Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 31, 2021

Leaving Out Context To Vilify Iran's New President

The New York Times is using a dubious criminal case in Sweden to vilify president-elect of Iran Ebrahim Raisi over his alleged involvement in the execution of prisoner.

The smear works, but only because the New York Times decided to leave out the historical context.

Murder Trial in Sweden Could Shine Unsavory Light on Iran’s New President

First some details on the trial in Sweden:

He was a 28-year-old student and member of a communist group in Iran serving a 10-year prison sentence in 1988 when, according to his family, he was called before a committee and executed without a trial or defense.
The student, Bijan Bazargan, was among an estimated 5,000 prisoners belonging to armed opposition and leftist groups in Iran, who Amnesty International and other rights groups say were executed in the summer of 1988.
Now, a Swedish court will prosecute a former Iranian judiciary official for war crimes and murder in connection with Mr. Bazargan’s death. The case carries some notably public and damaging implications for Iran’s president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, who helped decide which prisoners lived or died during those mass executions.

The defendant, Hamid Noury, 59, was indicted on Tuesday in Sweden, ..
Mr. Noury served as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison where Mr. Bazargan and hundreds of prisoners were sent to the gallows.

The mass executions represent one of the most brutal and opaque crackdowns by the Islamic Republic against its opponents. International rights groups say they amount to crimes against humanity.

Some assistant to a deputy prosecutor of some prison, who was at that time 26 years old, is accused of alleged involvement in the trial by committee and execution of a prisoner who had previously been sentenced to 10-years.

To accuse some minor assistant over this sounds a bit fishy to me but is for the Swedish courts to decide.

The highlighted paragraph are tying to tie that case with Ebrahim Raisi who is at center of the second half of the NYT piece:

Mr. Raisi, 60, was a member of the four-person committee that interrogated prisoners and issued execution orders. Mr. Raisi has said he was acting under the direction of the founding father of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had ordered a committee be formed to facilitate the executions.

Allegations of Mr. Raisi’s work on that committee have shadowed him through his ascent in Iran’s hierarchy, where he had been the head of the judiciary before the June election that vaulted him to the presidency. Amnesty International has called for a formal investigation of Mr. Raisi’s past.

Raisi was indeed part of such a committee but the prisoners standing in front of it were of a very special type.

This was in summer of 1988. The Iran Iraq war was coming to an end. Iraq had attacked Iran in 1980, shortly after Iran's revolution. The war took eight years and ended in a draw. It was an extremely brutal war as Iraq fired hundreds of missiles against Iranian cities and used chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians. Up to a half million soldiers died on each side. Iraq had at the time the full support of the 'west'.

On July 20 1988 Iran accepted a ceasefire under UN Security Council resolution 598. The war was over. But one group, an Iranian cult that had fought on the Iraqi side and was backed by the CIA, decided to fight on:

Operation Mersad (مرصاد "ambush") was the last big military operation of the war. Both Iran and Iraq had accepted Resolution 598, but despite the ceasefire, after seeing Iraqi victories in the previous months, Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK) decided to launch an attack of its own and wished to advance all the way to Tehran. Saddam and the Iraqi high command decided on a two-pronged offensive across the border into central Iran and Iranian Kurdistan. Shortly after Iran accepted the ceasefire the MEK army began its offensive, attacking into Ilam province under cover of Iraqi air power. In the north, Iraq also launched an attack into Iraqi Kurdistan, which was blunted by the Iranians.

On 26 July 1988, the MEK started their campaign in central Iran, Operation Forough Javidan (Eternal Light), with the support of the Iraqi army. The Iranians had withdrawn their remaining soldiers to Khuzestan in fear of a new Iraqi invasion attempt, allowing the Mujahedeen to advance rapidly towards Kermanshah, seizing Qasr-e Shirin, Sarpol-e Zahab, Kerend-e Gharb, and Islamabad-e-Gharb. The MEK expected the Iranian population to rise up and support their advance; the uprising never materialised but they reached 145 km (90 mi) deep into Iran. In response, the Iranian military launched its counter-attack, Operation Mersad, under Lieutenant General Ali Sayyad Shirazi. Iranian paratroopers landed behind the MEK lines while the Iranian Air Force and helicopters launched an air attack, destroying much of the enemy columns. The Iranians defeated the MEK in the city of Kerend-e Gharb on 29 July 1988. On 31 July, Iran drove the MEK out of Qasr-e-Shirin and Sarpol Zahab, though MEK claimed to have "voluntarily withdrawn" from the towns. Iran estimated that 4,500 MEK were killed, while 400 Iranian soldiers died.

It were mostly the prisoners taken during the MEK attack on Iran that the committee Raisi belonged to had to handle. These prisoner were not part of a regular army. They were not Iraqis but Iranians who had fought against their own country. They had invaded Iran after a ceasefire had been declared. These were not regular prisoners of war but quite arguably captured terrorists.

As the retired Indian Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar wrote in piece on Raisi:

Iran smashed the MEK assault and that set the stage for the so-called “death commissions” of the prisoners, terrorists and others.

Inevitably, those executed included agents of the western intelligence. The executions couldn’t have been carried out except on Khomeini’s orders. Now, Raisi was a young man of 27 when he reportedly served on a revolutionary panel involved in sentencing Iran’s enemies to death.

Wikipedia notes of those who were executed:

The majority of those killed were supporters of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, although supporters of other leftist factions, including the Fedaian and the Tudeh Party of Iran (Communist Party), were executed as well.

While the commissions who decided these cases were not full courts, were at least stacked with jurists. Raisi had previously been a deputy prosecutor in Tehran.

For many years the MEK continued to launch terror attacks within and outside of Iran. The U.S. eventually designated the MEK a terrorist organization.

I am personally against the death penalty. But I find it hard to believe that anyone who puts himself into the historic context will find much fault with what Raisi and other members of such commissions have done at that time.

The New York Times though will not even let you know that context.

Posted by b on July 31, 2021 at 17:04 UTC | Permalink | Comments (92)

July 30, 2021

Lost In Translations - The Dangers Of Being Misled By Them

Translation errors can seriously affect the relations between hostile nation states.

One prominent example is the 'Gerasimov Doctrine'. It was alleged to be a Russian strategy of hybrid war, the use of subversion to complement military force. The concept, it was claimed, had been introduced in a 2013 speech by the Russian Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov’s.

The claim was first made in a July 2014 blog post headlined The ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-Linear War by Russia 'expert' Mark Galeotti. Galeotti had used a misleading translation of Gerasimov's speech provided by the U.S. government funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He asserted that Russia had a strategy of 'hybrid wars', combining secret and open civil, economic and military operations against an enemy.

Russia however did not have such a strategy. Gerasimov in his speech was in fact describing the U.S. way of waging 'hybrid wars' like, for example, the one against Syria.

But once Galeotti had published his misleading idea, dozens of papers and opinion pieces were written about the dangerous 'Gerasimov Doctrine' - all to underline the nonsense claim of a 'Russian threat'.

Various scholars and journalists had immediately pointed out that the assertion was wrong. There was no such Russian doctrine. It still took the author of the original false claim nearly four years to finally retracted his nonsense:

I’m Sorry for Creating the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’
I was the first to write about Russia’s infamous high-tech military strategy. One small problem: it doesn't exist.

Today Moon of Alabama reader Bernd Neuner pointed to another mistranslation and the bad effects emerging from it (edited for readability):

Bernd Neuner @Bernd__Neuner - 9:09 UTC · Jul 30, 2021

On widespread #Sinophobia

I recently attended a seminar on doing business in #China, hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce. During the presentation of a lady representing German Trade & Invest, I was surprised to learn the President Xi Jinping allegedly had given a speech announcing his intention to "...form powerful countermeasures and deterrent capabilities based on artificially cutting off supply to foreigners."

Since the presenter mentioned the speech had been published in Quishi, the official publication of the #CCP, I started looking for the original of the speech. It did not take long, and my suspicions were confirmed. What Xi Jinping really had said was the following: "...forming a powerful countermeasure and deterrent capability against foreigners who would artificially cut off supply [to China]".

I contacted the presenter and voiced my doubts regarding the quotes she used. She was very helpful and said she had received them from a colleague in Hamburg. I got in touch with him, and upon taking a closer look he confirmed the benign interpretation above. It seems the malicious version stems from the initial translation published by the US think tank CSET, latter corrected due to feedback from the audience:  (footnote 3, p.3)

The damage is done - how many people in positions of influence are now convinced that China aims at disrupting the supply chains of "the free world"?

A few hours after Bernd Neuner's tweets I stumbled over the same error made by a different person.

I was reading a piece by Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism about the new trend towards industrial policies:

Industrial Policy Coming Into Vogue After China Cleans US Clock by Using It

Yves quotes from a paywalled Wall Street Journal piece about the return of industrial policy:

China, though, never retreated [from industrial policy]. Even after it introduced market reforms in 1979 and accelerated them after 1992, the state continued to guide economic development through ownership of enterprises and control over credit, government purchases, tax preferences, land and foreign investment. Since 2006 the ruling Communist Party has put priority on catching up to the West technologically.

Previously called “Made in China 2025,” this endeavor was renamed “dual circulation” last year. In a speech, President Xi Jinping said the goal was to eliminate China’s dependence on other countries while increasing their dependence on China. It could then threaten to cut off foreign customers to deter aggression, he said.

