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February 28, 2019

Trump Sticks To Sanctions - U.S., North Korea Summit Fails - Updated

Updated below
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The second summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea was held in Hanoi, Vietnam yesterday and today. It failed. The meetings on the last day were cut short. Nothing was agreed upon and signed. No common statement was issued.

Trump held a press conference and gave his side of the talks (transcript). The issue seems to have been the sequencing of abolishing sanctions by the U.S. side versus the destruction of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor complex on the North Korean side.

The U.S. demanded the destruction of Yongbyon and of other complexes before any change in the sanction regime. North Korea insisted on following the sequencing that was agreed upon during the first summit. The joint statement by the two leaders signed in June 2018 defined four clearly sequenced steps:

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Eight month later new relations in form of the opening of embassies or a lifting of sanctions were not established. No peace treaty was signed. North Korea destroyed nuclear testing tunnels and a missile test stand. Some POW/MIA remains have been repatriated. But the U.S. side has taken no steps that could be seen as fulfilling its commitments.

Since the first summit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. media have done their best to ignore the sequencing. North Korea on the other side has insisted on it again and again. It made absolutely clear that it would not budge on the issue. In his New Year speech the chairman emphasized:

If the US responds to our proactive, prior efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the process of taking more definite and epochal measures.

We have no intention to be obsessed with and keep up the unsavoury past relationship between the two countries, but are ready to fix it as early as possible and work to forge a new relationship in line with the aspirations of the two peoples and the requirements of the developing times.
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I am ready to meet the US president again anytime, and will make efforts to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community.

But if the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world, and out of miscalculation of our people’s patience, it attempts to unilaterally enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic, we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.

The "corresponding measures" the U.S. promised will have to come first before North Korea gives up more of its nuclear infrastructure.

As Trump tells it the U.S. insisted on nuclear dismantling first:

Trump: Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that, so we’ll continue to work and we’ll see. But we had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk away from that.

Q: Will all the sanctions that are currently in existence remain, sir?

Trump: They’re in place. I was watching as a lot of you folks over the weeks have said, oh, we’ve given up -- we haven’t given up anything. And I think frankly we’ll be good friends with chairman Kim and North Korea, and I think they have tremendous potential. I’ve been telling everybody they have tremendous potential, unbelievable potential, and we’re going to see. But it was about sanctions. They wanted sanctions lifted but they weren’t willing to do an area we wanted. They were willing to give us areas but not the ones we wanted.

That the sanctions stay in place is a great disappointment for South Korea. Its president Moon Jae-in had hoped to announce new economic agreements with North Korea. The U.S. will not allow him to proceed.

That Trump came to the summit with the delusion that he could get more out of North Korea before lifting sanctions is a failure of the policy process in the State Department and the National Security Council. They held the preparatory talks and knew what North Korea demanded before it was willing to go any further.

Trump says that even as he "walked away" the meeting ended in a friendly way and without bad words. North Korea, Trump says, will stay committed to the freeze of nuclear and missile testing while the U.S. will stay committed to the freeze of large scale maneuvers around North Korea. Both sides are open to further talks but no dates have been set for them.

If Trump hopes that North Korea will come back and offer more he will be disappointed. Neither will North Korea sit just back and do nothing while the U.S. keeps sticking to its sanction regime. The New Year speech quoted above said that North Korea will "be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country" if the U.S. is unwilling to budge.

History shows that North Korea has always gamed out such talks. It is always prepared to let them fail and it is ready to take the next step whenever that happens. The "new way" may well allude to some new weapon that North Korea is ready to test. Cruise missiles are a possible candidate.

We do not know yet the North Korean view of the talks. Their version is usually published in the official  Rodong Sinmun newspaper a day or two after such talks. It will likely contain hints of how North Korea is going to proceed.

Kim Jong-un came to Vietnam by train. He will travel back through China and will likely coordinate the next steps with the Chinese government. When and how he will take his "new way" will probably depend on the trade talks between China and the United States. If those too fail then all bets are again off.

Update Feb 28 13:00 PM

The North Koreans were not happy with the statement that Trump gave of the end of the talks. They improvised a press conference to give their version. Below is the report by the South Korean Yonhap news agency:

N.K. seeks partial lifting of sanctions: foreign minister

HANOI, March 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is seeking partial relief of sanctions from the United States, not complete relief, in exchange for the dismantlement of its main nuclear facility and other actions, Pyongyang's top diplomat said Friday.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho made the remark at an impromptu press conference at his hotel in Hanoi, hours after a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump failed to produce an agreement.

Ri said the North is specifically seeking the lifting of sanctions under five United Nations Security Council resolutions adopted in 2016 and 2017.

He said those measures were particularly damaging to the North Korean people's livelihoods.

At the summit, according to Ri, the North Koreans also offered to permanently halt their testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

But the U.S., he said, insisted that the North go "one more" step beyond the dismantlement of its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon.

Pyongyang's position won't change even if the U.S. seeks further talks, he added.

A Bloomberg correspondent in Hanoi tweeted from the press conference:

Shannon Pettypiece @spettypi - 7:21 utc - 28 Feb 2019
BREAKING: North Koreans in press conference disputed Trump's account that North Korean asked for removal of ALL sanctions. Said they asked for partial removal of sanctions
BREAKING: North Korean official said they asked for 5 of 11 sanctions to be lifted in exchange for partial denuclearization. Trump's comments made it seem like North Koreans had asked for ALL sanctions to be canceled.
BREAKING: In rare press conference, North Korean official says “Chairman Kim got the feeling that he didn't understand the way Americans calculate” says Kim may have "lost the will" for further negotiations.
North Koreans said "it became crystal clear the United States wasn't ready to accept our proposal" during rare press conference

An unofficial translation of the full North Korean statement is here. North Korea again uses the phrase "corresponding measures". Ri also said that "it became crystal clear that the U.S. was not ready to accept our proposal."

Thoughts:

  • What was the "one more step" Trump demanded. Did it come from John Bolton?
  • It seems likely that Kim Jong-un, not Trump, was the one who ended the negotiations.
  • Giving the wrong impression about the sanction lifting request will came back to haunt the U.S. when (if?) the negotiations continue.

Trump reportedly asked the South Korean President Moon to mediate with North Korea about step towards a new round of negotiations.

End-Update

Posted by b on February 28, 2019 at 12:19 UTC | Permalink | Comments (114)

February 27, 2019

Tit-For-Tat Bombing By India And Pakistan Could Escalate Towards A Nuclear War

Two nuclear powers are currently engaged in a tit for tat military exchange that could easily escalate into a nuclear war.

On February 14 a suicide car bomb hit a police convoy in Pulwama in the Indian controlled part of Kashmir. The suicide bomber was a local man. The Pakistan based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility and uploaded a video of the attacker.

General elections in India are due in May and the Hindu-fascist Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under pressure. The incident in Kashmir led to violence of Modi followers against Kashmiri people. Pakistan denied any involvement in the incident and called for a joint investigation.

After the suicide attack Modi immediately threatened to retaliate against Pakistan. He did so yesterday. In an elaborate operation Indian fighter jets released stand-off weapons, purchased from Israel, against an alleged JeM training camp near Balakot. India made explicit that it hit a "non-military" target.


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While the Indian jets did not enter Pakistan's airspace the target was within Pakistan's undisputed borders. Small scale ground combat between Indian and Pakistani at the line of control in Kashmir is nothing unusual. But the air attack exceed the limits both sides so far held to.

Pakistan saw the incident as a failure of its deterrence. India has about 140 nuclear weapons while Pakistan has about 100. Pakistan's conventional military is inferior to India's. It therefore follows a doctrine of asymmetric escalation which allows for nuclear strikes in response to conventional military attacks.

Pakistan could not leave the hit within its own borders without response. Not responding would have set a precedence and invite further Indian attacks. Earlier today two Pakistani J-17a jets flew into the airspace of Indian controlled Kashmir and released bombs against what its military claimed to be a "non military target":

We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm. That is why we undertook the action with clear warning and in broad daylight.

Two rather antique Indian MIG-21 jets scrambled to chase the Pakistani fighter jets away. They were lured into the Pakistan controlled air space and both were shot down. Pakistan published pictures of one of the downed jets and claimed that the other one fell into an Indian controlled area. An Indian pilot ejected from his plane and was captured by Pakistani troops who had trouble (vid) to keep the locals from lynching him. The captured pilot was blindfolded and interrogated (vid). He identified as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan, Service No: 27981, and did not respond to further questions. His father is said to be a retried Air Marshal of the Indian air force. The pilot now seems to be fine (vid). He thanked the Pakistani military for rescuing him from the mob.

Air traffic over Pakistan and west India was shut down.


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In a TV speech Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan offered talks with India and urged deescalation:

"The sole purpose of our action [today] was to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same. That was the only purpose of what we did," he said, referring to the engagement of non-military targets across the LoC.
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"It is important where we go from here. From here, it is imperative that we use our heads and act with wisdom," he continued.

"All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they lead to. World War I was supposed to end in weeks, it took six years. Similarly, the US never expected the war on terrorism to last 17 years.

"I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford such a miscalculation? If this escalates, things will no longer be in my control or in Modi's," the prime minister continued.

"I once again invite you: we are ready. We understand the grief India has suffered in Pulwama and are ready for any sort of dialogue on terrorism. I reiterate that better sense should prevail.

"Let's sit together and settle this with talks," the prime minister concluded.

China, Russia and the United States have urged both sides to stand down and to deescalate the situation.

Meanwhile India falsely claimed that it shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet.

It will be up to Modi to take the next step. The captured pilot will complicate the issue for the Indian government. It must find a way to get him released.

