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September 30, 2019

Senior Twitter Executive Joined British Army Troll Brigade

Ian Cobain has written about the long history of British involvement in torture. He is now investigating British involvement in media manipulation. Here is a significant find of his:

The senior Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British Army’s psychological warfare unit, Middle East Eye has established.

Gordon MacMillan, who joined the social media company's UK office six years ago, has for several years also served with the 77th Brigade, a unit formed in 2015 in order to develop “non-lethal” ways of waging war.

The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to wage what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”.

The 77th Brigade is a troll farm:

They call it the 77th Brigade. They are the troops fighting Britain’s information wars.
...
From office to office, I found a different part of the Brigade busy at work. One room was focussed on understanding audiences: the makeup, demographics and habits of the people they wanted to reach. Another was more analytical, focussing on creating “attitude and sentiment awareness” from large sets of social media data. Another was full of officers producing video and audio content. Elsewhere, teams of intelligence specialists were closely analysing how messages were being received and discussing how to make them more resonant.

The 77th Brigade's job is to produce dark propaganda in support of British (military) operations:

What do we know about 77th Brigade? Let me quote a written MoD parliamentary answer published in March 2015. The Brigade exists “to provide support, in conjunction with other Government agencies, to efforts to build stability overseas and to wider defence diplomacy and overseas engagement”. That’s a highly political rather than military remit.

The parliamentary answer goes on to say the Brigade is “leading on Special Influence Methods, including providing information on activities, key leader engagement, operations security and media engagement”. Note the phrase “special influence methods”, which is straight out of Orwell’s 1984. And notice the reference to “media engagement”. Since when has the British Army had a legitimate role in trying to influence the media?

A really interesting and dangerous aspect of the 77th Brigade is its mixed military-civilian character:

Here we come to a truly insidious aspect of 77th Brigade. It has a complement of around 440 dedicated personnel, according to the parliamentary answer. Under the Army’s new organisational doctrine, units combine both fulltime soldiers and territorial reservists. The 77th Brigade recruits its reservists from among UK journalists and professionals in advertising and public relations companies. We are not talking just computer and information technology specialists but media practitioners. The result is that the necessary boundaries between the military and the civilian media have been compromised. This represents a potential threat to democratic norms.

That a Twitter executive with editorial responsibility also works for a British military propaganda unit makes clear that 'western' social media are only as neutral or free as the powers that be allow them to be.

The Twitter executive Gordon MacMillan is now a Captain of the British Army Reserve and at times working in its dark propaganda unit. On September 20 Twitter deleted a large number of accounts, including in MacMillan's area of responsibility. How many of those were designated by the British state?

In December 2018 we wrote about another British government run media manipulation organization - the Integrity Initiative:

The British government financed Integrity Initiative is tasked with spreading anti-Russian propaganda and thereby with influencing the public, military and governments of a number of countries. What follows is an contextual analysis of the third batch of the Initiative's internal papers which were dumped by an anonymous source yesterday.

Christopher Nigel Donnelly (CND) is the co-director of The Institute for Statecraft and founder of its offshoot Integrity Initiative. The Initiative claims to "Defend Democracy Against Disinformation".

The Integrity Initiative does this by planting disinformation about alleged Russian influence through journalists 'clusters' throughout Europe and the United States.

Both, the Institute as well as the Initiative, claim to be independent Non-Government Organizations. Both are financed by the British government, NATO and other state donors.

Among the documents lifted by some anonymous person from the servers of the Institute we find several papers about Donnelly as well as some memos written by him. They show a russophobe mind with a lack of realistic strategic thought.

Donnelly's co-director at the Institute for Statecraft is Daniel Lafayeed. One of the papers published by the anonymous account were his Speaking notes for meetings in Israel - June 2018 (pdf). They mention the 77th brigade:

Much of our work to improve the effectiveness of our armed forces for all forms of modern warfare is, of course, very sensitive as we feed it into the highest levels of MOD and the armed forces.

What we seek to do is to help the Forces become more competent to fight modern war with all kinds of weapons, and to do so on the budget the state provides.

To that end we have supported the creation of special Army reserve units (e.g. 77 Bde and SGMI –Specialist Group Military Intelligence) with which we now have a close, informal relationship. These bring in, as reservists with a special status, individuals who are very senior civilian experts in some relevant area, such as Hedge Fund managers, senior bankers, Heads of PA companies, etc. I.e. people whom the Army could never afford to hire, but who donate their time and expertise as patriots.

With these colleagues, we run seminars and prepare studies to help the forces find new ways to fight today’s war.

These papers describe our understanding of modern warfare; how we need to prepare for it, and; how the Russians will fight it beyond the stages of info war into classic kinetic warfare. I also include a concept paper looking at an alternative way to structure our navies for modern war at low cost. You might find this of particular interest.

The Integrity Initiate and the Institute for Statecraft took strong anti Corbyn positions. Some of Twitter executive MacMillon's tweets are also strongly anti Corbyn.

One should not think of the 77th Brigade as a one way street by which the state provides the messages that civilians help to spread. When hedge fund managers, senior bankers, heads of public relations companies are invited into its operations they will have a significant interest in getting their own messages spread and their own enemies defeated. The Twitter executive as a member of the propaganda brigade will also use it to spread his companies messages and wishes.

This is a marriage of the powers of large companies and the government for manipulating the opinion of the public. It is dangerous.

Added:
Kit Klarenberg has just published his bits on the issue: Our Man on the Inside: Senior Twitter Executive Exposed as British Army Information Warrior

Posted by b on September 30, 2019 at 16:52 UTC | Permalink | Comments (120)

September 29, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-56

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related:
A long way: Russian military reform – Part 3 - Offiziere.ch

Related:
The Mammoth Stress Test of British Democracy - Consortium News

Related:
The Pee Tape Is Real, but It’s Fake - Slate
Zelensky made a presentation at some conference. His opening powerpoint show was quite amusing.

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Other issues:

The Privatisation of Espionage: What on Earth is MI6-Connected 'Citizens=Network' Up To? - Kit Klarenberg / Sputnik

Spanish security company spied on Julian Assange in London for the United States - El Pais
Julian Assange ‘subjected to every kind of torment’ in Belmarsh prison as he awaits extradition - Independent

Recommended read:
Ready, Fire, Aim: U.S. Interests in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria - Chas Freeman

An excellent portrait of Putin:
The Key to Understanding Vladimir Putin - National Interest

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 29, 2019 at 15:43 UTC | Permalink | Comments (147)

Saudi Arabia - Another Defeat In Yemen - King's Bodyguard Killed

Something curious is happening in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

For the second time in a month the Yemeni forces aligned with the Houthi surrounded and captured brigade size forces of Saudi soldiers and mercenaries. The Houthi media report that 2,400 fighters and several hundred vehicles were captured. The reports say that 500 Saudi soldiers were killed. This video shows the fighting. Another video shows several hundred prisoners being led away from the front. Here are additional pictures. Most of the prisoners seem to be poor men that the Saudis had hired. Only a few have complete uniforms. The events happened north of Kitaf near the Saudi Yemeni border and at least partially in the Najran region within Saudi Arabia. Here is a report of the previous operation. Overnight some ten short range ballistic missiles were launched from Yemen against the airport of Al Jadhea in Saudi Arabia.

The personal bodyguard of the Saudi King Salman has been killed. The official claim is that it was during a personal dispute. Conveniently the shooter is also dead. But there is more behind this:

Ali AlAhmed @AliAlAhmed_en - 2:47 UTC · Sep 29, 2019
I can now confirm the death of personal guard of #Saudi @KingSalman General Abdulaziz AlFaghem by gunfire. He is seen here with the king. He was dismissed from his post just days ago which makes his death extremely suspicious. Working on details.

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AlFegham was seen few days ago walking alone #Jeddah corniche which is not constant with his job. He doesn’t ever leave the side of the king & sleeps at the palace after the king goes to bed.

I can with high certainty say that AlFegham was dismissed this month by #MBS. Details will be coming when sources are able to find info & transmit

Update: #Saudi king palace in #Jeddah is high alert & on lockdown. I know that palace & have reviewed its plans & photos from inside & had sources there since 2005 until recently. Also royal court #Riyadh is on lockdown.

AlFaghem had many secrets & had served since as personal guard of King Abduulah - from 2002- as far as we can confirm. This made him a threat to #MBS given he supervised palace guards who killed #JamalKhashoggi

I can say now, it was a political murder. The report will come out Sunday with details.

There is currently a huge fire in Jeddah near the train station which may be related to the events above.

After the attack on the oil installation the Houthi had offered a ceasefire. But Saudis only wanted a 'partial' one which the Houthi rejected.

Clown prince Mohamed bin Salman may have removed his father's bodyguard to make it easier for himself to take the throne. The recent Yemeni attack on Saudi oil installation and the defeat of at lest two brigades of Saudi troops must put a lot of pressure of him. MbS is the Defense Minister. He started the war on Yemen. He must fear for his job and position. With the king removed he would become unassailable.

Posted by b on September 29, 2019 at 15:04 UTC | Permalink | Comments (152)

Boeing Failed To Consider Pilot Workload When It Designed and Tested The 737 MAX

The U.S. investigators of the 737 MAX incidents released their first recommendations for required changes on Boeing's best selling airplane. Their analysis of the accident causes confirms our earlier take.

A recent New York Times Magazine piece by one William Langewiesche blamed the pilots for the crash of two 737 MAX airplanes. We strongly criticized that Boeing friendly propaganda piece:

The author's "blame the pilots" attitude is well expressed in this paragraph:

Critics have since loudly blamed it for the difficulty in countering the MCAS when the system receives false indications of a stall. But the truth is that the MCAS is easy to counter — just flip the famous switches to kill it. Furthermore, when you have a maintenance log that shows the replacement of an angle-of-attack sensor two days before and then you have an associated stick shaker rattling away while the other stick shaker remains quiet, you do not need an idiot light to tell you what is going on. At any rate, the recognition of an angle-of-attack disagreement — however pilots do or do not come to it — has no bearing on this accident, so we will move on.

An AoA sensor failure and a following MCAS incident will cause all of the following: an unexpected autopilot disconnect, an airspeed warning, an altitude disagree warning, a stall warning and, after MCAS intervenes, also an over-speed warning. The control column rattles, a loud clacker goes off, several lights blink or go red, several flight instruments suddenly show crazy values. All this in a critical flight phase immediately after the start when the workload is already high.

It is this multitude of warnings, which each can have multiple causes, that startle a pilot and make it impossible to diagnose and correct within the 10 seconds that MCAS runs. To claim that "MCAS is easy to counter" is a gross misjudgment of a pilot's workload in such a critical situation.

After that piece was published Langewiesche went on CNBC where he repeated his slanderous allegations:

"It amounted to just a runaway trim"
"There was never a reason to ground [the MAX]"
"[Boeing's] largest mistake was to overestimate the quality of the pilots it was selling its airplane to"

Last week the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) released 13 pages long recommendation (pdf) resulting from its investigation into the 737 MAX incidents. It strongly supports our view and counters Langewiesche's claims:

[T]he MCAS becomes active when the airplane’s AOA exceeds a certain threshold. Thus, these erroneous AOA sensor inputs resulted in the MCAS activating on the accident flights and providing the automatic AND stabilizer trim inputs. The erroneous high AOA sensor input that caused the MCAS activation also caused several other alerts and indications for the flight crews. The stick shaker activated on both accident flights and the previous Lion Air flight. In addition, IAS DISAGREE and ALT DISAGREE alerts occurred on all three flights. Also, the Ethiopian Airlines flight crew received Master Caution alert. Further, after the flaps were fully retracted, the unintended AND stabilizer inputs required the pilots to apply additional force to the columns to maintain the airplane’s climb attitude.

Multiple alerts and indications can increase pilots’ workload, and the combination of the alerts and indications did not trigger the accident pilots to immediately perform the runaway stabilizer procedure during the initial automatic AND stabilizer trim input.

