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August 31, 2019

Syria - Coordinated Foreign Airstrike Kills Leaders Of Two Al-Qaeda Aligned Groups

Some three hours ago an air- or missile strike in Syria's Idleb governorate hit a meeting of leaders of the al-Qaeda aligned Haras-al-Din and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) aka Jabhat al-Nusra. Both were killed. It is likely that leaders of other Jihadist groups were also present. The hit completely destroyed a Haras al-Din guesthouse or headquarter. The Syrian Observatory says that more than 40 people were killed in the strike. The hit will make it much easier for the Syrian army campaign to liberate Idleb governorate.

Idleb governorate - Red=Syrian army, Green=Jihadis, Yello-Kurds

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Since yesterday evening a unilateral ceasefire has been observed by the Syrian and Russian forces. Today none of their jets bombed targets in Idleb governorate. Whoever carried out today's strike must have coordinated that with the Russian command beforehand.

The Observatory notes (machine translated):

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented the killing of more than 40 people from jihadi groups, including leaders, as a result of rocket attacks on the headquarters and meeting room of the “Haradh al-Mu'minin” operation, whose guards are the main pillars in addition to other jihadi groups, in the area between Kefraya and Maarat Masrin east of Idlib The strikes were the result of aerial bombardment by international coalition aircraft, and the Syrian Observatory has just published that it rocked more than 7 fierce explosions in the area between the city of Idlib and the town of Kefraya east of the city on Saturday afternoon, 31 August, caused by rocket strikes targeting Headquarters for the guards faction It is not known whether the strikes were carried out by international coalition aircraft over Turkish territory, or whether they were long-range missiles ...

The impact of the strikes was quite impressive:


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Videos shows that the target was a two story house and some side buildings in the middle of an orchard. The house pancaked and is completely destroyed. The so called 'White Helmets' swarm all over the place. One wounded child is visible in the first video.

The strike might have been carried out by either the U.S. or by Turkey. It is likely Turkey that has the better on-the-ground intelligence insight on these groups as Turkey has for years directly supplied them with weapons, munitions and other goods. The Turkish President Erdogan changed his position on Idleb after his recent visit to Moscow. He stopped the supplies to the 'rebels' to allow the Syrian campaign against them to succeed. The so called 'rebels' Turkey has long supported now turn against it.

Another detail that supports this hypothesis is the sudden lack of anti-armor missiles in the hands of the 'rebels':

The use of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) by militant groups against the Syrian Army in Idlib province has fallen to almost zero as of the final days of August.
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Since the Syrian Army kicked-off its Greater Idlib ground offensive against Islamist groups in early May, about 100 guided missiles from various systems have been used by militant groups during the three and a half months since.

It is pretty obvious that Turkey has ended its missile supply to the 'rebels':

[O]ne only needs to assess the current attitude on pro-militant social media right now – an attitude which is highly critical of Turkey’s lack of intervention in Idlib, a major part of this lack of intervention being identified by these sources as the sudden “collapse” (or rather, withholding) of ATGM supplies by Turkey.

The cutting off of supplies for the Jihadists in Idleb and the closing of the borders to 'rebels' who want to flee to Turkey has made the country a target for those fighters. The Turkish president may well have calculated that killing their leaders now will lessen the danger of getting attacked by them.

Abu Muhammad al-Joulani, the leader of HTS, had led several campaigns against Syrian government forces.


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It was Joulani who had the command over all Jihadis and 'rebels' in Idleb in their fight against the Syrian army.

Haras-al-Din has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Aywan al-Zawahiri. Joulani, the leader of HTS/Nusra, claimed that he had ended his relation with al-Qaeda but he never publicly retracted the loyalty oath he had given to al-Zawahiri.

The death of the leaders of these groups will not end the existence of these entities. History shows that leader assassinations tend to bring  more competent and more brutal leaders to the fore. But for at least a short while there will be more discussions about the new leaders and directions into which the groups will move than preparations on the front lines. This distraction can be used by the Syrian army to progress in its campaign.

The Syrian army is preparing to liberate Idleb governorate starting from the south with the most likely next target being Maarrat al-Nu'man. There is also a buildup of tanks and troops west of Aleppo city. The general attack axis of both fronts will run along the M5 motorway. In the west a third front will run along the M4 highway with the first main target being the city of Jisr ash-Shhugur. The front there is more difficult because the area is mountainous and held by Turkman and Uyghur fighters who still seem to have Turkish support.

The current unilateral ceasefire, which I presume was only announced to allow for today's hit, will end again soon. It was likely the last one before the real big fight to liberate Idleb governorate begins. As the 'rebels' and Jihadis no longer have access to fresh supplies the speed and the progress of the campaign will likely be impressive.

Update (16:40 UTC): The U.S. claims to have carried out the strike.

Posted by b on August 31, 2019 at 16:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (200)

August 30, 2019

Syrian 'Rebels' Feel Left Behind - Burn 'Traitor' Erdogan's Picture

Since 2011 the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used Syrian 'rebels' and Islamist Jihadis as proxy forces against the Syrian government. These forces are now mostly confined to Idleb governorate next to the Turkish border. The Syrian army has recently made progress against the Jihadis. Turkey has not come to their help. That their resistance is futile has begun to dawn on them. Syria will recover the whole governorate and those who resist will be eliminated. The 'rebels' fear that their punishment is coming and they now want to flee to Turkey. Unfortunately Turkey does not want them.


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Today about a thousand 'rebels' tried to cross through the Al-Bab border station into Turkey. Videos show a long line of cars of fleeing people. At the front several hundred men managed to enter Turkish ground. They were pushed back by Turkish army forces with water cannon trucks, tear gas and finally with gunfire. At least two 'rebels' were killed.

People shouted "Traitor traitor traitor, Turkish army is traitor". They burned pictures of Erdogan while screaming takbir and allahu akbar.


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Since the beginning of the war on Syria the 'rebels' had hoped that the Turkish army would come to their help or at least protect them. Last week's meeting between Erdogan and President Putin of Russia finally convinced them that this will never be the case. Since Russia entered the war on the Syrian side Putin has managed to turn Erdogan from an enemy into a tamed dog. Erdogan was in Moscow to check out the airplanes Russia will sell him and Putin bought him ice cream.


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After much resistance Erdogan has finally given up on Idleb. While Russia had agreed to a ceasefire in Idleb, Erdogan failed to deliver his part of the deal. The Jihadis in Idleb, supplied by Erdogan, continued to attack Russian forces and Syrian civilians. The Syrian and Russian forces responded with an intense and well targeted bombing campaign and by taking back more and more land. Eleven days ago Turkey made a last attempt to stop the Syrian army by sending a convoy of troops to prevent the recapture of Khan Shaykhun. The convoy was bombed and Khan Shaykhun fell.

That was the moment Erdogan gave up. Five of his generals, two responsible for the Turkish observation posts in Idleb, asked for their retirement. Erdogan traveled to Moscow and made some deal. Syria will regain Idleb and Erdogan got an ice cream.

The pressure of people who want leave Idleb after their years of fighting against the Syrian state will not end. Turkey's economy is in a downturn. The people have become wary of refugees. There is nothing to win for Erdogan by letting more people in.

The Syrian army campaign continues. The next bigger target will be Maarrat al-Numan with a pre-war population of 80,000 people. Most of them have no reason to fear the Syrian government. But many will want to flee the fighting. Each assault will push more people to leave.

There will be more incidents at the border and within Turkey. The 'rebels' and Jihadis will want to take revenge on the Turkish traitors who pushed them to fight the Syrian government only to leave them behind when they failed to win. The soldiers in the Turkish observation posts in Idleb are now hostages of the Jihadis. They may need the help of Russian bombers to fight their way out or will have to sit still until the Syrian army liberates the region around them.

Posted by b on August 30, 2019 at 17:07 UTC | Permalink | Comments (84)

August 29, 2019

Saudi Arabia Acknowledges Defeat In Yemen - Starts To Sue For Peace

Two weeks ago we wrote that war on Yemen will soon end. The Saudis lost their ally, they lost the war and would have to sue for peace. They are now doing so. But they fighting in Yemen will continue until that country finds a new balance.

Today the United Arab Emirates airforce bombed the Yemeni proxy forces of its 'ally' Saudi Arabia:

Yemen's internationally recognized government accused the Emirati air force of attacking its troops Thursday as they were heading to the key southern port city of Aden to fight separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates. The airstrikes killed at least 30 government forces, a Yemeni commander said.
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Col. Mohamed al-Oban, a commander of the government's special forces in Abyan province, said the troops were on the road, headed from Abyan toward Aden on Thursday, when the strikes took place, killing at least 30.
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At least six raids were carried out by Emirati warplanes around the temporary capital, according to government military sources who asked to remain anonymous.

Southern separatist forces under the Southern Transitional Council and supported by the UAE hold Aden. Between 1967 and 1990 south Yemen, then named the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, was separated from the mountainous north. After uniting with north Yemen the south became neglected even though its eastern desert holds most of the country's hydrocarbon resources.


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Since 2015 the coalition of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with U.S. and British help, has waged war against the Houthi in northern Yemen. The coalition is now falling apart. Both countries claimed to fight against the Houthi, which control the capital Sanaa, in support of the internationally recognized 'legitimate' government under 'President' Hadi. But both countries had from the very beginning more egoistic war aims.

The Wahhabi Saudis want a Yemeni government that is not controlled by the Zaydi-Shia Houthi with whom they fought dozens of wars over two provinces that Saudi Arabia once annexed. They also want to control Yemen's oil and a pipeline from the Saudi oil region to a harbor in Yemen. It would help Saudi oil exports to avoid the Iran controlled Strait of Hormuz.

The UAE is big into the port business. It wants to control the strategic port of Aden and other Yemeni harbors on the southern coast. As it has no direct border with Yemen it largely does not care who controls the rest of Yemen.