That the Indian air force uses the antique MIG-21, which first flew in 1956, against state of the art Pakistani-Chinese F-17 again opens questions about Modi's corrupt deal to buy Rafale jets from France. As we discussed last September:

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

Not responding to today's attack will let Modi look weak and may well cost him his reelection. Responding with a new attack on Pakistan will gravely endanger both countries.

Posted by b on February 27, 2019 at 13:44 UTC | Permalink | Comments (113)

February 25, 2019

Venezuela - No, The "Responsibility To Protect" Does Not Apply

Richard Haass is the president of the Council of Foreign Relations. On Friday, before the failed delivery of fake "humanitarian aid" to Venezuela, he opined that the rejection of the "aid" would justify an intervention based on the dubious doctrine of a Responsibility to Protect (R2P):

Richard N. Haass @RichardHaass - 19:26 utc - 22 Feb 2019
What the Maduro regime is doing to the people of Venezuela is inconsistent with the obligations that come with being a sovereign state. The time has come for the UN or OAS or Lima Group to consider how to apply the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. bit.ly/2TZaoZv

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Haass attached a link to a report by the Crisis Group which summarized the situation at that time:

High Noon over Humanitarian Aid at Venezuela’s Border

Attaching the Crisis Group piece is an apt display of the utter stupidity of Richard Haass. That's because the report completely contradicts his argument. The principle of the Responsibility to Protect ..

.. is based upon the underlying premise that sovereignty entails a responsibility to protect all populations from mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations. The principle is based on a respect for the norms and principles of international law, especially the underlying principles of law relating to sovereignty, peace and security, human rights, and armed conflict.

The Crisis Group report argues, quite correctly, that the Venezuelan government is legally justified to reject the "aid". Thus R2P, which presuppose that a state does not fulfill is legal obligations, can not apply to the case:

Under international law, governments must give consent to the distribution of food and medical supplies when a population’s survival is threatened, but only if the aid is of an exclusively humanitarian and impartial nature. This aid operation, however, is primarily political, in that it is intended to undermine Maduro and bring about a change of government.

The acts of the Venezuelan government were fully consistent with "the obligations that come with being a sovereign state".

To recommend a legal procedure and policy by linking to a report that contradicts that reasoning is quite daft.

Furthermore Haass wants "the UN or OAS or Lima Group to consider how to apply the Responsibility to Protect".

But neither the Organisation of American States nor the Lima Group, a Canadian plot together with some Central and South American states to attack Venezuela, can apply R2P beyond the already taken sanction measures:

The Responsibility to Protect provides a framework for employing measures that already exist (i.e., mediation, early warning mechanisms, economic sanctions, and chapter VII powers) to prevent atrocity crimes and to protect civilians from their occurrence. The authority to employ the use of force under the framework of the Responsibility to Protect rests solely with United Nations Security Council and is considered a measure of last resort.

The UNSC will of course reject any U.S. attempt to apply R2P with regards to Venezuela.

The only and last time that the Security Council passed a chapter VII resolution based on R2P was with regards to Libya. The resolution allowed other states to protect the civilian population of Libya by force. The U.S. and others abused the resolution to overthrow the Libyan government and to completely destroyed the country. China and Russia certainly noted that. They will never again let such a resolution pass.

That Senator Marco Rubio, a driving power behind the campaign against Venezuela, explicitly posted these pictures of Muhammad Ghaddafi before and after R2P was applied, only strengthens the case against it.


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Posted by b on February 25, 2019 at 19:00 UTC | Permalink | Comments (171)

February 24, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-11

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Acting President John Bolton convinced his puppet that it should leave the U.S. troops in Syria. Elijah Magnier explores what that means: US forces will stay in Syria: Negotiations with the Kurds will be complicated, as Syria prepares for an Idlib offensive

The neocons are struggling to decide which country will be the next one to invade. Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, ... So many good choices but so little time ...

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Meet Bill Browder: The Man Behind the Magnitsky Myth. Videos of Browder disposition in the United States in which he contradicts all his public tales about the Russian fraud case against him, and ofthe fate of his accountant Sergei Magnitsky - Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on February 24, 2019 at 17:00 UTC | Permalink | Comments (138)

Venezuela - There Was A Riot At The Border But What Else Did The "Aid" Stunt Achieve?

Yesterday's "humanitarian aid" stunt at the Colombian-Venezuelan border was supposed to achieve four points:

  1. to breach the border and thereby open venues that could later be used for the passage of arms and fighters,
  2. to incite large scale defections from the Venezuelan army and police forces,
  3. to demonstrate to the outside world that the Random Guyaido, who declared himself president, has a large following and is thereby legitimate enough to support him,
  4. to deliver justification for further steps against Venezuela.

Point 1 was clearly not achieved. A few hundred young men attacked the Venezuelan National Guard force that closed off the border. Attempts were made to ram "aid" trucks through. Random Guyaido was nowhere to be seen. The whole thing ended in a minor riot. The violent attackers received gasoline and made Molotov cocktails to attack the guards and set the "aid" trucks alight. Here is a video that proves that. The riots continued (vid) until about midnight but neither any rioters nor the aid passed through the border.

The New York Times headlines, and Guaido claimed, that some "aid" passed into Venezuela from Brazil:

    Some Aid From Brazil Pierces Venezuela’s Blockade, but Deadly Violence Erupts

Down in paragraph 17 of its story the NYT admits that its headline is fake:

But as of Saturday night, the trucks remained stranded on the border, according to Jesús Bobadillo, a Catholic priest in Pacaraima, the Brazilian border town.

Bloomberg's bureau chief in Venezuela confirmed that the "aid" never entered the country:

Patricia Laya @PattyLaya - 4:31 PM - 23 Feb 2019
An important note from our reporter on the Brazil border @SamyAdghirni: while the aid is technically on Venezuelan territory, it hasn't crossed security or customs checkpoints

The attempt to incite defections of Venezuelan security forces largely failed. A handful of National Guard foot soldiers went over to the Colombian side. But the National Guard lines held well even under a hail of stones and fire and the units were quite disciplined in taking and holding their positions. The military of Venezuela stays firmly on the side of the state.

The "aid" nonsense did not help to brush up Guaido's legitimacy. Defying a court order Guaido left Venezuela and entered Colombia. If he ever goes back he will have to go to jail. The large mobilization inside and outside of Venezuela he had promised completely failed to appear. The melee at the border crossing only showed that his followers are a gang of brutal thugs.

Guaido also lost his original legal position. He claimed the presidency on January 23 under this paragraph of article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution:

When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.

That the "elected President becomes permanently unavailable" was never the case to begin with. But if article 233 would apply Guaido would have had 30 days to hold new elections. The 30 days are over and Guaido did not even call for elections to be held. He thereby defied the exact same paragraph of the constitution that his (false) claim to the presidency is based on.

All the above will not change the U.S. urge to "regime change" Venezuela. But it will certainly lower Guaido's support within the country as well as his international standing. It demonstrated aptly that he is nothing but an empty suit.

The last aim of yesterday's stunt was to give justification for the next steps towards "regime change" - whatever those steps may be. The success of achieving that aim was never in question as all U.S. media and politicians were already backing Trump's plans by accepting the "humanitarian aid" nonsense in the first place:

Bernie Sanders @SenSanders - 18:47 utc - 23 Feb 2019
The people of Venezuela are enduring a serious humanitarian crisis. The Maduro government must put the needs of its people first, allow humanitarian aid into the country, and refrain from violence against protesters.

This response to the fake socialist is warranted:

Roger Waters @rogerwaters - 22:27 utc - 23 Feb 2019
Replying to @SenSanders
Bernie, are you f-ing kidding me! if you buy the Trump, Bolton, Abrams, Rubio line, “humanitarian intervention” and collude in the destruction of Venezuela, you cannot be credible candidate for President of the USA. Or, maybe you can, maybe you’re the perfect stooge for the 1 %.

When the day was over Guaido and his U.S. handlers put out some statements that they probably wrote even before their "aid" stunt failed:

Juan Guaidó @jguaido - 2:33 utc - 24 Feb 2019
Translated from Spanish
Today's events force me to make a decision: to raise the international community formally that we must have open all the options to achieve the liberation of this country that struggles and will continue to fight.
Hope was born to not die, Venezuela!

To advance on our route, I will meet on Monday with our allies of the international community, and we will continue ordering upcoming actions to the internal of the country. Internal and external pressure are essential for liberation.
Hope was born not to die!
Marco Rubio @marcorubio - 2:43 utc - 24 Feb 2019
Marco Rubio Retweeted Juan Guaidó
After discussions tonight with several regional leaders it is now clear that the grave crimes committed today by the Maduro regime have opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will arrive in Colombia tomorrow to tell Guaido how to proceed. The focus will most likely be on how to start a sabotage campaign and a low level guerrilla war within Venezuela. Both will certainly hurt the country and its people but they are unlikely to achieve the larger "regime change" aim.

Fact free propaganda by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is already preparing a wider field:

Secretary Pompeo @SecPompeo - 3:25 utc- 24 Feb 2019
Cuban agents are directing attacks on the people of #Venezuela on behalf of Maduro. The Venezuelan military should do its duty, protect the country’s citizens, and prevent the Havana puppeteers from starving hungry children. #EstamosUnidosVE

The Economist is speculating about the consequences of military intervention in Venezuela, also known as a war of aggression. It is not (yet) convinced that it is the immediate way to go, but foresees that it is likely the only way to actually "change the regime":

Outsiders tend to play down the ideological commitment of some in the armed forces. [...] There are many guns in the hands of pro-regime militias. Venezuela has a tradition of guerrilla warfare.

