Turkish Airstrikes On Kurds Complicate U.S. Operations In Iraq And Syria
A few hour ago the Turkish airforce hit Kurdish and Yezidi positons on both sides of the Singal mountains in east-Syria and west-Iraq. Near Derik in east-Syria more than 20 bombs destroyed a YPG headquarter, a radio station and a media center. At least nine YPK fighters were killed. The YPG is the Syrian sister organization of the Kurdish PKK in Turkey. The PKK is a designated terrorist organization. Within Syria U.S. special forces are embedded with the YPG and are coordinating YPG moves against the Islamic State in Raqqa. YPK and PKK follow the anarcho-marxist theories of their leader Abdullah Öcalan who is in isolation detention in Turkey.
The Turkish airstrike in Iraq hit YPG and Peshmerga positions near Shingal where they protect a displaced person camp of Yezidis. The Yezidis are an ancient religious minority. The Peshmerga are the main Kurdish militia in Iraq. They are controlled by Kurdish regional government. At least five Peshmerga fighters, all followers of Barzani clan, were killed and several more wounded. The Barzani family holds all important position in Iraq's Kurdistan - president, premier, intelligence chief and several others. Its election mandate has long run out but it simply ignores the regional parliament and rules through force and bribes. The Barzani clan is allied with Turkey and the U.S. It allows the Turkish army to operate several bases within its area. The U.S. is operating from Erbil airport in the Iraqi-Kurdish area. The oil pumped from wells in the Kurdish area is sold by the Barzanis to Turkey. The Turkish hit on Barzani fighters is deeply embarrassing for them and may incite new protest against the Barzani' quasi dictatorship.
The YPK is training Yezidi self defense forces. This is against the Barzanis' interest who sees their monopoly force in the area endangered.
Turkey is a U.S. ally and the U.S. has several bases in Turkey which it uses to fight the Islamic State. The U.S. is also allied and operates with the YPG in Syria and the Peshmerga of the Barzani clan in Iraq. The airspace in east Syria and north-west Iraq supposedly under U.S. control. There will be some serious explaining to do why the U.S. did not prevent one of its allies from bombing its other allies. Did it agree to this Turkish attack? Either way U.S. operation in the area will experience new difficulties.
Turkey has also threatened to invade the Kurdish held areas in east-Syria at Tal Abjad to move onto Raqqa and thereby split the Kurdish held areas.
The primary winner of these Turkish operations is the Islamic State.
The YPK is now likely to divert forces from the U.S. led attack on the Islamic State in Raqqa to protect against further Turkish adventures. The PKK within Turkey may restart its guerrilla campaign against the Turkish military. The Barzani clan will come under renewed pressure by Kurdish people in Iraq as well as by the Iraqi government to loosen its ties with Turkey. All sides will blame the U.S. and its operations against Syria and the Islamic State.
The whole mess in Syria and Iraq thus becomes even more complicate than it already was.
Syria Summary - U.S. Moves To Cut Off The East - But For What?
The situation in the north-west Syria is turning favor of the Syrian government, though much work needs to be done. The army is recovering new ground in Hama governate and an intense bombing campaign is waged over Idelb governate which is held by al-Qaeda. As an analyst generally in favor of the opposition concedes:
Continued support for the northwest insurgency amounts to effectively subsidizing a jihadist safe haven in the Levant.
The proxy war against the Syrian regime in the northwest, for the West, is lost.
The head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, agrees. He tells his forces in Syria stop holding land and to revert to guerilla war:
Ayman al-Zawahri told the jihadis, who control Syria's northwestern Idlib province and other territory, to remain steadfast and change tactics in order to wage guerrilla war.
Al-Qaida began fighting alongside Syria's rebels early in the civil war and won allies among the opposition because of its military prowess. Al-Qaida's official branch, the Nusra Front, changed its name to the Fatah al-Sham Front and formally cut ties with al-Qaida last year, but is still widely seen as being linked to the global terror network.
In the south-west Israel is trying to steal another part of the Golan Heights by giving fire support for al-Qaeda groups which fight against the Syrian army in the area.
Attacks by "moderate rebels" in the south, supported by the U.S. and Jordan, have failed to take ground in the city of Deraa. They need to take the city to have some anchor for an "independent" southern "safe zone" from which the U.S. proxies could then threaten Damascus.
