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November 24, 2018

British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns

In 2015 the government of Britain launched a secret operation to insert anti-Russia propaganda into the western media stream.

We have already seen many consequences of this and similar programs which are designed to smear anyone who does not follow the anti-Russian government lines. The 'Russian collusion' smear campaign against Donald Trump based on the Steele dossier was also a largely British operation but seems to be part of a different project.

The 'Integrity Initiative' builds 'cluster' or contact groups of trusted journalists, military personal, academics and lobbyists within foreign countries. These people get alerts via social media to take action when the British center perceives a need.

On June 7 it took the the Spanish cluster only a few hours to derail the appointment of Perto Banos as the Director of the National Security Department in Spain. The cluster determined that he had a too positive view of Russia and launched a coordinated social media smear campaign (pdf) against him.


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The Initiative and its operations were unveiled when someone liberated some of its documents, including its budget applications to the British Foreign Office, and posted them under the 'Anonymous' label at cyberguerrilla.org.
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Update - The Integrity Initiative confirms the release of its documents. - End Update
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The Initiative is nominally run under the (government financed) non-government-organisation The Institute For Statecraft. Its internal handbook (pdf) describes its purpose:

The Integrity Initiative was set up in autumn 2015 by The Institute for Statecraft in cooperation with the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to bring to the attention of politicians, policy-makers, opinion leaders and other interested parties the threat posed by Russia to democratic institutions in the United Kingdom, across Europe and North America.

It lists Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council as "partner organisations" and promises that:

Cont. reading: British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns

Posted by b at 11:24 AM | Comments (138)

November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Trump pardoned this turkey.


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Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:21 PM | Comments (169)

November 21, 2018

Keeping Bin Salman In Place Will Hurt Trump's Middle East Policies

Against the advise from his intelligence services U.S. President Trump decided to leave the effective Saudi ruler, clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, in place. That move is unlikely to help with his larger policy plans.

Bruce Riedel, a (former) high level CIA analyst, long warned of betting on Mohammad bin Salman. Even before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Riedel wrote that Saudi Arabia is at its least stable in 50 years (also here):

The stability of Saudi Arabia is becoming more fragile as the young crown prince’s judgment and competence are increasingly in doubt. Mohammed bin Salman has a track record of impulsive and reckless decisions at home and abroad that calls into question the kingdom’s future.

Riedel warned that the Trump administration, by betting on Mohammad bin Salman, put everything on one dubious card. MbS is unstable and made himself many internal enemies. If King Salman suddenly dies there will probably be a leadership crisis. Saudi Arabia could end up in chaos. U.S. Middle East policy, largely build around MbS, would then fall apart.

The CIA disliked MbS since he replaced Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince. MbN is a longtime U.S. asset with a proven record of cooperation. MbS came from nowhere and the CIA has no control over him. That he is indeed impulsive and reckless only adds to that. That the CIA feared that MbS meant trouble even before the Khashoggi disaster, explains why it sabotaged Trump's attempts to exculpate MbS over the murder of Khashoggi.

While Riedel was writing about the Saudi danger, Jamal Khashoggi, a longtime Saudi intelligence agent who had aligned himself with the wrong prince, went to Istanbul to build the public relation infrastructure for regime change in Saudi Arabia:

Jamal Khashoggi, a prolific writer and commentator, was working quietly with intellectuals, reformists and Islamists to launch a group called Democracy for the Arab World Now. He wanted to set up a media watch organization to keep track of press freedom.

He also planned to launch an economic-focused website to translate international reports into Arabic to bring sobering realities to a population often hungry for real news, not propaganda.

Part of Khashoggi’s approach was to include political Islamists in what he saw as democracy building.
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Khashoggi had incorporated his democracy advocacy group, DAWN, in January in Delaware, said Khaled Saffuri, another friend. .. The project was expected to reach out to journalists and lobby for change, representing both Islamists and liberals, ...

Khashoggi's projects were allegedly financed by Qatar but probably also had CIA support.

MbS got wind thereof. He told his private office chief Bader Al Asaker to send his bodyguards to kill Khashoggi. They did so on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. But it was a much too large and too complicate mission. They Saudi agents made too many mistakes. They also underestimated the Turkish intelligence service.

The Turks had bugged the Saudi consulate and have records of all phone calls. When they learned from Khashoggi's fiancee, a well connected daughter of a co-founder of Erdogan's AK Party, that Khashoggi was missing, they wound back the tapes and unraveled the story. The killers had made four phone calls to Al Asaker to report back. In one of the calls the mission leader told him: "Tell your boss" that "the deed was done." The Turkish president Erdogan was delighted to receive such a gift. It allowed him to cut his strategic competitor down to size.

The Saudis were too slow to recognize the danger. They came up with all sorts of unbelievable claims over what happened in their consulate. Trump sent Secretary of State Pompeo who told them to find a sufficiently high ranking scapegoat:

Cont. reading: Keeping Bin Salman In Place Will Hurt Trump's Middle East Policies

Posted by b at 12:48 PM | Comments (102)

November 20, 2018

U.S. Busts APEC Summit With Tariff Demands - New York Times Blames China

A New York Times report about last weekend's summit in Asia demonstrates how U.S. media misinform their readers about international events.

The recent summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Papua New Guinea failed to come up with a joint statement. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of Papua New Guinea, who hosted the summit, promised to issue a "chair's statement" instead. None can be found so far on the APEC website. This was the first time since 1989 that no joined 'Leaders' Declaration' was issued.

The reason was a spat between the U.S. and China about a clause the U.S. tried to insert into the joint declaration.

But as the Times tells the story, the failure of the summit was solely China's fault:

At a major international gathering in Papua New Guinea over the weekend, the United States wanted to end with a group statement emphasizing free trade. China objected.

But instead of working out the disagreement through dialogue, Chinese officials barged uninvited into the office of the host country’s foreign minister demanding changes in the official communiqué.
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“China doesn’t care if it looks like a boor. If you are a tough guy, you don’t care what others think,” said Hugh White, a former military strategist for the Australian government and author of “The China Choice.”

Such behavior was only surprising because it had been more than 30 years since the world had witnessed such edginess, Mr. White said.