An American invasion would thus be highly risky. It would also be counter-productive, because it would deprive a new government of legitimacy and revive anti-imperialism across Latin America when the main issue is the defence of democracy. Yes, Cuba is intervening in Venezuela, and there is scant evidence that Mr Maduro will go peacefully. Even so, maintaining the broadest possible political front against him remains the best option.

The next steps the U.S. will take will "soften up" its target for an upcoming invasion. They will include further measures to make Venezuela ungovernable and to starve its people into submission. One possible step, even while legally unjustifiable, is a sea and air blockade. The "soften up" phase will take many month, if not years, to achieve some noticeable changes on the ground. Only then will further action be merited. The actual point in time will depend on how it may influence Trump's domestic standing.

Would launching a war on Venezuela help him to get reelected or will the war have to wait until he won his second term?

Posted by b on February 24, 2019 at 14:48 UTC | Permalink | Comments (111)

February 23, 2019

Venezuela - No More Than 20,000 People Came To Branson's Concert Stunt - (Updated)

UPDATE Feb 25:

After our critic below the Washington Post quietly changed its piece and eliminated the fake concert attendance claim.

End update
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The Washington Post writes:

The attention on Saturday remained immediately focused on the single largest staging ground for aid in Cucuta, Colombia — where a massive benefit concert hosted by British billionaire Richard Branson drew a crowd of more than 200,000 people Friday.

200,000 people!

Hmm ...

200,000 people?


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200,000 people??

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200,000 people???


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Dan Cohen was in the VIP area in front of the stage:

Dan Cohen @dancohen3000 - 3:50 utc - 23 Feb 2019
#VenezuelaAidLive organizers claim 317,000 people attended today’s event. The real figure is a tiny fraction of that. Here’s a photo I took of the crowd at 11am. I estimate no more than 10,000. That might be generous.

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10,000 people?

Let's check a map:


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The stage was build at the top right across both roadways with its front towards the southwest. There was room for a few hundred VIP and reporters right in front of it. The field where the plebs were kept away lies between the north to south treeline at the right and the north to south ditch with the two single trees. According to the Google map scale the field's northern edge is some 125 meters wide. The crowd was standing at the northern end of the field at a depth of about 50 meters. The density of the static crowd was low to medium with on average 2 to 3 people per square meter.

125m * 50m = 6,250 m2 * 2.5 people/m2 = 15,625 people

One may generously add a count of one or two thousand for the people mingling around in the back of the public area. In total there may have been up to 18,000, but certainly no more than 20,000 people at the concert.

The show the British oligarch arranged was supposed to attract 250,000 people. Less than 8% of the expected crowd arrived. Branson claimed the concert would raise $100 million but did not explain by what magic that is going to happen. The idea failed to attract any globally known acts. That is probably thanks to Roger Waters who spoke out against the fake 'humanitarian' stunt.

The stage setup far away from the public area was unreasonable. The concert attracted only some local people who had nothing better to do. The whole thing was a complete fail.

The Washington Post's count of "200,000 people" is obviously an outrageous lie. But the Post agitated throughout the last 20 long years for regime change in Venezuela. It now sees a chance to achieve that. There is no way that it will let get facts in the way of it.

Posted by b on February 23, 2019 at 17:06 UTC | Permalink | Comments (128)

February 22, 2019

Venezuela - Abrams To Make Sure Humanitarian Aid Flights Are "Strictly By The Book"

U.S. Department of State, February 21, 2019

Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams Travel to Miami and Cucuta, Colombia

Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams will travel to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida and Cucuta, Colombia February 21-22 to support the delivery of humanitarian aid to some of the most vulnerable people in Venezuela in response to Interim President Guaido’s request.

Special Representative Abrams will lead a U.S. government delegation to accompany humanitarian supplies to be transported from Florida to Colombia by military aircraft. While in Colombia Special Representative Abrams will meet Colombian President Duque and visiting delegations from Central and South America.

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New York Times, August 17, 1987

Abrams Denies Wrongdoing In Shipping Arms to Contras

Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams has defended his role in authorizing the shipment of weapons on a humanitarian aid flight to Nicaraguan rebels, saying the operation was "strictly by the book."

Mr. Abrams spoke at a news conference Saturday in response to statements by Robert Duemling, former head of the State Department's Nicaraguan humanitarian assistance office, who said he had twice ordered planes to shuttle weapons for the contras on aid planes at Mr. Abrams's direction in early 1986.

 

Posted by b on February 22, 2019 at 14:05 UTC | Permalink | Comments (135)

February 21, 2019

U.S. Efforts To Block Huawei Gives China An Advantage

For several centuries China had a monopoly on silk. It was exported along the silk road to Persia and from there to Europe. Silk production was highly profitable. The export of silkworms and their production method was prohibited. in the mid 6-th century two monks made their way from Europe to China and found out how silk was produced. They reported back to the Byzantine emperor Justitian I who induced them to secretly acquire silkworms and to smuggle them back home. The monks managed to do that and soon thereafter the Chinese silk monopoly, and Persia's monopoly of silk trade with Europe, were no more.

The U.S. fears that China will soon be able to compete with it in computer chip design and fabrication. It is trying to block China from building its own chip factories and Congress even wants to block chip exports to specific Chinese companies. It is race that the U.S. will lose. Technology and the means of producing it inevitably proliferate.

The 5G mobile data networks will use new frequencies and algorithms to deliver gigabit data streams from, to and between mobile devices. This will allow for completely new applications like direct communication between (semi-)autonomous cars at any road crossing. Worldwide a number of companies are working to provide 5G technology. That involves antennas, base stations, new hard- and software in the periphery and in the core telecommunication systems. Main providers of such systems are U.S. companies like Motorola, Qualcomm and Cisco. Others are Ericsson and Samsung. One of the largest one is the Chinese company Huawei.

Currently Huawei is the most advanced company in the 5G field. It started early and invested huge sums into research and development for 5G technology. It owns some 15% of all relevant patents. It is currently the only provider that can deliver an end-to-end solution for 5G networks. As it serves the huge market of China it can produce on a large scale and sell its equipment for less than other companies do. The other dominant telecommunication equipment provider, including those in the United States, are lagging in 5G technology. They did not invest early enough and are now late to deliver.

Instead of investing in faster development and better technology the U.S. is trying to block Huawei from selling its goods. This hurts the development of other countries that want to provide 5G networks to their people.

The U.S. has long pressed its allies not to use Chinese equipment in their phone networks. It falsely claims that Huawei equipment is a security threat.

Australia and New Zealand followed the U.S. order and prohibited the use of Huawei equipment in their 5G networks. The U.S. also tried to press the big European countries to shun Huawei. So far it failed. Germany resisted U.S. pressure to not use Huawei stuff. It fears delays in 5G deployment should it ban Huawei. Yesterday Britain also pushed back:

Britain is able to manage the security risks of using Huawei telecoms equipment and has not seen any evidence of malicious activity by the company, a senior official said on Wednesday, pushing back against U.S. allegations of Chinese state spying.
...
“Our regime is arguably the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei,” [Chiaran Martin head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which] is part of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency, said at a cybersecurity conference in Brussels.

Asked later whether Washington had presented Britain with any evidence to support its allegations, he told reporters: “I would be obliged to report if there was evidence of malevolence ... by Huawei. And we’re yet to have to do that. So I hope that covers it.”

If Britain, a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing group, sees no danger in using Huawei then the U.S. has lost the case.

It is likely that Britain's announcement yesterday prompted this double-pronged U.S. reaction today:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 13:55 utc - 21 Feb 2019
I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on.........
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 13:59 utc - 21 Feb 2019
....something that is so obviously the future. I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies. We must always be the leader in everything we do, especially when it comes to the very exciting world of technology!

Within the same hour that Donald Trump claimed he wants "fair competition" over new mobile technology, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to blackmail U.S. allies into not using Huawei systems:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday warned that the United States would not be able to partner with or share information with countries that adopt Huawei Technologies Co Ltd systems, citing security concerns.

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Pompeo said nations in Europe and elsewhere need to understand the risks of implementing Huawei’s telecommunications equipment and that when they did, they would ultimately not use the company’s systems.

“If a country adopts this and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them, we won’t be able to work alongside them,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo's thread sounds harsh. It is certainly not in the spirit of "winning through competition" that his boss promotes. It is also useless.

U.S. secret services exchange information with many other countries. The Five Eyes cooperation with Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand involves a gigantic world wide data acquisition effort known to "collect it all". The results are shared within the group. U.S. services also exchange data with many other spy services on a more limited base. This includes exchanges even with 'enemy states' like Russia or Syria. But these are all two or more sided deals. They are based on give and take. If the U.S. stops providing, for example, information about Islamic State terrorists, others will stop to provide similar information to the United States.

Exchange of intelligence is always done to the advantage of both sides. If the U.S. would stop to provide what it does it would also lose access to the information the counterparts provide. Besides that the use of this or that mobile phone system or technology is irrelevant for exchanging data about security threads. Pompeo's threat is meaningless and will be rejected.

Huwaei is no more a security threat than any other telecommunication equipment provider. The greatest danger from all of them are quality issues with their code that allows various secret services and other criminals to hack into such equipment. The Snowden files provided that the U.S. regularly hacks into and bugs U.S. provided communication equipment.  In 2012 the NSA tried to install an exploit on the Cisco routers that run the central Internet node of Syria. It made an error that 'bricked' the routers and cut Syria off the Internet.

Unlike many U.S. companies Huawei gives foreign governments access to the source code for its equipment. It supports special laboratories in Germany, Britain, Singapore and elsewhere, that can inspect and test the code and equipment before its use. It recently announced that it would also open its central 5G development process in China to foreign government inspection.

