MoA – March 2016

Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 31, 2016

Chicken Propaganda (Graphic)

This circulates as the picture of a Sunni boy slaughtered by Iran led Shia militia in Fallujah, Iraq.

But like many pictures and videos from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere this one does not show the full extend of the massacre.

More pictures of the boy …



That’s not all yet.

Unfortunately many more beings of God’s Creation lost their life in this scene.




via the Egyptian actor Adel Emam

Posted by b on March 31, 2016 at 06:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

March 30, 2016

How The U.S. Continues To Arm al-Qaeda

Exhibit 1

According to rebels in the Turkish border zone, weapons have flowed steadily into Syria since the ceasefire began. Even those who hope for a political settlement aren’t betting on one any time soon. Instead they’re stockpiling for the next round, which they expect will be as desperate as the last.

“We ask the Friends of Syria and they give us,” [Colonel Hassan Rajoub, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Division 16], said with a smile. “They have just now given us new supplies of everything. But we want some special weapons to give us a little bit of leverage.”

[S]everal FSA commanders said the United States had been forthcoming during the ceasefire period, replenishing arms stocks and leaving open the possibility that some anti-aircraft missiles might be released into northern Syria.“We expect a surprise,” said one satisfied commander.

“The U.S. military commanders are always with us,” Rajoub said. “We ask. They are very cooperative. They understand our needs.”

Around Aleppo, It’s Not Peace—Just a Break, Thanassis Cambanis, Century Foundation, March 28 2016

Exhibit 2

Hard-core Islamists in the Nusra Front have long outgunned the more secular, nationalist, Western-supported rebels. According to FSA officers, Nusra routinely harvests up to half the weapons supplied by the Friends of Syria, a collection of countries opposed to Assad, and has regularly smashed FSA factions that were corrupt and inefficient — or that Nusra thought were getting too strong or too popular.

The Syrian Revolution Against al Qaeda, Thanassis Cambanis, Foreign Policy, March 29 2016

Posted by b on March 30, 2016 at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

March 29, 2016

Libya – Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention – by Richard Galustian

The extensive piece below on the situation in Libya is by Richard Galustian, a long time Middle East and North African security specialist and author. In February we discussed the whitewash U.S. media is giving Hillary Clinton and the U.S., British and French 2011 war on Libya. In March we borrowed from Richard Galustian’s work in and on Libya for a look at some curious personal interests in the current build up to a sequel of the earlier war.Galustian discusses the situation on the ground in Libya, the details of the various local groups and interests involved and the continuing and coming international interference in Libya. He analyses possible alternative steps forward. His thoughts on the subject are based on his extensive on-the-ground knowledge of the tribes and militias of Libya. This presents a unique insight into the most complex labyrinth of inter-connected Libyan and foreign interests.

Libya – Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention

by Richard Galustian

It is something that had never happened in any country since the formation of the United Nations. The UN has, without an election, created unilaterally its own government for a country, and then immediately recognized it. The Government of National Accord, the GNA for Libya is a government based in exile and not elected but chosen by the “International Community”.
A concerted effort over Easter for the GNA in exile in Tunis to ‘take power’ in Tripoli failed completely despite the spin and false optimism of the UN and the U.S. and UK in particular.
Let’s rewind a little.
The recent United Nations plan to bring peace to Libya and eliminate ISIS was/is a two stage process fraught with great risk, uncertainty and is poorly thought out.
First is to persuade Libya’s factions to unite under a Government, the GNA while it is in exile. Second, to provide weapons, training and air support for a newly united Libyan army to attack ISIS.
These are totally unrealistic expectations that will never happen.
The background needs to be understood. The critical fact being that Libya’s main factions are divided into two very loose camps.
One camp supports the elected parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk. The other is made up of the previous parliament, the General National Congress (GNC) and supports ‘Libya Dawn’, an Islamist-led coalition of militias that include the extremist elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) revolutionaries. The LIFG is an al-Qaeda offshoot.
Civil war began in July 2014 when ‘Libya Dawn’ seized Tripoli by force after the elections saw sharp losses for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies including notably former leader of the LIFG, the infamous Abdel Hakim Belhadj, currently suing in the London Courts the then Foreign Minister and MI-6.
The HoR won international recognition straight after the UN announced its election was free and fair, but under intimidation (that’s when Islamists destroyed Tripoli International Airport etc) from militias, the HoR fled east to Tobruk.
To further complicate the situation one must realize that within these two camps are a lattice work of rivalries and tribal divisions.
Libya has no ‘third force’ of police or army acceptable to all sides. The militias are the third force! Essentially they represents ‘guns for hire’. The army and police are first and second.
The problem for the international community is while destroying ISIS is their stated priority, both Libya’s rival camps see each other as the greater threat. ISIS is a threat, but neither camp believes it is an existential threat, so the priority for both camps is fighting each other.
    1.1 In Derna,1.2 In Sirte,1.3 In Sabratha
2 Tobruk (HoR) Government Forces
    2.1 Regular forces, 2.2 Petroleum Facilities Guard, 2.3 Zintan + Warshefa militias
3 ‘Libya Dawn’
    3.1 ‘Libya Dawn’ – Pro GNA militias, 3.2 ‘Libya Dawn’ –  Anti-GNA militias
4 Prospect of a Divided Country
5 Deployment of International Military Forces
6 Divisions among Outside Powers
7 Military Training
8 Other Factors
    8.1 Sanctions – stop and search ships and planes, 8.2 Muslim Brotherhood, 8.3 Libyan Institutions, 8.4 Benghazi
ConclusionMap of Libya, Oil and gas locations

1 ISIS in Libya
Bases: Derna, Sirte, Sabratha; Strength: 6,000 (Pentagon estimate)
1.1 In Derna
ISIS arrived in Libya in the summer of 2014 and established control of the eastern town of Derna, aided by a Yemeni preacher and a group of 200-300 ISIS fighters, many of them Libyan, includes many of the Al Badr Brigade, which had fought in Syria and Ansar Al Sharia whom some credit for killing the US Ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi.
In June 2015 a mixed force of regular army and an Al Qaida affiliated militia, Omar Mukhtar Brigade, pushed ISIS out of the town to its base in the forested green mountains to the south, the only high ground in the East.
Rumors that Qatari backed, Abdel Hakim Belhadj is linked to ISIS have never been proven. His LIFG was by the way designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.
1.2 In Sirte
The ISIS headquarter in Libya is in Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi’s birthplace and the site of his capture and execution at the end of the 2011 uprising in October.
Since establishing itself there in 2014, ISIS has pushed outwards, and now holds 150 miles of the Mediterranean coast either side of the town facing Europe. It has also pushed south, raiding production units in Sirte Basin, Libya’s largest collection of oil fields.
In December 2015 it attacked Libya’s principle oil ports, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, east of Sirte, setting storage tanks ablaze. In March 2016 it attacked Sarir, the largest remaining oil field still in production, 200 miles south east of Sirte.
The Pentagon estimates ISIS has 6,000 fighters and anecdotal reports suggest more are arriving hiding among migrant streams crossing Libya’s southern border. The majority of ISIS fighters in Libya are foreign, with contingents from Tunisia, Chad, Yemen, Syria, Mali, Niger and most recently Senegal. Other estimates put ISIS numbers closer to 10,000 and in future that number will undoubtedly grow.
1.3 In Sabratha
The main ISIS base in western Libya was at Sabratha, 30 miles west of Tripoli. Remnants still remain there.
In February U.S. air strikes successfully struck an ISIS compound killing 41 fighters, the bulk of them, according to ID cards recovered, were from Tunisia. Subsequently ISIS units overran the town, beheading 12 police officers in the police headquarters.
In early March ISIS units briefly captured areas of the Tunisian border town of Ben Gardan, before succumbing to government troops in fighting that left 50 dead. The U.S. strikes and subsequent fighting exposed links between the town’s Libya Dawn leadership and ISIS, who were able to use private houses leased by townspeople.
2 Tobruk (HoR) Government Forces
Regular army and militias from eastern Libya, militias south and west Libya. Strength estimates for full and part time fighters: 15,000-30,000. Between 12 and 30 fighter bombers + helicopters.
2.1 Regular forces
Tobruk’s most powerful force is the regular army. It is based in eastern Libya and has recently captured the bulk of Benghazi from Islamist militias and ISIS. It is led by Tobruk commander-in-chief Khalifa Haftar, probably the most polarizing figure in Libya. He is more popular than Western media portrays. He has vowed to destroy Islamist forces which he brands terrorists, and is supported and hated in equal measure.
The otherwise most popular soldier in the East is the enigmatic much respected Col. Wanis Bukhamada.
The army’s key units are the Saiqa and Zawiya-Martyrs’ brigades based in Benghazi and the 204 tank brigade. These units have some characteristics of militias, in that their personnel are not interchangeable and commanders decide in advance if they will perform various actions. But they cooperate and have ability to coordinate combined attacks with limited supporting artillery.
The air force is commanded by Haftar’s close aid Gen. Saqr al-Jerushi and has grown to more than 16 planes and helicopters. It has the capacity to launch accurate strikes on shipping attempting to bring weapons to Islamist units in Benghazi. In early March it broadcast footage showing the aftermath of an air strike on three ships that had been bringing weapons to Islamists in Benghazi from Misrata. Air force senior Officers say better training, pilots and planes, presumably mostly from Egypt, have given them the ability to spot and hit targets, even at night, at sea, and at least half a dozen similar strikes have taken place since October.
2.2 Petroleum Facilities Guard
Officially a defense ministry formation, the PFG is a tribal militia led by a charismatic and unpredictable yet important warlord, Ibrahim Jidran and his brothers who control four principle eastern Libyan oil ports.
When attacked by ‘Libya Dawn’ in 2014 and ISIS in 2015 it defended the ports and cooperated with Haftar in clearing Islamists from the nearby town of Ajbaiya. But Jidran remains emotionally unstable, and has in the past suggested switching support to ‘Libya Dawn’. He has signaled support for the GNA though that could change! This is a fairly typical trait – for Libyans, to switch allegiances regularly which makes analyzing the situation on the ground so difficult.
2.3 Zintan + Warshefa militias
The most powerful pro-government militia in western Libya is from Zintan, 90 km south west of Tripoli. It formed in the 2011 uprising, and at that time united with the rebel militia of Misrata to capture Tripoli. When Misrata joined Libya Dawn to capture the city in 2014, Zintan militia, who were until then the main pro government unit, quit the town and left the international airport after a six week battle. They returned to their almost impregnable mountainous region.
Importantly Zintan holds Saif Gaddafi.
Since 2014 Zintan has allied with militias from the Warshefani tribal belt, a crescent south of the capital. They have an integrated command center in Zintan with numbered brigades and their units cooperate well in offensive operations. Zintan’s best equipped unit is SAWAC, which deploys American uniforms and helmets and UAE manufactured armored cars. Its component parts dissolved in the 2014 fighting and joined other Zintan brigades but have since reformed.
Zintan now cooperates with Haftar, but, typically for Libyans, from time to time declines to take orders from him. Its operations are usually coordinated with air force bombers commanded by General Saqr Jerushi operating from the giant Wattiya desert air base north of Zintan. In December U.S. special forces were photographed at the airbase, reportedly engaged in reconnaissance of the Sabratha ISIS base 30 km north which American jets struck in February.
3 ‘Libya Dawn’
Militia led forces holding Tripoli, the western coastal belt and districts of eastern city of Benghazi. Strength estimates full and part time fighters 15,000-40,000. 3-6 fighter bombers operating out of Misrata and from Tripoli’s Mitiga Air Base which doubles as a civilian airport following Tripoli International Airport’s destruction.
‘Libya Dawn’ militias are broadly speaking divided between Islamist and tribal. The strongest and most important tribal militias are primarily from Misrata, as well as western coastal Libyan towns, reviving an ancient coastal-interior tribal fault line. The new UN-backed GNA has split Libya Dawn, probably permanently, with some militias in favor, others not, and consequential clashes in Tripoli between the two.
‘Libya Dawn’ was formed in July 2014 after Islamist and Misrata allies suffered defeat at the ballot boxes, in elections for the House of Representatives parliament, which was to replace the former General National Congress (GNC) parliament in which Islamists had enjoyed a narrow majority. Libya Dawn militias captured Tripoli in six weeks fighting that saw most embassies leave for Tunis or Malta and, as stated earlier, the International airport (TIP) completely destroyed.
Dawn then proclaimed support for a rump of the former GNC, composed of approximately 30 Islamist and Misrata former MPs. The exact number is not verified because the rump GNC holds sessions in secret. This newly constituted version of the GNC appointed a government led by a prime minister and cabinet called the National Salvation Government (NSG).
After a disputed Supreme Court judgement in November the rump GNC insisted it was the “real” parliament. The elected HoR now residing in Tobruk denounced the judgement, saying the Supreme Court judges were intimidated, in fear of their lives when they were forced to make their deliberations and when they were physically surrounded by Dawn militias.
Also as stated earlier, the UN’s GNA plan has divided Libya Dawn militias, some in favor, some against although the process is fluid and dynamic and ever changing.
3.1 ‘Libya Dawn’ – Pro GNA militias
3.1.1 Rada, or Special Deterrence Force
Formerly Nawasi, a Salafist formation, led by Abdul Rauf Kara. It is the self appointed religious police in Tripoli, ensuring women’s dress codes and closing shops displaying female garments. It clashes regularly with drug suppliers and usually summarily executes them on the spot.
​It operates from Mitiga Airport, the city center Libya airport, formerly only an AF air base. Its units are well equipped, with imported tan colored Toyotas with armor plating. To be fair Rada has brought a degree of security and stability to central Tripoli. Rada is expected to become the key security force for the GNA if it ever enters Tripoli. It has over 3,000 personnel.
3.1.2 Misrata: Halboos, Central Shield, Al Majoub, 166 Brigade
Halbous is an armored brigade, nicknamed the Black Brigade in the 2011 uprising because it painted its vehicles this color to differentiate from tan-colored Gaddafi forces for NATO jets. Founded by two engineer brothers both killed in the revolution, its units have held back from militia fighting and diplomats regard Halboos as having, as a result, good relations with both Tripoli and Zintan.
Halboos and Zintan negotiated a ceasefire in October 2015 which is holding. Optimistic plans call for Rada, Halboos and Zintan units to jointly patrol Tripoli to protect the GNA. This is an unlikely coalition. Some Zintan and Misrata commanders say they are reluctant, fearing increased firefights leading to mostly civilian casualties.
Privately, each expresses fears that less disciplined militias from their towns will take the opportunity to enter Tripoli, with family/tribal connections obliging regular units to avoid confronting them. Misrata’s Al Majoub Brigade and Central Shield militias, which have also refrained from gangsterism, also support GNA. Misrata’s 166 brigade is the lead formation battling ISIS on the Sirte front. It supports the GNA and UK and French special forces are reportedly advising it prior to an inevitable planned assault on Sirte.
3.2 ‘Libya Dawn’ –  Anti-GNA militias
3.2.1 Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR)
The LROR is a Salafist brigade formed as the headquarters of ‘Libya Shield’, a Muslim Brotherhood ‘parallel army’ set up by the former General National Congress (GNC) in 2013 as counterweight to the regular army.
In reaction to the military uprising against Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt in the summer of 2013, LROR and Shield units deployed around Tripoli and were paid, bribed, whatever you like to call it, 900 million dinars on orders of GNC president Nuri Abu Sahmain.
In October that year LROR kidnapped then prime minister Ali Zeidan from a Tripoli hotel. Since then, LROR, like most Tripoli militias, has seen membership rise and fall as fighters join and leave other units and return; and endless cycle of defections. Its leadership has declared it will fight any attempt by the GNA to control Tripoli.
3.2.2 Haitham Tajouri
A young maverick, not very smart even by the standards of Libyan militia leaders, he opposed LROR in 2013, claiming false credit for freeing Zeidan.
Since then his militia from Tajoura in south west Tripoli has fought alongside and against LROR in a continually changing alliances. Politically he has been outflanked by Rada which has UN approval, and is opposed to the GNA though he could change his mind in a heart beat. In March his units captured Gaddafi’s former Hall of the People to deny it to the GNA as a possible base. That said the two most favored locations in order of preference for the GNA would be the former UN base by the Med adjacent to the futuristic Palm City.
A most important revolutionary figure who maintains a very low profile is Hisham Bishr; a man to watch in future; an intelligent thoughtful former librarian.
3.2.3 Al-Samoud Front
Al Samoud is an amalgamation of 12 militias led by Misrata Islamist politician Saleh Badi, who led the most powerful ‘Libya Dawn’ force in its 2014 capture of Tripoli, capturing and then burning Tripoli International Airport. Badi formed the front from the most politically reliable units from both Misrata, eastern Tripoli and the coastal towns of Zawiya and Sabratha in reaction to gains made in 2015 fighting by Zintan.  Badi is adamantly opposed to the GNA. To be frank, he is considered by many to be a thug, pure and simple.
3.2.4 Benghazi Shura Council
The complexity of Libya’s inter-twined tribal and Islamist conflict is highest in Benghazi.
After the 2011 uprising the Muslim Brotherhood GNC installed three Libya Shield brigades in the city: February 17 Martyrs, Rafallah al Sahati (commanded my Muhammad al-Ghariani) and Libya Shield 1 (commanded by Wissam bin Ahmaid) All three were MB in orientation, and advised by Ismail Salabi, brother of Libya’s key Muslim Brotherhood preacher Ali Salabi, based now in Turkey, Erdogan being the world champion of ‘the Brothers’ as they are known.
Qatar’s wish that the three brigades should support Libya’s 2012 elections saw a breakaway group, Ansar al Sharia, formed. Washington accuses Ansar of the attack on the US cluster of buildings, wrongly called a consulate, which was protected by a small force from February 17, that killed in Benghazi ambassador Chris Stevens in September 2012.
However, there was overlap between the Brotherhood brigades, Ansar and  other terror formations. After a massacre of 30 civilians in June 2013, Libya Shield 1’s headquarters was overrun. IEDs and a makeshift jail created in the former toilet block were discovered. Former Shield militiamen recalled that the bulk of Shield 1 were local teenagers, paid to guard the compound. Within the compound was a forbidden area of several sand colored buildings where foreign Arabs worked. Shield militiamen were forbidden to talk to them and surmised they were operating a terror campaign in Benghazi.
Through 2012 and 2013 Islamist units launched terror attacks, mostly assassinations, against military and police officers, judges and civil rights activists to intimidate and control the population. They culminated in the slaying of two young activists and the killing of one of Libya’s most prominent activist, Salwa Bughagis, who photographed the militia unit that killed her.
In May 2014 Gen. Khalifa Haftar, then a retired general (who had lived the previous two decades in Virginia USA), launched Operation Dignity, with a mixed army and militia force attacking both Brotherhood and Ansar militias.
In February this year, according to Le Monde aided by French special forces, army units overran most Islamist positions in the town. By then, Islamist units had morphed into two parallel structures.
Brotherhood militias, severely depleted, had merged with Ansar al Sharia to form the Benghazi Shura Council. It was supported politically and with deliveries of weapons and fighters from Misrata and Tripoli and financed by the Central Bank of Libya.
Fighting both in competition and alongside were units of ISIS, which grew quickly among Shura areas, imposing harsh discipline. The Islamists were based in districts populated by people from western Libya suspicious of the eastern tribal majority.
4 Prospect of a Divided Country
Until 1934 Libya did not exist as a country, and was divided into three regions created by Ottoman rulers. Cyrenaica, in the east, Tripolitania in the west and Fezzan in the south. Italian colonizers displaced the Ottomans after World War One, invented the name Libya and united the three provinces.
Of the three provinces, the only homogeneous one is Cyrenaica (East Libya), where tribal leaders have well established rules for mediating conflict. For instance, when the Ajdabiya units of the PFG refused to allow Haftar units, from tribes further east, to enter the town to battle ISIS, Hafar demurred. Negotiations followed, the balance tipped by the strength of the regular army, and after tribal leaders agreed, army units entered the town.
Tripolitania (West Libya) and Fezzan (South Libya) are split, with local squabbles taking precedence over rivalry with other provinces.
Tripolitania is home to four million Libyans with a tribal divide separating the coast from the interior. Fezzan is split between ethnic conflict between gangs from Arab, Tobu and Tuareg peoples, some aligning with Tobruk, others with Tripoli in ever-changing loyalties.
5 Deployment of International Military Forces
5.1 Aviation
5.1.1. U.S.
The U.S. has struck militant positions in Libya in June and November 2015 and in February this year. It uses bombers based in both the UK and Italy. U.S. Marines are based in Italy and Spain for use to extract downed pilots. U.S. drones operate over Libya from both Italy and Niger.
In addition, several aircraft, including a Dornier and Beechcraft, used by U.S. Special Operations Command operated most days of March off the Libyan coast, visible because they use flight transponders when in international airspace.
In December 2015 20 U.S. servicemen in civilian clothes were rather embarrassingly photographed among dune buggies and a USSOC Dornier at Al Wattiya base near Zintan. The Pentagon says it has special forces in Libya seeking alliances with militias to attack ISIS. Meanwhile Barack Obama has said the U.S. will continue to launch air strikes on militant “targets of opportunity” in Libya.
5.1.2  France
France has an aircraft carrier, Charles De Gaulle exercising with the Egyptian navy in the Mediterranean as of March 18, after it returned from deployment in the Persian Gulf.
Additionally, France has a force of 3,000 deployed in Niger and other parts of the Magreb, Operation Barkhane, which intercepts suspected jihadist convoys entering and leaving Libya. Guided by U.S. drones, the interceptions have seen several battles. However, the forces say they are unable to distinguish ISIS jihadist recruits moving across the border unarmed, from the tens of thousands of migrants making the same journey. The migrants are actually a ‘Trojan horse’ for ISIS.
Le Monde reported French special forces and intelligence personnel have been operating from Benghazi’s Benina airport in support of Gen.Khalifa Haftar. Photographs of their alleged compound have been circulated on social media. Though this was denied by the much respected and popular other military officer, the head of SF in Benghazi, Col. Wanis Bukhamada.
5.1.3  UK
Britain has fighter bombers, unarmed drones and reconnaissance aircraft in Cyprus.
In February the UK announced a 20-strong unit was advising Tunisia on protection of its border against ISIS incursions. Germany has also announced advisors deployed for the same purpose.
5.2 Troop deployments
5.2.1 Training
Detailed plans have not been released for deployment. Italy has said 3,000 troops may be provided, the UK up to 1,000. France, Germany and Spain may join. It is likely training would be concentrated in ‘Libya Dawn’ areas. In Tripoli, training would take place in several disused army bases on the south-east of the city in Tajura district. Zliten police college to the east will probably not be used after it was devastated by an IS truck bomb. Other deployments run the risk of obstruction or violence. Southern cities are considered too unsafe by continuing factional war. Benghazi would prove too controversial, but Tobruk would offer security. There is a thin line when describing ‘trainers’ and combat troops. The head of the British Parliament’s All Party Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, himself a former soldier, voiced the strongest opposition to the UK deploying any troops describing his Committees actions actions against the British Governments plan as “I hope we put a bullet in that plan.”
5.2.2  UN
The UN Security Council has heard a recommendation from experts that an armed UN security force of thousands is necessary before the mission can return.
5.2.3  EU
A report leaked to Reuters written by the famously incompetent former communist, the EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, recommends an armed security force to protect EU advisors. The EU wants to send in more than 100 advisors from the European Border Assistance Mission, who evacuated the capital in the 2014 fighting. A hundred can achieve nothing. They also want to hand over €100m to the GNA. That would come in use to bribe militias, well initially anyway.
6 Divisions among Outside Powers
Libya is a strategic asset. It holds the largest oil reserves in Africa and has more than $100 billion in foreign assets and cash. The oil is light and sweet, placing it in the top four percent of world premium oil. It remains a strategic prize. Libya has also many other minerals that have yet to be exploited.
Libya Dawn’s Muslim Brotherhood component has seen it attract support and weapons from principally Turkey while Egypt and UAE do the same for the House of Representatives (HoR) and its rather maverick but popular commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar. This popularity is understated by the mainstream western media.
The GNA plan is led less by the UN than by the U.S. State Department and the UK Foreign Office. Both believe it is strategically important to ensure the Brotherhood retains a position in North Africa, after it – Morsi and Co – was replaced by force in Egypt as well as losing elections in Tunisia. The American and the British, this author maintains, are mistaken and that it is a gross error on both their parts.
Never forget that the mercurial, some say insane, leader of Turkey is the worlds only Muslim Brotherhood governed country.
The MB is unwilling to accept a place in parliament commensurate with its 14-17 percent electoral support, fearing, possibly correctly, that it will be persecuted. Instead, it is demanding a guaranteed chunk of power, policed by its own force, with control of at least part of Tripoli and at least part of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL).
An important fact that needs to be acknowledged is that pitted against MB influenced ‘Libya Dawn’ is nevertheless the legitimate parliament in Tobruk consisting of all the other parties and factions, forming a nebulous chaotic whole without a recognizable ruling group and with opposing group factions within it. Parliament has never managed to hold a session with more than 140 of its 188 MPs present and recent sessions have fallen below 100.
The position of foreign powers remains mixed.
France is more lukewarm in its support for the MB, but is united with Britain and the U.S. in wanting a rapid end to the civil war and the destruction of ISIS. Its special forces reportedly helped Haftar capture most of Benghazi. The fall of Benghazi, assuming it is completed, will represent the most strategic shift in the civil war since it began in July 2014, handing Tobruk the east, the bulk of the oil, and the upper hand. If truth be know, France would like the South of Libya (Fezzan) for a variety of obvious reasons associated with controlling Libya’s southern neighbors.
Italy has, to all intent and purposes, sided with ‘Libya Dawn’, in part because Dawn controls ENI assets and the important Melitah terminal of the Greenstream gas pipeline to Europe west of Tripoli. An Italian deployment to Tripoli is seen by both camps as a decisive gesture in support of Libya Dawn.
Germany and other European states follow the lead of the most prominent three western powers on the UN Security Council.
Russia remains the enigma. It has joined with Egypt in proposing a UNSC resolution to lift the arms embargo for the regular army which will benefit Haftar. There is speculation in Libya that as Britain and the US move closer to the Muslim Brotherhood in Tripoli, Russia will increase her support for Tobruk.
On March 14 Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said any western military intervention in Libya must have UN Security Council approval. Legally speaking the move is unnecessary as UNSC Resolution 1970 from 2011 remains in force.
However, the statement is seen as a clear break with western powers. If intervention were to go ahead without Russian agreement, there is the possibility Russia, with Egypt’s help, will deploy in eastern Libya.
One other danger of the GNA is that its existence causes Libya to split because of the nature, the make up, of the so called government. While a majority of the 9-strong presidency council are non Islamist, they are obliged to meet in Tripoli under control of the MB, the ‘Libya Dawn’ Islamist and Misratan units who control the city and its institutions at present. They (the presidency council) have been threatened with arrest should they enter Tripoli. Without eastern or southern forces, it is likely eastern and possibly southern presidency members will either boycott the GNA or stay away for fear of immediate kidnap.
In this case, the GNA if it succeeds to get to Tripoli, will operate under the same intimidation, extended to the Central Bank  and other ministries, that the GNC now operates under, effectively the GNA will become a ‘Libya Dawn mark 2’.
In this, the UK and U.S. may feel they have met their apparent objective of securing the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, because international recognition status will have switched from the Tobruk parliament to the GNA. A mad idea by anybody’s measure.
In effect, under this scenario, the division of Libya remains the same, but recognition status switches from the eastern government to the GNA which as explained will fast become ‘Libya Dawn mark 2’. Such a scenario carries with it the possibly of split recognition. Egypt, UAE and possibly Russia will likely not agree to switch recognition to the GNA and maintain it’s ties to the HoR in the East.
7 Military Training
Italy has offered 3,000 soldiers and the UK has suggested up to 1,000, to train a GNA army. The UK as explained earlier is highly unlikely to do this.
Most of these forces will be engaged in support and ‘force protection’. Diplomats say the deployment is also and primarily aimed at providing foreign troops on the ground to strengthen the control of the GNA, while not acknowledging this publicly.
However, the deployment carries risks. A former training initiative, agreed at the 2013 G6 summit in Lock Earne saw the UK, U.S., Italy, Turkey and Jordan agree to train Libyan forces, but outside Libya because of security concerns.
The U.S. training plan for 5,000 Libyans in Bulgaria was abandoned. Britain abandoned after some months the training of 300 recruits in Cambridgeshire after several were jailed for various offenses including male rape. Jordan curtailed its training after a group of recruits rioted in their dorms in Amman. Italy trained more than 200 without incident. Turkey’s training was compromised by its support for ‘Libya Dawn’. Remember that Turkey is headed by the world’s only Muslim Brotherhood government.
Libyan loyalties are to the tribe and family. “Tribes trump religion” is a popular saying by some. As in Lebanon and Iraq, units formed by recruits from different tribes and groups have low cohesion. Tribal and Islamist units have high cohesion, but are self-governing, refusing orders from higher commanders.
The risk for foreign ‘trainers’ is that they train militias backed by the GNA, creating a fresh fighting division in Libya. This is like putting wood on a fire.
A second risk is that a proportion of equipment delivered to these formations will be illicitly sold to other militias and ISIS.
A third risk is force protection. As in Iraq, ISIS deploys trucks laden with explosive driven by suicide bombers. Such bombs are guaranteed to destroy the outer guard post of a base. Western troops will initially rely on Libyan militias to control outer security. But attacks by ISIS may see the militias reluctant to do so. Killing of foreign troops will raise political problems in the West. Politicians will criticize not just the deployment, but also the likelihood that if the deployment continues, there will be further casualties. The bottom line is; from where will these forces be recruited, who will lead them, against whom and with what legal protections? Unless the state enjoys a monopoly on force, few Libyans will likely join a foreign backed ‘army’ for a government in exile that has no organic legitimacy, traction or policy for the State beyond combating ISIS.
However, Pentagon planners favor a more direct approach than their civilian counterparts. In January the U.S. Defense Department said its special forces are in Libya seeking to “partner” with local militias in the fight against ISIS.
Such partnerships would be short term and ad hoc. They would see special forces support ground attacks and direct air strikes, in what would be a repeat of the NATO bombing of Gaddafi forces in 2011.
This strategy also carries risks. ISIS in Sirte are in a built up area, and western forces will not want to be blamed for civilian casualties.
Also, the bombing of Sabratha exposed the ties some Libya Dawn factions, in this case the city leadership, have with ISIS.
8 Other Factors
8.1 Sanctions – UN option to stop and search ships and planes
While Tobruk forces get weapons and ammunition, mostly Russian made, across Egypt’s border, ‘Libya Dawn’ rely on ship and plane transport from Turkey, according to the UNSC Panel of Experts report of March 2015. But many ask how and why when Turkey is part of NATO? A seemingly unanswerable question, well one no one in the West has the balls to ask.
A proportion of the ‘Libya Dawn’ supplies and fighters go to ISIS. Cutting sea and air routes would cut ISIS supplies but also those of Dawn. By contrast, the UN has no means of enforcing an arms embargo on the Egyptian border, without Cairo’s agreement. Thus, enforcing the embargo will see the Tobruk-Dawn military head to head change to the advantage of Tobruk.
8.2 Muslim Brotherhood
Britain’s and the U.S.’s security and intelligence communities are allegedly concerned about the overlap between the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Part of the reason that British and American politicians have for supporting the MB is the hope that they think it represents a non-violent outlet for jihadists who might over while be encouraged to join ‘more extreme’ terrorist organizations. These are echoes of the ridiculous debate about good and bad terrorists in Syria.
But the Brotherhood’s decision to rebel against the elected Tobruk parliament has cast doubt over this assessment. Some ‘Dawn’ units are interchangeable with some ISIS units, although many are not. And many of Tripoli’s ostensibly Islamist units are closer in character to armed criminal gangs. ​The MB enjoys little support in what is a tribal society, winning between 13 and 17 percent in elections and the few authoritative opinion polls since the revolution. Its success in winning the 2012 election was attributed by critics to it inserting MB candidates posing as independents, notably religious figures. The MB has an extensive network in the U.S. whose leadership enjoys access directly to the White House.
8.3 Libyan Institutions
Libya’s overseas assets and oil income are controlled by the Central Bank, National Oil Corporation and Libya Investment Authority. The chairmen of all three were replaced by the HoR in late 2014, but refused to leave, staying in office in Tripoli. Officially they declare they are independent of both Dawn and the HoR, but the UNSC panel of experts reports that intimidation and political links ensure all three work with Dawn.
The Libya political agreement (LPA) calls for the HoR chairs to be dismissed, leaving the Tripoli chairs in charge, and, for opponents, giving ‘Dawn’ access to Libya revenues.
Without resolution, this may see a break, as the east refuses to export oil from eastern ports if the income returns to a ‘Libya Dawn’ controlled Tripoli.
​If Egypt, UAE and Russia continue to recognize Tobruk and the HoR which includes the Al Thinni government, then Libya will see the complicated reality of the east able to sell oil, and receive income, from those three states while the GNA in Tripoli sells to certain favored western powers.
​An added complication is allegations recently made publicly by both the UK ambassador Peter Millett and the UNSC panel of experts claiming the Tripoli central bank (CBL) is paying militias. The UNSC says it also has evidence that the CBL is paying Ansar al Sharia directly, who are listed by the UN and the U.S. as a terrorist organization.
Central bank governor El Sedik al Kabir, now a resident of Malta, has denied the reports, but evidence that he is paying armed groups, militias and possibly terrorists may see foreign oil buyers withhold payments, fearing in particular prosecution by the United States.
8.4 Benghazi
The fate of Benghazi is the hinge on which the Libya civil war turns.  If the army complete Benghazi’s capture, eastern Libya will be free of Islamist units and able to exploit oil fields holding two thirds of Libyan production.
​It will be de facto independent of Tripoli and able to resist the GNA. The Muslim Brotherhood and some Islamist brigades in Tripoli say they will support the GNA only if the UN can ensure a supply corridor to preserve their garrison in Benghazi.
UN envoy Martin Kobler has tried to facilitate this through, amongst other ways, a Qatar backed Swiss charity, pushing for it to be allowed access to Shura Council areas of Benghazi. Success will allow a regular supply pipeline and will cement the front lines, denying Haftar control of the city.
For this reason Tobruk forces are likely to resist the move. Kobler’s decision to back the charity has brought back echoes of the controversy of his predecessor’s Bernadino Leon departure to live and work for the UAE government. In October last year Leon emails were revealed showing him accepting a job from the UAE and offering them inside information on the peace process. At best described as a conflict of interest.
Paradoxically, a de facto division is already underway. Most Benghazi residents from western tribes have fled, as have many non-Dawn citizens from Tripoli and its environs. The UN says half a million of Libya’s six million population are displaced by war. In Benghazi, eastern tribes say that if residents from western tribes are allowed back, Islamist militias will reform among them.
The international community, if possible in an ideal world, including Russia, should forget Libya’s internal rivalries for now and, using overwhelming force focus only on ISIS, by air sea assets and boots on the ground, and once and for all eradicate ISIS in Libya, which some Pentagon sources privately say is possible within as little as a two week period.
If not this, then there are no easy policy options for Western forces in Libya.
Doing nothing means risking the civil war getting worse, Libya tipping into humanitarian crisis and ISIS expanding to dominate the country.
Options for striking ISIS fall into three choices.
1 – Do nothing.
This is likely to see ISIS grow as the civil war worsens. For the moment ISIS is not a mass movement among Libyans. However, growing numbers of foreign fighters are joining its ranks particularly those fleeing Syria and Iraq. They arrive in Libya courtesy of assistance by a NATO ally, Turkey. Go figure!
2- Air Strikes Lite.
Air strikes without government permission are technically legal, as they are covered by the UNSC Resolution 1973 in 2011. However, they are politically difficult for western governments, notably Great Britain and France.
The Pentagon “war lite” plan for air strikes backed by ad hoc alliances with local militias may fail if they cannot achieve quick results.
3 – Unity government which then can be followed by Western air strikes.
Accept Western air strikes have already occurred without that need; witness the bombing of Sabratha by the Americans.
The UN plan, engineered principally by the U.S. State Department and UK Foreign Office, relies for success on the acceptance of a unity government, the UN picked GNA.
Talks on this broke down late last year, with the elected parliament, the HoR, was unwilling to give ‘Libya Dawn’ more power than its voter share entitled it to. The HoR wants the ballot box votes to prevail over guns.
Instead, led by U.S. and UK diplomats, who provide the impetus and expertise for Kobler, the GNA has been literally forced through.
Its legitimacy is built on very shaky ground. The GNA was rejected by both the GNC in Tripoli and the HoR in Tobruk, albeit with chaos in both so called parliaments and significant factions in both for and against it.
The GNA is built around the Libya political agreement. This calls for a prime minister, Fayez Seraj, a low profile Tripoli politician and businessman to rule as part of a 9 strong presidential council. None chosen by Libyans but by the UN!
The HoR leadership disrupted attempts to have a vote, however a suspiciously looking dubious letter was signed by allegedly up to 100 MPs declaring they supported the GNA but some say they were prevented from voting.
How many MPs signed it is unclear with several complaining they were absent. The letter, if genuine, is not enough for the political agreement underpinning the GNA to come into effect. Crucially, this agreement calls for international recognition, and control of oil income, to pass to the GNA.
There is further controversy because the heads of all three key state institutions the Central Bank of Libya (CBL), National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Libya Investment Authority (LIA) were replaced by Tobruk in late 2014.
The political agreement cancels those replacements, with power reverting back to the three pro-Dawn chairmen who, despite being sacked, remained in control of the institutions in Tripoli. The UK, UN ‘Libya Dawn’ and the institutions themselves insist they are independent of both sides which is poppycock according my observations. In fact the UN Panel of Experts has actually reported that the Tripoli branches are controlled by ‘Libya Dawn’ militias, often through violence and intimidation.
Plans call for ‘Libya Dawn’s’ Rada and assorted Misrata brigades to provide security, carrying the risk that the GNA will assume the position that the GNC now enjoy. The difference for practical purposes is that international recognition of supporting powers will switch from Tobruk to Tripoli. However, Egypt, UAE and Russia may continue recognizing Tobruk, which will institutionalize, and quite possibly accelerate, the civil war.
Never forget, what comes with international recognition is the potential of unfrozen cash and assets representing tens of billions of dollars to the GNA who are currently just a government in exile.
To get a sense of proportion of anyone trying to govern Libya, to ‘pay off’ all the Militias and tribes as former PM Ali Zeidan did, would cost around $30B a year alone! The annual budget average in last 5 years has been around $70B in total for 6 million people.
If the GNA can get to Tripoli to govern, this will leave western military forces, if deployed, likely to be embedded among ‘Libya Dawn’ units, and facing attack from ISIS but opposition from the regular army. An unenviable situation to say the least.
An international meeting to discuss military training deployment and air strikes was held in Rome on March 18 with up to 30 nations invited. However, problems with the GNA entering Tripoli, and fears it could trigger worse fighting in the capital, saw no decisions reached.
The UK also has a new obstacle. On March 16 the UK Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which is investigating UK policy in Libya, and indeed PM David Cameron himself, demanded the government seek permission for any Libya deployment from parliament. The UK, which had been expected to take a lead in air strikes, military training, logistics and security in Tripoli has had to put its plans on ice. The British government then promptly announced it had no plans for deployments, and promised parliament to announce such plans if they developed. A volte face.
This has been a blow to its coalition allies but prime minister David Cameron is wary of having another Syria-style debate on military action against ISIS in Libya. U.S. policy on Libya is also uncertain, because the Republicans, who may win the presidency in November, are hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose organization in the States has regular access directly to President Obama.
At time of writing the GNA has committed itself to moving from Tunis to Tripoli “within days”. That was over two weeks ago. They talk boldly of moving “within days” where wiser heads say it will take “weeks and months”.
Legally, because it is recognized by the U.S., UK and France, it can request foreign air strikes in Libya and control overseas funds from Tunis. However, for presentational reasons, each foreign government wants a military assistance request to come only once it, the GNA, is installed in Tripoli not while it is in exile.
The GNA process is on a clock, because special forces and air assets were committed in December and January. Western military planners say these forces cannot stay in theater or primed indefinitely. They must either be used, or withdrawn and the operation cancelled for several months. With ISIS growing and the migrant season beginning with the arrival of spring weather, Western diplomats fear political pressure if they contemplate an extended military delay.
This author emphatically believes the West, certainly Europe, has no more time if we are to stop ISIS strengthening it’s position in Libya which would represent a real and imminent threat to the very existence of the EU.
For the UN plan to work, the GNA must go to Tripoli, which itself is very doubtful since it cannot be secured there even if embedded in Palm City with the UN Headquarters next door, much like a more concentrated (but more isolated) Green Zone like that that originally existed in Baghdad in 2003.
But in so doing, it would certainly spark a more intense round of the civil war, leaving only ISIS as the winners of the spoils of such an internal conflict. One outcome if that happens is that certainly East Libya would declare unilaterally independence and become a new country, as happened to South Sudan. The second consequence much more dire and important than the split of Libya is that ISIS will eventually destroy Europe as we know it.
Such a break up of states in the MENA region is a trend that will not be confined to Libya alone. It seems in Trump’s AMERICA FIRST foreign policy, such break up of nations will become even more popular. The author does not at all contemplate a Clinton win.