It seems that Greg Ip, the WSJ author, has fallen for the same mistranslation as the lecturer at Bernd Neuner's local Chamber of Commerce. This again demonstrates the danger of relying on translations without verifying them against the original text.

For the record:

The relevant part of Xi's speech is about lessons from China's shutdown in the early months of the Covid pandemic. Xi's first point is that China must increase internal consumption to buffer against the expected losses in exports. The second point is about the security of supply chains even under extreme situations:

Production chains (产业链) and supply chains cannot come uncoupled at critical times. This is an important characteristic that all large economies must possess. The current epidemic is a stress test under actual combat conditions.
In order to safeguard China's industrial security and national security, we must focus on building production chains and supply chains that are independently controllable (自主可控), secure and reliable, and strive for important products and supply channels to all have at least one alternative source, forming the necessary industrial backup system.

The entire country is now getting back to work and resuming production. We should not and cannot simply repeat past patterns. Rather, we must work hard to refashion them into new production chains, and increase the levels of S&T innovation and import substitution across the board. This is an important focus for deepening supply-side structural reform, and is key for high-quality development. First, we must build on our advantages, solidify and increase the leading international positions of strong industries, and forge some "assassin's mace"​2 technologies. We must sustain and enhance our superiority across the entire production chain in sectors such as high-speed rail, electric power equipment, new energy, and communications equipment, and improve industrial quality; and we must tighten international production chains' dependence on China, forming powerful countermeasures and deterrent capabilities based on artificially cutting off supply to foreigners. Second, we must make up for our shortcomings. That is, in sectors and segments related to national security, we must build a domestic supply system that is independently controllable and secure and reliable, so that self-circulation (自我循环) can be accomplished at critical moments, and ensure that the economy operates normally in extreme situations.

That translation was corrected on November 16 2020. The highlighted part, which establishes China as aggressor, is now defensive:

...; and we must tighten international production chains' dependence on China, forming a powerful countermeasure and deterrent capability against foreigners who would artificially cut off supply [to China]3.

Footnote 3 explains the change:

Translator's note: The translation of the final portion of this sentence ("...forming a powerful countermeasure and deterrent capability against foreigners who would artificially cut off supply [to China]") is a correction issued on November 16, 2020. As astute readers pointed out, the Chinese text here (形成对外方人为断供的强有力反制和威胁能力) strongly implies that China's "countermeasure" and "deterrent" is aimed at foreign countries considering halting their exports to China of strategically significant goods. These countries will decide against such moves, Xi argues, because China's presumed countermeasures would in turn deprive these countries of vital Chinese imports. CSET's original translation of this line, published on November 10, 2020, read: "...forming powerful countermeasures and deterrent capabilities based on artificially cutting off supply to foreigners." This is misleading, as it implies that China would be the one to take the offensive in a trade war. The language in Xi's speech suggests a more defensive, deterrent posture on the part of China.

Those who have read the CSET translation from November 10 but never read the corrected version from November 16 will have the misleading impression that China wants to use supply chains that originate in China in aggressive ways against other countries. That is however not the case. China wants a create a situation comparable to the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction as it exists in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. "If you cut my supply chains I will cut yours." It is a reasonable and strong deterrence strategy.

The issue of errors in translations, innocent as well as intentionally misleading ones, may soon become an even bigger issue. The U.S. Congress is providing money to produce many more of them:

The House bill introduced by Democratic Representatives Joaquin Castro and Bill Keating and Republicans Mike Gallagher and Brian Fitzpatrick would provide for the establishment of a federally funded Open Translation and Analysis Center (OTAC) focused on China.
It would be based on the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), which provided translation and analysis of Soviet bloc and other foreign government media during the Cold War.
The bill calls for funding of $80 million for fiscal 2022 and that same amount annually for each fiscal year through 2026 as well as "such sums as may be necessary for each fiscal year thereafter."
Referring to the acronyms of the People's Republic of China and its ruling Communist Party and armed forces, the aide said OTAC would "systematically translate PRC/CCP/PLA speeches, documents, reports, strategies, news articles, commentaries, journal articles, procurement contracts into English and publish them freely online."
Castro said that for the United States "to effectively both compete and cooperate with" countries like China and Russia it needed a better understanding of them.

"A nuanced understanding of foreign countries is impossible without reading how they communicate in their own languages," he told Reuters.

I fully agree with Castro's last sentence. But I for one, unlike Marc Galeotti, will not trust U.S. funded translations of foreign text.

It will always be necessary to independently verify them.

Posted by b on July 30, 2021 at 16:52 UTC | Permalink | Comments (76)

July 29, 2021

China Cracks Down On Tech - Its People Benefit

Back when Stephen S. Roach was Morgan Stanley's chief economist Moon of Alabama often quoted from his columns. Fifteen years ago Roach spoke out against globalization and emphasized the need of labor power. His takes stood in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom of that time. Roach retired from Morgan Stanley around 2011 and has since been a senior lecturer at the Yale School of Management.

While I had not read Roach for some time I today stumbled over a column of his which I find astonishingly wrong and badly argued.

Roach writes about China's recent clamp down on fin-tech, internet monopolies and private education companies:

China’s regulation of its spirited tech sector could be a tipping point for the economy

The subtitle is a good summary of the column:

There are legitimate reasons for China’s anti-tech campaign, but when the full force of regulation is used to strangle the business models and financing capacity of the economy’s most dynamic sector, it weakens confidence and the entrepreneurial spirit

China has recently cracked down and financial consumer services, hail services and private education companies. Alibaba's fintech spin off Ant was prohibited from going public. Didi, the Uber of China, went public in U.S. capital markets even though it been warned not to do so. Its apps were taken down and it will have to pay a severe fine. Other tech companies are also under pressure says Roach:

Moreover, there are signs of a clampdown on many other leading Chinese tech companies, including Tencent (internet conglomerate), Meituan (food delivery), Pinduoduo (e-commerce), Full Truck Alliance (truck-hailing apps Huochebang and Yunmanman), Kanzhun’s Boss Zhipin (recruitment), and online private tutoring companies like TAL Education Group and Gaotu Group. And all of this follows China’s high-profile crackdown on cryptocurrencies.

It is not as if there were a lack of reasons – in some cases, like cryptocurrencies, perfectly legitimate reasons – for China’s anti-tech campaign. Data security is the most oft-cited justification.

This is understandable in one sense, considering the high value the Chinese leadership places on its proprietary claims over big data, the high-octane fuel of its push into artificial intelligence. But it also smacks of hypocrisy in that much of the data has been gathered from the surreptitious gaze of the surveillance state.

The issue, however, is not justification. Actions can always be explained, or rationalised, after the fact. The point is that, for whatever reason, Chinese authorities are now using the full force of regulation to strangle the business models and financing capacity of the economy’s most dynamic sector.

Stephen Roach thinks, wrongly, that it is bad to restrict certain business models and financing through public offerings. But from China's point of view it makes perfect sense. Why should it care how much money foreign investors lose by that:

Beijing is pursuing other goals: reining in the power of its tech titans and boosting startups; protecting social equality; and making sure the cost of living in cities isn’t so high that families aren’t willing to have children. And Beijing is suspicious of companies that are skilled at raising capital overseas—beyond its watchful eye.
Sometimes, China might feel it’s being hijacked by hot foreign money. For example, Beijing wanted to scale down investment in for-profit education as early as 2018, but venture capital kept pouring in. Now the lucrative bet has been called to a halt.

Or consider geopolitical risks. Because of the [variable interest rate corporate] structure, in theory, DiDi, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, didn’t need Beijing’s approval to list in New York. But China’s cybersecurity office was concerned enough about DiDi’s data security—such as possible exposures to sensitive government locations—that it suggested the company postpone its IPO. DiDi ignored the warning, and we all know how it’s turning out.

The companies Roach listed are largely monopolies. They often buy up competitors and thereby, like Microsoft does in the U.S., prevent innovation. Moreover Alibaba's Ant tried to be a bank without being regulated as one. It promoted consumer credit and pulled people into debt. The delivery services and hauling services abused their workers. The tutoring companies took extremely high prices and distorted the otherwise equal chances between pupils, the basis of China's meritocracy.

All that is enough reason to strongly regulate them. But what was probably even worse is that the greedy owners of those companies planned to go public in western capital markets. They would thereby fall under foreign regulators and foreign laws. Other countries would probably gain access to the data they collect and use that against China. On top of that foreigners would gain the profits the companies make in China. At a time of a longer conflict between the U.S. and China it is better for Chinese companies to stay at home.  If these companies really need more capital to grow they can find enough in China and do not need to go abroad.

Socialism with Chinese characteristics simply does not prioritize speculative capitalism over other values.

Stephen Roach knows that but he dislikes it. He argues that the regulation crack down on those companies diminishes the confidence in China. That is correct with regards to the confidence of 'western' speculators. But Roach argues, without evidence, that the clamp down will also hit the confidence of Chinese consumers who will thereby spend less:

Nor is the assault on tech companies the only example of moves that restrain the private economy. Chinese consumers are also suffering.

