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March 04, 2019

Venezuela - Random Guyaidó Returns Only To Again Be Ignored

Juan Guaidó, the random guy who claims to be 'interim president' of Venezuela, just arrived (vid) back in Caracas. He was not arrested. It seems that President Maduro's strategy is to simply ignore Guaidó and to wait until the guy campaign runs out of steam. Meanwhile U.S. media and the Trump administration are doing their best to further that.

The New York Times reported of Random Guyaido's plans to return to Venezuela:

Guaidó Vows a Prompt Return to Venezuela, as Unity Starts to Fray

The piece included this curious passage:

These regional allies are among the 50 countries, including the United States, that have recognized him as president, not Mr. Maduro, who swore himself in in January for a second term after an election widely viewed as undemocratic.

Is it unusual that someone swears "himself" into office. It is also not what the constitution of Venezuela proscribes:

Article 231: The candidate elected shall take office as President of the Republic on January 10 of the first year of his constitutional term, by taking an oath before the National Assembly. If for any supervening reason, the person elected President of the Republic cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, he shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

So what really happened on January 10 in Venezuela? Helpfully the NYT provided a link in the passage above. It goes to this story in the January 10 edition of the Times. It says:

When President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela was sworn in for his second term on Thursday before the country’s Supreme Court, ..
...
The presidents of Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua did attend the ceremony, along with representatives from China, Mexico and Turkey.

Maduro did not swear "himself in", he was "sworn in". He took the oath in front of the supreme court which is fully consistent with the constitution. (The National Assembly is held in contempt of a judgment by the supreme court and was therefore not eligible.) The Miami Herald has a short video of the scene.

So while on January 10 the NYT correctly described that Maduro was "sworn in", it now claims that he "swore himself in". Why the Times is doing that is quite obvious. It was the U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó who "swore himself in" as 'interim president' in a form that is inconsistent with what the constitution demands. As CNN reported at that time:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Random Guyaidó Returns Only To Again Be Ignored

Posted by b at 01:56 PM | Comments (130)

March 03, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-12

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The coup attempt failed and the Random Guyaido and his U.S. minder are traveling around various south American capitals to find support. But all members of the Lima Group rejected a military attack on Venezuela. The U.S. is isolated on the issue and therefore likely to use its old trick of paying local mercenaries to destroy the country.

John Bolton @AmbJohnBolton - 22:27 utc - 2 Mar 2019
In less than one week, over 600 military members have acknowledged their sworn duty to defend the Venezuela Constitution and the legitimate President, Juan Guaido.

No pictures or report about this mysterious defector force appeared. The number Bolton mentions is probably the count of the hirelings the CIA is currently training.

This tweet also got a lot of attention and its protagonists received some mockery:

Dan Cohen @dancohen3000 - 6:21 utc - 2 Mar 2019
Juan Guaidó’s fellow Popular Will party member Freddy Superlano is hospitalized and his assistant Carlos José Salinas is dead after they took drugs with prostitutes following the #VenezuelaAidLive concert in Cúcuta, Colombia.
Diputado Freddy Superlano grave por intoxicación en Cúcuta, su asistente murió

It is unlikely that those persons voluntarily took the scopolamine (aka hyoscine) that the report says affected them. A 2012 U.S. government travel advisory for Colombia notes:

One common and particularly dangerous method that criminals use in order to rob a victim is through the use of drugs. The most common has been scopolamine. Unofficial estimates put the number of annual scopolamine incidents in Colombia at approximately 50,000. Scopolamine can render a victim unconscious for 24 hours or more. In large doses, it can cause respiratory failure and death. It is most often administered in liquid or powder form in foods and beverages. The majority of these incidents occur in night clubs and bars, and usually men, perceived to be wealthy, are targeted by young, attractive women. To avoid becoming a victim of scopolamine, one should never accept food or beverages offered by strangers or new acquaintances or leave food or beverages unattended. Victims of scopolamine or other drugs should seek immediate medical attention.

India had claimed that it bombed a Jihadist camp in Pakistan and killed some 300 Jihadists. In fact only a crow was killed. Satellite pictures show that all the expensive Israeli glide bombs India used missed their targets by some 200 meters and damaged some trees. Pakistan used that fact to troll the Indian government: Pakistan to lodge U.N. complaint against India for 'eco-terrorism' forest bombing

Two Reuters reporters who visited the site of the bombings, where four large craters could be seen, said up to 15 pine trees had been brought down by the blasts. Villagers dismissed Indian claims that hundreds of militants were killed.

Pakistan released the Indian pilot who was shot down over the Pakistan controlled area of Kashmir. That thankfully defused the situation. Both sides are back at their usual games of lobbing artillery against each others position.

Once a while I agree with the Arms Control Wonk, aka Jeffrey Lewis, who summarizes:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-12

Posted by b at 11:09 AM | Comments (134)

March 02, 2019

Why Is The British Government Banning Hizbullah?

This week the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid laid out an order that proscribes the political arm of the Lebanese resistance organization Hizbullah as a terrorist organization under the Terrorism Act 2000. The military arm of Hizbullah was already named as such.

The reason given by the home secretary makes little sense:

My priority as Home Secretary is to protect the British people. As part of this, we identify and ban any terrorist organisation which threatens our safety and security, whatever their motivations or ideology which is why I am taking action against several organisations today.

Hizballah is continuing in its attempts to destabilase the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.

During the last years Hizbullah's operated to stabilize the Syrian government and to defend Lebanon against an onslaught of Jihadis coming over the Syrian border.

How that is supposed to "destabilase the fragile situation in the Middle East" is a bit hard to understand. Moreover nothing in the definition of terrorism in the Terrorism Act 2000 speaks of destabilization and nothing in there seems to apply to Hizbullah, especially not to its political and welfare arm. Besides its operations in Lebanon and Syria there were no Hizbullah attacks at all in Britain or anywhere else.

One also wonders if the British government really considered the consequences of the act.

Sajid Javid @sajidjavid - 17:59 utc - 1 Mar 2019
❌ From today, Hizballah is a banned terrorist organisation in the UK.
❌ Anyone who is a member or invites support for it is breaking the law.
❌ It is also illegal to display Hizballah flags in public – and new laws will make this a crime online.

Under the law "support" is defined quite widely. 12(2)(c) says for example:

A person commits an offence if he arranges, manages or assists in arranging or managing a meeting which he knows is to be addressed by a person who belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organisation.

That makes it illegal to convene the Lebanese parliament where elected parliamentarians belonging to Hizbullah regularly speak. Will the UK indict the speaker of the Lebanese parliament if he travels to London? And what about those 300,000 voters in Lebanon who last May voted for Hizbullah candidates? Do they all break British law? Will they get arrested when they fly through Heathrow?

Oh - by the way - here is the Hizbullah flag straight out of Wikipedia.

Does displaying the flag make this blog, or Wikipedia, illegal to read in Britain?

The Hizbullah movement represents some 90% of all Lebanese Shia, around 30% of Lebanon's population. It runs hospitals and schools. It supports the Lebanese army. It is an integral part of the Lebanese government and state. Hizbullah called the British ban "an insult to the Lebanese people". By proscribing Hizbullah as a terrorist organization and by prohibiting any "support" for it the British government makes it extremely difficult for itself and for others to keep up relations with the Lebanese state.

One wonders what the British government is doing this and doing this now. Is this supposed to deflect from the Brexit shambles it is currently creating? Israel and the United States continue to press European governments to take such a step. But none except Britain took it. Why then does the British government feels the need to do this?

Posted by b at 02:44 PM | Comments (120)

March 01, 2019

Justin Trudeau Is Finished

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is finished. A long simmering scandal did him in.


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Between 2001 and 2011 the Canadian construction and engineering company SNC-Lavalin bribed officials in Libya with tens of millions to get contracts in that country. In 2015 the company was charged by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. It tried to avoid a trial and argued instead for a negotiated settlement since it had cleaned shop by changing its chief executive officer.

In 2016, SNC-Lavalin admitted that some former executives had illegally arranged donations of more than C$80,000 to Trudeau's Liberal Party from 2004 to 2011.

The company had revenues of some C$10 billion in 2018. Some 9,000 of its 52,000 employees work in Canada. The headquarter and 3,400 of its employees are in the province of Quebec where the Liberals need to pick up votes in October's federal election to keep their majority.

It was the task of the Justice Minister and Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to decide if the case should go on trial as the law demands, or if it could be settled out of court. A trial would likely end with SNC-Lavalin banned from all public contracts in Canada for 10 years. It would cost jobs and votes.

The company lobbied the Liberal government which brought in a remediation agreement regime in 2018 as part of a massive budget bill.

During the fall of 2018 Trudeau and his allies tried to press the attorney general, a Canadian aboriginal, to overturn the decision of the director of public prosecutions, to apply the new law and to thereby drop the criminal charges against SNC. She would not do that. In January Trudeau fired her from the justice minister and attorney general job and gave her a minor position as veteran's minister. Under solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidences Wilson-Raybould could not speak out about the issue.

On February 7 the scandal leaked from anonymous sources. Five days later Wilson-Raybould resigned as veterans minister. She hired a retired Supreme Court judge as her lawyer, to advise her on what she could say. On February 18 Gerald Butts, Trudeau's friend and principle secretary, was made the fall guy. He resigned even while he denied that he tried to influence the attorney general. Under pressure, the House of Commons Justice Committee invited Wilson-Raybould to testify. Trudeau had to wave some privilege which allowed her to finally speak out about her time as attorney general.

Yesterday Wilson-Raybould testified.

Cont. reading: Justin Trudeau Is Finished

Posted by b at 05:16 AM | Comments (152)

February 28, 2019

Trump Sticks To Sanctions - U.S., North Korea Summit Fails - Updated

Updated below
---

The second summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea was held in Hanoi, Vietnam yesterday and today. It failed. The meetings on the last day were cut short. Nothing was agreed upon and signed. No common statement was issued.

Trump held a press conference and gave his side of the talks (transcript). The issue seems to have been the sequencing of abolishing sanctions by the U.S. side versus the destruction of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor complex on the North Korean side.

The U.S. demanded the destruction of Yongbyon and of other complexes before any change in the sanction regime. North Korea insisted on following the sequencing that was agreed upon during the first summit. The joint statement by the two leaders signed in June 2018 defined four clearly sequenced steps:

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Eight month later new relations in form of the opening of embassies or a lifting of sanctions were not established. No peace treaty was signed. North Korea destroyed nuclear testing tunnels and a missile test stand. Some POW/MIA remains have been repatriated. But the U.S. side has taken no steps that could be seen as fulfilling its commitments.

Since the first summit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. media have done their best to ignore the sequencing. North Korea on the other side has insisted on it again and again. It made absolutely clear that it would not budge on the issue. In his New Year speech the chairman emphasized:

Cont. reading: Trump Sticks To Sanctions - U.S., North Korea Summit Fails - Updated

Posted by b at 07:19 AM | Comments (114)

February 27, 2019

Tit-For-Tat Bombing By India And Pakistan Could Escalate Towards A Nuclear War

Two nuclear powers are currently engaged in a tit for tat military exchange that could easily escalate into a nuclear war.

On February 14 a suicide car bomb hit a police convoy in Pulwama in the Indian controlled part of Kashmir. The suicide bomber was a local man. The Pakistan based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility and uploaded a video of the attacker.

General elections in India are due in May and the Hindu-fascist Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under pressure. The incident in Kashmir led to violence of Modi followers against Kashmiri people. Pakistan denied any involvement in the incident and called for a joint investigation.

