Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 23, 2016

NYT Again Misreports On Iran - Claims Conflict With Russia Without Any Source

This NYT piece on Russia and Iran lacks any source for the main claim made in its headline and repeated in its first paragraph:

Iran Revokes Russia’s Use of Air Base, Saying Moscow ‘Betrayed Trust’

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iran on Monday annulled permission for Russian planes to fly bombing runs into Syria from an Iranian base, only a week after having granted such extraordinary access, saying that the Kremlin had been unacceptably public and arrogant about the privilege.
Iran’s minister of defense, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, accused Russia of having publicized the deal excessively, calling the Kremlin’s behavior a “betrayal of trust” and “ungentlemanly.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, told reporters in Tehran that the permission had been temporary and “it is finished, for now.”

There is no source quoted in the piece that claims Iran "revoked" or "annulled permission". That is not too astonishing as no such claims were ever made in Iran. But how can the NYT claim that?

What really happened:

Russia has been using the Iranian Hamedan airbase on-and-off since at least last November. It is a way station and refueling point on flights from Russia to Syria and it was used to repair Russian airplanes that had this or that troubles:

A Russian Su-34 bomber landed at Hamadan Air Base on November 23rd, 2015. Most likely the Su-34 plane was en route to Syria and had a technical issue, preferring to land safely at Hamadan. There it was met by a technical team which arrived on November 24th, 2015, aboard an IL-76 cargo plane, and made repairs. Both planes left the Hamadan airbase.

Earlier this month Russia sent heavy long range bomber to Hamedan. There they refueled and were armed with large bomb loads. They flew the short trip to Syria to destroyed al-Qaeda positions in Idlib province. Russia, as well as Iran, knew that "western" governments would notice the stationing of the bombers. The planes are big and easily visible on satellite pictures. To preempt western propaganda over the issue they publicly announced the arrival.

Iran is traditionally very opposed to any foreign troops on its ground. Some 20 conservative opposition politicians in the Iranian parliament used the announcement to question the "moderate" Rohani government. Yesterday the Iranian defense minister lamented that the Russian announcement of the airbase use, made with Iranian knowledge, was too loud and too public. He now had to answer questions from parliament and no minister anywhere likes to do that. At no point did he claim that anything was "revoked". Meanwhile, and unrelated to the issue, the Russian's bombers were on their way home from their first round of sorties flown out of Hamedan.

This was a purely internal Iranian tussle and the Rouhani government only wanted to quiet the opposition on the issue. The remark by the defense minister was about style, not substance. How the NYT got from there to reporting that Iran "revoked" something is inexplicable.

Russian jets and bombers will soon be back in Hamedan, though now probably without big press announcements. Here is the confirmation from one of the highest ranking politicians in Iran:

Speaker of the Iranian Parliament has emphasized that flights of Russian fighter aircraft are still being performed from Nojeh airbase in Hamedan.

Ali Larijani made the remarks during the Parliament open session on Tuesday morning, when answering the comments of MP Mahmoud Sadeghi.
In response to the MP’s comments, Ali Larijani underlined that Russian jets are still carrying out military missions from the Iranian airbase; “Iran holds cooperation with Russia in the fight against terrorism and the alliance between the two countries would benefit Muslims in the region.”

Like with many of its other reports on Syria and Iran this NYT piece was again nearer to fiction than fact.

For the reality of the ongoing war, on the ground reported pieces based on local and historic knowledge are much more valuable than anything "western" mainstream media provide. To really understand the ongoing conflicts and alliances, non-mainstream pieces like this one - Washington’s Sunni Myth and the Middle East Undone - are invaluable and highly recommended. misreports

Posted by b at 02:49 PM | Comments (40)

August 22, 2016

Syria - The U.S. Creates More Chaos While The Grown-Ups Talk Resolution

Last week a Chinese admiral visited Damascus and promised support. The Indian Minister of State for External Affairs also passed by. The Turkish deputy intelligence chief was there for secret talks. Earlier the Turkish president visited Russia and the Turkish foreign minister visited Tehran. Those are a lot of talks between big and important countries and players in the conflict over Syria. None of them, not even Barzani, is in the U.S. camp.

