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November 02, 2017

Neocons Push Dubious Paper To Allege Iran - Al-Qaeda Connection

The anti-Iran powers in the U.S. again try to smear Iran as allied with al-Qaeda. The accusations will be used to justify further hostilities against the country.

Suddenly an anonymous, and likely fake, document appears and is prominently launched into the public circulation. To provide plausibility for the publishing the new CIA director Mike Pompeo ordered his staff to release additional data allegedly found in Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

These "new" papers were first released to the neoconservative anti-Iran lobby Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Among the "hundred thousands" of pages a mysterious 19 page document is claimed to prove Iranian collaboration with al-Qaeda. The way the release was handled and the prominence put on this one specific paper indicates that the now released stash was "spiked" with this document to initiate hostilities against Iran.

We have been here before. Fake documents produced by the CIA and neo-conservative think-tanks were used to allege that Saddam Hussein was buying Uranium in Niger (copy below). False claims were made that Saddam had contacts with the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack in New York.

Former CIA Career Analyst Ned Price explains the politics behind the new release:

Ned Price‏ @nedprice - 6:30 PM - 1 Nov 2017
  • @CIA released what it claims are the final public files from Bin Laden’s lair. I’m all for transparency, but this isn’t about that.
  • In Jan, DNI, which led the declassification effort, released what it said was the final tranche of Bin Laden files. Link
  • The DNI-led review was overseen by career intel officials, who concluded that, w the Jan files, all those of public interest were released.
  • But a funny thing happened when CIA Director Pompeo came into office. I’m told he re-launched a review of the files.
  • In doing so, he took officers away from important missions to pore—and re-pore—over the millions of documents.
  • How can we be sure this was a CIA effort? Unlike previous releases, today’s files are hosted on CIA.gov, not the DNI site.
  • He said as much at the gathering of a conservative group, @FDD, opposed to the Iran deal in September. Link
  • As luck would have it, CIA provided an advance copy of today’s files to @LongWarJournal, this group’s publication. Link
  • The ploy is transparent despite the fact that the newly-released documents don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.
  • What’s not as transparent are the motives of Pompeo, the administration’s leading and most influential Iran hawk.
  • Remember Cheney on @MeetThePress, pointing to Atta’s supposed Prague meeting w Iraqi officials? It was a key element of the march to war.
  • History doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme. Need to remain vigilant to ensure Pompeo isn’t able to write it.

The CIA's outlet for these papers, the FDD, writes about the cache:

Cont. reading: Neocons Push Dubious Paper To Allege Iran - Al-Qaeda Connection

Posted by b at 07:36 AM | Comments (80)

November 01, 2017

Is The "Moderate Al-Qaeda" Set To Target Hizbullah?

Since 2011 two propaganda campaigns have attempted to sell al-Qaeda in Syria as "moderate". The purpose was to justify the arming and cooperation with al-Qaeda to eliminate the secular Syrian state.  Recently a third "moderate al-Qaeda" wave has been launched. A possible purpose is to use al-Qaeda in a new war on Hizbullah in Lebanon.

The first wave occurred in October 2013. We wrote about it in Your Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-Qaeda. The New York Times, the Washington Post and various other outlets depicted al-Qaeda in Syria, which was operating together with U.S. supported "moderate rebels", as tempered and less harmful than the Islamic State organization ISIS. Meanwhile the "moderate rebels" allied with al-Qaeda were engaged in sectarian massacres against any Syrian non-Muslim. (The media has always whitewashed that part of the rebels' record.)

Two years later a second pro al-Qaeda campaign was launched. Qatari and Israeli lobbyists tried to sell al-Qaeda as a force that could be used to fight ISIS and the Syrian government. The neoconservative General Petraeus promoted an U.S. alliance with it.

Both campaigns muddied the waters but were not completely successful. Al-Qaeda in Syria, under its various names and alliances, continued to be officially recognized as terrorist group. But hidden from mainstream reporting the CIA armed it by providing freely to the Free Syrian Army rebels who were allied with it.