The pilots did no do wrong. There were multiple alarms that required their attention. Boeing's assumptions that the pilots would immediately recognize a runaway stabilizer and react appropriately turned out to be wrong:

Although the NTSB’s work in this area is ongoing, based on preliminary information, we are concerned that the accident pilot responses to the unintended MCAS operation were not consistent with the underlying assumptions about pilot recognition and response that Boeing used, based on FAA guidance, for flight control system functional hazard assessments, including for MCAS, as part of the 737 MAX design.

It wasn't the pilots who failed. The system was designed in a way that made it extremely difficult if not impossible for the pilots to handle it in the available time.

Boeing never analyzed or tested the complete chain of events that would follow from a failure of an Angle of Attack sensor. Boeing tested an MCAS failure but only as an isolated incident, not as it would happen in real life:

To perform these simulator tests, Boeing induced a stabilizer trim input that would simulate the stabilizer moving at a rate and duration consistent with the MCAS function. Using this method to induce the hazard resulted in the following: motion of the stabilizer trim wheel, increased column forces, and indication that the airplane was moving nose down. Boeing indicated to the NTSB that this evaluation was focused on the pilot response to uncommanded MCAS operation, regardless of underlying cause. Thus, the specific failure modes that could lead to uncommanded MCAS activation (such as an erroneous high AOA input to the MCAS) were not simulated as part of these functional hazard assessment validation tests. As a result, additional flight deck effects (such as IAS DISAGREE and ALT DISAGREE alerts and stick shaker activation) resulting from the same underlying failure (for example, erroneous AOA) were not simulated and were not in the stabilizer trim safety assessment report reviewed by the NTSB.

An AoA failure triggers a number of alerts and the pilots need time to sort those out. An MCAS failure does not leave time to sort out anything. The pilots must react immediately. But they can not do so when multiple other alarms caused by the AoA failure also demand their attention.

Boeing built the MAX as the fourth generation of a plane that was designed in the 1960s. In each generation new systems and alarms were added and certified. But each added system was only tested in isolation. New fault tree analysis for the plane as a whole was not required as the original certification of the first 737 was still accepted as a base. No simulator tests were done that tested the ability of pilots to cope with multiple alarms that happen when a defect causes multiple interdependent systems or instruments to fail. Had Boeing made realistic assumptions about a pilot's reaction time to multiple alarms MCAS would have had to be implemented differently.

The NTSB recommends that Boeing and other manufacturers make new system safety assessments that consider the effects of all possible flight deck alarms and indications on the pilots reaction time when they respond to the failure of flight control systems. It asks for design changes of the alarm systems and for additional training. The NTSB recommends that the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators include those demands into their general rules for aircraft certification.

The NTSB recommendations will likely induce the FAA to require additional changes on the currently grounded 737 MAX. They also seem to to push the FAA to require additional pilot training.

The NTSB report is bad news for Boeing. Most competing airplanes are much newer than the 737 and have multiple electronic sensors that can be easily combined to sort through and prioritize alarms. The 737 MAX is still largely based on the old mechanical and electrical systems of its predecessors. That makes it difficult to add a system that coordinates and prioritizes the cascade of alarms that can happen during certain events. The required changes will come on top of other changes that international regulators have loudly demanded.

It will likely take several more months until the 737 MAX is again certified and can go back into the air. Boeing still produces 42 MAX per month. It will now likely have to stop the production line until sound solutions for all the open questions are ready to be implemented.

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Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 MAX issues:

Posted by b on September 29, 2019 at 14:01 UTC | Permalink | Comments (29)

September 28, 2019

On The Motives Behind Whistleblower-gate

The recent impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump is the second attempt by the CIA and the Democratic establishment to sabotage Trump's presidency. The first attempt was the 'Russiagate' conspiracy theory which falsely claimed that Trump colluded with the Russian government to win the election. It took more than two years to defeat it. It had the intended side effect that it disabled Trump from making peace with Russia.

The second is likewise run by the CIA and the Democratic establishment. The CIA created an artificial issue that the Democrats used to justify the launch of an impeachment process against Trump. The impeachment attempt has little chance to dethrone Trump. But the affair will again hamstring any attempts for better relations with Russia.  The operation is also designed to further prevent Trump digging into the background of Russiagate and the people behind it.

The second attempt is a simpler construct than Russiagate. A CIA operative who was temporarily delegated to the White House constructed a 'whistleblower complaint' that is completely based on hearsay and public sources. It is also about issues that are outside of the CIA's immediate business.

Until very recently the intelligence community complaint form required that any claimant had first hand knowledge of the complaint issue. The form was changed in August (more here) but uploaded only on September 24 to also allow for hearsay to be the basis of a complaint. This reinforces the impression that the complaint is part of a larger intelligence operations. Who initiated the change?

The whistleblower statute says that the matter in question must be an "urgent concern" that is defined as:

... a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operations of an intelligence activity involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters

At the core of the complaint in question is a claim that Trump used a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of the Ukraine to press Zelensky to investigate two issues. The call memorandum was declassified and published.

During the phone call Zelensky had two requests. He wanted U.S. anti-tank weapons and he wanted an invitation to the White House. (He got both.) Trump also had a request. He asked that Ukrainian authorities investigate two issues of U.S. public interest. The first is the reported interferences by Ukrainian government officials in favor of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign. This also involved the notorious security company CrowdStrike which made some false claims about Russian hacking in the Ukraine. The second one is the also well-know intervention by then Vice-President Joe Biden against a Ukrainian Attorney General who had an open investigation against a company that was sponsoring his son Hunter Biden.

The U.S.and the Ukraine have a treaty that requires them to cooperate on law enforcement matters. That Trump wanted the Ukrainian authorities to investigated these issues was well known. His personal lawyer Rudi Giuliani had said for several months that he was looking into these questions.

The issues pointed out in the complaint are clearly beyond the scope of the whistleblower statute. Trump's actions with regard to the Ukraine, especially the phone call, were neither outside of any law nor do they involve any intelligence activity. What Trump did during the call was not nefarious. The issue is clearly a question of "differences in opinion concerning public policy matters".

A whistleblower complaint must be send to the relevant agency’s inspector general. If he finds it credible it goes to the head of the agency who decides if it is within the statute and, if it is, sends the complaint to Congress. The agency’s inspector general Michael Atkinson found the complaint 'credible' but, after seeking legal advice, the acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire did not forward it to Congress. It was the right thing to do as the content of the complaint is neither 'whistleblowing' nor within the relevant statute.

What happened next is curious:

The agency’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, notified Congress that the complaint existed but says he and Maguire have reached an “impasse” over whether to turn it over.

I have found no legal analysis if this was a required move or outside of the usual process. After that step was taken details of the complaint  leaked to the press as they were supposed to do.

The Democrats immediately raised a public ruckus and demanded to see the complaint and call transcript and to have them declassified. They likely hoped that Trump would fight them over this. But Trump immediately obliged. He had nothing to fear. A diligent reading of the phone call memo and the complaint shows that there is nothing illegal or otherwise condemnable in his behavior towards the Ukraine. One may not like what he does as president but that does not make it illegal.

Despite the lack of any sound basis the Democrats announced an impeachment inquiry even as it has little public support and will drown out any positive momentum for policy issues the Democratic primary candidates want to promote. The impeachment inquiry will run right along the lines laid out in the complaint.

The complaint and the Democrats claim that Trump held back loans from the Ukraine to press Zelensky on the issue. Zelensky denies he even knew that the loans were withheld and said that it was a non-issue.

The Hill @thehill - 20:31 UTC · Sep 27, 2019
Sen. Chris Murphy: "In my meeting...Zelensky did not make any connection between the aid that had been cut off & the requests that he was getting from Giuliani but the Ukrainian govt certainly thru multiple channels was expressing their confusion about who they should listen to."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has himself intervened with Zelensky:

While choosing his words carefully, Murphy made clear — by his own account — that Ukraine currently enjoyed bipartisan support for its U.S. aid but that could be jeopardized if the new president acquiesced to requests by President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate past corruption allegations involving Americans, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s family.

The Democrats say that it is unfair that Trump is asking the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden who currently leads in the Democrats' primary. They claim that he wants the material only to smear Biden.

But there is no need to smear Biden. He himself proudly told the story (vid) of how he blackmailed the Ukrainian government. It is also widely known that his son Hunter had an affair with his sister-in-law while his brother was fighting cancer, spent extravagantly on drugs and prostitutes according to his former wife and was dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve for cocaine use.

Three weeks after Joe Biden had helped to overthrow the Ukrainian government his not so honorable son Hunter Biden was invited to take a $50,000 per month board seat of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas producer whose owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, was under investigation for corruption and tax evasion. Hunter Biden did not know anything about the Ukraine or natural gas. The company had only one reason to hire him and that was his father.

A few months later Joe Biden withheld a $1 billion loan guarantee to get the Ukrainian prosecutor general who was running the corruption investigation against Burisma fired. Biden claimed that he wanted the prosecutor general to go because he was corrupt and that the case against Burisma was already closed. But several recently revealed papers show that those claims are false. More dirt about Biden's actions in Ukraine is just coming out.

By opening the impeachment inquiry the Democrats, not Trump, highlight Biden's corruption and throw him under the bus. That maybe a welcome side effect for the Democratic establishment which prefers that the second incarnation of Hillary Clinton, Senator Elizabeth Warren, wins the primaries.

There is other dirt that the Democrats may fear.

During the 2016 election campaign Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American who worked for the Democratic National Committee had contacts with the Ukrainian embassy. She asked for digging up dirt on Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort who had worked in the Ukraine. Soon a mysterious ledger was found by an anonymous person in the burned out headquarter of an Ukrainian party which allegedly showed that Manafort had received large amounts of black money. The ledger was an obvious favor by the Ukrainians for the Clinton campaign. Trump had to fire Manafort who was later sentenced for tax evasion and other unrelated crimes. Trump wants to pardon Manafort and needs some public reason to do so. If the Ukrainians find that the ledger was faked at the request of the DNC the issue might well fall back on the Democrats.

But what is the intent of the CIA in organizing the clearly abnormal whistleblower complaint?

Here we have to look at the second request Trump made to Zelensky. He wants to know more about Russiagate. During that operation, which was directed by Obama's spy chief John Brennan, the 'former' MI6 agent Christopher Steele created a fake dossier of alleged collusion between Trump and the Kremlin. The dossier was used to justify FBI spying on the Trump campaign. It is quite possible that some of Steele's 'Russian' sources were actually from the Ukraine.

There are also a number of loose ends from the 2014 coup in Ukraine which the CIA will not like to have disclosed. Zelensky had promised to restart the investigation into the Maidan massacre. The CIA would surely like to prevent any disclosure of its heavy involvement in that affair.

Good relations with Trump would have helped Zelensky to achieve his aims. It would have hindered better CIA control over Zelensky. The disclosure and ruckus about the phone call will make it more difficult for Trump and Zelensky to cooperate. That part of the plan worked.

But there is also already a casualty on the side of the plotters against Trump.

The new Ukrainian president was looking for ways to make peace with Russia and had hoped that Trump would help him. The hawks had installed Kurt Volker as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine to prevent any such moves. Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, had been hired by then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson but had demanded no pay. Volker is the hawkish head of the McCain Institute which received donations from George Soros' Open Society. He is also a partner in a public relation company that was hired by then President of Ukraine Poroshenko.

The whistleblower complaint says that Volker visited Zelensky on July 26, one day after his call with Trump, to "provide advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to 'navigate' the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy."

Volker was the 'borg' member sent to Ukraine to exercise control over the Ukrainian government. He clearly tried to sabotage Trump's efforts to push Zelensky to investigate the Ukrainian side of the Russiagate and Biden affairs. Volker also wanted to prevent better relations with Russia:

As Trump's special representative for Ukraine negotiations, Volker strongly supported a shift in policy to send lethal weapons to Kyiv, including tank-busting Javelins, described by its manufacturer as "the world's most versatile and lethal one-man-portable, anti-tank, guided munition and surveillance weapon system."

But at the same time Volker was pushing to convince Trump to arm Ukraine, he also held positions with a major lobbying firm, BGR Group, and with a think tank, the McCain Institute, that both had financial ties to Raytheon Company, which manufactures the Javelin system and earned millions from Trump's decision.

