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July 31, 2019

Violent 'Color Revolution' In Hong Kong Fails Despite Strong NYT Support

When the U.S. instigates its so called 'color revolutions', the transatlantic main stream media are usually supportive. But the support is rarely as extreme as the extraordinary one the New York Times gives to the rioters in Hong Kong.

For the timeline we check with Wikipedia on the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests:

Demonstrations against the bill first occurred in March and April, but greatly expanded in scale and intensity beginning in June. At least 240,000 people (up to one million according to organisers) marched in protest of the bill on 9 June.
...
Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and further declared it to be "dead" on 9 July.

Shortly before the first large demonstrations against a proposed amendment to an exiting extradition bill, the New York Times gave space to one (in)famous 'political activist' from Hong Kong. On June 4 one Ray Wong Toi-yeung wrote on the Times opinion pages:

When the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989, many Hong Kongers watched in horror on their TVs. A few days before, one million of them had marched in solidarity with the rebellious Chinese gathered in the square to ask for more liberalism and democracy from the Chinese authorities. Thirty years on, it is Hong Kong that is fighting for democratic values — for its very political survival, actually — against another onslaught by the same Communist government in Beijing.

Wong, who now lives in Germany, was a leader of the 2014 Umbrella movement, also known as the (NED Financed) Hong Kong Riots. He was since with several other anti-mainland organizations in Hong Kong. In 2016 he was seen in secret meetings with U.S. consulate staff.

Other Hong Kong protest organizers and supporters were given op-ed space in the Times on June 10, June 15, June 17 and June 28. Supportive editorials were published on June 10, June 13 and June 17.

On June 30 an op-ed by one Fred Chan Ho-fai (later updated) attempted to justify the rioters violence:

An important idea that has been circulating in online forums is now firmly planted in my mind. It is called the Marginal Violence Theory (暴力邊緣論), and it holds that protesters should not actively use or advocate violence, but instead use the most aggressive nonviolent actions possible to push the police and the government to their limits.

This is what some protesters have been doing today, July 1, on the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China from Britain in 1997. After a ceremony marking the anniversary, a group of protesters have stormed the Legislative Council’s building. Though they have damaged property, they are not seeking to harm anyone.

Such actions are a way to make noise and gain attention. And if they prompt the police to respond with unnecessary force, as happened on June 12, then the public will feel disapproval and disgust for the authorities. The protesters should thoughtfully escalate nonviolence, maybe even resort to mild force, to push the government to the edge. That was the goal of many people who surrounded and barricaded police headquarters for hours on June 21.

Provoking violent police reactions is the declared aim of the rioters.

More Hong Kong op-eds in the NYT followed on July 1, July 2 and July 3. A fourth supporting editorial was published on July 4. More op-eds followed on July 5, July 8 and July 12.

After an extraordinary run of 16 opinion pieces on the issue in just 38 days, the NYT opinion pages went suddenly quiet on Hong Kong. Who told the editors to stop?

Anyway, it does not mean the New York Times stopped supporting the anti-government riots. Witness today's news piece that is not only slanted against Hong Kong's government and police, but is also clearly lying:

Hundreds of protesters surrounded a police station in Hong Kong on Tuesday, some scuffling with officers, after the authorities said they had charged dozens of people with rioting over clashes with the police days earlier.

The rioting charges were a distinct escalation in the government’s response to protests that have shaken Hong Kong for weeks.

There were "clashes with the police" during unapproved demonstration. Taking part in these is not a sin in my book - been there, done that. But if one does take part in riots one should be ready to accept the consequences. Some violent people were caught. The government will punish them. Those are the universal rules of the game. So why is it seen as a "distinct escalation" when the Hong Kong government charges some rioters?

The charges will most likely add to the public anger. The government said Tuesday evening that 44 people who were arrested Sunday night had been accused of rioting. In addition, a 33-year-old man would also be charged with assaulting a police officer, and a 24-year-old man was charged with possession of offensive weapons.
...
As news of the charges spread, hundreds of people dressed in black, the color of the protest movement, gathered around Kwai Chung Police Station, where the suspects were being held. The police told the crowds to disperse and used pepper spray against some demonstrators.

The writer seems to believe in the 'marginal violence theory'. He thinks that the charges will increase the rioters support. He will be disappointed. Most people in Hong Kong despise attacks on policemen and rioting that disturbs their businesses and daily life.

BTW - those who still doubt that the incidents in Hong Kong are an attempt of a U.S. instigated 'color revolution' should reread the last paragraph: "people dressed in black, the color of the protest movement".

Now comes a paragraph in which the NYT writer is outright lying:

Around 11 p.m., a small number of officers came out of the station to confront protesters, including one police officer holding a shotgun that he pointed at some of those gathered, but he did not fire. The gun did not have the distinct orange color of those the police have been using to fire rubber bullets, raising fears they were deploying more lethal weapons.

The Times uses this photo to illustrate the scene:


bigger

That looks like an aggressive cop.

However, the picture and the text in the Times are highly misleading. Below are two videos posted by Stella Lee of HK News. They show that the mob violently attacked two lone policemen, threw stuff at them, and even pulled one of them to the ground and trampled on him. Only when one of the policemen lifts his beanbag shotgun, do the attackers retreat.

Stella Lee @StellaLeeHKnews - 18:34 UTC · Jul 30, 2019

An video circulated online shows a police officer pointing his gun at the protesters after he was beaten by them near Kwai Chung police station. #antiELAB

Stella Lee later posted another video that shows a small group of policemen, under constant attack, retreat from the scene.

Stella Lee @StellaLeeHKnews - 19:52 UTC · Jul 30, 2019

Protesters threw bottles and umbrellas at police officers deployed to locate a man fainted near Kwai Fong MTR station. The officers responded by firing pepper spray at them. #ExtraditionBill

So who is the aggressor here?

The South China Morning Post notes:

A policeman pointed a shotgun at a protesting crowd on Tuesday night in fear for his life, after he was surrounded and had his helmet snatched, the force has said.

The sergeant aimed the weapon, loaded with beanbag rounds, during clashes in which 23 other officers were assaulted and splashed with corrosive liquid, it added.
...
It said that at 9.30pm, when two police vehicles left the station, protesters threw corrosive liquid at officers nearby.

An hour later, some officers were sent to Kwai Fong MTR station, where there was a report of an assault. As they returned to the station, the statement read, “two officers were surrounded by a big group of radical protesters, who hurled objects and launched attacks”.

“One of them was assaulted by many people. In order to protect his life and personal safety, he raised a long gun loaded with beanbag rounds as a caution,” it continued. “The officer also had his helmet snatched.”
...
The force said 24 officers were assaulted or had corrosives thrown at them in the ensuing fracas, with five sent to hospital.

The videos support the police description of the incident. The NYT report is clearly wrong.

The policemen who escaped lynching was immediately doxed. His family will need protection:

Suspected personal details of the officer, and a supposed photo of his family, appeared on social media hours after images of him pointing the gun were widely circulated.

That the protesters are not peaceful daisies is obvious. This can also be seen in these photos of previous fights with the police.

The SCMP also live blogged the riots on Sunday:

Hong Kong police and protesters clashed again on Sunday night in what has become a regular scene in Hong Kong.

Police made at least a dozen arrests while tear gas was fired at various locations on Hong Kong Island. Protesters marched unauthorised for the second night running, after an illegal demonstration ended in bloody clashes at Yuen Long MTR station on Saturday

The violence continued until the protesters dispersed at midnight ...

Some of the pictures in the live blog show the projectiles the protesters used against the police:

11:31PM - More protesters join last stand on Jubilee Street

About 100 protesters have come from the Wan Chai direction to take up positions at a road block on Jubilee Street again. The area is where police have pushed back demonstrators from the liaison office. On a nearby footbridge, bricks and bamboo sticks cut from building scaffolding are seen.


bigger

The bricks and bamboo sticks laid ready to be hailed down on policemen. The use of such violence against them, as promoted on June 30 on the op-ed pages of the Times, seems to have some effect. At its end today's NYT piece notes that it encourages them to do their job:

The police were noticeably more aggressive about grabbing protesters and had detained at least 49 by Monday morning. They included 32 men and 17 women, aged 16 to 41. Two were temporarily released, while another two were granted bail pending further investigation, the authorities said. Those charged were expected to appear in court Wednesday morning.

The government of Hong Kong played the issue well. It removed, for now, the amendment that was used as pretext to launch the 'regime change' demonstrations. The participation in them immediately began to shrink. The government then turned the 'marginal violence theory' against the protesters. It let the core demonstrators, who are mostly students from movements the U.S. secretly supports, escalate the violence. While the police held back from extreme measures, the rioters increased their level of force. Even those Hong Kong media that supported the demonstrations, had to take note of that. Now the fruits are ripe. The government can pick up the leaders of the riots and put them into jail. Everyone but the NYT acknowledges that it is the legal and right thing to do. It will not cause a wider public to protest against it.

The U.S. and the NYT lost their second attempt to turn Hong Kong against mainland China. Three to five years from now they will try again. It will again be in vain.

Posted by b on July 31, 2019 at 18:50 UTC | Permalink | Comments (157)

July 30, 2019

No, Israel Did Not Attack Iranian Targets In Iraq

Israeli newspaper repeat a report which claims that Israeli planes hit Iranian targets in Iraq.

From the last one:

The IAF used its F-35i stealth fighter jets to hit two Iraqi bases that were used by Iranian forces and proxies and for storing ballistic missiles, the London-based Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.

Asharq Al-Awsat is owned by Faisal bin Salman, a member of the Saudi ruling clan. It is - like other Arab papers - often used to launder Israeli disinformation and propaganda that is then repeated in the Israeli press.

The original Asharq Al-Aswat report reads:

Israel has expanded the scope of its Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, western diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat amid reports that Tel Aviv carried out an airstrike earlier this month against an Iranian rockets depot northeast of Baghdad.

The July 19 attack was carried out by an Israeli F-35 fighter jet, they added.

On Sunday, the Ashraf base in Iraq, a former base used by the Iranian opposition People's Mujahedin of Iran, was targeted by an air raid, said sources.

The base lies 80 kilometers from the border with Iran and 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad.