In May 2016 the Wahhabi paid anti-Syrian propagandist Charles Lister still had to ask the "moderate rebels" to better hide their allegiance with al-Qaeda. The same Charles Lister is now engaged in the third attempt to whitewash al-Qaeda into some moderate entity. Lister is claiming that the latest renaming of al-Qaeda/Jabhat al Nusra/Jabhat Fateh al-Sham into Hayet Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) was a serious step away from al-Qaeda's global leadership and ideology towards a local moderate position:

While still a jihadist group seeking the creation of local Islamic Emirates as future components of a global caliphate, HTS bore virtually no loyalty or allegiance to al-Qaeda or Nusra.
...
A groundless and frequently conspiratorial debate isolated to the distant Washington, D.C., beltway claimed the evolution of Nusra-to-JFS-to-HTS was merely a ploy to fool the West.

Unfortunate for Lister the fake "moderate" HTS does not agree with his claims:

HTS leaders themselves say the initial AQ break was a ruse. ... Nusrah’s leadership sold the al-Qaeda split internally on the grounds that it was basically false.

The Lister piece seems coordinated with a pamphlet from the Pentagon think-tank RAND (also published in Foreign Affairs) which again sells al-Qaeda as "a moderate alternative":

It remains unthinkable to most that the term “moderate” could ever be applied to an affiliate of the group responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001. But al Qaeda's Syrian franchise has quietly emerged as the less extreme alternative to ISIS within the jihadist universe. And that could spell a situation, at least in the long term, in which al Qaeda begins to resemble the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

The comparison with Hizbullah is laughable. Hizbullah is a local Lebanese group founded to fight against the Israeli occupation of its country. It is currently engaged in Syria to protect Lebanon from attacks of al-Qaeda and the like. Hizbullah never seriously engaged outside of that role. It refrains from sectarian strife and unlike al-Qaeda does not have an expansive ideology. Al-Qaeda and its "rebel" affiliates continue to strive for a global emirate and brutally oppose any person and entity that does not follow their Salafi/Wahhabi rules. To depict these groups as similar is not sound analysis but sets the stage for a "fair" confrontation between them.

Turkey has recently negotiated and allied with al-Qaeda to position its army against the Kurdish enclave Efrin in north-west Syria. The Turkish troops were escorted by al-Qaeda/HTS towards their positions. Officially Turkey continues to oppose al-Qaeda in any form. Its active co-operation with al-Qaeda received no negative coverage or condemnation from "western" media. It is expected that Turkey will later use al-Qaeda in Syria to justify an continued occupation of the country:

Ankara’s troops entered the northern Syrian city of Idlib – following an understanding with al-Qaeda – without any clash. This indicates that Turkey has not ended its role within Syria or the role of al-Qaeda: Ankara is expecting to play the al-Qaeda card when its forces will be asked to withdraw from Syria.

The campaign to whitewash al Qaeda was also joined by the Syrian "rebel journalist" Moussa al-Omar who reports from northern Syria that he fails to find any al-Qaeda at all. The current propaganda wave trivializes al-Qaeda in Syria and prepares for further cooperation with it. But the CIA is no longer arming the "rebels" and has no further immediate purpose for al-Qaeda.

What then is the operational aim behind this?

A hint may be in a recent announcement by the Saudi minister Thamer al-Sabhan who is well known for his extreme sectarian positions. The U.S. envoy McGurk recently introduced Thamer to the eastern Syrian tribes who were allied with ISIS until they were bought off to act as U.S. auxiliaries. Shortly thereafter Thamer visited Lebanon:

Firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Monday called for “toppling Hizbullah” and promised “astonishing” developments in “the coming days.”
...
Referring to his Sunday tweet about the Lebanese government, the minister said: “I addressed my tweet to the government because the Party of Satan (Hizbullah) is represented in it and it is a terrorist party. The issue is not about toppling the government but rather that Hizbullah should be toppled.”

“The coming developments will definitely be astonishing,” al-Sabhan added.

Nicholas Noe reliably reports from Lebanon. He warns of an upcoming campaign:

Nicholas Noe‏ @NoeNicholas Oct 30

Strong pessimism over this next stage here in Lebanon 4 Syria+Leb. Little hope of draw down/stabilization. New+deeper conflicts on the way
It looks very likely that the major conflict some of us have warned of for a while, w/ Hezbollah as primary target but huge effect, is near.