Yesterday Volker suddenly left his job. Why? Was he one of those who fed the whistleblower with content for his complaint? That Volker leaves now, before being fired by Trump for sabotaging his requests to and relations with Zelensky, is likely an unintended consequence of the whistleblower operation.

If Trump is as smart as he thinks he will install a new special representative to the Ukraine who does his bidding.

How about Rudi Giuliani?

Posted by b on September 28, 2019 at 19:56 UTC | Permalink | Comments (134)

September 27, 2019

Note To Journos - When Pompeo Doubles Down On A Lie He Does Not "Confirm" It

Some people can't think but tweet anyway:


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The Israeli 'journalist' isn't the only one who fell for Pompeo's nonsense.

To claim that the man who bragged (vid) "We lied, we cheated, we stole" and continues to lie every time he opens his mouth can "confirm" anything is lunatic. What Pompeo falsely claimed 'confirmed' only a false claim his department had earlier made.

The NYT headlined more truthfully - U.S. Concludes Syria Used Chemical Weapons in May Attack:

The United States has concluded that Syria used chlorine gas in an attack against rebels last May, saying Thursday that it was the latest use of chemical weapons by President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the eight-year civil war but stopping short of threatening a military response.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Mr. Assad’s government that “we’re going to do everything we can reasonably do to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.”

But he said that chlorine attacks amounted to a “different situation” than the suspected use of sarin, a nerve agent, that killed 80 people and provoked missile strikes against a Syrian air base by the Trump administration in April 2017.

As I did not remember any alleged chemical weapon attack in May I followed the link the NYT provided in its piece. It goes to a May 21 report by Edward Wong - U.S. Says Assad May Be Using Chemical Weapons in Syria Again:

The State Department said on Tuesday that the Syrian government might be renewing its use of chemical weapons, citing a suspected chlorine attack in northwest Syria, and maintaining that any use of such weapons would lead the United States and its allies to “respond quickly and appropriately.”

The Trump administration said the suspected attack took place on Sunday in the Idlib area, the final stronghold of rebels who have tried to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

The Times report was based on a somewhat generic State Department statement that did not even describe where and when the alleged incident happened nor did it describe how it happened or if anyone was allegedly hurt:

Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19, 2019. We are still gathering information on this incident, but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately.

The May 19 alleged attack in northwest Syria is ...

Idleb governorate is 6,097 km2 (2,354 sq mi) large. If there was attack why couldn't the State Department be more specific. Who "alleged" that such an attack had happened?

Curiously neither the Syrian Observatory nor any of the usual propaganda outlets nor the MI6 White Helmets fakers reported of any gas attack on Sunday May 19 in Idleb.

In its May 21 report the Times also noted that:

Independent monitoring groups and foreign news organizations have not issued any notable reports of a chemical weapons attack on Sunday.

There were no reports of a gas attack on May 19 in Idleb governorate because no gas attack had happened. Pompeo's State Department made that up to warn the Syrian army against liberating Idleb. It was threat that another fake chemical weapon would be made up and used as justification for U.S. bombing if the Syrian army would begin to liberate Idleb.

This opens the question why Pompeo came out yesterday to "confirm" an attack that had never happened.

The reason is likely this outrage mentioned in the last paragraphs of today's NYT piece:

Also on Thursday, the Treasury Department imposed economic penalties against a subsidiary of a Russian shipping company, three of its executives, and five vessels accused of evading American sanctions to deliver jet fuel to Russian forces in Syria who are assisting Mr. Assad’s government.

That the U.S. sanctions a Russian transport services company which provides logistic services for the legitimate Russian forces in Syria is unprecedented and in fact outrageous.

Yesterday's gas claim was not a confirmation but another Pompeo lie only spread to give some fig leaf excuse for the absolutely undiplomatic and illegitimate U.S. behavior.

Posted by b on September 27, 2019 at 16:53 UTC | Permalink | Comments (118)

September 26, 2019

Trump Pushed Ukraine's President To Investigate Issues Of U.S. Public Interest

The misguided 'impeachment inquiry" develops with the declassification and publication of the whistleblower complaint (pdf) that underlies the case.

It alleges what was publicly known even before the phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian President Zelensky was published.

During the then still ongoing Mueller investigation Rudi Giuliani, as a private lawyer for President Trump, tried to find exculpating information which he hoped would debunk the allegations of collusion between Trump and Russia.

It was known that there had been involvement of Ukraine related people as well as of Ukrainian officials in Russiagate and the election campaigns:

Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

How deep where these involvements? Are there Ukrainian sources in the debunked Steele dossier about Trump?

There was also the mysterious fact that just three weeks after the U.S. managed 2014 coup in Ukraine, in which Joe Biden as then U.S. vice-president was heavily involved, Joe Biden's son Hunter started to receive more that $50,000 per month for being on the board of a Ukrainian gas company even though he had no knowledge of the gas business or the Ukraine.

In April the then Prosecutor General of the Ukraine Lutsenko was quoted in The Hill mentioning the above allegations.

Giuliani hoped that the Ukraine would investigate both issues and would find facts that might help to exculpate Trump. He openly spoke about this in several TV appearances and interviews since at least March 2019.

On July 24 the Mueller investigation into Russiagate closed. On July 25 Trump had a phone call with Zelensky in which Trump mildly pressed for further Ukrainian investigations into both issues, the Ukrainian involvement in Russigate and the U.S. election and the case of Hunter Biden. Zelensky responded that he would so. He later said that he found the telephone call "normal".

The whistleblower, presumably someone of medium to higher rank in the CIA, is concerned that Trump's request to Zelensky is a "serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law or Executive Order" that justify his action.

The Democrats in Congress will make similar claims. But there are reasons to see the issue completely differently.

Attorney General Barr has opened an investigation into the roots of the debunked Russiagate claims. An investigation on the ground in the Ukraine could surely help to find evidence proving or disproving Ukrainian involvement in it.

Biden had publicly bragged to have blackmailed the then Ukrainian President Poroshenko into firing the then Prosecutor General of the Ukraine Shokin. Shokin had at that time an open case against the owner of the Ukrainian company Biden's son worked for. Biden's intervention smells of corruption or at least undue interference by a U.S. official for personal reasons.

Trump can reasonable argue that investigations in the Ukraine into both issues are in the U.S. public interest.

Did Ukrainian officials interfere in the 2016 election by creating or hyping the debunked Russiagate affair and by supporting the Clinton campaign? Alleged Russian interference in the election was a big issue. Why is Ukrainian interference not of interest?

Did Joe Biden use his influence to get his unqualified son a high paying job in Ukraine? Did he use his official powers as vice president to the advantage of Hunter Biden's employer?

Has the U.S. public an interest in knowing the answers to these questions?

If it has such interest why shouldn't the president concern himself with pushing the Ukrainian president to investigate the issues?

Posted by b on September 26, 2019 at 14:37 UTC | Permalink | Comments (248)

September 25, 2019

The Democrats' Impeachment Attempt Against Trump Is A Huge Mistake

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday announced that she was opening an impeachment process against President Donald Trump:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump, charging him with betraying his oath of office and the nation’s security by seeking to enlist a foreign power to tarnish a rival for his own political gain.

Instead of running on policy issues the Democrats will (again) try to find vague dirt with which they can tarnish Trump. This is a huge political mistake. It will help Trump to win his reelection.

After two years of falsely accusing Trump of having colluded with Russia they now allege that he colludes with Ukraine. That will make it much more difficult for the Democrats to hide the dirty hands they had in creating Russiagate. Their currently preferred candidate Joe Biden will get damaged:

For the past two years, talk of impeachment had centered around the findings of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and Mr. Trump’s attempts to derail that inquiry. On Tuesday, Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, told her caucus and then the country that new revelations about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and his administration’s stonewalling of Congress about them, had finally left the House no choice but to proceed toward a rarely used remedy.
...
At issue are allegations that Mr. Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to open a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and his son. The conversation is said to be part of a whistle-blower complaint that the Trump administration has withheld from Congress. And it occurred just a few days after Mr. Trump had ordered his staff to freeze more than $391 million in aid to Ukraine.

Trump indeed withheld money from the Ukraine. But the Ukrainian president did not know that when Trump spoke with him:

Mr. Trump did not discuss the delay in the military assistance on the July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky, according to people familiar with the conversation. A Ukrainian official said Mr. Zelensky’s government did not learn of the delay until about one month after the call.

At that time Trump was withholding money from several countries. The money for the Ukraine was released in early September without any known conditions.

The immediate impulse to start an impeachment investigation came from some whistle blower in the intelligence community who claimed that Trump did something nefarious during a phone call with the newly elected President of Ukraine Zelensky.

The White House published a memorandum of the phone call. The call was made on July 25 2019, a day after the final Robert Mueller testimony in Congress. There are two passages which the Democrats will claim are damaging:

President Zelenskyy: [...] I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

The President: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation.. I think you're surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible.

President Zelenskyy: Yes it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page of cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. [...]

Trump wanted Zelensky to look into the Ukrainian influence on the whole Russiagate campaign. There certainly was a lot of it. The three Ukrainian-American Chalupa sisters, Alexandra, Irena and Andrea, worked with the DNC and Ukrainian officials in Washington and Kiev to sabotage the Trump campaign. They are, together with other Ukraine affiliated persons like the Dimitry Alperovich, the CEO of the hacks at Crowd Strike, at the core of Russiagate.

The Mueller investigation closed a day before the phone call. It found that Trump had not colluded with Russia or the alleged Russian influence on the 2016 election. That Trump wants the new Ukrainian leader to investigate what Ukrainian officials did in support of a debunked campaign against him may be a wrong thing to do but it is certainly not criminal.

In another passage Zelensky says that he will soon meet Trump's lawyer Rudi Giuliani who wanted to revive an investigation into the Ukrainian company that hired Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden while vice-president Biden himself was running U.S. foreign policy with regards to Ukraine. Trump then asks for support for Giuliani:

President Zelenskyy: [...] I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr.Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Guliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. [...] We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you.

The President: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that The other thing, There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me.

Zelensky then again assures Trump that the incoming prosecutor general will look into the issue.

Trump asks for investigations and Zelensky assures him that those will happen. Trump applied no open pressure. There is of course always implicit pressure any time a U.S. president utters a wish to the president of a country that needs U.S. good will and money to survive.

As for the Biden case it was Joe's Biden big mouth that brought the issues back into light. In January 2018 he gave a talk at the Council of Foreign Relations and explained how he directly threatened (video) to withhold money to blackmail the Ukraine into firing a prosecutor general who was seen as corrupt:

And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.

So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. (Laughter.) I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.

Biden did that at a time when his son lobbied for the Ukrainian company Burisma who the prosecutor he wanted fired investigated (or maybe blackmailed):

U.S. banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main U.S. official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia.

The general prosecutor’s official file for the Burisma probe — shared with me by senior Ukrainian officials — shows prosecutors identified Hunter Biden, business partner Devon Archer and their firm, Rosemont Seneca, as potential recipients of money.

There is no direct evidence that Joe Biden told the Ukrainians to stop the investigation into Burisma. But it was not difficult for the Ukrainians to figure out that ending the investigation into the company that Joe Biden's son worked for would help them with further requests to him.

How the Democrats want to construct an impeachment out of this is beyond me.

Trump is the president. Foreign policy is his constitutional prerogative. He used his power to ask the Ukraine to open investigations into two issues. He withheld money but not to achieve that. The Ukrainians did not even know at that time that the money was blocked.

Biden used his power as vice-president to ask the Ukraine to fire a prosecutor he didn't like and who (by chance?) was going after the company which enriched his son. He openly withheld money to achieve his aim.

How will the Democrats explain that what Trump did was wrong or even criminal while insisting that what Joe Biden did was normal business?

They can't.

Pelosi knows that there is no case to impeach Trump. That's why she does not have a plan how to do proceed with it:

Although Ms. Pelosi’s announcement was a crucial turning point, it left many unanswered questions about exactly when and how Democrats planned to push forward on impeachment.
...
And Ms. Pelosi said she had directed the chairmen of the six committees that have been investigating Mr. Trump to “proceed under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.” In a closed-door meeting earlier in the day, she said the panels should put together their best cases on potentially impeachable offenses by the president and send them to the Judiciary Committee, according to two officials familiar with the conversation. That could potentially lay the groundwork for articles of impeachment based on the findings.