The sources revealed that the strikes targeted Iranian “advisors” and a ballistic missile shipment that had recently arrived from Iran to Iraq.

Last week, Syria’s Tal al-Hara was struck by Israeli jets.

The diplomatic sources said the attack targeted Iran’s attempt to seize control of the strategic hill, located in Daraa countryside in southern Syria.

The above F-35 promotion then goes on to laud the Israeli Arrows-3 air defense missile the U.S. paid for.

Of the three incidents Asharq Al-Awsat mentions only one, in Syria, really happened.

On July 19 a fire broke out at a camp of the 16th Brigade of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). It set off some ammunition. The 16th is a light infantry brigade. It does not have ballistic missiles. While the incident was first reported as a missile attack, an investigation later said (Arabic) that the fire was caused by a defect of some equipment (machine translation)

The Central Commission of Inquiry sent by the People's Assembly on Sunday announced the results of the investigation into the bombing of the Martyrs' Camp of the Commission, which is located near the city of Ameri.

The report of the specialized committee confirmed that the investigations conducted have proved that the explosion was not a military target as a result of a plane or a guided missile, but was a fire of solid fuel due to an internal defect.

No one was killed in the incident.

The alleged attack on Sunday never happened:

TØM CΛT @TomtheBasedCat - 17:29 UTC · Jul 30, 2019

The Camp Ashraf incident was nothing more than a rumor that started on Facebook. It's not even called Ashraf anymore, the base is named after the Brigade 27 commander who was Martyred in Diyala battles.

Saudis hard at work creating Fake News.

It is not the Saudis that created this fake news but the "western diplomatic sources", aka the Israeli ambassador in London, who briefed the Asharq Al-Awsat writer.

The third incident, in Syria, did happen:

Syria's state media said on Wednesday an Israeli missile attack had targeted the country's southern province of Daraa, but did not report any casualties.

State news agency SANA and state TV added that the "Israeli aggression" struck Tal al-Hara hill that is home to Syrian army posts adding that it only caused material damage.
...
The Tal al-Hara hill, a strategic area overlooking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, was for many years a major Russian military radar outpost until rebels took it over in 2014 before it was again recaptured by the Syrian army last year.

Israel did not hit any Iranian targets or anything else in Iraq. The Asharq Al-Awsat story is pure propaganda.

If the Israeli air force were stupid enough to bomb targets in Iraq, it would likely see consequences that it would not like:

TØM CΛT @TomtheBasedCat - 18:08 UTC · Jul 30, 2019

And besides

If Israel really wants to waste their time and resources striking sites in Iraq, by all means.

They'll only accelerate the decision as to whether or not to purchase the S-400 system.

There are plenty of Air Defense Officers who are already fluent in Russian.

Posted by b on July 30, 2019 at 17:16 UTC | Permalink | Comments (210)

July 28, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-43

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related:
Peace in Ukraine? - The friends and foes of a Kiev-Moscow settlement - The Nation
There are rumors that the U.S. attempts to block the person President Volodymyr Zelensky selected as new prime minister.

Related:
The Two Jacobs - James Meek on Post-Brexit Britain - LRB
Brexit, Britain and the Permanent Crisis in the Gulf - Patrick Cockburn- Counterpunch

---
Other issues:

Craig Murray worked on the laws of the sea. He calls the British heist of an Iran tanker illegal:
Tanker Seizures and the Threat to the Global Economy from Resurgent Imperialism

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 28, 2019 at 19:08 UTC | Permalink | Comments (170)

737 MAX Rudder Control Does Not Meet Safety Guidelines - It Was Still Certified

The return of the Boeing 737 MAX into regular service is likely to be delayed even further than we anticipated. A new New York Times piece about the deference of the Federal Aviation Administration to Boeing reveals a new technical issue that will likely require an additional refit of the aircraft.

We already knew that there was little oversight over Boeing with regards to the failed Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS):

The company performed its own assessments of the system, which were not stress-tested by the regulator. Turnover at the agency left two relatively inexperienced engineers overseeing Boeing’s early work on the system.

The F.A.A. eventually handed over responsibility for approval of MCAS to the manufacturer. After that, Boeing didn’t have to share the details of the system with the two agency engineers. They weren’t aware of its intricacies, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Late in the development of the Max, Boeing decided to expand the use of MCAS, to ensure the plane flew smoothly. The new, riskier version relied on a single sensor and could push down the nose of the plane by a much larger amount.

Boeing did not submit a formal review of MCAS after the overhaul. It wasn’t required by F.A.A. rules.

The results are well know. The single sensor failed and MCAS activated during a critical flight phase. 346 people on two flights were killed.

But MCAS is not the only system that the FAA allowed to be certified even when it could cause significant problems. The European regulator EASA identified five additional major issues that need to be fixed before the 737 MAX can again fly.

The NYT found another severe one:

Early on, engineers at the F.A.A. discovered a problem with one of the most important new features of the Max: its engines. The Max, the latest version of the 50-year-old 737, featured more fuel-efficient engines, with a larger fan and a high-pressure turbine. But the bigger, more complex engines could do more damage if they broke apart midair.

The F.A.A. engineers were particularly concerned about pieces hitting the cables that control the rudder, according to five people with knowledge of the matter and internal agency documents. A cable severed during takeoff would make it difficult for pilots to regain control, potentially bringing down the jet.

The 737 MAX has newly developed LEAP-1B engines which have a larger fan at the front than the previous ones.


source - bigger

The fans are 69.4 inch (1.76m) in diameter compared to 61 inch (1.55m) on the 737 NG engines. The fan turns with 5,000 rotations per minute and the turbine with 20,000 rotations per minute (pdf). If a fan or turbine blade or disk breaks it becomes a high speed projectile that can not be contained by the engine housing.

The engines on the MAX are further forward than on previous 737 models. The debris of an uncontained engine failure would hit the plane's body in places that were previously safe. Uncontained engine failures are relatively rare but they can and do happen on all modern jet types.

In August 2016 Southwest Airlines Flight 3472 experienced an uncontained engine failure. Debris entered the fuselage and the cabin depressurized. The plane landed safely and no one was injured. In April 2018 Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 also had an uncontained engine failure. The debris penetrated the cabin and broke a window. A passenger was partially sucked outside the aircraft and later died. Eight others passengers received minor injuries. The plane was seriously damaged but landed safely.

Both accidents were caused by undetected fatigue in the titanium alloy fan blades. The fan blades of the new LEAP-1B are made of woven carbon fibers injected with resin. While they are less prone to fatigue failure, they are not indestructible. The smaller turbine blades are still made of heavy titanium and nickel alloys. They have to be tested regularly for fatigue.

The pilots in the 737 MAX use foot pedals to control the hydraulics that move the plane's rudder. Steel cables run from the foot pedals to the hydraulic control valves in the back of the plane.

If debris from an uncontained engine failure cuts one of these cables the plane will become uncontrollable.

It is quite obvious why the FAA engineers saw this as a problem. But solving it would have cost time and money. Boeing rejected to fix the issue and the FAA management took Boeing's side:

F.A.A. managers conceded that the Max “does not meet” agency guidelines “for protecting flight controls,” according to an agency document. But in another document, they added that they had to consider whether any requested changes would interfere with Boeing’s timeline. The managers wrote that it would be “impractical at this late point in the program,” for the company to resolve the issue. Mr. Duven at the F.A.A. also said the decision was based on the safety record of the plane.

The problem is now a public issue. If a MAX engine fails, pieces cut the rudder cables and the airplane crashes, the resulting public outrage will make the MCAS issue look trivial. If Boeing and the FAA allow the 737 MAX planes back into the air without solving the issue, they risk that the next accident will mean the end of the company.

Foreign regulators already fumed at the FAA over the MCAS issue. The newly revealed lack of redundancy in the rudder control will only add to that. It is unlikely that they will allow the MAX back into the air without a robust solution.

There are several ways to solve the problem. Redundant steel cables could mitigate the risk. The cables could be protected by titanium tubes as they are on some military planes. Redundant electric wires that control a servo to move the hydraulic valves could be added. All these are time consuming solutions which also require significant modifications on the nearly 500 existing 737 MAX planes.

Boeing CEO Dennis Mullenberg recently said that the 737 MAX will probably fly again in October. That was already way too optimistic. The whole certification of the MAX is now in question.

Boeing will have to stop the 737 MAX production line. It will have to borrow more money to keep the company going. Its credit rating will be downgraded.

The 737 MAX is Boeing's cash cow that is supposed to generate $2.5 billion revenue per month. Without a competitive single aisles plane the company will have difficulties to survive. But the 737 MAX is not Boeing's only problem. Some airlines reject to buy Boeing 787 planes that are manufactured in its not unionized South Carolina factory. That factory is known to have quality issues. The military withholds money from Boeing because the KC-46 tanker planes it delivers lacks in functionality. Additionally debris was found in the tanks of several new planes. The new 777X is delayed because of engine issues. The New Midsize Airplane (NMA) the company plans to launch will be years late or may never fly.

When the second 737 MAX crashed I expected difficulties for Boeing. But I never thought that it could bring the company down. Now I am no longer sure of that.

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 issues:

Posted by b on July 28, 2019 at 14:47 UTC | Permalink | Comments (72)

July 27, 2019

The U.S. Stunt In Hong Kong Will Make Other Issues More Difficult

The current attempt of a U.S. instigated color revolution in Hong Kong is failing:

Protesters wearing all black streamed through the Yuen Long area, even though police refused to grant permission for the march, citing risks of confrontations between demonstrators and local residents.

By nightfall, protesters and police were once again facing off in the streets, as they've done previously during the summer-long pro-democracy protests in the Chinese territory. Demonstrators threw objects and ducked behind makeshift shields, and police officers shot plumes of tear gas into the air.

In May the chief organizer of the demonstrations met with U.S. leaders:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Hong Kong pro-democracy leader Martin Lee on Thursday, the State Department said, as Hong Kong activists seek to derail a proposed extradition law pushed by Beijing.

“Secretary Pompeo expressed concern about the Hong Kong government’s proposed amendments to the Fugitive Ordinance law, which threaten Hong Kong’s rule of law,” the department said in a statement.

Lee founded the first pro-democracy party in Hong Kong in 1990 and has been a prominent voice calling for civil liberties for the city’s residents.