The Chinese deny that the APEC incident happened at all. Mr. White seems to have missed the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks during which the U.S. president and his secretary of state boorishly busted a meeting, held by China, Brazil, India and others, they were not invited to join:

Once they found the makeshift conference room where the meeting was being held, Obama, Clinton, and their aides approached a "commotion" as she describes it — foreign aides and security guards outside the door. According to Clinton, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confronted a Chinese guard. "In the commotion the president slipped through the door and yelled, 'Mr Premier!' really loudly, which got everyone's attention. The Chinese guards put their arms up against the door again, but I ducked under and made it through," Clinton wrote.

Back the NYT's APEC piece:

The American official said the Chinese had taken issue with two portions of the draft communiqué that Washington supported and other members embraced.

One paragraph said the APEC member economies agreed to fight against unfair trade practices. Another paragraph said that members of the group would work together to improve the “negotiating, monitoring and dispute settlement functions” of the World Trade Organization.

The NYT report does not say what the U.S. promoted paragraphs actually said. Nor does it quote any Chinese source. What are "unfair trade agreements"? What WTO changes were asked for? Why are these "improvements". Why is that supposed to be an APEC issue?

The AFP's has a way more informative take of the talks:

Cont. reading: U.S. Busts APEC Summit With Tariff Demands - New York Times Blames China

Posted by b at 11:57 AM | Comments (42)

November 19, 2018

Syria - Back In The Arab Fold

Following Syria's military success against its enemies, Arab states which supported the war on Syria are again making nice with it. The United Arab Emirates will reopen its embassy in Damascus. Kuwait and Bahrain will follow. Today a delegation of parliamentarians from Jordan visited Damascus and met with President Assad.

The members of the delegation affirmed that the pulse of the Jordanian street has always been with the Syrian people in the face of the terrorist war against the, as Syria is the first line of defense for the entire Arab region and the victory in this war will be a victory for all the Arab countries in the face of Western projects aimed at destabilizing and fragmenting these countries in service of Israel’s security.

First signs that this was going to happen appeared a few month ago when a Kuwaiti TV personality spoke about the pleasure of visiting an again peaceful Damascus. In June the Foreign Affairs Minister of UAE called the expulsion of Syria from the Arab league a "mistake". In an interview with a Kuwaiti paper Assad said that he had reached "major understanding" with Arab states.

The Saudis though are not yet welcome back in Damascus. They were one of the largest financiers of the Jihadis and will have to pay an equally large price to come back into good standing. Negotiations are ongoing. A formal reentry of Syria into the Arab League can not be far away.

Behind this change is a fear of renewed Turkish ambitions. Not only Saudi Arabia but all the Arab states do not want Turkey to expand and become more powerful. They do not want to see Arab land in Syria under Turkish control. The sole exception so far is Qatar which is allied with Turkey and has Turkish troops on its land to protect it from Saudi imperialism.

The three blocks that form the larger Middle East, Turkey, Iran and the Arab states north of the Red Sea are roughly of the same population size. Each block also represents a religious-political stream with Turkey leading the political-Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, Iran the political-Shia and with the third block consisting of Sunni majority countries with more or less dictatorial rulers. The three blocks compete in their borderlands of Iraq and Syria. The Arabs finally noticed that their attempts to dispose the Syrian government led to gains for Iran and Turkey and put them on the losing site.

For Syria the new Arab position is a very welcome change. While it will certainly not end its alliance with Iran, it will welcome any help against the Turkish ambitions. It also needs investments to rebuild and the rich Gulf states will surely provide some. That will also sabotage  U.S. and European plans to starve Syria of money unless it submits to their will.

Posted by b at 12:33 PM | Comments (63)

November 18, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-61

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

We were first to point out that the NYT's characterization of an old North Korean missile site as "deception" was pure nonsense. Newsweek, 38north.org, NKNews.org, The Nation and others now also condemned the neo-conned NYT propaganda.

The war let to the loss of Netanyahoo's majority in the Knesset. He is now trying to stall new elections in which he could lose his job.

Trump's Middle East policy is in total disarray. Nothing is working as planned. Netanyahoo will probebaly fall. Saudi Arabia will not make nice with Qatar. There will be no Arab NATO or anti-Iran alliance. MbS is despised but will stay on the job. Yemen is starving. The U.S. is at odds with Turkey over support for the Kurds. Trumps knows and hates this:

The adviser who talks to Trump said: “If the president had his way, he would stay entirely out of the Middle East and all of the problems."

The piece was the first to point out the difference between the Saudi investigation, which put blame on Major General Ahmed al-Asiri, and the names on the U.S. sanction list published at the same time. The Treasury declaration blamed MbS advisor Saud al-Qahtani as mastermind behind the Khashoggi murder, while the Saudis carefully avoided that. We now learn that the person in the U.S. National Security Council who put al-Qahtani on the list was fired:

On Friday evening, Kirsten Fontenrose, the National Security Council official in charge of U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, resigned, administration officials said. The circumstances of her departure weren’t clear. But Fontenrose had previously been placed on administrative leave, according to people familiar with the matter.

Fontenrose had played a key role in the administration’s decision about which Saudis to sanction in response to Khashoggi’s killing, these people said.

I suspect that MbS tried, via Trump's son-in-law Kushner, to save al-Qahtani (and himself). Trump clearly wanted to do that, but Fontenrose blew the plan by pushing for al-Qahtani to be sanctioned. The CIA also sabotaged the planned exculpation of MbS by 'leaking' its judgment about MbS' personal responsibility to the press. (WaPo published the CIA conclusion in Arabic, another point the Saudis will hate.) Trump is furious that the CIA (again) sabotaged his policy:

Asked about reports that the CIA had assessed involvement by Mohammed, the president said: “They haven’t assessed anything yet. It’s too early.”

 

Other stuff:

Naked Capitalism with a review of Michael Hudson’s new book, And Forgive Them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure, and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year. It digs into the ancient history of debt and forgiveness which is, for obvious reasons, not taught in the neo-liberal 'west':

Nowhere, Hudson shows, is it more evident that we are blinded by a deracinated, by a decontextualized understanding of our history than in our ignorance of the career of Jesus. Hence the title of the book: And Forgive Them Their Debts and the cover illustration of Jesus flogging the moneylenders — the creditors who do not forgive debts — in the Temple. For centuries English-speakers have recited the Lord’s Prayer with the assumption that they were merely asking for the forgiveness of their trespasses, their theological sins: “… and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us….” is the translation presented in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. What is lost in translation is the fact that Jesus came “to preach the gospel to the poor … to preach the acceptable Year of the Lord”: He came, that is, to proclaim a Jubilee Year, a restoration of deror for debtors: He came to institute a Clean Slate Amnesty (which is what Hebrew דְּרוֹר connotes in this context).
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Back in July I wrote that there is no Jewish race or Jewish people. There are only followers of the Jewish religion strewn all over the world. Prof. Shlomo Sand makes a similar point and also debunks some other religious fairytales:

The Twisted Logic of the Jewish ‘Historic Right’ to Israel

Our political culture insists on seeing the Jews as the direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews. But the Jews never existed as a ‘people’ – still less as a nation

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The UAE/Saudi alliance stopped their latest attempt to conquer Hodeidah port in Yemen. They try to sell that as a humanitarian step. But the attack was failing when their mercenaries ran into a wall of mines and missile attacks. They took a large number of casualties. Videos: 1, 2.