Pelosi has nothing. Six committees have investigated Trump issues but so far found nothing to charge him with. Neither did the Mueller investigation find anything damaging. How will combining all those nothing-burgers make an impeachment meal?

Trump should be impeached for his crimes against Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

But the Democrats will surely not touch on those issues. They are committing themselves to political theater that will end without any result. Instead of attacking Trump's policies and proposing better legislation they will pollute the airwaves with noise about 'crimes' that do not exist.

There is no case for impeachment. Even if the House would voted for one the Senate would never act on it. No one wants to see a President Pence.

The Democrats are giving Trump the best campaign aid he could have wished for. Trump will again present himself as the victim of a witch hunt. He will again argue that he is the only one on the side of the people. That he alone stands with them against the bad politicians in Washington DC.  Millions will believe him and support him on this. It will motivate them to vote for him.

Why is it so hard for Democrats to understand this?

Posted by b on September 25, 2019 at 18:03 UTC | Permalink | Comments (170)

September 24, 2019

Court Reopens Parliament For Further (Useless?) Brexit Discussions

On August 28 MoA headlined: Boris Johnson Seizes Power:

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.

We thought that there was little chance that the courts would overturn Johnson's 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 ...

To our great surprise the court ruled against the long standing practice, the government and the Queen:

Delivering its conclusions, the Supreme Court's president, Lady Hale, said: "The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification."

Lady Hale said the unanimous decision of the 11 justices meant Parliament had effectively not been prorogued - the decision was null and of no effect.
...
The court also criticised the length of the suspension, with Lady Hale saying it was "impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason - let alone a good reason - to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks".

The House of Commons will reconvene tomorrow and give me additional opportunities to admire Speaker John Bercow's colorful language and ties (vid).

The last time parliament met it made a law that prohibits the government to leave the EU without a specific agreement that regulates the various details. The law also directed the government to ask the EU to move the Brexit date from October 31 further into the future.

Johnson wants a Brexit without a deal. He can easily sabotage the new law's intent by adding conditions or asking the EU for a time frame it would not be willing to concede.

The court's judgment gives parliament a few more days to put additional obstacles into Johnson's way out of the EU. But as both main parties are internally divided about the issue it is likely that only little will be done.

Parliament should also not count on an endless willingness by the EU to move the Brexit date further and further. The EU no longer cares about Britain. It wants the whole Brexit issue to come to an end, either way, as soon as possible.

The people of Britain may well have a similar feeling.

Posted by b on September 24, 2019 at 16:47 UTC | Permalink | Comments (96)

September 23, 2019

Book Review: The (Real) Revolution In Military Affairs

Considerable amounts of ink have been been spent in writings about the Revolution in Military Affairs. It is a concept that claims that new military doctrines, strategies, tactics and technologies would lead to an abrupt and significant change in the conduct of warfare.

U.S. 'experts' tended to use the expression to market expensive new concepts and weapon systems. Network centric warfare and precision strikes were both predicted to change the way wars are fought. But the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated that there was no such revolution. Even with all its new toys the U.S. failed to win.

Andrei Martyanov's new book is about The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs. Martyanov was a naval officer in the Soviet and Russian coast guard. He now lives in the U.S. and blogs at the Reminiscence of the Future... .

The real revolution in military affairs is the development of new types of weapons by Russia. Weapons which the U.S. can not defeat and to which it has no equivalents. The consequence of the revolution is the loss of the U.S. geo-political supremacy. One cause of this loss is at the core of Martyanov's earlier book LOSING MILITARY SUPREMACY: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning.

The new book takes an expanded view of the situation.

Public pundits in the U.S. have considerable influence over political decisions about war and peace. A huge number of 'experts' in a myriad of special interest think tanks and lobbies put out a steady stream of advice. Unfortunately most of these 'experts' fail to correctly measure geo-political power. They often lack the most basic understanding of military affairs and real wars.

Martyanov explains why the models the 'experts' use fail. He shows how the advantage of one weapon system against another one can be calculated. People who have had a military education know these formulas. Those who only studied political science have likely never heard of them.

The result of such calculations is well expressed in a quote from Admiral Turner who Martyanov cites: "It isn't the number of keels, or size of ships that count. It is the capacity to do what might be decisive in some particular situation."

The new extremely fast anti-ship missiles Russia developed make the U.S. fleet of aircraft carriers groups useless in a larger war against a competent enemy. Russia developed these weapons as defensive means to counter a potential U.S. aggression. As the Russian Defense Minister Shoigu just recently explained:

We don’t need aircraft carriers, we need weapons to sink them with.

The revolution in military affairs the U.S. believed in has largely disappointed. The precision weapon, computers and gizmos have not solved the basic law of war. The enemy always has a vote in the outcome.

In 2018 Russia presented a number of completely new types of weapons - extreme long range missiles, nuclear driven torpedoes and hypersonic systems.  Martyanov shows that these have taken away the invulnerability the U.S. thought to have. The U.S. has no comparable systems and it is years behind in developing them.

The U.S. war concept in a conventional war is always to first gain air supremacy. Only after that is achieved are the troops supposed to go in. New developments in Russian air and missile defense make it impossible for the U.S. to wage such a war against Russia or whoever else fields such weapons.

Weapons proliferate. Other state may soon have similar capabilities as Russia (and China) are now fielding. They may also decide to develop cheaper and more asymmetric weapons like drones. The Houthi in Yemen used cheap drones and cruise missiles against high value targets which were defended by very expensive but not very capable U.S. air defense systems. The attacks showed that the balance of power in the Middle East has changed.

Martyanov sees the world at the beginning of a new era in which global power will be rearranged towards a multi-polar system. The foundation for that is the real revolution in military affairs that Russia and others created while the U.S. was still busy with telling itself that its power will only ever increase.

In his postscriptum Maryanov states that the U.S. is in reality a power in decline.

Andrei Martyanov's book provides indispensable knowledge for anyone who wants to understand the current geo-political developments.

The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs is available as paperback and in electronic form. It has 193 pages plus 22 pages of endnotes.

 

Posted by b on September 23, 2019 at 18:52 UTC | Permalink | Comments (155)

September 22, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-55

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related:
Fake news and pure war propaganda from the Wall Street Journal:
Yemeni Rebels Warn Iran Plans Another Strike Soon
The information has been passed along to the Saudis and the U.S., according to people briefed on the warnings

>BEIRUT — Houthi militants in Yemen have warned foreign diplomats that Iran is preparing a follow-up strike to the missile and drone attack that crippled Saudi Arabia’s oil industry a week ago, people familiar with the matter said.

Leaders of the group said they were raising the alarm about the possible new attack after they were pressed by Iran to play a role in it, these people said.<

The only named source in the piece is the Houthi spokesman who fully denies the above nonsense.

Related:
Irony of Pilot Laying Blame On Pilots in Boeing 737 Max Disasters - Christine Negroni
Crash Course - How Boeing's Managerial Revolution Created The 737 MAX Disaster - New Republic

Related:
One of those U.S. generals who are borderline lunatics:
Former SEAL, SOCOM boss McRaven says we’re going to be in Afghanistan ‘for a very long time’ - Military Times

>“I’ve said we have to accept the fact — I think we do — that we’re going to be there for a very long time,” he said. “Is it forever? I don’t think anything’s for forever. But does that mean that we will lose more young men and women? Does that mean we’re going to spend another billions of dollars? I think it does.”
...
“And people have asked me before, ‘Well, we can’t be the policemen of the world.' The hell we can’t,” he said. “I think this is what American leadership is about. You have to recognize that our interests are no longer just in the borders of the United States.”<

Other issues:

A corpocrat marketing campaign is trying to sell us some Swedish girl as a savior. But its real purpose is to further enrich the 0.1%:
Just Say No to Fake Action - Art for Culture Change - Wrong Kind Of Green
The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: The Behavioural Change Project “To Change Everything” [Volume II, Act V] - Cory Morningstar - Wrong Kind Of Green

Immigrants as a Weapon: Global Nationalism and American Power - Yasha Levine

PROGRESSIVE REGRESSION Metamorphoses of European Social Policy (pdf) - Wolfgang Streek - new left review

A long but important read:
“World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future”
by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for “Russia in Global Politics” magazine, September 20, 2019

>The West’s unwillingness to accept today's realities, when after centuries of economic, political and military domination it is losing the prerogative of being the only one to shape the global agenda, gave rise to the concept of a “rules-based order.” These “rules” are being invented and selectively combined depending on the fleeting needs of the people behind it, and the West persistently introduces this language into everyday usage. The concept is by no means abstract and is actively being implemented. Its purpose is to replace the universally agreed international legal instruments and mechanisms with narrow formats, where alternative, non-consensual methods for resolving various international problems are developed in circumvention of a legitimate multilateral framework. In other words, the expectation is to usurp the decision-making process on key issues.<

Use as open thread ....

Posted by b on September 22, 2019 at 13:58 UTC | Permalink | Comments (461)

September 21, 2019

U.S. Ships More Air Defense Systems That Do Not Work To Saudi Arabia

The Washington Post notices Russia's offer to sell its air defense systems to Saudi Arabia. It does not like that:

The attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend were a disaster for both Riyadh and Washington, with weapons allegedly made in Iran circumventing expensive U.S. missile defense systems.

But in Moscow, news of the attack was greeted as yet another chance to mock the United States and its allies — all while extolling the virtues of Russia’s own missile defense technology.

“We still remember the fantastic U.S. missiles that failed to hit a target more than a year ago, while now the brilliant U.S. air defense systems could not repel an attack,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Friday. “These are all links in a chain.”

The Yemeni attack on Saudi oil installations caused serious damage (more photos). In Abqaiq at least five of nine stabilization columns were destroyed. These are needed to make crude oil transportable. The three phase separators that separate the fluids into gas, oil and water were likewise eliminated. Most of the gas storage tanks at Abqaiq were penetrated.


bigger

Some 5,000 additional workers are now racing to repair the damage. It will still take weeks if not months to get everything up and running again.

Saudi Arabia had to delay oil deliveries to Asian customers. Some will receive heavy oil grades instead of the light sweet crude they ordered. Deliveries to Bahrain were halted completely. Deliveries to Saudi refineries were cut. Saudi Arabia bought additional gasoline and kerosene from the international markets as its own refineries received less crude oil than needed. Saudi citizens report of a lack of gasoline and a video shows long queues in front of a local gas station.

The air defenses surrounding Abqaiq proved to be ineffective. That may have been because they were shut off. But it is doubtful that the systems, even if they had been on alert, would have made any difference.

The U.S. made Patriot system in question was built as an air defense system against fighter jets. It was later upgraded to give it some capability against ballistic missiles. But even its latest iteration is not capable of defeating smaller drones or low flying cruise missiles.

While the Washington Post writer recognizes that the Patriot system can cover only one third of the horizon and fails to detect smaller low flying objects he still asserts that it is better than the systems Russia makes:

While Russia’s S-400 system may have impressive specifications on paper, many analysts are cautious in their assessment of it. It has not been fully tested in real life, whereas the Patriot system successfully intercepted missiles during both the Gulf War and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The "successfully intercepted" link goes to the a site named missiledefenseadvocacy.org which is obviously a lobby organization to promote U.S. air defense systems. Its description of the Patriot includes these two claims:

During the Gulf War, U.S. Patriot batteries brought down at least 11 enemy missiles and other Patriot batteries deployed in defense of Israel’s major cities intercepted numerous incoming missiles as well.
...
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Patriot batteries intercepted a total of nine enemy tactical ballistic missiles. One notable intercept occurred on March 23, 2003 when Iraqi forces launched an Ababil-100 tactical ballistic missile (TBM) at coalition forces in Kuwait. The TBM was destroyed by a Patriot system protecting over 4,000 Soldiers and the Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.

There is serious doubt that those numbers are true. Besides that the number of hits does not say anything about the system unless one also knows the number of missiles it failed to engage. After the first Gulf war Congress investigated the issue and concluded:

The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements.

