Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 30, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-50

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The new electronic warfare equipment arrived and the first S-300 launchers were unloaded. A Russian ship is underway to provide additional air defense materials and supplies.

The not-so-moderate 'rebels' found out that the new Turkish-Russian agreement of demilitarized zone in Idleb is to their disadvantage and reject it. It will be impossible to solve the 'anarchy and terror in Idelb without force. Either Erdogan applies it (not likely), or Syria and its allies will.

Trump wants to get through economic sanctions what the U.S. could not get by force:

The United States will pursue “a strategy of isolation,” including sanctions, with its allies if President Bashar al-Assad holds up a political process aimed at ending Syria’s seven-year war, a top U.S. diplomat for Syria told Reuters on Friday.

Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria, said Washington would work with countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to impose tough international sanctions if Assad’s government failed to cooperate on rewriting the Syrian constitution as a prelude to elections.
...
He added: “Even if the U.N. Security Council won’t pass them we will just do it through the European Union, we will do it through our Asian allies, and then we will make it our business to make life as miserable as possible for that flopping cadaver of a regime and let the Russians and Iranians, who made this mess, get out of it.”

Syria, Russia and Iran are already under U.S. sanctions. They won't care about such nonsense.

Trump will meet Rosenstein in two weeks or so. The issue has been moved out of the way because the push for another lying aristocrat to the Supreme Court is the more important issue. One thing is sure, that angry dude likes his beer (vid) way too much.

The comment thread provides that the propaganda power of the immensely rich fossil fuel industry is still quite strong.

Other items:

Adel Abdel Mahdi will become the new Prime Minister of Iraq. A good choice for Iran and its allies. The U.S. is already in retreat as it evacuates its consulate in Basra.

Trump about (vid) his relation with Kim Jong Un: "We went back and forth, then we fell in love. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they are great letters. We fell in love." How is Melania feeling about this?

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 30, 2018 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (213)

September 29, 2018

Note To Iran - Debunking Netanyahu Requires Some Care

On Thursday September 27 the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo held a speech in front of the UN General Assembly. As usual he brought some props to continue his 30 years of false claims about a 'nuclear Iran'. Netanyahoo's claim in front of this year's UNGA was not entirely false but highly misleading. Unfortunately he is helped by some rather hapless Iranian responses to it.


bigger

Netanyahoo said:

In May we exposed the site of Iran’s secret atomic archive. It’s right here in the Shuabad Distrcit of Tehran. Today I’m revealing the site of a second facility: Iran’s secret atomic warehouse. It’s right here, in the Turkuzahbad Distrcit of Tehran. Just three miles away. Let me show you exactly what the secret atomic warehouse looks like. Here it is. You see, like the atomic archive it’s another innocent-looking compound. Now for those of you at home using Google Earth, this no longer secret atomic warehouse. You have the coordinates, you can try to get there. And for those of you who try to get there: It’s 100 meters from the rug-cleaning operation. By the way, i hear they do a fantastic job of cleaning rugs there. But by now they may be radioactive rags. This is the second secret site. Now countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on the alley in the days and weeks ahead.

Netanyahoo added the obviously false claim that Iran removed radioactive material from the warehouse and spread it over Tehran.

But just like back in May, when Netanyahoo presented old material that was long known to the IAEA and relevant governments, no one came out in support of his exaggerated claims. Yes, the 'atomic warehouse' in Tehran exists. But it is neither secret, nor does it hold anything radioactive or of current relevance:

A US intelligence official has said that the speech delivered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday at the UN General Assembly about the existence of a second secret atomic facility in Iran was “somewhat misleading.”
...
According to the US intelligence official, knowledge of the facility is nothing new to the Americans.

“First, we have known about this facility for some time, and it’s full of file cabinets and paper, not aluminum tubes for centrifuges, and second, so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out of the JCPOA any faster than it otherwise could,” the official said.

Another US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is aware of the facility Netanyahu announced and described it as a “warehouse” used to store “records and archives” from Iran’s nuclear program.

I am told that the IAEA also knows of the archive and its harmless content. The old material Netanyahoo presented back in May was most likely copied from the IAEA in Vienna. The IAEA is also the most likely source from where Israeli spies gained knowledge about the 'secret atomic warehouse'.

Netanyahoo again made misleading claims about Iran. That's nothing new. The case is closed.

But unfortunately some some Iranian people put the foot in their mouth by trying to debunk even those parts of Netanyahoo's claims that are correct:


bigger

The first picture in Meysam Yaghoubi's tweet is indeed the gate to the compound Netanyahoo showed. The other pictures though, which show a carpet cleaning facility,  were taken inside a compound on the other side of the street of the archive compound. They were not taken inside the compound that Netanyahoo pointed out. This can be easily discerned by comparing the second picture in the tweet above with a satellite view of the place. ‏


The notable gate structure of the archive compound visible at the upper left is not the gate of the compound where the picture was taken, but on the other side of the road.
bigger
---

The archive compound is marked, the carpet cleaning compound where the interior pictures were taken is south of it.
bigger

The Iranian Students News Agency ISNA provided the carpet cleaning pictures within a mocking piece (Persian, Machine translation) that tried to debunk Netanyahoo by visiting the marked building. The headline and intro of the report make it seem as if the compound Netanyahoo pointed out is a carpet cleaning facility. But the reporter and the photographer never entered that building. They only entered the compound opposite of it:

Netanyahu confused a simple carpet with atomic storage!

...
At that place, Mr. Rezaei and his partner, who were the owners of the workshop opposite the atomic bomb of the prime minister of the Zionist regime, stood in front of their workshop, and at the very beginning of seeing the photographer, they were jokingly told us that you were late; before you, other reporter too come here to see the bombs! Mr. Rezaei and his partner are the owners of the "Yekta" carpet workshop, ...
...
Mr. Rezaei counted the number of reporters who arrived in front of his workshop on Friday morning, whose partner invited us to the workshop to explore it. Together with the carpet owners and the photographer, we entered the workshop showing us the partner of Mr. Reza'i, and said jokingly that there is the secret storehouse there; we went ahead and saw that there was a number of rug and carpet in Anbar's unique workshop.

This ISNA piece and the attached pictures unintentionally confirm exactly what Netanyahoo said about the location of the archive building: "It’s 100 meters from the rug-cleaning operation."

Iran's foreign ministry is also somewhat hapless when it describes Netanyahoo's speech as "false, meaningless and unnecessary". Why can't Tehran simply say: "Decades old administrative records of our legitimate nuclear energy program are archived in a warehouse that is well known to all relevant entities. There is nothing secret nor nefarious about it."

Hapless attempts to debunk Netanyahoo even where he is right will be used by his propagandists to claim that "Iran lies". Tehran, and its news agencies, must up their game. 

Posted by b on September 29, 2018 at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

September 28, 2018

Trump Administration Acknowledges Climate Change - Predicts Large Rise In Global Temperatures

The Trump administration admits that climate change will increase the global temperature more than anticipated:

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees [Fahrenheit] by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists.

That increase though, says the Trump administration, is no reason to stop emitting gases that, for a large part, cause such warming:

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

"The child already fell into the well, there is no longer any need to cover it."

The administration uses such faulty reasoning to eliminate regulations that are supposed to limit 'greenhouse' gas emissions. It is set to allow higher emissions from cars and trucks.

For millions of years plants on earth used the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into hydrocarbons. Where those plants were later covert with volcanic ash or sunk into the sea, geologic pressure and time converted them into coal, oil and gas. Since the start of industrialization humans have used an enormous amount of these dead plants to generate energy. Coal, oil and natural gas - the hydrocarbons - oxidize in exothermic reaction. They burn and give off heat which humans transform into various kinds of usable energy. The emissions from such fires are basically the stuff from which the plants were created - carbon dioxide and water.

A large part of the energy from the sun that hits the earth is reflected back into space. Carbon dioxide and other gases (Methane) in the atmosphere lower the reflection rate of the earth, they trap the energy (heat) the sun shines onto earth within the atmosphere just like the glass of a greenhouse traps the heat inside. Spectroscopic measurements from space over several decades show a decrease of reflections from earth at the spectral range of carbon dioxide. Long term measurements on earth of carbon dioxide concentrations correlate strongly with the general temperature increase.

All this is well known and not controversial. But, as John Maynard Keynes said, in the long term we are all dead. Humans are not willing to give up on their personal comfort and profits for the benefits of far away future generations. The 2015 Paris agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions was largely a scam. Hardly any country stuck to the endorsed targets. After the Fukushima disaster the Merkel government in Germany decided to shut down nuclear power plants but increased the use of brown coal for electricity production.


bigger

It was a 'populist' decision, sold as a "green" policy even as it was the opposite, and contradicted the commitment to decrease emissions. The Obama administration allowed a huge increase in fracking which, next to the hydrocarbons, releases a large amount of other greenhouse gases.

The decision by the Trump administration is wrong. Yes, we will likely not be able to stop a global temperature increase in next few decades. But future generations also deserve our compassion. We must still do our best to limit the long term increase by ending the use of hydrocarbons wherever possible.

It will not be easy to replace hydrocarbons as a source of energy. Large amounts of electric energy are difficult and expensive to store. We need a certain locally distributed base capacity in our electricity networks to provide energy when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. For now nuclear energy is still the most climate friendly way to generate this base capacity. It also creates highly toxic waste that is extremely difficult to get rid of.

The effects of climate change, higher temperatures, rising sea levels and generally more extreme weather, will hit the poorest people the most. This within the U.S. as well as in a global frame. The consequences will be mass migration on a never before seen scale, widespread lack of consumable water and large violent conflicts arising from both.

Two countries may hope to profit from the rise in global temperature as it will increase their access to natural resources that are currently covert by ice. The U.S. (with Canada) and Russia may be the winners of the trend. Most other countries will be losers.

While short term human greed will likely prevent a reduction in hydrocarbon use, and a slowing down of climate change, there may be other effects that could suddenly turn the trend. A large volcanic eruption or a big asteroid impact could cloud the earth and bring back (much) colder times. Some yet unknown effect in the atmosphere that is not anticipated in current climate models could stop or reverse the current trend.

The human race is able to adopt to extreme climates. Humans can live in deserts as well as in the arctic. But such extreme climate zones do not allow for high density populations. The current number of people on this planet may prove to be too high to sustain. Climate change itself, through large scale conflicts and famines, may well provide for its own natural regulation. Reduced to some 100 million individuals humanity may well survive. Nature will not be compassionate in effecting such.

Posted by b on September 28, 2018 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (293)

September 27, 2018

British Intelligence Throws More Novi-Fog™ To Hide The Holes In Its Skripal File

The UK/NATO propaganda group Bellingcat asserts that the man in the left picture is the same man as the person in the other two pictures.


bigger

The man in the middle and right picture is supposed to be Ruslan Boshirov, one of the two Russians who say (vid) that they went to visit Stonehenge via Salisbury on March 3 and March 4 2018, but could not reach it because the roads were closed after recent snowstorms. (Stonehenge was indeed closed during those two days.)

The British government asserts that the two visiting men are agents of the Russian military intelligence service GRU. It says that they applied 'Novichok' to the doorknob of Sergej Skripal's house with the intent to kill the former British spy. The 'highly deadly' poison is said to have affected Sergej Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a policeman. All are said to be well by now but all three have been vanished from the public by the British intelligence services.

The alleged GRU men went on, says the British government, to dispose the rest of the 'Novichok' in a perfume bottle, the packing sealed in cellophane, which was months later found by some bloke in Salisbury while rummaging through charity boxes. That 'perfume' is claimed to  have killed the blokes drug addicted girlfriend.

Today's release of these pictures adds another layer of disinformation to divert the public from the many contradictions in the case the British government presented. It is Novi-Fog™.

Bellingcat, which claims to work with open source material, does not really say how it found the picture at the left. It claims to have had access to "leaked Russian databases" and to have "obtained" Russian passport files without further explanation. It then asserts that the man in the left picture is one Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, who, it says, is a highly decorated officer of the Russian GRU.

Bellingcat concludes that the man known as Ruslan Boshirov in the middle and right picture is indeed the supposed GRU officer in the left picture.

The former British ambassador Craig Murray does not believe that man on the left is the same one as the man in the other pictures. Other people have pointed out various inconsistencies with the pictures, seemingly faked papers, and the whole story presented by Bellingcat.

Elena Evdokimova @elenaevdokimov7 - 1:52 UTC- 27 Sep 2018

@Belligcat's new opus on #Skripal's alleged poisoning

  1. This is becoming hilarious🤣🤣 Person who filled the alleged passport form also forged the С.С. on the other form- its the SAME handwriting!
---
Charles Wood @Mare_Indicum - 3:52 UTC- 27 Sep 2018

Bzzzt! #Bellingcrap two images, one of Anatoly Vladimirovich Chepiga, one of Ruslan Boshirov, only get a 75% match using facial recognition software and are classified 'from different persons', not even 'quite look-alike'.

Keep up the futile search guys!

(Follow the links in the above tweets to see the presented evidence and conclusions.)

Moon of Alabama commentator Debs is Dead is likewise unconvinced of the stroy. The following is his (edited for readability):
---

I flicked on the beeb news channel as I dragged myself outta the pit this AM and caught the 'news' of the Bellingcat claim that Ruslan Boshirov = Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.

Now I'm fully cognisant of the fact that neither Russia nor Chepiga should feel obliged to prove this claim is untrue, but since whichever way you slice it Chepiga is now 'blown', they (Russia/Chepiga) may as well prove the claim is nonsense. The thing being that the boof heads at MI6/CIA would also have worked that out, unless it was a particularly boofed boofhead who put this latest snippet together.

IMO in all likelihood Ruslan Boshirov = Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga is correct. Towards the end of one of the supporting articles that sets out the 'proof' Bellingcat mutters something rather odd which seems like it actually detracts from the story - if the ultimate target of this revelation is Colonel Chepiga.

But who really cares about some obscure military intelligence mid-level bloke? [...] No one cares about Chepiga, this entire saga is about getting the masses to accept without any deep consideration, that "Putin" the figurehead who (according to western media) micromanages everything evil about Russia, only cares about destroying the life of Jo/Joe Shitkicker where ever in the world Jo/Joe may be.

So the last two paras of the burble runs thusly:

Bellingcat has contacted confidentially a former Russian military officer of similar rank as Colonel Chepiga, in order to receive a reaction to what we found. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed surprise that at least one of the operatives engaged in the operation in Salisbury had the rank of colonel. Even more surprising was the suspects’ prior award of the highest military recognition.

In our source’s words, an operation of this sort would have typically required a lower-ranked, “field operative” with a military rank of “no higher than captain.” The source further surmised that to send a highly decorated colonel back to a field job would be highly extraordinary, and would imply that “the job was ordered at the highest level.”


The logical flaw is obvious of course. If 'the job' had been ordered at the highest level surely sending some bloke who had been riding a desk for the last six years is not how it would be handled, the most recently capable operative would be send - either a relatively junior officer or a young but experienced NCO.

However assuming Boshirov = Colonel Chepiga is correct, while he would never be sent to supervise a hit on the ground much less carry it out; it doesn't take a great stretch to ruminate on the possible tasks a military intelligence colonel would be sent to England for.

There is one obvious task which would explain most credibly what he was in Salisbury for - to give Sergey Skripal confidence that his repatriation was a genuine offer, not some half arsed wish fulfillment plan dreamed up by Yulia and a low level intelligence operator eager to climb into Yulia's pants.

Two colonels of the GRU, one a highly decorated hero and the other a dodgy turncoat who had come to realise after the nonsense his immediate MI6 superior Pablo Miller, plus his big boss "Mr Steele" had put out about Moscow golden showers, whilst insinuating he, Skirpal was party to the fiction, that rapprochement between Russia and England/America was never gonna happen. He was never going to be able to know any of his grandchildren or see his motherland again because US/UK needed 'evil Russia' to distract their citizens away from the real evildoing 'at home'.

