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October 25, 2018

Khashoggi Drama - A Deal Has Been Made But Will It Hold?

A preliminary deal has been made between the Turkish president Erdogan and the al-Saud clan in Saudi Arabia. The case of Jamal Khashoggi, killed in Istanbul by bodyguards of the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, will be closed for now.

Over the last 36 hours, since Erdogan's speech proved Saudi culpability, there have been no more damaging leaks about the case from the usual Turkish sources.

During a podium discussion at yesterday's investor conference in Riyadh Mohammad bin Salman denounced the “heinous crime” committed against Jamal Khashoggi. He praised the "unbreakable relations" with Turkey and lauded Qatar's economic durability.

The comments came after a phone call between MbS and Erdogan.

The negotiations proved to be difficult. The Saudi King sent the governor of Mecca and Medina to make a deal:

Prince Khalid al-Faisal returned home from Ankara with a bleak message for the royal family. “It is really difficult to get out of this one,” Prince Khalid told relatives after his return, one of those family members recalled this week. “He was really disturbed by it.”

Early rumors spoke of a Saudi offer of $5 billion to burry the case. That was not enough.

On Monday the NYT reported that Erdogan denied that he would make any deal of that kind:

Mr. Erdogan, the person close to him said, recounted that a Saudi envoy, Prince Khaled bin Faisal, had offered a package of inducements for Turkey to drop the case — including financial aid and investments to help Turkey’s struggling economy, and an end to a Saudi embargo on Qatar, a Turkish ally. Mr. Erdogan has told associates that he angrily rejected the offer as “a political bribe,” this person said.

Erdogan's current source of money is Qatar, which is under blockade by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Ending the crisis over Qatar was only one condition he set out to the Saudis. There are other issue related to Syria and more generally the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Turkish side still has the leverage needed to 'adjust' any deal and to guarantee that the Saudis stick to it. The tapes of the Khashoggi murder, audio and video, have not been published. The former British ambassador Craig Murray reports:

I have not seen the video from inside the consulate, but have been shown stills which may be from a video. The most important thing to say is that they are not from a fixed position camera and appear at first sight consistent with the idea they are taken by a device brought in by the victim. I was only shown them briefly. I have not heard the audio recording.

If the Saudis try to cheat away from the deal the photos and audio tapes could still be released. They allegedly prove that MbS himself was very much involved in the killing.

The U.S. gave the final push for a deal to fall into place. The CIA's torturer in chief Gina Haspel was sent to show Erdogan her instruments.  Murray writes:

Cont. reading: Khashoggi Drama - A Deal Has Been Made But Will It Hold?

Posted by b at 03:27 AM | Comments (194)

October 24, 2018

Open Thread 2018-56

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Use for news & views ...

Posted by b at 02:03 PM | Comments (147)

October 23, 2018

How Will Caligula Fall?

The king and the clown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered a son of Jamal Khashoggi to appear in front of them so they could express their condolences for the murder of his father. This is an attempt by the King Salman to show that his son Mohammad bin Salman is innocent of ordering the premeditated murder of Khashoggi. The audience for the pictures (and video) is the Saudi public which seem unconvinced. But the act is also an insult as Khashoggi's body has not been found* and remains unburied.

The gaze is telling.


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Sahal Khashoggi is the oldest of the four children of Jamal. Three of them live in the United States. Sahal is banned from leaving Saudi Arabia.

Cont. reading: How Will Caligula Fall?

Posted by b at 02:18 PM | Comments (144)

October 22, 2018

Khashoggi Drama - A Deal Is No Longer Possible - Erdogan Demands That MbS Goes

The Khashoggi saga continues to influence Middle East policies.

On Friday the Saudi regime admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its consulate in Istanbul. Since then they have changed their story twice:

After weeks of denying involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, Saudi Arabia said that he was killed in the Istanbul consulate, saying his death was the result of a "fistfight". A Saudi source close to the royal palace later told CNN that the Washington Post journalist died in a chokehold. On Sunday, its foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, went further, describing Khashoggi's death on Fox News as a "murder" and a "tremendous mistake."

Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi clown prince and effective ruler, does not seem to have any good media advisors. By not sticking to one story all further Saudi accounts will immediately come into doubt.

The Saudis originally claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate. We now know why they felt safe to make that claim. CNN has a new Turkish story of a decoy which was send out to make it look as if Khashoggi left. They provide pictures to prove it:

One member of the 15-man team suspected in the death of Jamal Khashoggi dressed up in his clothes and was captured on surveillance cameras around Istanbul on the day the journalist was killed, a senior Turkish official has told CNN.

CNN has obtained exclusive law enforcement surveillance footage, part of the Turkish government's investigation, that appears to show the man leaving the consulate by the back door, wearing Khashoggi's clothes, a fake beard, and glasses.

While Khashoggi was half bald, the decoy in Khashoggi's cloth seems to have full hair.


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Bit by bit the Turkish government leaks more of the sorry tale. It helps to keep the issue on the political agenda.

YeniSafak, an Erdogan aligned broadsheet, claims (Turkish, machine translation) that Khashoggi was put on the phone with MbS while he was in the consulate. He was allegedly told to return to Saudi Arabia. After he rejected to do so he was killed.

A later YeniSafak report (Turkish, machine translation) says that Saudi teamleader in the consulate, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, made a total of four calls to bin Salman's office manager Badr bin Mohammed Al Asaker in Riyadh. Al Asaker is the head of the crown prince's foundation and his 'invisible hand'. Mutreb allegedly used the cell phone of the consul. Another call was made to the U.S., presumably to Khalid bin Salman, the brother of MbS who is the Saudi ambassador in Washington DC. Khalid has since returned to Riyadh. Al Jazeerah Arabic had earlier reported of such calls, and of 19 additional WhatsUp calls to MbS himself.

Cont. reading: Khashoggi Drama - A Deal Is No Longer Possible - Erdogan Demands That MbS Goes

Posted by b at 11:47 AM | Comments (163)

October 21, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-55

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The first Saudi version of the Khashoggi murder proved to be too weak. We are thus given another on, which isn't any better.

The Turks do not seem satisfied with either story. There have been no signs that a deal has been closed. The French and German governments demand better explanations. While Trump would like to bury the issue, Congress seems willing to push it. Trump is angry with Jared Kushner who has been moved away from the case. The Wall Street Journal reports that MbS is enraged about the reaction his misdeed caused. He simply doesn't understand it. There is also this nugget that seems to confirm that the claimed tape of the incident actually exists:

Prince Khalid al Faisal, an envoy of King Salman who was dispatched to Ankara earlier this month, had access to a short audio recording that offers evidence that Mr. Khashoggi was drugged, killed and dismembered minutes after walking into the consulate, these two [Saudi royals] say.

The Washington Post reported that the CIA also listened to the tape.

All the above are signs that issue will stay alive and will have further consequences.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 08:30 AM | Comments (120)

October 20, 2018

Saudis Admit Khashoggi Murder - Offer Weak Cover-Up

The Saudi King Salman was told to keep his son, Mohammad bin Salman, in the position of clown prince. It is widely assumed that MbS, the clown prince, ordered to kill Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudis now admit that Khashoggi was murdered. Two of the clown prince's bootlickers are offered as sacrificial pawns. 


Flag of Saudi Arabia - Old Style

After seventeen days of claiming that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, the Saudis acknowledge that he was killed there. But they keep lying about what actually happened:

In a statement issued early Saturday morning in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, the Saudis claimed that some number of unnamed “suspects” had traveled to the consulate to meet with Khashoggi, “as there were indications of the possibility of his returning” to Saudi Arabia. ...

“The discussions that took place . . . did not go as required and developed in a negative way,” the statement continued, leading to a “fight and a quarrel” and a “brawl” that led to Khashoggi’s death. The unnamed suspects then attempted “to conceal and cover what happened,” the Saudi government claimed, without elaborating.

"Khashoggi started a tussle with the fifteen men we sent to kindly ask him to come home. Unfortunately he stumbled, fell onto the chainsaw and severed his head."

The clown prince himself knew of course nothing about this, claim Saudi sources:

Cont. reading: Saudis Admit Khashoggi Murder - Offer Weak Cover-Up

Posted by b at 04:31 AM | Comments (154)

October 19, 2018

Syria - U.S. (Again) Only Pretends To Fight ISIS

The U.S. occupation force and its Kurdish proxy SDF in northeastern Syria are supposed to fight the Islamic State in its last hold out northeast of Euphrates. But the operations against the handful of towns ISIS (grey) still holds - launched only after long and unexplained delays - shows little progress. Last week it received a serious setback. 

Red = Syrian Arab Army; Yellow = U.S./SDF; Grey = ISIS

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After several days of sandstorms (vid) hindered U.S. air support, ISIS counterattacked on October 11 against the U.S. led SDF. Suicide bombers blew up SDF checkpoints as ISIS broke through the lines. It retook several villages and on October 12 raided a refugee camp for local civilians that the U.S. coalition had set up near Al Bahrah (on the upper left of the map). Some 130 refugee families with about 700 persons were taken prisoners and brought to Hajin, a small city at the northern end of the ISIS held area.

Through local tribal elders ISIS requested to negotiate with the U.S. coalition about an exchange of prisoners. It also demanded medical and food supplies in exchange for 90 captured women it had isolated from their families. The request was rejected. ISIS now threatens to kill ten of the abductees per day unless its demands are fulfilled.

In his talk at the Valdai event yesterday, the Russian president Putin mentioned the situation east of the Euphrates:

Cont. reading: Syria - U.S. (Again) Only Pretends To Fight ISIS

Posted by b at 01:04 PM | Comments (66)

October 18, 2018

Open Thread 2018-54

News & views not related to Khashoggi ...

Posted by b at 09:23 AM | Comments (119)

October 17, 2018

Saudis Stonewall On Khashoggi But Pressure Will Increase

The most interesting aspect of the botched assassination of Jamal Khashoggi is the insight it creates into political conflicts in U.S. domestic and international policies.

The Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman unwittingly did a huge favor to Turkey's president Erdogan when he send a crew to abduct or kill Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan is in a historic geopolitical conflict with Saudi Arabia over supremacy in the Middle East.