During the first Gulf war the Patriot system had a systemic software problem that made them incapable of hitting the targets:

On February 25, 1991, during the Gulf War, an American Patriot Missile battery in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, failed to track and intercept an incoming Iraqi Scud missile. The Scud struck an American Army barracks, killing 28 soldiers and injuring around 100 other people. A report of the General Accounting office, GAO/IMTEC-92-26, entitled Patriot Missile Defense: Software Problem Led to System Failure at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia reported on the cause of the failure. It turns out that the cause was an inaccurate calculation of the time since boot due to computer arithmetic errors. Specifically, the time in tenths of second as measured by the system's internal clock was multiplied by 1/10 to produce the time in seconds. This calculation was performed using a 24 bit fixed point register. In particular, the value 1/10, which has a non-terminating binary expansion, was chopped at 24 bits after the radix point. The small chopping error, when multiplied by the large number giving the time in tenths of a second, led to a significant error.

Twelve years later, during the war on Iraq, the Patriots also failed:

The 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, which is charged with protecting U.S. ground forces from air and missile attacks, recently released its account of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” As part of that history, the command reports that the Patriot missile defense system, which is designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, scored a perfect nine for nine in intercepting Iraqi missiles. Colonel Charles Anderson, chief of staff of the command, wrote, “The critics concerns over Patriot lethality should be forever silenced.”

Yet Iraq fired at least 23 ballistic and cruise missiles, according to the report, during the three-week span it took U.S. forces to fight their way to Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Nine out of more than twenty three is better than zero but not a great record. But the Patriots also achieved two hits on fighter planes. Unfortunately those were the wrong ones:

A US Navy fighter has been shot down over Iraq by a Patriot missile in the second friendly-fire incident involving the weapon.

The F-18 Hornet from the carrier Kitty Hawk went missing on Wednesday night during a bombing mission. The incident follows the shooting down of an RAF Tornado GR4 by a Patriot as it returned to base in Kuwait, with the loss of its two-man crew.

In 2017 the Saudis fired Patriot missiles against Yemeni ballistic missiles that were launched at Riyadh. All of them failed to hit their targets:

[M]y colleagues at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and I closely examined two different missile attacks on Saudi Arabia from November and December 2017.

In both cases, we found that it is very unlikely the missiles were shot down, despite officials’ statements to the contrary.

The Patriot system does not work. It is one of those typical U.S. big ticket items that enrich the owners of the defense industry but are of little combat value. 

The U.S. is now sending more soldiers to Saudi Arabia with more Patriot systems and additional Terminal High Attitude Area Defense, or THAAD, systems. Neither of these can protect against drones or cruise missiles like those that were used in the attack on Abqaiq. The whole operation is useless security theater.

When the U.S. attacked Syria with 105 cruise missiles the Russian equipped Syrian army managed to shoot down 71 of them. The cruise missiles that got through were aimed at undefended targets.

The Russian base in Syria was attacked several times by swarms of drones. All were taken down by either electronic countermeasures or by short range air defense systems. The long range S-400 have not been engaged yet because no situation required their use.

What Saudi Arabia needs is a layered defense systems similar to the one Syria deploys. It requires point defense systems like Pantsyr-S1 and medium range defense systems like the BUK-2. Long range defense systems like the S-400 can be added to protect against high flying bombers and against ballistic missiles. Electronic countermeasures like the Krasuhka-4 system can be added to suppress radio commanded missiles and drones.

No western country can provide such a modern layered system. If the Saudis really want to defend their country they will have to buy the Russian stuff. But the U.S. is unlikely to allow that.

That makes it more likely that the Saudis will accept the ceasefire the Yemeni Houthi have just offered to them (machine translation):

In a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the September 21 revolution, President of the Supreme Political Council Mehdi Mashat launched a peace initiative in which he called on all parties from all sides of the war to seriously engage in serious and genuine negotiations leading to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone from injecting blood. In the interest of the remaining bonds of brotherhood and to overcome the higher national interests.

He announced the cessation of the targeting of Saudi territory by flying planes, ballistic missiles, wings and all forms of targeting.

"We are waiting for the same or better greetings in a similar announcement to stop all forms of targeting and aerial bombardment of our Yemeni territory and reserve the right to respond if this initiative is not met," he said.

We will have to wait to see how the Saudi clown prince reacts to that offer. If he rejects it the Houthi will surely remind him that his oil exporting desert country is a target rich environment.

Posted by b on September 21, 2019 at 17:02 UTC | Permalink | Comments (173)

September 20, 2019

30+ Afghans Killed In Drone Strike While CIA Celebrates 18 Years Of War On Afghanistan

From the abstract of a (paywalled) piece about the never ending U.S. war on Afghanistan:

Slow failure: Understanding America’s quagmire in Afghanistan

The United States government has no organised way of thinking about war termination other than seeking decisive military victory.

This implicit assumption is inducing three major errors.

First, the United States tends to select military-centric strategies that have low probabilities of success.

Second, the United States is slow to modify losing or ineffective strategies due to cognitive obstacles, internal frictions, and patron-client challenges with the host nation government.

Finally, as the U.S. government tires of the war and elects to withdraw, bargaining asymmetries prevent successful transitions (building the host nation to win on its own) or negotiations.

The Taliban were created to suppress the corrupt warlords in Afghanistan who menaced the people. They achieved that and the people were greatful. But the Taliban did not have the means to govern the country. When the World Trade Center towers came down the U.S. accused al-Qaeda and went to war to oust the Taliban who had given some Arab friends a retreat in Afghanistan.

The CIA still celebrates the moment: 

CIA @CIA - 23:30 UTC · Sep 19, 2019
9/19/01: Eight days after 9/11, CIA officers pick up $3 million cash in three cardboard boxes. This money would enable the Northern Alliance (NA) commanders to pay their troops and convince other tribes to rally to the NA rather than fight them. #15Days

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The war against the Taliban in Afghanistan was won in 2001. The Taliban were ready to lay down their arms and to make peace. But the U.S. rejected all their offers. It instead captured, tortured and killed them whenever it could. It set up a new government filled with the same corrupt warlords the Taliban had previously ousted. That was a major strategic mistake.

The warlords robbed left and right and created the usual mess with the people. The Afghan government never gained the necessary legitimacy to rule the country. The insurgency against the warlords grew again and the Taliban reestablished their networks.

The U.S. tried to suppress them first with its own (incompetent) military campaign and then by building an Afghan army under government control. But the utter corruption that has only grown under the warlords guarantees that the Afghan army will never become a competent force. Meanwhile the Taliban are winning the war. They already rule over more than half of the country.

The U.S. is looking for a way out by negotiating with the Taliban. It wants a face saving exit but has no leverage to achieve that. The talks also got sabotaged by the ruling warlords in Kabul, which the CIA still pays, as well as by the borg in Washington DC.

The war on Afghanistan was never run under a common command or plan that incorporated all the necessary civil and military elements under one hat. The CIA did its thing, the military something different and the development people tried all kinds of really stupid things. No part coordinated with the others. The same obvious mistakes were made again and again. That made it impossible to win.

It is also the reason why, eighteen years after the CIA bribed the warlords to fight on the U.S. side, shit like this is still happening:

A U.S. drone attack killed 30 pine nut farmers and wounded at least 40 others in Afghanistan Wednesday night, the latest killing of innocent civilians by American forces as the "war on terror" enters its 19th year.

The farmers had just finished work and were sitting by a fire when the strike happened, according to tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul.
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Reuters reported that there may be more farmers missing:

Haidar Khan, who owns the pine nut fields, said about 150 workers were there for harvesting, with some still missing as well as the confirmed dead and injured.

A survivor of the drone strike said about 200 laborers were sleeping in five tents pitched near the farm when the attack happened.

Is that the CIA's way to celebrate 18 years of war?

Each of the families of those killed or wounded day workers will now send another son to join the Taliban.

As all three steps described in the above abstract have failed to 'win' in Afghanistan there is only one way left to end the war on Afghanistan.

Stop paying the warlords, leave the country and forget about it.

Posted by b on September 20, 2019 at 18:29 UTC | Permalink | Comments (102)

September 19, 2019

The Crisis Over The Attack On Saudi Oil Infrastructure Is Over - We Now Wait For the Next One

The crisis about the Yemeni drone and cruise missile attack on two Saudi oil installations is for now over.

The Saudis and the U.S. accuse Iran of being behind the "act of war" as Secretary of State Pompeo called it. The Saudis have bombed Yemen with U.S. made bombs since 2015. One wonders how Pompeo is calling that.

The Yemeni forces aligned with the Houthi Ansarallah do not deny that their drones and cruise missiles are copies of Iranian designs. But they insist that they are built in Yemen and fired from there.

President Trump will not launch a military attack against Iran. Neither will the Saudis or anyone else. Iran has deterred them by explaining that any attack on Iran will be responded to by waging all out war against the U.S. and its 'allies' around the Persian Gulf.

Trump sent Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to hold hands with the Saudi gangster family who call themselves royals. Pompeo of course tried to sell them more weapons. On his flight back he had an uncharacteristically dovish Q & A with reporters. Pompeo said:

I was here in an act of diplomacy. While the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war and to fight to the last American, we’re here to build out a coalition aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful resolution to this. That’s my mission set, what President Trump certainly wants me to work to achieve, and I hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it the same way. There’s no evidence of that from his statement, but I hope that that’s the case.

The crisis is over and we are back to waiting for the next round. A few days or weeks from now we will see another round of attacks on oil assets on the western side of the Persian Gulf. Iran, with the help of its friends, can play this game again and again and it will do so until the U.S. gives up and lifts the sanctions against that country.

The Houthi will continue to attack the Saudis until they end their war on Yemen and pay reparations.

As long as no U.S. forces get killed the U.S. will not hit back because Trump wants to be reelected. An all out war around the Persian Gulf would drive energy prices into the stratosphere and slump the global economy. His voters would not like that.

In our earlier pieces on the Abqaiq attack we said that the attacked crude oil stabilization plant in Abquaq had no air defense. Some diligent researchers have since found that there was a previously unknown Patriot air-defense unit in the area which was itself protected by several short range air-defense cannons:

Michael Duitsman @DuitsyWasHere - 7:02 UTC · Sep 18, 2019
On paper, the point air defenses at the Abqaiq oil processing facility are rather formidable... by 1995 standards, at least.
A battery of Shahine SAMs (French system from the early 1980's)
3 or 4 anti-aircraft gun sections, each with 2 twin 35mm cannons and a fire control unit

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But one Patriot system covers only 120° of the horizon. The attacking drones came from a western directions while Saudi Arabia's enemies are to its east and south. The older Patriot 2 version the Saudis have is also not of much use against low flying drones and cruise missiles.

There is also the oddity that the Patriot unit's radar system was shut off.

Putin is a Virus @PutinIsAVirus - 4:53 UTC · Sep 19, 2019

No patriot radars have been active in recent months (at least not consistently) in the vicinity of the plant, not in the short range required to detect low flying cruise missiles or drones. Closest installation is in Barhain.
(using Sentinel 1 CSAR sat for detection)


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Satellites with synthetic-aperture radar can 'see' the radar of Patriot and other air-defense system. None was detected around Abqaiq.

The explanation for that is likely rather trivial. Colonel Pat Lang was stationed in Saudi Arabia as a military liaison officer. As he recently remarked:

Never underestimate the feckless laziness of the Saudis. In my experience they turn off all ATC and air defense systems that require manning or watch keeping when they find them inconvenient as on the weekend. IMO if Ansarallah did this they will do something similar soon to prove they are responsible.

Abqaiq was attacked on the night of Friday to Saturday. That is the weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Posted by b on September 19, 2019 at 18:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (214)

September 18, 2019

14,000 Words Of "Blame The Pilots" That Whitewash Boeing Of 737 MAX Failure

The New York Times Magazine just published a 14,000 words piece about the Boeing 737 MAX accidents. It is headlined:

What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max?