I assume that this outbreak of diplomacy, which bypassed Washington, led to concern that the U.S. might be left out of a resolution in Syria. It had to play a card of its own. That is the most likely explanation for the sudden clashes in Hasakah where the Syrian Kurdish YPG is suddenly determined to kick out the Syrian army garrison that protects the Arab population there. U.S. special forces are "advising" these Kurds.

The Syrian army garrison is cut off and the Kurds are well able to overwhelm it. They issued an ultimatum to the Syrian soldiers to either lay down arms or to die. The aim of this move is the creation of north-eastern block in Syria that is completely under Kurdish control (and sprinkled with new U.S. bases.) This would give the U.S. at least some control over the future of Syria. Somehow the U.S. must have talked or bribed the YPG Kurds into creating this statelet in north-eastern Syria. I believe that this is a severe miscalculation by the Kurds which they will come to rue. The U.S. is not a reliable friend and it will not defend the Kurds should the other actors turn against them with their whole might.

The Russians are currently trying to negotiate a new ceasefire in Hasakah and may well apply some pressure of their own. Earlier in the conflict it was the Syrian army and the Russians who supplied and supported the Kurds with weapons and ammunition to defend themselves against the Islamic State and the U.S. supported "moderate rebels". To now turn against these benefactors is treason.

The Turkish prime minister says that any such Kurdish statelet would be "unacceptable" for Turkey. Such a statelet would become the rear basis for the PKK Kurds fighting in Turkey for Kurdish autonomy. The PKK is killing a dozen Turkish security forces per week. But a fight against the Turkish state is one the PKK can not ever win. Only half of the Turkish Kurds, probably less, support them and even the political left in Turkey, which so far supported some kind of federation, is now turning against them. To involve the Syrian front into this fight, and thereby additional enemies, makes little sense.

With intensive U.S. air support the YPG Kurds recently kicked the Islamic State out of Manbij. The Islamic State fighters were allowed to evacuate together with their families. They will fight and kill on another day. North of Manbij on the border to Turkey lies Jarablus (the red dot on the map), currently also in the hands of the Islamic State. This is the next target of the Kurdish forces (purple) who want to annex the whole Syrian-Turkish border region from the east to the west up to the Mediterranean.

Map via ISW

Jarablus was a main supply point for ISIS as long as Turkey allowed goods and people to cross the border. That seems to have stopped, at least for any significant amounts. It is not for that reason the Turks will not allow that Kurds take the city. Turkish artillery is hitting Islamic State targets around Jarablus and a contingent of "moderate Syrian rebels", aka Islamist Turkmen from Central Asia, is preparing in Turkey to cross the border and to take Jarablus from the Islamic State. Some of the Turkish artillery strikes also hit YPG positions. Which side of that three way fight will the U.S. support? Will it, as one insane "expert" demands, bomb everyone for "moral symbolism" and to be seen as "willing to exercise its rightful superpower role?"

The U.S. meddling in Syria is creating more and more chaos. Soon everyone will be fighting everyone else. Is that the intent? Whatever - one can hope that those large, grown up, older nations - Russia, India, China and Iran - now align their plans and steer this conflict towards some saner, bearable solution.

Posted by b at 02:27 PM | Comments (108)

August 21, 2016

Death Of Brother Of "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" Appears To Be An Add-On Fake

Related to the "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" stunt here is a little item that only increases my distrust of the truthfulness of the whole tale.

On Friday August 19 Middle East Correspondent Raf Sanchez and Said Ghazali of the British Telegraph reported of an interview with the father of the allegedly wounded boy in the orange seat:

Abu Ali, the father of the child whose haunted face now peers out from newspaper pages across the world, described his family’s final night of normalcy in an interview with a Syrian activist on behalf of The Telegraph.
Contrary to the reports of the Aleppo doctors who treated Omran, the little boy is only three years old and not five. Omran has been released from the hospital along with his four siblings and all the children are quietly recovering, his father said.

