Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 10, 2019

Room To Discuss The Epstein Case

It seems necessary to give some room to the discussion of the Epstein case. Vicky Ward, who wrote a 2002 portrait of Epstein for Vanity Fair, has a short recap of the case at the Daily Beast: Jeffrey Epstein’s Sick Story Played Out for Years in Plain Sight.

This bit from it is quite interesting:

Epstein’s name, I was told, had been raised by the Trump transition team when Alexander Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in Miami who’d infamously cut Epstein a non-prosecution plea deal back in 2007, was being interviewed for the job of labor secretary. The plea deal put a hard stop to a separate federal investigation of alleged sex crimes with minors and trafficking.

“Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” Acosta had been asked. Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta. (The Labor Department had no comment when asked about this.)

'Belongs to intelligence' makes a lot of sense. The question is to which one. A lot of people will says "Mossad" but I don't believe that to be the (full) truth. 

Posted by b on July 10, 2019 at 18:10 UTC | Permalink | Comments (317)

July 09, 2019

Isikoff, Who First Peddled The Fake Steele Dossier, Invents New 'Russian Influence' Story

Michael Isikoff was the first reporter who peddled the fake Steele dossier about alleged Russian influence over Donald Trump. He later admitted that the claims therein were 'likely false'. Today Isikoff came up with a new fake story about 'Russian influence'.

Isikoff claims that the conspiracy theory, that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer, was killed because he stole the DNC emails which Wikileaks later published, was planted by Russia's foreign intelligence service.

Exclusive: The true origins of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

WASHINGTON — In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump’s White House, a Yahoo News investigation has found.

Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.

Isikoff points to the whacky website WhatDoesItMean.com. On July 13 2016 it published this:

A somber Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) report circulating in the Kremlin today says that a top American Democratic Party staffer preparing to testify against Hillary Clinton was assassinated this past Sunday during a secret meeting in Washington D.C. he believed he was having with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, but who turned out, instead, to be a “hit team”—and who, in turn, were captured yesterday after a running gun battle with US federal police forces just blocks from the White House.

According to this report, SVR “electronic specialists” performing counter intelligence “missions/operations” noted on 7 July an “enormous/gigantic” increase of computer and telephonic traffic between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington D.C. and the Clinton Foundation (CF) offices in New York City.

That report, says Isikoff, was planted by the SVR and was the first to make the connection between the murder of Seth Rich and his work at the Democrat National Councils (DNC).

Isikoff also quotes Deborah Sines, "the former assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Rich case until her retirement last year":

In her efforts to better understand where the conspiracy theories were coming from, Sines used her security clearance to access copies of two SVR intelligence reports about Seth Rich that had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials. She later wrote a memo documenting the Russian role in fomenting the conspiracy theories that she sent to the Justice Department’s national security division, and personally briefed special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors on her findings.

It is doubtful that Mrs. Sines security clearance allows her to publicize what SVR intelligence reports, or phony SVR bulletins, U.S. intelligence services intercept and read.

The claim that 'Russia' started the Seth Rich conspiracy story via that whacky website can be easily debunked. That websites version, that Seth Rich was supposed to meat FBI agents, never gained credence. It was also not the first, as Isikoff claims.

Washington Post reporter Philip Bump finds that at least six U.S. persons publicly made claims that connected the Seth Rich murder to Hillary Clinton before the whacky website published its version. That is not astonishing at all. The idea of a 'Clinton body count' has been around for decades.

Isikoff also claims that 'Russian trolls' pushed the story:

At the same time, online trolls working in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) — the same shadowy outfit that conducted the Russian social media operation during the 2016 election — aggressively boosted the conspiracy theories. IRA-created fake accounts, masquerading as those of American citizens or political groups, tweeted and retweeted more than 2,000 times about Rich, helping to keep the bogus claims about his death in the social media bloodstream, according to an analysis of a database of Russia troll accounts by Yahoo News.

But Philip Bump finds a different number:

A search of the Russian tweets conducted by The Post finds only 640 tweets mentioning “Seth Rich.” Most of those tweets came well after the election.

More than half of the IRA tweets on Seth Rich were sent in August 2017. They came after Fox News and Steve Bannon had publicly peddled the conspiracy theory.

The IRA is a commercial advertisement company. Its fictitious online personalities create web traffic to sell ads. That activity has nothing to do with the Russian government. In the criminal case against the IRA owner Concord a federal judge recently confirmed that there is no evidence that connects the IRA activity to the Russian government. The judge criticizes that the Mueller investigation made the claim:

In short, the Court concludes that the government violated Rule 57.7 by making or authorizing the release of public statements that linked the defendants’ alleged activities to the Russian government and provided an opinion about the defendants’ guilt and the evidence against them. The Court will therefore proceed to consider the appropriate response to that violation, beginning with the possibility of contempt.

That Seth Rich was wacked because he stole the DNC emails and transferred them to Wikileaks is a conspiracy theory. It is possible and even plausible, but there is no evidence to confirm it. Many people seem to believe it because it makes more sense than the competing conspiracy theory, that Russia hacked the DNC and handed the emails to Wikileaks. Isikoff's claim, that Russia planted the Rich conspiracy theory, has no sound base. That theory existed before anything 'Russian' mentioned it.

Philip Bump concludes:

It’s eternally tempting to suggest that out-there ideas like the Rich conspiracies were a function of nefarious external actors like Russian intelligence officials. That text from Bannon, though, underlines the more anodyne truth: It was politically useful for a number of people to hype the allegations at the expense of Rich’s reputation.