After the suicide attack Modi immediately threatened to retaliate against Pakistan. He did so yesterday. In an elaborate operation Indian fighter jets released stand-off weapons, purchased from Israel, against an alleged JeM training camp near Balakot. India made explicit that it hit a "non-military" target.


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While the Indian jets did not enter Pakistan's airspace the target was within Pakistan's undisputed borders. Small scale ground combat between Indian and Pakistani at the line of control in Kashmir is nothing unusual. But the air attack exceed the limits both sides so far held to.

Pakistan saw the incident as a failure of its deterrence. India has about 140 nuclear weapons while Pakistan has about 100. Pakistan's conventional military is inferior to India's. It therefore follows a doctrine of asymmetric escalation which allows for nuclear strikes in response to conventional military attacks.

Pakistan could not leave the hit within its own borders without response. Not responding would have set a precedence and invite further Indian attacks. Earlier today two Pakistani J-17a jets flew into the airspace of Indian controlled Kashmir and released bombs against what its military claimed to be a "non military target":

Cont. reading: Tit-For-Tat Bombing By India And Pakistan Could Escalate Towards A Nuclear War

Posted by b at 08:44 AM | Comments (114)

February 25, 2019

Venezuela - No, The "Responsibility To Protect" Does Not Apply

Richard Haass is the president of the Council of Foreign Relations. On Friday, before the failed delivery of fake "humanitarian aid" to Venezuela, he opined that the rejection of the "aid" would justify an intervention based on the dubious doctrine of a Responsibility to Protect (R2P):

Richard N. Haass @RichardHaass - 19:26 utc - 22 Feb 2019
What the Maduro regime is doing to the people of Venezuela is inconsistent with the obligations that come with being a sovereign state. The time has come for the UN or OAS or Lima Group to consider how to apply the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. bit.ly/2TZaoZv

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Haass attached a link to a report by the Crisis Group which summarized the situation at that time:

High Noon over Humanitarian Aid at Venezuela’s Border

Attaching the Crisis Group piece is an apt display of the utter stupidity of Richard Haass. That's because the report completely contradicts his argument. The principle of the Responsibility to Protect ..

.. is based upon the underlying premise that sovereignty entails a responsibility to protect all populations from mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations. The principle is based on a respect for the norms and principles of international law, especially the underlying principles of law relating to sovereignty, peace and security, human rights, and armed conflict.

The Crisis Group report argues, quite correctly, that the Venezuelan government is legally justified to reject the "aid". Thus R2P, which presuppose that a state does not fulfill is legal obligations, can not apply to the case:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - No, The "Responsibility To Protect" Does Not Apply

Posted by b at 02:00 PM | Comments (171)

February 24, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-11

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Acting President John Bolton convinced his puppet that it should leave the U.S. troops in Syria. Elijah Magnier explores what that means: US forces will stay in Syria: Negotiations with the Kurds will be complicated, as Syria prepares for an Idlib offensive

The neocons are struggling to decide which country will be the next one to invade. Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, ... So many good choices but so little time ...

---

Meet Bill Browder: The Man Behind the Magnitsky Myth. Videos of Browder disposition in the United States in which he contradicts all his public tales about the Russian fraud case against him, and ofthe fate of his accountant Sergei Magnitsky - Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:00 PM | Comments (139)

Venezuela - There Was A Riot At The Border But What Else Did The "Aid" Stunt Achieve?

Yesterday's "humanitarian aid" stunt at the Colombian-Venezuelan border was supposed to achieve four points:

  1. to breach the border and thereby open venues that could later be used for the passage of arms and fighters,
  2. to incite large scale defections from the Venezuelan army and police forces,
  3. to demonstrate to the outside world that the Random Guyaido, who declared himself president, has a large following and is thereby legitimate enough to support him,
  4. to deliver justification for further steps against Venezuela.

Point 1 was clearly not achieved. A few hundred young men attacked the Venezuelan National Guard force that closed off the border. Attempts were made to ram "aid" trucks through. Random Guyaido was nowhere to be seen. The whole thing ended in a minor riot. The violent attackers received gasoline and made Molotov cocktails to attack the guards and set the "aid" trucks alight. Here is a video that proves that. The riots continued (vid) until about midnight but neither any rioters nor the aid passed through the border.

The New York Times headlines, and Guaido claimed, that some "aid" passed into Venezuela from Brazil:

    Some Aid From Brazil Pierces Venezuela’s Blockade, but Deadly Violence Erupts

Down in paragraph 17 of its story the NYT admits that its headline is fake:

But as of Saturday night, the trucks remained stranded on the border, according to Jesús Bobadillo, a Catholic priest in Pacaraima, the Brazilian border town.

Bloomberg's bureau chief in Venezuela confirmed that the "aid" never entered the country:

Patricia Laya @PattyLaya - 4:31 PM - 23 Feb 2019
An important note from our reporter on the Brazil border @SamyAdghirni: while the aid is technically on Venezuelan territory, it hasn't crossed security or customs checkpoints

The attempt to incite defections of Venezuelan security forces largely failed. A handful of National Guard foot soldiers went over to the Colombian side. But the National Guard lines held well even under a hail of stones and fire and the units were quite disciplined in taking and holding their positions. The military of Venezuela stays firmly on the side of the state.

The "aid" nonsense did not help to brush up Guaido's legitimacy. Defying a court order Guaido left Venezuela and entered Colombia. If he ever goes back he will have to go to jail. The large mobilization inside and outside of Venezuela he had promised completely failed to appear. The melee at the border crossing only showed that his followers are a gang of brutal thugs.

Guaido also lost his original legal position. He claimed the presidency on January 23 under this paragraph of article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - There Was A Riot At The Border But What Else Did The "Aid" Stunt Achieve?

Posted by b at 09:48 AM | Comments (111)

February 23, 2019

Venezuela - No More Than 20,000 People Came To Branson's Concert Stunt - (Updated)

UPDATE Feb 25:

After our critic below the Washington Post quietly changed its piece and eliminated the fake concert attendance claim.

End update
---

The Washington Post writes:

The attention on Saturday remained immediately focused on the single largest staging ground for aid in Cucuta, Colombia — where a massive benefit concert hosted by British billionaire Richard Branson drew a crowd of more than 200,000 people Friday.

200,000 people!

Hmm ...

200,000 people?


source - bigger

Cont. reading: Venezuela - No More Than 20,000 People Came To Branson's Concert Stunt - (Updated)

Posted by b at 12:06 PM | Comments (128)

February 22, 2019

Venezuela - Abrams To Make Sure Humanitarian Aid Flights Are "Strictly By The Book"

U.S. Department of State, February 21, 2019

Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams Travel to Miami and Cucuta, Colombia

Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams will travel to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida and Cucuta, Colombia February 21-22 to support the delivery of humanitarian aid to some of the most vulnerable people in Venezuela in response to Interim President Guaido’s request.

Special Representative Abrams will lead a U.S. government delegation to accompany humanitarian supplies to be transported from Florida to Colombia by military aircraft. While in Colombia Special Representative Abrams will meet Colombian President Duque and visiting delegations from Central and South America.

---

New York Times, August 17, 1987

Abrams Denies Wrongdoing In Shipping Arms to Contras

Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams has defended his role in authorizing the shipment of weapons on a humanitarian aid flight to Nicaraguan rebels, saying the operation was "strictly by the book."

Mr. Abrams spoke at a news conference Saturday in response to statements by Robert Duemling, former head of the State Department's Nicaraguan humanitarian assistance office, who said he had twice ordered planes to shuttle weapons for the contras on aid planes at Mr. Abrams's direction in early 1986.

 

Posted by b at 09:05 AM | Comments (135)

February 21, 2019

U.S. Efforts To Block Huawei Gives China An Advantage

For several centuries China had a monopoly on silk. It was exported along the silk road to Persia and from there to Europe. Silk production was highly profitable. The export of silkworms and their production method was prohibited. in the mid 6-th century two monks made their way from Europe to China and found out how silk was produced. They reported back to the Byzantine emperor Justitian I who induced them to secretly acquire silkworms and to smuggle them back home. The monks managed to do that and soon thereafter the Chinese silk monopoly, and Persia's monopoly of silk trade with Europe, were no more.

The U.S. fears that China will soon be able to compete with it in computer chip design and fabrication. It is trying to block China from building its own chip factories and Congress even wants to block chip exports to specific Chinese companies. It is race that the U.S. will lose. Technology and the means of producing it inevitably proliferate.

The 5G mobile data networks will use new frequencies and algorithms to deliver gigabit data streams from, to and between mobile devices. This will allow for completely new applications like direct communication between (semi-)autonomous cars at any road crossing. Worldwide a number of companies are working to provide 5G technology. That involves antennas, base stations, new hard- and software in the periphery and in the core telecommunication systems. Main providers of such systems are U.S. companies like Motorola, Qualcomm and Cisco. Others are Ericsson and Samsung. One of the largest one is the Chinese company Huawei.

Currently Huawei is the most advanced company in the 5G field. It started early and invested huge sums into research and development for 5G technology. It owns some 15% of all relevant patents. It is currently the only provider that can deliver an end-to-end solution for 5G networks. As it serves the huge market of China it can produce on a large scale and sell its equipment for less than other companies do. The other dominant telecommunication equipment provider, including those in the United States, are lagging in 5G technology. They did not invest early enough and are now late to deliver.

Instead of investing in faster development and better technology the U.S. is trying to block Huawei from selling its goods. This hurts the development of other countries that want to provide 5G networks to their people.

The U.S. has long pressed its allies not to use Chinese equipment in their phone networks. It falsely claims that Huawei equipment is a security threat.

Australia and New Zealand followed the U.S. order and prohibited the use of Huawei equipment in their 5G networks. The U.S. also tried to press the big European countries to shun Huawei. So far it failed. Germany resisted U.S. pressure to not use Huawei stuff. It fears delays in 5G deployment should it ban Huawei. Yesterday Britain also pushed back:

Cont. reading: U.S. Efforts To Block Huawei Gives China An Advantage

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

February 20, 2019

Trump Likes 'Beautiful' Border Walls - Venezuela Should Build Him One

Aaron Mate, who is currently on the ground in Venezuela (vid), notes how Trump early on targeted Venezuela:

Aaron Maté @aaronjmate - 20:59 utc - 18 Feb 2019
Page 136 of McCabe's new book, recounting a 2017 Oval Office meeting: "Then the president talked about Venezuela. That’s the country we should be going to war with, he said. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door."

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It is not only Trump's idea to 'regime change' Venezuela. Ever since 1998, when Hugo Chavez was elected, the U.S. plotted to 'regime change' Venezuela. It was Obama who put sanctions on the country. Right wing economists have for years thought up detailed plans on how to rob Venezuela of its national assets.

Plan A for the recent coup attempt failed when the Venezuelan military did not accept Random Guyido's brazen claim to the presidency. There was no plan B. The U.S. is now improvising. The delivery of "humanitarian aid" is a pretext to break the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

U.S. government "aid" is always political. U.S. aid workers are suspects. Consider these USAID RED teams which a 2018 study, commissioned by the U.S. foreign aid agency, recommended:

RED Team officers, the report explains, would carry out development activities, but they would also have training and expertise that are not typically included in USAID job requirements.

“RED Team personnel would be able to live and work in austere environments for extended periods of time and actively contribute to their own security and welfare. They would be deployed farther forward than USAID personnel traditionally deploy and would routinely operate under the authority of the host agency with whom they deploy, acting in accordance with their security posture,” the report reads.

“RED team members would be trained and authorized to conduct themselves as a force-multiplier able to contribute a full suite of security skills as needed,” it says.