The Turks had the Saudi consulate bugged. Every country in the world tries to plant listening devices into foreign embassies and consulates. It is no surprise then that the Turks know what happened within the consulate and use the evidence to squeeze the Saudis. Erdogan knows how to play the media and does his very best to drag out the story. He will press the Saudis for financial and political gains.

On Monday the White House floated the idea that a 'rogue killer' was responsible for the ghastly deed in Istanbul. Trump himself led the campaign:

President Donald Trump on Monday repeatedly highlighted the Saudi King's denial of involvement in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, at one point offering up an alternative theory that "rogue killers," rather than agents of the Saudi regime, were involved.

U.S. media made it seem as if the Saudis were flying that test ballon. But the Saudis rejected it way out. They say, to this day, that they are not aware that anything happened in their consulate at all. It was likely Netanyahoo's errand-boy in the White House, Jared Kushner, who floated the 'rogue killer' tale:

Cont. reading: Saudis Stonewall On Khashoggi But Pressure Will Increase

Posted by b at 01:47 PM | Comments (254)

October 16, 2018

Coverup Deal Will Blame Khashoggi Death On Extreme Torture

The coverup of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, killed on behalf of the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, proceeds apace. It is part of a deal between Turkey and Saudi Arabia under the aegis of the United States. The haggling over the details will take a while.

Several media report of a test ballon, floated to find out if an 'alternative' story will fly:

Saudi Arabia was preparing an alternative explanation of the fate of a dissident journalist on Monday, saying he died at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago in an interrogation gone wrong, according to a person familiar with the kingdom’s plans. In Washington, President Trump echoed the possibility that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of “rogue killers.”
...
[O]n Monday, a person familiar with the Saudi government’s plans said that Mr. Khashoggi was mistakenly killed during an interrogation ordered by a Saudi intelligence official who was a friend of the crown prince. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Prince Mohammed had approved interrogating or even forcing Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia under duress.

But, the person said, the Saudi intelligence official went too far in eagerly seeking to prove himself in secretive operations, then sought to cover up the botched job.

One might expand on that fairytale: "The Saudi general who allegedly botched the interrogation of Jamal Khashoggi mysteriously died in a Saudi air force plane crash on the same day the coverup story was floated." But that would probably take it too far.

The floated story will of course not be believed. A deadly interrogation - extreme torture - in the Saudi consulate is not plausible. One does not need to fly in 15 operators, including a specialist for autopsies, to twist someone's arms and ask a few questions. The intent was either to kidnap the guy or to outright kill him.

The trial ballon seems to come from U.S. sources, not from the Saudis. Trump yesterday spoke of "rogue killers" who may have caused the incident. No one near Mohammad bin Salman dares to go rogue. It's a deadly sin. U.S. intelligence services seem to believe that Khashoggi was indeed killed. The Wall Street Journal reports that Turkey provided its evidence:

Cont. reading: Coverup Deal Will Blame Khashoggi Death On Extreme Torture

Posted by b at 06:28 AM | Comments (167)

October 15, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-53

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:40 AM | Comments (97)

October 14, 2018

Settling The Khashoggi Case Is A Difficult Matter

The negotiation over the Khashoggi case will be extremely difficult. The protagonists are headstrong and dangerous people. The issue could easily escalate.

The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, 'democratic' Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.

There are more tactical aspects to this historic conflict. When the Saudis cut ties with Qatar it was Turkey that sent its military to prevent a Saudi invasion of the tiny but extremely rich country. This gave Erdogan the financial backing he urgently needs. In response to that the Saudis offered several $100 millions to prop up the YPK/PKK proxy force the U.S. uses to occupy north-east Syria. These Kurdish groups fight a guerrilla war within Turkey and are a threat to its unity.

The effective Saudi ruler, clown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), made a huge mistake when he ordered the abduction (or murder) of the Saudi journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul. The botched operation gave Erdogan a tool to cut the Saudis to size.

But he needs U.S. support to achieve that. The recent release of the U.S. pastor (and CIA asset) Andrew Brunson is supposed to buy him good will with U.S. President Donald Trump. But Trump build his Middle East policy on his Saudi relations. He can not go berserk on them. Some solution must be found.


Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A 'journalist' who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood:

Cont. reading: Settling The Khashoggi Case Is A Difficult Matter

Posted by b at 01:59 PM | Comments (130)

October 13, 2018

U.S. Bullying Of The Two Koreas Endangers Its Alliance ... And Peace

The Trump administration is haranguing South Korea for taking steps the U.S. had already agreed to. The New York Times believes that North Korea's insistence of sticking to signed agreements is a means of war. This only unites the two Koreas and does not bode well for the alliance. 


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North Korea Weaponizes Its Deal With Trump to Tangle Talks

In hailing the deal he reached with Kim Jong-un this summer in Singapore, President Trump said it “largely solved” the North Korean nuclear crisis.

He has since doubled down on that statement, most recently on Tuesday. “People don’t realize the importance of the first meeting,” he said. “I mean, we said, ‘Point No. 1: denuclearization.’ They’ve agreed to denuclearization.”

It was actually the third bullet point in the four-point Singapore agreement, and for the North Koreans, the order of those bullet points is everything. It will only agree to denuclearize once Washington commits to the first and second points: Mr. Trump’s promise to build “new” relations and a “peace regime” in Korea — and makes North Korea feel secure enough to disarm.

The standoff shows how North Korea has turned the deal Mr. Trump signed with its leader, Mr. Kim, into one of its most effective cudgels in talks with Washington over denuclearization, ceaselessly flaunting it to force American concessions.

The highlighted paragraph is the first time the New York Times admits that the Singapore agreement is indeed a numbered list of tasks that are to be taken step by step.

Moon of Alabama explained the sequence proscribed in the Singapore Statement, which is also included in the inter-Korean Panmunjom Declaration, back in July: Pyongyang Talks - How Pompeo Put The Cart Before The Horse. Ignoring the agreed upon sequencing was the reason why the talks Secretary of State Pompeo held in Pyongyang nearly failed. 

The hawks in the Trump administration tried to ignore the Singapore Statement as soon as it was signed. They wanted to jump to point 3 - North Korea's aspirational commitment of eventual denuclearization - before the U.S. even starts to fulfill the concrete measures it committed to in point 1 and 2 - establishing diplomatic relations and a peace agreement. The U.S. mainstream media supported the administration's false and a-historic interpretation that claimed that denuclearization comes first. It insisted on ignoring the sequence and wording of the Singapore Statement. The only exception was an op-ed by a Duyeon Kim in Foreign Policy.

We welcome the NYT to the small club of those who acknowledge the reality of the Joint Statement. But how is North Korean insistence on the written agreement "weaponizing" it? How can an amicably agreed and signed sequencing be a "cudgel"? Who is really trying to "tangle" the issue? The piece does not give any substance that supports its diction.

It is the Trump administration, and the main stream media who support its fudging, that deviates from the agreements. It is the U.S. that is in the wrong here, not North Korea.

Other countries accept the sequencing and the necessity to start with point 1 and 2. A recent joint press release by the deputy foreign ministers of China, Russia and the DPRK emphasizes it:

Cont. reading: U.S. Bullying Of The Two Koreas Endangers Its Alliance ... And Peace

Posted by b at 01:22 PM | Comments (73)

October 11, 2018

Saudis Must Cough Up Billions To Settle Khashoggi Case

The Khashoggi case, discussed here, will be moved off the news pages even faster than assumed.

A CNN correspondent just tweeted this:

Alexander Marquardt @MarquardtA - 16:44 utc - 11 Oct 2018
Erdogan spox: "At the request of Saudi Arabia, a joint working group will be established to uncover the events surrounding Jamal Khashoggi."

Translation:

Erdogan spox: "Our Sultan received a sufficient down payment to start negotiating about the burial of the case."

Prediction:

Erdogan will use the 'joint working group' to squeeze as much as he can out of the Saudis. (A deal may even include a political settlement of the Saudi blockade of Erdogan's sponsor Qatar.)


Yesterday 22 Senators signed a request to Trump to investigate the Khashoggi case under the Global Magnitsky Act. The Trump administration has 120 days to finish the investigation and to report back to the Senate. Any person or organization found to be involved in the kidnapping and possible murder of Khashoggi could then come under U.S. sanctions.

Those 120 days are the time-frame for Erdogan to use the thumbscrews the Saudi fuckup in its consulate in Istanbul handed him. The Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman will get squeezed like never before. It will cost him billions to purchase the video of the Khashoggi killing the Turkish government claims to have.

Erdogan will not be the only one to profit from the issue. The Senate move gives Trump enormous leverage over the Saudis. He will use it.

Cont. reading: Saudis Must Cough Up Billions To Settle Khashoggi Case

Posted by b at 03:03 PM | Comments (146)

Open Thread 2018-52

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:15 PM | Comments (87)

October 10, 2018

U.S. Intelligence Had A 'Duty To Warn' Khashoggi - Why Didn't That Happen?

It is beyond doubt that the Saudi government abducted, or killed, the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But what did the Trump administration knew about the threat to Khashoggi? Did U.S. intelligence services warn him as their regulations require? Was such a warning blocked by the White House? And what will Trump do about the case?

The Turkish government published pictures of 15 men who had come from Saudi Arabia and were in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul shortly before Khashoggi visited it to get his divorce papers. They moved Khashoggi to the residence of the consul and later that day flew back on the same two private Saudi jets that had brought them to Istanbul.

At least 8 of the 15 men have been identified as Saudi royal military. At least three are bodyguards of the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman. It is thereby obvious that the clown prince himself gave the order for the operation. One of the 15 is Dr. Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, the head of forensic evidence at the Saudi General Security Department.

Anonymous Turkish sources assert that Khashoggi was killed, his body cut to pieces and taken away. They even claim that there is video of the murder:

The official described a quick and complex operation in which Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate by a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose.

“It is like ‘Pulp Fiction,’” the official said.
...
Mr. Erdogan was informed of the conclusions on Saturday, according to several people with knowledge of the briefings, and he has since dispatched officials to anonymously tell myriad news outlets, including The New York Times, that Mr. Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate.
...
Another person briefed on the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential details, told The Times on Saturday that Turkish intelligence had obtained a video of the killing, made by the Saudis to prove that it had occurred.