Posted by b on July 9, 2019 at 18:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (208)

July 08, 2019

"Pretty Please" - Trump Asked Iran To Allow Him To Bomb It

On June 20 Iran shot down a U.S. spy drone. U.S. President Trump decided not to retaliate. The White House and the media claimed that Trump had ordered a strike on Iran but pulled it back at the last minute. We said that this was likely bullshit:

The whole storyline of "a strike was ordered but Trump held back and saved the day" might well be fake.
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A strike in retaliation for the downed drone may have never been on the table. An alternative interpretation is that the U.S. sought agreement for a symbolic 'strike' from Iran. It would hit some empty desert place to allow Trump to save face. Iran would have disagreed with that plan.

The British ambassador to the U.S., who's briefings to London leaked yesterday, agrees with that take:

[Sir Kim Darroch] questioned Trump's recent claim that he aborted a missile strike on Iran because it would have caused a predicted 150 casualties, saying it 'doesn't stand up'.

'It's more likely that he was never fully on board and that he was worried about how this apparent reversal of his 2016 campaign promises would look come 2020' – at the next Presidential election.

Elijah Magnier reported that Trump had asked Iran to allow him to strike back, but was rebuffed:

According to well-informed sources, Iran rejected a proposal by US intelligence – made via a third party – that Trump be allowed to bomb one, two or three clear objectives, to be chosen by Iran, so that both countries could appear to come out as winners and Trump could save face. Iran categorically rejected the offer and sent its reply: even an attack against an empty sandy beach in Iran would trigger a missile launch against US objectives in the Gulf.

An Iranian general yesterday confirmed Magnier's take (also here):

A senior Iranian general has revealed that Washington, through diplomatic channels, recently asked Tehran to allow it to conduct a small-scale operation in the Iranian airspace in order to save its face following the IRGC’s shoot-down of a US spy drone.

Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, the Head of Iran’s Civil Defence Organization, said Iran vehemently rejected the US request, saying that it will respond to any act of aggression.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran responded that it views any operation as a war and will give a crushing response to it. You may initiate a war but this is Iran which will finish it,” he said Sunday.

The idea that the U.S. would ask Iran to allow it to bomb some targets without hitting back sounds crazy.

Dear Mr. Rouhani,

could you please name me three targets in your country that I am allowed to bomb?

It is urgent as I need to look tough on Iran.

Pretty please!

Donald Trump

But this is the Trump White House and the only thing Trump really seems to care for is his own rating.

Trump wants a new nuclear deal with Iran. One with his signature, not Obama's, on it.

Trump's nuking of a deal while pressing for a new one shows that he has not the slightest idea how Iran, or any other independent country, reacts to such pressure. There will be no talks unless Trump rejoins the deal and lifts the sanctions:

The US sent over 60 diplomatic delegations to Iran as mediators to hold talks with Iran but the leader of the Islamic Revolution rejected the US calls for talks and Iran began to scale back its commitments under the JCPOA.

The Trump administration seems to have genuinely thought that Iran would not react to its ever tightening sanctions by exceeding the technical limits of the nuclear deal, which it now does. Back in November Secretary of State Pompeo opined that Iran would not do this:

Asked what the administration would do if the Iranians restart their nuclear program, Pompeo replied, “We’re confident that Iranians will not make that decision.”

That was of course nonsensical. Why was Iran expected to stick to a deal it does not benefit from? Such wishful thinking has no base in reality:

A U.S. official familiar with the issue told POLITICO on Sunday that the Trump team hopes for three things: that Europe imposes some sanctions on Iran to keep it from further violating the deal; that a financial mechanism the Europeans have set up to help Iran obtain non-sanctioned goods succeeds; and that recent U.S. military maneuvers in the Middle East are enough to deter Iran from further military escalation.

“Fundamentally, we want them to stay in the deal,” the U.S. official said, when asked why the Trump administration wants the European financial mechanism, known as INSTEX, to work. There’s no desire to engage in an all-out war with Iran or see it build a nuclear weapon, the official said.

Europe is for now unlikely to impose sanctions on Iran for a deal that Trump broke. If it does, the whole JCPOA deal is off. INSTEX is a joke. It 'allows' Iran to barter only something other than oil, and only against humanitarian goods which are not under sanctions. It is worse than the 1990s oil for food program that caused major economic destruction in Iraq. Iran does not fear U.S. military might. U.S. military assets in the Middle East do not deter. They are targets. Iran knows that Trump wants to avoid a war.

The little thought out U.S. policy gives Iran escalation dominance. It can and will increase its nuclear activities, as it announced, every 60 days. Tankers and other interests of its enemies around the Gulf will receive more damage. Trump will come under ever increasing pressure. Iran's actions, like the sabotage of some ships near Fujairah, already show results:

[D]emand for ship fuel at Fujairah, the United Arab Emirates coastal shipping hub close to the Strait, has waned as some tankers stay away, traders involved in the regional market said.

The British ambassador expects no change in the confused White House policy on Iran:

One memo, sent by Sir Kim on June 22, refers to 'incoherent, chaotic' US-Iran policy, adding: 'Its unlikely that US policy on Iran is going to become more coherent any time soon. This is a divided Administration'.

But the British policy on Iran is no better. On one side it is a signatory of the nuclear deal with Iran and claims that it wants to uphold it. On the other side it follows orders from the White House and hijacks a tanker that carries Iranian oil which it claims is going to Syria. Britain has absolutely no legal basis to do such. Even the former Swedish prime minister and rumored CIA asset Carl Bildt finds that behavior too crude:

Carl Bildt @carlbildt - 9:24 PM - 7 Jul 2019

The legalities of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of EU. And EU as a principle doesn’t impose its sanctions on others. That’s what the US does.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi called the British act "robbery" and said that the ship was not heading to Syria. Its real destination is said to be "a new southern European customer" for Iranian oil, probably Italy. Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier-General Amir Hatami promised to respond to the British act of piracy.