Lee and other U.S. stooges organized large demonstrations against an extradition bill which would allow the government to send people who committed crimes in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau to those provinces where the crime was committed to receive their punishment. Hong Kong already has similar agreements with foreign countries.

Since then the government of Hong Kong temporarily pulled the bill back. The protest movement immediately diminished. But a core of black-clad students, influenced by the U.S. paid leaders, is trying to keep the struggle up. Throughout the last weeks they broke into the parliament building and ransacked it. They defiled family graves or pro-Chinese politicians, attacked police lines, harassed elderly arrivals (vid) at Hong Kong's airport and today, during an illegal demonstration, destroyed a car which they falsely believed to have a Chinese mainland owner.

Their aims are clearly unachievable and racist nonsense:

Carl Zha @CarlZha - 18:59 UTC · Jul 26, 2019

A Hong Kong protester besiege the old man at Hong Kong Airport helpfully hold up sign “Hong Kong Revolution, Chinese NOT Welcome, Taiwan Independence, Kick Out All Chinese”

Just in case you are not clear what the protest is about

Such behavior and slogans will only diminish the popular support they might have received otherwise.

That the U.S. is behind these riots can also be seen in the slanted coverage the riots receive in 'western' media. The picture they draw is incomplete:

Unable to defeat the bill legislatively, Hong Kong's pro-Western opposition has taken to the streets. With the help of Western media spin - the illusion of popular opposition to the extradition bill and Beijing's growing influence over Hong Kong is created.

What is not only omitted - but actively denied - is the fact that the opposition's core leaders, parties, organizations, and media operations are all tied directly to Washington DC via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and corporate foundations like Open Society Foundation.

Hong Kong has 7.5 million inhabitants. While demonstrations of several ten thousands seems big, they does not represent a majority. The so called 'pro-democracy' parties in Hong Kong have lost in each and every local election. The pro-China parties always receive a majority of votes.

Hong Kong was once the exclusive 'door to China'. It lost that status when China opened up for trade. Today a number of much larger cities within the mainland are way richer and more important. Hong Kong has little influence on what happens elsewhere in China. The temporary special status it received after Britain's colonial rule is of little concern. Most people in Hong Kong recognize that. They know that their economic well being now depends on Beijing's good will.

The U.S. may believe that the circus it creates with these student stunts might push China into doing something harsh. But the mainland is not concerned about such nonsense. It already knows how this will end:

“Trying to seize the opportunity to incite chaos in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region does not have popular support and will not be successful,” [Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang] said.

The students who were instigated to commit violence and crimes will go to jail. The extradition bill will be reintroduced at a convenient time and pass Hong Kong's legislative council with a large majority.

As that outcome was totally predictable one wonders why the Trump administration bothered to launch such nonsense. It will only make it more difficult to solve other problems, like North Korea or global trade, over which China has influence.

Posted by b on July 27, 2019 at 17:06 UTC | Permalink | Comments (216)

July 25, 2019

Hitzefrei

Elementary schools in Germany give 'hitzefrei' (heat-free) when the school rooms become too hot. (They don't have air-conditioning.) The pupils are send home or to the public pool where available.

Today I decided to take 'hitzefrei'. Its 35° Celsius (95°F) here and quite humid. Even my typically cold apartment heated up.

Thus - no post today.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 25, 2019 at 17:13 UTC | Permalink | Comments (296)

July 24, 2019

Robert Mueller Hearing A 'Disaster' For Democrats

The Democrats wanted Robert Mueller to testify about his report on their favorite conspiracy theories, that Russia influenced the U.S. election and that Trump colluded with Russia in this.

Mueller had made clear that he did not want to testify and that all he had to say was already in his report. The Democrats insisted. But today's hearing went poorly as even their partisan followers admit:

Laurence Tribe @tribelaw - 18:30 UTC Jul 24, 2019

Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster. Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it. The effort to save democracy and the rule of law from this lawless president has been set back, not advanced.

During the hearing multiple Democrats tried to get Mueller to support an impeachment of Trump. But Mueller never gave them that gift. The Democrats should thank him for that. An impeachment process against Trump is not popular:

A July Post-ABC poll found that 37 percent of Americans support Congress beginning impeachment proceedings, while 59 percent do not, with a 61 percent majority of Democrats backing proceedings.

It is high time for the Democrats to finally bury that nonsense and to start talking about progressive politics.

Mueller seemed to be not aware of many details of the investigation done under his name.

He said he knew nothing about GPS, the company hired by the Clinton campaign to contract with MI6 agent Christopher Steele to fabricate the 'dirty dossier'. There were lots of reports about GPS in the media and Mueller missed all of them?

He refused to answer why he did not indict Joseph Mifsud, a mysterious Maltese professor who planted the claim that 'Russia has dirt on Hillary Clinton' with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos later repeated that claim. The FBI then used that fact as the reason to launch its investigation against the Trump campaign. In his report Mueller claimed, without showing evidence, that Mifsud worked for Russia. That is unlikely and there is actual evidence that he worked with the British MI6.

Mifsud lied to the Mueller investigation. But unlike others witnesses who lied, Mueller never indicted him for making false statements. He  punted on questions about this issue with multiple “Can’t get into that.”

He reacted similar when he was asked about Christopher Steele, the British agent who created and peddled the fake 'dirty dossier'.

There is still another Justice Department investigation ongoing that will look at the whole Russia affair from a different viewpoint. Was the FBI investigation into 'Russiagate' an illegal partisan effort to go after Trump? Who really initiate the whole 'Russiagate' campaign that seems to have been run by the British MI6? Was it John Brennan, Obama's CIA director, involved?

Little is known about that second investigation. It will hopefully come up with better evidence and results than the one Robert Mueller led.

Posted by b on July 24, 2019 at 17:57 UTC | Permalink | Comments (157)

July 23, 2019

B(o)r-exit

The Ukraine elected a comedian for president. Great Britain felt a need to top that. The members of the ruling party thus chose a clown to become the UK's next prime minister.


Boris Johnson - bigger

Johnson will bury the remnants of the former empire.

My sincere condolences to people of Britain.

Posted by b on July 23, 2019 at 12:33 UTC | Permalink | Comments (204)

July 22, 2019

Ukraine Election - Voters Defeat Second Color Revolution

The Ukraine, translated as 'the borderlands,  lies between core Russia and the Europe's western states. It is a split country. Half the population speaks Russian as its first language. The industrialized center, east and south are culturally orthodox Russians. Some of its rural  western parts were attached to the Ukraine only after World War II. They have historically a different culture.

The U.S., supported by the EU, used this split - twice - to instigate 'revolutions' that were supposed to bring the Ukraine onto a 'western' course. Both attempts were defeated when the Ukrainians had the chance of a free vote.

The 2004 run-off election for the president of the Ukraine was won by Viktor Yanukovych. The U.S. disliked the result. Its proxies in Ukraine alleged fraud and instigated a color revolution. As a result of the 'Orange Revolution' the vote was re-run and the other candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was declared the winner. But five years later another vote defeated the U.S. camp. Yanukovych was declared the winner and became president.

In 2014 the European Union made an attempt to bind the Ukraine to its side through an association agreement. But what the EU offered to Ukraine was paltry and Russia countered it. Unlike the Ukraine, which continues to get robbed by its oligarchs ever since its 1991 independence, Russia was economically back and in a much better position. It offered billions in investments and long term loans. Much of Ukraine's industry depends on Russia and Russian gas was offered to the Ukraine for less than the international market price. Yanukovych, who originally wanted to sign the EU association, had no choice but to refuse it, and to take the much better deal Russia offered.

The U.S. and the EU intervened. They again launched a color revolution, but this time it was one that would use force. Militarily trained youth from Galicia in the west Ukraine was bused into Kiev to occupy the central Maidan place and to violently fight the police. Snipers from Georgia were brought in to fire on both sides. It was then falsely alleged that government forces were killing the 'peaceful protesters'.

Yanukovych lost his nerves and fled to Russia. After some illegal political maneuvers new elections were called up and the oligarch Petro Poroshenko, bought off by the 'west', was declared the winner. The unreconstructed fascists from Galicia took over. The population in the industrial heartland in east Ukraine, next to Russia's border, revolted against the new rulers. A civil war, not a 'Russian invasion', ensued which the Ukrainian government largely lost. Lugansk and Donbas became rebel controlled statelets which depend of Russia. Russia took back Crimea, which in 1954 had been illegally gifted to Ukraine by then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, himself a Ukrainian.

To end the war in the east Ukraine, the French, German and Russian leaders pressed Poroshenko to sign a peace agreement with the eastern leaders. But the Minsk agreement was seen as a political defeat and Poroshenko never implemented it. The war in the east simmered on ever since. The extreme right-wing politicians, who gained notoriety after the Maidan coup, prohibited the use of the Russian language which more than 50% of the Ukrainians speak. All opposition was harshly suppressed.

The oligarchs continue their plunder. Everything of value gets sold off to EU countries. The U.S. is allowed to build bases. Corruption, already endemic, further increased. The people came to despise Poroshenko.

In an attempt to regain support, Poroshenko launched a military provocation in the Kerch Strait which is under Russian control. The stunt was too obvious. Russia nabbed the sailors Poroshenko had send and confiscated their boats. No one came to Poroshenko's help.

One can watch the full story of the above in UKRAINE ON FIRE - The Real Story (vid), a just released 90 minutes long Oliver Stone documentary. An updated version of the documentary was supposed to run on the Ukraine TV station of pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk. The TV stations was forced to cancel it after right-wing groups mortared its its building in Kiev.

On March 31 new elections were held. Volodymyr Zelensky, a TV comedian who played a teacher who accidentally became president, won the first round. Zelensky is of Jewish heritage and from the east Ukraine. He speaks Russian, not Ukrainian.


Volodymyr Zelensky - bigger
The April run-off vote between Zelensky and Poroshenko was a disaster for the later. Zelensky received 73% of the votes. The only districts where Poroshenko won were in Galicia, where the descendants of the fascist who fought in World War II on the Nazi side still follow their forefathers ideology.