A commentator close to Mr. Erdogan’s government said so publicly on Tuesday.

“There is a video of the moment of him being killed,” Kemal Ozturk, a columnist in a pro-government newspaper and the former head of a semiofficial news agency, said in an interview on a pro-government television network, citing unnamed security officials.

That Erdogan pushes this 'Pulp Fiction' story is not astonishing. His troops protect Qatar from a Saudi attack and Qatar props up the Turkish economy with multi-billion investments. There is also the old Ottoman versus Arab fight over leadership in the Middle East.

But why would the Saudis kill Khashoggi? Why not drug him, haul him to the airport and fly him back to Riyadh as a "medial emergency"? Why not put him into a big box and transported him as privileged diplomatic baggage? If the Saudis intended to kill Khashoggi they could have hire some guy to shoot him in the streets. It would have been a much simpler operation and way less suspicious.

Killing Khashoggi in the official Consulate makes no sense - unless MbS wanted this current public outrage. Is it a warning to all his enemies? Is it to demonstrate that he can get away with anything?

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. government knew that Khashoggi was in danger:

Cont. reading: U.S. Intelligence Had A 'Duty To Warn' Khashoggi - Why Didn't That Happen?

Posted by b at 01:02 PM | Comments (132)

October 09, 2018

Syria Sitrep - The Turkish-Russian Agreement Holds - S-300 Air Defense Arrives

The situation in Syria is relatively calm. The government (red) has consolidated the areas it retook during the year. The Syrian army received new air defense (see below) and other materials and is busy integrating it. Some Syrian army units are currently moving east to Al Bukamal on the border with Iraq. Others have been sent to their home bases.


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The only place where the Syrian army is still actively engaged is in the southern desert near As-Suwayda where some 1-2,000 ISIS fighters (grey) hold on to a small enclave in the mid of a large area of volcanic rock. The terrain is difficult to cross with tanks and the infantry fight there is bloody.

The Turkish Russian agreement over a demilitarized zone in the 'rebel' controlled Idleb government seems to hold.

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - The Turkish-Russian Agreement Holds - S-300 Air Defense Arrives

Posted by b at 12:42 PM | Comments (65)

October 08, 2018

Mainstream Journos Pissed As Saudi Clown Prince Nabs One Of Their Own

The Moustache of Understanding, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, is pissed that the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the kidnapping of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, who comes from a very rich family, has long served the Saudi regime in editorial positions and was the media adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal during his tenure as ambassador in London and Washington. He left Saudi Arabia last year out of fear of being targeted in the ongoing crackdown by clown prince Mohammad bin Salman. He ended up writing mildly critical columns for the Washington Post. Khashoggi is no liberal but a staunch supporter of Saudi system and its brutality. He had praised the beheading of Syrian soldiers by ISIS as an "effective psychological military tactic" and supported the abhorrent Saudi war on Yemen.

According to the Turkish police, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 at 13:12 to receive his divorce documents and never came out. On the same day 15 Saudi citizens had come to Istanbul on two planes and were in the consulate building when Khashoggi was there. They later left Turkey. Anonymous Turkish police sources claimed that the team of Saudi agents killed Khashoggi after he entered the consulate, hacked up his body and took the remains with them. That horror story is unlikely to be true. Turkey, itself the biggest jailer of journalists, has bad relations with Saudi Arabia and supports its arch-rival Qatar. The Saudi government has a long record of kidnapping and bringing back prominent Saudis who fled the country. It does not off these people in foreign places.

The bootlicking 'premier' western publications, especially the Washington Post, lauded Mohammad bin Salman as a reformer. He never was one. He said so himself in a recent Bloomberg interview. Nor did any of his predecessor, who were all lauded as reformers by the mainstream media, ever really change the archaic Saudi system. But when MbS visited the United States this spring every Silicon Valley billionaire, including Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, was happy to have his picture taken with him.

But no one kissed bin Salman's ass as affectionate as Tom Friedman. Take this from last years most embarrassing fanfiction:

Cont. reading: Mainstream Journos Pissed As Saudi Clown Prince Nabs One Of Their Own

Posted by b at 05:31 PM | Comments (75)

October 07, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-51

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The Saudi video tweet is still up. The U.S. media position towards the clown prince MbS and Saudi Arabia is likely to change over the fate of their beloved propagandist Jamal Khashoggi. The servile adoration by the whole 'elite' towards the fake 'reformer' will end. Hey Washington Post, time to pick up on the piece above to fill that empty space.

Should it be confirmed that Saudi goons indeed killed Khashoggi the State Department will - in the harshest terms - condemn Iran and sanction Russia.

---

Also this week:
The anti-Kavanaugh strategy by the Democratic Party leadership was an utter failure. They could have emphasized his role in the Patriot Act, the Bush torture regime and his earlier lies to Congress to disqualify him. Instead they used the fake grievance culture against him which allowed Trump to do what he does best - wield victimhood (vid, recommended).
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Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:22 AM | Comments (187)

India's U-Turn Destroys Trump's Anti-Chinese 'Quad' Strategy

A change in India's foreign policy last week disintegrated the Trump administration's strategy against Russia and China. U.S. media pronouncements about India will now change. The Indian government under Narendra Modi will come under heavy propaganda fire.


Two weeks ago the MoA Weekly Review mused about the corrupt Rafale fighter jet deal India's Hindu-fascist President Modi had arranged:

In short: The previous government signed a contract with France' Dassault to buy 126 Rafale jets for $10.6 billion. Thirty percent of the price would flow back from Dassault to the Indian state owned aviation manufacturer HAL, which would assemble most of the planes.
Modi flew to Paris and changed the deal without the knowledge of his cabinet and the country's military. India will get only 36 Rafales but pay $8.7 billion for them. Thirty percent of the money would flow back to a private Indian company belonging to the largely bankrupt, privately held Reliance Group for unrelated projects and without any know-how transfer.
How much Reliance, owned by the once very rich Ambani family, would hand over to Modi and his party is yet unknown. There are calls for Modi to step down which he is unlikely to do.

The writing was based on and credited to the legwork Caravan Magazine had done.

Today the New York Times picked up the story - With ‘Fishy’ Jet Deal, India’s Opposition Finally Lands a Blow on Modi.

The 'paper of the record' is two weeks late with the story, adds nothing new to it and does not even credit Caravan which uncovered the details of the corrupt deal.

The question thus is: Why was this published now?

The U.S. had hoped that it could pull the traditionally non-aligned India to its side and use it in its strategic wars against China, Russia and Iran. The Quad strategy of an Indo-Pacific alliance of Japan, Australia and India under U.S. leadership was agreed upon a year ago,  supposedly to implement a "rules based order" in which the U.S. makes up rules of what China (and others) are allowed to do - or not allowed to do - in the Indo-Pacific realm.

Critics of the Modi government did not like the subservient role proud India was supposed to play in that game.

Then the U.S. Congress, through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanction Act (CAATSA), threatened India with sanctions should it buy the Russian S-400 air-defense systems. Trump also threatens with sanctions over India's purchase of Iranian oil.

Domestic criticism of Modi's strategy increased. The Rafale scandal added to the pressure. After some dithering he finally changed course.

Cont. reading: India's U-Turn Destroys Trump's Anti-Chinese 'Quad' Strategy

Posted by b at 10:45 AM | Comments (49)

October 06, 2018

Scientists Raise Alarm Over U.S. Bio-Weapon Programs

Recent evidence about deadly tests of biological substances in Tbilisi, Georgia raised alarm about U.S. biological weapon research in foreign countries. European scientist are extremely concerned about a dubious research program, financed by the Pentagon, that seems designed to spread diseases to crops, animals and people abroad. The creation of such weapons and of special ways to distribute them is prohibited under national and international law.

The U.S. is running biological weapon research across the globe:

Bio warfare scientists using diplomatic cover test man-made viruses at Pentagon bio laboratories in 25 countries across the world. These US bio-laboratories are funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) under a $ 2.1 billion military program– Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP), and are located in former Soviet Union countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa.

Until the mid nineteen-seventies the U.S. military tested biological warfare weapons on U.S. people, sometimes over large areas and on specific races. After a Congress investigation revealed the wide ranging program such testing was moved abroad.

Private companies use U.S. government controlled laboratories in foreign countries for secret biological research under contract of the U.S. military, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security. Last month the Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva reported of one of these U.S. controlled bio-laboratories:

The US Embassy to Tbilisi transports frozen human blood and pathogens as diplomatic cargo for a secret US military program. Internal documents, implicating US diplomats in the transportation of and experimenting on pathogens under diplomatic cover were leaked to me by Georgian insiders. According to these documents, Pentagon scientists have been deployed to the Republic of Georgia and have been given diplomatic immunity to research deadly diseases and biting insects at the Lugar Center – the Pentagon biolaboratory in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.

Al Mayadeen TV broadcasted a video reportage about the laboratory and its deadly effects on Georgian 'patients'.

Last week the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of illegal biological weapon research in the Tbilisi laboratory:

Cont. reading: Scientists Raise Alarm Over U.S. Bio-Weapon Programs

Posted by b at 10:02 AM | Comments (93)

October 05, 2018

How The U.S. Runs Public Relations Campaigns - Trump Style - Against Russia And China

Yesterday several NATO countries ran a concerted propaganda campaign against Russia. The context for it was a NATO summit in which the U.S. presses for an intensified cyberwar against NATO's preferred enemy.

On the same day another coordinated campaign targeted China. It is aimed against China's development of computer chip manufacturing further up the value chain. Related to this is U.S. pressure on Taiwan, a leading chip manufacturer, to cut its ties with its big motherland.

The anti-Russian campaign is about alleged Russian spying, hacking and influence operations. Britain and the Netherland took the lead. Britain accused Russia's military intelligence service (GRU) of spying attempts against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague and Switzerland, of spying attempts against the British Foreign Office, of influence campaigns related to European and the U.S. elections, and of hacking the international doping agency WADA. British media willingly helped to exaggerate the claims:

The Foreign Office attributed six specific attacks to GRU-backed hackers and identified 12 hacking group code names as fronts for the GRU – Fancy Bear, Voodoo Bear, APT28, Sofacy, Pawnstorm, Sednit, CyberCaliphate, Cyber Berku, BlackEnergy Actors, STRONTIUM, Tsar Team and Sandworm."