Poll: The Democratic Party Is In Deep Trouble
After the presidential election the Democratic Party and its supporting media pushed unreasonable stories of secret Russian support for Trump's election as a main reason for Clinton's loss. The party avoided to discuss the real reasons: an unpopular candidate and its out-of-touch polices.
The diversion attempt failed. That is at least what I read from a just published ABC News/Washington Post poll:
[T]he national survey [...] finds some brighter spots for the president –- chiefly in pushing for jobs and in foreign policy [...]
[The poll] finds no evidence of buyer's remorse among Trump supporters. Among those who report having voted for him in November, 96 percent today say it was the right thing to do; a mere 2 percent regret it.
In March 2014, 48 percent of Americans said the Democratic Party was out of touch with the concerns of most people. Today 67 percent say so. And the biggest change has occurred chiefly among the party's own typical loyalists, with "out of touch" ratings up 33 points among liberals, 30 points among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 26 points among moderates and nonwhites alike.
Among Americans who say they voted in the 2016 election, 46 percent say they voted for Hillary Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, very close to the 2-point margin in the actual popular vote results. However, while Trump would retain almost all of his support if the election were held again today (96 percent), fewer of Clinton's supporters say they’d stick with her (85 percent), producing a 40-43 percent Clinton-Trump result in this hypothetical re-do among self-reported 2016 voters.
The people are not falling for the Democratic Party scam of "Russian interference". They obviously see the fault where it belongs. Unless the party shuns its Clinton/Obama legacy and reengages in voter-oriented politics it is likely to fail again and again.
And no - promoting Chelsea Clinton will not do anything good at all.
Open Thread 2017-16
News & views ...
U.S.: 'No doubt' That Villain-Of-The-Day Has Banned Weapons
Mattis: 'No doubt' Syrian regime has chemical weapons, April 21, 2017
"There can be no doubt in the international community's mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all. There is no longer any doubt," Mattis told reporters.
Full text of Dick Cheney's speech, August 27, 2002
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors ...
“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”
― Edmund Burke
Chlorine, Not Sarin, Was Used In The Khan Sheikhun Incident
Those who blame the Syrian government for the allegedly chemical incident in Khan Sheikhun on April 4 are now playing up the analysis of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). But the results of the OPCW tests are inconsistent with all observed and reported technical and medical facts of the incident.
Yesterday the OPCW Director General Ambassador Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat and former Turkish ambassador to NATO, released the first analytic results of the OPCW investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident:
The bio-medical samples collected from three victims during their autopsy were analysed at two OPCW designated laboratories. The results of the analysis indicate that the victims were exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance. Bio-medical samples from seven individuals undergoing treatment at hospitals were also analysed in two other OPCW designated laboratories. Similarly, the results of these analyses indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.
Director-General Üzümcü stated clearly: “The results of these analyses from four OPCW designated laboratories indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.
"Sarin or Sarin-like substance" is noted three times a row. Sarin is also mentioned in the headline. The OPCW director is pushing that meme - hard.
But the OPCW did not conclude that a chemical attack occurred in Khan Sheikhun. It suggested nothing about the incident itself. It only talked about bio-medical samples of several persons - nothing more, nothing less. It also did not give any hint of how much exposure the persons in question received. Was it a minimal traceable amount that had no effect on them or did they die from it? The OPCW does not say.
The Russian foreign ministry claims that "western" powers within the OPCW block a full-scale investigation of the incident.
The "sarin like substances" the OPCW mentions could be a different chemical weapon than sarin - soman is a possible candidate. It would be more consistent with the "smell" several witnesses described after the incident (Sarin is odorless). Many general insecticides belong to the same class of chemicals as sarin and soman. They are all organophosphorus compounds. (Sarin was originally developed as an insecticide). All of such compounds could be a source of the exposure found by the OPCW. These chemicals degrade within hours or days. A forensic analysis will not find the original substance but only decomposition products of some organophosporus compound. That is the reason why the OPCW result is not fixed on sarin but also mentions "sarin like substances".