But the piece does not really say what brought the Boeing 737 MAX down. It does not explain the basic engineering errors Boeing made. It does not explain its lack of safety analysis. It does not mention the irresponsible delegation of certification authority from the Federal Aviation Administration to Boeing. There is no mention of the corporate greed that is the root cause of those failures.

Instead the piece is full of slandering accusations against the foreign pilots of the two 737 MAX planes that crashed. It bashes the airlines and the safety authorities of Indonesia and Ethiopia. It only mildly criticizes Boeing for designing the MCAS system that brought the planes down.

The author of the piece, William Langewiesche, was a professional pilot before he turned to journalism. But there is so much slander in the text that it might as well have been written by Boeing's public relations department.

The piece is also riddled with technical mistakes. We will pick on the most obvious ones below. The following is thus a bit technical and maybe too boring for our regular readers.

Langewiesche describes the 737 MAX trim system and its failure mode:

That’s a runaway trim. Such failures are easily countered by the pilot — first by using the control column to give opposing elevator, then by flipping a couple of switches to shut off the electrics before reverting to a perfectly capable parallel system of manual trim. But it seemed that for some reason, the Lion Air crew might not have resorted to the simple solution.

Wrong: The manual trim system does not work at all when the stabilizer is widely out of trim (i.e. after MCAS intervened) and/or if the plane is flying faster than usual. That is why the European regulator EASA sees it as a major concern and wants it fixed.

Langewiesche knows this. He later writes of one of the accidents:

The speed, meanwhile, was producing such large aerodynamic forces on the tail that the manual trim wheel lacked the mechanical power to overcome them, and the trim was essentially locked into the position where the MCAS had left it

Is that a 'perfectly capable system'?

Of the crashed Lion Air flight 610 Langewiesche writes:

At 6:31 a.m., 11 minutes into the flight, Suneja got on the radio for the first time. He did not know their altitude, he told the controller, because all their altitude indicators were showing different values. This is unlikely and has never been explained.

Wrong. The value given by an Angle of Attack sensor is also used in calculating the speed and attitude of a plane. If one of the two AoA sensors fails the instruments on the side that with the failed AoA sensor will show different values than those on the other side of the cockpit.

Langewiesche knows this. Further down in his piece he writes:

That story actually starts three days before the accident, when the same airplane — under different flight numbers and Lion Air crews — experienced errors in airspeed and altitude indications on the captain’s (left side) flight display that weren’t properly addressed. Those indications are driven by a combination of sensors on the surface of the airplane.

Is that 'unlikely' and unexplained?

This is an unfounded claim:

Boeing believed the system to be so innocuous, even if it malfunctioned, that the company did not inform pilots of its existence or include a description of it in the airplane’s flight manuals.

Wrong. Boeing sold the new plane with the dubious claim that it handled no differently than its predecessor. It left MCAS out of the manual because it did not want to add to training requirements for the pilots which would have contradicted its marketing claim. Furthermore Boeing did not do any additional safety evaluation when it later increased the effect of the system.

Another wrong part:

A set of independent duplicate sensors drive the co-pilot’s (right side) display. A third standby system provides additional independent backup and allows for intuitive troubleshooting when any one of the three systems fails: If two indications agree and the third one does not, the odd one out is obviously the one to ignore. This sort of arrangement helps to explain why flying a Boeing is not normally an intellectual challenge. Furthermore, the airplane provides an alert when airspeed or altitude indications disagree.

There is no general third standby system on a Boeing 737. There is a set of standby instruments for altitude and airspeed. But these give uncorrected values that differ from the ones shown on the two flight control displays. Those values are calculated by two flight computers and each takes the value of only one pitot (speed) tube and one AoA sensor into account. If an AoA sensor fails the instruments on one side show wrong values. The instruments on the other side will show different but hopefully correct values. The standby instruments will show different, uncorrected values than both of the calculated ones.

Langewiesche describes an earlier Lion Air flight that also experienced an MCAS failure but was by chance saved:

Immediately after liftoff, the captain’s airspeed indication failed, airspeed-disagreement and altitude-disagreement warnings appeared on his flight display and his stick shaker began to rattle the controls in warning of an imminent stall.

The Bali captain was enough of an airman to realize that he was dealing with an information failure only — not an actual stall. No direct mention has been made of this, but he must have immediately identified the replacement angle-of-attack vane on his side as the likely culprit.

Wrong. How would the pilot know that? The pilot noticed intermittet automatic down trim. That failure mode was not in the flight manuals and pilot had no way to attribute it to an AoA sensor. The claim is also contradicted by the pilot's maintenance log entry of which Langewiesche writes:

After pulling up to the gate in Jakarta, the Bali captain informed a company mechanic about “the aircraft problem” and in the maintenance log noted only three anomalies — the captain’s airspeed and altitude indication errors and the illumination of a warning light related to a system known as Feel Differential Pressure. That was it. Apparently the captain noted nothing about the failure of the newly installed angle-of-attack sensor, or the activation of the stick shaker, or the runaway trim, or the current position of the trim cutout switches. If true, it was hard to conclude anything other than that this was severe and grotesque negligence.

The captain noted nothing about the AoA sensor because he did not know that it failed.

The captain did mention a trim problem but he had not experienced a runaway trim.  A classic runaway trim is continuous. An MCAS intervention like the one the captain experienced stops after 9 seconds. But the pilots on that flight did not even know that MCAS existed. The captain reported all the basic symptoms he experienced during that flight. A runaway was not one of them.

Langewiesche fails to mention, probably intentionally, the captain's additional entry in the maintenance log. The captain wrote:

"Airspeed unreliable and ALT disagree shown after takeoff, STS also running to the wrong direction ...".

STS, the Speed Trim System, moves the stabilizer trim. It does that all the time but discontinuously during every normal flight. The pilot correctly described the symptoms of the incident as he perceived them. Those were not the symptoms of a continuously runaway stabilizer. But the pilot knew, and documented, that he experienced an intermittet trim problem. It was the mechanic's responsibility to analyze the underlying error and to correct the system which is exactly what he did.

The author's "blame the pilots" attitude is well expressed in this paragraph:

Critics have since loudly blamed it for the difficulty in countering the MCAS when the system receives false indications of a stall. But the truth is that the MCAS is easy to counter — just flip the famous switches to kill it. Furthermore, when you have a maintenance log that shows the replacement of an angle-of-attack sensor two days before and then you have an associated stick shaker rattling away while the other stick shaker remains quiet, you do not need an idiot light to tell you what is going on. At any rate, the recognition of an angle-of-attack disagreement — however pilots do or do not come to it — has no bearing on this accident, so we will move on.

An AoA sensor failure and a following MCAS incident will cause all of the following: an unexpected autopilot shutdown, an airspeed warning, an altitude disagree warning, a stall warning and, after MCAS intervenes, also an over-speed warning. The control column rattles, a loud clacker goes off, several lights blink or go red, several flight instruments suddenly show crazy values. All this in a critical flight phase immediately after the start when the workload is already high.

It is this multitude of warnings, which each can have multiple causes, that startle a pilot and make it impossible to diagnose and correct within the 10 seconds that MCAS runs. To claim that "MCAS is easy to counter" is a gross misjudgment of a pilot's workload in such a critical situation.

After blaming the pilots Langewiesche bashes the foreign air safety regulators which are now investigating the MAX accidents:

According to sources familiar with both investigations, Boeing and the N.T.S.B. have been largely excluded and denied access to such basic evidence as the complete flight-data recordings and the audio from the cockpit.
...
It is a forlorn hope, but you might wish that investigators like those in Indonesia and Ethiopia would someday have the self-confidence to pursue full and transparent investigations and release all the raw data associated with the accidents.

I am not aware of an accident in the U.S. where the FAA investigators released "complete flight-data recordings and the audio from the cockpit" to foreign entities that were suspected to have caused the incident. Nor will the FAA "release all the raw data" associated with an accident. Certainly not before an investigation is finished.

Boeing screwed up by designing and installing a faulty system that was unsafe. It did not even tell the pilots that MCAS existed. It still insists that the system's failure should not be trained in simulator type training. Boeing's failure  and the FAA's negligence, not the pilots, caused two major accidents.

Nearly a year after the first incident Boeing has still not presented a solution that the FAA would accept. Meanwhile more safety critical issues on the 737 MAX were found for which Boeing has still not provided any acceptable solution.

But to Langewiesche this is anyway all irrelevant. He closes his piece out with more "blame the pilots" whitewash of "poor Boeing":

The 737 Max remains grounded under impossibly close scrutiny, and any suggestion that this might be an overreaction, or that ulterior motives might be at play, or that the Indonesian and Ethiopian investigations might be inadequate, is dismissed summarily. To top it off, while the technical fixes to the MCAS have been accomplished, other barely related imperfections have been discovered and added to the airplane’s woes. All signs are that the reintroduction of the 737 Max will be exceedingly difficult because of political and bureaucratic obstacles that are formidable and widespread. Who in a position of authority will say to the public that the airplane is safe?

I would if I were in such a position. What we had in the two downed airplanes was a textbook failure of airmanship. In broad daylight, these pilots couldn’t decipher a variant of a simple runaway trim, and they ended up flying too fast at low altitude, neglecting to throttle back and leading their passengers over an aerodynamic edge into oblivion. They were the deciding factor here — not the MCAS, not the Max.

One wonders how much Boeing paid the author to assemble his screed.

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Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 MAX issues:

Posted by b on September 18, 2019 at 16:41 UTC | Permalink | Comments (97)

September 17, 2019

How Russia And Iran Beat Their Opponents' Strategies

Over the last decades Russia and Iran both needed to develop means to protect themselves against an ever growing threat from the United States and its allies. Both found unique ways to build deterrence that fit their situation.

Neither the U.S. nor its allies reacted to those developments by adopting their strategies or military means. It is only recently that the U.S. has woken up to the real situation. The loss of half its oil export capacity may finally wake up Saudi Arabia. Most other U.S. allies are still asleep.

When NATO extended into east Europe and the U.S. left the Anti-Ballistic-Missile Treaty Russia announced that it would develop countermeasures to keep the U.S. deterred from attacking it. Ten years later Russia delivered on its promise.

It had developed a number of new weapons that can defeat the ballistic missile defense the U.S. installed. It also put emphasis on its own air and missile defense as well as on radar and on electronic countermeasures that are so good that a U.S. general described them as "eye-watering".

All this allowed Putin to troll Trump by offering him Russian hypersonic missiles. As we analyzed:

Trump is wrong in claiming that the U.S. makes its own hypersonic weapons. While the U.S. has some in development none will be ready before 2022 and likely only much later. Hypersonic weapons are a Soviet/Russian invention. The ones Russia now puts into service are already the third generation. U.S. development of such missiles is at least two generations behind Russia's.

That Russian radar can 'see' stealth aircraft has been known since 1999 when a Yugoslav army unit shot down a U.S. F-117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft. Russian air and missile defense proved in Syria that it can defeat mass attacks by drones as well as by cruise missiles. U.S.-made air and missile defense in Saudi Arabia fails to take down even the primitive missiles Houthi forces fire against it.

Yesterday, during a press conference in Ankara with his Turkish and Iranian colleagues, Putin trolled Saudi Arabia (video @38:20) with a similar offer as he had made to Trump:

Q: Does Russia intend to provide Saudi Arabia with any help or support in restoring its infrastructure?

Putin: As for assisting Saudi Arabia, it is also written in the Quran that violence of any kind is illegitimate except when protecting one’s people. In order to protect them and the country, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance to Saudi Arabia. All the political leaders of Saudi Arabia have to do is take a wise decision, as Iran did by buying the S-300 missile system, and as President Erdogan did when he bought Russia’s latest S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system. They would offer reliable protection for any Saudi infrastructure facilities.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani: So do they need to buy the S-300 or the S-400?

Vladimir Putin: It is up to them to decide.

Erdogan, Rouhani and Putin all laughed over this exchange.

U.S. allies, who have to buy U.S. weapons, have followed a similar defense investment strategy as the U.S. itself. They bought weapon systems that are most useful for wars of aggression but did not invest in defensive weapon systems that are needed when their enemies prove capable of hitting back.