Someone used a chess metaphor elsewhere in a thread, well I would say that if the Bellingcat revelation that Ruslan Boshirov = Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, if true, sails close to a checkmate.

If Russia confesses that Ruslan Boshirov = Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, citizens in the west would be denied any explanation as the fishwraps and talking heads would be too busy celebrating Russia's alleged 'defeat' to include any other portion of what Russia had said, especially not an exposition which dealt with everything from the fact that Chepiga & Co arrived too late on Sunday for their poisoned doorknob to have tainted the Skirpals who had left the house for the last time hours before and that of all the English towns some idiot chose to squirt this muck around Salisbury was the one where assassination by chemical weapon was the town the least likely to give success since the proximity of Porton Downs guaranteed that some if not all staff at Salisbury Hospital would have been trained in chemical weapon detection and antidote.

On the other side of the coin - panic stations at MI6, on a quiet Sunday it has just been uncovered that an asset was 'going over'. So some duty officer sent the thug on call for the day over to Porton Downs to grab 'a little something' guaranteed to prevent any such nonsense.

---
End of Debs is Dead's comment.


Previous Moon of Alabama coverage of 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
May 24 - British Hostage Video Of Yulia Skripal Released
July 4 - British Government Peddles Warmed Over Novichok Muck
July 16 - The Magic Of Novichok - Deadly Agent Found In Perfume Bottle
September 5 - The Strange Timestamp In The New Novichok 'Evidence' - UPDATED

Posted by b on September 27, 2018 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (108)

September 26, 2018

The Trap Failed - Rosenstein Neither Fired Nor Resigned

Last Friday the New York Times published a story that reflected negatively on the loyalty of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein towards President Trump. Rosenstein, the NYT claimed, suggested to wiretap Trump and to remove him by using the 25th amendment. Other news reports contradicted the claim and Rosenstein himself denied it.

The report was a trap to push Trump towards an impulsive firing of the number two in the Justice Department, a repeat of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. The Democrats would have profited from such an 'October surprise' in the November 6 midterm elections. A campaign to exploit such a scandal to get-out-the-votes was already well prepared.

The trap did not work. The only one who panicked was Rosenstein. He feared for his reputation should he get fired. To prevent such damage he offered to resign amicably. He tried this at least three times:

By Friday evening, concerned about testifying to Congress over the revelations that he discussed wearing a wire to the Oval Office and invoking the constitutional trigger to remove Mr. Trump from office, Mr. Rosenstein had become convinced that he should resign, according to people close to him. He offered during a late-day visit to the White House to quit, according to one person familiar with the encounter, but John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, demurred.
...
Also over the weekend, Mr. Rosenstein again told Mr. Kelly that he was considering resigning. On Sunday, Mr. Rosenstein repeated the assertion in a call with Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel. Mr. McGahn — [...] — asked Mr. Rosenstein to postpone their discussion until Monday.
...
By about 9 a.m. Monday, Mr. Rosenstein was in his office on the fourth floor of the Justice Department when reporters started calling. Was it true that Mr. Rosenstein was planning to resign, they asked.
...
At the White House the deputy attorney general slipped into a side entrance to the West Wing and headed to the White House counsel’s office to meet with Mr. McGahn, who had by then been told by Mr. Kelly that Mr. Rosenstein was on his way and wanted to resign.

McGhan punted the issue back to Kelly and finally Rosenstein spoke with Trump. Trump did not fire him nor did he resign. It is now expected that he will stay until the end of the year or even longer:

President Trump told advisers he is open to keeping Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on the job, and allies of the No. 2 Justice Department official said Tuesday he has given them the impression he doesn’t plan to quit.

The trap did not work. Neither did Trump panic nor did the White House allow the panicking Rod Rosenstein to pull the trigger. The people who set this up, by leaking some dubious FBI memo to the NYT, did not achieve their aims.

There are only six weeks left until the midterm elections. What other October surprises might be planned by either side?

Posted by b on September 26, 2018 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (91)

U.S. Scaremongers About Iranian Missiles But Reduces Mideast Missile Defense

he propaganda of the Trump administration says that all must fear those ghastly Iranian missiles:

Trump’s Iran envoy blasts Tehran missile work .. - Sep 19

Brian Hook, the US special envoy on Iran, cited Iran’s continuing development, testing and transfer of ballistic missile technology as a key flaw of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that President Donald Trump withdrew from in May.

John Bolton warns Iran 'there will be hell to pay' if aggression continues: 'We will come after you' - Sep 24

The Iran nuclear deal, Bolton said Tuesday, "did nothing to address the regime’s destabilizing activities or its ballistic missile development and proliferation.

Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly - Sep 25

The Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders. In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget grew nearly 40 percent. The dictatorship used the funds to build nuclear-capable missiles, increase internal repression, finance terrorism, and fund havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen.

As with any government one must look at what the Trump administration actually does, not what it says.

U.S. Pulling Some Missile-Defense Systems Out of Mideast - Sep 26

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is pulling four Patriot missile systems out of Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain next month in a realignment of forces and capabilities ..
...
Two Patriot missile systems will be redeployed from Kuwait, and one each from Jordan and Bahrain, officials said. Patriots are mobile missile systems capable of shooting down missiles and planes.

The four systems have been taken offline and will be redeployed by next month, officials said. There are no plans for any of them to be replaced, ..

The Patriot missile defenses the U.S. kept in those countries were protecting U.S. bases in the region. If these were really threatened by Iranian missiles this reduction of defensive capabilities would be irresponsible. But the simple truth is that Iran's meager capabilities are no threat at all:

Patriot systems in the Gulf may not serve the purpose they once did, said Anthony Cordesman, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C. That is in part because Iran lacks the kind of missile capability required to level precision attacks.

In addition, if the Patriot deployments to the Gulf region were intended mainly for air defenses, that threat simply doesn’t exist as it once did, he said. Iran now is no match for U.S. allies in the Gulf region, which have superior air forces.

The Trump administration knows well that Iran's missile capabilities are no threat at all. Iran's best defense capabilities are its location next to a major hydrocarbon transport route, the Strait of Hormuz, and its ability to respond asymmetrically through proxy-forces.

The hype about "Iran's missiles" is just for show. It is a cheap way to convince the Saudis and the Zionist that Trump is doing something they like.

Posted by b on September 26, 2018 at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

September 24, 2018

Russia Beefs Up Syria's Air Defenses - Tells "Hotheads" To Cool Down

The Russian Minister of Defense today announced some of the measures to be taken in Syria in response to last weeks destruction of its electronic warfare plane with 15 airmen on board. Yesterday the Russian MoD held Israel responsible for the incident.

Shortly after the event happened we noted:

On Netanyahoo's personal request Russia had stopped the delivery of original Russian S-300 long range air-defense missiles to the Syrian military. These would have been less likely to veer off towards the wrong target. In consequence an Iranian 747 was damaged and 15 Russian soldiers were killed. Netanyahoo can forget about any further such 'favors' from Moscow.

Yesterday we added:

The incident will have consequences on several levels. For one - the airspace along the Syrian coast will now be off limits for Israeli flights
...
The Syrian air defense will be further strengthened and modernized. Its personal will get more specialist training. But the probably worst issue for Israel's military will be cooled down relations with the Russian forces. There will be no more freebies, no more looking aside and direct Russian fire on Israeli forces should they again try such stunts.

These predicted measures are exactly the ones Defense Minister Shoigu announced today. Syria will get the S-300, its air defense will be further updated, Syria's coast will be more heavily defended:

MOSCOW, September 24./TASS/. Within two weeks, the Syrian army will get from Russia S-300 air-defense missiles to strengthen its combat capabilities following the downing of a Russian Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft in Syria, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.

Syria ordered the S-300 systems in 2013 but Russia held back the delivery on Israel's request. Syria also had more urgent needs, especially for short range air-defense systems, which Russia delivered in large numbers. It were these systems that allowed the Syrian air defense to disable a high number of U.S. cruise missiles fired against it in April. The S-300, with a reach of up to 250 kilometers, will be able to target Israeli planes over Lebanon as well as deep within Israeli air space.

The delivery of the S-300s via transport planes from Russia already begun. There are several sub types of the system and a number of different radar combinations to guide them. There is no information yet about the exact types Syria will be equipped with and in what numbers. The first deployment will likely be around the capital Damascus.

Shoigu also announced that Syria's air defenses will now be equipped with Russian IFF systems:

"The command posts of Syrian air defense forces and units will be equipped with automated control systems only supplied to the Russian armed forces. This will facilitate centralized control over all forces and resources of the Syrian air defense, monitor the situation in the air, and ensure operative issuance of orders. Most importantly, we will guarantee the identification of all Russian aircrafts by the Syrian air defense systems," Shoigu said.

Identification Friend or Foe systems are the holy grail of any air force. With IFF an air defense radar sends an secret challenge to any unidentified airplane it detects. If the code is correct, a friendly airplane will respond with an identification token. The systems use special frequencies, strong cryptography and a daily changing code that is kept ultra secret. (NATO procedures demand that two officers cooperate in any update of such codes.) Russia held back these codes from Syria to avoid them leaking to potential enemies. It is likely that Russian officers will be present at the Syrian air defense command posts to handle the issue.

Russia will also take additional electronic warfare measures to hinder potential attacks near its bases in Syria:

The third measure announced by the Russian defense ministry is a blanket of electronic countermeasures over Syrian coastline, which would “suppress satellite navigation, onboard radar systems and communications of warplanes attacking targets on Syrian territory.”

Shoigu said the measures are meant to “cool down ‘hotheads’ and prevent misjudged actions posing a risk to our service members.” He added that if such a development fails to materialize, the Russian military “would act in accordance to the situation.”

The area where these electronic measures will be applied will certainly include most of Lebanon which air space Israel used several times to attack Syria. That and the upgrades of Syria's defenses will not be the only steps Russia will take. There will be additional political measure against Israel which are yet to be announced.

Israel knows that it can only do little against the Russian responses to its devious attack. That is why some of its lawmakers now ask for even greater U.S. involvement in Syria. The U.S. military will not be happy about that.

Posted by b on September 24, 2018 at 07:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (276)

September 23, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Terror In Ahvaz - Modi's Huge Weapon Deal Scandal

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The strategic event of the week:

Netanyahoo will have to do some big favor for Russia to regain standing with it. Israel itself has little to give on its own that Russia wants or needs. But Israeli interests control the Trump administration. It could ask the U.S. to deliver something to Russia. What would be of sufficiently high value to compensate Russia for 15 killed airmen and a very expensive reconnaissance plane?

---

Yesterday terrorists attack an Iranian Memorial Day parade in the southwest Ahvaz region and killed some 30 unarmed conscripts, veterans and civilian bystanders. The United Arab Emirates, the Saudis, and behind them the U.S. are instigating such attacks. The U.S. military in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan is quite exposed and might well become the target of an asymmetrical response.

---

The Hindu-fascist Modi government in India is crumbling. Its crazy monetary scheme put the economy, as MoA predicted, into shambles. A huge new scandal around a weapon deal with France implicates Modi directly. The always recommendable Caravan Magazine exposed the unbelievable deal in a long and detailed writeup (not paywalled): "On a Wing and a Prayer India gambles its defence interests on Reliance Group".

In short: The previous government signed a contract with France' Dassault to buy 126 Rafale jets for $10.6 billion. Thirty percent of the price would flow back from Dassault to the Indian state owned aviation manufacturer HAL, which would assemble most of the planes. Modi flew to Paris and changed the deal without the knowledge of his cabinet and the country's military. India will get only 36 Rafales but pay $8.7 billion for them. Thirty percent of the money would flow back to a private Indian company belonging to the largely bankrupt, privately held Reliance Group for unrelated projects and without any know-how transfer. How much Reliance, owned by the once very rich Ambani family, would hand over to Modi and his party is yet unknown. There are calls for Modi to step down which he is unlikely to do. The issue will escalate.

---

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 23, 2018 at 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (78)

Russian MoD Presents IL-20 Investigation Results - Israel "Crossed The Line Of Civilized Relations"

The Russian Ministry of Defense just presented the results of its investigation (vid, English subtitles) into the September 17 incident in Syria. A Russian electronic warfare plane was hit by a Syrian air-defense missile during an ongoing Israeli attack on Syria. Fifteen Russian soldiers died when the plane fell into the Mediterranean.

The investigation confirms the early analysis published on Moon of Alabama:

The Israeli attack came out of the same direction as the Russian IL-20. The large 4 propeller plane creates a much bigger radar reflection than the small F-16s fighter jets. The S-200 missiles have a semi-active radar homing seeker. These are passive detectors of a radar signal which is provided by an external source, in this case the Syrian and Russian radars on the ground. While the missile was aimed at the F-16 its seeker likely mistook the larger radar reflection of IL-20 for the intended target.

Russian experts later provided more details that supported the above analysis.

The investigation presented today found that the Israeli jets intentionally used the Russian IL-20 as a shield against the Syrian air defenses.

Ru MoD Presentation 5:54min

bigger

bigger

RT summarizes the Russian conclusion:

"We believe that the blame for the Russian Il-20 aircraft tragedy lies entirely with the Israeli Air Force," said spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, before revealing a detailed account of events leading to the downing of the Russian Il-20 military aircraft on September 17. The plane was shot down by the Syrian air defense units as Israeli's F-16s effectively used it as a cover during the attack on its neighbor.

The report featured previously undisclosed radar data and details of communications between Russian and Israeli militaries, and concluded that "the military leadership of Israel either has no appreciation for the level of relations with Russia, or has no control over individual commands or commanding officers who understood that their actions would lead to tragedy."

The report debunks Israel's claim that its jets were already back in Israel when the IL-20 was hit. The Israelis gave the Russian military just one minute of warning, misled about the intended target areas of its September 17 attack and lied about the positions of their jets after the incident happened.

The Russian military spokesperson reminded the Israelis of all the efforts it undertook to accommodate Israel on issues related to Syria. These included the removal of Iranian supported groups from south Syria, the protection of historic Jewish facilities in Aleppo and the recovery of the remains of Israeli soldiers from earlier wars.

"This is an extremely ungrateful response to all that has been done by the Russian Federation for Israel and the Israeli people recently," Konashenkov said.
...
"In view of the above, the hostile actions committed by the Israeli Air Force against the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft cross the line of civilized relations."

The incident will have consequences on several levels. For one - the airspace along the Syrian coast will now be off limits for Israeli flights:

Lebanese news outlet Al-Mayadeen meanwhile reported that Russia plans to continue its closure of the airspace above Syria's territorial waters after the end of military exercises on September 26. According to the report, the decision to shut the airspace was made by Russia's National Security Council after the plane was shot down.

The Syrian air defense will be further strengthened and modernized. Its personal will get more specialist training. But the probably worst issue for Israel's military will be cooled down relations with the Russian forces. There will be no more freebies, no more looking aside and direct Russian fire on Israeli forces should they again try such stunts.

While the Israeli military may feel superior as it has more weapons, especially airplanes, in the area than the rather small Russian force, it is Russia that has the strategic depth and the means to hit any point in Israel from thousands of kilometers away. It is Russia, not Israel, that has a seat at the UN Security Council and the international standing to make itself heard.

The Russian government will, like its military, conclude the provocation was intentional and draw its consequences from that.

Posted by b on September 23, 2018 at 07:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (125)

September 22, 2018

The NYT's Rosenstein Story Is An Attempt To Bring Trump Down

The U.S. midterm election on November 6 will decide if the House and/or Senate will change from the current Republican majority to a Democratic majority. While the parties are do not differ much from each other, a few high political issues (and financial consequences) are at stake. The currently most important one is the Senate confirmation of the arch-conservative Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. The Democrats are trying all they can to delay the confirmation process with the hope to move it towards a post election session in which they may have a majority. A majority might even give the Democrats a chance to impeach Trump.