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Zelensky wants to end the war in the east. He plans to work for better relations with Russia. His main domestic promise is to end the corruption throughout the government. But the parliament, still under control of the Maidan fascists, opposed him. Zelensky relieved the parliament and called for early elections. They were held yesterday and the results are now in.

Zelensky's party, named after his former TV show 'The Servant of the People', put forward mostly fresh, untainted candidates. It won by a large margin. It will have more than 50% of the 450 parliament seats. The prominent fascists lost.


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The 2004 Orange Revolution was defeated by the 2009 election. The 2014 Maidan coup was defeated by the 2019 election. Evidently the revolution and coup plotters did not represent the people. But the Ukraine is still the Ukraine and unless someone defeats the oligarchs further intrigues are likely to happen.

Some allege that Zelensky is under influence of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. But so far there is little evidence to provide that.

The party which came in second is pro-Russian and won the majority vote in the east. It is controlled by Viktor Medvedchuk. Oliver Stone, in his recent interview with Vladimir Putin, discusses Medvedchuk's position on nationality with the Russian president. Putin rejects Medvedchuk claim that Russians in Ukraine belong to a Ukrainian nation. He sees all Russian people as part of one nationality.

Peter Porosheko and Yulia Tymoshenko lead the parties on the third and fourth place. They are themselves oligarchs. The populist Vakarchuk in the fifth place is backed by billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of ex-President Leonid Kuchma.

The Ukraine can not economically survive without good relations with Russia. The country depends to a large part on Russian energy sources but has no money to pay for them. When the new Nord Stream II pipeline between Russia and Germany comes online the current old pipeline through the Ukraine will no longer be needed. The Ukraine will have lost a pressure point that it often used to blackmail Russia for cheaper gas. Zelensky will have to make concessions to Russia, or the Ukraine will have to accept the full market price which it can not pay.

Zelensky will likely try to move the country back to a balanced positions between the 'west' and Russia. With the large mandate he got and a secure majority in parliament he should have all the necessary means to achieve that.

But the 'west' is unlikely to let him do that. The U.S. wants to designate the Ukraine as a "major non-NATO ally" and use it against Russia.

Shortly after Zelensky was elected as president, 'western' paid 'civil society' groups issued a joint statement threatening a "third Maidan":

As civil society activists, we present a list of “red lines not to be crossed”. Should the President cross these red lines, such actions will inevitably lead to political instability in our country and the deterioration of international relations:
...
Foreign Policy Issues:
  • delaying, sabotaging, or rejecting the strategic course for EU and NATO membership; reducing political dialogue and destroying bilateral institutional mechanisms for cooperation with European and Euro-Atlantic partners
  • initiating any actions that might contribute to the reduction or lifting of sanctions against the aggressor state by Ukraine’s international partners
  • attempting to review any actions aimed at supporting international solidarity for Ukraine, restoring our territorial integrity, guaranteeing security and protecting the rights of all persons that have suffered from Russian aggression
...
National Identity: Language, Education, Culture
  • attempting to review the language law
  • attempting to review the law on education
  • attempting to review the law on de-communization and condemnation of totalitarian crimes of the past
  • implementing any actions aimed at undermining or discrediting the Orthodox Church of Ukraine or supporting the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine
...

The statement is signed by dozens of Soros, Omidyar, CIA and NATO funded organizations.

Mark Ames @MarkAmesExiled - 17:05 UTC May 24, 2019

Sure enough one of the signatories is "NGO 'CentreUA'"—same NGO, funded by Omidyar, Soros, USAID, that organized Maidan revolution. That's like a gun pointed at Zelensky's head. Outrageous.

Zelensky was elected by 75% of Ukrainians. Who the fuck elected Pierre Omidyar, George Soros, USAID, National Endowment for Democracy — and their “civil society” satraps — to supersede Ukraine’s democracy?

These 'western' paid organizations support the fascists:

How can Ukraine prevent pro-Russian politics if voters prefer it? Another revolution, duh.

This movement is dubbed "The 25%," after their support for Poroshenko's failed reelection. Backers include allies from his party list: outgoing speaker of parliament Andriy Parubiy and state historian Volodymyr Vyatrovych — controversial nationalists who heroize figures implicated in the Holocaust as freedom fighters for independence from the Soviet Union. Parubiy takes credit for leading other Maidans. He and Vyatrovych are evangelists of "national liberation" and "national revolution" against Russian imperialism.

If there is a third Maidan, Ukraine's far right will lead it. Debunking Kremlin propaganda about Ukraine overrun by a fascist junta would grow even more difficult. It would also delight Moscow and further destabilize Kyiv – which is the opposite of what the West is supposed to be doing there.

One hopes that Zelensky is smart enough to foresee a "third Maidan". He should kick out all of them from the police and other forces. He should also raise the police pay. He will need their loyalty sooner than he might think.

Posted by b on July 22, 2019 at 18:37 UTC | Permalink | Comments (125)

July 21, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-41

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related: Boeing faces largest quarterly loss in its history after a $4.9 billion financial hit due to 737 MAX grounding

The total so far is about $8 billion. Each month of grounding will add another $1.6 billion.

The above take was correct: La Stampa, published on July 17 confirms it (machine translated):

The MATRA operation of the DIGOS in Turin, which in recent days has led to the discovery of a weapons depot belonging to a pro-Ukrainian neo-Nazi group from Turin, does not seem to be over. This morning, Wednesday 17 July, two LR-0 "Rockets" were seized for rocket launchers used to arm MB339 aircraft also supplied to the Italian Air Force.
...
The entire operation started following the activity of some Italian fighters with extremist ideologies, who took part in the armed conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Related:
How Trump’s arch-hawk lured Britain into a dangerous trap to punish Iran - Tisdall/Guardian
UK navy heard in audio trying to thwart Iran ship seizure - AP
Khamenei’s three commandments for the Iranians: the Middle East is heading towards “maximum danger" - E.J. Magnier

Iran's foreign minister:

Javad Zarif - @JZarif - 0:48 UTC Jul 20, 2019
Unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action in the Persian Gulf is to uphold int'l maritime rules.
As I said in NY, it is IRAN that guarantees the security of the Persian Gulf & the Strait of Hormuz.
UK must cease being an accessory to #EconomicTerrorism of the US.

---
Other issues:

U.S. policy failure in the Middle East:

The Wheels Are Coming Off - Gary Sick/Lobelog

A series of events, some of which got little attention in the media, suggest that the wheels may be coming off the Trump administration’s Middle East policy.
...
Yemen was supposed to yield to overwhelming power. Qatar was supposed to collapse under siege. Iran was supposed to fold when faced with maximum economic pressure. Even the presentation of the economic portion of the Deal of the Century in Bahrain failed to attract the level of investors that had been expected.

There are major shifts in the balance of power underway in the Persian Gulf. They are not what the Trump administration anticipated.

The delusion continues:

U.S. Plans for Post-Maduro Future With Team to Send to Venezuela - Bloomberg

How to defend against U.S. imperialism. Quite long, but an excellent analysis. Recommended:

Michael Hudson: U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses - Naked Capitalism

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 21, 2019 at 14:44 UTC | Permalink | Comments (326)

July 20, 2019

Putin Confirms: Sergei Skripal Wanted To Go Back To Russia

Filmmaker Oliver Stone recently interviewed the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. The transcript was published yesterday evening. Most of the interview is about Ukraine. A separate piece will cover that country. There is also a passage about the U.S. election.

But the most interesting bits from Putin are about the Skripal affair.

The British and Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia were impaired by some chemical substance in early March 2018 in Salisbury. Britain blamed the incident on Russia. CIA Director Gina Haspel, a former CIA station chief in London, used fake pictures of the incident to deceive Trump and to push him to kick out 60 Russian diplomats. (The NYT later ran cover for Haspel.)

We have speculated since the very beginning of the Skirpal case that the 'former' spy wanted to go back to Russia. Putin now confirms, to my knowledge for the first time, that this was the case (underline added):

Oliver Stone: What has happened to Skripal? Where is he?

Vladimir Putin: I have no idea. He is a spy, after all. He is always in hiding.

Oliver Stone: They say he was going to come back to Russia. He had some information.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I have been told that he wants to make a written request to come back.

Oliver Stone: He knew still and he wanted to come back. He had information that he could give to the world press here in Russia.

Vladimir Putin: I doubt it. He has broken the ranks already. What kind of information can he possess?

The information Sergei Skripal possessed might have been related to the U.S. election and the Steele dossier which alleged that Russia had dirt on Trump. On March 8 2018, only a few days after the Sergei and Julia Skripal were allegedly poisoned, we discussed the connection in our first post on the Skripal affair:

[Christopher] Steele was an MI6 undercover agent in Moscow around the time when Skripal was recruited and handed Russian secrets over to the MI6. He [later] ran the MI6 Russia desk so anything about Skripal will have passed through him. It is very likely that they personally knew each other. Pablo Miller, who worked for Steele's private company [Orbis], lived in the same town as Skripal and they seems to have been friends since Miller had recruited him. Miller or someone else attempted to cover up the connection to Steele by editing his LinkedIn entry.

Here are some question:

  • Did Skripal help Steele to make up the "dossier" about Trump?
  • Were Skripal's old connections used to contact other people in Russia to ask about Trump dirt?
  • Did Skripal threaten to talk about this?

If there is a connection between the dossier and Skripal, which seems very likely to me, then there are a number of people and organizations with potential motives to kill him. Lots of shady folks and officials on both sides of the Atlantic were involved in creating and running the anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign. There are several investigations and some very dirty laundry might one day come to light. Removing Skripal while putting the blame on Russia looks like a convenient way to get rid of a potential witness.

The British government issued a D-Notice which prohibited the British press from further mentioning Pablo Miller.

We also speculated that Skripal wanted to go back to Russia:

The most curious point in the affair though is the visit of the daughter. She had just come from Moscow to visit her lonely father when both were poisoned in a rather sensational way. There must be some reason why she was involved in this.

  • Did she have a bad message for him?
  • Did they both decide that suicide was the only way out?
  • Was locally bought Fentanyl involved as the local press had reported?

or

  • Was the lonely old man Sergej Skripal preparing to go back to his homeland Russia?
  • Did he offer a some kind of "gift" as apology to the Russian government that his trusted daughter would take to Moscow?
  • Did someone find out and stop the transfer?

