Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 31, 2018

A Happy 2019 To All Moonkind

Dear readers and commentators,

thank you for coming here, reading and discussing about the events of our world.

I wish for a happy new year for you and everyone else.

 

Posted by b on December 31, 2018 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

Syria - 'Country Of The Year' 2018

George Galloway is right:

George Galloway @georgegalloway - 11:46 utc - 31 Dec 2018

The defeat of the imperialist armies and their head-chopping auxiliaries in the alphabet soup of Islamist extremism by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies was the most significant event of the year or any year since the US defeat in Vietnam. It will change the world.


January 2018 - bigger

December 2018 - bigger

The consolidation of the Syrian government control came at a relatively low price.

Syria's nearly eight-year-old conflict saw its lowest annual death toll in 2018 as the regime reasserted its authority over swathes of territory, a war monitor said Monday.

A total of 19,666 people were killed this year as a result of the conflict, which erupted in 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported.
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"Most of those killed during the first part of the year were killed in regime and Russian bombardment of opposition areas, including Eastern Ghouta," Abdel Rahman said.

"The majority of those killed in the second half of the year were killed in coalition air strikes," he added.

The attack against the last Islamic State held territory north of the Euphrates and near the Iraqi border was intentionally delayed for nearly a full year. Since Trump announced his intention to have U.S. troops leave Syria as soon as possible, the U.S. military and its Kurdish proxy force suddenly make significant progress against the remnants of ISIS.


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Yesterday the Syrian government authorized the Iraqi airforce to attack ISIS within Syria. Such action is planned in the Baghdad war room where Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia exchange intelligence and coordinate their fight. Today Iraqi jets hit an alleged ISIS command meeting in al-Susah, Syria. This reinforces the assertion that the U.S. is no longer needed to defeat the Islamic State.

With the U.S. on its way out, the northeast is likely to soon come back under government control. By the end of next year Idleb will also be cleaned of al-Qaeda and similar Islamist gangs.

For seven years the empire and its proxies threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Syria. The country and its people defeated all attacks and survived. They are damaged but very alive. If there were some "country of the year 2018" contest Syria surely would have won it.

Posted by b on December 31, 2018 at 11:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

December 30, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-71

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Thanks for all your wishes and greetings. Over the Christmas days I had much fun with my extended family. It kept me busy and away from the blog. As I am now back home regular posting resumes.

Other stuff to read:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on December 30, 2018 at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (187)

December 29, 2018

To Win The 2020 Race Trump Will Need To Fire More Of His Staff

We pointed out that overruling his advisors by ending the U.S. war on Syria was a decision that will define Trump's presidency:

This was the first time Trump took a decisive stand against the borg, the permanent neoconservative and interventionist establishment in his administration, the military and congress, that usually dictates U.S. foreign policy.

It was this decision, and that he stuck to it, which finally made him presidential.

Three analysts explain why Trump will need to go further down that road by finding people who diligently implement his foreign policy instead of undermining it.

Gareth Porter describes how the U.S. military under Secretary of Defense Mattis implemented its own policy, one far from President Trump's wishes. It delayed his policy of withdrawal from Syria again and again. Trump finally broke the scheme:

Mattis and Dunford were consciously exploiting Trump’s defensiveness about a timeline to press ahead with their own strategy unless and until Trump publicly called them on it. That is what finally happened some weeks after Trump’s six month deadline had passed. The claim by Trump advisors that they were taken by surprise was indeed disingenuous. What happened last week was that Trump followed up on the clear policy he had laid down in April.

The former Indian Ambassador Bhadrakumar also calls Mattis resignation a defining moment in U.S. foreign policy. He points out that the resistance of the borg against the elected president's policy is in defiance of the will of the people:

The really stunning part is that the bulk of America’s political class, think tanks and the media have rallied to support Mattis in an astounding display of defiance and spite toward their elected president. Suffice to say, there has been an insurrection against Trump’s foreign policy agenda and Mattis was a key figure in that enterprise. Quintessentially, the established American political system – what Trump calls the “Swamp” – refuses to make way for the elected president, his mandate from the people for his political platform notwithstanding. Isn’t it a sham that the US claims to have a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”?

The majority of the people indeed agree with Trump's policy:

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they back the moves in Syria and Afghanistan, which came as a surprise to the president’s own national security advisers when it was announced last week. By contrast, 48 percent said they oppose the troop withdrawals and reductions, the poll found.

Now, that the decision is made, even Obama's Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who personally instigated the insurgency against the Syrian government, comes out in favor of the Trump ordered retreat:

Many observers have asserted that the withdrawal gives victory in Syria to Russia, Iran and the Syrian government. That’s absurd. Bashar al-Assad’s regime already controls about two-thirds of Syria, including all of the major cities. The portion of Syria that U.S. forces control alongside their Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies is mostly either desert or drought-prone plains. The oil fields there produce high-sulfur, low-value crude, and production has long been diminishing. Oil revenue made up only about 5 percent of Syrian gross domestic product before the 2011 uprising, according to the International Monetary Fund. In sum, holding northeastern Syria would not have enabled Washington to leverage any important concessions from Damascus, Tehran or Moscow.

In a clear rejection of John Bolton's and Mattis' overt manipulation of Trump's policies, Ford urges Trump to bring the people under him in line with his own ideas:

[T]he president needs to consider how his own foreign policy team got so far out ahead of him on Syria. He needs a National Security Council staff that can more clearly relay his cautions and concerns about U.S. foreign policy to the people in charge of executing it. That staff needs to make clear to officials in the departments that, while he hears various departments’ views, those departments must act on his guidance. Ensuring implementation is the NSC’s job. The president would benefit politically and, more importantly, U.S. national security would benefit from a more effective foreign policy team.

Porter makes a similar point:

The Syria withdrawal affair is a dramatic illustration of the fundamental quandary of the Trump presidency in regard to ending the state of permanent war that previous administrations created. Although a solid majority of Americans want to rein in U.S. military deployments in the Middle East and Africa, Trump’s national security team is committed to doing the opposite.
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Trump is now well aware that it is virtually impossible to carry out the foreign policy that he wants without advisors who are committed to the same objective. That means that he must find people who have remained outside the system during the permanent war years while being highly critical of its whole ideology and culture. If he can fill key positions with truly dissident figures, the last two years of this term in office could decisively clip the wings of the bureaucrats and generals who have created the permanent war state we find ourselves in today.

Bhadrakumar sees a continuous struggle ahead, but believes that Trump knows of the importance to assert his policy:

[Mattis'] exit is not going to be the end of the vicious struggle going on in American politics. The good part is that Trump seems to understand that it will be a downhill slope ahead of him unless he took a last-ditch stance and dug in now to assert his constitutional prerogative as the president to push his foreign policy agenda. The point is, that agenda also happens to be linked to Trump’s campaign platform for the 2020 election.

To win in the 2020 elections Trump needs to show that he fulfilled the promises he made during the 2016 campaign. Draining the swamp and ending U.S. military involvement throughout the world were two of his major points. Both have a large constituency. Finally finding people who support these policies, instead of undermining them, would definitely increase his chance to win the next election.

Who will he choose?

Posted by b on December 29, 2018 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (185)

December 28, 2018

Syria Sitrep - Army To Regain Northeastern Territory - Political Isolation Ends

The fallout from U.S. president Trump's decision to retreat from Syria develops as expected.

Trump had announced a rapid draw down of U.S. troops in Syria. Later he spoke of a controlled process that would allow Turkey to take over the U.S. occupied areas in northeast Syria. That plan, probably initiated by National Security Advisor John Bolton, is totally unrealistic. Such an wide ranging occupation, which would be resisted by many powerful forces, is not in Turkey's interest. Nevertheless, the Turkish president Erdogan will use the threat of a Turkish invasion to press for a dismantling of the Kurdish YPG forces which the U.S. trained and equipped.


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This morning the Syrian Arab Army (red) announced that it entered Manbij, west of the Euphrates. It established itself on the contact line between the Turkish supported forces (green) and the U.S. supported Kurdish YPG (yellow). The Syrian flag was raised in Manbij city. The move comes after U.S. troops and their Kurdish proxy forces voluntarily retreated from the area. Manbij was threatened by the Turkish military and its Jihadi proxy forces. To prevent a Turkish onslaught, the local armed groups, who collaborated with the U.S. military, invited the Syrian army to take over. This pattern will repeat elsewhere.

A Kurdish delegation is currently in Russia to negotiate a further take over of the U.S. occupied northeastern provinces of Hasaka and Qamishli by Syrian government forces. The Kurds still hope for some autonomy from the Syrian government that allows them to keep their armed forces. But neither Damascus, nor anyone else, will ever agree to that. There will only be one armed force in Syria, the Syrian Arab Army. It is possible though, that some Kurdish units will be integrated within it.

A Turkish delegation is also in Moscow and tomorrow Erdogan will visit there. Russia spoke out against the U.S. plan to let Turkey take Syria's northeast or even parts of it. Erdogan will not get Russian or Iranian support for any such move. Moreover, he will be pressed to leave the other areas of Syria Turkey currently occupies.

U.S. troops are for now expected to continue the occupation near the Euphrates where the fight against remains of the Islamic State is ongoing. They wont stay long. Trump successfully insisted, against the wish of his military, to completely pull out of Syria. The people who argue against the move are, not coincidentally, the same people who furthered the rise of Islamic State. After Secretary of Defense Mattis resigned over the issue further efforts by the military to delay the retreat will likely be futile.


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To cover the withdrawal from Syria the U.S. military established two new bases in Iraq. These are also blocking positions designed to prevent over land traffic between the Levant and Iran. It is unlikely that the U.S. will occupy those bases for long. The Iraqi parliament is already moving to again throw out all U.S. forces from its country.

The military moves come along with new political ones which reestablish Syria as a pivotal Arab state.

Yesterday the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus. Bahrain will follow next. Kuwait will reopen its embassy in January. Oman never closed its embassy in Damascus. Of the Gulf countries only Qatar, allied with Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have jet to announce a revival of their relations with Syria. Before the war on Syria started, the UAE and other gulf countries financed several large investment projects in Syria. These will be revived and help the country's economy back onto its feet. Egypt is expected to follow the move of its Gulf sponsors.

Underlying the UAE move is a strategy of countering Turkey's neo-ottoman ambition. Syria is (again) seen as the bulwark that protects the larger Arabia from Turkish marauders. It signals to Turkey that any attempt to take over more of Syria will be resisted by the Gulf states and possibly even by Egypt's army. Egypt is, together with Russia, mediating between the Kurds and the Syrian government.

The Arab move is also perceived as a counter to Iranian influence in Syria. In this it will fail. Syria was rescued from the all out attack on it by Iran's intervention. It was the Iranian General Soleimani who convinced Russia to commit troops to Syria. It was Iran that spent billions to prop up the Syrian government while the Gulf Arabs spent even more to take it down. Syria will not forget who are its foes and who are its real friends.

Air traffic connections from Damascus to Arab countries are coming back. Last week a direct connection with Tunisia was revived. In January Gulf-Air, the official airline carrier for Bahrain, will again offer flights from Damascus. The Arab League, which in 2012 kicked out Syria, will invite it back in. Syria may well accept the offer, but only in exchange for a large compensation.

An Israeli air attack on Syrian military installations on December 25 largely failed. The Israeli jets fired some 16 stand-off bombs from Lebanese air space. They cowardly hid behind two commercial airliners which were on their way from the Gulf to Europe. This made it impossible for the Syrian air defense to directly attack the Israeli jets. Most of the Israeli projectiles were destroyed by the Syrian short-range air defenses. A Syrian missile was fired against Israel proper. It was a reminder that new rules of engagement, as announced, have been established. Attacks on Syria will be replied to by direct attacks on Israel. The missile shot ended the Israeli attack.

Israel, like others, will learn that any further attacks on Syria are futile and will only lead to effective retaliations. The war on Syria, while not yet over, is drawing down. Syria's political isolation is ending. Those who insist on continuing it will in the end lose out.

Posted by b on December 28, 2018 at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (215)

December 26, 2018

Open Thread 2018-70

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 26, 2018 at 02:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (277)

December 24, 2018

Christmas

Long before Christianity evolved, people celebrated the winter solstice as the end of the dark times and the coming of light. Roman Christianity moved the day on which it commemorates the birth of Jesus to the winter solstice. It replaced a holiday of older religions. The deeper meaning stayed. Hope for a new beginning, needed as much today than ever. Hope that the walls of darkness will come down.


Picture courtesy of the Bethlehem Association

Like every Christmas I visit my larger family and enjoy to cook for them. I have much fun with the kids. Their minds are untouched from the dark policies we often discuss here. They are open for new insights and challenges. Their curiosity encourages us to be likewise open for new ideas.

I wish you all a contemplative, hope- and peaceful Christmas.

Bernhard

Posted by b on December 24, 2018 at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (112)

December 22, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-69

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

One of the two companies who wrote the Senate reports was caught running a fake "Russian influence" campaign:

One participant in the Alabama project, Jonathon Morgan, is the chief executive of New Knowledge, a small cyber security firm that wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

An internal report on the Alabama effort, obtained by The New York Times, says explicitly that it “experimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.”

The project’s operators created a Facebook page on which they posed as conservative Alabamians, using it to try to divide Republicans and even to endorse a write-in candidate to draw votes from Mr. Moore. It involved a scheme to link the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that suddenly began following the Republican candidate on Twitter, a development that drew national media attention.

“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” the report says.

The U.S. military will retreat from the al-Tanf border area in the southeast of Syria where it was blocking the crossing between Syria and Iraq. The reopening of the border will help the economies of both countries.