Posted by b on March 29, 2016 at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

March 28, 2016

Syria – How The Palmyra Victory Changes the Narrative

The liberation of Palmyra is a decisive turning point in the war on Syria. While there were earlier military successes by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the publicity value of securing the valued Roman ruins of Palmyra is much higher than any earlier victory. It will change some of the false narratives of the conflict.

The Syrian government is no longer “the Assad regime” and the Syrian Arab Army no longer the “Assad forces”. Ban Ki Moon, the head of the United Nations, congratulated the Syrian government to its success:

In a news conference in Jordan, Ban said he was “encouraged” that the UNESCO world heritage site is out of extremist hands and that the Syrian government “is now able to preserve and protect this human common cultural asset”.

One important part of liberating Palmyra was the use of Russian electronic warfare equipment to interfere with electromagnetic signals around Palmyra. The Islamic State rigged the ruins with improvised explosive devices but was unable to remotely detonate them.

The myth that the Syrian and Russian government are in cahoots with the Islamic State, told by various propagandist as well as the British and U.S. government, has now proven to be false. But other false claims are still made:

Lost in the celebrations was a discussion of how Palmyra had fallen in the first place. When the Islamic State captured the city in May, the militants faced little resistance from Syrian troops. At the time, residents said officers and militiamen had fled into orchards outside the city, leaving conscripted soldiers and residents to face the militants alone.

That depiction of the battle is pure nonsense. The Islamic State offensive that ended with its occupation of Palmyra took thirteen days from May 13 to May 26 2015. Heavy fighting and several Syrian army counter offensives took place during those days. After the Islamic State finally captured the city, the Syrian army immediately prepared for a larger operation to regain the city. This was launched successfully in July 2015 but for lack of air support the gains made were again lost a week later.

Throughout the 2015 fighting around Palmyra the U.S. air force, which claimed to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, did not intervene at all. ISIS was free to resupply through the open east-Syrian desert.

The sole reason that the Islamic State could successfully attack Palmyra was a very large ongoing attack by al-Qaeda Jihadists and CIA mercenary forces on the Syrian government forces in Idleb governate. The Syrian army moved troops from Palmyra to defend Idleb and Latakia and the forces left behind were no longer large enough to repel the Islamic State attack.

The attack on Idleb, for which the CIA allowed its proxy forces to directly cooperated with al-Qaeda, was supported by electronic warfare from Turkey which disrupted the Syrian military communication. The attack and the obvious cooperation between the Jihadists and Turkish and U.S. secret services was the reason that Russia and Iran decided to intervene in the conflict with their own forces. It had crossed their red line.

What followed was the roll up of all “rebels” that posed an immediate danger to the Syrian government. After Turkey ambushed a Russian jet all “rebel” forces supported by Turkey became priority targets. When the success of large scale offensives in Latakia and around Aleppo was established, Russia imposed a cease fire on the U.S. supported forces and on the Syria government. This cease fire freed up the Syrian, Iranian and Russian forces needed to successfully take back Palmyra. From there on the attack will progress eastward to Deir Ezzor and later on to Raqqa.

The Palmyra victory was the biggest defeat yet of the Islamic State. It poses a problem for the Obama administration:

Washington has endeavored to portray the battle against Islamic State as a project of the United States and its allies, while accusing Moscow of attacking “moderate” rebels instead of the extremists. Palmyra seems to embody an alternative narrative.

Congratulations, though still with loads of obligatory anti-Assad rhetoric, are now coming from unexpected corners like the conservative mayor of London:

I cannot conceal my elation as the news comes in from Palmyra and it is reported that the Syrian army is genuinely back in control of the entire Unesco site.There may be booby traps in the ruins, but the terrorists are at last on the run. Hooray, I say. Bravo – and keep going.

I concur.

Posted by b on March 28, 2016 at 05:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (93)

March 27, 2016

Palmyra’s Liberation, Ishtar’s Resurrection And The Easter Walk

The Syrian Arab Army and its allies have taken the Palmyra ruins and Tadmor city next to them from the Islamic State. To the chagrin of the U.S. State Department (vid), the Islamic State occupiers pulled back into the eastern desert after losing some 500 men. The Syrian government can now use the air base in Palmyra and from there regain control of the eastern desert country up to Deir Ezzor and the Syrian/Iraqi border in the east and towards the Jordan border in the south.

The Easter holidays and the fertility symbols of the hare and the eggs are said to be derived from the Germanic goddess Eostre or Ostara. But it is probably more likely that they derive from the older Mesopotamian goddess of Ishtar:

Ishtar is the Mesopotamian East Semitic (Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the earlier attested Sumerian Inanna, and the cognate for the later attested Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte. Ishtar was an important deity in Mesopotamian religion which was extant from c.3500 BC, until its gradual decline between the 1st and 5th centuries AD in the face of Christianity.

Interestingly the myth of Ishtar includes her descent into the underworld of death and her resurrection and return to life after higher divine intervention:

One of the most famous myths about Ishtar describes her descent to the underworld. In this myth, Ishtar approaches the gates of the underworld and demands that the gatekeeper open them.  … The gatekeeper hurried to tell Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. Ereshkigal told the gatekeeper to let Ishtar enter, but “according to the ancient decree”. The gatekeeper let Ishtar into the underworld, opening one gate at a time. At each gate, Ishtar had to shed one article of clothing. When she finally passed the seventh gate, she was naked. …
After Ishtar descended to the underworld, all sexual activity ceased on earth. The god Papsukal reported the situation to Ea, the king of the gods. Ea created an intersex being called Asu-shu-namir and sent it to Ereshkigal, telling it to invoke “the name of the great gods” against her and to ask for the bag containing the waters of life. Ereshkigal was enraged when she heard Asu-shu-namir’s demand, but she had to give it the water of life. Asu-shu-namir sprinkled Ishtar with this water, reviving her. Then, Ishtar passed back through the seven gates, getting one article of clothing back at each gate, and was fully clothed as she exited the last gate.

Ishtar brings us back to Palmyra which hails from the same age:

Palmyra entered the historical record during the Bronze Age around 2000 BC, when Puzur-Ishtar the Tadmorean (Palmyrene) agreed to a contract at an Assyrian trading colony in Kultepe. It was mentioned next in the Mari tablets as a stop for trade caravans and nomadic tribes, such as the Suteans.

Today there is a hotel named Ishtar just a two minute walk away from the ruins of Palmyra. Book it for your next years Easter holiday.

For me Easter (or Ishtar?) is no Easter without rereading Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Easter Walk from his Faust I opus:

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

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

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

For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor’s bonds and traffic’s prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world’s night,
All have come out to the day’s broad light.

The people of Syria, of Palmyra/Tadmor, have good reason to celebrate today. And to take a happy Easter walk. Happy Easter!

Posted by b on March 27, 2016 at 05:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (67)

March 26, 2016

The Wahhabis’ War On Yemen One Year On – When Will Riyadh Fall?

One year ago the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, supported by the U.S., the Brits and several Gulf states, launched a war against Yemen:

Yesterday the Houthi led rebellion had kicked the Saudi/U.S. installed president Hadi out of the country and took control over most of its cities including the southern capital Aden. The Houthi are allied with the former president Saleh, himself a Houthi and replaced two years ago with his vice president Hadi after a U.S. induced light coup. Saleh and the Houthi are supported by significant parts of the Yemeni army.

There seems to be the idea that Saudi/U.S. selected president Hadi, out now, could be reintroduced through force. The U.S. claims that Hadi was “elected” but with a ballot like this any “election” is a mere joke. There is no way Hadi can be reintroduced by force.

A year later the Houthis are no longer in Aden. Saudi proxy troops, which include “western” mercenaries, “liberated” it. But Aden is now infested with Al Qaeda and Islamic State militants who launched several suicide attacks over the last days killing many more people than were recently killed in Belgium. It is known that at least Al Qaeda in Yemen has direct Saudi support and is fighting on its side.

But despite all its proxies, massive bombing and many announcements the Saudis did not get anywhere near the capital Sanaa. Instead Houthi forces attacked Saudi forces within Saudi Arabia and destroyed several hundred Saudi tanks and armored vehicles.

The Saudis and the U.S. and British military supporting them are guilty of war crimes willfully targeting hospitals, schools and civilian infrastructure as well as many people who were not involved in the war. Haykal Bafana talked to BBC Newshour today from Sanaa in Yemen about the war and the Saudi crimes.

Shortly before the war started Pat Lang wrote:

The Houthi descendants of my old acquaintances are not servants of Iran. They are not dangerous to Western interests. They are dangerous to AQAP. Get it? Salih will return. pl

That is as right today as it was a year back. Here are some pictures from Yemen today.

A pro-Saudi demonstration in Yemen as published by Saudi media:

Half of the anti-Saudi demonstration on Sabaeen Square in Sanaa (video) today. Saleh’s GPC party had called for it. Former president Saleh attended and the crowd sang the national anthem. Saleh is baaaackk!:


A separate anti-Saudi demonstration in Rawdah Sanaa. The Houthi had called for this one. Many women attended:


The Saudis managed to bomb the Yemenis back to Saleh! If the Saudis continue with their war on Yemen, Yemen will survive. But it will be Saudi Arabia that will at the end be destroyed. Riyadh, not Sanaa, will fall.

Posted by b on March 26, 2016 at 01:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (59)

March 25, 2016

Roundup Of Current News On Syria

In January the Jordan King Abdullah talked to a bunch of U.S. lawmakers behind closed doors. He accused Turkey of willfully transferring “refugees” and terrorists to Europe and of doing oil business with ISIS.

Those well founded accusations is not new for anyone who actually followed the issue. What is new is that some U.S. lawmaker felt a need to leak this now:

King Abdullah of Jordan accused Turkey of exporting terrorists to Europe at a top level meeting with senior US politicians in January, the MEE can reveal.The king said Europe’s biggest refugee crisis was not an accident, and neither was the presence of terrorists among them: “The fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy and Turkey keeps on getting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

Asked by one of the congressmen present whether the Islamic State group was exporting oil to Turkey, Abdullah replied: ”Absolutely.”