The only issue that these labs have found so far is that the Chinese programmers at Huawei are as sloppy and error prone as programmers elsewhere are. Their coding is neither more elegant nor of higher quality. The NSA will have little problems hacking into it.

The U.S. attempt to block the deployment of Huawei equipment is obviously made for economic reason. The building of the Internet provided a huge boom to the U.S. telecommunications industry. A move into the 5G markets is supposed to prolong that. Unfortunately U.S. companies dropped the ball. Their leadership wanted to show short term profits and wasted it on share buy backs. The companies invested too little in research and development. Huawei beat them fair and square by being the first to offer the full line of the next generation products.

With hindering Huawei the Trump administration is playing for time so that U.S. companies can catch up. But that is again stupid short term thinking. The real profits in 5G networks will not be made with communication equipment but with the products enabled by it. The U.S. developed the Internet and sold it to the world. Cisco and other hardware manufacturers got rich. But there are also Google and Amazon which became even richer by providing the applications that run on top of the net.

If "the west" delays 5G deployment while China implements it, Chinese companies will have the time advantage to create the products which will run on top of the new global communication layer. It would allow China to incubate the next Google and Amazon like giants before other countries can even test the basic technology. That is the very reason why European countries do not follow the U.S. lead.

It was short term thinking that let the U.S. drop the ball on next generation telecommunications. If it wants to regain the lead it will have to change that attitude.

Posted by b on February 21, 2019 at 20:03 UTC | Permalink | Comments (127)

February 20, 2019

Trump Likes 'Beautiful' Border Walls - Venezuela Should Build Him One

Aaron Mate, who is currently on the ground in Venezuela (vid), notes how Trump early on targeted Venezuela:

Aaron Maté @aaronjmate - 20:59 utc - 18 Feb 2019
Page 136 of McCabe's new book, recounting a 2017 Oval Office meeting: "Then the president talked about Venezuela. That’s the country we should be going to war with, he said. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door."

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It is not only Trump's idea to 'regime change' Venezuela. Ever since 1998, when Hugo Chavez was elected, the U.S. plotted to 'regime change' Venezuela. It was Obama who put sanctions on the country. Right wing economists have for years thought up detailed plans on how to rob Venezuela of its national assets.

Plan A for the recent coup attempt failed when the Venezuelan military did not accept Random Guyido's brazen claim to the presidency. There was no plan B. The U.S. is now improvising. The delivery of "humanitarian aid" is a pretext to break the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

U.S. government "aid" is always political. U.S. aid workers are suspects. Consider these USAID RED teams which a 2018 study, commissioned by the U.S. foreign aid agency, recommended:

RED Team officers, the report explains, would carry out development activities, but they would also have training and expertise that are not typically included in USAID job requirements.

“RED Team personnel would be able to live and work in austere environments for extended periods of time and actively contribute to their own security and welfare. They would be deployed farther forward than USAID personnel traditionally deploy and would routinely operate under the authority of the host agency with whom they deploy, acting in accordance with their security posture,” the report reads.

“RED team members would be trained and authorized to conduct themselves as a force-multiplier able to contribute a full suite of security skills as needed,” it says.

USAID officers will also be special forces? Special forces will also be USAID workers? Which is it? How many of these 'Red Teams' are now in Colombia waiting to cross into Venezuela?

On Saturday February 23 a breach of the Venezuelan border will be attempted with the intent to provoke an escalation. That escalation will then be used to justify further action up to military strikes or even an invasion.

How exactly the game will be played out is still not clear:

Despite the tough language, it remained unclear how the Venezuelan opposition would break Mr. Maduro’s blockade of the border with a delivery of food and medication on Saturday. Mr. Trump’s own national security adviser said the American military — which has airlifted tons of supplies to Venezuela’s doorstep on the Colombia border — will not cross into the country.

The so called "aid" is also supposed to come via sea and through the border with Brazil. To prevent that Venezuela closed down the maritime border with the Dutch Caribbean Islands:

The closure blocks movement of boats and aircraft between the western Venezuelan coastal state of Falcon and the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, said Vice Admiral Vladimir Quintero, who heads a military unit in Falcon. He did not provide a reason.

The Brazil route is for now too remote for the desired media attention.


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Everything will concentrate on the border crossing with Colombia near the Colombian city of Cúcuta:

Leaders of several Latin American nations plan to travel to Colombia’s border with Venezuela on Friday ahead of the delivery of aid, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said on Tuesday, adding that he had accepted an invitation from Colombia’s president, Ivan Duque.

It was not immediately clear which leaders would attend. Most Latin American countries now recognize Guaido as president, though Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua still support Maduro.

Billionaire businessman Richard Branson is backing a “Live Aid”-style concert on Friday in the Colombian border city of Cucuta with a fundraising target of $100 million to provide food and medicine for Venezuela. Maduro’s government has announced two rival concerts just across the border.

Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters spoke out (video) against the Richard Branson's Not-really-for-AID concert and the U.S. 'regime change' attempt in Venezuela:

Roger Waters @rogerwaters - 22:57 utc - 18 Feb 2019
The Red Cross and the UN, unequivocally agree, don’t politicize aid. Leave the Venezuelan people alone to exercise their legal right to self determination.

On Saturday, when the U.S. proxy crowd will try to cross the border with unneeded "aid" some sniper shooting is likely to happen while dozens of cameras roll. Any casualties will be blamed on the Venezuelan military. The incident will be the propaganda pretext for further U.S. action. Already days ago Russia's Foreign Ministry warned of such 'false flag' attacks:

A provocation, involving victims, is being put together under the guise of a humanitarian convoy," Zakharova stressed. "They need it just as a pretext to use outside force, and everyone should understand that."

Trumps National Security Advisor is preparing the field:

John Bolton @AmbJohnBolton - 1:41 utc - 20 Feb 2019
The Venezuelan military must uphold its duty to protect civilians at the Colombian and Brazilian borders, and allow them to peacefully bring in humanitarian aid without violence or fear of persecution.
John Bolton @AmbJohnBolton - 2:14 utc - 20 Feb 2019
Any actions by the Venezuelan military to condone or instigate violence against peaceful civilians at the Colombian and Brazilian borders will not be forgotten. Leaders still have time to make the right choice.

Venezuela is not in need of U.S. aid. It is need of an end to the economic sanctions that put it under a medieval siege. There is no current lack of food or medicine like in Yemen though some products may run short.

The UN, the Red Cross and Caritas already have aid distribution projects within Venezuela. They reject the U.S. aid delivery as a political stunt. The International Committee of the Red Cross recently doubled its budget for Venezuela to $18 million and is ready to provide more. Last week 933 tonnes of medicines from Cuba and China arrived. Another 300 tons from Russia is supposed to arrive today.

The Venezuelan government has had enough time to game out how best to respond to the breach attempt of the border. It needs to block the roads AND it needs to prevent provocations. Trump likes walls on the border. Venezuela should give them to him.

"I don't mind having a big beautiful door in that wall so that people can come into this country legally. But we need, Jeb, to build a wall, we need to keep illegals out." - Donald Trump - Aug 6 2015 GOP debate

My advise to Venezuela is to use high concrete barricades with barbed wire and mines in front of them across all vehicle border crossings points. The purpose of the mines is to prevent attempts to remove the wire and the barricades. Large posters should warn of the deadly danger of the mines. If someone gets hurt by them, it will clearly be their own fault.

Passage on foot must be allowed as usual. Armed soldiers should be kept out of sight.

Trump said a lot about the national security need for "beautiful walls." A large banner with a relevant Trump quote should top each of the barricaded crossings.

Posted by b on February 20, 2019 at 15:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (126)

February 19, 2019

Why Iran Needs To Talk With The Taliban

The Trump administration is preparing a public argument for war on Iran. The Washington Times has some 'senior administration officials' claiming that Iran is allied with al-Qaeda and thus could and should be attacked:

Iran-al Qaeda alliance may provide legal rationale for U.S. military strikes

Iran is providing high-level al Qaeda operatives with a clandestine sanctuary to funnel fighters, money and weapons across the Middle East, according to Trump administration officials who warn that the long-elusive, complex relationship between two avowed enemies of America has evolved into an unacceptable global security threat.
...
The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in the days after the 9/11 attacks provided the legal framework for President George W. Bush to order U.S. military action against the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. The law has underpinned the U.S. counterterrorism campaign and has largely gone unchanged for the past 17 years through three presidential administrations.

Congressional and legal sources say the law may now provide a legal rationale for striking Iranian territory or proxies should President Trump decide that Tehran poses a looming threat to the U.S. or Israel and that economic sanctions are not strong enough to neutralize the threat.

That Iran is colluding with al-Qaeda, which it actively fights in Syria and Iraq, is obviously nonsense. When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan some families of al-Qaeda fighters fled to Iran where they were put under house arrest. They were and still are hostages Iran uses to prevent al-Qaeda attacks against its country. The Washington Times admits this:

One captured 2007 document, apparently written by an al Qaeda operative, concluded that, in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq, “Iranian authorities decided to keep our brothers as a bargaining chip.”

At the recent conferences in Warsaw and Munich the Trump administration failed to gain any European support for its anti-Iran strategy. Iraq has likewise rejected all U.S. attempts to position it against Iran. If the U.S. wants to attack Iran it will need to go it alone. Its 'allies' west of the Persian Gulf will give financial support but are not a serious military force. What they can do though is to ramp up terrorism against Iran.

The former Indian ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar suspects that the U.S. is trying to envelope Iran from the east to establish land routes that can be used for such purposes. The plan includes Pakistan and even the Afghan Taliban:

[T]oday, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are Israel’s covert allies in West Asia. They are joined at the hips in the project to overthrow the Iranian regime. We may expect that the Af-Pak could become a major theatre from where their covert operations would be launched with the help of Pakistan under the watch and protection of the US to destabilise Iran. Tehran has repeatedly alleged that the two Arab states are working in tandem with the US and Israel.