As expected the Russians are taking the initiative to put the northeastern area back under Syrian government control over. A delegation of the Kurdish YPG and the SDF forces will shortly visit Moscow where they will receive new orders.

This Daily Beast piece confirms our take that Trump torpedoed the neocons' plans for Syria. He took the offer Erdogan made as a chance to escape the trap: Bolton’s Hawkish Syria Plan Backfired, Pushing Trump to Get Out - The national security adviser expanded U.S. goals in Syria to challenge Iran. But Trump wasn’t on board, senior officials say, and Turkey took an opportunity to push the U.S. out.

How long until Bolton gets fired?

A good read from Matt Taibbi on the lunacy of the domestic U.S. discussion: We Know How Trump’s War Game Ends - Nothing unites our political class like the threat of ending our never-ending war

Unlike Taibbi I expect the discussion to die down over the coming holidays. If it does not do so, Trump will create some new outrage to divert from the issue.

Service announcement: Over the next five days your blog host will be visiting family and do a lot of cooking. Posting will be light.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on December 22, 2018 at 04:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (143)

December 21, 2018

Fallout Of Trump's Syria Withdrawal - Why Erdogan Does Not Want To Invade

President Trump's strategic decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria creates some significant fallout. The U.S. and international borg is enraged that Trump ends an occupation that is illegal under international as well as U.S. domestic law. "That's un-American!"

Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis resigned from his position effective February 28. He disagreed with the president's decision. It was the second time in five years that an elected commander in chief had a serious conflict with Mattis' hawkishness. President Obama fired him as Central Command chief for urging a more aggressive Iran policy. Mattis is also extremely hawkish towards Russia and China.

President Trump campaigned on lessening U.S. involvement in wars abroad. He wants to get reelected. He does not need a Secretary of Defense that involves him in more wars that have little to none defined purpose.

Mattis is an ingrained imperialist. He always asked for more money for the military and for more meddling abroad.  One of Mattis' little notice acts as Defense Secretary was a unannounced change in the mission of the Pentagon:

For at least two decades, the Department of Defense has explicitly defined its mission on its website as providing "the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country." But earlier this year, it quietly changed that statement, perhaps suggesting a more ominous approach to national security.
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The Pentagon's official website now defines its mission this way: "The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide a lethal Joint Force to defend the security of our country and sustain American influence abroad."

The Pentagon no longer "deters war" but provides "lethal force" to "sustain American influence abroad." There was no public nor congressional debate about the change. I doubt that President Trump agreed to it. Trump will now try to recruit a defense secretary that is more aligned with his own position.

The White House also announced that 7,000 of the 14,000 soldier the U.S. has in Afghanistan will withdraw over the next few months. The war in Afghanistan is lost with the Taliban ruling over more than half of the country and the U.S. supported government forces losing more personal than they can recruit. It was Mattis who had urged Trump to increase the troop numbers in Afghanistan from 10,000 to 14,000 at the beginning of his term. There are also 8,000 NATO and allied troops in Afghanistan which will likely see a proportional withdrawal.

The Associated Press has a new tic toc of Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria:

Trump stunned his Cabinet, lawmakers and much of the world with the move by rejecting the advice of his top aides and agreeing to a withdrawal in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, two officials briefed on the matter said.
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“The talking points were very firm,” said one of the officials, explaining that Trump was advised to clearly oppose a Turkish incursion into northern Syria and suggest the U.S. and Turkey work together to address security concerns. “Everybody said push back and try to offer (Turkey) something that’s a small win, possibly holding territory on the border, something like that.”

Erdogan, though, quickly put Trump on the defensive, reminding him that he had repeatedly said the only reason for U.S. troops to be in Syria was to defeat the Islamic State and that the group had been 99 percent defeated. “Why are you still there?” the second official said Erdogan asked Trump, telling him that the Turks could deal with the remaining IS militants.
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Erdogan’s point, Bolton was forced to admit, had been backed up by Mattis, Pompeo, U.S. special envoy for Syria Jim Jeffrey and special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, who have said that IS retains only 1 percent of its territory, the officials said.
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Bolton stressed, however, that the entire national security team agreed that victory over IS had to be enduring, which means more than taking away its territory.

Trump was not dissuaded, according to the officials, who said the president quickly capitulated by pledging to withdraw, shocking both Bolton and Erdogan.

Trump did not "capitulate". He always wanted to pull the U.S. troops out of Syria. He said so many times. When he was finally given a chance to do so, he grabbed the opportunity. Erdogan though, was not ready for that:

Caught off guard, Erdogan cautioned Trump against a hasty withdrawal, according to one official. While Turkey has made incursions into Syria in the past, it does not have the necessary forces mobilized on the border to move in and hold the large swaths of northeastern Syria where U.S. troops are positioned, the official said.

The call ended with Trump repeating to Erdogan that the U.S. would pull out, but offering no specifics on how it would be done, the officials said.


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Erdogan had planned to only occupy a 10 miles deep strip along the Syrian-Turkish border. Some 15,000 Turkish controlled 'Syrian rebels' stand ready for that. He would need some 50-100,000 troops to occupy all of east Syria northward of the Euphrates. It would be a hostile occupation among well armed Kurds who would oppose it and an Arab population that is not exactly friendly towards a neo-Ottoman Turkey.

Erdogan knows this well. Today he announced to delay the planned invasion:

“We had decided last week to launch a military incursion... east of the Euphrates river,” he said in a speech in Istanbul. “Our phone call with President Trump, along with contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, have led us to wait a little longer.

“We have postponed our military operation against the east of the Euphrates river until we see on the ground the result of America’s decision to withdraw from Syria.”

The Turkish president said, however, that this was not an “open-ended waiting period”.

Any larger occupation of northeast Syria would create a serious mess for Turkey. Its army can do it, but it would cost a lot of casualties and financial resources. Turkey will hold local government election in March and Erdogan does not want any negative headlines. He will invade, but only if Syria and Russia fail to get the Kurds under control.

Unfortunately the leaders of the anarcho-marxist PKK/YPK in Syria have still not learned their lesson. They make the same demands to Damascus that were already rejected when similar demands were made for Afrin canton before Turkey invaded and destroyed it.

agitpapa @agitpapa 11:14 utc - 21 Dec 2018
YPG delegation was flown in to Mezzeh yday. Negos were inconclusive because they just repeated their usual line of "SAA protects the border, we control the rest." No army allows someone else allied with an enemy to control its rear and its supply lines. +
+ The YPG leadership is still stuck in its pro-Western rut. It needs to be purged before any deal can be made with Damascus. Their present track will just lead to another Afrin, then another, then another. Thousands of brave YPG/YPJ fighters will have died for nothing.
Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 16:31 utc - 21 Dec 2018
#Breakingnews: Private sources : President Bashar al Assad has rejected the Kurdish proposal while Turkey is gathering forces (Euphrates Shield et al) to attack the Kurdish controlled area north of #Syria. #Russia seems holding back president Erdogan for a while. A lot of pressure

It is not (only) Russia that is holding Erdogan back. As seen above he has serious concerns about such an operation. Moreover, he does not have enough troops yet and the U.S. troops have not yet changed their pattern. As of today they still patrolled on the Turkish border and yesterday new U.S. war material was still coming in from Iraq. Erdogan does not dare to attack U.S. troops.

He will most likely want to avoid any additional military involvement in Syria. If Damascus and Moscow can get the PKK under control, Ankara will be satisfied.

Besides the presence of 4,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops and contractors in northeast Syria there also a contingent of 1,100 French troops and an unknown number of British forces. France for now says it wants to stay to finish the fight against the Islamic State enclave along the Euphrates.

But France does not have the capability to sustain those forces without U.S. support. Syria and Russia could ask Macron to put them under their command to finish the fight against ISIS, but it is doubtful that President Macron would agree to that. It is more likely that he will agree to a handover of their position to Russian, Syrian or even Iraqi or Iranian forces. Those forces can then finish the fight.

Posted by b on December 21, 2018 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (251)

December 20, 2018

Why Trump Decided To Remove U.S. Troops From Syria

Last Friday President Trump had another long phonecall with the Turkish President Erdogan. Thereafter he overruled all his advisors and decided to remove the U.S. boots from Syria and to also end the air war.

This was the first time Trump took a decisive stand against the borg, the permanent neoconservative and interventionist establishment in his administration, the military and congress, that usually dictates U.S. foreign policy.

It was this decision, and that he stuck to it, which finally made him presidential.

Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton, his Secretary of Defense 'mad dog' Mattis and his Secretary of State Pompeo were all against this decision. The specialist working on Syria, the lunatic (vid) special representative for Syria engagement James Jefferey and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, were taken by surprise. They had worked diligently to install a permanent U.S. presence in a Kurdish ruled proxy state in northeast Syria.

While these people first tried to change Trump's decision, their resistance has now ceased:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton met Monday, when Trump was said to formally decide on a US withdrawal from Syria. Multiple US officials argued against an abrupt US withdrawal, but were said to have given up trying to get Trump to change his mind by Tuesday night. US officials began to notify allies of the decision Tuesday.

“The push back from DOD, State and NSC stopped [Tuesday] night,” said one regional expert who consults with the US administration, referring to the Department of Defense, the State Department and the National Security Council.


Back in January we already explained why the neoconservative project of a Kurdish proxy state in northeast Syria was doomed from its start:

Ilhan tanir @WashingtonPoint - 7:50 PM - 24 Jan 2018
This map being discussed all day on Turkish TVs as Turkey’s planned security zone/safe zone on Syria border.
Reportedly OK’ed by Sec.Tillerson though nobody on the American side confirms it

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It is the U.S. supported founding of a Kurdish state-let in northeast Syria which is Ankara's most serious security concern. No [Turkish] "safe zone" will help if the U.S. military continues to build and supplies a Kurdish "border force" that can penetrate Turkey's southeastern underbelly - now, tomorrow or in ten years. Unless the U.S. stops that project and retreats from the area Turkey will continue to push against it - if necessary by force.

The Turkish people support the fight against U.S. supported Kurds and are willing to pay the price for it. The Kurdish YPK leaders are delusional in their demands and overestimate their own political position. The U.S. can not have both, Turkey as an ally and a Kurdish proxy statelet. It has to decide.

Trump never wanted that project to proceed. He had always wanted to declare victory against ISIS and leave. It was the borg that tried to prevent this and which push the project along.

But there are bigger geopolitical fish to fry than such meddling in the Middle East. Trump knows that the United States' 'unilateral moment' after the demise of the Soviet Union, which left the U.S. was the sole superpower, is over. Russia is back and China is rising. Trump's policy to adopt to the decreasing U.S. power is to end the 'globalization' that allowed for China's rapid rise. He wants to geopolitical split this world into two influence spheres. These will be separate from each other in the political, economic, technological and military realms.

In this new big game Syria's northeast is just a sideshow and not worth a significant involvement. The much larger Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally for 70 years, is way more important. If Trump had not taken the decision to end the neocon Syria project and to remove the U.S. from Syria the U.S. would have lost it:

Putting myself into Erdogan's shoes I would be very tempted to leave NATO and join an alliance with Russia, China and Iran. Unless the U.S. changes course and stops fooling around with the Kurds, Turkey will continue to disentangle itself from the old alliance. The Turkish army has so far prevented a break with NATO but even staunch anti-Erdogan officers are now on his side.

If the U.S. makes a real offer to Turkey and adopts a new position it might be able to turn Turkey around and to put it back into its NATO fold. Is the Trump White House capable of defying the pro-Israel/pro-Kurdish voices and move back to that realist view?

If it can not do that the real answer to the question "Who lost Turkey?" will be obvious.

Trump decided that to prevent Turkey from leaving NATO, and from joining a deeper alliance with Russia, China and Iran, was more important than to further fool around at the margins of the Middle East. It is the right decision.

The Kurdish statelet idea also led to a conflict between the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Central Command (CentCom). Turkey (and Israel) fall under EUCOM, while the Middle East and west Asia are the realm of CentCom. Throughout the last year EUCOM had been increasingly noisy about CentCom's Syria plans:

Among the critics is General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of the European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. [...] During a trip to Washington in March, Scaparrotti huddled with Mattis to express his worries over the growing tensions in U.S.-Turkish relations, worries that the European commander has also expressed in several meetings with General Joseph Votel, his counterpart as head of Centcom.

The concern within EUCOM and NATO was indeed that Turkey would move further towards Russia and in the end leave NATO. That is now unlikely to happen. (Since 1991 it was CentCom that played a oversized role in U.S. foreign policy. Sec Def Mattis is a CentCom animal. It is good to see CentCom and him cut to size.)

But if the hope is that Turkey will end its relations with Russia and Iran the outcome will be disappointing. Turkey depends on Russian and Iranian gas and as export markets. After the attempted coup against him Erdogan does not trust the U.S. side. Moreover, the position that gives him the most flexibility and leverage is between the two 'blocks', both of which will continue to court him. He will continue to vacillate between them to get the most from both sides.


The neoconservative elements in the administration, and their Zionist backers, have lost out. As Craig Murray describes their aims:

The chaos of this incoherent and counterproductive strategy is, peculiarly enough, what the neocons actually want. Perpetual war and destabilisation in the Middle East is their goal. ... Today, by keeping Arab populations poor and politically divided, the neo-cons believe that they enhance the security of Israel, and they certainly do facilitate the access of western companies to the oil and gas of the region, as we see in destabilised Iraq and Libya.

The neoconservative and interventionist borg blew it when it tried to use the temporary U.S. position in Syria against ISIS to goad Trump into a conflict with Iran:

Some current and former US officials faulted what they saw as overreach by administration Iran hawks, in particular US Syria envoy Jim Jeffrey and his lieutenant, Joel Rayburn, the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Levant, who have argued publicly that US forces would not leave Syria until all Iranian forces had left.

