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June 30, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-36

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

So far Trump had no luck with finding coalition partners. The attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman were understood as a warning. The United Arab Emirates appeared to drop out of the coalition when it did not blame Iran for the attack and reportedly also pulls out of the war on Yemen. (The UAE is busy fighting a proxy war against Turkey in Libya.) Left in the coalition are the Israelis, the Saudis and the neoconservatives in the U.S. who press for war. But the Israelis do not want to fight themselves against Iran and the Saudis are useless in a war. Russia meanwhile declared that Iran is "an ally and partner". It will make sure that Iran has the means to defend itself.

Trump preempted that majority for now with today's short meeting with Kim Jong Un. Official negotiations between the two countries will restart soon.
Trump Meets Kim, Averting Threat of Nuclear War—and US Pundits Are Furious - Tim Shorrock - The Nation
The media response, from both liberals and conservatives, betrays a cynical disregard for South Korea.

Slightly related:
Fact checking the meat consumption of Iranians - Djavad Salehi-Isfahani

See also:
New pitch trim issue forces further changes to 737 MAX software - Björn Fehr - Leeham News

This is not that cause of the MCAS failure but it shows what is wrong with Boeing:
Boeing's 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineers - Bloomberg
The programmers in India are well capable of writing good software. The difficulty lies in communicating the design requirements for the software. If they do not know in detail how air planes are engineered, they will implement the design to the letter but not to its intent. Here is how that works:

Mom to nerdy kid: "Honey, please go to the market and buy one bottle of milk. If they have eggs, bring six."
Nerdy kid comes back with six bottles of milk.
Mom: "Why did you bring six bottles of milk?"
Nerdy kid: "Because they had eggs."

More bad news for Boeing:
Pilots Flagged Software Problems on Boeing Jets Besides the Max - Bloomberg
Those were problems with the Boeing 737 NG which has the same flight control computers as the 737 MAX. There is also the still unexplained 2016 accident of Flydubai Flight 981. The 737 NG plane nosedived (vid) into the ground with 62 people on board. It was an unexplained runaway stabilizer incident eventually blamed on the pilots.

Boeing falsified records for 787 jet sold to Air Canada. It developed a fuel leak - CNC
The records stated that manufacturing work had been completed when it had not.
Concerns raised over incorrect airspeed data readings on Boeing 787 Dreamliners - News.au
DOJ probe expands beyond Boeing 737 MAX, includes 787 Dreamliner - Seattle Times

The Rothschild organ seems to agree with Putin.
Globalisation is dead and we need to invent a new world order - The Economist

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Other issues:

Trump Consultant Is Trolling Democrats With Biden Site That Isn’t Biden’s - NYT

For much of the last three months, the most popular Joseph R. Biden Jr. website has been a slick little piece of disinformation that is designed to look like the former vice president’s official campaign page, yet is most definitely not pro-Biden.

The NYT piece uses the word "disinformation" eight times. But the site JoeBiden.info only has truthful information about Biden. Sure, the pictures of Biden touching little girls are without context. But everyone knows that Joe just loves them ...

Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange - Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus, a legal precedent is being set, through the backdoor of our own complacency, which in the future can and will be applied just as well to disclosures by The Guardian, the New York Times and ABC News.

A Leader of America’s Fracking Boom Has Second Thoughts - WSJ

Over the past 10 years, 40 of the largest independent oil and gas producers collectively spent roughly $200 billion more than they took in from operations, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from financial-information firm FactSet. During that time, a broad index of U.S. oil-and-gas companies fell roughly 10%, while the S&P 500 index nearly tripled.

REVEALING UKRAINE OFFICIAL TEASER TRAILER #1 EDITED (2019) (vid)

“Revealing Ukraine” by Igor Lopatonok continues investigations on of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis following preceding “Ukraine on Fire”. In addition, it analyzes the current political backstage and its dangerous potential for the world. In the movie the main speaker – heavyweight Ukrainian politician, opposition leader –Viktor Medvedchuk is being interviewed by the renowned filmmaker Oliver Stone. Oliver Stone also sat with Russian president Vladimir Putin to ask him a questions about Ukrainian crisis.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on June 30, 2019 at 15:15 UTC | Permalink | Comments (183)

June 28, 2019

How Russia's President Putin Explains The End Of The 'Liberal' Order

Today the Financial Times published a long and wide ranging interview with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

A full transcript is currently available through this link.

The talk is making some waves:

From the last link:

Putin said in an interview with the Financial Times Friday that the "liberal idea has become obsolete," and referred to Germany's decision to welcome more than one million refugees — many fleeing savage urban warfare in Syria — as a "cardinal mistake."

It is only the last part of the very long interview, where Putin indeed speaks of the 'obsolesce' of the 'liberal idea', that seems to be of interest to the media. Most of the interview is in fact about other issues. The media also do not capture how his 'obsolete' argument is ingrained in the worldview Putin developed, and how it reflects in many of his answers.

Here are excerpts that show that the gist of Putin's 'obsolete' argument is not against the 'liberal idea', but against what may be best called 'international (neo-)liberalism'.


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Putin explains why U.S. President Donald Trump was elected:

Has anyone ever given a thought to who actually benefited and what benefits were gained from globalisation, the development of which we have been observing and participating in over the past 25 years, since the 1990s?

China has made use of globalisation, in particular, to pull millions of Chinese out of poverty.

What happened in the US, and how did it happen? In the US, the leading US companies — the companies, their managers, shareholders and partners — made use of these benefits. [..] The middle class in the US has not benefited from globalisation; it was left out when this pie was divided up.

The Trump team sensed this very keenly and clearly, and they used this in the election campaign. It is where you should look for reasons behind Trump’s victory, rather than in any alleged foreign interference.

On Syria:

Primarily, this concerns Syria, we have managed to preserve Syrian statehood, no matter what, and we have prevented Libya-style chaos there. And a worst-case scenario would spell out negative consequences for Russia.
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I believe that the Syrian people should be free to choose their own future.
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When we discussed this matter only recently with the previous US administration, we said, suppose Assad steps down today, what will happen tomorrow?

Your colleague did well to laugh, because the answer we got was very amusing. You cannot even imagine how funny it was. They said, “We don’t know.” But when you do not know what happens tomorrow, why shoot from the hip today? This may sound primitive, but this is how it is.

On 'western' interventionism and 'democracy promotion':

Incidentally, the president of France said recently that the American democratic model differs greatly from the European model. So there are no common democratic standards. And do you, well, not you, but our Western partners, want a region such as Libya to have the same democratic standards as Europe and the US? The region has only monarchies or countries with a system similar to the one that existed in Libya.

But I am sure that, as a historian, you will agree with me at heart. I do not know whether you will publicly agree with this or not, but it is impossible to impose current and viable French or Swiss democratic standards on North African residents who have never lived in conditions of French or Swiss democratic institutions. Impossible, isn’t it? And they tried to impose something like that on them. Or they tried to impose something that they had never known or even heard of. All this led to conflict and intertribal discord. In fact, a war continues in Libya.

So why should we do the same in Venezuela? ...

Asked about the turn towards nationalism and more rightwing policies in the U.S. and many European countries, Putin names immigration as the primary problem:

What is happening in the West? What is the reason for the Trump phenomenon, as you said, in the US? What is happening in Europe as well? The ruling elites have broken away from the people. The obvious problem is the gap between the interests of the elites and the overwhelming majority of the people.

Of course, we must always bear this in mind. One of the things we must do in Russia is never to forget that the purpose of the operation and existence of any government is to create a stable, normal, safe and predictable life for the people and to work towards a better future.

There is also the so-called liberal idea, which has outlived its purpose. Our Western partners have admitted that some elements of the liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable.

When the migration problem came to a head, many people admitted that the policy of multiculturalism is not effective and that the interests of the core population should be considered. Although those who have run into difficulties because of political problems in their home countries need our assistance as well. That is great, but what about the interests of their own population when the number of migrants heading to Western Europe is not just a handful of people but thousands or hundreds of thousands?
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What am I driving at? Those who are concerned about this, ordinary Americans, they look at this and say, Good for [Trump], at least he is doing something, suggesting ideas and looking for a solution.

As for the liberal idea, its proponents are not doing anything. They say that all is well, that everything is as it should be. But is it? They are sitting in their cosy offices, while those who are facing the problem every day in Texas or Florida are not happy, they will soon have problems of their own. Does anyone think about them?

The same is happening in Europe. I discussed this with many of my colleagues, but nobody has the answer. The say they cannot pursue a hardline policy for various reasons. Why exactly? Just because. We have the law, they say. Well, then change the law!

We have quite a few problems of our own in this sphere as well.
...
In other words, the situation is not simple in Russia either, but we have started working to improve it. Whereas the liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. The migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants must be protected. What rights are these? Every crime must have its punishment.

So, the liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population. Or take the traditional values. I am not trying to insult anyone, because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia as it is. But we have no problems with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish. But some things do appear excessive to us.

They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles. I cannot even say exactly what genders these are, I have no notion. Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.

While Putin says that liberalism is 'obsolete' he does not declare it dead. He sees it as part of a spectrum, but says that it should not have a leading role:

You know, it seems to me that purely liberal or purely traditional ideas have never existed. Probably, they did once exist in the history of humankind, but everything very quickly ends in a deadlock if there is no diversity. Everything starts to become extreme one way or another.

Various ideas and various opinions should have a chance to exist and manifest themselves, but at the same time interests of the general public, those millions of people and their lives, should never be forgotten. This is something that should not be overlooked.

Then, it seems to me, we would be able to avoid major political upheavals and troubles. This applies to the liberal idea as well. It does not mean (I think, this is ceasing to be a dominating factor) that it must be immediately destroyed. This point of view, this position should also be treated with respect.

They cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades. Diktat can be seen everywhere: both in the media and in real life. It is deemed unbecoming even to mention some topics. But why?

For this reason, I am not a fan of quickly shutting, tying, closing, disbanding everything, arresting everybody or dispersing everybody. Of course, not. The liberal idea cannot be destroyed either; it has the right to exist and it should even be supported in some things. But you should not think that it has the right to be the absolute dominating factor. That is the point. Please.

There is much more in the interview - about Russia's relations with China, North Korea, the Skripal incident, the Russian economy, orthodoxy and the liberal attack on the Catholic church, multilateralism, arms control and the G-20 summit happening today.

But most 'liberal' media will only point to the 'obsolete' part and condemn Putin for his rallying against immigration. They will paint him as being in an alt-right corner. But even the Dalai Lama, held up as an icon by many liberals, says that "Europe is for Europeans" and that immigrants should go back to their own countries.

Moreover, as Leonid Bershidsky points out, Putin himself is, with regards to the economy and immigration, a staunch liberal:

Putin’s cultural conservatism is consistent and sincere.
...
On immigration, however, Putin is, in practice, more liberal than most European leaders. He has consistently resisted calls to impose visa requirements on Central Asian countries, an important source of migrant labor. Given Russia’s shrinking working-age population and shortage of manual workers, Putin isn’t about to stem that flow, even though Central Asians are Muslims – the kind of immigrants Merkel’s opponents, including Trump, distrust and fear the most.

What Putin is aiming at, says Bershidsky, is the larger picture:

[W]hat Putin believes has outlived its usefulness isn’t the liberal approach to migration or gender, nor is it liberal economics – even though Russia has, in recent months, seen something of a shift toward central planning. It is the liberal world order. Putin wants to keep any talk of values out of international politics and forge pragmatic relationships based on specific interests.
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Putin’s drive to put global politics on a more transactional basis isn’t easy to defeat; it’s a siren song, and the anti-immigrant, culturally conservative rhetoric is merely part of the music.

There is in my view no 'siren-song' there and nothing that has to be defeated. It is just that Putin is more willing to listen to the people than most of the western wannabe 'elite'.

The people's interest is simply not served well by globalization, liberal internationalism and interventionism. A transactional approach to international policies, with respect for basic human decency, is in almost every case better for them.

Politicians who want the people's votes should listen to them, and to Vladimir Putin.

Posted by b on June 28, 2019 at 17:50 UTC | Permalink | Comments (282)

June 27, 2019

Boeing's Software Fix For The 737 MAX Problem Overwhelms The Plane's Computer

The Boeing 737 MAX continues to be a troublesome airplane.

Two crashes of the plane type, which cost the lives of 346 people, revealed a significant problem not only with the messed up Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

It then turned out that the manual trim wheels which Boeing advised to use to counter MCAS are impossible to move when needed. Moon of Alabama detailed the problem back in May and last week the Wall Street Journal confirmed the issue. This also affects the older Boeing 737 NG.

While that problem has still not been solved a new one came up.

Boeing promised to release a software fix for the MCAS by April 2019. But that turned out to be more difficult than thought. Three month later there is still no final fix available. Meanwhile a new problem that will cause further delays was revealed only yesterday:

In a flight simulator last week, F.A.A. pilots tested erroneous activations of anti-stall software that pushes down the nose of the Max, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The software, known as MCAS, was involved in two crashes that killed 346 people.