Confirming the above the Syria Campaign, a part of the mostly U.S. financed anti-Syrian propaganda apparatus, had published this on August 18:

Thank god all Omran’s family are safe. His mother had some bad injuries in her legs. His father suffered a minor head injury. His 7 year old sister went through a surgical operation this afternoon and she is doing well.

Note that there is no mentioning of an injured boy.

On Saturday The Telegraph's Middle East correspondent Raf Sanchez reported a quite different story than the one he himself had told just a day earlier:

It emerged Saturday that Omran Daqneesh’s older brother Ali had succumbed to injuries suffered in the same airstrike that propelled his sibling onto television screens across the planet.

Ali, 10, was out on the street when a Russian or Syrian regime bomb fell on his family’s building in Aleppo’s Qaterji neighbourhood on Wednesday.

While the rest of his family suffered minor injuries as their flat collapsed around them, Ali appears to have been more fully exposed to the bomb blast and died in hospital.
Omran’s father, who asked to be identified only by the nickname Abu Ali, meaning “father of Ali”, received mourners at the family’s temporary home on Saturday. Omran, three, and his three surviving siblings stayed inside the house as Abu Ali accepted condolences on the street.

The BBC noted:

The elder brother of Omran Daqneesh, the Syrian boy whose dazed and bloodied image shocked the world, has died of wounds sustained when the family home in Aleppo was bombed, activists say.

The Syria Solidarity Campaign said 10-year-old Ali "passed away today due to his injuries from the bombing of his house by Russia/Assad".

The second Telegraph piece is accompanied by the picture of a boy with what looks like a minor bloody (but completely uncleaned and not disinfected(!)) scratch on the upper left cheek. The eyes are closed and two tubes hang loosely from his mouth. A cardiogram sensor is fixed on the chest below his shoulder. The caption to that pic says "Ali (left) was killed in the blast ...". Is he really dead?

One day we learn from the father and others, that:

  • all children, including Ali, are fine
  • all are recovering
  • all had left the hospital

The next day we learn that:

  • Ali was severely injured
  • Ali died of these injuries
  • in a hospital (which ignores basic trauma care) that he apparently never left.

The Telegraph's stenographer, who wrote both stories, ignores these large contradictions between the two tales.

I for one believe that both stories are false and that the whole bombing and rescue incident never really happened but was staged. The "rescue" was a stunt and all stories around it, like the "dead Ali", are mere fairy-tales of various "activists" paid by this or that "western" propaganda campaign.

There was a time when newspapers like The Telegraph and other media employed journalists who followed up on stories and verified the claims made to them. For many media outlets that is obviously no longer the case. Today any "activist" can skype the stenographer from anywhere, tell a fantasy story of a bombing in east-Aleppo and have it printed. A day later he can call again with a totally different version of that fantasy story and have that printed too. No questions asked.

Is it any wonder that readers and viewers shun such media?

Posted by b at 12:59 PM | Comments (79)

How The Hasakah Clashes End Kurdish Nation Dreams

Severe fighting in Hasakah, in north-east Syria, continues between Syrian government forces and U.S. advised Kurdish YPG groups. It is still unclear why these clashes broke out after years of mostly peaceful co-existence in the city.

These clashes convince Turkey that the danger of a Kurdish state creation is imminent. This will unite the Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi hostile positions towards such plans. This unity ends the dreams of an independent Kurdish nation.

The YPG declared that it wants all Syrian government forces to leave Hasakah. But those forces are the sole protection of the large Assyrian (Christian) and other minorities in the city. These minorities fear to be ethnically cleansed by the Kurds who try to install their own state in the north of Iraq and Syria.

Map via ISW

The Syrian army and local auxiliary defense forces recruited from the minorities defend a large part of the city but are surrounded.

Map by Agathocle de Syracuse - bigger

A recent second offer for a ceasefire by the governor of the province was the rejected by the YPG and its local Asayish proxy force. The YPG instead ordered reinforcements to the frontline.