The above questions are all highly speculative. But the connection between Steele and Skripal is way too deep to be irrelevant here. It certainly deserves more digging.

Putin now confirms that Skripal was indeed willing to come back to Russia. Oliver Stone thinks Skripal wanted to present something to the press. If Skripal had publicly said that he made up and wrote the Steele dossier, the anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign by the Clinton 'resistance' would have been over. The whole Mueller investigation nonsense would never have happened.

Pablo Miller, the British spy, also appeared in the papers of the shady Integrity Initiative:

There is additional suspicion that the Integrity Initiative, whose primary function is to stoke Russophobia, was one of the brains behind the Skripal incident.

The Initiative was also involved in the Steele dossier and the russophobic anti-Trump campaign. Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow, is employed by the Institute for Statecraft, the shadowy parent organization of the Integrity Initiative funded by the Ministry of Defense and Foreign Office. It was Andrew Wood who helped to disseminate the Steele dossier to U.S. Senator John McCain. McCain then gave the dossier to FBI Director James Comey. The FBI used the dossier first to get FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign, and, after Comey was fired, to launch a counter-intelligence investigation (section 3) against Trump himself.

Here is a theory how all this may come together. Back in 2015 the Institute of Statecraft and its russophobic director Colonel Donnelly discussed how to increase sanctions on Russia. In 2016 the Steele dossier was created in an attempt to connect Trump to Russia. Steele's colleague Pablo Miller and his spy Sergei Skripal were quite likely involved in creating the dossier. The dossier was disseminated with the help of Donnelly's Institute of Statecraft.

For some reason the Skripals had to be taken out. Sergei Skripal probably threatened to spill the beans about the dossier after it became public.  The highly scripted 'Novichok' incident in Salisbury was staged to remove Skripal and to smear Russia with an alleged murder attempt. Colonel McCourt, the trusted army nurse, was asked to help on the scene. After the Skripal incident, and with no evidence shown, Russia was blamed and massive sanctions followed. The Integrity Initiative, the propaganda arm of the Institute of Statecraft, analyzes the media results of the Skripal affair and continues to stoke the anti-Russia campaign.

It might be possible that Steele's 'dirty dossier', the Skripal case and the Integrity Initiative operation are unrelated. But that chance for that now tends towards zero.

The weak part of that theory was always that we did not know for sure if Sergei Skripal really wanted to go back to Russia. We now know that this was the case. Oliver Stone seems to know that Skripal wanted to go public about something. That makes the theory fit even better.

Putin does not believe that the Skripals were poisoned to kill them:

Oliver Stone: Who poisoned him? They say English secret services did not want Sergei Skripal to come back to Russia?

Vladimir Putin: To be honest, I do not quite believe this. I do not believe this is the case.

Oliver Stone: Makes sense. You do not agree with me?

Vladimir Putin: If they had wanted to poison him, they would have done so.

Oliver Stone: Ok, that makes sense. I don’t know. Who did then?

Vladimir Putin: After all, this is not a hard thing to do in today’s world. In fact, a fraction of a milligram would have been enough to do the job. And if they had him in their hands, there was nothing complicated about it. No, this does not make sense. Maybe they just wanted to provoke a scandal.

Oliver Stone: I think it is more complicated. You know, you think I am much too much of a conspiracy guy.

Vladimir Putin: I do not believe this.

Oliver Stone: I have seen things. I do.

Vladimir Putin: You should not.

When and where will the Oliver Stone documentary about the Skripal affair have its premiere?

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

Mar 8 2018 - Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
Mar 12 2018 - Theresa May's "45 Minutes" Moment
Mar 14 2018 - Are 'Novichok' Poisons Real? - May's Claims Fall Apart
Mar 16 2018 - The British Government's 'Novichok' Drama Was Written By Whom?
Mar 18 2018 - NHS Doctor: "No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury"
Mar 21 2018 - Russian Scientists Explain 'Novichok' - High Time For Britain To Come Clean (Updated)
Mar 29 2018 - Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection"
Mar 31 2018 - Hillary Clinton Ordered Diplomats To Suppress 'Novichok' Discussions
Apr 3 2018 - Operation Hades Blamed Russia - A Model For The 'Novichok' Claims?
Apr 4 2018 - It's The Cover-Up" - UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies
Apr 5 2018 - Novi-Fog™ In Fleet Street - Truth Cut Off
Apr 6 2018 - The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still ... Food Poisoning
Apr 7 2018 - A Very British Farce
Apr 12 2018 - New Developments In The Skripal Drama - Police Statement, OPCW Report Release
Apr 15 2018 - Were the Skripals 'Buzzed', 'Novi-shocked' Or Neither? - May Has Some 'Splaining' To Do
Apr 28 2018 - The Silence Of The Skripals - Government Blocks Press Reports - Media Change The Record
May 4 2018 - Media Use Disinformation To Accuse Russia Of Spreading Such
July 4 2018 - British Government Peddles Warmed Over Novichok Muck
Sep 5 2018 - The Strange Timestamp In The New Novichok 'Evidence' - UPDATED
Sep 16 2018 - The MoA Week In Review - Secret Bio-weapons - Skripals - OT 2018-47
Sep 27 2018 - British Intelligence Throws More Novi-Fog™ To Hide The Holes In Its Skripal File
Jan 9 2019 - Stuff To Read: Integrity Initiative, Skripal, Kaspersky ...
Jan 19 2019 - Coincidence? - Chief Nurse Of British Army Was First To Arrive At Novichoked Skripal Scene
Apr 16 2019 - CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump
Jun 6 2019 - Odd NYT 'Correction' Exculpates British Government And CIA From Manipulating Trump Over Skripal Novichok Incident

 

Posted by b on July 20, 2019 at 16:55 UTC | Permalink | Comments (181)

July 19, 2019

Britain Pirates Iranian Ship 'Grace 1' - Iran Responds - Takes British Tanker Hostage - (Updated 3x)

Updated 3 x  below

On July the Brits used their colonial outlet Gibraltar to steal the Iranian tanker 'Grace 1' and its load of 2 million barrel of oil. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps then threatened to take similar measures against British ships. Today Gibraltar announce that it will hold the 'Grace 1' for another month. We can guess that those plans will soon change.

It seems that today, at about 16:00 UTC, the IRGC got lucky.


via Marinetraffic - bigger

The British tanker 'Stena Impero' was on its way from Fujairah, UAE to Jubail in Saudi Arabia.

Reading the track below we can speculate what happened. Just when the ship had passed through the Straits of Hormuz from east to west it was approached by IRGC fast boots. The ship made a sharp turn south towards Oman but could not outrun the IRGC boots. It was boarded. It then slowed down, made a sharp 180 degree turn and sailed towards north. It is now in Iranian waters. The last Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal it emitted came in at about 17:30 UTC.


via Marinetraffic - bigger

The Stena Impero, IMO 9797400, is a British flagged oil products and chemical tanker. Build in 2018 it has a deadweight tonnage of 49,682 metric tons. The owner is Stena Bulk XIII Cyprus Limited, which is likely controlled by the Swedish company Stena Bulk AB in Goteborg, Sweden. The operator is Northern Marine Ltd in Glasgow, Scotland. The ship sails under the British flag.

The ships arrest today is another consequence of Trumps idiotic anti-Iran policies which the British minions seem to support. The U.S. tries to build some military escort service for ship in the Strait of Hormuz. But no other country wants to join:

The United States is struggling to win its allies’ support for an initiative to heighten surveillance of vital Middle East oil shipping lanes because of fears it will increase tension with Iran, six sources familiar with the matter said.
...
“The Americans want to create an ‘alliance of the willing’ who confront future attacks,” a Western diplomat said. “Nobody wants to be on that confrontational course and part of a U.S. push against Iran.
...
The British security source said it was not viable to escort every commercial vessel, a view shared by several other countries.
...
“It’s just impossible. The Strait is already too crowded,” an Asian official said of an escort system in the Strait of Hormuz which is 21 miles (33 km) wide at its narrowest point.

The dimwits in London who listened to John Bolton and ordered to pirate the Iranian ship are now in deep trouble. It was an utterly stupid move. There is little they can do now except to let the 'Grace 1' go. But who in Britain can now give the order? Theresa May is about gone and Boris Johnson is still busy collecting votes to become the next prime minister.

Added: The IRGC now confirmed that it took the ship:

The IRGC Navy announced in statement that British oil tanker “Stena Impero” has been captured on Friday evening because of violating the international maritime regulations when crossing the Strait of Hormuz.

The UK oil tanker has been seized by the IRGC Navy forces in the first naval zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran at the province of Hormozgan, a statement said.

The British vessel has been taken to the port and delivered to the Ports and Maritime Organization for the legal and judicial processes, it added.

Update 19:00 UTC

Another ship seems to have "violated international maritime regulations". The 'Mesdar', IMO 9452672, passed east to west through Iran's territorial waters north of Abu Musa island when it suddenly made a 90 degree turn and sailed north towards the Iranian coast.


via Marinetraffic - bigger

With 333 meter length and 60 meter breadth the Liberian flagged ship is a very large crude oil carrier. It has a deadweight tonnage of 315,802 tons. The ship came from Lanshan, China and was supposed to go to Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia. The last AIS signal from the ship was received at 17:30 UTC. The manager/operator and owner(?) of the Mesdar is Norbulk Shipping Ltd in Glasgow, Scotland.

Update 20:15 UTC

The IRGC let the 'Mesdar' go after reminding her of the relevant rules. The ship has turned southwest to continue its planned voyage.

Update July 20 - 15:30 UTC

Iran now says that 'Stena Impero' was accompanied by a British military ship. The IRGC forces boarded the tanker by roping from a helicopter. There is video from inside the helicopter and of the boarding scene as observed from other boats. The capture was too fast for the British military ship to react.

When the British military pirated the 'Grace 1' it also used a helicopter to bring its Marine commandos on board. Iran now demonstrated that it can act on the same operational level.

Posted by b on July 19, 2019 at 18:08 UTC | Permalink | Comments (210)

July 18, 2019

Open Thread 2019-40

News & views ...

