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January 18, 2018

Syria - Tillerson Announces Occupation Goals - Erdogan Makes Empty Threats

For a few days now Turkey has threatened to invade Afrin (Efrin), a Kurdish held canton in the north-west of Syria.


Afrin (topographic) bigger
yellow - Kurdish control, grey - Turks, red - Syrian government, green - al-Qaeda

The threat is not serious:

  • Afrin is mostly mountainous.
  • Pictures from Turkey showed (scroll down) the unloading of some tanks near to Afrin but within Turkey. These were old M-60 tanks. They have been slightly upgraded by Israel but can be knocked out by modern Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) and certainly by Anti Tank Guided Missiles. (ATMG). These tanks would get slaughtered should they enter the tricky Afrin terrain.
  • There are several tens of thousands of Kurdish fighters in Afrin. They are well armed.
  • Afrin is under formal protection of Russian and Syrian forces.
  • The real danger to Turkey is not Afrin but the much larger Kurdish protectorate the U.S. publicly announced in north-east Syria.

The Turkish threats and its artillery noise have led to counter noise from Syria and more silent advice from Russia.  The Syrian government wants to show that it is the protector of all Syrian citizens be they ethnic Arabs or Kurds. Russia is proud of its role as the grown up who is calming down all sides.

The two real issues the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan has are:

  • the upcoming meeting of Syrian opposition and government parties in Sochi and
  • the U.S. backing of the PKK/YPG terrorists in north-east Syria.

Russia wanted to invite several Kurdish parties, including the YPG, to the big meeting in Sochi. Turkey rejects any official inclusions of Kurds as a distinct constituency. Russia will fudge the issue by inviting certain personalities of Kurdish ethnic who will take part in their 'private capacities'.

The second issue only came up again because of military bombast at CentCom and some uncoordinated and unsound U.S.  policy:

On Sunday, the U.S.-led military coalition battling Islamic State issued a statement trumpeting the creation of the 30,000-strong “Border Security Force.” But the announcement, which triggered Turkish denunciations, caught officials in Washington off guard. On Wednesday, U.S. officials said the coalition’s declaration was misguided—and the Pentagon issued a statement trying to calm Turkish fears.

“This is not a new ‘army’ or conventional ‘border guard’ force,” the Pentagon statement said.

This was not the first time the Central Command in the Middle East acted in a overtly hawkish and bombastic way without considering the wider strategic impact. Turkey is a  NATO member and to announce the installation of a terrorist force to guard a NATO border from the outside is just nuts. For years now the Pentagon has given way too much leash to CentCom and needs to tighten control over it.

The "border guard" force has now been renamed an internal security force which will also make sure that none of the ISIS fighters in the area, which Washington diligently keeps alive in the Syrian east, will escape across the border to  evade their next assignments.

Yesterday Secretary of State Tillerson announced the official "new" U.S. position on Syria. It is essentially a recap of the position the Obama administration had long held and does not make any more sense:

Speaking in a major Syria-policy address hosted at Stanford University by the Hoover Institution, Tillerson listed vanquishing al-Qaeda, ousting Iran and securing a peace settlement that excludes President Bashar al-Assad as among the goals of a continued presence in Syria of about 2,000 American troops currently deployed in a Kurdish-controlled corner of northeastern Syria.

(The real number of U.S. troops in Syria is around 5,000 soldiers plus an equal number of 'contractors'.)

Other listeners detected even wider ambitions :

The United States has five key goals in Syria, Mr. Tillerson said. They are: ensuring that the Islamic State and Al Qaeda never re-emerge; supporting the United Nations-led political process; diminishing Iran’s influence; making sure the country is free of weapons of mass destruction; and helping refugees to return after years of civil war.

These goals are mutually exclusive. Nothing will happen in the UN process in Geneva as long as anyone insists in removing the Syrian President Assad. Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria are a consequence of U.S. action and (covered) presence in the country. Iran currently has little presence and limited influence in Syria. It would only increase again  should the U.S. try to militarily attack the Syrian government. Refugees will not return as long as the U.S. threatens to again widen the war.

I have yet to read one analyst who believes that the U.S. administration can achieve any of the wishes it announced. It is a hapless policy of "doing something" which will fail when resistance on the ground will ramp up and the political costs of the occupation will become apparent. The YPG Kurds in the north-east, who agreed to their occupation, will be the ones who will have to to bear the wrath. All other parties involved in Syria will hold them responsible.

For now the new announcement and its botched presentation only helped Erdogan to again play to his crowd. None of this will be of much consequence.

Posted by b at 10:19 AM | Comments (115)

January 16, 2018

Open Thread 2018-03

The post I worked on today is unsatisfying.

I'll leave you with your own news & views ...

