactically. He knew Wilson’s baby is the League of Nations. He proposed a racial equality clause knowing full well that the U.S., with its Jim Crow Laws, would oppose it.

Japan then threaten to veto the League of Nations, which would not work without Japan, unless ...  the U.S. agreed to give Germany’s former Shangdong colony to Japan. Wilson dutifully complied and decide to honor the Lansing-Ishii agreement, selling the Chinese down the river.

Wellington Koo is not the only Chinese diplomat in Paris. There is Trinidad born Eugene Chen who does not speak Chinese but represent another Chinese government because China was divided between a Beijing government in the north and a Canton(Guangzhou) government in the south.

Eugene Chen was a Hakka Chinese born in Trinidad to a former Taiping rebel who fled to the Caribbean. Eugene became a lawyer and married the French creole girl Agatha Alphosin Ganteaume. But he 'returned' to China after the 1911 Revolution overthrew the Qing Imperial government.

Growing disappointed with the Beijing government, Eugene Chen went to join Sun Yatsen’s Canton (Guangzhou) government in the south. Here is Sun Yatsen with a very young Chiang Kai-shek.

The October Revolution broke out towards the end of World War I. Suddenly an alternative political model appeared to the Chinese.

40,000 Chinese labor trapped in Russia joined the Red Army in the Russian Civil War. A White Army propaganda poster depicts Trotsky as Satan wearing a Pentagram, and portrays the Bolsheviks' Chinese supporters as mass murderers. The caption reads "Peace and Liberty in Sovdepiya".

The Soviets saw a chance to draw China away from the West and into their camp. They leaked details of the secret U.S.-Japan Lansing-Ishii agreement to Eugene Chen in Paris, who then leaked it to the Chinese press. Furious Chinese students took to street to protest at this betrayal especially by the U.S.

Previously young Chinese had looked up to the U.S. as a beacon of democracy. The Versailles Treaty made them realize that the U.S. only pays lip service to freedom and democracy while ruthlessly pursuing its self-interests.The May 4th movement is born to protest the weakness of the Chinese government and calls for reform.

Young people wanted to make China strong so it would not be bullied. They demand fundamental cultural and political changes to make it happen. There is a sense that Confucian traditions had failed China. China must welcome democracy and science and embrace modernity to move forward.

The seminal May 4th movement witnesses an upsurge of Chinese nationalism. New Chinese nationalists call for a rejection of traditional values and the selective adoption of the Western ideals of "Mr. Science" (賽先生) and "Mr. Democracy" (德先生) in order to strengthen the new nation.

Disillusioned with the West and seeking for an alternative political model leads some to look to the newly found Soviet Union. Two leading intellectuals of the May 4th movement, Li Dazhao (left) and Chen Duxiu(right), co-founded the Chinese Communist Party.

While heading the Peking University library, Chinese Communist Party co-founder Li Dazhao would influence a young student working there. His name was Mao Zedong.

The other leading intellectual of the May 4th Movement is Hu Shih, a classical liberal, who parted ways with the Communists. But the bourgeois soil upon which liberalism thrives is scarce in China, limiting their impact to the small number of educated urban elites.

The anti-traditionalism of the May 4th movement eventually reached its logical conclusion during the campaign to eradicate Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas in the Cultural Revolution starting in 1966 which aimed to destroy all aspects of traditional Chinese culture.

The 1989 Tiananmen Square students protest was the last echo of the May 4th movement, and of the century long Chinese revolution. Students demanded political change to make the nation strong and prosper. Afterwards pragmatism would replace idealism.

China has come full circle. New found confidence enables the people to embrace tradition again. In 2011, a Confucius statue even appeared in Tiananmen Square. But the controversy remained. It was removed after 100 days without explanation.

After the Cultural Revolution, China experience a brief honeymoon with the West in the 1980s. Chinese youth hungered to learn about the outside world. There was a lot of goodwill towards the U.S. This period lasted beyond the Tiananmen protest of 1989.

A big turning point in Chinese public opinion was the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade where three Chinese journalists were killed. No one in China believed the U.S. claim of an accidental bombing due to faulty maps.