Hizbullah can only be fought by a force with a strong ideology that nonetheless is acceptable to the outside world. Fighting Hizbullah is a long pursued aim of the Saudis. Earlier Saudi proxy forces in Lebanon failed because they lacked the right mindset and support. A "moderated" al-Qaeda, transferred through Turkey via sea to Lebanon, would be the adequate tool for a renewed anti-Hizbullah campaign.

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (44)

October 31, 2017

How General Kelly's Attitudes Reflect the U.S. of A

When retired Marine General John Kelly became White House Chief of Staff and thereby the leader of the ruling junta the media were effusive about the "grown-up," and "adult" man.

With Kelly, “you’ve got an adult in the room,” said Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary for Homeland Security and author based in Cambridge.

Kelly just proved again that the lauded "adult" and "grown-up" is just another militaristic right-winger, has little knowledge outside of his narrow training and is as smug as the president he nominally serves:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Monday called Robert E. Lee “an honorable man” and said that “the lack of an ability to compromise” led to the Civil War, once again thrusting himself into the public spotlight on an emotionally charged issue.

How does one compromise over slavery? The "right" to own and abuse other humans to increase the wealth of their owners was the main issue the southern states fought for:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world.

General Lee was not a nice man. A slave owner himself. he liked to torture his "property" when it did not obey:

Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.”

Was that the deed of "an honorable man"?

It is not the first time the "adult" Kelly has shown his real face:

Long seen as a force of order and discipline in the White House, the retired Marine general became part of the controversy over the president’s calls to Gold Star families this month when he defended Trump’s statements to a widow, made false claims about a Florida congresswoman who had criticized the White House and said he would only take questions from reporters who knew families that had lost service members overseas. He told Ingraham on Monday that he did not believe he had anything to apologize for.

There is nothing astonishing about this. Kelly did not become a 4-star Marine general for being an enlightened defender of humanity.

The illusions some liberal luminaries expose when the lament about Kelly is quite astonishing:

Ta-Nehisi Coates‏ @tanehisicoates - 9:29 AM - 31 Oct 2017

Shocking that someone charged with defending their country, in some profound way, does not comprehend the country they claim to defend.

The White House and the U.S. military are not about "defending their country". The U.S. is surrounded by two oceans and two weak neighbors. The coast guard and some local police forces are sufficient to defend its borders. How many of the hundred-some wars the U.S. has fought were truly defensive? Most, if not all of them, were and are fought for imperial power and for the enrichment of the people of the United States. The methods were and are brutal and the enemies were and are nearly always depicted in racist terms.

The differences between the motives and attitudes of the southern states in the civil war and the motives and attitudes of the U.S. of A towards the world are marginal. Kelly comprehends that well.

Lamenting about Kelly's biased view of history looks silly when the speaker then misconstrues the imperialism of the U.S. and the role of its military.

Kelly and the other members of the junta are, like Trump, not abnormities but reflections of the United States.

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (103)

October 30, 2017

Open Thread 2017-39

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

October 23: Help Wanted - State Department Seeks Self-Consistent Secretary

In which I speculate that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hates his job and would be happy to leave.

October 24: Phoenix 2.0 - CIA To Unleash Vietnam Era Terror Campaign On Afghanistan

The White House approved a huge expansion of the CIA's torture and killing campaign in Afghanistan. The 'advantage': While the military has some minimum of accountability the CIA has none at all.

October 25: Nil

Draft piece moved to /dev/null for lack of substance.

October 26: British Involvement In "Trump Dossier" Needs Further Investigation

There are several strong indications that British secret services were deeply involved in the efforts to derail Trump's campaign. Did Brennan arrange for this or did  Clapper?

October 27: Cuba - U.S. Diplomats Retreat In Horror ... Because ... 'Crickets'

U.S. diplomats can't resist mating calls of Cuban gryllidae.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:36 AM | Comments (103)

October 29, 2017

UN On Khan Sheikhoun - Victims Hospitalized BEFORE Claimed Incident Happened

A UN commission concluded that the Syrian government is responsible for a widely discussed incident in Khan Sheikhoun. An alleged gas attack by air happened in April in an al-Qaeda controlled area in Syria. It was used by the White House to justify its bombing of a Syrian airbase.