Except Kavanaugh, who will by then likely have passed the confirmation, the Democrats have nothing big to run on. The Mueller investigation had no serious results so far. The economy is still running reasonably well except for the poor. A spike in oil prices because of Trump's sanctions against Iran will only come after the election. Trump ratings are negative but not so much that it will have a serious impact on the election. The Democrats need something big.

This is the context of a sensational New York Times story - Rod Rosenstein Suggested Secretly Recording Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment - which seems to be designed to give Trump a reason to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Andrew Prokop at Vox summarizes its current state:

Did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seriously suggest to top Justice Department officials last year that someone should secretly tape President Donald Trump?

Or did he make an obviously sarcastic comment that he never intended anyone take seriously?

A new report from the New York Times’s Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt says it was the former — and adds that Rosenstein also talked about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. (Neither ended up happening.) The reporters’ sources are anonymous people “briefed either on the events themselves or on memos” written by former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and others.

But a separate report from the Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky quotes an anonymous source who was in the room and disputes the account given to the Times. Per this source, Rosenstein was rebutting a suggestion by McCabe that the Justice Department open an investigation into Trump, and said something along the lines of, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”

Who’s right? The consequences could be enormous. It was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller as special counsel back in May 2017, and it’s Rosenstein who continues to oversee Mueller’s Russia investigation. Well before these new stories President Trump has privately mused about firing Rosenstein (or Sessions, or Mueller), so he could put someone he views as more loyal in charge of the Russia probe.

Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel berates the NYT for publishing the piece:

NYT Gives Trump His Excuse to Fire Rod Rosenstein

The NYT has an inflammatory article claiming that Rod Rosenstein floated recording the President and/or invoking the 25th Amendment in the days after Trump fired Jim Comey.
...
The insinuation is clear: in an attempt to accuse Rosenstein of things known to set off the President (notably, being recorded), someone took memos McCabe wrote and read them to people who would then leak them to the NYT.

If the NYT version of the incident is true, it indeed would give Trump plenty of reasons to fire Rosenstein (and Mueller and Session.) Several prominent Trump supporters urge him to do such:

Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted that Rosenstein “needs to go. Today.”

The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “No one is shocked that these guys would do anything in their power to undermine” the president.

Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host who is in contact with the president, said that “if the allegation is true, absolutely fire Rosenstein. No one could find fault in that decision now.”

But firing Rosenstein now would be a huge mistake. It would be perceived as a Saturday Night Massacre:

The Saturday Night Massacre was a series of events which took place in the United States on the evening of Saturday, October 20, 1973, during the Watergate scandal. U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox; Richardson refused and resigned effective immediately. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; Ruckelshaus refused, and also resigned. Nixon then ordered the third-most-senior official at the Justice Department, Solicitor General Robert Bork, to fire Cox. Bork considered resigning, but did as Nixon asked.

It is obvious who would be served by such a 'slaughter'. It would not help Trump or the Republicans at all. It would be huge gift to the Democrats who have long prepared for such an eventuality. Dozens of groups aligned with the Democrats have prepared a campaign to be launched the very moment Trump announces the firing of Mueller, Session or Rosenstein:

[W]e're preparing to hold emergency "Nobody Is Above the Law" rallies around the country in the event they are needed—900+ of them and counting, in every state, with 400,000 RSVPs to date!

Join us.


bigger

Such a campaign now could be used to get-out-the-votes on November 6. It would be immensely helpful for the Democrats and increase their chance to capture the House and/or Senate.

In defense of publishing the piece the NYT's deputy managing editor Matt Purdy says:

... this story is based on months of reporting.

So why is it coming out now? The answer seems obvious. The NYT report is a trap, timed for the upcoming election. It is not an attack on Rod Rosenstein, but on Trump. It is supposed to goad him into an impulsive reaction and to commit a Saturday night massacre of his own. Nixon's 'massacre' was highly negative for him and helped to bring him down.

Trump did not became president by being stupid. I don't think he will fall for this.

Posted by b on September 22, 2018 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (87)

September 21, 2018

Facebook Allies With U.S. Regime-Change Orgs For 'Fact Checking' In Foreign Countries

As this outlet concluded yesterday:

Unfortunately the anti-Russian and anti-Trump propaganda campaign has had serious consequences. Censorship in social media increased drastically ...

In consequence of the alleged manipulation of new and opinions during the 2016 election, Congress threatened to regulate social media. It demanded testimony by the owners of social media companies - Facebook, Twitter and Google - about their plans to weed out so called "fake news" distributed through their systems. Instead of defending the freedom of individuals and organizations to publish opinions deviating from the mainstream, the companies promised to increase their censorship capabilities. To avoid to make judgments themselves, they decided to outsource these to 'independent' fact checking organizations. Anything those deem "fake news" will then be censored.

Facebook Inc just gave such powers to two well known U.S. government regime change operators. These will now have the capabilities to censor content in foreign countries:

Facebook Inc on Wednesday said it would team with two U.S. non-profits to slow the global spread of misinformation that could influence elections,
...
The largest social network, under intense pressure to combat propaganda, said it would work abroad with the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, created in the 1980s and funded by the U.S. government to promote democratic processes.

The IRI and the NDI are sub-organizations of the infamous National Endowment for Democracy. They "promote democratic processes" to achieve regime change of governments the U.S. dislikes. The NED is an offshoot of the CIA:

The NED was set up in the early 1980s under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s.
...
Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop doing these awful things. Of course not. What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice sounding name – The National Endowment for Democracy. The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities.
...
Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, declared in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

The Trump administration attempted to gut the NED but failed. In its 2019 appropriations Congress increased the "democracy promotion" budget that is used to "regime change" governments the U.S. does not like. The highlights of the bill include:

$2.4 billion for democracy programs, and an additional $170 million for the National Endowment for Democracy. This amount is $91.5 million above the FY2018 enacted level.

The NED, through its sub-organizations, finances and controls local entities that promote regime change.

From Poland's Solidarnosc to the anti-Chinese Tibetan Youth Congress, from the fascist Maidan Coup in Ukraine to regime change attempts in Venezuela - the NED had and has its fingers in each of these destabilization operations:

In a multitude of ways, NED meddles in the internal affairs of numerous foreign countries by supplying funds, technical know-how, training, educational materials, computers, faxes, copiers, automobiles, and so on, to selected political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, other media, etc. NED typically refers to the media it supports as “independent” despite the fact that these media are on the US payroll.

In 2015 the Russian government shut down dozens of NED front groups in its country that were trying to subvert its elected institutions. But Russian language content as well as other content presented to Russian users on Facebook, will now be shaped by these organizations.

By giving "fact checking" capabilities to these organizations, Facebook hands a global censorship tool to the U.S. government 'regime change' operatives.

All fact checking organization are already a dubious endeavor. Third-party fact-checking organizations accepted by Facebook Inc for the United States are the Associated Press, Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, Snopes.com and the Weekly Standard Fact Check.

PolitiFact once labeled obvious satire, published by the well known satirical Duffel Blog, as "fake news".

Snopes, a for profit fact checking organization, attacked Eva Bartlett for some of her well founded statements about the White Helmets propaganda organizations. In April 2018 Snopes attacked official Russian government assertions that no chemical incident took place in Douma, Syria. Snopes headlined the Russian statements as "Disinformation and Conspiracy Trolling". But the Russians were proven right. The OPCW went to Douma, took samples and found no nerve gas in them. Hospital personal as well as people living in the area were interviewed by several reporters. None of them had noticed a chemical incident. The opposition outlet Syrian Observatory did not report a chemical attack, but said that people died of suffocation after their shelter collapsed. There was no 'chemical incident' in Douma. The "fact checkers" were wrong. Moreover - when the OPCW report came out mainstream media lied about it, claiming that the OPCW found chlorine was used. The OPCW said no such thing. It found some chlorinated chemicals that can be found in any household cleaning agent. Some outlets, like the BBC and Reuters, had to correct their false claims. Snopes did not correct its false claims about the factual Russian assertions.

The Weekly Standard, a neo-conservative outlet edited by Bill Kristol played an important role in promoting war on Iraq, is now accepted by Facebook as fact checker. The Weekly Standard promptly rated a piece by Think Progress which was promoted on Facebook as "false" because of a slightly ambiguous wording in the headline of completely factual and truthful report.

Such "false" or "fake new" ratings by Facebook approved "fact checkers" have serious consequences:

Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF CONTENT I CREATED OR SHARED IS RATED “FALSE” or “MIXTURE” BY A FACT-CHECKER?

A: First, that content's distribution is reduced. It will appear lower in News Feed, and will be accompanied by Related Articles from fact-checkers. If people try to share the content, they will be notified of the additional reporting. They will also be notified if content they have shared in the past has since been rated by a fact-checker.

Second, in order to more effectively fight false news, we also take action against Pages and domains that share, and domains that repeatedly publish content which is rated “False.” Such Pages and domains will see their distribution reduced as the number of offenses increases. Their ability to monetize and advertise will be removed after repeated offenses. Over time, Pages and domains can restore their distribution and ability to monetize and advertise if they stop sharing false news.

Third, Pages and websites that repeatedly publish or share false news will also lose their ability to register as a news Page on Facebook. If a registered news Page repeatedly shares false news, its news Page registration will be revoked.

Smaller news outlets like Think Progress depend on the traffic they receive through Facebook and other social media. Being falsely labeled as "fake news" outlet threatens their existence.

For foreign countries Facebook engaged with the Agence France Presse (AFP) and local organizations to check the validity of news sources. This is already a dubious choice. AFP tends to promote the French government's view. Its Beirut bureau is, for example, known to have deep relation with Jihadi 'reporters' in 'rebel' held areas of Syria and tends to promote their views. But now Facebook is handing censorship powers over foreign news to the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, organizations which were founded and are funded by the U.S. to promote regime change of governments the U.S. dislikes. It is obvious that they will mark reports on Facebook that reflect the view of the government of Venezuela as "fake news", while they will promote those 'independent' Venezuelan organizations the NED itself finances.

The fact checking Facebook uses is snake oil. Such fact checking promotes a one sided view on issues and events. At the same time no fact checking is able to prevent well organized influence operations by domestic or foreign organizations. There are for example Facebook groups with thousands of members who use a special application to secretly spread pro-Zionist propaganda in cooperation with the Israeli government:

The campaign, which targeted dozens of prominent international outlets, was organized through Act.IL, a smartphone app and website developed by former Israeli intelligence officers in collaboration with the Israeli government, and with financial backing from conservative American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
...
Anyone can join Act.IL, and the platform is available on the web and as a smartphone app in the Apple and Google app stores. While it’s unclear how many active users there are, an affiliated Facebook group has more than 3,000 members worldwide. Once logged in to Act.IL, users are presented with a series of active “missions” they can take part in. Users earn participation points that can be redeemed to "get cool prizes,” according to an introductory video.

Act.IL is part of a larger Israel Lobby effort to secretly subvert and influence the content of Facebook and other social media sites.

The best way to avoid such campaigns and censorship of so called social media is to avoid them entirely. One can still get an objective view of the world by looking for original news sources and by applying a skeptical view towards presented "facts". It on us to teach others how to do this.

Posted by b on September 21, 2018 at 07:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (87)

September 20, 2018

NYT Admits That Its "Mountain of Evidence" For Russian Collusion Is Smaller Than A Molehill

The New York Times spends 10,000 words in some 199 paragraphs on the alleged 'Russian influence' in the U.S. election.

The Plot to Subvert an Election - Unraveling the Russia Story So Far

For two years, Americans have tried to absorb the details of the 2016 attack —hacked emails, social media fraud, suspected spies — and President Trump’s claims that it’s all a hoax. The Times explores what we know and what it means.

The long piece is a repetition of unproven intelligence claims, spin around a few facts and lots of innuendo. Few readers will ever digest it in full.

That is why this sentence appears near the top in paragraph 5 of a total of 199 paragraphs:

President Trump’s Twitter outbursts that it is all a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, have taken a toll on public comprehension.

bigger

One-hundred-and-seventy-eight paragraphs later, near the end of the piece, we read the opposite and learn that Trump is indeed right:

Mr. Trump’s frustration with the Russian investigation is not surprising. He is right that no public evidence has emerged showing that his campaign conspired with Russia in the election interference or accepted Russian money.

bigger

The "mountain of evidence" claimed in paragraph 5 turns out to be "no public evidence" in paragraph 183 near the end of the piece. But 99% of the readers will not walk through the whole mess and the 1% that do will likely miss the contradiction.

As Aaron Maté notes:

This is a pattern: ample words for Trump-Russia innuendo; quiet acknowledgment of no evidence. And 0 words on what has been debunked.

The 'Russian influence' and 'collusion' between Russia and Trump are still what they were two years ago, when the campaign started - they are fake news. Unfortunately the anti-Russian and anti-Trump propaganda campaign has had serious consequences. Censorship in social media increased drastically and international relations with Russia were seriously damaged. The main stream media though, will never take responsibility for that.

Posted by b on September 20, 2018 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (56)

Trump's Staff Overrides His Policies - They Are A Dangerous 'Resistance'

Three recent publications claim that U.S. President Trump is not allowed to make policies, that his staff is sabotaging him as much as it can.

An anti-Trump author at the Washington Post, Greg Miller, just released a new book about Trump. The Post prints an excerpt:

‘The Apprentice’ book excerpt: At CIA’s ‘Russia House,’ growing alarm about 2016 election interference

Trump’s admiration for the leader of Russia was inexplicable and never wavered after taking office. He praised the Russian leader, congratulated him, defended him, pursued meetings with him, and fought virtually any policy or punitive measure that might displease him.

A trained intelligence operative, Putin understood the power of playing to someone’s insecurities and ego. On cue, he reciprocated with frequent praise for the president he had sought to install in the White House.

In phone conversations with Trump, Putin would whisper conspiratorially, telling the U.S. president that it wasn’t their fault that they could not consummate the relationship that each had sought. Instead, Putin sought to reinforce Trump’s belief that he was being undermined by a secret government cabal, a bureaucratic “deep state.”

“It’s not us. We get it,” Putin would tell Trump, according to White House aides. “It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.”

The Putin quote is probably genuine. But is it "playing to someone's insecurity and ego"? Or is it simply the truth?

A few lines later the author confirms that Putin is right. When Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May asked Trump to support her ridiculous 'Novichok' claims, Trump's underlings set out to further sabotage the relations with Russia:

During a weekend retreat at his Mar-a-Lago estate, Trump’s advisers persuaded him to support a plan to expel 60 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States, telling him that Washington’s move would be matched in magnitude by allies in Europe.

Trump acquiesced, but his commitment unraveled on the trip back to Washington.

“Maybe we shouldn’t do this,” he said to deputy national security adviser Ricky L. Waddell during the short helicopter flight from Andrews Air Force Base to the White House on March 25.

The expulsions were set to be announced the next day in coordination with allies in Europe — an international show of resolve — and Trump was balking. Late that evening, Waddell scrambled to pull together a Situation Room meeting to confer with other top advisers on how to salvage the plan. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who called in on a secure phone line, said that he would phone Trump at his residence. “I’ll convince him,” Kelly said.

Kelly succeeded. But when the expulsions were announced, Trump erupted. He had expected France, Germany and other countries each to match the U.S. total, rather than for the cumulative response from Europe to be roughly equal to that of the United States. Trump worried that Putin would see him as the aggressor and accused aides of misleading him.

Trump's aids did exactly what Putin lamented about. They sabotaged the personal relations between Trump and Putin by convincing him to expel a too high number of Russian embassy officials.