Adding fuel to the fire was the collision of a U.S. spy plane near Hainan Island with a Chinese PLA J-8 fighter plane which caused the J8 to crash and an emergency landing of U.S. spy plane on Hainan Island. Previous pro-American sentiment of Chinese youth decidedly turned.


After the Arab Spring, many Chinese viewed the U.S. just as their elders in the May 4th movement did: paying lip service to freedom and democracy while ruthlessly pursuing naked self-interests. Many sympathized when the Geneva conference on Syria had no Syrians (except the waiter) because that was China’s lot 99 years ago.

May 4th is now the official Youth Day in China. A relief on the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square depicting the May 4th movement.

Thank you for reading this long thread.

May the 4th be with you!

Posted by b on May 5, 2018 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

May 04, 2018

Media Use Disinformation To Accuse Russia Of Spreading Such

The Grauniad is slipping deeper into the disinformation business: Revealed: UK’s push to strengthen anti-Russia alliance is the headline of a page one piece which reveals exactly nothing. There is no secret lifted and no one was discomforted by a questioning journalist. 

Like other such pieces it uses disinformation to accuse Russia of spreading such.

The main 'revelation' is stenographed from a British government official. Some quotes from the usual anti-Russian propagandists were added. Dubious or false 'western' government claims are held up as truth. That Russia does not endorse them is proof for Russian mischievousness and its 'disinformation'.

The opener:

The UK will use a series of international summits this year to call for a comprehensive strategy to combat Russian disinformation and urge a rethink over traditional diplomatic dialogue with Moscow, following the Kremlin’s aggressive campaign of denials over the use of chemical weapons in the UK and Syria.
...
“The foreign secretary regards Russia’s response to Douma and Salisbury as a turning point and thinks there is international support to do more,” a Whitehall official said. “The areas the UK are most likely to pursue are countering Russian disinformation and finding a mechanism to enforce accountability for the use of chemical weapons.”

There is a mechanism to enforce accountability for the use of chemical weapons. It is the Chemical Weapon Convention and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It was the British government which at first rejected the use of these instruments during the Skripal incident:

Early involvement of the OPCW, as demanded by Russia, was resisted by the British government. Only on March 14, ten days after the incident happened and two days after Prime Minister Theresa may had made accusations against Russia, did the British government invite the OPCW. Only on March 19, 15 days after the incident happen did the OPCW technical team arrive and took blood samples.

Now back to the Guardian disinformation:

In making its case to foreign ministries, the UK is arguing that Russian denials over Salisbury and Douma reveal a state uninterested in cooperating to reach a common understanding of the truth, but instead using both episodes to try systematically to divide western electorates and sow doubt.

A 'common understanding of the truth' is an interesting term. What is the truth? Whatever the British government claims? It accused Russia of the Skripal incident a mere eight days after it happened. Now, two month later, it admits that it does not know who poisoned the Skripals:

Police and intelligence agencies have failed so far to identify the individual or individuals who carried out the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, the UK’s national security adviser has disclosed.

Do the Brits know where the alleged Novichok poison came from? Unless they produced it themselves they likely have no idea. The Czech Republic just admitted that it made small doses of a Novichok nerve agent for testing purposes. Others did too.

Back to the Guardian:

British politicians are not alone in claiming Russia’s record of mendacity is not a personal trait of Putin’s, but a government-wide strategy that makes traditional diplomacy ineffective.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, famously came off one lengthy phone call with Putin – she had more than 40 in a year – to say he lived in a different world.

No, Merkel never said that. An Obama administration flunky planted that in the New York Times:

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. “In another world,” she said.

When that claim was made in March 2014 we were immediately suspicious of it:

This does not sound like typically Merkel but rather strange for her. I doubt that she said that the way the "people briefed on the call" told it to the Times stenographer. It is rather an attempt to discredit Merkel and to make it more difficult for her to find a solution with Russia outside of U.S. control.

A day later the German government denied (ger) that Merkel ever said such (my translation):

The chancellery is unhappy about the report in the New York Times. Merkel by no means meant to express that Putin behaved irrational. In fact she told Obama that Putin has a different perspective about the Crimea [than Obama has].

A McClatchy journalist investigated further and came to the same conclusion as I did. The 'leak' to the New York Times was disinformation.