The now released report was made to fit the narrative. The details below show that it was not the result of a serious investigation. This explains why Russia blocked the extension of the mandate of the reporting commission. 

On October 26 Reuters reported: Syrian government to blame for April sarin attack: U.N. report

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is to blame for a chemical attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed dozens of people last April, according to a report sent to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

“The Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017,” the report from the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) said.

The official report has not been published. But someone obtained a copy of the Seventh report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (pdf) and we make it herewith available.

The reports notes "irregularities" that makes one wonder how its writers could ever have come to this conclusion:

Based on the foregoing, the Leadership Panel is confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017. The findings of the Leadership Panel regarding the evidence in this case are based on the information set forth in detail in annex II.

Note the verbal choices the commission made: ".. is confident .." is not a wording that conveys surety and "..is responsible for the release" does not mean that the Syrian Arab Republic in fact did it.

The reports conclusions are NOT by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons or even endorsed by it. They were made by the "Joint Investigative Mechanism" which consists of a Guatemalan diplomat, an UN bureaucrat from Malaysia educated in the U.S. and a chemical expert who works for the Swiss government. It is a political board with a political judgement.

The reasons for that rather vague wording, which is not reflected in the news reports, can be found in the details. The report says on page 10:

The Mechanism determined that sarin was released from the location of a crater in the northern part of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017.

Many of the reports findings are based on open source videos and photographs published by the opposition. It acquired witnesses statements from the area which is under control of al-Qaeda. It also examined forensic evidence for which no chain of custody existed. Some findings are strange.

In annex II, on page 36 (of 39) of the pdf, it notes:

Certain irregularities were observed in elements of information analysed. For example, several hospitals appeared to start admitting casualties of the attack between 0640 and 0645 hours. The Mechanism received the medical records of 247 patients from Khan Shaykhun who were admitted to various health-care facilities, including those of survivors and a number of victims who died from exposure to chemical agent. The admission times of the records range between 0600 and 1600 hours. Analysis of the aforementioned medical records revealed that in 57 cases, patients were admitted in five hospitals before the incident in Khan Shaykhun (at 0600, 0620 and 0640 hours). In 10 such cases, patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Shaykhun at 0700 hours while another 42 patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 30 km away at 0700 hours. The Mechanism did not investigate these discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario, or to poor record-keeping in chaotic conditions.

At least 23% of the alleged casualties of the incident WERE ADMITTED TO HOSPITALS BEFORE THE INCIDENT HAPPENED.

Cont. reading: UN On Khan Sheikhoun - Victims Hospitalized BEFORE Claimed Incident Happened

Posted by b at 01:03 PM | Comments (40)

October 27, 2017

Cuba - U.S. Diplomats Retreat In Horror ... Because ... 'Crickets'

This incident earlier this month will probably go down in the annals as the most stupid diplomatic f***-up ever:

President Trump on Tuesday expelled 15 Cuban diplomats, escalating his response to a mysterious affliction that has stricken American Embassy personnel in Havana in a move that cast a Cold War chill over relations between the two countries.
...
American diplomats and their spouses began reporting symptoms that included hearing loss, dizziness, balance and visual problems, headaches and cognitive issues last December. By late January, the State Department realized that the illnesses were related and might have resulted from some sort of attack, perhaps by a sonic device, toxin or virus.

The U.S. diplomats were hearing strange noises at night. This within certain parts of their embassy as well as in some homes. Lots of mischief was suspected - from huge infrasound weapons to food poisoning. But no technical or medical explanation was found. The State Department described the noise as "specific attacks" on its diplomats. At least 21 were affected and half of the U.S. staff in Havana was ordered home. Cuban diplomats were expelled from the U.S.

Recordings of the mysterious sound were made available to AP. The agency noted:

It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what?
...
The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again.

A Cuban investigation now found the obvious answer to the AP's "but what?" question - 'crickets':

Officials with Cuba’s Interior Ministry said that U.S. investigators had presented them with three recordings made by presumed victims of sonic attacks and that analysis of the sounds showed them to be extremely similar to those of crickets and cicadas that live along the northern coast of Cuba.