The UAE leader Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ) is not an absolute king. He is the son of the Emir of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates that form the UAE. His aggressive foreign policy, with military engagement in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya, has come under criticism of the rulers of the other emirates. Wars are expensive and bad for regular business. MbZ's alliance with the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) was seen as dangerous. While the Saudis would like the U.S. to wage war on Iran, the UAE, and especially Dubai, would become a casualty of such a war.

In June the emirs decided to change cause. The UAE retreated from active war in Yemen and started to make nice with Iran. It hoped that the southern separatists it had trained would keep Aden under control and continue to do the UAE's bidding. The Saudis and the 'legitimate government' under Hadi they control do not want to condone that.

The Saudis are extremely angry that the UAE changed course:

But this month, at his Mecca palace, Saudi King Salman took the unusual step of expressing “extreme irritation” with the UAE, his closest Arab partner, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The comment appears to be evidence of a fissure in the alliance, which is led in practice by the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), and the UAE de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MbZ).
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The king’s annoyance was voiced in a conversation on Aug. 11 with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, head of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government, according to two Yemeni sources and one other briefed on the meeting.

Hadi’s forces in Aden had just been routed by troops supported by the UAE, as nominal allies in the country’s south turned on each other in a power struggle.

The Saudis must end the war against the Houthi that was launched at the behest of its clown prince. The war has cost the Saudis an enormous amount of money even as they are still losing it. Only yesterday 25 of their forces were killed in a Houthi ambush. With the help of Iran the Houthi acquired long range missiles and drones and they now use them in volleys that reach deep into the Saudi's land:

Beginning on Aug. 24, the Houthis said its forces conducted two drone strikes on the King Khaled airbase in Khamis Mushayt and the Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia. A day later, another round of drone strikes were reported on both targets.

On the same day, ten Badr-1 ballistic missiles were reportedly fired into Saudi’s Jizan city. However, Saudi officials reported that the country’s air defense systems shot down six ballistic missiles. The officials did not confirm if more missiles were included in the barrage.

On Aug. 26, another ballistic missile, the newly-announced Nakal missile, was reportedly fired at Saudi troops near Najran. Later in the day, another round of drones were reportedly intercepted near the King Khaled airbase in Khamis Mushayt.

As drones were hitting the King Khaled airbase, a separate attack was purportedly occurring near Riyadh with the new Samad-3 suicide drones. If confirmed, this marks the second time Houthi drones have hit the Saudi capital. The first was a reported strike on an Aramco facility near the capital last month.

On Aug. 27, the Houthis showcased another newly-announced ballistic missile, the Qasem-1, by allegedly hitting Saudi troops positioned near the Yemeni border in Najran. Another drone was intercepted and destroyed by Saudi forces over Khamis Mushayt as well.

And yesterday a new cruise missile, the Quds-1, was launched towards the Abha airport. Though, Saudi officials stated that the missile was intercepted and destroyed.

The Saudi king must have recognized that he has no longer any chance to ever win the war. It seems that he asked the Trump administration to work out an agreement with the Houthi:

The Trump administration is preparing to initiate negotiations with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in an effort to bring the four-year civil war in Yemen to an end, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The effort is reportedly aimed at convincing Saudi Arabia to take part in secret talks with the rebels in Oman to help broker a cease-fire in the conflict, which has emerged as a front line in the regional proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran.

The brother of the clown prince came to Washington to prepare for the talks:

Prince Khalid met with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday and discussed “U.S. support for a negotiated resolution between the Republic of Yemen government” and a breakaway group known as the Southern Transitional Council, according to a statement from State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

The Hadi government is irrelevant. The Southern Transitional Council will demand independence from the north. The Houthi will demand to control the north and reparations for the war the Saudis waged against them. North Yemen's infrastructure is largely destroyed. It will cost several dozens of billions to rebuild what the five year long Saudi air war destroyed. As the Houthi can continue to harass the Saudis at will, even in their capital, their is no way out for the Saudis but to pay whatever the Houthi demand.

It was the clown prince Mohammad bin Salman who launched the war in Yemen soon after he came to power. It was supposed to defeat the Houthi within a few weeks. Five years later and after at least a $100 billions was spent on it, the Saudis have lost the war.

Will the King hold his son responsible for the large loss of money and face that he caused?

Posted by b on August 29, 2019 at 19:22 UTC | Permalink | Comments (84)

August 28, 2019

Boris Johnson Seizes Power

The British Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson wants to lead Britain to an exit from the European Union without a specific agreement that would regulate the various details. A majority in Parliament is against leaving the EU without a deal.

Parliament will convene again in early September. The Brexit date is October 31. The opposition planned to seek legislation to stop Brexit and/or to hold a vote of no confidence in the Boris government. This would install a new government with the sole task of preventing Brexit without a deal.

The problem is that the process takes time and Parliament days are limited. The government has several means to prevent Parliament from having enough time to discuss the issue and to vote on it. Today it used a quite effective one.

The Johnson government, only inaugurated weeks ago, asked the Queen to announce its legislative program, a ceremonial event known as the Queen's Speech. Custom demands that Parliament is shut down for several weeks before the Queen's Speech is held. Parliament will thus have little chance to prevent a no-deal Brexit:

The government has asked the Queen to suspend Parliament just days after MPs return to work in September - and only a few weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Boris Johnson said a Queen's Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his "very exciting agenda".

But it means MPs are unlikely to have time to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve called the move "an outrageous act".

The Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow is not amused about the unexpected move. Many members of Parliament will, like Dominic Grieve, be against this power grab.

Unfortunately there is little they can do:

A number of high profile figures, including former Prime Minister John Major, have threatened to go to the courts to stop it, and a legal challenge led by the SNP's justice spokeswoman, Joanna Cherry, is already working its way through the Scottish courts.

Britain has no written constitution. The courts rule along precedence and the government would thereby likely win the case:

BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said the precedent was for Parliament to be suspended before a Queen's Speech, and it would be "impossible" for the Queen to reject the government's request to do so now.

He said that convention lifted the pressure off the Queen and to some degree, in some people's eyes, depoliticises it.

"The fundamental is the Queen acts on the advice of her ministers - in particular, on the advice of her prime minister," he added.

Laura Kuenssberg said only a small number of government ministers knew about the plan in advance, but the government would argue it was "a bog standard Queen's Speech process", despite all of the surrounding noise.

In a letter to the Members of Parliament Johnson only allows for one day, September 9, for a Parliament sitting.

The prime minister, not elected through a general election, is essentially making a power grab. Closing down Parliament at the moment when the most significant decision on the future of the country is at stake is a deeply undemocratic move.

Britain is on its way to falling apart.

Posted by b on August 28, 2019 at 11:36 UTC | Permalink | Comments (247)

August 25, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-50

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

The black block in Hong Kong, which consists of just a few hundred youth, is now back at rioting. Subway stations get vandalized and people pushed off the trains that the rioters use to ferry from one flash mob incident to the next one. Bricks and Molotov cocktails are thrown at police lines. Some protesters use baseball bats against the police, others have handguns. Today the police, for the first time, deployed water cannon trucks. One policeman fired a warning shot against the increasingly brutal mob. It is only of question of time until the first person gets killed.

The allegedly "leaderless" protesters even have a Dummy Guide for frontline rioters.

Miles Kwok aka Guo Wengui is a disgruntled Chinese oligarch. He is one of the men who finances the Hong Kong protests. Here he appears with Steve Bannon Miles Kwok & Mr Bannon: The 5 principles on Hong Kong’s matter (vid). But the NYT still claims that the nativist protesters' use of Pepe the frog is not a sign of alt-right influence.

Joshua Wong, one of the U.S. coddled students, compares the situation with 2014 Maidan riots in Ukraine. He is right in more ways than he says.

Khan Shaykhun and all surrounding villages are now liberated. There was little resistance left as most of the Jihadis had slipped out of the encirclement before it closed. The Syrian army is now concentrating forces to go further north towards Maarat al-Numan. The preparing bombing campaign is ongoing.

Last night Israel bombed a Hezbullah workshop south of Damascus. Three Hizbullah engineers were killed and two were wounded. Additionally an Israeli short-range drone landed on Hizbullah's media office in Beirut, Lebanon. A second drone, probably sent to destroy the first one, appeared and exploded. No one was hurt. The drone operators must have been relatively nearby, most likely on some boat off Beirut.

Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah addressed Israel in his July 12 speech: "You kill one of our own in Syria and we will respond and respond from Lebanon." Nasrallah, who tends to hold his promises, is due to speak today at 17:00 local time. Expect some fireworks ...

Maj. Danny Sjursen: We're Listening to the Wrong Voices on Syria - TruthDig

Elijah Magnier reports that Israel is most likely behind this: Who is Behind Blowing up Ammunition Warehouses in Iraq? Iran is the Target. I still have my doubts about that.

The text of Mark Carney's Jackson Hole speech: The Growing Challenges for Monetary Policy in the current International Monetary and Financial System

Other issues:

Epstein:

Whitney Webb published another of her amazing pieces about the Epstein case: From “Spook Air” to the “Lolita Express”: The Genesis and Evolution of the Jeffrey Epstein-Bill Clinton Relationship - Mintpress News

Prof. Micheal Brenner looks into the lack of #MeToo outrage about the Epstein case: The Missing Howls of Denunciation Over Major Sex Trafficking - Consortiumnews - My take: It's an obvious class issues. The #MeToo establishment does not care about working class kids and women.