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (152)

January 15, 2018

Syria - U.S. Traps Itself , Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement

The Trump administration policy in Syria is finally coming into daylight. It has decided to permanently separate north-east of Syria from the rest of Syria with the rather comical idea that this will keep Iranian influence out of Syria and give the U.S. a voice in a final Syrian settlement. This move lacks strategical foresight:

The U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State is currently training a force to maintain security along the Syrian border as the operation against ISIS shifts focus. The 30,000-strong force will be partly composed of veteran fighters and operate under the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces, CJTF-OIR told The Defense Post.
...
“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale said.
...
Veale acknowledged that more Kurds will serve in the areas of northern Syria, while more Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq.

The SDF and the Kurds are under control of the PKK/YPK, a terrorist organization that is nearly daily fighting and killing Turkish forces within Turkey. The Arabs which ostensibly shall seal the area off from the rest of Syria are most likely tribal forces that were earlier aligned with the Islamic State.

The Turks were not consulted before the U.S. move and are of course not amused that a "terrorist gang", trained and armed by the U.S., will control a long stretch of their southern border. Any Turkish government would have to take harsh measures to prevent such a strategic threat to the country:

Cont. reading: Syria - U.S. Traps Itself , Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (144)

January 14, 2018

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2018-02

What was behind the false missile attack alarm in Hawaii yesterday. Poynter has some context:

One of the big stories in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Saturday morning was that military "brass" updated island officials on how the military would respond to a nuclear attack from North Korea. Military authorities warned there was a "real" threat.

At 8:07 a.m. Saturday, Hawaiian residents saw a terrifying alert message on their phones.

It took 38 minutes to correct the "mistake". A missile from North Korea would take 32-35 minutes from launch to impact in Hawaii.

But of interest is the newspaper report hyping the "threat" followed by the false alarm. Coincidence? And the "leaking" of the Draft Nuclear Posture Review this week, in which the military demands hundreds of new "small" nuclear weapons to fight North Korea and Russia, is also just a coincidence? Or is all of this part of a public relation campaign designed to increase the acceptance of new nuclear weapons and "limited" nuclear warfare? A preparation for war on North Korea? (Related: Deconstructing the North Korean ‘Threat’ and Identifying America’s Strategic Alternatives (pdf))

Anyway - here are the Moon of Alabama posts of the last week.

Jan 8 - How Mainstream Media Lose Their Reputation - #Fakenews On Iran And Egypt

Jan 9 - Afghanistan - U.S. Special Forces Commit Drive-By Murder (Video)

The reaction to this scoop was quite interesting:

I was criticized for using the word "murder" in the headline even though it is not clear what happened after the gunshot at the truck driver. Well, it is a headline and such have a certain purpose. How do we know this incident did not end deadly? Shooting the driver of a 15 ton truck which is rolling at a decent speed is at least accepting the risk of a deadly accident or even the attempt to cause one. What would a prosecutor accuse the culprit of if such had happened on a U.S. highway?

Only on Friday, after other mainstream media had published about it, did the NYT come out with a piece on the issue. It made several wrong or misleading points. I asked if it was plagiarized from my content as it used several sources that had vanished shortly after I published on January 9. I was told that the NYT had the material since late December but that the piece was held back for unknown reasons. Holding back stuff that lets the U.S.  military or the government look bad seems to be standing NY Times policy.

My tweet announcing my above piece was censored in Germany after someone had contacted Twitter and alleged that its content was illegal. This is a consequence of new law the lunatic social-democratic justice minister Maas had pressed for. Twitter would risk a high fine in Germany if it would not block allegedly illegal stuff. The law is a perfect tool for trolls to suppress any author or content they dislike. (It is also obviously unconstitutional and will soon be discarded by the relevant courts.)

Jan 10 - Syria - Army Gains In Idleb - Insurgents To Challenge Foreign Occupiers

Jan 11 - Syria - Erdogan (Again) Switches Sides - Delivers New Supplies For Terrorist Attacks

Jan 13 - Syria - Volume of Al-Qaeda Propaganda Forecasts Syrian Army Success

Two important Syria pieces by William Van Wagenen had earlier escaped my attention. Both take a long term view back and are well founded, quoting from a large number of media reports. They are:

These are excellent reference pieces one should recommend to people who were deceived on Syria or have not followed the issue at all. Both are recommended readings.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

 

Posted by b at 11:02 AM | Comments (110)

January 13, 2018

Syria - Volume of Al-Qaeda Propaganda Forecasts Syrian Army Success

The success of the current Syrian government operations against al-Qaeda in Idleb governorate can be measured by the volume of U.S. propaganda against it. A similar situation occurred when Aleppo was liberated from al-Qaeda's control. Certain U.S. media, (non-)government-organizations and politicians obviously prefer Takfiri al-Qaeda rule in Syria over control by the legitimated secular government.

According to the various streams of such propaganda Idleb is crowded with hospitals, bakeries and little children who all get "barrel bombed" by the nefarious Iranians and Russians while no Takfiri militant can ever be seen.