In at least one instance, an F.A.A. pilot was unable to quickly and easily follow Boeing’s emergency procedures to regain control of the plane. The pilot rated that failure as catastrophic, meaning it could lead to the loss of an aircraft midflight, the people said.
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The issue discovered last week is linked to the data-processing speed of a specific flight control computer chip, according to the two people with knowledge of the matter. In the test, the F.A.A. pilot encountered delays in executing a crucial step required to stabilize an aircraft.

It seems that the additional signal processing and calculations needed for the MCAS fix overload the Flight Control Computer's (FCC) processor and delay its reaction.

Boeing has been developing a software update for the Max for eight months, [a Boeing spokesman] said. It is unclear whether the new flaw can be resolved by reprogramming the software or requires a hardware fix, which would be costlier and could take much longer.

The 737 MAX has, like the previous 737 NG and Classic versions, two FCC's which each have two Central Processing Units (CPUs).

737 Flight Control System

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As the former Boeing flight control engineer Peter Lemme wrote last year in a technical note of the issue:

Each FCC is comprised of two processors, each of which perform independently.

Each FCC has two 16-bit CPUs. The two processors have different part numbers to make sure that a design problem is not in both processors. The CPUs calculate different commands. ...

In another note Lemme wrote:

The 737 FCC installation is a "dual-dual" configuration. Within each of the two autopilot computers there are two different processors, that each themselves are programmed by different people. The greatest threat is a common-mode software failure. Having two different groups program from a common set of requirements is a means to diminish a common mode failure.
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The 737 dual-dual architecture is very unique. The decision to make speed trim single channel, single processor goes back to the 737 classic. The MCAS function is just another FCC software module that behaves, at a high level, like speed trim, whose architecture would have then been replicated.

The 737 uses only one FCC at a time and the Speed Trim System (STS), of which MCAS is a part, runs only on one of that Flight Computer's two internal processors.

The processors in question are said to be Intel 80286 type CPUs. The original Intel version of that CPU, sold between 1982 and 1991, had a maximum clockrate of 4, 6 or 8 MHz. It was later manufactured by a number of other firms, including by AMD and aeronautics company Harris, with a clockrate of 20 and 25 MHz. It is likely that the Boeing 737 FCC uses these or similar types.

These old processors are very reliable and error free. But they have less than 1/1000nds of the computing capacity of a modern cell phone. According to Lemme one CPU in the flight computer runs up to 11 different processes. All need to receive the input of external sensors, run through their algorithms, and signal a command to the relevant actuators that control the moveable flight surfaces of the plane. That the FAA pilot "encountered delays in executing a crucial step" caused by the computer points to a capacity overload.

Some decades ago your host programmed special input device drivers for Intel 80286 and alike systems. Their purpose was to record and process data from industrial process sensors, often hundreds at a time. Performance and timing issues required that the 80286 input drivers had be written in low level assembler language. But even with extremely optimized code the system would eventually come to its limits. The delayed procession of data from one sensor would eventually cascade into further delays and in the end the system would fail to record and process anything. The task was simply above its physical limits.

Flight control computer run special operation systems with minimal overhead. They are programmed in highly efficient programming languages. The software design and implementation follows a very strict process using specialized tools (see Green Hills' products for examples). All these are much better than what I used during my programming times.

Programs written for flight control purposes are already highly optimized. To further optimize them 'by hand' would break the regulated process that production of such software requires.

Boeing says that it can again fix the software to avoid the problem the FAA just found. It is doubtful that this will be possible. The software load is already right at the border, if not above the physical capabilities of the current flight control computers. The optimization potential of the software is likely minimal.

MCAS was a band aid. Due to the new engine position the 737 MAX version had changed its behavior compared to the older 737 types even though it still used the older types' certification. MCAS was supposed to correct that. The software fix for MCAS is another band aid on top of it. The fix for the software fix that Boeing now promises to solve the problem the FAA pilot found, is the third band aid over the same wound. It is doubtful that it will stop the bleeding.

The flight control computers the 737 MAX and NG use were developed in the early to mid 1990s. There are no off-the-shelf solutions for higher performance.

Boeing's latest announced time frame for bringing the grounded 737 MAX planes back into the air is "mid December". In view of this new problem one is inclined to ask "which year?"

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Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 issues:

Posted by b on June 27, 2019 at 18:41 UTC | Permalink | Comments (132)

Media And Public Disagree On Tulsi Gabbard's Debate Performance

The mainstream media seem to judge the Democratic primary debate last night quite differently than the general public.

Quartz cites multiple polls which show that Tulsi Gabbard won the debate:

[T]wo candidates seemed to pique a lot of interest among US voters, at least when judged by who Americans searched for on Google: New Jersey senator Cory Booker and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

A poll by the right-leaning Drudge Report also found Gabbard to be the breakout of the debate with 38% of the vote, well ahead of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren in second place. Gabbard also topped polls by local news sites including NJ.com and the Washington Examiner.

Now contrast that with the mainstream media.

The Washington Post discusses winners and losers of the debate and puts Gabbard in the second category:

Gabbard was lost for much of the debate. That may not have been her fault — she wasn’t asked many questions — ....

Duh!

The New York Times main piece about the debate mentions Gabbard only once - in paragraph 32 of the 45 paragraphs long piece. It does not reveal anything about her actual political position:

There was little discussion of foreign policy until near the end of the debate when two little-known House lawmakers, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Tim Ryan of Ohio, clashed over how aggressively to target the Taliban.

The New York Times also has some 'experts' discussing winners and losers. Gabbard is only mentioned at the very end, and by a Republican pollster, as a potential candidate for Secretary of Defense.

CNN also discusses winners and losers. Gabbard is not mentioned at all.

NBC News ranks the candidates' performance. It puts Gabbard on place 8 and inserts a snide:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii: Seized an opportunity to highlight her military experience in Afghanistan and her signature anti-intervention foreign policy views, without being tainted by her past sympathetic comments on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Most of the above media have long avoided to mention Gabbard and to discuss her political positions. It is quite evident that the mainstream media do not like her anti-regime-change views and are afraid of even writing about them.

Tulsi Gabbard's campaign posted a video of her parts of the debate. She received some good applause.

Posted by b on June 27, 2019 at 15:19 UTC | Permalink | Comments (238)

June 26, 2019

Western News Agencies Mistranslate Iran's President Speech - It Is Not The First Time Such 'Error' Happens

Yesterday the news agencies Associated Press and Reuters mistranslated a speech by Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. They made it sound as if Rouhani insulted U.S. President Donald Trump as 'mentally retarded'. Rouhani never said that.

The agencies previously made a similar 'mistake'.

A 2005 speech by then President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was famously misquoted. Israel should be wiped off map, says Iran's president headlined the Guardian at that time. Others used similar headlines. The New York Times wrote:

Iran's conservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Wednesday that Israel must be "wiped off the map" and that attacks by Palestinians would destroy it, the ISNA press agency reported.
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Referring to comments by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, Ahmadinejad said, "As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map."

The statement was used by the G.W. Bush administration and others to whip up hostility against Iran:

Ever since he spoke at an anti-Zionism conference in Tehran last October, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has been known for one statement above all. As translated by news agencies at the time, it was that Israel "should be wiped off the map." Iran's nuclear program and sponsorship of militant Muslim groups are rarely mentioned without reference to the infamous map remark.

Here, for example, is R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, recently: "Given the radical nature of Iran under Ahmadinejad and its stated wish to wipe Israel off the map of the world, it is entirely unconvincing that we could or should live with a nuclear Iran."

However Ahmedinejad never used those words:

"Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian," remarked Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan and critic of American policy who has argued that the Iranian president was misquoted. "He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse." Since Iran has not "attacked another country aggressively for over a century," he said in an e-mail exchange, "I smell the whiff of war propaganda."

Jonathan Steele, a columnist for the left-leaning Guardian newspaper in London, recently laid out the case this way: "The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran's first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, that 'this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,' just as the Shah's regime in Iran had vanished. He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The 'page of time' phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon."

Despite the above and other explanations the false "wipe Israel off the map" translation never died. Years later it still reappeared in Guardian pieces which required it to issue multiple corrections and clarifications.

Now, as the Trump administration is pushing for war on Iran, a similar mistranslation miraculously happened. It were again 'western' news agencies who lightened the fire:

The Associated Press @AP - 7:52 utc - 25 Jun 2019

BREAKING: Iran's President Rouhani mocks President Trump, says the White House is "afflicted by mental retardation."

Farsi speakers pointed out that the Rouhani never used the Farsi word for "retarded":

Sina Toossi @SinaToossi - 13:49 utc - 25 Jun 2019

A lot of Western media is reporting that Iranian President Rouhani called Trump "mentally retarded." This is inaccurate.
Regarding Trump, he just said "no wise person would take such an action [the new sanctions imposed]."

Reza H. Akbari @rezahakbari - 15:58 utc - 25 Jun 2019

Absolutely incorrect. There is a word for "retarded" in Persian & Rouhani didn't use it. Prior to him saying "mental disability" he even prefaced his comment by saying "mental weakness." Those who speak Persian can listen & judge for themselves. Here is a video clip of Rouhani's comment: link

But the damage was already done:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 14:42 utc - 25 Jun 2019

Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words “nice” or “compassion,” they never have. Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone..

....The wonderful Iranian people are suffering, and for no reason at all. Their leadership spends all of its money on Terror, and little on anything else. The U.S. has not forgotten Iran’s use of IED’s & EFP’s (bombs), which killed 2000 Americans, and wounded many more...

....Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!

Reuters, which also peddled the mistranslation, gleefully connected the dots:

WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to obliterate parts of Iran if it attacked “anything American,” in a new war of words with Iran which condemned fresh U.S. sanctions on Tehran as “mentally retarded.”

Today BBC Monitoring put out a Linguistic advisory to set the record straight:

Iran's president did not call Trump 'retarded'

In a televised speech on 25 June, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke of "mental incapability" and "mental disability"  in the White House.

Reuters and many other Western media outlets inaccurately rendered the terms Rouhani used in English as the highly offensive "mentally retarded".

A word-for-word translation of Rouhani's remark would be: "They have become stricken with mental incapability [Persian: natavani-ye zehni]. The White House has become stricken with mental disability [Persian: ma'luliyat-e zehni]. They don't know what to do."

The most precise Persian equivalent for "retarded" would probably be 'aqab mande', which captures the same notion of being slowed or delayed in development or progress.

However, the damage is done.

Even as Rouhani never called Trump or the White House 'mentally retarded', the claim that he did will live on for ages. It will be used to condemn him and Iran.

Thirty hours after it appeared, the 'Breaking' AP tweet quoted above is still up. It was retweeted more than 25,000 times. The Reuters report is still on its website. Hundreds of media outlets reproduced the false claim these agencies distribute.

It is hard to believe that such significant mistranslations of official 'enemies', left without a timely correction, happen accidentally.

Posted by b on June 26, 2019 at 16:53 UTC | Permalink | Comments (168)

June 25, 2019

Majority Of U.S. Citizens Would Approve Preventive Nuclear Strike On North Korea

Today is the 69th anniversary of the Korea War. The war has not ended. It is the U.S. that rejects to sign a peace treaty. The continued state of war is the reason why North Korea acquired nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

To turn North Korea back into a non-nuclear state necessitates an end of the war, a peace treaty, and security guarantees.

But could the U.S. be relied on even when a peace treaty is signed? Or is it inherently too bellicose to ever be trusted?

When North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un will read this report, he will likely conclude that the later question must be answered in the affirmative:

More than a third of Americans would support a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea if that country tested a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States, new research has found, even if that preemptive strike killed a million civilians.

The survey of 3,000 Americans was conducted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and British research firm YouGov, and asked people to consider a scenario in which North Korea had tested a long-range missile and the U.S. government was considering how to respond.

The survey question is a bit weird as North Korea already tested a "long-range missile capable of reaching the United States".

Fortunately not all Americans are brutes:

Most did not want their government to launch a preemptive strike, but a large minority supported such a strike, whether by conventional or nuclear weapons.

“For many of these hawks, support for an attack, even in a preventive war, does not significantly decrease when the story says that the United States would use nuclear weapons that are expected to kill 1 million North Korean civilians,” the report found.

“As we have previously found, the U.S. public exhibits only limited aversion to nuclear weapons use and a shocking willingness to support the killing of enemy civilians.”

The use of a nuclear weapon against North Korea would have even higher support after it happened:

They were also asked whether they would “approve” of such a strike if the president ordered it.

People would “rally around the flag,” the survey found: while 33 percent of the public would prefer a nuclear strike that would kill 15,000 North Korean civilians, 50 percent said they would approve if one took place.