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Masha is "Putinesque" and You-know-who uses her to control our children's minds, say British neo-cons and Baltic Russophobes. I say #JeSuisMasha and promise to watch her even more.


Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:20 AM | Comments (180)

November 17, 2018

Syria Sitrep - Army Wins Al-Safa Battle - More Troops Move Towards Idelb

Today the Syrian army won the al-Safa battle. Al-Safa is a barren area around an old volcano southeast of Sweida where in July ISIS abducted dozens of hostages. The last of those hostages were freed in a commando raid ten days ago.

With the hostages out of the way the Syrian army could finally use heavy weapons against ISIS which hid in the caves of the al-Safa field. Under heavy artillery cover the troops made good progress (video). Then came three days of unprecedented rain fall. ISIS fighters drowned in their caves and fighting positions. The commander of ISIS in the area, a Chechen, was killed. Those ISIS fighter who were left fled towards the al-Tanf area, which is under U.S. control, and into the desert in east Homs. The Syrian army is now in full control al-Safa.


Map via South Front - bigger

The situation in the U.S. controlled northeast is complicate. The Kurdish YPG/PKK forces the U.S. allied with do not get along with the Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces and vice versa. Isolated attacks on Kurdish SDF units happen each day. It is unknown if these are by ISIS sleeper cells, local Arabs who despise the new Kurdish overlords, or some third party under Turkish direction.

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - Army Wins Al-Safa Battle - More Troops Move Towards Idelb

Posted by b at 12:43 PM | Comments (36)

November 16, 2018

The White House Spat With Jim Acosta Is Not A First Amendment Issue, Julian Assange's Indictment Is One

U.S. media support a questionable First Amendment case when one of the network reporters was rebuked by the White House. They are quiet on another case where the danger to the rights of a free press is much more serious.

On November 9, during a White House press conference with U.S. president Donald Trump, CNN reporter Jim Acosta staged a confrontation. His 'questions' to Trump during the press conference amounted to political statements and personal accusations. The situation escalated when Acosta insisted to make more statement while the president invited other reporters to ask their questions.

The first Acosta statement/question was about the so called caravan of immigrants that traveled through Mexico to the U.S. border. Trump had used it as a boogeyman during the midterm election campaign and had called it an "invasion". Trump answered the question by explaining that he wants immigrants to go through the legal immigration process and to not pass the border illegally. Acosta interrupted Trump's answer and asked a follow up, again in an accusing tone. Trump also answered that second question.

Acosta made another attempt to involve Trump into a political discussion about the issue. The president rejected that by telling Acosta to do his job as reporter while he, Trump, would do his as president. He moved on to the next reporter.

A White House aid got up to fetch the mobile microphone Acosta held in his hand. He more or less pushed her away and tried to ask another question, this time on the "Russian investigation". Trump told him "That's enough. That's enough." Acosta continued to ask. Trump relented and answered the question by saying that the whole "Russia investigation" is a hoax. Acosta tried another question, number five, asking if Trump was worried about indictments in the case. Trump turned away.

Acosta finally gave up the microphone. Trump then told Acosta that he is a "rude, terrible person" and that CNN "should be ashamed" to have him as a reporter.

Trump turned to another reporter to continued the press conference. While the next reporter asked his question Acosta got up again, interrupted the other reporter and again tried to get Trump into a discussion. He failed.

A video of the full exchange is here.

When I watched that segment on that day I found the behavior of Acosta obnoxious and primitive. He, and a few other reporters, did not ask questions to elicit answers, but tried to provoke Trump by making partisan political statements which were only superficially framed as questions. Acosta's behavior was impolite and disrespectful not only towards Trump but also to fellow reporters.

Later that day the White House revoked Acosta's White House 'hard pass' which gives the holder expanded access to the White House. CNN went to court claiming that the revocation violated Acosta's first and fifth amendment rights.

The First Amendment is about free speech. It has nothing to do with a 'right' to enter the White House. Neither does the right to free speech include a 'right' to get invited to press conferences. The Fifth Amendment is, among other things, about due process.

CNN asked the court for a preliminary restraining order against the White House revocation of Acosta's 'hard pass'. It was granted today based on case law related to the Fifth Amendment due process argument. Preliminary orders are not final judgments. They are granted to prevent potential additional damage while a legal case goes on. The court seemed to disagree with the underlying precedence the CNN lawyers had cited:

As [judge] Kelly began to offer his view on the components of CNN's request, he said that while he may not agree with the underlying case law that CNN's argument was based on, he had to follow it.

"I've read the case closely," he said. "Whether it's what I agree with, that's a different story. But I must apply precedent as I see it."

He left open the possibility that the White House could seek to revoke it again if it provided that due process, emphasizing the "very limited" nature of his ruling and saying he was not making a judgment on the First Amendment claims that CNN and Acosta have made.

The judge seems to thinks that the White House was justified but acted in a too chaotic manner when it revoked Ascota's 'hard pass' without citing rules or regulations. It is most likely that the White House will now create such rules pertaining White House access and press conferences. It will then use those to again limit Acosta's access.

I would be fine with that. The news value of White House press conferences has steadily been going down. That's to some part the fault of the White House press secretary. But it is also to a large part the fault of the press corps and the media who do not ask real questions but are unreasonably hostile and seem to be more interested in creating political strife than in facts. Some disciplinary measure may help to change that.

The Trump administration is doing some horrible stuff in dismantling environmental and legal regulations. Its foreign policy is devastating whole countries. Its fiscal policies are catastrophic. There are many good question that could be asked about these issues, but they no longer come up. Instead the press corp, especially the network reporters, play gotcha and use the press conferences for political stunts.