Rapid population ageing and inadequate social safety nets for retirement income and health care have perpetuated households’ unwillingness to convert precautionary saving into discretionary spending on items like motor vehicles, furniture, appliances, leisure, entertainment, travel, and the other trappings of more mature consumer societies.
The reason is that China has yet to create a culture of confidence in which its vast population is ready for a transformative shift in saving and consumption patterns.
Confidence among businesses and consumers alike is a critical underpinning of any economy.

But why should a crackdown on abusive conglomerates diminish Chinese consumer confidence. Might it not do the opposite?

Roach does not think so:

Modern China lacks this foundation of trust that underpins animal spirits. But while this has long been an obstacle to Chinese consumerism, now distrust is creeping into the business sector, where the government’s assault on tech companies is antithetical to the creativity, energy and sheer hard work they require to grow and flourish in an intensely competitive environment.

I have frequently raised concerns about the excesses of fear-driven precautionary saving as a major impediment to consumer-led Chinese rebalancing. But the authorities’ recent moves against the tech sector could be a tipping point. Without entrepreneurial energy, the creative juices of China’s New Economy will be sapped, along with hopes for a long-promised surge of indigenous innovation.

Why should people not save for their old age and consume on 'trappings' instead? Why should they take up credit? Why should they accept abusive monopolies and financial speculation?

Roach's argument is disingenuous as he answers none of the above questions.

Others, like Berkshire Hathaway's vice chairman Charlie Munger, are much wiser:

Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger praised the Chinese government for silencing Alibaba's Jack Ma in a recent interview, adding that he wishes US financial regulators were more like those in China. "Communists did the right thing," Munger, the 97-year-old longtime friend of Warren Buffett, said about the handling of Ma, who criticized officials in Beijing last year for stifling innovation.
Although he would not want "all of the Chinese system" in the US, Munger did say "I certainly would like to have the financial part of it in my own country."
Munger also told CNBC's Becky Quick that while "our own wonderful free enterprise economy is letting all these crazy people go to this gross excess," the Chinese "step in preemptively to stop speculation."

China has decided to live by producing stuff instead of by betting on financial speculation. It does not favor the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sectors which dominate the U.S. economy. Unlike the U.S. China puts socialism before shareholders which in the end increases consumer confidence:

The Hang Seng Tech index, launched with fanfare last July and comprising internet darlings-turned-gargantuan blue chips such as Tencent and Alibaba, has cratered 40% since February to record lows.
Investors have so far responded with alarm that tipped on Tuesday towards panic. They dumped health stocks in anticipation the sector will be next in the firing line, even as the property and education sectors reel.

Housing, medical and education costs were the “three big mountains” suffocating Chinese families and crowding out their consumption, said Yuan Yuwei, a fund manager at Olympus Hedge Fund Investments, who had shorted developers and education firms.

“This is the most forceful reform I’ve seen over many years, and the most populist one,” Yuan said. ”It benefits the masses at the cost of the richest and the elite groups.”

With the crackdown on the big tech companies smaller ones will have a chance to grow. Workers will get better wages. Consumers will no longer have to spend on much too expensive services.

Now what are the real reasons why you think that is bad, Mr. Roach?

Posted by b on July 29, 2021 at 17:08 UTC | Permalink | Comments (196)

July 28, 2021

Biden Is Not Ending The 'Forever Wars'. He Is Preparing The Path To New Ones.

Daniel Larison writes that Joe Biden's foreign policies are probably worse than Trump's:

Joe Biden’s foreign policy record as president in his first six months has been as bad as his non-interventionist and antiwar critics feared it would be. Biden has made one significant and correct decision that he appears to be following through on, and that is the withdrawal of the last remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but even here there is reason to worry that US forces may be relocated to other nearby countries and the war against the Taliban will continue from afar. On almost every other front, Biden has not only failed to undo some of his predecessor’s worst and most destructive policies, but in many cases he has entrenched and reinforced them.

Biden has failed to stop the U.S./Saudi war on Yemen. He is keeping troops in Iraq and Syria. His retreat from Afghanistan turns out to be fake. He is sabotaging a return to the nuclear with Iran.

The U.S. has, in contradiction to its Doha agreement with the Taliban, restarted its bombing campaign against them and is likely to continue it for years to come:

The top American general overseeing operations in Afghanistan declined to say Sunday night whether U.S. airstrikes against the Taliban would end Aug. 31, the date previously given by officials as a cutoff for such attacks.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of United States Central Command, refused to commit to ending the United States last remaining military leverage over the Taliban: airstrikes.
The Taliban reacted furiously to the strikes, saying they were in breach of the 2020 agreement negotiated between the militant group and the United States.

The concentration of strikes against the Taliban reflected a new sense of urgency in Washington about the imperiled Afghan government.

“I’m just not going to be able to comment about the future of U.S. airstrikes after Aug. 31,” General McKenzie told reporters after meeting with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, and his aides earlier in the day.

The Taliban have recently done a lot of diplomacy with visits to Moscow, Beijing and Tehran. Together, with Pakistan, which continues to supply the Taliban with weapons and manpower, those countries are planing for a future where the Taliban will have total control of, or at least a significant role in. the Afghan government. They have promised to invest in a Taliban led Afghanistan.

But the U.S. will not allow a rebuilding of the silk road between China and Iran. It will not allow for safe 'Belt & Road' investments in Afghanistan. Instead of controlling Afghanistan for its own purpose, as it did with its occupation, the U.S. will, from now on, do its best to deny others to benefit from the country.

After first pressing the Afghan president to make room for an interim government, Biden is now again backing him. In a phone call last Friday Biden pledged full support for Ghani's continued hardline:

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan. President Biden and President Ghani discussed the situation in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring bilateral partnership. President Biden emphasized continued U.S. support, including development and humanitarian aid, for the Afghan people, including women, girls, and minorities. President Biden and President Ghani agreed that the Taliban’s current offensive is in direct contradiction to the movement’s claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict. President Biden also reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to continue supporting the Afghan security forces to defend themselves.

But Ghani's government has no way to survive. The Taliban control Afghanistan's borders and can finance themselves with customs duties and taxes. Ghani thereby lacks the income to run the state. Now Biden is promising him to give $4 billion per year to the Afghan army while having few control over how that money will be spent. Ghani and his circle will do their best to loot the stash.

Instead of leaving Afghanistan alone and letting it find a new balance Biden is revamping the Great Game in which Afghanistan will be again the foremost casualty.

During his campaign Biden had promised to rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran. But no action has followed. Talks with Tehran started too late and were filled with new demands that Iran can not accept without diminishing is military defenses.

The arrogance of the Biden administration is at full display in its believe that it can dictate the terms to Tehran:

If the U.S. determines that Iran is not prepared to return to full implementation, or that Iran’s nuclear program has advanced to the point that the non-proliferation limits in the deal cannot be recaptured, it will explore options, including for tightening enforcement of economic sanctions, but he hopes it does not come to that, he said.

“We will see whether they are prepared to come back,” the senior US diplomat said.

It is not Iran that left the UN endorsed JCPOA deal. It was the U.S. which went back on it and re-introduced a 'maximum pressure' sanctions campaign against Iran. Iran has said it is willing to again reduce its nuclear program to the limits of the JCPOA deal if the U.S. removes all sanctions. It is the Biden administration that is unwilling to do so while making new demands. That is obviously not going to work.

Today Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with the outgoing government of President Rohani and warned the incoming government against any hope that the U.S. will  change its unreasonable position: @khamenei_ir - 9:20 UTC · Jul 28, 2021

Others should use the experience of Mr. Rouhani’s govt. One experience is distrusting the West. In this administration it became clear that trusting the West isn’t helpful. They don’t help and they strike a blow wherever they can. When they didn’t, it was because they couldn’t.

Administrations should utterly avoid tying their plans to negotiations with the West, for they’ll certainly fail.
This administration too, wherever it relied on negotiations with the West & the US, they were unsuccessful, & when they relied on domestic potential, they succeeded.

In the recent nuclear talks, the Americans staunchly insisted on their obstinate stance. When making promises & on paper they say they’ll remove sanctions, but in practice they didn’t & won’t. Then they say new articles should be added to the deal that already exists.

The West & the US are totally unjust & malicious in their negotiations. They have no hesitation in breaching their commitments at all. In the previous agreement, they breached their commitments & they give no guarantee they will abide by their commitments in the future either.

If the U.S. does not come back into the JCPOA deal, without any further conditions, Iran will eventually leave the deal and proceed with its nuclear program as it wants. That would be an utter failure of Biden's hardline tactics. One wonders what the Biden administration has planned to do when that happens.

As Larison summarizes:

Biden’s foreign policy so far is largely made up of failures to achieve his stated goals and failures to overturn the worst policies that he inherited from Trump. In some cases, Biden has not even made the effort to overturn them. The Biden administration likes to use the phrase "America is back" as its foreign policy motto. Judging from Biden’s first six months this just means that America is back to more of the same destructive and inhumane policies that we have had for decades.

Instead of ending the 'forever wars', as Biden promised during his campaign, he is prolonging old ones while preparing the path for new ones.

That is a path that will not go well for the U.S. of A.

Posted by b on July 28, 2021 at 16:16 UTC | Permalink | Comments (146)

July 26, 2021

U.S. - China Talks Point To A Longer Conflict

The U.S. wants to slice and dice its approach to China. It will use all means to take advantage of China where it can, while restricting China in those fields were it can no longer compete with it. The Chinese reject that approach. The U.S., they say, should not see China as an enemy. It should stop lecturing China, accept it as an equal and cooperate with it in all fields.