The king presented Turkey as part of a strategic challenge to the world.

“We keep being forced to tackle tactical problems against ISIL but not the strategic issue. We forget the issue [of] the Turks who are not with us on this strategically.”

He claimed that Turkey had not only supported religious groups in Syria, and letting foreign fighters in, but had also been helping Islamist militias in Libya and Somalia.

Abdullah claimed that “radicalisation was being manufactured in Turkey” and asked the US senators why the Turks were training the Somali army.

That Turkey is supporting Jihadis not only in Syria but also in Libya and in the Balkans has been documented but was missing from main stream news. We can hope that some of the bigger media will now pick up on this.

In Syria the Syrian Arab Army is proceeding to envelope the Islamic State held city of Tadmur/Palmyra. It is systematically taking the heights around the city but has not yet brought the fighting deeper into the city. The Islamic State fighters have defended well so far but have no means to counter the heavy Syrian and Russian air strikes that support the ground troops. They are losing a lot of men. There are strong sandstorms announced for the next 72 hour which will make further air support impossible. The Syrian troops would be well advised to hunker down along defensible lines for now and to only take on the city once the sandstorms are over and air support is again available.

In south-west Syria, right next to the Israeli and Jordan border, Shuhada al-Yarmouk is fighting and making gains (map) against U.S. supported insurgents. Shuhada al-Yarmouk is believed to be part of the Islamic State. It has never officially announced such but is led by a known Islamic State commander. One wonders how the group, completely cut off from other Islamic State held areas in east-Syria, can resupply and take care of its wounded. In the past Israel had supported and supplied Jabhat al-Nusra fighters on the Golan heights against the Syrian army. Is it now supporting the Islamic State against U.S. supported insurgents in south Syria?

The talks between Secretary of State Kerry and The Russian President and Foreign Minister have brought no immediate new results. But it is important to see that the U.S. now has to admit that its attempt to “isolate” Russia has failed:

His mission in Moscow centred on Syria, but Kerry also ushered in a warm front, interpreted as a softening of the often-hostile rhetoric between the U.S. and Russia.

Both parties confirmed the UN timetable for steps to be taken by the Syrian government and the opposition. The Russians again emphasized that the Kurdish people in Syria must be involved in the talks. At the same time they warned the Syrian Kurds that any element of autonomy or federation will likely be much less than they envision:

MOSCOW, March 25. /TASS/. Moscow is explaining in its contacts with Kurds that Syria is an indivisible country that should not be broken into parts, Russia’s presidential envoy on the Middle East and North Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters on Friday.

One should ignore all the claims that Russia wants to federalize Syria. I see no evidence for that and I believe that Russia knows well that any federalization would be more troublesome than a centralized Syrian state.

Posted by b on March 25, 2016 at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)


Open Thread 2016-12

Judas: Still on for Friday?
Jesus: Friday?
Judas: Yeah, the last supper.
Jesus: The what?
Judas: Supper, normal supper with the fellas.

News & views …

Posted by b on March 25, 2016 at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (140)

March 24, 2016

Clinton’s Plan To “Defeat ISIS” Is A Threat

Hillary Clinton’s three part plan to defeat ISIS is to:

  • Defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria
  • Destroy ISIS everywhere
  • Prevent ISIS attacks in the U.S.A.


That plan, to me, seems similar to George W. Bush’s plan to defeat the Taliban which was to defeat the Taliban. Or maybe more like Nixon’s plan to defeat drugs which had nothing to do with drugs but was actually a plan to criminalize blacks and antiwar hippies.

The real motive behind the above Clinton nonsense may be the interest of the powers-that-are to keep the war on ISIS going forever. Obama already did his best to establish ISIS. He refrained from fighting it in its infancy in 2012, refrained from holding it back in Iraq to “regime change” Prime Minister Maliki and kept its revenues flowing until Putin shamed him into finally bombing its oil infrastructure.

Clinton’s plan, which declares only aims without any steps to reach them, would mean endless wars in this or that Middle East country and/or in Africa or Asia. It means further suppression of any privacy and opposition at home.

It is not a plan but a threat. Will she win votes with such nonsense?

Posted by b on March 24, 2016 at 02:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (109)

March 22, 2016

Mr. Trump Goes To Washington

Donald Trump toured Washington yesterday for backroom meetings with Republican party bigwigs, for pandering to the Israel lobby and for an examination by the neoconned Washington Post editors.

The Republican party has given up its resistance to Trump. See for example the Republican functionary John Feehery who opined on February 29 that Trump is an authoritarian, and:

We beat the Nazis and the Japanese in the World War II and protected freedom and democracy by beating the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It would be a damn shame if we lost it all by giving in to the authoritarian impulse in this election.

The same guy only twenty-two days later:

Republican voters can support the nominee picked by a majority of the voters, they can sit this election out, or they can start a third party. The last two choices give the White House to the Clinton machine.I am not happy that Donald Trump could be our nominee, but I am learning to live with that distinct possibility.

That, in short, is the revised position of the Republican party. It has given up on fighting Trump and will now propel him into the White House. What will happen thereafter? Who knows?

Trump is pure marketing. A salesperson throughout. This video explains how his linguistics works – words with only very few syllables, strong buzzword at the end of the sentences. It is fourth grade reading level language. Exactly the level needed to sell his product to the U.S. public and the Republican party. He is an expert in doing this.

But what product does Trump sell? Does he know it? Does he know how that product functions? Is he serious in what he claims that product to be. I have my doubts.

So has Par Lang. He remarks on yesterday’s Trump appearance at the U.S. Zionists beauty contests:

Trump’s pander was so extreme that one ponders the possibility that he was mocking the audience.

Trump probably does not even care what political product he sells. For now he is selling the salesman himself. Buy Trump and all problems will be solved. He does this convincingly. Most of what he said so far is just nonsense and solely for marketing purpose. There are only few consistent political lines that did not (yet) change over time. These are the lines that rile the Washington Post editors:

Donald Trump endorsed an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs Monday during a day-long tour of Washington, casting doubt on the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and expressing skepticism about a muscular U.S. military presence in Asia.

“At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?’ ” Trump said in the editorial board meeting. “I know the outer world exists, and I’ll be very cognizant of that. But at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially the inner cities.”Trump said U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, breaking with nearly seven decades of consensus in Washington. “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” he said, adding later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”

To this the editors opine:

Unfortunately, the visit provided no reassurance regarding Mr. Trump’s fitness for the presidency. “I’m not a radical person,” he told us as he was leaving. But his answers left little doubt how radical a risk the nation would be taking in entrusting the White House to him.

But who are the real radicals, the real radical risk? The salesperson Trump or the neoconned Washington Post publisher and editors? You may judged that from this excerpt at the end of the talk’s transcript:

[FREDERICK RYAN JR., WASHINGTON POST PUBLISHER]: You [MUFFLED] mentioned a few minutes earlier here that you would knock ISIS. You’ve mentioned it many times. You’ve also mentioned the risk of putting American troop in a danger area. If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?TRUMP: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

RYAN: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS? [CROSSTALK] …

The salesperson stopped there. Instead of answering that question Trump asked for personal introduction to the people taking part in the event. To nuke some lunatics in Toyota technicals is not Trumps idea of his product. He would not sell that. Not even for gaining the support of the WaPo neocons.

Buying Trump is buying a pig in a poke. One does not know what one might get. But I find it unlikely that he would pursue an interventionist policy. Then again – George W. Bush also pretended to be a non-interventionist – until that changed.

But Trumps current non-interventionist position is a big contrast to Hillary Clinton. She unashamedly offers her well known toxic brew of neo-liberal and neo-conservative orthodoxy. She will wage war, Trump may. As a foreigner that is the decisive difference to me.

But if I were a voter in the U.S. my position would be based on economic policies. There Bernie Sanders is surely preferable to Trump and very much preferable to Clinton.

Posted by b on March 22, 2016 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (115)

March 21, 2016

How Do Weekly Demonstrations Indicate A Lack Of Free Speech?

This sentence, in a typical Guardian human rights sniveler piece about Cuba, has me confused:

“I’ve been detained and beaten countless times,” said Eralidis Frómeta Polanco, an activist who turned up in the all-white clothes of the demonstrators, who march silently along 5th Avenue each week in protest at the lack of freedom of expression. [emphasis added]

What actual “freedom of expression” do these people claim to lack? It is obviously not the freedom to publicly demonstrate each week. So what is it?

My hunch is that these are the typical rabble rousing agitators who accompany each and every U.S. “regime change” attempt. By promoting these the Guardian is propagandizing the weaponization of human rights. “Regime change”, chaos and atrocities are allowed if done behind the veil of promoting a few selected human rights like some freedom of expression. Indeed, the U.S. government co-opted “human rights” (vid, start at ~10min) as pretext for nefarious deeds.

But what about the human right to work, the human right to equal pay, the human right to just and favorable remuneration, the human right of an adequate standard of living or the human right to free education? Cuba is a champion of promoting these rights while the U.S. is shunning all human rights whenever it fits its purpose. When was the last time Human Rights Watch, or the Guardian, has called out for economic and social human rights? Would they ever support “moderate rebels” who fight for those?

Posted by b on March 21, 2016 at 05:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (77)

March 19, 2016

A U.S. 2016 (S)Election Circus Threat

Your likely choices:

Pics via Billmon

Posted by b on March 19, 2016 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (109)

March 18, 2016

The Islamic State Is Pretext To Again Mug Libya

There are currently two governments in Libya. A “moderately Islamist” one in the west in Tripoli and one in the east in Tobruk. The eastern one is internationally recognized and “secular” but also supported by some Salafist groups. Both governments have their own parliament and various supporting militia. In the middle of the long east-west coastline the Islamic State led by some cadres from Iraq and Syria has taken a foothold in Sirte. It is recruiting followers from north Africa and moving to capture nearby oilfields to finance its further expansion.

The “west” is alarmed about this development and wants to intervene with military force. Special forces from several countries are already on the ground. But both governments and their parliaments do not want such foreign intervention.

The UN or someone came up with the glorious idea of creating a third government which is supposed to supersede the two existing ones. The task of this third government will be to “invite” foreign forces and to rubber-stamp whatever they will do. That third government is now constituted in Tunisia and has zero power on the ground in Libya:

[T]here is no guarantee that the other factions will back down. So what is a war between two rival governments backed by militias risks becoming a war among three rival governments, none of which recognize the others ..

Naturally the Libyans hate that idea of a foreign imposed government. They will likely fight any third force that tries to usurp their sovereignty. Confronted with a foreign imposed government and foreign military forces more Libyans will join the Islamic State to fight the intruders. The shortsightedness of the UN and the “western” governments on this issue is breathtaking.

But there is still a lot of money to be made in Libya and especially the French and British governments want to keep robbing the country blind. This requires some feet on the ground. The “brain” and a likely main profiteer behind all this seems to be one well known figure.

A revealing piece in the Times of Malta describes some of the astonishing political-business connections behind the scenes:

[A] major military operation by a collection of foreign powers is in the works to tackle Isis and install a UN-backed government but the shabby way it has been put together carries the risk it will blow back in everyone’s faces.First, there is the strange situation that [Britain’s Ambassador to Libya, Peter] Millett takes his orders from Britain’s Libya envoy, Jonathan Powell, a contractor to the FCO. Yes, the same Powell who, along with then prime minister Tony Blair, brokered the deal with Muammar Gaddafi to end his dictatorship’s isolation a decade ago – and lead to fat Blair consultancies with that same tyrant after the prime minister left office.

Among other beneficiaries of this new opening up of Gaddafi’s dictatorship was a massive property development contract handed out to a company chaired by none other than Powell’s brother, Lord Charles Powell, which also involved an array of colourful London-based, well-known Arab millionaires. Which makes Powell more of a close relative of an interested party.

Libya is awash with weapons and munitions of all kinds and these are bought and sold in open markets. With the right amount of money one can easily buy powerful anti-tank weapons or anti-air guns readily installed on the ubiquitous Toyota technicals. But Britain also wants to sell, not buy weapons:

Millett revealed that he wants to sell Libya yet more [weapons] – but only to the ‘right’ militias, that is, those supporting the new UN-backed government of national accord (GNA).The GNA, designed to replace Libya’s two warring governments, in Tripoli and Tobruk, is the cornerstone of Western policy in Libya, designed to unite the country to turn its united guns on Isis. Hence the weapons.

Millett insists the weapons will only go to the ‘right’ militias, an echo of a Western statement about supporting the ‘right kind’ of terrorists in Syria in the war against Isis.

Here now comes the real business part with the most valuable piece being the Libyan Investment Authority with some $65 billion in assets. This fond is owned by the Libyan people but whoever controls it will be able to siphon off tons of money:

Much of the fallout for this clumsy step to create a third government for Libya will be felt in Malta, where commercial battles rage between the two existing Libyan governments over control of a host of enterprises headquartered here – and which are soon to have unity government leaders also pushing for control.The Valletta court battle for the public telecommunications company LPTIC highlighted the complicated split and a new tussle is underway for control of the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), the Tobruk-appointed office of which is situated in Malta.

For now, the LIA battle is in London but in a bizarre twist the case was last week controversially stopped in mid flow on advice from Britain’s Foreign Office.

The judge making the order, which keeps both existing governments from getting their hands on this $65 billion asset, is none other than William Blair, brother of – you guessed it, Tony.

Never mind that Tony worked with the LIA in the latter Gaddafi years.

Conflict of interest?

Well, you decide. But to me this looks like another coup in the making this time by introducing a third government that will be completely controlled by foreigners. All this not to “fight the Islamic State” but for Tony Blair and others to control and rob whatever assets the Libyans have left. (How, by the way, is the Clinton Foundation involved in this?)

I can not think of any positive outcome this hapless robbery attempt under the disguise of fighting the Islamic State will have for Libya and its people. Or for the people of those countries who’s “elites” now again move to wage war on Libya.

Posted by b on March 18, 2016 at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

March 17, 2016

Open Thread 2016-11

News & views …

Posted by b on March 17, 2016 at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (211)

March 16, 2016

Syrian Kurds Risk Their Gains With New Federalization Demands

Everyone seems to agree that the recent Russian surprise move in Syria is to its advantage. The Russian government declared that it had achieved most of its aims in Syria and decided to continue its operations there with a smaller forces. As the current ceasefire seem to hold the necessity of further air attacks is much diminished. About half of its planes in Syria were ordered to fly back home. Significant forces will stay deployed and the planes could be back within 24 hours should the need arise.

A Russian source on the ground explains how this fits into a larger plan:

Russia has managed to turn the balance of power up side down in six months of its intervention in Syria. Regardless the control of a vast strategic land to the regime in Damascus, the Kremlin forces all parties to sit with Assad representative around the Geneva table when these were rejecting the idea for the last four years of war. Russia is pushing for a free election, within the area under the regime and the rebels’ control, under the supervision of the United Nations.

Russia, according to high-ranking sources, informed Washington, Damascus and Tehran of its step of reducing forces in Syria. The Kremlin expects from the United States to exert its promises to impose on regional parties, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to stop all sorts of weapons and financial supply to all rebels without exception. The USA is confident to obtain from its regional allies in the Middle East this commitment at the cost of joining the bombing, with Russia, of all those willing to continue fighting and violate the open-date Cease-fire in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Turkey see no longer Syria as a possibility to implement their old plans and agreed to act accordingly.

We will see if the U.S. is really committed to this plan. Will it stop arming al-Qaeda or will it launch another crazy attempt to achieve “regime change” in Syria.

It would be out of character for Washington to just let go and to let Russia win the cause. That is why I suspect that the U.S. somehow arranged the following scheme.

The Syrian Kurds have no place at the table in Geneva. Russia has pushed for their inclusion but failed. Still the Kurds are in a decent position. They have military support from the U.S. as well as Russia and the Syrian government has agreed to give them some form of autonomy.

It would have been smart of the Kurds, led by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), to bag these achievements and to stay out of the way of the further process. The Russians can be trusted to take care of the Kurdish interests in Geneva. But in typical Kurdish fashion they try to go for more and overreach:

A powerful Syrian Kurdish political party announced plans Wednesday to declare a federal region in northern Syria, a model it hopes can be applied to the entire country. The idea was promptly dismissed by Turkey and also the Syrian government team at U.N.-brokered peace talks underway in Geneva.The declaration was expected to be made at the end of a Kurdish conference that began Wednesday in the town of Rmeilan in Syria’s northern Hassakeh province.

The Kurds already have autonomy and there were only few, if any, clashes with the Syrian government. There is no need for them to unilaterally federalize some parts of Syria. There is nothing to win with a federalization that no one else will recognize. To demand federalization now is like opening a can of nasty worms just the moment everyone set down to have a nice meal.

Even worse:

Tensions are high in the Al-Qamishli District today, as the Kurdish “Assayish” forces surround the National Defense Forces (NDF) at the Al-Qamishli security box. Reports from the Al-Qamishli District claim that the Assayish forces have arrested several NDF fighters in what is expected to be their expulsion from northern Syria.

The Al-Qamishli District is ethnically diverse, with Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, and Arabs all living in this densely populated region.

The Assayish Forces will have their hands full if they attempt to seize all of the government-controlled area because the Assyrian “Gozarto Protection Forces” (GPF) are heavily armed and make-up one of the largest militias in the Al-Hasakah Governorate.

So just as everyone is calming down and working on a political solution the Kurds throw a wrench in the works and start a new fight with Syrian government forces.

I do not understand such thinking. Whatever the future political situation in Syria will be, the Kurds will not gain a viable independent state. The Turks hate them and are instigating new schemes against them by supporting their own splinter Kurdish proxy group. The Barzani mafia in north Iraq does not like the PKK/YPK Kurds at all. Neither Russia nor the U.S. will promise them any long term (financial) support. Whatever they try, the Kurds will continue to depend on the capabilities and monies of a Syrian nation state with the capitol in Damascus. They do not have any income source. Attempts to export oil would be blocked by its neighbors and their borders can not be secured without heavy weapons.

Why upset the Syrian government and its armed forces when the gains made so far are still reversible?

I can think of no sound reason for the Syrian YPG Kurds to do this now. But it may well be that someone in Washington (or elsewhere?) thought that it would be funny to upset the playing board by pushing the Kurds to take these self-defeating steps. But why would the Kurds agree to do this?

UPDATE: As speculated above the PYD Kurds where told by Washington to do this. See the NYT report quoted here.

Posted by b on March 16, 2016 at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

March 14, 2016

Putin: Withdrawal Of Russian Forces From Syria Starting March 15

This is an extremely interesting and likely very smart move. Putin again catches everyone off guard.

TASS reports:

Putin orders to begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15

March 14, 20:40 UTC+3The Russian leader hopes the withdrawal of Russian troops will become a good motivation for launching negotiations between political forces in the country

MOSCOW, March 14. /TASS/. Putin orders Russian defense minister to begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15.

The Russian president said he hopes the start of the withdrawal of Russian troops will become a good motivation for launching negotiations between political forces of that country and instructed the foreign minister to intensify Russia’s participation in organization of peace process in Syria.

Via other sources Putin said: The armed forces achieved their goals in Syria. The two Air Force and Naval bases in Syria will stay and operate normally. The move was in agreement with the Syrian government.

I believe that, for this to have happened, there must be a deal in place with the U.S. to wind up the Syria situation. What did Putin get in return?

And what units will actually pull out? Three military cooks departing while civilians take up their jobs?

The tide of the war on Syria has changed. There is no longer a danger that Assad will lose the fight.

There were some Russian artillery and special forces units taking part in the ground operations in north Latakia. Latakia is now mostly cleaned up and the Russian bases there are no longer in danger. (The S-400 air defense will of course stay.) Will these troops now be pulled out?

Or is this, as announced, an “incentive” to put some urgency on progress in the Geneva negotiations?  (An “incentive” that can be taken back should it not have the intended results.)

One can also think of this as a message to the U.S. to get serious: “Don’t take our help in fighting ISIS for granted. We can simply secure Assad and leave. Then you alone will have to clean up the Jihadi mess you created.”

Posted by b on March 14, 2016 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (135)


U.S. Politicians Discuss Accountability

At Nancy Reagan’s funeral George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton discussed the prospects of being held accountable.

bigger (source)


Posted by b on March 14, 2016 at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

March 13, 2016

Syria: Another CIA Supplied Group Hands Its Weapons To Al-Qaeda

Syria’s Idleb province is held by Jabhat al-Nusra, aka al-Qaeda in Syria, and Ahrar al Sham with a sprinkling of “moderates” added to the mix. While Nusra and Ahrar have support from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the “moderates” are supported by the CIA which provides them with anti-tank weapons.

When in 2013 these groups stormed government held positions in Idleb, Nusra, Ahrar and Islamic State Jihadis were leading the fighting and employed suicide bombers. Their attacks were supported by electronic warfare measures from Turkey which disabled the Syrian Army’s communication. The CIA “moderates” were integrated as anti-tank teams using their U.S. supplied weapons in support of the Jihadi offense.

The U.S. supported groups in Idleb are currently grouped under the moniker “Division 13” or “Brigade 13”. The cessation of hostilities in Syria means that all these “moderates” in Idleb province have time to discuss their ideological differences. Jenan Moussa (@JenanMoussa) is the “Roving reporter Arabic Al Aan TV. Based in Dubai but roams around MidEast”. She reports on Syria from a mostly pro-opposition standpoint and has long favored “moderate” as well as “not-so-moderate” Jihadis.

Here are some of here recent tweets:

Jenan Moussa @jenanmoussaJenan Moussa Retweeted ياسين ابو رائد

Nusra attacks FSA supporters protesting Assad in #Idleb province. Nusra bans FSA flags, allows only Jihadi banners.

4:44 AM – 11 Mar 2016

Yesterday Nusra had meeting in Idleb with activists & local Syrian journalist urging them all not to carry FSA flags, only Jihadi banners.

Here full video of Nusra attack on protestors in Maaret ElNoman. Its seriously amazing some dared to carry FSA flag

Anti regime protests also in Sarmada, Harem &Darkoush in Idleb province. Protestors carried both FSA &Jihadi banners

In Nusra mentality, FSA flag seen as ‘pro-democracy &pro-secularism’. They have banned it but can’t yet enforce ban in their territories.

Moment when Nusra attacked AbuElias AlMaaeri, local anti-Assad celebrity. They took his mic for singing FSA slogans

On Saturday some reports from Idleb claimed that Division 13 fighters, enraged that their propaganda protests were disrupted by Nusra, attacked some Nusra positions and fighters in Idleb.

Charles Lister @Charles_ListerBIG:

FSA’s Division 13 has launched raids on Jabhat al-Nusra bases in Marat al-Numan (24hrs after clashes at opposition Friday protest).

11:11 AM – 12 Mar 2016

#Idlib rebel dynamics are hotting up pre-#Geneva talks: Division 13 denies attacking Nusra in Marat al-Numan:

Then came the counter(?) offense by Nusra.

Jenan Moussa @jenanmoussa#BREAK Nusra (AlQaeda in Syria) is right now attacking HQ of FSA-group “Brigade 13” in Maraat Nouman, Khan Sheikhun, AlGhadfa, Jbala &Heesh>

3:18 PM – 12 Mar 2016

Nusra (AlQaeda Syria) is trying 2destroy last FSA groups in Idlib, who r already weak. Just like Nusra destroyed Jamal Marouf &Hazem before.

If thing continue like this, FSA group division 13 will cease 2 exit in morning. Nusra (AlQaeda in Syria) will destroy them tonight.

Nusra (AlQaeda in Syria) kills 4 FSA fighters from Division 13 as they attack their HQs in Maaret AlNoman. #Idlib

Nusra (AlQaeda in #Syria) &Jund AlAqsa gathering their troops 2 attack main HQ of FSA division 13 in Maaret Noman.

I am hearing that Nusra (AlQaeda in Syria) confiscated weapons of FSA Division13. If true, Division 13 receives U.S weapons including TOWs.

FSA Brigade13 says their main specialist in firing (US-supplied) TOW rockets at SAA tanks “attacked w/ RPG by Nusra”

2 versions. Nusra says FSA attacked us first. FSA says we are weaker why would we attack? Nusra attacked us first.

And that, dear folks, was the predictable end of the last “moderate” Jihadi group with direct U.S. support in Idleb. The CIA supplied weapons, lots of TOWs but allegedly also including anti-air MANPADs, are now, like on earlier occasions, in the hands of al-Qaeda.

Excellent job Mr. Brennan!

Posted by b on March 13, 2016 at 03:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

March 12, 2016

NYT Conceals U.S. Control Over Anti-Russian “Pro-Democracy Nonprofit”

What is a pro-democracy nonprofit?

Pro-Democracy Nonprofit Is Banned in Russia

MOSCOW — A nonprofit group that promotes democracy has become the latest American-linked group to be banned in Russia under restrictions on “undesirable” organizations signed into law by President Vladimir V. Putin in May.The office of Russia’s prosecutor general on Thursday outlawed the group, the National Democratic Institute, claiming in a statement that the it posed “a threat to the foundations of Russia’s constitutional order and national security.”

The above quoted NYT piece studiously avoids to describe what the “pro-democracy nonprofit” really is. There is no mention at all of its sources of money or its relations to non-Russian governments.

The National Democratic Institute, a group promoting democracy and civil society, had operated in Russia directly since the late 1980s, but it decided to close its offices there in 2012, according to its website. It has continued to establish programs in Russia through partner organizations, however. Madeleine K. Albright, an former United States secretary of state, is its chairwoman.

When asked about U.S. sanctions against Iraq Madeleine Albright once said (vid) that 500,000 killed Iraqi children were “worth it”. Any organization led by here must surely be a morally good. But who pays it? And what for?