That disinformation, spread by the Obama administration but immediately exposed as false, is now held up as proof by Patrick Wintour, the Diplomatic editor of the Guardian, that Russia uses disinformation and that Putin is a naughty man.

The British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson wants journalists to enter the UK reserve forces to help with the creation of propaganda:

He said army recruitment should be about “looking to different people who maybe think, as a journalist: ‘What are my skills in terms of how are they relevant to the armed forces?’

Patrick Wintour seems to be a qualified candidate.

Or maybe he should join the NATO for Information Warfare the Atlantic Council wants to create to further disinform about those damned Russkies:

What we need now is a cross-border defense alliance against disinformation — call it Communications NATO. Such an alliance is, in fact, nearly as important as its military counterpart.

Like the Guardian piece above writer of the NATO propaganda lobby Atlantic Council makes claims of Russian disinformation that do not hold up to the slightest test:

By pinning the Novichok nerve agent on Sweden or the Czech Republic, or blaming the UK for the nerve gas attack in Syria, the Kremlin sows confusion among our populations and makes us lose trust in our institutions.

Russia has not pinned the Novichok to Sweden or the Czech Republic. It said, correctly, that several countries produced Novichok. Russia did not blame the UK for the 'nerve gas attack' in Syria. Russia says that there was no gas attack in Douma.

The claims of Russian disinformation these authors make to not hold up to scrutiny. Meanwhile their pieces themselves are full of lies, distortions and yes, disinformation.

The bigger aim behind all these activities, demanding a myriad of new organizations to propagandize against Russia, is to introduce a strict control over information within 'western' societies.

Anything that may not confirm to the 'truth' as prescribed from above must be overwhelmed with an onslaught of more lies or, if that does not work, be discredited as 'enemy' disinformation.

That scheme will be used against anyone who deviates from the ordered norm. You dislike that pipeline in your backyard? You must be falling for Russian trolls or maybe you yourself are an agent of a foreign power. Social Security? The Russians like that. It is a disinformation thing. You better forget about it.

Posted by b on May 4, 2018 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (147)

May 03, 2018

Yemen - Massacres and Assassinations Trigger a New Phase of War

In mid April some 20+ of Sudanese soldiers were killed in an ambush in northern Yemen. Sudan, which sent up to 10,000 soldiers to Yemen in hope of Saudi money, is reconsidering its engagement. The Gulf states had promised investments in Sudan and the lifting of U.S. sanction in exchange for sending cannon fodder. Neither happened.

The war Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the powers behind them wage on Yemen aims to install a proxy-government that defers to them. The Yemeni people do not want that. They resist against the overwhelming forces of their rich neighbors. Especially the Zaidi people of north Yemen dislike their proselytizing Wahhabi neighbors. Their Houthi movement leads the fight. Yemeni in general regard them as 'monkeys with laptops'.  To overcome the resistance the Saudi launched a genocidal campaign of blockading, bombing and starving the people into submission.

The same week the Sudanese mercenaries were killed, airstrikes by Saudi jets slaughtered dozens of Yemeni civilians:

An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding party in northern Yemen, killing at least 20 people including the bride, health officials said Monday, as harrowing images emerged on social media of the deadly bombing, the third to hit Yemeni civilians since the weekend.
...
An airstrike on Sunday night hit a house elsewhere in Hajja, killing an entire family of five, according to al-Nadhri.

On Saturday, at least 20 civilians were killed when coalition fighter jets bombed a bus carrying commuters in western Yemen, near the city of Taiz, which has been locked in fighting for three years.

After the bombing of the wedding one boy, 3 to 5 years old, clutched to his dead father all night (video) and rejected attempts to be taken away. A graphic video taken the next morning shows that the boy is still there and the terrible aftermath of the Saudi massacre. The Onion only slightly exaggerates when it writes that the Saudi clown prince visited the child to finish the job.

The standard agency reports from Yemen, like the above one, always repeat the UN estimate that more than 10,000 have died in the war. But that UN number is at least two years old, never changes and only hides the ongoing massacre:

Elisabeth Kendall @Dr_E_Kendall - 20:28 UTC - 11 Apr 2018

#Yemen war: Why does the much-quoted UN statistic of 10,000 deaths never seem to increase? @YemenData documents 16,847 air raids by the #Saudi-led coalition from 3/2015 to 3/2018 (with 423 this March) & @MSF received over 97,000 emergency patients in 1st 3 months of 2017 alone

At least 70,000 have been killed by bombing alone. That number does not include the probably one hundred thousand who starved or died from easily preventable diseases. When asked about the real numbers UN officials are evading any sensible response (vid).