The "hacking group code names" the Guardian tries to sell to its readers do not refer to hacking groups but to certain cyberattack methods. Once such a method is known it can be used by any competent group and individual. Attributing such an attack is nearly impossible. Moreover Fancybear, ATP28, Pawn Storm, Sofacy Group, Sednit and Strontium are just different names for one and the same well known method. The other names listed refer to old groups and tools related to criminal hackers. Blackenergy has been used by cybercriminals since 2007. It is alleged that a pro-Russian group named Sandworm used it in Ukraine, but the evidence for that is dubious at best. To throw out such a list of code names without any differentiation reeks of a Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt (FUD) campaign designed to dis-inform and scare the public.

The Netherland for its part released a flurry of information about the alleged spying attempts against the OPCW in The Hague. It claims that four GRU agents traveled to The Hague on official Russian diplomatic passports to sniff out the WiFi network of the OPCW. (WiFi networks are notoriously easy to hack. If the OPCW is indeed using such it should not be trusted with any security relevant issues.) The Russian officials were allegedly very secretive, even cleaning out their own hotel trash, while they, at the same, time carried laptops with private data and even taxi receipts showing their travel from a GRU headquarter in Moscow to the airport. Like in the Skripal/Novichok saga the Russian spies are, at the same time, portrayed as supervillains and hapless amateurs. Real spies are neither.

Cont. reading: How The U.S. Runs Public Relations Campaigns - Trump Style - Against Russia And China

Posted by b at 08:27 AM | Comments (104)

October 04, 2018

Saudi Embassy Video Claims Al-Qaeda Likes Iran But Proves The Opposite

The embassy of Saudi Arabia in the United States posted a video which claims that Iran "tacitly supported al-Qaeda".

However, the video, posted on October 3 at 19:44 UTC, provides only one thing. Al-Qaeda shunned contacts with Iran because al-Qaeda receives its support from Arab states.


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The Saudi embassy video includes an interview segment with "Abu Hafs, the mufti of al-Qaeda". It has Arabic and English captions. In the Saudi video Abu Hafs says:

Iran has tried for several times to establish relations with Al-Qaeda
But Al-Qaeda was refusing because of the sensitivity of forging a relationship with Iran in the Arab Peninsula
which is the most important source of support to Al-Qaeda members

a fact that Osama was taking into account
And I have discussed this matter in my own memos

Here are screenshots of the interview segment:

Cont. reading: Saudi Embassy Video Claims Al-Qaeda Likes Iran But Proves The Opposite

Posted by b at 05:15 AM | Comments (74)

October 03, 2018

Iran Sanctions - U.S. Responds To Court Order By Canceling Treaty That Gave The Court Jurisdiction

Earlier today the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a provisional judgment (pdf, 29 pages) against some of the U.S. sanction against Iran. The ruling is a preliminary injunction over urgent humanitarian issues that will later be followed by a final judgment.

The U.S. responded by canceling the treaty the gave the court jurisdiction over the case.

The ICJ is the main judicial organ of the United Nations and settles legal disputes between member states. The rulings of the court, based in The Hague, are binding. But there is no global police force that can make the U.S. government follow the court's ruling.

Nevertheless the judgment sets a precedent that other courts will use when more specific cases against the U.S. sanctions against Iran come up. A company that loses business because of the sanctions may sue the U.S. over financial losses. An ICJ ruling on the illegality of the U.S. sanctions will then be used by a local court, even an American one, as reference.

The core of the ruling says:

THE COURT,

Indicates the following provisional measures:

(1) Unanimously,

The United States of America, in accordance with its obligations under the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights, shall remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from the measures announced on 8 May 2018 to the free exportation to the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran of

(i) medicines and medical devices;
(ii) foodstuffs and agricultural commodities; and
(iii) spare parts, equipment and associated services (including warranty, maintenance, repair services and inspections) necessary for the safety of civil aviation;

(2) Unanimously,

The United States of America shall ensure that licences and necessary authorizations are granted and that payments and other transfers of funds are not subject to any restriction in so far as they relate to the goods and services referred to in point(1);

(3) Unanimously,

Both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve. 

The provisional judgment, comparable to an injunction, was issued because of the imminent humanitarian damage the U.S. sanctions cause to Iran. The final judgment may take a year and is likely to be much wider. After today's unanimous ruling the general direction of the outcome is not in question.

The U.S. had claimed that the the court has no jurisdiction over the issue of its sanctions against Iran.

Cont. reading: Iran Sanctions - U.S. Responds To Court Order By Canceling Treaty That Gave The Court Jurisdiction

Posted by b at 01:34 PM | Comments (85)

October 02, 2018

Note To NATO - You Don't "Take Out" Missiles Without Having A War

Earlier today the U.S. ambassador to NATO threatened to "take out" a new kind of Russian missiles:

The U.S. envoy to NATO on Tuesday said that Russia must halt development of new missiles that could carry nuclear warheads and warned that the United States could “take out” the system if it becomes operational.

The U.S. and Russia have for some time disagreed about the INF treaty. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed in 1987 between the Soviet General Secretary Gorbachov and U.S. President Reagan. It prohibits land based (not sea based) nuclear capable systems with a range of more than 500 kilometers and less than 5,500 kilometers. The agreement came to pass after the Soviets stationed SS-20 missiles in East Europe. NATO responded with the Pershing II deployment. The problem with these missiles was warning time. Fired at a relative short range they threatened to overwhelm one side before it could respond. The missiles thus destroyed the equilibrium of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). The INF treaty banned these missiles.

Russia said for years that the U.S. broke the INF agreement when it stationed missile defense systems in Europe to allegedly take out North Korean and Iranian intercontinental missiles. The missile defense missiles could be armed with nuclear warheads and could probably be used in a surface-to-surface mode. Previously deployed U.S. Nike-Hercules 'air defense' missiles had such capabilities. The National Defense Authorization Act for the year 2018 calls for (pdf, pg 240):

... evaluating existing U.S. missile systems for modification to intermediate range and ground-launch, including Tomahawk, Standard Missile-3, Standard Missile-6, Long-Range Stand-Off Cruise Missile, and Army Tactical Missile System.

Any such modification would be undetectable from the outside, especially when the missiles are stored in launch canisters or silos. It would also clearly be in breach of the INF treaty.

The U.S. denies that its current missile defense systems break the INF and accuses Russia of breaking the treaty by testing a land launched version of its sea launched Kalibr cruse missiles. Russia denies that it is testing anything that is not compatible with the INF treaty. If there is a land launched version it is likely confined to a range below 500 kilometers and thus in compliance with the INF. The sea launched version has a reach of up to 2,500 kilometer, but its export variant is limited to 300 kilometer. The possibly land launched version, which is said to be shorter than the original Kalibr missile (see comments), might well have a much shorter range than the sea launched system. The missiles have, as far as is publicly know, non-nuclear warheads.

The U.S. ambassador to NATO is Kay Baily Hutchinson, a long-term Republican politician with no military experience. Her choice of words in today's press briefing was clearly unprofessional:

Question: [...] Ma’am, can you be more specific what kind of new information that you are bringing to the table regarding the breach of the INF Treaty? And more explicitly also, what kind of countermeasures that you are considering.

Ambassador Hutchison: The countermeasures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty. So that would be the countermeasure eventually. We are trying not to do anything that would violate the treaty on our side, which allows research, but not going forward into development, and we are carefully keeping the INF Treaty requirements on our side, while Russia is violating. ...

The reporters in the room were in disbelieve over such aggressive wording and followed up:

Cont. reading: Note To NATO - You Don't "Take Out" Missiles Without Having A War

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (118)

World War 3 Reporting Escalates

The British tabloid Express has a news category "Word War 3". It was apparently created in 2016 but has not been used much. There are a total of 128 stories under https://www.express.co.uk/latest/world-war-3 - an average of about one per week.

But 34 of those stories were posted over the last seven days!


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You have been warned!

Cont. reading: World War 3 Reporting Escalates

Posted by b at 11:38 AM | Comments (42)

September 30, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-50

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The new electronic warfare equipment arrived and the first S-300 launchers were unloaded. A Russian ship is underway to provide additional air defense materials and supplies.

The not-so-moderate 'rebels' found out that the new Turkish-Russian agreement of demilitarized zone in Idleb is to their disadvantage and reject it. It will be impossible to solve the 'anarchy and terror in Idelb without force. Either Erdogan applies it (not likely), or Syria and its allies will.

Trump wants to get through economic sanctions what the U.S. could not get by force:

The United States will pursue “a strategy of isolation,” including sanctions, with its allies if President Bashar al-Assad holds up a political process aimed at ending Syria’s seven-year war, a top U.S. diplomat for Syria told Reuters on Friday.

Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria, said Washington would work with countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to impose tough international sanctions if Assad’s government failed to cooperate on rewriting the Syrian constitution as a prelude to elections.
...
He added: “Even if the U.N. Security Council won’t pass them we will just do it through the European Union, we will do it through our Asian allies, and then we will make it our business to make life as miserable as possible for that flopping cadaver of a regime and let the Russians and Iranians, who made this mess, get out of it.”

Syria, Russia and Iran are already under U.S. sanctions. They won't care about such nonsense.

Trump will meet Rosenstein in two weeks or so. The issue has been moved out of the way because the push for another lying aristocrat to the Supreme Court is the more important issue. One thing is sure, that angry dude likes his beer (vid) way too much.

The comment thread provides that the propaganda power of the immensely rich fossil fuel industry is still quite strong.

Other items:

Adel Abdel Mahdi will become the new Prime Minister of Iraq. A good choice for Iran and its allies. The U.S. is already in retreat as it evacuates its consulate in Basra.

Trump about (vid) his relation with Kim Jong Un: "We went back and forth, then we fell in love. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they are great letters. We fell in love." How is Melania feeling about this?