“The people who work for [Trump] — Bolton, Rayburn, now Jeffrey — make it worse by adding impossible objectives on Syria [involving Iran] that suggest an indefinite stay,” said the US official who called Trump's decision catastrophic. The official said these arguments have “no connection to realistic objectives for our military” and go “way beyond” the goal of defeating IS and preventing its re-emergence.

But the Iranian presence in Syria is so small and and the U.S. position so weak, that this was always a stupid idea:

John Allen Gay, an Iran expert and executive director of the John Quincy Adams Society, [..] argues that Trump’s decision confirms what everyone has quietly admitted for at least the past year: that keeping U.S. forces in Syria to counter ISIS was starting to look like a way for administration interventionists to argue that we should take on Iran.

“Keeping the troops there post-ISIS was in part natural mission creep, but it was also a stalking horse for hawks in the administration who want to take on Iran,” he told TAC.

“Yet dangling a few thousand guys in between Turkish forces on one side and Iranians, Russians, and Syrians on the other was never going to be decisive on Iran’s regional role, and it came with real risks and no endgame,” Gay added. “I just don’t think there’s any appetite in the American public for a big fight with Iran anywhere, let alone over Eastern Syria.”


The U.S. State Department is already moving its people out of Syria. The 4,000 to 5,000 U.S. military and contractors were given 60 to 100 days (other sources say 30 day but that is a bit too hasty) to pack up and leave.

They will coordinate with Russia for a handover. There will be Russian advisors that will replace the U.S. Green Berets who command the Kurdish and Arab tribal forces against ISIS. Russia will also try to convince Turkey that there is no further need to invade Syria's east. It will promise to disarm the Kurdish forces or to integrate them into the Syrian army. Its air force will replace the U.S. and others who currently bomb the 2,000 or so Islamic State fighters left in their hold out along the Euphrates.

The Kurds in Syria will have to make nice with Damascus. They have nowhere else to go. Their dream of an autonomous Rojava will turn out to be just that. Syria can only survive as a centrally controlled state. It will never be federalized. The local Arab tribes in the northeast will probably seek some revenge against the uppity Kurdish leadership that used the U.S. backing to draft their sons into the fight against ISIS. The YPK leadership will likely flee into north Iraq to hide out with their PKK brethren in in the Quandil mountains.

The Syrian army, which plans to dislodge al-Qaeda from Idleb governorate during the next spring, will now have to move a number of forces towards the northeast. Isolating the Islamic State at the Euphrates near the Iraqi border and eventually eliminating it, will be the new priority. Iraqi militia will probably help with that. Recovering the oil and gas fields and other economic assets will be another important issue.

Much will depend on how Russia and Iran will be able to handle Turkey. With the U.S. out, and the danger of a Kurdish entity in Syria decreasing, they may well be able to convince Erdogan to stop his invasion plans.


It is quite refreshing to see that Trump was finally able to liberate himself from the dictate of the borg. By moving the U.S. out of Syria he fulfilled one of his election promises.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 11:42 utc - 20 Dec 2018
Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA

The people who voted for Trump will welcome the move. One hopes that he can expand on it by further decreasing the influence of Saudi Arabia and Israel on his policies.

During his campaign Trump also argued for better relations with Russia. But the borg pushed his policies towards the opposite stand. Removing the U.S. from Syria is eliminating one issue were Russia and the U.S. were on opposing sides. Could Trump use his newly found backbone to defeat the borg again and to finally work towards better relations with Russia?

That currently sounds unlikely. But Friday's decision was a big suprize. Stay tuned for other ones.

Posted by b on December 20, 2018 at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (191)

December 19, 2018

Report: U.S. To Leave Syria Immediately - Updated

Updated below
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The Wall Street Journal just reported that U.S. troops prepare to leave northeast Syria:

WASHINGTON—In an abrupt reversal, the U.S. military is preparing to withdraw its forces from northeastern Syria, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday, a move that throws the American strategy in the Middle East into turmoil.

U.S. officials began informing partners in northeastern Syria of their plans to begin immediately pulling American forces out of the region where they have been trying to wrap up the campaign against Islamic State, the people said.

The move follows a call last week between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has threatened to launch an assault on America’s Kurdish partners in Syria.

Turkey had threatened over several week to invade and occupy an at least 10 miles deep strip of northeast Syria. The Turkish army brought heavy weapons to its adjacent borders areas. Some 15,000 foreign and Syrian 'rebels', paid by Turkey, are supposed to be on the forefront of the invasion. These were over the last month transferred from Idleb and other Turkish controlled areas of northwest Syria to the Turkish side of the eastern border.


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The U.S. military and the neoconservatives elements in Trump's administration wanted to hold onto the northeast of Syria for an unlimited time. They planned to establish a Kurdish entity and finance it with the Syrian oil fields they occupied. They had plans to arm and train some 40,000 Kurdish troops.

For over a year the U.S. claimed to fight the Islamic State remands which still holds some grounds on the northern side of the Euphrates near the Iraqi border. But the front lines moved little. Only during the last week did the U.S. supported troops finally take the town of Hajin.

For Turkey the perspective of 40,000 armed and U.S. protected YPK Kurds on its border, while the YPG's sister organization PKK is fighting a separatist guerilla war against the Turkish army north of it, was a real and existential threat.

It seems that Erdogan made a deal with Trump, which is now turned into practical moves. Yesterday Turkey was suddenly offered to buy advanced Patriot missile defense systems. It had earlier decided to buy the Russian S-400 system. Now we learn the U.S. troops move out. What other surprises are in this deal? What does Trump get out of it? How does this change Turkey's relation with Russia?

And what about the U.S. occupied border station al-Tanf between Iraq and Syria. Will those troops leave too?

 


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With the U.S. moving out there will be a race to take those parts of Syria that the U.S. leaves. Turkey is likely to stick to its invasion plan. The Syrian government must now race to take back the Raqqa dam, the rich agricultural land north of the Euphrates and, most important, the oil and gas field near the Iraqi border which are needed to finance the country.

It must also move parts of its army to the northeast Euphrates area to isolate and finally defeat the rest of ISIS that the U.S. seemingly leaves behind.

Update 14:45 utc

The New York Times(and Trump) confirm the move:

President Trump is considering pulling 2,000 United States ground troops out of Syria in a move that would seek to describe the four-year American-led war against the Islamic State as largely won, officials said Wednesday.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” the president said in a Twitter post on Wednesday morning. He offered no details on his plans for the military mission in Syria.

A formal withdrawal announcement could come as early as Wednesday, administration officials said. But Pentagon officials were still trying to talk the president out of it, arguing that such a move would betray Kurdish allies who have fought alongside American troops in Syria and who could find themselves under attack in a military offensive now threatened by Turkey.
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That the U.S. betrays the Kurds is almost a tradition. The Kurds had been warned about this over and over again. But they did not listen. Like in Afrin canton, which Turkey occupied after the Kurds rejected to come back under Syrian government control, they will now likely have to pay a huge price.

Mattis and the neocons want Trump to stay in Syria but it seems that for once Trump is not falling for their stupid plans.

Posted by b on December 19, 2018 at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (183)

December 18, 2018

Senate Reports On 'Russian Influence Campaign' Fail To Discuss Its Only Known Motive

U.S. media is again making a big fuzz about the alleged 'Russian' attempts to 'influence' the presidential elections in 2016.

In March the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee commissioned two reports about the alleged 'Russian influence' via social media. Those reports (1, 2) were released yesterday but not endorsed by the committee.

Both reports rely on data that Facebook, Google and Twitter gave to the intelligence committee. The data includes tweets, Facebook posts, videos and how many likes, shares or retweets they received. These are from accounts which for some reason are believed to be related to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg. Most of these activities occurred after the 2016 election.

Both reports look at the usage data and the content themes the IRA run pages provided. Both claim that the intent of the IRA was to influence the election and to sow discord within the U.S. population. But there is no, none, nada, zero evidence in the data that the IRA had such an intent. Nor is their any testimony or statement from persons involved that claims such. Even if there were data of an influence operation, there is no reason to believe that silly IRA memes, like the "Army of Jesus" one below, changed even one vote.

In contrast the Muller investigation, which looked into the case, found evidence that the IRA had a commercial intent. Unfortunately this is mentioned neither in the two reports, nor in the current news about them. The only really known motive the IRA had when it created those accounts and filled them with content is simply ignored.

We showed in The "Russian Ads" On Facebook Are Just Another Click-Bait Scheme that the IRA people simply created pages on Facebook and elsewhere to attract as many 'eyeballs' as possible. This so called 'click bait' was used to lead people to webpages on which the IRA sold advertisement space.

This was confirmed when the Muller investigation indicted the IRA as described in Mueller Indictment - The "Russian Influence" Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme. Point 95 of the indictment says in relation to wire fraud accusations:

Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

The IRA was out to make money, not to influence elections.

It therefore naturally concentrated on content themes that took the least effort to create while attracting a maximum numbers of 'eyeballs' which could then be sold to advertisers. That is why some of its pages were about cute puppies. Cute puppies always sell. In 2016, using the news value of the election campaign, the IRA created pages that were pro-Trump and pages that were anti-Trump. Themes that did not attract enough eye-balls were discarded, those which did well were further promoted. This maximized the numbers of potential eyeballs and thus its advertisement income.

The reports say that a relatively high share of the IRA pages were about issues that interested African Americans.

The New York Times thus headlines: Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans on Social Media:

[One] report gives particular attention to the Russians’ focus on African-Americans, which is evident to anyone who examines collections of their memes and messages.

“The most prolific I.R.A. efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets,” the report says.
...
The Internet Research Agency also created a dozen websites disguised as African-American in origin, with names like blackmattersus.com, blacktivist.info, blacktolive.org and blacksoul.us. On YouTube, the largest share of Russian material covered the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, with channels called “Don’t Shoot” and “BlackToLive.”
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The report does not seek to explain the heavy focus on African-Americans. But the Internet Research Agency’s tactics echo Soviet propaganda efforts from decades ago that often highlighted racism and racial conflict in the United States, as well as recent Russian influence operations in other countries that sought to stir ethnic strife.

"The commies are coming to steal our slaves!" The New York Times could just have reprinted this page 3 story from 1930:


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There is of course no evidence that the IRA had any special intention in catering to a black audience except for making money. The Mueller indictment even highlights the IRA created site 'Blacktivist' as one of its commercial advertisement assets. Attracting people from marginal groups, who are not well served by mainstream media, is obviously easier than to market to a mainstream audience which already gets flooded with news relevant to it. Moreover, creating Youtube channels with publicly available videos of police attacks on black citizens takes little effort while potentially attracting a significant audience.

Both reports published yesterday fail to investigate the content and available date with regard to its commercial value. Both fail to look into it under the aspect of the only documented motive the Internet Research Agency had.

These reports are thus just extensions of the sorry excuse the Hillary Clinton campaign made up after she lost the election: "Blame the Russians!"

Posted by b on December 18, 2018 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (87)

December 17, 2018

How Putin's Russia Weaponizes X

Q: What do humor, health information, giant squids, robotic cockroaches, tedium and postmodernism have in common?

A: Russia weaponized them.

Back in March 2016 we created a list of news items that accused Russia and its bear riding president Vladimir Putin of weaponizing things.


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Others have since copied the idea.

Several of the pieces listed in it are products of the recently uncovered British government financed disinformation campaign, or of similar efforts by other governments. But these are only a part of the general anti-Russian reflex that is ingrained in our 'western' culture. Nothing else can explain the craziness of these 'weaponizing' claims.

The updated list with some 65 issues, ideas and things that Russia allegedly 'weaponizes' will hopefully help to convince people that most of what is said or written about Russia is likewise blatant nonsense.

 

Posted by b on December 17, 2018 at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (139)

December 16, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-68

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

When reading about the 'Integrity Initiative' please keep in mind that it is only one of many similar organizations that various governments, companies and interest groups use to spread their self-serving propaganda.

The last piece is, with some 3,600 words after cuts, way too long for a usual Moon of Alabama post. But I felt it was important to detail how the seemingly unconnected issues we watched over the last year fit into each other. Some related stuff, like the issues mention in the Wikileaks tweet below, did not make the cut. Anyway, it took quite an effort to write it. Please spread it wide and far.


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Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on December 16, 2018 at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

December 15, 2018

The 'Integrity Initiative' - A Military Intelligence Operation, Disguised As Charity, To Create The "Russian Threat"

The British government financed Integrity Initiative is tasked with spreading anti-Russian propaganda and thereby with influencing the public, military and governments of a number of countries. What follows is an contextual analysis of the third batch of the Initiative's internal papers which were dumped by an anonymous yesterday.


Christopher Nigel Donnelly (CND) is the co-director of The Institute for Statecraft and founder of its offshoot Integrity Initiative. The Initiative claims to "Defend Democracy Against Disinformation".

The Integrity Initiative does this by planting disinformation about alleged Russian influence through journalists 'clusters' throughout Europe and the United States.

Both, the Institute as well as the Initiative, claim to be independent Non-Government Organizations. Both are financed by the British government, NATO and other state donors.

Among the documents lifted by some anonymous person from the servers of the Institute we find several papers about Donnelly as well as some memos written by him. They show a russophobe mind with a lack of realistic strategic thought.

