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May 08, 2019

Will the U.S. And Israel Wage A "Summer War"?

J. Swift comments at the end of the Iran JCPOA thread (emphasis added):

After sleeping on all the increasingly shrill statements being issued by Bolton & friends designed to amp up pressure and generally beating the war drums against Iran, I woke up with a strange thought this morning. For some time there have been indications that Nuttyahoo is angling toward a summer attack on Lebanon/Hezbollah. The US has been seeing its own influence in Lebanon waning, and of course Bolton wants an excuse for a heavy but "limited" strike on Iran. I say "limited" because I'm sure the actual military planners have been pretty blunt about what an actual full blown war with Iran would look like, and it wouldn't be good. But just as with Venezuela, the neocons tend to believe their own propaganda, and believe that all of their enemies are at the tipping point because of all of their economic warfare, such that military strikes on critical civilian infrastructure is all it would take to induce the population to "throw off the yoke of oppression."

I understand the US already has a tripwire presence in Lebanon, and with all the odd, vague warnings about Iranian proxies and impending attacks, and rumblings of Israeli designs on Lebanon, and the "intel" being overtly Israeli supplied, what if it's all connected? What if the Israelis have convinced the US neocons that they are willing to "take out" Hezbollah, to secure themselves some of that peace and security, and all the US has to do is a lot of the dirty work (provide air support, etc.). Since Hezbollah is probably the most famous "Iranian proxy," the implied threat would be that if Hezbollah in any way tries to defend itself or especially strike back at Israel (which of course they will), Bolton will declare that Iran must be punished for its aggression against beloved Israel, and a massive air and missile strike will be unleashed on Iran, in hopes that it will then just roll over. If Iran tries to close the Straits, then Venezuela will be struck in like manner. Yes, I know it's all demented, but since that pretty much describes every US war plan for the last 20 years, it makes one wonder....

First: I am not aware of a U.S. "tripwire presence in Lebanon". There are, on and off, a few U.S. special forces training the Lebanese army but that is it.

There are indeed strong rumors of an attack on Lebanon during this summer. There have been discussions within Hizbullah about an expected summer war were leaked to Elijah Magnier and Abdel Bari Atwan. Hizbullah denied the reports but both are serious journalist with the necessary connections.

In his May 2 speech Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader, talked about a threat of war against Lebanon. According to him the threat of war was not communicated from Israel, but by the Trump administration:

US Diplomats pressuring Lebanese state to give part of our territorial waters to Israel for it's possible oil and gas resources, but we will not even give them a cup of water.
US Diplomats threaten Lebanese government with war against Israel if they do not get rid of Hezbollah's ballistic [missiles] capabilities.
Israeli strategists warn of deadly weak points in IDF, despite affirming it's strong points, And I warn them of Lebanon's deadly strong points, despite it's seeming weak points.
The Axis of Resistance, in spite of sanctions, is stronger than ever.
Everyone in Israel agrees that any future war with Lebanon must be brief, decisive, and ending with a clear Israeli Victory; but who can do that now? These days are gone.
Israel that fears war with blockaded and surrounded Gaza can never hope to set foot in Lebanon.
We promise all Israeli units thinking of crossing Lebanon that they will be destroyed and humiliated on Live TV.

Current U.S. relations with the government of Lebanon are bad. The U.S. would certainly give Israel a green light should it want to wage a war. It may even entice it to attack Lebanon. The purported aim of such a war would be to destroy Hizbullah's long range missiles. Another aim would be to bring the Lebanese government under control of a USrael friendly leadership.

Both aims are delusional.

Cont. reading: Will the U.S. And Israel Wage A "Summer War"?

Posted by b at 12:59 PM | Comments (130)

May 06, 2019

How The U.S. Is Pressing Iran To Breach The Nuclear Deal

363 days ago the U.S. left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 'nuclear deal' with Iran, and reintroduced sanctions against trade with Iran.

When the U.S. reintroduced sanctions on Iran it provided sanction 'wavers' for some customers of Iranian oil. Two weeks ago the extremists in the Trump administration won out and the those waivers were eliminated. Some of Iran's customers, Iraq, Turkey and China, will continue to buy Iranian oil and will face U.S. sanctions.

The declared aim of the Trump administration's 'maximum pressure campaign' is to bring all trade with Iran to zero and the country to its knees.

On Wednesday May 8, one years after the U.S. breached the deal, it will announce additional sanctions against the country:

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that new sanctions would target petrochemical sales. I'm told the administration will likely impose those sanctions soon, but the new sanctions planned for this week will target a different sector of the Iranian economy.

The only European response to the new announcements was a lame statement. The EU should fight for the JCPOA deal as it is in its interest. But instead it is slow-walking its badly designed INSTEX mechanism that would allow for only very limited sanction free trade with Iran.

Iran will use the anniversary of the U.S. breach of the deal to announce that it will no longer stick to some of the restrictions of the JCPOA.

The U.S. is not only sanctioning Iranian trade that was promised to be opened under the JCPOA deal, it is also trying to eliminate all other beneficial elements of the deal.

The Trump administration wants to force Iran to come into breach of the deal to then use that as an excuse for further action against the country.

The U.S. provided waivers for several nuclear trades that were part of the JCPOA deal. Some of these were now eliminated, others were put under time restrictions.

Iran is allowed to enrich Uranium under the deal, but it is not allowed to hold large amounts of ready enriched Uranium. Enriched Uranium is valuable and Iran found a customer who bought it. Iran also produces heavy water, needed to cool some types of reactors, and exports it. These trades were previously provided with waivers. The Trump administration did not renew those wavers and the export of those products will end. Iran will have to either stop all enrichment and heavy water production or it will have to store what it produces and thereby come into breach of the JCPOA agreement.

Cont. reading: How The U.S. Is Pressing Iran To Breach The Nuclear Deal

Posted by b at 03:16 PM | Comments (170)

Syria - Russian And Syrian Airforce Prepare The Ground For An Attack On Idlib Province

Throughout the last months the military situation in west Syria was more or less stable. That is about to change.

While this map is from August 2018 it is still mostly accurate. Idleb province, and parts of north Hama, are under control of 'rebel' forces led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an Al-Qaeda aligned terrorist group.


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A September 2018 agreement between Russia and Turkey stipulated that Turkey would bring the 'rebels' in Idleb under control. A 20 kilometer wide demilitarized zone was to be established along the demarcation line. All heavy weapons were to be removed from the zone. The M4 and M5 highways were to be opened for traffic.

None of it happened. Turkey established observation post along the demarcation line but these had no effect. Instead HTS assimilated more and more of the 'Free Syrian Army' groups that Turkey supported. The organization acquired new arms and equipment and intensified its training.

During the last months they became more active. Mortar and missiles were fired into Aleppo city. Command units crossed the demarcation line, attacked Syrian army guard posts and caused a number of casualties. Drones were flown from Idleb against the Russian base at Hmeimim. Missile volleys were launched against the base.

The Syrian government long demanded to finally attack in Idleb, but Russia held it back. There was a risk that Turkey would use an attack on Idleb to switch back to the U.S. side. That risk is now much lower as the U.S. became more hostile to its NATO ally.

Two weeks ago, after HTS shot the latest missile volley at Hmeimim, Russian jets started to pound HTS positions in Idleb governorate with hundreds of bomb attacks. Additionally Russian intelligence reported that HTS was preparing to launch a large attack against Hama city further south. Russia flew in new fighter jets and bombers to up its engagement capabilities. The Syrian air force and its artillery also chimed in. It soon became obvious that these attacks were not just revenge acts but the preparations for a larger campaign.

Turkey recognized that it can no longer do anything to prevent an attack on Idleb. In a Hail Mary move it tried to at least fulfill one of its old aims: to capture the town Tal Rifaat and Menagh Air Base north of Aleppo. These are in the Kurdish area (yell0w) at the top of the map. But the defenders were prepared. When Turkish aligned 'rebels' under the command of Turkish officers attacked their positions they retreated. The Turks advanced and suddenly found themselves in a minefield and under artillery attack. They had been trapped. After several were killed and wounded the Turkish forces had to retreat and the Syrian army and the Kurdish units could retake their old positions. In parallel Syrian artillery fired on one of the Turkish outposts in Idleb governorate. Four Turkish soldiers were wounded and evacuated.

Today the Syrian army launched an attack in the south of the pocket and captured several 'rebel' positions. There are signs that another attack will soon start west of Aleppo to remove any threats to the city. Another attack axis is likely to be formed on the western side of the pocket with the aim of pushing the terrorist further away from Hmeimim.

These attacks are not (yet) the big campaign to liberate all of Idleb governorate. It seems more likely that this will be done piecemeal with one bite at a time followed by a pause. One intermediate aim is to regain full control over the M5 and M4 highways in Idelb governorate. That would allow for direct traffic between Latakia to Aleppo and from Hama to Aleppo and could help to revive the devastated economy.


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Is the U.S. will do anything to stop the Syrian operations. That now seems unlikely:

"Idlib is essentially the largest collection of al-Qaida affiliates in the world right now," Michael Mulroy, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, said this week during remarks at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

"We have very limited insights as to what's going on," he added.

That this is (again) publicly recognized, likely  means that Syria is now allowed to clean up the mess. Back in 2017 and 2018, when Syria was ready to retake Idleb, the U.S. threatened to stop any attack. At that time it still cared for its ally Turkey which would be swamped with new refugee wave should the HTS terrorists and their families have to retreat from Idelb. The U.S. no longer cares about Turkey. Any new difficulty for the wannabe Sultan Erdogan will likely be welcome.

The terrorist haven in Idelb is only one of the many problems Syria still has to cope with.

The worst is currently a shortage of gasoline as U.S. sanctions block Iranian oil deliveries to Syria. Iranian tankers with the destination of Syria are held up at the Suez canal. Requesting gasoline from Russia would have a political price that Syria seems not ready to pay. The Syrian oilfields, which could produce enough to keep the country running, are under control of the U.S. proxy forces. The U.S. prohibited to sell that oil to the Syrian government.

Posted by b at 11:09 AM | Comments (63)

May 05, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-25

In today's WaPo: Guaidó says opposition overestimated military support for uprising No kidding!

Caitlin Johnstone - Venezuela: Establishment Talking Points Translation Key

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Other stuff:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-25

Posted by b at 01:08 PM | Comments (106)

Israel Again Bombs Gaza - But Is It "In Response"?

Since Friday noon a fire exchange between besieged Palestinians in the Gaza strip and Israel escalated into heavy bombing and missile fire.

The reporting thereof in U.S. media again proves that these are unable to fairly cover on the conflict.

Jeff Bezos' blog headlines:

More than 200 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza; Israel responds, killing 3

The first graph:

Militants in Gaza fired more than 250 rockets into southern Israel on Saturday, and Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery fire, ending weeks of relative calm and threatening efforts to forge a long-term truce.

Most readers do not read further than the headline and maybe the first paragraph. Their impression will understandably be that "militants in Gaza" started the fight and that the Zionists "responded". But that is far from the truth.

One has to read down to the fifteenth paragraph to learn that those 'facts' are probably false:

The Israeli military reported on Friday that two soldiers were lightly wounded in a shooting incident along its border with Gaza. In response, Israel struck sites belonging to the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, killing two fighters.

Also on Friday, two Palestinian protesters were killed taking part in ongoing weekly demonstrations at the border fence with Israel, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Note the sequencing. The exchange is again described as a "response" by Israel. The two murdered demonstrators, who were unarmed and posed no threat to Israel, are mentioned as an aside.

But is was their murder, by Israeli snipers, that actually started the escalating violence:

“It’s a reply to the Israeli targeting of peaceful civilians yesterday by Israeli snipers during the 58th Friday of Great March of Return,” said Basem Naim, a member of Hamas’s bureau for international relations, referring to the weekly protests staged in Gaza since last year. “Also, to the procrastination policies of the occupation toward lifting the siege on Gaza.”

A second story at Bezos' blog, filed later, follows the same scheme though its first paragraph is slightly more neutral. It is headlined:

Death toll rises as Gaza militants fire more than 400 rockets into Israel and Israel responds with airstrikes

An escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza over the weekend also brought with it a growing death toll Sunday, with reports that six Palestinians, including a pregnant mother and a baby, had been killed by Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave and one Israeli man killed as more than 450 rockets and projectiles were fired into southern Israel from Gaza.

In the following paragraphs there are eight statements attributed to the Israeli side and one from Palestinians. The Friday murder of two Palestinian civilians is only mentioned in paragraph sixteen.

The New York Times is equally partisan with the headline also falsely claiming that Israeli "responds":

Gaza Militants Fire 250 Rockets, and Israel Responds With Airstrikes

Palestinian militants launched about 250 rockets and mortars into southern Israel from Gaza on Saturday, and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes and tank fire against targets across the Palestinian territory, as tensions along the volatile border boiled over and a fragile cease-fire faltered again.

The piece also gives ample room to Israeli military claims. The murder of the two Palestinians on Friday, the immediate cause of the exchange, is mentioned as an aside in the fifteenth paragraph:

Saturday’s escalation in violence came a day after two Israeli soldiers were wounded by a Gaza sniper and four Palestinians were killed. Two were shot by Israeli forces during Friday’s weekly protest along the fence dividing the Palestinian coastal territory from Israel, according to Gaza health officials.

This fake reporting saying that Israel "responds" is nothing new. As Louis Allday wrote in 2011:

If one consults only mainstream media for information on the conflict in Palestine, what is immediately striking is that Israel appears to be in a permanent state of “retaliation” — a phrase which immediately confers at least a modicum of legitimacy or justification upon the act to which it refers. Israel is never presented as the aggressor and however much its actions are condemned — which they are by some mainstream sources — they are invariably portrayed as a reaction to some form of provocation. Conversely, missiles launched from the Gaza Strip or southern Lebanon are habitually portrayed as “attacks” — never “retaliations,” even if Israel has launched a devastating missile strike immediately prior to the event — as so often is the case.
The public is subliminally conditioned to understand that Israel is a permanent victim that on occasion is forced to lash out in response to the ostensibly irrational and unruly aggression of illegitimate non-state actors that encircle it.

This warped and cursory reporting by U.S. media of the conflicts launched by Israel is contrasted by reporting in Israeli itself. This Haaretz writeup of this weekend's escalation, while also partisan, is way more informative than any reporting from the U.S. side. It explains the political background of the struggle:

Hamas Twists Israel's Arm Right Before the Eurovision and Independence Day
Killing of Hamas operatives, delay in Qatari money transfer spurred a significant escalation

The escalation between Israel and the Gaza factions over the weekend – more than 400 rockets fired at Israel, a broad bombing of Gaza by the air force, seven Palestinians killed and six Israelis wounded – reflects an attempt by Hamas to address its economic woes by putting military pressure on Israel at a sensitive time.
...
To understand what’s happening, it’s crucial to revisit events from before the April 9 election. In recent months, Egyptian intelligence officials have been mediating between Israel and Hamas in an attempt to reach long-term agreements. The Palestinians would put a complete stop to airborne firebombs and rockets, while Israel would ease movement through border crossings, allow large sums of Qatari money into the Gaza Strip and take steps to accommodate large-scale, internationally-financed projects in Gaza to improve the crumbling infrastructure. At a later stage, talks over a prisoner swap would be renewed.