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:00 AM | Comments (213)

September 29, 2018

Note To Iran - Debunking Netanyahu Requires Some Care

On Thursday September 27 the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo held a speech in front of the UN General Assembly. As usual he brought some props to continue his 30 years of false claims about a 'nuclear Iran'. Netanyahoo's claim in front of this year's UNGA was not entirely false but highly misleading. Unfortunately he is helped by some rather hapless Iranian responses to it.


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Netanyahoo said:

In May we exposed the site of Iran’s secret atomic archive. It’s right here in the Shuabad Distrcit of Tehran. Today I’m revealing the site of a second facility: Iran’s secret atomic warehouse. It’s right here, in the Turkuzahbad Distrcit of Tehran. Just three miles away. Let me show you exactly what the secret atomic warehouse looks like. Here it is. You see, like the atomic archive it’s another innocent-looking compound. Now for those of you at home using Google Earth, this no longer secret atomic warehouse. You have the coordinates, you can try to get there. And for those of you who try to get there: It’s 100 meters from the rug-cleaning operation. By the way, i hear they do a fantastic job of cleaning rugs there. But by now they may be radioactive rags. This is the second secret site. Now countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on the alley in the days and weeks ahead.

Netanyahoo added the obviously false claim that Iran removed radioactive material from the warehouse and spread it over Tehran.

But just like back in May, when Netanyahoo presented old material that was long known to the IAEA and relevant governments, no one came out in support of his exaggerated claims. Yes, the 'atomic warehouse' in Tehran exists. But it is neither secret, nor does it hold anything radioactive or of current relevance:

A US intelligence official has said that the speech delivered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday at the UN General Assembly about the existence of a second secret atomic facility in Iran was “somewhat misleading.”
...
According to the US intelligence official, knowledge of the facility is nothing new to the Americans.

“First, we have known about this facility for some time, and it’s full of file cabinets and paper, not aluminum tubes for centrifuges, and second, so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out of the JCPOA any faster than it otherwise could,” the official said.

Another US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is aware of the facility Netanyahu announced and described it as a “warehouse” used to store “records and archives” from Iran’s nuclear program.

I am told that the IAEA also knows of the archive and its harmless content. The old material Netanyahoo presented back in May was most likely copied from the IAEA in Vienna. The IAEA is also the most likely source from where Israeli spies gained knowledge about the 'secret atomic warehouse'.

Netanyahoo again made misleading claims about Iran. That's nothing new. The case is closed.

But unfortunately some some Iranian people put the foot in their mouth by trying to debunk even those parts of Netanyahoo's claims that are correct:

Cont. reading: Note To Iran - Debunking Netanyahu Requires Some Care

Posted by b at 10:33 AM | Comments (47)

September 28, 2018

Trump Administration Acknowledges Climate Change - Predicts Large Rise In Global Temperatures

The Trump administration admits that climate change will increase the global temperature more than anticipated:

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees [Fahrenheit] by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists.

That increase though, says the Trump administration, is no reason to stop emitting gases that, for a large part, cause such warming:

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

"The child already fell into the well, there is no longer any need to cover it."

The administration uses such faulty reasoning to eliminate regulations that are supposed to limit 'greenhouse' gas emissions. It is set to allow higher emissions from cars and trucks.

For millions of years plants on earth used the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into hydrocarbons. Where those plants were later covert with volcanic ash or sunk into the sea, geologic pressure and time converted them into coal, oil and gas. Since the start of industrialization humans have used an enormous amount of these dead plants to generate energy. Coal, oil and natural gas - the hydrocarbons - oxidize in exothermic reaction. They burn and give off heat which humans transform into various kinds of usable energy. The emissions from such fires are basically the stuff from which the plants were created - carbon dioxide and water.

A large part of the energy from the sun that hits the earth is reflected back into space. Carbon dioxide and other gases (Methane) in the atmosphere lower the reflection rate of the earth, they trap the energy (heat) the sun shines onto earth within the atmosphere just like the glass of a greenhouse traps the heat inside. Spectroscopic measurements from space over several decades show a decrease of reflections from earth at the spectral range of carbon dioxide. Long term measurements on earth of carbon dioxide concentrations correlate strongly with the general temperature increase.

All this is well known and not controversial. But, as John Maynard Keynes said, in the long term we are all dead. Humans are not willing to give up on their personal comfort and profits for the benefits of far away future generations. The 2015 Paris agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions was largely a scam. Hardly any country stuck to the endorsed targets. After the Fukushima disaster the Merkel government in Germany decided to shut down nuclear power plants but increased the use of brown coal for electricity production.


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It was a 'populist' decision, sold as a "green" policy even as it was the opposite, and contradicted the commitment to decrease emissions. The Obama administration allowed a huge increase in fracking which, next to the hydrocarbons, releases a large amount of other greenhouse gases.

The decision by the Trump administration is wrong. Yes, we will likely not be able to stop a global temperature increase in next few decades. But future generations also deserve our compassion. We must still do our best to limit the long term increase by ending the use of hydrocarbons wherever possible.

It will not be easy to replace hydrocarbons as a source of energy. Large amounts of electric energy are difficult and expensive to store. We need a certain locally distributed base capacity in our electricity networks to provide energy when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. For now nuclear energy is still the most climate friendly way to generate this base capacity. It also creates highly toxic waste that is extremely difficult to get rid of.

The effects of climate change, higher temperatures, rising sea levels and generally more extreme weather, will hit the poorest people the most. This within the U.S. as well as in a global frame. The consequences will be mass migration on a never before seen scale, widespread lack of consumable water and large violent conflicts arising from both.

Two countries may hope to profit from the rise in global temperature as it will increase their access to natural resources that are currently covert by ice. The U.S. (with Canada) and Russia may be the winners of the trend. Most other countries will be losers.

While short term human greed will likely prevent a reduction in hydrocarbon use, and a slowing down of climate change, there may be other effects that could suddenly turn the trend. A large volcanic eruption or a big asteroid impact could cloud the earth and bring back (much) colder times. Some yet unknown effect in the atmosphere that is not anticipated in current climate models could stop or reverse the current trend.

The human race is able to adopt to extreme climates. Humans can live in deserts as well as in the arctic. But such extreme climate zones do not allow for high density populations. The current number of people on this planet may prove to be too high to sustain. Climate change itself, through large scale conflicts and famines, may well provide for its own natural regulation. Reduced to some 100 million individuals humanity may well survive. Nature will not be compassionate in effecting such.

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (293)

September 27, 2018

British Intelligence Throws More Novi-Fog™ To Hide The Holes In Its Skripal File

The UK/NATO propaganda group Bellingcat asserts that the man in the left picture is the same man as the person in the other two pictures.


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The man in the middle and right picture is supposed to be Ruslan Boshirov, one of the two Russians who say (vid) that they went to visit Stonehenge via Salisbury on March 3 and March 4 2018, but could not reach it because the roads were closed after recent snowstorms. (Stonehenge was indeed closed during those two days.)

The British government asserts that the two visiting men are agents of the Russian military intelligence service GRU. It says that they applied 'Novichok' to the doorknob of Sergej Skripal's house with the intent to kill the former British spy. The 'highly deadly' poison is said to have affected Sergej Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a policeman. All are said to be well by now but all three have been vanished from the public by the British intelligence services.

The alleged GRU men went on, says the British government, to dispose the rest of the 'Novichok' in a perfume bottle, the packing sealed in cellophane, which was months later found by some bloke in Salisbury while rummaging through charity boxes. That 'perfume' is claimed to  have killed the blokes drug addicted girlfriend.

Today's release of these pictures adds another layer of disinformation to divert the public from the many contradictions in the case the British government presented. It is Novi-Fog™.

Bellingcat, which claims to work with open source material, does not really say how it found the picture at the left. It claims to have had access to "leaked Russian databases" and to have "obtained" Russian passport files without further explanation. It then asserts that the man in the left picture is one Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, who, it says, is a highly decorated officer of the Russian GRU.

Bellingcat concludes that the man known as Ruslan Boshirov in the middle and right picture is indeed the supposed GRU officer in the left picture.

The former British ambassador Craig Murray does not believe that man on the left is the same one as the man in the other pictures. Other people have pointed out various inconsistencies with the pictures, seemingly faked papers, and the whole story presented by Bellingcat.

Elena Evdokimova @elenaevdokimov7 - 1:52 UTC- 27 Sep 2018

@Belligcat's new opus on #Skripal's alleged poisoning

  1. This is becoming hilarious🤣🤣 Person who filled the alleged passport form also forged the С.С. on the other form- its the SAME handwriting!
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Charles Wood @Mare_Indicum - 3:52 UTC- 27 Sep 2018

Bzzzt! #Bellingcrap two images, one of Anatoly Vladimirovich Chepiga, one of Ruslan Boshirov, only get a 75% match using facial recognition software and are classified 'from different persons', not even 'quite look-alike'.

Keep up the futile search guys!

(Follow the links in the above tweets to see the presented evidence and conclusions.)

Moon of Alabama commentator Debs is Dead is likewise unconvinced of the stroy. The following is his (edited for readability):
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Cont. reading: British Intelligence Throws More Novi-Fog™ To Hide The Holes In Its Skripal File

Posted by b at 01:18 PM | Comments (108)

September 26, 2018

The Trap Failed - Rosenstein Neither Fired Nor Resigned

Last Friday the New York Times published a story that reflected negatively on the loyalty of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein towards President Trump. Rosenstein, the NYT claimed, suggested to wiretap Trump and to remove him by using the 25th amendment. Other news reports contradicted the claim and Rosenstein himself denied it.

The report was a trap to push Trump towards an impulsive firing of the number two in the Justice Department, a repeat of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. The Democrats would have profited from such an 'October surprise' in the November 6 midterm elections. A campaign to exploit such a scandal to get-out-the-votes was already well prepared.