After last Tuesday’s fedayeen attack in Iran’s southeastern region of Sistan-Baluchistan bordering Pakistan (in which 27 Iranian troops were killed in circumstances eerily similar to what happened in Pulwama), top Iranian generals have openly alleged the role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. Unsurprisingly, Saudis and the Emiratis who are bankrolling the Pakistani economy, have come to call the shots in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Tehran is expecting turbulent times.
...
[W]e have an explosive mix today, such as we have never come across before in our region and which no one could have foreseen previously — except, indeed, the astute mind of Hamid Karzai — whereby the Taliban leadership has come under immense Pakistani pressure to eschew its “Afghan-ness” and accede to the US wish list on an open-ended military presence in Afghanistan (which is also backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as Israel.)

Bhadrakumar points to several recent incidents that suggest that such a plan is indeed in the making. He urges the Indian government to renew its alliance with Iran to counter such acts.

The Taliban will not like any plan that leaves foreign forces in their country. Removing all foreign forces from Afghanistan has always been their foremost aim. Yesterday the Taliban negotiators were supposed to meet their U.S. counterparts in Islamabad where they would also have talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan and probably with Khan's current guest, Clown Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. They canceled the talks on short notice. They may want to avoid additional pressure to submit to the U.S. plans of keeping some troops on Afghan ground.

Iran is also in talks with the Taliban. It may be able to offer them an alternative to the support they get from Pakistan. The U.S. has left the Afghan government in Kabul out of its talks with the Taliban while Iran kept it fully informed. Kabul may also prefer Iranian help in mediating an end of the long conflict.

Securing its eastern flank will be a high priority for Iran. A bid to change the allegiance of the Taliban from Pakistan to Iran may be the best way to achieve that.

Posted by b on February 19, 2019 at 18:24 UTC | Permalink | Comments (110)

February 18, 2019

Syria Sitrep - French Officer Criticizes U.S. Way Of War - Assad Offers Kurds Some Autonomy

A large double-tap car bombing (vid) hit Idleb city in northwest Syria today. Some 20 to 30 people were killed and more wounded. Idleb governorate is controlled by the al-Qaeda aligned Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) but many other terrorist groups continue to exist within the area. All fight each other over the available resources.

In September the Astana agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran was the basis of a ceasefire in Idleb governorate. Turkey was supposed to cleanse the area of HTS and other terrorist groups. It deployed soldiers to fortified observation posts around the region but did little else to fulfill the agreement.

Turkey is not only dragging its feet on Idleb but allows new foreign fighters to go there:

According to local sources in the province cited by Sputnik, around 1500 terrorists crossed the Turkish border into Idleb under the cover of the Turkish authorities supported by Turkish agents and directly supervised by the Turkish Gendarmerie (Jandarma) that is affiliated to the Turkish army.
...
The sources mentioned that the terrorists are of Western nationalities, in addition to others who hold nationalities of East Asian and Arab countries, who were transported towards Jisr al-Shughour area that is under the control of terrorists from China and Turkistan, while the other foreign terrorists were transported to camps of Jabhat al-Nusra and Hurras Eddin in the southern and southeastern countryside of Idleb.

It is likely that many of these new arrivals are ISIS terrorist who fled from east Syria to Turkey and were then routed towards Idleb. The terrorist in Idleb governorate continue to attack Syrian troops around them. They use up quite a lot of ammunition and must have supply lines from Turkey to sustain the fighting.

Another recent meeting in the Astana format with Russia, Iran and Turkey confirmed the basic agreement but did not achieve a common position on how to proceed.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet just published an interview with Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. On Idelb he said:

Q: Should we expect an operation into Idlib in the short term?

A: We should leave that to our military experts. We do need an operation, but we have to decide on whether it will be Turkey’s operation or some other countries’. We should not hope to make a deal with the children of Ahrar al-Sham. That is a false hope, they are terrorists, they are al-Nusra, they are the children of al-Qaeda.

At the recent security conference in Munich Russia's Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov also mentioned (vid @~15:00min) the situation in Idleb. He said that there would be common Russian and Turkish patrols in some areas of Idleb governorate but provided no details.

For now everyone waits for the U.S. to retreat from northeast Syria as Trump has ordered. Idleb will only be attacked when that proceeded.

The Islamic State as a territory holding entity is finished. It will continue to exist for some time as an underground terrorist movement in Syria and Iraq and as a brand that local groups elsewhere will use for their misdeeds.

Since the end of last week the last holdout of ISIS is down to a few thousand square meters. The U.S. is now again negotiating with the terrorists instead of finishing them off:

More than 300 Islamic State militants surrounded in a tiny area in eastern Syria are refusing to surrender to U.S.-backed Syrian forces and are trying to negotiate an exit, Syrian activists and a person close to the negotiations said Monday.
...
The DeirEzzor 24, an activist collective in eastern Syria, said several trucks loaded with food stuff entered IS-held areas in Baghouz in Deir el-Zour on Monday morning. The group also reported that ISIS released 10 SDF fighters Sunday without saying whether the supplies of the food stuff were in return for the release.

DeirEzzor 24 said that the truce reached between ISIS and the SDF last week has been extended for five more days as of Sunday.

A French colonel who led an artillery group in the fight against ISIS criticized the U.S. way of fighting that war:

Colonel Francois-Regis Legrier, who has been in charge of directing French artillery supporting Kurdish-led groups in Syria since October, said the coalition's focus had been on limiting its own risks and this had greatly increased the death toll among civilians and the levels of destruction.

"Yes, the Battle of Hajin was won, at least on the ground but by refusing ground engagement, we unnecessarily prolonged the conflict and thus contributed to increasing the number of casualties in the population," Mr Legrier wrote in an article in the National Defence Review.

"We have massively destroyed the infrastructure and given the population a disgusting image of what may be a Western-style liberation leaving behind the seeds of an imminent resurgence of a new adversary," he said, in rare public criticism by a serving officer.

French artillery in northeast Syria (source)

Note the mix of LU107 high explosive and LU214 white phosphorus grenades (Nexter catalog)
which together can be used to "shake 'n bake" the enemy forces. The tactic is highly controversial.
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Several times during the last months bad weather prevented the use of aerial bombing and artillery fire against ISIS. The terrorists always used these pauses to counterattack. The poorly armed and led Kurdish/Arab SDF suffered a lot of casualties because of these. The colonel opines that a well armed professional ground force would have shortened the conflict with less casualties and much less damage.

The original essay by the soon to be former colonel was taken down from the web. It is available in French on page 65 of this pdf.

It is still not clear if or when the U.S. forces will leave northeast Syria. President Trump had asked Turkey to take over the area but Syria, Russia, Iran and the Kurdish forces the U.S. used as proxies against ISIS are against this. A U.S. attempt to recruit British, German or French forces to occupy the area failed.

The Syrian ground must obviously be turned back to the Syrian government. The Kurdish forces, controlled by the anarcho-marxist PKK/YPG which Turkey and others designate as terrorists, use their current position to demand political autonomy in the area they now control. The Syrian government is strongly against this. Any federalization of Syria would be the beginning of its end.

Yesterday the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered a compromise to the Kurds. In a speech in front of the heads of local councils he announced local council elections and the decentralization of some political decisions. The required law 107 is already in place but its implementation was held up by the war:

[Assad] said that the essence of the local administration law is achieving balance in development across all areas by giving local administrative units the authority to develop their areas in terms of economy, urban development, culture, and services, thereby improving citizens’ living conditions by launching projects, providing job opportunities, and providing services locally, particularly in remote areas.

President al-Assad said it is no longer practical to manage the affairs of the society and state and achieved balanced development in the same centralized way that had been used for decades, noting that the population of Syria in 1971 when the previous law was issued was around 7 million, while the population in 2011 when law 107 was issued had reached around 22 million.

That the implementation of elected local administrations is offered now is a clear sign to the Kurds that they can get some autonomy but not the wide ranging one that they ask for. While they can have local elections, councils and administrations as all other areas will have, there will be no separate armed force, police of judicative in Kurdish majority areas.

Several times over the war the Kurds overreached, made too large demands and lost because of it. Turkey took the Afrin area and the Kurdish population had to flee because the Kurdish leadership did not want the Syrian army to take over control. In a later part of the speech Assad again addressed the Kurds without specifically naming them. He warned:

“The Americans will not protect you… you will be a bargaining chip in their pocket along with the dollars they have, and they have already started bargaining. If you don’t prepare yourselves to defend your country, you will be mere slaves for the Ottomans. Only your state will protect you and only the Syrian Arab Army will defend you when you join it and fight under its banner.

“When we stand in one position and in the same trench, face a single enemy, and aim in the same direction instead of aiming at each other, there will be no worry of any threat no matter how big, His Excellency said.

President al-Assad said the time has come for those groups to decide how history will judge them, and that they have a choice: to be masters in their own land, or slaves and pawns in the hand of occupiers.

The offer is quite clear and the consequences of not accepting it would be harsh. The Kurds and the area they hold must come back under Syrian government control or Turkey will grab it and will put the Kurds under its boots. The pigheadedness of their leadership could easily lead to that. In his speech Assad already predicts that they will reject his offer before - maybe - accepting it.

“As you noticed, I will not name these groups, but as usual, for a few hours or maybe for a few days, they will issue statements attacking this speech, then you will know who I’m talking about,” he added.

A few hours after Assad's speech the Kurdish commander of the SDF was again begging the U.S. to keep 1,500 of its troops there.