A number of other media organizations supported the CNN case by filing amicus briefs. That is probably a mistake. The legality of Acosta's case is quite dubious. The more the media engages on his site, the more will the White House push back by creating stricter regulations. These regulations, once they are laid out, will be used against all media. If not by this administration then by the next one.

It would also be nice if these first amendment defenders would take up a real first amendment case instead of the phony Acosta issue.

Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, has been indicted by the Justice Department for publishing truthful information about illegal and outrageous behavior of the U.S. government and U.S. politicians.

I don't see any of those who defend the obnoxious behavior of Acosta, taking a first amendment stand in the case against Wikileaks and Assange. None of those media, who all reported on and profited from the material Assange published, has filed an amicus brief to his case. The indictment of Assange is a grave threat to press freedom. Where are the editorials defending him?

 

Posted by b at 02:43 PM | Comments (116)

November 15, 2018

U.S., Saudis Fight Over Crown Prince Advisor - White House Tries To Appease Erdogan

The chief prosecutor of Saudi Arabia cleared his boss, clown prince Muhammad bin Salman, of involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. A number of easily replaceable people were indicted. In a coordinated move the U.S. Treasury sanctioned a number of the people who played a role in the Khashoggi case. There is an interesting difference between the Saudi and the U.S. list of the involved people. Meanwhile the White House is looking for ways to induce Turkey to finally settle the case.

The Saudi prosecutor indicted eleven people and demands the death penalty for five of them. It is not yet known under which article of Saudi law the people were indicted. Death penalties under some articles often end with pardons. Ten other persons are still under investigation.

The story told in the briefing of the Saudi investigation results gives a new version of the events. (No names are given in the briefing. They were added below based on earlier reports.) The briefing says:

  • The former Deputy President of the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), Major General Ahmed al-Asiri, issued an order to the mission leader Maher Mutreb to bring Kashoggi back to Saudi Arabia by means of persuasion or by force.
  • ‏The leader of the mission formed a 15-member team that consisted of three groups (negotiations/ intelligence/ logistics) to persuade and return the victim. Mutreb consulted with the now fired advisor to MbS, Saud al-Qahtani, because Qahtani knew Khashoggi.
  • A forensic expert was included in the team "for the purpose of removing evidence from the scene in the case force had to be used to return the victim."
  • The mission leader contacted a collaborator in Turkey "to secure a safe location in case force had to be used return the victim."
  • "After surveying the Consulate, the head of the negotiation team concluded that it would not be possible to transfer the victim by force to the safe location in case the negotiations with him to return failed. The head of the negotiation team decided to murder the victim if the negotiations failed."
  • The investigation concluded that the crime was carried out after a physical altercation with the victim where he was forcibly restrained and injected with a large amount of a drug resulting in an overdose that led to his death.
  • The bod was dismembered. Five people carried the parts out of the consulate and one of them later handed them over to a collaborator.
  • One member of the mission put on Khashoggi's clothes, walked outside for a while and disposed them in a trash can.
  • The leader of the mission agreed with the leader of the negotiation team to write a false report which claimed that that Khashoggi had left the consulate.

So far the story the Saudi investigation tries to sell.

It effectively absolve the clown prince. It absolves his media advisor Saud al-Qahtani and MG Ahmed al-Asiri. The leader of mission will probably be sentenced for falsifying his report, while the head of the negotiation team and some of his helpers will take the brunt of the penalties. They are commoners, three or four levels below the top, and of no further value.

The story is of course not believable. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. No low level employee would dare to decided to kill a person of higher interests when the order says to bring the person back alive. Neither the mission leader nor the negotiation team leader would take such a step without consulting with Riyadh.

The murder was clearly planned at a higher level and well before the team landed in Istanbul. One does not bring a person that looks like the victim to make it look like the victim walked out 'just in case' something bad happens. If an abduction is planned one does not bring a 'forensic expert' -who in reality is a well known doctor specialized in autopsies- to 'cleanup' the scene.

The Saudi release was coordinated with the White House. Shortly after the Saudi prosecutor went public, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned several persons under the Global Magnitzky Act over the case:

Cont. reading: U.S., Saudis Fight Over Crown Prince Advisor - White House Tries To Appease Erdogan

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (104)

November 14, 2018

Netanyahoo's Likely Fall Destroys Trump's Middle East Strategy

The political upheaval in Israel is a problem for the White House and its Middle East plans.

Today Israel's defense minister Avigor Lieberman resigned and called for new elections. He disagreed with prime minister Netanyahoo over the renewed ceasefire in Gaza.

Netanyahoo had worked towards the earlier ceasefire to split Gaza under Hamas from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas. That split is along the ideological line of the larger split in the Middle East between Qatar and Turkey as the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the absolute rules like the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman. Qatar is now financing Hamas in Gaza while the Saudis prop up Abbas.

This splitting up of the Palestinians is an intended part of the Jared Kushner 'peace' plan for the Middle East. The Palestinians shall no longer be recognized as a people but must be splintered into small local groups without a common identity who can then be more easily suppressed.

Lieberman seems to disagree with this plan. He wants to wage war against Hamas and defeat it. Any such attempt would of course reunite the Palestinians. But there is a loud constituency in the Zionist population that supports Lieberman's way.

This photo was taken today shortly before Lieberman resigned. Netanyahoo was not happy about the dilemma he is now in.


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He wanted to avoid an early election. His Likud party just lost seats in local elections and he is afraid of a campaign that would play out over Gaza and his 'dovish' stand in the latest conflict.

But with only a two seat majority and an unstable coalition Netanyahoo will have trouble to hold on.

Cont. reading: Netanyahoo's Likely Fall Destroys Trump's Middle East Strategy

Posted by b at 03:23 PM | Comments (110)

November 13, 2018

The Short War With Gaza Exposed Israel's Weakness - Updated

Updated below
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Last week a ceasefire was agreed upon between Palestinian factions in Gaza and Israel:

The aim of the change, in a plan mediated by Egypt and with money supplied by Qatar, is to provide much-needed relief for Gaza, restore calm on the Israeli side of the border and avert another war.

On Sunday night Israeli special forces broke the ceasefire by invading Gaza under disguise. Such incursions happen quite often but are usually left unreported. The invaders wore civilian clothing and some were cloaked as women. Their cars arrived at the house of a local Qassam commander but suspicious guards held them up. A firefight ensued in which 7 Palestinians and 1 Israeli officer were killed. It is not clear what the intent of the Israeli raid was. A car left behind held what appeared to be surveillance equipment. The intruders fled back to Israel.