Another question is where those samples come from. Who "collected" them? When? Where? And what is the chain of evidence that connects the samples to the incident? The OPCW has not send an investigation team to Khan Sheikhun. No samples were taken in Khan Sheikhun by its own inspectors. While Russia and Syria have asked for OPCW inspections on the ground, Tahrir al-Sham, the renamed al-Qaeda in Syria which controls the Khan Sheikhun area, has not asked for inspectors. Without its agreement any investigation mission is perceived as too dangerous. None of the OPCW inspectors is interested in literally losing his head to those terrorists.
Al-Qaeda propaganda organizations in Khan Sheikhun were the first to claim that sarin was used on the ground. "Western" media and governments later repeated those claims before any further investigations could have been done. The very first claim I found was made by the former British doctor Shajul Islam who works for the terrorists. This video of him of "doctors "and "patients" in an emergence room in Khan Sheikhun is pure theater, taken over a longer time period. The main presenter, Shajul Islam, is a well-known criminal Takfiri with links to the British secret service. He talks of sarin even though the "patients" around him show no signs of sarin effects and the emergency personal in the video is unprotected against potent chemical agents.
A White House assessment later claimed that it had evidence that sarin was used. It used the claim to justify the bombing of the Syrian military airport Al Syairat. But the White House assessment contains no evidence. It includes a number of factually false statements. It claims, for example:
]T]he World Health Organization stated on April 5 that its analysis of victims of the attack in Syria showed the had been exposed to nerve agents
The WHO report from April 5 stated no such thing. It only noted:
Libya - More War And Reconciliation
By Richard Galustian
The West retains it's out of touch Libyan policies when in Luca, Italy last week the G7 'warned and commanded' that the fractious warring Libyan parties 'must' work with the dying UN appointed and recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), situated only in a small naval base in Tripoli and its so called Presidency Council (PC). And further ordered Libyans to work together to fix the economic crisis by recognising that the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) need to only collaborate with the GNA/PC, so out of touch with the real issues on the ground in Libya are the G7 Countries. Their language almost expressed in colonial terms!
Other global interference in Libya continues. Most recently also the GNA and Presidency Council (PC) leader Fayez Serraj was seeing the head, at his HQ in Stuttgart, of the United Stated Africa Command (AFRICOM) General Thomas Waldhauser. I didn't know Stuttgart was in Africa?
Other pronouncements of one kind or another backing the phantom GNA appear almost weekly.
All a waste of time, as UN and EU efforts have proven these past years. As far as Serraj is concerned he is unelected by Libyans but chosen by the foreigners. That’s never going to achieve forward progress for Libya’s future.
The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur - Khan Sheikhun Summary Report by Prof. Postol
Update - April 22: "Correction" link added, Chlorine not Sarin link added
MIT Professor Theodore Postol, a well known missile expert and former scientific advisor to the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, analyzed the available evidence of the alleged April 4 Sarin attack on Khan Sheikhun in Syria. He comes to the conclusion that the White House allegations and its report are false. The White House report was not created or vetted by knowledgeable intelligence analysts. This confirms our own analysis published earlier on Moon of Alabama.
Prof. Postol's summary report: The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur, April 19 (pdf, 18 pages) and a supplementary correction to the summary report regarding the wind direction: IMPORTANT CORRECTION TO The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur, April 21 (pdf, 6 pages).
Previously three preliminary versions of Prof. Postol's analysis were released by him:
- Quick Turnaround Assessment, April 11 (pdf, 14 pgs)
- ADDENDUM to Quick Turnaround ..., April 13 (pdf, 6 pgs)
- Video Evidence ..., April 14 (pdf, 8 pgs)
(See also my assessment of the validity of "sarin" claims based on the early public news and records: Chlorine, Not Sarin, Was Used In The Khan Sheikhun Incident.)
Pic: NOT the site of a Sarin missile impact as claimed by the White House
Prof. Postol sent the following covering letter with his summary report:
The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur - Summary of Findings
This analysis contains a detailed description of the times and locations of critical events in the alleged nerve agent attack of April 4, 2017 in Khan Shaykhun, Syria – assuming that the White House Intelligence Report (WHR) issued on April 11, 2017 correctly identified the alleged sarin release site.
Analysis using weather data from the time of the attack shows that a small hamlet about 300 m to the east southeast of the crater could be the only location affected by the alleged nerve agent release. Video data of suffocating and dead victims lying on the ground shows a different location from the predicted sarin dispersal site if it had been correctly identified by the White House.