North Korea complained when Secretary of State Pompeo pressed for immediate nuclear disarmament. The Singapore Statement, signed by Kim Jong Un and Trump, foresees this as only the third step of a larger process. Kim Jong Un, similar to Putin, expressed his dismay over Pompeo's demands, while expressing confidence in Trump himself.

Also recently published was a book by Bob Woodward, which follows a similar theme as Miller's 'Apprentice':

Jim Mattis Compared Trump to ‘Fifth or Sixth Grader,’ Bob Woodward Says in Book

Mr. Woodward’s reporting adds another layer to a recurring theme in the Trump White House: frustrated aides who sometimes resort to extraordinary measures to thwart the president’s decisions — a phenomenon the author describes as “an administrative coup d’état.

(Woodward's book was well received by the anti-Trump 'resistance'. But few mentioned that Woodward searched for, but did not find any evidence for the alleged Trump-Russia collusion.)

The above book excerpts are confirmed by a quite ridiculous anonymous op-ed in the New York Times in which a senior officials in Trump's administration confirms that s/he and others sabotage Trump's policies:

[W]e believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The op-ed names two specific issues on which the staff sabotages Trump's initiatives:

[We] are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

The deep state, the bureaucrats and policy minions who staff the White House and the government agencies, are actively subverting the elected president. They publicly brag about it.

Trump campaigned for better relations with Russia. But as soon as he was sworn into office, an "administrative coup d’état" happened and the policies reverted to the opposite. He said that he wanted the U.S. out of Syria and out of Afghanistan, but the "steady state" prevented that. Trump signed an agreement with North Korea that promises peace before disarmament. Then his staff went out and tried to turn it into the opposite.

Trump is the elected president. It is his privilege and duty to determine the policies of his administration. Why is no public figure expressing concern about this subversion of democracy? How come no one protests?

There are suggestions that Trump is only faking the discontent about his staff. That the effectively pursued policies are the ones he really wants. The three accounts above do not support that idea.

This situation undermines Trump standing in international negotiations as nothing he signs can be taken for granted, unless his staff agrees to it. This sorry state of the state will also have repercussions in future elections. Why would anyone vote for Trump, or someone else, if an elected president is unable to enforce policies?

Trump and his party pursue extreme right wing policies that I do not support at all. He might well have some dangerous impulses that could cause unforeseen damage.

But is it really better to let these unaccountable policy operators override his choices? Should we trust certified hawks like Bolton, Pompeo or Mattis any more that him? Is war with Russia or North Korea preferable to peaceful relations?

Posted by b on September 20, 2018 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (81)

September 19, 2018

Open Thread 2018-48

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 19, 2018 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (154)

September 18, 2018

Syria - Israel's Provocation Kills Russian Soldiers - Moscow Will Take Political Revenge

Yesterday Turkey and Russia agreed on a further de-escalation in Idelb province in Syria (see the update here). This agreement takes away the chance of an imminent wider war in which the U.S. and some of its allies would use a fake 'chemical attack' as a pretext to launch missiles against a large number of Syrian government targets and military positions.

A peaceful solution of the Idleb situation is unsatisfying for Israel. The successful Syrian defeat of the Jihadi enemy inside the country would allow Syria and its allies to concentrate their forces against Israel. Israel wants the Syrian government destroyed and the country in chaos.

On Sunday September 16 Israel tried to hit an Iranian Boeing 747 freight plane at Damascus airport. The plane allegedly carried an Iranian copy of the Russian S-300 long range air defense System for the Syrian army.

On Monday around 10:00pm local time 4 F-16 jets of the Israeli airforce, coming from the sea, launched missiles against at least three targets on Syria's coast. The strike came only hours after Israel released satellite images of what it called "strategic targets" in Syria. The integrated Syrian and Russian air-defenses responded.

The Israeli air force had warned the Russian forces in Syria only one minute before the strike. A Russian IL-20 electronic warfare airplane (red line) was preparing to land at the Russian airport near Latakia just as the Israeli attack (blue) happened.


Source: Russian defense Ministry - bigger
The IL-20 was hit 35 kilometers off the coast by a S-200 air-defense missile fired by the Syrian military towards the Israeli attack. There were 15 Russian soldiers on board of the plane which were likely all killed. Russian ships search for survivors. Some wreckage of the plane was found at sea 27 kilometers west of the village of Banias.

IL-20 electronic warfare version - bigger

The Israeli attack came out of the same direction as the Russian IL-20. The large 4 propeller plane creates a much bigger radar reflection than the small F-16s fighter jets. The S-200 missiles have a semi-active radar homing seeker. These are passive detectors of a radar signal which is provided by an external source, in this case the Syrian and Russian radars on the ground. While the missile was aimed at the F-16 its seeker likely mistook the larger radar reflection of IL-20 for the intended target.

At the same time as the Israeli air force attacked, a Russian frigate (red) near the coast detected missile launches from the French Frigate Auvergne (blue) nearby. The French frigate carries air, ship and land attack missiles. France denied "any involvement in the incident." But it seems that this only referred to the IL-20 incident and was not a denial of missile launches.

Even more was going on says Haaretz:

Not only Russian and (allegedly) Israeli and French aircraft and missiles were in the air. Civilian radar also tracked British Royal Air Force aircraft, which, unusually, had switched on their transponders and gone into holding patterns – most likely to avoid being somehow involved in the exchange of fire over Latakia.

The Russian Defense Ministry accuses the Israeli government of a deliberate set up:

"Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

After the Israeli attack the Syrian state TV showed the headquarters of the Technical Industries Agency near Latakia on fire. Other targets were near Jableh, south of Latakia, and Homs. At least ten people were wounded due to these attacks.

The Russian military spokesman also accused Israel of "hostile action" against Russian forces:

"We see these provocative actions of Israel as hostile," Konashenkov said, adding that 15 Russian servicemen were killed as a result of the "irresponsible actions" of Israel's Defense Forces, which violated "the spirit of the Israeli-Russian partnership."
According to the spokesman, the Russian Defense Ministry reserves the right to an "adequate response" following the Israeli attack.

Israel (and France?) are deliberately provoking the Syrian and Russian forces. It hopes for a response that allows it to play the victim and to call on U.S. President Trump for help and protection. The help would come in the form of a U.S., British and French attack on the Syrian government and Syrian military targets.

Russia will certainly take revenge for the Israeli provocation, but will likely do so in the political arena. On Netanyahoo's personal request Russia had stopped the delivery of original Russian S-300 long range air-defense missiles to the Syrian military. These would have been less likely to veer off towards the wrong target. In consequence an Iranian 747 was damaged and 15 Russian soldiers were killed. Netanyahoo can forget about any further such 'favors' from Moscow.

Posted by b on September 18, 2018 at 06:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (397)

September 16, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Secret Bio-weapons - Skripals - OT 2018-47

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The theme of the week was the now delayed operation to liberate Idelb governorate in Syria.


bigger

But the White Helmets will have to wait with their next 'chemical weapon' scam. The attack was delayed. The crisis has for now receded but the issue will be back in the news in some six to eight weeks.


The Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva published an extensive investigative piece on the secret U.S. biological weapon laboratory near Tbilisi, Georgia:

US diplomats involved in trafficking of human blood and pathogens for secret military program

The US Embassy to Tbilisi transports frozen human blood and pathogens as diplomatic cargo for a secret US military program. Internal documents, implicating US diplomats in the transportation of and experimenting on pathogens under diplomatic cover were leaked to me by Georgian insiders. According to these documents, Pentagon scientists have been deployed to the Republic of Georgia and have been given diplomatic immunity to research deadly diseases and biting insects at the Lugar Center – the Pentagon biolaboratory in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.

A copy is also available at the Balkanspost. The Georgian government rejects the allegation and claims that the laboratory is under its full control. But why then is the U.S. buying even the toilet paper the scientist use in the lab?

Dilyana Gaytandzhieva previously published on secret weapon transfer from east-Europe to Syria and elsewhere under diplomatic cover.


The British government claimed that two Russian men, who traveled under the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were in Salisbury to assassinate the British spy Sergej Skripal. It said that those names were likely false. But the chaps are real and talked with Russia Today editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. There is an English transcript of the full interview. Some of their answers may suggest that they are a gay couple. Looking at their picture this seems quite obvious to me ;-).


bigger

Petrov and Boshirov say that they went Salisbury on March 3 to see Stonehenge but were hampered by the weather. That might well be true. Stonehenge was indeed closed on March 3 because of high snowdrifts on the road to it. The chaps came back on March 4 but were again disappointed. Traffic was still hampered.

The newest British claim is that the two men partied the night before they allegedly tried to kill Skripal. They smoked grass and brought a prostitute into their hotel for some loud sex. Other guest complained to the staff. Only highly professional GRU agents with the most dangerous poison on a secret mission to assassinate a criminal Russia pardoned years ago would do such a thing.

Or would they?

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 16, 2018 at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (203)

Syria - The Rationale Behind The Delay Of Idleb's Liberation - Updated 2x

Updated (twice) below

Southfront has an excellent longread on the Turkish role in the war on Syria from its very beginning. The piece includes a list of the groups Turkey currently supports and gives an outlook on Turkey's plans:

Turkish Strategy In Northern Syria: Military Operations, Turkish-backed Groups And Idlib Issue.

The conclusion:

In the contemporary military and diplomatic reality surrounding the Syrian crisis, Ankara is pursuing the following tactical goals:
  • To eliminate or at least disarm and limit influence of US-backed Kurdish armed groups in northern Syria;
  • To strengthen a united pro-Turkish opposition Idlib and to eliminate any resistance to it, including in some scenarios the elimination of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies;
  • To facilitate return of refugees from Turkey to Syrian areas under its own control;
If these goals are achieved, Ankara will significantly increase its influence on the diplomatic settlement of the crisis and on the future of the post-war Syria. The returned refugees and supporters of militant groups in the Turkish-controlled part of Syria will become an electoral base of pro-Turkish political figures and parties in case of the implementation of the peaceful scenario. If no wide-scale diplomatic deal on the conflict is reached, one must consider the possibility of a pro-Turkish quasi-state in northern Syria, confirming the thesis that Erdogan is seeking to build a neo-Ottoman empire.

bigger (pdf)

Elijah J. Magnier confirms our take that the Syrian-Russian operation to liberate Idleb is on hold but not canceled:

What is clear so far is the certainty that President Assad is not ready to give up Idlib to President Erdogan. Assad is said to be ready to start the attack in a few weeks even alone, at the cost of dragging everybody behind him onto the battlefield.

The operation has to wait until the Congressional elections in the U.S. are over and the danger of a U.S. escalation for domestic policy reasons recedes. Russia also fears that an attack on Idelb right now could re-unite the U.S. and Turkey and lead to a new coordinated onslaught on Syria.

Thomas Seibert at The Arab Weekly points to an upcoming change in the balance that will lower this risk:

Moscow would wait until October or November before ordering an all-out attack because the Kremlin expects the crisis in Turkish-US relations to deepen even further by then.
...
“Comprehensive action will start at a time when Turkey desperately needs Russian support” and Ankara is unlikely to add a crisis with Russia to its difficulties with the United States, [Kerim Has, a Moscow-based analyst of Russian-Turkish relations,] said. US sanctions against the Iranian oil industry starting in November are one reason why tensions between Turkey and the United States could worsen soon. Turkey buys about half its crude oil imports from Iran and has said it will not abide by the new sanctions.

But Turkey still does not want to remove al-Qaeda from Syria. It wants to move the group around while keeping it under its own control. They are excellent shock troops which, if transferred to Jarabulus in Turkey's Euphrates Shield area, could potentially be used against the U.S. supported Kurds in the northeast of Syria:

Erdogan’s government is proposing to transfer extremist groups such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, out of southern and western Idlib into the northern part of the province or to Afrin and Jarabulus, two Turkish-controlled areas in northern Syria.
...
News reports said Turkey would then deploy rebel forces of the Ankara-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) to take up positions abandoned by HTS.

The chance for Turkey to achieve that is quite small. Just today HTS published a fatwa against showing the Turkish flag in Idleb. Other Jihadi groups in Idleb also issued statements against the "apostate Turkish army" and its presence in Idleb.

It is likely that the situation in Syria will now calm down for a while only to escalate again in two month when the operation to liberate Idelb will get its final go.


---
Update (Sep 17 - 16:30 utc):

President Erdogan of Turkey and President Putin of Russia met today in Sochi. The main discussion point was the Idleb operation.

Elijah Magnier provides a first insight of the results:

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 16:21 utc - 17 Sep 2018

#BreakingNews:
#Syria #Idlib postponed until 15 of #Decembre to start with, with a 15km buffer zone and an engagement of #Turkey to disarm Nusra ( or merge it) and neutralise all other jihadists.

#Moscow has accepted to give #Ankara more time (for after the US sanctions really) to sort out #Idlib and the jihadists in the city, defusing the #US intention to bomb #Syria.
So: no job for warmongers for the next couple of months. Find another war.

#turkey wants the #idlib case to be postponed until the constitutional changes and the peace process to kickoff in #Geneva: more time for Idlib and Turkey to sort out its affairs with Syrian proxies. [...]

More: #Turkey has the right to pursue any group in #Idlib and to bring further military forces in the city to stop Jihadists. #Damascus approves the Moscow-Ankara signed' agreement between the two defence Ministers (Russian and Turkish).

What is huge is: #Russia signed a military agreement with a #NATO member (#Turkey) in #Syria. NATO won't like it at all.

Turkey will get one month more than expected. The Turkish controlled Jihadis will attempt to kill the al-Qaeda aligned Jihadis and vice versa. The Turkish army will also pay a death toll. The al-Qaeda aligned groups, coming under Turkish attacks, will likely try to slip into Turkey to commit attacks there.

Update (Sep 17 18:00 utc)

More information:

  • Turkey will not be allowed to give air support to its proxy forces or to its own forces when they fight in Idleb.
  • An additional 'demilitarized area' with 15-25 kilometer depth will be created and patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces. This area will allow transports on the M5 highway. It is of high value for Syria and its economy.

bigger

Posted by b on September 16, 2018 at 11:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (106)

September 15, 2018

The Dike Breaks - Netherland Ends Support For "White Helmets" Terrorist Propaganda

Updated below
---

The Netherland just announced that it is ending its support for al-Qaeda's propaganda gang, the "White Helmets". It also ends its support for the so called Free Syrian Police. Last week the Netherlands shut down its "non lethal" support for the Free Syrian Army after Dutch news organizations found that members of these groups were accused of terrorism by their General Prosecutor.

According to the Volkskrant daily (in Dutch), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ended the support for the White Helmets after its Directorate for International Research and Policy Evaluation issued a critical report about them. For the White Helmets, which had received €12.5 million from the Dutch government, it lists the following issues:

  • According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the supervision of the behavior of the rescue workers is 'inadequate'. The organization that supervises, Mayday, based in the Netherlands, is closely intertwined with the White Helmets itself. In practice, donors do not understand the difference between the two organizations.
  • Mayday wants to spend a maximum of 0.9% of its budget on supervision of the work of the White Helmets. 'That is why there is a lack of independent supervision of the activities and results of the project.'
  • The money for the White Helmets is transferred to the Syrian border in cash or enters the country via the hawala system. It is 'problematic' that Mayday does not know how much money is paid via which route. That is why there is a danger that money has fallen into the hands of armed groups. The cash flow can also indirectly be used for illegal trade. Systematic control of the money flow is missing.
  • The White Helmets are active in areas where armed groups are in power that are considered 'unacceptable' for the Netherlands. Contact between the White Helmets and local administrators who work together with extremist organizations is inevitable.

The seemingly intentional lack of transparency practically guarantees that much of the more than $150 million the White Helmets received from various governments will have flown into the private pockets of the people who organize the scam.