It is likely that rivalry within the Israeli government was behind this provocation:

[T]he perception that Israel, by allowing the fuel and cash shipments into Gaza, was paying off Hamas set off acrimonious wrangling between two rival right-wing members of Israel’s security cabinet.

Earlier Sunday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called the cash infusion “protection money.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Mr. Bennett of having supported such payments and of having opposed in recent weeks the more aggressive military reprisals against Hamas that Mr. Lieberman favored.
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By night’s end Mr. Netanyahu had cut short his trip [to Paris] and was flying back to Israel in response to the Gaza hostilities.

Did Lieberman order the incursion to undercut Netanyahoo ceasefire and his rival Bennet?


Map via SouthFront.org - bigger

The breach of the ceasefire by Israel set off another round of tit for tat strikes. A commando unit of Hamas' Qassam brigade launched an attack against a bus that had carried Israeli soldiers to the border. To avoid further escalation the shooter waited until the soldiers were out of the way before hitting it. Only the driver was injured. Then the Israeli air force destroyed the al-Aqsa TV station in Gaza city after notifying the Palestinians of its intent. It also damaged a university building. Rocket volleys from Gaza followed and the Israeli air-force hit several buildings. After 48 hours the ceasefire was renewed.

During the conflict the Palestinian side demonstrated a series of new capabilities:

Cont. reading: The Short War With Gaza Exposed Israel's Weakness - Updated

Posted by b at 02:52 PM | Comments (102)

November 12, 2018

False Reports In U.S. Media Suggest A Great Deception

The New York Times is lying to its readers about the commitments of an adversarial state. It did not learn a single lesson from its fake reporting that led the Iraq War. It again furthers hostile aggression.


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In a piece published today, In North Korea, Missile Bases Suggest a Great Deception, the paper lies about North Korea's commitments:

North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat.

The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.

There is no North Korean deception. It agreed to dismantle a missile test site, not an operative "launching site", and it agreed to a moratorium of nuclear and missile testing. Nowhere has it made any commitment to stop productions or deployments of missiles.

The Singapore Declaration Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump signed says nothing about ballistic missiles. It agrees on four step to be taken in sequence: 1. establish new US-DPRK relations, 2. build a lasting and stable peace regime in all of Korea, 3. support of the Panmunjom Declaration between North and South Korea, 4. North Korea commits "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

There is no public or secret commitment by North Korea to stop its production of ballistic missiles just as there is not commitment by the United States to stop its continuing arms buildup.

There is in fact the opposite. North Korea openly said multiple times that it would increase its ballistic missile capacity. In May 2017 Chairman Kim Jong-un ordered to start mass production of the medium range Pukguksong-2 (Poseidon-2) missile:

Cont. reading: False Reports In U.S. Media Suggest A Great Deception

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (68)

November 11, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-60

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Other stuff:

Syria Comment has a good piece on the situation of the Druze in Sweida, south Syria. The fight against the ISIS holdout in the nearby volcanic al-Safa hills was handicapped as ISIS still held Druze women and children as hostages. The Syrian army could not use heavy weapons for fear of killing the them. Last week the last hostages were freed in a commando raid. The battle against ISIS in the southeastern semi-desert can now recommence with full air and artillery support. Then comes Idleb ...

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A longread I enjoyed: Cesspools, Sewage, and Social Murder - Environmental Crisis and Metabolic Rift in Nineteenth-Century London. How a change in fertilizer usage and urbanization developed into a social crisis from human waste.

---

Last week a suddenly stiff shoulder due to a pinched nerve disabled my capability to type. Resting the arm and some mild medication helped. But I also changed the mouse I use from a conventional type to a more ergonomic (and expensive) one. The more natural positioning of the hand is one advantage. The other is the (adjustable) higher resolution that allows me to use a big screen with very little movement. It took a few days to get used to it by I would not want to miss it.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:04 AM | Comments (128)

November 10, 2018

Yemen - Holding Hodeidah Is The Houthi's Last Chance

From last weeks MoA review:

The UAE and its mercenaries have renewed a large attack on Hodeidah. Should they capture it they will control all supplies to the Houthi areas. The Saudis and the UAE seem to use the 30 days Trump has given them for maximum gain.

The attack led by the United Arab Emirates has nearly achieved to surround Hodeidah. The city and its port are the only way left to provide food to some 20 million people living in the capital Sanaa and the northern highlands. Should Hodeidah fall, the Houthi and their allies will have to submit to the Saudis or see their people die of starvation.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which works in Hodeidah, notes:

There is now only one viable overland route from Hodeidah city to Sana'a, and a very high risk that further aerial or land attacks on roads or bridges could sever access roads between the cities entirely, cutting the last remaining supply route for food, fuel and medicine to many of the estimated 20 million Yemenis who depend on imports through Hodeidah to meet their basic needs.

Currently the Houthi try the same tactic that broke earlier UAE attempts to conquer Hodeidah (upper left). They cut the long UAE supply line coming from the south along the western coast over which the attacking force (red) is provided with food, fuel and ammunition. If the latest news is correct they achieved that in two places.


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Cont. reading: Yemen - Holding Hodeidah Is The Houthi's Last Chance

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (69)

November 09, 2018

ISIS Again Claims Cyber Attacks Which Were Falsely Blamed On Russia

Since late 2014 the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had its own hacking group. It waged cyber attacks against media and military targets. The group became known as United Cyber Caliphate (UCC).

Later on some "experts" attributed the UCC attacks to Russia. They claimed that the Cyber Caliphate did not exist but was a Russian false flag operation. There is now new evidence such claims are nonsense.

The attacks claimed by the Cyber Caliphate included:

  • Jan 2015 - Twitter and Youtube account of the U.S. CentCom taken over and filled with pro-ISIS messages.
  • Mar 2015 - United States Air Force's pilots list with detailed personal information posted online.
  • Apr 2015 - French TV5Monde live feed and social media hacked and defaced with the message "Je Suis ISIS".
  • Apr 2015 - Australian airport website defaced with ISIS message.
  • Aug 2015 - United States' military database hacked and data of some 1400 personnel posted online.
  • Sep 2015 - British government emails hacked. Email addresses of top cabinet ministers published.
  • Apr 2016 - UCC successfully hacks 20 Australian business websites, redirects them to ISIS content.
  • Apr 2017 - UCC released a kill list of 8,786 people.