USAID officers will also be special forces? Special forces will also be USAID workers? Which is it? How many of these 'Red Teams' are now in Colombia waiting to cross into Venezuela?

On Saturday February 23 a breach of the Venezuelan border will be attempted with the intent to provoke an escalation. That escalation will then be used to justify further action up to military strikes or even an invasion.

How exactly the game will be played out is still not clear:

Despite the tough language, it remained unclear how the Venezuelan opposition would break Mr. Maduro’s blockade of the border with a delivery of food and medication on Saturday. Mr. Trump’s own national security adviser said the American military — which has airlifted tons of supplies to Venezuela’s doorstep on the Colombia border — will not cross into the country.

The so called "aid" is also supposed to come via sea and through the border with Brazil. To prevent that Venezuela closed down the maritime border with the Dutch Caribbean Islands:

Cont. reading: Trump Likes 'Beautiful' Border Walls - Venezuela Should Build Him One

Posted by b at 10:12 AM | Comments (126)

February 19, 2019

Why Iran Needs To Talk With The Taliban

The Trump administration is preparing a public argument for war on Iran. The Washington Times has some 'senior administration officials' claiming that Iran is allied with al-Qaeda and thus could and should be attacked:

Iran-al Qaeda alliance may provide legal rationale for U.S. military strikes

Iran is providing high-level al Qaeda operatives with a clandestine sanctuary to funnel fighters, money and weapons across the Middle East, according to Trump administration officials who warn that the long-elusive, complex relationship between two avowed enemies of America has evolved into an unacceptable global security threat.
...
The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in the days after the 9/11 attacks provided the legal framework for President George W. Bush to order U.S. military action against the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. The law has underpinned the U.S. counterterrorism campaign and has largely gone unchanged for the past 17 years through three presidential administrations.

Congressional and legal sources say the law may now provide a legal rationale for striking Iranian territory or proxies should President Trump decide that Tehran poses a looming threat to the U.S. or Israel and that economic sanctions are not strong enough to neutralize the threat.

That Iran is colluding with al-Qaeda, which it actively fights in Syria and Iraq, is obviously nonsense. When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan some families of al-Qaeda fighters fled to Iran where they were put under house arrest. They were and still are hostages Iran uses to prevent al-Qaeda attacks against its country. The Washington Times admits this:

One captured 2007 document, apparently written by an al Qaeda operative, concluded that, in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq, “Iranian authorities decided to keep our brothers as a bargaining chip.”

At the recent conferences in Warsaw and Munich the Trump administration failed to gain any European support for its anti-Iran strategy. Iraq has likewise rejected all U.S. attempts to position it against Iran. If the U.S. wants to attack Iran it will need to go it alone. Its 'allies' west of the Persian Gulf will give financial support but are not a serious military force. What they can do though is to ramp up terrorism against Iran.

The former Indian ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar suspects that the U.S. is trying to envelope Iran from the east to establish land routes that can be used for such purposes. The plan includes Pakistan and even the Afghan Taliban:

Cont. reading: Why Iran Needs To Talk With The Taliban

Posted by b at 01:24 PM | Comments (110)

February 18, 2019

Syria Sitrep - French Officer Criticizes U.S. Way Of War - Assad Offers Kurds Some Autonomy

A large double-tap car bombing (vid) hit Idleb city in northwest Syria today. Some 20 to 30 people were killed and more wounded. Idleb governorate is controlled by the al-Qaeda aligned Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) but many other terrorist groups continue to exist within the area. All fight each other over the available resources.

In September the Astana agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran was the basis of a ceasefire in Idleb governorate. Turkey was supposed to cleanse the area of HTS and other terrorist groups. It deployed soldiers to fortified observation posts around the region but did little else to fulfill the agreement.

Turkey is not only dragging its feet on Idleb but allows new foreign fighters to go there:

According to local sources in the province cited by Sputnik, around 1500 terrorists crossed the Turkish border into Idleb under the cover of the Turkish authorities supported by Turkish agents and directly supervised by the Turkish Gendarmerie (Jandarma) that is affiliated to the Turkish army.
...
The sources mentioned that the terrorists are of Western nationalities, in addition to others who hold nationalities of East Asian and Arab countries, who were transported towards Jisr al-Shughour area that is under the control of terrorists from China and Turkistan, while the other foreign terrorists were transported to camps of Jabhat al-Nusra and Hurras Eddin in the southern and southeastern countryside of Idleb.

It is likely that many of these new arrivals are ISIS terrorist who fled from east Syria to Turkey and were then routed towards Idleb. The terrorist in Idleb governorate continue to attack Syrian troops around them. They use up quite a lot of ammunition and must have supply lines from Turkey to sustain the fighting.

Another recent meeting in the Astana format with Russia, Iran and Turkey confirmed the basic agreement but did not achieve a common position on how to proceed.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet just published an interview with Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. On Idelb he said:

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - French Officer Criticizes U.S. Way Of War - Assad Offers Kurds Some Autonomy

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (68)

February 16, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-10

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The U.S. attack against Venezuela triggered riots in Haiti. Haiti received oil and credit from Venezuela under very preferential conditions. The money saved was supposed to go into a special PetroCaribe fund to be spend on social projects in Haiti. When the U.S. enacted sanctions against Venezuela, Haiti stopped paying and the cheap oil flow ended. The fund was looted by local politicians. When the government then supported the U.S. coup attempt against Venezuela the people had enough and took to the streets.

BajoElCieloDeMoscú @VuelvaLaURSS - 17:28 utc - 14 Feb 2019
Translated from Spanish
The Haitian people have been protesting for five days against the dictator who supports Guaidó in Venezuela, Jovenel Moises. In 5 days, the repressive forces of this criminal have murdered 52 Haitians and left 247 wounded. So you can see the streets of Puerto Principe, full of bodies.

The video attached to the above tweet shows five civilians, presumably dead, laying in the road.

---

A former chief of staff Nicolas Maduro, now a professor at Science Po in Paris, warns in an interview that the situation in Venezuela could easily escalate into a civil war.

Q: One of the things that have been said by the opposition very clearly is that there will be new elections. That is part of their plan.

A: And what guarantees that the departure of Maduro doesn't create a civil war, for instance? The reality of Venezuela is that it is a very polarized country. It is totally unrealistic or irresponsible to think or to assume that there are all the guarantees for Venezuela to be in a peaceful situation. In order to be an election, you have to agree on the terms of that election. When will the election be held? Who can be allowed to run for those elections? And that's exactly the problem — saying there will be elections is assuming that the problem is solved before even addressing it.

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Greg Grandin on sovereignty and Latin America: What’s at Stake in Venezuela?

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---


Other stuff:

- "It's all about the Benjamins baby." That tweet by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the reaction to it, put new focus on the Zionist lobby. M.J. Rosenberg: This Is How AIPAC Really Works - WSJ: Aipac raises more than $100 million a year, which it spends on lobbying politicians

- A longread by Matthew Hoh, who resigned over Obama's 2009 surge in Afghanistan: Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies

- A Chinese anime video series about the life and work of Karl Marx: The Leader (with subtitles in 7(!) languages)

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:04 PM | Comments (171)

The Deep Nation Of Russia

In a newly published essay, a close aide to the Russian President Vladimir Putin describes the system of governance in Russia. It stands in contrast to the usual 'western' view of the 'autocratic' Russian state.

U.S. media often depict Russia as a top-down state, run at the whims of one man. They cite western paid scholars to support that position. One example is this column in Friday's Washington Post:

Why Russia no longer regrets its invasion of Afghanistan
Putin is reassessing history to make the case for adventures abroad.

On February 15 1989 the last soldiers of the Soviet army left Afghanistan. Later that year the Congress of People’s Deputies, the elected parliament of the USSR, passed a resolution that condemned the war:

Now, however, the Russian government is considering reversing this earlier verdict, with the Duma set to approve a resolution officially reevaluating the intervention as one that took place within the bounds of international law and in the interests of the U.S.S.R.

The authors ascribe the move to the Russian president and claim that he makes it to justify Russia's engagements in current wars:

The Kremlin is rewriting history to retrospectively justify intervention in countries such as Ukraine and Syria as it seeks to regain its status as a global power.
...
To avoid domestic opposition, [Moscow] cannot allow the public to perceive Syria through the prism of the Afghan experience. Putin and his allies have decided to tackle this problem head-on by reinterpreting that experience.
...
That is why perhaps Putin, and Russian lawmakers, are marking the poignant anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by attempting to ascribe meaning to that long-lost meaningless war.

The columns is typical for the negative depiction of Russia, and its elected leader. Each and every move in the bowels of the Russian Federation is, without evidence, ascribed to its president and his always nefarious motives.

It is also completely wrong. The new resolution it muses about never came to a vote:

Cont. reading: The Deep Nation Of Russia

Posted by b at 06:32 AM | Comments (170)

February 14, 2019

Venezuela - Media Find Trump's Coup Plan Does Not Work

On January 25, two days after Random Guyidó declared himself President of Venezuela, the lack of planing in the U.S. coup attempt was already obvious:

My impression is that Trump was scammed. It was long evident that he gives little attention to details and does not think things through. Most likely Bolton, Pompeo and Rubio presented him with a three step plan:

Phase 1. Support the self declared president Guaidó; Phase 2: ... (wishful thinking) ...; Phase 3: Take half of their oil!
...
Bolton and Pompeo are both experienced politicians and bureaucrats. They likely knew that their plan was deeply flawed and would require much more than Trump would normally commit to. My hunch is that the soon coming mission creep was build into their plan, but that they did not reveal that.

The U.S. coup planners and their Venezuelan puppets had hoped that the Venezuelan military would jump to their side. That was wishful thinking and unlikely to happen. They also thought up some "humanitarian aid" scheme in which pictures of trucks crossing a long blocked bridge would soon shame the Venezuelan president into stepping down. That was likewise nonsense.

Unless the U.S. is willing and able to escalate, the coup attempt is destined to fail.

'Western' media now recognize that phase 2 of the coup plan is in deep trouble. Today the Guardian, Bloomberg and the New York Times all describe growing frustration with the lack of success.

The Guardian notes:

[T]hree weeks after Guaidó electrified the previously rudderless opposition movement by declaring himself interim leader, there are signs his campaign risks losing steam.

An anticipated mass defection of military chiefs – which opposition leaders admit is a prerequisite to Maduro’s departure – has not materialized, and Maduro’s inner-circle has begun claiming it has weathered the political storm.

Bloomberg writes:

Since Juan Guaido declared himself interim president three weeks ago and offered amnesty to officers who abandon Maduro, more than 30 countries led by the U.S. have hailed the move, waiting for the military to follow. There hasn’t been a rush to his side.
...
In a country with more than 2,000 generals and admirals, only one top officer -- who commands no troops -- has pledged allegiance to Guaido.
...
This is a major reason why the revolution isn’t moving as quickly as some had hoped when Guaido electrified the world on Jan. 23 with his declaration. This has led to impatience and finger-pointing. U.S. policy makers and those around Guaido -- as well as leaders in Brazil and Colombia -- are eyeing one another and worrying about failure. Officials in each camp have said privately they assumed the others had a more developed strategy.

The NY Times shows similar frustration:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Media Find Trump's Coup Plan Does Not Work

Posted by b at 01:58 PM | Comments (155)

February 13, 2019

Netanyahoo Asks Arabs To "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran"

The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the European rejected that.

The State Department then changed the agenda:

“The idea was to have a conference, a ministerial, and basically break our diplomatic isolation on Iran,” said a person familiar with the planning of the event. “It started out as an Iran conference in disguise but has probably actually been forced to take on more actual broader Middle East content now."

The person added: “They changed some of the focus and were forced to pony up with content on Syria and Yemen particularly."