A Dead Cat, A Lawyer's Call And A 5-Figure Donation: How Media Fell Short On Epstein - NPR

Yemen:

The UAE supported southern separatists in South Yemen are not welcome outside of Aden. Some southern tribes mobilized against them as well as against the Saudis and the Houthi. The war to start all wars: Inside Yemen’s troubled south - Independent

Afghanistan:

There are no Afghan peace negotiations. There are peace negotiations between the U.S. and the (U.S. created) Taliban who will continue to fight against the (U.S. installed) government even while the U.S. wants the Taliban to fight the (U.S. installed) ISIS in Afghanistan. Robert Fisk: A century after the Anglo-Afghan peace treaty, the Fourth Afghan War is about to escalate - Independent

G-7:

The real G7, measured by nominal GDP, are: 1. USA, 2. China, 3 Japan, 4. Germany, 5. UK, 6. France, 7.India.  When measured by GDP in Purchase Power Parity the list is different: 1. China, 2. USA, 3. India, 4. Japan, 5. Germany, 6. Russia, 7. Indonesia. At the G7 meeting in France today are the USA (2nd), Japan (4th), Germany (5th), UK (9th), France (10th), Italy (12th) and Canada (17th).  Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif just arrived in Biarritz where the G-7 is holding their meeting. He will probably talk with Trump.

Media:

Who is providing your news? 15 Former Spooks Who Work At CNN And MSNBC Now -Daily Caller

Music:

Led Zeppelin cover by a Balalaika group: Stairway To Heaven (vid)

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on August 25, 2019 at 13:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (342)

August 24, 2019

U.S. Decoupling From China Forces Others To Decouple From U.S.

The U.S. is decoupling itself from China. The effects of that process hurt all global economies. To avoid damage other countries have no choice but to decouple themselves from the U.S.

Today's Washington Post front page leads with a highly misleading headline:

The headline above the article is also wrong:

Trump retaliates in trade war by escalating tariffs on Chinese imports and demanding companies cut ties with China

It was China, not Trump, which retaliated. Trump reacted to that with a tweet-storm and by intensifying the trade war he started. The piece under the misleading headline even says that:

President Trump demanded U.S. companies stop doing business with China and announced he would raise the rate of tariffs on Beijing Friday, capping one of the most extraordinary days in the long-running U.S.-China trade war.
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The day began with Beijing’s announcement that it would impose new tariffs on $75 billion in goods, including reinstated levies on auto products, starting this fall. It came to a close Friday afternoon with Trump tweeting that he would raise the rate of existing and planned tariffs on China by 5 percentage points.

Beijing’s tariff retaliation was delivered with strategic timing, hours before an important address by Powell, and as Trump prepared to depart for the G-7 meeting in Biarritz.

After Trump's move the stock markets had a sad. Trade wars are, at least in the short term, bad for commerce. The U.S. and the global economy are still teetering along, but will soon be in recession.

The Trump administration is fine with that. (As is Dilbert creator Scott Adams (vid).)

U.S. grand strategy is to prevent other powers from becoming equals to itself or to even surpass it. China, with a population four times larger than the U.S., is the country ready to do just that. It has already built itself into an economic powerhouse and it is also steadily increasing its military might.

China is thus a U.S. 'enemy' even though Trump avoided, until yesterday, to use that term.

Over the last 20+ years the U.S. has imported more and more goods from China and elsewhere and has diminished its own manufacturing capabilities. It is difficult to wage war against another country when one depends on that country's production capacities. The U.S. must first decouple itself from China before it can launch the real war. Trump's trade war with China is intended to achieve that. As Peter Lee wrote when the trade negotiations with China failed:

The decoupling strategy of the US China hawks is proceeding as planned. And economic pain is a feature, not a bug.
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Failure of trade negotiations was pretty much baked in, thanks to [Trump's trade negotiator] Lightizer's maximalist demands.

And that was fine with the China hawks.

Because their ultimate goal was to decouple the US & PRC economies, weaken the PRC, and make it more vulnerable to domestic destabilization and global rollback.

If decoupling shaved a few points off global GDP, hurt American businesses, or pushed the world into recession, well that's the price o' freedom.

Or at least the cost of IndoPACOM being able to win the d*ck measuring contest in East Asia, which is what this is really all about.

Trump does not want a new trade deal with China. He wants to decouple the U.S. economy from the future enemy. Trade wars tend to hurt all involved economies. While the decoupling process is ongoing the U.S. will likely suffer a recession.

Trump is afraid that a downturn in the U.S. could lower his re-election chances. That is why he wants to use the Federal Reserve Bank to douse the economy with more money without regard for the long term consequences. That is the reason why the first part of his tweet storm yesterday was directed at Fed chief Jay Powell:

In his order for U.S. companies to withdraw from China, some close to the administration saw the president embracing the calls for an economic decoupling made by the hawks inside his administration.

The evidence of the shift may have been most apparent in a 14-word tweet in which Trump appeared to call Xi an “enemy.”

“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” he said in a Tweet posted after Powell gave a speech in Jackson Hole that contained implicit criticism of Trump’s trade policies and their impact on the U.S. and global economies.

Jay Powell does not want to lower the Fed interest rate. He does not want to increase bond buying, i.e. quantitative easing. Interest rates are already too low and to further decrease them has its own danger. The last time the Fed ran a too-low interest rate policy it caused the 2008 crash and a global depression.

Expect Trump to fire Powell should he not be willing to follow his command. The U.S. will push up its markets no matter what.

From Powell's perspective there is an additional danger in lowering U.S. interest rates. When the U.S. runs insane economic and monetary policies U.S. allies will also want decouple themselves - not from China but from the U.S. The 2008 experience demonstrated that the U.S. dollar as the global reserve and main trade currency is dangerous for all who use it. Currently any hiccup in the U.S. economy leads to large scale recessions elsewhere.

That is why even long term U.S. ally Britain warns of such danger and is looking for a way out:

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney took aim at the U.S. dollar's "destabilising" role in the world economy on Friday and said central banks might need to join together to create their own replacement reserve currency.

The dollar's dominance of the global financial system increased the risks of a liquidity trap of ultra-low interest rates and weak growth, Carney told central bankers from around the world gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in the United States.
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Carney warned that very low equilibrium interest rates had in the past coincided with wars, financial crises and abrupt changes in the banking system.
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China's yuan represented the most likely candidate to become a reserve currency to match the dollar, but it still had a long way to go before it was ready.

The best solution would be a diversified multi-polar financial system, something that could be provided by technology, Carney said.

Carney speaks of a "new Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC)" which, in a purely electronic form, could be created by a contract between the central banks of most or all countries. It would replace the dollar as the main trade currency and lower the risk for other economies to get infected by U.S. sicknesses (and manipulations).

Carney did not elaborate further but it is an interesting concept. The devil will be, as always, in the details. Will one be able to pay one's taxes in that currency? How will the value of each sovereign currency in relation to SHC be determined?

That the U.S. dollar is used as a global reserve currency under the Bretton Woods system is, in the words of the former French Minister of Finance Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, an "exorbitant privilege". If it wants to keep that privilege it will have to go back to sane economic and monetary policies. Otherwise the global economy will have no choice but to decouple from it.

Posted by b on August 24, 2019 at 19:22 UTC | Permalink | Comments (233)

August 23, 2019

U.S. Says Israel Bombed Iraq - With Update

Updated below:

On July 30 we wrote No, Israel Did Not Attack Iranian Targets In Iraq. We MAY have been wrong with this:

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.

At that time there had been two alleged incidents in Iraq. An ammunition dump exploded on July 19. An official investigation blamed the incident on faulty equipment. There had been rumors about a second incident that had not happened at all.

There have since been more ammunition incidents at bases of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashed):

Maya Gebeily @GebeilyM - 19:24 UTC · Aug 21, 2019

#IRAQ: At least four incidents over the last month at Hashed bases:
July 19 - Amerli; Iraqi joint ops says it was a drone, Hashed said fire; Pentagon denied involvement
July 28 - Diyala
August 12 - Saqr; PM ordered probe into massive blasts
August 20 - near al-Balad


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After the last incident the leaders of the PMF released contradicting statements:

The head of Iraq’s paramilitary forces supported by Iran on Thursday walked back a statement by his deputy the day before in which he blamed Israeli drones and held the U.S. responsible for a series of attacks on bases run by the militias.

Faleh al-Fayyadh said the statement by his deputy, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, did not represent the view of the mainly Shiite militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces — or the view of the Iraqi government. Al-Fayyadh’s statement alleged the attacks on the bases over the past weeks “were the result of an act organized by a foreign side,” but refrained from naming that side.

American officials denied the U.S. had any role in the explosions.
...
A government investigation, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, found the blast near Baghdad was caused by a drone strike.

Al-Muhandis, the deputy leader of the PMF who actually runs the shop, threatened U.S. forces in Iraq with retaliation.

It is likely that his statement caused U.S. officials to now tell the New York Times that the alleged Israeli airstrikes indeed happened:

Israel has carried out an airstrike on a weapons depot in Iraq that officials said was being used by Iran to move weapons to Syria, an attack that could destabilize Iraq and thrust it deeper into the conflict between the United States and Iran.
...
A senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said that Israel had bombed a base north of Baghdad on July 19.

Two senior American officials, however, said that Israel had carried out several strikes in recent days on munitions storehouses for Iranian-backed groups in Iraq.
...
The Israeli attack on July 19 struck a base that the Middle Eastern intelligence official said was being used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to transfer weapons to Syria. The Israeli strike, which was launched from within Iraq, the official said, destroyed a cargo of guided missiles with a range of 125 miles.

The "Middle Eastern intelligence official" is obviously an Israeli source that may or, more likely, may not tell the truth.  Israel can only launch strikes from within Iraq if it has resources on a U.S. base or in the Kurdish controlled area. Al-Muhandis alleged that the strikes were launched from U.S. bases:

The statement from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the umbrella grouping of Iraq's mostly Shi'ite Muslim paramilitary groups, many of which are backed by Iran, said the United States had allowed four Israeli drones to enter the region accompanying U.S. forces and carry out missions on Iraqi territory.

"We announce that the first and last entity responsible for what happened are the American forces, and we will hold them responsible for whatever happens from today onwards," said the statement, signed by deputy head of the PMF, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes.