This blog published several pieces about the White Helmets, mostly pointing out their obviously faked media productions:

For background information on the White Helmets the earlier pieces by Vanessa Beeley's at 21stCenturyWire´are still the best: Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I and Part II – Syria’s White Helmets: ‘Moderate Executioners’.

Vanessa Beeley, Eva Barlett (vid) and others have tried for years to point out the nefarious scheme behind the propaganda scam "White Helmets". Roger Waters rightly calls them (vid) a "fake propaganda construct for terrorists". But 'western' media loved the dramatic fake photos and videos the White Helmets produced, partly because they could put them into print and on screen free of any charge. Whoever criticized them and questioned their narratives was publicly smeared and derided.

The Volkkrant notes:

It is the first time that a Western government states that there are problems with the project.

It will not be the last time. More people will take note, look into the issue and pressure their governments to end their support. As the Dutch know well, once the dikes break it is impossible to stop the flood. The relentless work of a few engaged writers put pressure onto the dike and finally broke it. The White Helmet scam will soon come under a flood of public scrutiny and will be swept away into some dark corner of history.

Just a month ago Germany's Foreign Minister Maas, also known as a "well styled NATO call boy", met the White Helmets front man Raed al-Saleh, who was denied entry into the U.S., and promised him more money. Maas also lauded the recent 'evacuation of White Helmets' from the Quneitra and Daraa area to Israel which was just another scam. Israel used the White Helmet cover to evacuated a number of terrorists commanders it had paid and equipped for years in its war on Syria.

Maas and his NATO colleagues in other countries will soon be asked about the Dutch example. Can they refute the analysis the Foreign Ministry of their NATO ally Netherland made? Can Maas explain what happened with the €17 million Germany gave to them? In who's pocket did they end up?


Update (Sep 16, 5:30 utc):

The Netherlands also ends its participation in the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS:

Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 fighter jets will be pulled out of the mission against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria at the end of the year, the Dutch government said Friday, September 14.

“Cabinet has decided not to prolong the use of F-16s in the fight against IS past December 31,” the Dutch cabinet said in a statement on Friday.

Some 80 Dutch troops will continue to provide training for the Iraqi army.


Update (Sep 16, 9:10 utc):

The publishing note from the Foreign Ministry on the report discussed above is available in Dutch language. There is a cover letter (pdf) from the Directorate for International Research and Policy Evaluation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also in Dutch. It describes the programs the Netherland contributed to (machine translation):

Since the start of the conflict, the Netherlands has spent more than EUR 70 million in stabilization support in Syria, in consultation with many like-minded international partners and donors. The programs aimed to contribute to some degree of liveability in the opposition area and the prevention of further refugee flows, new power facets and the influence of extremists. This support took place within the complex and fluid context of the Syrian war, during which the situation on the ground has changed drastically in seven years. The Cabinet has informed the House about contributions to the projects. Including the significant contributions to the non-lethal assistance program (NLA), White Helmets, and Access to Justice and Community Security (AJACS) program from 2015.

The evaluation report itself is in English: Review of the monitoring systems of three projects in Syria AJACS, White Helmets and NLA (pdf).

---
End Update

Posted by b on September 15, 2018 at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (92)

September 14, 2018

Syria - Al-Qaeda And Turkey Stage "Peaceful Civilians" Events

Turkey and other supporters of the terrorists in Syria arranged for fresh Friday demonstrations by "civilians" in Idleb governorate. These are supposed to show the 'western' public that the population of the al-Qaeda controlled province is still in favor of the anti-Assad "revolution".


Source video - bigger

Some tweets from yesterday make clear that these demonstrations are a highly choreographed propaganda exercise:

TØM CΛT @TomtheBasedCat - 17:34 utc- 13 Sep 2018

Supposedly, an array of European press agencies with security will enter Idlib city tomorrow to cover some demonstrations there.

Idelb is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), an internationally banned al-Qaeda organization. Turkey, which has friendly relations with al-Qaeda in Syria, will have arranged for the security of the foreign media.

Some prominent people also spoke about the event:

Harald Doornbos @HaraldDoornbos - 19:08 utc - 13 Sep 2018

Interesting. Son of Al-Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam, Huthaifa Azzam, calls on opposition in Idlib not to raise black/jihadi flags during tomorrow's protest but only revolution flags because there are international journalists on the ground reporting on the protests.


original tweet - bigger

For once al-Qaeda does not want its flag to be seen. The demonstrations must only show "peaceful civilians".

Sam Heller, now with Crisis Group, caught two voice recordings that were distributed via Telegram. It is not completely clear that these are legit, but they make sense:

Below are translations of two voice recordings purported to be of Tahrir al-Sham emir “Abu Akramah al-Urduni,” via anti-Jabhat al-Nusrah/Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group “JAN Violations.” The voice messages are notable for their apparently acute sensitivity to the optics of Idlib’s protests and those protests’ portrayal in foreign media ..

The first message is an advise similar to the one given by the son of al-Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam: Do not let any HTS/al-Qaeda flags appear in the choreographed demonstrations. It seems that HTS fears that these could be used against it:

“Brothers, a very important issue: We don’t want it to be come out in the Western media that the people opposes us, and that the people brought down our banner and stomped on it. Pay attention: If the banner is raised, there will be people placed just to pull away the banner and stomp on it. And it will appear in the Western media that they stomped on the Hayah’s banner. This is a big issue, brothers. It means that the battle will be against us, in the future. They’ll say that the people is ready now to announce the battle in these protests. Because these protests are what, the people, the public. If the people and the public pull away our banner in front of the media and stomp on it, that means the battle is ready against us now.”

The second message is an order to accompany the demonstrations and to take care that everyone behaves:

“Peace and God’s blessings be upon you, something very important to say: Coordinate with those responsible for these protests and say to them, ‘We’re with you, your brothers, and whatever you need, we’ll walk with you. And for your protection.’ Talking is free, brothers. Why not speak to them kindly. They’ll say, ‘God reward you, we don’t need anything.’ Tell them, ‘Okay, we’ll walk with you. We’re Muslims, too, and we demand the toppling of the regime.’”

The demonstrations, arranged for the media, took place as ordered.

Now the regime change propagandists are out to promoted the first videos from these staged events:

Thomas van Linge @ThomasVLinge - 12:41 utc - 14 Sep 2018

Once again protests against the #Assad regime have erupted all over rebel-held #Idlib and northern #Aleppo.
Syrians in the town of #Kafranbel sing "we want freedom!"

The demonstrations are similar to those staged in 2011-2013. Green-white-black French-colonial Syria flags and a few Turkish ones get waved -all new it seems- and a few dozens men and young boys, no women or girl in sight, chant some sectarian slogans:

"Let the Nusayriah [Alawites] hear, we are people who drink blood." Protesters: "Allah Akbar"

No black and white HTS/al-Qaeda flags is visible and no weapons are in sight. The video shots are tightly controlled and concentrate on the civilian clothed men and children. Where a wider frame is shown fighters in camouflage can be seen at the edge of the crowds.


Source video - bigger

The intended message of these stunts:

"Do you see us? There are only peaceful civilians in Idelb. No fighters are here. We are not terrorist. We only want freedom!"

The message is false.

Idleb governorate is completely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (vid). HTS, foreign Jihadis, as well as 'moderate' Islamists affiliated with Turkey. These are terrorist who prevent civilians from leaving and oppress the population:

In the northern Syrian town of Harem, militants last week erected a gallows in a public square, saying it was for “frogs,” or traitors.
...
[O]pposition fighters linked to al-Qaeda are seeking to head off the kind of negotiated surrender that has sealed the fate of other opposition areas.

The gallows, which the militants publicized on their official news website, was “set up to intimidate the traitors that worked on reconciliation agreements to the regime, so that they know that in the end their fate is death,” said an activist in the town, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation. “The purpose of its construction is to strike fear.”

Al-Qaeda has not vanished from Idleb. It still terrorizes the population. What would have been the punishment for not following the orders for these demonstrations. The gallows? A customary beheading? Or just some whipping of the soles of ones feet?

These videos of demonstrations are propaganda clips directed by the Turkish president Erdogan, in co-production with al-Qaeda, to delay the liberation of Idleb.

No one should fall for them.

Posted by b on September 14, 2018 at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (119)

September 13, 2018

This Anti-China Foreign Policy Piece Makes No Sense

A recent Foreign Policy piece on the reeducation campaign in China's Xinjiang region is another example of nonsensical claims made in the current anti-China propaganda campaign.


bigger

Notice the picture caption:

Uighur people pick up their children from school on July 27, 2017, in Kashgar City, Xinjiang, where everyday activities such as wearing a headscarf in the presence of the PRC flag can be cause for detainment.

The picture caption makes no sense. Carl Zha points out that every school in China flies the People's Republic of China flag. It is raised in a weekly ceremony each Monday morning. All the women in the picture above wear headscarfs in the presence of a PRC flag. Will they all be detained for some ideological training? How come they show no fear of being thrown into a "concentration camp"?

The Foreign Policy piece is based on a Human Rights Watch (pdf) report which again is based on interviews with 56 expatriates from the Xinjiang area of China. These people make claims of reasons for which they believe they themselves, or people they claim to know, were put through ideological training sessions. The FP author list all 48 of these reasons, claimed by notoriously unreliable expats, even when many of them do not make any sense.

How can "Trying to kill yourself when in the education camps" be a reason to be send into an education camp? "Owning welding equipment" is likewise certainly not something, on its own, that will put anyone into ideological training. China has an active anti-smoking campaign with high penalties for smoking in prohibited space. To then claim that "Abstaining from cigarettes" is a reason for being send into reeducation is obviously nonsense.

Sine the early 1990s a number of terror incidents by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) killed several hundred people in China. ETIM is sanctioned by the UN as an al-Qaeda aligned movement. Three years ago China decided to attack the problem at its roots. It prohibited Salafist-Wahhabi Islamic practice, which was only recently imported into the traditionally Sufi Uyghur-Muslim areas, and it tries to weed out any such ideology. It also fears the potential growth of an ethnic-nationalistic Turkic Uyghur movement, sponsored by Turkey, that could evolve into a separatist campaign.

People who are susceptible to such ideologies will be put through an reeducation training which includes language lessons in Mandarin and general preparation for the job market. This may not be the way 'western' countries mishandle a radicalization problem, but it is likely more efficient. There surly are aspects of the program that can be criticized. But to claim that these trainings happen in "concentration camps" and for nonsensical reasons is sheer propaganda.


For more on the issue you can listen to Carl Zha's recent Clash of Civilization podcast: Trouble on the Silk Road: The Real Situation of Uyghurs in China.

Posted by b on September 13, 2018 at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (90)

Syria - Turkish Tantrum Delays Liberation Of Idleb

Turkey is again turning to the U.S. to achieve its aim of controlling and annexing north Syria.

At the Tehran summit of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish presidents, Turkey presented a (likely U.S. induced plan) for Idleb governorate:

It included:
  • prolongation of the deescalation ceasefire
  • 12 armed groups, including Hayat Tahrir al Sham to be disbanded
  • Turkey will train a new rebel force to control Idleb under Turkish command
  • Groups who resist will be targeted in counter terrorism operations
  • ...

Russia and Iran rejected the plan. Idleb is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) (vid) which is an internationally banned terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda. Turkey had over a year to solve the HTS problem under the existing de-escaltion agreement and failed.

HTS, foreign Jihadis, as well as 'moderate' Islamists affiliated with Turkey prevent civilians from leaving and terrorize the population:

As a possible showdown approaches, the rebels have arrested and tortured people they accuse of conceding defeat, sowing fear in the local population. A doctor was recently pulled from his home at night, witnesses said. A pistachio peddler was arrested as masked men patrolled the street.
...
Monitoring groups and local residents put most of the blame on HTS, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, but say the Turkish-backed fighters have also arrested dozens of people.
...
[R]ebel groups have embarked on their wave of ­arrests, accusing those they ­detain of secret communications with government representatives. Many have been taken to secret prisons and tortured, groups documenting the arrests say.
...
“Although this is certainly why some people have been arrested, the problem now is that it is also being used by al-Nusra to arrest the people who criticize their behavior, or to arrest their opponents,” said Fadel Abdul Ghany, director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

After the Tehran summit the Syrian and Russian operation to liberate Idleb was to commence. The troops were in place,  air as well as artillery attacks to 'shape' the battlefield were ongoing.

But Erdogan again turned on his partners and is back flirting with the U.S. he otherwise despises. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal he  begged for U.S. and NATO help:

All members of the international community must understand their responsibilities as the assault on Idlib looms. The consequences of inaction are immense. We cannot leave the Syrian people to the mercy of Bashar Assad.
...
It is crucial for the U.S., which has concentrated on chemical attacks, to reject its arbitrary hierarchy of death. Conventional weapons are responsible for far more deaths. But the obligation to stop the next bloodshed is not the West’s alone.
...
If the international community, including Europe and the U.S., fail to take action now, not only innocent Syrians but the entire world stands to pay the price. Turkey has done everything in its power to stop the bloodshed next door. To ensure that we succeed, the rest of the world must set aside narrow self-interest and throw its weight behind a political solution.

At the same time Erdogan is pushing the U.S. to do his bidding in northwest Syria, he accuses the Trump administration of supporting anti-Turkish PKK/YPK terrorists in northeast Syria. Turkey also continues to insist on buying Russian air defense systems instead of a U.S. produced one.

To halt the Idleb Dawn operations Erdogan shipped new weapon supplies to insurgent groups affiliated with Turkey:

Senior rebel officials said Turkey had sent more military aid to rebels in and around the Idlib region since a summit meeting with Iran and Russia last week failed to agree a deal to avert a government offensive into the area.
...
“They pledged complete Turkish military support for a long, protracted battle,” a senior FSA commander who was privy to talks in recent days with senior Turkish officials said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly.

All border areas between Idleb and Turkey are under control of HTS. It takes a share of every load that comes through the border. Turkey is effectively arming the organization it is supposed to eliminate. Turkey also sent reinforcements to its observation posts in Idleb, including tanks (vid).

Erdogan claims that he fears a new wave of refugees coming towards Turkey. He uses this to press the European Union to support his position:

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said a refugee influx across Turkey’s borders would have international repercussions.
...
“The global community also needs to take responsibility,” Kalin said after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday. “Another migrant wave coming to Turkey at a time when we already host millions of refugees will cause other complications,” he said. “This will spread from here to Europe and other countries.

But the concern over a new refugee wave is exaggerated and likely a diversion. The real plan seems to be much larger. Turkey wants to annex Idleb.


bigger (pdf)

The new Turkish 'plan' for Idleb which it offered to Russia and Iran is said to include:

  • no Syrian army attacks on Turkish supported groups
  • no Syrian army entry in areas controlled by Turkish supported groups
  • Turkey and Russian troops are to enter to eliminate HTS
  • Turkey and Russia will police the areas after HTS is cleared out
  • Turkey will only leave when the Kurdish YPG, the U.S. proxy force in northeast Syria, is dismantled

The YPG in Syria, which operates as the PKK terror organization in Turkey, is under U.S. protection. It can not be disbanded. The condition Turkey sets out is unfulfillable.