The conclusion is that the nerve agent attack described in the White House Intelligence Report did not occur as claimed. There may well have been mass casualties from some kind of poisoning event, but that event was not the one described by the WHR.
The findings of this expanded analysis can serve two important purposes:
1. It shows exactly what needs to be determined in an international investigation of this alleged atrocity.
In particular, if an international investigation can determine where casualties from the nerve agent attack lived, it will confirm that the findings reported by the White House Report are incompatible with its own cited data.
2. It also establishes that the White House Report did not utilize simple and widely agreed upon intelligence analysis procedures to determine its conclusions.
This raises troubling questions about how the US political and military leadership determined that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged attack. It is particularly of concern that the White House Report presented itself as a report with “high confidence” findings and that numerous high-level officials in the US government have confirmed their belief that the report was correct and executed to a standard of high confidence.
Theodore A. Postol
Professor Emeritus of Science,
Technology, and National Security Policy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Trump Enthrones Erdogan - Destroys Trust In U.S. Diplomacy
Trump contradicted his speaker, the State Department and his allies by congratulating the Turkish President Erdogan for winning Sunday's referendum vote. He undermined his diplomacy.
Sundays referendum in Turkey makes the presidential office a quasi dictatorial position that leads the executive and can, via decrees, also overrule the legislative and judiciary elements of the state. President Erdogan is now in a dictatorial position. It maybe that a majority of the Turkish voters voted for this change but it is far from certain. The number of votes in doubt because they were not taken in accordance with the legal procedures (2-3 million) is higher than slight majority lead (1.5 million) for the "yes" side.
Official international election observers noted (pdf) that the vote was neither free nor fair. The Turkish state is under emergency rules which give the president (temporarily) extraordinary powers. The vote happened after an extreme hunt against anyone that could have endangered Erdogan's position. He jailed opposition politicians and civil servants, forbade some political groups and closed down opposition media. All state institutions were used in support for Erdogan's side. If he could only win by 1.5 million votes in a 80 million strong society after this extreme anti-opposition campaign how many Turks would really have agreed with him on more leveled grounds?
Twenty years ago, when he was mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan said in a Milliyet interview: "Democracy is like a tram ride: when you reach your stop, you get off". On Sunday Erdogan stepped off the tram.
Turkey is now a Tyranny of the Majority. There are no longer any institutional constrains to remove any minority group from the political scene or maybe even from the physical world. Turkey as we knew it is no more.
EU members refrained from accepting the vote before the ongoing legal fight over it is decided. Only Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf and Central Asian dictatorships congratulated him. The terrorist group Ahrar al Sham, which fights the people and government of Syria, also congratulated Erdogan. Al-Qaeda in Syria, under its new alliance name HTS, joined in as well as other Takfiri groups in Syria.
Like the EU countries the U.S. State Department held out on congratulations. It only released a statement that noted reports of voting "irregularities" and an "uneven playing field". It voiced support for inner-Turkish dialog and legal processes. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the U.S. administration would wait until the final report by the international observers mission was released.
The State Department and the spokesman were quickly undermined by President Trump. Only an hour later the Turkish side reported of a Trump-Erdogan telephone conversation:
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to congratulate him on the referendum victory.
The two leaders had a "pleasant" call which lasted for 45 minutes, diplomatic sources said.
This was later confirmed by a White House readout of the call. (The readout is not yet on the White House website but was sent out to the press via email).
The published content of the call does not bode well for Turkey, Syria and Iraq (emphasis added):
“President Trump and President Erdogan also discussed the counter-ISIS campaign and the need to cooperate against all groups that use terrorism to achieve their ends,” the White House statement said.
The Turkish version of the readout was worse:
The two leaders also discussed an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government on April 4 that killed approximately 100 civilians and injured 500 others in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.
Trump and Erdoğan agreed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the attack.
The U.S. president also thanked Turkey for its support for U.S. missile strikes on the Shayrat air base on April 7 in retaliation for the chemical attack.