There is also a file (pdf) with a copy of his passport:


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From his curriculum vitae (pdf) we learn that Donnelly is a long time soldier in the British Army Intelligence Corps where he established and led the Soviet Studies Research Centre at RMA Sandhurst. He later was involved in creating the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) at Ft. Leavenworth. He worked at the British Ministry of Defence and as an advisor to several Secretaries General of NATO. He is a director of the Institute for Statecraft since 2010. Donnelly also advises the Foreign Minister of Lithuania. He is a "Security and Justice Senior Mentor" of the UK’s Stabilisation Unit which is tasked with destabilizing various countries. He serves as a Honorary Colonel of the Specialist Group Military Intelligence (SGMI).

During his time as military intelligence analyst in the 1980s Donnelly wrote several books and papers about the Soviet Union and its military.

Donnelly seems to be obsessed with the 'Russian threat' and is determined to fight it by all means.  His paranoia is obvious in a "private - confidential" report by the Statecraft Institute on The Challenge of Brexit to the UK: Case study – The Foreign and Commonwealth Offices (pdf):

Our problem is that, for the last 70 years or so,we in the UK and Europe have been living in a safe, secure rules-based system which has allowed us to enjoy a holiday from history.
...
Unfortunately, this state of affairs is now being challenged. A new paradigm of conflict is replacing the 19th & 20th Century paradigm.
...
In this new paradigm, the clear distinction which most people have been able to draw between war and peace, their expectation of stability and a degree of predictability in life, are being replaced by a volatile unpredictability, a permanent state of instability in which war and peace become ever more difficult to disentangle. The “classic” understanding of conflict being between two distinct players or groups of players is giving way to a world of Darwinian competition where all the players – nation states, sub-state actors, big corporations, ethnic or religious groups, and so on – are constantly striving with each other in a “war of all against all”. The Western rules-based system, which most westerners take for granted and have come to believe is “normal”, is under attack from countries and organisations which wish to replace our system with theirs. This is not a crisis which faces us; it is a strategic challenge, and from several directions simultaneously.

In reality the "Western rules-based system", fully implemented after the demise of the Soviet Union, is a concept under which 'the west' arbitrarily makes up rules and threatens to kill anyone who does not follow them. Witness the wars against Serbia, the war on Iraq, the destruction of Libya, the western led coup in Ukraine and the war by Jihadi proxies against the people of Syria and Iraq. None of these actions were legal under international law. Demanding a return to strict adherence to the rule of international law, as Russia, China and others now do, it is not an attempt to replace "our system with theirs". It is a return to the normal state of global diplomacy. It is certainly not a "Darwinian competition".

In October 2016 Donnelly had a Private Discussion with Gen Sir Richard Barrons (pdf), marked as personal and confidential. Barrons is a former commander of the British Joint Forces Command. The nonsensical top line is: "The UK defence model is failing. UK is at real risk."

Some interesting nuggets again reveal a paranoid mindset. The talk also includes some realistic truthiness about the British military posture Barrons and others created:

There has been a progressive, systemic demobilisation of NATO militarily capability and a run down of all its members’ defences
...
We are seeing new / reinvented ways of warfare – hybrid, plus the reassertion of hard power in warfare
...
Aircraft Carriers can be useful for lots of things, but not for war v China or Russia, so we should equip them accordingly. ...
The West no longer has a military edge on Russia. ...
Our Nuclear programme drains resources from conventional forces and hollows them out. ...
The UK Brigade in Germany is no good as a deterrent against Russia. ...
Our battalion in Estonia are hostages, not a deterrent. ...

The general laments the lack of influence the military has on the British government and its people. He argues for more government financed think tank research that can be fed back into the government:

So, if no catastrophe happens to wake people up and demand a response, then we need to find a way to get the core of government to realise the problem and take it out of the political space. We will need to impose changes over the heads of vested interests. NB We did this in the 1930s

My conclusion is that it is we who must either generate the debate or wait for something dreadful to happen to shock us into action. We must generate an independent debate outside government.
...
We need to ask when and how do we start to put all this right? Do we have the national capabilities / capacities to fix it? If so, how do we improve our harnessing of resources to do it? We need this debate NOW. There is not a moment to be lost.

This was an order from the core of the British thinking to Donnelly to get even deeper into the inner-British influence business. Hype Russia as a threat so more money can be taken from the 'vested interests' of the people and dumped into the military machine.

That particular advise of General Barrons was accepted. In 2017 the Integrity Initiative bid for funding from the Ministry of Defence (pdf) for various projects to influence the public, the parliament, the military and the government as well as foreign forces. The bid lists "performance indicators" that are supposed to measure the success of its activities. The top indicator for the success of the Initiative's proposed work for the Ministry of Defense is a "Tougher stance in government policy towards Russia".


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Asking for government finance to influence the government to take a "tougher stand towards Russia" seems a bit circular. But this is consistent with the operation of other Anglo-American think tanks and policy initiatives in which one part of the government, usually the hawkish one, secretly uses NGO's and think-tanks to lobby other parts of the government to support their specific hobbyhorse and budget.

Here is how it is done. The 'experts' of the 'charity' Institute for Statecraft and Integrity Initiative testified in the British parliament. While they were effectively paid by the government they lobbied parliament under the cover of their NGO. This circularity also allows for the use international intermediates. Members of the Spanish cluster (pdf) of the Initiative testified in the British Parliament about the Catalan referendum and related allegations against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. (It is likely that this testimony led to the change in the position of the Ecuadorian government towards Assange.)


Unfortunately, or luckily, such lobbying operations are mostly run by people who are incompetent in the specific field they are lobbying for. Chris Donnelly, despite a life long experience in military intelligence, has obviously zero competence as a military strategist or planner.

In March 2014, shortly after Crimea split from the Ukraine, Donnelly suggested Military measures (pdf) to be taken by the Ukraine with regards to Crimea:

If I were in charge I would get the following implemented asp
  1. Set up a cordon sanitaire across the Crimean Isthmus and on the coast N. of Crimea with troops and mines
  2. Mine Sevastopol harbour/bay. Can be done easily using a car ferry if they have no minelayers. Doesn’t need a lot of mines to be effective. They could easily buy some mines.
  3. Get their air force into the air and activate all their air defences. If they can’t fly the Migs on the airfield in Crimea those should be destroyed as a gesture that they are serious. Going “live” electronically will worry the Russians as the Ukrainians have the same electronic kit. If the Russians jam it they jam their own kit as well.
  4. Ukraine used to have some seriously important weapons, such as a big microwave anti-satellite weapon. If they still have this, they should use it.
  5. The government needs a Strategic communication campaign-so far everything is coming from Moscow. They need to articulate a long-term vision that will inspire the people, however hard that is to do. Without it, what have people to fight for?
  6. They should ask the west now to start supplying Oil and gas. There is plenty available due to the mild winter.

I am trying to get this message across

Think for a moment how Russia would have responded to a mining of Sevastopol harbor, the frying of its satellites, or the destruction of its fighter jets in Crimea. Those "gestures" would have been illegal acts of war against the forces of a nuclear power which were legally stationed in Crimea. And how was the west to immediately supply gas to Ukraine when Ukraine's pipeline network is designed to uni directionally receive gas from Russia?

Such half-assed thinking is typical for the Institute and its creation of propaganda.

One of its employees/contractors is Hugh Benedict Nimmo who the Initiative paid to produce anti-Russian propaganda that was then disseminated through various western publications. (Nimmo now works at the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, another hawkish lobbying shop. Not one of other 'Digital Research' researchers has a background in information technology. They are all political hacks.)

According to the (still very incomplete) Initiative files Ben Nimmo received a monthly consultancy fee of £2.500 between December 2015 and March 2016. In August 2016 he sent an invoice (pdf) of £5,000 for his "August work on Integrity Initiative". A Production Timetable (pdf) for March to June 2016 lists the following Nimmo outputs and activities:

  • 17 March Atlantic Council: Yes, Putin really believes his own propaganda, Ben Nimmo
  • 21 March Newsweek: Putin's paranoia is driving his foreign adventures, Ben Nimmo
  • 22 March, UK House of Commons: Russian information warfare - airbrushing reality, Jonathan Eyal and Ben Nimmo
  • Mid May: Atlantic Council: Distract, deceive, destroy: Putin at war in Syria. Ben Nimmo et al (Major study)
  • Early May timeframe: Russian penetration in Germany, Harold Elletson, Ben Nimmo et al - 10,000 words
  • June timeframe: Atlantic Council, major report on Russian conspiracy theory and foreign policy, Ben Nimmo (potential launch events in London and / or Washington)
  • End-June: Mapping Russia's whole influence machine, Ben Nimmo - 10,000 words

One wonders how often Ben Nimmo double billed his various sponsors for these copy-paste fantasy pamphlets.

In late 2017 Ben Nimmo and Guardian 'journalist' Carole Cadwalladr disseminated allegations that Russia used Facebook ads to influence the Brexit decision. Cadwalladr even received a price for her work. Unfortunately the price was not revoked when Facebook revealed that "Russia linked" accounts had spend a total of 97 cents on Brexit ads. It is unexplained how that was enough to achieve their alleged aim.

Cadwalladr is listed as a speaker (pdf) at a "skill sharing" conference the Institute organized for November 1-2 under the headline: "Tackling Tools of Malign Influence - Supporting 21st Century Journalism".

This year Ben Nimmo became notorious for claiming that several real persons with individual opinions were "Russian trolls". As we noted:

Nimmo, and several other dimwits quoted in the piece, came to the conclusion that Ian56 is a Kremlin paid troll, not a real person. Next to Ian56 Nimmo 'identified' other 'Russian troll' accounts:

Ben Nimmo @benimmo - 10:50 UTC - 24 Mar 2018

One particularly influential retweeter (judging by the number of accounts which then retweeted it) was @ValLisitsa, which posts in English and Russian. Last year, this account joined the troll-factory #StopMorganLie campaign.

Had Nimmo, a former NATO spokesperson, had some decent education he would have know that @ValLisitsa, aka Valentina Lisitsa, is a famous American-Ukrainian pianist. Yes, she sometimes tweets in Russian language to her many fans in Russia and the Ukraine. Is that now a crime? The videos of her world wide performances on Youtube have more than 170 million views. It is absurd to claim that she is a 'Russian troll' and to insinuate that she is taking Kremlin money to push 'Russian troll' opinions.

Ben Nimmo's latest nonsense is the claim that Putin's Russia turned humour into a weapon. We documented long ago that, according to western media, Russia 'weaponizes' ... everything, from robotic cockroaches to Jedi mind tricks. Weaponizing humor though, is new idiotic claim:

Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as "disinformation for the information age".

Could someone please help the dude to grow up?

The Institute for Statecraft Expert Team (pdf) list several people with military intelligence backgrounds, as well as many 'journalists'. One of them is:

Mark Galeotti
Specialist in Russian strategic thinking; the application of Russian disinformation and hybrid warfare; the use of organised crime as a weapon of hybrid warfare. Educational and mentoring skills, including in a US and E European environment, and the corporate world. 
Russian linguist

Galeotti is the infamous inventor of the 'Gerasimov doctrine', and of propaganda about Russia's alleged 'hybrid' warfare.

In February 2013 the Russian General Valery Gerasimov, then Russia’s chief of the General Staff, published a paper that analyzed the way the 'west' is waging a new type of war by mixing propaganda, proxy armies and military force into one unified operation.

Galeotti claimed that Gerasimov's analysis of 'western' operations was a new Russian doctrine of 'hybrid war'. He invented the term 'Gerasimov doctrine' which then took off in the propaganda realm. In February 2016 the U.S. Army Military Review published a longer analysis of Gerasimov's paper that debunked the nonsense (pdf). It concluded without reservations that:

Gerasimov’s article is not proposing a new Russian way of warfare or a hybrid war, as has been stated in the West.

But anti-Russian propagandist repeated Galeotti's nonsense over and over. Only in March 2018, five years after Galeotti invented the 'Germasimov doctrine' and two years after he was thoroughly debunked, he finally recanted:

Everywhere, you’ll find scholars, pundits, and policymakers talking about the threat the “Gerasimov doctrine” — named after Russia’s chief of the general staff — poses to the West. It’s a new way of war, “an expanded theory of modern warfare,” or even “a vision of total warfare.”

There’s one small problem. It doesn’t exist. And the longer we pretend it does, the longer we misunderstand the — real, but different — challenge Russia poses.

I feel I can say that because, to my immense chagrin, I created this term, which has since acquired a destructive life of its own, lumbering clumsily into the world to spread fear and loathing in its wake.

The Institute for Statecraft's "Specialist in Russian strategic thinking", an expert on "disinformation and hybrid warfare",  created a non-existing Russian doctrine out of hot air and used it to press for anti-Russian measures. Like Ben Nimmo he is an aptly example of the quality of the Institute's experts and work. 


One of the newly released documents headlined CND Gen list 2 (pdf) (CND= Chris Nigel Donnelly) includes the names and email addresses of a number of military, government and think tank people. The anonymous releaser of the documents claims that the list is "of employees who attended a closed-door meeting with the white helmets". (No document has been published yet that confirms this.) One name on the list is of special interest:


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Pablo Miller was the handler and friend of Sergej Skripal, the British double agent who was "novichoked" in Salisbury. When Miller's name was mentioned in the press the British government issued a D-Notice to suppress its further publishing,


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As we wrote in April:

Pablo Miller, a British MI6 agent, had recruited Sergej Skripal. The former MI6 agent in Moscow, Christopher Steele, was also involved in the case. Skripal was caught by the Russian security services and went to jail. Pablo Miller, the MI6 recruiter, was also the handler of Sergej Skripal after he was released by Russia in a spy swap. He reportedly also lives in Salisbury. Both Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller work for Orbis Business Intelligence which created the "Dirty Dossier" about Donald Trump.