Ahead of the election, and in light of the promises by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in the hopes of avoiding a conflict as Israelis voted, Hamas held its fire. But the payoff didn’t arrive at a pace that satisfied the Palestinians. Israel wasn’t quick to meet its commitments. The concessions at the border crossings were anything but swift, the number of trucks bringing goods into Gaza every day was modest, and efforts to increase the electricity supply hadn’t yet begun.

An unfortunately paywalled Haaretz opinion piece draws the correct historic comparison: The Gaza Ghetto Uprising

In this case it is undoubtedly the Palestinian side that is responding to Israeli violence. But even if Palestinians would fire missiles without an immediate cause it would be within the full rights of the Palestinian people. In its 1982 Resolution 37/43 the General Assembly of the United Nations reaffirmed:

the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle;

The UN GA resolution is standing international law. The Palestinian people have the right to resist against the occupation force.

In practice as well as legally Israel is a colonial entity that occupies Palestinian land, especially in Gaza and the West Bank. Any armed struggle by Palestinians against the occupation, provoked or not, is thus morally and legally justified.

But do not expect that any 'western' mainstream media will ever point that out.

Posted by b at 08:23 AM | Comments (80)

May 03, 2019

Venezuela - Forensics Of A Clownish Coup - (Updated)

Tuesdays clownish coup attempt in Venezuela failed. The Trump administration got snookered. It will have to either change its tactic or leave the issue alone. National Security Advisor John Bolton is pressing for a war on Venezuela.

While the Pentagon and the countries neighboring Venezuela are against the use of military force, it is Bolton who has President Trump's ear. The planning for a war seems to progress fast.

Lucas Tomlinson @LucasFoxNews - 00:18 utc- 3 May 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton just left Pentagon following meeting with acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan in secure conference room known as ‘The Tank’ to discuss military options for Venezuela, per senior defense official

A similar meeting took place on Wednesday May 1 in the White House.

The head of U.S. Southern Command admits that plans are ready but plays down the chance for a war:

Admiral Craig Faller insisted that the U.S. wanted a peaceful transfer of power but declared that his Southern Command was ready for any scenario. He said his military staff had made 'Day Now' plans to prepare for an immediate change of power as opposition leader Juan Guaido tries to topple Maduro.

'We call it Day Now because there is going to be a day when the legitimate government takes over, and it's going to come when we least expect it - and it could be right now,' Faller said. But Faller, the head of the Southern Command in Latin America, insisted: 'Our leadership's been clear: It has to be, should be, primarily a democratic transition.'

---
UPDATE (May 5):

In a very unusual move U.S. Southern Command put out a press statement about the Pentagon meeting:

Yesterday the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) was asked by Acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick M. Shanahan, to remain in Washington D.C. to provide a current assessment on the situation in Venezuela and the status on planning for military options
...
U.S. Southern Command stands with the people of Venezuela who are suffering at the hand of the illegitimate Maduro regime and remains prepared to support all options, when requested by senior leadership.

That U.S. Southcom was told to release this, lets me believe that it is part of scare tactic, not of serious war planning. Then again - the last sentence is somewhat confusing. Which "senior leadership" is meant here. The U.S. one or the wannabe leaders Guaidó/López? As Guaidó is recognized as 'interim President' by the U.S. could he ask the U.S. military to help him to 'restore democracy', i.e. request an invasion? Would that be a way for Trump to avoid a Congress vote?

Politico seems to confirm that the current talk of military planning is a head fake:

Two U.S. officials told POLITICO these actions are designed more to rattle Maduro — and Venezuelan military leaders who have been a key source of support for him — than to foreshadow an American military effort in Venezuela.

One can not "rattle Maduro" by tough talk. He hails from a tough neighborhood and has a working class and trade union background. Even the threat of an aircraft carrier offshore of Caracas, as the insane Senator Lindsay Graham demands, would not rattle him.

But even if the current tough talk and military planning is just for show, what happens when the White House recognizes that it does not have any effect? What will be the the next step after that?

End Update
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Venezuela is not an easy target. Colonel (ret.) Larry Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, writes:

I know the Venezuelan military; I’ve trained some of them.
...
The majority of them, if the U.S. military arrives in Venezuela, will take to the hills – very formidable hills, with jungle-like backdrops – and they will harass, kill, take prisoner from time to time, and generally hold out forever or until the “gringos” leave. We might remember how the North Vietnamese and the Taliban accomplished this; well, so will the Venezuelans.

The opposition is wary of a U.S. intervention:

Many believe U.S. troops could ignite internal conflicts within the military, irregular forces linked to Maduro and criminal cartels. Intervention would also undermine Guaidó’s claim to be a grass roots Venezuelan leader by seeming to confirm that he’s exactly what Maduro has claimed: A puppet of the United States.

A U.S. military intervention would “bring more problems than solutions,” said Carlos Valero, a Guaidó supporter in the National Assembly.
...
Political analyst Felix Seijas, director of the Delphos polling agency in Caracas, says fewer than a fifth of the Venezuelans he has surveyed this year support a military intervention. The numbers have gone up only slightly since the beginning of the year.

There were more warnings from Russia during a Trump-Putin phone call today:

While exchanging views on the situation around Venezuela, the President of Russia underscored that only the Venezuelans themselves have the right to determine the future of their country, whereas outside interference in the country’s internal affairs and attempts to change the government in Caracas by force undermine prospects for a political settlement of the crisis.

The planning and decision making for the next phase of the U.S. attack on Venezuela will take time.

Meanwhile we can continue to analyze why the U.S. coup plan failed so devastatingly.

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Forensics Of A Clownish Coup - (Updated)

Posted by b at 01:50 PM | Comments (274)

May 02, 2019

Venezuela - Coup Failure Necessitates A New Policy - Bolton The Stache Is Pushing For War

After the failed coup attempt in Venezuela at least some people recognize the reality that its government has significant support. The coups failure necessitates a new policy. Unfortunately John Bolton is the man in charge of it. He is likely to push for a war.

U.S. media, especially cable TV, is clearly working in favor of 'regime change' in Venezuela. They even avoid to call the intended coup a coup.

Many U.S. journalist who regularly write on South America are extremely biased and have no qualms to lie. Consider this by Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga in today's Washington Post:

A pro-government rally on Wednesday next to Miraflores, the presidential palace, drew about 500 people, far fewer than the multiple rallies of thousands of people supporting Guaidó.

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Now watch this drone clip of the described rally.


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One can also compare the WaPo take to the (similar biased) NYT account which at least gets some facts straight:

Across town in central Caracas, thousands of Mr. Maduro’s supporters dressed in red marched along the main highway toward the presidential palace. Most appeared to be retirees or public sector workers. Many were brought in from across the country by public buses that stretched for miles on the side of the highway.

It was one of the biggest pro-government demonstrations in Caracas in months, underlining the government’s desire to portray strength and tenacity after the failed uprising.

To get a good picture of the situation in Venezuela and the upcoming new policies one has to combine many sources. Some media and reporters are simply much better than others. A few point how embarrassingly Tuesday's coup attempt and the crazy White House plans failed. 

Bloomberg writes:

It was a ploy that from its outset felt like a long shot. Before dawn Tuesday, Juan Guaido, flanked by his political mentor Leopoldo Lopez and a handful of soldiers who had broken ranks, issued a message to Venezuela and the world: The time to topple Nicolas Maduro’s authoritarian regime was right now.
...
The whole episode was so bizarre -- with Guaido seemingly lacking the military might to have any chance at all -- that it was hard to understand the day’s events.

The Associated Press' Matt Lee and Ben Fox have a similar fair take:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Coup Failure Necessitates A New Policy - Bolton The Stache Is Pushing For War

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (96)

May 01, 2019

Venezuela - Guaidó Got Snookered - White House Starts Beating War Drums

Yesterday's failed coup attempt in Venezuela significantly hurt the Trump administration's international standing. It delegitimized its Venezuelan clients Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López. After recognizing that their original 'regime change' plan failed (again) the White House starts to beat the war drums.

That wasn't the plan:

The Trump administration, which has backed Mr. Guaidó since he first challenged Mr. Maduro’s authority more than three months ago, clearly thought the day would unfold differently.

There is no official explanation why the Trump administration believed that the comical coup attempt by Juan Guaidó and his master Leopolo López would work.

There are signs though that the government of President Nicolas Maduro set a trap. Several people in the top echelon of the Venezuelan government gave false promises that they would join the U.S. proxy side. They snookered Guaidó into launching his coup to let him fail.


Juan Guaidó - bigger

A Washington Post wrap-up says that everyone expected important people to change sides:

The chaos in Caracas indicated that, while a plan had been in motion, it may not have unfolded as anticipated.
...
Announcements by senior Maduro officials that they were changing sides did not materialize, and the administration appeared increasingly concerned as it debated next steps.
...
Earlier Tuesday, Bolton had told reporters that Trump is watching political developments in Venezuela “minute by minute.” Bolton also put unusual public pressure on individual Venezuela government officials to renounce Maduro and embrace the political opposition.
...
“It’s a very delicate moment,” Bolton said. “The president wants to see a peaceful transfer of power,” which he added would be possible if enough military and government figures switch allegiances.
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In an apparent attempt to divide Maduro’s government, Bolton said senior officials, including Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, had been in secret talks with Guaidó, and he called on them to “make good on their commitments” to help oust Maduro.
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Bolton called by name for three officials in Venezuela — the defense minister, the chief judge of the Supreme Court, and the commander of the presidential guard — to support Guaidó taking power.
...
A senior Latin American official said opposition talks had been going on with Padrino and the other two for “the last several weeks,” and that the three had been promised retention in their current positions if they came out publicly in support of “constitutional order” that would allow Guaidó to take power. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the fast-moving and confusing situation, said those involved in the negotiations had no initial explanation for what went wrong, ...
...
Elliott Abrams, the administration’s special envoy for Venezuela, told reporters Tuesday that the United States had expected Padrino, along with the head of the Maduro-appointed Supreme Court and the head of the national guard, to declare their support for the Venezuelan constitution, if not necessarily for Guaidó himself.
...
He said that opposition figures had held discussions with the three influential officials in Maduro’s government ahead of those planned demonstrations.
...
Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s ambassador to the United States, also said Monday that the opposition leadership had had “conversations with part of the inner circle of Maduro” and that “they know that Maduro is not going anywhere. That Maduro is the past . . . and that’s why they want to look for a different future for Venezuela.”

Everyone in Washington believed that significant figures in the Venezuelan government would change sides. They did not do so. Vladimir Padrino rejected the coup within an hour after Guaidó announced it. It seems that the Guaidó side got played by the Venezuelan Defense Minister and several other officials and officers. They seem to have promised to support Guaidó only to bait him into taking steps that would embarrass him.

A McClatchy piece headlined "What went wrong?" seems to confirm this interpretation:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Guaidó Got Snookered - White House Starts Beating War Drums

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (170)

April 30, 2019

Venezuela - Random Guyaidó's New Coup Attempt Turns Out to Be A Dangerous Joke

(This post was appended throughout the day. It is in chronological order.)
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The Random Guyaidó who the Trump administration tries to make president of Venezuela just launched another coup attempt against the government.

He announced his intent in a series of tweets around 6:00 am local time (machine translated):

Juan Guaidó @jguaido - 9:58 utc - 30 Apr 2019

People of Venezuela began the end of usurpation. At this moment I meet the main military units of our armed force initiating the final phase of Operation Freedom.

Venezuelan people we go to the street, national armed force to continue the deployment until we consolidate the end of the encroachment that is already irreversible.

The national armed forces have made the right decision, they have the support of the Venezuelan people, with the endorsement of our Constitution, with the guarantee of being on the right side of the story. To deploy the forces to achieve the cessation of usurpation.

People of Venezuela, we need to go out on the streets together, to support the democratic forces and to regain our freedom. Organized and together mocilícense the main military units. People of Caracas, all to La Carlota.

Guaido also posted a short video which shows talking into the camera with some 30 soldiers standing behind him.


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Some members of the armed forces released Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader under house arrest since he, in 2014, organized violent protests against the government. Guaidó and López went to the La Carlota airforce base near Caracas. Lopez tweeted (machine translated):

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Random Guyaidó's New Coup Attempt Turns Out to Be A Dangerous Joke

Posted by b at 07:31 AM | Comments (297)

April 29, 2019

Baghdadi Is Back And Turkey Might Be His Next Target

Remember this dude?


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He is back.


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Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self declared caliph of ISIS, appeared in new video published today. These are the first pictures of him since some three plus years ago. He mentions the defeat in Baghouz. A speaker in the video, not Baghdadi, mentions the recent attacks in Sri Lanka which killed over 250 people and the recent ouster of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan. A short excerpt of the 18 minutes long video can be seen here.

There are three disguised people Baghdadi is talking to. The video is heavily edited and it appears that it was filmed in many takes. The visible walls are of drapery but do not seem to be the inside of a tent. The ground is flat. The light is artificial. The sound is solid but has no echos. This was probably filmed in a room of a larger house.

The gun to his right is a Kalashnikov AKS-74U with a large (45 rounds) magazine:

US journalist C. J. Chivers reported that the gun was nicknamed "the Osama" in jihadist circles, after Osama bin Laden was photographed next to an AKS-74U.

Pictures of the (now dead) leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi showed the same type of gun. It is not a very practical weapon but demonstrates Baghdadi's heritage.

Baghdadi accepts the oath of loyalty from groups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Written text in the video says that the attack in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for Baghouz in Syria where ISIS made its last stand. It claims that the ISIS jihadists did not hand over any area and died fighting to the end in Sirte, Mosul, Raqqa and Baghouz. At least the claim about Raqqa is wrong. When the U.S. destroyed Raqqa some 2-3,000 ISIS fighters negotiated their exit with the U.S. proxies on the ground and moved south-east to attack the Syrian army.

Baghdadi says that ISIS will eventually win in a war of attrition against the "Crusaders". This points to a continuous, geographically dispersed terror campaign after it no longer holds any ground. At one point one of the three other people gives him a folder with some plans. The folder is marked Wilayat Turkey. (Wilayat means province of the Islamic State).