That is the reason why Saudi Arabia has more than 350 modern fighter planes but only relatively few medium and long range air defense systems that date back to the 1970s.

The Saudi air defense is only able to protect certain economic and social centers. Most of its borders and its military bases are not covered.

[T]he point-defense layout of the network leaves large portions of the nation undefended by strategic SAM assets. While aircraft can be called upon to defend these areas if required, the presence of large gaps in the nationwide air defense picture leaves numerous vulnerabilities open to exploitation by a foreign aggressor.
Saudi air defense as documented by Amir at Iran GeoMil.

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Moreover the protection it has in place is unidirectional. The red circles designate the theoretical reach of the U.S. made PAC-2 air defense systems installed at their center. But the real reach of these systems only cover less than a half-circle. The PAC-2 and PAC-3 systems are sector defenses as their radars do not rotate. They can only see an arc of 120°. In the case of the Saudis those radars only look towards the east to Iran which is the most likely axis of attack. That left the crude oil processing plant in Abqaiq completely unprotected against attacks from any other direction. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the U.S. know where the attack really came from.


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The Russian experience against the U.S. directed drone swarm attacks against its airbase Hmeymim in Syria showed that short range air defenses and electronic countermeasures are the best defense against mass drone and cruise missile attacks.

Saudi Arabia does not have short range air defenses against drones and cruise missiles because the U.S. does not have such systems. It also does not have sophisticated electronic countermeasures because the U.S. can not provide any decent ones.

What the Saudis need are the Russian Pantsyr-S1 short range air defense, dozens of them, and the Krasukha-4 electronic warfare system. The Russian may well offer at least the first item. But would the U.S. allow the Saudis to buy them?

Saudi Arabia, like the U.S., never took its opponents seriously. It bombed Yemen to smithereens and never expected to be hit back. It long rallied the U.S. to wage war on Iran but took few measures to protect itself from an Iranian counterreaction.

After the long range attack from Yemen in August it was warned that the Houthi's missile reach had increased. Saudi Arabia ignored the warning and it took zero notable measures to protect Abqaiq processing center which is a choke point for half its income.

Iran, in contrast, developed its weapons along an asymmetric strategy just as Russia did.

Iran does not have a modern airforce. It does not need one because it is not aggressive. It has long developed other means to deter the U.S., Saudi Arabia and other opponents in the Middle East. It has a large number of self developed medium range ballistic missiles and a whole zoo of short to medium range drones and cruise missiles. It can hit any economic or military target within their 2,000 kilometer reach.

It also makes its own air defenses which recently enabled it to take down an expensive U.S. drone. Here is General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of IRGC's Aerospace Force, explaining how that was done (video, engl. subs).

Iran developed relations with friendly population groups in other countries and trained and equipped them with the necessary defensive means. These are Hizbullah in Lebanon, various groups in the Syria, the PMG/Hashd in Iraq, the Houthi in Yemen and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

None of these groups is a full proxy for Iran. They all have their own local politics and will at times disagree with their big partner. But they are also willing to act on Iran's behalf should the need arise.

Iran developed a number of weapons exclusively for its allies that differ from the ones it itself uses. It enables its partners to build those weapons themselves. The cruise missile and drones that the Houti in Yemen use are different from the one Iran uses for its own forces.

New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces

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Iran has thereby plausible deniability when attacks like the recent one on Abquiq happen. That Iran supplied drones with 1,500 kilometer reach to its allies in Yemen means that its allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq and elsewhere have access to similar means.

The Saudis have long failed to take Iran's counter strategy into their considerations just as the U.S. has failed to consider the Russian's. Both will have to change their aggressive strategies. Both are now going have to (re-)develop real defensive means.

Posted by b on September 17, 2019 at 19:19 UTC | Permalink | Comments (310)

September 16, 2019

Damage At Saudi Oil Plant Points To Well Targeted Swarm Attack

Saturday's attack on the Saudi oil and gas processing station in Abqaiq hit its stabilization facility:

The stabilization process is a form of partial distillation which sweetens "sour" crude oil (removes the hydrogen sulfide) and reduces vapor pressure, thereby making the crude oil safe for shipment in tankers. Stabilizers maximize production of valuable hydrocarbon liquids, while making the liquids safe for storage and transport, as well as reduce the atmospheric emissions of volatile hydrocarbons. Stabilizer plants are used to reduce the volatility of stored crude oil and condensate.

Soon after the attack U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went into full 'blame Iran' mode:

Secretary Pompeo @SecPompeo - 21:59 UTC · Sep 14, 2019
Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.
We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression

Abqaiq lies at the heart of the Saudi oil infrastructure. It processes more than half of the Saudi oil output.


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The U.S. government published two detailed pictures of the attack's result.


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The pictures show some 17 points of impact. There are cars visible in the second more detailed picture that demonstrate the gigantic size of the place. The targets were carefully selected. At least 11 of those were egg shaped tanks with a diameter of some 30 meter (100 foot). These are likely tanks for pressurized (liquidized) gas that receive the condensate vapor from the stabilization process. They all have now quite neat holes in their upper shells.

The piping to and from the egg shaped tanks shows that these were configured in groups with double redundancy. Two tanks beside each other share one piping system. Two of such twin tanks are next to each other with lines to their processing train. There are a total of three such groups. Damage to any one tank or group would not stop the production process. The products would be routed to another similar tank or group. But with all tanks of this one special type taken out the production chain is now interrupted.

Two processing areas were hit and show fire damage. At least the control equipment of both was likely completely destroyed:

Consultancy Rapidan Energy Group said images of the Abqaiq facility after the attack showed about five of its stabilization towers appeared to have been destroyed, and would take months to rebuild - something that could curtail output for a prolonged period.

“However Saudi Aramco keeps some redundancy in the system to maintain production during maintenance,” Rapidan added, meaning operations could return to pre-attack levels sooner.

The targeting for this attack was done with detailed knowledge of the process and its dependencies.

The north arrow in those pictures points to the left. The visible shadows confirm the direction. The holes in the tanks are on the western side. They were attacked from the west.

The hits were extremely precise. The Yemeni armed forces claimed it attacked the facility with 10 drones (or cruise missiles). But the hits on these targets look like neither. A total of 17 hits with such precise targeting lets me assume that these were some kind of drones or missiles with man-in-the-loop control. They may have been launched from within Saudi Arabia.

There is no information yet on the damage in Khurais, the second target of the attacks.

The U.S. and Israel are able to commit such attacks. Iran probably too. Yemen seems unlikely to have this capability without drawing on extensive support from elsewhere. The planing for this operation must have taken months.

A Middle-East BBC producer remarks:

Riam Dalati @Dalatrm - 22:44 UTC · Sep 15, 2019
17 points of impact. No Drones or missiles were detected/intercepted. Saudis & Americans still at loss as to where the attack was launched from. #KSA seriously needs to shop elsewhere & replace the Patriot or reinforce it with a web of radar operated AA guns like the Oerlikon.
A source familiar with #Aramco situation told us earlier today that it was a “swarm attack”, a mix of > 20 drones and missiles, at least half of which were "suicide" drones. #USA & #KSA, he said, are 'certain' that attack was launched from #Iraq but 'smoking gun still missing'
They are also 'fairly certain' that #IRGC was behind the operation because, even though the missiles used were identical to those of the #Houthis, an inspection of the debris found in the desert revealed a 'couple of new updates' and a 'distinctly better craftsmanship'

The Wall Street Journal reports of the damage:

The strikes knocked out 5.7 million barrels of daily production, and the officials said they still believe they can fully replace it in coming days. That would require tapping oil inventories and using other facilities to process crude. One of the main targets of the attack was a large crude-processing plant in Abqaiq.
...
“It is definitely worse than what we expected in the early hours after the attack, but we are making sure that the market won’t experience any shortages until we’re fully back online,” said a Saudi official.
...
Even if Saudi officials were successful in restoring all or most of the lost production, the attack demonstrates a new vulnerability to supply lines across the oil-rich Gulf.

Tankers have been paying sharply higher insurance premiums, while shipping rates have soared in the region after a series of maritime attacks on oil-laden vessels, which the U.S. has blamed on Iran.
...
Khurais produces about 1.5 million barrels a day and Abqaiq, the world’s biggest crude-stabilization facility, processes seven million barrels of Saudi oil a day, turning crude into specific grades, such as Arabian Extra Light.

The repairs at Abqaiq will likely take weeks, not days. Brent crude futures rose by 19.5 percent to $71.95 per barrel, the biggest jump since 14 January, 1991:

Aramco gave no timeline for output resumption. A source close to the matter told Reuters the return to full oil capacity could take “weeks, not days”.

Riyadh said it would compensate for the damage at its facilities by drawing on its stocks, which stood at 188 million barrels in June, according to official data.

U.S. President Donald Trump was way more careful in attributing the strike than his Secretary of State.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 0:50 UTC · Sep 16, 2019
Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!

Any direct attack on Iran would result in swarms of missiles hitting U.S. military installations in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Saudi water desalination plants, refineries and ports would also be targets.

It is doubtful that Trump or the Saudis are ready to risk such a response.

The attack on Abqaiq was not the last one and all Saudi installations are extremely vulnerable:

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said oil installations in Saudi Arabia remain among their targets after attacks against two major sites slashed the kingdom’s output by half and triggered a surge in crude prices.

The Iranian-backed rebel group, cited by the Houthi’s television station, said its weapons can reach anywhere in Saudi Arabia. Saturday’s attacks were carried out by “planes” using new engines, the group said, likely referring to drones.

Middle East Eye, a Qatari financed outlet, reported yesterday that the attack was launched from Iraq by Iran aligned forces in revenge for Israeli attacks in Syria. The author, David Hearst, is known for slandered reporting. The report is based on a single anonymous Iraqi intelligence source. Qatar, which is struggling with Saudi Arabia and the UAE over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, would like to see a larger conflict involving its rivals east and west of the Persian Gulf. The report should therefore be disregarded.

Saudi Arabia has no defenses against this kind of attacks. The U.S. has no system that could be used for that purpose. Russia is the only country that can provide the necessary equipment. It would be extremely costly, and still insufficient, to protect all of the Saudi's vital facilities from similar swarm attacks.

Attacks of this kind will only end when Saudi Arabia makes peace with Yemen and when the U.S. ends its sanctions of oil exports from Iran. As Iran's President Rouhani said:

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

It is high time for hawks like Pompeo to recognize that Iran means what it says and has the tools to fulfill that promise.

Posted by b on September 16, 2019 at 9:48 UTC | Permalink | Comments (355)

September 15, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-54

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

- Bolton Leaves the National Security Council in Ruins - Foreign Policy

- The Spy Who Failed - Scott Ritter / Consortiumnews - Recommended

- Look to 2013 787 grounding to see how Boeing will return MAX to service - Scott Hamilton / Leeham
- India Plans to Conduct Its Own Checks on Boeing 737 Max Jets - Bloomberg

"India plans to conduct its own checks and demand simulator training for all pilots before Boeing Co.’s 737 Max jets can fly in the country again, even if the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration were to clear the grounded jets ..."

- Iran Rejects U.S. Accusations Over Saudi Oil-Facility Attacks- WSJ

"The coordinated strikes forced Saudi Arabia to suspend production of 5.7 million barrels a day of oil, more than half of its output and over 5% of the global supply.
...
A U.S. government assessment has determined that up to 15 structures at Abqaiq suffered damage from the strike on their west-northwest-facing sides.

One person familiar with the damage at Abqaiq said the facility was “a wreck.” The person said production capacity was “heavily impacted.” "

Other issues:

- September 11 2001: 30 minute long on-the-ground footage I hadn't seen before
Mark LaGanga's WTC 9/11 Video (Enhanced Video/Audio & Doubled FPS) - Youtube

- 'Pro-democracy' protesters ...

SCMP Hong Kong @SCMPHongKong - 13:47 UTC · Sep 15, 2019
A video going viral online shows a middle-aged man being beaten up by protesters this afternoon. He was later found lying injured at Gloucester Road. Paramedics treated him; he was conscious vid

There were several such incidents today. These rightwing 'protesters' are extremely aggressive.