In 1979, before becoming a spy, Pablo Miller served at the 4th Royal Tank Regiment. (BBC Newsnight 'journalist' Mark Urban, who recently published a book based on interviews with Skripal, served together with Miller in the same regiment.) The 4th regiment's motto was "Fear Naught". Pablo Miller's email address given in the Chris Donnelly list is "fearnaught4rtr@hotmail.com".

In March, at the very beginning of the Skripal affair and before there was any talk of 'Novichok', we asked if Skripal was involved in creating the now debunked "Dirty Dossier" and if that was a reason for certain British insiders to move him out of the way:

Here are some question:
  • Did Skripal help Steele to make up the "dossier" about Trump?
  • Were Skripal's old connections used to contact other people in Russia to ask about Trump dirt?
  • Did Skripal threaten to talk about this?
If there is a connection between the dossier and Skripal, which seems very likely to me, then there are a number of people and organizations with potential motives to kill him. Lots of shady folks and officials on both sides of the Atlantic were involved in creating and running the anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign. There are several investigations and some very dirty laundry might one day come to light. Removing Skripal while putting the blame on Russia looks like a convenient way to get rid of a potential witness.

The most recent release of Integrity Initiative documents includes lots of in-depth reports (pdf) about foreign media reactions to the Skripal affair. One wonders why the Initiative commissioned such research (pdf) and paid for it.

After two years the Muller investigation found zero evidence for the alleged 'collusion' between Russia and the Trump campaign that the fake Steele dossier suggested. The whole collusion claim is a creation by 'former' British intelligence operatives who likely acted on request of U.S. intelligence leaders Clapper and Brennan. How deep was the Russia specialist Chris Donnelly and his Institute for Statecraft involved in this endeavor?


After reading through all the released Initiative papers and lists one gets the impression of a secret military intelligence operation, disguised as a public NGO. Financed by millions of government money the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative work under a charity label to create and disseminate disinformation to the global public and back into the government and military itself.

The paranoia about Russia, which objectively does way less harm than the 'western' "rules based system" constantly creates, is illogical and not based on factual analysis. It creates Russia as an "enemy" when it is none. It hypes a "threat" out of hot air. The only people who profit from this are the propagandists themselves and the companies and people who back them.  

The Initiatives motto "Defend Democracy Against Disinformation" is a truly Orwellian construct. By disseminating propaganda and using it to influence the public, parliament, the military and governments, the Institute actively undermines the democratic process that depends on the free availability of truthful information. 

It should be shut down immediately.

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Notes:

Posted by b on December 15, 2018 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (133)

December 14, 2018

Newly Released 'Integrity Initiative' Papers Include Proposal For Large Disinformation Campaigns

The person(s) who first published documents of the shady UK organization Integrity Initiative decided that the discussion is about the Initiative is not yet sufficient and published more documents.

The first dump on the Cyberguerilla site happened on November 5. We discussed it here. A smaller dump on November 29 revealed more about the UK government paid Integrity Initiatives influence work in Germany, Spain and Greece. A third dump followed today.

The leaker, who uses the widely abused Anonymous label, promises to publish more:

Well-coordinated efforts of the Anonymous from all over the world have forced the UK politicians to react to the unacceptable and in fact illegal activity of the British government that uses public money to carry out misinformation campaigns not only in the EU, US and Canada but in the UK as well, in particular campaigns against the Labour party.
The Integrity Initiative is now under first official investigation. We promise to give close scrutiny to the investigation that we believe should be conducted honestly, openly and absolutely transparently for the society, rather than become an internal and confidential case of the Foreign Office.

To show our expertise in the investigation as well as to warn the UK government that they must not even try to put it all down to the activity of some charity foundations and public organizations we reveal a part of documents unveiling the true face of The Institute for Statecraft and some information about its leadership.
...
As the scandal in the UK is gaining momentum, it is ever so striking that European leaders and official representatives remain so calm about the Integrity Initiative’s activity in their countries. We remind you that covert clusters made up for political and financial manipulation and controlled by the UK secret services are carrying out London’s secret missions and interfering in domestic affairs of sovereign states right in front of you.
...
This is another part of documents that we have on the Integrity Initiative. We do not change the goals of this operation. When we return with the next portion of revelations, names and facts depends on how seriously the UK and EU leaders take our intentions this time.

The dump includes invoices, internal analyses of international media responses to the Skripal affair, the Initiative's operations in Scotland, France and Italy, some strategy papers and various other stuff. There are some interesting bits about the cooperation of the Initiative with British Ministry of Defense. It will take me a while to read through all of it.

The most interesting paper I found so far is:

COMBATTING RUSSIAN DISINFORMATION
LAUNCHING AN ONLINE COMMUNICATIONS CAMPAIGN TO INFORM, DEBUNK, AND COMBAT STATE-SPONSORED PROPAGANDA
Comprehensive action proposal
(pdf)

A "strictly confidential" proposal by the French company Lexfo to spread the Integrity Initiative's state-sponsored propaganda through an offensive online influence campaigns for a monthly pay per language of €20-40.000. The proposal also includes an offer for "counter activism" through "negative PR, legal actions, ethical hack back, etc." for €50,000 per month.


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The offer claims that the company can launch hundreds of "news" pieces per day on as many websites. It notably also offers to "edit" Wikipedia articles.

In short: This proposal describes large disinformation operations under the disguise of fighting alleged Russian disinformation.

It is at the core what the Integrity Initiative, which obviously requested the proposal, is about.

But as we saw in the information revealed yesterday there is more to it. The Initiative, which has lots of 'former' military and intelligence people among its staff, is targeting the political left in Britain as well as in other countries. It is there where it becomes a danger to the democratic societies of Europe.

Posted by b on December 14, 2018 at 02:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (94)

December 13, 2018

British Spies Infiltrated Bernie Sanders' Campaign?

The Integrity Initiative, a British pseudo-NGO tasked with running anti-Russian propaganda operation, was recently exposed. Further digging into it revealed a much wider operation. It seems to involve a mole British spies inserted into the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Three weeks ago internal budget proposals and member lists of the Integrity Initiative were posted anonymously on some website. We discussed those in detail under the headline: British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns:

In 2015 the government of Britain launched a secret operation to insert anti-Russia propaganda into the western media stream.

We have already seen many consequences of this and similar programs which are designed to smear anyone who does not follow the anti-Russian government lines. The 'Russian collusion' smear campaign against Donald Trump based on the Steele dossier was also a largely British operation but seems to be part of a different project.

The 'Integrity Initiative' builds 'cluster' or contact groups of trusted journalists, military personal, academics and lobbyists within foreign countries. These people get alerts via social media to take action when the British center perceives a need.

The leaked papers of the Initiative have since been confirmed as genuine. More relevant details continued to emerge:

We have barely scratched the surface of what it, and it’s project Integrity Initiative are. Everywhere we look we find links to what could be described as the ‘deep state’, including, but not limited to (by a long way), the Institute of Modern Russia, 77th Brigade, the Information Warfare Initiative, Prop or Not and a host of other organisations which, rather than protecting us against disinformation, appear to be running covert disinformation operations via the corporate media and on social media.

The Initiative, and its parent organization the Institute for Statecraft, are registered as a Scottish charity at a disused Scottish mill. The mill is owned by one of the institutes directors, Daniel Lafayeedney, who was a member of an SAS Regiment and later of the British Military Intelligence.

The British government confirmed that it paid £2.2 million to the Initiative but it refused to disclose "the nature and purpose" of the funding citing "national security". It also confirmed that three of the employees of the Initiative are members of UK Forces.

The BBC reported on the Initiative but, after talking to the government, completely changed its original story.

Several tweets by the Initiative's Twitter account were directed against the Labour party and its head Jeremy Corbyn:

One tweet quotes a newspaper article calling Corbyn a “useful idiot”, that goes on to state: “His open visceral anti-Westernism helped the Kremlin cause, as surely as if he had been secretly peddling Westminster tittle-tattle for money.”

Labour members of the parliament have asked why the British government would pay for such Tweets. In its answer the government tried to claim that it had nothing to do with the tweets. But the propaganda use of the Initiative's Twitter account was explicitly part of its budget proposal and the Labour MP Emily Thornberry continues to ask detailed questions:

Emily Thornberry @EmilyThornberry - 18:15 utc - 12 Dec 2018

In the Commons earlier, I asked Alan Duncan why taxpayers money had been used by the so-called 'Integrity Initiative' to disseminate political attacks from its Twitter site (1/2).
He insisted that the FCO funding did not support the Integrity Initiative's Twitter operation, which raises some interesting questions. See my letter this evening demanding answers (2/2).

That the British government secretly funds a 'non-government organization' to propagandize against its opposition is a serious matter.

But the issue goes much deeper. Former British ambassador Craig Murray just published a bombshell that traces the Initiative to a much larger spying operation - British Security Service Infiltration, the Integrity Initiative and the Institute for Statecraft:

[..] I learnt how highly improbable left wing firebrand Simon Bracey-Lane just happened to be on holiday in the United States with available cash to fund himself, when he stumbled into the Bernie Sanders campaign.

In early 2016 Simon Bracey-Lane claimed to support Corbyn and worked as a 'volunteer' for the Bernie Sanders campaign where he became a "full fledged field organizer":

Bracey-Lane has worked his way up the Sanders campaign but immigration rules mean he can't get paid. Instead, he's pledged to follow the campaign to the end, while using his savings to meet basic costs.

Simon Bracey Lane - via Daily Mail - bigger

Murray continues:

It is, to say the least, very interesting indeed that just a year later the left wing, “Corbyn and Sanders supporting” Bracey-Lane is hosting a very right wing event, “Cold War Then and Now”, for the shadowy neo-con Institute for Statecraft, at which an entirely unbalanced panel of British military, NATO and Ukrainian nationalists extolled the virtues of re-arming against Russia.

Nor would it seem likely that Bracey-Lane would be involved with the Integrity Initiative.
...
By sleuthing the company records of this “Scottish charity”, and a couple of phone calls, I discovered that the actual location of the Institute for Statecraft is the basement of 2 Temple Place, London. This is not just any basement – it is the basement of the former London mansion of William Waldorf Astor, an astonishing building. It is, in short, possibly the most expensive basement in London.

Which is interesting because the accounts of the Institute for Statecraft claim it has no permanent staff and show nothing for rent, utilities or office expenses. In fact, I understand the rent is paid by the Ministry of Defence.

Having been told where the Institute for Statecraft skulk, I tipped off journalist Kit Klarenberg of Sputnik Radio to go and physically check it out. Kit did so and was aggressively ejected by that well-known Corbyn and Sanders supporter, Simon Bracey-Lane. It does seem somewhat strange that our left wing hero is deeply embedded in an organisation that launches troll attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.

While Craig Murray is not alleging that Simon Bracey-Lane is a British secret service mole who spied on the Bernie Sanders campaign the idea seems not too far off. The Integrity Initiative was launched in 2015. Bracey-Lane infiltrated the Sanders campaign in early 2016.

We do know that British intelligence services were heavily involved in the operation against the Trump campaign. A 'former' MI6 officer, Christopher Steele, wrote the fake dirty dossier about Trump's alleged relations with Russia. Also involved was Sergej Skripal who was latter 'novichocked', probably after he threatened to blow the whistle about the whole operation. "Take care that Clinton gets elected" was likely the order the British government handed down. Its services failed to deliver.

Now we learn that other operations were underway with regards to Sanders and also against Jeremy Corbyn. Craig Murray seems to have learned more and promises to tell it in a future installment. There are several other people who are digging further into the issue and we can expect that this will develop into an even more serious scandal.

The anglo-american anti-Russian campaign, of which the Integrity Initiative is a part, seems to have a much wider target field than Russia. It is used to press for censorship of all unwelcome opinion that runs against the 'deep state' ordered narrative. It is used to undermine political opposition to the campaign domestically as well as abroad. And, as Murray says, we can expect it to become even more dirty as it proceeds.

Posted by b on December 13, 2018 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (104)

December 12, 2018

Short Term Thinking Dooms U.S. Anti-China Strategy

The United States issued an arrest warrant against the chief financial officer and heir apparent of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou. At issue is a six years old alleged violation of sanctions against Iran. Mrs. Meng was arrested in Canada. She has been set free under a stringent $10 million bail agreement. An extradition trial will follow in February or March.

It is unprecedented that an officer of a large company is personally indicted for the alleged sanction violations by a subsidiary company:

The US rarely arrests senior businesspeople, US or foreign, for alleged crimes committed by their companies. Corporate managers are usually arrested for their alleged personal crimes (such as embezzlement, bribery or violence) rather than their company’s alleged malfeasance.
...
Meng is charged with violating US sanctions on Iran. Yet consider her arrest in the context of the large number of companies, US and non-US, that have violated US sanctions against Iran and other countries. In 2011, for example, JPMorgan Chase paid US$88.3 million in fines for violating US sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan. Yet chief executive officer Jamie Dimon wasn’t grabbed off a plane and whisked into custody.

The U.S. indicted dozens of banks for violating its sanction regime. They had to pay huge fines (pdf) but none of their officers were ever touched.

We called this U.S. operation a hostage taking to blackmail China. President Trump confirmed that this is indeed the case:

U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters on Tuesday he would intervene in the U.S. Justice Department’s case against Meng if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.

The arrest of Meng is but one part of a larger political campaign against China directed out of the office of National Security Advisor John Bolton:

The Trump administration is preparing actions this week to call out Beijing for what it says are China’s continued efforts to steal American trade secrets and advanced technologies and to compromise sensitive government and corporate computers, according to U.S. officials.