The meeting took place today but the European powers did not fall for the trick. They want keep the nuclear agreement with Iran:

Even Poland on Tuesday said it disagreed with the U.S. approach to Iran. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters the nuclear pact was valuable and expressed hope the conference could help participants find common ground.

While the U.S. delegation includes Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, other major players have either refused to attend or are sending low-level delegations. The EU’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said she had other commitments.

Germany and France only sent lower level staff. The British foreign minister will only attend a side session on Yemen.

The State Department went to some length to obfuscate the real purpose of the conference. Its press statement today says:

The agenda is wide-ranging, and will include a discussion of the Administration’s efforts to promote a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a conversation on how to address ongoing regional humanitarian crises. The Secretary will provide an update on the situation in Syria and discuss other U.S. priorities in the region, including concerns regarding Iran’s destructive activities.

Smaller breakout sessions will provide ministers the opportunity to focus on specific areas of concern such as missile development and proliferation, cyber security and emerging threats, and terrorism and illicit finance.

That State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:

I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran."

Cont. reading: Netanyahoo Asks Arabs To "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran"

Posted by b at 03:03 PM | Comments (100)

February 12, 2019

Russiagate Is Finished

For more than two years U.S. politicians, the media and some bloggers hyped a conspiracy theory. They claimed that Russia had somehow colluded with the Trump campaign to get him elected.

An obviously fake 'Dirty Dossier' about Trump, commissioned by the Clinton campaign, was presented as evidence. Regular business contacts between Trump flunkies and people in Ukraine or Russia were claimed to be proof for nefarious deals. A Russian click-bait company was accused of manipulating the U.S. electorate by posting puppy pictures and crazy memes on social media. Huge investigations were launched. Every rumor or irrelevant detail coming from them was declared to be - finally - the evidence that would put Trump into the slammer. Every month the walls were closing in on Trump.

At the same time the very real Trump actions that hurt Russia were ignored.

Finally the conspiracy theory has run out of steam. Russiagate is finished:

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

Nothing, zero, nada was found to support the conspiracy theory. The Trump campaign did not collude with Russia. A few flunkies were indicted for unrelated tax issues and for lying to the investigators about some minor details. But nothing at all supports the dramatic claims of collusion made since the beginning of the affair.

In a recent statement House leader Nancy Pelosi was reduced to accuse Trump campaign officials of doing their job:

“The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people. ...

No one called her out for spouting such nonsense.

Russiagate created a lot of damage.

The alleged Russian influence campaign that never happened was used to install censorship on social media. It was used to undermine the election of progressive Democrats. The weapon salesmen used it to push for more NATO aggression against Russia. Maria Butina, an innocent Russian woman interested in good relation with the United States, was held in solitary confinement (recommended) until she signed a paper which claims that she was involved in a conspiracy.

In a just world the people who for more then two years hyped the conspiracy theory and caused so much damage would be pushed out of their public positions. Unfortunately that is not going to happen. They will jump onto the next conspiracy train and continue from there.

Posted by b at 01:38 PM | Comments (138)

February 11, 2019

Venezuela - 57% Say Maduro Is Their Legitimate President

The legitimacy of a ruler can best be determined by asking the ruled people.

The independent Venezuelan polling firm Hinterlaces asked (in Spanish) 1,580 Venezuelans in direct interviews who they consider to be the legitimate president of Venezuela.

57% said that the Nicolás Maduro is the legitimated president. 32% said Juan Guaidó. 11% did not know or did not respond.

---

The well-respected scientific research service of the German Bundestag advised (in German) that foreign recognition of someone as a president does not confer legitimacy. Legitimacy of a president requires that he has actual enforcing capabilities within the country. As long as that is not established a recognition must be seen as interference in the internal affairs of the foreign country. Such an interference, which the German and other governments committed, is inconsistent with international law.

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Alfred-Maurice de-Zayas, a professor for international law and a longtime senior lawyer at the United Nations, confirms that opinion. He writes:

Members of the United Nations are bound by the Charter, articles one and two of which affirm the right of all peoples to determine themselves, the sovereign equality of states, the prohibition of the use of force and of economic or political interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Yet these fundamental principles of international order are being grossly violated in the case of Venezuela.

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ignoring the will of the people of Venezuela and the rule of law U.S. media continue to manufacture consent for regime change in Venezuela.

Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (92)

February 10, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-09

It was a quiet week as your host had the sh**s and was generally unwell. The full service will resume next week.

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Steffan Watkins found that the weapons mentioned in the above post came within a larger CIA operation.

Steffan Watkins @steffanwatkins - 4:54 utc - 10 Feb 2019
U.S. registered Boeing 767 Cargo plane N881YV (ICAO:AC23C6), operated by 21 Air, LLC, wet-leased to GPS-Air, flew every single day from 2019-01-11 to 2019-02-07 from Florida to VZ or CO, sometimes both; then stopped.
On the 7th. Why might that be?
Funny story; do you know when the Venezuelans published the name of the suspect flight and laid out the spread of guns allegedly from the plane? February 5th. Flights stopped when the public were told about them happening February 7th.

Others found that several people involved in the above flights were also involved in 'extraordinary rendition' torture flights for the CIA. They, of course, deny this but the evidence is clear: Miami Herald: Air charter firm, client both deny role in alleged shipment of arms to Venezuela

When I wrote the above I was not aware of this Greg Palast piece on the same issue: In Venezuela, White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Coup

More on Venezuela:

RT has an interview with Rafael Ramírez who ran the Venezuelan oil industry under Hugo Chavez. He fell out with Maduro and very much dislikes his policies. He is also against the U.S. led coup attempt. I sthere a chance for a 'third way'?
Hasta la (Cha)vista? Rafael Ramirez, ex-permanent representative of Venezuela to the UN

Fox News claims that "Venezuela stockpiles 5,000 long-range Russian missiles" that threaten the United States. Those 5,000 missiles are Man Portable Air Defense Missiles (MANPADs) with a maximum range of some 6,000 meters(!).

Adam Johnson list other propaganda points:
Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Cheap Trump/Rubio Venezuela Aid PR Stunt

The Democratic Party leadership is fully on board with the Trump administration's regime change plans and repeats all its talking points. It suddenly forgot #Russiagate and that Trump only does what Putin wants him to do.

It is hard to think of anything more condemning than this:

John Bolton @AmbJohnBolton - 1:43 utc - 10 Feb 2019
Appreciate @SpeakerPelosi‘s strong statement of support. The U.S. stands united in its support of Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó, and of the peaceful, constitutional transition to democracy in Venezuela.
Pelosi Statement on the Situation in Venezuela

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:12 AM | Comments (165)

February 09, 2019

Racism And The Fight Over Venezuela

The U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela is not only about oil and general U.S. imperialism. It is attempt to bring a specific type of people back into power. The same type of people that rule in Washington DC.

The Nation describes how the U.S. has long funded and manipulated the opposition in Venezuela. The Random Guy™ Juan Guaidó, who claims the presidency, was created through this process:

How Washington Funded the Counterrevolution in Venezuela
Self-declared president Juan Guaidó comes from the right-wing, US-backed student movement that tried to subvert Hugo Chávez’s government.

The piece includes this revealing sentence:

A former USAID/OTI member who helped devise US efforts in Venezuela said the “objective was that you had thousands of youth, high school, and college kids that were horrified of this Indian-looking guy in power. They were idealistic.

Being "horrified" that the "Indian-looking" Hugo Chávez was in power does not seem "idealistic". One might call it racist though. A number of those white, well off, U.S. trained college kids joint politics in right wing parties. They wanted to take power. But to sell one of theirs as a leader of a country where the majority is mestizo was a problem.

To solve that problem the Random Guy, despite being known only by 20% of Venezuelans, was selected to lead the U.S. coup attempt:

A figure named Juan Andrés Mejía would have been next in line but for reasons that are only now clear, Juan Guaido was selected.

“There is a class reasoning that explains Guaidó’s rise,” Sequera, the Venezuelan analyst, observed. “Mejía is high class, studied at one of the most expensive private universities in Venezuela, and could not be easily marketed to the public the way Guaidó could. For one, Guaidó has common mestizo features like most Venezuelans do, and seems like more like a man of the people.

Guaido is a stand in. He was selected because he somewhat looked like the majority of the people of the country.

The two pictures below further demonstrate the role race plays in the conflict in Venezuela.

Venezuela currently has two assemblies that claim the right to legislate. In 2015 the opposition won a majority in the National Assembly, the original parliament of Venezuela:

However, the Venezuelan Supreme Court barred four lawmakers from taking their seats while it probed allegations of electoral fraud. As a result, only 163 of the 167 lawmakers were sworn in on January 5. The next day, three opposition deputies were sworn in over protests by members from the legislature’s minority who announced their intention to challenge the move.

The Supreme Court of Venezuela then held that the National Assembly was in contempt of the court. The move created a political stalemate. To solve it the president called for the election of a Constitutional Assembly. Its main task is to consider constitutional changes. But it can also overrule legislation that the National Assembly makes. The Supreme Court accepted the solution. The National Assembly, the rotational presidency of which Random Guy took at the beginning of this year, is since only a secondary parliament.

There is a visual difference between the two assemblies:

Cont. reading: Racism And The Fight Over Venezuela

Posted by b at 02:59 PM | Comments (99)

February 08, 2019

Open Thread 2019-08

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:34 PM | Comments (223)

February 07, 2019

Venezuela - U.S. Aid Gambit Fails - War Plans Lack Support

A day after the U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela the U.S. game plan was already quite obvious:

The opposition in Venezuela will probably use access to that 'frozen' money to buy weapons and to create an army of mercenaries to fight a 'civil' war against the government and its followers. Like in Syria U.S. special forces or some CIA 'contractors' will be eager to help. The supply line for such a war would most likely run through Colombia. If, like 2011 in Syria, a war on the ground is planned it will likely begin in the cities near that border.

bigger

The U.S. is using the pretext of 'delivering humanitarian aid' from Columbia to Venezuela to undermine the government and to establish a supply line for further operations. It is another attempt to pull the military onto the coup plotter's side:

[I]f the trucks do get across, the opposition can present itself as an answer to Venezuela’s chronic suffering, while Mr. Maduro will appear to have lost control of the country’s borders. That could accelerate defections from the ruling party and the military.

Dimitris Pantoulas, a political scientist in Caracas, called the opposition’s aid delivery plan a high-stakes gamble.
...
“This is 99 percent about the military and one percent about the humanitarian aspects,” he said. “The opposition is testing the military’s loyalty, raising their cost of supporting Maduro. Are they with Maduro, or no? Will they reject the aid? If the answer is no, then Maduro’s hours are numbered.”

A New York Times op-ed by a right-wing former foreign minister of Mexico, Jorge G. Castañeda, details the escalation potential:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - U.S. Aid Gambit Fails - War Plans Lack Support

Posted by b at 02:19 PM | Comments (100)

February 06, 2019

U.S. Asks More Countries To Occupy Northeast Syria

Monday's piece about the situation in Syria included a judgment that now seems to be wrong.

The Trump administration planned to replace U.S. troops in northeast Syria with those of various allies.

James Jeffrey, the neoconservative U.S. special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, thought up an elaborate scheme to 'protect the Kurds' and to secure the borders to Turkey with the help of allied troops.

Aaron Stein @aaronstein1 - 17:33 utc - 24 Jan 2019

The Jeffrey plan being carried to Ankara/Rojava is very complex, requires open-ended commitments from UK-France, Turkish patrols in rural areas, SDF acquiescence, 3rd party forces, and US top cover, perhaps including a US enforced NFZ (unclear if POTUS is on board with this bit)

A week later the Wall Street Journal reported that the crazy scheme failed to win support from any of the relevant parties. The Kurds rejected it and Britain and France declined to send troops on a never ending mission between the waring Turkish and Kurdish sides.