Posted by b on July 18, 2019 at 16:43 UTC | Permalink | Comments (199)

July 17, 2019

A US Led Naval Coalition In The Persian Gulf Will Raise The Threat Of War

by Seyed Mohammad Marandi

While Bolton and Pompeo push the region towards maximum tension and Trump makes despicable threats to obliterate Iran, the US military has announced its intention to create and lead an anti-Iranian naval coalition in the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, by Trump's own admission, the United States is engaged in economic war against Iranians, as its armed forces have aggressively violated Iranian airspace and territorial waters, resulting in the humiliating downing of its most sophisticated drone by an Iranian surface to air missile.

A few naval ships from far off nations will not change the balance of power, but they will increase confusion and the chances for major regional conflict. Iranians will also view such an entity as an extension of a belligerent American naval presence.

Since the illegal and tragic US occupation of Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been constructing a vast network of underground missile defense facilities alongside the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Gulf of Oman in anticipation of possible US attacks. Iran and its powerful allies have also developed formidable asymmetrical capabilities across the region. It has both the will and means to decisively engage with a belligerent power.

In order to prevent any appetite for all-out war, Iran will respond to a limited military strike with a massive and disproportionate counterstrike targeting both the aggressor and its enablers. Regional regimes such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia that facilitate aggression in any way or form should expect the swift destruction of their oil assets and critical infrastructure. On the other hand, all-out war would mean the obliteration of all oil and gas installations as well as ships on both sides of the Strait of Hormuz. Under such circumstances, the closure of the Strait would be the least of Bolton's problems.

The Emirati and Saudi regimes would most probably swiftly collapse. Millions of indentured servants would overrun Abu Dhabi and Dubai while Yemeni forces and their regional allies would overwhelm Saudi Arabia as western occupation forces would be expelled from the region. Millions of people would stream towards Europe, even as the EU and the rest of the world would be facing an economic catastrophe.

Iran does not welcome confrontation nor does it desire war and its massive and extensive military deterrence is designed to prevent such circumstances. Instead of pushing the world closer to tragedy, potential US partners should push the US back to the nuclear deal and the negotiating table.

Seyed Mohammad Marandi is professor of English Literature and Orientalism at the University of Tehran.

Posted by b on July 17, 2019 at 9:49 UTC | Permalink | Comments (178)

July 16, 2019

How The News About Italian Far-Right Fighters In Ukraine Got Confused

Fast pacing news can be confusing. Reports appear which contradict each other. They miss some significant details. News that was fake news can suddenly becomes right. Correct versions of the news can become fake news.

Here is a live case that shows how and why this can happen.

Yesterday the Italian state police arrested a number of neo-nazis who had fought against the Russian supported separatists in Ukraine. The police found their large weapon cache. The arrest became international news because the haul included a complete French air-to-air missile that was originally delivered to Qatar. (It was likely sent from Qatar to Libya, in support of the Muslim Brotherhood side of the conflict there, and then sold off to some Italian smugglers.)

Mark Ames noted that the reporting about the case seemed to contradict the Italian police statement:

Mark Ames @MarkAmesExiled - 20:34 UTC - 15 Jul 2019

Official Italian police statement says the Nazis with the missiles fought "against [pro-Russian] separatists". But BBC says the Italian Nazis fought *for* Russian-backed separatists. Someone's dezinformatsiya-ing 🤔 https://www.poliziadistato.it/articolo/225d2c47fb2c9ef299497390 …

Ames added screenshots of several retweets of the BBC report and of the original police statement. They support his assertion.


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The BBC report as well as the police statement have since changed. Fortunately both were saved multiple times at Archive.org.

The original BBC report, archived on July 15 at 15:04 UTC, read (emphasis added):

Anti-terrorism police in northern Italy have seized an air-to-air missile and other sophisticated weapons during raids on far-right extremist groups.

Three people were arrested - two of them near Forli airport. Neo-Nazi propaganda was also seized, in raids in several cities.

Italian media say the raids were part of an investigation into Italian far-right help for Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.
...
Italian media named those arrested as Fabio Del Bergiolo, 50, an Italian ex-customs officer and far-right Forza Nuova party activist; Alessandro Monti, 42, a Swiss national; and Fabio Bernardi, 51, also Italian.

On 3 July a court in Genoa jailed three men who were found guilty of fighting alongside the Russian-backed separatists who control a large swathe of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The second paragraph of the original Italian police statement, first archived on July 15 at 14:06 UTC, said (emphasis added):

Le indagini erano iniziate circa un anno fa quando la questura di Torino, coordinata dalla Direzione centrale della Polizia di prevenzione, aveva monitorato alcune persone legate a movimenti politici dell’ultra destra e che avevano combattuto nella regione ucraina del Donbass contro gli indipendentisti.

Translated (emphasis added):

The investigations had begun about a year ago when the police headquarters in Turin, coordinated by the Central Directorate of Prevention Police, had monitored some people linked to political movements of the ultra-right and who had fought in the Ukrainian region of Donbass against the separatists.

Several people had the impression that the BBC report claimed that yesterday's arrest was of people who had fought on the separatist side.

Caroline Orr @RVAwonk - 19:43 UTC - 15 Jul 2019

Holy crap. Police in Italy seized a "combat ready" Qatari air-to-air missile, automatic weapons, and Nazi propaganda from an Italian neo-Nazi group linked to Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine
Italy seizes 'combat-ready' missile in raids on far right

The BBC report insinuated that the newly arrested neo-nazis fought on the separatist side, but it did not actually say that. It only claimed that the arrest came in the context of an investigation into some far-right support for Russian supported separatists.

The BBC writers may have been confused. It was the British news agency Reuters which first insinuated that the arrested neo-nazis had fought on the separatist side. It also truncated the police statement. The Reuters report, published by the New York Times on July 15, said (emphasis added):

Elite police forces searched properties across northern Italy following an investigation into Italians who had fought alongside Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, a police statement said.

Three men were arrested, including a customs officer who had previously stood for Parliament for an extreme right party, the neo-fascist Forza Nuova.
...
The investigation “came into being because of the activities of some Italian fighters with extremist backgrounds who had taken part in the armed conflict in the Ukrainian region of Donbass,” the police statement said.

The last paragraph is where Reuters leaves out the "against the separatists" addition from the written police statement. The Reuters correspondent was probably himself confused as the facts seemed to contradict themselves.

There is indeed an Italian investigation into right-wing Italians who fought on the separatist side. On August 6 2018 the Washington Post reported:

In Italy, it has long been an open secret that far-right activists were fighting in Donbass, the eastern Ukrainian region where pro-Russian separatists — with Russian government assistance — have been fighting the Ukrainian government since 2014. Italian authorities, however, didn’t seem interested in stopping them.

That suddenly changed last week, when prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Genoa ordered the arrest of six men accused of joining pro-Russian militias in Donbass and recruiting others to their cause.
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One of the fugitives is Andrea Palmeri, a former leader of the far-right hooligan group Bulldog Lucca who had previously appeared on national TV boasting about fighting in Ukraine. Another one is Gabriele Carugati, the son of a politician from the far-right League party — the League is one of Italy’s two current governing parties — who had publicly praised her son’s choice to fight in Ukraine.

The confusion can be explained. There are several right-wing parties in Italy. The Lega Nord is a nationalist/populist party. It is currently led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini. The Lega Nord is pro-Russian. It has a cooperation agreement with United Russia, the major Russian party that supports President Putin. There are allegations that it sought Russian money. It is thereby not astonishing that people associated with Lega Nord would fight on the side of the Russian supported separatist in the Donbass region.

The people arrested yesterday are associated with the Forza Nuova party which is much smaller than the Lega Nord and outright fascist:

Forza Nuova leader Roberto Fiore was once closely allied with the Ukrainian far-right Svoboda party, but following the beginning of the War in Donbass, Forza Nuova and Fiore "made a considerable shift to the pro-Russian camp."

One of the men arrested yesterday once was a candidate for Forza Nuova. It is not astonishing to learn that he fought on the side of Ukrainian fascists against the Donbass separatists.

Mainstream media like to put all right-wing parties into the same 'far-right' basket. But there is much more nuance on the far-right than most people assume. The nationalist right-wingers are often isolationists, while the fascist right is often internationalist. This is a bit like the conflict between Stalin and Trotsky in the last century. Both were 'communists' but:

After Lenin’s death, one of the leading questions in Russia was the question of internationalism – should they follow the ‘international revolution’ policy or the ‘socialism in one country’ policy? Trotsky sided with the former position, while Stalin sided with the latter.

The Italian police initially investigated right-wing people who had fought in the Ukraine on the side of the separatists. But yesterday's nab caught some that had fought on the other side.

The BBC has now corrected its report. The version archived at July 16 10:50 UTC change the third paragraph and added the relevant sentence from the original police statement:

The raids were part of an investigation into Italian far-right involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Turin police said.
...
A police statement said the arrests were part of an investigation, started about a year ago, into far-right groups "who have fought in Ukraine's Donbass region against the separatists".

The date of the BBC report is still July 15 and there is no editorial hint that it was changed.

If the above is not confusing enough try this.

About the same time the BBC corrected its report the Italian state police changed theirs. The new version was archived on July 16 at 10:32 UTC. The second paragraph now reads:

Le indagini erano iniziate circa un anno fa quando la questura di Torino, coordinata dalla Direzione centrale della Polizia di prevenzione, aveva monitorato alcuni combattenti italiani con ideologie oltranziste responsabili in passato di aver preso parte al conflitto armato nella regione ucraina del Donbass.

The last three words of the original paragraph, "contro gli indipendentisti" = "against the separatists", have been deleted. It is now the more generic "who had fought in the Ukrainian region of Donbass".  At the end of the page it says: "15/07/2019 (modificato il 16/07/2019)". (screenshot)

The corrected BBC piece has now become false. It claims that the police statement linked in it says "who have fought in Ukraine's Donbass region against the separatists". But the linked police statement no longer says that. The corrected BBC piece is suddenly fake news.

What can we learn from this fiasco?

The first lesson is to never trust the news. Does it make sense? Would outright fascist really fight on the side of the Donbass separatists against the Ukrainian Azov fascists who follow the same ideology? If in doubt one has to verify the news, as Mark Ames did, by looking at the original statements and sources. 