The U.S. is unwilling to do that. Its media-military-industrial complex is already primed for a cold war with China. Trillions of dollars are to be made from it. China on the other side is ready to play hardball if it must.

Today U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held talks with the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng, She also meet with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The later meeting, demanded to be the main event by the U.S., had already led to some squabble. Wang Yi is beyond Sherman's rank and her main discussion, the Chinese insisted, should be with a person on her own level:

The State Department emphasized Sherman will have “senior-level” communications but a statement from China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry emphasized that Sherman “will hold talks” with Xie and after that Foreign Minister Wang will “meet her.”

On Saturday two 'senior U.S. administration officials' gave a preview of the talks:

As Secretary Blinken has said, the U.S. relationship with China will be collaborative where it can be, competitive where it should be, and adversarial where it must be. And we expect all dimensions of the relationship will be on the table for discussion during Wendy’s meetings.
In Tianjin, [Sherman is] going to make clear while we welcome stiff and sustained competition with the PRC, everyone needs to play by the same rules and on the level – on a level playing field.

She’s going to underscore that we do not want that stiff and sustained competition to veer into conflict. This is why the U.S. wants to ensure that there are guard rails and parameters in place to responsibly manage the relationship.

The second official added:

So let me also put this meeting into the context of the administration’s broader China policy effort. Since President Biden took office, we’ve put a lot of focus on strengthening our own competitive hand vis-a-vis China through many actions that we’ve taken domestically, investing in ourselves at home. We’ve also rallied our allies and partners, including to advance an affirmative vision of the rules-based international order. And we’ve confronted China when they’ve acted against our interests and values while working to cooperate with China on areas like climate change and nonproliferation.

We know we’re stronger when we work with our allies. We know this makes us more effective when dealing with Beijing. We aren’t seeking an anti-China coalition in our work with allies and partners, but rather trying to work together in a multilateral fashion to uphold the international rules-based order.
With all of those actions underway, we’re entering this engagement from a position of strength and of solidarity.
Even as we meet with our Chinese counterparts, we will also continue to hold China accountable. These things are not mutually exclusive, and it should be clear that we are not afraid to impose costs for China’s behavior that undermines international norms.

As Peter Lee commented with his usual snark:

chinahand @chinahand - 16:43 UTC · Jul 24, 2021
"We're going to keep kicking your ass. Don't kick back, 'kay?" Our fate now that dime store Machiavellis, excuse me, generational talents, run the FP show.

The emphasized words were not welcome in China. On Sunday Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded in an interview with an attack on U.S. exceptionalism:

“The United States always wants to exert pressure on other countries by virtue of its own strength, thinking that it is superior to others,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday.

“However, I would like to tell the US side clearly that there has never been a country in this world that is superior to others, nor should there be, and China will not accept any country claiming to be superior to others.

“If the United States has not learned how to get along with other countries on an equal footing by now, then it is our responsibility, together with the international community, to give the US a good tutorial in this regard.

Today, after the talk between Sherman and Xie, the Foreign Ministry published a series of strong response snippets by Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng:

I especially like the one about the 'rules based international order':

On 26 July, during his talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng made the comment that the U.S. side's so-called “rules-based international order” is an effort by the United States and a few other Western countries to frame their own rules as international rules and impose them on other countries. The United States has abandoned the universally-recognized international law and order and damaged the international system it has helped to build. And it is trying to replace it with a so-called “rules-based international order”. The purpose is to resort to the tactic of changing the rules to make life easy for itself and hard for others, and to introduce “the law of the jungle" where might is right and the big bully the small.

The SCMP summerizes:

China has for the first time given the US a list of red lines and remedial action it must take to repair relations, including lifting sanctions and dropping its extradition request for Huawei financial chief Meng Wanzhou.

Chinese foreign vice-minister Xie Feng told US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman on Monday morning that US-China relations had reached a “stalemate” and faced “serious consequences”, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.

“The foundational reason is that some people in the US are treating China as an ‘imagined enemy’,” it quoted Xie as saying.

After the meeting, Xie said China gave two lists to the US – one with one remedial action for Washington to take towards China, and the other a series of Beijing’s key concerns.
Xie said the Chinese side also “expressed its strong dissatisfaction towards the wrong remarks and actions of the US” in relation to investigations into the origins of Covid-19, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

“We urge the United States not to underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong ability of the 1.4 billion Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests,” state news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying.

In its summary of the talks the Associated Press points to the basic difference in the approaches:

High-level face-to-face talks between U.S. and Chinese diplomats on Monday highlighted sharp differences between the sides, although the tone appeared somewhat less contentious than at their last meeting.
Xie said China wants to seek common ground while shelving differences, highlighting a divide in the basic approach to their relationship. The Biden administration has said it will cooperate in areas such as climate but confront China in others such as human rights, describing the relationship as collaborative, competitive and adversarial.

As the U.S. is for now rejecting the Chinese offer for burying the hatchet China will have to play hardball. It will not be cooperative in the fields where the U.S. wants it to be cooperative (Iran, North Korea, etc.). It will also be adversarial in fields where the U.S. has little ability to push back (rare earth exports, Boeing 737MAX re-certification).

The U.S. hopes that it can find and press 'allies' into confronting China. But Europe already rejected that. To others, especially in Asia, the U.S. looks like a declining power because it is a declining power and the economic interests of most nations now favor China. Under these circumstances I for one fail to see how the U.S. could win in a longer cold conflict.

How long then will it take until the U.S. recognizes that and steps down from its illusion of supremacy?

Posted by b on July 26, 2021 at 16:20 UTC | Permalink | Comments (310)

July 25, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-057

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Other issues:

Billionaires are system errors:

Covid Politics:

Covid China:


Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 25, 2021 at 13:33 UTC | Permalink | Comments (215)

July 23, 2021

Canada, Victims Of Communism, And Comparisons To A Holocaust

Canada seems to have some rather ambiguous position towards fascists. While it compares China's handling of its Uyghur population to a holocaust it is itself favoring the perpetrators of the real Holocaust.

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation reports of donations from supporters of east-European nazis to a Canadian anti-communist organization:

A controversial monument being built in Ottawa to honour victims of communist regimes has received donations in honour of known fascists and Nazi collaborators, according to a list posted online by the organization spearheading the project.

The Memorial to the Victims of Communism is being financed partly through a "buy-a-brick" campaign called Pathways to Liberty, which is run by the registered charity Tribute to Liberty.

The campaign sells "virtual bricks" that appear on the organization's website and in their newsletter. The bricks are dedicated to alleged victims of communism and include biographical notes about the individuals being commemorated.
An organization calling itself the General Committee of United Croats of Canada purchased virtual bricks dedicated to Ante Pavelić, describing him only as a "doctor of laws."

Pavelić was the wartime leader of the Ustaša, the fascist organization that ran the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet regime. In this role, Pavelić was the chief perpetrator of the Holocaust in the Balkans. Approximately 32,000 Jews, 25,000 Roma and 330,000 Serbs were murdered by the regime.
An organization calling itself the Knightly Order of Vitéz purchased five bricks. "Several members of the order actively participated in the persecution, despoliation and, in 1944, the deportation of the Hungarian Jews," said László Karsai, a professor of history at the University of Szeged.

Vitéz members included high-ranking members of the Nazi-puppet government established late in the war, which organized the deportation of some 437,000 Hungarian Jews. "It was the biggest, fastest deportation action of the Holocaust," said Karsai. "Several tens of thousands of Vitéz members got large lands (from) Jewish properties."

The League of Ukrainian Canadians' Edmonton Branch, meanwhile, purchased five virtual bricks in honour of Roman Shukhevych — who led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during the Second World War and was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Belarusians, Jews, Poles and Ukrainians.

The Victims of Communism memorial project in Canada is a copy of a similar project in Washington DC. It has high level support:

In 2013, the Harper government pledged $1.5 million to the project, a figure that increased to $3 million by 2014. By the end of 2014, the project's budget had ballooned to $5.5 million, with a taxpayer contribution of $4.3 million.
A NCC spokesperson said the estimated total cost of the monument is now $7.5 million, with $6 million coming from the federal government after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland included an additional $4 million in this spring's budget to complete the monument.
The monument has received letters of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Green party leader Elizabeth May, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair and former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler.

The generous with tax dollars Chrystia Freeland is known for her support of fascists in the Ukraine. It relates to her family's history:

The records now being opened by the Polish government in Warsaw reveal that Freeland’s maternal grandfather Michael (Mikhailo) Chomiak was a Nazi collaborator from the beginning to the end of the war. He was given a powerful post, money, home and car by the German Army in Cracow, then the capital of the German administration of the Galician region. His principal job was editor in chief and publisher of a newspaper the Nazis created. His printing plant and other assets had been stolen from a Jewish newspaper publisher, who was then sent to die in the Belzec concentration camp. During the German Army’s winning phase of the war, Chomiak celebrated in print the Wehrmacht’s “success” at killing thousands of US Army troops. As the German Army was forced into retreat by the Soviet counter-offensive, Chomiak was taken by the Germans to Vienna, where he continued to publish his Nazi propaganda, at the same time informing for the Germans on other Ukrainians. They included fellow Galician Stepan Bandera, whose racism against Russians Freeland has celebrated in print, and whom the current regime in Kiev has turned into a national hero.