 


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Baghdadi looks well fed. The reports of him ailing and thin are obviously wrong. His face and hands and those of his guests show no signs of harsh weather or even sun exposure.

One wonders whose guest he is.

Posted by b at 02:34 PM | Comments (62)

April 28, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-24

I also wish a Happy Easter to those of you who, like the guys below, celebrate it today under Orthodox rites.

Joe Biden on May 8 2018 at Brookings Institute:

I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble. [...] [A]ll kidding aside, we have not seen this huge concentration of wealth. And the folks at the top aren’t bad guys. I get in trouble in my party when I say wealthy Americans are just as patriotic as poor folks. I found no distinction. I really haven’t.

The piece mentions that the U.S. is not-agreement-capable. Today National Security Advisor John Bolton again attested that:

National security adviser John Bolton confirmed on "Fox News Sunday" that a Trump administration official signed a document pledging to pay North Korea a $2 million hospital bill to release Otto Warmbier, though he said no money was ultimately transferred.

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Other issues:

Saudis citizens seem to be free to commit crimes within the United States:

Pro Publica - Saudi Fugitives Accused of Serious Crimes Get Help to Flee While U.S. Officials Look the Other Way

A six part investigation of Greta Thunberg and the powers behind her climate campaign:

Cory Morningstar (aka @elleprovocateur) - The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – A Decade of Social Manipulation for the Corporate Capture of Nature [ACT VI – Crescendo]

Similar powers are behind the New Green Deal (explained here (vid)) that some Democrats are pushing for. Cory ends her piece with a link to a highly recommendable 2004 talk by Arundhati Roy on The NGO-ization of resistance (vid).

On a quite similar note:

Jacob Levich (aka @cordeliers) - Bill Gates and the Myth of Overpopulation

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Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:41 PM | Comments (95)

New York Times Cartoons Influenced San Diego Synagogue Shooter?

Yesterday John Earnest, a 19 year old white supremacist, entered a synagogue in San Diego with an AR-15 style weapon. Inside the synagogue, filled with Sabbath worshipers, he open fire and killed one person and wounded three. He fled but later surrendered to police officers.

Before the attack Earnest uploaded "an open letter" with lots of anti-Semitic and homophobic tropes. He published the link to the letter on the radical right wing site 8ch.net. The open letter is in the question and answer style of an interview:

“How does killing Jews help the European race? The European race is doomed? What are you talking about? These Jews were innocent!”
Every Jew is responsible for the meticulously planned genocide of the European race. They act as a unit, and every Jew plays his part to enslave the other races around him—whether consciously or subconsciously. Their crimes are endless. For lying and deceiving the public through their exorbitant role in news media; ...

The author claims that he set fire on nearby mosque last month and says that he drew inspiration from the terrorist who in March killed some 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand.

Earnest calls himself a Christian and quotes (evangelical) scripture. There are also a few Q&As about Trump and 'Conservatives' (emphasis added):

“Are you a Trump supporter?”
You mean that Zionist, Jew-loving, anti-White, traitorous cocksucker? Don’t make me laugh.

“Are you affiliated with any political ideology?”
Yes. It’s called not wanting to go extinct.

“Are you a conservative?”
I am not a useless, spineless coward so no—I am not a conservative. Conservative is a misnomer. They conserve nothing. They’ll complain all they want but they won’t take up arms and threaten their government with death (the only thing that works). Ever heard about the Battle of Athens (1946)? Find your balls again you insufferable faggots. If you do not defend your rights you deserve none.

Where did John Earnest get these antisemitic and homophobic ideas from?

It may well be that Earnest read the New York Times.

The caricature below appeared in Thursday's international print edition of the New York Times.


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Cont. reading: New York Times Cartoons Influenced San Diego Synagogue Shooter?

Posted by b at 08:36 AM | Comments (66)

April 27, 2019

Russia Think Tank Study Shows How To Overextend And Unbalance The U.S. of A.

The Russian institute for Research and Analysis for National Defense (RAND) recently assessed how to further damage the United States:

Overextending and Unbalancing Russia - Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options

This brief summarizes a report that comprehensively examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the Russian Federation and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress —overextend and unbalance— the United States' economy and armed forces and the U.S. government's political standing at home and abroad. Some of the options examined are clearly more promising than others, but any would need to be evaluated in terms of the overall strategy for dealing with the United States, which neither the report nor this brief has attempted to do.

Today’s United States suffers from many vulnerabilities — the financial crisis has caused a drop in living standards,  regressive tax policies that have furthered that decline, a decreasing life expectancy, and increasing authoritarianism under Barack Obama's and now Donald Trump's rule. Such vulnerabilities are coupled with deep-seated (if exaggerated) anxieties about the possibility of Russia-inspired political manipulation, loss of great power status, and even military attack.

Despite these vulnerabilities and anxieties, the United States remains a powerful country that still manages to be Russia's peer competitor in a few key domains. Recognizing that some level of competition with the United States is inevitable, RAND researchers conducted a qualitative assessment of “cost-imposing options” that could unbalance and overextend the United States. Such cost-imposing options could place new burdens on the United States, ideally heavier burdens than would be imposed on the Russian Federation for pursuing those options.

A team of RAND experts developed economic, geopolitical, ideological, informational, and military options and qualitatively assessed them in terms of their likelihood of success in extending the United States, their benefits, and their risks and costs.

The study so far had little echo in U.S. media. One might have thought that such a publication would raise a ruckus over the sinister plans the Kremlin has for the United States.

It didn't cause a ruckus because the above quote is faked. The study exists. It was published by RAND Corp, a U.S. think tank financed by the Pentagon. But the quote switched the role of Russia and the United States.

The original is headlined:

    Overextending and Unbalancing Russia - Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options

Cont. reading: Russia Think Tank Study Shows How To Overextend And Unbalance The U.S. of A.

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (62)

April 26, 2019

U.S. Citizens Who Raided North Korea's Embassy In Spain Are "Dissidents"?

Spanish authorities suspected the CIA of involvement in the February 22 raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid:

At least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy and interrogated diplomatic staff have been identified and have connections to the US intelligence agency. The CIA has denied any involvement but [Spanish] government sources say their response was “unconvincing.”

The CIA countered the Spanish reports of its involvement by exposing its 'regime change' proxy group that executed the raid:

The group behind the late February operation is known as Cheollima Civil Defense, a secretive dissident organization committed to overthrowing the Kim dynasty, people familiar with the planning and execution of the mission told The Washington Post.
...
“This group is the first known resistance movement against North Korea, which makes its activities very newsworthy,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a North Korea expert at Tufts University.

Sung-Yoon Lee is "Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies and assistant professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University." He seems to believe that a violent raid by CIA related Korean-Americans on a North Korean embassy in a third country is "resistance".

The raid came a few days before the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi. It was timed to blow up the negotiations.

In late March a Spanish judge named one Adrian Hong Chang as the leader of the embassy raid. Adrian Hong Chen is the head of the Cheollima Civil Defense/Free Joseon group. The judge demanded the extradition of Hong and his abettors from the United States. One of those persons has since been caught:

A U.S Marine veteran from Southern California was part of a group of dissidents wielding machetes and fake guns when they stormed North Korea's embassy in Madrid and tied up and beat officials inside, federal prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint released Tuesday.

Spain is seeking to extradite Christopher Philip Ahn on charges including robbery, illegal restraint and criminal organization. Judge Jean Rosenbluth denied bond for Ahn during a Los Angeles court hearing attended by his wife, mother and about two dozen other supporters.
...
Prosecutors said Ahn was arrested during a raid last week on the Los Angeles apartment of a co-defendant, Adrian Hong Chang, a leader of the Free Joseon group. Hong Chang was not at home and has not been arrested.

One reason that bail was denied is the extraordinary violence the group used:

The group — armed with machetes, iron bars, knives and fake guns — beat some of the workers and then tied them up with shackles and cables, prosecutors alleged. They put bags over some of the workers' heads, beat them and threatened them with the metal bars and guns, according to the court papers.

Interestingly it was Adrian Hong Chang, the group's leader, who ratted out Christopher Philip Ahn:

After the attack, Hong Chang also met with FBI agents at the bureau's office in Los Angeles and told them that Christopher Ahn, a former Marine, had participated in the attack.

One of the embassy workers later identified Ahn as an attacker from his LinkedIn profile picture.


Christopher Philip Ahn, Adrian Hong Chang

It seems that the Spanish authorities made enough of a stink to push the U.S. to seriously act against the group. But the embassy raiders still have their defenders.

At NKNews.org Professor Sung Yong Lee says that the prosecutor's court memo (pdf) in the Christopher Philip Ahn case is trash:

Cont. reading: U.S. Citizens Who Raided North Korea's Embassy In Spain Are "Dissidents"?

Posted by b at 02:05 PM | Comments (71)

April 25, 2019

Joe Biden Joins Crowded Primaries

Today we learned that this dude is again running for president.


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In his campaign launch video Joe Biden waxes about the "core values of America" but makes zero political proposals. He claims:

Our very democracy, everything that has made America, America, is at stake. That's why today I'm announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.

The last time Joe Biden attempted to run, he claimed that he was motivated by his son Beau's dying wish for him to become president. Biden 'leaked' that 'dying wish' himself and the details of the 'dying wish' story changed over time.

There are now 20 Democrats running in the primaries for the 2020 presidential election. Only a few of them have the potential to beat Trump.

Biden is not one of them. His biggest strength is that his well known. It is also his biggest weakness. Biden is beholden to Wall Street, supported the Iraq war resolution (vid) and the Ukrainian fascists. His speeches are full of platitudes and balderdash. Biden has no new political program. His sole point is get rid of President Trump.

There are number of 'new' Obama like Democrats running, Robert Francis O'Rourke, aka Beto, and Pete Buttigieg of whom we are warned. Another type are the known 'centrists' - Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar. There are also a number of nonames with no chances to win. Most of them fall into the centrist/bipartisan category.

Unfortunately the Democrats handed Trump the gift of Russiagate. For more than two years they fought him on those grounds. They lost the fight when the Mueller investigation absolved Trump. The false accusations against him will become a major campaign issue. Trump will use the issue to enrage his base. He will say that it was unjust to accuse him of being a Russian stooge. Many people will agree with him if only on that point.

The fight against Trump can not be won in the center. Turnout will be the key factor. Without strong progressive positions the turnout in the general election for any Democratic candidate will be too low to win.

Three candidates fit that corner.

Elizabeth Warren has good progressive ideas. Unfortunately her personality is as likable as Hillary Clinton's. She does not connect emotionally and is difficult to sell.

Bernie Sanders may well have the best chance to beat Trump on domestic policies. But he is no progressive on foreign policy issues.

Tulsi Gabbard has the best overall program but the media ignore her and the Democratic Party establishment is strongly against her. She has no chance to win the primaries.

A Sanders/Gabbard ticket in the general election is one I probably could support. Would it be strong enough to beat Trump?

Posted by b at 02:04 PM | Comments (210)

April 24, 2019

End Of Sanction Waivers For Iran's Oil Will Hurt Trump's Voter Support

The U.S. is waging a total economic war on Iran:

The United States announced on April 22 it will no longer grant sanctions exemptions to eight countries, including Turkey.
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"This decision is intended to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue," the White House said in a statement.

"The Trump administration and our allies are determined to sustain and expand the maximum economic pressure campaign against Iran to end the regime's destabilizing activity threatening the United States, our partners and allies and security in the Middle East," it said.
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Eight governments were initially given six-month reprieves from the unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran. They were China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.

Iran currently exports about 1 million barrels of oil per day. The current exemptions from unilateral U.S. sanctions end on April 30. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are U.S. protectorates. They will do as told. Italy and Greece are less dependent and may show signs of resistance. India's reaction depends on the outcome of its current election. China will probably not adhere to the U.S. command. Turkey needs Iranian oil and gas. It can not without it within a reasonable time frame. Iraq is most dependent on Iranian oil and gas which it needs to generate electricity. No electricity during the hot summer would likely lead to riots.

The U.S. Secretary of State, "we lie, we cheat, we steal" (vid) Mike Pompeo, set out 12 demands to Iran which sum up to demanding a total capitulation. Iran will of course not fulfill any of them. It is the U.S. which, without reason, again raised hostility against the country. Given its geography and capabilities Iran has no reason to fear any U.S. aggression.

Iran's leader Ali Khamenei was not impressed by the sanction issue:

Speaking at a meeting with a large group of Iranian workers on Wednesday, Leader played down Washington’s recent decision to end exemptions from sanctions for countries buying oil from Tehran.

“In the first place, such attempts will lead nowhere, and we are capable of exporting as much oil as we need and want,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The Leader warned that “this act of hostility will not go unanswered,” emphasizing that the Iranian nation “will not sit idly by” in the face of its enemies.

After it withdrew from the international nuclear deal with Iran, the Trump administration made eight requests to start new negotiations. All of these were rejected. As the Russian government says, the U.S. is "not-agreement-capable". The Iranian president has a similar view:

President Hassan Rouhani says Washington’s claims of seeking negotiations with Iran are “mere lies” and that the United States, in fact, intends to force the Iranian nation to its knees.

Contrary to what some are trying to promote, “the US does not possess the willingness for negotiations at all,” the president told a cabinet session in Tehran on Wednesday.
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Rouhani said the US subversive measures against Iran have all failed on international, regional, and political arenas, and that its propagandist attempts targeting the Islamic Republic have all been defeated.

Washington has been and will likewise be frustrated in its anti-Iran economic drive, he added.

Some fear that the U.S. is preparing for war on Iran:

The Trump administration is laying siege to Iran. Taking pages from the Iraq War playbook, senior officials paint a picture of a rogue, outlaw, terrorist regime bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and whose “malign activities” are the cause of all the chaos in the Middle East. They know what they are doing. They have done it before. They are building a case for war.

The neoconservatives in the Trump administration may want to that. But it is not possible to wage war on Iran without causing a global depression.


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As the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy rightly points out, the Hormuz Strait, through which most Middle East energy exports flows, is under Iranian control:

Cont. reading: End Of Sanction Waivers For Iran's Oil Will Hurt Trump's Voter Support

Posted by b at 08:47 AM | Comments (162)

April 21, 2019

Happy Easter

Easter echoes the older human festivities that celebrate the arrival of spring. The dark and cold days of winter are gone. The bright time of fertility has come.

Today's fertility symbols of Easter, the egg and the hare, relate to the old Germanic fertility goddess Eostre (Ostara).

The Christian resurrection of Jesus is probably a transformation of the story of Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess of love who stepped down into the underworld of death but was revived.

When the Christian belief spread from its eastern Mediterranean origin, the incorporation of old local gods and fables helped to convert the old multi-theistic societies to the new believe. The gods of the pre-Christian religions were not completely discarded, but their tales transformed to support the message the Christian preachers were spreading.