It is not astonishing that many of these people are so called 'conservatives':

Republicans expressed greater support for military strikes than Democrats, and Trump supporters voiced even stronger approval: a majority of them preferred a military strike in five of the six scenarios described in the survey.

Among supporters of the death penalty, support for a nuclear strike actually rose from 38 percent to 49 percent when the number of expected North Korean fatalities increased from 15,000 to 1.1 million; one such respondent explained that “it’s our best chance of eliminating the North Koreans.”

It would require a nuclear bomb with a 1 megaton TNT equvilent to create a million dead in Pyongyan. The city would be totally destroyed.


Estimate via Nukemap - bigger

More than twenty five million people live in North Korea. Those U.S. citizens who were surveyed and support to strike them, seem to believe that the North Korean survivors of a preventive strike could not or would not retaliate.

They of course can and would do that. The U.S. ballistic missile defense does not work. It would not stop a North Korean missile targeting Seattle, Washington DC or anything between those cities.

With a deeply disturbed Donald Trump in the White House, who's supporters would support him using nukes, Kim Jong Un will of course conclude that North Korea will have to keep ts deterrent. Other countries will think of building their own.

A detailed discussion of the survey and its results is here.

Posted by b on June 25, 2019 at 17:28 UTC | Permalink | Comments (198)

June 24, 2019

Trump Seeks 'Coalition Of The Willing' Against Iran

After a somewhat quiet weekend the Trump administration today engaged in another push against Iran.

Today the Treasury Department sanctioned the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It also sanctioned Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his office! There will be no more Disney Land visits for them.

There is more to come:

Josh Rogin - @joshrogin - 16:18 utc - 24 Jun 2019

Mnuchin: "The president has instructed me that we will be designating [Iran's foreign minister Javad] Zarif later this week." cc: @JZarif

The Treasury Secretary will designate Javad Zarif as what? A terrorist? Zarif is quite effective in communicating the Iranian standpoint on Twitter and other social media. Those accounts will now be shut down.

The Trump administration's special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said today that Iran should respond to U.S. diplomacy with diplomacy. Sanctioning Iran's chief diplomat is probably not the way to get there.

All those who get sanctioned by the U.S. will gain in popularity in Iran. These U.S. measures will only unite the people of Iran and strengthen their resolve.

Iran will respond to this new onslaught by asymmetric means of which it has plenty.

On Saturday Trump said that all he wants is that Iran never gets nuclear weapons. But the State Department wants much more. Hook today said that the U.S. would only lift sanctions if a comprehensive deal is made that includes ballistic missile and human rights issues. Iran can not agree to that. But this is not the first time that Pompeo demanded more than Trump himself. Is it Pompeo, not Trump, who is pressing this expanded version to make any deal impossible?

Brian Hook is by the way a loon who does not even understand the meaning of what he himself says:

laurence norman @laurnorman - 10:53 utc - 24 Jun 2019

US Hook says Iran knew what getting into when struck deal with president who had 1 1/2 yr left in office. "They knew what they were getting into...They knew that there was a great possibility that the next president could come in & leave the deal." Note: US elections 17 months away

Those are two good arguments for Iran to never again agree to any deal with the 'non-agreement-capable' United States.

It seems obvious from the above that the Trump administration has no real interest in reasonable negotiations with Iran:

“The administration is not really interested in negotiations now,” said Robert Einhorn, a former senior State Department official who was involved in negotiations with Iranian officials during the Obama administration. “It wants to give sanctions more time to make the Iranians truly desperate, at which point it hopes the negotiations will be about the terms of surrender.”

That is part of the strategy. But the real issue is deeper:

Max Abrahms @MaxAbrahms - 16:41 utc - 24 Jun 2019

Pro tip: Sanctions against #Iran aren’t to retaliate for the downed drone or to punish tanker attacks or to improve the nuclear deal or to help the Iranian people but to foment revolution against the regime. The strategy is regime change with velvet gloves.

The U.S. now tries to build an international coalition against Iran. Trump invited China and Japan to protect their tankers in the Middle East:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 0:08 utc - 24 Jun 2019

China gets 91% of its Oil from the Straight, Japan 62%, & many other countries likewise. So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation. All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been....
....a dangerous journey. We don’t even need to be there in that the U.S. has just become (by far) the largest producer of Energy anywhere in the world! The U.S. request for Iran is very simple - No Nuclear Weapons and No Further Sponsoring of Terror!

One wonders what the U.S. Central Command and the U.S. Navy will say when that Chinese carrier group arrives in the Gulf region.

Who else will join this?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he wants to build a global coalition against Iran during urgent consultations in the Middle East, following a week of crisis that saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran.

Pompeo spoke as he left Washington for Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates, ..
...
"We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said about Iran.

Pompeo was hastily sent to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Brian Hook is now in Oman and Bolton is in Israel. The U.S. will also pressure Europe and NATO to join a new 'coalition of the willing'. The UK will likely follow any U.S. call as it needs a trade deal to survive after Brexit.

Other countries are best advised to stay out.

Posted by b on June 24, 2019 at 18:05 UTC | Permalink | Comments (333)

June 23, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-35

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

The week was monothematic with a drama in the White House over the threat of a shooting war with Iran playing out. According to the Wall Street Journal it was General Dunford who saved the day:

While many of Mr. Trump’s top advisers backed a more aggressive set of strike options, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, struck a more wary note, which had an outsize influence on the president.

Some predicted that:

Kim Dotcom @KimDotcom - 5:35 utc - 21 Jun 2019

Trump: Attack Iran now! 🤬
General: Iran can sink our Carrier strike group in the region. 😬
Trump: What? 😳
General: If we strike Iran now they can retaliate against thousands of US sailors. 😔
Trump: WTF! 😐
General: This isn’t Syria Sir.
Trump: Call it off. 😠
THE END

Dunford somehow circumvented Bolton by presenting higher casualty figures he had filtered through a White House lawyer. Unfortunately Dunford's term ends in September. In the end Trump's fear of a larger war was the deciding factor. Tucker Carlson also played a role. His fierce stand against Bolton (vid) may eventually have some effect. But the three Zionist billionaires who are Trump's major campaign donors are all in Bolton's camp. The drama will thus continue.

“I think as far as I can see, it is America, which is making all the provocation,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Saturday.

A mystery in the drone shoot-down is the role of the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft that followed the drone. It usually has a crew of 9. But Iran said 35 people were on board and Trump even spoke of 38. What type of plane was this really and what was its task?

---

Other issues:

On May 25 we wrote about the Boeing 737 NG:

Boeing 737 MAX Crash Reveals Severe Problem With Older Boeing 737 NGs.

Last week the Wall Street Journal was the first mainstream outlet to notice the dangerous issue. It writes that Boeing fears that the public will become too informed about it:

Boeing’s Latest 737 MAX Concern: Pilots’ Physical Strength
Turning manual crank during emergency procedure may be too difficult for some people

There are no plans to restrict certain pilots from getting behind the controls of any 737 models based on their strength, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations. But both Boeing and Federal Aviation Administration leaders are concerned that if discussions of the matter become public they could be overblown or sensationalized, according to industry and government officials familiar with the process.

This weekend the Seattle Times published an excellent insider piece about the development, technical details, and silent changes of the failing MCAS system:

The inside story of MCAS: How Boeing’s 737 MAX system gained power and lost safeguards

While the changes were dramatic, Boeing did not submit documentation of the revised system safety assessment to the FAA.

An FAA spokesman said the safety agency did not require a new system safety analysis because it wasn’t deemed to be critical.
...
A variety of employees have described internal pressures to advance the MAX to completion, as Boeing hurried to catch up with the hot-selling A320 from rival Airbus.

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The White House published its 'peace plan' (pdf) for a Greater Israel that Netanyahoo dictated to the not-so-smart Jared Kushner. The general idea is to bribe the Palestinians into silence. It's amateurish nonsense with zero chance of ever being implemented. Haaretz: Trump's Peace Plan: As Deep as a Beauty Pageant Speech and Twice as Vain.

---

China's President Xi was on a state visit in North Korea where he was welcomed with a gigantic show. Xi asked North Korea to resume its negotiations with the U.S. Not to be outdone by China, Trump wrote another letter to Kim Jong-Un who characterized it as "excellent".

---

In case you were concerned about those protrusions on your forehead:

Cell Phones Are Probably Not Making Us Grow Horns - Smithonian Magazine

---

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on June 23, 2019 at 13:55 UTC | Permalink | Comments (276)

June 22, 2019

As Trump Wants To Avoid A Shooting War, Iran Will Use Other Means To Pressure Him

Iran will continue to put Trump under pressure. As he wants to avoid a war that would hurt his re-election chances, Iran will use other means to pressure him.

The discussion about Trump's decision not to 'retaliate' for the shoot down of a U.S. drone by Iran is still dominating U.S. media. The accounts of the various 'sources' contradict each other. Most likely Trump saw the trap of an ever escalating military conflict and did not fell for it. The Pentagon prepared a strike plan as it always does, but Trump never approved its execution.

One new detail about the White House discussion emerged in a New York Times story on the issue. The Pentagon and the White House are not sure where the Global Hawk drone came down. They do not trust that the U.S. Central Command is telling them the whole truth:

On Friday night, the Pentagon confirmed the presence of a second surveillance aircraft, a Navy P-8A Poseidon, which officials said took photographs of the drone being shot down. But a senior Trump administration official said there was concern inside the United States government about whether the drone, or another American surveillance aircraft, or even the P-8A manned aircraft flown by a military aircrew, actually did violate Iranian airspace at some point. The official said the doubt was one of the reasons Mr. Trump called off the strike.

An earlier version of the same NYT story, quoted here, included this:

The delay by United States Central Command in publicly releasing GPS coordinates of the drone when it was shot down — hours after Iran did — and errors in the labeling of the drone’s flight path when the imagery was released, contributed to that doubt, officials said.

A lack of provable “hard evidence” about the location of the drone when it was hit, a defense official said, put the administration in an isolated position at what could easily end up being the start of yet another war with a Middle East adversary — this one with a proven ability to strike back.

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif added to the doubt when he gave the exact point where the drone was targeted:

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 18:20 utc · 20 Jun 2019

At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace. It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25°59'43"N 57°02'25"E) near Kouh-e Mobarak.

We've retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.

Shortly before Zarif posted the above, the Iranian Fars news agency distributed a video from the shoot down and an hour later a video that showed the flight path of the U.S. drone. Yesterday Iran retrieved debris of the drone and distributed photos of it. Experts said that the material is genuine.

Today Javiad Zarif posted an even more detailed flight path of the drone:

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 14:01 utc - 22 Jun 2019

For more visual detail on the path, location, and point of impact of the U.S. military drone Iran shot down on Thursday, and of the waters over which it was flying, see these maps and coordinates.

There can be no doubt about where the vessel was when it was brought down.

LEGEND: blue=drone; yellow line=Iranian FIR; red line=Iranian territorial waters; green line=baseline internal waters; yellow dots=Iran radio warnings sent; red dot=point of impact.

(FIR is the Flight Information Region)

He attached seven pictures:


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The data those maps show is consistent with the flight path video provide two days ago.

Zarif added another map that that makes a good point.

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 2:18 utc - 22 Jun 2019

One last visual: Red dot is the impact point of the trespassing drone against the border of Iran; and the border of the United States.


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The distance between Palmdale in California, where the Global Hawk drone was built, and the port Bandar Abbas at the Strait of Hormuz is 13,134 kilometer or 8,161 miles.  With that in mind it seems a bit ridiculous to discuss if the U.S. drone was a mile outside or a mile inside of Iran's national airspace.


The U.S. is waging a total economic war on Iran. It blocked Iran's exports of oil, steel, aluminum, copper and petroleum products. It is hindering imports into Iran by blocking its bank connections. All this has extremely harsh effects on Iran's population:

I live on 30 Tir Street in southern Tehran, the beating heart of the city. The labyrinthine Tehran bazaar is a short walk away. There are government ministries, libraries, churches, a functioning synagogue and a Zoroastrian high school nearby.

This is the Tehran that would draw visitors, but there are few. The devastating impact of American sanctions is everywhere: The stores are often empty; the restaurants, mostly deserted. On the adjacent Hafez Avenue, a deafening silence pervades the shopping complex specializing in selling mobile phones.

One of the few stores on 30 Tir Street that still attracts customers is run by Abbasi, a retired army officer who repairs household gadgets — people cannot afford to buy new stuff. “Well, isn’t this already war?” he asked, without much rancor. It’s a question many Iranians ask themselves these days.

Trump's non-reaction to the Iranian downing of the U.S. drone provides that his administration does not want to fight a war by military means against Iran. At least not yet. It is happy to have Iran sanctioned into an economic downward spiral. The thinking is that sanctions will over time make Iran much weaker. They will make a future attempt of regime change, by war or other means, much easier.