The assertions that the scheme failed may have been premature. There are signs that it is still been worked on.

Today Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked to foreign ministers and officials of the U.S. coalition against ISIS. He made a remark that seems to announce a request to these allies to send their troops to replace the U.S. forces in northeast Syria:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday reassured allies that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria was not “the end of America’s fight” and called on them to recommit to permanently defeating Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
...
“Our mission is unwavering, but we need your help to accomplish it, just as we’ve had over the past months and years,” Pompeo said, “To that end, we ask that our coalition partners seriously and rapidly consider requests that will enable our efforts to continue.

“Those requests are likely to come very soon,” he added, without elaborating.

Pompeo also wants (vid) the coalition to "removal of all Iranian led forces from Syria." He also asked for hundreds of millions fro Iraq.

One of the participants of the meeting was the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a rather daft member of the formerly social democratic party. As he traveled to Washington DC he lamented (in German) about a "vacuum" that would be created when the U.S. troops withdraw (my translation):

Before his flight to Washington Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said: "In Syria we still have no clarity how a vacuum can be avoided after the announced U.S. troop draw-down, so that no new escalation of old conflicts and a resurgence of the Islamic State can happen." He hoped to receive more information on the issue during the talks in Washington. The danger from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq "is by far not over."

How come these politicians never learned physics? Northeast Syria is not closed off from the atmosphere or the surrounding lands. That makes a vacuum there impossible.

Former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford offers a helpful Guide to Decoding the Doublespeak on Syria. It includes this entry:

Cont. reading: U.S. Asks More Countries To Occupy Northeast Syria

Posted by b at 01:24 PM | Comments (106)

February 04, 2019

Syria Sitrep - Trump Says U.S. Will Leave But Pentagon Keeps Adding Forces

The U.S. retreat from northeast Syria is still not happening. In yesterdays interview with CBS President Trump again said the troops would leave, but the the Pentagon is doing the opposite of retreating.


(not current) bigger

The Islamic State forces north of the Euphrates are left to holding some 4 square kilometer of ground near the border to Iraq. The few hundred ISIS fighters still alive could be killed in a day or two which would then be the right time for the U.S. to leave as President Trump announced two month ago.

But the U.S. military keeps increasing its troop numbers and supplies in the area. During the last two month the number of U.S. soldiers in northeast Syria rose by nearly 50%. Instead of the officially acknowledged 2,000 there are now at least 3,000 U.S. soldiers in northeast Syria. New weapons and equipment arrive every day. Additionally, the Syrian Observatory reports, the U.S. is bringing in a significant number of TOW anti-tank missiles and heavy machine guns even though there is no longer an apparent use for these:

[T]he International Coalition Forces brought quantities of anti-armor thermal missiles during the recent period, to their bases east of Euphrates area, in conjunction with bringing quantities of machineguns known as “DShK”, and the reliable sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory that the range of the missiles reaches about 6 km, but the reasons for bringing these weapons was not known, especially as the “Islamic State” Organization in its last pocket at the east bank of Euphrates River is almost ended, ..
...
[T]he Syrian Observatory has documented since the US president’s decision to withdraw until the 3rd of February 2018, the entry of 1130 trucks at least, carrying equipment, ammunition, weapons, military, and logistic equipment to bases of the International Coalition east of Euphrates, ..
...
The process of entering the trucks also comes in conjunction with the arrival of hundreds of soldiers of the US Special Forces to the Syrian territory in a specific and special operation, the goal of which is to arrest the remaining leaders and members of the “Islamic State” Organization who are trapped in the remaining 4 kilometers for it east of Euphrates, ..

Today the New York Times finally confirms the increased troop numbers the Observatory reported weeks ago:

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - Trump Says U.S. Will Leave But Pentagon Keeps Adding Forces

Posted by b at 01:09 PM | Comments (180)

February 03, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-07

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:42 PM | Comments (141)

U.S. Coup Attempt In Venezuela Lacks International Support

There is little doubt where 'western' media stand with regards to the U.S. led coup-attempt (vid) in Venezuela. But their view does not reflect the overwhelming international recognition the Venezuelan government under President Nicolás Maduro continues to have.

The Rothschild family's house organ, the Economist, changed the background of its Twitter account to a picture of the Random Dude™, Juan Guaidó, who the U.S. regime changers created to run the country.


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The tweet is quite revealing:

The Economist @TheEconomist - 23:59 utc- 31 Jan 2019

Juan Guaidó and Donald Trump are betting that sanctions will topple the regime before they starve the Venezuelan people econ.st/2DMOeEk

It is quite obvious that Trump’s Illegal Regime Change Operation Will Kill More Venezuelans. The Economist supports that starvation strategy.

The supposedly neutral news agencies are no better than the arch-neoliberal Economist. The Reuters' Latin America office also changed its header picture to Random Dude. It reverted that after being called out.

Agence France-Press stated at 11:10 utc yesterday that "tens of thousands" would join a rally.

Cont. reading: U.S. Coup Attempt In Venezuela Lacks International Support

Posted by b at 12:31 PM | Comments (114)

February 01, 2019

Venezuela - Coup Propaganda Claims Gang Violence Is Coup Supporting Protest

To demonize the President of Venzuela, Nicolás Maduro, and Venezuelan government forces, a concerted effort is made to falsely depict gang violence, and the police reaction to it, as a confrontation between coup supporting protesters and the Maduro government.

Gang violence in the various slums in Caracas and elsewhere has been a problem for decades. The phenomenon is by far not exclusive to Venezuela. The gangs mostly fight each other over territory, but sometimes collide with the police that tries to keep the violence level down. This violence has nothing to do with the recently attempted coup or the anti-government protest by the mostly well-off people who support it.

On January 29 the Washington Post, the CIA's favored outlet, launched the campaign. As detailed yesterday an incident of gang violence and the police's reaction to it was manipulated into a story of anti-government protest.

The first three paragraph of the story told of an alleged anti-government protests in a slum in Caracas which included the arson of a culture center. The next day the police arrested some culprits which led to more violence. Some twenty propaganda filled paragraphs about the coup attempt follow. Only at the end of the Washington Post piece was revealed what really happened. The arson incident took place a January 22, a day before the coup attempt. It was a gang attack:

Around midnight, neighbors say, a group of hooded boys threw molotov cocktails at the culture center.

The following day the police arrested some of the arsonists. More rioting followed:

A group set fire to barricades, threw stones and attacked an outpost of the National Guard. ... Neighbors said that criminal gangs were among the crowd and created havoc by violently confronting the police.

The whole tit for tat incident was typical gang vs. police violence. It likely had nothing to do with the coup attempt.

On January 30 the New York Times added to the propaganda theme:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Coup Propaganda Claims Gang Violence Is Coup Supporting Protest

Posted by b at 03:08 PM | Comments (284)

January 31, 2019

Venezuela - Coup Attempt Part Of A Larger Project - Military Intervention Likely To Fail

The Trump administration has launched a large political project to remake several states in Latin America. The Wall Street Journal headlines:

U.S. Push to Oust Venezuela’s Maduro Marks First Shot in Plan to Reshape Latin America
The Trump administration’s broader aim is to gain leverage over Cuba and curb recent inroads in the region by Russia, Iran and China

The plan includes regime change in Venezuela, Nicaragua and eventually Cuba. The removal of any Russian or Chinese interest is another point. It is a multiyear project that has bipartisan support. It will likely require military force.


The targets: Raúl Castro of Cuba, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.
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The project seems to echo the "New Middle East" plan then Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice launched in 2006. It largely failed due to U.S. incompetence but left behind severely damaged states.

That the U.S. is going for such a wide ranging plan in the western hemisphere might explain why Trump is pressing to end the other military projects in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The starting shot for the new plan, the U.S. led coup attempt in Venezuela, is already in trouble. The U.S. selected puppet Juan Guaidó had called for demonstrations in support of his coup that were supposed to take place yesterday. But even the NYT, which propagandizes for each and every regime change operation the U.S. undertakes in Latin America, could find only little evidence of support:

Mr. Guaidó also took part in protests on Wednesday at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, where he was swarmed by international reporters. Wearing a white lab coat, he linked arms with medical students and marched with them up a roadway, before speeding off on the back of a motorbike.

The demonstration was one of a handful in the city on Wednesday, though on a smaller scale than some recent demonstrations. Some workers walked out of their jobs for hours in protest against Mr. Maduro and his government, gathering on corners through the capital.

Videos from Venezuela showed a crowd of some hundred people in the better off quarters of Caracas. Meanwhile pictures of several pro-Maduro demonstrations in various cities showed much larger crowds. New demonstrations will be held on Saturday and are likely to show similar results.

The Washington Post claims that anti-government protests took place in two of the more destitute areas of Caracas. But the report contradicts itself. It starts:

As the opposition campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro dramatically escalated, the warren-like streets of the Puerta Caracas slum filled with pot-banging, anti-government demonstrators. A culture center run by Maduro loyalists was burned down. Hungry, beaten-down residents felt a rush of hope.

Then night fell, along with the boot steps of government forces.

Maduro called the arsonists “fascist criminals,” and residents in the western Caracas enclave paid the price. Mask-wearing special forces, locals said, swarmed the neighborhood last week, kicking in doors, rounding up young people and imposing an effective curfew.

Twenty propaganda filled paragraphs later we learn that the described arson of a culture center took place before the coup attempt happened and likely has nothing to do with it:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Coup Attempt Part Of A Larger Project - Military Intervention Likely To Fail

Posted by b at 01:59 PM | Comments (220)

January 30, 2019

When 'Former' Spies Run Wild, Bad Things Happen

A number of related stories describe nefarious activities by 'former' NSA, 'former' CIA, 'former' military officers who joined private businesses which harm other people. They demonstrate that there is a structural problem when those trained to be weapons are allowed to run in the wild.

Reuters just published a two part story about 'former' NSA staff, more than twenty in total, who since 2013 built a snooping center for the United Arab Emirates.

Inside the UAE’s secret hacking team of American mercenaries
Ex-NSA operatives reveal how they helped spy on targets for the Arab monarchy — dissidents, rival leaders and journalists.

The 'former' NSA staff did not mind to spy on local dissidents or 16 year old kids on Twitter for the dictatorial Gulf State. Only some of them jumped ship when they found out that their shop was also used to spy on Americans. The 'private' company they worked for is named Dark Matter. It claims to do only cyber-security work, but is a known snooping shop directly connected to the UAE's digital intelligence service NESU. It even resides in the same building.

In October 2016 Jenna McLaughlin reported on Dark Matter for the Intercept:

How the UAE is recruiting hackers to create the perfect surveillance state.

In December 2017 she followed up with an piece in Foreign Policy:

Deep Pockets, Deep Cover
The UAE Is paying Ex-CIA officers to build a spy empire in the Gulf

McLaughlin reports that Dark Matter is under FBI investigation.

The UAE hires not only 'former' NSA and 'former' CIA spies but also 'former' U.S. special operations soldiers:

A Middle East Monarchy Hired American Ex-Soldiers To Kill Its Political Enemies. This Could Be The Future Of War.

The second Reuters story published today describes the technical side of the UAE's cyber-spy shop:

UAE used cyber super-weapon to spy on iPhones of foes

The ex-Raven operatives described Karma as a tool that could remotely grant access to iPhones simply by uploading phone numbers or email accounts into an automated targeting system.