U.S. special forces were in the area when the clashes started. There role in these is mysterious. They nearly came under fire when Syrian Arab Army planes bombed some of the YPG positions. The U.S. command tried to directly contact the Syrian command to prevent the U.S. troops from being hit. The Syrian command did not respond. The U.S. then made a show of force with its air force to protect its troops. But those troops have absolutely no legal basis for their presence in Syria. They claim to be working with the YPG to fight the Islamic State, but the Islamic State is far from Hasakah which lies in the middle of a large Kurdish controlled area.

As even a mainstream German defense correspondent somewhat irritated asks:

Cont. reading: How The Hasakah Clashes End Kurdish Nation Dreams

Posted by b at 05:57 AM | Comments (85)

August 19, 2016

No ISIS There - Are U.S. Troops In Hasakah "Advising" Kurds To Attack The Syrian Army?

Yesterday a fight broke out between Syrian Arab Army troops and local Kurdish forces in the predominately Kurdish city of Hasakah in north-eastern Syria. Hasakah, with some 200,000 inhabitants, has held a SAA garrison for years. There is some enmity between the Kurds and the soldiers but the situation is generally peaceful.

There have been earlier fights but these were local rivalries between Syrian auxiliary National Defense Forces from local Arab (Christian) minorities and some gangs who form a Kurdish internal security force under the label Asayish. Such fights usually ended after a day or two when grown-ups on both sides resolved the conflict over this or that checkpoint or access route.

The Islamic State (grey on the map) once threatened Hasakah but that danger is now far away.

Map via ISW

Yesterday another fight broke out, but got serious. The Syrian air force was called in to defend against direct attacks on the SAA garrison and minority quarters:

Cont. reading: No ISIS There - Are U.S. Troops In Hasakah "Advising" Kurds To Attack The Syrian Army?

Posted by b at 02:47 PM | Comments (119)

August 18, 2016

The "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" - Another Staged "White Helmets" Stunt

This pic is making the rounds in "western" media together with a tearful story from "activists" in a neighborhood in al-Qaeda occupied east-Aleppo.


A boy, seemingly wounded, sits quietly in a brand new, very well equipped ambulance. At a point he touches what looks like a wound on his left temple. He shows no reaction to that touch.

The two minute video (also here), from which the pic is taken, shows the boy being handed from the dark above to some person in a rescue jacket and carried into the ambulance. There he sits quietly, unattended, while several people take videos and pictures of him. One other kids, not obviously wounded, is then carried to the ambulance.

As the story is told:

Cont. reading: The "Wounded Boy In Orange Seat" - Another Staged "White Helmets" Stunt

Posted by b at 01:16 PM | Comments (240)

August 17, 2016

Open Thread 2016-27

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (220)

August 16, 2016

Massive Russian Air Campaign To Stop U.S.-Al-Qaeda Attack On Aleppo

The west of Aleppo city has always stayed under control of the Syrian government. It inhabits about 1.5 million people. Over the last two weeks it has come into imminent danger of falling into Jihadi hands.

With large U.S. and Gulf supplies of new weapons, ammunition and intelligence some 10,000+ radical Jihadis, led by al-Qaeda in Syria, attacked Aleppo city. After several days they managed to break the south-eastern defense and created a small corridor into east-Aleppo. The area is besieged by government forces and under Jihadi control.

Aleppo as reported by "western" media

Several other large attacks followed but could barely be held back. The government forces are a mix of local defense units and auxiliaries from Afghanistan and Iraq. Their defenses seemed little prepared for the onslaught of suicide vehicles followed by mass infantry attacks. Moral was low and positions were given up without proper coordination.

The Syrian government and its allies could not use helicopters to support the defense as newly arrived MANPADs used by the Jihadis endanger any aircraft that flies low and slow.

To stop attacks and to prepare for counter moves valuable reserves had to be activated. Elite forces of the Lebanese Hizbullah and the Tiger brigade of the Syrian army were thrown into the battle. They managed to hold the Jihadi attacks for now but lack the mass to respond in kind.