The PMF statement came a day after several blasts hit a position held by a PMF group next to Balad air base about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

On August 16 Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi prohibited independent U.S. air traffic in Iraq:

The U.S. has agreed to comply with Abdul-Mahdi's request, officials said Friday, as "guests within Iraq's sovereign borders."

Four days later another dept explosion happened.

The Israeli claim, that Iran is using the Iraqi bases to transport weapons to Syria and Lebanon, is dubious. Iran has for years flown weapons and ammunition directly to Syria, or transported them by ship. It has no need to store them on several bases in Iraq.

I am not yet convinced that these explosions were really caused by outer influence. The ammunition the Hashed received is mostly old. Iraq was recently extraordinary hot with temperatures above 49° Celsius (120 F). All explosions happened in the late afternoon. The ammunition was stored in shipping container or metal sheet warehouse without any ventilation. Three similar explosions happened in August 2018 near Karbala. In June this year a Kurdish Peshmerga munition depot in Erbil went up in flames. A Kurdish news site reported:

It is the third explosion in recent memory taking place at weapons and ammunition storage sites in Erbil. In Aug. 2017, a Peshmerga storage facility near Erbil International Airport (EIA).

Another Kurdish ammunition dump exploded on July 18. Are we to believe that Israel bombs the Pershmerga with whom it is long allied?

The whole information(?) operation, and its revelation now, seems designed to improve the reelection chances for Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahoo.

But it is likely that the incidents will have serious consequences for the U.S military in Iraq. Iraq's government will come under intense pressure to kick the U.S. out of the country. There was already talk in Iraq about acquiring Russian air defense weapons. Iran may also want to offer some appropriate systems. Iran and the Hashed will likely attempt to retaliate for the attacks.

Something in this whole story feels wrong.  Why would the White House let such an imbroglio happen? I see nothing the U.S. could win through it.

UPDATE Aug 23, 15:20 UTC

Two 'Trump administration officials' speak with Bloomberg and contradict the two 'senior American officials' who spoke to the New York Times. The Times claimed that Israeli attacks led to explosions in munition depots in Iraq. Bloomberg now says that summer heat was the likely cause. Our suspicion that this was the case seems fully justified.

The Trump administration suggested the blistering summer heat in Iraq, not alleged Israeli airstrikes, may have been responsible for at least some of the recent explosions that have destroyed Iraqi weapons depots linked to Iran.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, two administration officials said the U.S. had no corroboration that Israel was behind all the explosions. The officials, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations, were referring to a New York Times report earlier Friday that said Israel carried out a strike on a weapons depot in Iraq on Aug. 22.
...
One of the officials said the U.S. disputed the idea that Israel was behind all the attacks, adding that the cause of the explosions could be the “absolutely raging heat in Baghdad over the summer.”

Posted by b on August 23, 2019 at 7:53 UTC | Permalink | Comments (100)

August 22, 2019

Open Thread 2019-49

Reminder:

  • No personal attacks
  • No spiffy one-liners
  • No sock-puppetry
  • Off-topic comments belong into the open threads

Those who insist on breaking these rules will get banned. Their comments will be deleted.

---

News & views ...

 

Posted by b on August 22, 2019 at 17:30 UTC | Permalink | Comments (207)

August 21, 2019

Anti-China Cult Gets U.S. Government Money - Runs Large Pro-Trump Ad Campaign

Falun Gong is a cult which claims to have millions of followers. It was founded in China by Li Hongzhi who thinks of himself as a higher being. Falun Gong mixes some Taoism and Buddhism with nutty ideas, conservative politics and strong anti-communism:

Some of Mr Li's pronouncements are certainly unconventional, some would say just plain strange.

He believes aliens walk the Earth and he has reportedly said he can walk through walls and make himself invisible.

Mr Li says that he is a being from from a higher level who has come to help humankind from the destruction it could face as the result of rampant evil.

In 1999 the cult attempted to gain political power in China. The government shut it down for pushing its followers to not use medical therapies. Li Hongzhi and some of his followers moved to the United States. As the cult is strongly anti-communist the U.S. government used it to put pressure on China. Some institutions and companies related to Falun Gong are openly funded with U.S. government money.

The main media outlet of the Falun Gong organization is the Epoch Times. NBC reports of its astonishing growth as a pro-Trump social media force:

By the numbers, there is no bigger advocate of President Donald Trump on Facebook than The Epoch Times.

The small New York-based nonprofit news outlet has spent more than $1.5 million on about 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements in the last six months, according to data from Facebook’s advertising archive — more than any organization outside of the Trump campaign itself, and more than most Democratic presidential candidates have spent on their own campaigns.

Those video ads — in which unidentified spokespeople thumb through a newspaper to praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories about the “Deep State,” and criticize “fake news” media — strike a familiar tone in the online conservative news ecosystem. The Epoch Times looks like many of the conservative outlets that have gained followings in recent years.
...
In April, at the height of its ad spending, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and digital video outlet New Tang Dynasty, or NTD, combined for around 3 billion views on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, ranking 11th among all video creators across platforms and outranking every other traditional news publisher.
...
The Epoch Times brought in $8.1 million in revenue in 2017 — double what it had the previous year — and reported spending $7.2 million on “printing newspaper and creating web and media programs.” Most of its revenue comes from advertising and “web and media income,” according to the group’s annual tax filings, while individual donations and subscriptions to the paper make up less than 10 percent of its revenue.

New Tang Dynasty’s 2017 revenue, according to IRS records, was $18 million, a 150 percent increase over the year before. It spent $16.2 million.

The NBC report says it is not clear where the "web and media" money that gets invested in pro-Trump advertisement actually comes from.

Falung Gong members in Taipei

source - bigger

Here is a hunch. What NBC does not mention is that Falun Gong is a U.S. anti-China asset. The Bush/Cheney administration used the Falun Gong to intentionally embarrass China's then President Hu Jintao when he visited Washington:

PRC President Hu Jintao had the misfortune of visiting Washington in 2006, when Vice President Cheney and his militant faction were riding high. China's role as an impediment to Bush administration policies on Iran as well as North Korea did not make for a particularly hospitable environment for Hu's visit.
...
The capper to the disastrous visit was the outburst during Hu’s speech on the White House lawn by Dr Wang Wenyi of the Falun Gong spiritual practice movement, who gained access to the speech as a credentialed correspondence.
...
Ming Pao reported more categorically that Dr. Wang declaimed in a piercing voice, shouting exhortations such as “Heaven will destroy the Chinese Communists”, “Leave the Party”, “10 million heroes have left the party, when will you leave?”, “Judge Jiang Zemin, Luo Gan, Zhou Yongkang” and “Falun Practice is Great”.

The revelation that the White House had granted Dr. Wang a temporary press pass in the name of the Epoch Times probably did not elicit a forgiving shrug from the Chinese government.
...
Dr. Wang was not a journalist by profession. She was a pathologist, and the lead researcher on Falun Gong's hot-button issue--the alleged vivisection of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese government at a facility in Shenyang, and the sale of their organs for transplant purposes.

And, beyond Falun Gong’s well-known hostility to the Chinese Communist Party and Dr. Wang’s central role in Falung Gong’s most impassioned crusade against the Chinese regime, her prior personal history of confronting Hu Jintao was a matter of public record.

The Secret Service is usually quick in removing hecklers from official White House events. It made no effort to remove Dr. Wang during President Hu's speech.

Yasha Levine documents in his book Surveillance Valley that the U.S. government built and uses the Internet as a weapon. Falun Gong plays a role in that.

At least some parts of the Falun Gong organization are financed by the U.S. government through the Internet Freedom program run by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). The USAGM/BBG budget for 2018 was $804 million.

A 2011 report (pdf) by the minority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee attacked the State Department for too friendly behavior towards China:

From Fiscal Year 2008 to 2010, Congress provided some $50 million in funding to assist in Internet Freedom. As of January 2011, the State Department had obligated less than $20 million, of which little went to Internet Censorship Circumvention Technology (ICCT).
...
Some of the most sophisticated ICCT software is being developed by two U.S. companies, whose founders fled China to escape persecution for being members of Falun Gong. Their software was initially designed to allow fellow Falun Gong practitioners in China (whom Beijing authorities continue to prosecute, harass and imprison) to circumvent the Great Firewall by enabling their users to surf the Web as if they were in the U.S. or other “Internet friendly” nations via a combination of Proxy Websites and Virtual Private Networks. However, both DIT and UltraReach soon found their products being used by democracy activists and ordinary citizens to circumvent Internet censorship in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Burma and Vietnam –[...] Congress has responded by appropriating some $50 million to the State Department to support Internet freedom: FY2008 $14.8 Million; FY2009 $5 Million; FY2010 $30 Million

A footnote confirms that the Falun Gong companies received part of that money through the BBG:

Of the FY2009 Internet Freedom funding, the BBG received $1.5 Million. The BBG promptly used to contract with DIT to expand its Freegate software operations for some $600,000 and with UltraReach for $840,000.

DIT or Dynamic Internet Technology is run by one Bill Xia. In a 2006 Businessweek portrait he confirms that he is a Falun Gong member. The DIT website lists only four customers: the Falun Gong's Epoch Times, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and the New York and Hong Kong based propaganda group Human Rights in China (HRIC). VOA and RFA are financed by the USAGM/BBG. HRIC is financed by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Open Society Institute and similar organizations.

As three of the four organizations listed as DIT customers are officially U.S. government financed one wonders who finances the fourth.

Ultrareach Internet Corp does not list any customers, executives or address. Bloomberg puts the company at an address in Cheyenne, WY which is of a small house used as a lawyer's office.

The USAGM/BBG Internet Freedom program had a 2018 budget of $13.8 million.

Through Falun Gong the U.S. government provides software and servers for circumventing China's Great Firewall. It is somewhat ironic that those services were used by the alleged Chinese government agents that Twitter and Facebook recently removed from their services:

In all, Twitter said that 936 accounts originating from within China have been suspended for a number of violations of the company’s “platform manipulation policies,” including spam, coordinated activity, fake accounts and ban evasion.