Amnesty International, which famously begged "NATO: KEEP THE PROGRESS GOING" in Afghanistan, is again on the forefront:

Amnesty International‏ @amnesty - 3:41 PM - 12 Jan 2018
We’re outraged by the attacks on civilians in #Idlib governorate which hosts thousands of internally displaced people from across #Syria. They now have nowhere else to flee to anymore.

The tweet is decorated with a picture of al-Qaeda's first aid mercenaries, the White Helmets, who are paid by the British and other governments and receive propaganda cover from British media.

The overpaid (more than $450,000 pa) eternal leader of Human Rights Watch, Ken Roth chips in:

Kenneth Roth @KenRoth - 11:47 PM - 12 Jan 2018
Putin-Assad fooled Great Negotiator Trump into believing Syrian "de-escalation zone" would mean a halt in attacks on civilians rather than just a lull to regroup.

Roth links to a Washington Post editorial which finds that fighting al-Qaeda in Idleb is not in the interest of the United States:

Cont. reading: Syria - Volume of Al-Qaeda Propaganda Forecasts Syrian Army Success

Posted by b at 10:47 AM | Comments (91)

January 11, 2018

Syria - Erdogan (Again) Switches Sides - Delivers New Supplies For Terrorist Attacks

Turkey, in line with U.S. services, decided to block the current Syrian advance in south-east Idleb. Yesterday an ad-hoc alliance of jihadi "rebels" launched a counteroffensive to stop the Syrian army from cutting off a big chunk of "rebel" held territory in east-Idleb.

The Syrian army attack

bigger

---
The area of the "rebel" counterattack (green)

bigger

The Turkish and U.S. supplied "rebels" (see below) made a few local advances capturing some 12 villages of the 150 villages the Syrian army had recently liberated. They were soon beaten back. Some 50 Ahrar al-Sham fighters were killed or wounded after they ran into a trap. Some 10 Syrian soldiers have been captured by the enemy. Syrian and Russian air support is very active in the area and the Syrian army is again moving forward.

There is no mention or picture (yet) of al-Qaeda in Syria, currently labeled HTS, taking part in the "rebel" counterattack. Four days ago HTS published photos of its leader Joulini meeting with his military commanders to assess the situation. It looked bad for them. The squabble with other "rebels" increased. Two days ago Jouliani issued a statement that HTS would stop fighting other factions in Idleb to enable all to confront the advancing Syrian government forces. It seems that this was a condition for the renewed Turkish/U.S. support.

The counteroffensive could only proceed because Turkey (again) delivered hundreds of tons of weapons to the jihadis. New supplies of TOW anti-tank missiles, distributed exclusively by the CIA, have also been seen. (Turkey is also again supplying jihadists in Libya. The Greek navy just caught a ship going from Turkey to Libya with 29 containers full of bomb precursors, detonators and other bomb making parts.)

Here are some relevant tweets from the last few hours:

Cont. reading: Syria - Erdogan (Again) Switches Sides - Delivers New Supplies For Terrorist Attacks

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (154)

January 10, 2018

Syria - Army Gains In Idleb - Insurgents To Challenge Foreign Occupiers

While the U.S. seems to have given up on regime change in Syria it is still trying to sabotage the progress of the Syrian government and its allies.

The recent drone attack on the Russian base Khmeimim in Latakia is just one example. Thirteen sophisticated armed drones with a reach of some 100 kilometers attacked the base at the same time as a U.S. electronic warfare plane was circling off the Syrian coast. The attack was unsuccessful. Russia has sophisticated electronic warfare means and hijacked the command over six of the drones. The other seven were taken down by Russian air defenses.

To claim, as the U.S. does, that ISIS or some "rebels" did this is nonsense. ISIS has made short range weaponized drones flown by remote control in line of sight mode. This attack was by autonomous drones using GPS and barometric sensors to find their way to their targets. This is qualitatively on a whole new level. I doubt that Russia will let this go unanswered. Look out for some "mishap" that may soon hit some U.S. troops or interests abroad.

Three significant military operations took place over the last few weeks.


bigger

Cont. reading: Syria - Army Gains In Idleb - Insurgents To Challenge Foreign Occupiers

Posted by b at 08:48 AM | Comments (77)

January 09, 2018

Afghanistan - U.S. Special Forces Commit Drive-By Murder (Video)

Updated below
---

A recent video mashup provided by some U.S. Special Force soldiers in Afghanistan seems to show evidence of a warcrime.

A military truck passes a civilian truck on a paved road at normal traveling speed. A soldier fires directly and intentionally at the driver of the civilian truck without any discernible reason.

This is the relevant two second long cut (repeated 5 times) from a private video mix of scenes taken during the last few months in Afghanistan.

The whole video is 3:09 minutes long and mostly a mashup of juvenile behaving soldiers wasting lots of ammunition on invisible entities in the Afghan landscape. The scene above is from 19 to 21 seconds into the video. Detailed screenshots are below. The whole clip was available on Youtube on January 7. The account which originally posted it and the original video have since been deleted.