The Russians have warned since April that such a large Jihadi offense was imminent, but it held back from any response while in talks with the U.S. administration. But the U.S. willingness to talk was largely a deception in support of the now ongoing attack.

The Jihadi campaign aims to occupy all of Aleppo city. It was named after a man who, in 1979, mass murdered a group of cadets belonging to a religious minorities. Should the Jidadis manage to win in Aleppo thousands of civilians will likely die. This would not only effect minorities. Aleppo is a Sunni city and the war is, contrary to "western" propaganda, not between religious minorities and the general Sunni population but between radical Sunni sects and their mainstream brethren.

About two weeks ago the Russian military openly prepared an appropriate response. Their most modern spy plane, a Tu 214R was send to Syria to collect targeting information. This in addition to two Il-20M reconnaissance planes already deployed there. Navy maneuvers along the Syrian coast as well as in the Caspian sea were prepared. Agreement with Iran about support measures were arranged.

Cont. reading: Massive Russian Air Campaign To Stop U.S.-Al-Qaeda Attack On Aleppo

Posted by b at 05:49 AM | Comments (161)

August 15, 2016

New Government Of Yemen Ready To Accept Saudi Surrender

(Update: @Khabaragency translated and published this post in Arabic: موقع أمريكي: السلطة اليمنية الجديدة مستعدة لقبول "استسلام" آل سعود قبل 12 ساعة و 37 دقيقة )

Day by day the life in Yemen becomes more difficult for the people on the ground. The Saudis have restarted bombing and seemingly hit everything in sight - schools, hospitals and food supply routes. Food is running out. But Yemen now has a new legitimate government. And the Saudis will have to either follow the conditions it will set, or all-out lose their war.

UN supervised negotiations between the former Yemeni president Hadi, supported by the armed forces of various Gulf countries, and a the Houthi alliance with the former president Saleh have failed. The Saudis demanded total surrender. A retreat of the Houthi from the capital Sanaa, a complete re-installment of Hadi as president and a handing over of all heavy weapons. The Houthi/Saleh side would never have agreed to such conditions. It would leave them without assets at the mercy of a vengeful enemy. The fighting on the ground continued throughout the four month negotiations though at a lower intensity.

When the failure of the negotiations was obviously imminent, Houthi and Yemeni army forces re-invaded Saudi Arabia. For 200 km of the Saudi-Yemeni border from the Red Sea to inland eastwards Yemeni forces initially invaded at 6 locations 5-20km deep. Video showed them in sight of the Saudi city Narjan, with half a million inhabitants, shelling the electricity station and military barracks. Laughably a joint statement from the governments of the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia and UAE demanded that:

the conflict in Yemen should not threaten Yemen’s neighbours.

A joke. A Saudi invasion of Yemen is fine with them, to respond in kind is not?

The Saudis renewed their air attacks on the capitol Sanaa and other Yemeni cities. Military targets in Sanaa had already been bombed at least twice. The current attacks make no sense and are a pure terror campaign.

Two days ago a Saudi double airstrike hit a school near the northern Yemeni city of Saada:

Doctors Without Borders wrote that the “final number of injured from Haydan school is 28 & 10 deaths. All between 8-15 years old ..."

The Saudis denied that a school had been hit. They claimed that the 8 years old, undernourished children were in a military training camp. They have learned from their new Zionists friends. The chutzpah in their response to the school bombing reports was strong:

"We would have hoped MSF would take measures to stop the recruitment of children to fight in wars instead of crying over them in the media."

An important bridge on the main supply route to Sanaa, over which 90% of its food comes in, was destroyed by a Saudi attack. Today a Saudi airstrike hit a well known hospital in Hajjah. At least 31 civilians, including hospital personal, were killed and many more wounded.

The Saudi king used the occasions to hand out a month's extra salary as war bonus to all "active participants" on the Saudi side.

Cont. reading: New Government Of Yemen Ready To Accept Saudi Surrender

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (66)

August 14, 2016

Open Thread 2016-26

News & views ...