Chomiak eventual landed in a U.S. occupied part of Germany where he and other east-European fascist were hired by U.S. Army intelligence. He later, like ten-thousands of other east-European nazi supporters, emigrated to Canada.

The Canadian charity Tribute to Liberty seems to be a copy of the Washington DC based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation:

According to Title IX, Section 905 of Public Law 103–199, an independent organization was to be established to construct, maintain and operate the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as to collect the contributions for the establishment of the memorial and to encourage the participation of all groups suffered under Communist regimes. In 2007, the foundation completed the Victims of Communism Memorial, which was dedicated by President George W. Bush. In 2016, the foundation released a list of 51 prisoners of conscience in Cuba just before President Barack Obama visit and meeting with Raúl Castro. In 2020, the organization released a report calling attention to organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghurs in China.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has one distinct fellow who over the last years has gained notoriety with his anti-China antics:

Both President Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Anthony Blinken have endorsed former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last-minute accusation of “genocide” against the Muslim Uyghur population in China’s Xinjiang province. But an investigation of published work by the researcher Pompeo relied on to level his genocide allegation reveals a pattern of data abuse and fraudulent assertions that substantially undermines the incendiary charge.

The US government’s accusation of genocide against China stems from a single source: a June 2020 paper by Adrian Zenz, a right-wing German researcher affiliated with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and neoconservative Jamestown Foundation in Washington, DC.

Adrian Zenz has published dozens of false claims about alleged Chinese discrimination against its population of Uyghurs. He is accusing China of committing a 'holocaust:

While Zenz’s employers describe him as “one of the world’s leading scholars on People’s Republic of China government policies towards the country’s western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang,” he is, in fact, a far-right Christian fundamentalist who has said he is “led by God” against China’s government, deplores homosexuality and gender equality, and has taught exclusively in evangelical theological institutions.

Lyle Goldstein, a China specialist and research professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department of the Naval War College, told The Grayzone that Zenz’s labeling of the Chinese approach to the Uyghurs as “demographic genocide” is “ridiculous to the point of being insulting to those who lost relatives in the Holocaust.”

Goldstein said the Chinese approach to Xinjiang “is a more repressive posture than we would like, but it sure isn’t genocide.”

In July 2020 Zens was invited as expert by the Canadian parliament's Subcommittee on International Human Rights. He was introduced as:

Adrian Zenz Senior Fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

His testimony, which also refers to the Holocaust, included several lies:

Thank you for inviting me to testify at this hearing.

Since 2017, up to 1.8 million Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups in the the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang have been swept up in probably the largest incarceration of an ethno-religious minority since the Holocaust. Exiled Uighurs and researchers have described this campaign as a cultural genocide.

New research gives strong evidence that Beijing's actions in Xinjiang also meet the physical genocide criterion cited in section (d) of article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, “Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”.

Starting in 2018, a growing number of female internment camp survivors testified that they were given injections that coincided with changes in or cessation of their menstrual cycles. Others reported that they were forcibly fitted with intrauterine contraceptive devices, abbreviated as IUDs, prior to internment or subjected to sterilization surgeries.

Also in 2018, official natural population growth rates in Xinjiang plummeted. In Kashgar and Hotan, two Uighur heartland regions, combined natural population growth rates fell by 84% between 2015 and 2018. In 2019, birth rates in ethnic minority regions declined by a further 30% to 56%. For 2020, one minority prefecture set a natural population growth target of near zero, specifically 1.05 per mille, a record low and a major drop in the natural population growth of that same region.

The '1.8 million incarcerated' number is bonkers:

The claim that China has detained millions of ethnic Uyghurs in its Xinjiang region is repeated with increasing frequency, but little scrutiny is ever applied. Yet a closer look at the figure and how it was obtained reveals a serious deficiency in data.

While this extraordinary claim is treated as unassailable in the West, it is, in fact, based on two highly dubious “studies.” 

The first, by the US government-backed Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, formed its estimate by interviewing a grand total of eight people.

The second study relied on flimsy media reports and speculation. It was authored by Adrian Zenz, a far-right fundamentalist Christian who opposes homosexuality and gender equality, supports “scriptural spanking” of children, and believes he is “led by God” on a “mission” against China.

Moon of Alabama has shown that the testimonies of 'female internment camp survivors' constantly change and always towards more sensational claims. They are not reliable. Zenz's claims of a 'natural population growth rate' are nonsense. There is no 'natural growth rate' as the number of children per couple are highly dependent of the economic development. Industrialized societies with higher income tend to have less or even negative population growth. The Uighur population has grown over the last decades even as the rate of growth has been shrinking:

In 1953 there were 3.6 million Uyghur in Xinjiang. In 2,000 there were 8.4 million. Wikipedia says that in 2018 Xinjiang has a total population of 25 million of which 11.3 million are ethnic Uyghur.

It is quite weird to claim that such a consistent population growth of an ethnic group is somehow a 'genocide'.

I find it highly ironic that Zenz speaks in front of a Canadian parliament committee of a 'holocaust' in China while the Canadian organization modeled on Zenz' employer receives donations in memoriam of actual holocaust perpetrators.

Posted by b on July 23, 2021 at 18:10 UTC | Permalink | Comments (136)

July 22, 2021

How Iran Successfully Trolled The U.S. With A 'Weapon Smuggling' Ship Parade

Remember these June headlines?

> The Biden administration is urging Venezuela and Cuba to turn away two Iranian warships believed to be carrying arms intended for transfer to Caracas, while vowing that the U.S. will take “appropriate measures” to deter what it sees as a “threat” to America’s partners in the Western Hemisphere.

The warnings — some public and some private, according to three people briefed on the situation — come as the vessels have traveled a significant distance across the Atlantic Ocean. A senior Biden administration official said the ships are thought to be carrying weapons to fulfill a deal that Iran and Venezuela made a year ago, noting that it was during the administration of former President Donald Trump. <

A few days later the news had changed a bit.

> U.S. officials believe the course change indicates that a diplomatic campaign to urge governments in the Western Hemisphere to turn away the ships was successful, the official said. The Iranian frigate Sahand and afloat staging base Makran charted a new course after Biden administration officials publicly and privately urged the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and other countries in the region not to allow them to dock, POLITICO reported. <

After the U.S. was blustering that it had won that 'diplomatic campaign' the news was silent about the Iranian ships.

A few days ago the ships were back in the news but only on specialized sites:


The picture shows ship traffic in the Baltic Sea with Germany to the south and Denmark to the north. Sahand and Makran are currently sailing east-northeast at 12 knots.

After having trolled the U.S. with those ships for quite some time Iran has finally announced their real destination:

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi will travel to Saint Petersburg to take part in a naval parade commemorating the 325th anniversary of the Russian Navy foundation.

The Iranian commander is planned to travel to Saint Petersburg on Saturday at the invitation of the Russian Ministry of Defense to take part at the event marking the Russian Navy Day.

An Iranian flotilla, including Sahand destroyer and Makran forward base ship, has also been deployed to Russia.

The Iranian destroyer is scheduled to participate in the upcoming naval parade, due to be held in Saint Petersburg’s Neva River on Sunday, July 25.

All the time those ships were supposed to go to St.Petersburg and to take part in Russia's Navy Day. Can you imagine how much fun the Iranian and Russian navy officers involved in this had with those June headlines and the Biden administration's panic threats to South American countries?

Whoever had the idea to strew the rumor that the ships were going to Venezuela deserves a medal.

Posted by b on July 22, 2021 at 17:24 UTC | Permalink | Comments (28)

Open Thread 2021-056

News & views ...

Posted by b on July 22, 2021 at 13:29 UTC | Permalink | Comments (141)

July 21, 2021

Russia And Germany Win War Over Nord Stream 2

The sanctions war the U.S. waged against Germany and Russia over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has ended with a total U.S. defeat.


The U.S. attempts to block the pipeline were part of the massive anti-Russia campaign waged over the last five years. But it was always based on a misunderstanding. The pipeline is not to Russia's advantage but important for Germany. As I described Nord Stream 2 in a previous piece:

It is not Russia which needs the pipeline. It can sell its gas to China for just as much as it makes by selling gas to Europe.
It is Germany, the EU's economic powerhouse, that needs the pipeline and the gas flowing through it. Thanks to Chancellor Merkel's misguided energy policy - she put an end to nuclear power in German after a tsunami in Japan destroyed three badly placed reactors - Germany urgently needs the gas to keep its already high electricity prices from rising further.

That the new pipeline will bypass old ones which run through the Ukraine is likewise to the benefit of Germany, not Russia. The pipeline infrastructure in the Ukraine is old and near to disrepair. The Ukraine has no money to renew it. Politically it is under U.S. influence. It could use its control over the energy flow to the EU for blackmail. (It already tried once.) The new pipeline, laid at the bottom of the Baltic sea, requires no payment for crossing Ukrainian land and is safe from potential malign influence.

Maybe Chancellor Merkel on her recent visit to Washington DC finally managed to explain that to the Biden administration. More likely though she simply told the U.S. to f*** off. Whatever - the result is in. As the Wall Street Journal reports today:

The U.S. and Germany have reached an agreement allowing completion of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, officials from both countries say.