The trap did not work. The only one who panicked was Rosenstein. He feared for his reputation should he get fired. To prevent such damage he offered to resign amicably. He tried this at least three times:

By Friday evening, concerned about testifying to Congress over the revelations that he discussed wearing a wire to the Oval Office and invoking the constitutional trigger to remove Mr. Trump from office, Mr. Rosenstein had become convinced that he should resign, according to people close to him. He offered during a late-day visit to the White House to quit, according to one person familiar with the encounter, but John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, demurred.
...
Also over the weekend, Mr. Rosenstein again told Mr. Kelly that he was considering resigning. On Sunday, Mr. Rosenstein repeated the assertion in a call with Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel. Mr. McGahn — [...] — asked Mr. Rosenstein to postpone their discussion until Monday.
...
By about 9 a.m. Monday, Mr. Rosenstein was in his office on the fourth floor of the Justice Department when reporters started calling. Was it true that Mr. Rosenstein was planning to resign, they asked.
...
At the White House the deputy attorney general slipped into a side entrance to the West Wing and headed to the White House counsel’s office to meet with Mr. McGahn, who had by then been told by Mr. Kelly that Mr. Rosenstein was on his way and wanted to resign.

McGhan punted the issue back to Kelly and finally Rosenstein spoke with Trump. Trump did not fire him nor did he resign. It is now expected that he will stay until the end of the year or even longer:

President Trump told advisers he is open to keeping Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on the job, and allies of the No. 2 Justice Department official said Tuesday he has given them the impression he doesn’t plan to quit.

The trap did not work. Neither did Trump panic nor did the White House allow the panicking Rod Rosenstein to pull the trigger. The people who set this up, by leaking some dubious FBI memo to the NYT, did not achieve their aims.

There are only six weeks left until the midterm elections. What other October surprises might be planned by either side?

Posted by b at 11:20 AM | Comments (91)

U.S. Scaremongers About Iranian Missiles But Reduces Mideast Missile Defense

he propaganda of the Trump administration says that all must fear those ghastly Iranian missiles:

Trump’s Iran envoy blasts Tehran missile work .. - Sep 19

Brian Hook, the US special envoy on Iran, cited Iran’s continuing development, testing and transfer of ballistic missile technology as a key flaw of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that President Donald Trump withdrew from in May.

John Bolton warns Iran 'there will be hell to pay' if aggression continues: 'We will come after you' - Sep 24

The Iran nuclear deal, Bolton said Tuesday, "did nothing to address the regime’s destabilizing activities or its ballistic missile development and proliferation.

Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly - Sep 25

The Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders. In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget grew nearly 40 percent. The dictatorship used the funds to build nuclear-capable missiles, increase internal repression, finance terrorism, and fund havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen.

As with any government one must look at what the Trump administration actually does, not what it says.

U.S. Pulling Some Missile-Defense Systems Out of Mideast - Sep 26

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is pulling four Patriot missile systems out of Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain next month in a realignment of forces and capabilities ..
...
Two Patriot missile systems will be redeployed from Kuwait, and one each from Jordan and Bahrain, officials said. Patriots are mobile missile systems capable of shooting down missiles and planes.

The four systems have been taken offline and will be redeployed by next month, officials said. There are no plans for any of them to be replaced, ..

The Patriot missile defenses the U.S. kept in those countries were protecting U.S. bases in the region. If these were really threatened by Iranian missiles this reduction of defensive capabilities would be irresponsible. But the simple truth is that Iran's meager capabilities are no threat at all:

Patriot systems in the Gulf may not serve the purpose they once did, said Anthony Cordesman, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C. That is in part because Iran lacks the kind of missile capability required to level precision attacks.

In addition, if the Patriot deployments to the Gulf region were intended mainly for air defenses, that threat simply doesn’t exist as it once did, he said. Iran now is no match for U.S. allies in the Gulf region, which have superior air forces.

The Trump administration knows well that Iran's missile capabilities are no threat at all. Iran's best defense capabilities are its location next to a major hydrocarbon transport route, the Strait of Hormuz, and its ability to respond asymmetrically through proxy-forces.

The hype about "Iran's missiles" is just for show. It is a cheap way to convince the Saudis and the Zionist that Trump is doing something they like.

Posted by b at 09:51 AM | Comments (47)

September 24, 2018

Russia Beefs Up Syria's Air Defenses - Tells "Hotheads" To Cool Down

The Russian Minister of Defense today announced some of the measures to be taken in Syria in response to last weeks destruction of its electronic warfare plane with 15 airmen on board. Yesterday the Russian MoD held Israel responsible for the incident.

Shortly after the event happened we noted:

On Netanyahoo's personal request Russia had stopped the delivery of original Russian S-300 long range air-defense missiles to the Syrian military. These would have been less likely to veer off towards the wrong target. In consequence an Iranian 747 was damaged and 15 Russian soldiers were killed. Netanyahoo can forget about any further such 'favors' from Moscow.

Yesterday we added:

The incident will have consequences on several levels. For one - the airspace along the Syrian coast will now be off limits for Israeli flights
...
The Syrian air defense will be further strengthened and modernized. Its personal will get more specialist training. But the probably worst issue for Israel's military will be cooled down relations with the Russian forces. There will be no more freebies, no more looking aside and direct Russian fire on Israeli forces should they again try such stunts.

These predicted measures are exactly the ones Defense Minister Shoigu announced today. Syria will get the S-300, its air defense will be further updated, Syria's coast will be more heavily defended:

MOSCOW, September 24./TASS/. Within two weeks, the Syrian army will get from Russia S-300 air-defense missiles to strengthen its combat capabilities following the downing of a Russian Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft in Syria, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.

Syria ordered the S-300 systems in 2013 but Russia held back the delivery on Israel's request. Syria also had more urgent needs, especially for short range air-defense systems, which Russia delivered in large numbers. It were these systems that allowed the Syrian air defense to disable a high number of U.S. cruise missiles fired against it in April. The S-300, with a reach of up to 250 kilometers, will be able to target Israeli planes over Lebanon as well as deep within Israeli air space.

The delivery of the S-300s via transport planes from Russia already begun. There are several sub types of the system and a number of different radar combinations to guide them. There is no information yet about the exact types Syria will be equipped with and in what numbers. The first deployment will likely be around the capital Damascus.

Shoigu also announced that Syria's air defenses will now be equipped with Russian IFF systems:

Cont. reading: Russia Beefs Up Syria's Air Defenses - Tells "Hotheads" To Cool Down

Posted by b at 07:11 AM | Comments (276)

September 23, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Terror In Ahvaz - Modi's Huge Weapon Deal Scandal

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The strategic event of the week:

Netanyahoo will have to do some big favor for Russia to regain standing with it. Israel itself has little to give on its own that Russia wants or needs. But Israeli interests control the Trump administration. It could ask the U.S. to deliver something to Russia. What would be of sufficiently high value to compensate Russia for 15 killed airmen and a very expensive reconnaissance plane?

---

Yesterday terrorists attack an Iranian Memorial Day parade in the southwest Ahvaz region and killed some 30 unarmed conscripts, veterans and civilian bystanders. The United Arab Emirates, the Saudis, and behind them the U.S. are instigating such attacks. The U.S. military in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan is quite exposed and might well become the target of an asymmetrical response.

---

The Hindu-fascist Modi government in India is crumbling. Its crazy monetary scheme put the economy, as MoA predicted, into shambles. A huge new scandal around a weapon deal with France implicates Modi directly. The always recommendable Caravan Magazine exposed the unbelievable deal in a long and detailed writeup (not paywalled): "On a Wing and a Prayer India gambles its defence interests on Reliance Group".

In short: The previous government signed a contract with France' Dassault to buy 126 Rafale jets for $10.6 billion. Thirty percent of the price would flow back from Dassault to the Indian state owned aviation manufacturer HAL, which would assemble most of the planes. Modi flew to Paris and changed the deal without the knowledge of his cabinet and the country's military. India will get only 36 Rafales but pay $8.7 billion for them. Thirty percent of the money would flow back to a private Indian company belonging to the largely bankrupt, privately held Reliance Group for unrelated projects and without any know-how transfer. How much Reliance, owned by the once very rich Ambani family, would hand over to Modi and his party is yet unknown. There are calls for Modi to step down which he is unlikely to do. The issue will escalate.

---

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:56 AM | Comments (78)

Russian MoD Presents IL-20 Investigation Results - Israel "Crossed The Line Of Civilized Relations"

The Russian Ministry of Defense just presented the results of its investigation (vid, English subtitles) into the September 17 incident in Syria. A Russian electronic warfare plane was hit by a Syrian air-defense missile during an ongoing Israeli attack on Syria. Fifteen Russian soldiers died when the plane fell into the Mediterranean.

The investigation confirms the early analysis published on Moon of Alabama:

The Israeli attack came out of the same direction as the Russian IL-20. The large 4 propeller plane creates a much bigger radar reflection than the small F-16s fighter jets. The S-200 missiles have a semi-active radar homing seeker. These are passive detectors of a radar signal which is provided by an external source, in this case the Syrian and Russian radars on the ground. While the missile was aimed at the F-16 its seeker likely mistook the larger radar reflection of IL-20 for the intended target.

Russian experts later provided more details that supported the above analysis.

The investigation presented today found that the Israeli jets intentionally used the Russian IL-20 as a shield against the Syrian air defenses.

Ru MoD Presentation 5:54min

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RT summarizes the Russian conclusion:

Cont. reading: Russian MoD Presents IL-20 Investigation Results - Israel "Crossed The Line Of Civilized Relations"

Posted by b at 07:57 AM | Comments (125)

September 22, 2018

The NYT's Rosenstein Story Is An Attempt To Bring Trump Down

The U.S. midterm election on November 6 will decide if the House and/or Senate will change from the current Republican majority to a Democratic majority. While the parties are do not differ much from each other, a few high political issues (and financial consequences) are at stake. The currently most important one is the Senate confirmation of the arch-conservative Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. The Democrats are trying all they can to delay the confirmation process with the hope to move it towards a post election session in which they may have a majority. A majority might even give the Democrats a chance to impeach Trump.

Except Kavanaugh, who will by then likely have passed the confirmation, the Democrats have nothing big to run on. The Mueller investigation had no serious results so far. The economy is still running reasonably well except for the poor. A spike in oil prices because of Trump's sanctions against Iran will only come after the election. Trump ratings are negative but not so much that it will have a serious impact on the election. The Democrats need something big.