The social media activity of the suspended accounts, which posted in both English and Chinese, were part of efforts to undermine the “legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground”, the company said.

Twitter, Facebook and most other western social media platforms are blocked in mainland China. Most of the accounts identified by Twitter as “bad faith actors” circumvented the Great Firewall – as the country’s digital barrier is known – using virtual private networks (VPNs), though some were tracked to specific, unblocked IP addresses based in mainland China.

Twitter's expulsion run was, as usual, badly targeted:

The accounts taken down represented "the most active portions of this campaign”, the company said.

That was news to Luka Ivezic, a 24-year-old student at Kings College London, whose account - @TechPoliticist - had been suspended, and appeared on the list of those said to be run by, and out of, China.

Mr Ivezic, who was born in Croatia and says he has never been to China, recently completed his thesis. The subject? “Disinformation, and how artificial intelligence can empower the tools that China and Russia have to misinform us.”

An analysis of the total 200,000 accounts Twitter deleted points to mostly rented Russian language bot accounts which were used to agitate against Guo Wengui, a dissent Chinese tycoon who is seeking U.S. asylum. There is also an army of pro Guo Twitter bots who condemn China. That army was, of course, not suspended.

The Twitter accounts that tweeted against the Hong Kong riots were not sent by the Chinese government but Baidu forum users who flooded Twitter though the Falun Gong virtual private networks the U.S. finances to tweet in support of the Hong Kong police.

The U.S. government financing of those Falun Gong entities is not the only connection with that organization.

Shortly after Falun Gong came to the United States a U.S. government regime change organization set up a Friends of Falun Gong organization:

In the spring of 2000, a group of concerned American citizens wanted to take action to raise awareness about the terrible injustice facing Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Having the common desire to restore and protect the fundamental rights of Falun Gong practitioners, they turned for advice to a long-time champion of human rights issues, former U.S. Ambassador Mark Palmer, who has been following the plight of Falun Gong practitioners. At the time, Ambassador Palmer was the Vice-Chairman of the Board for Freedom House, and he still serves on that board. Among his many other achievements, Ambassador Palmer co-founded of the National Endowment for Democracy.

After months of hard work, in November 2000, with the help of Ambassador Palmer and others, Friends of Falun Gong USA was formally established.

The Falun Gong cult makes some significant money through its Shen Yun propaganda dance companies:

The dances continued, sleeves swirling, skirts rippling. A man came onstage to sing a song in Chinese, which was translated on the screen behind him. “We follow Dafa, the Great Way,” he began, singing about a Creator who saved mankind and made the world anew. “Atheism and evolution are deadly ideas. Modern trends destroy what makes us human,” he sang.
...
Shen yun, according to Shen Yun, means “the beauty of divine beings dancing.” (It can also be translated as “the rhythm of a divine spirit,” or, more simply, “God’s melody.”) The Shen Yun Performing Arts organization was founded in 2006, in New York’s Hudson Valley, and put on its first touring show in 2007. By 2009, there were three touring Shen Yun companies. Today, there are six companies, each consisting of forty or so dancers, all of them trained at the Fei Tian Academy, which is situated on a four-hundred-and-twenty-seven-acre campus established for Falun Dafa practitioners in upstate New York. The dancers are accompanied by an orchestra that incorporates Chinese instruments; each troupe includes about eighty people. In addition to the ninety-six American cities it is touring this year, Shen Yun will visit Vancouver, Berlin, Auckland, Taipei, Daegu, Aix-en-Provence, and dozens of other places.

Shen Yun is a nonprofit. In 2016, it reported more than seventy-five million dollars in assets and more than twenty-two million dollars in revenue.

It might well be that the money Falun Gong generates through such propaganda endeavors is channeled through its media empire into pro-Trump advertisement.

But the significant support U.S. government agencies give to Falun Gong, combined with the virulent anti-China policies of the Trump administration, lets one assume that there are also official dark money sources, think CIA, that support the Falun Gong's anti-China efforts.

Money is fungible. A U.S. government financed organization should not invest it in partisan U.S. politics. Some enterprising Democratic candidates could up their game by taking a deeper look into this issue.

Posted by b on August 21, 2019 at 18:13 UTC | Permalink | Comments (90)

August 19, 2019

Syria - Army Cuts Off Khan Shaykhun - Russia Bombs Turkish Reinforcement

This is an update to last weeks post Syria - Frontline Breach Opens Door To A Deep Battle For Idlib.

Today the Syrian army gained fire control over the M5 highway north of Khan Shaykhun.


Map by Peto Lucem - bigger

The jihadists in the soon closed cauldron south of that point are now cut off from road bound resupplies.

For the last few nights reinforcements from north Idleb tried to reach Khan Shaykhun. The Syrian and Russian airforce prevented them (vid) from getting there.

This map shows the situation five days ago with the position of the Turkish observation point within the area.


via ISWnews - bigger

This morning Turkey sent (vid) a 29 truck convoy with five tanks, two infantry fighting vehicles, ammunition and additional personnel toward the observation post in Morek, south of Khan Shaykhun.

Before the convoy passed through Maarat al-Numan, 20 kilometers north of Khan Shaykhun, the Russian airforce bombed its path (vid). The leader of Faylq al-Sham, a 'Syrian rebel' group controlled by the Turkish intelligence service, was escorting the Turkish army convoy in a technical. He was killed. No Turkish soldiers were harmed. The convoy stopped and will have to return to Turkey. The tanks and the ammunition will not reach the jihadis in Khan Shaykhun.

The Turkish defense ministry falsely claimed that three civilians were killed in the bombing. The Syrian government condemned the Turkish invasion.

This now is the right time for the Syrian army to bring in reserves and to open the deep battle for Idleb by quickly moving northwards along the M5 highway.

Posted by b on August 19, 2019 at 18:24 UTC | Permalink | Comments (158)

Which Hong Kong Protest Size Estimate is Right?

The New York Times further promotes the protests in Hong Kong by quoting an extravagant crowd size estimate of yesterday's march.

Hong Kong Protesters Defy Police Ban in Show of Strength After Tumult

A sea of Hong Kong protesters marched through the dense city center in the pouring rain on Sunday, defying a police ban, in a vivid display of the movement’s continuing strength after more than two months of demonstrations, days of ugly violence and increasingly vehement warnings from the Chinese government.

People began assembling in the early afternoon in Victoria Park, the starting point of huge peaceful marches in June that were joined by hundreds of thousands of protesters.
...
By midafternoon, the park had filled with tens of thousands of people, and the demonstrators began to spill into nearby roads.
...
Organizers estimated at least 1.7 million people had turned out — nearly one in four of the total population of more than seven million — making it the second-largest march of the movement, after a protest by nearly two million on June 16.

The Hong Kong police released a far lower crowd estimate, saying there were 128,000 protesters in Victoria Park during the peak period.

So what is it? 128,000 or the 13 times bigger 1.7 million? With the mood set in the first paragraphs the Times is clearly promoting the larger estimate.

But that estimate is definitely false. (As was my own early estimate of 15-20,000 based on early pictures of the event.) It is impossible that 1.7 million people took part in the gathering and march. There is no way that the 1.7 million people would physically fit in or near the protest venue.

This is well known. On Saturday the Wall Street Journal (quoted here) wrote:

The police on Thursday approved a Sunday protest at Victoria Park. But they denied a permit for a 2.3-mile march to Chater Road in Hong Kong’s Central district.
...
The problem is that Victoria Park can accommodate only 100,000 or so people, according to police estimates.

Victoria Park has two places where people crowds can assemble.


bigger

The one below the red marker is the field in question. It is 80 x 360 meter, 28.800 square meter. At a high density of 4 people per square meter the field can hold a maximum of 115.000 people. On Sunday there was some overflow onto the upper green field but the density was much lower than 4 persons per square meter. It was raining and nearly everyone carried an umbrella. That is not possible in a high density standing or moving crowd.


bigger

Pictures of large crowds tend to deceive. The density often seem higher than it is. The two below made by Prof Keith Still with a 3D crowd visualizer show 2 people per square meter.


bigger

bigger

The South China Morning Post posted video (scroll down) of the crowd and the following march and the average density appears to be even lower than 2.


bigger

The police estimate of 128,000 protesters seems realistic, if not too high. The organizer's estimate of 1.7 million is bollocks.

Media that want to inform their readers can easily verify such numbers. Media that support U.S. meddling in Hong Kong won't.

Posted by b on August 19, 2019 at 17:11 UTC | Permalink | Comments (134)

August 18, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-48

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

The violence led to a backlash. Today was another pre-approved protest attended by less people than previous such assemblies. It ended peacefully. There were only few policeman around. A man from mainland China who passed by the protest was harassed. The black block now waits for the peaceful protesters to leave to cause trouble.

Turkey sent 'rebels' from the occupied Afrin to help the Jihadists in Khan Shaykhun. The Russian or Syrian airforce bombed some who were on their way. After repelling a counterattack the Syrian army operation continues as foreseen.

Is the war in Syria a civil war? The numbers answer that question.

Emmanuel @EmmanuelGMay - 12:17 UTC · Aug 18, 2019

#Syria / July 2019: based on #SOHR victims' statistic, 96% of #SAA + allies fighters are Syrians. For Jihadists / "opposition" fighters, foreigners are clearly the majority (60% - 40%)



bigger - bigger - source data

The borg sayz: "There is nothing to see here. Please move on."

Other issues:

737 Max: The Wall Street Journal produced a detailed piece on how MCAS came to be:

The Four-Second Catastrophe: How Boeing Doomed the 737 MAX
At the root of the company’s miscalculation was a flawed assumption that pilots could handle any malfunction

This is concerning:

In designing the flight controls for the 737 MAX, Boeing assumed that pilots trained on existing safety procedures should be able to sift through the jumble of contradictory warnings and take the proper action 100% of the time within four seconds.