As usual the response will be asymmetrical and will come at a time and place of Iran's choosing.

Posted by b on July 8, 2019 at 14:59 UTC | Permalink | Comments (173)

July 07, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-38

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Iran now increases the enrichment level from 3.67%, the limit set in the nuclear deal, to 5%. A technically that is reversible. The enriched Uranium can be blended down again.

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 9:55 UTC - 7 Jul 2019

Today, Iran is taking its second round of remedial steps under Para 36 of the JCPOA. We reserve the right to continue to exercise legal remedies within JCPOA to protect our interests in the face of US #EconomicTerrorism. All such steps are reversible only through E3 compliance.

Having failed to implement their obligations under JCPOA—incl after US withdrawal—EU/E3 should at minimum politically support Iran’s remedial measures under Para 36, incl at IAEA. E3 have no pretexts to avoid a firm political stance to preserve JCPOA & counter U.S unilateralism.

Related: What will it be, Boeing? Great airplanes that generate cash flow or great cash flow, period? - Seattle Times

According to Boeing’s annual reports, in the last five years Boeing diverted 92% of operating cash flow to dividends and share buybacks to benefit investors. Since 1998, share buybacks have consumed $70 billion, adjusted for inflation. That could have financed several entire new airplane models, with money left over for handsome executive bonuses.

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Other issues:

Britain's man in the US says Trump is 'inept': Leaked secret cables from ambassador say the President is 'uniquely dysfunctional and his career could end in disgrace' - Daily Mail. The fact that British embassy cables were leaked is probably the most interesting point of the story.

Finally: Jeffrey Epstein arrested on sex trafficking charges - Miami Herald

More than a decade after receiving one of the most lenient sentences for a serial sex offender in U.S history, multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested outside of New York, sources confirmed to the Miami Herald Saturday night.

A huge 10+ years old scandal that was swept under the carpet. Epstein paid hundreds of minor girls for 'massage' and sex and peddled them to his friends, including Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Alan Dershowitz. Some of the girls were raped. Epstein allegedly made videos of his friends amusing themselves and used them for extortion. He was sentenced extremely lightly after 'higher people' intervened.

Flight Logs Put Clinton, Dershowitz on Pedophile Billionaire’s Sex Jet and Here Is Pedophile Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's Little Black Book - Gawker, 2015

Mike Cernovich and Julie Brown of the Miami Herald have recently been all over the story. They filed for sealed court documents of the old case and won. Last year the Herald found dozens of Epstein's victims who were willing to talk and published a multimedia series on the scandal: Perversion of Justice.

Some very powerful people will now be afraid that Epstein might talk.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 7, 2019 at 13:18 UTC | Permalink | Comments (184)

July 06, 2019

EASA Tells Boeing To Fix 5 Major 737 MAX Issues

Boeing hopes to have the 737 MAX back in the air by December. But a list of five major requirements issued by the European aviation regulator EASA lets one doubt that the time frame can be kept.

EASA’s checklist includes a number of issues that have been disclosed: the potential difficulty pilots have in turning the jet’s manual trim wheel, the unreliability of the Max’s angle of attack sensors, inadequate training procedures, and a software issue flagged just last week by the FAA pertaining to a lagging microprocessor. But the agency also listed a previously unreported concern: the autopilot failing to disengage in certain emergencies.

We will discuss the five issues below.

It is not clear if EASA will insist on all the points to be fixed:

“Any of these could significantly affect the return to service, but we don’t know if they are actually going to become requirements or are they just items for discussion," said John Cox, a former 737 pilot who is president of the aviation consulting company Safety Operating Systems.

As usual the regulators will not tell Boeing how to fix the problems. Whatever solution Boeing offers for those items simply has to comply with the general demands the regulations make.

Some of the listed items seem to require hardware changes that will have to be applied to all 737 MAX and maybe even to the older 737 NGs.


Manual trim

We discussed the trim wheel issue back in May:

The 737 MAX incident also revealed a problem with older generations of the 737 type of plane that is only now coming into light. Simulator experiments (video) showed that the recovery procedure Boeing provided for the case of a severe mistrim of the plane is not sufficient to bring the plane back under control. The root cause of that inconvenient fact does not lie with the 737 MAX but with its predecessor, the Boeing 737 Next Generation or NG.
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  • 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.

EASA listing the trim wheel issue is the first official recognition of this problem.

The manual trim via the trim wheels is a necessary backup for the electrical trim system which relies on only one motor. If the manual trim can not be used in certain parts of the allowed flight envelope, Boeing has a severe issue at hand.

A 2015 EASA safety finding, previously discussed here, accepted the 737 MAX only because Boeing said that the manual trim wheel was operational even at higher speeds and when the electric trim cuts out. It also promised that its training material would cover the issue.

It is now known that the manual trim, especially at higher speeds, may require more force than an average pilot can apply. The general issue and the difficulty is still not mentioned in the current Boeing training material.

The trim wheel problem seems to be an item where the U.S. regulator FAA and the European EASA disagree:

The FAA has also previously denied that the trim wheel -- which is used to lift or lower a plane’s nose during an emergency -- would cause delays.

It is hard to see how a manual trim system that, as Boeing told EASA, should be used where the electric system comes at its limits, can be acceptable without change, when it can not be moved in especially those cases where it should be used.


Angle of Attack Sensors

The second item on the EASA list is, as Bloomberg describes it, "the unreliability of the Max’s angle of attack sensors".


Angle of attack sensor

The two angle of attack sensors on the MAX are not inherently unreliably. They are external sensors that are prone to get damaged. The original Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that led to the crash of two planes, relied on only one of the two sensors. When that sensor got damaged, likely by a bird strike, MCAS trimmed the plane nose down into the ground. Boeing will now use both sensors to control the MCAS system. This may however not be enough.