 


Faberge egg with spring flowers and music box - bigger - detail

A personal Easter ritual, inherited from my father, is to read out loud the Easter Walk from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's, Faust, Part I:

Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,

Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.

They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.

For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world's night,
All have come out to the day's broad light.
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How it hums o'er the fields and clangs from the steeple!
This is the real heaven of the people,
Both great and little are merry and gay,
I am a man, too, I can be, to-day.

Happy Easter!

Posted by b at 08:14 AM | Comments (99)

April 20, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-23

Note: Your host is traveling and visiting family. Posting throughout Easter will be light.

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The piece and issue was picked up by several other blogs and outlets:

No children or ducks harmed by novichok, say health officials - Guardian

Wiltshire council clarification follows claims Donald Trump was shown images to contrary

New York Times Accidentally Unravels UK Government's Official Skripal Narrative - Sputnik
The Official Skripal Story is a Dead Duck - Craig Murray
Trump in Dumps as Spook Picks Sick Kids’n’Dead Duck Trick Pics - The Blogmire
Wie Großbritannien und CIA Donald Trump gegen Russland manipulierten - RT Deutsch
Hospitalized children & dead ducks? The ‘official’ Skripal narrative goes completely quackers - RT English

  • April 18 - First Thoughts On The Mueller Report Release
  • Still reading it. Mueller left out many important issues. The genesis of Russiagate is missing from the report as is any word on the falsehoods in the Steele dossier. The DNC "hack" is taken as fact even though the allegation of Russian involvement is solely based on the word of Crowdstrike, a company with well known anti-Russian bias hired by the DNC.

See also: Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators - The Hill
and Interview with George Papadopoulos (audio) - Michael Tracey

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A handy reference to counter the dozens of smears against Julian Assange:

Debunking All The Assange Smears - Caitlin Johnstone

Syria:

The war isn't over. Over the last days Syrian troops were attacked by ISIS remnants in desert and by Al-Qaeda fighters around Idleb. Dozens of soldiers died. There is also a fuel scarcety as U.S. sanctions interrupted oil and fuel supplies from Iran.

Two pieces on how the U.S. and its allies nurtured al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria:

A Brief History of the Destruction of Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria - William Van Wagenen
EXCLUSIVE: How CIA & allies helped jihadists in Syria - Interview with Maxime Chaix (Recommended)

Maxime Chaix, an expert on clandestine operations, intelligence and US foreign policy, is a journalist and regular contributor to GlobalGeoNews.com. He has written La guerre de l’ombre en Syrie (The Shadow War in Syria, published in French by Éditions Erick Bonnier), a shocker of a book in which he reveals insightful information on the support which several Western intelligence services provided to jihadist militias in Syria, starting with the CIA. His investigation reveals a multi-faceted state scandal and points out the murky game played by the Western powers and their Middle Eastern allies in the Levant.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (245)

April 19, 2019

Libya - U.S. Reveals Support For Hafter's Side

The situation on the ground in Libya has changed little since we last looked at it two weeks ago.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) troops of General Hafter attack the militias which support the UN recognized government in Tripoli from the south. The LNA still lacks forces for a larger break through. Several objects at the front changed hands several times. There are bloody skirmishes but no big fights. Those are still to come.


Map by South Front - bigger

Some people doubt that Hafter can be successful:

Analysts believe that Haftar over-estimates the strength of his LNA.

They say the controversial field marshal, who backs an administration rival to the GNA based in eastern Libya, was counting on a quick collapse of Tripoli militias.

But pro-GNA reinforcements from around Tripoli rushed to assist in driving back his forces.

It was never clear if Hafter really hoped that a lightning attack on Tripoli would achieve a fast victory, or if his sudden move was intended to rally support from outside. He is now certainly getting such support and that will be to his decisive advantage in the longer play.

As we described it:

Hafter has open support from France, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia. The Trump administration is not interested to step into the mess. Hafter is an old CIA asset and if he takes control there is a good chance that the U.S. will have influence over him. As long as Libyan oil flows and keeps the global oil price down Trump will be happy. Russia is trying to stay in the background to not give the anti-Russian forces in Washington an excuse to intervene.

The Muslim Brothers, supported by Turkey and Qatar, are still in play in Misrata but have otherwise lost their influence on the ground.

Since then the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia pledged tens of millions of dollars to support Hafter's move on Tripoli. During the last week Hafter visited President Sisi of Egypt.

Cont. reading: Libya - U.S. Reveals Support For Hafter's Side

Posted by b at 01:30 PM | Comments (84)

April 18, 2019

Security Breach At U.S. Embassies In Tunisia And Kuwait Almost Caused A Disaster

by L. W.

A U.S. security intelligence officer at the U.S. embassy in Kuwait said: "Kuwaiti authorities discovered 200 gram of C4 high explosive packed in a hole inside a book in a rucksack belonging to a U.S. Marine, minutes before the bag was to be placed on a U.S. civilian carrier flight with destination the U.S.  The airline and passengers were spared a real catastrophe."  This took place several days ago but US authorities declined to reveal the breach in security at two U.S. embassies, one in Tunisia and the other in Kuwait.

According to the source, who requested anonymity, an "investigation by U.S. intelligence personnel was carried out to find out the origins of the explosive and the responsibility of the soldier involved."

"The soldier, on duty in Tunisia, was supposed to be posted to a U.S. base in Kuwait. His belongings were sent from the U.S. embassy in Tunisia, following the usual inspection, to the embassy in Kuwait. On the same day that his luggage was sent to Kuwait, he was asked to depart from Tunisia to the U.S. because the post in Kuwait was no longer available. By the time the transfer of the U.S. soldier to Kuwait was revoked his belongings were already in Kuwait and certainly had already been inspected by U.S. personnel", said the source.

When the US soldier’s posting was revoked, his belongings were supposed to follow back home. The U.S. embassy in Kuwait contacted a contracted private company to send the package to the U.S. on board of an American airline. A rapid inspection was carried out by the U.S. carrier during which the content was cleared for shipment.

The source confirmed that the belongings of the U.S. soldier were sealed in Tunisia and sent to Kuwait. The seal remained and the luggage was delivered as such to the contracted carrier who accepted it, among other goods, for shipping to the Kuwait airport on a scheduled day.

"At the airport, Kuwaiti security officers were doing their routine check for explosives when a bag set the monitor’s red-light beeping, signaling suspicious content.  Personnel from the U.S. embassy were called upon and asked to open the package. After meticulous inspection, 200 gram of highly explosive material, C4, were found encased in a book", said the source.

The source revealed that the soldier is not a Muslim. An interrogation carried out by U.S. authorities determined that the soldier was apparently not aware of the content of his package. The source refused to deliver further information about the investigation but said the breach is very serious and could have ended in disaster had the explosive been triggered.

No further information was disclosed. However, the source confirmed that 200 gram of C4 are enough to blow up an entire airplane in the air with all its passengers. According to the source, the US embassies in Tunisia and Kuwait have taken further security measures following this incident.

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Note by b:

L.W., the writer of the above, is a person I trust. S/he has the connections and sources needed for such a story. It is however difficult to verify.

Assuming that it is correct, who might be the most likely culprit?

Posted by b at 04:14 PM | Comments (53)

First Thoughts On The Mueller Report Release

The report (pdf) by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is out. Russiagaters will now try to find any word in there that they could use to contradict the report's conclusion. While I intend to read the full report and to write about it, that will require more time.

For now we are left with the remarks of Attorney General William P. Barr on the release of the report:

As you know, one of the primary purposes of the Special Counsel’s investigation was to determine whether members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, or any individuals associated with that campaign, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. [..] As you will see, the Special Counsel’s report states that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Barr says that the Mueller report insists that Russia attempted to interfere in U.S. elections:

First, the report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.

How exactly was it established that the IRA intended to "sow social discord". Is there any IRA witness that said so? Any documents? No. It is a made up reasoning. The IRA activities were driven by commercial interests. To get as many page-views as possible IRA personnel posted memes on both sides of the political spectrum simply because that is where the viewership is. Just ask Foxnews or CNN. There was no political intent in the IRA's activity. To claim that it intended to "sow social discord" is baseless nonsense.

The claims by social networks that "Russians" did this or that are dubious. Twitter for example recently revised its count of "Russian trolls":

Cont. reading: First Thoughts On The Mueller Report Release

Posted by b at 12:24 PM | Comments (107)

April 17, 2019

Open Thread 2019-22

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:06 PM | Comments (183)

April 16, 2019

CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump

CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump

An ass kissing portrait of Gina Haspel, torture queen and director of the CIA, reveals that she lied to Trump to push for more aggression against Russia.

In March 2018 the British government asserted, without providing any evidence, that the alleged 'Novichok' poisoning of Sergej and Yulia Skripal was the fault of Russia. It urged its allies to expel Russian officials from their countries.

The U.S. alone expelled 60 Russian officials. Trump was furious when he learned that EU countries expelled less than 60 in total. A year ago the Washington Post described the scene:

President Trump seemed distracted in March as his aides briefed him at his Mar-a-Lago resort on the administration’s plan to expel 60 Russian diplomats and suspected spies.

The United States, they explained, would be ousting roughly the same number of Russians as its European allies — part of a coordinated move to punish Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.

“We’ll match their numbers,” Trump instructed, according to a senior administration official. “We’re not taking the lead. We’re matching.”

The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials — far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on.

The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.

The expulsion marked a turn in the Trump administration's relation with Russia:

The incident reflects a tension at the core of the Trump administration’s increasingly hard-nosed stance on Russia: The president instinctually opposes many of the punitive measures pushed by his Cabinet that have crippled his ability to forge a close relationship with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

The past month, in particular, has marked a major turning point in the administration’s stance, according to senior administration officials. There have been mass expulsions of Russian diplomats, sanctions on oligarchs that have bled billions of dollars from Russia’s already weak economy and, for the first time, a presidential tweet that criticized Putin by name for backing Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Today the New York Times portraits Gina Haspel's relation with Trump. The writers seem sympathetic to her and the CIA's position. They include an anecdote of the Skripal expulsion decision that is supposed to let her shine in a good light. But it only proves that the CIA manipulated the president for its own purpose:

Cont. reading: CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump

Posted by b at 08:37 AM | Comments (137)

April 15, 2019

Notre Dame On Fire - Updated

Notre Dame, the 800 years old central cathedral of Paris, is on fire.


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Cont. reading: Notre Dame On Fire - Updated

Posted by b at 01:28 PM | Comments (196)

April 14, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-21

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

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The Washington Post again laments that the U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela failed:

Venezuela’s military, despite U.S. expectations, has not turned on Maduro

Nearly three months later, Venezuela’s top-heavy military remains largely intact under President Nicolás Maduro. The once-brisk pace of defections to neighboring Colombia has slowed to a trickle. Fewer than 1,500 Venezuelan soldiers, relieved by the Colombian government of their weapons and uniforms and housed in sparsely furnished hotel rooms near the border, now sit waiting for something to happen.

The idea that the Venezuelan army would defect was always crazy. Anyone with a bit of knowledge of Venezuela could predict that it would never do so. Reports of lonely soldiers isolated in fourth class hotels in Columbia will not incite any further defections. While the random opposition guy promised amnesty for any soldier moving to his site, the U.S. seeks to arrest one of the few who did:

Venezuela’s ex-spy chief arrested in Madrid on US warrant

Venezuela’s longtime spy chief was arrested Friday in Madrid by Spanish police acting on a U.S. drug warrant a few weeks after he threw his support behind opponents of President Nicolas Maduro.
...
The opposition saw Carvajal’s criticism of Venezuela’s socialist government as a stimulus to prod other military figures to defect, but the country’s armed forces have remained largely loyal to current Maduro.

With the situaton stalled the U.S. is ramping up talk of a military attack on Venezuela:

US Military Attack on Venezuela Mulled by Top Trump Advisors and Latin American Officials at Private DC Meeting

EXCLUSIVE: Away from the public eye, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank hosted a top-level, off-the-record meeting to explore US military options against Venezuela.

Such talks are poor attempts to create some psychological pressure. There are no sound military options. The U.S. is not going to invade Venezuela. It will ramp up sanctions and press its 'allies' to do the same. Venezuela and its people will suffer but they will not give up on resisting U.S. pressure. The current situation will only resolve itself when the regime in Washington or in one of Venezuela's neighboring countries changes.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:00 PM | Comments (152)

Why Is Europe Trying To Sabotage Iran's Nuclear Deal? - (Updated)

Updated below
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The Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), limits Iran's nuclear activities for 15 years. After that period Iran would still be bound by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Additional Protocol. But Iran would be free to produce enriched Uranium for its nuclear reactors.

In October 2017 the U.S. left the treaty and reintroduced economic sanctions against Iran. But the European signatories, France, Britain and Germany, said they would stick to the deal. Gérard Araud, France's ambassador to the United States, tweeted around that time:

Gérard Araud @GerardAraud - 19:25 utc - 8 Sep 2017

France doesn't support any reopening of JCPOA which should be implemented as it is.

France and Germany created a complicate structure to allow some commercial dealing with Iran while escaping secondary U.S. sanction threats. Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei called the construct "a joke" as it will hardly allow any serious trade.

Last week Germany, Britain and France also stepped up nagging Iran about its ballistic missile programs. Iran harshly rejects (vid, recommended) any such criticism. It has long voluntarily limited the range of its missiles to 2,000 kilometer. As it has no modern air force, missiles are its only means to hold its enemies' assets in the Middle East at risk. It will never give up on them.

Iran sticks to its side of the JCPOA deal. It limits its nuclear activities while allowing the IAEA full access to inspect the country. With U.S. sanctions piling up while the Europeans are unwilling to support regular commercial exchange and waffle about Iran's ballistic missiles, it becomes more and more difficult for Iranian politicians to justify the deal. If the U.S. and the EU do not stick to their side of the deal why should Iran do so?

The Europeans continue to drag their feet. Last week the Royal Mail in Britain said that it would no longer accept parcels to Iran. No sound reason was given. Yesterday Gérard Araud, who in 2017 defended the nuclear deal, set out to put it under doubt:

Gérard Araud @GerardAraud - 19:10 utc - 13 Apr 2019

It’s false to say that at the expiration of the JCPOA, Iran will be allowed to enriching uranium. Under the NPT and its additional protocol, it will have to prove, under strict monitoring, that its nuclear activities are civilian.

Gérard Araud @GerardAraud - 19:17 utc - 13 Apr 2019

As we said in 2002 that enriching uranium without a credible civilian program was illegal under the NPT, we’ll be able to react likewise in 2025 if necessary. Sanctions were imposed. Sanctions could be reimposed. There is no “sunset” after the JCPOA.