Reuters does not say so, but from the description of the spy tools it seem clear that the Karma tool was bought from the notorious Israeli spy shop NSO Group. The tool's original marketing name is Pegasus. The quoted 'former' NSA spy in the Reuters piece makes some curious claims like 'the tool could not record phone calls'. But that claim makes no sense. Once a decent spy software is on the phone everything is accessible. The claim is obviously made to divert from NSO/Pegasus. Sales of the NSO Group tools to the UAE were confirmed in earlier reports. From August 2018:

Cont. reading: When 'Former' Spies Run Wild, Bad Things Happen

Posted by b at 04:33 PM | Comments (73)

January 29, 2019

Open Thread 2019-06

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:32 PM | Comments (182)

January 28, 2019

Sanctions Are Wars Against Peoples

A former UN rapporteur says that the numerous US sanctions (pdf) against Venezuela are devastating and illegal:

Mr De Zayas, a former secretary of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and an expert in international law, spoke to The Independent following the presentation of his Venezuela report to the HRC in September. He said that since its presentation the report has been ignored by the UN and has not sparked the public debate he believes it deserves.

Sanctions kill,” he told The Independent, adding that they fall most heavily on the poorest people in society, demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy”.

On his fact-finding mission to the country in late 2017, he found internal overdependence on oil, poor governance and corruption had hit the Venezuelan economy hard, but said “economic warfare” practised by the US, EU and Canada are significant factors in the economic crisis.

The four factors - oil, poor governance, corruption and sanctions - are not unrelated to each other. That Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world makes it a target for U.S. imperialism. Not simply to "take their oil" as Trump wants, but for geo-political reasons. As Andrew Korybko muses:

Cont. reading: Sanctions Are Wars Against Peoples

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (179)

January 27, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-05

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Bay of Pig 2.0?

To enlighten others about the situation in Venezuela you can spread the link to this excellent five minute rant (vid) by Rania Khalek. All the important points are in there.

---
Yesterday Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, made some interesting comments. He confirmed the recent reporting of Elijah Magnier that Israel will have to fight Syria and Lebanon should Netanyahoo decide to cross specific red lines. The gist of Nasrallah's interview can be found in this thread.

Recommended read: Jonathan Cook on The Failure of the Liberal System:

In one sense, their diagnosis is correct: Europe and the liberal tradition are coming apart at the seams. But not because, as they strongly imply, European politicians are pandering to the basest instincts of a mindless rabble – the ordinary people they have so little faith in. Rather, it is because a long experiment in liberalism has finally run its course. Liberalism has patently failed – and failed catastrophically. ...

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:55 PM | Comments (127)

These Media Claims About Venezuela Are Lies Or Misconceptions

The U.S. mainstream media is suddenly discovering Venezuela. Without having any actual knowledge of the country, all dirt the writers can think of is thrown against its government. Don't expect to get any facts from them. Most is just propaganda in a media build for a war.

In this NPR report for example, Amid Chaos Venezuelans Struggle To Find The Truth, Online, the first line is already an outrageous lie:

In Venezuela, where media is controlled by the government, figuring out what is truth, rumor or propaganda has always been difficult.

No. The media in Venezuela is NOT controlled by the government. There are many privately owned newspapers and TV stations. Many of them oppose the government. They have a larger viewership than the government controlled ones. While there are, as elsewhere, laws that allow for some censorship, their actual use is not common.

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Secretary of State Pompeo and others claim that Cuba is involved in Venezuela. The NYT even headlines: With Spies and Other Operatives, a Nation Looms Over Venezuela’s Crisis: Cuba. But all the experts quoted refute Pompeo's claim:

Cont. reading: These Media Claims About Venezuela Are Lies Or Misconceptions

Posted by b at 10:03 AM | Comments (68)

January 26, 2019

Pelosi Aghast - Stone Indictment Proves That Trump Campaign Deliberately Campaigned For Trump

On Friday Roger Stone, a political consultant who in 2016 publicly supported the Trump campaign, was arrested on criminal charges filed by special counsel Robert Mueller. He has since been released on bail. Stone is indicted (pdf) in five cases for making false statements, one attempt of influencing a witness and an obstruction of a proceeding.

Since May 2017 the former FBI chief Mueller investigates an alleged collusion between Trump, his campaign and something Russian with regards to the 2016 election. No evidence has been produced so far that substantiate any such collusion. The people who fanatically claim that there must have been such a connection are now disappointed. The long awaited Stone indictment was one of their last straws. But there is absolutely nothing in it that hints at any collusion.

All these alleged crimes were committed in relation to an appearance of Stone before a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) investigation.

During the 2016 election Stone publicly claimed that he was in direct communication with Wikileaks and its editor Julian Assange. Steve Bannon, then part of the Trump campaign, asked Stone to ask Wikileaks at what time it would release new batches of emails that had been obtained from the Democratic National Committee. The Trump campaign was naturally interested in using these releases to attack the competing candidate Hillary Clinton.

Wikileaks and Assange denied that they had any relations or communications with Roger Stone. It later turned out that Stone had two contact persons, the New Yorker comedian Randy Credico and the conservative writer Jerome Corsi, who he MIGHT have had some contact or insight into Wikileaks. The indictment says nothing about their relations to Wikileaks.

During his appearance in front of the HPSCI Stone misremembered, contradicted or lied about several details related to his earlier false claim. He also asked Randy Credico to lie to the committee. Those are the only issues the indictment is about. It is about the lies of a notorious liar which became process crimes when he repeated them during an investigation. Stone himself denies emphatically that he committed any crime and promises to defend himself in court.

Nowhere does the indictment say that this has anything to do with the Trump campaign, Russia, Wikileaks or the not existing relations between them.

But some media will not tell you that. The New York Times falsely headlines:

Indicting Roger Stone, Mueller Shows Link Between Trump Campaign and WikiLeaks.

The first graph:

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, revealed on Friday the most direct link yet between parallel efforts by the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election using Democratic Party material stolen by Russians.

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There follow 28 paragraphs about the arrest and others issues, five pictures and the above graphic, but no explanation of the supposed link which, according to the indictment, Stone claimed to have but which never existed.

Stone claimed to have contact with Wikileaks. Bannon asked him to ask Wikileaks a questions. Stone had no relation with Wikileaks. He responded with second hand rumors and publicly available information. End of the story.

Mueller found no connection between the Trump campaign and anything Russia to influence the election. He indicted some people of issues unrelated to the elections. Others committed process crimes by lying to the investigation. He also indicted some Russians for money laundering and hacking. But those cases are quite dubious and will anyway never come in front of a court.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi attempts to divert from this disappointing outcome of the Mueller investigation. The Russian influence turned out be nothing. The collusion claim is dead. She is not allowed to blame Hillary Clinton for being the most unlikable candidate who run a lame campaign. Who then can be blamed for the outcome of the 2016 election? 

After some deep thinking Pelosi finally found the people who are guilty of winning Trump the election:

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after Special Counsel Mueller released a seven-count indictment of top Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction:

“The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people. ...

Top Trump campaign officials deliberately tried "to influence the 2016 election"? Holy moley! They "subverted the will of the American people" by asking them to vote for Trump? Incredible! The Trump campaign worked to get Trump elected? Isn't that illegal?

“In the face of 37 indictments, the President’s continued actions to undermine the Special Counsel investigation raise the questions: what does Putin have on the President, politically, personally or financially? Why has the Trump Administration continued to discuss pulling the U.S. out of NATO, which would be a massive victory for Putin?

Last week we listed the many good things Trump did for Russia which proves that he is totally under Putin's influence. But that was meant as satire. In fact Trump made dozens of decisions that severely hurt Russia's interests. He lauds NATO and uses it to press other states to buy more U.S. weapons.

Do the Democrats think that spewing such nonsense will attract voters? Or is it a diversion from the fact that they fail to attack Trump's disastrous policies on all but the most minor issues?

Posted by b at 03:01 PM | Comments (76)

January 25, 2019

Venezuela - Trump's Coup Plan Has Big Flaws

The U.S. led coup attempt against the government of Venezuela under President Maduro is based on a plan that is similar to this one (vid).


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While U.S. coup plotting against Venezuela goes back to at least 1998 when the deceased President Chavez won his first election, the actual planning for this coup attempt was only done during the last two month. There are many holes in the plan and it involves a lot of wishful thinking. That might give the Maduro government openings to deflect the attack.

More likely though the insufficient planning, based on false perceptions of the situation on the ground, will lead to demands for escalation and mission creep. Venezuela must thus immediately prepare for the worst.

Today U.S. media give some insight into the decision making before the coup attempt. The Wall Street Journal headline makes it clear that the U.S. is 100% responsible for it:

Pence Pledged U.S. Backing Before Venezuela Opposition Leader’s Move
Trump administration’s secret plan pledging support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó was preconceived and tightly coordinated

The night before Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela, the opposition leader received a phone call from Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Pence pledged that the U.S. would back Mr. Guaidó if he seized the reins of government from Nicolás Maduro by invoking a clause in the South American country’s constitution, a senior administration official said.

That late-night call set in motion a plan that had been developed in secret over the preceding several weeks, accompanied by talks between U.S. officials, allies, lawmakers and key Venezuelan opposition figures, including Mr. Guaidó himself.

The leading figures were Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo and Senator Marco Rubio as well as hawks in in the National Security Council.

A decisive moment came a week later in a White House meeting Jan. 22, the eve of protests in Venezuela, when Mr. Rubio along with Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, both Republicans from Florida, were called to a White House meeting with Mr. Trump, Vice President Pence and others.
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Other officials who met that day at the White House included Messrs. Pompeo and Bolton, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who presented Mr. Trump with options for recognizing Mr. Guaidó.

Mr. Trump decided to do it. Mr. Pence, who wasn’t at that meeting, placed his phone call to Mr. Guaidó to tell him, “If the National Assembly invoked Article 233 the following day, the president would back him,” the senior administration official said.

Trump himself is only interested in Venezuela's oil reserves, which are the largest of the world:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Trump's Coup Plan Has Big Flaws

Posted by b at 03:09 PM | Comments (270)

January 24, 2019

Venezuela - The U.S. Game Plan For 'Regime Change' And How To Respond To It

Yesterday the U.S. recognized a right-wing 'leader of the opposition' in Venezuela Juan Guaido as the president of the country. A number of right-wing led countries in South America joined in that move. Cuba, Bolivia and Mexico rejected it. Russia, China, Iran and Turkey continue to support the the government of the elected President Nicolas Maduro and spoke out against the coup attempt. The European Union has no united opinion with the neo-liberal led France being pro-coup and Spain standing against it.

Venezuela must prepare for a multi year conflict while doing everything to keep it as short as possible.

This long planned U.S. move against the legitimate government of Venezuela is just the start. It is designed to lead to escalation and very soon mission creep - 'We can't stop here!' - will set in. More than 300 billion barrels of oil, the biggest oil reserves in the world, are at stake. U.S. stooge Guaido promises to change Venezuela's oil law to the advantage of the U.S., while the Bolivarian government uses the oil to support the poor.

The game plan for the current U.S. regime-change operation against the government of Venezuela was written by Senator Marco Rubio with the support of Vice President Pence:

The American recognition of Mr. Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president is far more than a symbolic measure, and presents new complications for Mr. Maduro.

The idea was avidly promoted by Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who pushed the Trump administration to take such a step. In a speech to the Senate on Jan. 15, Mr. Rubio said that designating Mr. Guaidó as president would allow millions of dollars of Venezuelan government assets frozen in the United States to be at the disposal of opposition lawmakers, who could use them to fund new elections or humanitarian assistance.