During start and landing planes can collide with a passing flock of birds. In such cases both AoA sensors could easily get damaged. Many will remember that US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson river because bird strikes disabled both of its engines.

More modern planes than the Boeing 737 have 3 or 4 angle of attack sensors. Some other Boeing plane types have systems similar to MCAS. In addition to the AoA sensors they use an inertial system, acceleration and absolute position sensor, to determine if their MCAS like system should react.

It is quite possible that the regulators will now require a third sensor to be used to control the MCAS on the 737 MAX. If that is the case Boeing will likely prefer to add an additional internal sensor box to the plane instead of a third external sensor.


Training

Boeing only provided a few electronic pages of training material for pilots switching from the older 737 NG to the 737 MAX. It omitted any mentioning of MCAS. The American Airlines pilot union voiced concern about the new training material and advice Boeing plans to provide:

“However, at APA we remained concerned about whether the new training protocol, materials and method of instruction suggested by Boeing are adequate to ensure that pilots across the globe flying the MAX fleet can do so in absolute complete safety,” [the president of Allied Pilots Association] said in his statement.

In a Congress hearing Captain 'Sully' Sullenberger, who saved flight 1549, demanded additional simulator training for new 737 MAX pilots:

"They need to develop a 'muscle memory' of their experiences so it will be immediately available to them in the future when they face such a crisis," Sullenberger said.

The British Civil Aviation Authority also called for more training. It issued a Safety Notice (pdf) on Flight Crew Training that relates to the MCAS incidents that brought the two 737 MAX planes down:

Over the last five years, there have been number of large commercial air transport aircraft accidents and incidents which were attributed to lack of awareness of the aircraft’s trim condition. Factors which contributed to loss of control in-flight were inappropriate trim inputs or mishandled automatic trim malfunctions, especially during a high energy state or at low altitude, which resulted in excessive elevator or stabiliser load forces.

A number of situations that pilots should be additionally trained for is listed:

  • Automatic trim malfunctions, associated crew actions and implications of manual intervention and lack of awareness of the aircraft’s trim state. This should include strategies to recover from an out-of-trim condition after an automated system failure and various energy states at different altitudes
  • The difficulty of manual trim intervention at high aerodynamic loads with applicable commercial air transport aircraft, particularly at lower altitudes and with consideration of crew coordination difficulties/techniques

The British Safety Notice is an indirect but strong hint to the FAA that it should demand extra simulator training for flying the 737 MAX.

Boeing however has signed 737 MAX sales agreements with Southwest Airlines and possibly also other customers that require it to pay back $1,000,000 per plane should new MAX pilots require additional simulator training. Southwest ordered a total of 292 of the 737 MAX type. 31 have been delivered so far.


Flight Control Computer

We discussed the "lagging microprocessor" problem in detail some ten days ago.

Each of the two Flight Control Computers (FCC) has two microprocessors. If one processor fails the other is supposed to take over. But the two processors already share some work. When FAA test pilots disabled one of them, the other one had too much to do and was too slow in reaction to the pilot's input. The simulator test flight ended "catastrophic". Boeing said it can make software changes to prevent processor overload. It is doubtful that a software fix is a solid solution without additional side effects.


Autopilot Disengage

The last item on the EASA list is "the autopilot failing to disengage in certain emergencies". This problem was not completely unknown. It is likely related to the lagging microprocessor.

In general the autopilot, which consists of a number of programs running on the Flight Control Computer, must disengage immediately when the pilot turns it off to fly the plane himself. When the pilot uses the electric trim switches on his steering column, because of a "runaway stabilizer" or some other unsavory trim condition, the pilot's signal must have priority over all other processes. But that does not work when the FCC is too busy.

The FCC delayed the tuning off of the autopilot and the manual electric trim signal the pilot gave did not go through.

A functional diagram of the electric trim system shows that the Main Trim Interlock, which is another program running on the FCC, must close the Main Trim Relay to allow electricity from the pilot's column switch to the stabilizer motor to flow through. The computer can effectively block the pilot input even in emergency cases.

Horizontal stabilizer trim control system

source - bigger

When the FCC is overloaded it fails to stop the autopilot program immediately and it does not trigger the Main Trim Interlock process. The Main Trim Relay stays open and the electric circuit from the pilots column switch to the stabilizer motor never closes.

This works, like MCAS, "as designed" but is far from an optimal solution. It depends on the FCC to be fully functional without any delays. In a plane as old the 737 type, which is not constructed from the ground up for fly-by-wire, the pilot's input should have priority over all automatism. The electric circuitry of the horizontal stabilizer trim control system should be designed in a way that gives electrical priority to the pilot input without any need for an intervention by the FCC's digital magic.


The crash of the two 737 MAX planes revealed several issues with the plane and with Boeing as a company that were essentially caused by greed. Boeing did not want to construct a new plane to counter the announced Airbus 320 NEO. It remodeled the 737 NG and used the old type certification of the 737 to avoid greater costs. MCAS was a band-aid for a problem that required a solid aerodynamic solution. Engineers and test pilots were pressed to sign off on some shoddy management decisions. The FAA was not informed or asleep at the wheel. Developing and launching the MAX cost Boeing only some $2 billion. To build a new plane in the 737 class would likely have cost some $10 billion. The additional time needed would probably have cost Boeing some market share but with a modern platform it would have had a good chance to again catch up.

It is doubtful that all the above issues can be solved by the end of the years. Some 340 737 MAX were grounded in March. Boeing has since each month build 42 more of them. It will probably have to again reduce the build rate for lack of storage capacity. This will hurt not only Boeing, but also all its suppliers. Those hundreds of planes standing on the ground cost a lot of money. The typical lease rate for such a plane is up to $10,000 per day.