Cont. reading: Afghanistan - U.S. Special Forces Commit Drive-By Murder (Video)

Posted by b at 06:58 AM | Comments (96)

January 08, 2018

How Mainstream Media Lose Their Reputation - #Fakenews On Iran And Egypt

The "western" media like to rant against fake news. But they are indeed the biggest provider of such.

Yesterday the British news agency Reuters claimed: Iran bans English in primary schools after leader's warning

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has banned the teaching of English in primary schools, a senior education official said, after the country’s Supreme Leader said early learning of the language opened the way to a Western “cultural invasion”.

Kamenei indeed has made such a remark, early learning of a foreign language opens the people to influence through that language. That conclusion is not particular controversial. But has Iran really banned the teaching of English in primary schools? Why would any non-English country teach English in primary school in the first place? And why would especially Iran do so?

Ali Ahmadi, an Iranian analyst, asked the same question:

Who in Iran studied English in primary schools? Nat curriculum calls for English to be taught from 7th grade to graduation.

The British-Iranian journalist Sanam Shantyaei offers her personal experience:

I was in Iran until 5th grade, and I don’t recall being taught neither Arabic nor English (though that’s a long long time ago.) I picked up a little in private tutorials: “the elegant is big. The ant is little.”

Ahmadi confirms:

Yes 7th grade is the norm. They don't even start teaching Arabic usually until 6th grade - except for a little in context of religion classes.

So, according to Reuters, Iran "banned" something from its school curriculum that was not and is not in there. The Reuters piece quotes an Iranian official who does not confirm what Reuters alleges:

“Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the state-run High Education Council, told state television late on Saturday.

The official only confirms that the official curriculum is binding. As English language is not in the official primary school curriculum it can not be taught as part of that curriculum. It is banal statement: "Yes, the relevant regulations apply as the always have applied." How Reuters can construe that into a new "ban" is beyond me.

But as most readers will only skim the headlines and probably the first sentence of such pieces the British agency will have achieved the intended anti-Iranian propaganda effect.

Another piece of fake news is a recent New York Times report about an alleged Egyptian acceptance of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. It is based on some mysterious tapes in which an alleged Egyptian government intelligence agent tells TV moderators what they are supposed to say about Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The story is headlined: Tapes Reveal Egyptian Leaders’ Tacit Acceptance of Jerusalem Move

Cont. reading: How Mainstream Media Lose Their Reputation - #Fakenews On Iran And Egypt

Posted by b at 07:36 AM | Comments (53)

January 07, 2018

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2018-01

We covered the protests in Iran and the foreign attempts to hijack them for their purpose.

Dec 29 - Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests

Dec 31 - Iran - Early U.S. Support For Rioters Hints At A Larger Plan

Jan 2 - Iran - Few Protests - Some Riots - U.S. Prepares The Next Phase

Jan 4 - Iran - Europe Rejects U.S. Drive To War

Protests against the fallout of neoliberal policies by the Rouhani government are surely justified. Even Supreme Leader Khamenei supports them. But in late December people chanting "regime change" slogans started to take part. They were obviously pushed from abroad by the MEK, the monarchist and other CIA front groups. The situation changed. Directed through Telegram channels, groups of young rioters tried to take over police stations and to gain access to weapons. The Iranian people saw the dangers therein and did not support such behavior. The original protesters disappeared, their important voice was no longer heard. But for lack of local backing the riots soon died down.

The riots exposed the anti-Iran propagandists and imperial dreamers who believe that there is some significant internal movement in Iran against the Islamic Republic. But a few ten-thousand total protesters are absolutely insignificant when they have no backing from the masses. Still, the U.S. tried to use the riots to expand sanctions against Iran. It was slapped down when it brought the issue up at the UN Security Council.

Jan 1 - NYT Writes Epic Cover For Comey's FBI - Its Sole Source: "Officials Said"

The full Clinton conspiracy against Trump, which was supported by the intelligence services,  has not yet been exposed. But bit by bit more details are coming out. The main stream media are heavily invested in the anti-Trump/anti-Russia narrative and therefore continue to throw smoke bombs.

Jan 6 - Trump Offloads Foreign Policy Problems - Lets EU Grow A Spine

Results of Trump's foreign policy seem to be consistent with his generally isolationist views. Is he playing more clever than it seems?

Upcoming:

  • An update on the military situation in Syria. The Syrian army continues to make significant progress despite the efforts by the U.S., Israel and Turkey to each strengthen their particular variant of Jihadist "rebels".
  • The simmering water war between Egypt and Ethiopia. The issue is existential for both sides. They and their respective allies are currently positioning their troops. There is a high chance that the conflict will suddenly explode.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:54 AM | Comments (120)

January 06, 2018

Trump Offloads Foreign Policy Problems - Lets EU Grow A Spine

The U.S. is more and more isolated in international politics and even Europe is growing some spine and implements an independent foreign policy. U.S. imperialists are miffed but can do little about it. This development may well be part of Trump's plan of "Making America Great Again".