ISIS delivered flawless propaganda material with well edited videos and created its own glossy magazines. Producing these required computer expertise. It was thus not astonishing to learn that some hackers had joined ISIS and worked with its media team. From an ISIS perspective the above listed targets all made sense. There was no reason to doubt the ISIS claims.

But then the 'Russia scare' nonsense took over. Suddenly each and every assumed computer attack, including those by the Cyber Caliphate, were attributed to Russia:

Cont. reading: ISIS Again Claims Cyber Attacks Which Were Falsely Blamed On Russia

Posted by b at 03:33 PM | Comments (44)

November 08, 2018

Two 'Russian Influence' Campaigns Claim Victory - One Is Real, The Other One Fake

Two new 'Russian' campaigns claim victory in their disinformation acts against the 'west'. One is real and the other one is fake. But - as usual by now - 'western' media mistake one for the other. For them the real one is fake and the fake one real*.

Proud Bear, a collective of GRU spies, celebrates its success in arranging Britain's exit from the European Union. It rented billboards in London to claim victory.


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Last night the GRU agents launched their @Pr0ud_Bear Twitter account and their webpage proudbear.ru to proudly confess their deed and to celebrate success.

Cont. reading: Two 'Russian Influence' Campaigns Claim Victory - One Is Real, The Other One Fake

Posted by b at 05:17 PM | Comments (79)

November 07, 2018

A Short Take On The Midterm Elections

The midterm elections in the United States had mixed results. Both sides will claim victory. There was no landslide in either direction.

The Republicans extended their majority in the Senate while the Democrats took the House of Representatives.

My hunch, that the Republicans would keep a majority in the House, was wrong. I underestimated the turnout for the Democrats. Some 114 million people voted yesterday compared to 88 million in the 2014 midterms.

The Democrats won at least 26 additional seats in the House. They needed 23 seats to gain a majority. Republicans increased their majority of 51 seats in the Senate to at least 54 seats.

The Democrats will chair all House committees and will run dozens of investigations against President Trump and his administration. They will subpoena his tax records, launch more 'Russian collusion' investigations and will question the ethics of Trump administration members. It will be a lot of political theater with little value. With a solid Republican majority in the Senate there is no chance that Trump will be impeached.

Trump's domestic agenda will be hindered by the new House majority. He may well compensate for that with a more aggressive foreign policy.

With more than $5 billion spent on midterm election campaigns the elected people are more indebted to their rich donors than ever before.

Florida passed an amendment that will restore the voting rights of some 1.4 million people with past felony convictions. This will change the political landscape. Most of the felons are people of color, often convicted for very minor crimes. In 2016 Trump carried the state by 100,000 votes.

Brothel owner Dennis Hof, who died on October 16, defeated Democrat Lesia Romanov and wins a Republican seat in the Nevada state assembly.

The campaign for the 2020 election has begun.

Posted by b at 03:04 AM | Comments (199)

November 06, 2018

Open Thread 2018-59

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:18 PM | Comments (134)

November 05, 2018

This NYT Cartoon Helps Trump To Win

The New York Times cartoonist claims that:

  • Protecting U.S. borders from illegal entry by foreigners is not a valid mission for the U.S. military.
  • Illegally invading and destroying countries in the Middle East, to the benefit of the Zionist entity, is a valid mission.

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It is highly doubtful that U.S. voters agree with that take. Most of them seem to believe in the "Defense" moniker of the War Department.

Cartoons like the above can only help Trump win the midterm elections. One wonders why the NYT is willingly playing into his hands with this.

Posted by b at 07:44 AM | Comments (174)

November 03, 2018

The MoA Week in Review - OT 2018-58

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The SDF is very much in trouble. ISIS is still attacking. There is trouble between the locally recruited Arab footsoldiers of the SDF and the Kurdish command. The U.S. is again bombing but the defense front of the SDF has largely broken down.

The UAE and its mercenaries have renewed a large attack on Hodeidah. Should they capture it they will control all supplies to the Houthi areas. The Saudis and the UAE seem to use the 30 days Trump has given them for maximum gain.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:19 AM | Comments (195)

November 02, 2018

The Film The Israel Lobby Doesn't Want You To See

Today The Electronic Intifada published the first two parts of "The Lobby – USA", a four-part undercover investigation by Al Jazeera into Israel’s covert influence campaigns in the United States.

The planned broadcast of the film was prevented by Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, on behalf of Israel.

From EI's description:

To get unprecedented access to the Israel lobby’s inner workings, undercover reporter “Tony” posed as a pro-Israel volunteer in Washington.

The resulting film exposes the efforts of Israel and its lobbyists to spy on, smear and intimidate US citizens who support Palestinian human rights, especially BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

It shows that Israel’s semi-covert black-ops government agency, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is operating this effort in collusion with an extensive network of US-based organizations.

These include the Israel on Campus Coalition, The Israel Project and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

It is amazing that Israel gets away with such spying and intelligence operations against U.S. citizens and within the United States.

Israel and its lobby did a lot to suppress the movie and its wider distribution. That can only mean that it is good and deserves a large viewership.

Watch it here.

Posted by b at 03:28 PM | Comments (61)

November 01, 2018

By Way Of Deception - False Flag Terror Acts Press Europe To Sanction Iran

Israels secret service Mossad, with the CIA behind it, is framing Iran with alleged assassination plots in Europe.

In September a terror attack killed some 30 people in Iran. Two entities, an Arab separatist movement as well as the Islamic State terror group ISIS, took responsibility. After an investigation Iran found that it was ISIS which was responsible. It took revenge against the identified culprits.

Six weeks later Denmark claims, without providing evidence, that Iran tried to assassinate a leader of the Arab separatist movement over the incident. Iran denies any such attempt. The right wing Danish government uses the claim  to urge other European countries to sanction Iran.

It is unlikely that Iran would take action in Europe, which it urgently needs to reduce the damage of U.S. sanction, over an incident for which it already punished the Islamic State.

The Danish claims are allegedly based on information provided by Mossad. That only increases the suspicion that the assassination plot is a false flag operation similar to a recent one in Belgium. More likely though is that the CIA is behind such false flag incidents.