The second lesson is to not blame the poor writers. If there are contradictions in the news it is probably because its authors lacked the full understanding of the situation. The news writers do not have the time to deeply research all issues. Their sources can be wrong. Especially initial wire reports are often incomplete or misleading. An editor may have interferred for political reasons.

The last lesson is that news can never replace the need for independent knowledge. It cost some time to gain that, but it is worth the effort.

Posted by b on July 16, 2019 at 17:04 UTC | Permalink | Comments (80)

July 15, 2019

The New Delay Of Boeing's 737 MAX Return Will Not Be The Last One

The fall out from the unprecedented grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX planes keeps growing. The return of the planes to the sky will need to be delayed again and again.

The Wall Street Journal writes (also here) that the MAX is unlikely to be back in the air by the end of this year:

Fixing the Boeing Co. 737 MAX's hazardous flight-control software and completing other steps to start carrying passengers is likely to stretch into 2020, an increasing number of government and industry officials say, even as the company strives to get its jet back into service still this year.

This confirms our previous reports which showed that several of the issues the regulators marked will require extensive fixes.

The issues the WSJ names as problematic are exactly the ones we highlighted:

in March, just as Boeing was slated to submit a long-awaited proposal with the goal of jump-starting the process, new questions arose about related software systems and emergency checklists, requiring weeks of additional intense evaluation.

The topics included concerns about whether the average pilot has enough physical strength to manually crank a flight-control wheel in extreme emergencies.

In late June, Boeing and the FAA disclosed still another flight-control problem on the MAX, involving failure of a microprocessor that meant test pilots couldn't counteract a potential misfire of MCAS as quickly as required.

Moon of Alabama earlier detailed the trim wheel problem and pointed out that it also effects the older 737 NG:

But the problems described above are 737 NG problems. The 380 or so existing 737 MAX are currently grounded. But some 7,000 737 NG fly about every day. The record provides that it is a relatively safe airplane. But a runaway stabilizer is a well known electrical malfunction that could by chance happen on any of those flights.

The changes from the 737 Classic to the 737 NG make it more difficult, if not impossible, for the pilots to recover from such a situation:

  • The smaller manual trim wheels on the 737 NG make it more difficult to trim a runaway stabilizer back into a regular position.
  • The larger stabilizer surface makes it more difficult to counter a runaway stabilizer by using the elevator which was kept at the same size.
  • 737 NG pilots no longer learn the rollercoaster maneuver that is now the only way to recover from a severe mistrim.

Simulator sessions demonstrate (video) that a runaway stabilizer incident on a 737 NG can no longer be overcome by the procedures that current Boeing manuals describe.

It is pure luck that no NG crash has yet been caused by a runaway stabilizer incident. It is quite astonishing that these issues only now become evident. The 737 NG was certified by the FAA in 1997. Why is the FAA only now looking into this?

The trim wheel problem can only be fixed by significant hardware changes.

The microprocessors in the 737 Flight Control Computers (FCC) apparently can become too busy to allow the pilot to execute some emergency procedures. The WSJ says that this problem also effects the older types of the plane:

Since the 737 MAX and its earlier version, called the 737 NG, share the same flight-control computer, fixes related to the microprocessor also apply to NG models, thousands of which remain in service around the world. Boeing also faces the task of convincing the FAA that a software fix, instead of physically replacing the suspect electronic component on all MAX planes, will suffice.

It is not clear to me that the WSJ has that right. The 737 MAX needs more computing power than the 737 NG because it has several additional features, not only the failed Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), but also a new fly-by-wire system that controls the spoilers, surfaces on the wings that can be used as speed brakes.


Deployed spoiler/speed brakes - bigger

There are several new automatism involved in the new spoiler control and they very likely cause some additional load on the FCC. While the trim wheel problem definitely also affects the NG, the computer load problem is therefore likely only a MAX issue. It is still a serious one as it may mean that the MAX needs new flight computers. As we wrote:

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.

It is therefor not astonishing that the 57 year old head of Boeing's 737 MAX program is leaving the company after only one year in his position. While Boeing claims the reason is a regular retirement, one doubts that this is really the case. The new MAX program manager previously led the group that develops Boeing's new midsize airplane (NMA). The official announcement of that plane is already delayed. It may become a casualty of the MAX problems and the very significant costs they cause.

The MAX grounding is effecting all airlines. Delta Airline, which flies Airbus 320s as its single aisle plane, reported a record quarter, while Boeing-only customers like Iceland Air run into serious problems.

American Airlines and United Airlines just extended their MAX cancellations to November. That is likely not enough.

It may be that the MAX can be back in the air by January, it may delayed until March or even May. But we still don't know the year.

The Saudi budget carrier Flyadeal canceled its order for 50 737 MAX and is now buying Airbus 320s. Others will follow that move.

To keep their fleets busy airlines employ typically some 12 to 18 pilots per airplane. With dozens of their planes grounded those airlines are now overstaffed while making less than the anticipated revenue:

Now, carriers are nervously eyeing the holiday season, when they will face a crush of travelers whose Thanksgiving and Christmas travel plans leave little wiggle room. United was supposed to have 30 MAXes in the coming months, up from 14. As a result it is cutting 2,900 flights in October -- more than twice the number it has had to cull in July. American Airlines had 24 MAXes in its fleet at the time of the grounding -- less than 3% of its total. But it was supposed to have 40 by the end of the year.

At Southwest Airlines Co., Alan Kasher, vice president of flight operations, said in a message to employees Friday that the airline is "overstaffed," with more pilots than it needs to operate a shrunken schedule stemming from the grounding of its 34 MAX jets. Some Southwest pilots have complained of lost earnings from fewer flying opportunities.

It is one reason why 400 pilots sue Boeing. This comes on top of dozens of other lawsuits the company has to cope with.

Boeing is still producing 42 MAXes per month. It will likely have to decrease that rate. Even if the plane is allowed back into the air it may take up to year before all the new build ones will fly. The customers will have difficulties to absorb the new planes:

Europe’s largest budget carrier needs up to eight months to take delivery of some 50 newly built planes left at the factory by the grounding crisis, so it may have to trim its capacity growth plans for summer 2020 if 737 MAX flights have not resumed by November, Chief Executive Michael O’Leary told Reuters.
...
Ryanair can take delivery of no more than six to eight planes a month because of the complexity of the delivery process and the availability of trained MAX pilots.

Ryanair also fears that customers will not want to fly on the MAX. It changed the visible designation of its new planes from its marketing name '737 MAX' into its technical moniker '737-8200'.


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The 737 MAX delays puts Boeing under extreme pressure. This can be seen in the alarming tone in which its major lobbyist, Loren Thompson, argues for the company:

737 MAX isn’t just one of the jetliners in Boeing’s commercial product mix, it is the pivotal offering of the entire enterprise. Over 80% of the company’s order backlog is commercial airplanes, and four out of five of those commercial planes are 737s. The company’s latest 20-year forecast of demand for jetliners projects that 74% of the 44,000 commercial transports ordered worldwide over the next 20 years will be single-aisle aircraft, and 737 is the only single-aisle jetliner Boeing makes.
...
What is largely missing from coverage of the MAX crisis, though, is an explanation of how important Boeing’s sole single-aisle offering is to the company’s fortunes, to the nation’s trade balance, and to the fate of local economies in the U.S. Boeing manufactures all of its products in the U.S., so if it were to falter, the economic fallout would be extensive.

Thompson calls on 'lawmakers' to 'emphasize constructive solutions' for Boeing's situation.

A constructive solution would be to fix the current airplane and to also create a new one. But that is likely not what Thompson has in mind. Congress pressure on the FAA and large subsidies for Boeing is what he is really aiming at. Congress should refrain from either.

That Boeing shareholders demanded larger profits was a main reason why the company created a 737 MAX kludge from the already old 737 NG. It should have build a clean sheet airplane as it originally planned to do. The shareholders made a lot of money when Boeing spent some $48 billion on share buy backs. It is only just that they now bleed to fix the issues their greed originally caused.

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Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 issues:

Posted by b on July 15, 2019 at 19:26 UTC | Permalink | Comments (104)

July 14, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-39

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related: US-Iran escalation: It’s message-sending, but the risks are high - CS Monitor

“Iran’s strategy has shifted from strategic patience to escalation-for-escalation,” says Hassan Ahmadian, a political scientist at Tehran University and research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

“That’s because Iran cannot afford, I think, to live in a situation of strategic stalemate, so it has to change the situation, it has to create a way out of a stalemate that the Trump administration is trying to box Iran in,” says Mr. Ahmadian.

The Iranian aim, he says, is to impress a “realization of danger” upon the White House in a way that leads to “de-escalation at the end of the day.”

Related: Global Power Shifts Sparked in Syrian Hornets’ Nest - Lobe log / Helena Cobban

A look at Turkish media shows that Erdogan's S-400 purchase has support from all political parties except the Kurdish aligned HDP. The Turkish cooperation with Russia will not end if/when Erdogan loses power. Some U.S. experts begin to understand that:

Why Turkey Turned Its Back on the United States and Embraced Russia - Foreign Affairs

[S]ince the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which paved the way for a more assertive Kurdish regional government, Turkey has viewed the United States as a destabilizing force in the Middle East. U.S. support for Kurdish militias in Syria has cemented that view in Ankara, driving Turkey into Russia’s arms and raising questions about the country’s commitment to NATO.

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Other issues:

Form a portrait of Seymour Hersh in the German weekly Die Zeit (my translation):

The whole story of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is "crazy," he says. Hillary Clinton had done everything wrong as a candidate, had led the Democratic Party into misfortune. There was no need for anything Russian. "Where is the evidence? There is none."

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 14, 2019 at 13:16 UTC | Permalink | Comments (189)

July 13, 2019

A Plausible Theory Of What Jeffrey Epstein Was Actually Doing

The first Jeffrey Epstein thread has grown a bit long. Here is a follow up.

For an introduction to the Epstein case please read this.

A question that no one could so far answer is how Epstein got as rich as he appears to be. A person who calls himself Quantian has an interesting theory of what Epstein was actually doing.