“It’s the same bandwidth and it’s audibly very similar,” said Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Molina, a telecommunications specialist with the Interior Ministry. “We compared the spectrums of the sounds and evidently this common sound is very similar to the sound of a cicada.”

Crickets can make noise as loud as 100 decibel, loud enough to cause health problems. The U.S. diplomats in Cuba were "attacked" by Cuban crickets which made enough noise to cause discomfort or even symptoms of illness. As someone only exposed to crickets when traveling abroad I can confirm that night-long cricket noise can be extremely unsettling to those who are not used to it.

But why did the State Department not know this? Why did the diplomats not recognize the noise for what it was? Cicadas and crickets are not uncommon in the southern U.S. states.

Presumable some in the CIA and in the State Department do not want better relations with Cuba and resisted the 2016 reopening of the embassy. It is possible that they used the cicada "attacks" to sabotage the relations.

Whatever. The incident lets the U.S. State Department look extremely silly. Imagine all the "crickets" jokes diplomats from other countries will make about their U.S. colleagues.

The mighty U.S. was defeated! Its diplomats retreated in panic! ... because ... 'crickets'.

Posted by b at 03:50 AM | Comments (90)

October 26, 2017

British Involvement In "Trump Dossier" Needs Further Investigation

We noted back in July that the only relevant "collusion with the Russians" during the 2016 election cycle was the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton smear campaign against Donald Trump:

Hillary Clinton campaign cut-out hires the (former?) British intelligence agent Steele to pay money to (former?) Russian intelligence agents and high-level Kremlin employees for dirt about Donald Trump. They deliver some fairy tales. The resulting dossier is peddled far and wide throughout Washington DC with the intent of damaging Trump.

There was never evidence that Steele indeed talked to any Russian, or really had contact with his claimed sources. He has been for years persona non grata in Moscow and could not visit the country.

Yesterday, our assertion that Clinton campaign cut-outs paid for the dossier, was finally confirmed: Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.
..,
After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Told ya so ...

Michael Sussmann, a lawyer from the same firm that hired Fusion GPS on order of Democrats, hired the Crowdstrike cyber-outlet to investigate the leak of DNC emails. Crowdstrike and the DNC denied the FBI access to the relevant servers but asserted that "Russian hacking" was the source of the leak.

The "Trump dossier" was opposition research ordered up and paid for by the Clinton/DNC mafia. Most of its content was obviously fake or patched together from publicly known facts. But it took up to now for U.S. media to point that out. The fake dossier, paid for by the Democrats, was used by the FBI under Obama to get FISA warrants to spy on Republican party operatives.

We noted in January that the dossier was additionally used by the British and American deep state to sabotage Trump's plans for better relations with Russia (see  original for source quotes):

The "former" desk officer for Russia in the British MI6 Christopher Steele was the one who prepared the 35 pages of obviously false claims about Russian connections with and kompromat against Trump. There are so many inconsistencies in these pages that anyone knowledgeable about the workings in Moscow could immediately identify it as fake.
...
Steele spread the fakes throughout the press corps in Washington DC but no media published them because these were obviously false accusations.

Steele then decided to hand the papers to the FBI and to talk to its agents hoping they would start an official investigation. He cleared his move (or was ordered to proceed?) at the highest level of the British government:
...
When Steele's first move with the FBI in October did note deliver the hoped for results an attempt to stove pipe them through Senator John McCain was launched. A "former" British ambassador to Moscow arranged the hand over:
...
The MI6 is well known for launching fakes on behalf of the British government.

Even the second, more official handover to the FBI still did not result in the hoped for publication of the allegations. But by that time Clinton was widely expect to win the election anyway so no further steps were taken.

After Trump unexpectedly won the election a new effort was launched to publish the smears. The Director of National Intelligence decided (or was ordered to) "brief" the President, the President elect and Congress on the obviously dubious accusations.