Posted by b at 07:36 AM | Comments (153)

August 13, 2016

Happy Birthday Fidel


No one can look back over 20th and 21st century history, without studying the work and ideas of this Cuban who wrote a small Caribbean island into the pages of “true global history,” as told by the people.

Posted by b at 12:41 AM | Comments (111)

August 12, 2016

Six Killed Pediatricians Sign Letter To Obama

We are used to quite a lot of warmongering propaganda against Syria. The "last hospital in Aleppo gets destroyed" - week after week after week, reports by Physicians For Human Rights on Syria turn out to be scams, videos and pictures of "children rescued" by the U.S./UK payed media group "White Helmets" are staged.

But the yesterday released and very well propagandized Open Letter of Aleppo Doctors takes the crown of warmongering anti-Syrian fakes:

We are 15 of the last doctors serving the remaining 300,000 citizens of eastern Aleppo. Regime troops have sought to surround and blockade the entire east of the city.

Look who signed that open letter:

Stenographing the letter's propaganda the Guardian cleverly notes:

It has not been possible to verify the names of all the doctors listed in the letter.

May be because these names are those of famous Jihadis? But if only the fake names were the problem ...

Cont. reading: Six Killed Pediatricians Sign Letter To Obama

Posted by b at 04:55 AM | Comments (101)

August 11, 2016

Media Builds Up Enemies For Hillary's Wars

Another example that so-called news in U.S. media is often more propaganda than valid information is this NYT piece on the "hack" of the Democratic National Committee:

WASHINGTON — A Russian cyberattack that targeted Democratic politicians was bigger than it first appeared and breached the private email accounts of more than 100 party officials and groups, officials with knowledge of the case said Wednesday.

A "Russian cyberattack"? How can the NYT claim such, in an opening paragraph, when even the Director of U.S. National Intelligence is unable to make such a judgement?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, speaking about the hack of Democratic Party emails, said on Thursday the U.S. intelligence community was not ready to "make the call on attribution" as to who was responsible.

All the NYT lays out to backup its claim of a "Russian" hack is an anonymous Intelligence Committee staffer who claims U.S. intelligence agencies "have virtually no doubt" about it. If that were true why would the boss of these intelligence agencies publicly point out such doubts?

There is not even any evidence that the publishing of emails incriminating the DNC for manipulating the Democratic primaries were the result of any "hack". It might have well been an insider who copied the material and handed them to Wikileaks for publication. After the leak the DNC data analyst Seth Rich was mutilated and murdered near his home in Washington DC. The case was obviously no robbery. Julian Assange of Wikileaks pointed out that the circumstances of Rich's death are suspicious. I first attributed that claim to Assange's typical exaggerations, but the facts speak for themselves. The case indeed looks very much like a targeted killing. Who did it and and why?

The "Russia is guilty" claim for whatever happened, without any proof, is becoming a daily diet fed to the "western" public. A similar theme is the "barrel bombing" of (the always same) "hospitals" in Syria which is claimed whenever the Syrian government or its allies hit some al-Qaeda headquarter.

All this propaganda is in preparation of the rule of the "We came, we saw, he died. Hahaha ..." psychopathic queen of war Hillary Clinton.

As Marc Wheeler, aka emptywheel, reminds us:

6:13 AM - 10 Aug 2016 emptywheel @emptywheel

The actions to ensure we will escalate our wars are being taken as we speak. January will be too late to stop it.

Posted by b at 11:42 AM | Comments (77)

August 09, 2016

Clinton's False Assassination Outrage Only Helps Trump

The Hillary-bots are trying to construe some Trump babble as a call by him to 2nd amendment supporters to assassinate Hillary Clinton.

It is difficult to find such a suggestion even in the out-of-context sentences Clinton supporter are spreading around:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” he said, adding: “Although the second amendment people – maybe there is, I don’t know.”

My first thought when reading that was that he called for 2nd amendment supporters to organize against Clinton picking supreme court judges that would limit the current 2nd amendment interpretation (in my view: back to its original meaning). That the NRA, which Trump mentions, has lots of political organizing power is well known. To interpret that as call for assassination is widely off the mark.