Gérard Araud @GerardAraud - 19:20 utc - 13 Apr 2019

Russia is providing enriched uranium to the Busheer nuclear power plant. So there won’t be any conceivable reason for Iran to massively enriching uranium after the JCPOA.

Germany should stop to build the Nord Stream II pipeline because it is supposedly dangerous to depend on gas imports from Russia. But Iran should trust Russia with providing Uranium for its nuclear plants? Why is Germany allowed to enrich Uranium for its nuclear plants? Russia could surely provide that too.

After the 15 year moratorium under the JCPOA ends, Iran is of course free to produce its own Uranium for its own nuclear plants. There is nothing in international laws that demands that Iran continues to buy it from Russia. Araud's statement makes no sense.

This morning Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister replied to Araud:

Cont. reading: Why Is Europe Trying To Sabotage Iran's Nuclear Deal? - (Updated)

Posted by b at 10:04 AM | Comments (53)

April 13, 2019

CIA's Vault 7 Files Launched New Case Against Assange - Attack Intends To Prevent Further Leaks

After the arrest of Julian Assange by British police and the unsealing of the U.S. indictment against him, the question is why is the U.S. doing this and why now?

The indictment alleges that Assange 'conspired' with Chelsea Manning by giving support to her attempt to find a password to an account that would have allowed her to conceal her pilfering of U.S. documents. Glenn Greenwald argues that the case is quite thin and clearly an attack on press freedom. That a reporter or editor has to help a source to conceal its identity is part of the job description.

The Obama administration, not known for reluctance to go after whistleblowers, had already weighed the 'conspired' case and decided against prosecuting it.

It is thus likely that the case, as unsealed now, is only a pretext to extradite Assange from Britain. The real case will only get unsealed if and when Assange is in U.S. custody.

National security reporter William Arkin, who left NBC News over its warmongering, is likely right when he writes that the issue behind this is Wikileaks' publishing of the CIA's hacking tools known as Vault 7.

While the publishing of the Vault 7 files received little coverage in the media, it seriously damaged the CIA's capabilities. Arkin wrote on April 11 about the Vault 7 connection. The Guardian and the Daily Beast were offered the piece but declined to publish it:

The American case, which shifted completely in March 2017, is based up WikiLeaks’ publications of the so-called “Vault 7” documents, an extensive set of cyber espionage secrets of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Vault 7 was little noticed in the emerging Russian collusion scandal of the new Trump administration, but the nearly 10,000 CIA documents that WikiLeaks started publishing that March constituted an unprecedented breach, far more potentially damaging than anything the anti-secrecy website had ever done, according to numerous U.S. officials.

“There have been serious compromises – Manning and Snowden included – but until 2017, no one had laid a glove on the Agency in decades,” says a senior intelligence official who has been directly involved in the damage assessments.

“Then came Vault 7, almost the entire archive of the CIA’s own hacking group,” the official says. “The CIA went ballistic at the breach.” The official is referring to a little known CIA organization called the Center for Cyber Intelligence, a then unknown counterpart to the National Security Agency, and one that conducts and oversees the covert hacking efforts of the U.S. government.

Wikileaks acquired the Vault 7 files in late 2016 or early 2017. In January 2017 a lawyer for Julian Assange tried to make a deal with the U.S. government. Assange would refrain from publishing some critical content of the Vault 7 files in exchange for limited immunity and safe passage to talk with U.S. officials. One issue to be talked about was the sourcing of the DNC files which Wikileaks published. U.S. officials in the anti-Trump camp claimed that Russia had hacked the DNC servers. Assange consistently said that Russia was not the source of the published files. He offered technical evidence to prove that.

On March 23 2017 Wikileaks published some Vault 7 files of minor interest.

The Justice Department wanted a deal and made on offer to Assange. But intervention from then FBI director Comey sabotaged it:

Cont. reading: CIA's Vault 7 Files Launched New Case Against Assange - Attack Intends To Prevent Further Leaks

Posted by b at 02:19 PM | Comments (121)

April 11, 2019

Met Police Arrests Julian Assange

An hour ago the Metropolitan Police arrested Julian Assange, the publisher and editor of Wikileaks, in the Embassy of Ecuador in London. RT has video of the arrest from outside the embassy.

A police statement said:

Julian Assange, 47, (03.07.71) has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Met Police (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador, Hans Crescent, SW1 on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court on 29 June 2012, for failing to surrender to the court.

The MPS had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates' Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum.

He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates' Court as soon as is possible.

This was inevitable.

Ecuador has a new government that asked to receive a loan from the International Monetary Fund. The U.S. conditioned its agreement to the loan on the lifting of the asylum for Assange which the previous Ecuadorian government had granted to him.

After some legal hustle in the Britain, which will take time, Assange will likely be extradited to the United States where the Justice Department holds at least one warrant against him.

Wikileaks was the media outlet for several embarrassing leaks of secret U.S. government papers. It is unclear for which of these publications the Justice Department will indict him.

But the case against Assange is not about justice. His publication of state secrets was obviously an act of journalism and free speech. But the deep state was embarrassed and demands revenge.

The best Assange can hope for, after the judicial process ran its course, is a pardon by the president of the United States.

Posted by b at 06:31 AM | Comments (408)

April 10, 2019

Open Thread 2019-20

I've got nothing ...

Posted by b at 12:07 PM | Comments (171)

April 09, 2019

The Demise Of The 'Western' System

A U.S. made fighter jet that is claimed to evade radar, finally evades radar:

Japan's Air Self-Defense Force says an F35A fighter jet disappeared from radar over the sea off Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan, at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Japan Time.

ASDF officials said the aircraft took off from Misawa air base at around 7:00 p.m., and disappeared at a point about 135 kilometers east of Misawa City.

This again proves that Donald Trump is right:

"Amazing job … so amazing we are ordering hundreds of millions of dollars of new planes for the Air Force, especially the F-35. You like the F-35? ... you can't see it. You literally can't see it. It's hard to fight a plane you can't see," Mr Trump said in October.

Or is he?

The F-35 may have some good electronics but is not a good plane to fly against any competent competitor. The Marine version which can take off and land vertically, is a remake of the Soviet Yakovlev 141 which first flew in 1989 (vid). The derived Air Force and Navy versions do not have the vertical take off and landing capabilities, but inherited the disadvantages the basic design brings with it. The F-35's stealth does not work against modern radar:

[T]o shoot down F-35 one has to have two different bands radar, good sensor-fusion algorithms and decent signal processing protocols and voila'. S-300 PMU2 Favorit can do this, certainly S-400, and its inevitably coming iterations for which there is literally a line of customers, can. In general, this whole BS about "stealth" should end at some point of time--it was a good propaganda while it lasted. Reality is, with modern processing power and radar design F-35 is not survivable against modern cutting edge air-defense and air-forces.

The Turkish President Erdogan knows this. That is why he is not deterred by U.S. threats to not sell F-35s to him while he buys Russian air defense systems. He just flew to Moscow to discuss futher purchases which will likely include a Russian designed fighter:

The two sides must "strengthen cooperation in the military-technical sphere," Putin told Erdogan as they met in the Kremlin. "These regard first of all the completion of the contract to supply S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Turkey," he said. "There are other promising projects on the agenda related to the supply of modern Russian military products to Turkey," Putin added.

The U.S. no longer builds capable weapons. As Ian Welsh wrote yesterday in America: A Failing State:

The US military is showing signs of being unable to create effective advanced military equipment: as with the F-35, which basically can’t fly. It is showing signs of intense incompetence, as when it let multiple planes be destroyed on the ground by a hurricane rather than, uh, fly them out or get them under effective cover.

Other examples of the incompetence of U.S. military design are the Littoral Combat Ships, which are essentially unarmed fast boats. The "stealth" DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyers were supposed to support ground troops with their long range guns. Built at $4 billion a piece the ships are now losing their guns because the ammunition turned out to be too expensive to buy. Before that they lost much of their stealth capabilities because some necessary communication equipment was left out of the original design. The ships new task will be that of a missile launch platform, a job that any commercial ship, carrying containerized Russian missiles (vid), can likewise fulfill.

Ian points out that the lack of military competence is just a symptom. The real problem sits much deeper:

Cont. reading: The Demise Of The 'Western' System

Posted by b at 12:55 PM | Comments (155)

April 08, 2019

Why Is Trump Designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps As Foreign Terrorist Organization?

After their failed coup plot in Venezuela, the Trump administration launched another crazy plan:

The United States is expected to designate Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist organisation, three U.S. officials told Reuters, marking the first time Washington has formally labelled another country’s military a terrorist group.

The White House just issued the designation (no link yet).

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a part of the general Iranian military. It was founded after the 1979 revolution in Iran to protect the state from a coup by the regular Iranian army that served under the Shah.

With some 125,000 men during peacetime the IRGC is only about a third the size of Iran's regular military. It has a similar structure with a groundforce, a navy and an aerospace branch. The IRCG has two additional small branches that are of foreign policy interest. One is the missile force which controls Iran's medium range missiles. The other is the Quds Force, a brigade size unit with some 4,000 men trained for special operations abroad.

The IRGC size during wartime is about triple its peacetime size. Like Iran's regular army its personnal is made up of professionals, conscripts and reservists. Attached to the IRGC is the voluntary Basji force, local paramilitaries that can be called up for internal security issues. There are several endowments and charitable trusts (bonyads) with strong relations to the IRGC. They own commerical enterprises but their profits are distributed to IRGC veterans and to widows and orphans of deceased soldiers.

In 2007 the U.S. Treasury already designated the Quds Force for its "support of terrorism". It also sanctioned several enterprises that are connected to the IRGC. It is totally unclear what the designation of the IRCG as a whole is supposed to achieve. It could be a symbolic move or, as some assume, a step towards a war on Iran:

Former Under-Secretary of State and lead Iran negotiator, Wendy Sherman, said she worried about implications for U.S. forces.

“One might even suggest, since it’s hard to see why this is in our interest, if the president isn’t looking for a basis for a conflict,” said Sherman, who is director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. “The IRGC is already fully sanctioned and this escalation absolutely endangers our troops in the region.”

Mohammad al Shabani lists additional reasons:

Mohammad Ali Shabani @mashabani - 14:36 utc - 8 Apr 2019

THREAD. Usual suspects pushed Trump to designate #IRGC as FTO. Why?
- Constrain Trump’s deal-making instincts
- Box in next US president on Iran (Dems say will rejoin JCPOA)
- Force Lebanon/Iraq into picking between Iran/US
- Force Europe to further cut whatever meager outreach
- provoke Iran to scrap JCPOA
- and, ideally, initiate military confrontation

Colonel Pat Lang likewise presumes that the move is an attempt to provoke a war:

The AUMF on terrorism has been used far and wide as a hunting license to attack any armed group that could even distantly be thought a terrorist enemy. The anti-terrorism AUMF makes such attacks legal under US law.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) is a law passed after the 9/11 attack that allows the president:

to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.

In an October 2017 speech President Trump accused Iran of having supported and harbored al-Qaeda:

Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who were later involved in al Qaeda’s bombing of the American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania, and two years later, killing 224 people, and wounding more than 4,000 others.

The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son. In Iraq and Afghanistan, groups supported by Iran have killed hundreds of American military personnel.

Trump's accusations agaimst Iran are false. Iran had nothing to do with the bombing in Kenya. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan some family members of al-Qaeda leaders fled to Iran. They were put under house arrests and were held as hostages to prevent al-Qaeda operations against Iran.

But the facts will not matter. The designation of the IRGC as "foreign terrorist" will likely make the AUMF relevant, at least under U.S. law.

Pat Lang continues:

Cont. reading: Why Is Trump Designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps As Foreign Terrorist Organization?

Posted by b at 10:25 AM | Comments (150)

April 07, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-19

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

It seems that Boeing has trouble to get the 737 MAX software changes certified. The MAX will be grounded much longer than anticipated, probably for 6 to 8 month:

Boeing’s decision Friday to reduce the production rate on the 737 MAX was a surprise in timing and scope.

This came so quickly and was steep, cutting production from 52 MAXes per month to 42. It comes on the heals that a second software problem was found, delaying submission of the MCAS software upgrade to the FAA for review and approval.
...
Boeing hasn’t announced what the second software problem is. LNA is told it is the interface between the MCAS upgrade and the Flight Control System, but specifics are lacking.

The Flight Control Computer of the 737 was designed in 2000 by Rockwell Collins. These systems have limited computation capacities. Processor speed and RAM will be 1/100s of those in a modern cellphone. One wonders if the additional MCAS software will break some inherent capacity limit.

Jason Pack - The backstory to Hifter's march on Tripoli

[E]ven though Libya's civil war is witnessing its biggest escalation since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and violent skirmishes are bound to break out and troops get captured, the safe money is still that a genuine blood bath will be avoided and the end result will be some sort of fudge with certain factions switching sides and columns of tanks darting forward and retreating. Yet, when the smoke clears, no one faction will control the country and a political compromise will still remain the only way forward.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:01 AM | Comments (132)

April 06, 2019

Libya - From Ghaddafi To Hafter

Libya is back in the news as the so called Libyan National Army under General Hafter is moving to attack Tripoli. How did we get here?

In March 2011 the United Kindom, France and the U.S. set out to destroy the government of Libya. Muslim Brotherhood militia and al-Qaeda aligned forces, equipped by Qatar and supported by Britain, took the easten city of Benghazi. The U.S. airforce destroyed government troops on the ground and helped the militants to capture and murder Muhammar Ghaddafi. Chaos ensued as various tribal forces, local militia and Islamists fought over control of the cities and the spoils.

One person who tried to insert himself into the chaos as new leader of Libya was the former general Khalifa Haftar. He had taken part in the coup that brought Ghaddafi to power but later fell out with him and changed sides. The CIA sponsored him to launch a coup against Ghaddafi. The coup failed and since 1990 Hafter has lived in Virginia where he also became a U.S. citizen.

Haftar's attempt to take power amongst the chaos of 2011 failed. The Muslim Brotherhood aligned militia saw him as a secular Ghaddafi follower and rejected him. The situation changed in 2014 after the military in Egypt ousted the Muslim Brotherhood aligned president Morsi from power. Egypt, under the new president Sisi, feared the Islamist gangs in Libya and wanted to eliminate them. Hafter was called upon to build an army and to take over Benghazi. The United Arab Emirates financed the project. With UAE money, Egyptian air support, Russian supplies, French intelligence and special forces support Hafter slowly defeated the various Islamist gangs and took control over Benghazi.

It took him more than three years to consolidate his control and to build up his Libyan National Army (LNA) that would allow him to take the western parts of Libya.