It was this decision that made sure that the papers would eventually be published. As the NYT noted:
...
Only after Clapper or others leaked to CNN about the briefing of Obama, Trump and Congress, did CNN publish about the 35 pages:
...
The attack was a deep state attempt to stage a coup against Trump:

After the election the Democrats stopped paying for new Steele reports. But by then efforts to make the fake Steele reports public and to thereby sabotage Trump policies turned into high gear. McCain had already been involved in distributing the report and it was he or the Brits who who paid for the last fake report Steele delivered:

Let me remind you of the basic facts about the Dossier--It consists of 13 separate reports. The first is dated 20 June 2016. That date is important because it shows that it took a little more than two months [after the Democrats started paying] for Fusion GPS to generate its first report on Trump's alleged Russian activities. If Fusion GPS already had something in the can then I would expect them to have put something out in early May. Eleven more reports were generated between 26 July and 19 October 2016. That tracks with the letter from Perkins Coie that the engagement by the Clinton Campaign ended at the end of October.

But there is a big problem and unanswered question--The Dossier includes a final report that is dated 13 December 2016. Who paid for this? Was it John McCain?

The purpose of the final fake report Steele added to the dossier was to provide "evidence" that Trump was involved in the "Russian hacking" of the DNC:

Cont. reading: British Involvement In "Trump Dossier" Needs Further Investigation

Posted by b at 03:26 AM | Comments (151)

October 24, 2017

Phoenix 2.0 - CIA To Unleash Vietnam Era Terror Campaign On Afghanistan

Last week the new head of the CIA Mike Pompeo publicly threatened to make the CIA a "much more vicious agency". His first step towards that is to unleash CIA sponsored killer gangs onto the people of Afghanistan:

The C.I.A. is expanding its covert operations in Afghanistan, sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors alongside Afghan forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country ...
...
The C.I.A.’s expanded role will augment missions carried out by military units, meaning more of the United States’ combat role in Afghanistan will be hidden from public view.

This will be mass murder campaign. People will be pulled from their houses at night and vanish - 'eliminated'. That has been happening in Afghanistan for years, but on a relatively small scale. So far the targets were 'al-Qaeda', a small terrorist group, not the local insurgency. The new campaign will target the Taliban, a mass insurgency against the U.S. occupation. Thus is will be a mass campaign and cause mass casualties.

It is not going to be a counter-insurgency campaign, even though some will assert it is. A counter-insurgency campaign combines political, security, economic, and informational components. It can only be successful in support of a legitimate authority.

The current Afghan government has little legitimacy. It was cobbled and bribed together by the U.S. embassy after wide and open election fraud threatened to devolve into total chaos. In August CIA director Pompeo met the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and likely discussed the new plan. But the now announced campaign has neither a political nor an economic component. Solely centered on "security" it will end up as a random torture and killing expedition without the necessary context and with no positive results for the occupation.

The campaign will be a boon for the Taliban. While it will likely kill Taliban aligned insurgents here and there, it will also alienate many more Afghan people. Some 75%  of the Taliban fighters are locals fighting near their homes. Killing them creates new local recruits for the insurgency. It will also give the Taliban a more sympathetic population which it can use to cover its future operations.

A similar campaign during the Vietnam war was known as Operation Phoenix. Then some 50,000-100,000 South-Vietnamese, all 'suspected communists', were killed by the CIA's roving gangs. The polished Wikipedia version:

[Phoenix] was designed to identify and "neutralize" (via infiltration, capture, counter-terrorism, interrogation, and assassination) the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong). The CIA described it as "a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Viet Cong". The major two components of the program were Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) and regional interrogation centers. PRUs would kill or capture suspected NLF members, as well as civilians who were thought to have information on NLF activities. Many of these people were then taken to interrogation centers where many were allegedly tortured in an attempt to gain intelligence on VC activities in the area. The information extracted at the centers was then given to military commanders, who would use it to task the PRU with further capture and assassination missions.

The Phoenix program was embedded into a larger civil political and economic development program known as Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support. The civil part of CORDS partially failed over bribery and incompetence. It was too expensive and not sustainable. The accepted historical judgement is that the 'security' part, Phoenix, failed to achieve its purpose despite its wide conceptualization. Its utter brutality alienated the people. The passive support for the Viet Cong increased due to the campaign.