Moreover Turkey is preparing a 'legal' claim on Idleb. It uses its proxies in Idleb to claim 'Ottoman' ownership of the areas they control and to installs its own state structures there:

[T]he sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory that there are 15 villages in the south-eastern sector of Idlib countryside, in the area between Maarrat Al-Nu’man and Sinjar area, including Al-Sayyadi, Barsah, Khyara, Seraa and Saree, have been owned by the Turks, since the time of the Ottoman presence in the area, which pushed the Turks, according to the sources, to interfere strongly and bring grand military forces and large numbers of members, equipment, ammunition and vehicles in addition to fortifying their military posts stationed in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo.
...
Turkey depends to prove that it owns these areas, on titles and deeds of ownership of these villages, and what supports this claim is that Turkey deliberately established 3 observation posts in the east of the International Highway which passes through Idlib province and links between the Syrian – Turkish border and the Syrian – Jordanian border, and Turkey also depends on similar proofs to prove its ownership of other areas such as Jarabulus, Manbij and the areas where Ottoman commanders had been buried
...
Turkey will work on preventing the regime forces from starting any battle in the western countryside of Idlib, and will not allow this to happen along with requesting the factions to be completely ready in the case that any changes that may take place, while a request will be submitted to Ankara for the services and the restoration of schools, as well as a request that will be submitted about the demanding of the return of Jabal Al-Akrad and Jabal Al-Turkman and putting them under the Turkish protection and the return of their residents to them.”

The claims are of course ludicrous. The Ottoman empire is gone and the territory is internationally recognized as part of Syria.

Russia seems to be willing to give Turkey more time:

“We are saying the situation in Idlib should be settled most preferably in a peaceful way. It is possible to abstain from using military force,” Alexander Lavrentiev, Russia's Syria envoy, told reporters after talks in Geneva with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura.

Idlib province is...a sort of zone of responsibility of Turkey; it is their responsibility to separate the moderate opposition from the extremists, from Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups, other terrorist groups,” he said.

Syria and Iran will be very unhappy about this delay but they need Russia's backing to proceed.

Russia anticipates that the 'west', with the help of Turkey, will try to use the Syrian liberation of Idleb for an all-out attack on the Syrian government. The Russian Defense Ministry continues its warning of another fake a chemical incident which would be a pretext for a 'western' attack on the Syrian government. For the last 48 hours, all Syrian and Russian air attacks on the terrorists in Idleb have stopped. This is probably to prevent that such strikes are used to claim a 'chemical bombing':

Another U.S. attack on Syria would help U.S. President Trump on domestic issues, most importantly in the upcoming elections for Congress. In two weeks Trump will chair a UN Security Council meeting which he could use to propagandize against an Idelb attack. It is possible that Russia will hold back until these events are over.

For Russia this is a tricky situation. Erdogan can probably be pressured into retreat. But Russia also wants to prevent that it falls back into the U.S. fold.  The typical Russian reaction in such a situation is to hedge, to play for time and to hope that some other incident happens which then helps to turn the situation. Such an event may come sooner than expected.

This morning Erdogan called on the Turkish central bank to lower its interest rates. He believes that high interests rates drive high inflation. The Turkish Lira fell 3%. Two hours after Erdogan's call the Central Bank raised the interest rate by 625 basis points to 24% and the Lira rallied. This will over time bring down the inflation rate but Turkey's economy will stall.

Such economic turmoil increases Turkey's dependence on Russia and Iran which are the main energy suppliers to Turkey. The Central Bank move is also a threat to Erdogan's personal authority which he can not to let unanswered. But attacks on the independence of the Central Bank will bring 'western' punishment.  Who will then back him if not Russia and Iran?

Posted by b on September 13, 2018 at 07:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (98)

September 12, 2018

Open Thread 2018-46

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 12, 2018 at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (136)

September 11, 2018

A Few Items Related To Syria

The U.S. candidate to (again) become Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, is out of the race. After the recent riots in Basra the party of Moqtada al-Sadr renounced its support for his candidacy. Even before that Abadi lacked the votes in parliament to get elected. On top of that Ajatollah Sistani let it be known that he will not support any candidate who had already tried and failed to solve Iraq's problems. Former Prime Minister Maliki and Abadi both fall into that category.

U.S. envoy Brett McGurk had tried to press the Sunni and Kurdish factions to support Abadi and encouraged the Saudis to bribe Moqtada al-Sadr.  He failed. It now looks like the various Shia parties, plus some Sunni and Kurdish independents, have a solid coalition large enough to reign the country. Most of them want the U.S. military to leave Iraq. Iraq will get a new prime minister and it will not be the person that U.S. would like to see in that role. This will create some serious logistic difficulties for the increasing U.S. deployment in Syria.

The fight against ISIS in Iraq is not over. The political instability allows ISIS to return (vid) in the form of a lose guerrilla army. Iraq still lacks some tools, intelligence and nighttime fighting capabilities, to wear down these groups. With an anti-U.S. government the ISIS problem will certainly increase as the U.S. will gain use ISIS to keep a foot in the door.

Robert Fisk travels along the frontline of Idleb governorate in Syria. He sees remarkably few Syrian forces. He expects that the upcoming attack will smaller than expected and a rather slow moving affair.

Geographer Fabrice Balanche reasonably assumes that the Syrian army will, in a first phase, only attack the Turkish supported "moderate" rebels, painted in light green, in the southern part of the Idleb pocket. The Al-Qaeda/Nusra/HTS brigades, painted in middle dark green, would only be attacked in a later phase. This fits to the observations Robert Fisk made on the ground.


bigger (pdf)

That the "moderate" rebels are not moderate at all is again proven through a recent scandal in the Netherlands. The Dutch newscaster NOS Nieuwsuur and the daily newspaper Trouw report (in Dutch) that the Dutch government until very recently spent at least €25 million to provide "moderate" rebels in Syria with pick-up trucks, uniforms, satellite phones, cameras, medical kits, tents and rubber mattresses.

The journalists find that the "non-lethal" supplies were of course used to fight the Syrian government. They also reveal that the groups supplied, which the government held secret, were all Jihadis and that the Public Prosecutor of the Netherlands indicted several of their members for terrorism.

Trouw and Nieuwsuur decide to carry out further research into the NLA program. In recent months, both media have been talking to about 100 rebel leaders and those involved in the NLA program, and have succeeded in determining which groups the Netherlands has supported in any case. These are the Sultan Murad Brigade, the Suleyman Shah Brigade, Suqour al Jabl and Division 13 of the Free Idlib Army, Brigade 51 and Jabhat al-Shamiya. Commanders from these groups have spoken to us in recent months and tell us what kind of goods they received from the Netherlands.
...
The Public Prosecution Service has actually prosecuted Dutch Syria volunteers for joining brigades of the Free Syrian Army. Take the Dutch Syrian Driss M. On March 21, 2017 he had to appear in court. He is accused of having participated in the Islamist group Jabhat al-Shamiya in 2014 and 2015. According to the Public Prosecution Service, this is a 'salafist/jihadist organization that seeks to establish a caliphate, and is part of the jihadist Ahrar al-Sham. But at the same time, Jabhat al-Shamiya is also part of the Free Syrian Army supported by the Netherlands and described as moderate.

At least one prosecutor seems to believe that the government committed a crime:

The sending of relief supplies to combat groups can also be punishable, because then you contribute to the fight and possibly even terrorist financing. "If you send pick-up trucks, you enable someone to travel, you enable an organization to be able to get from A to B." Van Veghel concludes in a strict tone: "If you in any way role plays in that battle, either active as a combatant, or less active but in such a way that you enable another person to take part in that battle, then you will have criminal responsibility."

Legal trouble is also coming up for the German government.

The U.S. asked the Merkel administration to participate in "retaliatory" regime change strikes on the Syrian government forces when, likely soon, another faked 'chemical' incident will be blamed on it. Several high ranking members of Chancellor Merkel's party want to follow that call. But now the Scientific Services of the German Bundestag, the equivalent of the U.S. Congressional Research Service, released an authoritative legal opinion (pdf, in German) on the issue. Such an attack would be illegal under international law and it would also violate the German constitution. There will be no official German support for such a wider attack on Syria. (In an earlier opinion the Scientific Service found that the continued U.S. presence in Syria is illegal.)

Fitting to the anniversary of a remarkable incident that took place in New York, Maram Susli, aka SyrianGirl, released this video with quotes from Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, and from the U.S. ambassador to the UN Nicky Halley.

 

Posted by b on September 11, 2018 at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

September 09, 2018

MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-45

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The timestamp question is solved, but there still many, many other inconsistencies.

There is a report of a very large Turkish Army convoy entering Syria's Idleb province. That is wishful thinking by some "rebel" circles. Turkey is only strengthening its border position. It is unlikely to intervene in the Syrian and Russian 'Idleb Dawn' operation to free the province of terrorists.

---

 Finally a realistic assessment of the British role in World War II:

Peter Hitchens @ClarkeMicah - 7:40 utc- 9 Sep 2018

Actually no, we didn't Win the Second World War. We started it, but, thanks to our weakness and shortage of cash had to hand it over to the USA and the USSR half way through. First extracts, in the Mail on Sunday, from my new book 'The Phoney Victory'

The limeys will be livid about this insult and ignore the truth. Recommended.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 9, 2018 at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (213)

The Strategic Aspect Of Bashing China's Re-education of Uyghurs

The New York Times reports on China's re-education program for Uygurs in Xinjiang, who are in danger for falling to Islamist extremism. The report is part of a larger U.S. campaign to instrumentalize the issue as a pressure point against China. It is a strategic issue for both sides.

The lede:

HOTAN, China — On the edge of a desert in far western China, an imposing building sits behind a fence topped with barbed wire. Large red characters on the facade urge people to learn Chinese, study law and acquire job skills. Guards make clear that visitors are not welcome.

Inside, hundreds of ethnic Uighur Muslims spend their days in a high-pressure indoctrination program, where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays, according to detainees who have been released.

The goal is to remove any devotion to Islam.

There are rumors that up to a million people are moved through such programs. That estimate is based on only 8 vague interviews with locals. The real number is likely in the lower thousands. There is no evidence that any serious harm is done to them.

The NYT report includes this gem of Orientalism:

One official directive warns people to look for 75 signs of “religious extremism,” including behavior that would be considered unremarkable in other countries: growing a beard as a young man, praying in public places outside mosques or even abruptly trying to give up smoking or drinking.

The writers of the New York Times seem to have little knowledge of their own city. In 2007 the New York Police Department published a study on Islamist radicalization that remarked on exactly those points:

As these individuals adopt Salafism, typical signatures include:
  • Becoming alienated from one’s former life; affiliating with like-minded individuals
  • Joining or forming a group of like-minded individuals in a quest to strengthen one’s dedication to Salafi Islam
  • Giving up cigarettes, drinking, gambling and urban hip-hop gangster clothes.
  • Wearing traditional Islamic clothing, growing a beard
  • Becoming involved in social activism and community issues

The Chinese government probably copied its list of signs of religious radicalization from the NYPD and other 'western' sources. A French law prohibits public praying in the street. Other European states enacted laws against the wearing of certain religious attire. The Chinese do not lead in such analysis, they follow 'western' examples.

The re-education program became necessary after religious and even ethnic radicalization in Xinjiang became a real problem for the local population and the government. Deep down the NYT acknowledges this:

[Hotan, a] city of 390,000 underwent a Muslim revival about a decade ago. Most Uighurs have adhered to relatively relaxed forms of Sunni Islam, and a significant number are secular. But budding prosperity and growing interaction with the Middle East fueled interest in stricter Islamic traditions. Men grew long beards, while women wore hijabs that were not a part of traditional Uighur dress.

Now the beards and hijabs are gone, and posters warn against them. Mosques appear poorly attended; ...

The real wake up came only after and riots and acts of terrorism:

The government shifted to harsher policies in 2009 after protests in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, spiraled into rioting and left nearly 200 people dead.

But there is more behind this than the extinction of a local insurgency. The NYT report misses the geopolitical point of the endeavor.

China is developing new rail and road connection throughout Eurasia as part of its strategic One Belt One Road initiative.


bigger

Xinjiang province is larger than Great Britain, France, Spain, and Germany combined. It is a mostly uninhabitable landscape of mountainous and desert terrain with a tiny population of some 24 million of which only 45% are Muslim Uyghurs of Turkic ethnicity. It would be rather unimportant outer province for China were it not at the core of the new Silk road connections.


bigger

It is a vulnerable point. An established insurgency in the area could seriously interrupt the new strategic communication lines.

Chinese strategists believe that the U.S., with the help of its Turkish, Saudi and Pakistani friends, was and is behind the Islamic and ethnic  radicalization of the Turkic population in the province. It is not by chance that Turkey transferred Uyghur Jihadis from Xinjiang via Thailand to Syria to hone their fighting abilities. That the New York Times publishes about the Xinjiang re-education project, and also offers the report in Mandarin, will only confirm that suspicion. China is determined to end such interference.

The re-education or indoctrination program for people suspected of following an Islamist or national-ethnic trend is only one long term part of a security initiative that comes with intense surveillance and police control. The other part is economic development. Large infrastructure investments in Xinjiang create new options for a formerly rural or nomadic population.

But people do not live by bread alone. It is doubtful that Turkic and Muslim identity of Uyghurs can be exterminated by re-education. It will be necessary to adopt it in some pacified form that can integrate itself into the larger ideological construct of the Chinese state.

Posted by b on September 9, 2018 at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (112)

September 08, 2018

NYT Reconfirms U.S. Coup Plot In Venezuela - Adds Pro-Coup Propaganda

U.S. rejects claim by Venezuela's Maduro that U.S. envoys engaged in conspiracy - Reuters - May 22 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it rejected accusations by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that two top U.S. diplomats were engaged in what Maduro called a “military conspiracy” or had been meddling in the country’s economic and political issues.

Maduro earlier on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of U.S. charge d’affaires Todd Robinson and another senior diplomat, Brian Naranjo, ordering them to leave Venezuela within 48 hours.

As the saying goes: "Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied." The above denial confirmed Nicolas Maduro's claim of U.S. coup attempts against the Venezuelan government. A new report reconfirms the plot and reveals some new details of the still unwritten larger story.

Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers - New York Times - September 8 2018

The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks.
...
The administration initially considered dispatching Juan Cruz, a veteran Central Intelligence Agency official who recently stepped down as the White House’s top Latin America policymaker. But White House lawyers said it would be more prudent to send a career diplomat instead.
...
After the first meeting, which took place in the fall of 2017, the diplomat reported that the Venezuelans didn’t appear to have a detailed plan and had showed up at the encounter hoping the Americans would offer guidance or ideas, officials said.
...
The American diplomat then met the coup plotters a third time early this year, but the discussions did not result in a promise of material aid or even a clear signal that Washington endorsed the rebels’ plans, according to the Venezuelan commander and several American officials.
...
Days later, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has sought to shape the Trump administration’s approach toward Latin America, wrote a series of Twitter posts that encouraged dissident members of the Venezuelan armed forces to topple their commander in chief.

The Venezuelan generals the U.S. diplomat plotted with, are under U.S. sanctions for alleged corruption and drug smuggling. Isn't it illegal to deal with them? The story claims that nothing came from these talks. I see no reason to believe that. One attempt may have failed. But the U.S. surely continues to cultivate such contacts to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

The NYT hack, Ernesto Londoño, also inserts this:

Establishing a clandestine channel with coup plotters in Venezuela was a big gamble for Washington, given its long history of covert intervention across Latin America. Many in the region still deeply resent the United States for backing previous rebellions, coups and plots in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil and Chile, and for turning a blind eye to the abuses military regimes committed during the Cold War.

Only Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil and Chile? It seems that a not-so-small number of other U.S. coups in South America are missing here, even very recent ones. Why is there no mention of the 2009 military coup in Honduras, which the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton avidly supported? And it was only during the Cold War that the U.S. turned a bling eye to torture? What about the ongoing abuses regimes in Latin America currently commit?

Then there is also this nonsense:

Most Latin American leaders agree that Venezuela’s president, Mr. Maduro, is an increasingly authoritarian ruler who has effectively ruined his country’s economy, leading to extreme shortages of food and medicine.