The Saudi coalition strikes on civilians are not by accident. The Saudis target infrastructure, all food and people transport, health facilities and any gathering that is deemed suspicious. Other strikes are targeted assassinations.

One recent drone camera video from a United Arab Emirates owned drone, follows a car near Hodeidah port in north-west Yemen and shows a missile hitting it. The video cuts to a second drone camera, filmed from a screen in an operations room, which shows people coming to the rescue after the first strike. A second missile strike kills them all. The people in the operations room are elated.

That 'double tap' strike killed an important man and will prolong the war:

Saleh al-Samad, the president of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, was killed in the drone strike, delivering the deathblow to an already stagnant Yemeni peace process. Samad was regarded as a conciliatory figure within the Houthi rebellion and had sought to reach a negotiated settlement to Yemen’s civil war. He was scheduled to meet with Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, on April 28.

A well bribed nephew of the deceased former president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh may help the UAE to kill his dead uncle's allies. I though suspect that U.S. intelligence, targeting mobile phones and alike, or even U.S. boots on the ground are heavily involved:

Tareq Saleh and his men were forced to seek refuge in the UAE, bringing with them a deep knowledge of the Houthis inner workings.
...
Samad’s death was not an isolated incident. A number of key Houthi figures, who shared close ties to former President Saleh, have been killed recently. Mansour al-Saidi, the commander of Houthi naval forces; Salah al-Sharqai, his deputy; Nasser al-Qaubari, the major general of Houthi missile forces; and Fares Manea, a notorious arms dealer and former governor of Saada, were all killed in airstrikes over the last week.

Killing the leaders of resistance movements is not a successful strategy. Such leaders usually get replaced with smarter or more brutal hardliners who care less about collateral damage:

Samad’s successor, Mahdi al-Mashat, who was appointed Monday, is a hard-liner with extensive links to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Ali al-Bukhaiti, a former senior Houthi figure now based in Amman, Jordan, claims that there is growing puritanism within the movement. “Mashat is the polar opposite of his predecessor: He is tactless, threatens, doesn’t compromise,” he says. “He does not build relationships — he damages them.”

Tens of thousands gathered in the Yemeni capital Sanaa for the funeral commemoration for Saleh al-Samad. Saudi jets flew over the crowd and bombed nearby. The crowd was not deterred. No one ran away but the people got up on their feet (vid) and chanted (vid) Houthi slogans. They are willing to fight and far from defeated.

The United Arab Emirates has its own design on Yemen. It is in for the money. The UAE occupies the Yemeni Sakrota island, the Unesco-protected 'Jewel of Arabia', and is stealing its natural resources.

Aden, in the south of Yemen is also under UAE occupation. The UAE company Dubai Port, now DP World, wants to control Aden's port. But mothers in Aden starve themselves to death to keep their children alive. There is no state, no security and no one gets paid for their work as doctor, teacher or street sweeper. Some food is available on the markets but the people can not longer afford it.

Professor Isa Blumi of Stockholm University argues (radio) that the war in Yemen is not a civil war and not even a war by the local powers Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It is  an imperial war by larger powers with a deep colonial history.

Neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia could do anything in Yemen without direction and support from Britain (pdf) and the USA:

Thousands of UK and non-UK employees of UK companies work in Saudi Arabia to train, install, maintain and help operate UK-supplied aircraft and other military equipment, including the Tornado IDS fighter-bombers and Typhoon fighters that constitute just under 50% of the in-service combat aircraft of the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).
...
[T]he UK has made a blanket commitment to provide RSAF with UK civilian and military personnel to support and arm UK-supplied aircraft used by RSAF in an armed conflict.
...
UK officials interviewed for this paper, and at least one of the government-to-government agreements governing the supply of UK weapons systems to RSAF, thus suggest that the UK MOD has detailed knowledge about the roles and activities of UK personnel both civilian and military, private and governmental, in Saudi Arabia; as well as about the use of UK-supplied aircraft and their munitions.