To know what exactly this “nonprofit” is, is certainly relevant to understand the Russian position. But the NYT writer hides from the readers the fact that the NDI is a U.S. government financed organization. It is a “nonprofit organization” in the same sense that the U.S. Armed Forces are a “nonprofit organization”. The NDI has been involved throughout the years in dozens of right-wing “regime change” coups. Its direct parent organization is the U.S. National Endowment of Democracy:

The private, congressionally funded NED has been a controversial tool in U.S. foreign policy because of its support of efforts to overthrow foreign governments. As the writers Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld remarked in the January/February 2007 NACLA Report on the Americas: “Since [1983], the NED and other democracy-promoting governmental and nongovernmental institutions have intervened successfully on behalf of ‘democracy’—actually a very particular form of low-intensity democracy chained to pro-market economics—in countries from Nicaragua to the Philippines, Ukraine to Haiti, overturning unfriendly ‘authoritarian’ governments (many of which the United States had previously supported) and replacing them with handpicked pro-market allies.”[2]NED works principally through four core institutes: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDIIA or NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), and the Center for International Private Enterprise—representing, respectively, the country’s two major political parties, organized labor, and the business community.

To call the NDI and its brothers and sisters non-government organization is obviously wrong. To call them “pro-democracy” is only right when one has some fondness for the peculiar kind of “democracy” in foreign countries that sets U.S. business interests above the interest of its own people.

What the Russian prosecutor general kicked out of Russia is obviously a U.S. government organization. The NDI was acting clandestinely by secretly financing local groups in Russia which work against the duly elected Russian government and against the interest of the Russian people.

But the petty-minded NYT, with its slavishly U.S. centric view, can not allow its readers to learn such facts.

Posted by b on March 12, 2016 at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (48)

March 10, 2016

‘The Obama Doctrine’ Is To Whitewash His Foreign Policy

The Atlantic publishes Obama’s great whitewashing of his own foreign policy. It is the result of a series of interviews with Jefferey Goldberg written up into one gigantic piece under the headline “The Obama Doctrine”. Throughout the piece Goldberg and Obama touch various foreign policy issues, mainly in the Middle East.

The ostensible purpose is to refute hawkish critics of Obama who say that he has not been militaristic enough or was ‘leading from behind.’ Judging from comments to the piece in various media the readers seem to fall for that. But the real purpose of the piece is to hide the militaristic, dangerous to catastrophic decision Obama has made on many foreign policy issues.

The real Obama has used the military to wage open or hidden wars in more countries than any president since the second world war. Obama has ordered thousands of unknown people be killed by drone strikes in ten or so countries. He has used clandestine means for illegitimate regime change from Honduras over Ukraine to Iraq where, as he admitted in an earlier interview, let the evil of ISIS grow for the sole purpose of ousting Prime Minister Maliki. Instead of making room for the inevitable growth of China, Obama is preparing to wage a preemptive war against it.

The whitewash includes a lot of juicy, diverting quotes that many people will like. It bitches about foreign paid think tanks in Washington and the Saudis. It lambastes Cameron and Sarkozy. It badmouths his own hawkish advisers.

When it discusses why Obama let his ‘red line’ on chemical weapons in Syria slip and did not bomb the country it tries to paint Obama’s decisions on Syria as sensible and reasoned. But what is sensible or reasoned in ordering the CIA to ship thousands of Jihadis, recycled from his war on Libya and earlier conflicts, to Syria? What is peaceful in arming and paying sectarian “rebels” with billions of dollars to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government? The piece does not mention those facts and the interviewer never touches those questions.

Obama criticizes the Saudis and Iran for waging proxy wars in Syria and Yemen. But Iran came in only after Obama and the Saudis waged war on those countries. Without him Yemen would not be bombed and Syria would be peaceful. It is he who enables the Saudi misdeeds.

On Libya the president blames France and Britain for dropping the ball after Ghaddafi was killed. But it was the U.S. that enabled and directed the war, flew most attacks, dropped 7,700 bombs and had its people on the ground training and organizing the Jihadis for attacks on government positions. Here the fake ‘leading from behind’ is used to blame the allies when the inevitable consequences of the war, the destruction of the functioning state Libya, appear.

In general the piece is somewhat interesting and shows some insight into Obama’s thinking. But if you take the hour that is at least needed to read it keep in mind that this was published for a purpose. Obama is preparing his next career step. With the Goldberg interviews and this piece he is attempting to wash the blood off his hands and to whitewash his legacy.

Posted by b on March 10, 2016 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (135)

March 09, 2016

Ignatius, Off His Meds, Has Syria Delusions

The public relation functionary for the CIA, the Pentagon, Israel and the Saudis – David Ignatius of the Washington Post – forgot to take his meds. Thus he experienced an outbreak of acute delusions:

The campaign in eastern Syria is directed by about 50 U.S. Special Operations forces now on the ground there, joined by about 20 French and perhaps a dozen British commandos. They’re working with about 40,000 Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters dubbed the Syrian Democratic Forces; all but about 7,000 are from the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG.

Those numbers are waaay off. The more realistic numbers are some 10,000 YPG and some 1,000 Arabs. Even those numbers include lots of village guards that can not be counted on as soldiers. The core forces are in the low thousands.

U.S. commanders hope soon to augment the U.S. ground force in Syria to about 300 troops who can train and assist these fighters. With this broader U.S. base of operations inside Syria, it’s hoped that special forces from other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, could play a role there.

Us.commanders may “hope” that they will be allowed 300 more forces on the ground. But I doubt that the Obama administration will now agree to such an escalation. It would risk to spoil the current understandings with the Russians. Likewise with the UAE contingent.

The next stage in the assault may come to the west of Raqqa. Syrian fighters backed by Turkish commandos appear poised to move south from Jarabulus, where the Euphrates River crosses from Turkey into Syria, toward the area around Manbij. Other U.S.-backed forces hold the Tishrin Dam, about 55 miles northwest of Raqqa. The Turkish-led campaign could finally close the gap in its border, through which the Islamic State has maintained its supply lines.

What a load of bollocks. The Turkish military has said laud and clear that will not commit any forces to Syria without an explicit UN mandate. No such mandate is likely to pass.

The “other U.S. backed forces” at the Tishirn Dam are YPG Kurds. The Turks have declared them to be terrorists and the Kurds see any Turkish soldier as their enemy. There is no way that they would let Turkish commandos pass towards Manbij. And why does Turkey need to invade Syria to close the “gap in its border”? How about closing the border on the Turkish side as is usual. Are there Mexican troops in Texas to close the southern U.S. border “gap”? If the Turks would invade through Jarablus their aim would be to protect their allies in the Islamic State, to keep the logistic line to it open and to fight the Kurds. The Ignatius take is completely off from any reality.

A limited southern push toward Raqqa was begun recently by a small unit of Jordanian and British special forces that captured a former regime outpost in southeastern Syria, close to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.

Here is news Mr Ignatius. The “capture” of Al Tanaf crossing by some Jordanian trained Syrian “rebels” and with U.S. air support failed. The crossing is still in the hands of the Islamic State.

In Ignatius’ fairy tale book the Syrian government forces and its allies are nowhere to be seen fighting against the Islamic State. But is the Syrian Arab Army and its allies who are squeezing the Islamic State from the west and the south with the current attacks on Palmyra, south-east of Aleppo and towards Tabqa. It is the Syrian army that is defending some 200,000 civilians which are besieged in Deir Ezzor. It is the Syrian army that just launched a big operation in the south-eastern desert that will clear the approaches towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.

A sane policy discussion on Syria will never take place in the U.S. when the news consists of such insane fantasies.

Posted by b on March 9, 2016 at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (78)

March 07, 2016

U.S. Central Command Promotes The War On Yemen Where Al-Qaeda Is The Only Winner

Daniel Larison recaps the War on Yemen:

The Saudi-led intervention has been going on for over eleven months, and in that time it has failed in all of its stated objectives. The Houthis have not been driven from the capital, the former president has not be restored to power (not that most Yemenis would want him there now anyway), and the intervention certainly hasn’t produced the stability that the Saudis laughably claimed to be bringing.

Yemenis have been sorely deprived of basic necessities for almost an entire year thanks to the Saudi-led blockade, and the majority of the population is starving or at great risk of doing so. At least four-fifths of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The country’s health care system has all but collapsed, medical facilities are coming under repeated attack (including repeated bombings by coalition aircraft), medicine and fuel are in short supply, and the lack of access to clean water has made the spread of disease much worse. Every problem Yemen had before the intervention has grown far worse than it was, and the country’s infrastructure has been wrecked by the coalition bombing campaign that the U.S. supports.

Since the Saudis and their allies started pummeling Yemen with indiscriminate bombing and the use of inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions last March, the U.S. has been reliably backing the Saudis in this unnecessary and indefensible war with weapons, refueling, and intelligence. The U.S. has helped the Saudis to whitewash and obscure their crimes, and the Obama administration has done this despite credible reports from multiple human rights organizations and the U.N. that the Saudi-led coalition is likely guilty of war crimes and possibly even crimes against humanity.

The U.S. not only continues to whitewash the Saudi crimes but is still actively propagandizing and reinforcing the false Saudi claim that Iran is in cahoots with the Houthis. I have yet to see even one picture from the war in Yemen that shows any Iranian weapon or munition. There are lots of pictures though that show Houthis using weapons they pilfered from incompetent Saudi troops or their proxies.

The Australian navy today captured a weapon smuggling ship in the Arab sea. They reported:

The Australian Navy said that one of its ships patrolling the region, the HMAS Darwin, intercepted a small, stateless fishing vessel about 170 nautical miles off the coast of Oman when it made the discovery.On board they found more than 2,000 pieces of weaponry — including 1,989 AK-47 assault rifles and 100 rocket-propelled grenades.

An Australian Defense Ministry spokesman told CNN there were 18 people of various nationalities on board the ship, but officials could not initially confirm that their identification documents were valid.

Authorities believe the weapons were headed for Somalia based on interviews with crew members, but that information is preliminary and may change as the investigation continues, the spokesman said.

Someone bought 2,000 old AK47s and some RPGs, maybe in Iraq or elsewhere in the Gulf, to sell them in Somalia. That makes sense. There is an ongoing civil war in Somalia and selling weapons there has little risk.

But here is the U.S. Central Command making up nonsense about the Australian find:

According to a U.S. assessment, the weapons were believed to be initially sent from Iran and were likely intended for Houthi rebels in Yemen, Lt. Ian McConnaughey with the U.S. Navy told CNN.U.S. Central Command is still gathering more information to determine the arms’ final destination, McConnaughey said.

There is zero evidence for that claim that these are weapons from Iran on their way to Yemen. Indeed the circumstances as reported by the Australians seem to make that unlikely. But the CNN report, from which the above is taken, is headlined Weapons seized by Australia may have come from Iran, intended for Houthis thus supporting the false Saudi claims.

Yemen is flooded with weapons. The Saudi have several times dropped thousands of new weapons to their proxy forces in south Yemen. Many of those weapons were seized by the Houthis and those that reached the Saudi proxies were immediately sold off to the highest bidder. Every modern assault rifle one might think of is available in Sanaa’s weapon markets. Why would anyone ship old AK47 to Yemen where even the poorest households already have better weapons?

Remarks a Yemeni analyst:

Hisham Al-Omeisy @omeisySo Iran sent 1989 low grade AK47s & 100 RPGs to a #Yemen already flooded w/ better AK47s & RPGs! What am I missing?

And another one:

Haykal Bafana @BaFana32nd time the US is claiming that Somalia-bound arms are “Iran weapons to Houthis Yemen” delivery. Almost as if DC is prodding Saudi Arabia.

The war in Yemen can not be won by the Saudis or their proxies on the ground. The mercenary company Blackwater/Xe had been hired to provide a battalion of foreign fighters. These tried to capture Taiz from the Houthis but were routed. They were pulled out after taking too many casualties. Now the Saudis spend another $3 billion and hired Dyncorp to provide more cannon fodder. There is no way the Saudis or their mercenaries can win the war and no sane reason to give them any further support.

Banks have stopped to certify letters of credit for food imports to Yemen and those few ships which still come to Yemen have to pay huge bribes to be allowed to unload. The famine in Yemen will intensify over the next months. More people will die.

Meanwhile Al-Qaeda is occupying more and more land in south Yemen and is winning the hearts and minds of the hungry locals:

Saudi Arabia needs all the possible help to come out of Yemen with less damage possible. It is accusing Iran of intervening in its backyard, raising tension between the two countries. The nervousness reached its peak when a video leaked to the Saudi, showing pro-Iranian Lebanese Hezbollah  Video [alternative source] training Houthis in Intelligence warfare inside Yemen, confirmed authentic to me by sources close to Hezbollah leadership. Therefore, it is not surprising to see reports on a collaboration between the Saudi-led coalition and Ansar al-Sharia (AQAP) for the battle against the Zaydi Houthis as the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran increases.

Ansar al-Sharia come out as the absolute winner, offering infrastructure support, “recruiting” through activities, public service and games to win the “hearts and the minds”.

Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, aka Ansar al-Sharia, is the only party winning in Yemen. It several times attempted to target U.S. civilians and is listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. It is fighting on the side of the Saudis.

But the U.S. military in the Gulf has nothing better to do than to promote the false Saudi narrative about the war on Yemen. For whom are these U.S. Central Command folks really working?

Posted by b on March 7, 2016 at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (65)

March 06, 2016

Syria – Preparing For The Next Major Push

There seems to be some progress in the regional “games” around the conflict in Syria. The Turkish Prime minister Davutoglu currently visits Iran. The Iranians let some lucrative economic projects dangle in front of his eyes. But the main points were about Syria. According to this Turkish source Davutoglu said these issues were agreed upon:

taylieli @taylieli#Turkish PM Davutoglu: We’ve reached on deal with #Iran for 5 matters: 1) A joint visit to #Jordan to discuss on #Syria, on coming days (1)

2) The continuity of ceasfire in #Syria
3) The unity of #Syria
4) The participitation of all -internal- actors in #Syria’s future (2)

5) The joint act to defeat all kind of terrorism inc. #Isil in the geography of #ME. (3)

This smells like an bit of  change in the so far rigid Turkish position.

Russian military transport traffic through the Bosporus has markedly increased. A lot of new trucks, tanks and artillery are coming to Syria. In the summer the Russian aircraft carrier will take station at the Syrian coast. This is likely the build up for a major campaign.

Meanwhile the U.S. is building a second (small) airport in north east Syria to, allegedly, support its Kurdish proxy forces there in the fight against the Islamic State. Syria and Russia should be very careful in allowing such creeping occupation. It is difficult to get rid of such U.S. incursions once they are established.

On Friday another U.S trained, paid and armed force, probably only a few dozen or so, attacked the Syria-Iraq border crossing at Tanaf which was in the hand of the Islamic State. The “rebel” marketing campaign claimed that this group was the “New Syrian Army”. The border crossing is also near the Jordan border from where these fighters came. They had U.S. (or Jordan) air support and managed to capture the handful of lone buildings in the desert that constitute the station. But 24 hours later the Islamic State said it was again in full control of it. If true, and I believe it is, this “new Syrian army” is a sad joke and will not play a role in the race to Raqqa.

In total everyone seems to use the current relative quiet of the “cessation of hostilities” to move into launch positions for a possibly final campaign against IS and the other objectionable subjects.  It will be a hot summer in Syria.


Posted by b on March 6, 2016 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

March 05, 2016

Open Thread 2016-10

News & views …

Posted by b on March 5, 2016 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (221)

March 04, 2016

Whereas The Paper Of Record Gauges The Big (Or Small?) Global Question

A ‘newspaper of record‘..

.. is a major newspaper that has a large circulation and whose editorial and news-gathering functions are considered professional and typically authoritative.

As such the trusted New York Times reliably ponders the most important topics of U.S. and global polices. Here is an outstanding example:



After spending some 350 well chosen words examining the issue at hand, the distinguished author concludes:

So, yes, the size of Trump’s penis matters

We should all be proud to merit such epiphany.

I admire the ease with which Trump suborns the media to provide him their megaphone. When Marco Rubio attacked Trump’s manhood there was little media reaction. Trump’s response to Rubio is followed up by a series of headlines.

As one observer noted:


The Media:”Trump is debasing American politics with his disgusting antics. Now let’s replay his penis comment one more time!”

When the august NYT decides that the size of Trump’s penis it is now a big (or small?) question that matters, Trump wins.

No wonder he is the last man standing while the others exit the stage.



Posted by b on March 4, 2016 at 01:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (144)

March 03, 2016

Russia Is ‘Weaponizing’ … Everything

NATO Commander Breedlove agrees, naturally, with

Russia is ‘weaponizing’ everything: robotic cockroaches, MS Word files, Jedi mind tricks, Soviet history and Syrian immigrants. Whatever one might think of.


Posted by b on March 3, 2016 at 07:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (81)

March 02, 2016

Kerry’s “Plan B” – Attack Syria From Lebanon – With Saudi and Turkish Help

We yesterday described what looks like a Turkish-Saudi plan to raise a Salafi-Sunni militia in north Lebanon to then attack nearby Syrian regions held by the Syrian government. Such a new front of the conflict in Syria would necessarily involve fighting in Lebanon as the Lebanese Shia Hizbollah movement is actively supporting the Syrian government. The plot would destabilize Lebanon, probably throwing it back into the brutal times of the Lebanese civil war.

There was no confirmation of such a plot yesterday, just several signs for it like the ship with weapons from Turkey that was caught by the Greek coastguard on its way to north Lebanon.

The existence of such a plan was confirmed today. We still can no say for sure that the plot is part of a U.S. “Plan B” to achieve a violent “regime change” in Syria, but we know that the U.S. is informed about the plan.

In his Washington Post column today the unofficial CIA spokesperson David Ignatius writes about the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman:

The young Saudi has sometimes been more bold than wise, as in his war in Yemen, his decision to break diplomatic relations with Iran and his new effort to destabilize a Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon.

Syria is not mentioned in that part of the Ignatius column but any capable Sunni militia in Lebanon, created from Salafist groups in Tripoli and Syrian Sunni refugees in Lebanese camps, would extend itself into Syria and become a threat to the government held western Syria.

Ignatius, as surely also the U.S. government, was informed by the Saudis themselves. The above quoted paragraph continues:

But his role as a change agent is unmistakable. He “wants to transition Saudi Arabia very quickly,” said Adel al-Toraifi, the Saudi information minister, who’s just 36 himself, in a visit to Washington last week.

My hunch is that this plan is too bold to have grown solely in the minds of the Turkish and Saudi regimes. The U.S. is likely not only informed about it but deeply involved. The possibility of such a plan to counter the recent Syrian and Russian successes on the battlefield was first mentioned in a piece published in early February by the Washington Institute, a think tank founded and funded by the Israel lobby.

Last week Secretary of State Kerry mentioned a “Plan B” should the recent cessation of hostilities in Syria fail:

US Secretary of State John Kerry provoked widespread speculation when he referred in testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee last week to “significant discussions” within US President Barack Obama’s administration about a “Plan B” in Syria. The speculation was further stoked by a “senior official” who told CBS News that options under consideration included “‘military-like’ measures that would make it harder for the regime and its allies to continue their assault on civilians and US-backed rebels.”

A violent Salafi militia from Lebanon storming into Syria would certainly be a “‘military-like’ measures that would make it harder for the regime and its allies”.

The author of the last linked text, Gareth Porter, dismissed the chance of a real “Plan B” but had not yet included the Lebanon plot scenario in his considerations. He continued:

Kerry suggested that the US was still a player in the Syrian contest for power. Regarding Chairman Bob Corker’s comment that the Russians had been “accomplishing their ends” in Syria, he argued that the Russians and the Syrian government could take control of Aleppo, but that “holding territory has always been difficult”. Kerry claimed that the Russians could not prevent the opposition from getting the weapons needed to continue the war, as long as the US and its allies were supporting them. He offered no explanation for that claim.

The Turkish-Saudi weapon smuggling into Lebanon is an explanation for the claim Kerry made. Syria and Russia are in the process of closing off the Syrian-Turkish border. If the Saudis can build a weapon pipeline into north Lebanon it will become quite difficult for Syria and its allies to hold the Syrian territory near the Lebanese border.

In a speech yesterday Hizbullah chief Nasrallah discussed the general Saudi threat to Lebanon at length but did not mention the Sunni militia plot:

“Saudi which treats Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Bahrain like that, treats Lebanon the same way,” Sayyed Nasrallah concluded, addressing the Saudis: “Your problem is with us, it is not with the country or with the Lebanese…”

Nasrallah is right, but the Saudis will not care when the Lebanese people or their country get hurt due to some nefarious scheme to attack Syria and Hizbullah. Nor will the United States.

There are obvious signs for a plan to use Saudi controlled Sunni militia from Lebanon against the Syrian government and its supporters. The U.S. is, in my view, very likely involved in this plot. But we still do not know if this plan will ever be implemented. The recent Saudi threat to send its army into Syria turned out to be a pure (dis-)information campaign to unsettle the Syrian government’s side. The recent revelations about the plot in Lebanon and the “Plan B” may also be pure deception and illusionary to gain some leverage for the coming negotiations.

But the ship the Greek coastguard caught was real and such a plan would have a good chance to create lots of troubles for Syria and its supporters. My advice to the Syrian government and its allies is to prepare now to eventually counter it.

Posted by b on March 2, 2016 at 05:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (81)

March 01, 2016

Syria: A Turkish-Saudi Countermove In Lebanon Threatens Latakia (Updated)

Updated below

Fabrice Balanche is a French professor and a specialist on Syria’s political geography. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute (formerly WINEP) which is part by the U.S. Zionist lobby. So far the writings of Balanche for WINEP have been rather sane, neutral analyses.

In a piece published on February 5 he looked at the situation after the Syrian campaign cut the northern insurgency supply line to Turkey. At the end Balanche muses about possible countermoves by the Turkish and Saudi supporters of the insurgency:

Yet Turkey and Saudi Arabia may not remain passive in the face of major Russian-Iranian progress in Syria. For example, they could set up a new rebel umbrella group similar to Jaish al-Fatah, and/or send antiaircraft missiles to certain brigades. Another option is to open a new front in northern Lebanon, where local Salafist groups and thousands of desperate Syrian refugees could be engaged in the fight. Such a move would directly threaten Assad’s Alawite heartland in Tartus and Homs, as well as the main road to Damascus. Regime forces would be outflanked, and Hezbollah’s lines of communication, reinforcement, and supply between Lebanon and Syria could be cut off. The question is, do Riyadh and Ankara have the means and willingness to conduct such a bold, dangerous action?

Some Turkish, Saudi or CIA strategist may have had the same thought, or may have taken up Balanche’s idea:

Cargo ship from Turkey full of weapons seized by Greek authoritiesAccording to Greek and Turkish sources, a cargo ship containing thousands of weapons, ammunition, and explosives was seized by Greek authorities on February 28th. The ship– sporting a Togo flag– had reportedly left a Turkish port in Izmir and was traveling to Lebanon as well as the southeastern African coast.

The above source is not always reliable, but Elijah J. Magnier, reporting from Syria for the Kuwaiti paper AL RAI, just confirmed the news:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
#BreakingNews: Fuelling Lebanon?
#Greece arrest crew of a ship 6 #Syria/n, 4 #India/n 1 #Lebanese carrying weapons from #Turkey to #Lebanon.The ship was carrying 6 containers of which 2 full of weapons designated to a harbour in #Lebanon, intercepted at #Greece Crete #Island.

Very alarming indeed & shows a possible escalation planned n #Lebanon when the #SaudiArabia / #Hezbollah/#Iran relationship is at its worse.

This indicates that #Lebanon is no longer outside the circle of the war in #Syria and is supposed to be dragged in

It is unlikely that this is a purely Turkish operation. The Saudis do have enormous influence in Lebanon due to their frequent bribes paid to the various actors there. The general Saudi influence is now somewhat diminished. None of the major Lebanese followed the Saudi’s demand to take its side and to seek conflict with Syria or Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia party that supports the Syrian government. But there are still groups in Lebanon, especially Salafis, which the Saudis essentially command.

A few weeks ago a Saudi prince was imprisoned in Lebanon after being caught loading two tons of amphetamine Captagon pills onto his private plane. There are also rumors that the Saudis recently found a video which showed Hizbullah operators training Yemeni Houthis in intelligence matters. This was seen as a direct attack on Saudi interests. The Saudis cut $4 billion of Saudi paid French weapon aid they had promised to the Lebanese military. A week ago they warned all their citizens to leave Lebanon.

The now caught ship is likely the result of Saudi and Turkish cooperation. The idea is reckless as it could throw Lebanon back into the terrible years of the Lebanese civil war. But the idea is also very bold which lets me believe that its origin is neither Saudi nor Turkish.

The weapon ship may not have been the only or the first one. It is quite possible that some weapons have already reached the Sunni quarters of Tripoli in north Lebanon. In 2012 some fierce fighting erupted between the Alawite enclave in Tripoli and some Sunni neighborhoods. Then the Lebanese army intervened to calm the fighting down.

With weapons for some 10,000 men and lots of dollars to pay them, a serious threat to the soft underbelly of Syria could be implemented within a few weeks. An attack from the Tripoli area northward into Latakia would open a new dangerous front against the Syrian government. Hopefully the Syrian government and Hizbullah are prepared to squelch such a campaign in its infancy.


Stratfor, a private U.S. intelligence service, distributed this claim today:

A Sunni politician in Lebanon tells Stratfor that the Saudi government wants to build a Sunni anti-Hizbullah militia by providing for Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon.