"Most Latin American leaders" obviously means those satraps the U.S. installed and supports. Even then it is doubtful that they say such things. The author just abuses them to introduce a false claim.

It is not Maduro "who has effectively ruined his country’s economy". Illegal U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, imposed under Obama as well as Trump, did and do that.

Max Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explains on BBC (vid) how the U.S. is waging a brutal economic war against Venezuela. It is this war that caused the depression and makes a recovery from the induced hyperinflation nearly impossible. Billions of dollars that Venezuelan owns and needs are frozen in U.S. accounts. U.S. sanctions make it extremely difficult for the country to sell assets or to borrow money:

[W]ith Trump’s executive order, even if Venezuela were to stabilize the exchange rate and return to growth, it would be cut off from borrowing, investment, and proprietary sources of income such as dividend payments from Venezuela-owned but US-based Citgo Petroleum. This makes a sustained recovery nearly impossible without outside help—or a new government that is approved by the Trump administration.

Venezuela is a rich country. It has the biggest known oil reserves on the planet, though much of those are difficult to retrieve.

That is of course the reason why the U.S. wants to install a rightwing proxy government in Venezuela. It is the reason why it wages war  against its people.

China is currently the only country with the necessary capacity and geopolitical standing to support Venezuela. It would the best for the country, and for the world, if China would come to its help.

 

Posted by b on September 8, 2018 at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (124)

September 07, 2018

Syria - U.S. Reveals Underpants Plan For Indefinite Occupation

Today the United States officially announced a new policy in its war on Syria. It is an equivalent to the three step business plan (vid) of the underpants gnomes:

The new U.S. plan is to: 1. keep north-east Syria indefinitely occupied, 2. ???, 3. Iran leaves Syria and the 'regime' in Damascus falls:

President Trump, who just five months ago said he wanted “to get out” of Syria and bring U.S. troops home soon, has agreed to a new strategy that indefinitely extends the military effort there and launches a major diplomatic push to achieve American objectives, according to senior State Department officials.

Although the military campaign against the Islamic State has been nearly completed, the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community.

The first major step of the "diplomatic push" is to prevent the imminent Syrian army operation against al-Qaeda aligned groups in Idleb province:

While the United States agrees that those forces must be wiped out, it rejects “the idea that we have to go in there . . . to clean out the terrorists, most of the people fighting . . . they’re not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator,” as well as millions of civilians, [U.S. special representative for Syria James] Jeffrey said. Instead, the United States has called for a cooperative approach with other outside actors.

“We’ve started using new language,” Jeffrey said, referring to previous warnings against the use of chemical weapons. Now, he said, the United States will not tolerate “an attack. Period.

Jeffrey just visited Turkey. The intent was to stiffen Turkey's objection to the upcoming Idleb attack. The result was a plan that the Turkish president Erdogan presented today at the Tehran summit with President Putin of Russian and President Rohani of Iran. It included:

  • prolongation of the deescalation ceasefire
  • 12 armed groups, including Hayat Tahrir al Sham to be disbanded
  • Turkey will train a new rebel force to control Idleb under Turkish command
  • Groups who resist will be targeted in counter terrorism operations
  • ...

The plan is nonsense. It is a copy of the task list Erdogan was given when the deescalation zone in Idleb was established at an earlier summit in the Astana format. Erdogan failed to implement it. HTS still rules Idelb province. HTS still rejects to dissolve. The observation posts Turkey established around Idleb still depend on the goodwill and protection of HTS fighters.

Erdogan has no way to implement his plan. Accordingly today's summit in Tehran ended with a mealymouthed statement. It failed to come up with a common way forward for Idleb.


via Thomas van Linge - bigger

Syria and its allies Russia and Iran should proceed with their plans to cleanse Idleb of terrorist. The U.S. is bluffing. It has no realistic means to prevent the operation. Any U.S. attack on Syrian and Russian forces involved in it would likely escalate into a conflict between nuclear powers. That is a risk the U.S. military is unwilling to take. It knows that the forces it planted into Syria are vulnerable to attacks.

The U.S. is now screaming of imminent chemical attacks by the Syrian army on "civilians" in Idleb:

“If they want to continue to go the route of taking over Syria, they can do that,” said Nikki Haley at a UN press conference today, without explaining how a nation’s only recognized government can ‘take over’ the country it governs. “But they cannot do it with chemical weapons. They can’t do it assaulting their people. And we’re not gonna fall for it. If there are chemical weapons that are used, we know exactly who’s gonna use them.

If a chemical incident occurs the U.S. will know who did it because it provided the chemicals to the terrorist. The Syrian army will of course not use any such weapons. Sun Tzu never gave this advice:


bigger

Chemical warfare is ineffective. That is why everyone agreed to ban it. Like in east-Ghouta the U.S. obviously plans to again fake such a "chemical attack on civilians" to have a propaganda pretext to attack Syrian forces.

Tomorrow the Russian fleet will finish its ongoing maneuver in the eastern Mediterranean. All Syrian army units have taken up their launching positions for the Idleb operation and are ready to go. The shaping operations by artillery and air forces have been ongoing for a while. Any hold off now would only deteriorate the readiness of the troops and give the U.S. more time to implement counter measures.

The Russian President Putin seems to understand that. At the press conference at the Tehran summit he said:

"Regarding a ceasefire, we consider it unacceptable when, under pretext of protecting the civilian population, they want to withdraw terrorists from being under attack, as well as inflict damage on Syrian government troops."

Russia is not in the mood to compromise. It warned the U.S. military that it would soon launch an operation against ISIS forces under protection of the small U.S. garrison in al-Tanf. Those forces recently launched another attempt to recapture Palmyra but were caught and defeated before they could achieve their aim:

Russian complaints about the presence of potential Al Qaeda or ISIS fighters in the buffer zone are not new, the US officials point out. But with an imminent Russian-backed assault by Syrian regime forces in the Idlib area in the north, there is concern Moscow could see this as an optimum time to conduct multiple offensive operations.

And there is the problem of the new U.S. strategy in Syria. The position in al-Tanf is untenable. The U.S could put a full brigade there, including anti-air assets, and it would still be too vulnerable. That is why today the U.S. launched a rescue and exfiltration exercise in al-Tanf. The place is too far away from other U.S. assets to withstand a committed attack.

In the north-east of Syria the U.S. positions is likewise endangered. Since early August 1,900 trucks brought in weapons and equipment for its Kurdish proxy forces, the SDF. The Saudis have committed to pay some money for reconstruction and the U.S. surely hopes to use the oil fields there to finance a future occupation. It will soon start to announce some 'independent' regional government that will be under its complete control.

But Turkey is against such empowerment of Kurds. The supply lines through Iraq are vulnerable. The population is diverse with many Syrian Arab tribes unwilling to live under Kurdish/U.S. control. They will resist the sectarian and ethnic cleansing the Kurds have planned. That makes it easy to instigate a guerilla war against the U.S. occupiers and their proxy forces. What happens when the U.S. forces start to take serious casualties?

The U.S. presence in Syria is costly heap of underpants with no chance to ever turn it into a profit. It was a mistake by Trump to fall for the siren songs of the neo-conservatives and Zionists who pressed for this plan. It is he who will have to pay the political price.

Posted by b on September 7, 2018 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (143)

September 06, 2018

Syria - Mattis Lacks State Department's Intelligence ... On Al-Qaeda's Chemical Capabilities

The U.S. Secretary of Defense seems to lack the intelligence the Un and the U.S. Department of State obviously have.

U.S.'s Mattis says 'zero intelligence' that rebels in Syria's Idlib have chemical weapons capability

New Delhi (Reuters) - There was “zero intelligence” of chemical weapons capabilities possessed by groups opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the province of Idlib, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said, adding that the facts did not back Russian assertions.
...
We have zero intelligence that shows the opposition has any chemical capability,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him to the Indian capital of New Delhi.
...
“We have made very clear that by putting out innuendo that somehow any chemical weapon use coming up in the future could be ascribed to the opposition, well, we want to see the data,” Mattis said. “We cannot see anything that indicates the opposition has that capability.

On October 18 2017 the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Syria:


bigger

It says in the third paragraph (pic):

Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and al-Qa’ida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (dominated by al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization), operate in Syria. In July 2017, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham consolidated power in Idlib province after it clashed with other armed actors. [...] Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons. ...

The UN also knows of and is similar concerned about Hayat Tahrir al-Sham's chemical weapon capabilities. During a press conference on August 30 the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, explicitly discussed these:

So, the issue of avoiding the potential use of chemical weapons is indeed crucial and would be totally unacceptable. We all are aware that both the government and al-Nusra have the capability to produce weaponised chlorine, that’s the one people are talking about, not sarin. Hence an increased concern by all of us, and everyone else, and alert.

There is no doubt that HTS and other such groups have chemical capabilities. They do.

Why is Mattis lying about it?

Posted by b on September 6, 2018 at 06:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

September 05, 2018

The Strange Timestamp In The New Novichok 'Evidence' - UPDATED

Please read the Update highlighted below.
---

Today, in a politically convenient moment, the British government released new information about the poisoning of the British spy Sergej Skripal, his daughter, and three other persons. It claims to have identified two men with Russian passports who arrived in London from Moscow on March 2, went to Salisbury on March 3 on a 'reconnaissance' trip, came back to Salisbury on March 4 to put Novichok poison on the doorknob of Skripal's home and flew back from London to Moscow on the same day. The names of the men were given as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov which are Russian language equivalents of Joe Smith and Sam Jones. These names are likely false.

The police says that CCTV pictures were taken at several steps of the men's travel. The British news agency Reuters seem to distribute these. Several media have picked up copies.

Here are screenshots of two CCTV pictures, taken from an 18 picture gallery in a report by The Independent headlined Salisbury poisoning suspects are Russian state assassins, Theresa May tells MPs.

These are pictures 7 and 8 of a 18 picture gallery within that piece.

,
Pic 7 of 18 - full, uncropped screenshot
,
Pic 8 of 18 - full, uncropped screenshot

The pics are also available at the Metropolitan police site: 1, 2.

Notice that the time stamp on both pics is identical, 02/03/2018 16:22:43. But the pictures show two different men, each walking alone through the same part of a jet bridge as they arrive in Britain. How can it be that both of these pictures were taken at the exactly same second? And who tilted the permanently installed CCTV camera between the two shots? How did the camera angle change between picture one and two which were apparently taken at the very same place and at the very same time?

If these two pictures can not be trusted how much can one trust the other CCTV pictures the Met showed to support its claims?

---
UPDATE Sept 6 - 5:20 UTC

Here is the answer to the above questions. In the North Terminal of Gatwick Airport, at the northern end of arrival level zero, there are several parallel and apparently identical gates leading into the airport. Each of these has a camera.

,
Thanks to Bruce Leidl who found the above picture in Google maps.
bigger

The two pictures above with identical timestamps were taken in two of these gates with each of the 'Russian assassins' passing through one of them at the same time. Aeroflot flights from Moscow are serviced at the North Terminal.

End of the Update - the original text continues below.
---

The full statement of the Metropolitan police is here. Excerpts of Prime Minister Theresa May's statement are here.

While May claims the two men were send by Russia's military spy service GRU, the Metropolitan police makes no such claims. Theresa May does not say on what evidence she based her conclusion. There seems to be none.

It also seems a bit curious that a 'Russian assassin' team, allegedly from a highly professional secret service, would travel together and use direct flights from Moscow to London and back. That seems extraordinary careless. Why not fly separate and via a third country?

And why would a professional assassin team drop a cellophane wrapped, unopened perfume bottle with the same poison into a charity bin behind shops in Catherine Street in Salisbury where Charlie Rowley would find it some 14 weeks(!?) later?

The police says that it found traces of Novichok in the crappy hotel the 'Russian agents' stayed in between March 2 and March 4. It found those traces on May 4 but it waited until today to publicly ask other guests at the hotel to contact the police?

If the incident was a professional assassination attempt with a highly potent 'Novichok' compound why did 4 out of 5 people who came into contact with it survive? The 80% failure rate is inconsistent with the scary tale about the highly potent 'Russian' Novichok poison. A decent dose of Megachok is probably more lethal.

,
bigger

Sergej Skripal has not been seen in the public or even on video since the incident happened. His daughter Yulia Skripal appeared in a British government hostage video but then vanished. The Russian Embassy in London says that it has no access to them. The policeman, who allegedly was also injured during the incident, also never reappeared in public. Why are these people held incommunicado and under arrest?

---
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
May 24 - British Hostage Video Of Yulia Skripal Released
July 4 - British Government Peddles Warmed Over Novichok Muck
July 16 - The Magic Of Novichok - Deadly Agent Found In Perfume Bottle

Posted by b on September 5, 2018 at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (170)

September 04, 2018

Syria - UN, U.S. Try To Delay Idlib's Liberation

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura and his Special Advisor, Jan Egeland, held a press conference (vid) today. They appealed to the Russian President Putin and President Erdogan of Turkey to find a solution for Idleb province that would avoid the upcoming Syrian army attack on the province ruled by al-Qaeda.

De Mistura claimed that there are 2.9 million civilians in the area. That number is nonsense. In 2011 Idleb governorate had a population of 1.5 million. Several hundred thousands of those, Christians, Alawites, government employees, soldiers and their families, fled when in 2015 al-Qaeda and its Free Syrian Army allies attacked and occupied it. Some new people, 10-20,000 Chinese Uyghurs as well as other foreign Jihadis, arrived. But their total numbers were in the ten thousands, not in the hundred thousands. When in 2017 the Syrian army liberated Aleppo and then east-Ghouta and other areas, about 50,000 people in total asked to be put on buses and to be shipped off to Idleb. The total number of people in the province and the attached areas held by the Jihadis must be well under 2 million.

As for the number of terrorists in Idleb de Mistura only spoke of some 10,000 of the al-Qaeda aligned Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former Jabhat Al-Nusra Front. But the total number of radical Jihadists in the governorate is much larger. There are two large groups of "rebels" in Idleb.

Turkey’s favourite is the NLF, which is led by Fadlallah al-Hajji, a Muslim Brotherhood ally. The NLF includes Turkey-friendly Islamists like Ahrar al-Sham, the Noureddine al-Zengi Brigades, Failaq al-Sham, Jaish al-Ahrar, and groups that fought under the Free Syrian Army banner, like the Victory Army and the 2nd Coastal Division.

Big but brittle, the NLF is held together by Turkish sponsorship and shared enemies: al-Assad’s government, Syrian Kurdish groups, and hardline jihadists.

These ain't your friendly neighbors but brutal Islamists. Ahrar al Sham is a recognized terrorist group founded by a senior al-Qaeda veteran. The al-Zengi brigades became famous when they published a video which showed them beheading a wounded 12 year old boy.

The second, larger, and even more brutal group is the alliance around HTS under its leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani. It includes several thousand Uyghur and Chechen fighters:

Some of al-Golani’s jihadist critics, many of whom are Jordanians and Palestinians, have gathered in a pro-al-Qaeda splinter faction known as Hurras al-Deen.
...
Hurras al-Deen is accompanied by a number of small foreign-led factions close to Tahrir al-Sham, including the Chechens of Junoud al-Sham. The so-called Islamic State also operates clandestine cells in the area, hunted by both the NLF and Tahrir al-Sham.

Jaish al-Ezzah, a Free Syrian Army-flagged faction based near Hama, has not joined the Turkish-backed NLF like many of its former comrades. Some see the group as a covert Tahrir al-Sham ally ..
...
In the western part of the enclave, Jisr al-Shughour has emerged as a stronghold of the Turkestan Islamic Party, TIP, a group of Uyghur Chinese jihadists.