Under the four-point agreement, Germany and the U.S. would invest $50 million in Ukrainian green-tech infrastructure, encompassing renewable energy and related industries. Germany also would support energy talks in the Three Seas Initiative, a Central European diplomatic forum.

Berlin and Washington as well would try to ensure that Ukraine continues to receive roughly $3 billion in annual transit fees that Russia pays under its current agreement with Kyiv, which runs through 2024. Officials didn’t explain how to ensure that Russia continues to make the payments.

The U.S. also would retain the prerogative of levying future pipeline sanctions in the case of actions deemed to represent Russian energy coercion, officials in Washington said.

So Germany will spend some chump change to buy up, together with the U.S,  a few Ukrainian companies that are involved in solar or wind mill stuff. It will 'support' some irrelevant talks by maybe paying for the coffee. It also promises to try something that it has no way to succeed in.

That's all just a fig leaf. The U.S. really gave up without receiving anything for itself or for its client regime in the Ukraine.

The Ukraine lobby in Congress will be very unhappy with that deal. The Biden administration hopes to avoid an uproar over it. Yesterday Politico reported that the Biden administration preemptively had told the Ukraine to stop talking about the issue:

In the midst of tense negotiations with Berlin over a controversial Russia-to-Germany pipeline, the Biden administration is asking a friendly country to stay quiet about its vociferous opposition. And Ukraine is not happy.

U.S. officials have signaled that they’ve given up on stopping the project, known as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and are now scrambling to contain the damage by striking a grand bargain with Germany.

At the same time, administration officials have quietly urged their Ukrainian counterparts to withhold criticism of a forthcoming agreement with Germany involving the pipeline, according to four people with knowledge of the conversations.

The U.S. officials have indicated that going public with opposition to the forthcoming agreement could damage the Washington-Kyiv bilateral relationship, those sources said. The officials have also urged the Ukrainians not to discuss the U.S. and Germany’s potential plans with Congress.

If Trump had done the above Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would have called for another impeachment.

The Ukrainian President Zelensky is furious over the deal and about being told to shut up. But there is little he can do but to accept the booby price the Biden administration offered him:

U.S. officials’ pressure on Ukrainian officials to withhold criticism of whatever final deal the Americans and the Germans reach will face significant resistance.

A source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kyiv’s position is that U.S. sanctions could still stop completion of the project, if only the Biden administration had the will to use them at the construction and certification stages. That person said Kyiv remains staunchly opposed to the project.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration gave Zelensky a date for a meeting at the White House with the president later this summer, according to a senior administration official.

Nord Stream 2 is to 96% ready. Its testing will start in August or September and by the years end it will hopefully deliver gas to western Europe.

Talks about building Nord Stream 3 are likely to start soon.

Posted by b on July 21, 2021 at 17:13 UTC | Permalink | Comments (158)

July 20, 2021

China Has First World Problems

People in China have first world problems:

Peter Jolicoeur 周力克 @pajolicoe - 5:35 PM · Jul 20, 2021

My subway trip from home to Hongqiao rail station tomorrow (28 km) will take longer at 70 minutes than my high speed rail trip from Shanghai Hongqiao to Nanjing South Station at 59 minutes (295 km, averaging 300 km/h).

Who does not such hate long train rides? Well, that first world problem might be solved pretty soon:

World's first 600 km/h high-speed maglev train rolls off assembly line

China's new high-speed maglev train rolled off the production line on Tuesday. It has a designed top speed of 600 km per hour -- currently the fastest ground vehicle available globally.

The new maglev transportation system made its public debut in the coastal city of Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province.

But Peter is going to Nanjing which recently had a first world problem with Covid-19. One traveler had brought it in. Ten close contacts were identified and 140 possible contacts beyond them. All were notified, isolated and tested and Nanjing is again free of Covid. Meanwhile over 90% of all adults in Beijing have been vaccinated.

What amazes me is that some in the U.S. still think they can compete with and beat such an efficient system.

Posted by b on July 20, 2021 at 18:06 UTC | Permalink | Comments (229)

July 19, 2021

U.S. Takes Down Israeli Spy Software Company

A number of international papers report today on the Israeli hacking company NSO which sells snooping software to various regimes. The software is then used to hijack the phones of regime enemies, political competition or obnoxious journalists. All of that was already well known but the story has new legs as several hundreds of people who were spied on can now be named.

How that came to pass is of interest:

The phones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of the Israeli firm, NSO Group, a worldwide leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry, the investigation found.

The list does not identify who put the numbers on it, or why, and it is unknown how many of the phones were targeted or surveilled. But forensic analysis of the 37 smartphones shows that many display a tight correlation between time stamps associated with a number on the list and the initiation of surveillance, in some cases as brief as a few seconds.

Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and Amnesty International, a human rights group, had access to the list and shared it with the news organizations, which did further research and analysis. Amnesty’s Security Lab did the forensic analyses on the smartphones.

The numbers on the list are unattributed, but reporters were able to identify more than 1,000 people spanning more than 50 countries through research and interviews on four continents.

Who might have made such a list and who would give it to Amnesty and Forbidden Stories?

NSO is one of the Israeli companies that are used to monetize the work of the Israel's military intelligence unit 8200. 'Former' members of 8200 move to NSO to produce spy tools which are then sold to foreign governments. The license price is $7 to 8 million per 50 phones to be snooped at. It is a shady but lucrative business for the company and for the state of Israel.

NSO rejects the allegations that its software is used for harmful proposes with a lot of bullshittery:

The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources. It seems like the “unidentified sources” have supplied information that has no factual basis and are far from reality.

After checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report. Their sources have supplied them with information which has no factual basis, as evident by the lack of supporting documentation for many of their claims. In fact, these allegations are so outrageous and far from reality, that NSO is considering a defamation lawsuit.

The reports make, for example, the claim that the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has used the NSO software to spy on the leader of the opposition party Rahul Gandhi.

How could NSO deny that allegation? It can't.

Further down in the NSO's statement the company contradicts itself on the issues:

As NSO has previously stated, our technology was not associated in any way with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi. We can confirm that our technology was not used to listen, monitor, track, or collect information regarding him or his family members mentioned in the inquiry. We previously investigated this claim, which again, is being made without validation.

We would like to emphasize that NSO sells it technologies solely to law enforcement and intelligence agencies of vetted governments for the sole purpose of saving lives through preventing crime and terror acts. NSO does not operate the system and has no visibility to the data.

How can NSO deny that the Saudi government, one of its known customers, used its software for spying on the later murdered Jamal Khashoggi when it 'does not operate the system' and 'has no visibility to the data'?

You can't claim both a. assured knowledge and b. to have no way to have gained it.

But back to the real issue:

  • Who has the capacity to make a list of 50,000 phone numbers that include at least 1,000 who were spied on with NSO's software?
  • Who can 'leak' such a list to some NGO and make sure that lots of 'western' media jump onto it?
  • Who has an interest in shutting NSO down or to at least make its business more difficult?

The competition I'd say. And the only real one in that field is the National Security Agency of the United States.

The U.S. often uses 'intelligence' as a kind of diplomatic currency that keeps other countries dependent on it. If the Saudis have to ask the U.S. for snooping on someone it is much easier to have influence over them. NSO is disturbing that business. There is also the problem that the first class spying software NSO is selling to somewhat shady customers might well fall into the hands of some big U.S. adversary.

The 'leak' to Amnesty and Forbidden Stories is thus an instrument to keep some monopolistic control over client regimes and over spying technology. (The Panama Papers were a similar kind of U.S. sponsored 'leak', only in the financial field.)

Edward Snowden, who once was a committed NSA supporter but leaked NSA documents because he wanted it to stick to the law, is supporting this campaign:

Edward Snowden @Snowden - 16:28 UTC · Jul 18, 2021
Stop what you're doing and read this. This leak is going to be the story of the year:
Edward Snowden @Snowden - 15:23 UTC · Jul 19, 2021
There are certain industries, certain sectors, from which there is no protection. We don’t allow a commercial market in nuclear weapons. If you want to protect yourself you have to change the game, and the way we do that is by ending this trade.
Guardian: Edward Snowden calls for spyware trade ban amid Pegasus revelations

Snowden seems to say that NSO, which sells it software only to governments, should stop doing so but that the NSA should continue the use of such spying instrument:

Speaking in an interview with the Guardian, Snowden said the consortium’s findings illustrated how commercial malware had made it possible for repressive regimes to place vastly more people under the most invasive types of surveillance.

Snowden's opinion on this is kind of strange:

chinahand @chinahand - 17:28 UTC · Jul 19, 2021
fascinating how Mr "US state surveillance is the greatest threat to humanity" gets worked up about the fact that a bit of state surveillance is apparently outsourced to a private contractor by mid and low tier state actors.
Edward Snowden @Snowden - 17:06 UTC · Jul 19, 2021
Read about the Biden, Trump, and Obama officials who accepted blood money from the NSO group to bury any efforts at accountability -- even *after* their involvement in the death and detention of journalists and rights defenders around the world!
WaPo: How Washington power brokers gained from NSO’s spyware ambitions

The uproar in the the media created by the NSO revelation is already having the desired effect:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has shut down infrastructure and accounts linked to Israeli surveillance vendor NSO Group, Amazon said in a statement.