Mazloum Kobani, commander-in-chief of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), called on international coalition allies to keep 1,000-1,500 troops in Syria.
...
“We would like to have air cover, air support and a force on the ground to coordinate with us,” Kobani told reporters at an undisclosed airbase in northeast Syria, Reuters reports.

It is very unlikely that Trump will change his position. The U.S. troops will leave. Only the Syrian government can give the Kurds the protection they need.

How many more Kurds will have to die until their leadership finally accepts that?

Posted by b on February 18, 2019 at 19:15 UTC | Permalink | Comments (68)

February 16, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-10

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The U.S. attack against Venezuela triggered riots in Haiti. Haiti received oil and credit from Venezuela under very preferential conditions. The money saved was supposed to go into a special PetroCaribe fund to be spend on social projects in Haiti. When the U.S. enacted sanctions against Venezuela, Haiti stopped paying and the cheap oil flow ended. The fund was looted by local politicians. When the government then supported the U.S. coup attempt against Venezuela the people had enough and took to the streets.

BajoElCieloDeMoscú @VuelvaLaURSS - 17:28 utc - 14 Feb 2019
Translated from Spanish
The Haitian people have been protesting for five days against the dictator who supports Guaidó in Venezuela, Jovenel Moises. In 5 days, the repressive forces of this criminal have murdered 52 Haitians and left 247 wounded. So you can see the streets of Puerto Principe, full of bodies.

The video attached to the above tweet shows five civilians, presumably dead, laying in the road.

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A former chief of staff Nicolas Maduro, now a professor at Science Po in Paris, warns in an interview that the situation in Venezuela could easily escalate into a civil war.

Q: One of the things that have been said by the opposition very clearly is that there will be new elections. That is part of their plan.

A: And what guarantees that the departure of Maduro doesn't create a civil war, for instance? The reality of Venezuela is that it is a very polarized country. It is totally unrealistic or irresponsible to think or to assume that there are all the guarantees for Venezuela to be in a peaceful situation. In order to be an election, you have to agree on the terms of that election. When will the election be held? Who can be allowed to run for those elections? And that's exactly the problem — saying there will be elections is assuming that the problem is solved before even addressing it.

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Greg Grandin on sovereignty and Latin America: What’s at Stake in Venezuela?

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Other stuff:

- "It's all about the Benjamins baby." That tweet by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the reaction to it, put new focus on the Zionist lobby. M.J. Rosenberg: This Is How AIPAC Really Works - WSJ: Aipac raises more than $100 million a year, which it spends on lobbying politicians

- A longread by Matthew Hoh, who resigned over Obama's 2009 surge in Afghanistan: Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies

- A Chinese anime video series about the life and work of Karl Marx: The Leader (with subtitles in 7(!) languages)

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on February 16, 2019 at 18:04 UTC | Permalink | Comments (170)

The Deep Nation Of Russia

In a newly published essay, a close aide to the Russian President Vladimir Putin describes the system of governance in Russia. It stands in contrast to the usual 'western' view of the 'autocratic' Russian state.

U.S. media often depict Russia as a top-down state, run at the whims of one man. They cite western paid scholars to support that position. One example is this column in Friday's Washington Post:

Why Russia no longer regrets its invasion of Afghanistan
Putin is reassessing history to make the case for adventures abroad.

On February 15 1989 the last soldiers of the Soviet army left Afghanistan. Later that year the Congress of People’s Deputies, the elected parliament of the USSR, passed a resolution that condemned the war:

Now, however, the Russian government is considering reversing this earlier verdict, with the Duma set to approve a resolution officially reevaluating the intervention as one that took place within the bounds of international law and in the interests of the U.S.S.R.

The authors ascribe the move to the Russian president and claim that he makes it to justify Russia's engagements in current wars:

The Kremlin is rewriting history to retrospectively justify intervention in countries such as Ukraine and Syria as it seeks to regain its status as a global power.
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To avoid domestic opposition, [Moscow] cannot allow the public to perceive Syria through the prism of the Afghan experience. Putin and his allies have decided to tackle this problem head-on by reinterpreting that experience.
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That is why perhaps Putin, and Russian lawmakers, are marking the poignant anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by attempting to ascribe meaning to that long-lost meaningless war.

The columns is typical for the negative depiction of Russia, and its elected leader. Each and every move in the bowels of the Russian Federation is, without evidence, ascribed to its president and his always nefarious motives.

It is also completely wrong. The new resolution it muses about never came to a vote:

Most anticipated the Duma’s Afghan bill would re-appear for final consideration earlier this week, signed by Mr Putin in time for today’s anniversary. Unexpectedly, however, the bill disappeared from view at the last minute, with insiders citing a lack of agreement of a final draft.

On Friday [its author], Frants Klintsevich confirmed to The Independent that his initiative had failed to receive “necessary backing”. He says drafting problems were to blame, and that the bill had been sent back for amendments. It “might, or might not” be resurrected, he added: “We will continue to fight for it. I don’t know if we will be successful.”

The resolution, which the Washington Post authors claim is motivated by Putin's need to justify current interventions, was not pushed by Putin at all. It was the Kremlin that stopped it. How does that fit to the presumed motives they muse about?

The 'western' view of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the "long-lost meaningless war", is that it was the catastrophic for the Soviet Union and led to its demise (pdf). That view is wrong. The war was neither meaningless, nor lost.

The war was seen as strategically necessary to keep fundamentalist Islamists, financed by the United States, from penetrating the southern republics of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet army pulled out of Afghanistan it left a well equipped and capable Afghan army behind. The Afghan government was able to resist its U.S. financed enemies for three more years. It fell apart only after financial support from Russia ended.

In size and relative cost the Afghan war, and its domestic impact in the Soviet Union, was only a third of the size and impact of the U.S. war in Vietnam. The Vietnam war did not destroy the United States and the Soviet war in Afghanistan did not destroy the Soviet Union. The reasons for its demise were ideological inflexibility and a leadership crisis.

Those problems have now been solved.

Last Monday Vladislav Surkov, a close aid to Putin, published a fundamental essay about the nature of governance of Russia:

Putin’s Lasting State

The intentionally provocative essay is central to understand what motivates the new Russia and how and why it functions so well (when compared to earlier times).


Vladislav Surkov - bigger

“It only seems that we have a choice.” is its first sentence. The illusion of having a choice is only a trick of the western way of life and western democracy, writes Surkov. After the social and economic catastrophe of the 1990s, Russia became disinterested in such a system. In consequence:

Russia stopped collapsing, started to recover and returned to its natural and its only possible condition: that of a great and growing community of nations that gathers lands. It is not a humble role that world history has assigned to our country, and it does not allow us to exit the world stage or to remain silent among the community of nations; it does not promise us rest and it predetermines the difficult character of our governance.

Russia has found a new system of governance, says Surkov. But it is not yet up to its full capacity:

Putin’s large-scale political machine is only now revving up and getting ready for long, difficult and interesting work. Its engagement at full power is still far ahead, and many years from now Russia will still be the government of Putin, just as contemporary France still calls itself the Fifth Republic of de Gaulle, ...

He points out how Russia early on (see Putin's 2007 speech in Munich) warned of the dangers of the U.S. led globalization and liberalization that tries to do away with the nation state.

His description of the 'western' system of governance is to the point:

Nobody believes any more in the good intentions of public politicians. They are envied and are therefore considered corrupt, shrewd, or simply scoundrels. Popular political serials, such as “The Boss” and “The House of Cards,” paint correspondingly murky scenes of the establishment’s day-to-day.

A scoundrel must not be allowed to go too far for the simple reason that he is a scoundrel. But when all around you (we surmise) there are only scoundrels, one is forced to use scoundrels to restrain other scoundrels. As one pounds out a wedge using another wedge, one dislodges a scoundrel using another scoundrel… There is a wide choice of scoundrels and obfuscated rules designed to make their battles result in something like a tie. This is how a beneficial system of checks and balances comes about—a dynamic equilibrium of villainy, a balance of avarice, a harmony of swindles. But if someone forgets that this is just a game and starts to behave disharmoniously, the ever-vigilant deep state hurries to the rescue and an invisible hand drags the apostate down into the murky depths.

In contrast to the western system, Russia does not have a deep state. Its governance is out in the open, not necessarily pretty, but everyone can see it. There is no deep state in Russia, says Surkov, there is instead a deep nation:

With its gigantic mass the deep nation creates an insurmountable force of cultural gravitation which unites the nation and drags and pins down to earth (to the native land) the elite when it periodically attempts to soar above it in a cosmopolitan fashion.

Vladimir Putin is trusted with leading Russia's deep nation because he listens to it:

The ability to hear and to understand the nation, to see all the way through it, through its entire depth, and to act accordingly—that is the unique and most important virtue of Putin’s government. It is adequate for the needs of the people, it follows the same course with it, and this means that it is not subject to destructive overloads from history’s countercurrents. This makes it effective and long-lasting.

This unique Russian system makes it superior:

The contemporary model of the Russian state starts with trust and relies on trust. This is its main distinction from the Western model, which cultivates mistrust and criticism. And this is the source of its power.

Surkov predicts that it will have a great future:

Our new state will have a long and glorious history in this new century. It will not break. It will act on its own, winning and retaining prize-winning spots in the highest league of geopolitical struggle. Sooner or later everyone will be forced to come to terms with this—including all those who currently demand that Russia “change its behavior.” Because it only seems as if they have a choice.

Putin will have signed off the essay before it was published. It is, like his Munich speech, a public challenge to the western ruling class. "Wake up," it says. "Don't rely on those dimwits who ascribe this or that superficial motive to us. This all goes much deeper."

The western Russia analysts will write heaps of bad articles about the Surkov essay. They will probably claim that it shows that Putin has  delusions of grandeur. I for one read it as a honest description of Russia's natural state.