The total cost for Boeing of the 737 MAX accidents and their grounding due to the MCAS band-aid are now estimated at more than $10 billion. Boeing's outstanding shares value dropped from a peak of $242 to $200 billion. A lot of bad press is still to come as are the many lawsuits and investigations. Boeing's market share in the 737/320 segment will likely decline as at least some passengers will avoid that plane.

To revamp the 737 NG into the 737 MAX was the wrong decision. It would have been cheaper to develop a new plane.

As Capt. Sullenburger said in a recent interview: "Nothing is as costly as an accident."

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Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 issues:

Posted by b on July 6, 2019 at 18:18 UTC | Permalink | Comments (38)

Fakenews Spotting: Quake Causes Damage! ... Did It?

From the Washington Post homepage a few minutes ago:


bigger

This scheme isn't uncommon. Sensational headline claims X, text says the opposite is a well established practice in main stream journalism.

Its rare that it is so obvious. But cursory readers will still fall for it.

 

Posted by b on July 6, 2019 at 7:26 UTC | Permalink | Comments (84)

July 05, 2019

Mueller Report Claims Much Proves Little - Aaron Maté

An excerpt from a long piece by Aaron Maté who points at the huge holes in the Mueller Report about alleged Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election.

CrowdStrikeOut: Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims

At a May press conference capping his tenure as special counsel, Robert Mueller emphasized what he called "the central allegation" of the two-year Russia probe. The Russian government, Mueller sternly declared, engaged in "multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American." Mueller's comments echoed a January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) asserting with "high confidence" that Russia conducted a sweeping 2016 election influence campaign. "I don't think we've ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere in our election process," then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate hearing.

While the 448-page Mueller report found no conspiracy between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia, it offered voluminous details to support the sweeping conclusion that the Kremlin worked to secure Trump's victory. The report claims that the interference operation occurred "principally" on two fronts: Russian military intelligence officers hacked and leaked embarrassing Democratic Party documents, and a government-linked troll farm orchestrated a sophisticated and far-reaching social media campaign that denigrated Hillary Clinton and promoted Trump.

But a close examination of the report shows that none of those headline assertions are supported by the report’s evidence or other publicly available sources. They are further undercut by investigative shortcomings and the conflicts of interest of key players involved: 

  • The report uses qualified and vague language to describe key events, indicating that Mueller and his investigators do not actually know for certain whether Russian intelligence officers stole Democratic Party emails, or how those emails were transferred to WikiLeaks.
  • The report's timeline of events appears to defy logic. According to its narrative, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the publication of Democratic Party emails not only before he received the documents but before he even communicated with the source that provided them.
  • There is strong reason to doubt Mueller’s suggestion that an alleged Russian cutout called Guccifer 2.0 supplied the stolen emails to Assange.
  • Mueller’s decision not to interview Assange – a central figure who claims Russia was not behind the hack – suggests an unwillingness to explore avenues of evidence on fundamental questions.
  • U.S. intelligence officials cannot make definitive conclusions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computer servers because they did not analyze those servers themselves. Instead, they relied on the forensics of CrowdStrike, a private contractor for the DNC that was not a neutral party, much as “Russian dossier” compiler Christopher Steele, also a DNC contractor, was not a neutral party. This puts two Democrat-hired contractors squarely behind underlying allegations in the affair – a key circumstance that Mueller ignores.
  • Further, the government allowed CrowdStrike and the Democratic Party's legal counsel to submit redacted records, meaning CrowdStrike and not the government decided what could be revealed or not regarding evidence of hacking.
  • Mueller’s report conspicuously does not allege that the Russian government carried out the social media campaign. Instead it blames, as Mueller said in his closing remarks, "a private Russian entity" known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).
  • Mueller also falls far short of proving that the Russian social campaign was sophisticated, or even more than minimally related to the 2016 election. As with the collusion and Russian hacking allegations, Democratic officials had a central and overlooked hand in generating the alarm about Russian social media activity.
  • John Brennan, then director of the CIA, played a seminal and overlooked role in all facets of what became Mueller’s investigation: the suspicions that triggered the initial collusion probe; the allegations of Russian interference; and the intelligence assessment that purported to validate the interference allegations that Brennan himself helped generate. Yet Brennan has since revealed himself to be, like CrowdStrike and Steele, hardly a neutral party -- in fact a partisan with a deep animus toward Trump.

None of this means that the Mueller report's core finding of "sweeping and systematic" Russian government election interference is necessarily false. But his report does not present sufficient evidence to substantiate it. This shortcoming has gone overlooked in the partisan battle over two more highly charged aspects of Mueller's report: potential Trump-Russia collusion and Trump's potential obstruction of the resulting investigation. As Mueller prepares to testify before House committees later this month, the questions surrounding his claims of a far-reaching Russian influence campaign are no less important. They raise doubts about the genesis and perpetuation of Russiagate and the performance of those tasked with investigating it.
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The full Maté piece, which in details lays out each of the above points, is available at Real Clear Investigations.

Posted by b on July 5, 2019 at 16:29 UTC | Permalink | Comments (135)

July 04, 2019

Open Thread 2019-37

News & views ...

Posted by b on July 4, 2019 at 15:41 UTC | Permalink | Comments (298)

July 03, 2019

On Eve Of 4th Of July Parade U.S. Attempts To Lure Iran Into Shooting Down Another U.S. Plane

Today a manned U.S. reconnaissance plane entered Iranian airspace in a clear attempt to provoke Iran into shooting it down. Such an incident would have created an occasion for Trump to give the American people a special 4th of July fireworks.

On July 3 1988 the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down the civil Iranian Flight 655 with 290 people on board. The U.S. claimed that the plane's transponder was signaling an Iranian military identification code, that it was seemingly attacking the Vincennes, that the ship warned the plane 12 times, and that the ship was in international waters when the incident happened.