Both leaders also stressed the need for cooperation in the fight against terror groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The Khan Sheikhun incident was likely a "false flag" attack initiated by the terrorists on the ground -possibly with Turkish support. The proven number of casualties was far less than the statement claims. The only purpose of the following U.S. missile strikes was to dispel allegations that Trump is in cahoots with Russia.
A question now is who the two countries regard as terrorist groups. The mostly Shia Hizbullah fighting on the Syrian government side is seen as such by both even while it holds parliament positions in Lebanon. While the U.S. agreed to UN Security Council resolutions designating al-Qaeda in Syria as a terrorist group that must be "eradicated", Erdogan is sponsoring and supporting the group. The U.S. is allying with parts of the Kurdish YPK/PKK groups in Syria while Turkey has designated those as terrorist entities. Does the "against all groups that use terrorism" formulation include the Iraqi militia in Syria? Does it include Iran?
What is most concerning is the fact that a 45 minute call is extremely long for such an occasion. We can be sure that plans were made in it that have not yet been published. It is likely that a new, higher level of war against Syrian (and Iran) was agreed upon. Besides the battlefields of Syria there is Turkish military interference in Iraq. Were common plans made for that country too?
Still one wonders why Trump would undermine his speaker, his State Department and his European allies by contradicting their statements and positions with his Erdogan call. A precedent was set. Foreign countries can no longer rely on official U.S. administration statements unless Trump personally voices his agreement with them. (Which he may then retract and reverse on a moments notice.) The basis of diplomacy is a certain level of trust in reliability - words and standing by those words matter. The diplomatic standing of the United States was severely damaged by this unprecedented move.
The reversal of the original position of the Trump administration is extreme. From a realist standpoint a much more neutral position towards Erdogan's shenanigans, as shown by the State Department, would be advisable.
Why did Trump reverse it? Has this five year old tweet something to do with it?
Ivanka Trump @IvankaTrump
Thank you Prime Minister Erdogan for joining us yesterday to celebrate the launch of #TrumpTowers Istanbul!
1:56 PM - 20 Apr 2012
The wannbe Sultan of a new Ottoman Reich, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, let his people vote in a referendum about new extensive powers for his office.
Erdogan is the Turkish president since 2014. He has since continuously broken the constitution by wheeling partisan powers way beyond the neutral, only formally executive role the office of the president is supposed to have.
Yesterday's "yes"/"no" vote was allegedly won by the "yes" side with 51.4% of the votes. This even though the "no" vote won in all major cities. In Turkey the vote in the major cities usually reflects the total. The campaign for the vote was very unfair with all state media and offices pushing for a "yes". Opposition politicians were put to jail or threatened with retribution. Media opposing Erdogan were suppressed or completely closed down.
There is significant reasons to believe that the vote count was fraudulently manipulated. On the day of the vote the election commission, stuffed with Erdogan cronies, suddenly allowed ballots without the official stamp to be counted. According to Turkish election laws each ballot, and each envelope of a postal vote, needs to be officially stamped before voting starts. This is supposed to prevent ballot stuffing with ballots printed outside of the official channels. The election commission has given no reason yet why it thought that such a last minute rule change, in opposition to the law, was necessary or even legal. Use of unstamped ballots was reported out of many election localities in rural areas where the "yes" votes now were the majority. Additionally video was recorded of local election workers stamping ballots after they had been used for voting.
The opposition is protesting and will go to court. But it will likely have little success. Erdogan has removed all judges and other legal personal that could go against him. An amateurish coup attempt against him, which he knew about before it happened, was used by him to clean all public offices of people not aligned with his party and program.
The new powers of the presidency will only come into force after the next election for the presidency. But everyone expects that Erdogan will use them right away. With the issue of the referendum put aside Erdogan is now free to escalate interior and exterior conflicts. We can expect new Turkish operations in Syria as well as in Iraq to be launched soon.
In the 1990s I extensively traveled in Turkey - alone, by local buses and mostly in the east. The country was waking up and in an intellectual and commercial growing phase. During the last years a new wave of conservatism has stopped that move. My friends there report of stagnation.
Turkey does not have the economic and intellectual power to become a new Ottoman Reich. It will fail in new expansive endeavors. But the attempt alone will be destructive for Turkey as well as for the countries around it.
Turkey is no longer a democracy. It is now a one man dictatorship with an expansive and distinct Islamist agenda. To change that, should the Turkish people be inclined so, will require the removal of Erdogan through some act of force.