We thankfully do not have to rely on the 'experts'. Those who want to understand Russia can read the essay themselves.

Posted by b on February 16, 2019 at 11:32 UTC | Permalink | Comments (170)

February 14, 2019

Venezuela - Media Find Trump's Coup Plan Does Not Work

On January 25, two days after Random Guyidó declared himself President of Venezuela, the lack of planing in the U.S. coup attempt was already obvious:

My impression is that Trump was scammed. It was long evident that he gives little attention to details and does not think things through. Most likely Bolton, Pompeo and Rubio presented him with a three step plan:

Phase 1. Support the self declared president Guaidó; Phase 2: ... (wishful thinking) ...; Phase 3: Take half of their oil!
...
Bolton and Pompeo are both experienced politicians and bureaucrats. They likely knew that their plan was deeply flawed and would require much more than Trump would normally commit to. My hunch is that the soon coming mission creep was build into their plan, but that they did not reveal that.

The U.S. coup planners and their Venezuelan puppets had hoped that the Venezuelan military would jump to their side. That was wishful thinking and unlikely to happen. They also thought up some "humanitarian aid" scheme in which pictures of trucks crossing a long blocked bridge would soon shame the Venezuelan president into stepping down. That was likewise nonsense.

Unless the U.S. is willing and able to escalate, the coup attempt is destined to fail.

'Western' media now recognize that phase 2 of the coup plan is in deep trouble. Today the Guardian, Bloomberg and the New York Times all describe growing frustration with the lack of success.

The Guardian notes:

[T]hree weeks after Guaidó electrified the previously rudderless opposition movement by declaring himself interim leader, there are signs his campaign risks losing steam.

An anticipated mass defection of military chiefs – which opposition leaders admit is a prerequisite to Maduro’s departure – has not materialized, and Maduro’s inner-circle has begun claiming it has weathered the political storm.

Bloomberg writes:

Since Juan Guaido declared himself interim president three weeks ago and offered amnesty to officers who abandon Maduro, more than 30 countries led by the U.S. have hailed the move, waiting for the military to follow. There hasn’t been a rush to his side.
...
In a country with more than 2,000 generals and admirals, only one top officer -- who commands no troops -- has pledged allegiance to Guaido.
...
This is a major reason why the revolution isn’t moving as quickly as some had hoped when Guaido electrified the world on Jan. 23 with his declaration. This has led to impatience and finger-pointing. U.S. policy makers and those around Guaido -- as well as leaders in Brazil and Colombia -- are eyeing one another and worrying about failure. Officials in each camp have said privately they assumed the others had a more developed strategy.

The NY Times shows similar frustration:

[The opposition's] goal was to bring the supplies into Venezuela, forcing a confrontation with Mr. Maduro, who has refused the help. This would cast Mr. Maduro in a bad light, opposition leaders said, and display their ability to set up a government-like relief system in a nation where the crumbling economy has left many starving, sick and without access to medicine.

But there was no dramatic confrontation.

The "aid" delivery failed, according to Bloomberg, for lack of planning and coordination:

Worry about what comes next has intensified. At a meeting in the U.S. embassy in Bogota, Colombia, last week, military, intelligence and civilian leaders from both countries discussed ways of moving humanitarian aid into Venezuela. There was a sense of frustration in the air, according to a participant who agreed to discuss it on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. said it was paying for the aid but wanted Colombia to find trucks and drivers to move it in. The Colombians said no one would accept the mission because the Venezuelan military would arrest them. The aid remains in warehouses near the border.

At similar meetings in the Colombian border city of Cucuta, a person who attended said the dynamic was the same -- the U.S. expecting Colombia to find the means to deliver the aid and the Colombians saying they can’t.

The opposition is only now thinking up its own crazy scheme for delivering the "aid":

In Cúcuta, members of the opposition say they are considering options to physically force the shipment into Venezuela.

Omar Lares, a former opposition mayor in exile in Cúcuta, said organizers want people to surround an aid truck on the Colombian side and accompany it to the bridge. A crowd of thousands would be gathered on the other side to push through a security cordon, move the containers blocking the bridge, and accompany the aid into Venezuela.

“One group over there, one over here, and we’ll make one large human chain,” he said.

And what does he think the battalion of Venezuelan soldiers between the two groups will do? Just step aside and allow an invasion of their country?

The struggle could make for some marketable TV pictures but it would not achieve anything. The lack of planning is daunting even to the lobbyists in Washington DC:

The opposition has created immense expectations, and it’s not at all clear they have a plan for actually fulfilling them,” said David Smilde, a Venezuela analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America.

The U.S. coup plotters and their Venezuelan proxies seem to recognize that there will be no imminent change:

Addressing a congressional hearing, the US special envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, claimed “Maduro and his band of thieves” were finished. He claimed international pressure meant “there is a storm brewing inside the Maduro regime that will eventually bring it to an end”.

But while Abrams said Washington was “hopeful and confident” of Maduro’s demise he admitted it was “impossible to predict” when it might come. The US would maintain pressure “over the next weeks and months”, he added, suggesting a quick resolution is no longer expected.

Opposition leaders have spent recent days trying to dampen expectations that Maduro’s exit is imminent.

Juan Andrés Mejía, an opposition leader and Guaidó ally, admitted that goal “could take some time”.

The little spontaneous support the Random Guyidó had in some parts of the population is already lessening. Yesterday's demonstration he had called for saw less attendance than the one on January 23. He now says that he will force the 'aid' crossing on February 23 but he does not seem to have a real plan to achieve that:

President of the National Assembly Guaido also promised the country that US-delivered humanitarian aid will “enter the country no matter what” on February 23, issuing an “order” for the military to allow it to enter. However, military leaders have dismissed these calls, with the Central Defense Region tweeting in response that the armed forces would not take any orders from an “imperial lackey.”

“One month after the swearing in we have done it. This February 23 the humanitarian aid will enter the country. The Armed Forces have 11 days to decide if they are on the side of the Venezuelans and the Constitution or on that of the usurper,” he claimed in reference to President Maduro.

If the U.S. does not do more than it has done so far the government under President Maduro can sit this out. The sanctions and the lack of oil revenue will create many immediate problems. But in a few weeks Venezuelan oil will have found new buyers. Fresh money will come in and new sources for imports of medicine and staple food will have been found.

Over the same time the Random Guy will lose support. The party he nominally leads only won 20% of the votes. The other opposition parties were never informed of his plan to declare himself president. Their support for the step was lukewarm and will cool further. They may in the end support the mediation talks Maduro has offered and which the UN, Uruguay and Mexico also support. The talks could lead to new parliament and/or presidential elections in a year or two and thereby solve the situation.

The U.S. would not be satisfied by a compromise solution. Trump is now committed to 'regime change' in Venezuela. But how can he do it?

Waging an open war against that country would be very messy, expensive and difficult to justify. To start and support a guerilla war - Elliott Abrams specialty - takes time also costs a lot of money. The chances to win it are low. Moreover Trump wants to get re-elected but could lose many votes over both scenarios.

What else then can he do?

Posted by b on February 14, 2019 at 18:58 UTC | Permalink | Comments (152)

February 13, 2019

Netanyahoo Asks Arabs To "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran"

The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the European rejected that.

The State Department then changed the agenda:

“The idea was to have a conference, a ministerial, and basically break our diplomatic isolation on Iran,” said a person familiar with the planning of the event. “It started out as an Iran conference in disguise but has probably actually been forced to take on more actual broader Middle East content now."

The person added: “They changed some of the focus and were forced to pony up with content on Syria and Yemen particularly."

The meeting took place today but the European powers did not fall for the trick. They want keep the nuclear agreement with Iran:

Even Poland on Tuesday said it disagreed with the U.S. approach to Iran. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters the nuclear pact was valuable and expressed hope the conference could help participants find common ground.

While the U.S. delegation includes Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, other major players have either refused to attend or are sending low-level delegations. The EU’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said she had other commitments.

Germany and France only sent lower level staff. The British foreign minister will only attend a side session on Yemen.

The State Department went to some length to obfuscate the real purpose of the conference. Its press statement today says:

The agenda is wide-ranging, and will include a discussion of the Administration’s efforts to promote a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a conversation on how to address ongoing regional humanitarian crises. The Secretary will provide an update on the situation in Syria and discuss other U.S. priorities in the region, including concerns regarding Iran’s destructive activities.

Smaller breakout sessions will provide ministers the opportunity to focus on specific areas of concern such as missile development and proliferation, cyber security and emerging threats, and terrorism and illicit finance.

That State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:

I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran."

[Update 3:40pm]

The statement has now been changed into "combating Iran". But that is not what Netanyahoo said in Warsaw and there is video to prove it. There were also witnesses:

Aron Heller @aronhellerap 18:44 utc - 13 Feb 2019

Did @netanyahu really say “war” with Iran? I was there and the word was ”milchama” = war.

[End Update]

Why is Netanyahoo doing this?

No other country, except maybe the U.S.,  has any interest in waging war on Iran. Certainly not the Arab countries near the Persian Gulf. In case of a war they are all extremely vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. Their oil and gas installations would be in serious danger. The desalination plants which provide their drinking water are all within easy reach of Iranian missiles.

By claiming that the conference is about waging war on Iran Netanyahoo is not only embarrassing the State Department and Secretary Mike Pompeo. He also makes it extremely difficult for other attendees to justify their presence. The Arabs will be especially furious that they are shown in such an open alliance with Israel and its hostility against Iran. Scheming with Israel in the dark is fine. But being publicly associated with a war mongering Israel is difficult to sell to their people. It would be unsurprising to see some of them leave.