The crew of the Vincennes received medals for killing the Iranian civilians.

Investigations showed (pdf) that all the above claims were false. The shoot down was intentional. Iran sued the US in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over it. The case was settled in 1996 when the U.S. agreed to apologize and to pay $61.8 million to the families of the victims.

On June 20 a large U.S. reconnaissance drone, accompanied by a manned U.S. military airplane, flew into Iranian air space east of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot the drone down. The U.S. threatened to strike Iran over the incident but Trump did not follow through.

There were reports that some people in the White House doubted that the U.S. Central Command, the U.S. military command for the Middle East, told it the full truth about the incident. Two days before the drone incident happened Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, had unusual talks with the U.S. Central Command. This led to speculations that the incident was designed to provoke Iran into a shoot down and to push Trump into a war on Iran.

The case today is not in doubt. The U.S. military definitely tried to provoke Iran into shooting down another one of its planes.


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Manu Gómez @GDarkconrad - 9:17 UTC - 3 Jul 2019

USAF Rivet Joint tracking over The #PersianGulf, spoof Hex Cod 730000 C/S IRI00061

The US Airforce RC-135V Rivet Joint are signal intelligence planes that snoop on other countries.


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The plane flew over the islands Abu Musa and Sirri in the Persian Gulf which are Iranian territory and Iranian airspace. It falsely signaled that it was an Iranian plane.

The aviation transponder of the U.S. spy plane was set to a code that is associated with Iran. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) defined (pdf) 24-bit addresses that identify the type of the plane and the country where a plane is registered . The 24 bit codes for Iranian registered airplanes begins with the country identifier 0111 0011, written in hexadecimal as 73. The flight radar page that Manu Gomez used displays these 'S-Mode' transponder codes the airplane sends as a six digit hexadecimal number.

This use of code that identified the plane as Iranian was not a mistake but absolutely intentional:

Steffan Watkins @steffanwatkins - 11:53 utc - 3 Jul 2019
Steffan Watkins Retweeted Manu Gómez

There are so many things wrong with what the #USAF is doing here, that are very much not evident to the casual observer.

1) The RC-135 has changed its unique transponder number to 730000 (hex), an Iranian assigned code. So, the USAF is impersonating an Iranian plane.

2) As @GDarkconrad pointed out, this isn't an accident, the USAF did this with Venezuelan codes off the coast of #Venezuela too. US reconnaissance planes are impersonating the codes of the countries they are conducting reconnaissance on, endangering future civilian flights.
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The track shows that the plane was coming from west north west, probably Kuwait, and flew directly over Sirri Island and Abu Musa. It then immediately turned around and flew again over both islands.


Detail of the tweeted screenshot

Sirri Island is the location of an oil platform that was destroyed by the U.S. Navy forces on April 18, 1988. The island has a landing strip and there are several oil and gas installations on it.

Abu Musa is a 12.8 square kilometer (4.9 sq mi) inhabited island near the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz. It is, like Sirri, Iranian territory and Iran has troops stationed there. They have decent air defense systems (vid) well capable of taking the Rivet Joint plane down. Abu Musa is the Iranian 'castle' that controls the Strait and most traffic west of it. Its strategic importance is immense.

After Iran shot down the U.S. drone its foreign minister posted maps showing the flight path of the drone and the demarcation of the Iranian airspace (red line). It is obvious that the U.S. plane today entered it.


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This morning the U.S. spy plane willingly penetrated Iranian airspace. It squawked a fake code which showed ill intention. This happened on the 31st anniversary of Flight 655. The Iranian military would certainly still like to take revenge for that mass murder. It was a huge provocation likely intended to lure Iran into shooting it down.

Trump recently threatened to 'obliterate' some areas of Iran should it attack "anything American":

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 2:42 utc - 25 Jun 2019

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

This led to speculation that Trump was threatening a nuclear strike.

Had Iran shot the plane down it would have been clearly within its rights. But imagine it had done so. A manned U.S. reconnaissance plane, not a drone, would have come down and the crew would be dead. U.S. media would scream for revenge.

It would have happened on the eve of Trump's 4th of July speech which will be followed by the military parade and overflight he ordered. 5,000 people from military families are invited to the event.

An ideal TV situation to announce that the U.S. Commander in Chief ordered to 'obliterate' Abu Musa island, the castle that controls the Strait of Hormuz, with maybe a small nuke. The U.S. public would have loved those 4th of July fireworks. Newspapers would headline "Commander In Chief Demonstrates His Resolve!" Trump's approval rating would soar to above 80%.

It would take days until the information that the flight was an intended provocation would enter the news. U.S. media would simply ignore it just as they ignored the evidence about Flight 655. The island would be unusable for Iran but the wider environmental damage from a small, kiloton range nuclear device would be minimal. No one in the U.S. would care about it.

One wonders who came up with such a nefarious plan. Was it Trump, the great showman, himself? Was that the reason why he ordered the military to join the 4th of July parade on such a short notice? Or was it John Bolton or 'we lie, we cheat, we steal' Mike Pompeo? Some minion at the CIA or CentCom?

Whoever came up with it, and those who signed off to allow this incident to happen, will now be disappointed. Iran clearly did not fall into their trap.

The world owns a big thank you to the Iranian air defense crews on Abu Musa for their disciplined behavior.

Posted by b on July 3, 2019 at 20:21 UTC | Permalink | Comments (152)

Do People Comment Too Much?