After Trump declared that the U.S. sees Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the UN Security Council as well as the UN General Assembly condemned the move. The U.S. had to veto a UNSC resolution that 14 other members supported.

While the minor protests and riots in Iran are calming down (as predicted here), the U.S. ambassador Haley tried to use them to stage some UNSC verdict against the country. She was rebuffed by several countries including the U.S. allies Sweden and France:

A United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss recent protests in Iran turned into criticism of the United States for requesting to meet on what some member states said was an internal issue for Tehran.

The EU spoke out against any condemnation of Iran. Russia and China repeated Iran's arguments that such internal issues have no place in the UNSC and that a string of much worse riots and police massacres in the U.S. would be more deserving of such attention:

China and Russia -- which seldom like to discuss political protests at the UN -- led a group of countries that said the demonstrations were a domestic affair that didn’t threaten international security and shouldn’t be taken up. China’s envoy said that if Haley’s logic were to be followed consistently, the Security Council should have held hearings after the 2014 racial protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in 2011.

France spoke for the EU:

“We must be wary of any attempts to exploit this crisis for personal ends, which would have the diametrically opposed outcome to that which is wished,” Ambassador Francois Delattre said.

“However worrying the events of the last few days in Iran may be, they do not constitute per se a threat to international peace and security.”

This was a repeat of the fear that President Macron expressed two days ago and which we quoted here. Even U.S. media are now taking note of it:

“The official line pursued by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are our allies in many ways, is almost one that would lead us to war,” Macron told reporters, according to Reuters.

It was “a deliberate strategy for some,” he added.

The U.S. attempt to use protests against neoliberal policies of the Rohani government as a step to regime change in Iran has evidently failed.

Trump has threatened to end the nuclear agreement with Iran but his administration is wary of the consequences. The agreement is between a number of countries, not the U.S. and Iran alone, and the UNSC has endorsed it. But Trump also loathes to certify Iran's adherence to the agreement every three month. It keeps the issue boiling and he has no interest in that. The certification is a condition the Republicans in the U.S. Congress had written into law. Trump's solution is not to kill the nuclear agreement but to change the law to relief him of the certification demand:

Cont. reading: Trump Offloads Foreign Policy Problems - Lets EU Grow A Spine

Posted by b at 08:25 AM | Comments (138)

January 04, 2018

Iran - Europe Rejects U.S. Drive To War

The reaction to the minor protests in Iran drive another wedge between the U.S. and Europe. It exposes the belligerence of the Zionist lobby and its influence in the U.S. media and politics. The issue shows the growing divergence between genuine U.S. interests and the interests of Israel.

Some anti-government demonstration and attacks on public institutions continue in Iran. But, as the graph shows, such protests and riots continue to decrease. Yesterday's events took place in only 15 places while, since December 28, a total of 75 towns and cities had seen some form of protest or incidents. Additional to these several pro-government marches took place yesterday each of which was by far bigger than the anti-government events.


by M. Ali Kadivar - bigger

The violence against public property by some young rioters has alienated the original legitimate protesters who have ample economic reasons to reject the neo-liberal policies of the current Iranian government. The instigating of violence from the outside of Iran, likely due to CIA machinations, has robbed them of their voice.

I had earlier asked:

Why is the U.S. doing this?

The plan may well be not to immediately overthrow the Iranian government, but to instigate a sharp reaction by the Iranian government against the militant operations in its country. ... That reaction can then be used to implement wider and stricter sanctions against Iran especially from Europe. These would be another building block of a larger plan to suffocate the country and as an additional step on a larger escalation ladder.

and:

The administration just called for a UN emergency session about the situation. That is a laughable move ...

Laughable indeed. Other members of the Security Council and the UN Human Rights council have rejected the U.S. plans. It is not the UN's business to insert itself into internal affairs of any country. But even for those who believe that the UN has a right to intervene, the protests in Iran, estimated at no more than 15,000 people at any time and maybe 45,000 in cumulation, are way too insignificant to justify any UN reaction.

Cont. reading: Iran - Europe Rejects U.S. Drive To War

Posted by b at 02:52 PM | Comments (124)

January 02, 2018

Iran - Few Protests - Some Riots - U.S. Prepares The Next Phase

Updated below:
---

The riots and protests in Iran continue for a 6th day. While "western" media claim that the protests are growing I see no evidence for that in the various videos that appear online. The legitimate protests over price rises, failing private banks and against the new neoliberal austerity budget of President Rohani were hijacked early on by rioting gangs. These are obviously coordinated from the outside of the country through various internet applications, especially Telegram and Instagram:

Amad News, a channel on Telegram, appears to have played a pivotal role in the wave of protests. Reportedly administered by exiled journalist Rohollah Zam — a son of a senior Reformist cleric said to have escaped the country after being accused of having links with foreign intelligence agencies ...

Blocking the specific control channels proved to be insufficient:

Special software used to circumvent the government filters could still be downloaded easily. And on Monday, as on other days, there were calls for protests online and on foreign-based Persian-language satellite channels.