HTS and other Jihadis have rejected Turkish requests to dissolve themselves. When the liberation of Idleb starts the Turkish influenced NLF will join HTS and other Jihadis in the fight:

[T]o the Syrian government, Idlib’s rebels are all terrorists pure and simple – and the Idlib fighters themselves also see al-Assad as their primary enemy, transcending factional divides. Aba-Zeid insisted that if Russia green-lights a Syrian government offensive on Idlib, no matter how the various groups view Turkey or each other, they would all “prioritise repelling the attack”.

Mustafa Sejari, a leader in the Ankara-backed Moutassem Brigade, agreed. “This is the last fortress of the Syrian opposition and preserving it is everyone’s obligation,” he said.

HTS and its allies must have some 15-25,000 fighters, the groups aligned with Turkey may have a slightly lower number, some are locals and they are probably less willing to fight. In total the Syrian army is likely to face a force of some 30-45,000 capable and willing fighters.

What these groups currently lack is the supply of weapons and ammunition. In August 2018 not one anti-tank guided missiles was used against the Syrian army. The U.S. officially ended its supplies for the "rebels". The Gulf states have washed their hands over Idelb. It is no longer their fight. Turkey also seems to have stopped weapon supplies. Without constant resupply of anti-tank weapons and especially artillery ammunition the "rebel" groups will soon run out of the basic necessities for waging war.

But their are still voiced who call for further arming the Jihadis. The "eminent scholar" and warmonger Anthony Cordesman of CSIS just advised to re-up such supplies:

If anything, the U.S. should begin now to evaluate the kind of aid it might give any renewed Sunni or other rebels faction both now in Idlib or later.

This is in line with the idea of U.S. administration officials who want to "create quagmires" for Syria and Russia.

The New York Times did its best to push for that with an op-ed of some "democratic" Jihadi fan-girl and a propagandistic "news" piece on Idleb that took the reader to the 21st paragraphs to learn that the province is ruled by al-Qaeda:

H.T.S. has controlled much of Idlib since 2015, acting as de facto governmental authority, facilitating trade across the long border with Turkey and organizing aid deliveries.

The "de-facto governmental authority" HTS is known to publicly execute women accused of adultery. It "facilitates trade" by taxing it to finance its terrorist activities. It "organizing aid deliveries" by talking half of any aid that is brought in. That is the reason why the Inspector General of USAID recently shut down its aid program in Idleb.

If the U.S. wants to "create a quagmire" in Idleb it will need Turkish support to restart its arming of the terrorists. Today U.S. emissaries arrived in Ankara likely to offer a deal:

United States Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey held talks with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal in the Turkish capital on Sept. 4.

Jeffrey had served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara between the years of 2008 and 2010 and thus have great knowledge on the importance of Turkish-American ties.
...
The top three issues in regards to the current situation on Syrian soil that Turkish officials discussed with Jeffrey were the looming Idlib operation by Syria-Russia, delays in the implementation of the Manbij deal and efforts to speed up political settlement in Syria.

On Idlib, Turkey and the U.S. are on the same page and have expressed that a massive operation into the overpopulated province would create an unprecedented humanitarian tragedy if civilians are not separated from terrorists. Both countries think al-Nusra and affiliated groups should be eliminated but this should be done carefully and without civilian casualties.

The de Mistura press conference today made the same point and was likely coordinated with these talks.

But neither de Mistura nor James Jeffrey nor any Turkish official have presented an idea of how to achieve that. Turkey was given several month to solve the Jihadist problem in Idleb by talks. It tried and failed.

The current situation can not continue. It is unconscionable to leave the 1-2 million civilians in Syria under the rule of al-Qaeda. HTS is just now arresting hundreds of civilians who want to reconcile with the government. It builds gallows as warning to not talk to the government. It executes those who do and publishes pictures of it.

Two UN Security Council resolutions demand to fight the "Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups" and "to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria ...".

How is that supposed to be done without fighting them? Will the U.S. offer to resettle HTS and the other Jihadis in Wyoming? Will Turkey give them apartments in Antalya? No? Then what?

U.S. President Trump added another warning against the Idelb operation:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 22:20 utc - 3 Sep 2018
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!

(Note: Instead of the "animal Assad" Trump used in an earlier tweet he now properly addressed Syria's president.)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dunford, also chipped in:

“We don’t see any way that significant military operations are going to be beneficial to the people of Syria,” Dunford told reporters during a trip to Athens. “If major military operations take place we can expect humanitarian catastrophe and I think we would all want to see that be avoided,” ...
...
Pressed about the best course, Dunford said: “More of a discussion between the Turks, the Syrians and the Russians at more precise counterterrorism operations — as opposed to large scale conventional operations — would be the right approach.”

The U.S. is not a friend of the people of Syria. If it gives advice the Syrian government and its allies should do the opposite. Any delay of the liberation of Idleb will strengthen their enemy. They should launch the operation as soon as possible.

Today the Syrian army began to prepare the battlefield for the upcoming fight. Some 30 bombing attacks were flown by the Syrian and Russian air force. The targets were depots and headquarters of the Jihadis.  Removing their supplies is the easiest way to shorten the fight and to thereby prevent unnecessary civilian casualties.

Posted by b on September 4, 2018 at 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (102)

September 02, 2018

MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-44

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 2, 2018 at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (188)

Syria Sitrep - U.S. To Stay To "Create Quagmires"

Last week we looked at the upcoming campaign to liberate Idleb. The attack will commence only after the September 7 summit of the  presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Tehran. Meanwhile the U.S. detailed its future role in the war on Syria.

The new U.S. aim in Syria is to hinder all potential progress in the reestablishing of government control as well as to obstruct any repair of the damage its war on Syria caused.

The semi-permanent U.S. occupation of north-east Syria will be used in a new (and futile) attempt to achieve the long held U.S. aim of regime change. Secretary of Defense Mattis declared as much in a recent press conference. Asked about Iran in Syria he said:

What are they doing in Syria in the first place, other than propping up someone who has committed mayhem and murder on his own people?

They have no business there. And our goal is to move the Syria civil war into the Geneva process so the Syrian people can establish a new government that is not led by Assad and give them a chance for a future that Assad has denied them, with -- with overt Russian and Iranian support.

If Iran, a treaty ally invited by the legitimate Syrian government, has 'no business' in Syria what business does the uninvited U.S. invasion force have?

Asked about the prospect of U.S. troops in Syria Mattis said:

[L]et me give three points here. One, we have to destroy ISIS. The president's been very clear that -- that ISIS is to be taken out, so that's got to happen. We also have to have trained local troops who can take over. We're doing that training as we speak. As we uncover ground, the chairman's got people assigned there specifically to train the locals. And third, we need the Geneva process, the U.N.-recognized process to start making traction towards solving this war.

Now, if the locals are able to keep the security, obviously during this time we might be reducing our troops commensurate with their ability to meet -- deny ISIS a return, but it really comes down to finding a way to solve this problem of Assad's making.

The claim that the U.S. is there to fight ISIS is a lie. ISIS is still active in two places in Syria. Both are under U.S. control.

On the east side of the Euphrates, near Al-Bukamal, ISIS holds several villages and the city of Hajin with originally some 40,000 inhabitants. The U.S. and its Kurdish controlled proxy force SDF stopped attacking those ISIS position in November 2017.


bigger

On June 6 Mattis announced that the attack on ISIS in Hajin had re-commenced but there was zero news of any fighting. Instead ISIS forces from Hajin crossed the Euphrates and attacked Syrian government positions. Further imminent attacks on ISIS in Hajin were announced by the U.S. proxy forces on July 13 and on August 14. None happened.

The U.S. claims that the SDF has 50,000 fighters. What are they doing?

Refugees from Hajin ask the same question and protest against the delays:

[H]undreds of displaced people in Bahra village, Gharanij town, and other areas east of Deir Ezzor went out in demonstrations demanding the SDF to start a military operation and control Hajin town and expel the “Islamic State” organization from it and the from entire east of Euphrates River, in order to return to their homes.

For ten month now ISIS sits unmolested in Hajin and the nearby areas. According to (pdf) the UN Sanctions Monitoring Team it is again extracting and selling oil and "earning millions of dollars per month". ISIS attacks from Hajin on Syrian government forces west of the Euphrates continue.

The other ISIS concentration in Syria is around the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq which is also under illegal U.S. control. The nearby Rukban refugee camp, with allegedly 50,000 inhabitants, is housing many ISIS families. Last week the Syrian army prevented an attack from the U.S. controlled area towards Palmyra:

"The militants’ objective was to conduct a series of terrorist attacks in the vicinity of the city of Palmyra and to ensure the passage of the main forces of about 300 militants to capture the city within the next week," the [the Russian Reconciliation Center]’s report said.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the militants, captured by Syrian government forces, claimed that they had been trained and armed by American instructors in a camp near the US military base in al-Tanf.

The U.S. is not fighting ISIS in Syria. It is building semi-permanent bases, trains a large proxy force, and controls Syria's oilfields. Its aim is still regime change, the same aim it had when it launched the war on Syria seven and a half years ago. To achieve that it will continue to sow as much chaos as possible.

As CIA and Pentagon mouthpiece David Ignatius wrote this week:

[T]he administration has stopped the dithering and indecision of the past 18 months and signaled that the United States has enduring interests in Syria, beyond killing Islamic State terrorists — and that it isn’t planning to withdraw its Special Operations forces from northeastern Syria anytime soon.

“Right now, our job is to help create quagmires [for Russia and the Syrian regime] until we get what we want,” says one administration official, explaining the effort to resist an Idlib onslaught. This approach involves reassuring the three key U.S. allies on Syria’s border — Israel, Turkey and Jordan — of continued American involvement. ...

It is quote doubtful that Turkey or Jordan are happy to see continued U.S. meddling in Syria.

... U.S. goals in Syria have been sketched publicly by Pompeo and Mattis: withdrawal of all Iranian-commanded forces from the country, rather than just from a 50-mile buffer zone along the Israel border, as in the deal Russia arranged; and a political transition that can prevent Syria from becoming a terrorist base again and stabilize it enough that refugees can return to their homes. Pompeo and Mattis want more U.S. involvement in the Geneva deliberations on a political transition, too.

The U.S. is massively expanding its positions in north-east Syria. More than 1,600 trucks with new equipment arrived over the last month. The U.S. now has 18 bases in north-east Syria, 6 of which have their own landing strips. The media continue to claim the the U.S. has 2,000 soldiers in the north-east. The real number is more than double or triple of that. It is quite obvious that the U.S. is settling in with the intent to split the north-east from the rest of Syria, similar to what it did with the creation of a Kurdish entity in northern Iraq.

Much of the U.S. position in north-east Syria depends on the outcome of the current government formation in Iraq. Pro- and anti-U.S. factions are in fierce competition. Without a friendly Iraqi government the U.S. contingent in Syria is isolated and cut off from land supplies.

The U.S. is warning that any attack on Idleb "will escalate the crisis in Syria and the region". The former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford fears that France, the UK and the U.S. (FUKUS) will repeat a Suez crisis. They will use the pretext of a "chemical attack", staged by the White Helmets propaganda group, to launch a large bombing attack against Syria. But like the attack on the Suez Canal 62 years ago such an operation would be in vane:

Suez was a fiasco. While militarily it was a mitigated success, politically it achieved the opposite of what was planned. Nasser emerged stronger than ever.

Will history repeat itself? Assad has only to survive physically a few days’ barrage (if he is wise, he will repair to the Russian base near Latakia for the duration) to emerge just as Nasser emerged from Suez, bloodied but unbowed. Eden’s career was over when he resigned two months after the armistice in Egypt.

(Peter Ford was recently interviewed (vid) by Syria Girl.)

 Russia is well aware of the U.S. intent to create chaos:

A senior Kremlin official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that American officials “want to play spoiler big time. They are disgusted that we’ve gotten an upper hand in dealing with this crisis and now they want to put spokes in every wheel we are trying to make roll.”
...
The Kremlin source added, “Conversations with Turks aren’t going easy but we are optimistic in that both parties are genuinely inclined to find a mutually acceptable solution. Another outside military escalation in Syria now will be seen as a clear intent to hamper this process. Frankly, it’s irritating and exhausting that every time there’s a need for a needle to fix certain fine things there comes a guy with an ax saying he’s going to fix it altogether.”

The U.S. is not only spoiling the military operations against the terrorists in Syria. It is trying to hamper any reconstruction and the return of refugees. Reconstruction is made more difficult by the devious sanction regime of the U.S. and EU. But like other problems these will be overcome. It is the U.S. and the EU that will lose the business opportunities while Russian, Chinese and other countries companies will thrive on them.

'Western' media continue to support their governments' line. AFP Beirut office, notorious for pro-Jihadist reporting by its freelancers within al-Qaeda territory, is providing another example. The UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) recently held a conference about reconstruction in Syrian and provided an estimate of the economic war a damage. The AFP headline is: Cost Of Syria War Destruction At $388 Billion, Says UN

ESCWA said the "volume of destruction in physical capital and its sectoral distribution" had been estimated at more than $388 billion.

It said the figure did not include "human losses resulting from deaths or the loss of human competences and skilled labour due to displacement, which were considered the most important enablers of the Syrian economy."

As that figure seems way too high, a look at that passage in the original ESCWA press release is advisable:

Discussions focused on estimations related to the volume of destruction in physical capital and its sectoral distribution, which according to ESCWA experts reached over $388 billion US dollars, while the actual physical cost of destruction was close to 120 billion dollars.

These figures do not include human losses resulting from deaths or the loss of human competences and skilled labor due to displacement, which were considered the most important enablers of the Syrian economy.

AFP left out the half sentence which describes the actual physical damage, $120 billion. The other $268 billion ESCWA cites are an estimate of lost opportunities and not realized profits. They simply never happened. When the AFP leaves out that half sentence it is exaggerating the damage and advances the 'western' claim that Syria needs 'western' money to rehabilitate itself.

One news item on the upcoming Idleb campaign is encouraging.

Turkey gave up on convincing Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which rules most of Idleb province, to dissolve. It finally admitted so on Friday when it blacklisted HTS as an al-Qaeda affiliated terror group. With this move Turkey is giving a green light for the Syrian/Russian operation in Idleb.

Like the U.S. Turkey is eager to hold onto as much of Syria as it can. But Syria does not welcome occupiers. In Azaz city, near the Turkish-Syrian border, people held a sit-in against the Turkish controlled local administration. The protests were dissolved by a bomb exploding next to them. In Afrin district, taken by the Turkish forces a few month ago, daily guerrilla attacks against the occupiers continue. In Qamishli city in the U.S./SDF held Hasakah province Syrian Arab Christians protested after the Kurds shut down two Christian schools. Local IED attacks against Kurdish SDF forces around Raqqa occur every other day.

The U.S. wants to create a quagmire in Syria. By doing so it will likely find itself in one. That is what happened to Turkey:

Seven years into the war in Syria, as Turkey struggles to shield itself from the destabilizing spillover of regional turmoil, Erdoğan’s bet on the Arab world looks increasingly like a losing one. A Syria at war has become the graveyard for any dreams of the neo-Ottoman grandeur he may have nurtured.

The U.S. is allegedly drawing up a target list for a large scale strike on Syria after a staged chemical incident. But has anyone thought about the U.S. forces in al-Tanf or in north-eastern Syria? If the U.S. strikes at the Syrian government in Damascus and elsewhere, all gloves will come off. Can the relatively few U.S. soldiers strewn over many small bases survive an all out attack by the Syrian missile and air forces? How would the U.S. react when a few hundred of its soldiers get killed? Could the then following escalation be limited to Syria? Can Israel survive a Hizbullah missile strike on its industrial centers?

The wish to "create quagmires" can easily get out of hand and the U.S. may very soon find itself in a pretty deep one.

Do Trump, Mattis or Pompeo really want to carry that burden?

Posted by b on September 2, 2018 at 12:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (69)