Multiple government agencies are expected to condemn China, citing a documented campaign of economic espionage and the alleged violation of a landmark 2015 pact to refrain from hacking for commercial gain.

In typical propaganda style the U.S. media depict the Chinese as enemies:

Taken together, the announcements represent a major broadside against China over its mounting aggression against the West and its attempts to displace the United States as the world’s leader in technology, officials said.
...
The actions come amid mounting intelligence showing a sustained Chinese hacking effort devoted to acquiring sophisticated American technologies of all stripes. A number of agencies — including the Justice, State, Treasury and Homeland Security departments — have pushed for a newly aggressive U.S. response. A National Security Council committee coordinated the actions.

One wonders what those "mounting aggressions" are supposed to be. Is the U.S. not constantly spying and hacking for economic for political gain?

Other reports today of alleged Chinese hacking are obviously part of the concerted anti-China campaign. As usual no evidence is presented for the vague allegations:

U.S. government investigators increasingly believe that Chinese state hackers were most likely responsible for the massive intrusion reported last month into Marriott’s Starwood chain hotel reservation system, a breach that exposed the private information and travel details of as many as 500 million people, according to two people briefed on the government investigation.

These people cautioned that the investigation has not been completed, so definitive conclusions cannot be drawn. But the sweep and tactics of the hack, which took place over four years before being discovered, prompted immediate speculation that it was carried out by a national government.

The new anti-China campaign follows a similar push of anti-Russian propaganda three month ago.

China has taken first countermeasures against Canada's hostage taking on behalf of the United States. It detained Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat who now works for the International Crisis Group. Beijing suggest that the ICG is operating illegally in China:

“The relevant organization has violated Chinese laws because the relevant organization is not registered in China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a press briefing Wednesday.

China sharply tightened its rules on NGOs operating in the country last year, ..

This will not be the sole Chinese measure against Canada for its role in enforcing extraterritorial U.S. sanctions.

The string of U.S. accusations and measures against China are partly to protect the market share of U.S. companies against better and cheaper Chinese products and partly geopolitical. Neither has anything to do with protecting the international rule of law.

After three centuries of anglo-american imperialism the economic center of the world is moving back to the east.


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The U.S. is way too late to prevent this move. Its best and most profitable chance is not to challenge, but to accommodate it. That again would require to respect international laws and treaty obligations. The U.S. is not willing to do either.

Nothing except a large scale war that results in the destruction of the industrial centers of east Asia, while keeping the U.S. and Europe save, could reverse the trend. Nuclear weapons on all sides and the principal of mutual assured destruction have made such a war unthinkable. What we are likely to see instead will be proxy conflicts in various other countries.

The current U.S. strategy is to restrict China's access to foreign markets, advanced technologies, global banking and higher education. While that may for a moment slow down China's rise it will in the long run strengthen China even more. Instead of integrating into the world economy it will develop its own capacities and international systems.

The U.S. can temporarily hinder the telecommunication equipment provider Huawei by denying it access to U.S. designed chips. It will probably do so.  But that will only incentivize Huawei to start its own chip production. With a few years delay it will be back and out-compete U.S. companies with even better and cheaper products.

It is typical for the current U.S. to seek short term advantage while disregarding the long term negative effects of its doing. It is a major  reason for China's rise and its future supremacy.

Posted by b on December 12, 2018 at 07:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (164)

December 11, 2018

Open Thread 2018-67

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 11, 2018 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (157)

December 10, 2018

William Blum Died

William Blum died yesterday at the age of 85. He has written about the misdeeds of the U.S. government since the late 1960s. I have read many, many of his pieces and benefited from his knowledge. I especially liked his dry humor or snark that he sprinkled over them.

In its obit the Covered Action Magazine notes:

Initially an anti-communist with dreams of becoming a foreign service officer, he became disillusioned by the Vietnam War.

m is also the author of America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About U.S. Foreign Policy and Everything Else (2013), Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (updated edition 2005), West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir (2002), and Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire (2004).  His books have been translated into more than 15 languages.

In 2006 Blum's book 'Rogue State' was once recommend by Osama bin Laden which greatly increased its sales.

More than 150 of Blum's pieces were published by Counterpunch and are available here. On his website Blum also published the Anti Empire Report.

In July he took part in a panel and explains (vid) why the U.S. public is largely content with U.S. foreign policy. They believe, falsely, that the U.S. is always well intended. Mistakes are made, there are fuck ups, but the U.S. always means well. It is that illusion that must be eradicated to change U.S. foreign policy.

An hour long interview with him was recently published here (vid).

William Blum lived a long and fruitful life. Still, his death is a great loss for us.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by b on December 10, 2018 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (53)

December 09, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-66

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Official numbers show a downtrend of participants in the recent demonstrations and an uptrend of arrests. These numbers may be true or may not be true:


Via AFP - bigger

As of Friday support for the yellow vest protests still stood at 66%. On Tuesday Macron will hold a speech to the nation. What concessions, if any, is he willing to make? Will they be sufficient?

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On December 2 the Israeli police recommended to the general attorney to indict prime minister, foreign minister, health minister, defense minister, etcetera minister Benjamin Netanyahoo for corruption. Two days later the Israeli Army made a big show of digging up some disused tunnels at the Lebanese borders. Netanyahoo personally announced the operation in a Monday night TV speech. It was a classic 'wag the dog' move. It is now turning into an embarrassment.

First Hezbullah media made jokes about the whole endeavor. Hizbullah itself did not even raise its readiness status. It knows that Netanyahoo is deterred and does not dare to attack Lebanon. Yesterday Hizbullah's military media unit published pictures of Israeli soldiers operating at the border. The shots were taken from behind the Israeli lines!


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The same day Israeli media report that the IDF soldiers at the border are missing two machine guns:

The guns were stolen after being found, as it appears, unattended.

The missing FN MAG machine guns were attached to vehicles and weight 12 kilogram each. Hizbollah's secretary general Hassan Nasrallah is likely to show them during his next public speech.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on December 9, 2018 at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (239)

December 08, 2018

Les Déplorables Demand The Fall Of The Regime

Today we will again (read the comments) see large, and mostly peaceful gilets jaunes gatherings all over France to protest the neo-liberal policies of the Macron regime. The biggest ones will naturally occur in the capital Paris. They are likely to later develop into riots. The regime ordered 89,000 policemen onto the streets to counter any potential violence. 8,000 of them will be in Paris alone.

A problem is that police are often the cause of riots. Dressed like storm troopers and angry after way too many hours on the street they tend to attack with much brutality even when calm defense would be more appropriate.

After last week protest the Macron regime first delayed and then abolished the planned fuel tax hike that was the immediate cause of the yellow vest protests. That was too little too late and made his regime look weak. The people are now demanding more measures like a reintroduction of the wealth tax which Macron had abolished in one of his first acts in power.

Over the last week fireman, ambulance drivers, students and the administrative police union have joined the protests.

Luxury shops have been boarded up, museums and landmarks were closed. (An English language livestream can be watched here. Please point to others in the comments.) The police are an running early interdiction tactic, closing off roads and applying tear gas to kettle the people and to prevent larger gatherings at the Champs-Élysées. Hundreds have already been arrested. Meanwhile the protesters sing la Marseillaise. It is way too early for the police to use such force and it is not going to work. This only increases the anger of the protestors and will cause more conflagrations.


Les déplorables demand the fall of the regime.
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In a France24 report from a small town in the country side shows extraordinary solidarity between the people. Police passing through an occupied toll road entry sign the protesters petition, other pass by and gift food to the middle-aged protestors.

One woman makes an good point. Yes, the violence as seen in Paris last weekend was not nice. But only after last weeks protest went violent were the yellow vests really noted by the media and by the otherwise tone deaf politicians.

If the protestors today try to storm the Bastille, the Elyssée palace or whatever, if there are more casualties, more people will join protests and strikes during the next week. Macron will come under even more pressure. He will have to dismiss his prime minister and government. More pressure and he will have to dissolve the parliament and call for new elections. That would likely mean the end of his policies of further enriching the very rich while impoverishing the lower middle class and the poor.

Posted by b on December 8, 2018 at 06:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (154)

December 07, 2018

Neocons Sabotage Trump's Trade Talks - Huawei CFO Taken Hostage To Blackmail China

CNN reports that White House chief of staff John Kelly is expected to resign soon. There have been similar rumors before, but this time the news may actually be true. That is bad for Trump and U.S. policies. Kelly is one a the few counterweights to national security advisor John Bolton. His replacement will likely be whoever Bolton chooses. That will move contFrol over Trump policies further into the hands of the neo-conservatives.

It was Bolton who a week ago intentionally damaged U.S. relations with China.

The U.S. Justice Department arranged for Canada to arrest the chief financial officer of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, over alleged U.S. sanctions violations with regards to Iran. The case is not over the sanction Trump recently imposed, but over an alleged collision with the sanction regime before the nuclear deal with Iran. The details are still unknown.

Meng Wanzhou is a daughter of the founder and main owner of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, and was groomed to be his successor. The company is extremely well regarded in China. It is one of its jewel pieces and, with 170,000 employees and $100 billion in revenues, an important political actor.

The arrest on December 1 happened while president Trump was negotiating with president Xi of China about trade relations. Trump did not know about the upcoming arrest but Bolton was informed of it:

While the Justice Department did brief the White House about the impending arrest, Mr. Trump was not told about it. And the subject did not come up at the dinner with Mr. Xi.

Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said on NPR that he knew about the arrest in advance, ..

Bolton surely should have informed Trump before his dinner with Xi, in which Bolton took part, but he didn't.


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It was a trap. The arrest is a public slap in the face of China and to Xi personally. It will not be left unanswered. Whatever Trump may have agreed upon with Xi is now worthless. John Bolton intentionally sabotaged the talks and the U.S. relations with China.

Huawei is Chinese manufacturer of telecommunication equipment. It is the world leader in 5G wireless technology that will soon replace the wireless networks we know today with much higher data capacities, faster response times and many new features.

After Huawei was founded in 1987 it copied technology from Cisco and other U.S. manufacturers. Today it is a technology power of its own. It is one of the leading inventor in the 5G field and over the last years filed thousands of patents related to it. Its success in the field is genuinely self made:

With 5G, Chinese companies started developing know-how early. Huawei has invested $600 million in 5G research since 2009, according to a company spokesman, and has committed an additional $800 million for this year. The company is testing 5G equipment with European telecom operators including BT, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone.

As of early 2017, 10 percent of the 1,450 patents essential for 5G networks were in Chinese hands, according to analysts with Jefferies, who wrote that they expected the figure to rise. That number includes intellectual property rights held by Huawei; another Chinese equipment maker, ZTE; and others.

Huawei's share in 5G patents has since risen further. Right now it is the only true 5G supplier that can build a complete network.

The company is still depending on computer chips manufactured in Singapore, Taiwan and the United States. But Huawei and other Chinese companies are now investing in their own chip manufacturing technology. They plan to use the 7 nanometer process which only few other companies in the world provide. Huawei is also investing in qantum computing.

The December 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou and a number of other incidents on that day gave raise to a number of interesting conspiracy theories in the Chinese web sphere (via Peter Lee, links added):

Red @OmeletteRed - 19:09 utc- 6 Dec 2018

A great explanation of the Huawei Kidnapping, written by a comrade in the Deng Gang Central discord. There may be a lot more than meets the eye in Canada’s shock arrest, at US behest, of Huawei’s CFO and heir apparent Meng Wanzhou (link below).

Chinese sources have assembled the following facts:

  • April 2017: A director of Chinese tech giant Huawei personally escorted famed Shanghai-born physicist Zhang Shoucheng from the latter’s hotel in Shenzhen. Jackson & Wood Professor of Physics at Stanford University, Zhang was in town to attend an IT summit.
  • Sept. 2018: Prof. Zhang receives a European physics award, one of his many honors. His work in quantum physics is expected to revolutionize the global semiconductor industry. Yang Zhenning, the first Chinese scientist to receive the Nobel Physics Prize (1957), had predicted that Zhang would be the next one.
  • Dec. 1, 2018: Prof. Zhang and Meng Wanzhou are expected to attend a dinner in Argentina, where the G20 summit is being held.
  • Dec. 1, 2018: On her way there, Meng is arrested in transit by the Canadian government.
  • Dec. 1, 2018: Prof. Zhang falls to his death from a building in the US, allegedly a suicide. Said to be suffering from depression, he was 55.
  • Dec. 1, 2018: A nighttime fire breaks out at a factory of Holland’s ASML, the world’s leading manufacturer of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography technology. EUV is crucial to the production of the next generation of semi-conductors, which US and Chinese tech firms as well as Korea’s Samsung are competing to be first to bring to market. Leading Chinese semiconductor producer SMIC is known to have ordered EUV technology worth US$120 million from ASML, for scheduled delivery early in 2019. After the fire, ASML announced that it expected delays in shipments of its products, notably early 2019.

Prof. Zhang was also a venture capitalist. He was a founding partner of a Silicon Valley-based fund investing primarily in early-stage technologies. Danhua Capital, also known as Digital Horizon Capital, holds shares in Silicon’s Valley’s start-ups who work on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and drones. Danhua is backed by Zhongguancun Development Group, a state-owned entity funded by the Beijing municipal government. The company has come under scrutiny of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) which suspects (pdf) that its purpose is to pilfer critical U.S. know how and to transfer it to China.

Zhang's family says that his death had nothing to do with U.S.-China tensions.