The details:

On September 22 gunmen killed 29 and wounded more than 70 participants and onlookers of a veterans day parade in Ahvaz, Iran:

Cont. reading: By Way Of Deception - False Flag Terror Acts Press Europe To Sanction Iran

Posted by b at 10:30 AM | Comments (93)

October 31, 2018

Yemen - After 200,000 Died An Embarrassed U.S. Finally Calls For Negotiations

Isa Blumi writes:

The war on Yemen today is a brutal example of how the expansion of global capitalist interests destroys nations.

It first takes the form of neoliberalism (often innocently labeled as globalisation) and then, as the inevitable structural collapse of the targeted country begins, (with its inevitable popular resistance undermining the political order), a more overt form of violence is introduced.

The war on Yemen moved towards the most violent form of war. A siege on a whole country with the obvious intent to cause a genocidal famine of the resisting population.

The attacking nations, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Britain and the UAE, planned to grab Yemen's resources but failed in their war. They are now making first moves to end the war. They finally recognized that they are unable to win while the financial and reputational costs of the stalemate steadily increases.

It is not by chance that this move comes after clown prince Mohammad bin Salman's recent Khashoggi disaster. It was that murder that moved the attention to his leading role in the genocidal war on Yemen.

A recent large reportage by the New York Times drew attention to the war induced famine. It includes haunting pictures of starving small children. In another censorship idiocy Facebook removed mentions of the piece that included pictures because they showed 'naked' dying children with no flesh on their bones. That might have been a friendly gesture by Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg to his chap Mohammad bin Salman, but it only increased the coverage of the issue.

More reports about the true casualty numbers of the war on Yemen emerge. A year ago Moon of Alabama criticized the often quoted "10,000 dead" that the media continue to repeat as the official casualty count of the war:

Up to July 2017 the U.S.-Saudi coalition had flown more than 90,000 air-sorties over Yemen. Most of those will have involved weapon releases. Are we to believe that only 10,000 civilians have been killed by all these bombs and the additional artillery, sharpshooters and suicide attacks? That would be inconsistent even with western reports of the known mass incidents during the war. 100,000 dead civilians caused by the war so far is a more likely number than the never changing 10,000.

Since then the numbers increased due to continued fighting but even more due to the raging famine.

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The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a group formerly associated with the University of Sussex, estimates that since March 2015, when the Saudis launched the war, 70,000 to 80,000 were killed due to combat. That estimate is conservative based on documented death as a result of fighting. The Save the Children NGO estimated in late 2017 that 50,000 children died that year for lack of food and from a ravaging Cholera epidemic.

The famine only increased since then. By the end of this year another 50,000 children will have died. The total number of dead caused by the war and blockade since March 2015 has thus likely exceeded the 200,000 mark.

Cont. reading: Yemen - After 200,000 Died An Embarrassed U.S. Finally Calls For Negotiations

Posted by b at 01:34 PM | Comments (143)

October 30, 2018

How Trump Is Winning The Midterm Elections

What are the chances that the mid-term elections in the United States, one week from now, will change the majority in the House or Senate?

The Democrats need to pick up 23 seats in the House to gain a majority. Of the 48 seats that are in play only 16 seem likely to change in their favor. In the Senate they need to take gain two seats to become a majority, but at least one of the Democrats' current seats is endangered and polls for the other 9 seats that potentially might change show a tossup.

My personal hunch is that the Republicans will keep both houses and may even gain a few seats.

The U.S. economy is doing relatively well. The recent drop in share prices points to a more mixed outlook from here on, but so far everything held up.

The Democrats have neither a program nor a leadership that incites to vote for them. They wasted two years with hyping a non-existent Russiagate that no one but Washington insiders and the media cares about. Did they actually oppose anything Trump did? They tried a #metoo stunt around a Supreme Court nomination but how effective was that?

The Democrats also failed to get rid of Hillary Clinton, or at least to shut her up. How can she, the most hated woman in the U.S.,  suggest to run again for president just a few days before the mid-terms? (Her candidacy would give Trump the easiest re-election ever.)

Trump continues to be an excellent salesman. He knows how to get and maintain attention. Each day he makes some outrageous claim or acts on some hot button issue. This has two effects: it is red meat for his base, and it gives major media attention to his politics.

Over the last days he offered a 10% tax cut for the middle class, bashed the media, suggested that house of worship should have armed guards, bashed the media more, sent troops to the border to stop a migrant caravan, bashed the media again, and attacked birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. He surely has a list of seven other issues to fill the daily news cycles until the election.

All of the above lets me expect a higher turnout of voters who lean Republican than of those who lean towards Democrats. The higher turnout wins.

With a continued majority in both houses Trump should have an easy run during the next presidential elections.

In international politics many hoped they could wait out Trump, and that by 2021 everything would go 'back to normal'. That was always the wrong strategy. Unless something unexpected happens Trump is here to stay. When he leaves a new 'normal' will have evolved and the 'normal' of 2016 will no longer exist.

Posted by b at 03:22 PM | Comments (127)

October 29, 2018

Syria Sitrep - ISIS Defeats U.S. Proxy Force - Again

The U.S. backed proxy force in east Syria again lost positions to the Islamic State.

The map shows the positions of ISIS (grey), the US. proxy force SDF (yellow) and the Syrian army (red) at the border with Iraq on October 19.


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Here are the positions as of today.


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The U.S. proxy force lost the towns Susah, Hawi al-Susah, Safafinah, Mozan, Shajlah and Baghuz Fawqani and ISIS is back at the Iraqi border. The Iraqi forces were alarmed and sealed the border on their side.

The immediate cause of the loss was another sandstorm which ISIS used to counterattack. A similar counterattack during a sandstorm  happened two weeks ago. That makes this U.S. spokesman's statement laughable:

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - ISIS Defeats U.S. Proxy Force - Again

Posted by b at 02:57 PM | Comments (70)

October 28, 2018

The MoA Week in Review - OT 2018-57

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Erdogan still has the kompromat on Mohammad in Salman and continues to use it. He demands that the Saudis say who ordered the murder and threatens to reveal more evidence:

“And of course, we have other information and documents in our hands. You will collect the harvest when the sun rises. It is not meaningful to rush for now.”

Erdogan also asked for the extradition of the Khashoggi killers. Saudi Arabia rejected that. If Erdogan goes too far -as he is prone to do- and releases all he has, he will also loose his leverage.