The real amount the U.S. and Britain have 'frozen', or practically stolen, from Venezuela amount to several billion dollars, not just a few millions. Such 'freezing' of money owned by governments the U.S. does not like has become all too common. Together with a raft of other sanctions the economic war the U.S. has long waged against the country made the recovery of the Venezuelan economy nearly impossible.

As the U.S. is now likely to confiscate all money that is supposed to flow to Venezuela the country must stop its oil-exports to the United States. A number of U.S. refineries, some owned by Venezuela, depend on the special grade of Venezuelan oil and would soon run into trouble. That could help to change the mood in Washington. China may be interested in buying more Venezuelan oil.

The opposition in Venezuela will probably use access to that 'frozen' money to buy weapons and to create an army of mercenaries to fight a 'civil' war against the government and its followers. Like in Syria U.S. special forces or some CIA 'contractors' will be eager to help. The supply line for such a war would most likely run through Colombia. If, like 2011 in Syria, a war on the ground is planned it will likely begin in the cities near that border.


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But before a military conflict is launched the U.S. and the opposition in Venezuela will try other paths.

Cont. reading: Venezuela - The U.S. Game Plan For 'Regime Change' And How To Respond To It

Posted by b at 12:59 PM | Comments (228)

January 23, 2019

Venezuela - U.S. Again Tries Regime Change Which Is Again Likely To Fail

The U.S. has been intervening in oil-rich Venezuela since at least the early 2000. Several U.S. backed attempts to oust the elected socialist government, first under Chavez and then under Maduro, failed. But the economic sanctions by the U.S. and its lackeys have made the life for business and the people in Venezuela more difficult. With access to international financial markets cut off, the government did its best to work around the sanctions. It, for example, bartered gold for food from Turkey. But the Bank of England, which is custodian of some of Venezuela's gold, has now practically confiscated it.

The Trump administration is launching another attempt to kick the elected government led by President Maduro out of office. Today the usually hapless opposition in Venezuela is set to launch another period of street riots against the government. It calls on the military to take over:

Opposition leaders are also urging Venezuela's powerful armed forces to withdraw their support for Maduro. And they are taking their campaign abroad by lobbying foreign governments to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Caracas.

On Tuesday, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said that Washington would support any effort by the opposition to form a provisional government to replace Maduro. Addressing average Venezuelans, Pence added: "We stand with you and we will stay with you until democracy is restored."

President Trump is now expected to recognize the opposition leader in the National Congress Juan Guaidó, who does not have a majority in the country, as the nations president.


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But the National Congress no longer has legal power. In 2017 that role was taken over by the elected Constitutional Assembly, which supports the Venezuelan government. The Venezuelan Supreme Court ratified the change. That Guaidó may be called president by Trump does not make him such.

Cont. reading: Venezuela - U.S. Again Tries Regime Change Which Is Again Likely To Fail

Posted by b at 12:54 PM | Comments (179)

January 22, 2019

'Strategic Threat' To Israel - Progressives Lose Fear Of Speaking Out On Palestine

Two weeks ago the Zionist lobby targeted civil rights activist Angela Davis for her support of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement (BDS). Following lobby pressure the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama canceled its annual gala at which Davis was to receive a prestigious human rights award. This created a huge backlash. The city council of Birmingham unanimously adopted a resolution "recognizing the life work of Angela Davis". The Institute's chair, vice-chair and secretary had to resign from the board.

Following that scandal the gates of hell opened and, on Sunday, the New York Times published a column that criticized the Apartheid policy of the Zionist entity in the Middle East.

Time to Break the Silence on Palestine
Martin Luther King Jr. courageously spoke out about the Vietnam War. We must do the same when it comes to this grave injustice of our time.

Written by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights lawyer, author of The New Jim Crow, and now a regular NYT columnist, the piece reaches back to Martin Luther King. It compares MLK's courageous early opposition to the Vietnam War to today's reluctance of people who are 'progressives except for Palestine' to oppose the policies of the so called Jewish State:

It was a lonely, moral stance. And it cost him. But it set an example of what is required of us if we are to honor our deepest values in times of crisis, even when silence would better serve our personal interests or the communities and causes we hold most dear. It’s what I think about when I go over the excuses and rationalizations that have kept me largely silent on one of the great moral challenges of our time: the crisis in Israel-Palestine.

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Alexander appeals to those who support civil rights to speak out against the Zionist Apartheid policies:

Cont. reading: 'Strategic Threat' To Israel - Progressives Lose Fear Of Speaking Out On Palestine

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (124)

January 21, 2019

Disunity Of U.S. Command Lets Afghan Rebels Win The War

The U.S. war on Afghanistan continues to fail. Disunity of command and lack of political foresight guarantee that the U.S. will be losing it.

Throughout the last months the 'moderate rebels' in Afghanistan made great strides against the U.S. sponsored government forces.

  • Last week a convoy of some 40 trucks loaded with military equipment was ambushed and destroyed (pics, vid). It was the largest such incident since the Soviets left Afghanistan.
  • Also last week a large bomb hit a security compound within the fortified international quarter of Kabul. At least five people died and some hundred were injured.
  • On Sunday a car bomb hit the convoy of the governor of Logar province. Eight of his body guards died in the attack.

Earlier today a raid on a military training center for the National Security Directorate, the Afghan CIA offshoot, killed some 200 forces. The attacking rebels used a U.S. made armored Humvee to drive into the compound and exploded it. A infantry unit followed and shot up the survivors.


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Many successful raids on outlying security posts and police checkpoints are no longer mentioned in western media. The Afghan government has stopped providing casualty numbers.

U.S. foreign policy thinking on Afghanistan is as inept as ever. Witness the head of the Council of Foreign Relation agonizing over what not to do:

Cont. reading: Disunity Of U.S. Command Lets Afghan Rebels Win The War

Posted by b at 02:24 PM | Comments (91)

January 20, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2019-04

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

This week saw another fake story about Trump and Russia. A newly released chapter of Matt Taibbi's book Hate Inc. (available for free) touches on the issue: BuzzFeed's big scoop and the media's giant factual loophole. Doug Johnson Hatlem lists all the Russiagate stories the media retracted or seriously corrected. He is at number 37 so far.

Two weeks ago Senator Lindsay Graham argued against screwing the Kurds in Syria:

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I had lunch with the president last week and I came away a bit encourage. There are three things that we want to accomplish as part of a withdrawal. We want to make sure that when we leave the Kurds do not get slaughtered. And I don't trust Turkey to take care of the Kurds. It'd be like Putin trying to police Assad. That didn't work well. We need a plan to protect the Kurds from Turkey and others.

The same Senator Graham is now pushing for screwing the Kurds:

"So I told President Trump if you withdraw and do not think this through, you are creating a nightmare for Turkey. President Obama created a nightmare for Turkey by arming elements of the YPG that are clearly tied to the PKK and in the eyes of Turkey this was devastating," Graham said in a statement to reporters in Ankara on Saturday.

Graham believes the US and Turkish militaries are already coordinating on a plan to disarm the YPG.

“Here’s the good news: General Dunford, I think, has a plan that he’s working on with the Turkish military that can accomplish these objectives and they are to move the YPG elements away from Turkey,” said Graham, adding that heavy weapons in particular should be taken away.

Did anyone else publish about the Hersh piece? I have seen none. There are many more interesting bits in there, on Reagan's Star Wars for example, that I did not point out.

Part of old/new star wars plan is new technology to kill missiles shortly after they take off. The idea is bollocks:

A 2012 National Academy of Sciences report puts it very plainly: “Boost-phase missile defense—whether kinetic or directed energy, and whether based on land, sea, air, or in space—is not practical or feasible.”

The latest from Spire FM: The officer, who was hospitalised after being exposed to novichok last March, is on duty once again. - Yulia Skripal recovered in less than ten weeks. Why did it take the doorknobichok™ Det Sgt Nick Bailey a full ten month to come back to work?

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 09:37 AM | Comments (132)

January 19, 2019

Coincidence? - Chief Nurse Of British Army Was First To Arrive At Novichoked Skripal Scene

On March 4 2018 the British/Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found incapacitated on a bench in Salisbury. The British government asserts that they were affected by a chemical poison of the so called Novichok group. The case led to a diplomatic conflict as Britain accused Russia of an attempt to kill the Skripals. No evidence was provided by the British government to support those accusations. The Skripals have since been vanished.

Today an intriguing new detail of the case came to light. Spire FM, a local radio station in Salisbury, reports of a young woman, Abigail McCourt, who was given a 'Lifesaver Award' for her involvement in the Skripal case:

The 16 year old, from Larkhill, was the first to spot two people collapsed on a bench in the Maltings on March 4th and didn't hesitate to help. Abigail quickly alerted her mum, a qualified nurse, who was nearby and together they gave first aid to the victims until paramedics arrived.

It soon became clear this was no ordinary medical incident, but the poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, with Novichok.
...
Immediately following the incident and with the world's media focused on Salisbury, the pair didn't want any want press attention and kept their involvement quiet.

But Abby's mum now feels the time is right for her daughter to be recognised for the "incredible" way she dealt with the scenario. Alison nominated her for the Lifesaver Award at Spire FM's Local Hero Awards, and the judges were unanimous in their decision that Abigail was a very worthy winner.

Earlier reports mentioned that a 'military nurse' had attended to the Skripals. Following the above report Elena Evdokimova checked the name of the young woman's mothers and found a curiosity:

Elena Evdokimova @elenaevdokimov7 - 10:50 utc - 19 Jan 2019

We were right, it was Alison McCourt who was that"unknown military nurse" who, absolutely randomly, happened to be near the bench where #Skripals collapsed . Spire FM alleges that it was her daughter Abigail alerted her, but no one mentioned her before ...

Here is the thing. Alison McCourt is not just one random 'off-duty army nurse'. She is the Chief Nursing Officer for the British Army in the rank of Colonel:

Colonel A L McCourt OBE ARRC QHN - Assistant Head Health Strategy / Chief Nursing Officer (Army) - Senior Health Advisor (Army) Department.

Colonel McCourt was appointed Chief Nursing Officer on February 1 2018, just one month before the Skripal incident happened. Colonel McCourt lives in Larkhill, a garrison town some 11 miles from Salisbury. She is known to visit elsewhere.


Colonel McCourt at Downing Street 10
via QARANAC Association - bigger

Cont. reading: Coincidence? - Chief Nurse Of British Army Was First To Arrive At Novichoked Skripal Scene

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (132)

January 18, 2019

Reagan Wannabe Relaunches Reagan's Star Wars

On December 12 2001 then President Bush pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Under the 1972 ABM treaty the Soviet Union and the United States had agreed to deploy only one anti-ballistic missile system each. With that limit gone the U.S. started to build a global missile defense system in Alaska and California that was designed to defend against incoming Russian missiles. The Russian president warned about the illusion such a system would create:

“Starting from 2002, after the US unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which is an absolute cornerstone of international security, the strategic balance of forces and stability, the creation of the US global missile defense system has been continued persistently,” said the Russian president. According to him, this poses a threat not only to Russia’s security, but also to the entire world — just because of the possible disruption of this strategic balance of forces.

“I think this is harmful for the United States as well, because it creates the dangerous illusion of invincibility,” Putin said.

Russia, like other countries, feared that the U.S. would come to believe that it could launch a large first strike against Russia's strategic weapons and use its missile defense to prevent being hit by a smaller Russian retaliation strike. This upset the balance of Mutual Assured Destruction that has prevented a large scale nuclear war.

The global missile defense system the U.S. installed proved to be largely incapable. Out of a total of ten carefully choreographed tests five failed completely, the others were largely unrealistic.