White House Garden Caption Context
Al-Qaeda Suicide Attack Kills 100+ Children, Women - Whodunit?
Updated below, April 17, 3:00am
Max Abrahms @MaxAbrahms - 2:07 PM - 16 Apr 2017
After reading dozens of stories about the Shia massacre yesterday in Syria I've come to the conclusion it was perpetrator-less.
The War Nerd @TheWarNerd - 11:53 AM - 16 Apr 2017
We find that "at least 112" Shia refugees were killed. By whom? Oh, it's a real whodunit according to Reuters... link
Two smaller cities in the northern "rebel"-controlled Idleb governate, Al Foa and Kafriya, have been under "rebel" siege for over two years. Local government aligned forces are defending them. The civilian inhabitants are of Shia believe and seen by the sectarian Sunni "rebels" as unbelievers only worthy of death. The cities are supplied by airdrops from government helicopters. Meanwhile two "rebel" controlled cities near Damascus, Zabadani and Madaya, in the south are held under siege by government forces. They are sparsely supplied by UN and Red Cross convoys. Over the years a tit-for-tat of revenge acts bound the fate of the four cities. In total some 20-30,000 people are effected. A wide ranging agreement was needed to solve the unsustainable situation.
In December an agreement had allowed for the exchange of wounded civilians. When buses were on their way to evacuated elderly and wounded from the two northern cities they were torched by some rebel group. New buses had to be send but in the end the exchange worked out.
Last week a new agreement had been reached about a complete population exchange of the cities. All inhabitants of the northern cities were to be brought to government held areas. All inhabitants of the southern cities to the "rebel" held areas. Iran, speaking for the Syrian government, and Qatar, a financer of the radical "rebels", negotiated the deal. There are many other issues involved in the deal including Qatari hostages held by Shia groups in Iraq, very large payment from Qatar to "rebel" groups (al-Qaeda) and some non-disclosed items.
"Rebel" groups in Idelb government are either aligned with al-Qaeda in Syria or with the Qatari sponsored Ahrar al Sham. Ahrar al-Sahm is the group responsible for the execution of the negotiated population exchange. Parts of al-Qaeda have publicly disagreed with the deal.
Yesterday some 5,000 inhabitants of the northern cities, mainly women and children, were brought by bus convoy to the government held city of Aleppo but were stopped while still in the "rebel" controlled area. Inhabitants from the southern city had been brought up to Aleppo and were kept under government guard. Some additional negotiations about a minor issue were going on.
The civilians in their buses, mostly elderly, women and children, were guarded by "rebels" of Ahrar al Sham. They were hungry. Someone appeared on the scene and distributed crisps. When children flocked around the food distribution a blue car drove up and a very large explosion occurred. Four buses full of people and a number of cars were totally destroyed (Pics: 1, 2, 3)
Ostara, Ishtar And A Happy Easter Walk
Easter echoes the eons old human festivity to celebrate the March exquinox (in the northern hemisphere) and the arrival of spring. The dark and cold days of winter are gone. The bright time of fertility has come.
Today's fertility symbols of Easter, the egg and the hare, relate to the old Germanic fertility goddess Eostre (Ostara). Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess of love, stepped down into the underworld of death but was revived. The Christian resurrection of Jesus is probably a transformation of this older hopeful tale.
When the Christian message spread from its eastern Mediterranean origin its incorporation of old local gods and fables helped to convert the multi-theistic societies to the new monotheistic* believe. The gods of the pre-Christian religions were not completely discarded but their tales transformed to support the new united message the Christian preachers were spreading.
But whatever. - It is spring, the darkness vanishes and it is my favored holiday. This year the Julian and Gregorian calendars coincide. We thus follow the Russian Barbarians and wish us all
Faberge egg with spring flowers and music box- bigger
Please join me, v. Goethe and Dr. Faust in our traditional Easter Walk:
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.
How it hums o'er the fields and clangs from the steeple!
This is the real heaven of the people,
Both great and little are merry and gay,
I am a man, too, I can be, to-day.
*The Christian Trinity, the three aspects of the one God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a doctrinaire addition of the 4th century. It just adds an explanatory layer on top of the Abrahamic core of the monotheistic Christian message.