 

Fun read - Mark Ames mocks the war on Syria 'experts':

ShamiWitness: When Bellingcat & Neocons Collaborated With The Most Influential ISIS Propagandist On Twitter

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:58 PM | Comments (137)

These Exploitations Of The Pittsburgh Attack Deride Its Victims

Yesterday's terror attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh was committed by a man with extremely anti-Jewish and anti-immigration views. It is third attack on houses of worship in three years.

Like the earlier incidents it is a heinous crime for ignominious reasons.

But there is little sound reason to blame the incident on Trump. It does not justify to falsely claim "increased anti-semitism". To exploit it for a racist driven colonial cause makes a mockery of its victims.

The New York Times reports:

Armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning, killing at least 11 congregants and wounding four police officers and two others, the authorities said.
...
The assailant, identified by law enforcement officials as Robert D. Bowers, fired for several minutes and was leaving the synagogue when officers, dressed in tactical gear and armed with rifles, met him at the door. According to the police, Mr. Bowers exchanged gunfire with officers before retreating back inside and barricading himself inside a third-floor room. He eventually surrendered.

From reading between the lines we learn that the killer is not a Muslim. Otherwise he would be called a 'terrorist'. We can also conclude that the killer was white. Otherwise the police would have killed him.

The murderer was extremely anti-Jewish. He was a white supremacist who had the delusion that people of Jewish belief caused all the problems he perceived:

The suspect in the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue told officers that Jews were committing genocide and that he wanted them all to die, according to a charging document made public early Sunday.
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Worshippers “were brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith,” said Bob Jones, head of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office, though he cautioned the shooter’s full motive was not yet known.

Social network posts by Robert Bowers show that the immediate reason for attacking the synagogue was last week's National Refugee Shabbat ceremony by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS):

Hours before Saturday morning's shooting, the account posted again, "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

HIAS is 137 years old organization founded by and for Jews who were fleeing pogroms in Russia. It nowadays supports all refugees. The killers hate for HIAS points to the ideological closeness of white supremacists and Zionists:

On the Jewish far right, the Zionist Organization of America has attacked HIAS and other Jewish organizations for lobbying to admit Syrian refugees to the U.S. and has accused HIAS of doing so for profit.


The NYT tries to connect the incident with Trump:

Cont. reading: These Exploitations Of The Pittsburgh Attack Deride Its Victims

Posted by b at 01:22 PM | Comments (124)

October 26, 2018

Self Driving Cars And Moral Decisions - Who Will Live, Who Will Die?

While lots of companies in Silicon Valley work on self driving cars many people remain skeptical of these. The introduction of such cars raises technical, legal and most importantly moral problems.

'Self driving' comes at various levels. A parking assistant may help those people who otherwise can't park in a decent manner. Cars that drive automated on clear roads but with the oversight of a driver can fail because the supervising driver gets bored and stops to concentrate on the traffic situation. Fully autonomous cars, who do not need a driver, are still far from the state of the art.

The Society of Automotive Engineers defines the full driving automation of a vehicle as:

the full-time performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver

Autonomous cars depend on sensors to have situational awareness. Sensor can fail. They can be spoofed by weather phenomenons or willful attacks. Autonomous cars need an immensely complex software to make decisions. Paraphrasing Tony Hoare:

There are two types of computer programs. One is so simple that they obviously contain no error. The other is so complicate that it contains no obvious errors.

All self driving cars will have bugs. Their software is extremely complicate and it will have errors. They will receive updates with more errors and unpredictable consequences. Even Microsoft, the biggest software company in the world, recently screwed up a regular Windows 10 update. It deleted user data on the local disk and in the 'cloud' where it was supposed to be safe. Who will be guilty when an autonomous car bluescreens and causes an accident?

Next to the technical and legal problems autonomous cars also create moral ones. They need rules to decide what to do in extreme situations. A kid jumps into the path of the car. Should it continue straight on and hit the kid? Should it veer left into the group of chatting seniors? Or to the right where a policeman is issuing parking tickets? What set of rules should the car's software use to decide such situations?

Researchers asked people around the world how a 'Moral Machine' should behave. The respondents faced thirteen different scenarios with two possible outcomes and had to click on their preferred option. If it is inevitable to kill one person to let another one survive would you prefer the woman or the man to live on? The older person or the younger one? The passengers of the car or the pedestrians who cross the road in spite of a red light?

Cont. reading: Self Driving Cars And Moral Decisions - Who Will Live, Who Will Die?

Posted by b at 02:18 PM | Comments (136)

October 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2018

Open Thread 2018-56

Service announcement:

  • People who insult other commentators will have their comments deleted and will be blocked.
  • People who use multiple names while commenting here will have their comments deleted and will be blocked.
  • People who post "the jews did it" or similar nonsense will have their comments deleted and will be blocked.
  • If your comment does not appear immediately it likely hangs in the automated spam filter waiting for me to check and release it (or not). Posting the same comment over and over again will not change the result but increases my workload. Don't do it.
  • Don't feed the trolls.

Use for news & views ...

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

October 23, 2018

How Will Caligula Fall?

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

The gaze is telling.


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

Cont. reading: How Will Caligula Fall?

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

October 22, 2018

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

The Khashoggi saga continues to influence Middle East policies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

October 21, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-55

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

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

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

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

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

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

Use as open thread ...

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

October 20, 2018

Saudis Admit Khashoggi Murder - Offer Weak Cover-Up

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


Flag of Saudi Arabia - Old Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 18, 2018

Open Thread 2018-54

News & views not related to Khashoggi ...

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

October 17, 2018

Saudis Stonewall On Khashoggi But Pressure Will Increase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 16, 2018

Coverup Deal Will Blame Khashoggi Death On Extreme Torture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 15, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-53

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

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

October 14, 2018

Settling The Khashoggi Case Is A Difficult Matter

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

October 13, 2018

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

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


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North Korea Weaponizes Its Deal With Trump to Tangle Talks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 11, 2018

Saudis Must Cough Up Billions To Settle Khashoggi Case

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

A CNN correspondent just tweeted this:

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

Translation:

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

Prediction:

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


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

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

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

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

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

Open Thread 2018-52

News & views ...

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

October 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 09, 2018

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

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


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

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

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

Posted by b at 12:42 PM | Comments (64)

October 08, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 07, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2018-51

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

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

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

---

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The question thus is: Why was this published now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 06, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b at 10:02 AM | Comments (92)

October 05, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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