The blockage of the internet applications was lifted today.

The original protests over economic issues seem to have died down after President Rouhani confirmed the right to protest, conceded economic problems and promised to take them on. Indeed there are only few new videos of genuine protest marches but an avalanche of videos of rioting, arson and tussling with police forces. The size of the protests are in a few hundred people or less. Counter demonstrations, expressing loyalty for the republic (not noted in "western" media), are bigger in size than the anti-government protests. Since December 28 protests and riots have occurred in a total of 66 cities by now, but only about 30 have been taking place each night. This might point to some planning behind the events. A daily switching of venues might be intended to prevent police preparations.

The groups of rioters are between 30 and 80 people in size with a some bystanders milling around. They seem to follow a flash mob strategy appearing here and there and to vanish again when police appears in force. In some cities rioters attacked police stations, military posts and were even stealing firetrucks. Some of the rioters are evidently trying to get their hands on weapons.

Altogether only a few thousand people, overwhelmingly male youth, seem to be involved. Thousands protest in Israel each week against the corruption of Prime Minister Netanyahoo. On New-Years-Eve more than 1,000 cars in France were set alight by arsonists. None of this is front page news but a few dozen riots in Iran get elevated to a "revolution".

The total death toll of the "peaceful protests" is now some 21 of which (by my count) at least five were policemen killed in attacks by "protesters" and two unrelated civilians who were run over and killed by rioters driving a stolen firetruck. Six rioters were killed when they tried to attack a police station in the town of Qahderijan. The governor there claimed that the attackers were armed with guns.

The same faking of pictures of large demonstrations and "evidence" of government brutality that we have seen with regard to the war on Syria is taking place with Iran. Videos of demonstrations from Argentine and Bahrain are used to claim large demonstrations in Iran. A tweet with the Bahrain video by a "journalist" who claimed it was in Iran has received more than 17,000 re-tweets. Videos from Spain or even movie scenes are purported to show police violence in Iran. A video of a man lying on his back and being cared for is once claimed to show that he has been shot by police while at the same time another propagandists claims that the man had a cardiac arrest after police used a taser on him. There are no signs of wounds or other trauma. The dude probably just passed out.

The terrorist group MEK (NCRI, MKO) "leaked" fake protocols of an alleged government meeting which it claims shows panic over the protests. Allegedly the government fears the leader of the MEK, Marjam Rajavi. The MEK has paid large sums to get support from politicians, including John McCain in Washington and elsewhere. During the Iraq-Iran war it fought against Iran on the side of Iraq. After the U.S. invaded Iraq the MEK was held in special camps under U.S. control. According to a 2012 Seymour Hersh report the U.S. military trained MEK fighters in the U.S. in sabotage and insurgency technics. These people are deeply hated in Iran but feared they are not. Their early engagement in the "protests" via their website and propaganda ops in Iran may point to deeper role in the riots.

The usual neoconservatives in the U.S. media are arguing for "more help" for the "Iranian people". The help they want to offer is designed to worsen their economic situation.

I earlier argued that the larger plan of the instigators of these riots is not aimed at winning a violent "regime change" conflict, but at causing a reaction by the Iranian government which can then be used to press especially Europeans to again isolate Iran. This plan is now confirmed by an op-ed in the Washington Post. Michael Singh of the Zionist lobby in Washington writes:

Cont. reading: Iran - Few Protests - Some Riots - U.S. Prepares The Next Phase

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (268)

January 01, 2018

NYT Writes Epic Cover For Comey's FBI - Its Sole Source: "Officials Said"

Updated below

In July 2016 the FBI under its director James Comey launched an investigation against the Donald Trump campaign and "Russian influence" on it.

Comey and the FBI is under pressure to explain why they launched this investigation. The assumption has been that the Steele dossier, fabricated by a former British agent hired by the Clinton campaign, was handed to the FBI and led to the launch of its investigation.

If that is true (as it likely is), the FBI and Comey are in deep trouble. The dossier was full of hearsay and abstruse rumors. It was obviously made up and fake stuff paid for by Trump's opponent. To use it to launch an official investigation against a candidate in the presidential election and to get FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign stinks of partisan motives and may well have been a criminal offense.

On Saturday the New York Times came up with a story that is designed to usher the question away and to give cover to the FBI.

The headline already tells the reader what to believe: How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt

See - it wasn't the Clinton paid Steele dossier that triggered the FBI!

The NYT presents a wild story, with epic details and with lots of obfuscation to confuse the reader. At the core is a minor member of the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, who was mostly in London while communicating via email with the campaign staff in the U.S. Papadopoulos advised on foreign policy and tried to build contacts between the campaign and foreign government officials. (He helped to set up a meeting between candidate Trump and the President of Egypt Sisi.)

In the words of the NYT authors:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

... two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, ...