That is about the amount of time that it took you to read this sentence.
...
Regulators endorsed that determination, along with the single sensor. The FAA certification rules under which the MAX was allowed to fly assume pilots react correctly to certain emergencies 100% of the time.

The so called 'startle time', the moment it needs to react to unexpected complex events, is usually considered to be some 30 seconds.

And this is not only racist, but criminal:

The FAA is reassessing some of its key assumptions. The agency said certification procedures are “well-established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs,” but it is rethinking reliance on average U.S. pilot reaction times as a design benchmark for planes that are sold in parts of the world with different experience levels and training standards.

Some 80% of FAA certified Boeing planes are sold abroad. If there is difference in the reaction time of "U.S. pilots" and foreign pilots, which I very much doubt, the safer number has to be applied. Also no safety criteria should ever be based on "average pilot reaction times" because that obviously means that 50% of all pilots will fail to save their own and their passengers asses.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on August 18, 2019 at 14:16 UTC | Permalink | Comments (198)

August 17, 2019

Long Range Attack On Saudi Oil Field Ends War On Yemen

Today Saudi Arabia finally lost the war on Yemen. It has no defenses against the new weapons the Houthis in Yemen acquired. These weapons threaten the Saudis' economic lifelines. This today was the decisive attack:

Drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked a massive oil and gas field deep inside Saudi Arabia’s sprawling desert on Saturday, causing what the kingdom described as a “limited fire” in the second such recent attack on its crucial energy industry.
...
The Saudi acknowledgement of the attack came hours after Yahia Sarie, a military spokesman for the Houthis, issued a video statement claiming the rebels launched 10 bomb-laden drones targeting the field in their “biggest-ever” operation. He threatened more attacks would be coming.
New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces

bigger

Today's attack is a check mate move against the Saudis. Shaybah is some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Houthi-controlled territory. There are many more important economic targets within that range:

The field’s distance from rebel-held territory in Yemen demonstrates the range of the Houthis’ drones. U.N. investigators say the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). That puts Saudi oil fields, an under-construction Emirati nuclear power plant and Dubai’s busy international airport within their range.

Unlike sophisticated drones that use satellites to allow pilots to remotely fly them, analysts believe Houthi drones are likely programmed to strike a specific latitude and longitude and cannot be controlled once out of radio range. The Houthis have used drones, which can be difficult to track by radar, to attack Saudi Patriot missile batteries, as well as enemy troops.

The attack conclusively demonstrates that the most important assets of the Saudis are now under threat. This economic threat comes on top of a seven percent budget deficit the IMF predicts for Saudi Arabia. Further Saudi bombing against the Houthi will now have very significant additional cost that might even endanger the viability of the Saudi state. The Houthi have clown prince Mohammad bin Salman by the balls and can squeeze those at will.

The drones and missiles the Houthi use are copies of Iranian designs assembled in Yemen with the help of Hizbullah experts from Lebanon. Four days ago a Houthi delegation visited Iran. During the visit Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the first time publicly admitted that the Houthi have Iran's support:

"I declare my support for the resistance of Yemen's believing men and women ... Yemen’s people... will establish a strong government," state TV quoted Khamenei as saying in a meeting with the visiting chief negotiator of the Houthi movement Mohammed Abdul-Salam.

Khamenei, who held talks for the first time in Tehran with a senior Houthi representative, also called for "strong resistance against the Saudi-led plots to divide Yemen", the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"A unified and coherent Yemen with sovereign integrity should be endorsed. Given Yemen’s religious and ethnic diversity, protecting Yemen’s integrity requires domestic dialogue," he said, TV reported.

The visit in Tehran proved that the Houthi are no longer an unrecognized, isolated movement:

Officials from Iran, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, exchanged views about political resolution of the protracted war in the Arabian Peninsula country.

The meeting was held at the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Tehran on Saturday with delegations from Iran, Ansarullah and the four European countries in attendance.

The delegates at the meeting explained their respective governments’ views on the developments in Yemen, including political and battlefield developments as well as the humanitarian situation in the country.
...
The delegates stressed the need for an immediate end to the war and described political means as the ultimate solution to the crisis.


bigger

The war on Yemen that MbS started in March 2015 long proved to be unwinnable. Now it is definitely lost. Neither the U.S. nor the Europeans will come to the Saudis help. There are no technological means to reasonably protect against such attacks. Poor Yemen defeated rich Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi side will have to agree to political peace negotiations. The Yemeni demand for reparation payments will be eye watering. But the Saudis will have no alternative but to cough up whatever the Houthi demand.

The UAE was smart to pull out of Yemen during the last months. Its war aim was to gain control of the port of Aden. Its alliance with southern Yemen separatist who now control the city guarantees that. How long they will be able to hold on to it when Khamenei rejects a division of Yemen remains to be seen.

Today's attack has an even larger dimension than marking the end of the war on Yemen. That Iran supplied drones with 1,500 kilometer reach to its allies in Yemen means that its allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq have access to similar means.

Israel and Turkey will have to take that into consideration. U.S. bases along the Persian Gulf and in Afghanistan must likewise watch out. Iran has not only ballistic missiles to attack those bases but also drones against which U.S. missile and air defense systems are more or less useless. Only the UAE, which bought Russian Pantsir S-1 air defense systems on German MAN truck chassis(!), has some capabilities to take those drones down. The Pentagon would probably love to buy some of these.


bigger

It was the U.S. use of stealthy drones against Iran that gave it a chance to capture one and to analyze and clone it. Iran's extensive drone program is indigenous and quite old but it benefited from technology the U.S. unintentionally provided.

All the wars the U.S. and its allies waged in the Middle East, against Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Lebanon (2006), Syria (2011), Iraq (2014) and Yemen (2015), ended up with unintentionally making Iran and its allies stronger.

There is a lesson to learn from that. But it is doubtful that the borg in Washington DC has the ability to understand it.

Posted by b on August 17, 2019 at 20:16 UTC | Permalink | Comments (182)

August 16, 2019

Epstein Suicided - Thread 2

There are nearly 550 comments on the Epstein Suicided thread. A second one is thus justified.

As I did not follow the development of that case as diligently as some commentators here I have, for now, little to add.

The British Daily Mail reported that Epstein had this painting in his New York mansion.


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One wonders if Bill and/or Hillary knew about it.

Please use this thread for the continuing discussion of the Epstein issue.

Posted by b on August 16, 2019 at 16:59 UTC | Permalink | Comments (365)

August 15, 2019

Syria - Frontline Breach Opens Door To A Deep Battle For Idlib

During the last months the Syrian government made some progress in the norther part of Hama governorate on the border to the jihadi held Idlib governorate. The breach of the jihadi defense lines must now be used to develop a larger campaign.

The maps show the progress between May 15 2019 and today (Red - government control; Green - jihadi control).

North Hama Front - May 15 2019

via LiveUAmap - bigger

North Hama Front - August 15 2019

via LiveUAmap - bigger

The current operation is a pincer movement on the western and eastern side of Khan Shaykhun. It is designed to envelope the jihadi held towns Al Lataminah, Kafr Zayta, Khan Shaykhun and Morek.

The north of Hama and Idlib governorate is held by the al-Qaeda aligned Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS). HTS defeated and removed several Turkish supported 'rebel' groups from the area it rules. On the Syrian side the Tiger Force and the 4th division are the main units in the current fight.

The first phase of the operation, which began three month ago and was interupted by several ceasefires, proved to be difficult. The jihadis have good equipment which includes a large number of U.S. supplied TOW anti-tank missiles with 5,000 meter reach. They also have a significant number of artillery missile launchers. Their positions were well prepared and they fiercely defended each and every house. They counterattacked with some success by utilizing vehicles with suicide bombers.

The losses of the Syrian army during the first phase were unacceptable high. This led to a change of tactics. The Syrian and Russian airforce began an extensive bombing campaign with hundreds of air and artillery strikes per day against jihadi positions. Drones were used to find mobile missile launchers hidden in fruit plantations and to direct artillery and bombers to those aims. ANNA News published several videos of the extensive campaign (1, 2, 3 - Engl.subs). The air campaign cost the jihadis a significant amount of material and personal. Only one of the attacking planes, a Syrian SU-22, was lost during the fight.

The Syrian army also began to make large night attacks. Its new T-90 and modernized T-72 tanks have excellent thermal night vision and can destroy targets at long distances. The infantry can proceed under their protection. Instead of fighting along roads from town to town the army moved to take high ground first and to proceed from there. Using flanking operations the troops broke through several prepared defense lines. The jihadis are now on the run. This ANNA video (engl.subs) shows last week's operation to liberate the town of Al Habit (Al Hobeit) and gives a good impression of the new tactics. The army has since moved further to the north east of Al Habit and took Kafr Ayn and Tell As.

The encirclement north of Khan Shaykhun will close within the next several days. The jihadis who stay within the cauldron will have little chance to survive. They will most likely flee north along the M5 highway.

Current situation

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The soon enclosed area also holds one of the Turkish manned ceasefire observation posts. While these posts are supposed to supervise the ever breaking ceasefire they are in fact used as supply and fire direction centers for the jihadi forces. It will be interesting to see the Turkish reaction when the Syrian army knocks on the observer post's door.

There continues to be deep divide in the anti-Syrian front. HTS pushed back against Turkish attempts to control the area it holds. It rejected the various ceasefires that Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed upon in the Astana process. When its defense lines broke it refused offers from the Turkish controlled 'National Army' gangs to come to its help.

Ömer Özkizilcik @OmerOzkizilcik - 10:32 UTC · Aug 15, 2019

- When the factions of the National Army recently attempting to send fighters to Idlib, HTS rejected anyone from Sultan Murad, Firka Hamza, Sultan Suleyman Shah and Jaysh al Islam. A 20-people delegation of Jaysh al Islam to negotiate a free passage was imprisoned by HTS

Russia and Syria will continue to use this split between the various groups Turkey officially or unofficially supports to incite more infighting on the 'rebel' site. It proved to be one of their best weapons.