The U.S. spy services and military do not like Huawei. They can no longer easily hack the equipment it sells. Convincing Cisco or some other U.S. company to leave back doors in their equipment is quite simple. One can always threaten the management or board of these companies with some tax investigation or over other shady activities. That is not so easy when the company is hosted in China. It requires the NSA and others to use more expensive efforts to reach their aim:

The National Security Agency breached Huawei servers years ago in an effort to investigate its operations and its ties to Chinese security agencies and the military, and to create back doors so the National Security Agency could roam in networks around the globe wherever Huawei equipment was used.

The U.S. is lobbying various countries not to use Huawei equipment. It claims that the Chinese government could use it for spying. That thought was obviously born when the U.S. spies looked at what they are doing themselves. Australia, New Zealand and Japan already agreed to keep Huawei out. Today the EU tech commissioner Andrus Ansip also warned of using Huawei. Ansip was previously the prime minister of the U.S. protectorate of Estonia. He is known to be a U.S. mole and is not taken too seriously:

Germany, meanwhile, said it opposed excluding any manufacturers from the planned construction of 5G mobile networks.

Meng Wanzhou, the arrested Huawei CFO, will have her bail hearing in Canada today. It is likely that she will fight her extradition to the United States. Staying in full compliance with U.S. sanctions is difficult and Huawei may indeed have not always done so. Then again - U.S. allegations of sanction violations can always be made up from hot air.

They are certainly not the real reason why Meng Wanzhou has come under fire. The White House even admitted such.


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Meng Wanzhou was taken hostage to be used as leverage in China trade talks. The 'leverage' could also be used to push Huawei into providing the NSA with back doors to its equipment. This is the policy style of Somali pirates or Saudi clown princes. The ruthlessness of this blackmail operation is breath taking. It is typical of neo-conservative behavior to use such extreme measures. Trump's foreign policy is run by neo-conservatives and they are again, like when they faked intelligence to lay the grounds to invade Iraq, creating huge damage:

Melania was right when she told an interviewer in Africa that her husband is surrounded by enemies within his administration. These are people who either opposed him during the 2016 campaign season or who signed up early in the campaign with an expectation that they could get jobs in a Trump Administration and in both cases understood that a president not accustomed to thinking seriously about other than business hustle could be manipulated or deceived in pursuit of their own agenda rather than his or that of the "deplorables."

These people are the neocon incubi and succubi who seek an even more dominant hegemonic role in the world for the US. They are out and out imperialists of a kind not seen since the time of McKinley and the US-Filipino War.
...
Bolton, Pompeo, his new helpmate Mary Kissel, dozens and dozens of Obama globalist holdovers, and people who find Trump's boorish ways repulsive, they all are undermining the administration from within and Trump does nothing about it.
...
Is Trump competent in such matters as tax policy, regulatory reform and trade negotiations? I think he is, but he is allowing the neocons to destroy the possibility of rational political relations in Europe and the Middle East.

... and with China.

William Barr was just nominated as the new Attorney General. He already had that position during the G.W. Bush administration and believes in the 'unitary executive', the dictatorship of executive power. Kelly is leaving. Bolton and Pompeo have Trump's ear and will manipulate him into selecting one of their friends as Kelly's replacement. Secretary of Defense Mattis is the next one to get kicked out. When all of Bolton's selected persons are in place, U.S. foreign policy will become even more radical than it already is.

Taking the CFO of one of China's premier companies hostage to gain control over its technology and as leverage in trade talks is already an extreme measure which will have long term damaging effects on U.S.-China relations. Imagine what else can be done when the little that is left of lawful behavior and decency in U.S. foreign policy gets completely thrown out.

Posted by b on December 7, 2018 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (163)

December 06, 2018

Whitewash - The 'Last Bastion Of Freedom' Is An Al-Qaeda Infested Town

This week the New Yorker published a long piece on Saraqib, a town in Idleb governorate in Syria.

Syria’s Last Bastion of Freedom
Amid the brutal civil war, a town fought off the regime and the fundamentalists—and dared to hold an election. Can its experiment in democracy survive?

The piece tells us that, despite the fact that al-Qaeda rules Idleb since at least 2015, it is really a cradle of genuine democracy:

In the summer of 2017, for the first time anywhere in Syria since 1954, the residents of the town of Saraqib decided to seize control of their future—and hold a genuinely free election.

On the morning that polls were to open, an activist named Osama al-Hossein woke up at five o’clock, feeling anxious. He soon headed to Idlib Gate, a former department store that had been turned into a meeting hall. A small crowd was milling about: local journalists, election monitors, and suited dignitaries who, in international circles, represented the Syrian opposition. The election was meant to choose the leader of the Local Council, a civilian body that governed the town. Poll workers checked their phones for reports of air traffic: Syrian and Russian jets were known to attack public gatherings, and activists had posted sentries around the province.

We are told that this one town, Saraqib, is really standing out:

One Syrian town after another fell out of government control, and from this anarchy new horrors arose. The flags of ISIS and Al Qaeda were raised across the country. Child refugees drowned at sea; Western hostages were murdered on camera.
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Somehow, Saraqib had avoided this fate. It offered an alternative history for the entire Syrian conflict—and, Hossein believed, its citizens embodied the true soul of the revolution. That evening, he imagined other tiny democracies flowering across Syria, and the rest of the world coming to understand, at last, that his country had more to offer than bloodshed and tragedy.

In reality "an alternative history" is not what happened to Saraqib, but what is presented in the New Yorker piece. It is a whitewash of a brutal international attack on Syria. A hagiography of one Osama al-Hossein, a Muslim Brotherhood 'activist', who got funding from the United States. It includes every false propaganda cliche about 'barrel bombs' and 'moderate rebels', who never were moderate, that the 'western' agencies inserted into the news stream. It is also full of stupid and nonfactual assertions. How, for example, did the New Yorker fact checkers let these 'Humvees' pass by:

The government retaliated with even greater force; on August 11, 2011, its tanks and Humvees stormed Saraqib again.

When and where did Syria buy those?

In 2017 Osama al-Hossein, over some struggle with al-Qaeda, eventually fled to Turkey. But this August the author, presumably more at ease with al-Qaeda than the Syrian 'activist', traveled to Saraqib and found it at peace:

Unlike in some other Idlib towns, there were no religious police, no Al Qaeda flags. Although Saraqib is amid one of the world’s deadliest civil wars, I didn’t see a single gunman or checkpoint. I bumped into Abu Traad, the leader of the Free Syrian Army faction, and even he was unarmed, wearing slacks and a T-shirt. The activists, I learned, had insisted that weapons not be carried inside the city limits, immunizing Saraqib from factional disputes and protecting the revolutionaries’ rule. Occasionally, I spotted Nusra members hunched in a vehicle; though it was blazing hot, they hid behind balaclavas. Many residents, meanwhile, freely denounced the fundamentalists: one told me, “These people are a curse on God Himself.” It seemed that in Saraqib, at least, people were not afraid of Nusra; Nusra was afraid of them.

Sure, Nusra was afraid of them!

That is why in June the jihadis could destroyed tombstones in Saraqib's cemetery despite the angry muttering of some locals. And Saraqib is so "immunized from factional disputes" that on August 24 Nusra, aka Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, arrested six members of another jihadi faction there. And it is so peaceful that two month later the Syrian Observatory notes a tit-for-tat execution campaign happening within the town:

[T]oday, the 7th of October 2018, an explosion in Saraqib area in the eastern countryside of Idlib, which is near the areas to be disarmed, it was caused by an explosion targeted Khattab al-Hamwi, who is an important security official in Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham of the notorious al-Iqab Prison in Saraqib area ...

It is the 'last bastion of freedom', Saraqib, that houses al-Qaeda's main prison in the area. Somehow the New Yorker piece fails to mention that. 

From the early start of the war on Syria, Saraqib was one of the centers of jihadi terrorist activities. In March/April 2011 it was one of the first towns that saw violent attacks on government forces and institutions. In December 2011 the notorious terrorist group Ahrar al-Sham, headed by the long time al-Qaeda member Abu Khalid al-Suri, was founded there. In 2014 the BBC reported how al-Qaeda/Nusra/HTS ruled the town:

Abu-Qedama, al-Qaida's envoy in Saraqib, North-Eastern Syria, is Jordanian. His task is to ensure that Sharia Law is enforced.

This BBC Arabic film follows him and his fellow Islamists in Saraqib, showing how they are taking control of the city. The film-makers get inside the courts and reveal how Sharia Law is applied. We see the judge at work in the Court and issuing his judgment on the public square. For the first time, we see a public flogging before a large crowd of people, as a deterrent to others.

At some point the locals in Saraqib may have hold some sham elections. But that does not change the fact that their town was and is solidly controlled by an internationally banned terrorist group. Saraqib is only a 'bastion of freedom' when one ignores everything that happened and still happens there.

This brings up a serious question. How did the author of the New Yorker piece, Anand Gopal, manage to travel through Nusra/HTS/al-Qaeda controlled Idleb governorate, visited the jihadi infested town, and avoided to be thrown into the "notorious al-Iqab Prison in Saraqib area"?

Could it be because he was one of those who told everyone how to join the Islamists?


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Could it be because he falsely insists that there was and is no U.S. regime change policy in Syria?

Could it be because he, who himself told people how to join ISIS, claimed that the sole reason that people joined it was the Syrian government's fight against the foreign fueled insurgency against it? This despite the fact that Obama and Kerry had publicly admitted that they furthered ISIS' growth?

It is sad to see that the once respectable New Yorker gives space to such a fairy tale by a recruiter of terrorists, propagandist for al-Qaeda and despicable apologist of the empire's wars.

Posted by b on December 6, 2018 at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

December 05, 2018

Open Thread 2018-65

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 5, 2018 at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (164)

December 04, 2018

Fundraiser - Please Support Moon of Alabama

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Posted by b on December 4, 2018 at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (67)

Reuters Creates Fakenews About Iran - Intentionally Conflates Two Different Missiles - Misquotes Official

A just published Reuters piece claims:

    Iran wants to expand missile range despite U.S. opposition.


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That claim is false and is based on a willful misrepresentation of the source Reuters cites.

GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran wants to increase its missiles’ range, a senior military official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, a move that would irk the United States which views Tehran’s weapons program as a regional security threat.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear agreement in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, criticizing the deal for not including curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles.

“One of our most important programs is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition,” said the head of the Iranian air force, Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

“We don’t see any limitations for ourselves in this field.”

Iran’s military has cited 2,000 km (1,240 miles) as the current missile range, and said U.S. bases in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, plus U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf, were within range.

The Reuters piece conflates ground launched ballistic missiles with air-to-air missiles that the air force commander wants to develop. The U.S. does not care about Iran's air-to-air missiles. It itself has far superior ones. The U.S. does care about Iran's ballistic missiles. But the Iranian general did not talk about those at all. The quote Reuters attributes to the Iranian general it is taken out of context and used to propagandize a non-issue.

The FARS piece Reuters cites is absolutely clear with what the air force commander means, even while its headline is probably too generalized:

    Iran Sees No Limit for Increasing Range of Missiles

Commander of the Iranian Air Force Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh announced the country's plans to boost the range of its air-to-air missiles.

"Today, we are after increasing the range of our air-to-air missiles. Therefore, one of our most important plans is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition. We are after Beyond-Visual-Range (BVR) missiles and ammunition and consider no limitations in this regard for ourselves because the Air Force should heighten the country's deterrence power along with other (Armed) Forces," General Nasirzadeh told FNA on Tuesday.

The underlined part is the only one Reuters cites. In the original that part is led and followed by its context - air-to-air missiles. That very clear context is simply left out. Reuters thus frames the quote as related to ballistic missiles even though it has absolutely nothing to do with them.

Air-to-air missiles are used from one fighter jets against other fighter jets and bombers. Beyond visual range is defined as more than 20 miles or 37 kilometer. BVR air-to-air missiles allow for attacks on planes that are only detected on radar. These are normal ammunition for any modern airforce and have little strategic impact.

Ballistic missiles are ground to ground munitions with a large range. Iran voluntarily limits the reach of its ballistic missiles to 2,000 kilometers.

Brigade General Nazirzadah is head of the Iranian Air Force. Iran's ballistic missiles belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace and Missile Force under Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. Those are two very different organizations, with a different line of command, and with totally different kinds of missiles. The Trump administration opposes Iran's ballistic missile programs, not its meager air-to-air capabilities.

The Reuters writers surely know all this. It is thus obvious that the piece is a willful manipulation of the original FARS piece it is based on.

The Reuters piece has to be seen in the context of the campaign to wage war on Iran currently run by the main neoconservatives in the Trump administration, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

On December 1 Pompeo tweeted:

Department of State @StateDept - 17:01 utc - 1 Dec 2018

.@SecPompeo: Iranian regime just test-fired a medium range ballistic missile capable of striking Europe & the Middle East. This violates #UNSC Res. 2231. #Iran’s missile testing & proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation if we fail to restore deterrence.

The State Departments press statement attached to the above tweet is headlined:

    Iran Test Launches Ballistic Missile Violating UN Security Council Ban:

The Iranian regime has just test-fired a medium range ballistic missile that is capable of carrying multiple warheads. The missile has a range that allows it to strike parts of Europe and anywhere in the Middle East. This test violates UN Security Council resolution 2231 that bans Iran from undertaking “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology ...”

As we have been warning for some time, Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to restore deterrence. We condemn these activities, and call upon Iran to cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The tweet and the statement are filled with lies.

UNSC Resolution 2231 was broken by the U.S. when it exited from the nuclear deal with Iran. Iran and all other signers are sticking to it.

UNSCR 2231 does not "ban" Iran from testing and deploying ballistic missiles. In Annex II part 3 it says (pg 99/104):

Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, ...

"Called upon" is UNSC diplomatease for "pretty please". It is non binding. Moreover the use of "calls upon" was a downgrade from the now superseded resolution 1929 in which the council:

Decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, ...