For several years Iran's neighbor Iraq was under a similar harsh sanction regime. 500,000 Iraqi children died and the then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that it was worth it (vid). Iran has seen and knows what sanctions can do over time and recognizes that it has to fight against them early and by all possible means.

Iran will fight this war against its economic strangulation as best as it can. The U.S. outspends Iran on military issues by a factor bigger than 100 to 1. Iran can not attack the U.S. It has to fight this war by asymmetric means.

A third of the global oil production must flow through the Strait of Hormuz to reach its customers. Iran can easily hold the global economy at risk. It can close the Straits or impede traffic through it. It can sabotage or destroy the oil production capabilities of the hostile Arab producers nearby.

Iran is now using these means to build up pressure on Trump. He is not willing to go to war? Well, how does he like an oil price way north of $100 per barrel?

Next week we will likely see more clandestine attacks on tankers, on loading ports in Arab Gulf countries or on their coastal oil fields. Iran will deny to have caused those. But the message is clear: If Iran can not export oil, no other country in the Gulf region will be able to export oil.

Trump can either lift the sanctions on Iran or wage a war by military means against it and bear the consequences. He has no other choice.

Trump is offering talks and negotiations. But Iran will not (again) fall into that trap. The U.S. has shown that it is, as the Russians say, 'non-agreement-capable'.

Iran will steadily increase its pressure on Trump by going against bigger and more important targets. There will be more tanker and other incidents with less time between them.

The sanctions are biting Iran. To lay down and play dead is not an option. Iran has no other choice than to fight back. Fast and by all possible means.

Posted by b on June 22, 2019 at 17:48 UTC | Permalink | Comments (315)

June 21, 2019

White House Pushes 'Trump Pulled Back' Story - He Likely Never Approved To Strike Iran

Last night U.S President Trump allegedly pulled back from a military strike against Iran after it had already been ordered.

That is the official story but there are doubts that it is true. The Iranian campaign of "maximum pressure" against Trump's sanctions is still on. But there are first signs that it is successful.

The New York Times headlines: Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back

WASHINGTON — President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.

Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.

The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.
...

The NYT story blames the hawks in the Trump administration, Bolton, Pompeo and CIA torture queen Gina Haspel, for arguing for a strike. The Pentagon and some congressional leaders are said to have been against it. The NYT report includes this curious paragraph:

Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials. No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.

The Associated Press has a similar story: US prepped for strikes on Iran before approval was withdrawn. The Washington Post and ABCNews also report along the same line. The White House is clearly pushing this version of the story.

But not everyone is buying the claim of a planned attack that was called back. Jeffrey Lewis, a scholar on international conflicts, remarks:

Jeffrey Lewis @ArmsControlWonk - 3:43 UTC - 21 Jun 2019

I don’t buy this. Trump’s team is trying to have it both ways — acting restrained but talking tough. This is pretty much what Nixon did in 1969, too. Why not just admit that sometimes restraint is smart?

The @nytimes ran the same story Nixon in 1969. 🤷‍♂️ Nixon was not going to retaliate but he wanted people to think he almost did — and the Gray Lady obliged. ---> Aides Say Nixon Weighed Swift Korea Reprisal

Elijah Magnier, a journalist with excellent sources in Tehran, also rejects the NYT claim. Pointing to the NYT story he remarks:

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 4:02 UTC - 21 Jun 2019

This is highly inaccurate and Iran "knew" about it yesterday: the US administration whispered this info for Trump to save his face.

I hinted to this info yesterday before it was released this morning by the US media. Iran - sources - rejected the "war-theatre scenario". More details this evening.

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 19:41 UTC - 20 Jun 2019

I have very valuable information on US intel sending a message to the Iranians to agree on a certain scenario to happen.
This and much more information will force me to write an article tomorrow (hopefully) on #Iran and #US crisis.

After the drone shoot down the price of oil jumped 10%. Trump will have noticed that. He was also already warned by Iran that there is no room for talks and that any strike against it would have deadly consequences:

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian officials told Reuters on Friday that Tehran had received a message from U.S. President Donald Trump through Oman overnight warning that a U.S. attack on Iran was imminent.
...
The second official said: “We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision ... However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.”

The whole storyline of "a strike was ordered but Trump held back and saved the day" might well be fake.

When Trump spoke to the press yesterday afternoon he was already playing down the Iranian downing of a U.S. Global Hawk drone. As we wrote in the update to yesterday's drone story:

Trump just held a press conference in the Oval Office. He seemed to play down (vid) the event. He empathized that the drone was unmanned. He said he had "a big, big feeling" that "someone made a mistake", that "some Iranian general probably made a mistake". That means that he does not accuse the government of Iran of the shoot down, but some lowly grunt who "might have made a mistake."

That statement gives him room to avoid a large retaliation.

A strike in retaliation for the downed drone may have never been on the table. An alternative interpretation is that the U.S. sought agreement for a symbolic 'strike' from Iran. It would hit some empty desert place to allow Trump to save face. Iran would have disagreed with that plan.

But there are also signs that some strike was really in preparation:

𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙡 𝘾𝙧𝙖𝙗 @IntelCrab - 3:26 UTC - 21 Jun 2019

Not sure I have an opinion yet on this NYT piece, but I will say one thing...the HF traffic we've seen today is consistent with the assertion that at least SOME sort of strike package was authorized.

Unusual High Frequency radio traffic pointed to strike preparation, says the open source analyst IntelCrab.

There is also a different plausible explanation why an imminent strike might have been called back. From the Wall Street Journal:

Saudi Plant Struck by Missile, Apparently From Yemen
Senior U.S. officials called back to White House after desalination facility in kingdom hit

Senior officials from a range of U.S. government agencies were called back to the White House to meet Wednesday evening, the official said.

“The President has been briefed on the reports of a missile strike in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday. “We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies.”

The Houthi, aka Ansar Allah, yesterday hit the Saudi desalination and electricity plant at Al-Shuqaiq near the southern Saudi city Jizan. The Saudis confirmed the strike:

Colonel Turki al-Maliki, the spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Ansar Allah, confirmed the attack, saying a hostile projectile that had yet to be identified landed near the Al-Shuqaiq water desalination plant, but caused no casualties or damage. He added that it was another example of the rebels deliberately attacking civilian targets.

This must have come as a shock for the Saudis. Some 75% of the water the Saudis use comes from desalination plants. Their people will die of thirst when those get destroyed. Did the Saudi King call the White House and urge it to call off the strike against Iran because he feared for his water resources? Was this the real reason why the White House called back its advisors and canceled the strike?

The Houthi also launched an large attack on Jizan airport:

Brasco_Aad @Brasco_Aad - 18:17 UTC - 20 Jun 2019

Mass Houthi drone attack on Jizan airport tonight.
Saudi witnesses are reporting significant damage in and around the airport.

Flights to Jizan were delayed after the reported strike.

The recent Houthi hits on Saudi Arabia are notable escalations in their quality and extent. The Houthi have obviously received new weapons. Their actions are part of the Iranian campaign to put "maximum pressure" on Trump. As Abdel Bari Atwan writes:

The US’ Israeli and Gulf allies have been exploiting Trump’s stupidity to try to drag him into a war against Iran on their behalf. The Iranians are trying to impress on him that any such war would incur an exorbitant cost on the US, and also on those allies – Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has warned that any war would not be confined to Iran but set the entire region ablaze.

Even if there is no direct US attack, the Iranians will not simply sit back and wait to be starved into submission by Trump’s embargo and halting of their oil exports. That is another thing the US president does not understand. And he may never understand it until he sees the extent of their retaliation against his country’s forces, warships and bases, and his allies’ cities, airports, and power and desalination plants.

Trump wages an economic war on Iran through sanctions on everything Iran exports or imports. Iran is doing its best to to push back against this by creating incidents that are plausibly deniable but put Trump under maximum pressure. But there are now signs that Trump is finally getting that.

Yesterday evening Tucker Carlson, a FOX News host with a direct line to the White House, had two strong anti-war segments on his show (vid). In the second segment Carlson talks with retired army Colonel Douglas McGregor. Both argue for pulling back on sanctions. This was likely a preplanned exchange (at 9:56 min) designed to give Trump cover for his decision:

Carlson: Is there some good reason to maintain this level of sanctions against Iran? Are we getting something out of that?

McGregor: Well, I think the idea was to destroy the Iranian economy to bring the nation to its knees. That is really not what we should be trying to do at this point. I think the president senses that there is now an opportunity for diplomacy, for a new approach to Iran that could deescalate this set of conditions and produce a positive outcome.

Look, this will ruin our economy if we engage Iran in a war. Iran will have instantly have support from around the world. They will be the victim of this "limited strike" that is being discussed. The limited strike idea is sheer insanity. It will provoke a war. Everyone, China, Russia, India, many European states will come to the aid of Iran. We will end up with a larger coalition of the willing against us, than we have seen in decades.

I think the president has figured this out. He's got good instincts. But he needs to get rid of the warmongers. He needs to throw these geniuses and their limited strikes out of the Oval Office. The last thing the America First agenda needs is a stupid pointless unnecessary war with Iran and he knows that and he needs to act.

[Tucker Carlson agrees]

Trump may well want some diplomatic exchange with Iran. But Iran will not talk to him as long as the sanctions against it are kept in place. It will continue its maximum pressure campaign by creating new incidents that will again increase the price of oil. The easiest way out for Trump is to abolish sanctions against Iran. He at least should issue waivers for China and others to allow them to again buy Iranian oil.

Unless he does so Iran will hit again and again against those who press for war against it. Yesterday it was a U.S. drone and a Saudi desalination plant that were the targets. The next incident could be in some oil facility in the United Arab Emirates or a symbolic strike against Israel.

The ball is still in Trump's court. He has to act further to avoid a larger war.

Posted by b on June 21, 2019 at 9:06 UTC | Permalink | Comments (314)

June 20, 2019

Iran Shoots Down Strategic U.S. Drone - Is Ready For War - Puts "Maximum Pressure" On Trump - Updated

Updated below
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Early this morning Iranian air defense shot down a U.S. high altitude reconnaissance drone:

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have shot down a U.S. “spy” drone in the southern province of Hormozgan, which is on the Gulf, the Guards’ news website Sepah News said on Thursday.

State news agency IRNA carried the same report, identifying the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk.

“It was shot down when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south,” the Guards’ website added.


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A later statement by the IRGC detailed the incident:

The American UAV took off from an US base in the south of the Persian Gulf at 00:14 am today morning and contrary to aviation laws, it shut off all of its introduction equipment and proceeded from the Strait of Hormuz to Chabahar with complete secrecy.

The unmanned aircraft while returning to the west of the region towards the Strait of Hormuz, violated the territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and start collecting information and spying.

At 4:55 am, when the aggressive UAV entered our country’s territory, it was targeted by the IRGC air force and was shot down.

The U.S. says that the drone was a MQ-4C Triton, the navy variant of the Global Hawk type that is specialized on Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS). It claims that the drone was in international airspace when Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot it down.

(Interestingly no MQ-4C is supposed to be in the Middle East. The deployment must have been secret. Update: This specific drone seems to have arrived in Qatar only five days ago. Additional details are discussed here. /update)


Global Hawk type drone - bigger

The incident is another piece of evidence that Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran now works against him.

Trump allegedly told his staff to stop talking up war on Iran:

Two senior officials and three other individuals with direct knowledge of the administration’s strategy in the region tell The Daily Beast that the president has asked officials to tone down their heated rhetoric on Iran ...

Trump does not want to open a military conflict with Iran. But he is already waging a brutal economic war against Iran and the country is pushing back. Trump wants negotiations with Iran without first lifting his sanctions against it. Iran rejects that.

It no longer matters what Trump wants. Iran has achieved escalation dominance. It can cause a myriad of incidents that force Trump to react. He can either launch a hot war and thereby risk his reelection bid, or he can cut back on the sanctions that hurt the Iranian people. If he does not do either, more pinpricks will follow and will over time become more costly.

Abas Aslani @AbasAslani - 7:29 UTC · 20 Jun 2019

#Iran's #IRGC commander Salami: Shooting down the US drone had a clear & strong message i.e. we'll react strongly against any assault to the country. Borders are our red line. We are not after a war with any country, but we are ready for war. Message of today's incident was clear.

The loss of the Global Hawk drone is significant. These huge birds, with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737, are considered strategic assets. They were built as replacements for the infamous U-2 spy planes. They carry highly classified sensors and cost more than $120 million a piece.


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This loss can certainly be attributed to Iran. But to blame Iran for it the U.S. will have to prove that its drone did not enter Iranian air space. Only two days ago the Federal Aviation Authority issued a warning for aircraft flying in the area.