Posted by b on July 3, 2019 at 14:28 UTC | Permalink | Comments (99)

July 02, 2019

No, Iran Is Not Rushing To Build A Nuclear Weapon

John Mearsheimer is a political science scholar who adheres to the realist school of thought. He developed a theory of offensive realism that at times produces valid predictions of the behavior of some states. But his theory does not account for cultural factors and its predictions fail when these predominate in a state's decisions.

His ridiculous op-ed in today's New York Times is proof for that.

Mearsheimer may not be responsible for that fakenews headline. The NYT is generally anti-Iran and some of its editors are the worst warmongers.  But even as the claims made in the headline are false, they are not far from what Mearsheimer writes.

For the record: No, Iran is not rushing to build a nuclear weapon. And if it would do such Trump could stop it.

Mearsheimer starts:

President Trump says he wants to make sure Iran never acquires nuclear weapons. His policy, however, is having the opposite effect: It is giving Tehran a powerful incentive to go nuclear, while at the same time making it increasingly difficult for the United States to prevent that. On Monday the official Iranian news agency announced that the country had breached the limits for enriched uranium imposed on it by the 2015 international agreements.

Indeed, American policy toward Iran over the past year makes it clear that Iranian leaders were foolish not to develop a nuclear deterrent in the early 2000s.
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The Iranians had good reason to acquire nuclear weapons long before the present crisis, and there is substantial evidence they were doing just that in the early 2000s. The case for going nuclear is much more compelling today. After all, Iran now faces an existential threat from the United States, and a nuclear arsenal will go a long way toward eliminating it.

The current "existential threat" against Iran, says Mearsheimer, is the economic war and blockade the U.S. wages against it.

But where is the evidence that nuclear weapons would prevent the economic war and blockade? North Korea, which has nuclear weapons and even the ability to strike the United States with them, is under similar measures. In sight of that how does this make the case to go nuclear more compelling for Iran?

Before 2003 Iran likely had a nuclear research program to find out what it would take to make a nuclear weapon. But the reason to pursue that was not the threat from the United States. The threat to Iran was a potentially nuclear Iraq, a country which had already used weapons of mass destruction against its cities. When the U.S. invaded Iraq that threat went away and Iran's nuclear weapon research program was canceled.

Iran has a much better weapon than nuclear devices to deter the U.S. from threatening its existence. It can block the flow of oil from the Gulf to the global economy. It is a relatively cheap capability and nothing but a full fledged invasion of Iran can take it away.

Mearsheimer believes that Iran would need nukes to do that:

[I]f its survival was at stake, Iran could credibly threaten to use a few nuclear weapons to completely shut down the flow of oil in the Persian Gulf.

It might seem hard to imagine Iran using nuclear weapons first in a crisis, but history tells us that desperate states are sometimes willing to pursue exceedingly risky strategies [...] The Trump administration would surely be aware of the dangers of provoking a nuclear-armed Iran. In short, nuclear weapons would profoundly alter Iran’s strategic situation for the better.

If Iran destroys the loading stations for oil along the western Persian Gulf coast with conventional ballistic missiles it would slow the flow of oil to a trickle. Additional attacks on tankers would bring it to effectively zero. There are no nukes needed to achieve either.

By not pursuing nuclear weapons and by adhering to the framework of the nuclear agreement, Iran has kept the Europeans on its site. If it goes nuclear Iran will bring the world into a united position against it. UN Security Council sanction would immediately be back. Other Persian Gulf states would soon try to also acquire nukes. Iran would be confronted by a large coalition of states whereas today only the U.S., Israel and some of their Gulf minions are hostile to it. Which is the better strategic situation for Iran?

There is absolutely no need for Iran to go nuclear and there would be no strategic advantage for it in possessing nukes.

Mearsheimer also believes that Trump has no way out of the situation:

Mr. Trump’s policy has backed the United States into a corner, leaving no clear diplomatic offramp in sight. [...] If Mr. Trump tries to lower tensions by easing the sanctions, which Tehran insists he must do before it will even agree to talk, he will be savaged at home by the Iran hawks, who are an important part of his political base. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States will be equally critical.

Didn't the North Korea hawks "savage" Trump for making nice with Kim Jong Un? Has Japan's critic of the move influenced his decision? How much did it cost him with his base?

Trump has changed his opinion and actions so often that no one would be surprised if he would change his mind on Iran. He can rejoin the nuclear agreement and lift the sanctions, possibly in exchange for some minor promises from Iran. Iran would continue its anti nuclear weapon policy. Trump would sell that as a success just as he sells the 'denuclearization' of North Korea as a political victory. His base actually seems to like such grant moves.

Mearsheimer is reading the issue so wrong because his theory of offensive realism is misleading him:

John Mearsheimer's offensive neorealism intends to fix the "status quo bias" of Kenneth Waltz's defensive neorealism. While both neorealist variants argue that states are primarily concerned with maximising their security, they disagree over the amount of power required in the process. To the contrary of defensive neorealism according to which states are status quo powers seeking only to preserve their respective positions in the international system by maintaining the prevailing balance of power, offensive neorealism claims that states are in fact power-maximising revisionists harbouring aggressive intentions.

The theory that states inherently have aggressive intentions may hold for some states that Mearsheimer knows well, specifically the United States and Israel. But where is the evidence that Iran, and many other small to medium states, have any such tendency?

As Mearsheimer puts it: "[states] look for opportunities to alter the balance of power by acquiring additional increments of power at the expense of potential rivals", since "the greater the military advantage one state has over other states, the more secure it is". States seek to increase their military strength to the detriment of other states within the system with hegemony—being the only great power in the state system—as their ultimate goal.

Again, that may hold for some states, but does fit for all? The theory misses two points.

The first one is the spending that is necessary to build a military advantage over other states. What are the marginal returns for investing more money into military might? The population of a state may well prefer peaceful consumption over an increase of its hegemony.

The second point is even more cultural. States have characters. While some are aggressive others are not.