In recent years there have been revisionists efforts by the Pentagon's RAND Corporation to change that view. They claim that the campaign went well and was successful. But those who took part in Phoenix (Video: Part 1, part 2) paint a very different picture. The brutality of Phoenix, which enraged the public, was one of the reason that forced the U.S. government to end the war.

The now announced campaign looks similar to Phoenix but lacks any political component. It is not designed to pacify insurgents but to 'eliminate' any and all resistance:

The new effort will be led by small units known as counterterrorism pursuit teams. They are managed by C.I.A. paramilitary officers from the agency’s Special Activities Division and operatives from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence arm, and include elite American troops from the Joint Special Operations Command. The majority of the forces, however, are Afghan militia members.

Cont. reading: Phoenix 2.0 - CIA To Unleash Vietnam Era Terror Campaign On Afghanistan

Posted by b at 06:43 AM | Comments (87)

October 23, 2017

Help Wanted - State Department Seeks Self-Consistent Secretary

European business deals with Iran are safe: Tillerson - AFP, October 20 2017

Washington (AFP) - The United States does not intend to disrupt European business deals with Iran, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in comments published Friday.
...
"The president's been pretty clear that it's not his intent to interfere with business deals that the Europeans may have under way with Iran," Tillerson told The Wall Street Journal.

"He's said it clearly: 'That's fine. You guys do what you want to do.'"

Tillerson Warns Europe Against Iran Investments - NYT, October 22 2017

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia —
...
Speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Tillerson said, “Both of our countries believe that those who conduct business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, any of their entities — European companies or other companies around the globe — really do so at great risk.” Mr. Tillerson appeared at a brief news conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, with the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.
...
Mr. Tillerson’s remarks were the administration’s most pointed warning to date ...

This not the way to get the European Union in line with U.S. policies. So what is going on here?

Trump in often inconsistent in what he says. That is his privilege. But it does not mean that the Secretary of State has to contradict himself each and every day. It is Tillerson's task to project a steady foreign policy. If there is none - for whatever reason - he must keep his comments vague. Contradictions like the above make him a joke.

'Rexxon' has experience in doing international businesses. He knows that consistency is one of the most important factors in getting things done. No one will make deals with a party that changes its mind every other day.

So why is Tillerson jumping around like this? He seeks to replace Ms. Jubeir as court jester in Riyadh? Or does he want to sabotage his own position?

One inevitably gets the impression that Tillerson wants out. That he wants to chuck his job rather sooner than later. That he longs for the inevitable day he will be fired.

Tillerson is a realist at heart. He is no fan of Netanyahoo. He despises the fake human rights blabber others use to hide their motives. The neo-conservatives would love to see him go. Josh Rogin lists their favorite candidates:

The most popular parlor game in Washington right now is speculating who will replace Rex Tillerson as President Trump’s next secretary of state ... two qualified and apparently willing candidates have emerged. ... The top two contenders, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, ...

Haley is way too loud and incompetent. Pompeo is too narrow minded.

I wonder who the White House junta will prefer as new Secretary of State. One from its own stable? David Petraeus?

He would be another nail in the coffin of Trump's presidency.

 

Posted by b at 09:28 AM | Comments (36)

October 22, 2017

Open Thread 2017-38

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

October 16: How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

Ahab Jezebel dissects the bullshit the Washington Post peddles on Syria.

October 16/17: Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Egged on by Netanyahoo the Barzani mafia made a bid to steal Kirkuk and its oil from Iraq. The Iraqis disagreed with being robbed and took back their land. Barzani failed. The Kurdish bubble deflated. There will be no Kurdish independence.

Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

Background analysis on the failure of Barzani's bid and thoughts on the consequences in Iraq and Syria.

October 18: Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

After having bused out the remaining ISIS fighter, the U.S. declared victory in Raqqa. But after more than 20,000 bomb impacts the city lies in ruins. U.S. envoy McGurk brought in the Saudis to pay for rebuilding it. They will pay, but only for new Wahhabi mosques that will then create the next incarnation of ISIS.

October 19: The U.S. Military - Pampered, Safe And Very Scared

Members of the U.S. military are well cared for and mostly live a safe life. There is factually little 'sacrifice' in being a U.S. soldier. While one side of the propaganda depicts the military as 'heroic', another side emphasis the ever growing 'fears' it allegedly has. That doesn't compute.