The move comes as a group of media outlets and activist organizations published new research into NSO's malware and phone numbers potentially selected for targeting by NSO's government clients.

"When we learned of this activity, we acted quickly to shut down the relevant infrastructure and accounts," an AWS spokesperson told Motherboard in an email.

AWS has for years known about NSO's activities. NSO has been using CloudFront, a content delivering network owned by Amazon:

CloudFront infrastructure was used in deployments of NSO's malware against targets, including on the phone of a French human rights lawyer, according to Amnesty's report. The move to CloudFront also protects NSO somewhat from researchers or other third parties trying to unearth the company's infrastructure.

"The use of cloud services protects NSO Group from some Internet scanning techniques," Amnesty's report added.

That protection is no longer valid. NSO will have some problems to replace such a convenient service.

Israel will whine about it but it seems to me that the U.S. has decided to shut NSO down.

For you and me that will only marginally lower the risk of being spied on.

Posted by b on July 19, 2021 at 17:53 UTC | Permalink | Comments (75)

July 18, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-055

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Alan MacLeod @AlanRMacLeod - 10:57 UTC · Jul 18, 2021

Fox News' editors blurred out the signs at what they claimed were "anti-government" demonstrations in Cuba 🇨🇺 because they said things like "Long Live the Cuban Revolution" and "The Streets Belong to the Revolutionaries." 😂
Taking fake news to a whole new level.
Embedded video
And check this: with no notification, the @NyTimes has gone back and stealth edited their original article on the protests.
"Hundreds" nationwide becomes "thousands" in one small town alone!
Pretty sus!

> Although civilian leaders may be accused of having overreached with visions of building Afghanistan into a democracy capable of defending itself, the military eventually embraced that goal. Claims by senior military officers of having “turned a corner” toward success in Afghanistan were repeated so regularly that critics  wondered whether the military was going in circles. <

Has the AP author read MoA?
Nov 28 2017 - Turning The Corner In Afghanistan - Moon of Alabama

Other issues:

Covid-19 Delta:

Covid-19 Ivermectin:


Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 18, 2021 at 14:17 UTC | Permalink | Comments (232)

July 17, 2021

'Civilized Nations'

The Washington Post is differentiating between 'civilized' and -unsaid- 'uncivilized' nations.


After making false claims about the illegal passage of a British destroyer near Crimea, a planned provocation, the author goes on to bash Russia as well as China.



WaPo columnist George Will then asserts:

Henry Kissinger has said, not unreasonably, that we are in “the foothills” of a cold war with China. And Vladimir Putin, who nurses an unassuageable grudge about the way the Cold War ended, seems uninterested in Russia reconciling itself to a role as a normal nation without gratuitous resorts to mendacity. It is, therefore, well to notice how, day by day, in all of the globe’s time zones, civilized nations are, in word and deed, taking small but cumulatively consequential measures that serve deterrence.

If arrogance were a deadly disease, George Will would be dead.

Posted by b on July 17, 2021 at 11:02 UTC | Permalink | Comments (135)

July 16, 2021

Recent Access Problems To Moon of Alabama Have Been Fixed

During the last 36 hours some people had problems to reach Moon of Alabama.

The issue was weird. For some it worked on their phone and laptop but not on their tablet. Others had the opposite experience. I could not reproduce the problem on my machines.

It took a while to track this down but now the problem is solved.

For people with some Internet Protocol knowledge here is in short what had happened:

    User device  <---> Google DNS <---> Registrar DNS

The problem occurred only recently and only on devices configured to use Google's public Domain Name Servers. Google's DNS servers and responded to NSlookup requests for with 'failure'.

The reason for that turned out to be a weird error in the communication between Google's DNS and PAIRnic, the domain registrar for When Google's DNS requested the IP4 address for the site from the registrar DNS everything went well. When Google requested the IP6 address for the site from the registrar DNS the request failed for all domain names at PAIRnic that are configured with DNSSEC enabled (which usually is). This happened only for IP6 request from Google's DNS, not for IP6 resolver requests from elsewhere.

The registrar now found a workaround that avoids the Google IP6 resolve problem.

Still, Google should have been able to deliver valid responses for IP4 resolver requests to it. But because the Google IP6 request to the registrar DNS failed, Google responded to both, IP4 and IP6 lookup requests for, with 'failure'. That behavior is somewhat unexpected and IMHO a bad implementation.

Anyway - you now know what I spent my day on and why there is no regular blog post.

Thanks to everyone who helped to solve this problem.

Posted by b on July 16, 2021 at 17:58 UTC | Permalink | Comments (36)

July 15, 2021

U.S. Announces Retreat From Iraq (And Syria)?

I did not expect this. Great - if true:

Nafiseh Kohnavard @nafisehkBBC - 13:57 UTC · Jul 15, 2021 Breaking

White house coordinator for MidEast, Brett McGurk has informed Iraqi officials that US troops will withdraw from Iraq.

“step by step”, sources tell me. “First combat troops will leave and then others” he has told his Iraqi hosts
“Withdrawal from Iraq will not be like what happened in Afghanistan and it will be step by step. The schedule for this will be agreed during Iraqi PM’s trip to Washington” official sources told me
And here is the statement from PM office that “mechanism for combat troops withdrawal” has been briefly mentioned in


The link is to a tweet of the Iraqi Prime Minister account which says (in Arabic) of the McGurk - al-Kadhimi meeting:

During the meeting, they discussed coordination and joint cooperation in various fields, and preparations for holding the next round of strategic dialogue between Iraq and the United States of America, as well as the mechanisms for the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq and the transition to a new phase of strategic cooperation.

My first thoughts on this:

  • The pressure the resistance has put onto the occupation force has achieved the desired result.
  • No time frame is given but I expect weeks rather than months for the retreat to take place as the pressure will otherwise increase.
  • Leaving Iraq likely also means leaving Syria as supplies and support to the U.S. occupied Syrian north-east and to the al-Tanf base at the border triangle of Syria, Iraq and Jordan runs through Iraq.
  • The Kurds in north-east Syria must immediately start talks with Russia and the Syrian government. They will have to give up their autonomy or they will be eaten alive by Turkey. Expect them to (again) make the wrong decision. That means that the Syrian government, with Russian support, will have to use force against them. So be it.
  • The U.S. occupation has denied the Syrian government access to two of its greatest resources, oil and grain. Syria will be much better off after regaining these.
  • Expect a huge attempt by the usual hawks and the media to change the decision.
  • The U.S. has dragged its feet over the renewal of the nuclear deal with Iran. Removing the troops from Iraq and Syria moves them out of the target area in the case of an eventual war on Iran.

While there are now first denials from some anonymous 'officials' I do believe that the decision has been made.

It is only rational. A further occupation of Iraq and Syria makes absolutely no sense.

Posted by b on July 15, 2021 at 15:54 UTC | Permalink | Comments (149)

Steele Dossier Peddlers Confirm Its Substance With New Forgeries


Today the Guardian published another fake 'Russiagate' story:

Kremlin papers appear to show Putin’s plot to put Trump in White House

Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents.
Western intelligence agencies are understood to have been aware of the documents for some months and to have carefully examined them. The papers, seen by the Guardian, seem to represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.

Yaawwwnn ...

We know, without reading it, that the story is fake because its main author is Luke Harding. Harding also authored the story which claimed that Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manaford met Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. That story was proven to be false but the Guardian, to its shame, still has it up on its website.

In 2017 Luke Harding abruptly ended an interview with Aaron Maté after Harding was challenged over false claims he had made in his book about 'Russiagate'. The last five minutes of that video are quite amusing.

The Guardian story claims that the 'leaked' nonsense paper was discussed in high level Kremlin meeting in January 2016. It was then decided, it alleges, to support Trump. But in January 2016 there was no one, not even Donald Trump himself, who thought that he would win the Republican primary or even the presidency. But the Kremlin is supposed to have discussed him at the highest level well before anyone thought he could win?

Various people make interesting remarks about the new Guardian fakery:

Tara McCormack @McCormack_Tara - 12:13 UTC · Jul 15, 2021

I am seriously coming to the conclusion that Luke Harding is a Russian operative who has been put in place as part of a long term dastardly plan to make British journalism appear ridiculous.

Craig Murray @CraigMurrayOrg - 12:02 UTC · 15 Jul 2021

The next Luke Harding MI6 hoax.
Passing off forged Kremlin minutes saying things like “It is acutely necessary to use all possible force to facilitate his [Trump’s] election to the post of US president."

Glenn Greenwald @ggreenwald - 12:07 UTC · 15 Jul 2021

The part of the media that feigns anger at misinformation is uncritically promoting a story today by Luke Harding that Russia was blackmailing Trump -- the same Harding who has published many false stories, championed the Steele Dossier and claimed Trump was long a Russian agent.
Now suddenly, Harding claims he obtained leaked, highly sensitive Kremlin documents that just so happen to prove all the lies he's been peddling for years, that not even Mueller's huge team found. Because it advances liberals' interests, journalists are uncritically spreading it.
I will once use this shabby behavior to against highlight 2 points:

1) The contempt and loss of trust people harbor for the corporate media is completely justified and well-earned.

2) These outlets are by far the most prolific and destructive disseminators of disinformation.