IHS Janes recently reported that the U.S. seeks a private company to rescue its soldiers in Yemen:

The US military is looking for contractors to provide personnel recovery, as well as airborne casualty and medical evacuation services, for special forces personnel operating in and around Yemen.

Why would the U.S. need those? And why in these weird places? (And why would the U.S. Special Operations Command ever outsource such a specialized, dangerous and important military task?) So far the U.S. had claimed that a very few of its soldiers are looking for al-Qaeda in south Yemen. These are supposed to be in-hit-out operations with direct U.S. air support.

The U.S. downplays its intelligence and aerial refueling support for the Saudi bombing of the various hospitals and weddings. In reality no Saudi plane would fly without direct U.S. and UK support. Now we learn that U.S. soldiers are also directly involved in the fighting on the ground:

[L]ate last year, a team of about a dozen Green Berets arrived on Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, in a continuing escalation of America’s secret wars.

With virtually no public discussion or debate, the Army commandos are helping locate and destroy caches of ballistic missiles and launch sites that Houthi rebels in Yemen are using to attack Riyadh and other Saudi cities.
...
Along the porous border, the Americans are working with surveillance planes that can gather electronic signals to track the Houthi weapons and their launch sites, ..
...
They also are working closely with American intelligence analysts in Najran, a city in southern Saudi Arabia that has been repeatedly attacked with rockets, to help locate Houthi missile sites within Yemen.

The U.S. media seem to support the U.S. war on Yemen. In a recent interview on CNN Senator Rand Paul argued to at least debate the war in the U.S. congress. CNN host Wolf Blitzer dismissed (vid) that as "moral issue". He says there are "a lot of jobs at stake" and selling less bombs to Saudi Arabia might cause a "significant loss of jobs and revenues". He wonders why that is "secondary question" to Paul.

I'll leave it to a Yemeni to respond:

Haykal Bafana @BaFana3 - 19:51 UTC- 14 Apr 2018

To whom it may concern: Which part is not sinking into your small-brained thick skull? Your half-fucked fuckery has been one long fuckin' orgy of disastrous self-fucking from start to now. End this humiliating porn. And stay the fuck out of Yemen. Dumb fucks.

The Sudanese seem to have understood. Others still have to learn. After the recent assassination of their leaders the Houthis promised to directly attack Saudi and UAE leaders. This will be a new phase of the ongoing war.  If the war continues for long the people of Yemen turn their eyes towards the imperial powers behind those figures.

Posted by b on May 3, 2018 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (101)

May 01, 2018

Netanyahoo's "Iran Files" are Well Known, Old and Purloined from Vienna

The dog and pony show the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo provided yesterday (video, slideshow) was not based on material Israeli secret services acquired in Iran, but most likely from data Iran provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) during the implementation period of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, pdf).

Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the Crisis Group, was the first to propose this thesis:

Ali Vaez @AliVaez - 18:06 UTC - 30 Apr 2018
5/ It appears to me that what Israel has done is that it has probably hacked the @iaeaorg and gathered some new details from what Iran responded to the agency to close the outstanding issues in 2015: IAEA Board Adopts Landmark Resolution on Iran PMD Case

Several nuclear proliferation experts point out that there was nothing new in Netanyahoo's presentation:

Jeffrey Lewis @ArmsControlWonk - 00:14 UTC- 1 May 2018
Let's go through Netanyahu's dog-and-pony show. As you will see, everything he said was already known to the IAEA and published in IAEA GOV/2015/68 (2015). There is literally nothing new here and nothing that changes the wisdom of the JCPOA. 1/10

All the graphics, pictures and technical details Netanyahoo quoted were known to the IAEA and the negotiators of the agreement with Iran.

The tale the Israelis provide to explain  how they got access to the files does not fit to the content of the "highly theatrical" presentation:

The senior Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a secret mission, said that Israel’s Mossad intelligence service discovered the warehouse in February 2016, and had the building under surveillance since then.
Mossad operatives broke into the building one night last January, removed the original documents and smuggled them back to Israel the same night, the official said.

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, a political scientist at Columbia University, points to this slide and satellite picture in Netanyahoo's presentation:


bigger

The pictured slide claims that Iran moved files to that location in 2017. But the Israeli sources tell the NYT that the Mossad detected the warehouse in early 2016. Why, if no nuclear files were there at that time, did the Mossad put a random warehouse in Tehran under observation?