The sourcing is fishy – “According to a Sunni politician …  Saudi Arabia is reportedly …”. Why does Startfor need a politician to tell them that something is “reported” somewhere. Why not source to the original report?

Is this all a “Plan B” head fake to gain some leverage for negotiations? Or is this a real program?

Posted by b on March 1, 2016 at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (50)


Reading About Zika May Hurt Your Brain

The Zika virus is harmless but since late December the media, for whatever reason, try to created a panic about it. That campaign continues. The New York Times, a main culprit here, has mentioned Zika in more than 250 stories since late December.

The virus is know to infect humans since 1947. While most people will not even feel an infection, those few who do will have a few days of rashes, inflamed eyes or joint pain. Soon their immune system will create antibodies against the virus and everything will be fine.

But even while Zika is known to be less harmful than an average flue, one headline after the other tries to create the impression that it is some really awful, new bug that may be responsible for about any ailment. That it may spread like wildfire and may have other terrible consequences. May, as in ‘the sky may fall’, is indeed the most operative word here.


One may hope that the above heap of nonsense may teach people to ignore such speculative content. But that hope may be in vane.

Posted by b on March 1, 2016 at 06:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)


Shuaib M. Almosawa
So, Obama described the exposure of DNC emails as being “leaked” and not hacked
Reply Retweet Like More
Jewish Russophile Jan 18
Freelance Yemeni journalist notices something material that US fake journalists overlook or hide.
Ludwig W Jan 19
Two separate (alleged) events: the hacking to acquire the material & the leaking to disseminate said material
Alfredo Hidalgo Jan 20
Replying to @Shuaibalmosawa
All I could say is wow………all there to see if we open our eyes and ears……
Posted in Uncategorized

MoA – March 2013

MoA – March 2013

March 31, 2013

Rabbis: Zionism Is Racism

Recently I



Zionism is an ideology that is based on racial discrimination. It is thereby, like antisemitism, a form of racism and racism is hardly ever a base of peace.

It seems that a bunch of Zionist rabbis agree with that statement.

Haaretz: Top rabbis move to forbid renting homes to Arabs, say ‘racism originated in the Torah’

A number of leading rabbis who signed on to a religious ruling to forbid renting homes to gentiles – a move particularly aimed against Arabs – defended their decision on Tuesday with the declaration that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews.

“We don’t need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel,” Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Beit El settlement, said on Tuesday. Aviner explained that he supported the move for two reasons: one, a Jew looking for an apartment should get preference over a gentile; and two, to keep the growing Arab population from settling too deeply. “Racism originated in the Torah,” said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. “The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended and that is what the [sage] Rashi interpreted.”

A bunch of east Europeans steal Arab land based on old fairytales and pure racism. They even acknowledge it. This should not be supported in any way. Yes, people differ and differing cultures may live in different ways. But racism used as justification for crimes is a crime in itself and should be punished.

These Rabbis are public employees of the state of Israel. Their opinions are official policy. Fortunately history tells us that such fascism seldom survives. Racist people tend to devour their own:

“The neighbors and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed,” the letter reads.

Posted by b on March 31, 2013 at 02:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (91)

March 30, 2013

A “NATO Mandate” For War Would Be Illegal

Daniel Larison


from a (paywalled) Wall Street Journal


on the discussions inside the U.S. administration on a more open war on Syria. This point sticks out:

Lawyers at the White House and departments of Defense, State and Justice debated whether the U.S. had a “clear and credible” legal justification under U.S. or international law for intervening militarily. The clearest legal case could be made if the U.S. won a U.N. or NATO mandate for using force. Neither route seemed viable: Russia would veto any Security Council resolution, and NATO wasn’t interested in a new military mission.

There can be no legal NATO mandate for using force. NATO is not an organization that can wage war if some committee decides to do so. Unless a NATO member is illegally attacked NATO has exactly zero legal authority to fight a war. While a case can certainly be made that Turkey is attacking Syria by harboring, training and supplying illegitimate forces that fight the Syrian state, no case can be made that Turkey is attacked by Syria.

Asides from the natural right of self-defense there is only one other source that could legitimize a war. That is, and only under certain circumstances, the UN Security Council.

That U.S. administration lawyers would even consider something like a “NATO mandate” shows that there are still a lot of neoconned minds with a quite false understanding of international law.

Posted by b on March 30, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

March 29, 2013

Whoes “Provocative Action”?

March 29 2013 –

Hagel says U.S. has to take North Korean threats seriously

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that North Korea’s provocative actions and belligerent tone had “ratcheted up the danger” on the Korean peninsula, …

March 28 2013 –

US sends nuclear-capable B-2 bombers to SKorea

The U.S military says two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers have completed a training mission in South Korea …

The U.S. says the B-2 stealth bombers flew from a U.S. air base and dropped munitions on a South Korean island range before returning home.

March 26 2013 –

U.S. Army learns hard lessons in N. Korea-like war game

The Unified Quest war game conducted this year by Army planners posited the collapse of a nuclear-armed, xenophobic, criminal family regime that had lorded over a closed society and inconveniently lost control over its nukes as it fell. Army leaders stayed mum about the model for the game, but all indications — and maps seen during the game at the Army War College — point to North Korea.

March 20 2013 –

U.S. flies B-52s over South Korea

The U.S. Air Force is breaking out some of its heaviest hardware to send a message to North Korea.A Pentagon spokesman said Monday that B-52 bombers are making flights over South Korea as part of military exercises this month.

March 19 2013 –

S. Korea, U.S. carry out naval drills with nuclear attack submarine

South Korean and U.S. forces have been carrying out naval drills in seas around the peninsula with a nuclear attack submarine as part of their annual exercise, military sources said Wednesday, in a show of power against North Korea’s threat of nuclear attack.The two-month field training, called Foal Eagle, has been in full swing to test the combat readiness of the allies, amid high tension on the Korean Peninsula in light of a torrent of bellicose rhetoric by North Korea. It kicked off on March 1 and runs through April 30.

March 17 2013 –

Troops remember sacrifices of Cheonan sailors

Halfway through the around-the-clock Key Resolve drills Friday, 8th U.S. Army Commander Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson remained full of energy as he underscored that the allied forces were ready to cope with North Korean threats.

Despite their hectic schedule, the troops gathered early in the day to pay respects to the 46 deceased crewmembers of South Korean corvette Cheonan, which was sunk by North Korea’s torpedo attack on March 26, 2010.

March 12 2013 –

First day of SK-US military exercises passes without provocation

Around 10,000 ROK troops and 3,000 US soldiers, including 2,500 reinforcements from US Pacific command in Hawaii, are taking part in the military exercise, which will continue through Mar. 21. Another 10,000 US soldiers will be deployed by the end of this month for the Foal Eagle exercises. Also flown in to participate in the exercises were B-52 bombers and F-22 stealth fighters, which boast the world’s highest levels of performance. These two kinds of aircraft can maneuver throughout Korean airspace without landing. In addition, the 9750t Aegis destroyers USS Lassen and USS Fitzgerald arrived in South Korea.

March 8 2013 –

Air Assault Course increase 2ID capabilities

For the first time in 15 years, 2nd Infantry Division and Eighth U.S. Army soldiers tackled the rigorous Air Assault Course at Camp Hovey, South Korea.The course, held Feb. 25 to March 3, 2013, at Camp Hovey, began with 312 soldiers ready to compete for the course’s 250 slots. The course qualifies soldiers to conduct air assault and helicopter sling-load operations and proper rappelling and fast-rope techniques.

March 8 2013 –

“Frozen Chosen” Marines

Marines from I Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, slog through wind and snow during a joint training exercise with Japanese troops at the Hokkaido-Dai Maneuver Area in northern Japan last week.

The Hokkaido training area is located across the Sea of Japan from the Korean Peninsula, where Marines fought an epic winter battle at the Chosin Reservoir in opening year of the Korean War.

March 6 2013 –

S. Korea says it will strike against North’s top leadership if provoked

[T]he rhetoric sets up an especially tense period on the Korean Peninsula, with the U.S. and South Korean militaries planning joint training drills that the North considers a “dangerous nuclear war” maneuver, and with the U.N. Security Council deliberating new sanctions to limit Pyongyang’s weapons program.

Posted by b on March 29, 2013 at 12:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

March 27, 2013

The Muddled UN Mali Mission

French and Chadian troops in Mali are

mopping up

“planet Mars”, the desert mountain retreat, of the Jihadis who had taken over north Mali.

But the overall situation is far from resolved. The Mali state is broken with the current unelected government incapable of controlling the country. Three days ago some Jihadi suicide commando attacked in Gao hundreds of miles south of the current French main operation area.

The French claim they want to leave soon and asked for the UN to take over. But the new UN plan just released by the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is seriously muddled and seems to give the French an opening for further unsupervised meddling:

In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Ban recommended that the African force, known as AFISMA, become a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 11,200 troops and 1,440 police – once major combat ends.To tackle Islamist extremists directly, Ban recommended that a so-called parallel force be created, which would work in close coordination with the U.N. mission.

Diplomats have said France is likely to provide troops for the smaller parallel force, which could be based in Mali or elsewhere in the West Africa region.

These would be two forces on the ground. One under UN command and bound to UN rules for peacekeeping. Another force would be under French command and only bound to self imposed French rules.

That is the same construct that, even after ten years, has shown no progress in Afghanistan. There the ISAF force under NATO command was supposed to be on a stabilization and support mission while a separated U.S. led “Operation Enduring Freedom” force was hunting for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters under its own rules.

Politicians had hoped that the enemy would somehow distinguish between those two forces. That did of course not happen. Both forces were soon seen as aggressive occupiers. When the OEF forces under their loose rules created massacers the blame was put on ISAF. Such constructs of double forces and disunited command never make sense.

So why is the UN coming up with this nonsense? One would probably have to ask the UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (GPKO), Hervé Ladsous. He is the third French in a row to occupy that position and is said to get his orders directly from Paris. The construct he introduces for Mali is the same that led to a mess elsewhere:

The parallel UN and French force proposed for Mali by Ladsous’ DPKO is reminiscent of what France obtained in Cote d’Ivoire, with the Force Licorne running — in short shorts — alongside the UN Mission which it also through DPKO controlled.Recently Inner City Press asked Amnesty International’s West Africa expert to assess the performance on human rights and accountability in Cote d’Ivoire, for crimes committed by the side the France favored and favors. AI called it appalling.

Why think it would be better in Mali?


Any military in this world can explain that unity of command and common rules of engagement are a precondition for a successful operation. To have two forces under two commands with two set of rules in one area of operations is guaranteed to result in chaos.

And why is a UN force needed at all. Why can’t AFISMA, the common African force do the task under African rules and supervison?

Maybe China or Russia can object to the planned lunatic construct. If the French want to continue their colonial ambitions in Africa they should at least be pressed to do so under UN or, even better, African supervision.

Posted by b on March 27, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Pundits Start To See The Syrian Danger

This is the extraordinary occasion in which I at least partitially agree


“flat word” Thomas Friedman:

We know what kind of Syria we’d like to see emerge, and we have a good idea of the terrible costs of not achieving that and the war continuing. But I don’t see a consensus inside Syria — or even inside the opposition — for the kind of multisectarian, democratic Syria to which we aspire. In this kind of situation, there are three basic options:

  • We and some global coalition can invade Syria, as we did Iraq, sit on the parties and forge the kind of Syria we want. But that hasn’t succeeded in Iraq yet, at huge cost, and there is zero support for that in America. Forget it.
  • We can try to contain the conflict by hardening Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel, wait for the Syrian parties to get exhausted and then try to forge a cease-fire/power-sharing deal.
  • Or we can let the war take its course with the certainty of more terrible killings, the likelihood of its spreading to neighboring states and the possibility of its leading to the fracturing of Syria into Sunni, Alawite and Kurdish mini-states.

I’m dubious that just arming “nice” rebels will produce the Syria we want; it could, though, drag us in in ways we might not want.

While Friedman’s diagnosis is right, i.e. if the opposition wins the resulting situation would be catastrophic, his choices leave out the fourth option which I


over a year ago:

A Syrian state crumbling under terror followed by large sectarian slaughter and refugee streams with certain spillover of fighting into all neighboring countries. That can not be in anyone’s interest.It is time for the west to not only step back from this cliff but to turn around and to help Assad to fight the terrorists that want to bring down his country.



commentators are slowly, slowly coming around to reach that point. Former Foreign Service Officer Henry Precht is nearly

making it


[T]he end of the track of the Syrian war could be a conflict that will work severe damage for American interests far beyond the Middle East.We can only hope that Obama and his team will find the vision to foresee the unintended wreck that may lie ahead. To be sure, there will be tough congressional and media criticism and active opposition against any American move to relieve the pressure on Assad and join the Russians in promoting compromise between the two sides. The Administration can argue that the overthrow of Assad will mean al Qaeda rule in Damascus, but many will reject that argument. There are no easy choices: ending Syria’s war will mean applying strong pressure on Saudi Arabia and Turkey to cease and desist. It will be messy, but a negotiated truce will slow down the killing and end the drift towards a major war.

The ultimate stakes for regional stability are too high and the continued suffering of the Syria people too great for America to allow the war to continue and probably escalate. The President will have to show uncustomary political courage. We can only hope he will.

U.S. pressure on Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to stop the weapon and personal flow to Syria would be the first step towards a solution. The alternative is indeed handeling Syria to AlQaida. That is not in anyone’s interest. Why is it so difficult for Washington to understand this?

We can certainly hope that this realist viewpoint will gain further ground and that Obama finds some backbone and pushes for a non-military resolution of the conflict. But this hopy changy president has so far shown zero of the needed political courage. The mess is thereby likely to continue until the Friedman’s of this world acknowledge the real solution.

Posted by b on March 27, 2013 at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (61)

March 26, 2013

They Plan To Occupy Aleppo

The Syrian army


Baba Amr district in Homs after it had been again infiltrated by insurgents two weeks ago. This seems to again be a significant and symbolic loss for the insurgents. This Syrian army is still holding quite well despite the enormous amount of weapons and foreign personal that is fed to the insurgency.

Yesterday the New York Times had a well researched report on the massive weapon pipeline the CIA has set up to feed the insurgents:

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, who was working on the weapon pipeline from Libya through Turkey to Syria, was killed on September 11 2012. It seems that the Libya pipeline was closed after that incident and a new pipeline opened which hauls weapons from Croatia through Turkey and Jordan to Syria.

It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” said Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors illicit arms transfers.“The intensity and frequency of these flights,” he added, are “suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”

In Obama’s words the organizing of 3,500 tons of weapons is “non-lethal” aid. Adding to the foreign stream of weapons are also hundreds of European fighters and several thousands from other countries involved. Their use of chemical weapons should disqualify them from any support. But the U.S. still continues to favor them.

In Jordan the U.S. is also training “secular” troops that deserted from the Syrian army force. I find it likely that these are supposed to later capture any WMD side should the Syrian government fall. The report includes this quote from a U.S. spokesperson:

“But the bottom line is what we’re looking for is unity,” Ventrell said. “We continue to support the coalition’s vision for a tolerant, inclusive Syria. We want them to continue to work together to implement that vision.”

There is no “coalition’s vision for a tolerant, inclusive Syria”. To assume there is is self defeating. The various exile groups that were assembled were all led or at at least heavily influenced by Muslim Brotherhood. They want a Islamic state in Syria that, by definition, can not be tolerant and/or inclusive. This

false view

of the Islamic insurgency against the Syrian government is the primary reason why Obama’s Syria policy is

in shambles


Moaz Khatib, the U.S. supported opposition leader who resigned after Qatar managed to put up a Muslim Brotherhood guy as exile prime minister, is himself an Islamist. He once led prayers at the Umayyad mosque in Damascus but was soon removed from that office for being too radical.

Khatib, despite having resigned as exile leader, spoke today at the Arab League conference in Doha. He is an effective speaker but comes around (video) as angry. He seemed not to make friends with the assortment of dictators at the Arab League. They listened quite stone faced to his tirade and the applause at the end was very short.

Khatib said that when he talked with Secretary of State Kerry he had requested to move NATO Patriot batteries to cover north Syria. That is not going to happen.

His request though makes sense if this is indeed the plan for the next stage:

A central military objective has been defined: to fully occupy Aleppo as a prelude to proclaiming the new Syrian state in the north.

I do not believe that the insurgency is capable of fully occupying Aleppo. But it seems that some folks in Washington and elsewhere want to give it a try. A new attempt for a political solution is likely only to come after the new attack on Aleppo, like earlier plans to get into Damascus, failed.

Posted by b on March 26, 2013 at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

March 24, 2013

More Disarray In The Syrian Opposition

Moaz Khatib, who was installed by Hillary Clinton to head the Syrian opposition, just


. In his resigning statement he



[T]there is a bitter reality [to] tame the Syrian people and besiege their revolution and attempting to control it.

Those who are willing to obey [outside powers] will be supported, those who disobey will offered nothing but hunger and siege. We will not beg for help from anyone.If there is a decision to execute us as Syrians, then let’s die as we want.

Our message to everyone is that Syrians decisions will be taken by Syrians, and Syrians only.

I had promised our people, and vowed to God on that, to resign if the situation reaches certain red lines. Today, I honour my promise and I resign from the National Coalition to be able to work with freedom not available through official institutions.

Khatib is clearly pissed that Qatar


the U.S. citizen and Muslim Brotherhood favorite Ghassan Hitto as prime minister of a Syrian exile



While Khatib had offered talks with the Syrian government Hitto has rejected them.

There is more disarray. As predicted the so called Free Syrian Army has also rejected the premiership of Hitto saying that his nomination was not consensus based. Meanwhile Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon vetoed Qatar’s attempt to give the Syrian seat in the Arab League to the exile government.

Qatar’s plans to install the Muslim Brotherhood as the new authority in Syria are clearly not welcome.

Secretary of State Kerry is on a visit in Iraq where he rather comically “warned” Prime Minister Maliki to stop flights from Iran over Iraq to Syria. Maliki will of course not do so.

Kerry also said that U.S. lawmakers and the American people are watching what Iraq is doing and “wondering how it is a partner.”

Maliki, and likely all Iraqis, will show Kerry the finger over such statements.

What is Kerry threatening to do? Invade Iraq again? Arrange for a coup by some Sunni strongman? Hold back weapon sales to Iraq so Moscow can make the big deals with an again rich Iraq?

Kerry clearly has no leverage over Iraq. Maliki will of cause help Syria wherever he can. It is necessary for his own survival. Is Kerry too stupid to see that?

Posted by b on March 24, 2013 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (71)

March 23, 2013

The Turkish Kurd Ceasefire

The Turkish president Erdogan made a deal with the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan. The first part of the deal is a ceasefire that will stop attacks by the PKK on Turkish state security entities and vice versa. The PKK will pull out its fighters from Turkey and move them into north Iraq. The Turkish army will not interfere with this retreat.

The second part of the deal is political and will be enshrined in a new constitution. Erdogan promises some political autonomy for Kurdish parts of the country instead of today’s much centralized state. The mayors the Kurds elect in their cities will in future be able to act on their own and without interference from today’s centrally appointed governors. As their part of the deal the Kurds will support Erdogan’s dream of changing Turkey in a presidential republic with himself taking the then much more powerful presidency.

As previous negotiations with other political parties have shown,  Erdogan would not be able to change the constitution to fit his personal plans without the votes of the Kurd and their Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

This plan may work but there are significant potential spoliers. When a letter from Abdullah Öcalan announcing the ceasefire was read to a million Kurds who came together in Diyarbarkir there was not one Turkish flag visible but thousands of Kurdish flags.

To the Turkish nationalist this proves their suspicion that the Kurds plan to split from Turkey and, together with north Iraq and parts of Syria, form their own state. They will do their best to sabotage any autonomy deal.

For some of the Kurdish nationalist the steps envisioned in todays plan are no enough. They do not want autonomous mayors but their own state and they want it now. It is quite possible that parts of the PKK and other groups they will not follow Öcalan ceasefire order and continue their terror campaign.

Nationalist on both sides have proven their ability to spoil any deal. Both sides are capable of attacks on the other side but both may also use false flag attacks to spoil the ceasefire and renew clashes. Two earlier attempts of ceasefires did not work out.

When Kemal Attatürk formed the modern Turkish state out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire he disenfranchised two social groups because he believed they would endanger the secular and united state he attempted to create. Those two groups were the Islamists and the Kurds. With the recent developments in Turkey Attatürk’s fears might now come true.

Posted by b on March 23, 2013 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

March 22, 2013

The Pathetic Media – Part CXXIV

An African journalist interviewing the President of the United States and then writing about “President Obama Barack Hussein” would be laughed out of town by the Washington media establishment.

“How can such an unintelligent amateur attempt to write about the United States?” “Don’t they have editors in their pathetic media?”

But when the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock writes about a new imperial drone base in Niger details like the Niger presidents name do not matter at all (screenshot):

Government officials in Niger, a former French colony, were slightly more forthcoming. President Issoufou Mahamadou said his government invited Washington to send surveillance drones because he was worried that the country might not be able to defend its borders from Islamist fighters based in Mali, Libya or Nigeria.“We welcome the drones,” Mahamadou said in an interview at the presidential palace in Niamey.

For the record. The name of Niger’s president is

Mahamadou Issoufou

with Mahamadou being his first name and Issoufou his family name.

That “Whitlock Craig” conflates the name of Niger’s president, even after interviewing the man, is just a symptom of the rather provincial reporting the Washington media do with regards to Africa and foreign countries in general. According to the report the bribed president and his justice minister say that U.S. drones are very welcome in Niger. Yeah, sure. Why bother then to ask real people.

Anyone interested in the mood of other countries, especially with regard to U.S. involvement in their affairs, should look for other sources than those pathetic colonial court writers who dominate U.S. mainstream media.

Posted by b on March 22, 2013 at 05:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

March 20, 2013

Another Syrian Chalabi

Parts of the Syrian exile opposition installed a new leader. That must be the tenth by now. It is again a Muslim Brotherhood


, but this time one who has not lived in Syria for over 30 years. But that will not matter. His American and Qatari handlers will certainly tell him “what the Syrians want”.

As is usual after any repetition of this act parts of the coalition immediately dissented and left:

At least 12 key members of Syria’s National Coalition said Wednesday they had suspended their membership in the main opposition body amid a row over the deeply divisive election of the first rebel prime minister.The group of 12 included the Coalition’s deputy Soheir Atassi and spokesman Walid al-Bunni.

These futile attempts to create another Ahmed Chalabi group aren’t even funny anymore. It is


that the fighters on the ground are to various degrees extreme Islamists who do not and never will care what those exiles say or do.

From my realist point of view I still do not understand this. Why is the U.S. supporting these schemes? Why is the U.S. so much interested in creating a Sharia law state in Syria? Did it, like the Russians seem to believe, really went insane?

Posted by b on March 20, 2013 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (80)

March 19, 2013

War On Iraq – 10 Years On

Ten years ago I watched on TV how the first bombs exploded in Baghdad. The fireballs were bigger than I had expected. “What are they dropping there?” I asked. “And why?” asked my then girlfriend. “Oil,” I replied.

It was obvious that Iraq had neither any weapons of mass destruction nor any connection to terrorism. There was no doubt about that. Every piece of false evidence that had been put out by the U.S. government had been debunked. Everyone with a bit of interest and a bit of time could have known that. Knight Ridder’s Washington Bureau (today McClatchy) journalists Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay had writen piece after piece about that, as had several blogs and alternative media, Billmon’s Whiskey Bar being on of them. Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradai and their experts on the ground said there were no WMD in Iraq.

The Bush government was a government of oil executives. When they came to power they were determined to get their hands on Iraq’s resources. 9/11 only made it easier for them but they would have made the same flimsy case against Iraq even without that event. Greed for Iraq’s oil was their motivation.

There is no excuse for anyone who publicly made the case for the war on Iraq. There is no excuse for anyone who wrote, edited or published WMD bullshit. Everyone who did so has lost all credibility.

The best case one can make for those people is that they could have known but were too lazy to learn the facts. In the worst cases they knew they were lying but fully intended to commit the crime. In most cases the propagandists just willingly drunk the Kool-Aid (recommanded reading!). They do so again and again.

The war on Iraq is still ongoing. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are still financing and supporting the Sunni insurgents against the Iraqi government. Today more than a dozen car bombs exploded in Baghdad killing at least 60 people and wounding many more. It will take another ten years and more fighting before Iraq will find some state of peace.

The same people who pressed for the Iraq war are now pressing for war on Syria and for war on Iran. It is important to fight them and to debunk their lies again and again. It is the most important reason to keep this blog going.

Posted by b on March 19, 2013 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (70)

March 17, 2013

NYT Publishes “Pro-Palestinian Manifesto”

Shortly before Obama’s visit to Israel the normally very pro-Zionist New York Times publishes a long-read piece describing the life of Palestinians who try to peacefully resist the Israeli occupation. The headline is

Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?

. Haaretz


the piece a “pro-Palestinian manifesto”. Well, any realistic and factual description of Israel’s occupation is indeed a “pro-Palestinian manifesto”. What else does Haaretz think could it be?

The author of the piece is Ben Ehrenreich, who earlier pointed out that Zionism is the problem that rejects peace with the Arabs. Zionismus is an ideology that is based on racial discrimination. It is thereby, like antisemitism, a form of racism and racism is hardly ever a base of peace.

This week’s Economist also takes a longer look at the Palestinian-Israeli situation and finds a bleak future for the “Jewish state”.

I do not agree with the conclusions of either piece but recommend to read both.

Are these pieces part of a concerted Obama campaign to push for some change of opinion, if not in Israel then at least in the Anglo-sphere?