This is the context of a sensational New York Times story - Rod Rosenstein Suggested Secretly Recording Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment - which seems to be designed to give Trump a reason to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Andrew Prokop at Vox summarizes its current state:

Did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seriously suggest to top Justice Department officials last year that someone should secretly tape President Donald Trump?

Or did he make an obviously sarcastic comment that he never intended anyone take seriously?

A new report from the New York Times’s Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt says it was the former — and adds that Rosenstein also talked about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. (Neither ended up happening.) The reporters’ sources are anonymous people “briefed either on the events themselves or on memos” written by former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and others.

But a separate report from the Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky quotes an anonymous source who was in the room and disputes the account given to the Times. Per this source, Rosenstein was rebutting a suggestion by McCabe that the Justice Department open an investigation into Trump, and said something along the lines of, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”

Who’s right? The consequences could be enormous. It was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller as special counsel back in May 2017, and it’s Rosenstein who continues to oversee Mueller’s Russia investigation. Well before these new stories President Trump has privately mused about firing Rosenstein (or Sessions, or Mueller), so he could put someone he views as more loyal in charge of the Russia probe.

Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel berates the NYT for publishing the piece:

NYT Gives Trump His Excuse to Fire Rod Rosenstein

The NYT has an inflammatory article claiming that Rod Rosenstein floated recording the President and/or invoking the 25th Amendment in the days after Trump fired Jim Comey.
...
The insinuation is clear: in an attempt to accuse Rosenstein of things known to set off the President (notably, being recorded), someone took memos McCabe wrote and read them to people who would then leak them to the NYT.

If the NYT version of the incident is true, it indeed would give Trump plenty of reasons to fire Rosenstein (and Mueller and Session.) Several prominent Trump supporters urge him to do such:

Cont. reading: The NYT's Rosenstein Story Is An Attempt To Bring Trump Down

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (87)

September 21, 2018

Facebook Allies With U.S. Regime-Change Orgs For 'Fact Checking' In Foreign Countries

As this outlet concluded yesterday:

Unfortunately the anti-Russian and anti-Trump propaganda campaign has had serious consequences. Censorship in social media increased drastically ...

In consequence of the alleged manipulation of new and opinions during the 2016 election, Congress threatened to regulate social media. It demanded testimony by the owners of social media companies - Facebook, Twitter and Google - about their plans to weed out so called "fake news" distributed through their systems. Instead of defending the freedom of individuals and organizations to publish opinions deviating from the mainstream, the companies promised to increase their censorship capabilities. To avoid to make judgments themselves, they decided to outsource these to 'independent' fact checking organizations. Anything those deem "fake news" will then be censored.

Facebook Inc just gave such powers to two well known U.S. government regime change operators. These will now have the capabilities to censor content in foreign countries:

Facebook Inc on Wednesday said it would team with two U.S. non-profits to slow the global spread of misinformation that could influence elections,
...
The largest social network, under intense pressure to combat propaganda, said it would work abroad with the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, created in the 1980s and funded by the U.S. government to promote democratic processes.

The IRI and the NDI are sub-organizations of the infamous National Endowment for Democracy. They "promote democratic processes" to achieve regime change of governments the U.S. dislikes. The NED is an offshoot of the CIA:

Cont. reading: Facebook Allies With U.S. Regime-Change Orgs For 'Fact Checking' In Foreign Countries

Posted by b at 07:02 AM | Comments (87)

September 20, 2018

NYT Admits That Its "Mountain of Evidence" For Russian Collusion Is Smaller Than A Molehill

The New York Times spends 10,000 words in some 199 paragraphs on the alleged 'Russian influence' in the U.S. election.

The Plot to Subvert an Election - Unraveling the Russia Story So Far

For two years, Americans have tried to absorb the details of the 2016 attack —hacked emails, social media fraud, suspected spies — and President Trump’s claims that it’s all a hoax. The Times explores what we know and what it means.

The long piece is a repetition of unproven intelligence claims, spin around a few facts and lots of innuendo. Few readers will ever digest it in full.

That is why this sentence appears near the top in paragraph 5 of a total of 199 paragraphs:

President Trump’s Twitter outbursts that it is all a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, have taken a toll on public comprehension.

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One-hundred-and-seventy-eight paragraphs later, near the end of the piece, we read the opposite and learn that Trump is indeed right:

Mr. Trump’s frustration with the Russian investigation is not surprising. He is right that no public evidence has emerged showing that his campaign conspired with Russia in the election interference or accepted Russian money.

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The "mountain of evidence" claimed in paragraph 5 turns out to be "no public evidence" in paragraph 183 near the end of the piece. But 99% of the readers will not walk through the whole mess and the 1% that do will likely miss the contradiction.

As Aaron Maté notes:

This is a pattern: ample words for Trump-Russia innuendo; quiet acknowledgment of no evidence. And 0 words on what has been debunked.

The 'Russian influence' and 'collusion' between Russia and Trump are still what they were two years ago, when the campaign started - they are fake news. Unfortunately the anti-Russian and anti-Trump propaganda campaign has had serious consequences. Censorship in social media increased drastically and international relations with Russia were seriously damaged. The main stream media though, will never take responsibility for that.

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (56)

Trump's Staff Overrides His Policies - They Are A Dangerous 'Resistance'

Three recent publications claim that U.S. President Trump is not allowed to make policies, that his staff is sabotaging him as much as it can.

An anti-Trump author at the Washington Post, Greg Miller, just released a new book about Trump. The Post prints an excerpt:

‘The Apprentice’ book excerpt: At CIA’s ‘Russia House,’ growing alarm about 2016 election interference

Trump’s admiration for the leader of Russia was inexplicable and never wavered after taking office. He praised the Russian leader, congratulated him, defended him, pursued meetings with him, and fought virtually any policy or punitive measure that might displease him.

A trained intelligence operative, Putin understood the power of playing to someone’s insecurities and ego. On cue, he reciprocated with frequent praise for the president he had sought to install in the White House.

In phone conversations with Trump, Putin would whisper conspiratorially, telling the U.S. president that it wasn’t their fault that they could not consummate the relationship that each had sought. Instead, Putin sought to reinforce Trump’s belief that he was being undermined by a secret government cabal, a bureaucratic “deep state.”

“It’s not us. We get it,” Putin would tell Trump, according to White House aides. “It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.”

The Putin quote is probably genuine. But is it "playing to someone's insecurity and ego"? Or is it simply the truth?

Cont. reading: Trump's Staff Overrides His Policies - They Are A Dangerous 'Resistance'

Posted by b at 10:51 AM | Comments (81)

September 19, 2018

Open Thread 2018-48

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (154)

September 18, 2018

Syria - Israel's Provocation Kills Russian Soldiers - Moscow Will Take Political Revenge

Yesterday Turkey and Russia agreed on a further de-escalation in Idelb province in Syria (see the update here). This agreement takes away the chance of an imminent wider war in which the U.S. and some of its allies would use a fake 'chemical attack' as a pretext to launch missiles against a large number of Syrian government targets and military positions.

A peaceful solution of the Idleb situation is unsatisfying for Israel. The successful Syrian defeat of the Jihadi enemy inside the country would allow Syria and its allies to concentrate their forces against Israel. Israel wants the Syrian government destroyed and the country in chaos.

On Sunday September 16 Israel tried to hit an Iranian Boeing 747 freight plane at Damascus airport. The plane allegedly carried an Iranian copy of the Russian S-300 long range air defense System for the Syrian army.

On Monday around 10:00pm local time 4 F-16 jets of the Israeli airforce, coming from the sea, launched missiles against at least three targets on Syria's coast. The strike came only hours after Israel released satellite images of what it called "strategic targets" in Syria. The integrated Syrian and Russian air-defenses responded.

The Israeli air force had warned the Russian forces in Syria only one minute before the strike. A Russian IL-20 electronic warfare airplane (red line) was preparing to land at the Russian airport near Latakia just as the Israeli attack (blue) happened.


Source: Russian defense Ministry - bigger

Cont. reading: Syria - Israel's Provocation Kills Russian Soldiers - Moscow Will Take Political Revenge

Posted by b at 06:09 AM | Comments (397)

September 16, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Secret Bio-weapons - Skripals - OT 2018-47

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The theme of the week was the now delayed operation to liberate Idelb governorate in Syria.


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But the White Helmets will have to wait with their next 'chemical weapon' scam. The attack was delayed. The crisis has for now receded but the issue will be back in the news in some six to eight weeks.


The Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva published an extensive investigative piece on the secret U.S. biological weapon laboratory near Tbilisi, Georgia:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Secret Bio-weapons - Skripals - OT 2018-47

Posted by b at 12:08 PM | Comments (203)

Syria - The Rationale Behind The Delay Of Idleb's Liberation - Updated 2x

Updated (twice) below

Southfront has an excellent longread on the Turkish role in the war on Syria from its very beginning. The piece includes a list of the groups Turkey currently supports and gives an outlook on Turkey's plans:

Turkish Strategy In Northern Syria: Military Operations, Turkish-backed Groups And Idlib Issue.

The conclusion:

In the contemporary military and diplomatic reality surrounding the Syrian crisis, Ankara is pursuing the following tactical goals:
  • To eliminate or at least disarm and limit influence of US-backed Kurdish armed groups in northern Syria;
  • To strengthen a united pro-Turkish opposition Idlib and to eliminate any resistance to it, including in some scenarios the elimination of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies;
  • To facilitate return of refugees from Turkey to Syrian areas under its own control;
If these goals are achieved, Ankara will significantly increase its influence on the diplomatic settlement of the crisis and on the future of the post-war Syria. The returned refugees and supporters of militant groups in the Turkish-controlled part of Syria will become an electoral base of pro-Turkish political figures and parties in case of the implementation of the peaceful scenario. If no wide-scale diplomatic deal on the conflict is reached, one must consider the possibility of a pro-Turkish quasi-state in northern Syria, confirming the thesis that Erdogan is seeking to build a neo-Ottoman empire.