U.S. drones have violated Iran's sovereign airspace many times. In 2011 Iran acquired a stealthy RQ-170 drone which had flown in from Afghanistan by manipulating its command signals. In 2012 Iran took down another U.S. drone, a Boeing Scan Eagle, that had flown in from the Persian Gulf. Many other U.S. drones were shot down over Iranian territory:

In January [2011], Iran said it had shot down two conventional (nonstealth) drones, and in July, Iran showed Russian experts several US drones – including one that had been watching over the underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordo, near the holy city of Qom.
...
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Fox News on Dec. 13 that the US will "absolutely" continue the drone campaign over Iran, looking for evidence of any nuclear weapons work. But the stakes are higher for such surveillance, now that Iran can apparently disrupt the work of US drones.

The Persian cats are by now well trained in anti-drone measures.


Persian cats train to take down RQ-170 drones
Photo via Thomas Erdbrink - bigger

How will Trump react to this incident? President John Bolton will demand military action against Iran as revenge for the shoot down. He will surely also press for sending more troops to the Middle East.

Trump may again play down the incident, like he recently did with the tanker attack which he called "very minor". But the war hawks in the media and Congress, and Iran, will put more pressure on him. More incidents would surely follow.

Trump has a way out. He could issue sanction waivers to allow China, Japan, South Korea, India and others to again import Iranian oil. It would take the "maximum" out of his now failed "maximum pressure" campaign and could be a way to move towards negotiations.

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Update 2:00 PM

The Pentagon just held a very short press conference. Via telephone Lt General Joseph T. Guastella from the U.S. Central Command made a very short statement. No questions were allowed.

He said that the drone was in international airspace at high altitude and "34 kilometer from the nearest point of the Iranian coast" when it was shot down.

That is trickery, or if you will trigonometry.

High altitude means that the drone flew at a height of around 60,000+ feet or 20 kilometer. It it would have flown directly over the Iranian coastline it would have been "20 kilometer from the nearest point of the Iranian coast".

The 34 kilometers is the length of the hypotenuse AC of the right-angled triangle. The hight is the opposite AB. What we have to find is the length of the adjacent BC.

? = square root of ( 34 x 34 - 20 x 20) = 27.5 kilometer

National maritime zones and national air zone are measured in nautical miles: 27km / 1.852 = 14.85 nautical miles.

The length of the adjacent BC, i.e. the legal distance of the drone to the Iranian coast, was 14.85 miles. That is at least according to the CentCom talking head.

Iran's national maritime zone, which equals the national airspace limit, is 12 nautical miles from its coast. The U.S. navy claims that its drone was a tiny bit further away.

This map was shown during the Pentagon briefing.


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Now compare it with this map that shows the maritime borders of Iran, Oman and the UAE in the Straits of Hormuz.


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There is no international airspace in the tightest, northern part of the Straits of Hormuz. There is only the national airspace of Iran and Oman. If what the CentCom map shows is the correct location of the drone, which had come from the south, it was in the mid of a blind alley of international airspace flying towards its end.

The drone was the RQ-4N BAMS-D. The D stands for "development". It was the U.S. navy owned prototype of the new MQ-4C Triton type of the Global Hawk that is currently built. The RQ-4N was unique. It used an old Global Hawk frame packed with new electronic equipment. It was used as the test bed for the gigantic data hoover that the Triton will be. But it was also a piece of equipment that was hard to maintain and that had served its purpose. The first of the new drones will be delivered this summer. The RQ-4N was arguably expendable.

The Iranian IRGC says that the drone had switched off its transponder shortly after take off. A look at the usual live air traffic sites confirms that the drone was not tracked by the civil aviation systems which monitor transponder signals.

The U.S. airforce, which each day flies reconnaissance missions near potentially hostile countries, always keeps its transponders on. The transponder signal demonstrates that it has no hostile intent. It prevents accidental air defense engagements. It also allows it to prove that it stays outside of foreign national airspace.

The U.S. has threatened Iran with war and regime change for some 40 years. There is currently a crisis caused by Trumps violation of the nuclear deal with Iran. If the CentCom claim is correct the Navy drone flew extremely near to Iran's border, seconds away from entering it, in a way that Iran had reason to interpret as hostile. Iran released a video that supposedly shows the shoot down.

Iran says that the drone entered Iranian airspace. I find that to be likely correct. CentCom is not known for telling the truth and the list of proven hostile drone entries into Iranian air space is quite long.

Trump just held a press conference in the Oval Office. He seemed to play down (vid) the event. He emphasized that the drone was unmanned. He said he had "a big, big feeling" that "someone made a mistake", that "some Iranian general probably made a mistake". That means that he does not accuse the government of Iran of the shoot down, but some lowly grunt who "might have made a mistake."

That statement gives him room to avoid a large retaliation.

Someone made a mistake? So what.

Posted by b on June 20, 2019 at 8:57 UTC | Permalink | Comments (270)

June 19, 2019

How John Bolton Controls The Administration And Donald Trump

Jeff Bezos' blog, the Washington Post, has some bits on the discussion and infighting in the Trump administration about the march towards war on Iran. The piece opens with news of a new redline the Trump administration set out:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has privately delivered warnings intended for Iranian leaders that any attack by Tehran or its proxies resulting in the death of even one American service member will generate a military counterattack, U.S. officials said.
...
While such attacks were common during the Iraq War, Pompeo told Iraqi leaders in a message he knew would be relayed to Tehran that a single American fatality would prompt the United States to hit back.

That warning was sent in May when Pompeo visited Baghdad. The issue may soon become critical. Throughout the last days there were rocket attacks in Iraq against targets where U.S. personnel are present. The AFP correspondent in Baghdad lists six of them:

Maya Gebeily - @GebeilyM - 10:20 UTC - 19 Jun 2019

Timeline of attacks on US interests in #Iraq
Fri: Mortars hit Balad base, where US troops based
Sun: Projectiles hit #Baghdad mil airport
Mon: Rockets on Taji, where coalition forces based
Tues: Mortars on #Mosul ops HQ
Wed: Rockets on housing/ops center used by IOCs near #Basra

#IRAQ: @AFP learns there were at least *two* attacks near US oil interests in #Basra in last 24 hours - ExxonMobil + Baker Hughes, a GE Company Their senior staff are being evacuated.

At least some of these attacks came from areas where Islamic State underground groups are still active. The weapons used were improvised and imprecise.

That shows how stupid the red line is that Pompeo set out. He would attack Iran if an errant ISIS rocket by chance kills some U.S. soldier? That is nuts.

Back to the WaPo piece:

Speaking during a visit to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa on Tuesday, Pompeo said Trump “does not want war” but stressed the United States would act if assaulted. “We are there to deter aggression,” he said.

The U.S. violated the nuclear agreement and is waging an economic war on Iran. That was the aggression that started the conflict. Anything that follows from that was caused by the Trump administration.

Colonel Pat Lang thinks that Pompeo was in Tampa to bring the military in line with his aggressive policies:

Ole First in his Class is down in Tampaland today jawboning the leaders of CENTCOM (Mideast), and SOCOM (badass commandos worldwide). Why is he there? The Secretary of State has no constitutional or legal role in dealing with the armed forces. That being the case one can only think that there is push-back from senior commanders over the prospect of war with Iran and that Trump has been persuaded to let him do this unprecedented visit to wheedle or threaten his way into their acquiescence.

WaPo again:

The sudden departure Tuesday of Patrick Shanahan, who has served as acting defense secretary since January, could further sideline the Pentagon, which has campaigned to reduce the potential for hostilities. Shanahan’s withdrawal followed revelations of a complicated domestic dispute.

The 'complicated domestic dispute' is not so complicated at all and the case is undisputed. In a several years long process Shanahan's ex-wife went crazy and physically attacked him and their kids. Finally one of the kids hit back at her with a baseball bat. In court Shanahan argued for a mild punishment for the kid. All the kids, mostly grown up now, are with him and do not want to see their mother. All that was documented by the police and by courts. Shanahan is not guilty of anything in that case. It was not a reason to resign.

Pat Lang believes that the real reason was Pompeo's trip to Tampa:

Shanahan withdrew his name from confirmation process today. IMO he did it because DJT let Pomp circumvent his authority.

The Pentagon was the last hold out against the aggressive anti-Iran policy says WaPo:

Concerns about an escalation are particularly pointed at the Pentagon, where the absence of a confirmed secretary has fueled worries that hawks in the White House and State Department could push the military beyond its specific mission of destroying the remnants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, raising the potential for conflict with Iran.

It has been reported several times and by different outlets that Trump is somewhat isolated from anti-war opinions in his administration. All he sees and hears is Fox News, Bibi Netanyahoo and John Bolton. The WaPo piece again confirms that:

Administration officials interviewed by The Washington Post said that national security adviser John Bolton has dominated Iran policy, keeping a tight rein on information that gets to the president and sharply reducing meetings in which top officials gather in the White House’s Situation Room to discuss the policy.
...
The intensification of [the "maximum pressure"] campaign has triggered internal debates over how best to execute the president’s orders. At the State Department this spring, an argument among officials over how hard to squeeze Iran with sanctions ended with those favoring the toughest possible approach prevailing. In particular, hard-liners at the White House squelched waivers that would have allowed Iran to keep selling oil after a May 1 deadline. White House aides also ended waivers that allowed Iran to swap its enriched uranium for natural uranium, an integral part of the nuclear deal.
...
While State Department officials sought to achieve a “sweet spot” that would weaken Iran through sanctions but not push so hard that Iran would withdraw from the nuclear deal, others have argued that Trump’s goal is to destroy the accord at any cost and pursue a more expansive policy that seeks to cripple Iran’s proxy forces throughout the region.

Pentagon and State Department officials have complained, however, about the difficulty of getting an adequate hearing for these debates under Bolton. As a result, arguments about policy frequently are not aired and do not reach the president. The process is “very exclusionary, and Bolton has very sharp elbows,” the senior administration official said.
...
At the Pentagon, officials have quietly voiced concerns for months that the current trajectory might make military conflict a self-fulfilling prophecy.
...
One person familiar with the recent discussions said that Pentagon officials, including Shanahan, have been “the ones putting the brakes” on the State Department and the White House. “DOD is not beating the drums of war,” the person said.

One can quibble with that. It is the regional military commander who always asks for more troops. More ships and more troops increase the chance for "accidents" and make a war more likely. That is why John Bolton uses each and every small incident to send more troops to the Middle East:

“Does the president want to send more troops? No. Will he be convinced to do it? Yes,” the senior administration official said.

Trump, in contrast to some of his advisers, has seemed to downplay the significance of Iran’s actions. In an interview published Tuesday by Time magazine, he said the recent oil tanker attacks were “very minor.”

Trump is the president. He hired those people and is responsible for what they do. But does he know what they do?

There are two possibilities.

Trump wants a war with Iran and what we see is a good cop, bad cop strategy in which Trump plays the good guy for his voters until some 'grave incident' happens that lets him says that he has no choice but to 'hit back' at Iran. The other scenario is that Trump is a fool and that the war hawks use him as their tool to implement their preferred policies.

Former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke says that the second scenario is the real one:

The consensus on ‘no conflict’ unfortunately, may turn out to have been overly sanguine. This is not because Trump consciously desires war, but because the hawks surrounding him, particularly Bolton, are painting him into a corner – from which he must either back down, or double down, if Iran does not first capitulate.

And here is the point: the main Trump misconception may be that he does believe that Iran wants, and ultimately, ‘will seek a deal’.

Crooke describes how Bolton, and Netanyahoo behind him, outmaneuver the U.S. intelligence services over Iran. They stovepipe "intelligence" to the president and the media just like the crew of then Vice President Dick Cheney did in the run up to the war on Iraq:

Bolton chairs at the NSC, the regular and frequent strategic dialogue meetings with Israel – intended to develop a joint action plan, versus Iran. What this means is that the Israeli intelligence assessments are being stovepiped directly to Bolton (and therefore to Trump), without passing by the US intelligence services for assessment or comment on the credibility of the intelligence presented (shades of Cheney confronting the analysts down at Langley). And Bolton too, will represent Trump at the ‘security summit’ to be held later this month in Jerusalem with Russia and Israel. Yes, Bolton truly has all the reins in his hands: He is ‘Mr Iran’.

'Mr Anti-Iran' is a more precise moniker. Or one may just call him President Bolton.

Posted by b on June 19, 2019 at 18:20 UTC | Permalink | Comments (129)

June 18, 2019

Trump Fires Shanahan. Pompeo For Sec Def? Bolton To State?

Trump just fired his acting Secretary of Defense.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump -16:59 UTC· 18 Jun 2019

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family....
....I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense. I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job

On May 9 the White House announced that it would nominate Shanahan for the Secretary of Defense position. But it never sent the nomination request to Congress to have Shanahan confirmed. During the usual FBI background check before a confirmation, a 2010 domestic violence incident Shanahan was involved in came up. It seems that it now ended his short career at the Pentagon.