Recovering the area and Khan Shaykhun, a city with 35,000 pre-war inhabitants, will be a significant victory. But this operation is only the opening battle of a larger campaign. The rather slow breach of the frontline will now be turned into a dynamic campaign. The larger plan behind this is likely of Russian heritage:

[T]he Soviets developed the concept of deep battle and by 1936 it had become part of the Red Army Field Regulations. Deep operations had two phases: the tactical deep battle, followed by the exploitation of tactical success, known as the conduct of deep battle operations. Deep battle envisaged the breaking of the enemy's forward defenses, or tactical zones, through combined arms assaults, which would be followed up by fresh uncommitted mobile operational reserves sent to exploit the strategic depth of an enemy front. The goal of a deep operation was to inflict a decisive strategic defeat on the enemy's logistical abilities and render the defence of their front more difficult, impossible—or, indeed, irrelevant. Unlike most other doctrines, deep battle stressed combined arms cooperation at all levels: strategic, operational, and tactical.

The Syrian army will pursue the fleeing jihadis along the M5 highway with a strong armored forces upfront and under the bombing cover of the airforce. Defended towns along the road can be enveloped from east and west, surrounded, and left to the following infantry for clean up. The run must not stop at least until the forces reach Saraquib at the merging of the M4 and M5 highway. The tactical deep battle can then be further developed to recover all of Idlib governorate.

Idlib Governorate - August 15 2019

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To support the push from the south additional fronts must be opened west of Aleppo along the M5 and from Latakia in the west along the M4 highway through Jish ash Shugur and on to Saraqib. The battle to breach the frontline in Latakia has been ongoing for some time but a decisive breakthrough has yet to be achieved.

The recovery of the M4 and M5 highways is of uttermost importance for the Syrian economy. Syria, Russia and Iran should resist all calls from the U.S. and Turkey to stop their campaign before that job is done.

Posted by b on August 15, 2019 at 17:28 UTC | Permalink | Comments (82)

August 14, 2019

Violent Protests In Hong Kong Reach Their Last Stage

The riots in Hong Kong are about to end.

The protests, as originally started in June, were against a law that would have allowed criminal extraditions to Taiwan, Macao and mainland China. The law was retracted and the large protests have since died down. What is left are a few thousand students who, as advertised in a New York Times op-ed, intentionally seek to provoke the police with "marginal violence":

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.

The protesters now use the same violent methods that were used in the Maidan protests in the Ukraine. The U.S. seems to hope that China will intervene and create a second Tianamen scene. That U.S. color revolution attempt failed but was an excellent instrument to demonize China. A repeat in Hong Kong would allow the U.S. to declare a "clash of civilization" and increase 'western' hostility against China. But while China is prepared to intervene it is unlikely to do the U.S. that favor. Its government expressed confidence that the local authorities will be able to handle the issue.

There are rumors that some Hong Kong oligarchs were originally behind the protests to prevent their extradition for shady deals they made in China. There may be some truth to that. China's president Xi Jingpin is waging a fierce campaign against corruption and Hong Kong is a target rich environment for fighting that crime.

The former British colony is ruled by a handful of oligarchs who have monopolies in the housing, electricity, trade and transport markets:

The book to read is Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong (2010) by Alice Poon, which explains how the lack of competition law created outrageous wealth for the tycoons. It’s a complex subject but the key point is that in Hong Kong all land is leasehold and ultimately owned by the government, which uses it as a means of raising revenue. This goes back to the days of empire when British policy required colonies to be self-funding. The system kept taxes down and attracted business – but one side-effect was that it gave the government an interest in rationing land to keep it expensive. That didn’t matter much when the local economy comprised a few traders but, in the modern technological world of 2012, it puts the government at odds with every person and business wanting affordable space. Indeed, it induces the government to distort and damage the economy, and indeed society.

This system paved the way for a handful of Hong Kong families to become unimaginably wealthy by getting their hands on cheap land back in the days before the city started to boom.

Rents and apartment prices in Hong Kong are high. People from the mainland who buy up apartments with probably illegally gained money only increase the scarcity. This is one reason why the Cantonese speaking Hong Kong protesters spray slurs against the Mandarin speaking people from the mainland. The people in Hong Kong also grieve over their declining importance. Hong Kong lost its once important economical position. In 1993 Hong Kong's share of China's GDP was 27%. It is now less than a tenths of that and the city is now more or less irrelevant to mainland China.

Democracy in Hong Kong is restricted to further the interests of the oligarchs:

In the 70-seat legislature, only half of the members are directly elected. The other half are selected by special interest groups—such as the financial and real estate professions—meaning that the body tends to be controlled by a mostly pro-Beijing business elite rather than by voters. The city’s Beijing-backed leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, likewise lacks a popular mandate.

The current protests are surely not an incentive to remove those restrictions or to invest in Hong Kong. They are counter productive.

While the protests against the extradition bill may have been backed by some tycoons, it is obvious that there is also a large U.S. government influence behind them. It is the U.S., not some oligarchs, which is behind the current rioting phase.

In 1992 Congress adopted the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act which mandates U.S. government 'pro-democracy' policies in Hong Kong. Some Senators and lobbyists now push for a Support Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act which would intensify the interference. Before the June protests started Secretary of State (and former CIA head) Mike Pompeo met with the Hong Kong 'pro-democracy' leader Martin Lee and later with 'pro-democracy' media tycoon Jimmy Lai. The National Endowment for Democracy finances several of the groups behind the protests.

Such interference is against Hong Kong's Basic Law:

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.

Despite that law the U.S. National Endowment of Democracy spends millions on organizations in Hong Kong:


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The political officer of the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong, the largest in the world, meets with notorious rabble-rousers like Yoshua Wong.


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That some protesters sing the U.S. national anthem and wave U.S. flags (vid) or fire U.S. made grenade launchers (vid) will not motivate patriotic locals to join them. The protesters also fly Pepe the frog flags and use that rightwing fringe symbol on their pamphlets and flyers. It rather fits that Hillary Clinton and Dominic Raab support them.


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To use the British colonial flag to call for Chinese 'colonists' to leave requires some brain twisting.


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The rioters equipment comes from "strangers" who create depots of gas masks, helmets, laser pointers etc, that trusted demonstrators then distribute to their fellows. Mysteriously hundreds of subway tickets appear which are handed out for free to the junior university students who, during their current holidays, make up the mass of the violent black block that attacks the police.


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The rightwing Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions has long been financed by U.S. regime change organizations. That it represents the airport workers may be the reason why the protests recently escalated there. The last three days protesters blocked the Hong Kong airport and violently hindered people from departing on their booked flights.

Travelers who spoke Mandarin were attacked. The scene became extremely ugly when a journalist from the Chinese Global Times was beaten until he fainted. Protesters claimed that he was with the police and hindered paramedics from reaching and caring for the man. Only when police intervened were the first-aiders able to remove the unconscious person. One of the rioters who beat the man had a U.S. flag in his hand (vid). When the stretcher was rolled out of the airport another protester with a U.S. flag on a pole ran after it and beat the patient (vid).

James Griffith, a CNN International producer, was on the scene.

𝕛𝕒𝕞𝕖𝕤 𝕘𝕣𝕚𝕗𝕗𝕚𝕥𝕙𝕤 @jgriffiths - 14:24 UTC · Aug 13, 2019

Ugly confrontation between a huge crowd of protesters and a man they believe is an undercover cop has been ongoing for over an hour now. Have zip tied the man’s hands and fighting over whether to move him. He’s collapsed twice.
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Its all so ugly and angry and nihilistic. Asked kids who said he was faking what if he wasn’t, they said who cares. Asked what if he dies, who cares. Asked them what they think will happen if he is a cop and he dies, “so they shutdown HK? Good! We are ready for it, we want it.”
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This was a movement famous for clearing thousands of people out of the way on the streets to let an ambulance through, now blocking a stretcher while a handful of more reasonable people in tears try to reason with them.
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Most surreal moments have been people (seeing press vest) come up to “explain” to me things they’re clearly getting from Telegram, claiming without evidence the guy is 100% a cop because someone Googled him, or that he had weapons (different guy) or that he was faking fainting.

Read Griffiths whole thread here. There are also plenty of videos from the scene that document the ghastly behavior.

Later Griffiths further explained:

𝕛𝕒𝕞𝕖𝕤 𝕘𝕣𝕚𝕗𝕗𝕚𝕥𝕙𝕤 @jgriffiths - 5:44 UTC · Aug 14, 2019

(1) man found with numchuk like weapon, released after brief confrontation and showing ID.
(2) man accused of being undercover cop, beaten and restrained with zip ties. Paramedic reached him to give him oxygen and aid after he passed out. evacuated to ambulance after 4-5 hours.
(3) man later confirmed to be Global Times reporter. Briefly restrained and then released after first aiders intervened.

Another 'western' journalist expressed a rather wretched understanding of freedom of the press:

Melissa Chan @melissakchan - 20:40 UTC · Aug 13, 2019

What has happened with the man detained and physically abused by some protesters at the Hong Kong airport is appalling and must stop now. But he works for The Global Times, a propaganda arm of the Chinese state, and he is not a journalist and should not be called that.


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Melissa Chan worked for Al Jazeerah, the propaganda arm of the emir of Qatar. She now works for DW, the propaganda arm of the German government. By her own criterion she is neither a journalist nor should she be called one.

The airport now received a court order that allows it to restrict further protests.

The police still holds back as much as it can. In most other countries this scene, in which a beaten policeman briefly pulls his gun, would have ended deadly.

Last month the government in Hong Kong brought a former top officer out of retirement to handle the protests. There have since been some changes in police tactics. Where previously protestors got away with building barricades and throwing stones they now get arrested and end up in jail. Undercover policemen snatched some riot leaders off the streets.