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Elijah J. Magnier confirms our take that the Syrian-Russian operation to liberate Idleb is on hold but not canceled:

Cont. reading: Syria - The Rationale Behind The Delay Of Idleb's Liberation - Updated 2x

Posted by b at 11:05 AM | Comments (106)

September 15, 2018

The Dike Breaks - Netherland Ends Support For "White Helmets" Terrorist Propaganda

Updated below
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The Netherland just announced that it is ending its support for al-Qaeda's propaganda gang, the "White Helmets". It also ends its support for the so called Free Syrian Police. Last week the Netherlands shut down its "non lethal" support for the Free Syrian Army after Dutch news organizations found that members of these groups were accused of terrorism by their General Prosecutor.

According to the Volkskrant daily (in Dutch), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ended the support for the White Helmets after its Directorate for International Research and Policy Evaluation issued a critical report about them. For the White Helmets, which had received €12.5 million from the Dutch government, it lists the following issues:

  • According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the supervision of the behavior of the rescue workers is 'inadequate'. The organization that supervises, Mayday, based in the Netherlands, is closely intertwined with the White Helmets itself. In practice, donors do not understand the difference between the two organizations.
  • Mayday wants to spend a maximum of 0.9% of its budget on supervision of the work of the White Helmets. 'That is why there is a lack of independent supervision of the activities and results of the project.'
  • The money for the White Helmets is transferred to the Syrian border in cash or enters the country via the hawala system. It is 'problematic' that Mayday does not know how much money is paid via which route. That is why there is a danger that money has fallen into the hands of armed groups. The cash flow can also indirectly be used for illegal trade. Systematic control of the money flow is missing.
  • The White Helmets are active in areas where armed groups are in power that are considered 'unacceptable' for the Netherlands. Contact between the White Helmets and local administrators who work together with extremist organizations is inevitable.

The seemingly intentional lack of transparency practically guarantees that much of the more than $150 million the White Helmets received from various governments will have flown into the private pockets of the people who organize the scam.

This blog published several pieces about the White Helmets, mostly pointing out their obviously faked media productions:

For background information on the White Helmets the earlier pieces by Vanessa Beeley's at 21stCenturyWire´are still the best: Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I and Part II – Syria’s White Helmets: ‘Moderate Executioners’.

Vanessa Beeley, Eva Barlett (vid) and others have tried for years to point out the nefarious scheme behind the propaganda scam "White Helmets". Roger Waters rightly calls them (vid) a "fake propaganda construct for terrorists". But 'western' media loved the dramatic fake photos and videos the White Helmets produced, partly because they could put them into print and on screen free of any charge. Whoever criticized them and questioned their narratives was publicly smeared and derided.

The Volkkrant notes:

Cont. reading: The Dike Breaks - Netherland Ends Support For "White Helmets" Terrorist Propaganda

Posted by b at 03:30 PM | Comments (92)

September 14, 2018

Syria - Al-Qaeda And Turkey Stage "Peaceful Civilians" Events

Turkey and other supporters of the terrorists in Syria arranged for fresh Friday demonstrations by "civilians" in Idleb governorate. These are supposed to show the 'western' public that the population of the al-Qaeda controlled province is still in favor of the anti-Assad "revolution".


Source video - bigger

Some tweets from yesterday make clear that these demonstrations are a highly choreographed propaganda exercise:

TØM CΛT @TomtheBasedCat - 17:34 utc- 13 Sep 2018

Supposedly, an array of European press agencies with security will enter Idlib city tomorrow to cover some demonstrations there.

Idelb is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), an internationally banned al-Qaeda organization. Turkey, which has friendly relations with al-Qaeda in Syria, will have arranged for the security of the foreign media.

Some prominent people also spoke about the event:

Harald Doornbos @HaraldDoornbos - 19:08 utc - 13 Sep 2018

Interesting. Son of Al-Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam, Huthaifa Azzam, calls on opposition in Idlib not to raise black/jihadi flags during tomorrow's protest but only revolution flags because there are international journalists on the ground reporting on the protests.


original tweet - bigger

For once al-Qaeda does not want its flag to be seen. The demonstrations must only show "peaceful civilians".

Sam Heller, now with Crisis Group, caught two voice recordings that were distributed via Telegram. It is not completely clear that these are legit, but they make sense:

Cont. reading: Syria - Al-Qaeda And Turkey Stage "Peaceful Civilians" Events

Posted by b at 11:52 AM | Comments (119)

September 13, 2018

This Anti-China Foreign Policy Piece Makes No Sense

A recent Foreign Policy piece on the reeducation campaign in China's Xinjiang region is another example of nonsensical claims made in the current anti-China propaganda campaign.


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Notice the picture caption:

Uighur people pick up their children from school on July 27, 2017, in Kashgar City, Xinjiang, where everyday activities such as wearing a headscarf in the presence of the PRC flag can be cause for detainment.

The picture caption makes no sense. Carl Zha points out that every school in China flies the People's Republic of China flag. It is raised in a weekly ceremony each Monday morning. All the women in the picture above wear headscarfs in the presence of a PRC flag. Will they all be detained for some ideological training? How come they show no fear of being thrown into a "concentration camp"?

Cont. reading: This Anti-China Foreign Policy Piece Makes No Sense

Posted by b at 03:06 PM | Comments (90)

Syria - Turkish Tantrum Delays Liberation Of Idleb

Turkey is again turning to the U.S. to achieve its aim of controlling and annexing north Syria.

At the Tehran summit of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish presidents, Turkey presented a (likely U.S. induced plan) for Idleb governorate:

It included:
  • prolongation of the deescalation ceasefire
  • 12 armed groups, including Hayat Tahrir al Sham to be disbanded
  • Turkey will train a new rebel force to control Idleb under Turkish command
  • Groups who resist will be targeted in counter terrorism operations
  • ...

Russia and Iran rejected the plan. Idleb is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) (vid) which is an internationally banned terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda. Turkey had over a year to solve the HTS problem under the existing de-escaltion agreement and failed.

HTS, foreign Jihadis, as well as 'moderate' Islamists affiliated with Turkey prevent civilians from leaving and terrorize the population:

As a possible showdown approaches, the rebels have arrested and tortured people they accuse of conceding defeat, sowing fear in the local population. A doctor was recently pulled from his home at night, witnesses said. A pistachio peddler was arrested as masked men patrolled the street.
...
Monitoring groups and local residents put most of the blame on HTS, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, but say the Turkish-backed fighters have also arrested dozens of people.
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[R]ebel groups have embarked on their wave of ­arrests, accusing those they ­detain of secret communications with government representatives. Many have been taken to secret prisons and tortured, groups documenting the arrests say.
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“Although this is certainly why some people have been arrested, the problem now is that it is also being used by al-Nusra to arrest the people who criticize their behavior, or to arrest their opponents,” said Fadel Abdul Ghany, director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

After the Tehran summit the Syrian and Russian operation to liberate Idleb was to commence. The troops were in place,  air as well as artillery attacks to 'shape' the battlefield were ongoing.

But Erdogan again turned on his partners and is back flirting with the U.S. he otherwise despises. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal he  begged for U.S. and NATO help:

Cont. reading: Syria - Turkish Tantrum Delays Liberation Of Idleb

Posted by b at 07:13 AM | Comments (98)

September 12, 2018

Open Thread 2018-46

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (136)

September 11, 2018

A Few Items Related To Syria

The U.S. candidate to (again) become Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, is out of the race. After the recent riots in Basra the party of Moqtada al-Sadr renounced its support for his candidacy. Even before that Abadi lacked the votes in parliament to get elected. On top of that Ajatollah Sistani let it be known that he will not support any candidate who had already tried and failed to solve Iraq's problems. Former Prime Minister Maliki and Abadi both fall into that category.

U.S. envoy Brett McGurk had tried to press the Sunni and Kurdish factions to support Abadi and encouraged the Saudis to bribe Moqtada al-Sadr.  He failed. It now looks like the various Shia parties, plus some Sunni and Kurdish independents, have a solid coalition large enough to reign the country. Most of them want the U.S. military to leave Iraq. Iraq will get a new prime minister and it will not be the person that U.S. would like to see in that role. This will create some serious logistic difficulties for the increasing U.S. deployment in Syria.

The fight against ISIS in Iraq is not over. The political instability allows ISIS to return (vid) in the form of a lose guerrilla army. Iraq still lacks some tools, intelligence and nighttime fighting capabilities, to wear down these groups. With an anti-U.S. government the ISIS problem will certainly increase as the U.S. will gain use ISIS to keep a foot in the door.

Robert Fisk travels along the frontline of Idleb governorate in Syria. He sees remarkably few Syrian forces. He expects that the upcoming attack will smaller than expected and a rather slow moving affair.

Geographer Fabrice Balanche reasonably assumes that the Syrian army will, in a first phase, only attack the Turkish supported "moderate" rebels, painted in light green, in the southern part of the Idleb pocket. The Al-Qaeda/Nusra/HTS brigades, painted in middle dark green, would only be attacked in a later phase. This fits to the observations Robert Fisk made on the ground.


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That the "moderate" rebels are not moderate at all is again proven through a recent scandal in the Netherlands. The Dutch newscaster NOS Nieuwsuur and the daily newspaper Trouw report (in Dutch) that the Dutch government until very recently spent at least €25 million to provide "moderate" rebels in Syria with pick-up trucks, uniforms, satellite phones, cameras, medical kits, tents and rubber mattresses.

Cont. reading: A Few Items Related To Syria

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (103)

September 09, 2018

MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-45

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The timestamp question is solved, but there still many, many other inconsistencies.

There is a report of a very large Turkish Army convoy entering Syria's Idleb province. That is wishful thinking by some "rebel" circles. Turkey is only strengthening its border position. It is unlikely to intervene in the Syrian and Russian 'Idleb Dawn' operation to free the province of terrorists.

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 Finally a realistic assessment of the British role in World War II:

Peter Hitchens @ClarkeMicah - 7:40 utc- 9 Sep 2018

Actually no, we didn't Win the Second World War. We started it, but, thanks to our weakness and shortage of cash had to hand it over to the USA and the USSR half way through. First extracts, in the Mail on Sunday, from my new book 'The Phoney Victory'

The limeys will be livid about this insult and ignore the truth. Recommended.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:20 PM | Comments (213)