Open Thread 2017-15
News & views ...
Why North Korea Needs Nukes - And How To End That
the U.S. may
or may not
kill a number of North Koreans
for this or that
or no reason
but call North Korea
'the volatile and unpredictable regime'
Now consider what the U.S. media don't tell you about Korea:
BEIJING, March 8 (Xinhua) -- China proposed "double suspension" to defuse the looming crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday.
"As a first step, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) may suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the suspension of large-scale U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) military exercises," Wang told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress.
Wang said the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is mainly between the DPRK and the United States, but China, as a next-door neighbor with a lips-and-teeth relationship with the Peninsula, is indispensable to the resolution of the issue.
FM Wang, 'the lips', undoubtedly transmitted an authorized message from North Korea: "The offer is (still) on the table and China supports it."
North Korea has made the very same offer in January 2015. The Obama administration rejected it. North Korea repeated the offer in April 2016 and the Obama administration rejected it again. This March the Chinese government conveyed and supported the long-standing North Korean offer. The U.S. government, now under the Trump administration, immediately rejected it again. The offer, made and rejected three years in a row, is sensible. Its rejection only led to a bigger nuclear arsenal and to more missiles with longer reach that will eventually be able to reach the United States.
North Korea is understandably nervous each and every time the U.S. and South Korea launch their very large yearly maneuvers and openly train for invading North Korea and for killing its government and people. The maneuvers have large negative impacts on North Korea's economy.
North Korea justifies its nuclear program as the economically optimal way to respond to these maneuvers.
Big Bangs Can Not End The War On Afghanistan - Admitting Defeat Will
5667 days after the beginning of the war between the mightiest military of the world and local Afghan farmers, Pentagon reporters were excited to report:
Lara Seligman @laraseligman
BREAKING: US drops largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan - GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast
The U.S. generals demand, as they always do, more troops to "break the stalemate". But there is no stalemate. The Afghan farmers are winning. The Taliban control more areas now than they ever controlled since 2002.
Dropping 22,000 lbs of high explosives on some shack will not change that trend.
GBU-43 prototype via Wikipedia
(Though it will drown the news that the U.S. military just bombed and killed 18 of its Kurdish proxy forces in Syria.)
So what can the U.S. do in Afghanistan but blaming Russia and Iran on dubious grounds. Those countries -like China and other nearby countries- see the obviously coming U.S. retreat and talk with the Taliban to prepare for it.
The U.S. will have to and will leave and acknowledge that it joins the long lists of empires which tried to conquer Afghanistan and were defeated.
The White House "Intelligence Assessment" Is No-Such-Thing - It Shows Support for Al-Qaeda
UPDATED at the end of the post
The Trump White House published three and a half pages of accusations against the governments of Syria and Russia. These are simple white pages with no header or footer, no date, no classification or declassification marks, no issuing agency and no signatures. It is indiscernible who has written them.
U.S. media call this a Declassified U.S. Report on Chemical Weapons Attack. It is no such thing.
It starts with "The United States is confident that the Syrian government conducted a chemical weapon attack, ..."
The U.S. (who exactly is that?) "is confident", it does not "know", it does not have "proof" - it is just "confident".
The whole paper contains only seven paragraphs that are allegedly a "Summary of the U.S. intelligence community assessment" on the issue. The seven paragraphs are followed by eight(!) paragraphs that try to refute the Russian and Syrian statements on the issue. Some political fluff makes up the sorry rest.
That "intelligence community assessment" chapter title is likely already a false claim. Even a fast tracked, preliminary National Intelligence Assessment, for which all seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies must be heard, takes at least two to three weeks to create. A "long track" full assessment takes two month or more. These are official documents issued by the Director of National Intelligence. The summary assessment the White House releases has no such heritage. It is likely a well massaged fast write up of some flunky in the National Security Council. The release was backgrounded by dubious statements of an anonymous "Senior Administration Officials" (not by "Intelligence Officials" as has been the case on other such issues.)
The claimed assessment starts with definitely wrong or at least very misleading point: "We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in Hama province that threatened key infrastructure."