Posted by b on March 17, 2013 at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

March 16, 2013

Cluster Bomb Propaganda

The Associate Press propagandizes:

Syrian regime expands use of widely banned cluster bombs against civilians, rights group says

. As we will see that claim the cluster bombs are “widely banned” is simply wrong.

The “rights group” claiming Syrian government use of such bombs is Human Rights Watch which has a rather dubious record of correctly identifying cluster bombs and their origin. It seems that HRW claims of such identification always finds that the side ideological opposed to U.S. mainstream is guilty of such use. The Syrian government denies that its uses cluster ammunition.

The AP piece asserts:

Cluster bombs open in flight, scattering smaller bomblets. They pose a threat to civilians long afterwards since many don’t explode immediately. Most countries have banned their use.

This is simply wrong. Out of 193 UN member states only

78 countries

, mostly European and African ones, have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Missing are many of the big ones including the United States, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Syria and others. Most countries have NOT banned the use of cluster munitions and especially most military strong countries have not and have no intention to do so.

That AP is wrongly asserting otherwise is likely intended to hype Human Rights Watch dubious claims against the Syrian government.

Posted by b on March 16, 2013 at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

March 15, 2013

Open Thread 2013-05

News & views …

Posted by b on March 15, 2013 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (56)

March 14, 2013

Those Reuters Sources

In an




of regular weapon transfer from iran to Syria:

Iran steps up weapons lifeline to AssadHow does Reuters know this you might ask. Here are its sources:

… Western diplomats said … Western officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Iraqi and Turkish officials denied the allegations. … the envoys said … envoys say … A Western intelligence report seen by Reuters in September said … Iraq denied that report … diplomats say … a senior Western diplomat said this week … the senior diplomat said … He added … Ali al-Moussawi, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s media adviser, strongly denied the allegations … diplomats said … The diplomats cited by Reuters made clear … They also said … intelligence report .. seen by Reuters in September … One Western diplomat cited intelligence reports … said the Western intelligence report … the report said … the report said … Other Western officials confirmed … the source told Reuters … Western diplomats say …

All allegations in the


come from anonymous western sources. It must have been a lot of work to stenograph than many dictations. Five


and editor and “others” worked on that



I once thought that journalism takes more than just writing down what anonymous government sources say. Alas. I was wrong.

Posted by b on March 14, 2013 at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

March 13, 2013

Pope Francis

Some thoughts:

  • an old man his turn is unlikely to be long
  • from Latin America, giving that huge part of the church a bigger voice
  • a conservative, which is within the catholic church rather middle of the road, but with a social mind
  • strongly against liberal hype stuff like homosexual marriage
  • the name he chose has real meaning for catholic folks and can be understood as a promise of a less pompous church

Altogether a relative good choice in my view though not the tall black African woman I would have liked. Maybe next time?

Posted by b on March 13, 2013 at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (70)

Why Do They Report “Offense” As “Defense”?

How can any journalist or even any conscience writer mix up the “defense” “offense” vocabulary like in this piece?

Pentagon creating teams to launch cyberattacks as threat grows

The Pentagon’s Cyber Command will create 13 offensive teams by the fall of 2015 to help defend the nation against major computer attacks from abroad, Gen. Keith Alexander testified to Congress on Tuesday, a rare acknowledgment of the military’s ability to use cyberweapons.

“Offensive teams” are obviously created to attack a foes computersystems, not to “defend” ones own. To “defend” ones computersystems requires no offensive capability. It only requires to close off ones networks and to carefully scrutinize the hard- and software one is using. Then there is the attribution problem. In today’s internet it is nearly impossible to find the source of a competent attack if the attacker is willing to hide its identity. Any “offensive team” is thereby by definition not to “defend” but, as its name says, to attack. Why is the reporter trying to obfuscate that?

And the writing gets even worse:

Alexander said the 13 teams would defend against destructive attacks. “I would like to be clear that this team . . . is an offensive team,” he said.

How can the reporter summarize what the General says as to “defend against attacks” when the General is quoted saying the very opposite in the very next sentence? Have the writer and the readers internalized


so much that the glaring contradiction in that paragraph is acceptable as “truth”?

Twenty-seven other teams would support commands such as the Pacific Command and the Central Command as they plan offensive cyber capabilities.

General Alexander is clearly emphasizing the unilateral offensive side of his plans. But the reporter still subsumes it all under “defense”. What kind of cool-aid do they serve in Washington to lower cerebral capabilities to such a level?

Posted by b on March 13, 2013 at 03:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

March 11, 2013

Rejecting Karzai’s Order Killed Eight People

Mid February the Afghan president Karzai


that U.S. special operation forces leave Wardak province. These special operation forces were training some gangs of bandits which ended up threatening and killing the civilian population:

In a statement Sunday, a spokesman for Karzai said, “after a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special force stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.”

The U.S. ignored the demand. The U.S. military also


the demand to finally hand over control of the Bagram prison to Afghan police and justice.

These are the reasons why Karzai yesterday said that the U.S. has in effect a common goal with the Taliban, creating instability to justify a prolonged stay.

Today two U.S. special operation soldiers, three Afghan policeman and three women were killed when an Afghan policeman opened fire on a meeting. Dozens were wounded:

The shooting, at a joint military base in Wardak Province, happened shortly after a security meeting between the police and American and Afghan forces, the officials said.

Had the U.S. military followed Karzai’s order and closed shop in Wardak eight people who are now dead would still be alive.

Posted by b on March 11, 2013 at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Syria: The Battle Is Still In Balance

The Islamist Syrian insurgent group that had kidnapped some Philippine UN peacekeepers and is also responsible for murdering a number of captured Syrian army soldiers has

evidently received

modern weapons through the U.S. led additional arming of the insurgency.

That such a group received such weaponry is proof that the plan to deliver weapons only to non-radical groups is not working at all. The myriad of militant groups and criminal gangs fighting in Syria are only gradually distinguishable in their sectarian mindset.

A large amount of weapons reached the insurgents through 75 planeloads from Croatia. These were delivered through Jordan and Turkey where British, French and U.S. forces train more insurgents. The British government, in breaking the EU embargo on weapons delivery to any side in Syria, has reportedly delivered another batch of weapons from its own stock.

The exiled political opposition has postponed a meeting it had planned to from an exile government. The attempts to install some pliant secular technocrat as the front man was sabotaged by the Muslim Brotherhood members of the opposition.

Last week the Jihadists of Jabath al-Nusra overran the eastern city of Raqqa where they are now killing government functionaries. Yesterday the insurgents attempted to reconquer Baba Amr in Homs. That offense seem to have failed. Overall the military conflict still seems to be in balance with little movement at the various fronts.

Posted by b on March 11, 2013 at 08:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

March 10, 2013

Predictions Of A Changing China Fail

On February 12 the NYT claimed that North Korea’s

Nuclear Test Poses Big Challenge to China’s New Leader

. It set off with a false choice:

The nuclear test by North Korea on Tuesday, in defiance of warnings by China, leaves the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, with a choice: Does he upset North Korea just a bit by agreeing to stepped up United Nations sanctions, or does he rattle the regime by pulling the plug on infusions of Chinese oil and investments that keep North Korea afloat?



the speculations in that piece and explained that while China might join some mild UN sanctions, as it later did, it has no interest in really pressing North Korea:

China needs North Korea as a buffer against U.S. troops at its borders. It will not do anything to ruin North Korea as a chaotic and dissolving neighbor would be a huge security problem for Beijing.

As nothing in those circumstances changed, I reasoned, China’s policy on North Korea would not change.

Now China is saying exactly that:

China’s foreign minister said Saturday that Beijing would not abandon North Korea, reiterating China’s longstanding position that dialogue, not sanctions, is the best way to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons.At a news conference during the National People’s Congress, the foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, suggested that Chinese support for tougher United Nations sanctions against North Korea should not be interpreted as a basic change in China’s attitude.

China has always seen North Korea as a buffer zone and it will continue to do so as long as needed. Besides that it also likes the coal and iron ore it imports from North Korea at favorable prices. Even if North Korea again starts some clashes with South Korea, as it seems likely to do soon, China will not overtly interfere unless North Korea’s existence in endangered.

The permanent speculation of a “western” turn of China’s policies is nonsense. China has its own interests, often divert from “western” ones, and China is capable of pursuing its interests with its own policies.

Posted by b on March 10, 2013 at 02:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

How The NYT Frames The Kenyan Election

Jeffrey Gettleman writes for the NYT as east Africa correspondent. His piece on the Kenyan election,

Kenyatta Is Declared the Victor in Kenya, but Opponent Plans to Appeal

, is a master example for obfuscating and tenuous writing. It starts:

Kenya’s election commission on Saturday declared Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president and one of the prime suspects in a case involving crimes against humanity, to be the winner of the country’s presidential race amid growing allegations of vote fraud and a refusal by the other leading contender to concede.

The tricks Gettleman uses to make the Kenyatta win look bad are these:

  •  let the outcome of the election look close
  •  throw doubts onto the vote counting
  •  let the accusations against Kenyatta seem reasonable

To let the outcome look close Gettleman never actually mentions the percentage of votes the “western” candidate, Raila Odinga, received. Kenyatta received 50.07% but Odinga received only 43.31% of the votes. That is a quite big margin. But as Gettleman does not tell his readers that Odinga lost by 6.7%.   Instead he uses these retorical devices to let race look close:

Mr. Kenyatta […] avoided a runoff by the thinnest of margins, about 8,000 votes out of 12 million, or .07 percent.

[i]t was not completely clear what the will of the people really was. The second-place finisher, Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister, has refused to admit defeat and plans to appeal to Kenya’s Supreme Court to overturn the results, which some independent observers said were sloppy and suspicious. Mr. Odinga said there had been “rampant illegality” and “massive tampering” with the vote-tallying process, the same problem that bedeviled Kenya’s last election in 2007. Mr. Odinga narrowly lost that race and after he protested, Kenya exploded in political violence.

This election was always expected to be close.

Reading that a casual reader would assume that the margin of votes was somewhat tight and that there are reasonable doubt about the outcome. That is not the case. If Kenyattas 6.7% advance was fraudulant the fraud must have been massive and quite obvious.

Then there are Gettleman’s anonymous “some independent observers” who seem to make some case though we never learn which one. But the Independent Kenyan Election Observation Group (ELOG), which had over 7000 observers at the polls and did a Parallel Vote Tabulation, says that the officials results are very much within the margins of their count:

IEBC’s official results are consistent with ELOG’s PVT projections. ELOG wishes to note and to remind all Kenyans that it is the IEBC which is constitutionally mandated to declare and announce the final, official results of the elections. Based on the PVT, ELOG has verified that the IEBC results fall within our projected range for all the eight presidential candidates.

The EU Election Observation Mission to Kenya


(pdf) some minor technical issues with the election but saw no signs of fraud. No other source than Gettleman’s mysterious “independent observers” has reported doubts. The Soros Open Society funded

Africa Election Project reported


the elections were peaceful, free and fair, winning praise from international observers despite widespread fears of a repeat of violence

Voice of America



international observers have said the vote was largely transparent and credible

The Washington Post



International elections observers have declared the election transparent




International observers broadly said the vote and count had been transparent so far and the electoral commission, which replaced a discredited body, said it delivered a credible vote.

None of Gettleman’s colleagues seem to have found those “some international observers” who doubt the election outcome.

“This election was always expected to be close.” writes Gettleman. In January the Odinga coalition was slightly in the lead. But a TV debate on February 14 was


by Kenyatta and a poll a week later found him to be

in the lead

. The trend in February was clearly in Kenyatta’s favor. Then followed not so veiled “choices have consequences” threats from the U.S. and UK should Kenyans elect Kenyatta. Protest votes against such outer interference explains the rather large win Kenyatta made.

The case before the International Criminal Court, which Gettleman emphasizes is rather flimsy. After the 2007 election, which Odinga probably also lost, Odinga followers went on killing spree against the Kenyatta side supporters. Those supporters then retaliated which resulted in more killing. The ICC accusations were brought up against leaders on both sides as “indirect co-perpetrators” of the clashing. The case was brought against the will of the Kenyan national assembly and the Kenyan government. The only reason the ICC kangaroo court trumped up the charges is pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom. Both want to keep Odinga as a puppet instead of having to wrangle with a more resisting Kenyatta.

Gettleman’s task is obviously to support a drive to reinstall Odinga despite his large and obvious loss in the election. While readers from the U.S. might fall for his propaganda, I am confident that the people of Kenya will not.

Posted by b on March 10, 2013 at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

March 09, 2013

Kenyatta Wins Kenya’s Election

The election commission of Kenya declared Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the presidential election. He won 50.17% of the valid votes thereby avoiding a run off election. Voter turnout was a high 86%.

The Kenyan people have elected Kenyatta despite threats from the U.K and the US that to do so “would have consequences”. Kenyatta, as well as his vice president William Rutu, is accused by the International Criminal Court of instigating violence after the last presidential election. The proof for that accusation seems rather flimsy.

The candidate favored by the “west”, Raila Odinga, won 43.3% of the vote but has not yet conceded his loss.

Under these circumstance Uhuru Kenyatta is unlikely to look favorable towards further international interference in Kenya’s and Africa’s affairs.

The “western” media had been waiting for rioting or other violence to occur like it did during the 2007 election after Odinga claimed vote fraud. Kenyans were quite aware of this and offer their apologies for disappointing these expectations:

[M]y apologies on behalf of all my fellow ‘natives’. We, Kenyans have disappointed you greatly. It is completely unfair for media houses of great esteem, such as you are, to spend all the money to send their reporters to come and report on the post-election violence in Kenya – only for them to return home empty handed! As ‘natives’, we may not know exactly know how that feels but we have learnt to identify with the afflictions of many! May you find it in your hearts to forgive us for maintaining peace as we chose who among all our ‘corrupt African’ leaders would ascend to the various positions of power. However, this mistake was a deliberate one, the kind that we intend to repeat over and over again.

Good luck to Uhuru Kenyatta and all Kenyan people.

Update: The U.S. State Department congratulates the Kenyan people for the successful and quiet election. But it doesn’t congratulate the man who won the election. It does not even mention him. Given such snide, how much longer will Kenya keep its soldiers in Somalia where it is a proxy force for the U.S.?

Posted by b on March 9, 2013 at 08:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

March 08, 2013

Egypt: Increasing Instability

Egypt is going further down the drain or, speaking less metaphorically, is slowly sliding towards a civil war.

There have been clashes in Port Said and other northern cities since January but last week they again escalated. These are industrial cities with lots of union workers but also many unemployed. Over the last days several protesters and policemen have been killed. For tomorrow the final verdict about an earlier deadly stadium riot in Port Said is expected. Should the judges find the accused Port Said fans again guilty the riots will further escalate.

The police is confused and demotivated:

‘We’re confused about who we are now,’ one officer says. Does Morsi ‘want the police to fight thugs and criminals, or crush the street protests against him?’

All over the country parts of the the police stopped policing and went into a strike. Large parts of the Central Security Forces (CSF), which has many draftees, also went on strike. Their main demands are for the interior minister to step down and for heavier weapons. In response the interior minister


the chief of the CSF.

In Port Said the military took over some security functions. But protests continued today.

In Cairo the chefs and staff of the Intercontinental Hotel were (as a somewhat amusing video shows) having a street battle with kids/hooligans/thugs/protesters who had tried to rush the hotel.

In the South some “former” Islamic militants have taken on “police duty” and patrol the streets. In Cairo the police withdrew from guarding the Muslim Brotherhood bureau.

The Egyptian state seems to lose its means of control.

Adding to that is (another) constitutional crisis about a new election law for the earlier dismissed parliament. The legal question is one of which was first, the hen or the egg:

Article 177 mandates that the president or the parliament send electoral laws to the court to determine constitutional fitness prior to their promulgation. The SCC’s rulings on such matters are binding. Further, Article 177 makes clear that the SCC cannot entertain post-electoral challenges to the constitutionality of electoral laws.The Shoura Council, which is serving as the interim legislative authority until a new parliament is seated, referred the draft parliamentary electoral law to the SCC for prior review. The court found several provisions of the draft law to be unconstitutional; in response, the Council amended the draft and passed the law with no further judicial review.

But the Council did not change all the parts the Supreme Court had rejected. Another court picked up on that and referred the new law again to the SCC. In consequence the new parliamentarian elections, planned for April, will likely have to be moved out several month.

The new election law is indeed unfair. While there was earlier a rule that a party had to have a certain threshold of votes in the whole country, that rule has now moved to the local district and the threshold has been set much too high. A district might have some ten parliament seats. For a party to win one of these seats it would not only have to win the direct local seat but it would also have to win one third of the total votes in the whole district. Had such a rule been in place before the last election only Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist candidates would have won seats and many local seats would have been left empty. There would have been no opposition and no minority representation at all.

Such an election law might fit the monopolization-of-power plans of the Muslim Brotherhood but it has little to do with fair democratic rules.

Meanwhile Egypt’s currency reserve are going further down and a new IMF loan will not come unless Morsi introduces some harsh economic measures like lowering fuel subsidies. Morsi planned to avoid these measures before a new election round but may now run out of time.

A constitutional crisis, Morsi’s lack of control over the security forces, continued protests and thuggery, economic troubles and armed militia in the streets. What is next?

Posted by b on March 8, 2013 at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Another Korea War?

After the UN slapped some new sanctions on North Korea for its third nuclear test, North Korea has nullified the armistice with the UN forces starting Monday March 11.

Today the official paper Rodong Sinmun carries some 15 pieces about war.  The main editorial: We’ll Be Victors in the Fight to Defend National Sovereignty

If the enemy comes at us with a dagger we’ll draw out a big sword to slice him in pieces, if he comes with a rifle we’ll turn a big gun to blow him off, and he threatens with nuke, we’ll face up to him with more powerful and accurate nuke strike means of our own — that will be the mode of counter attack of Mt. Paektu type. The statement declared that the KPA Supreme Command would totally nullify the Korean Armistice Agreement and stop all activities of the Panmunjom Mission of the KPA.The statement also demonstrated the heroic spirit of Songun Korea pressing forward to a bright future with the might of its people’s single-minded unity.

Local headlines: U.S. And Puppet Warmongers Are Destined to Meet Final Ruin, In Concerted Efforts, All People Ready for Decisive Battle, With Power of Single Hearted Unity

Inter-Korean headlines: U.S., South Korea Start Joint Military Exercises, Is It “Defensive”?, Converted Version of “Preemptive Strike”

There is no doubt that North Korea is preparing for a bit of war. It has to raise its deterrence especially against a naval blockade. An over-interpretation of the latest sanctions could lead to such a move.

Starting Monday the U.S. and other countries will also be, in a legal sense, again at war with North Korea. Something will then happen that lets this war go from cold to hot. Such something does not have to come from North Korean. There are enough South Korean hawks who would like a limited or even a bigger clash to occur.

The U.S. and South Korea should stand down and call off their current maneuvers. If only, should the war go hot, to make sure that it is clear which side is the aggressor. Unfortunately the new South Korean president, the daughter of South Korea’s former dictator, is likely too hawkish to do so.

For now I do expect some limited clashes. Likely at sea or on one of the disputed islands. But I do not see anyone interested in a longer war. The tricky issue for all sides will be to avoid incidents that could get out of control. One wrongly submitted command or one out of control local commander can screw up the intended limits of the clashes and ruin the day for millions of people.

One might hope that the Chinese keep some influence over North Korea. But as China joined in the new sanction round its influence of happens next is limited.

The new sanctions, useless as they are, will cost a certain price. Let us that it will not be too high.

Posted by b on March 8, 2013 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

March 07, 2013

Arabs Join Iran In Fight For “Inalienable Rights”

Iran’s Khamenei does

not yet trust

the “west” on the nuclear negotiations:

“Western nations did not accomplish anything that can be construed as a concession, and instead they admitted Iran’s rights only to a degree,” Khamenei said in an address reported on his official website.”To assess their integrity, we must wait until the next round of talks,” he added.

For Iran it is all about the right to nuclear research and production which is an “inalienable right” under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty but which the “west” wants to unilaterally restrict without renegotiating the treaty.

Khamenei’s quest for Iran’s right now gets support from a rather unsuspected direction. The states at the other side of the Persian Gulf also need nuclear energy to provide for their growing populations. The UAE and Jordan want to build nuclear reactors in their countries and are cooperating. The UAE has money from oil and gas while Jordan has little money and no oil and gas but has nuclear engineers and some other valuable stuff: Uranium. Jordan naturally wants to use and enrich its Uranium to feed its reactors and to pay back for the loans the UAE will put forward. The U.S. wants to block that. Here is Jordan’s reaction:

Amman has declined to sign an accord with Washington that, like a similar document agreed between the UAE and the United States, would commit it to not enriching uranium as part of its nuclear plan.Toukan said while Amman had signed international commitments on nuclear nonproliferation, it would not ink a bilateral deal with the United States on enrichment.

“We can’t accept this,” [Khaled] Toukan[, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission,] said. “We will not agree to sign any agreement that infringes on our sovereign rights or our international rights under any treaties.”

Jordan has the same stand on their rights under the NPT that Iran has. The UAE, if it wants its loans paid back by Jordan, will likely have to support that right. The Saudis want to build 16 nuclear reactors. Probably not coincidentally that is the breakeven number where fuel production by local enrichment is cheaper than buying fuel from the U.S., European, Russian oligopoly. The U.S. will try to divert the Saudis from enrichment, but while it has the ability to apply pressure against Jordan it has less so with the Saudis.

The situation now coming into view is the Arab Gulf countries haggling with the U.S. over their right to enrich just as Iran has been doing for the last decade. That is a great chance for an alliance against the U.S. plans of changing the rules under the NPT.

The U.S. “concerns” about enrichment are anyway not so much about nuclear proliferation. Plutonium, not Uranium, is the way to go for a bomb. But the U.S. has commercial reasons to keep the technology under its control. Reactors and their fuel are expensive stuff which is what the U.S. wants to sell:

Washington also wants the accord because it would open up opportunities for U.S. companies, which Jordan would otherwise be forbidden from hiring.

Iran would be well advised to talk to the Arab countries about their enrichment plans. It has the technology and know how to help them along their way. Cooperation on their nuclear development would help with otherwise sometimes frosty relations and would be good business for both sides. The issue of “inalienable rights” to nuclear technology and its use is a good starting point for such talks.

Posted by b on March 7, 2013 at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

March 06, 2013


Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, is dead. There will be many false and hateful obits on him.


is a decent one. Chavez did a

lot of good

for his people and he had


to do more of it.

Elected with quite large majorities he was smeared as an anti-semite and dictator by the same media that lauded the U.S. sponsored military coup against him.

The U.S. will try to use the election for a successor to install a pliable neo-liberal figure. There is hope that the people of Venezuela will not fall for that but will elect someone who can continue the process to more social justice that Chavez initiated.

Posted by b on March 6, 2013 at 01:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (109)

March 05, 2013

ISAF: No Statistics No Lies

Last year ISAF regularly


a decrease of “enemy initiated attacks” (EIA) in Afghanistan:

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has said attacks by anti-government armed groups against foreign forces declined by 17 percent in the first seven months of the current year, as compared to the same period in 2011.

This January ISAF claimed that EIA in 2012 were down 7% compared with 2011. But in February the ISAF press releases hailing this “progress” somehow vanished from its webpage. Someone noticed that and AP


ISAF what had happened to those reports:

The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan incorrectly reported a decline in Taliban attacks last year, and officials said Tuesday that there was actually no change in the number of attacks on international troops from 2011 to 2012.

A coalition spokesman, Jamie Graybeal, attributed the miscounting to clerical errors and said the problem does not change officials’ basic assessment of the war.

A “clerical error” is what one usually calls a lie. “But as ISAF practically says: “7% more or less killed and wounded – why care for that anyway?”

It was a big cake in the face moment for ISAF and as such numbers work against the now enshrined cut and run policies that require some triumphant victory declarations ISAF decided that the public is no longer interested in such numbers:

The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan said Tuesday it will no longer publish figures on Taliban attacks, a week after acknowledging that its report of a 7 percent decline in attacks last year was actually no decline at all.

ISAF’s silly excuse is that Afghan troops are now the ones who mostly get attacked. It seems to believe that


is something no one should count or be concerned about.

“Additionally, we have come to realize that a simple tally of (attacks) is not the most complete measure of the campaign’s progress,” Graybeal said. “At a time when more than 80 percent of the (attacks) are happening in areas where less than 20 percent of Afghans live, this single facet of the campaign is not particularly accurate in describing the complete effect of the insurgency’s violence on the people of Afghanistan.”

If that is the case why then was ISAF so

happy to report

such numbers as successes in every month of 2012?

The way out of “lies, damned lies, and statistics” is obviously not to publish any statistics at all.

Meanwhile the way out of Afghanistan seems to be in transferring the war to the United States. With Homeland Security now serving warrants (video) with Mine Resistant Armor Protected Vehicle filled with its special ops like “operators” it is only a question of time until some insurgent will considers measures against such.

Posted by b on March 5, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

March 04, 2013

David Sanger Is Now A Cyberexpert

Three NYT authors, including

Judith Sanger

, wrote on of the much an vogue cyberscare story. It is based on the usual scare-quotes from people, like the former secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff, who


from the scheme. Those people are, of course, not identified as such.

But what would any story written by Sanger be without another scary-Iran element. Here we have this:

While the skills of Iran’s newly created “cybercorps” are in doubt, Iranian hackers gained some respect in the technology community when they brought down 30,000 computers belonging to Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, last August, replacing their contents with an image of a burning American flag.

Now that is a bit interesting because, so far, no one else has attributing that event to Iran. Maybe Sanger and his co-authors should call the Saudis and let them know who attacked them. Neither they nor U.S. intelligence officials do know

who its was


Saudi Arabia blamed unidentified people based outside the kingdom for a cyberattack against state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. that aimed at disrupting production from the world’s largest exporter of crude.