To see a real moron and psychopath openly calling for murder (of Russians and Iranians), turn to the former CIA bigwig and Hillary acolyte Mike Morell.

The quote the Clinton supporters cite sounds different when put into the wider context. Within the usual disjointed talk Trump was giving it doesn't even come near to an assassination suggestion or a threat.

Via Daily Beast reporter Gideon Resnick the full quote:


Those incoherent remarks were certainly off-the-cuff babble without a prepared script. Difficult to follow even if someone were interested in doing so.

Some pitiable opposition researcher at Hillary's campaign headquarter must have listened closely to Trump for some line that could, somehow, be construed as something OUTRAGEOUS. That was then blasted to all the usual Hillary bots who immediately spread it around.

The Clinton campaign does not get it. As suggested here earlier the "outrage" the Clinton campaign constructs out of such quotes will only help Trump to win more votes. It will also infuse more mistrust against the media who spread it around. The Trump campaign is already using it for that purpose.

The best of it, from Trump's view, is that he now gets another full news cycle of free advertising on every media channel. This while Clinton spends at least $13 million for TV adds around the Olympics where Trump spends $0.

There are many ways to beat Trump. Constructing arguably false outrage from some throw-away remarks certainly isn't on of them. The election will likely be decided on voter turn-out and get-out-the-vote volunteering efforts. There is little, if any, enthusiasm for Clinton. Trump is winning more hard-core believers with any such Clinton attack.

Posted by b at 06:08 PM | Comments (155)

Who Now Leads The War On Syria - The CIA Or Turkey?

Some reports about the recent al-Qaeda attack on Aleppo suggest a leading role Turkey is playing in this operation. This contradicts my analysis of a Turkish foreign policy change moving from a solely western orientation towards a more eastern one. Such a change implies a less intense Turkish engagement in Syria.

Earlier reports by the Economist and the Financial Times pointed to less active role of Turkey in Syria. But a new Financial Times piece (Textcopy) emphasizes the role of Turkey in supplying and training various oppositions groups, especially al-Qaeda, while minimizing U.S. involvement:

[T]he offensive against President Bashar al-Assad’s troops may have had more foreign help than it appears: activists and rebels say opposition forces were replenished with new weapons, cash and other supplies before and during the fighting.

“At the border yesterday we counted tens of trucks bringing in weapons,” said one Syrian activist, who crosses between Syria and neighbouring Turkey. “It’s been happening daily, for weeks … weapons, artillery — we’re not just talking about some bullets or guns.”

Two other rebels, who, like all those interviewed, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, described cash and supplies being ferried in for weeks.

Just ten days ago the FT cited Syrian rebels as saying "Turkey was [now] inactive as rebels struggled." The Economist said Turkey was now "periodically closing the Bab al-Hawa border crossing". In the new piece claims that Turkey is the operational, logistical master behind the Aleppo attack; that the attack was planned in Ankara and al-Qaeda/Nusra troops were possibly trained by the Turkish military. Moreover it claims that mass supplies over the border have intensified in recent days instead of coming in dropwise throughout the months before.

Ahrar al Sham, the Taliban like, U.S. supported terrorist group in Syria, is also suddenly empathizing extensive Turkish help.

These reports do not fit each other. According to these reports Turkey is either pulling back from the war on Syria or is intensifying it. What is it?

Cont. reading: Who Now Leads The War On Syria - The CIA Or Turkey?

Posted by b at 12:20 PM | Comments (106)

August 08, 2016

NYT Covers Up Complicity In Iran Spy's Execution

Iranian authorities recently executed a scientist for treason after they determined that he was a long-term spy for the United States. The history behind the man is a bit weird. He had, so is said, for some time spied for the U.S. within an Iranian nuclear research center when it was decided to extradite him. He flew to Saudi Arabia from where the CIA brought him to the United States. It paid him a load of money and set him up under a new name in Tuscon, Arizona. The man did not feel well in his new setting. He released a video in which he claimed to have been taken against his will and that he was tortured and pressed by the CIA to spill Iranian secrets. He demanded to be send back to Iran. He arrived there but his story apparently did not hold up. He was eventually sentenced to death and executed.