Those western parts, including the capital Tripoli, are controlled by various feuding familes, clans and tribes, each with their own militia. There is also a nominal Government of National Accord under Fayez al-Sarraj. It is recognized by the UN but has no forces of its own. It depends on the support of local militia in Tripoli and support coming from the coastal city of Misrata. That city has a strong tribal militia which even operates a small air force.

Libya - January 1 2019

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Misrata is also what blocked Hafter from moving his troops from Benghazi in the east along the coast towards Tripoli in the west. The blocking force made it necessary for Hafter to move through the thinly populated south and then west and again north towards Tripoli. An attempt to do so in 2018 failed when local forces in the southwest (pink), supported by Algeria's military, resisted Haftar's move.

Cont. reading: Libya - From Ghaddafi To Hafter

Posted by b at 02:26 PM | Comments (94)

April 05, 2019

Ethiopian Airline Crash - Boeing Advice To 737 MAX Pilots Was Flawed

The preliminary report on the March 10 Ethiopian Airline crash shows that the advice given by the FAA and Boeing to 737 MAX pilots was incomplete. The pilots followed the advice but it was phyisically impossile for them to bring the plane back into a stable flight.

In October 2018 a brand new Boeing 737 MAX airplane, flown by the Indonesian Lion Air airline, crashed into the sea shortly after take off. 189 people died. An investigation found that Boeing had added a 'maneuver characteristics augmentation system' (MCAS) to the MAX that could directly influence the stabilizer, a primary flight control surfaces, but based its decisions on the input of only one sensor. When the sensor failed the system went wild and destabilized the airplane.

Neither the pilots nor the airlines knew about the system. The regulators. which certified the plane as safe to fly, were misinformed about it. They had directed Boeing to include the new system into training material for the pilots which Boeing, for commercial reasons, did not do.

After the Lion Air crash the Federal Aviation Administration issued an Airworthiness Directive 2018-23-51 which adviced 737 MAX pilots how to handle an MCAS failure.


full picture

The FAA told 737 MAX pilots to use the Stabilizer Trim Cutoff switches to interupt the power supply for the system's actuator, a motor driven jackscrew in the back of the airplane. The pilots should then use the manual trim wheels in the cockpit, which move the jackscrew and stabilizer via steel cables, to righten the aircraft.

On March 10 a 737 MAX flown by Ethiopian Airline crashed shortly after take off. 157 people died. Radar data and debris found showed that the cause was likely a similar MCAS failure as had happened on the Indonesian Lion Air flight.

All 737 MAX planes were grounded with the U.S. being the last country to order it.

Some U.S. pilots, as well as some commentators here, publicly blamed the darker skin pilots for not using the simple procedure the FAA had put out: "Why didn't they just flip the switches? Stupid undertrained third-world dudes."

It now turns out that the well trained and experienced pilots on the Ethiopian Airline flight did exactly what Boeing and the FAA told them to do. From the Ethiopean Airlines press release (pdf):

The preliminary report clearly showed that the Ethiopian Airlines pilots who were commanding Flight ET 302/10 March have followed the Boeing recommended and FAA approved emergency procedures to handle the most difficult emergency situation created on the airplane. Despite their hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistence of nose diving.

The procedure Boeing and the FAA advised to use was insufficient to bring the aircraft back under control. It was in fact impossible to recover the plane. The possibility of this to happen was discussed in pilot fora and on specialized websites for some time.

The MCAS system moves the front of the stablizer up to turn the nose of the airplane down. The plane then decends very fast. The aerodynamic forces (the "wind") pushing against the stabilizer gets so strong that a manual counter-trim becomes impossible.

Avionics engineer Peter Lemme details the physics involved in this.


via Seattle Times - full picture

Lemme concludes:

Cont. reading: Ethiopian Airline Crash - Boeing Advice To 737 MAX Pilots Was Flawed

Posted by b at 05:53 AM | Comments (124)

April 04, 2019

U.S. - Turkey Spat Intensifies

The two tweets below are an update to the recent piece about Turkey's problems and how they will change the dynamics in the Jihadi infested Idleb governorate in Syria.

The U.S. threatens to hold back the F-35 fighter planes Turkey ordered, because Turkey also aquired the Russian made S-400 air defense system. We said that the consequence of that would be a further win for Russia:

Russia will be happy to supply Turkey with Su-35 fighter planes. They are arguable better than the F-35 and will likely be cheaper. But they will come with a political price.

The chances for that to happen grew after yesterday's short exchange between the vice presidents of the United States and Turkey. Vice President Pence spoke at the Atlantic Council about 70 years of NATO and said that Turkey risks its membership in NATO over the S-400 buy.

Pence also tweeted:


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The response did not take long:


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The Kurdish PKK/YPG forces the U.S. uses as proxy force to occupy northeast Syria are indeed legally terrorists as soon as they cross the border with Turkey. What is the value of NATO when it protects Turkey's enemies?

Pence threat is also stupid as there is mechanism to expulse any member from NATO. NATO members can only leave voluntarily.

Around the Kremlin one could hear the champagne corks plop.

The unprofessional and threatening behavior of Pence and other U.S. administration officials will cost the U.S.

As Andrei Martyanov recently wrote:

I can totally understand the irritation Washington feels about this whole situation, after all Turkey is a key NATO member with an actual army, and seeing NATO member going for such a weapon systems from Washington's prime time arch enemy--this is a no-no. But then comes this question: so, the United States will stop (will it?) F-35 and associated technology deliveries to Turkey, then what? Do we really want to open this can of worms? Turks are not idiots, by far--they can calculate and while Erdo might still do rapid 180 degrees maneuver, he also can not fail to consider the fact that instead of F-35 Turkey may get her hands on, say, some decent version of SU-35. Possible? Possible! How probable? I don't know. But Obama should have thought twice when unleashing, or pretending that he didn't know, a coup against Erdogan in 2016. Or, for that matter, a bloody overthrow of government in Ukraine in 2014. But current American elites have no concept of own actions having consequences.

h/t Syricide

Posted by b at 11:50 AM | Comments (74)

April 03, 2019

No Chinese Troops Arrived In Venezuela

Commentator Horsewhisperer pointed to a piece by the former Indian ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar that claims that Chinese soldiers arrived in Venezuela:

The reported arrival of Chinese military personnel in Venezuela last weekend is undoubtedly a major event in world politics.

Unlike Russia, which has a history of force projection abroad, this is an extremely rare Chinese move. Although vital Chinese interests are at stake in the war against terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Syria, China refrained from publicising any such deployment.

The reports mention that the group of Chinese military personnel is 120-strong and arrived on the Margarita Island in the Caribbean Sea off the Venezuelan mainland on March 28 ‘to deliver humanitarian aid and military supplies to the government forces.’ After delivering the humanitarian supplies, the Chinese PLA troops were apparently transferred to a Venezuelan military facility.

The "reports" are likely false. There are no Chinese soldiers in Venezuela.

M. K. Bhadrakumar piece was published yesterday on his blog Indian Punchline and today republished on NewsClick. It is based on a claim made by Al Masadar News, a site in Lebanon which at times has real news from Syria, but is otherwise amateurish.

Al Masdar wrote on April 2:

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:00 A.M) – A group of Chinese soldiers arrived in Venezuela on Sunday as part of a cooperation program between Beijing and Caracas.

According to reports, more than 120 soldiers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army arrived at Venezuela’s Margarita Island to deliver humanitarian aid and military supplies to the government forces.

The arrival of the People’s Liberation Army in Venezuela comes just days after the Russian armed forces deployed to the country to install a military helicopter training facility.

While Al Masdar says "according to reports" none are linked. A search turns up zero such reports. The only source seems to be the Twitter account @I30mki pictured in the post. That account posts mostly mil-porn around the Russian fighter jet Su-57. It is probably run by some Russian or Indian teen.

Cont. reading: No Chinese Troops Arrived In Venezuela

Posted by b at 02:26 PM | Comments (107)

April 02, 2019

Turkey's Problems Will Change The Dynamics On The Idlib Front

In Sunday's the local elections in Turkey the opposition parties won in the three biggest cities, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. They managed to do that by concentrating their forces. The Kurdish aligned HDP made no nominations in cities where the main opposition party, the Kemalist CHP, already had a strong standing. HDP voters voted for the CHP candidates which brought them over the line. The CHP likewise held back in HDP strongholds which allowed the HDP candidate to win in Diyarbakir.

The elections show that Turkey is not a dictatorship (yet) and that voters still can change the political picture. The opposition parties also showed some unusual flexibility and presented candidates that were acceptable by a wider electorate than previous ones:

The winners of Istanbul and Ankara, Ekrem Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas, are not the typical hardcore Kemalists who despise the women in headscarves and anything that is visibly religious, always alienating the average Turk. Quite the contrary. Yavas is a politician from the nationalist right, and Imamoglu (whose surname literally means, “Son of Imam”) is an unusual figure in his camp who can recite the Quran. During his campaign, Imamoglu recited the Quran in a mosque, to honor the victims of the massacre in Christchurch. Such actions have capitalized on the “religion card” that Erdogan has exploited for too long.

The loss of Istanbul, at a very small margin, is seen as a personal loss for President Erdogan, who started his national political career some 25 years ago as mayor of that city. It is no wonder then that the Erdogan's party, the AKP, is now demanding recounts.

The CHP win in the big cities and in the liberal tourist centers along the Mediterranean coast does not mean that Erdogan is defeated or his power diminished. In total his AKP and its allied parties won 51.63% of the nationwide votes. The municipalities in Turkey depend on handouts from the national government. As Erdogan controls the central purse he can easily squeeze the cities the opposition won. The next nationwide elections will only be in 2022 which gives him time to take on other problems and to recuperate the losses.

There are plenty of problems that demand his attention. Turkey's credit bubble, which helped Erdogan to win the presidency, is bursting:

Turkey's interest rates remained at record low levels from 2009 to 2018, which caused the country's credit bubble to go into overdrive. Turkey's low interest rate era ended in 2018, when the central bank hiked rates from 8% to 24%. Rapid interest rate hikes cause credit bubbles to burst, which then lead to credit busts and recessions.

Over the last two quarters Turkey's GDP declined. The country is in a recession. Inflation is near to 20% which leaves no room to lower interest rates. Before Sunday's election the central bank of Turkey propped up the Lira. It will have to end that or will otherwise diminish Turkey's foreign currency reserves. After the long build up of the credit bubble it will take years for the economy to return to a steady state. There is little room for the government to turn the economy around.

Erdogan's decision to become more independent of NATO is also taking its toll. Buying the Russian made S-400 air defense system secures Turkey from a potential U.S. attack but also means that its access to 'western' weapons ends. Germany stopped cooperation for the production of a new Turkish tank even before the S-400 issue came up. Today the U.S. halted all F-35 fighter plane deliveries and training for Turkey. This will be a loss for both sides but add to Turkey's economic problems:

“Because Turkey is not just an F-35 purchaser, but an industrial partner, blocking delivery of these systems represents a major escalation by the United States as it threatens to impose serious costs on both sides,” Hunter said.

Reuters reported last week that Washington was exploring whether it could remove Turkey from production of the F-35. Turkey makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays. Sources familiar with the F-35’s intricate worldwide production process and U.S. thinking on the issue last week said Turkey’s role can be replaced.

Russia will be happy to supply Turkey with Su-35 fighter planes. They are arguable better than the F-35 and will likely be cheaper. But they will come with a political price.

Turkish supported Jihadis still hold Syria's Idleb provinces and need to be removed. Erdogan tried to turn them into 'moderate rebels' but failed. Russia has for some time pressed Turkey to become more active in Idleb and to do more common Turkish/Russian patrols. These alienate the Jihadis, some of whom start to see Turkey as an enemy. Russia intends to do everything possible to intensify that feeling, while urging Turkey to finally solve the problem.

The U.S. still wants to 'regime change' Syria and will keep the northeast under its control. Trump's idea to led Erdogan establish a security zone along the norther border was buried by the hawks in his administration. While that may comfort the Syrian Kurds with whom the U.S. is allied, it will further alienate Turkey. The removal of U.S. troops from northeast Syria is quickly becoming a common Turkish, Russian and Syrian aim.

A country that gets rejected by its NATO allies, is angered by U.S. moves to its south and under economic pressure will be easier to convince to follow Russia's advice with regards to Syria. We can therefore expect that the dynamics at the Idleb front will soon start to change.

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (110)

March 31, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-18

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

More morsels on the case:

El Pais: North Korean embassy assailants filmed the attack to prove their actions, say Spanish police

The 10 individuals who broke into the North Korean embassy in Madrid last month, assaulting staff members and taking audiovisual material with them, had micro-cameras that they used to provide evidence of their actions to whoever ordered and financed the operation, according to Spanish investigators.
...
The 35-year-old is a US resident with a Mexican passport who “owns several dubious companies and is in contact with various intelligence services.

Investigators are now exploring whether Hong Chang played a role “in other violent incidents against North Korean interests in other countries.” Near the Madrid embassy, the police found an Italian driver’s license belonging to Hong Chang but showing a fake name. The North Korean ambassador to Italy has been missing since January, and is presumed to have defected.
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Investigation sources say the attack was perfectly planned down to every last detail, something that would require “significant infrastructure and financing, which the individuals involved lack.”
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Even though the assailants – mostly young South Koreans living in the US and trained in military action – took away the hard drives of the embassy’s security cameras, the police was able to partially recover the footage before its automatic deletion. This is what allowed investigators to observe the intruders’ “extremely violent and professional” behavior, and to identify them.

-
The CIA cover group has gone silent. It may be that Adrian Hong gets another gig. Not again Libya from where he transferred Islamist to the Syrian war theater, but how about Venezuela?

Free Joseon says it is going on a hiatus

Most notably, according to AFP, Hong was spotted in Tripoli, Libya, during the Libyan civil war in 2011. He helped Libyan war victims receive treatment at hospitals in Jordan.

-
Mystery group tied to break-in at DPRK embassy in Madrid will suspend activities

Notably, the source said that South Korea’s embassy in Madrid also had some knowledge of the incident shortly before it took place and immediately after.

-
Presumably to prevent that the case gets buried, North Korea finally acknowledges the raid:

North Korea said Sunday it wants an investigation into a raid on its embassy in Spain last month, calling it a “grave terrorist attack” and an act of extortion that violates international law.
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The North’s official media quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that an illegal intrusion into and occupation of a diplomatic mission and an act of extortion are a grave breach of the state sovereignty and a flagrant violation of international law, “and this kind of act should never be tolerated.”

He claimed an armed group tortured the staff and suggested they stole communications gear.

Yves Smith: Boeing Doubles Down on 737 Max, Rejects Need for Simulator Training

Southwest Airlines contract with Boeing says that Southwest will get $1 million rebate per plane if 737 MAX pilots need extra simulator training for it.