Even people who are typically inclined to promote all kinds of anti-Russian nonsense are cautious on this item.

Thomas Rid @RidT - 12:38 UTC · 15 Jul 2021

This Guardian story is likely to make big waves. I would remain somewhat cautious for now, however. For a "leak" of this magnitude, we need at least some details on the chain of custody. Also note the Guardian's own hedging ("papers appear to show")…

Pwn All The Things @pwnallthethings - 14:40 UTC · 15 Jul 2021

Also, just putting this out there, if the US had this and thought it was real, how likely is it that it would have survived the waterfall of leaks of the past few years? And yet, here we are, with this as exclusive by the UK's Guardian, and conspicuously not, say, WaPo or NYT.

Christopher Steele, the 'former' British intelligence officer who peddle the fake dossier about alleged Russian Trump kompromat on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign, worked and still works for Orbis Intelligence, a British private outlet run by 'former' British spies.

They are still at it ...

Orbis Business Intelligence @OrbisBIOfficial - 10:48 UTC · Jul 15, 2021

Great reporting on an important story.

Luke Harding @lukeharding1968 - 10:02 UTC · Jul 15, 2021

Exclusive: Leaked Putin papers appear to show #Russia’s plot to put a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump into the White House – my story with @julianborger in Washington and @dansabbagh in London
Kremlin papers appear to show Putin’s plot to put Trump in White House

"Great reporting.. " "..important story"

Yeah. Sure. Whatever.

Posted by b on July 15, 2021 at 15:20 UTC | Permalink | Comments (68)

Open Thread 2021-054

News & views ...

Posted by b on July 15, 2021 at 13:05 UTC | Permalink | Comments (166)

July 14, 2021

A Secret British 'Strategic Communication' Campaign Aims To Fracture The Balkans

In late 2018 we learned about the secret British government campaign to smear Russia. The campaign was run by the 'Integrity Initiative' - A Military Intelligence Operation, Disguised As Charity, To Create The "Russian Threat".

A year later the release of a number of British documents revealed systematic 'Strategic Communication' propaganda campaigns against Syria and in Iraq run by contractors who were working for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

A similar campaign, run by the same companies, created 'regime change' protests in Lebanon. This included infiltrating Lebanon's military intelligence as well as indoctrination of young Palestinian refugees. The recent campaign to regime change Belarus was likewise secretly supported by British government contractors. It is thus not astonishing to learn that the British government is running similar secret influence campaign in other regions of the world.

The release of a new batch of documents show that one of those campaigns has the aim of fracturing the Balkans.

An extensive narrative around those documents is available in three parts. All relevant documents - solicitations, company offers, contracts etc. - can be downloaded here.

After describing the secret British manipulation campaigns in detail the author(s) conclude:

The documents we have published reveal a large-scale neocolonial HMG operation in the region. The British employ various methods to achieve their goals: they support friendly regimes at the same time undermining those regimes they consider hostile. They strengthen or weaken governments as they deem necessary. And everything is done as part of a global plan.

However the essence of the operations has not changed. They are still HMG Trojan Horses.

We believe the people have the right to know both the perpetrators and their accomplices (local politicians or organisations).

I agree with that. But as I am not well versed in the Balkans, and have few readers from there, I will study the documents and leave it at that.

If you have contacts in the area please make sure that they learn about the British campaign.

Posted by b on July 14, 2021 at 15:57 UTC | Permalink | Comments (82)

July 13, 2021

Taliban Reject U.S./Turkish Plans To Keep A Foothold In Kabul

In mid June Turkey floated a plan to occupy the airport of Kabul with Turkish troops to allow for emergency evacuation of 'western' embassies. The plan seems to have originated on the U.S. side. I had speculated on what might be behind it:

One does not protect diplomatic missions by holding the main airport of a foreign country. There must be other reasons why this was put on the table.

The CIA has tried to get drone-bases in countries neighboring Afghanistan to continue its drug smuggling business fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Negotiations were held with Pakistan but Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan publicly rejected the plan.
With no other country around Afghanistan willing to support the CIA it needed to find a way to stay in Afghanistan. Turkish control of the airport of Kabul would allow it to keep drones within the country and to stay in contact with its networks on the ground.

A country that has its main international airport controlled by foreign forces is not sovereign. Such a position can thus only be temporary. When the Taliban take Kabul, and there is little that lets me believe that they will have trouble to do so, the airport will come under fire. The Taliban have by now captured enough long range artillery to put it under siege and to bomb it to smithereens. U.S. air support for the Turkish forces would have to come from the wider Middle East and would have to cross through Pakistani airspace. A long term defense of the airport is therefore not possible.

There are well founded rumors that Turkey is hiring 'Syrian rebel' mercenaries to be send to Kabul:

According to the Euphrates Media Center, a Syrian Kurdish news outlet, members of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization discussed the issue June 24 with representatives of several rebel factions under the banner of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, including Suqour al-Sham, Suqour al-Shamal, Faylaq al-Majd, the Samarkand Brigade, the Hamza Division, the Sultan Murad Division and the Suleiman Shah Brigade. The factions were told to start preparations for the deployment of 2,000 fighters to Afghanistan, the report said, adding that the rebel representatives asked for monthly salaries of $3,000 for the mercenaries. Other Syrian Kurdish media outlets reported the meeting took place in Hawar Kilis, a village near the town of Azez, not far from the Turkish border, and the intelligence officials asked for 2,600 mercenaries.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that unlike the transfer of mercenaries to the Libyan and Nagorno-Karabakh wars, this time Turkey is more image-savvy and will recruit them through official contracts with Turkish private security companies. According to the observatory, the process is to be supervised by Turkish intelligence officers because faction members do not trust their leaders. Under the plan, the mercenaries would be tasked mainly with guarding the Kabul airport and government buildings without any involvement in operations against the Taliban, and would receive monthly salaries of $2,000 to $3,000.

But at the same time Turkey is still negotiating with the U.S. and with NATO. It seems it wants to get paid excessively for the proposed 'service':

Turkey has continued with negotiations on securing and operating Afghanistan’s Kabul airport with both the United States as well as other countries, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated on Tuesday.

Speaking to journalists in Ankara, Akar said: “There are some issues on which we have agreed with (U.S. Defense Secretary Llloyd) Mr. Austin as part of the negotiations. Moreover, there are positive developments in NATO with Turkey’s initiatives.”

Akar stated that discussions with the technical delegation of the U.S. on the airport continue in a constructive manner.

Saying that the issue has multiple sides, Akar said: “There are other countries that want to help Afghanistan. We try to pursue the process with our Afghan brothers, NATO, the EU and the international community.”

The Taliban had already warned Turkey to not pursue those plans. Today their spokesman published another statement which makes it absolutely clear that any Turkish troops in Afghanistan will be seen as enemies.


As AFP summarizes:

The Taliban on Tuesday warned Turkey against extending its troop presence in Afghanistan when US-led forces leave the country, insisting the decision was "reprehensible".

"The decision... is ill-advised, a violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity and against our national interests," the group said in a statement, days after Turkey promised to provide troops to protect Kabul airport when foreign forces leave next month.

"We consider the stay of foreign forces in our homeland by any country under whatever pretext as occupation," said the Taliban in the statement and added that "invaders" will be dealt with according to the Fatwa (decree) under which they have fought for the last two decades.

The statement urged the Turkish people and politicians to "reverse their decision" as it would detrimental to both countries.

The Taliban statement makes it difficult for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to justify a regular troop deployment. His political constituency is in large parts in favor of the Taliban. He can hardly claim to be a 'good Muslim' if he ignores the fatwa that has supported their fight over the last 20 years.

Erdogan may have foreseen that problem. Turkish 'security contractors' under Turkish military or intelligence command and two thousand 'Syrian rebels', including Uighurs, working as 'private security guards' can probably be sold as something other than "invaders". This even while they, as they are used to do, secretly work in support of the CIA.

But the Taliban will not fall for that ruse. It is pretty obvious that the U.S./Turkish plans are not for the benefit of Afghanistan or even for the foreign diplomats hosted in Kabul. For Erdogan the Kabul deployment is a chance to get back into good grace with the U.S. while gaining some extra money from NATO. For the CIA it is a chance to 'stay in business' in Afghanistan and to watch over China while a new round of the Great Game unfolds:

Within the [Shanghai Cooperation Organization], as diplomats told me, there’s ample suspicion that the US deep state agenda is to fuel the flames of imminent civil war in Afghanistan and then extend it to the Central Asian “stans,” complete with shady jihadi commandos mixed with Uighurs also destabilizing Xinjiang.

This being the case, the non-withdrawal withdrawal – what with all those remaining 18,000 Pentagon contractors/mercenaries, plus special forces and CIA black op types – would be a cover, allowing Washington a new narrative spin: the Kabul government has invited us to fight a “terrorist” re-emergence and prevent a spiral towards civil war.

The protracted endgame would read like win-win hybrid war for the deep state and its NATO arm.

Russia, China and Iran all have these suspicions. They all have recently held talks with the Taliban. They will certainly have told them to reject any new or re-deployment of whatever forces to Afghanistan. Today's Taliban statement underlines that it has understood that message.

It will be interesting to see how Erdogan will wiggle himself out of this situation.

Posted by b on July 13, 2021 at 17:36 UTC | Permalink | Comments (98)