- On the demise of the Guardian
How the UK Security Services neutralised the country’s leading liberal newspaper - Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis / Daily Maverick

- American Renewal: The Real Conflict Is Not Racial Or Sexual, It’s Between The Ascendant Rich Elites And The Rest Of Us - Joel Kotkin / Daily Caller (!)

- The Only Way to End ‘Endless War’ - First, America has to give up its pursuit of global dominance. - Stephen Wertheim / New York Times

"American war-making will persist so long as the United States continues to seek military dominance across the globe. Dominance, assumed to ensure peace, in fact guarantees war. To get serious about stopping endless war, American leaders must do what they most resist: end America’s commitment to armed supremacy and embrace a world of pluralism and peace."

- President Trump Called Former President Carter To Talk About China - WABE, Apr 14, 2019

Carter suggested that instead of war, China has been investing in its own infrastructure, mentioning that China has 18,000 miles of high-speed railroad.

“How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?”

Zero, the congregation answered.

“We have wasted I think $3 trillion,” Carter said of American military spending. “… It’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on September 15, 2019 at 14:35 UTC | Permalink | Comments (171)

September 14, 2019

Attacks On Major Saudi Oil Installations Show Urgent Need For Peace With Yemen

Ten drones controlled by Yemeni Houthi forces hit two major Saudi oil installations last night and caused several large fires.


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The Abqaiq (also Babqaiq) oil processing facility is 60 km (37 miles) southwest of Aramco’s Dhahran headquarters.

The oil processing plant handles crude from the world’s largest conventional oilfield, the supergiant Ghawar, and for export to terminals Ras Tanura - the world’s biggest offshore oil loading facility - and Juaymah. It also pumps westwards across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.

The oil and gas conditioning plant in Abqaiq is the largest of the world. It sits at the center of Saudi Arabia's oil and gas infrastructure.


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Abqaiq processes 6.8 million barrels of crude oil each day. More than two thirds of all Saudi oil and gas production runs through it. It is not clear yet how much of the widespread facility was destroyed.


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The second target was a processing plant near Khurais 190 km (118 miles) further southwest. It lies within the countries second largest oil field. Both installations are more than 1,000 km (600 miles) from Yemen.

Saudi Arabia does not have air defenses that protect its oil facilities from attacks from the south.


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Aᴍɪʀ @AmirIGM - 11:34 UTC · Sep 14, 2019

This graphic shows Saudi Air Defences around the Abqaiq oil facilities that were struck early Saturday. The drones were well within PAC-2 range, but outside Hawk range. It's possible that the low-flying or the drones' small size and composite materials helped it avoid detection.

PAC-2 are older U.S. made air defense systems which can not 'see' small drones or cruise missiles.

Satellite images show significant smoke coming from Abqaiq.


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There is smoke coming from four additional oil facilities but it may be from emergency oil flaring that is now necessary because the processing facilities further downstream are blocked or destroyed.

Saudi Arabia said that the fires are under control. Video shot this morning shows that they continue.

In one video taken last night on the ground near the facility one can hear the high pitched noise of a drone motor and then an explosion. In other videos automatic gunfire can be heard. These were probably attempts by guardsmen to take down drones.

But drones may not have been the sole cause of the incident. Last night a Kuwaiti fishermen recorded the noise of a cruise missile or some jet driven manned or unmanned aircraft coming from Iraq. Debris found on the ground in Saudi Arabia seems to be from an Soviet era KH-55 cruise missile or from a Soumar, an Iranian copy of that design. The Houthi have shown cruise missiles, likely from Iran, with a similar design (see below). After an attack on Saudi oil installations in August there were accusations that at least some of the attacks came from Iraq. Iran was accused of having been involved in that attack. While this sounds unlikely it is not inconceivable.

That attack in August was the checkmate move against the Saudi war on Yemen. As we wrote at that time:

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.

Saudi Arabia has nothing that could stop mass attacks by these drones. It would require hundreds of Russian made Pantsyr-S1 and BUK air defense systems to protect Saudi oil installations. There would still be no guarantee that they could not be overwhelmed.

New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces

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The Houthi armed forces spokesman claimed responsibility for today's attack:

This operation is one of the largest operations carried out by our forces in the depth of Saudi Arabia and came after a accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free men within the Kingdom.

The claim of cooperation by people in Saudi Arabia will make the Saudi rulers even more paranoid than they usually are. It may well be that the drones were launched from inside Saudi Arabia and that their launch point was far nearer to the target than is publicly assumed.

The spokesman continued:

We promise the Saudi regime that our future operations will expand further and be more painful than ever as long as it continues its aggression and siege.

We affirm that our goals bank is expanding day by day and that there is no solution for the Saudi regime except to stop the aggression and siege on our country.

The war on Yemen, launched by the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2015, cost Saudi Arabia several billion dollar per month. The Saudi budget deficit again increased this year and is expected to reach 7% of its GDP.  The country needs fresh money or much higher oil prices.

Saudi Arabia recently renewed plans to sell a share of its state owned oil conglomerate Aramco. Earlier this month the long time Saudi Energy Minister Kalid al-Falih was first demoted and then removed from his position and replaced by Abdulaziz bin Salman, a half-brother of the clown prince:

"The long tradition of the oil minister as a technocrat non-royal has been broken, and the best theory is that departing minister Khalid Al Falih was too resistant to the pace of change pursued by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman," wrote Paul Sankey, energy analyst with Mizuho.

The removal of Kalid al-Falih ended the nationalist resistance against the selloff of Aramco and the countries wealth.

But who will buy a share of the company when its major installations are not secure but under severe attacks?

The Saudi clown prince will have to make peace with Yemen before he can sell Aramco shares for a decent price. He will have to cough up many billions in reparation payments to Yemen and its people before the Houthi will be willing to make peace.

First Saudi attempts to sue for peace were made two weeks ago. It seems that they 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.

Nothing has been heard of the initiative since. The Saudis need to move fast to end the war. Unless that happens soon we can expect further escalations and more attacks like the ones earlier today.

Posted by b on September 14, 2019 at 15:56 UTC | Permalink | Comments (193)

September 13, 2019

How The BBC's Quentin Sommerville Created Fairytales Of Underground Hospitals In Syria

In August 2013 the BBC produced a fake video headlined "Saving Syria’s Children" about an alleged chemical weapon attack in Syria which it claimed was caused by the Syrian government. Robert Stuart has since pressed the BBC to admit the obvious fabrication of these scenes.

Today the BBC posted on its website another Syria clip under the title Idlib's secret hospitals hiding from air strikes:

Air strikes have been targeting hospitals in the rebel-held province of Idlib, Syria, despite the fact that it is a war crime. Medics have been forced underground in order to survive.

The UN accuses the Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes of conducting a deadly campaign that appears to target medical facilities.

BBC's Middle East correspondent, Quentin Sommerville, visits one hospital in a secret location.

Sommerville starts with standing next to a destroyed building claiming that it has been a hospital that was bombed. He says: "This is the only building that was targeted here."


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It isn't the "only building that was targeted" there. It is the only building that was there. The building is standing within an orchard. There are no other buildings or infrastructure around it. Why would anyone have built a hospital far from a town? There are no signs that building ever was a hospital and is doubtful that it was one.

The next shot has been shown in other TV clips (on Channel 4?). It shows the entrances to some caves but no car, no persons and nothing else is around it.


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Suddenly six explosions happen at the very same time.


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Immediately after the explosions, but not before them, the sound of a passing jet is heard.

I have never heard or seen of a jet that manages to release six bombs that land in such a tight pattern and explode all at the very same time. Compare the impact pattern and explosion timing with this recent U.S. carpet bombing (vid) of an island in Iraq. And why please was the camera in place that made such a tight shot of it?

This was clearly a stunt made with some buried explosives that were centrally ignited at the same time. The jet noise was later added to the shot.

In the next scene two people walk down a concrete stairway within a regular building.


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The scene cuts to one filmed at the entrance of roughly dug cave while the reporter insinuates that both are the same.


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The reporter claims that the cave is a hospital.


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He walks further down the stairs into the cave ...


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... and ends up in a well built building with straight painted walls and a nice balustrade. This might be a hospital but there is no sign that it is one. What is certain is that it is not underground or in a cave.


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The whole claim of the BBC clip is that the hospitals are underground because they get bombed. But the part that is supposed to prove that is clearly cut from a real building scene to a walk down into a cave scene and back to a real building scene. The sequence is clearly a propaganda fake.

The clip continues with Sommerville talking to some 'doctor' who answers in Arabic.


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Then follow scenes from the Atmah Charity Hospital which is a real hospital. It lies north of Idleb city and right next to the Turkish border near the Olive Tree refugee camp near the town of Atmah. It is sponsored by Orient Charity, established by the Syrian anti-Assad businessman Ghassan Aboud who lives in the UAE, and is operated by the Muslim Brotherhood aligned Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). Ghassan Aboud also owns Orient News which is a Jihadist outlet. There follow the typical pictures of injured children which are used to create more hate against the Syrian government and the millions of children it protects from the U.S. sponsored Jihadists attacks.


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On his Twitter account Quentin Sommerville posted another version of his Idleb tale. It is longer and the cut differs significantly from the clip on the BBC website.


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Some scenes are similar. The 'bombed hospital' is there. The fake 'bombing' of the caves is also in it. The interview scene with the Arabic speaking doctor in the 'underground hospital' is missing in this version but the same person reappears.

Sommerville speaks with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria about the coordination system for hospitals. The hospitals are supposed to tell the UN there geographic coordinates which the UN then hands to Russia with the request not to bomb those places. The UN's Pomos Moumtzis defends the system. Sommerville claims that 40 such hospitals have been bombed in recent months. Syria's Idleb governorate never had that many hospitals.

What is happening here is that the Jihadis, with whom Sommerville traveled and who he rightly says are seen as terrorist even by the 'west', report the coordinates of their headquarters and weapon depots as hospitals. The UN has no way to check their claims. When the Russian or Syrian airforce then bomb those places the Jihadis claim that their hospitals were hit.

There are more false sequences in the longer clip Sommerville tweeted.

At 4:27 the cameraman rides on the back of a motorcycle through a covered alley or basement into a 'hospital entrance'. More than a dozen motorcycles are parked there and there is professional ventilation.


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It is the very same 'underground hospital' and the same Arabic speaking 'doctor' as in the first clip. Notice that the 'doctor' rode his motorcycle through town while wearing his supposedly clean clinic clothes.


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Sommerville narrates: "This hospital is very deep out of reach of the bombs. We were told to move fast too."

The above scene cuts to two men running down a basement stairway seemingly from the hospital. It is the same stairway as in the first clip but filmed from a slightly different perspective and in a different take.


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Summerville continues: "Even under this solid rock we await the next attack." The scene cuts to two men running down an underground tunnel with rough walls.


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It is the same tunnel as in the first clip.

The sequence as a whole makes no sense. If the hospital is 'out of reach of the bombs' why run further down from it?

In the first clip the storyline around the same 'underground hospital' is the opposite of the storyline in the second version. In the first clip the reporter walks first down the stairway and then down the rough tunnel to allegedly reach the 'underground hospital'. In the second longer clip the reporters leave from the 'underground hospital' down the stairway and further down into the rough cut tunnel to be more safe from bombs.

Which is the real sequence Mr. Sommerville? Is the hospital at the lower end of the rough wall tunnel or is it at the upper end? Could you please make up your mind?

At 5:00 min Sommerville says that he travels further south towards the frontline escorted by the Jihadist controlled 'Salvation government'. The scene cuts to a drone shot of a refugee camp insinuating that it is in the same southern area. But the camp is like all refugee camps in Idleb in the north directly at the Turkish border. The border wall which Turkey erected can be clearly seen behind it. The place is far from the frontline.


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The two Sommerville videos show how the BBC works. First a politically wanted narrative is created. Scenes are then taken and cut into sequences that fit that narrative. The same or similar scenes can be used to create a different version of the same narrative or even a completely different one. Neither of those narratives needs to be anywhere near the realities on the ground.

Unfortunately many people fall for such cheap propaganda junk.

Posted by b on September 13, 2019 at 19:36 UTC | Permalink | Comments (73)