Matt Taibbi: On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won

A long read about Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate for the next presidential election.

    All About Pete

The rage with which the piece was written is beautiful.

You will be sold Buttigieg’s small-town milliennial neoliberalism the way they’re trying to sell you Beto O’Rourke’s skateboard neoliberalism. Hey kids, you like Medicare For All? So does this guy! But he’s young and from the Midwest and likes Hamilton! Bernie is old. You don’t need an old man. You need young hip progressivism.

Do not be deceived by this.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (242)

March 30, 2019

Kushner Extorted Qatar - Or Did He?

The Hillreporter just published a very juicy story about Jared Kushner, the son in law and senior advisor of President Trump.

It says that Kushner, with the help of the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, extorted Qatar for $1 billion to save his families real estate business in New York.

While the story sounds plausible and fits the public known timeline of other events, there is so far no evidence that supports it.

The tale is based on the work and information of author Vicky Ward, who recently published Kushner Inc - Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Ward first talked through the story on yesterday's KrassenCast, a podcast by the anti-Trump and somewhat shady Krassenstein brothers who also run the Hillreporter.

In 2007, at the hight of the real estate bubble, the Kushner family bought the 666 5th Avenue building in New York City for $1.8 billion. Ten years later the Kushners were in real trouble. Plans to replace the building with a new one found no financing. The property was losing lots of money and a huge mortgage payment was due in January 2019. The family had to look for a bail out.


bigger

In early 2017 the Kushner family had several meetings with Qatari officials to discuss a deal. The Intercept reported:

Joshua Kushner, a venture capitalist and the younger brother of White House adviser Jared Kushner, met with Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi the same week as his father, Charles Kushner, did in April 2017, in an independent effort to discuss potential investments from the Qatari government. Both meetings took place at Al Emadi’s St. Regis Hotel suite in Manhattan.

This revelation comes after Charles Kushner, in an interview with the Washington Post this week, confirmed for the first time that his meeting with Al Emadi had indeed taken place on the subject of financing for the underwater Kushner property at 666 Fifth Avenue.

According to Vicky Ward this is what happened next:

Cont. reading: Kushner Extorted Qatar - Or Did He?

Posted by b at 05:28 PM | Comments (62)

Why Is The Washington Post Inventing "Warming Ties" Between Trump And Moscow?

Sometimes it is impossible to discern whether Washington Post writers are moronic or drunk.

In a front page piece today about Russia's engagement in Venezuela the three authors include this line:

In an era of generally warming ties between the Trump administration and Moscow, Russia’s deepening involvement in Venezuela is creating a flash point by challenging the U.S. effort to force Maduro from office.

What please are the signs that we are in an "in an era of generally warming ties between the Trump administration and Moscow" ?

The piece includes nothing that supports that claim.

The U.S. is occupying parts of Syria against Russia's will. It is threatening Russia by positioning ever more NATO forces at its borders. Trump left the INF treaty with Russia.  He opposed Russia wherever he could. Nothing of that has changed.

In fact yesterday Bloomberg reported that the U.S. is reading new sanctions against Russia for the MI6 stunt of vanishing Sergej Skripal:

The White House has received a long-awaited package of new sanctions on Russia, intended to punish the Kremlin for a 2018 nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in the U.K.

Last week Russia deployed some 100 military technicians and cyber-defense specialists to Venezuela. They will test and probably upgrade Venezuela's S-300 air defense systems. They will also help to check the control systems of Venezuela's Simón Bolívar Hydroelectric Plant and the Guri Dam that trice led to large scale electricity outages during the last month. Venzuela suspects that U.S. cyber attacks led to those failures.

Also yesterday Trump's special envoy for Venezuela Elliot Abrams and National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened even more sanctions against Russia for its hardly existing footprint in Venezuela:

Cont. reading: Why Is The Washington Post Inventing "Warming Ties" Between Trump And Moscow?

Posted by b at 01:17 PM | Comments (71)

March 29, 2019

Regulators Knew Of 737 MAX Trim Problems - Certification Demanded Training That Boeing Failed To Deliver

A recently discovered document proves that Boeing ignored requirements international regulators made when they certified Boeing's 737 MAX airplane.

After the recent Boeing 737 MAX incident in Ethiopia we explained why it happened. Even before the plane type was grounded by the FAA we wrote:

Boeing, The FAA, And Why Two 737 MAX Planes Crashed

Our early take was confirmed by the reporting of other media which we also discussed:

Flawed Safety Analysis, Failed Oversight - Why Two 737 MAX Planes Crashed

The basic problem:

For commercial reasons Boeing wanted the new 737 version to handle like the old ones. But changes in the new version required an additional system to handle certain flight situations. The development of that system and the safety analysis of its implications were rushed through. Pilots were not informed of it and not trained to counter its failure.

The added 'maneuver characteristics augmentation system' (MCAS) depended on only one sensor. When the sensor provided false data MCAS engaged and pointed the planes towards the ground. Manual trim using the plane's trim wheel was required to regain flight stability. The pilots were not aware of that. The regulators who certified the plane as safe were unaware of the extend of the problem:

The MCAS system is poorly engineered and the design should never have been certified in the first place. But the issue is even worse. The certification that was given relied on false data.

The first MCAS design, on which the safety analysis and certification was based, allowed for a maximum trim movement by MCAS of 0.6 degree of a maximum of 5 degree. Flight tests proved that to be too little to achieve the desired effects and the maximum movement was changed to 2.5 degree.

No safety analysis for the much greater movement was conducted. The FAA and foreign regulators were not informed of it. Their certification of the 737 MAX was based on misleading data.

But even those certifications were only conditional. They required from Boeing to include relevant training material that explained the MCAS trim system and its potential problems to the pilots.

The original certification for the 737 MAX was issued by the U.S. regulator FAA. The European regulator EASA based its certification on the one the FAA provided but it added several of its own requirements. There is now documentary evidence that Boeing neglected to fulfill at least one of those requirements.

The one page document, first described by Reuters, is included in the Explanatory Note Issue 10 (pdf) to the EASA Boeing 737 type certification which was issued in February 2016.

Page 15 of the Explanatory Note discusses "Longitudinal trim at Vmo". Vmo is the maximum operational speed. The trim sets the nose of the plane up or down, independent of other pilot input. Too high up and the plane with lose lift and stall, too low down and the plane will hit terrain.

A failure of the MCAS system could trim the nose down. As a countermeasure the pilots would have to switch the trim system off. They would then manually trim the plane back into a level flight. This was a concern. The EASA note says:

Subsequent to flight testing, the FAA-TAD expressed concern with compliance to the reference regulation based on an interpretation of the intent behind “trim”. The main issue being that longitudinal trim cannot be achieved throughout the flight envelope using thumb switch trim only.

EASA considered the need to use manual trim "unusual". But it allowed it to pass because the required training material would "clearly explain" the issue:

Cont. reading: Regulators Knew Of 737 MAX Trim Problems - Certification Demanded Training That Boeing Failed To Deliver

Posted by b at 09:29 AM | Comments (120)

March 28, 2019

Open Thread 2019-17

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:24 PM | Comments (142)

March 27, 2019

Judge Identifies CIA Related Man Who Led The Raid On North Korea's Embassy In Spain

A Spanish judge released new information about a raid on the embassy of North Korea in Spain. The leader of the raid was a shady U.S. 'activist' who earlier reports from Spain associated with the CIA.

On March 13 the Spanish newspaper El Pais Spain reported that Spanish authorities identified two CIA related persons who took part in a raid of the North Korean embassy in Madrid. The raid happened on February 22, a few days before the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, and seemed designed to influence that event. We asked Who Ordered The CIA To Assault North Korea's Embassy In Spain?

The embassy raid was no normal thievery. There were eight people in the embassy when it was raided at 3:00 PM local time. They were bound, bags were put over their heads and some were interrogated. The thieves left with computer hardware and the cellphones of the personnel.

The Spanish version of the El Pais piece included this detail (machine translated):

After analyzing the recordings of the security cameras in the area, questioning the hostages and analyzing the diplomatic vehicles used in the flight, it has been possible to identify some of the assailants. Although the majority were Koreans, at least two of them have been recognized by the Spanish information services for their links with the American CIA.
The indications that point to the US espionage service, in probable cooperation with that of South Korea, are so strong that Spanish interlocutors have contacted the CIA to ask for explanations. The response was negative, but "unconvincing", according to Government sources.

Two days after the El Pais report the Washington Post national security reporter claimed that the raid was done by a shady group of allegedly North Korean revolutionaries. The report was based on anonymous sources and a 'former' CIA analyst. The group was identified as Cheollima Civil Defense or Free Jaseon.

As the group and its website had all the signs of a CIA regime change front Moon of Alabama headlined:

    CIA Blames Its Proxy For Its Raid On North Korea's Embassy In Spain 

We also noted that the British Sun related the group to the South Korean spy service which is essentially a subsidiary of the CIA.

Yesterday a Spanish judge lifted the seal of the case and issued arrest warrants against two of the people involved in the raid:

De la Mata identified citizens of Mexico, the United States and South Korea as the main suspects being investigated on charges that include of causing injuries, making threats and burglary. He named Adrian Hong Chang, a Mexican citizen living in the United States, as the break-in’s leader.

Hong Chang flew to the U.S. on Feb. 23, got in touch with the FBI and offered to share material and videos with federal investigators, according to the court report.
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While in Madrid, Hong Chang also applied for a new passport at the Mexican Embassy, the investigation found, and used the name “Oswaldo Trump” to register in the Uber ride-hailing app.
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Others identified as part of the assailants’ group were Sam Ryu, from the U.S., and Woo Ran Lee, a South Korean citizen. Their whereabouts and their hometowns weren’t immediately known. None of the suspects were thought to be still in Spain, the judge wrote.

The New York Times adds:

Mr. Hong Chang left for Lisbon and then boarded a plane to Newark Liberty International Airport, where he landed on Feb. 23, according to Judge de la Mata. He said that Mr. Hong Chang got in touch with the F.B.I. and offered to share “audiovisual material” obtained during the embassy attack.

On March 20 the Cheollima Civil Defense group uploaded a new short video to its Youtube channel. It says "Recently, on our homeland's soil .." and then shows a man, face hidden, taking pictures of the deceased North Korean rulers Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il off a wall and smashing them on the floor. Embassy grounds are considered to be territory of the country they represent. It is likely that the video "on our homeland's soil" was made during the raid on the North Korean embassy in Spain.

After the Spanish judge's report appeared, the Cheollima entity published a Facts about Madrid pamphlet that confirmed its role and its contact with the FBI. It claims to feel betrayed:

Cont. reading: Judge Identifies CIA Related Man Who Led The Raid On North Korea's Embassy In Spain

Posted by b at 02:21 PM | Comments (60)

March 26, 2019

Trump Tries To Undo North Korea Sanctions - Gets Sabotaged By His Own Staff

Last week saw some confusion within the Trump administration about sanctions against North Korea. A Trump tweet seemed to contradict his own administration's policies. The White House then thought up an implausible explanation for what Trump had done. The face saving measure worked, but new leaks now again undermine him.

U.S. media reported of the episode but missed a major point. The timeline below shows that the internal White House conflict was prompted by reactions from North Korea's side.

After bad weather and a strong sanctions regime against it, North Korea is running low on food. Last month its ambassador to the UN requested food assistance:

Kim, the ambassador to the U.N., said record-high temperatures, drought and flooding last year shaved more than 500,000 tons off of the 2018 harvest from the nearly 5 million tons produced in 2017.
...
Humanitarian assistance from the U.N. agencies is “terribly politicized,” he said, and sanctions against North Korea are “barbaric and inhuman.”

On Thursday the 21st the Treasury Department, ignoring the dire situation, issued new sanctions (pdf) against two Chinese shipping companies that are trading with North Korea. It also named more North Korean vessels that it suspects to be involved in sanction busting efforts.

National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted:

John Bolton @AmbJohnBolton - 18:31 utc - 21 Mar 2019
John Bolton Retweeted Treasury Department

Important actions today from @USTreasury; the maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea’s illicit shipping practices. Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.

The next day North Korea reacted to the move by pulling its officers from the liaison office with South Korea:

Matt Lee @APDiploWriter - 9:25 utc - 22 Mar 2019

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — #SouthKorea says #NorthKorea has withdrawn its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office in North Korea.

The move was unexpected:

Cont. reading: Trump Tries To Undo North Korea Sanctions - Gets Sabotaged By His Own Staff

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (92)

March 25, 2019

A War On Gaza For Regime Change In Tel Aviv?

An early morning rocket hit a home in central Israel today. It destroyed a house and wounded seven people, none of them seriously.

The Israeli military alleges that the rocket, with 120 km reach, was fired from the Gaza strip. It accused Hamas, the party who rules the Gaza strip, of launching the rocket. Hamas denied that it was involved.

How Israel's prime minister Bibi Netanyahoo reacts to the attack will decide about his fate in the April 9 general election.

The Israeli military deployed an infantry and an army brigade towards the Gaza strip and called up thousands of reservists.

Netanyahoo met Trump in the White House today and is now flying back to Israel. His planned speech before the Zionist lobby AIPAC was canceled as were his meetings with Congress leaders.

Netanyahoo's political competition is pushing him towards a wider escalation:

The New Right, led by Naftali Bennett, his education minister and key coalition partner, said shortly after the attack that Mr Netanyahu should relinquish his position as defence minister and appoint Mr Bennett in his place.

"Israel's deterrence has collapsed, and it has to be said in all honesty, Netanyahu has failed against Hamas,” the party said in a statement.
...
Mr Netanyahu’s chief rival in next month's election, centrist ex-army chief Benny Gantz, issued a statement accusing the rightist premier of having "bankrupted national security" by permitting such attacks.

But escalating the conflict is risky. Hamas and other Palestinian resistance organizations in Gaza surely have more rockets and will fire back.

Long time Middle East correspondent Elijah Magnier sets out the choice.

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 15:21 utc - 25 Mar 2019
If @netanyahu doesn't attack #Gaza he will lose the elections & shows #Israel's weak retaliation power.
If he attacks and engages in a long war, #Gaza will retaliate and will bring him down.
If he limits himself to a small battle, results are uncertain.

At 15:45 utc the Israeli military started to launch air attacks on targets in Gaza which it claims are related with Hamas.


via Palestinian Voices - bigger

With more that 1.8 million inhabitants Gaza is densely populated. All attacks there usually result in civil casualties.

The situation gives Hamas some leverage that it could use to bring down Netanyahoo. There are 15 days until the election and a demonstration of Netanyahoo's inability to defend against or deter rocket attacks could easily lead to regime change in Tel Aviv.