Local people increasingly turn against the rioters. Those who depend on tourism have good reason to call for a crack down on them. The violent behavior of the protesters gives the police more public leeway for harsh responses. There are many additional methods that can be used. The police refrained so far from encircling and mass arresting rioters, a tactic that is used in many other countries. Its water cannon vehicles were shown off but not put into action. The police has not yet cracked down on the communication with "strangers" even though it is likely to listen to some of it. This end phase will soon come.

There is also an automatic end date for the riots. On September 2 the new semester begins and the students will turn back to studies. The rioters will lose their critical mass. The whole issue will end up as another failure without the U.S. achieving any of its aims.

Mainland Chinese who view the chaos in Hong Kong in all its glory will now reject any talk of 'pro-democracy'.

Meanwhile China intensifies its belt and road initiative and Trump loses his trade war:

Responding to pressure from businesses and growing fears that a trade war is threatening the U.S. economy, the Trump administration is delaying most of the import taxes it planned to impose on Chinese goods and is dropping others altogether.

The administration says it still plans to proceed with 10% tariffs on about $300 billion in Chinese imports [...]

But under pressure from retailers and other businesses, President Donald Trump’s trade office said it would delay until Dec. 15 the tariffs on nearly 60% of the imports that had been set to absorb the new taxes starting Sept. 1. Among the products that will benefit from the 3½-month reprieve are such popular consumer goods as cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, some toys, computer monitors, shoes and clothing.

The administration is also removing other items from the tariff list entirely, based on what it called “health, safety, national security and other factors.”

Russia's agriculture thrives on sales to China while U.S. farmers lose market share. The anti-Chinese part of Trump's MAGA has yet to achieve any success.

Posted by b on August 14, 2019 at 15:14 UTC | Permalink | Comments (247)

August 13, 2019

The Man Who Weaponizes And Loses Everything

Many news outlets documented that Putin's Russia weaponizes everything, including humor, health information, giant squids, robotic cockroaches, tedium and postmodernism.

At the same time these outlets tell us that Putin is losing many things, or already lost them.

Which bears asking: Is there a causality between weaponizing and losing stuff?

h/t Bryan MacDonald

 

Posted by b on August 13, 2019 at 12:46 UTC | Permalink | Comments (165)

August 11, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-47

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related: Inside Kashmir, Cut Off From the World: ‘A Living Hell’ of Anger and Fear - NYT

Imran Khan @ImranKhanPTI - 9:58 AM · Aug 11, 2019

The curfew, crackdown & impending genocide of Kashmiris in IOK is unfolding exactly acc to RSS ideology inspired by Nazi ideology. Attempt is to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing. Question is: Will the world watch & appease as they did Hitler at Munich?
I am afraid this RSS ideology of Hindu Supremacy, like the Nazi Aryan Supremacy, will not stop in IOK; instead it will lead to suppression of Muslims in India & eventually lead to targeting of Pakistan. The Hindu Supremacists version of Hitler's Lebensraum.

Related:
Kim Jong Un fired off another new missiles type: North Korea tests 'short-range ballistic missiles' - BBC

Related:

Daily Mail: >Jeffrey Epstein told prison guards and fellow inmates that he believed someone had tried to kill him in the weeks before his death, a source has revealed to DailyMail.com

The insider, who had seen the disgraced financier on several occasions during his incarceration at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, also claims that the normally reserved Epstein seemed to be in good spirits.<

Whitney Webb wrote a well researched series on Epstein for MintPress News:

NY Post: >Kasman said he heard US Attorney General William Barr personally made a hush-hush trip to the [Metropolitan Correctional Center] two weeks ago, about the time Epstein was found in his cell with bruises around his neck.

“When does that happen?” he asked. “The attorney general never visits jails. Something’s not right there.”<

---
Other issues:

Yemen:

The Saudi plan to occupy and steal their southern neighbors oil is not going well. The UAE pulled most of its troops out from Yemen after training ten thousands of southern separatists. The mercenaries from Sudan also left. Recently the separatists attacked the Saudi supported 'government' troops in Aden and kicked them out of the presidential palace. The Saudis then bombed the separatist. Meanwhile the Houthi are laughing their assess off as their enemies fight each other. They continue to attack Saudi airports by drones.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on August 11, 2019 at 17:45 UTC | Permalink | Comments (286)

August 10, 2019

Epstein Suicided

Unsurprisingly Jeffrey Epstein was found dead, presumably by suicide, as that is what 'officials' claim:

Jailed multimillionaire financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein has died by suicide, according to two law enforcement sources.

He was taken from New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center on Saturday morning in cardiac arrest and died at an area hospital, the sources told CNN.
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Just weeks ago, Epstein was placed on a suicide watch after he was found July 23 in his Manhattan jail cell with marks on his neck, a law enforcement source and a source familiar with the incident told CNN at the time.

Just yesterday a court released the first 2,000 pages of a civil case against Epstein's madame, Ghislaine Maxwell:

The documents, the largest cache to be released in the 13 years since Epstein’s case began, offer brutal details about Epstein’s trafficking of teenage girls in Palm Beach, New York and overseas — as well as Maxwell’s obsessive and often abusive quest to provide him with new girls over a span of years in the early to mid 2000s.
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[Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre], who turned 36 on Friday, names a number of other men in politics, academia and business that she says she was directed to have sex with. In a 2017 interview with the Miami Herald, Giuffre said that Epstein wanted her to please various influential people then so that he could learn about their sexual peccadilloes and use them as leverage if he needed to.

While there’s no direct evidence contained in the court record substantiating her accounts with prominent men, Giuffre did provide testimony and evidence to corroborate her claims of exploitation at the hands of Epstein and Maxwell through photographs, plane logs and even a medical record from Presbyterian Hospital in New York where Giuffre was taken by Epstein after a particularly abusive sex episode.
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Some of the testimony released Friday is difficult to read, as when one 15-year-old Swedish girl, shaking and crying in fear, told a butler who worked for two of Epstein’s closest friends that she had been taken to Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean and ordered to have sex with him and others. The butler, in a sworn statement, said the girl, visibly traumatized, told him that Epstein and Maxwell had physically threatened to harm her and seized her passport to keep her on the island, according to the butler’s statement.

The released court papers can be found via Courthousenews.

Some of those influential people who Epstein, or the organization behind him, blackmailed, will be quite happy that he is gone. They will now try to bury the rest of the case. Giuffre and other witnesses better watch their backs.

Posted by b on August 10, 2019 at 13:50 UTC | Permalink | Comments (547)

August 09, 2019

North Korea Dislikes U.S. Plans To Occupy It

The borg in Washington DC will not be happy about Trump siding with the North Korean chairman Kim Jong Un:

US President Donald Trump told reporters Friday he agreed with Kim Jong Un's opposition to US-South Korea war games, after receiving what he was a new letter from the North Korean leader.

"I got a very beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un yesterday," Trump said. "It was a very positive letter."

"He wasn't happy with the war games," Trump added, referring to new military exercises between US forces and the South Korean military that began this week.

"As you know, I've never liked it either. I've never been a fan. And you know why? I don't like paying for it," the US leader said.

Trump received Kim's three-page letter on Thursday after Pyongyang undertook four missile tests in the past two weeks that it said were a response to the joint exercises between the South and the United States.

We once explained how the usually big U.S.-South Korean maneuvers lead to economic pain in North Korea:

Each time the U.S. and South Korea launch their very large maneuvers, the North Korean conscription army (1.2 million strong) has to go into a high state of defense readiness. Large maneuvers are a classic starting point for military attacks. The U.S.-South Korean maneuvers are (intentionally) held during the planting (April/May) or harvesting (August) season for rice when North Korea needs each and every hand in its few arable areas. Only 17% of the northern landmass is usable for agriculture and the climate in not favorable. The cropping season is short. Seeding and harvesting days require peak labor.

The southern maneuvers directly threaten the nutritional self-sufficiency of North Korea. In the later 1990s they were one of the reasons behind a severe famine. (Lack of hydrocarbons and fertilizer due to sanctions as well as a too rigid economic system were other main reasons.)

On Trump's order the current maneuvers in South Korea have been toned down. They no longer involve a huge mobilization of forces as they are mostly done in software and as staff exercises. North Korea no longer needs to counter mobilize for them.

But Kim Jong Un is still bitching about the issue:

On Tuesday North Korea threatened more weapons tests, and said the US-South Korea war games were "an undisguised denial and a flagrant violation" of the diplomatic process between Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul.

Why is he so miffed?

The reason is likely not the form of this year's maneuver but its content:

The current joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises involve simulations of stabilizing North Korea after it has been occupied and conventional warfare has come to an end.

The U.S. and South Korea downsized the drills under a promise by U.S. President Donald Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last year, so now they mostly consist of computer simulations.

Government sources here said the second part of the exercises beginning on Aug. 17 starts at an imaginary point 90 days after the outbreak of a war, when stabilization operations get underway.

The stabilizing drill has not been included in previous exercises which were based on the assumption that North Korea's military would be neutralized around 90 days after a war breaks out.

It is probably a bit provocative when a neighboring country is training to occupy yours. I for one would find that an aggressive behavior and would think about how to counter it.

Who, by the way, came up with that illusory 90 days assumption? Does anyone really believe that South Korean and U.S. troops would be welcome with flowers and candy? Does anyone believe that Russia and especially China, which both border North Korea, would stay out of such a war?


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These people need to read up on the Korea War. When the U.S. crossed into North Korea and moved towards the Chinese border Mao mobilized hundreds of thousands and pushed the U.S. troops back to the 38th Parallel, the starting line of that war.

The strategic interest that China had back then is still valid today. It is hard to believe that it today will be more willing to allow U.S. troops right on its border than it was in 1950.

Posted by b on August 9, 2019 at 18:13 UTC | Permalink | Comments (92)