Major General Mansour Al-Turki, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, declined to identify any of the “several foreign countries” from which the attack originated because the investigation is still in progress. “The attack failed to reach its ultimate goal, which was to stop the flow of Saudi oil,” he said at the conference.

Two U.S. intelligence officials said in interviews that the evidence implicating Iran in the Aramco attack is largely circumstantial, …

Now Sanger is obviously THE expert in cyber-attacks. He knows all the systems involved, has debugged them personally and easily indentify who wrote the code for the attack and who used it. He and only has the knowledge to attribute an unattributable attack to Iran.


Posted by b on March 4, 2013 at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

March 03, 2013

Is Ideology Irreversible?

The Sunday Times had an interview with the Syrian President Assad. A full transcript liberated from the paywall is available



The whole interview, in which Assad is unlike his opponents again very rational and logical, is recommended reading. I found one passage especially interesting:

Sunday Times: How threatening is Al-Qaeda now?President Assad: Threatening by ideology more than the killing. The killing is dangerous, of course, but what is irreversible is the ideology; that is dangerous and we have been warning of this for many years even before the conflict; we have been dealing with these ideologies since the late seventies. We were the first in the region to deal with such terrorists who have been assuming the mantle of Islam.

Is that highlighted part correct? Is an ideology, once it has taken ground in some people, really irreversible?

Assad seems to be somewhat wrong with that. I am not aware of many communists these days, indeed I wish there would be more. So communism faded over time as did several other ideologies. But the Jihadi ideology (we need a better word for this) seems to be still on the rise, supported by the Gulf monarchies and used as a proxy force by the “west”. That is what makes it dangerous. Its inherent growth momentum would probably be nil without such support.

Posted by b on March 3, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

March 02, 2013

Culture And The Choice Of A Government Systems

The Wilsonians and their neoconservative brethren presume that all humans want “freedom”, “democracy” and “choice”. It is their mission, they say, to “spread” those over the world. Their conviction is related to the “all men are created equal” myth that was, by hypocritical slave owners, enshrined in the declaration of independence.

The modern equality view was formed at the time of the first nukes, the first computers and game theory when, as Adam Curtis explains in The Trap, all science strove to be like physics with a sound theoretical base and deterministic laws that could be identified and then used to make predictions and to create policies.

In economics the “all man are equal” view was the believe in a homo economicus as the rational actor in all things economics and thereby in a world full of similar rational, self-interested, labor-averse individuals. But man are not rational actors and economic preferences are driven by many other factors than just greed and labor avoidance. This base onto which much of the economic science was build on was shattered by studies in behavioral economics and the finding that man make weird choices and are not even able to rationally evaluate the risk of their choices.

But while behavioral economics may describe human economic decision making better than the rational actor theories it still sees man as somewhat universal in their behavior. But this, like the homo economicus, is a wrong assumption.

Man may be equal with regards to a few universal rights but they are not equal in their social and cultural upbringing. That has, as new anthropological research finds, much more influence on them as is usually assumed:

Economists and psychologists, for their part, did an end run around the issue with the convenient assumption that their job was to study the human mind stripped of culture. The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners—with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.

Psychological experiments, when repeated in various societies and cultures, find large sociological differences in behavior, perception and cognition. Those are not hardwired but are part and product of the specific culture we experience in our upbringing and in which we are living:

The growing body of cross-cultural research that the three researchers were compiling suggested that the mind’s capacity to mold itself to cultural and environmental settings was far greater than had been assumed. The most interesting thing about cultures may not be in the observable things they do—the rituals, eating preferences, codes of behavior, and the like—but in the way they mold our most fundamental conscious and unconscious thinking and perception.

The assumption of rationality of man in economic studies has proven to be wrong. But to replace that with behavioral economics is only a small step. The psychology research underlying behavioral economics and other theories assumes, physics like, a hardwired human brain that does not exists. The results of psychological experiments done in the U.S. are not universal results but specific to the U.S. culture. They already differ quite a lot within that culture.

One can thereby not derive policies and preferences for other societies from one’s own. Understanding of what is a good or bad decision, what is a god or bad form of government, of dignity and values, widely differs between cultures and societies. Individualism may be valued in the “west” but other societies find it abhorrent.

This explains why not all people want to be, as Wilsonians and neoconservatives assume, like “us”, but may make very different choices with regard to their lives and their societies. “Democracy”, “freedom” and “choice” may be alien concepts to them that do not fit what they perceive as their social values. If we consider that people have a right to chose their system of government we also have to allow authoritarianism or religion based systems as a possible culture based outcome. Democracy crusaders, who want to remake other societies in the image of their own, can not admit that because they still hold to their physics like understanding of societies and minds.

Posted by b on March 2, 2013 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

Peto Lucem (@PetoLucem) on Twitter

Peto Lucem
News – maps – analysis. Currently focused on military developments in Syria and Iraq. RT/links/follow endorsement. VERITAS VOS LIBERABIT



watanisy 14h
after several setbacks in humaymah front , Army enter western deir ez-zor cs
Peto Lucem 13h
NEW MAP update: captured more areas in their ongoing offensive Objective: Isolate in E- . HD:
Peto Lucem 13h
I know, thanks. I am uploading the updated map in a few mins.
Peto Lucem 13h
NEW MAP: launched operations in order to isolate held E- areas. HD-map:
Peto Lucem Jul 14
Replying to @Azid36
Hassan Ridha Jul 14
SAA & allied tribes capture al-Kabir field south of al-Zenati field + Khirbet al-Halool south of Houran field in southern Raqqa countryside
Peto Lucem Jul 13
/an Army\’s elite 5th Corps deploys east for offensive via
EHSANI2 Jul 13
Balanche Jul 13
Maghawir Al Thawra (US backed rebels in al-Tanf) reportedly refuses to be transferred to SDF areas. See
Hassan Ridha Jul 13
Hassan Ridha Jul 13
SAA are close to besieging FSA in a pocket south of al-Seen Airbase in south-east Damascus badiyah
Elijah J. Magnier Jul 12
To anyone still doubting about occupying part of : this is the US base in Qarah Qawzaq.
Hassan Ridha Jul 12
Replying to @sayed_ridha
17km until Sukhnah and 135km until DeirEzzor siege is broken
watanisy Jul 12
opp. report about clashes in the vicinity of abu khashbah dam , probably somewhere near here
Within Syria Jul 12
SAA capture Al Juayf , Bir Mahruthah ,Um Ramam ,and Al Ghudaht in Damascus desert
Brasco_Aad Jul 12
Channel 4 News report—> On the frontline as /n Army\’s battle
Peto Lucem Jul 12
Savage firefight erupts between and Turkish police, many dead via
Peto Lucem Jul 12
/n Army attempts to cutoff vital rebel supply line in : video via
Iraqi Day Jul 11
Thousands of people across country went out tonight celebrating liberation.
Within Syria Jul 11
4000 fighters from Raqqah tribes to joing Dir Zor battle , SAA going in with more than 20k soldiers now
Hassan Ridha Jul 11
SAA are in full control of al-Hayl gas field and the hills overlooking it. Clashes ongoing in outskirts as IS trying to re-enter gas field
Elijah J. Magnier Jul 11
ISIS confirms death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan News Agency via
Iraqi Day Jul 11
State TV: Clashes between foreign and local militants in Tal Afar town west . Multiple killed & wounded.
watanisy Jul 11
army significant advance in ain terma via
Peto Lucem Jul 10
Syrian War Report July 10, 2017: Territory In , Is Shrinking via
Iraqi Day Jul 10
Iraqi Day Jul 10
congratulations. is 100% liberated.
Islamic World News Jul 10
Peto Lucem Jul 10
Replying to @PetoLucem
Peto Lucem Jul 10
NEW MAP: Important and extensive advances in / desert areas east of vs. backed militants.
Posted in Uncategorized

MoA – March 2012

Obama Raises The Price Of Oil

After careful analysis of oil prices and months of negotiations, President Obama on Friday determined that there was sufficient oil in world markets to allow countries to significantly reduce their Iranian imports, clearing the way for Washington to impose severe new sanctions intended to slash Iran s oil revenue and press Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Open Thread 2012-09

Open Thread 2012-08

NYT Misrepresents UNSC Statement On Syria

Overcoming months of bitter division, the United Nations Security Council delivered a diplomatic setback to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Wednesday, unanimously embracing efforts by Kofi Annan, the former secretary general, to negotiate a cease-fire in the year-old Syrian conflict, funnel aid to victims and begin a political transition. … The plan closely resembles an Arab League proposal that Mr. Assad has rejected. … Russia s endorsement of the statement is an embarrassment for Mr. Assad , who has refused to negotiate with his political opponents and has characterized the uprising as a terrorist crime wave. … Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had expressed anger over Russia s support for Mr. Assad, praised the Security Council s action as a positive step.

  • The Annan plan does not by far resemble the Arab League proposal which called for the immediate step down of Assad
  • The Russian endorsement is not an embarrassment for Assad but is consistent with its 5-point plan which China and Bashar Assad endorsed
  • Assad has not refused to negotiate though the rebels rejected Annan\’s plan
  • Clinton\’s praise is just hiding that she lost the cause

The United States and its Arab and European partners have pressed for passage of an Arab League proposal that would have required Assad to yield considerable powers to a transitional government. But Russia, backed by China, recently vetoed a resolution endorsing that plan, insisting that the Syrian government should remain central to any negotiations on a political settlement in Syria.

The Syrian Rebellion One Year On

Armed opposition elements have carried out serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today in a public letter to the Syrian National Council (SNC) and other leading Syrian opposition groups. Abuses include kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters, and people identified as members of pro-government militias, called shabeeha. Human Rights Watch has also received reports of executions by armed opposition groups of security force members and civilians.

Turkey seems to be the only country fully focused and devoted to toppling al-Assad s regime. Talks of establishing a buffer zone or a safe haven to protect fleeing Syrians and leading the international community in imposing more pressure are part of this policy. Such interventionist policies would not only break the image Turkey has built in the region but are also inconsistent with its general foreign policy principles, the main pillar of which is peace.

Open Thread 2012-07

The “Nightmare” Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Top US policy makers are coming to grips with the realization that the assumptions on which the ISAF\’s exit from Afghanistan were based are unlikely to be fulfilled. Pentagon contacts tell us that behind Defense Secretary Panetta s hurried visit to the country following the killings of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier lies a deep debate in Washington about the timelines of the mission. Officials had hoped that at the forthcoming May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago it would be possible to announce a credible strategy for the Afghan endgame. They are now increasingly gloomy that this and that, instead, an accelerated withdrawal will take place, with few guarantees of continuing stability inside Afghanistan . One senior Pentagon officer put it to us this way: We are revisiting the Soviet nightmare. For President Obama, the Afghanistan confusion seems unlikely to damage him politically. With the Republican presidential candidates also calling for expedited withdrawal, Afghanistan does not appear likely to feature as a controversial election issue at least at this juncture.

WaPo: Those Dead And Wounded Afghans Do Not Exist

KABUL Twelve Turkish soldiers were killed Friday when their helicopter crashed on the outskirts of Kabul, officials said. It was the deadliest incident for international troops in Afghanistan so far this year.

Abdul Qadus, a local resident, said there were two helicopters in the air passing through the area when one of them, all of a sudden, went down, hitting a house.

Afghanistan – Towards The Exit Without Negotiations

A memorandum of understanding which was agreed upon earlier was not yet fulfilled when an American representative presented a list of conditions in his latest meeting with the Islamic Emirate which were not only unacceptable but also in contradiction with the earlier agreed upon points. So it was due to their alternating and ever changing position that the Islamic Emirate was compelled to suspend all dialogue with the Americans. We must categorically state that the real source of obstacle in talks was the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans therefore all the responsibility for the halt also falls on their shoulders.

How False Human Rights Claims Create War

The London-based human rights group issued a report Wednesday based on interviews with 25 Syrians who said they endured torture in various detention centers before fleeing across the border to Jordan.

Afghanistan Is Not A Land Of Isolated Incidents

The alleged slaying of 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan will not affect plans to turn over security operations to local troops, NATO and member countries said as they called for a quick investigation into the deaths.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul went into lockdown as the violent protests entered a second day over Quran burnings. U.S. Embassy said in its official Twitter feed. … “This is not who we are. These are very, very isolated incident , General Allen said nervously as he tried in vain to placate reporters who see this as a big story … U.S. Embassy in lock down over Quran burning as Marine guards go on high alert – February 22 2012

Afghanistan s President Hamid Karzai says the killing of four French soldiers by an Afghan army soldier was an “isolated and individual” action and did not represent the anger of the Afghan people. Killing of French troops an isolated incident , says Afghan President Karzai – Jan 21, 2012

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed condolences on Friday for the four French soldiers that were shot and killed by an Afghan solider, but said the attack is an “isolated” incident.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said the two French soldiers had been deliberately fired on by an Afghan soldier present at their position in the Kapisa valley. … The ” isolated incident ” would not affect the process of eventually handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces, the minister said in a statement, adding that his thoughts were with the families of those killed and their fellow service members. 2 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack – December 29 2011

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier allegedly killed his Australian colleague whilst on guard duty today, May 30, 2011. Another Australian soldier died during a Chinook\’s hard landing on a resupply mission within hours of the initial incident. … Australians have mentored thousands of Afghans in the past 6 years and whilst this is seemingly an isolated incident , such Afghan sentiment towards mentoring troops is on the rise. Two More Australian Soldiers Die In Afghanistan – May 30 2011

International Security Assistance Forces confirmed one Afghan civilian was killed by an ISAF servicemember in the Ali Sheng district of Laghman province Sunday. … “We take allegations of civilian casualties very seriously and we will conduct a thorough investigation of this isolated incident ,” said Maj. Patrick Seiber, Combined Joint Task Force – 101 and Regional Command – East spokesman. ISAF investigates death in Laghman – September 27 2010

In a possibly isolated incident , ISAF recently attacked a convoy of cars in Takhar, a small province in northeast Afghanistan. They remain adamant that they killed some previously unknown insurgent figure. One of the occupants of those cars, however, was a candidate running parliament he was injured, and several of his companions were killed. Half the violence, twice the fraud: The Afghan elections – September 20 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan A seemingly routine training practice in marksmanship went fatally wrong on Tuesday when an Afghan Army sergeant turned his weapon on an American trainer and a gunfight began. When it was over, the sergeant, two American trainers and an Afghan soldier who had been standing nearby lay dead. … General Patton said that he was uncertain about the motives of the Afghan sergeant, but that the military considered it an isolated incident . Gunfight Kills 2 Americans Who Trained Afghan Army – July 20 2010

The attack came under the cover of darkness at 2.45am, when Gurkhas on duty in the operations room of a British army patrol base in Helmand province were cut down by fire from an Afghan comrade.

An Afghan policeman opened fire on British soldiers in the volatile southern province of Helmand, killing five before fleeing, authorities said Wednesday, raising concerns about discipline within the Afghan forces and possible infiltration by insurgents. … Presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada said it was an isolated attack.

As expected, the U.S. military quickly denied that the video released on Sunday by Al Jazeera is evidence that our troops proselytizing Muslims in Afghanistan, claiming that what was shown in the video was an isolated incident , and that the chaplains statements were taken out of context. Rights Group Uncovers Other Cases Of Military Proselytizing Christianity to Muslims – March 8 2009

Open Thread 2012-06

Drunk Soldiers\’ Have Fun By Murdering Afghan People

An American soldier wandered outside his base in a remote southern Afghan village shortly before dawn Sunday and opened fire on civilians inside homes, killing at least 16, Afghan and U.S. officials said . … Officials shed no light on the motive or state of mind of the staff sergeant who was taken into custody shortly after the alleged massacre.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 11 (Reuters) – Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.

The Haditha killings (also called the Haditha incident or the Haditha massacre) refers to the incident in which 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children were killed by a group of United States Marines on November 19, 2005 in Haditha, a city in the western Iraqi province of Al Anbar. All those killed were civilians. … An initial Marine Corps communique reported that 15 civilians were killed by the bomb\’s blast and eight insurgents were subsequently killed when the Marines returned fire against those attacking the convoy. However, other evidence uncovered by the media contradicted the Marines\’ account. … The investigation claimed it found evidence that “supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot civilians, including unarmed men, women and children”, according to an anonymous Pentagon official.

U.S.-Turkish Air Exercise Part Of Bigger Plan For War On Syria

The French Air Force has organized a large-scale, weeklong exercise with the British Royal Air Force – which is expected to send over Tornado fighters, aerial tankers and AWACS aircraft – as part of the enhanced cooperation agreed between the two countries, an Air Force spokesman here said Jan. 13.

Due to the current international events, exercise Southern Mistral has been suspended.

3/9/2012 – KONYA, Turkey (AFNS) — The Turkish and U.S. air forces continue to combine their air assets and share tactics in large-force employments during Exercise Anatolian Falcon 2012 here March 5-16 . …

SEAD, the 480th FS\’s specialty, is any action taken to deter enemy surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft artillery. The objective is not the destruction of the ground-based threats but to subdue those threats until an air mission is complete. … For Anatolian Falcon 2012, each air mission has an objective such as the destruction of a plotted target or the defeat of enemy aircraft. Mission planners assign groups of aircraft-specific tasks, either offensive counter air, SEAD or ground attack.

The Obama administration and its allies and international partners have begun serious discussions about potential military involvement in Syria, even as they continue to press for nonviolent solutions to the carnage there.

  • Incite demonstrations against the foreign government
  • Have special operations snippers shoot at the demonstrators to turn them towards violence
  • Have a trained rebel force of extremists come in from the outside and supply money, weapons and communication equipment to anyone who wants to fight
  • Implement paralysing economic sanctions against the foreign government
  • Embed western media with the armed rebels to run an information campaign against the foreign government as “killing its own civilians”
  • Make exiles form an alternative government that can be recognized as legitimate
  • Prepare your air forces to fight against the foreign government troops
  • Spread rumors of air-attacks against the rebels to justify a “no-fly zone”
  • Should the rebels not be able to win on their own reinforce them with “no-fly zone” air attacks and more weapons

McClatchy On Israel\’s Nuclear Iran Scare Campaign

  • The systematic campaign to incite war on Iran started, more or less secretly, immediately after Iraq was defeated in the first Gulf war.
  • When in 2006 the U.S. was on the verge of defeat in Iraq the anti-Iran campaign was turned into a public one.
  • Israel\’s plans are political, not military. Israel will not attack Iran but wants the U.S. to do the job.
  • The nuclear issue is not the real issue. The real issue is to achieve regional hegemony in the Middle East for the U.S. as much as for its junior partner Israel.
  • That requires to destroy Iran\’s military and economic capacity (see Iraq) or regime change towards a U.S. friendly dictatorship.

Shimon Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany and former head of arms control at the Foreign Ministry, said that Israel slowly developed its outreach and media efforts on Iran over more than two decades.

On the morning of May 9, 2006, Amos Yadlin, Israel\’s head of military intelligence, walked away from his parliamentary committee meeting with a sense of triumph. He knew he had successfully shifted Israel\’s national agenda. … Yadlin\’s statement that morning was calculated to garner the most attention possible, and it did. The next day, it was on the front pages of all of Israeli\’s daily newspapers. Within months, Israeli politicians would pick up the refrain and begin routinely referring to Iran as an “existential threat.” It is an expression Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is particularly fond of .

On a drawing pad in his office, Alon, a senior Israeli military intelligence officer, sketches out the possible scenarios facing Israel and Iran. … “Maybe once a week someone calls me wanting to know the possibilities. How would we launch a military strike on Iran? What type of aircrafts would we use? What kind of bombs? Would we alert our allies in advance? Would it work?” he said. “Lately it has been more than once a week.” … [But r]ather then a detailed military plan, Alon\’s drawing pad contained a series of flow charts on possible diplomatic and political initiatives that could be carried out as alternatives to a direct military confrontation with Iran. … Other military experts predict that the U.S. and other Western allies would lend their military might to an attack on Iran.

As Usual Facts Oppose NYT\’s Iran Reporting

The six world powers that have agreed to resume negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program issued a blunt request on Thursday that the Iranians allow international inspectors unfettered access, most notably to Parchin, a large restricted military complex that the inspectors suspect may house a testing chamber for explosives used in atomic weapons triggers. … The tone of the statement also suggested that the historic sympathies Iran has received from Russia and China over its nuclear activities have diminished , as Iran has flaunted its increased ability to enrich uranium despite repeated calls for a suspension.

Three days of protracted negotiations held under the specter of war highlighted the diplomatic difficulties ahead for nations trying to ensure that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

Iran says it will allow UN inspectors access to a secret military complex where the UN nuclear agency suspects secret atomic work has been carried out.

The Kony 2012 Campaign Is Fraud And Its Cause Is A Difficult Problem

Kony 2012 , quite dubiously, avoids stepping into the peace-justice question in northern Uganda precisely because it is a world of contesting and plural views, eloquently expressed by the northern Ugandans themselves. Some reports suggest that the majority of Acholi people continue to support the amnesty process whereby LRA combatants including senior officials return to the country in exchange for amnesty and entering a process of traditional justice . Many continue to support the Ugandan Amnesty law because of the reality that it is their own children who constitute the LRA. Once again, this issue is barely touched upon in the film. Yet the LRA poses a stark dilemma to the people of northern Uganda: it is now composed primarily of child soldiers, most of whom were abducted and forced to join the rebel ranks and commit atrocities. Labeling them victims or perpetrators becomes particularly problematic as they are often both.

This campaign is just proof that the rise of the \’White Savior Industrial Complex\’ is one of the worst developments in recent years.

U.S. Nearer To War On Syria

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. is reviewing potential military action to ease the crisis in Syria even as he cautioned that the opposition and international support aren t unified enough to intervene now.

If Attacked Iran Could Legally Make Nukes

a concept in NATO\’s policy of nuclear deterrence, which involves member countries without nuclear weapons of their own in the planning for the use of nuclear weapons by NATO, and in particular provides for the armed forces of these countries to be involved in delivering these weapons in the event of their use. … As of November 2009, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey are still hosting U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO\’s nuclear sharing policy.

Article I: Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; […]

“does not deal with arrangements for deployment of nuclear weapons within allied territory as these do not involve any transfer of nuclear weapons or control over them unless and until a decision were made to go to war, at which time the treaty would no longer be controlling “.

Putin Did Win – The Fraud Allegations Make No Sense

United Russia\’s share of the vote was less than all the independent polls predicted. If the party or the government it leads really manipulated the election why would that be the case? Did they really give themselves less votes than the pre-election polls have led anyone to expect?

Forecast the results of voting in the presidential elections in 2012, filed with the CEC March 2, 2012 to participate in the contest forecasts prepared on the basis of a series of surveys conducted from February 24 to March 1, 2012 on representative samples of urban and rural population of the Russian Federation, 1600 at the age of 18 years and older in 130 localities 45 regions of the country. The statistical error of the survey data does not exceed 3.4%

Russia is a big country. It is likely that there were some irregularities in this or that polling station. Such manipulations happen everywhere and that is why we have laws against them. But given the pre-election polls and the election result it is not plausible that the manipulations in Russia were organized by, or in favor of United Russia.

How Avaaz Is Sponsoring Fake War Propaganda From Syria

It seems that Syrian regime had agents among the rebels; or it seems that the Syrian regime obtained a trove of video footage from Baba Amru. They have been airing them non-stop. They are quite damning. They show the correspondent or witness (for CNN or from Aljazeera) before he is on the air: and the demeanor is drastically different from the demeanor on the air and they even show contrived sounds of explosions timed for broadcast time. I have to say that Aljazeera and the affiliated Ikhwan media win the award for the largest volume of lies in this crisis. Their lies have been rather helpful to the Syrian regime which now fills its airtime with exposing the lies and exaggerations of the Ikhwan-led Syrian opposition.

First off Avaaz sent in hundreds of thousands of dollars\’ worth of communications equipment satellite phones and internet connections known as BGANs that gave the protesters a link to the outside world.

Iran Sanctions And A Saudi Pipeline Fire

More sanction means more pain for “western” economies. As it has already shown with its recent maneuver Iran can easily inflict such pain. One does not even have to consider a full closure of the Strait of Hormuz and the economic panic and military consequences that would cause. An explosion on a pipeline in Iraq, a mishap in a Saudi refinery or one lone old mine in the Straits of Hormuz damaging an empty (even Iranian?) old tanker would be enough to push oil prices to even higher levels. Just as the U.S. uses clandestine methods, the killing of scientists and cyber attacks, to inflict damage on Iran, Iran can, if it wants to, use such methods to increase the price of oil without leaving its fingerprints.

For the first time in decades, the Eastern Saudi Arabian volatile situation has reached the vital oil sector. A pipeline between Awamiya and Safwa has been reportedly targeted, and is under fire; …

The \’Syrian Revolution\’ Is Likely Over

“The creation of the military bureau was agreed upon by all armed forces in Syria,” SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun told a news conference in Paris. “We will be like a defense ministry.”

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Columbus Day 07: The Real Deal


The closing arguments in the first round of Columbus Day Hate Speech trials will begin at 8:30 am in District Court courtroom 186L (this is a shift from the original courtroom of 117M). Closing arguments for the defenders, Julie Todd, Koreena Montoya, and Glenn Morris, will be led by our outstanding attorneys David Lane and Mark Brandes. Our other amazing legal team members, Thom Cincotta, Qusair Mohammedbai, and Lonn Heymann, will assist in the closing arguments and jury instructions.

After closing arguments by both sides, the case will go the jury, and a verdict is expected to be reached sometime on Tuesday. All TCD members and supporters are invited and encourages to attend the proceedings. The outcome of the case may have a determinative effect on the remaining 70+ cases, remaining from the C-Day arrests.