Iran is an Islamic Republic led by jurists of Shia believe. Its leader issued a religious verdict against making and possessing nukes. Under Shia doctrine outward Jihad, religiously justified war, is only legitimate in defense, not as aggression. During the last 300 years Iran behaved  non-aggressive. Despite having the financial means and population size to fight its smaller neighbors, it did not initiate any war. Its military posture and doctrine is defensive.

Mearsheimer ignores these facts. Most likely because they contradict his political theory.

Iran will not go nuclear and it will not start a war. It is Israel that is threatening to do that over Iran's slightly increased stockpile of low enriched Uranium. Two days ago it launched an extensive air attack on Syria and hit several military and civilian sites. 16 people died, including kids, and over 60 were wounded. It might have been in preparation for an attack on Iran.

An hour or two ago U.S. Vice President Pence, on his way to some campaign event, was called back to the White House for some urgent meeting. Russia's President Putin is in an urgent meeting with his Defense Minister Shoigu. Earlier today a Russian spy submarine had a fire on board that killed 14 of its crew. Has the U.S. something to do with the incident? Is something else up?

Posted by b on July 2, 2019 at 17:15 UTC | Permalink | Comments (217)

July 01, 2019

Timezone Change On Moon of Alabama

This blog so far ran on New York time and displayed the time in a U.S. (AM/PM) format.

It made it increasingly difficult to keep in sync with various time displays in other media quoted here. These often have ambiguities. (For example: Twitter read through Tweetdeck shows the time in the timezone of the local device it is running on while its website Twitter.com uses the timezone the logged-in user chose in the account settings. Other media have similar problems.)

The switch to summertime and back - on different dates in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere -  is also confusing. The blog has a quite large international readership and some fixed time everyone can relate to is needed.

Your host therefore decided to change the time setting.

From now on Moon of Alabama time will be Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The display time format will change to a 24 hour format (23:45 = 11:45PM). Also "UTC" will be added to all time displays to make that evident.

New and older posts and comments will now be shown in the new format.

Older posts that were updated often include a line that says "Updated at 9:00PM" or similar. Those posts will NOT be revisited and changed even though their original publishing time below the post will now be displayed in UTC.

Please let me know your thoughts about this change.

Posted by b on July 1, 2019 at 20:46 UTC | Permalink | Comments (64)

No, Iran Does Not Break The Nuclear Deal (Updated)

Updated below
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Here is some fakenews from the Guardian which falsely claims that Iran breaks the nuclear deal.

Iran today announced that its stockpile of low enriched uranium now exceeds the 300 kilogram of enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) level set out as a limit in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (pdf).

But Iran does that within the frame of the JCPOA. It is not breaching it. Article 26 of the joint plan states that the U.S. will refrain from reimposing sanctions and that Iran will react in case that happens:

The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realisation of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified in Annex II. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. Iran has stated that it will treat such a re-introduction or re-imposition of the sanctions specified in Annex II, or such an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.

On May 8 2018 the United States broke the JCPOA when it reimposed sanctions on Iran. Iran can not "break" a deal that the U.S. already broke.

Additionally on May 3 2019 the State Department removed sanction waivers that allowed Iran to export low enriched uranium in exchange for natural uranium:

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

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

This step by the Trump administration was obviously designed to bring Iran into a situation where it would have to either stop enrichment, or accumulate a stockpile larger than the 300 kilogram foreseen in the JCPOA.

Iran can no longer export low enriched Uranium. Iran does not want to give up its "inalienable right" to enrich uranium guaranteed under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Iran thus began to accumulate enriched uranium under the above clause of the JCPOA.

On June 17 Iran announced that it would exceed the stockpile limit by June 27. It took a few days longer but it now happened.

The JCPOA clearly states that Iran would take this step if and when the U.S. breaches the agreement by imposing new sanctions. That Iran is now exceeding one of the limits JCPOA sets out is not in breach of the agreement but in adherence to its letters.

A 'diplomatic editor' who does not understand that should seek a different profession.

Update 3:00PM EDT

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif just pointed out that the primary Iran's legal reason for its move is the unwillingness of the European 3 (UK, France and Germany) to stick to their commitment under the nuclear deal.

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 17:43 utc - 1 Jul 2019

We have NOT violated the #JCPOA. Para 36 of the accord illustrates why: We triggered & exhausted para 36 after US withdrawal. We gave E3+2 a few weeks while reserving our right. We finally took action after 60 weeks. As soon as E3 abide by their obligations, we'll reverse.

When the U.S. left the agreement Iran used the Dispute Resolution Mechanism in paragraph 36 of the JCPOA. That paragraph calls for a joint commission to decide on the issue. The commission met in Brussels in July 2018 and promised to further support the deal.

The 6 July 2018 Statement from the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in which the EU-3 committed themselves to uphold their side of the deal despite the U.S. breach said:

6.​The participants recognised that, in return for the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments, the lifting of sanctions, including the economic dividends arising from it, constitutes an essential part of the JCPOA.
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8.​The participants affirmed their commitment regarding the following objectives in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere:

- the maintenance and promotion of wider economic and sectoral relations with Iran;
- the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran;
- the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas condensate, petroleum products and petrochemicals;
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The EU-3 did not fulfill those commitments.

The Dispute Resolution Mechanism in paragraph 36 of the JCPOA states:

If the issue still has not been resolved [by the joint commission] to the satisfaction of the complaining participant, and if the complaining participant deems the issue to constitute significant non-performance, then that participant could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part and/or notify the UN Security Council that it believes the issue constitutes significant non-performance.

This legal argument is even stronger than the argument under paragraph 26 discussed above.

Posted by b on July 1, 2019 at 16:03 UTC | Permalink | Comments (159)