Most likely both claims are false.

The slide above shows a screenshot of a satellite picture of Shurabad, a warehousing district in south Tehran. The coordinates are 35.494257. N, 51.356535 E.

By comparing changes in the pictured buildings and a Google Earth historic timeline of satellite pictures Batmanghelidj finds that the picture Netanyahoo showed  in his slide must have been taken between September 2014 and November 2015.


bigger

Other researchers confirm this analysis. Batmanghelidj notes that this time frame corresponds to the 'implementation period' of the JCPOA which began in January 2014 and ended in July 2015. During the period Iran provided, as agreed in the JCPOA, information about its nuclear research and gave IAEA inspectors access to all relevant locations and source material.

Israel claims it detected the archive site in early 2016. How does that fit with a satellite picture in the presentation that was then already replaced by newer ones and only available in a historic timeline view?

Presumably the satellite picture was part of the stash the Israelis acquired. But:

  • Iran had no reason to give the IAEA such a picture. It gave the IAEA inspectors physical access to its sites and did not hide anything.
  • The IAEA uses (pdf) Wikimapia, Google Earth and other open source tools to pursue and to document its work.
  • It is thus very likely that the IAEA made that screenshot of a satellite picture at the time it inspected the site during the 2014 and 2015 period to document its work.

There are more inconsistencies in Netanyahoo's stunt. One of his slides shows the potential position of a nuclear device in a missile as drawn in a well known 2003 sketch by Iranian scientists. He later claims that current Iranian missiles with a longer range could hold such a device.

That is wrong. The new Iranian missiles use a "baby bottle" nose cone that is too small to hold a device like the one researched by Iranian scientist 15 years ago. No current Iranian missile is capable of carrying such a nuclear device.


bigger

Following Netanyahoo's scaremongering show the IAEA provided this statement:

In December 2015, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano presented the Final Assessment on past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme to the IAEA Board of Governors.
...
The Agency’s overall assessment was that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The Agency also assessed that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities.
...
Based on the Director General’s report, the Board of Governors declared that its consideration of this issue was closed.

Iran did feasibility studies to assess what was needed to start a nuclear weapon development program. It never started such a program. The feasibility studies were related to a potential Iraqi nuclear weapon program which would have threatened Iran. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 the potential danger of a hostile Iraq dissolved and Iran shut down its studies. The shutdown in 2003 was confirmed in a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 and by the IAEA.

Netanyahoo presented old material of Iran's old feasibility studies. Everything he presented was already well known and the technical details had long been discussed at length.

The claims of how and when the Israelis intelligence acquired the files do not make sense. The Mossad fairytale is that its agents broke into a warehouse building in Tehran, opened two dozen combination lock safes (slide 8 in the show), hauled out half a ton of materials and put those onto a plane to Israel in the very same night. Even Hollywood would reject such an implausible script.

The folders Netanyahoo presented were all empty.


bigger

The 2014/15 satellite picture used by Netanyahoo in his slides is a further indication that the material was not obtained in Iran but from a (digital) archive at the IAEA in Vienna. The "half a ton" material of "55,000 printed pages" and "183 CDs" that Netanyahoo implausibly claims was smuggled out of a "warehouse" in Tehran are most likely just a bunch of old data-files from the 2014/2015 IAEA investigation copied from a digital IAEA archive in Vienna. They likely fit on a SSD drive or a handful of USB sticks.

Netanyahoo presented nonsense and lied just as he always does.


bigger

But the show was not in vain. As for its purpose we again refer to Ali Vaez:

Ali Vaez @AliVaez - 18:06 UTC - 30 Apr 2018
9/9 So all is all, this is a pretty clear attempt at recycling old info to create new hype and push @realDonaldTrump to pull the plug on the #IranDeal and push Iran and the US into a military conflict to weaken and contain Iran. Read more here: The Iran-U.S. Trigger List

The show was coordinated with the White House and unnecessary to convince Trump who has, by all accounts, already decided to blow up the JCPOA deal. It might help though to increase public support for that decision.

Posted by b on May 1, 2018 at 12:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (232)