A weird spy tale and one that certainly still has some secrets. But what is really curious is how one reporter at the New York Times, who once outright claimed that the man worked for the CIA, is now very vague about it. The man is dead. He can no longer be harmed. Why hold back now if not to hide ones complicity in his death?

On July 15 2010 NYT writer David Sanger left no doubt that the man was a long term CIA assets:

U.S. Says Scientist Aided C.I.A. While Still in Iran

The Iranian scientist who American officials say defected to the United States, only to return to Tehran on Thursday, had been an informant for the Central Intelligence Agency inside Iran for several years, providing information about the country’s nuclear program, according to United States officials.
For several years, Mr. Amiri provided what one official described as “significant, original” information about secret aspects of his country’s nuclear program, according to the Americans.

This account by the Americans, some of whom are apparently trying to discredit Mr. Amiri’s tale of having been kidnapped by the C.I.A., provides the latest twist in one of strangest tales of the nuclear era.

Sanger noted that the CIA wanted to discredit the scientist. But why then repeat those claims? He also noted that publishing the claim was likely to get the man into deep trouble:

“His safety depends on him sticking to that fairy tale about pressure and torture,” insisted one of the American officials, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified while discussing a classified operation to attract Iranian scientists. “His challenge is to try to convince the Iranian security forces that he never cooperated with the United States.”

Trying to convince Iranian authorities that you are no spy, while the NYT prominently lays out the story that you are, is not an easy task. Why did the NYT, knowing of the potential consequences for the man, publish the claims at all?

Does Sanger feel regret about having outed the man, now that he has been executed? Consider his mealymouthed version of the above claim in today's report on that case:

How an Iranian’s Spy Saga Ends, 6 Years Later: He’s Executed

It now appears he may have begun work as an American source while he was still in Iran.

That very qualified sentence - "now appears", "may have" - comes down in paragraph 11 of the story. Not in the very opening paragraph as written by Sanger six years ago. How come that today it "now appears" when this was claimed with near certainty in the other story six years ago?

Why change the story at all after those six years? Why these qualifications now that the man is dead? Is this covering up the NYT's and Sanger's personal complicity in the man's death?

Posted by b at 07:19 AM | Comments (42)

August 07, 2016

Aleppo (Again) Turns Into Focal Point Of The War On Syria

On Thursday I judged that the U.S. supported al-Qaeda attack in southwest Aleppo was failing.

Despite the failure of their main thrust, al-Qaeda and its allies launched a third phase attack towards Ramouseh district a few hundred meters further north. A tactical mistake as the attackers failed to build a decisive Schwerpunkt. ... Local fighting still continues on the front lines but the government positions seem secured and the attacking force is slowly getting ground down.

That judgement was premature.


The Jihadis retreated after their first three attacks but renewed their efforts with fresh troops on the next day. This time they concentrated on one focal point. Another frontal assault throughout Friday failed, but a fifth major strike followed in the darkness of Friday night. A total of five vehicle borne suicide bombs broke the defense line of the Syrian government forces and Jihadi forces stormed into the wide area of the Artillery Academy. The compound is a hard to observe mixture of small open fields, garages, office and quarter buildings. The sparsely manned defense lines were overwhelmed or circumvented. By Saturday night most of the academy was in the hand of the Jihadis. A small corridor to the Jihadi held east-Aleppo was opened but is not secured.


The Syrian government forces are bringing up reserves and additional forces. A counterattack is likely to follow soon. The battle for Aleppo is now the strategic Schwerpunkt, the focal point of the fight for north-Syria if not of the whole war.

Cont. reading: Aleppo (Again) Turns Into Focal Point Of The War On Syria

Posted by b at 03:58 AM | Comments (173)

August 06, 2016

Open Thread 2016-25

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:31 PM | Comments (123)

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