Here is the short version:

Epstein offered the post puberty teenyboppers he seduced and/or bribed to the rich people he knew. He invited lots of interesting people - artists, scientists, politicians, rich businessman - to his exclusive parties. There were always these young girls around. There was always a free bedroom. There were also cameras in place. When one of the rich guys messed with a girl Epstein would blackmail him.

But instead of taking cash he asked them for investments in his offshore hedge fund. For someone who owns billions it is peanuts to put a few dozen millions into a fund. It is legal. The money isn't gone. It will even bear interests.

Epstein is not known for having done much currency trades or other larger Wall Street transactions. His company is small, he didn't work a lot. It is likely he mostly re-invested the money in a simple index stock fund which follows the S&P 500. Those type of funds brought over the years quite a good profit.

Epstein would have taken the typical hedge fund fee of 2/20 which is 2% of the investment per year plus 20% of the profits. The hedge fund would be completely legal and there would be no tax troubles. The entrapped people would simply have to stay invested to keep Epstein quiet and the video tapes off the broadsheet market. Some billionaires might have invested upfront to gain access to the girls.

For Epstein the scheme would have been a very elegant way to pursue his personal 'hobby' while creating an ever growing income.

Quantian's theory sounds very plausible to me. It conforms with everything that is publicly known about Epstein and about what he was doing. It does not require any additional conspiracy theory about Mossad/Mafia/CIA involvement. But it also doesn't exclude that there is some.

Posted by b on July 13, 2019 at 17:30 UTC | Permalink | Comments (406)

July 12, 2019

Turkey Announces The Targets Of Its New Air Defense System

Today first parts of the Russian S-400 air defense systems arrived in Turkey. The Russian Ministry of Defense posted a video of the arrival on Facebook. The Turkish Ministry of Defense video showed the unloading of six support vehicles belong to a S-400 set. A complete S-400 set consists of two radars, a command post, eight launch vehicles with four missiles each, and various loader and other support vehicles. Turkey has ordered two complete sets for which it will pay about $2.5 billion.

The U.S. is threatening economic sanctions against Turkey for ordering and receiving the system. It will also kick Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program. Turkey was one of the main partners for the F-35 program. It was supposed to receive 100 of the planes and it manufactures parts of the system. Turkey will not receive the ordered planes and those parts will now be made by a U.S. company.

The S-400 system Turkey receives is an export version. It will at first use the 48N6E missiles which have a reach of 250 kilometer. The systems Russia uses include the 40N6E missiles with a reach of 400 kilometers. It will take several months until the first system set in Turkey is complete and operational. So far only 20 Turkish soldiers have been trained on it. 80 more soldiers will arrive in Russia around the end of July to receive their training.

NATO is not amused about the Turkish acquisition:

A NATO official told CNN on Friday that: "It is up to allies to decide what military equipment they buy. However, we are concerned about the potential consequences of Turkey's decision to acquire the S-400 system."

The official added that, "interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions."

The S-400 in Turkey is not supposed to be interoperable with NATO. The most likely initial deployment area for the new system will be around Ankara to protect the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan from potential U.S. or Israeli attacks.

The government controlled Turkish news agency Anadolu made it abundantly clear what the system is supposed to target. When it announced the news of the arrival it attached the picture below to its tweet:

ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) @anadoluagency - 12:05 UTC - 12 Jul 2019

#Turkey: Russian #S400 hardware deployment starts http://v.aa.com.tr/1529747


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The upper part fo the graphic explains the S-400 system. The lower part says: "The system can eliminate" and then shows the silhouettes and names of U.S. military bomber, fighter and radar planes as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles. The only one missing is the 'invisible' F-35 which the S-400 can of course also detect and eliminate.

The second S-400 set will likely be stationed on Turkey's southern coast from where it can cover Cyprus and protect Turkish oil interests in the eastern Mediterranean sea. Turkey recently started drilling around Cyprus. North Cyprus is occupied by Turkey since 1974. But its claims for exploration rights extend even to the south of the island and recently started drilling there.


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The European Union, which does not recognize Turkey's occupation of north Cyprus, signaled that it will sanction Turkey over it.

Turkey's relation with the U.S., NATO and the EU are likely to get worse. Russia's slow but steady strategy to draw Turkey to its side is progressing very well. With the F-35 purchase canceled Turkey will have to look to Russia for acquiring modern fighter planes. An order will depend on the manufacturing share Russia is willing to hand over to Turkey.

The Turkish economy is not well. Its aggressions in Syria and Libya proved to be costly. President Erdogan recently fired the chief of the Turkish central bank who was not willing to lower the interest rate. Erdogan believes that high interest rates cause high inflation while 99% of all economists believe that higher interest rates are the best way to fight inflation. Many Turkish companies and private households took out loans that are denominated in Euro or U.S. Dollar. If the central bank lowers the interest rate the Turkish Lira will sink and repaying the loans will become more expensive. New U.S. and EU sanctions will make these problems worse.

Erdogan may soon have an air defense system that can protect Turkey's capital. But the move will cost the country, and Erdogan, in many other fields. Russia is the country that wins from Turkey's problems. One hopes that it will use the leverage it gains over Turkey to remove the Turkish invasions from Syria.

Posted by b on July 12, 2019 at 16:27 UTC | Permalink | Comments (138)

July 11, 2019

Iran Keeps Calm While U.S. And Britain Continue Their Provocations

Great Britain has joined the U.S. pressure and provocation campaign against Iran. It is creating incidents to put Iran into a defensive position and to provoke into a violent reaction.

Early today 'two U.S. officials' spread a scare story about Iran which lead to this CNN headline: Iranian boats attempted to seize a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz

Armed Iranian boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday, according to two US officials with direct knowledge of the incident.

The British Heritage tanker was sailing out of the Persian Gulf and was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by boats from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, according to the officials.

The same 'two U.S. officials' briefed ABCNews:

A British warship prevented an apparent attempt by five Iranian small boats to direct a British oil tanker towards Iranian waters on Wednesday, according to two U.S. officials.

Remarkably the official British report came later than the U.S. officials briefing. It showed significant differences:

The UK defence ministry said that "three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz."

"HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away," the ministry statement said.
...
"There has been no confrontation in the last 24 hours with any foreign vessels, including British ones," the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement.

The U.S. officials claimed 5, not 3 boats. They claimed the boats tried to seize the ship, while the Brits just say they probably were getting in the way of the ship. The U.S. officials 'direct knowledge of the incident' seems to be lacking. Iran says that nothing happened at all.

There are reasons to believe that the Iranian statement is the most truthful one.

The BRITISH HERITAGE is a crude oil carrier with an overall length of 274 m, a beam of 49 m and a maximum draft of 17.8 m. How three of the typical 20 feet long fiberglass speedboats of the IRGC could try to 'seize' or even 'impede' such a huge ships is not conceivable.

According to CNN the ship came from Basra, Iraq, had stopped at the Saudi coast and then left the Persian Gulf. It was not carrying any cargo at the time of the incident. That is quite curious as a crude oil carrier is typical loading and not delivering crude to Persian Gulf countries.

Here is a Marine Traffic chart of the last course of the British Heritage.


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Of interest is also that the ship turned off its AIS signal, see the dotted line, during its passage through the Hormuz Strait.

CNN also noted that:

On July 10, the ship turned off its transponders for almost 24 hours, making it undetectable by radars. When it switched on its transponders at around 1pm Eastern Time, it appeared to have sailed through the Persian Gulf escorted by the HMS Montrose.

Turning of the AIS in a high traffic area and especially at night is quite dangerous. The AIS signals a ships type, speed and course and other ships use that data to plan their own course. But even without AIS the ship will still be visible on the Iranian surveillance radars that control the Hormuz Strait. A ship on the radar screen without AIS information would be suspicious.

So why would the British ship do that? Was that an attempt to draw special attention to it from the Iranian coast guard or military?

To me it seems that the empty British crude carrier, which was shadowed by a British frigate, was used as bait. There were probably Royal Marines on board waiting for an Iranian attempt to seize the ship. Iran did not fall for it.

On July 4 the British military in Gibraltar hijacked the tanker GRACE 1 which was carrying Iranian crude oil allegedly to Syria. The ship had planned to receive provisions in Gibraltar. The British controlled enclave changed its local regulations only a day before the ship arrived:

The new regulation, introduced on July 3, allows Gibraltar to designate and detain ‘specified ships’ for up to 72 hours if the chief minister has reasonable grounds to suspect a breach of EU regulations.

Crucially, Grace 1 can be held until any other legal proceedings in other jurisdictions against the owners of the cargo or tanker are settled. The seizure has triggered a diplomatic row between the UK and Iran, amid claims the detention was done at the behest of the US.

Tomasz Wlostowski, a lawyer specialized in EU regulatory affairs, found that there is no legal base in EU sanctions law and regulations to nab the tanker.

Today the police of Gibraltar arrested the captain of the ship:

Gibraltar Chronicle @GibChronicle - 14:45 UTC - 11 Jul 2019

Police in #Gibraltar have arrested the captain and chief officer of the supertanker Grace 1 on suspicion of breaching EU sanctions on Syria, a spokesman for the Royal Gibraltar Police has confirmed.

The spokesman confirmed too that documents and electronic devices have been seized from the ship.

Both men were arrested on Thursday afternoon interviewed under caution. Neither has been charged at this stage and investigations continue.

On July 3 a U.S. military spy plane crossed into Iranian airspace, twice, likely to provoke an reaction. The pirating of the GRACE 1 on July 4 was a U.S. planned provocation of Iran but carried out by the Brits. The passage of the empty BRITISH HERITAGE without AIS but with a military shadow seems to have been an attempt to lure Iran into a revenge action. When that did not work John Bolton strew the scare story about a failed attempt to 'seize' the ship. The Brits say the incident was less serious, and Iran says it never happened. The arrest of the captain of the GRACE 1 is another step on the provocation ladder.

The people who planned these provocation do not understand how Iran acts and reacts. Its military forces are obviously under orders not to react to provocations as such could allow the John Bolton's of this world to escalate towards a war.

Iran will react to these provocations and especially the British seizure of its tanker. But, as we noted in an earlier piece, its responses to such incidents are nearly always asymmetrical and come at an unexpected place and time.

Posted by b on July 11, 2019 at 17:39 UTC | Permalink | Comments (137)