Still, the issue prevailed and the U.S. kept expanding its missile defense projects. In consequence Russia started research programs to create new weapon system that would be immune to any missile defense. President Putin introduced the new weapons in his state of the nation speech in March 2018. The systems include hypersonic weapons, nuclear propelled cruise missiles and extreme long range torpedoes. All experts agree that there is currently no possible defense against the new Russian systems.

Yesterday the Trump administration issued the Missile Defense Review (pdf) report as mandated by Congress. The MDR report is more hawkish than the last one (pdf) issued in 2010 under the Obama administration. The technical plans therein did not change much. The new review mostly foresees more research into some crazy projects, like space based lasers, that are unlikely to ever be deployed.

The report also proves that missile defense is a self-licking ice cream cone. It uses the new Russian systems, build as reaction to new U.S. missile defense systems, to justify more U.S. missile defense:

Cont. reading: Reagan Wannabe Relaunches Reagan's Star Wars

Posted by b at 12:52 PM | Comments (81)

January 17, 2019

Seymour Hersh: George H.W. Bush Team Leaked To Media To Reveal CIA's Iran-Contra Affair

A new piece by Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books gives some insight into secret U.S. operations during the Reagan administration. The Vice President’s Men includes a quite sensational claim of who revealed the Iran-Contra affair.

According to the conventional wisdom, as reflected in Wikipedia, an Iranian operator revealed to a Lebanese paper that the U.S. was selling weapons to Iran in the hope to get hostages in Lebanon released:

After a leak by Mehdi Hashemi, a senior official in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa exposed the arrangement on 3 November 1986. This was the first public report of the weapons-for-hostages deal.

People is the National Security Council used profits from these weapon sales to illegally arm and finance CIA run anti-government gangs in Nicaragua. Both, the weapon sales to Iran and the weapon delivery to guerilla in Nicaragua, were illegal under U.S. law. The leak to Lebanese paper blew up both operations.

That Mehdi Hashemi, the Iranian operative, leaked the affair is only supported by second hand hearsay from a dubious source. Seymour Hersh reports of a very different culprit.

According to his sources former CIA director George H.W. Bush, who was then Reagan's vice president, ran his own secret operations through a special office in the Pentagon. It was led by Vice-Admiral Arthur Moreau. The office and its operations were kept outside of congressional oversight. Neither the CIA nor the Joint Chief's of Staff were aware of its doing. During some 30 different operations the Bush team used small groups of U.S. marines to affect Soviet operations in foreign countries and to get rid of unwanted foreign politicians. Bush essentially ran the prequel of the 'war on/of terror' which today is run by the CIA and the Joint Special Forces Command.

Bush disliked William Casey, who Reagan had named as new CIA director. Casey was a business man who got the job after he managed Ronald Reagan's election campaign. Bush thought that he was too incompetent to run the clandestine service.

One of the operations run under Bush also involved Nicaragua, but had nothing to do with the later Iran-Contra scandal. At the same time the CIA director William Casey was drumming up support for the Contras in Nicaragua. The two operations collided when Lieutenant Colonel Oliver (Ollie) North at the National Security Council used the proceeds from the weapon sales to Iran to illegally finance the CIA's Contras in Nicaragua. While North was also a confidante of the Bush/Moreau's operations, he allegedly freelanced and eventually deserted to the CIA side.

According to a former officer involved in Bush's operations office, Bush and Moreau feared that the CIA's widely expanding Iran-Contra operation run by Oliver North would become a threat to their own operations. They decided to blow it up:

‘Ollie brings in Dick Secord and Iranian dissidents and money people in Texas to the scheme, and it’s gotten totally out of control,’ the officer said. ‘We’re going nuts. If we don’t manage this carefully, our whole structure will unravel. And so we’ – former members of Moreau’s team who were still working for Bush – ‘leaked the story to the magazine in Lebanon.’ He was referring to an article, published on 3 November 1986 by Ash-Shiraa magazine in Beirut, that described the arms for hostages agreement. He would not say how word was passed to the magazine, ...

According to Hersh's source the effect of the leak to the Lebanese paper was foreseen and intended:

The officer explained that it was understood by all that the scandal would unravel in public very quickly, and Congress would get involved. ‘Our goals were to protect the Moreau operation, to limit the vice president’s possible exposure, and to convince the Reagan administration to limit Bill Casey’s management of covert operations. It only took a match to light the fire. It was: “Oh my god. We were paying ransom for the hostages – to Iran.”’

If Hersh's anonymous source is correct, which I have no reason to doubt, the Iranian Mehdi Hashemi did not leak the issue. It was bureaucratic infighting between a former CIA director, who continued to run secret operations, and a sitting one, who was deemed incompetent by the former, that led to the disclosure of the Iran-Contra affair.

Seymour Hersh is known to have lots of contacts with former officials and officers. According to his on telling he is actively seeking them out as soon as they retire. Old men like to tell war stories, but dislike to damage their still living friends. George H.W. Bush died last November. Hersh likely knew the story long ago but is only now allowed to tell it.

The new Hersh/LRB piece is quite long and the details seems to have little relevance for current affairs. But his sources tell an interesting story about the backstage fights that went on between the various branches of the national security bureaucracy during the Reagan presidency. There is no doubt that similar fights, including intentional leaks to damage competing officials, continue today.

Posted by b at 02:11 PM | Comments (75)

January 16, 2019

A Turkish 'Security Zone' In Northeast Syria Is A Bad Idea

U.S. President Trump wants U.S. troops to leave northeast Syria. His National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to sabotage that move. Trump came up with idea to hand northeast Syria to Turkey, but soon was told that Turkey would fight the Kurdish YPK/PKK who the U.S. armed and used as proxy force against the Islamic State.

Turkey has no interest in fighting the Islamic State or in occupying Raqqa and other Arabic ethnic cities along the Euphrates. Its only interest is to prevent the formation of an armed Kurdish entity that could threaten its soft southern underbelly. It thus came up with the idea of a "security zone" in Syria that it would occupy to keep the Kurds away from its borders.


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But that border strip is exactly where the major Kurdish settlements are. Ayn al-Arab, in Kurdish 'Kobane', and many other cities along the border all have largely Kurdish populations. These would certainly fight against a Turkish occupation. Turkey also wants to control the Manbij area west of the Euphrates.

Russia will not allow Turkish control of more Syrian land:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday the Syrian regime must take control of the country's north, after calls from the United States to set up a Turkish-controlled "security zone" in the area.

"We are convinced that the best and only solution is the transfer of these territories under the control of the Syrian government, and of Syrian security forces and administrative structures," Lavrov told reporters.

The Kurdish organizations and the Syrian government also also reject the Turkish plan:

“Syria affirms that any attempt to target its unity will be considered as a clear aggression and an occupation of its territories as well as a support and protection for the international terrorism by Turkey,” [an official source at Foreign and Expatriates Ministry] said.

Turkey moved enough troops to its border to launch an invasion but the risk for its economy is high. There are local elections in March and the Turkish President Erdogan does not want to upset them by jumping into a quagmire. Erdogan will soon visit Russia again and discuss the issue with President Putin. Most likely Erdogan will be convinced that Syrian government control over the Kurdish areas, and Russian guarantees for a mostly quiet border, are a better solution than a costly Turkish occupation of a hostile population.

Earlier today a suicide bomber killed 4 U.S. soldiers and wounded at least three in an attack in Manbij city (video). A number of YPK/PKK fighters and bystanders were also killed or wounded. The incident happened in front of a restaurant where the U.S. troops presumably were meeting someone. In March 2018 an IED attack in Manbij killed two U.S. soldiers.

Cont. reading: A Turkish 'Security Zone' In Northeast Syria Is A Bad Idea

Posted by b at 11:51 AM | Comments (124)

January 15, 2019

Putin Asks And Trump Delivers - A List Of All The Good Things Trump Did For Russia

Slate's Fred Kaplan writes:

The Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported Sunday that President Donald Trump’s confiscation of the translator’s notes from a one-on-one conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017 was “unusual.” This is incorrect. It was unprecedented. There is nothing like it in the annals of presidential history.

Not really. Other U.S. leaders held long private meetings with their counterparts without notes being taken.

When Richard Nixon met Leonid Brezhnev he did not even bring his own interpreter:

George Szamuely @GeorgeSzamuely - 20:57 utc - 14 Jan 2019

Nixon would meet Brezhnev alone, the only other person in attendance being Viktor Sukhodrev, the Soviet interpreter. "Our first meeting in the Oval Office was private, except for Viktor Sukhodrev, who, as in 1972, acted as translator." Nixon on Brezhnev's 1973 visit. RN, p.878 . Therefore, the only "notes" that would exist would be those of the Soviet interpreter. Not sure he would have time to make notes and translate and, even if he did so, whether those notes would be housed in any US archive.

Nixon's White House office was bugged. There are probably tape recordings of the talks. There might also be recordings of the Trump-Putin talks.

At their 1986 Reykjavik summit Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev talked without their notetakers:

Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev began their second day of talks with a private meeting that had been scheduled to last 15 minutes but ran for nearly 70 minutes, with only interpreters present. They met in a small room in the Soviet Mission, with the Soviet leader seated in a small armchair and Mr. Reagan on a sofa.

In the afternoon, they meet alone for a little over 20 minutes and then again for 90 minutes. All told, the two leaders have spent 4 hours and 51 minutes alone, except for interpreters, over the two days here.

The archives of the Reykjavik talks do not include any notes of those private talks.

But, who knows, maybe Nixon and Reagan where also on the Russian payroll, just like Donald Trump is today.


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Only that Trump is controlled by Putin can explain why the FBI opened a counter-intelligence investigation against Trump (see section three).

That the FBI agents involved in the decision were avid haters of Russia and of Trump has surely nothing to do with it. That the opening of a counter-intelligence investigation gave them the legal ability under Obama's EO12333 to use NSA signal intelligence against Trump is surely irrelevant.

What the FBI people really were concerned about is Trump's public record of favoring Russia at each and every corner.

Trump obviously wants better diplomatic relations with Russia. He is reluctant to counter its military might. He is doing his best to make it richer. Just consider the headlines below. With all those good things Trump did for Putin, intense suspicions of Russian influence over him is surely justified.

Cont. reading: Putin Asks And Trump Delivers - A List Of All The Good Things Trump Did For Russia

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (122)

January 13, 2019

The Moon of Alabama Week In Review - Open Thread 2019-03

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

We had the suspicion that Bolton was freelancing with the conditions and time table he set for a U.S. move out of Syria. A later Wall Street Journal piece confirmed that. It included this great line:

“Nothing has changed,” one defense official said. “We don’t take orders from Bolton.”

The piece is an attempt to stay up-to-date on the various Trump-Russia narratives. It is a quite long read. For the gist read the intro, section 3 and the conclusions.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:35 PM | Comments (218)

The Trump-Russia Scam - How Obama Enabled The FBI To Spy On Trump

Despite the loss of major narratives, the war of the deep state against U.S. President Trump continues unabated. The main of tool in this  war are allegations of relations between Trump and anything Russia. The war runs along several parallel paths.

The narrative war in the media is most visible one. When any of the fake stories about Trump and Russia gets debunked and disposed, new ones are created or others intensified.

In parallel to these propaganda efforts the deep state created an investigation that Trump has no way to escape from. Enabled by one of the Obama administrations last acts the investigation is using signal intelligence to entrap and flip the people surrounding Trump (see section three below). The big price will be Trump himself. Here we take a look at what transpired during the last weeks.

Cont. reading: The Trump-Russia Scam - How Obama Enabled The FBI To Spy On Trump

Posted by b at 01:15 PM | Comments (90)