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

The claim that the Papadopoulos rumor, detailed extensively in the NYT piece, triggered an FBI investigation does not seem plausible.

Cont. reading: NYT Writes Epic Cover For Comey's FBI - Its Sole Source: "Officials Said"

Posted by b at 12:40 PM | Comments (74)

December 31, 2017

A Happy 2018 To All Moonkind

Dear readers and commentators,

thank you for coming here, reading and discussing about the events of our world.

I wish for a happy new year for you and everyone else.

A Happy New Year to all moonkind!

Posted by b at 12:15 PM | Comments (44)

Iran - Early U.S. Support For Rioters Hints At A Larger Plan

In Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests we looked at the developing U.S.-Israeli operation to instigate a revolt in Iran. What follows are a few more background points and a view on the developments since. A color revolution or revolt in Iran have only little chances of success. But even as the fail they can be used as pretext for additional sanctions and other anti-Iranian measures. The current incidents are thus only one part of a much larger plan.

The "western" democracies are used to distinguish political parties as left or right with fixed combinations of economic and cultural policies. The "left" is seen as preferring a social economy that benefits the larger population and as cultural liberal or progressive. The right is seen as cultural conservative with a preference for a free market economy that favors the richer segments of a nation.

The political camps in Iran are different.

The simplified version: The conservatives, or "principalists", are cultural conservative but favor economic programs that benefit the poor. Their support base are the rural people as well as the poorer segments of the city dwellers. The last Iranian president near to them was Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. One of his major policies was the implementation of cash payments to the needy as replacement of general and expensive subsidies on oil products and foodstuff. The current Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is a member of the "reformist" camp. His support base are the merchants and the richer parts of the society. He is culturally (relative) progressive but his economic polices are neoliberal. The new budget he introduced for the next year cuts back on the subsidies for the poor Ahmedinejad had introduced. It will increase prices for fuel and basic food stuff up to 30-40%.

The protests on December 28 and 29 were about these and other economic issues. Such protests have regularly occurred in Iran throughout the decades. But the current ones were soon hijacked by small groups which chanted slogans against the Iranian system and against the strong Iranian engagement in Syria and Palestine. These are not majority positions of the 80 million inhabitants of Iran:

According to the poll, 67.9% say Iran should increase backing for anti-IS groups, up from 59.8% a year ago. Meanwhile, a majority of 64.9% backs the deployment of Iranian military personnel to Syria to help the regime of Bashar al-Assad, up slightly from 62.7% a year ago.

The small groups that hijacked the protests against Rouhani's economic polices were heavily promoted by the usual suspects of U.S. influence operations. Avaaz, the RAND cooperation, Human Rights Watch and others immediately jumped onto the bandwagon. (True to form HRW's Ken Roth used a picture of a pro-government rally to illustrate the much smaller anti-government protests.) The smaller groups that hijacked and publicized the demonstration seem well coordinated. But they are far from a genuine movement or even a majority.

On the morning of December 30 large demonstrations in support of the Iranian republic were taking place in several cities. In Tehran several thousand people took part.


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The self described "Iran junkie" of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy, Suzanne Maloney, interpreted these as counter-demonstrations to the small gatherings the night before:

Suzanne Maloney‏ @MaloneySuzanne - 12:40 PM - 30 Dec 2017

The Islamic Republic has a well-oiled machine for mobilizing pro-regime rallies (Rouhani himself headlined one in 1999 after student protests.) What's interesting is that it was deployed almost immediately this time.

The "Iran junkie" and "expert" did not know that yearly pro-government demonstrations are held in Iran on each 9th of Dey (Iranian calender) since 2009 and are planned well in advance. They commemorate the defeat of the CIA color revolution attempt in 2009. That attempt had followed the reelection of the president Ahmedinejad. It had used the richer segment of the Iranian society in north Tehran as its stooges. It is not yet clear what social strata, if any, this attempt is using.

Cont. reading: Iran - Early U.S. Support For Rioters Hints At A Larger Plan

Posted by b at 09:06 AM | Comments (190)

December 29, 2017

Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests

Yesterday and today saw some small protests in Iran. They are probably the first stage of a large "regime change" operation run by the U.S. and Israel with the help of Iranian terrorist group.

Earlier this month the White House and the Zionist prepared for a new assault on Iran:

A delegation led by Israel's National Security Adviser met with senior American officials in the White House earlier this month for a joint discussion on strategy to counter Iran's aggression in the Middle East, a senior U.S. official confirmed to Haaretz.

Another report about the meeting quotes Israeli officials on the result:

"[T]he U.S. and Israel see eye to eye the different developments in the region and especially those that are connected to Iran. We reached at understandings regarding the strategy and the policy needed to counter Iran. Our understandings deal with the overall strategy but also with concrete goals, way of action and the means which need to be used to get obtain those goals."

This is probably a result of the above meeting:

Hundreds took to the streets of Iran’s second largest city of Mashad on Thursday to protest over high prices, shouting slogans against the government.

Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators in Mashad in northwest Iran, one of the holiest places in Shia Islam, chanting “death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “death to the dictator”.

The semi-official ILNA news agency and social media reported demonstrations in other cities in Razavi Khorasan Province, including Neyshabour and Kashmar.

A video of that protest in Mashad showed some 50 people chanting slogans with more bystander just milling around.

Protests against the (neo-)liberal economic policies of the Rohani government in Iran are justified. Official unemployment in Iran is above 12% and there is hardly any economic growth. The people in the streets are not the only ones who are dissatisfied with this:

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly criticized the government’s economic record, said on Wednesday that the nation was struggling with “high prices, inflation and recession”, and asked officials to resolve the problems with determination.

On Thursday and today the slogans of some protesters turned the call for economic relief into a call for regime change.

My hunch is that the usual suspects are behind these protests. Note that these started in several cities at the same time. This was not some spontaneous local uproar in one city but had some form of coordination.

Then there is this:

Carl Bildt‏ @carlbildt - 9:38 PM - 28 Dec 2017 from Rome, Lazio

Reports of signals of international satellite TV networks jammed in large cities of Iran. Would be sign of regime fear of today’s protests spreading.

A search in various languages finds exactly zero such "reports". Carl Bildt is a former Swedish prime minister. He was recruited in 1973 as a CIA informant and has since grown into a full blown U.S. asset. He was involved in the Ukraine coup and tried to personally profit from it.

The only response to Bildt's tweet was from one Riyad Swed‏ - @SwedRiyad who posted several videos of protests with one of them showing burning police cars.

I am not sure the video is genuine. The account has some unusual attributes (active since September 2016, 655 tweets but only 32 followers?).

Just yesterday one lecture at the CCC "hacker" congress was about the British GHCQ Secret Service and its sock-puppet accounts on Twitter and Facebook. These are used for acquiring human intelligence and for running "regime change" operations. Page 14-18 of the slides (11:20 min) cite from obtained GCHQ papers which lists Iran as one of the targets. The speaker specifically notes a GCHQ account "@2009Iranfree" which was used in generating the protests in Iran after the reelection of then President Ahmedinejad.

Today, Friday and the weekly day off in Iran, several more protest took place in other cities. A Reuters report from today:

About 300 demonstrators gathered in Kermanshah after what Fars called a “call by the anti-revolution” and shouted “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death”, while destroying some public property. Fars did not name any opposition groups.
...
Footage, which could not be verified, showed protests in other cities including Sari and Rasht in the north, Qom south of Tehran, and Hamadan in the west.

Mohsen Nasj Hamadani, deputy security chief in Tehran province, said about 50 people had rallied in a Tehran square and most left after being asked by police, but a few who refused were “temporarily detained”, the ILNA news agency reported.

Some of these protests have genuine economic reasons but get hijacked by other interests:

In the central city of Isfahan, a resident said protesters joined a rally held by factory workers demanding back wages.

“The slogans quickly changed from the economy to those against (President Hassan) Rouhani and the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),” the resident said by telephone.
...
Purely political protests are rare in Iran [...] but demonstrations are often held by workers over layoffs or non-payment of salaries and people who hold deposits in non-regulated, bankrupt financial institutions.
...
Alamolhoda, the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei in northeastern Mashhad, said a few people had taken advantage of Thursday’s protests against rising prices to chant slogans against Iran’s role in regional conflicts.
...
“Some people had came to express their demands, but suddenly, in a crowd of hundreds, a small group that did not exceed 50 shouted deviant and horrendous slogans such as ‘Let go of Palestine’, ‘Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I’d give my life (only) for Iran’,” Alamolhoda said.

Two videos posted by BBC Persian and others I have seen show only small active protest groups with a dozen or so people while many more are just standing by or film the people who are chanting slogans.

Videos published by the terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq [MEK], 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, also show mostly small protests despite the MEK's claim of Tens of thousands of people chant “death to dictator". The MEK, or its "civilian" organization National Council of Resistance of Iran , seem to be most involved in the current protests. Its website is currently filled with the protest issue with a total of ten reports and its head figure issued a supportive statement:

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, saluted the heroic people of Kermanshah and other cities who rose up today chanting “death or freedom”, “death to Rouhani”, “death to the dictator”, and “political prisoners must be freed”, and protested against high prices, poverty and corruption.

She said, “Yesterday Mashhad, today Kermanshah, and tomorrow throughout Iran; this uprising has tolled the death knell for the overthrow of the totally corrupt dictatorship of the mullahs, and is the rise of democracy, justice and popular sovereignty.

This very early engagement of the MEK -its first report was published yesterday at 10:26 am- is extremely suspicious.

In 2012 it was reported that Israel had used the MEK terrorist organization to assassinate nuclear scientists in Iran:

Cont. reading: Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (127)

December 28, 2017

Open Thread 2017-47

Sorry, the post I was working on didn't pan out. You will have to talk to yourself.

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:58 PM | Comments (67)