Shanahan had zero experience in the military. He is a former Boeing manager. A recent Politico portrait of Shanahan described him as weak leader who allowed the war hawks in National Security Council to directly talk with regional commanders without even informing him. He was no counterweight for Bolton and Pompeo who are eager to wage war on Iran.

Yesterday ABC News reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would meet with talk with the Central Command and Special Operations Command leaders without Shanahan being there. It was extremely unusual:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Florida on Monday to meet with leaders from U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command on Tuesday. The U.S. is considering "all options," including military force, to respond to Iran's reported attack on two oil vessels, Pompeo said on Sunday, raising concerns of a U.S. strike.
...
Pompeo will meet with CENTCOM and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Tuesday to "discuss regional security concerns and ongoing operations," according to Ortagus, after calling several world leaders over the weekend to discuss America's evidence that Iran was behind last week's attacks.

There is no information what plans those talks were about.

Mark Knoller @markknoller - 16:45 utc - 18 Jun 2019

At @CENTCOM at @MacDill_AFB, @SecPompeo says he conferred with military commanders to coordinate State and Defense Dept policy on Iran.
Says US is serious about deterring Iran regime from further aggression in the region.
Says Pres Trump does not want war against Iran.

[Another very unusual sign is that the old war criminal Henry Kissinger visited the Pentagon yesterday and today.]

Trump already had difficulties to find a new Secretary of Defense. Shanahan was not his first choice. To now find a new candidate will be difficult.

It is unlikely that the U.S. would launch a war without a Secretary of Defense in place.

Bolton and Pompeo obviously want a war on Iran and they try their best to instigate it. They need a new SecDef in place as soon as possible.

Pompeo served five years as an officer in the U.S. army. He has extensive political experience. Would he want to become Secretary of Defense?

That would leave the Secretary of State position open for John Bolton to move in. The confirmation would be a bit difficult but the Senate is in Republican hands and might go with it.

One of Bolton's cronies could then take over the National Security Advisor position.

From the war-hawks' point of view it would be the ideal configuration to launch a big one.

Posted by b on June 18, 2019 at 18:03 UTC | Permalink | Comments (136)

June 17, 2019

Iran To Exceed Some Nuclear Deal Limits - EU Under Pressure To Fulfill Its Commitments

The conflict U.S. President Donald Trump ignited by leaving the nuclear deal with Iran is escalating at multiple fronts. U.S. sanctions on Iranian im- and exports are devastating its economy. A new tanker war is brewing. Iran will soon exceed limits set under the nuclear agreement. While this is not a legal breach of the deal, the Trump administration will loudly denounce it as such.  Iran is also pushing European countries to fulfill their commitment as signatories of the nuclear deal. It today announced what steps it might take should the EU be unwilling to do its part.


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The deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, acknowledged Iran's right to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel and to produce heavy water, a moderator needed for certain types of nuclear reactors. The deal limits the amounts of these products Iran is allowed to stockpile.

As Iran wanted to continue the production it was clear that the stockpiles for both products would grow above the limit. It was therefore agreed that Iran would export everything above the set limits as well as all newly produced enriched Uranium and heavy water.

Part of Iran's stockpile of heavy water, which is also used in other industrial processes, was sold to the United States. Additionally produced heavy water was regularly either sold or sent to Oman to be stockpiled there until the conversion of Iran's nuclear reactor in Arak, which will use that heavy water, is completed.

The excess enriched uranium was exported to Russia. In exchange Iran received natural Uranium for future enrichment.

When the Trump administration left the nuclear agreement a year ago it renewed sanctions on Iran's nuclear program. But it also issued waivers for the export of heavy water and enriched uranium. Iran continued to sell these products or to stockpile them outside of the country.

On May 3 2019 the State Department announced that it would no longer issue these waivers:

[A]ny involvement in transferring enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium will now be exposed to sanctions. The United States has been clear that Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment, and we will not accept actions that support the continuation of such enrichment.

We will also no longer permit the storage for Iran of heavy water it has produced in excess of current limits; any such heavy water must not be made available to Iran in any fashion.

This step by the Trump administration was obviously designed to bring Iran into breach of the nuclear agreement.

As Iran could no longer export the products it had to decide to either stop producing them or to breach the stockpile limit. The nuclear deal (JCPOA) acknowledges that Iran has the explicit right to enrich. Moreover it was only after the Obama administration conceded that Iran had such a natural right, that the JCPOA negotiations began. It was that concession, not sanctions, that brought Iran to the negotiation table.

Iran is therefore not willing to give up enrichment. It is its natural right under the non-proliferation treaty and is at the core of JCPOA. Nor is Iran willing to give up its production of heavy water. It will need large amounts to bring the Arak reactor online and has to produce those in advance.

The utterly foreseeable consequence of the State Department decision was thereby that Iran would breach both limits the JCPOA set for those stockpiles.

Despite that U.S. journalists speak of an Iranian "threat" to exceed those limits. 'Western' reporting fails to point this out that the illegal U.S. sanction regime caused the breach.

Iran, which is under strong economic pressure and wants the conflict resolved as soon as possible, tried to hasten that moment. It increased the enriched uranium production rate and today announced that the stockpile limit for enriched uranium will be reached in ten days:

The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran says the country will surpass the uranium stockpile limit set under the nuclear deal from June 27.

"Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time we will pass this limit," Behrouz Kamalvandi told reporters at the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility Monday.

"This is based on the Articles 26 and 36 of the (nuclear deal), and will be reversed once other parties live up to their commitments," he added.

Article 26 of the JCPOA (pdf) reserves the right for Iran to "cease performing its commitments" should other parties of the agreement re-introduce sanctions. Article 36 is part of the Dispute Resolution Mechanism in the agreement that gives Iran a similar right.

Iran is not in breach of the nuclear agreement by temporarily exceeding these technical limits. But we can expect that the Trump administration will claim exactly that. It has already done so over other issues even as it is the one party that has no legal standing to do so.

Iran also announced that it may soon take additional steps, like enriching at higher levels, should the European signatories of the nuclear deal not be willing to organize unfettered trade with Iran. The European countries are currently under threat of U.S. sanction should they do so, but certainly have the means to counter those. Iran pushes them to finally do it:

Tehran has said it may go even further by July 8 unless remaining partners to the deal -- Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia -- help it circumvent US sanctions and especially enable it to sell its oil.

Kamalvandi said there is still time for European countries to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is officially known.

"Iran's reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate. And if it is important for them (Europe) to safeguard the accord, they should make their best efforts... As soon as they carry out their commitments, things will naturally go back to their original state."

It is now on the Europeans to acts. If they do not fulfill their commitments under the JCPOA, Iran will step by step go back to do what it did before that agreement was signed.

It has no other choice. The U.S. sanctioned Iranian oil exports. While it at first allowed for waivers to certain countries it has now revoked them. It also sanctions Iran's iron, steel, aluminum and copper exports. Ten days ago it sanction the export of petrochemical products from Iran. Additional sanctions were placed on financial transactions with Iran and on its airlines. Imports into Iran also become more and more difficult as many companies fear that they will be hit by U.S. sanctions should they sell their products to companies in Iran.

It is on the European governments to shield their companies from any threat of U.S. sanctions. This could easily be done by a counter threat to U.S. companies.

The U.S. buys more goods from Europe than it sells to Europe. But it sells many more services to Europe than Europe sells to the United States. Google and Facebook make tens of billions per year by selling advertisement space to European entities. The EU could easily block that business. This would also help to create European alternatives to those monopolies. Large U.S. consulting businesses and banks make very profitable deals with European companies. Are we sure they are following all EU regulations? Maybe its time to take a more diligent look at them.

The EU is a large market than the U.S. It certainly has ways and means to counter any U.S. threat. As a signatory of the JCPOA it is up to the EU to hold up that agreement. It just needs the will to do that.

Posted by b on June 17, 2019 at 17:47 UTC | Permalink | Comments (163)

June 16, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-34

Sorry for posting only four pieces this week. There was family visiting here who deserved a bit of attention.

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Your host is quite proud about the above scoop on Iran's new strategy. I developed the idea that Iran runs a "strategy of tension" by putting myself into Iran's role. What were my options?

After I wrote that up in the update of the first post, I became convinced that it was the right idea. Iran had gained escalation dominance. I contacted Elijah Magnier on Twitter and asked what he thought about it. He rejected the idea. He thought, like I earlier did, that Friday's attack would hurt Iran.

A few hours later Elijah came along with my idea. He later contacted his sources in Tehran who confirmed that it is indeed Iran's current strategy. Each tanker incident in the Middle East will now become, as Bernd writes, another version of the "Murder on the Orient Express". Everyone will ask "Who's done it?" No one believes the U.S. when it points towards Iran. Such U.S. claims are only good for silly jokes:

    John Bolton: ‘An Attack On Two Saudi Oil Tankers Is An Attack On All Americans’ - The Onion
    Chief of Naval Operations lauds return to tradition of ‘false flag’ operations - Duffelblog

Even the otherwise docile Japan is mightily pissed that the attack on a Japanese tanker during Prime Minister Abe's visit in Tehran is blamed on Iran. Its government officially demands an explanation:

    Japan demands more proof from U.S. that Iran attacked tankers

---
Other issues

Venezuela:

Enviados de Guaidó se apropian de fondos para ayuda humanitaria en Colombia - PANAM Post (Spanish)

Shocking expose of Juan Guaido's envoys in Colombia, who are accused of embezzling "humanitarian aid" funds, inflating figures, fraud & threats in order to surround themselves with luxury. There are even copies of receipts.

and

Associates of Venezuelan coup frontman Juan Guaidó embezzled funds raised in Cúcuta, Colombia for humanitarian aid and lavishly spent it on hotels, nightclubs and expensive clothes. This is a monumental scandal! - more

Guaido's people in Colombia collected aid and money for 1,400 soldiers they claimed had come to their side. There were in fact less than 700 most of whom were not even deserters. The Colombian government paid the hotel costs for most of them. They were soon evicted because Guaido's envoys just kept the money. They spend it on whores and bad drugs. One ended up dead, another ended up hospitalized. The government of Colombia is not amused about this. It is really no wonder that the coup attempt failed.

Cyberattacks:

Remember how electricity in Venezuela failed during the U.S. coup attempt? The Maduro government claimed that U.S. cyberattack caused the damage. The U.S. blamed the "incompetence" of the Maduro government and said it would never do such a thing. Except when its does:

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid - NYT

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.
...
[T]he American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.

I do not have time to pick the piece apart, but I believe that it is mostly scaremongering and psychological warfare against Russia. Endangering the electrical network of a nuclear power is an immensely stupid idea. This piece from January 2018 explains why:

Pentagon Suggests Countering Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear Arms - NYT

A newly drafted United States nuclear strategy that has been sent to President Trump for approval would permit the use of nuclear weapons to respond to a wide range of devastating but non-nuclear attacks on American infrastructure, including what current and former government officials described as the most crippling kind of cyberattacks.

Does anyone expect that Russia would react differently? President Putin offered several times to sign a binding agreement that would prohibit such cyberattacks. The U.S. under Bush and Obama rejected that. It will now have to live with the consequences.

How good are the cyberwar folks at targeting their weapons anyway?

Parts of Latin American hit by massive power outage

Buenos Aires (dpa) - Large parts of Latin America have been hit by a massive power outage, local media and an Argentinian energy company said. Argentinian energy company Edesur confirmed on Twitter that all of Argentina and Uruguay had been affected by the outage. Argentinian newspaper La Nacion reported that Brazil and Chile had also been affected, while the BBC flagged outages in Paraguay.

That also must have been caused by the "incompetence" of the Maduro government in Venezuela ...

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on June 16, 2019 at 16:56 UTC | Permalink | Comments (155)

How Trump's "Maximum Pressure" Campaign Against Iran Now Works Against Him

There is no evidence that Iran was behind Friday's attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

There are many parties in the Middle East and in the United States who are interested in goading the U.S. into a military confrontation with Iran. Most of these parties have the capability to launch clandestine attacks on civilian vessels. That the U.S. government would blame Iran for any such attack is obvious. But even Israeli analysts doubt that Iran is responsible for the recent incidents. The German government doubts that video the U.S. presented shows anything of significance. Others point at the suspicious timing of the incident.


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Israel is of course the foremost candidate for such a false flag attack. Prime Minister Netanyahoo agitated against Iran for the last 25 years. He multiple times threatened to directly attack the country but would prefer that the U.S. would do so. The Israeli clandestine service Mossad is capable of far reaching operations. Israel's submarines are known to have operated in the Arab Sea.

The Saudis are under pressure from Houthi forces at their southern borders. The Houthi receive some material support from Iran. If the U.S. would attack Iran, the Saudis would be relieved. The Saudis need oil prices way above the current $60 per barrel to finance their state. Anything that drives up the price, like the tanker attacks, is obviously in their interest. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey demonstrated that the Saudis developed extensive clandestine capabilities and have no qualms to use them. 