The Hama offensive had failed two weeks ago. Since then the Syrian army has regained all areas the al-Qaeda "opposition" had captured during the first few days. (Al-Qaeda in Syria renamed itself several times and now calls itself "Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham".) Key infrastructure had never been seriously threatened by it. Over 2,000 al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the endeavor.
Peto Lucem, a well known and reliable media source for accurate maps of the war on Syria, posted on March 31, four days before the chemical incident:
Peto Lucem @PetoLucem
NEW MAP: "Rebel" frontline in #Hama is collapsing, #SAA reverses most #AlQaeda gains made in first days of their failed offensive. #Syria
The attack in Hama had already failed days before the chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun happened. Khan Shaykhun is not on the front line. The incident and the failed al-Qaeda attack in Hama can not possibly be related. It makes no sense at all to launch a militarily useless incident in a place far away "in response" to a defeat of the enemy elsewhere - this in a moment where the global political and military situation had turned in favor of the Syrian government. (The Defense Intelligence Agency surely never signed off on such an illogical claim.)
The following paragraphs of the released paper reveal that the assessment is largely based on a "significant body" of "open source reporting" which "indicates" this or that. This means that the White House relied on pictures and videos posted by people who are allowed to operate freely in the al-Qaeda ruled Khan Shaykhun. (Khan Shaikhun had been in the hands of an Islamic State associated group Liwa Al-Aqsa until mid February. The group moved out after fighting al-Qaeda and after slaughtering some 150 of its fighters. Al-Qaeda since moved in and now rules the town and surrounding areas.)
Several of the released video were introduced and commented by Dr. Shajul Islam who has been removed from the British medical registry and had been indicted in the UK for his role in kidnapping "western" journalists in Syria. He fled back to Syria. One of the journalists kidnapped with the help of Dr. Shajul Islam, James Foley, was later murdered on camera by the Islamic State. The videos the "doctor" distributed of "rescue" of casualties of the chemical incidents were not of real emergencies but staged. Under who's conditions and directions where the many other pictures and videos taken and published? Why are no female children or young women among the emergency patients and casualties? Why is there no picture or video of where the people were hit by gas and were found? All videos are from "aid stations", none from "the wild".
Is There A New U.S. Syria Policy? Is There One At All?
What does the U.S. administration want with regards to Syria?
The elements were clear just a few days ago. The U.S. would split off the east and set up a Kurdish enclave which it would then occupy with the help of proxy forces. It would use the leverage to push for political regime change in western Syria. Israel would occupy another piece of the Golan.
While that looked somewhat favorable for the U.S. in the short term it was bad long term strategy. U.S. forces in the east would be surrounded by hostiles, cut off from the sea and under permanent guerilla attack from various opposing forces. But it looked at least like a viable short term way forward.
The new strategy, which may not be one at all, and the new U.S. commitment is all over the place:
As various officials have described it, the United States will intervene only when chemical weapons are used — or any time innocents are killed. It will push for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — or pursue that only after defeating the Islamic State. America’s national interest in Syria is to fight terrorism. Or to ease the humanitarian crisis there. Or to restore stability.
I don't get it. The cacophony of the last days does not make any sense. There is no viable endgame I see here that would be advantageous for Trump or general U.S. borg policy - neither internationally nor domestically - neither short term nor long term. Trump is now losing the "America First" followers he will need to win another election.
Due to the anti-Russian panic Trump surrendered to the neocons. Suddenly the borg is lauding him for a senseless escalation. The neocons want chaos but chaos is not a plan. There seems to be no plan that will help any cause.
There is no chance that the U.S. can split Syria from its allies, Hizbullah, Iran and Russia. While Russia is under pressure in Kaliningrad, Crimea and Syria it has lived through way worse situation and these have always increased its determination. I don't see how or why it would fold now.
Trump had an intelligent strategy when he won against Clinton. He deftly use his advantages. There are few advantages that he has and can play with regards to Middle East policy. Use pure military force? That's not a strategy, just tactical game play. Though the generals who run his cabinet may not be capable to see that. If he destroys Syrian then Lebanon and Jordan will also fall to radicals. Other countries will follow. Iraq would again throw out all U.S. troops. Would the U.S., or Israel, want that? Why?
Whatever one might say about Trump, he is not stupid. He must have some kind of plan.
Help me out. What are his thoughts behind this. Or are there really none at all.