The whole conference is an own goal for the Trump administration. Instead of showing unity with its allies it now only demonstrates the depth or their disagreement. Netanyahoo's statement may help him to win some votes in the upcoming election in Israel. But the hoped for alliance with the Gulf Arabs is now as far off as it has ever been.

Posted by b on February 13, 2019 at 20:03 UTC | Permalink | Comments (98)

February 12, 2019

Russiagate Is Finished

For more than two years U.S. politicians, the media and some bloggers hyped a conspiracy theory. They claimed that Russia had somehow colluded with the Trump campaign to get him elected.

An obviously fake 'Dirty Dossier' about Trump, commissioned by the Clinton campaign, was presented as evidence. Regular business contacts between Trump flunkies and people in Ukraine or Russia were claimed to be proof for nefarious deals. A Russian click-bait company was accused of manipulating the U.S. electorate by posting puppy pictures and crazy memes on social media. Huge investigations were launched. Every rumor or irrelevant detail coming from them was declared to be - finally - the evidence that would put Trump into the slammer. Every month the walls were closing in on Trump.

At the same time the very real Trump actions that hurt Russia were ignored.

Finally the conspiracy theory has run out of steam. Russiagate is finished:

After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.
...
Democrats and other Trump opponents have long believed that special counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional investigators would unearth new and more explosive evidence of Trump campaign coordination with Russians. Mueller may yet do so, although Justice Department and Congressional sources say they believe that he, too, is close to wrapping up his investigation.

Nothing, zero, nada was found to support the conspiracy theory. The Trump campaign did not collude with Russia. A few flunkies were indicted for unrelated tax issues and for lying to the investigators about some minor details. But nothing at all supports the dramatic claims of collusion made since the beginning of the affair.

In a recent statement House leader Nancy Pelosi was reduced to accuse Trump campaign officials of doing their job:

“The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people. ...

No one called her out for spouting such nonsense.

Russiagate created a lot of damage.

The alleged Russian influence campaign that never happened was used to install censorship on social media. It was used to undermine the election of progressive Democrats. The weapon salesmen used it to push for more NATO aggression against Russia. Maria Butina, an innocent Russian woman interested in good relation with the United States, was held in solitary confinement (recommended) until she signed a paper which claims that she was involved in a conspiracy.

In a just world the people who for more then two years hyped the conspiracy theory and caused so much damage would be pushed out of their public positions. Unfortunately that is not going to happen. They will jump onto the next conspiracy train and continue from there.

Posted by b on February 12, 2019 at 18:38 UTC | Permalink | Comments (138)

February 11, 2019

Venezuela - 57% Say Maduro Is Their Legitimate President

The legitimacy of a ruler can best be determined by asking the ruled people.

The independent Venezuelan polling firm Hinterlaces asked (in Spanish) 1,580 Venezuelans in direct interviews who they consider to be the legitimate president of Venezuela.

57% said that the Nicolás Maduro is the legitimated president. 32% said Juan Guaidó. 11% did not know or did not respond.

---

The well-respected scientific research service of the German Bundestag advised (in German) that foreign recognition of someone as a president does not confer legitimacy. Legitimacy of a president requires that he has actual enforcing capabilities within the country. As long as that is not established a recognition must be seen as interference in the internal affairs of the foreign country. Such an interference, which the German and other governments committed, is inconsistent with international law.

---

Alfred-Maurice de-Zayas, a professor for international law and a longtime senior lawyer at the United Nations, confirms that opinion. He writes:

Members of the United Nations are bound by the Charter, articles one and two of which affirm the right of all peoples to determine themselves, the sovereign equality of states, the prohibition of the use of force and of economic or political interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Yet these fundamental principles of international order are being grossly violated in the case of Venezuela.

---

ignoring the will of the people of Venezuela and the rule of law U.S. media continue to manufacture consent for regime change in Venezuela.

Posted by b on February 11, 2019 at 18:53 UTC | Permalink | Comments (91)

February 10, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-09

It was a quiet week as your host had the sh**s and was generally unwell. The full service will resume next week.

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Steffan Watkins found that the weapons mentioned in the above post came within a larger CIA operation.

Steffan Watkins @steffanwatkins - 4:54 utc - 10 Feb 2019
U.S. registered Boeing 767 Cargo plane N881YV (ICAO:AC23C6), operated by 21 Air, LLC, wet-leased to GPS-Air, flew every single day from 2019-01-11 to 2019-02-07 from Florida to VZ or CO, sometimes both; then stopped.
On the 7th. Why might that be?
Funny story; do you know when the Venezuelans published the name of the suspect flight and laid out the spread of guns allegedly from the plane? February 5th. Flights stopped when the public were told about them happening February 7th.

Others found that several people involved in the above flights were also involved in 'extraordinary rendition' torture flights for the CIA. They, of course, deny this but the evidence is clear: Miami Herald: Air charter firm, client both deny role in alleged shipment of arms to Venezuela

When I wrote the above I was not aware of this Greg Palast piece on the same issue: In Venezuela, White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Coup

More on Venezuela:

RT has an interview with Rafael Ramírez who ran the Venezuelan oil industry under Hugo Chavez. He fell out with Maduro and very much dislikes his policies. He is also against the U.S. led coup attempt. I sthere a chance for a 'third way'?
Hasta la (Cha)vista? Rafael Ramirez, ex-permanent representative of Venezuela to the UN

Fox News claims that "Venezuela stockpiles 5,000 long-range Russian missiles" that threaten the United States. Those 5,000 missiles are Man Portable Air Defense Missiles (MANPADs) with a maximum range of some 6,000 meters(!).

Adam Johnson list other propaganda points:
Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Cheap Trump/Rubio Venezuela Aid PR Stunt

The Democratic Party leadership is fully on board with the Trump administration's regime change plans and repeats all its talking points. It suddenly forgot #Russiagate and that Trump only does what Putin wants him to do.

It is hard to think of anything more condemning than this:

John Bolton @AmbJohnBolton - 1:43 utc - 10 Feb 2019
Appreciate @SpeakerPelosi‘s strong statement of support. The U.S. stands united in its support of Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó, and of the peaceful, constitutional transition to democracy in Venezuela.
Pelosi Statement on the Situation in Venezuela

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on February 10, 2019 at 15:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (164)

February 09, 2019

Racism And The Fight Over Venezuela

The U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela is not only about oil and general U.S. imperialism. It is attempt to bring a specific type of people back into power. The same type of people that rule in Washington DC.

The Nation describes how the U.S. has long funded and manipulated the opposition in Venezuela. The Random Guy™ Juan Guaidó, who claims the presidency, was created through this process:

How Washington Funded the Counterrevolution in Venezuela
Self-declared president Juan Guaidó comes from the right-wing, US-backed student movement that tried to subvert Hugo Chávez’s government.

The piece includes this revealing sentence:

A former USAID/OTI member who helped devise US efforts in Venezuela said the “objective was that you had thousands of youth, high school, and college kids that were horrified of this Indian-looking guy in power. They were idealistic.

Being "horrified" that the "Indian-looking" Hugo Chávez was in power does not seem "idealistic". One might call it racist though. A number of those white, well off, U.S. trained college kids joint politics in right wing parties. They wanted to take power. But to sell one of theirs as a leader of a country where the majority is mestizo was a problem.

To solve that problem the Random Guy, despite being known only by 20% of Venezuelans, was selected to lead the U.S. coup attempt:

A figure named Juan Andrés Mejía would have been next in line but for reasons that are only now clear, Juan Guaido was selected.

“There is a class reasoning that explains Guaidó’s rise,” Sequera, the Venezuelan analyst, observed. “Mejía is high class, studied at one of the most expensive private universities in Venezuela, and could not be easily marketed to the public the way Guaidó could. For one, Guaidó has common mestizo features like most Venezuelans do, and seems like more like a man of the people.

Guaido is a stand in. He was selected because he somewhat looked like the majority of the people of the country.

The two pictures below further demonstrate the role race plays in the conflict in Venezuela.

Venezuela currently has two assemblies that claim the right to legislate. In 2015 the opposition won a majority in the National Assembly, the original parliament of Venezuela:

However, the Venezuelan Supreme Court barred four lawmakers from taking their seats while it probed allegations of electoral fraud. As a result, only 163 of the 167 lawmakers were sworn in on January 5. The next day, three opposition deputies were sworn in over protests by members from the legislature’s minority who announced their intention to challenge the move.

The Supreme Court of Venezuela then held that the National Assembly was in contempt of the court. The move created a political stalemate. To solve it the president called for the election of a Constitutional Assembly. Its main task is to consider constitutional changes. But it can also overrule legislation that the National Assembly makes. The Supreme Court accepted the solution. The National Assembly, the rotational presidency of which Random Guy took at the beginning of this year, is since only a secondary parliament.

There is a visual difference between the two assemblies:

Opposition legislators of the National Assembly

Via VOA - bigger
Members of the Constitutional Assembly

Via BBC - bigger
National Assembly - Detail
Constitutional Assembly - Detail

The rich in Venezuela are overwhelming white people. They long ruled the country. The mestizo majority are the poor. Hugo Chavez brought them to power. The white people want the power back.

This obvious racist aspect of the conflict is missing from the general reporting of the issue. It only comes to light in the published visuals.

The race conflict is of course not unique to Venezuela. In the U.S., especially under Trump, racism is also prevalent. It is, I believe, the subliminal reason why the U.S. ruling class is joint in the effort to regime change Venezuela.

Posted by b on February 9, 2019 at 19:59 UTC | Permalink | Comments (99)

February 08, 2019

Open Thread 2019-08

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 8, 2019 at 17:34 UTC | Permalink | Comments (223)