The downgrade from a clear prohibition in Res 1929 to "call upon" in the annex of Res 2231 was widlly interpreted as giving Iran a free hand to continue its ballistic missile program. The U.S. and the Europeans may well want that wording to be different, but it is a part of the agreed upon nuclear deal.

That Iranian missiles can reach Europe, as Pompeo claims, is also nonsense. Iran voluntarily limits the reach of its missiles to 2,000 kilometers. At that range they would have problems to hit anything "Europe" beyond the south-eastern corner of Bulgaria. Iran does not need any longer range missiles because all its potential targets are already within its reach.

The Stockholm Institute for Peace Research SIPRI recently analyzed the questions around Iran's missile deterrence. It concluded that Iran has a legitimated need for these:

Since the 1980s, when Iraq attacked Iranian cities, missiles have played a key role in Iran’s national security approach. Missiles serve as a counter to the overwhelming military capabilities of regional rivals (notably Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). The rivals’ long-range strike capabilities mainly rely on Western-supplied air forces, which are often equipped with cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs. In contrast, Iran—whose aging air force mostly dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution—has sought to maximize self-sufficiency in the production of ballistic missiles.

Iran’s medium-range missiles, which are able to reach Israel and US military bases in the region, serve to deter an attack against Iran. The threat of attack was particularly highlighted with the escalation of the nuclear crisis in 2005–12, as Israel and the USA threatened military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.

A tweet by John Bolton, which linked to the State Department statement was even more nonsensical than Pompeo's:

John Bolton @AmbJohnBolton - 20:09 utc - 1 Dec 2018

Iran just test-fired an INF range ballistic missile capable of reaching Israel and Europe. This provocative behavior cannot be tolerated.

The Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) treaty begins with the sentence:

The United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, hereinafter referred to as the Parties, ...

The treaty and missile ranges defined therein have nothing to do with Iran or anyone other than the treaty parties. That Bolton always wanted to kill the INF treaty with Russia, and managed to do it today, is a completely different issues.

With its strongly misleading report Reuters, or at least its correspondent in Geneva, is obviously supporting the neocon campaign that they hope will lead to war on Iran.

It is fakenews from one of the prime 'western' news agencies about Iran's declared intentions.

 

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Posted by b on December 4, 2018 at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

Syria - 'Activist' Posts Fake Picture - Fact Checkers Fall For It

The war on Syria brought up dozens of propagandist. Asaad Hanna is one of them. His screeds were published in the disgraced Guardian, on TRT World, Time, AL-Monitor and elsewhere. He is introduces himself as "a Syrian civil society and human rights activist and an economics graduate from Damascus University" and as "a member of the Free Syria Army Northern Division's political office".

Yesterday at 9:46 utc he tweeted a picture:


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The Syria Campaign is the U.S. organization that runs the Al-Qaeda clean-up and propaganda squad the White Helmets. It copied the photo from Asaad Hanna's earlier tweet and tweeted it as if it were the original source.

The Syria Campaign Verified account @TheSyriaCmpgn - 14:34 utc - 3 Dec 2018

A brave person took this photo from central Damascus. It shows chained young men being watched by a regime soldier. The photo has gone viral among Syrians with many saying the men were being forcibly conscripted into the army. Is this the safety Assad promises the Syrian people?


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The Integrity Initiative, the recently exposed British government financed organization that is supposed to "counter Russian disinformation and malign influence in Europe " and to "improve the technical competence" of journalists "to deal with disinformation" retweeted it.


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Other 'fact checkers' also fell for it.

As many other pictures distributed by the propagandists of the fake revolution in Syria the photo is obviously photoshopped.


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The distance at which the persons are 'fixed' to the 'chain' does not make sense. And why is the hand of the person with the red sweater in the background on then left in front of the 'chain'? That is physically impossible.


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Here is the original.


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Even supporters of the opposition denounced this fake.

There have been a number of similar photoshopped pictures (scroll down) in circulation. Most of them are easy to detect. But even the so called "fact checkers" still fall for them.

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h/t Tim Hayward

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Posted by b on December 4, 2018 at 04:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

December 03, 2018

The People Of France Reject Macron's Policies - How Long Can He Survive?

The current wave of protests in France, which started two weeks ago, is growing in impact and applied violence. On Saturday some 120,000 people took part in demonstrations around the country. The movement was initiated from the political right but many other parties also support it. Most of the participants seem to take part spontaneously. The movement is supposedly leaderless. But it is too early to exclude that there is some larger organizing power behind it.

In short: The Arab spring arrived in Europe.


"The people demand the fall of the regime." - bigger

Like the 1968 May protests that started in Paris this new movement will have echos in other countries.


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While mostly peaceful protest were held in all parts of France the situation in Paris caught the most attention. On Saturday the protesters stormed the Arc de Triomphe. They rearranged the interior, damaged a statue of Marianne, and redecorated the outside.


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When the riot police tried to intervene it came under a hail of cobble stones (vid) and had to retreat. Graffiti left behind by the protesters read: 'We’ve chopped off heads for less than this', 'Topple the Bougeoisie', 'May 1968 December 2018'.

The immediate reason for the protests are an increase of the fuel tax that President Marcron defends as a step to fight climate change. But the fuel tax is only the last drop of a steady stream of price increases for the poor and middle class while their income stagnates. Meanwhile the rich are receiving one tax cut after the other. The fuel price is important for anyone who needs to drive to work. Public transport may work well within the Paris ring-road but most people live beyond the view of the Elysées and do need a car.

On Saturday the peaceful protesters in Paris were accompanied by 'moderate rebels'. They left behind the usual trail but are still waiting for foreign powers to arm them.


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Trump does not get along with Macron. How long will it take for him to suggests a no-fly zone?

The use of yellow warning vests, gilets jaunes in french, give the protester a smell of an arranged 'color revolution'. Then again - it is always helpful in demonstrations to distinguish one's side. These warning vests are mandatory emergency equipment in each car, they are readily available and sell for as little as €0.65.

After seeing the same neoliberal policies executed under the presidencies of Sarkozy and Hollande, the French people despised both the conservative party as well as the 'socialists'. But they well still not ready to move to a more radical parties on the right or left side.

The powers that be put up a former Rothschild banker as an alternative to the established parties and the media pushed him over the finish line. But Macron is even more neoliberal that Sarkozy or Hollande ever were and he is way more aloof and arrogant than both of them. He resembles a modern Marie Antoinette: 'If they don't like my fuel taxes let them buy electric cars.'

Macrons next projects are a pension reform and changes in the unemployment insurance. Both will cause more protests. Polls show that the French public overwhelmingly supports the yellow vests protests and their demands while Macron's popularity has fallen from 55% in May 2017 to some 27% now.

Some commentators blame the EU for Macron's policies. But that excuse is false. The EU did not demand the elimination of the wealth tax in France. Moreover - the EU implements the policy guidelines the large EU countries set out. Macron could surely change those if he wanted to.

On Saturday both sides were violent. But Macron and his police are far from innocent in the escalation. On May 1 Macron's top security aide Alexandre Benalla was filmed beating up protesters. In July a scandal ensued when Macron attempted to cover up the case. He sees violence as an appropriate way to handle resistance against his polices.

On Saturday the police even deployed sniper teams on roofs.


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One clip purports to show a protester going down after being hit by a bullet, followed by a light streak that seems to be from a tracer round fired from above. Another clip shows some ten heavily protected policemen using their tonfa sticks to beat the shit out of one lone unarmed protester. As usual it is difficult to verify these videos.

Today an 80 year old lady in Marseille got killed when a police tear gas canister hit her face.

Anthropologist and demographer Emmanuel Todd commentated (vid, french) on the riots on a French TV show. Sophia translated his main points:

"The violence comes from Macron. He seems to take pleasure in humiliating ordinary people. With with the Benalla affair, we saw the violence coming out directly, not only from the Elysées, but from the mind of the president.
By refusing to enact a moratorium on the taxes that provoked the protests, the govt is enacting the strategy of chaos whereby if these protests, which are popular now, continue, a layer of the population will rise against them."

Macron might enact a state of emergency but that would only fuel the protests. It is doubtful that Macron's plan of a 'strategy of chaos' will work. The French president gets elected for 5 years. Only 18 month in Macron managed to move a large majority against him. It is unlikely that he will serve out his full term.

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Posted by b on December 3, 2018 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (140)

December 02, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-64

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

A former German Foreign Minister, Siegmar Gabriel, warned that the Ukraine is trying to pull others into its war:

"I think we should not let Ukraine draw us into a war, and Ukraine tried to do that," Gabriel said in an interview, voicing concerns over the situation in the Sea of Azov.

Robert Fisk has the same concern expressed in the above piece and an earlier one. It is Trump's Middle East policy, build around Saudi Arabia, that will bring him down:

So I have a prediction. If the Trump regime collapses – for regime it is – I suspect it will not be his frolics with the Russians which destroy it. Nor his corruption, nor his domestic lies. Nor his misogyny. Nor his anti-immigrant racism. Nor his obvious mental instability, though this clearly connects him to his friends in the Arab world. The Middle East has already got its coils into the White House. Trump is a friend of a highly dangerous state called Saudi Arabia. He has adopted Israeli foreign policy as his own, including the ownership of Jerusalem and wholehearted support for Israel’s illegal colonisation of Palestinian Arab land. He has torn up a solemn treaty with Iran. He has joined the Sunni side in its sectarian war with the Shias of the Middle East, in Iran, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Bahrain and, of course, in Saudi Arabia itself.
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[T]he Arabs and Muslims who live in territory which many of the American supporters call the holy land may well decide his future; after all, he thinks he can decide theirs.

Use as open thread ...

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Posted by b on December 2, 2018 at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (104)

December 01, 2018

What Poroshenko Gets Wrong - H.W. Bush And The Ukraine

Earlier this week Petro Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, tried to provoke a war with Russia in attempt to stay in power by cancelling the upcoming elections.

Today he attempts to curry favor in the U.S. with remarks about the death of the former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

Петро Порошенко @poroshenko - 10:59 utc - 1 Dec 2018

The former US President George W. Bush passed away. True leader and statesman. This man - the legend, under whose presidency the world saw the end of the Cold War. This man - the era, who then witnessed the restoration of Ukraine’s independence.


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Poroshenko not only mourned the wrong President Bush, he also mislead about the historic record. Bush the first indeed "witnessed the restoration of Ukraine’s independence". But it happened against his strong advice.

Bush had feared that the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was too weak, and that a dissolution of the Soviet Union would end in utter chaos. He traveled to Moscow and Kiev in an attempt to keep the union together. On August 1, 1991, months before a December referendum in which the Ukraine voted to withdraw from the Soviet Union, he visited Kiev and held a speech in the Ukrainian parliament.

The core sentences:

I come here to tell you: we support the struggle in this great country for democracy and economic reform. In Moscow, I outlined our approach. We will support those in the center and the republics who pursue freedom, democracy and economic liberty. Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.

Bush told the members of the Verkhovna Rada not to seek independence, but to stay in a union with Russia and other soviet republics. Bush was advised by the realist Brent Scowcroft and it showed. The speech was drafted by Condoleeza Rice but Bush personally edited it to empathize his main point: Ukrainian independence was dangerous as it would lead to fascism.

[Bush would know this because he had been CIA director. The CIA worked with or controlled the Ukrainian fascists organizations throughout the cold war. (See "Collaborators: Allied Intelligence and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists" in Hitler's Shadows - Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence and the Cold War (pdf).)]

The (neo-)conservative NYT columnist William Safire called it the "Chicken Kiev" speech. Safire believed that Bush misjudged the issue. History proved that the neo-conservative view, which infests U.S. foreign policy up to today, is wrong, and that the realist view is right.

The people in the eastern half of the Ukraine are of Russian descent and culture, while the western half is inhabited by the Ruthenians of Galicia, and various other nationalities. The Galicians had proven to be prone to "suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred" when they allied with the invading Nazis and immediately started to massacred Poles, Jews and Russians. The Ukraine, which literally means 'the borderlands', is inherently unstable:

Western Ukraine was joined to Russia only during Stalin’s era. For centuries it was under the cultural, religious, and/or political control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Poland.
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Western Ukraine is unified in its hostility toward Russians, whom they see as invaders and occupiers. During the last 20 years, as Ukraine tried to distance itself from its Soviet past and its ideology, it chose the nationalism of western Ukraine as the alternative.
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Easterners are angry that pro-Bandera banners, posters and graffiti are popping up all over Ukraine and with the rewriting of history in general, where violent nationalists who fought alongside the Nazis are treated as heroes while Russians, who suffered under Stalin no less than the Ukrainians, are denigrated.

All that happened after the Ukraine's independence, and especially after the U.S. controlled unconstitutional coup in 2014, proves that H.W. Bush was right. A Ukraine within a much larger Russian Federation would be less of a powder-keg, and much better off than it is today.

The outright fascism that is now promoted in Poroshenko's Kiev, with U.S. neo-conservative support and the help of U.S. special operation forces, will only pull the country further apart.

There is little else to say about H.W. Bush. He was a run of the mill war-criminal just like other U.S. presidents were. As CIA director he oversaw and covered up state sponsored terrorism. As president he attacked Iraq under false pretext. He ordered the complete destruction of Iraq's electricity network the consequences of which are still felt today. That was a war crime as all basic infrastructure is protected under the Geneva Conventions. He further destroyed the country with punitive sanctions that killed half a million Iraqi children.

Besides that he fathered some mediocre sons.

Good Riddance.

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Posted by b on December 1, 2018 at 12:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (91)