The Saudi partner in crime in Yemen are the United Arab Emirates under the ruthless control of Mohammad bin Zayed. Bin Zayed is a major instigator of the anti-Iranian U.S. policies. Bin Zayed hired Eric Prince of Blackwater fame to build him a mercenary army. Prince is a former U.S. Navy SEAL, a military operator trained in clandestine operations at sea. Secretly putting a sticky bomb onto some ship is exactly what SEALs learn to do.

U.S. President Donald Trump hired several Iran haters into his administration. His National Security Advisor John Bolton has for years agitated for regime change in Tehran. Bolton is known for circumventing the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He directly communicates with lower levels in the U.S. military and with its regional commanders. The U.S. Central Command now claims that:

"a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a US MQ-9, at 6:45am local time, June 13, over the Gulf of Oman, to disrupt surveillance of the (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous...”

Sure - that must be right. Just like the CENTCOM claim that the tankers were damaged by limpet mines, which are ineffective when used above the waterline of a ship. The Japanese owner of the Kokuka Courageous says that CENTCOM lies, and that the ship was attacked by "flying objects". The MQ9 Reaper drone is a surveillance platform but it is also capable of firing missiles. If the new CENTCOM claim is true where is the drone video of the "Iranian attack"? How can we be sure that it wasn't a U.S. drone that fired missiles at the Japanese ship?

There is of course also the CIA. Two years ago it formed a new mission center to attack Iran:

The Iran Mission Center will bring together analysts, operations personnel and specialists from across the CIA to bring to bear the range of the agency’s capabilities, including covert action.
...
To lead the new group, Mr. Pompeo picked a veteran intelligence officer, Michael D’Andrea, who recently oversaw the agency’s program of lethal drone strikes and has been credited by many of his peers for successes against al Qaeda in the U.S.’s long campaign against the terrorist group.
...
Mr. D’Andrea, a former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, is known among peers as a demanding but effective manager, and a convert to Islam who works long hours. Some U.S. officials have expressed concern over what they perceive as his aggressive stance toward Iran.

One wonders what D’Andrea, with his experience in directing drone strikes, worked on throughout the last two years. What operations did he plan?

We know that false flags attacks are as American as apple pie. The Boston Tea Party was committed by colonial settlers camouflaged as Indians. Remember the Maine? The Gulf of Tonkin "attack" that never happened? The fake chemical attacks staged by U.S. paid actors to then be blamed on the Syrian government?

There are also a number of non-state actors who might have been involved in the tanker attacks. The MEK cult is known for committing terrorist attacks against Iran. But it is not the only group. Over the last two year alone Baluch terrorists at the Pakistani Iranian border, Arab separatists of the Ahvaz movement, the Islamic State and Kurdish groups all launched terror attacks against Iran. All these groups are financed by one or the other state actors listed above. With practically unlimited money available, they all might have developed the necessary capabilities to damage some tanker.

All the above actors have motives and the potential capability to launch attacks that they can then blame on Iran. It is no wonder then that everyone calls bullshit when Secretary of State Pompeo claims that "only Iran" could have done it. There is simply no evidence - as in zero - that Iran committed the attacks.

It is also no wonder then that even avid Moon of Alabama readers doubt this authors reporting that Iran's new strategy is to put "maximum pressure" on Trump. It sounded outlandish when it was first developed in the update to this post. But if one puts oneself into the shoes of Iranian decision makers, it suddenly becomes a realistic assessment.

A day after our first reporting on the new Iranian strategy Asia Times confirmed that the concept exists:

[T]his kind of non-lethal warning, which caused a spike in oil prices, has been in the hardline Iranian playbook since the Trump administration signaled it would take steps to squeeze the Islamic republic’s ability to sell its petroleum.

“It was being debated even before the oil waivers were revoked [in November], but largely as a possible response to an attempt to zero [eliminate] Iran’s exports,” an Iranian source told Asia Times on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

The idea behind this, says the Asia Times source, is to push the Saudis to tell Trump to lower the pressure on Iran:

“If MBZ tells Trump that it’s time to slow down the maximum pressure policy that is very different than [Japanese President Shinzo] Abe calling for negotiations,” the source said.

But to slow down Trump's maximum pressure policy against Iran is not sufficient. What Iran wants to do is, as we argued, to eliminate Trump's maximum pressure campaign by putting maximum pressure on Trump.

Elijah Magnier is known to have access to high level sources in Tehran. He reported last night:

Informed sources close to Iranian decision makers repeated the words of President Hassan Rouhani and the Iranian advisor to Sayyed Khamenei for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, namely that “if Iran can’t export oil through the Persian Gulf, no-one in the Middle East will be able do this”. The source “expects further attacks in the future, given the US decision to stop the flow of oil by all means at all costs. Thus, oil will stop being delivered to the world if Iran can’t export its two million barrels per day”.

“Tensions in the Gulf can be eased only when sanctions are lifted on Iran. Otherwise, more objectives may be targeted and the level of tension will gradually increase. [..] If Iran is in pain, the rest of the world will suffer equally,” said the source.
...
President Trump is betting on maintaining the status-quo. This doesn’t suit Iran, because its economy will suffer dearly. Binding the deep economic wound and holding on until Trump ends his first mandate is playing into Trump’s hand and this is not going to happen. The tension in the Gulf was generated when Trump decided to pull out of the nuclear deal (known as the JCPOA). Let him pay the price now. If Iran cannot export its crude oil it means the country must be ready for war”, continue the source.

"If you want maximum pressure," Iran tells Trump, "we are able to deliver that."

No Iranian official will of course ever confirm this publicly.

What makes the situation confusing and the reasoning counterintuitive is that Iran and some of its enemies now have the very same tactical interests. Both sides now want to increase the heat in the region. That guarantees that more such attacks will happen. There are many, many potential targets for this campaign.

Current loaded tanker traffic in the Middle East

via Tanker Trackers - bigger

Iran's enemies hope that more attacks on tankers will goad Trump, and his British sidekicks, into a military conflict with Iran.

Iran calculates that Trump will see the danger and recognize that such a conflict would ruin his presidency. That he will accept that he has to revoke the sanctions and rejoin the nuclear deal to avoid to be blamed for unprecedented oil prices and catastrophic consequences for the global economy.

We can expect that the cat and mouse game will continue throughout the next twelve month. Trump will be under pressure from both sides. Next spring or summer is the latest point for him to decide either way. Until then we will see more casualties of this new tanker war.

Iran's enemies as well as Iran itself now have an interest that more attacks on tankers happen. But unless there is very convincing independent evidence we will never know who will have committed these. There are simply too many players who have motives and the capabilities to make such attacks happen. All of them have plausible reasons to damage more ships. All of them have plausible deniability. It is this what makes the current situation so dangerous. Luckily the problem can be easily solved.

The one who caused this conflict is Donald Trump. He is also the one who can immediately end it.

Posted by b on June 16, 2019 at 12:57 UTC | Permalink | Comments (155)

June 14, 2019

Iran Decided To Put Maximum Pressure On Trump - Here Is How It Will Do It

Thirteen month ago the United States launched a total economic war against Iran. It demands its capitulation. Now Iran decided to respond in kind. It will wage a maximum pressure campaign on U.S. economic interests until the Trump administration concedes its defeat. Shipping in the Middle East will soon become very hazardous. Oil prices will go through the roof. Trump will be trapped between two choices neither of which he will like.

In early May 2018 U.S. President Trump broke the nuclear deal with Iran and sanctioned all trade with that country. Iran reacted cautiously. It hoped that the other signatories of the nuclear deal would stick to their promises and continue to trade with it. The year since proved that such expectations were wrong.

Under threat of U.S. sanctions the European partners stopped buying Iranian oil and also ended their exports to it. The new financial instrument that was supposed to allow payments between European countries and Iran has still not been implemented. It is also a weak construct and will have too little capacity to make significant trade possible. Russia and China each have their own problems with the United States. They do not support trade with Iran when it endangers their other interests.

Meanwhile the Trump administration increased the pressure on Iran. It removed waivers it had given to some countries to buy Iranian oil. It designated a part of the Iranian armed forces, the Revolutionary Guard Corp (ICRG), as a terrorist entity. On Friday it sanctioned Iran's biggest producer of petrochemical products because that company is alleged to have relations with the ICRG.

The strategic patience Iran demonstrated throughout the year since Trump killed the deal brought no result. Trump will stay in power, probably for another five and a half years, while Iran's economic situation continuous to get worse. The situation requires a strategic reorientation and the adoption of a new plan to counter U.S. pressure.

On the strategic side a long term reorientation in four different fields will counter the effects the economic war on Iran. Foreign imports to Iran will be reduced to a minimum level by increasing production at home. Iran will ally with no one, not even China and Russia, as it recognizes that relying on partners has no value when those partners have their own higher interests. The third step is to loosen interior pressure on the 'reformist' who argued for a more 'western' orientation. Trump, and the cowardice of the Europeans, have proven that their arguments are false. The last measure is to reorientate exports from global oil trade to other products, probably derived from oil, and to neighboring countries.

All four steps will take some time. They are at large a reorientation from a globalization strategy to a more isolationist national one. Some first steps of this new plan are already visible. A common bank will be set up by Syria, Iraq and Iran to facilitate trade between those countries.

The economic reorientation is not sufficient. To directly counter Trump's maximum pressure campaign requires a tactical reorientation.

Trump continues to call for negotiations with Iran but he can accept nothing but a total capitulation. Trump also proved that the U.S. does not stick to the agreements it makes. There is therefore no hope for Iran to achieve anything through negotiations. There is only one way to counter Trump's maximum pressure campaign and that is by putting maximum pressure on him.

Neither Washington, nor the anti-Iranian countries in the Middle East, nor the other nuclear deal signers have so far paid a price for their hostile acts against Iran. That will now change.

Current loaded tanker traffic in the Middle East

via Tanker Trackers - bigger

Iran will move against the interests of the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It will do so in deniable form to give the U.S. and others no opening for taking military actions against it. Iran has friends in various countries in the Middle East who will support it with their own capabilities. The campaign Iran now launches will also create severe damage for other countries.

In mid 2018, after Trump began to sanction Iran's oil exports, its leaders explained how it would counter the move:

‘If Iran can't export oil no-one in Middle East will,’ Tehran warns.

Last December Iran's President Rouhani repeated that position:

“If one day they want to prevent the export of Iran’s oil, then no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf,” [Rouhani] said.

In mid May 2019, one year after Trump destroyed the nuclear deal, a demonstration of capabilities damaged four tankers which anchored near Fujairah in the UAE. There was no evidence to blame the attack on Iran.

The incident was a warning. But the U.S. ignored it and increased the sanction pressure on Iran.

Yesterday two tankers with petrochemical products were attacked while crossing the Gulf of Oman. Coming only a few days after Trump sanctioned Iran's petrochemical exports points to Iran's involvement. But again no evidence was left in place to blame the incident on Iran.

The U.S. published a grainy black and white video which it says shows an Iranian Search and Rescue crew removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers. No mine in visible in the video. The Iranian crew seems to inspect the damage on the tanker.

The U.S. itself admits that the video was taken several hours after the incident. The U.S. also says that one of its ships was nearby. Why did it take no steps to remove the claimed mine itself?

Meanwhile the owner of the Kokuka Courageous, one of the stricken ships, said that the damage to its ship was not caused by mines but by drones:

Two “flying objects” damaged a Japanese tanker owned by Kokuka Sangyo Co in an attack on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, but there was no damage to the cargo of methanol, the company president said on Friday.
...
“The crew told us something came flying at the ship, and they found a hole,” Katada said. “Then some crew witnessed the second shot.”

Katada also rejected speculation that the tanker, which sailed under the flag of Panama, was attacked because it was a Japanese owned vessel:

“Unless very carefully examined, it would be hard to tell the tanker was operated or owned by Japanese,” he said.

Despite the obvious lack of knowledge of who or what caused the incident the U.S. immediately blamed Iran:

Secretary Pompeo @SecPompeo - 18:27 UTC - 13 Jun 2019

It is the assessment of the U.S. government that Iran is responsible for today's attacks in the Gulf of Oman. These attacks are a threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable escalation of tension by Iran.

Iran pushed back:

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 12:11 UTC - 14 Jun 2019

That the US immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran—w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence—only makes it abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy—including by @AbeShinzo—and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran.

I warned of exactly this scenario a few months ago, not because I'm clairvoyant, but because I recognize where the #B_Team is coming from.

The "B-team" includes Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahoo, Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE.

To say that the attacks were provocations by the U.S. or its Middle East allies is made easier by their evident ruthlessness. Any accusations by the Trump administration of Iranian culpability will be easily dismissed because everyone knows that Trump and his crew are notorious liars.