During his time as prime minister Netanyahoo pushed for ever further isolation of the people in Gaza. It is a dead end policy. In the long term the isolation of Gaza is not sustainable. Nor is a permanent conflict in Israel's interest. But Netanyahoo never took steps to fundamentely change the situation.

The people in Gaza have little to lose. Three wars that Israel waged against the strip during the last twelve years have destroyed most of its infrastructure. The last one in 2014 killed more than 2,000 Palestinians. Israel and Egypt blockade Gaza's borders and the Palestinian Authority, led by Hamas rival Fatah, sanctioned it. There have recently been demonstrations against Hamas over the dire situation. But there was little Hamas could do to change it. It now has a chance.

We can therefore expect that Hamas will try to goad Netanyahoo into a stronger reaction. Should he limit the retaliation for today's rocket strike, more single rocket launches are likely to follow. A stronger Israeli reaction will justify to launch swarms of rockets against Tel Aviv and may well lead to a larger escalation.

If Netanyahoo loses the election other hawks will take over. The balance of power between Gaza and Israel would not change.

But whoever wins the election will have an interest in a fundamental change of the situation. A new leader in Tel Aviv might have ideas on how to do that.

Posted by b at 01:56 PM | Comments (88)

March 24, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-16

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

They don't even hide their evilness: US official says cumulative sanctions have Venezuela in a "Darth Vader" style grip around the throat

The EU gave May two extra week to get her deal or something else through parliament. The next thing she did then was to postpone the vote for another week. Brussels will remember that when her next delay request comes in. Her attempts to run out the time to put parliament under pressure might well have catastrophic consequences.

Members of May's cabinet seem to plot a coup against her. Her potential replacement is Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, who is a remainer. How is that supposed to work?

Jonathan Pie with a wonderful rant: Brexit: What's the f**k is going on? (vid)

Druze in Golan Heights Protest Trump's Call for Recognition of Israeli Sovereignty

Elijah Magnier - The occupied Golan Heights is offered to Israel and yet the indignation is verbal, nothing more

Matt Taibbi - It's official: Russiagate is this generation's WMD:

Stories have been coming out for some time now hinting Mueller’s final report might leave audiences “disappointed,” as if a President not being a foreign spy could somehow be bad news.

The Russiagaters won't give up. They are not only moving the goalposts, but the whole stadium.

Cenk Uygur @cenkuygur - 22:48 utc- 22 Mar 2019
Let me be clear before we find out what’s in #MuellerReport, my contention has been that the collusion was after the election. I’ve said countless times that I don’t care about tweets sent during election. Hope Mueller investigated connections to Russia before & after election.
Cenk Uygur @cenkuygur - 12:03 utc - 23 Mar 2019
It means @realDonaldTrump has very likely been helping the Russians get money out of Russia for decades. And after the election they call in their favors. That doesn’t mean they rigged the election but it does mean Trump is doing favors for them. I’ve said this countless times.

The collusion to help Trump win the election was after the election? Trump helped(!) Russians to move money and they(!) are now making demands? What's the logic with that? And what are the favors?

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 02:03 PM | Comments (233)

March 23, 2019

Russiagate Is Really Finished

On February 12 we wrote that Russiagate Is Finished. The conclusion was based on an NBC report:

After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.
...
Democrats and other Trump opponents have long believed that special counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional investigators would unearth new and more explosive evidence of Trump campaign coordination with Russians. Mueller may yet do so, although Justice Department and Congressional sources say they believe that he, too, is close to wrapping up his investigation.

Russiagate conspiracy theorist Marcy Wheeler countered by arguing that a conspiracy had been proven when Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort admitted to handing out polling data to some Ukrainian/Russian contact to curry favor with some Russian oligarch he owned money. But Manafort's crimes, which he plead guilty for on September 14 2018, had nothing to do with "Russia" or with Trump and only peripherally with his election campaign:

On Friday, Manafort, who was chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign from June to August 2016, pleaded guilty in federal district court in Washington to two charges of conspiracy against the United States—one involving a lobbying scheme that involved financial crimes and foreign-agent registration violations, and the other involving witness tampering. In the course of his plea, Manafort also admitted guilt on bank-fraud charges on which a federal jury in Virginia hung last month.

Marcy and others held out hope that the Mueller investigation would come up with an indictment that would justify the utter nonsense she and other Russagaters promoted for over two years. Just two week ago former CIA director John Brennan, who likely conspired with British intelligence to frame Trump with the Russia affair, said (vid) that he expected further indictments:

During an appearance on MSNBC on March 5, Brennan predicted that Mueller would issue indictments related to a “criminal conspiracy” involving Trump or his associates’ activities during the 2016 election.

That last hope of the Russiagate dead-enders is now gone:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III submitted a long-awaited report to Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump.
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A senior Justice Department official said the special counsel has not recommended any further indictments — a revelation that buoyed Trump’s supporters, even as other Trump-related investigations continue in other parts of the Justice Department.
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None of the Americans charged by Mueller are accused of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election — the central question of Mueller’s work. Instead, they pleaded guilty to various crimes, including lying to the FBI.

The investigation ended without charges for a number of key figures who had long been under Mueller’s scrutiny ...

Conclusions from the Mueller report will be released by the Justice Department over the next days.

That the Russiagaters were wrong for falling for the bullshit peddled in the Steele dossier and the "Russian hacking" lies of the snakeoil salesmen Clapper and Brennan was obvious long ago. In June 2017 we pointed to a long Washington Post piece on alleged Russian election hacking and remarked:

Reading that piece it becomes clear (but is never said) that the sole source for that August 2016 Brennan claim of "Russian hacking" is the absurd Steele dossier some ex-MI6 dude created for too much money as opposition research against Trump. The only other "evidence" for "Russian hacking" is the Crowdstrike report on the DNC "hack". Crowdstrike has a Ukrainian nationalist agenda, was hired by the DNC, had to retract other "Russian hacking" claims and no one else was allowed to take a look at the DNC servers. Said differently: The whole "Russian hacking" claims are solely based on "evidence" of two fake reports.

The Steele dossier was fake opposition research peddled by the Clinton campaign, John McCain and a bunch of anti-Trump national security types. The still unproven claim of "Russian hacking" was designed to divert from the fact that Clinton and the DNC colluded to cheat Bernie Sanders out of the nomination. The stupid claim that commercial click-bait from a company in Leningrad was a "Russian influence campaign" was designed to explain Clinton's election loss to the other worst-candidate-ever. The "Russiagate" investigation was designed to  prevent Trump from finding better relations with Russia as he had promised during his campaign.

All were somewhat successful because some media and some bloggers were happy to sell such nonsense without putting it into the big picture.

It is high time to start a deep investigation into Brennan, Clapper, Comey and the Clinton campaign and to uncover the conspiracy that led to the Steele dossier, the FBI investigation following from it and all the other bullshit that evolved from that investigation.

As for Marcy Wheeler, Rachel Maddow and other dimwits who peddled the Russiagate nonsense I agree with the advice Catlin Johnstone gives:

Every politician, every media figure, every Twitter pundit and everyone who swallowed this moronic load of bull spunk has officially discredited themselves for life.
...
The people who steered us into two years of Russiavape insanity are the very last people anyone should ever listen to ever again when determining the future direction of our world.

Posted by b at 01:12 PM | Comments (187)

March 22, 2019

Trump's Golan Move Was Timed To Guarantee Netanyahoo's Reelection

The people who paid for Trump's election campaign, foremost casino magnate and zionist Sheldon Adelson, want to keep the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahoo in office. Netanyahoo is under investigation in several corruption cases and has a serious competitor in the upcoming general elections in Israel. Trump needs money for his re-election campaign and is willing to do anything to get it.

Trump is colluding with Netayahoo to influence the Israeli election. It is the reason why he decided yesterday to claim that Israel has sovereignty over the Golan Heights:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 16:50 utc - 21 Mar 2019
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!

The Heights are Syrian lands that were occupied by Israel during its 1967 war of aggression against Egypt and Syria.


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The Heights are of strategic-military value. Whoever controls them can also control the plains east, west and south to it. Israel built several radar and spy station on the heights that allow it to see deep into Syria.


This profile picture falsely depicts the occupied Heights territory as Israeli.
The internationally recognized border runs near the river line.
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McClatchy has the tic toc of Trump's decision:

Cont. reading: Trump's Golan Move Was Timed To Guarantee Netanyahoo's Reelection

Posted by b at 12:36 PM | Comments (173)

March 21, 2019

How Theresa May Botched Brexit

Those were the times ...


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The Times page 1 is of January 18, 2017. Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union about Brexit were just beginning. The "you'll be crushed" arrogance in the headline characterizes the attitude the British government under May demonstrated during the talks.

Recently that attitude has somewhat changed. This screenshot was taken about an hour ago:


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The BBC writes:

Theresa May has said she "sincerely hopes" the UK will leave the EU with a deal and she is still "working on" ensuring Parliament's agreement.

Arriving in Brussels, she said that she had "personal regret" over her request to delay Brexit, but said it will allow time for MPs to make a "final choice".

At the EU summit the PM spoke to the other 27 leaders to try to get their backing for a delay beyond 29 March.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn said his talks in Brussels were "very constructive".

BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming said Mrs May spoke to EU leaders for 90 minutes and was asked several times what her contingency plans were if she lost the third "meaningful vote" on her deal in Parliament.

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that if MPs vote down Mrs May's EU withdrawal agreement next week, the UK will leave without a deal.

May asked the EU to move the hard coded March 29 Brexit date to June 30. She may be given May 23, the day of EU elections, as a compromise but only if her deal passes the British parliament.

A no-deal crash out on March 29 would create utter chaos for months. It would be catastrophic for Britain's economy.

May's withdrawal agreement was already voted down twice. If it comes to a third vote in parliament it is very likely to fail again.

Yves Smith, who you should all read, opens her Brexit sit rep today with this:

We’ve been more pessimistic than most commentators about the likelihood of the UK escaping the default of a no-deal Brexit. We may not have been pessimistic enough.

There is still the possibility that May takes a 180 degree turn, but that would be the end of her career and likely also the end of the Conservative Party:

Now there is a popular push for an Article 50 revocation, with a petition already at over 400,000 signatures as of this hour. But as we’ll discuss, May would have to do a complete reversal to revoke Article 50, which is within her power, not just a Prime Minister, but also implementing the motion by Parliament rejecting a no-deal Brexit.

Article 50 is the part of the British withdrawal law that governs the Brexit process. If May revokes it, there is little chance that another Brexit attempt will ever be made. The majority that voted to leave the EU will have been betrayed.

An analysis by the BBC Europe editor says that the "Leaders want to avoid no-deal Brexit":

[W]hile EU leaders have ruled out re-opening the Brexit withdrawal agreement and the "backstop" text, you can bet they'll discuss a longer Brexit delay at their summit today.

This is, in my view, a misjudgment.

Yes, under normal circumstances and with a competent and trustworthy negotiation partner on the British side, ways would be found to fudge the issue and to avoid a Brexit in all but its name. That is why I predicted long ago that Brexit was not gonna happen.

But May has really done everything to affront the other side of the table. She did not stick to commitments she had given, delivered papers too late to properly discuss them, and came to emergency summits called on her behalf without anything new to offer.

Matthew Parris, a conservative political commentator in London who originally favored May, now remarks of her:

"She is mean. She is rude. She is cruel. She is stupid. I have heard that from almost everyone who has dealt with her," Parris says. He said he had never expected this much hatred, "and that is not a word I use lightly."

The leaders of other EU countries also have had it with here. The voters on the continent do not care about Britain. There will be no punishment for Merkel or Macron for letting Britain crash out.

The EU will survive without the United Kingdom. With a no-deal Brexit the United Kingdom is likely to fall apart. Within a few years North Ireland would join the Irish Republic, peacefully one hopes, and Scotland would vote to leave.

A bit of hope may still rest in this one line in the BBC report which it leaves unexplained:

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn said his talks in Brussels were "very constructive".

Is there a EU deal being made with the opposition leader and behind Theresa May's back?

Given that she is the Prime Minister how would that work out?

Posted by b at 02:57 PM | Comments (155)

March 20, 2019

WaPo Gives Campaign Space To Main Sponsor Of ISIS Who Also Jails More Journalists Than Anyone Else

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan uses the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand to whip up support for local elections in Turkey:

It begins with dramatic music, edited in for effect.

Then stills of the manifesto posted by the gunman in New Zealand before his terror attack, highlighting and translating the sections targeting Turkey.

The video streamed live by the attacker comes next, shooting his way into a Christchurch mosque, before blurred images with the sound of automatic gunfire.

And then a cut to Turkey's opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, talking of "terrorism rooted in the Islamic world".

The crowd boos wildly, galvanised by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has now shown the footage during at least eight election rallies.

In a Washington Post op-ed published today Erdogan goes further.


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Erdogan compares the Australian terrorist who killed 50 people in a mosque in Christchurch with the Islamic State:

The Christchurch massacre’s alleged perpetrator attempted to legitimize his twisted views by distorting world history and the Christian faith. He sought to plant seeds of hate among fellow humans.
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In this regard, we must establish that there is absolutely no difference between the murderer who killed innocent people in New Zealand and those who have carried out terrorist acts in Turkey, France, Indonesia and elsewhere.

There is of course a big difference. While the murderer in New Zealand, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, visited fascist groups in many countries including Turkey,  he was not part of a larger organization or even a terrorist state. There is no evidence so far that he had any big sponsors.

The Islamic State and the ten-thousands of fanatics who established it had by contrast a large sponsor who enabled its killings.

His name is Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Researchers of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) recently interviewed an ISIS emir, Abu Mansour al Maghrebi, who essentially served as the ISIS ambassador to Turkey. Abu Mansour, an electric engineer from Morocco, was captured 1.5 years ago and is held in Iraq:

“My job in Raqqa was dealing with the international cases,” Abu Mansour al Maghrebi recalls of his three years serving ISIS. “My issue [duties] was our [Islamic State’s] relationship with Turkish intelligence. Actually, this started when I was working at the borders,” he explains, harking back to the first job he undertook for ISIS before becoming an ISIS emir and, seemingly, their ambassador to Turkey.
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“[My job was] guarding the borders between Syria and Turkey and to receive the fighters,” Abu Mansour explains, smiling at being recognized as more powerful than he was originally conveying. “I oversaw reception at Tal Abyad, Aleppo, Idlib, all their borders,” he answers.

Some 40,000 foreign fighters came to Syria via Turkey. Most of them joined the Islamic State. It was also Turkey that cared for wounded ISIS fighters:

Cont. reading: WaPo Gives Campaign Space To Main Sponsor Of ISIS Who Also Jails More Journalists Than Anyone Else

Posted by b at 01:03 PM | Comments (120)