Among some of the amazing developments in the case last week, which took up all of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, was the testimony of Rev. Todd and Ms. Montoya, accompanied by videos of misogynist police brutality in both cases. The jury was visibly shaken by the torture administered by the Denver police through what it euphemistically calls “pain compliance” techniques. Glenn Morris was on the witness stand for over two hours, recounting the racist history and legacy of Columbus, and going toe-to-toe with Denver city prosecutor Melissa Drazen-Smith during cross-examination. Morris\’ testimony concluded with defense attorney David Lane demonstrating for the jury the sound and the power of the AIM/Four Winds drum singing the AIM song, as it was done in the streets on October 6th, this time in open court. An amazing and very powerful day of testimony. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



TOPSY-TURVY (Court update Jan. 4)

The Columbus Day parade protest case against activist Russell Means was on-again, off-again Friday in Denver City and County Court. Judge Claudia Jordan initially dismissed the case against him because the city failed to show “due diligence” in subpoenaing the arresting officer to appear, and the officer was absent. The judge later reinstated the case because apparently she could not dismiss the case at a hearing called merely to determine whether certain evidence gathered at the time of arrest should be suppressed. In addition to reinstating the case, however, she suppressed all evidence against Means, effectively foreclosing any conviction. Charges were also dropped against arrestees Shannon Francis and Glenn Spagnuolo because the city couldn\’t determine which police officers arrested them. The city issued a general accusation of the defense that “they are trying to make this into a media spectacle.” The city\’s method of issuing subpoenas and the police department\’s method of complying with them was called into question, and two officers who had received subpoenas still could not appear until mid-afternoon Friday because they said there were sick children at home. At that time, the officers did identify Glenn Morris, Julie Todd, and Kareena Montoya, so they (and, technically, Russell) will be on trial at 8:30 a.m. January 16 in Courtroom 117M, City and County Building, 1437 Bannock. Lead defense attorney David Lane was sustained repeatedly over objections by the city during his examination of SWAT officer Tom McKibben, who arrested Julie Todd. McKibben was questioned about his interaction with Todd, whom he denied calling an obscene name. She didn\’t talk to him, he said, but was singing “We Shall Overcome.” A wrist-lock–a form of pain compliance–was used to “pull her” apart from others, he said, and she was told that, because of the compliance hold, she could break her hand if she insisted on being carried rather than walking. McKibben said he didn\’t know whether Todd heard a bullhorn command he said was repeated three times ordering people to leave the street. He also said he asked her three times, “Are you going to get up and leave?” which, Lane noted, was a question, not an order. The judge cut off Lane\’s line of inquiry about evidence showing that the officer did or did not know whether the Columbus Day parade was a “lawful parade,” and she denied the motion to suppress the police evidence. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


P ut the old culinary skills to good use for a good cause:

Potluck fund-raiser for the Legal Defense Fund 2 p.m. Sunday January 13 Four Winds

Bring friends!
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Moon of Alabama – 2012/03

Moon of Alabama

Open Thread 2015-23

Imperial NYT: Each FIFA Member One Secret Vote Is “Strange Electoral Math”

Mr. Blatter is widely expected to win a fifth term on Friday in a vote only miles from the luxury hotel where Wednesday s arrests took place in part because of FIFA s electoral math. The FIFA president is elected by a one-vote-per-country poll of its 209 member federations , making the many smaller countries who support Mr. Blatter an effective counterweight to his unpopularity elsewhere, most notably in Europe.

The source said FIFA president Sepp Blatter welcomed Israel s proposal but stressed it would need [chairman of the Palestinian Football Association] Rajoub s consent before removing the vote on banning Israel from FIFA s slate.

Reuters Exclusive: Russian Troops Near Ukraine’s Border

Ahead Of Israel Expulsion Vote U.S. Orders Raid On FIFA

The Palestinian group objects to Israeli teams playing in the West Bank. They also say Israel restricts movements of Palestinian players between the West Bank and Gaza as well as for international matches.

As leaders of FIFA, soccer s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get keys and proceeded upstairs to the rooms. … The charges allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals, according to three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case. The charges include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and officials said they targeted members of FIFA s powerful executive committee, which wields enormous power and does its business largely in secret.

United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases . Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.

Rick : How can you close me up? On what grounds? Captain Renault : I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier : Your winnings, sir. Captain Renault : Oh, thank you very much.

Anshel Pfeffer Poor Jibril Rajoub. Doesn’t look like his gimmick is going to get much attention right now #FIFA

Lack Of U.S. Air Support In Ramadi Points To Disguised Darker Aim

Islamic State fighters used a sandstorm to help seize a critical military advantage in the early hours of the terrorist group s attack on the provincial Iraqi capital of Ramadi last week, helping to set in motion an assault that forced Iraqi security forces to flee, current and former American officials said Monday.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today that last weekend’s sandstorm had not affected the coalition s ability to launch airstrikes in Ramadi, though weather was a factor on the ground early on.

American officials say they are not striking significant and obvious Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians. Killing such innocents could hand the militants a major propaganda coup and alienate both the local Sunni tribesmen, whose support is critical to ousting the militants, and Sunni Arab countries that are part of the American-led coalition.

there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists. What’s left of the state of Iraq, as of right now, is simply a satellite of the Ayatollahs in Tehran. It’s not anything we should try to aid.

The honeymoon was a brief moment for love, away from the front lines of Syria’s war. In the capital of the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate,” Syrian fighter Abu Bilal al-Homsi was united with his Tunisian bride for the first time after months chatting online. They married, then passed the days dining on grilled meats in Raqqa’s restaurants, strolling along the Euphrates River and eating ice cream.

U.S. Military: Local Militia Are Bad Unless We Create Them

Afghans Form Militias and Call on Warlords to Fight Taliban

Petraeus First Big Afghanistan Gamble: Militias Local Cops

Our position has been to develop a solution that bridges between having nothing and having Afghan National Police, and this program does that, said the senior NATO official. So it s a good development and especially so since it has consensus within the Afghan government and the ownership that come with that, he said.

Open Thread 2015-22

U.S. Intelligence Predicted: U.S. Support For Rebels in Syria Would Lead To Fall of Ramadi

Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The weapons shipped during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG s, and 125 mm and 155mm howitzers missiles.

3 B: AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning … … 3 C: AQI conducted a number of operations in Syrian cities under the name of Jaish al-Nusra …

8 C: If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want , in order to isolate the Syrian regime.

western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey

create the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi

The Obama administration recently approves the shipment of heavy weaponry to the Syrian opposition after long hesitation, the US-led operation rooms in Turkey and Jordan openly encourage working with al-Qaeda to defeat Assad s army, and the new Saudi King Salman, whose country is the main funder of ISIS, openly has ramped up support to Islamists in Syria, all the while al-Qaeda makes recent gains in the northwest and south, while ISIS makes its gains in the eastern region of Palmyra.

Obama Administration Dilly-dallying On Islamic State Action

The Islamic State in Ram d yesterday. Quite amazing the coalition didn’t take them out actually. Makes one wonder about the coalitions rules of engagement. Now it “looks” as if Ram d was offered to them on a silver plate …

Meanwhile, an intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the ground rules of his agency offered a caution: With the anniversary of the Islamic State s declaration of a caliphate coming next month, it would not be surprising if the group sought to mount a major attack or propaganda blitz to demonstrate its capabilities, and attract additional recruits.

NYT And Kerry Use Retracted Propaganda Claim To Blame & Shame North Korea

The world is hearing increasingly more and more stories of grotesque, grisly, horrendous, public displays of executions on a whim and fancy by the leader against people who were close to him, sometimes on the flimsiest of excuses, Mr. Kerry said, referring to Mr. Kim, during a news conference in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

South Korea’s spy agency said it cannot confirm the execution of North Korea defense chief Hyon Yong Chol, hours after making the opposite claim to South Korean lawmakers.

A Movie Recommendation And Open Thread

It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence – and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened – because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance. … [I]t is important to try and understand what happened. And the way to do that is to try and tell a new kind of story. One that doesn t deny the complexity and reduce it to a meaningless fable of good battling evil – but instead really tries to makes sense of it.

Was The Killing Of The IS Oil Minister A Combined Syrian-U.S. Operation?

Syrian army kills Islamic State’s “oil minister”-state TV

May 16 The Syrian army has killed an Islamic State leader responsible for oil-related affairs along with 40 other militants in an attack in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, Syrian state media reported.

Last night, at the President s direction, U.S. personnel based out of Iraq conducted an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged U.S. forces. … Abu Sayyaf was a senior ISIL leader who, among other things, had a senior role in overseeing ISIL s illicit oil and gas operations a key source of revenue that enables the terrorist organization to carry out their brutal tactics and oppress thousands of innocent civilians. … This operation was conducted with the full consent of Iraqi authorities ..

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation that tracks the war, said around 19 Islamic State members had been killed in an air strike on the oil field. Twelve of the dead were foreign fighters, it said.

As Propaganda Fails Baghdadi Announces A Bigger 9/11

DAESH defeated in al-Anbar DAESH was beaten in Ramadi, Kurma, and Tharthar.#CJTFOIR

The Islamic State on Friday took control of the provincial government center of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq s largest province, in a major defeat for the Iraqi government.

“What’s happening in our land today is a direct and comprehensive Persian occupation”- Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri #Iraq in new speech Notable Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri singles out Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim as some of those who could have stood up for Iraqi sovereignty. In reality, says Duri, the “opportunity has come to an end” and no one can truly express their opinion or stand against Iran. Notable Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri mentions Islamic State by name in latest speech: he says 90% of Anbar province under them & ‘armed men’. Superficial cross-sectarianism: Duri appeals to the people of Karbala too about the problem of “Safavid” schemes, militias etc. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri says no real ‘Popular Mobilization’ (Hashd Sha’abi): just cover for Iran militias like Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Badr etc. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri attacks those in the media who might want to portray his speech as pro-IS. Clearest distancing from IS by name yet. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri on “Da’esh” (IS): “They declare the Ba’ath to be kuffar” Towards end of speech Duri praises the Saudi-led intervention against the Houthis in #Yemen.

He begins by castigating any Muslim who won t immigrate (hijra) to the Islamic State, and who won t wage a violent war in its defense. For al-Baghdadi, joining him is an obligation, and that there is no excuse for any Muslim who is capable of performing hijrah (immigration) to the Islamic State, or capable of carrying a weapon where he is. … He then focuses on the Arab governments that he insists are lying in their claims to represent and protect the beleaguered Sunni population. He makes specific mention of the anti-Islamic State Arab forces being trained both by regional governments such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey but also the hated West. … In his litany of complaints against perceived Sunni oppression and abdicated Arab leadership, al-Baghdadi effectively covers the globe in his attempt to be seen as the worldwide supreme leader of the Sunni. He wonders where is the protection for Muslims in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Burma, India, China, Indonesia, the Caucasus, Africa, Khorasan, and everywhere else . He then focuses on the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. He dismisses the fact the main targets of the Saudi air strikes are the Shi a Houthis, and describes the effort as not a storm of resolve, rather it is the kick of a dying person. … In the speech s most bizarre segment, al-Baghdadi talks about the sadness he and his group feel at the Iraqi Sunni seeking refuge in the areas controlled by the R fidah (Shi a) and Kurdish atheists in Iraq, ignoring that it is the savagery of the group that has caused so many people to flee before its advance.

I made a mistake in reading Baghdadi’s voice message: #ISIS al-Baghdadi is preparing something very big against the West, bigger than 9/11 #ISIS Baghdadi is also giving an approximative date and could be around the coming month of Ramadan (July). I hope I am wrong but he is saying “the reaction will be huge on all Muslims living in the West”. I believe him. I have listen2 his speech 5 times. Minute 15. Moreover, other core accounts insinuate ” something big coming up “. But the “possible date” is hinted and not as explicit as his intention.

I’m not really sure we knew what we were doing when we [i.e. the U.S. government] made a statement [against Assad]

Four years after the uprising began, Syria has gained a reputation as the graveyard of political analysis, and it is well deserved. Many more confident statements, reports, and articles will undoubtedly be added to the pile before the war is over and given the extraordinary complexity of this tragic and brutal conflict, some humility would be in order before pronouncing in favor of either side.

HRW’s Kenneth Roth Continues Unfounded Accusations With Another False Picture

This is thereby at least the third time HRW is using a wrongly attributed pictures to depict current enemies of U.S. imperialism as having causing the damage the U.S. empire and/or its friends have caused.

A general view shows destruction in the Hamidiyeh neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as local popular committee fighters, who support the Syrian government forces, try to defend the traditionally Christian district on the third day of intense battles with Islamic State group jihadists on April 9, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OUFALIAN

U.S. Military To Defend Feng Shui Of Southeast Asia

China said it was deeply concerned on Wednesday about a reported U.S. proposal to consider sending naval ships and aircraft toward man-made islands in the South China Sea as tensions escalate between the two nations over the vital waters. … Reclamation isn t necessarily a violation of international law, but it s certainly violating the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia , and it s certainly violating China s claim to be a good neighbor and a benign and non-threatening power, Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said in a telephone interview. … As it does for a range of regional developments, the U.S. Pacific Command has drawn up contingency plans related to China s buildup of artificial islands in the South China Sea, U.S. defense officials said.

Light Posting – Several Issues

Ali Mamlouk, the head of the country’s National Security Bureau, has been removed as the regime of Bashar al-Assad begins to show divisions over the role of Iran

Syria’s security services chief Ali Mamluk attended a meeting between President Bashar Assad and an Iranian official on Wednesday, after a newspaper claimed he was under house arrest for plotting a coup.

Analysis: If the Syrian leader is toppled, Israel would have Islamic State on its doorstep, but it wouldn’t have to face it alone; it would also mean the end of Hezbollah and leave the Golan permanently in Israel’s hands.

According to this law, the military command and the local administrations have the right to establish a regime of enhanced protection of critical facilities, to introduce labor service for able-bodied persons, forcibly confiscate private and communal property for state needs, to prohibit peaceful assemblies, meetings, marches, demonstrations and other public events, to prohibit activities of political parties, to carry out the evacuation of the population, and other actions.

[The NYT] fails to recognize the irony of officials in their central Tel Aviv military headquarters lambasting Hezbollah for embedding among civilians.

Why Is The Hersh Abbottabad Story Coming Out Now?

On August 7, 2011, I wrote, among other things:

  • The US cover story of how they found bin Laden was fiction
  • OBL was turned in by a walk-in informant, a mid-level ISI officer seeking to claim $25 million under the “Rewards for Justice” program.
  • The Pakistani Intelligence Service — ISI — was sheltering bin Laden
  • Saudi cash was financing the ISI operation keeping bin Laden captive
  • The US presented an ultimatum to Pakistan that they would lose US funding if they did not cooperate with a US operation against bin Laden
  • Pakistani generals Kiyani and Pasha were involved in the US operation that killed OBL
  • Pakistan pulled out its troops from the area of Abottabad to facilitate the American raid
  • The Obama administration betrayed the cooperating Pakistani officials
  • The Obama administration scrambled to explain the crashed helicopter when their original drone strike cover story collapsed

In increasing the kingdom s regional role, King Salman risks escalating the conflict with Iran, fueling further instability. And his support for Islamists could end up empowering extremists, just as Saudi support for the Afghan jihad decades ago helped create Al Qaeda . … King Salman has a history of working with Islamists. Decades ago, he was a royal point man and fund-raiser for jihadists going to Afghanistan , Bosnia and elsewhere.

Open Thread 2015-21

Human Rights Watch Again Accuses Syria Of “Barrel Bomb” Damage Done By Others

Unikke tv-optagelser med drone viser omfanget af del ggelserne efter Israels bombardement af Gaza i sommer.

Saudi Arabia To Indiscriminate Bomb Yemen, U.S. Reportedly Amused

Saudi Arabia has reportedly beheaded five foreigners and hung their corpses from helicopter to set an example.

According to a report published in ‘The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula’ on Wednesday, the men were found guilty of murdering an Indian guard and stealing his money. After their beheading, which took place in Jeddah, Saudi officials hung the bodies from a helicopter so as to deter others from committing such crimes.

Saudi-led forces carried out air strikes on Friday in Yemen’s Saada province, a bastion of Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, and warned all civilians to leave a day after Riyadh promised a harsh response to cross-border Houthi attacks.

With or without advanced warning, direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under #IHL. #Saada #Yemen

This is essentially the same strategy Israel uses against Gaza, only on a ten times bigger scale.

John Kerry

Using Head-To-Head Polls To Decide Elections

One trick in national electioneering is to portrait the likely though narrow incumbents as the underdog in the run up to election day. Those doing the pools and the media who favor the likely winner will then propagandize a head to head race in which the opposition is slightly in front.

It’s Official: The U.S. Collaborates With Al Qaeda

The involvement of FSA groups, in fact, reveals how the factions backers have changed their tune regarding coordination with Islamists. Several commanders involved in leading recent Idlib operations confirmed to this author that the U.S.-led operations room in southern Turkey , which coordinates the provision of lethal and non-lethal support to vetted opposition groups, was instrumental in facilitating their involvement in the operation from early April onwards . That operations room along with another in Jordan, which covers Syria s south also appears to have dramatically increased its level of assistance and provision of intelligence to vetted groups in recent weeks.

In southern Syria [..] factions that vowed to distance themselves from extremists like Jabhat al-Nusra in mid-April were seen cooperating with the group in Deraa only days later.

Open Thread 2015-20

The Lies Of Anne Barnard

The Observatory said that members of at least six families were killed, along with some Islamic State fighters , and that 13 were missing.

Not a single IS fighter ” was killed in the strikes on Birmahle, said Abdel Rahman, adding that the village is inhabited by civilians only with no IS presence .

On Saturday, the Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said the strikes hit only civilians in their homes in Bir Mhali, a mixed Kurdish and Arab village, killing 52, including seven children and nine women.

The reported deaths of the villagers also embroiled the United States in Syria s fierce ethnic rivalries, with activists pointing out that the fishing and farming village of about 4,000 Arabs has had tense relations with Kurds living nearby especially with the Kurdish People s Protection Units or YPG. … The activist, who spoke to McClatchy by Skype on condition of anonymity out of fear of both the YPG and the Islamic State, said the coalition may have received flawed intelligence about the target from its allies on the ground, a reference to YPG forces. Kurdish hostility towards Arabs in the area has been pretty clear for a long time, the activist said. Otherwise, how would you explain the Kurds burning Arab houses under their own control?

May 1 – A Terrific Day For U.S. Target Intelligence In Syria And Yemen

US-led air strikes targeting the Islamic State group killed at least 52 civilians in a village in northern Syria, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

A series of Saudi airstrikes hit a hospital and medical camp in southwestern Yemen on Friday, killing at least 58 civilians and injuring at least 67, two local Yemeni government officials said.

[W]hat we re seeing is a product of Saudi disorientation and terror at a region that could become more representative in terms of its governance, more independent in terms of its foreign policy. The Saudis are trying to prevent that kind of independence in foreign policy from emerging in Yemen, and they have yet again gone down this road with the United States to a war that has no end.

[T]he beginning of the Saudi air war five weeks ago put a stop to negotiations which were about to succeed in establishing a power sharing government in the capital Sanaa according to the UN envoy Jamal Benomar. He told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that when this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia told the Obama administration and Persian Gulf allies early this week that it was preparing a military operation in neighboring Yemen, and relied heavily on U.S. surveillance images and targeting information to carry it out, according to senior American and Persian Gulf officials.

The United States is expanding its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to provide more information about potential targets in the kingdom’s air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters. … The U.S. officials said the expanded assistance includes sensitive intelligence data that will allow the Saudis to better review the kingdom’s targets in fighting that has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands since March.

[King Salman] has not only started an air war in Yemen but has given stronger backing to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qa ida affiliate, and other jihadi groups in Syria. These have recently won several victories in Idlib province over the Syrian army and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Haykal Bafana @BaFana3 Journalists need to wake up & write about the pressure being applied by Saudi Arabia on tribes & leaders in Hadhramaut to accept AQ rule.

Erik Prince’s Mercenaries Are Bombing Libya

Erik Prince’s Mercenaries Are Bombing Libya

On Jan. 11, 2017, Intelligence Online — a professional journal covering the world’s intelligence services — revealed that the pilots of Air Tractor attack planes flying from Al Khadim air base in Libya are private contractors working for Erik Prince, the founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater.

War Is Boring’s own sources in Libya confirmed the assertion. Our sources said that the pilots flying the United Arab Emirates Air Force IOMAX AT-802 Air Tractors — converted crop-dusters — are mercenaries and aren’t Arabs.

Most of the for-profit aviators are American, according to IOL. Prince denied involvement in the UAE air operations.

The United Arab Emirates strongly supports Gen. Khalifa Haftar and his regime in Tobruk, one of two major factions vying for power in Libya. The first Emirati AT-802 appeared at an unidentified Libyan air base, albeit with its national markings hidden, in June 2015

A year later on June 4, 2016, the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council — a group with ties to Al Qaeda — released photos of a Turkish-make Mk. 82 bomb complete with a Paveway guidance kit, a weapon associated with the Air Tractor.

The following November, BRSC published a photo of an Emirati AT-802 in the sky over the Ganfouda area of Benghazi. Shortly thereafter, the group circulated a video depicting an Air Tractor conducting an air strike.

Now it’s increasingly evident that Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is behind the air raids. Prince’s ties to the United Arab Emirates are strong. He moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010, the same year he sold his stake in scandal-riven Blackwater. In Abu Dhabi, Prince founded Reflex Responses Company, also known as R2.

In January 2011, several Arab countries hired Prince to help train a private army of 2,000 Somali recruits. And in May 2011, The New York Times reported that the UAE had signed a $529-million contract with Reflex Responses to recruit and train the so-called “Security Support Group,” an 800-member “foreign legion” for counterterrorism and internal security missions.

Prince currently heads Frontier Resource Group, a logistics and transport company that’s working in Africa with funding from Asian investors. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos is U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of education.

A foreign transport pilot wearing the inscription “Cargo Air Company” on the right shoulder of his uniform. Seen at Ras Lanuf on Dec. 10, 2016. Photo via the author

Much in the way that Prince has fought to privatize war-making, billionaire Devos is a proponent of for-profit schools and a strong opponent of public education.

Mercenary pilots are hardly new to Libya. In early 2015, the Libya Dawn Air Force — the main aerial rival of Haftar’s own Libyan National Army Air Force — paid the Ukrainian companies Glissada and Amber Tiger and the Jordan-based Caravana Middle East to find suitable pilots for its tiny fleet of fighters and helicopters.

Three mercenary pilots flew Libya Dawn Mirage F.1 fighters from Misrata air base between June 2015 and July 2016. One of them refused to bomb LNA troops and was forced to leave Libya. One other carried out several air strikes. A third pilot died when his Mirage crashed in Sirte in June 2016 — possibly after being struck by enemy fire.

The Tobruk government also employs for-profit pilots — specifically, transport crews form companies including Moldovan firm Sky Prim Air. The Moldovan company has ties to Emirati operator Oscar Jet, which also regularly flies to Libya. On Sept. 15, 2016, the Sky Prim Air Il-18D with the serial number ER-ICS flew from Tobruk to Zintan, transporting participants to the Nalut Reconciliation Conference.

On Nov. 25, 2016, the same Il-18D flew from Tobruk to Benina air base loaded with equipment and, supposedly, medical supplies for hospitals and clinics in and around Benghazi. According to the LNA, the consignment of medicine and health equipment had arrived the day before at Tobruk on a flight from Germany.

At top — an Il-76 from Moldovan company Sky Prim Air company at Birak Al Shati on the night of Dec. 13, 2016. Middle — an Il-18D from Sky Prim Air at Zintan on Jan. 1, 2017 with Libyan military officers on board following their graduation in Jordan. Bottom — an Il-76TD from Oscar Jet transporting a delegation from Benina to Brak Al Shati. Photos via the author

On Dec. 10, 2016, a foreign transport pilot wearing the inscription “Cargo Air Company” on the right shoulder of his uniform was spotted at Ras Lanuf, an LNA air base. The sighting came just a few days after various armed groups including Saraya Defend Benghazi and Petroleum Facilities Guard attacked LNA facilities in Libya’s Oil Crescent. The LNA repulsed the assault with a devastating series of air raids.

Cargo Air Company may, at the very least, be involved in transporting oil workers. On Dec. 12, the LNA deployed SA-9 air-defense systems to the Oil Crescent. Someone had to fly them there — and it probably wasn’t the LNA itself, as Haftar’s army lacks large cargo planes of its own.

Following the LNA’s capture of Brak Al Shati air base on Dec. 11, 2016, the Oscar Jet Il-76TD with the serial number ER-IAX transported a delegation from Benina to Brak Al Shati. Two days later, another Il-76 from Sky Prim Air landed by night at the same air base with an unknown shipment.

On Dec. 15, 2016, the Sky Prim Air Il-18D hauled 60 million dinars from Libya’s central bank to Birak Al Shati. The same aircraft landed at Zintan on Jan. 1, 2017 with Libyan military officers on board. The officers had recently graduated from training in Jordan.

The recent meeting between Haftar and Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu on board the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuzentsov off the Libyan coast suggests escalating foreign assistance for the LNA. Prince’s pilots in their Air Tractor bombers might have a lot of company.

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Audio File Audio File: Musicians, get at me Besides covering technology, I want this column to support local bands I hope you got a chance to head up to Gold Hill last weekend to catch the Gasoline Lollipops. True to form, the show sold out before 8:30, leaving a very large group of sad concertgoers outside. Full Story


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