This cat and mouse game will now continue and steadily gain pace. More tankers will get damaged or even sunk. Saudi refineries will start to explode. UAE harbors will experience difficulties. Iran will plausibly deny that it is involved in any of this. The U.S. will continue to blame Iran but will have no evidence to prove it.

Insurance for Middle East cargo will become very expensive. Consumer prices for oil products will increase and increase again. The collateral damage will be immense.

All this will gradually put more pressure on Trump. The U.S. will want to negotiate with Iran, but that will be rejected unless Trump rejoins the nuclear deal and lifts all his sanctions. He can not do that without losing face and his allies. By mid 2020 the maximum pressure campaign will reach its zenith. Oil prices will explode and the U.S. will fall into a recession. The world economy will tank and everyone will know who caused the underlying issue. Trump's reelection will come into doubt.

There will also be pressure on Trump to take military action against Iran. But he knows that a war would be equally disastrous for his re-election chances, and for the United States. A war against Iran would put the whole Middle East in flames.

The maximum pressure Trump hoped to wage against Iran will turn into maximum pressure on him and his allies. He will be trapped and there will be no way out.

Posted by b on June 14, 2019 at 17:04 UTC | Permalink | Comments (281)

June 13, 2019

Today's Attacks On Ships In The Gulf Of Oman Are Not In Iran's Interest - Or Are They? (Updated)

UPDATED below
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Early this morning, around 6:00 UTC, two tankers in the Gulf of Oman were attacked by surface weapons. Both ships were some 50 kilometers south-east of Bandar-e Jask, Iran, and some 100+ kilometers east of Fujairah.


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The Front Altair, a 250 meter long crude oil tanker under the flag of the Marshal Islands, came from the United Arab Emirates and was on was on its way to Taiwan. Its load of 75,000 tons of naphta caught fire and the crew had to abandon the ship.


bigger

The second attacked ship is the Kokuka Courageous, a 170 meter long tanker flagged by Panama. It was coming from Saudi Arabia and on its way to Singapore. The ship has its hull breached above the water line, but its load of methanol seems to be intact.

The Iranian Search and Rescue ship Naji picked up the 44 crews members of both ships and brought them to Bandar-E Jash. Oil prices increased by some 4%.

These attacks come a month after four ships anchoring near the UAE port Fujairah were damaged by explosives attached to their hulls. The investigation of that incident by the UAE did not blame anyone for the attack but suggested that a nation state must have been behind it. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton blamed Iran.

It is likely that Iranian proxy forces were involved in the May attacks. It seems unlikely that Iran had anything to do with today's attacks.

The May attack was accompanied by two drone strikes launched by Houthi forces in Yemen on the Saudi east-west pipeline that allows some Saudi exports to avoid a passage through the Street of Hormuz. A third strike was a medium range missile launch by the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip against the city of Ashkelon in Israel.

All three strikes together were a warning that those countries who instigate for a U.S. war on Iran would get seriously hurt should Iran be attacked.

The attack today comes at an inconvenient time for Iran. The loud anti-Iran campaign John Bolton initiated in April and May recently calmed down.

U.S. President Trump tries to move Iran towards negotiations with him. He recently received the President of Switzerland in the White House. Switzerland is the 'protecting power' that represent U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran. The German Foreign Minister Maas was send to Iran to press for Iranian concessions. Currently the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe is visiting Tehran. He today met Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei but had no success in moving Iran towards negotiations with the Trump.

Even while Iran rejects negotiations with the U.S. as long as the U.S. keeps up its sanctions,  it has no interest in disturbing the current phase of diplomacy. Iran seems to have nothing to win from these attacks.

Is someone else out to nearly literately torpedo the current mediation attempts?

Update (11:30 utc, 7:30 AM blog time):

A few tweets Iran's Supreme Leader issued after his meeting with Prime Minister Abe today hint at a motive Iran might have to conduct something like the attack that happened today:

Khamenei.ir @khamenei_ir - 9:36 UTC - 13 Jun 2019

We do not believe at all that the U.S. is seeking genuine negotiations with Iran; because genuine negotiations would never come from a person like Trump. Genuineness is very rare among U.S. officials.

.@AbeShinzo U.S. president met & talked with you a few days ago, including about Iran. But after returning from Japan, he immediately imposed sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry. Is this a message of honesty? Does that show he is willing to hold genuine negotiations?

After the nuclear deal, the first one to immediately breach the JCPOA was Obama; the same person who had requested negotiations with Iran & had sent a mediator. This is our experience, & Mr. Abe, know that we won’t repeat the same experience.

The keyword here is "petrochemical". The tankers hit today were loaded with naphta from the UAE and methanol from Saudi Arabia. Both are petrochemical products and not simply crude oil. Last Friday, June 7, the U.S. sanctioned all trade with Iran's biggest petrochemical producer. These sanction will seriously hurt Iran.

When the Trump administration began to sanction Iran's oil export last year, Iran announced new rules of the game. It said that it would retaliate against other Persian Gulf producers should Iran be unable to export its goods:

Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital artery for oil shipments from the Middle East. The warning comes in response to the US, which is trying to cut off Iranian crude exports.
...
Iran's supreme leader's senior adviser for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati said his country will retaliate.

“The most transparent, complete and prompt response was given by Mr [Hassan] Rouhani, the Iranian president, in his last trip to Europe. The response was clear: if Iran cannot export oil through the Persian Gulf, no-one will do this,” Velayati said, speaking at the Valdai discussion club in Russia. “Either everyone will export, or no-one,” he added.

Now we can apply the keyword Khamenei used today to these sentences: "if Iran cannot export petrochemical products through the Persian Gulf, no-one will do this". "Either everyone will export, or no-one."

That Iran might have this motive does not mean or prove that it is responsible for today's attack. Risking to sink two foreign tankers in international water is not what an otherwise cautious Iran would typically do. Someone else might have initiated it to blame it.

Still - no matter if Iran was involved - what Khamenei said is a very serious message that Abe, who Trump sent to Iran, will understand and communicate back to the White House.

Posted by b on June 13, 2019 at 9:37 UTC | Permalink | Comments (316)

June 12, 2019

Unconstricted Twisted Filaments Of Fiber

I've got nothing. --- News & views ...

Posted by b on June 12, 2019 at 16:36 UTC | Permalink | Comments (119)

June 11, 2019

Cuban Doctors Provide Healthcare To Those In Need - The U.S. Wants To Stop Them

The Trump administration wants to reassert hegemony over Latin America. Cuba is one of its main targets. Through right wing allies and by its own means it targets Cuba's most successful export program - the provision of Cuban doctors to countries in need of them.

In 2002 the Bush administration created a program to train Latin American legal personal to wage a "war on corruption" in their home countries. Back in their countries the U.S. trained people would be fed U.S. intelligence on left wing politicians. It would allow them to launch which hunts on those the U.S. wanted out of the way.

Sérgio Moro, a Brazilian judge, took part in U.S. program. Fed with (dis-)information from the U.S. he launched lawfare against then President Lula of Brasil and his Worker Party. The campaign was successful. In 2018 Lula was put into jail solely based on dubious claims made by one criminal witness.

Protocols of leaked chats between Judge Moro, the prosecutor, and other people involved provide that his intent was not to serve justice but to incarcerate Lula to prevent his party from winning the presidency. The plot succeeded and the extreme right wing politician Jair Bolsonaro won the election. After his inauguration he immediately installed Moro as Minister of Justice.

Bolsonaro immediately started to take care of U.S. priorities. Especially the poor in Brazilians now have to suffer under these policies. Their access to healthcare has severely diminished:

During his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, committed to making major changes to the Mais Médicos program, an initiative begun in 2013 when a leftist government was in power. The program sent doctors into Brazil’s small towns, indigenous villages and violent, low-income urban neighborhoods.

About half of the Mais Médicos doctors were from Cuba, and they were deployed to 34 remote indigenous villages and the poorer quarters of more than 4,000 towns and cities, places that established Brazilian physicians largely shun.
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Cuban doctors have long complained about getting only a small cut of the money for their work, and Mr. Bolsonaro said they would have to be allowed to keep their entire salaries and to bring their families with them to Brazil. They would also have to pass equivalency exams to prove their qualifications.

“Our Cuban brothers will be freed,” Mr. Bolsonaro said in an official campaign proposal presented to electoral authorities. “Their families will be allowed to migrate to Brazil. And, if they pass the revalidation, they will begin to receive the entire amount that was being robbed by the Cuban dictators!”

Two weeks after Mr. Bolsonaro won the presidency in October, Cuba ordered all its doctors out.

There were a total of 11,500 Cuban doctors in Brazil. The Economist explained the deal:

The Cuban doctors participate in Brazil's Mais Médicos (More Doctors) programme, which aims to bring medical services to remote or underserved parts of the country by employing overseas doctors, mainly from Cuba. It was created in response to the mass protests that rocked Brazil in June 2013 over the poor quality of public services, including healthcare. The programme pays each participant a salary of around US$4,500 a month. However, the participation of Cuban doctors is organised through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The Brazilian government disburses the payments to the PAHO, which then transfers the monies to the Cuban government after taking a 5% administrative commission. The Cuban government pays the medical professionals working in Brazil a monthly salary of US$1,245, and pockets the rest.

Under the program housing and food for the doctors is paid by local authorities. Most of the Cuban doctors who volunteered for the program like it:

Yanet Rosales Rojas, 30, spent three years working in the Brazilian town of Poços de Caldas, where on average she earned more than 10 times her monthly salary in Cuba. She returned to the island last year, and was able to buy an apartment in Havana.

“You earn much more than what you get in Cuba. I always wanted to travel and treat people in other countries. This was my chance,” she said.

Leasing medical professionals is Cuba’s main export, bringing in more hard currency than tourism: last year professional services by doctors and nurse brought in $11bn, compared to $3bn in tourism.

The chance to earn abroad is major incentive to study medicine, ...

The doctors receive their education in Cuba for free. The income the Cuban Ministry of Public Health makes through the program is used to equip Cuban clinics and to import medicine. Cuba provides free healthcare to its citizens. 

Not all Cuban doctors in Brazil wanted to return to their home country. They had hoped to continue to work in Brazil, but their bet on Bolsonaro's words went bad:

More than 2,000 Cuban doctors have chosen to remain in Brazil, defying the call to return home. But with the special arrangement with Cuba terminated, they are now ineligible to practice medicine until they pass an exam — which the Brazilian government has not offered since 2017 and for which the Health Ministry has set no date.

The doctors not only lost their professional job and income but now also need to take up low income work.

Bolsonaro had promised to replace the Cuban doctors with Brazilian ones. But there are too few of them. They also do not want to work in remote towns or slums:

In February, it looked as if Mr. Bolsonaro would fulfill his promise: the national Health Ministry announced that all of the positions left vacant by Cuba’s withdrawal had been filled with Brazilian doctors. But by April, thousands of the new recruits had either quit or failed to show up for work in the first place.

In total some 28 million people across Brazil have lost access to a doctor:

“In several states, health clinics and their patients don’t have doctors,” said Ligia Bahia, a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “It’s a step backward. It impedes early diagnoses, the monitoring of children, pregnancies and the continuation of treatments that were already underway.”

The Trump administration likes the steps Bolsonaro took. It wants to starve Cuba of access to hard currencies that the body leasing of doctors provides. It is also one of the reasons why it targets Venezuela:

Around 50,000 Cuban health professionals work in 66 countries worldwide, although around half of those work in Venezuela, with an additional 11,456 in Brazil.

The Cuban doctors in Brazil are gone and the U.S. is pressing for those in Venezuela to leave. Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton falsely claims that the Cuban doctors in Venezuela are military personal that should leave the country. The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces have in total only 39,000 regular troops. To suggest that more than half of them are in Venezuela, even though none are ever seen there, borders on lunacy.

The Trump administration is looking for additional ways to destroy Cuba's doctor leasing program:

The George W. Bush administration initiated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (CMPP) in 2006. The idea was to persuade overseas Cuban doctors to abandon their posts and relocate to the United States. Cuba’s medical solidarity programs, in place for half a century, would suffer. President Obama ended the CMPP in January, 2017. Now the U.S. government wants to reinstate it.

Some have compared the Cuban leasing of doctors to other countries to 'human trafficking'. But it is no different from what IBM or other companies do when they train their staff and send them as consultants to other countries and companies. The consultants get a higher income than at home, and their company makes a large cut on whatever the customer pays.

The Cuban doctor program is good for the people of Cuba. Tens of millions of people in other Latin American and African countries depend on it for their basic healthcare.

The Trump administration just sent the hospital ship USNS Comfort to "help refugees from Venezuela". It is fake humanitarianism. The crisis the U.S. sanctions on Venezuela cause creates more damage than 1,000 such ships could compensate for. That the U.S., and right wing government it supports, are out to destroy it the Cuban doctor program shows that it has no intention to really care for people in need.

Posted by b on June 11, 2019 at 18:31 UTC | Permalink | Comments (98)