October 20: Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

Three op-eds in four days? Clearly, someone hired Emma Sky for an influence campaign. She argues for keeping U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and Emma Sky's very active role in it, created the mess in the first place.

October 21: "Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

The generals have consolidated their power within the White House. They are now moving to extend it over the public.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:32 AM | Comments (110)

October 21, 2017

"Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

In an advertising campaign in 2008 the U.S. Air Force declared itself to be "Above All". The slogan and symbol of the campaign was similar to the German "Deutschland Über Alles" campaign of 1933. It was a sign of things to come.

On Thursday Masha Gessen watched the press briefing of White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly and concluded:

The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.
  1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military. ...
  2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do. ...
  3. Communication between the President and a military widow is no one’s business but theirs. ...
  4. Citizens are ranked based on their proximity to dying for their country. ...

Gessen is late. The coup happened months ago. A military junta is in strong control of White House polices. It is now widening its claim to power.

All along Trump has been the candidate of the military. The other two power centers of the power triangle, the corporate and the executive government (CIA), had gone for Clinton. The Pentagon's proxy defeated the CIA proxy. (Last months' fight over Raqqa was similar - with a similar outcome.)

On January 20, the first day of the Not-Hillary presidency, I warned:

The military will demand its due beyond the three generals now in Trump's cabinet.

With the help of the media the generals in the White House defeated their civilian adversary. In August the Trump ship dropped its ideological pilot. Steve Bannon went from board. Bannon's militarist enemy, National Security Advisor General McMaster, had won. I stated:

A military junta is now ruling the United States

and later explained:

Trump's success as the "Not-Hillary" candidate was based on an anti-establishment insurgency. Representatives of that insurgency, Flynn, Bannon and the MAGA voters, drove him through his first months in office. An intense media campaign was launched to counter them and the military took control of the White House. The anti-establishment insurgents were fired. Trump is now reduced to public figure head of a stratocracy - a military junta which nominally follows the rule of law.

The military took full control of White House processes and policies:

Everything of importance now passes through the Junta's hands ... To control Trump the Junta filters his information input and eliminates any potentially alternative view ... The Junta members dictate their policies to Trump by only proposing certain alternatives to him. The one that is most preferable to them, will be presented as the only desirable one. "There are no alternatives," Trump will be told again and again.

With the power center captured the Junta starts to implement its ideology and to suppress any and all criticism against itself. 

On Thursday the 19th Kelly criticized Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of South Florida for hearing in (invited) on a phone-call Trump had with some dead soldiers wife:

Kelly then continued his criticism of Wilson, mentioning the 2015 dedication of the Miramar FBI building, saying she focused in her speech that she “got the money” for the building.

The video of the Congresswoman's speech (above link) proves that Kelly's claim was a fabrication. But one is no longer allowed to point such out. The Junta, by definition, does not lie. When the next day journalists asked the White House Press Secretary about Kelly's unjustified attack she responded:

MS. SANDERS: If you want to go after General Kelly, that's up to you. But I think that that -- if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.

It is now "highly inappropriate" to even question the Junta that rules the empire.

Cont. reading: "Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

Posted by b at 03:58 PM | Comments (70)

October 20, 2017

Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

While the Iraqi government forces sweep Kirkuk clean of the Kurdish occupation, one writer strongly pushed pro-Kurdish/anti-Iranian views. Three pieces by Emma Sky appeared in three prestigious imperial outlets within just four days. They are noticeable for the slander and lies. Obviously they are part of a well prepared lobbying campaign.

The author is not an neutral observer or academic specialist. Emma Sky is the person most responsible for messing up Kirkuk. She is also a 'Mother of ISIS'.

On October 16 Emma Sky published in Foreign Affairs: Mission Still Not Accomplished in Iraq - Why the United States Should Not Leave.

On October 18 she plants the same notion in The Atlantic: America Has Become Dispensable in Iraq. The subtitle reveals what it is really about:

The conflict in Kirkuk offers further evidence of Iran’s steady rise.

Sky pushes hard to implant a sectarian, anti-Iran meme. Consider this howler:

Once more, Iran is playing the key role, helping to broker a deal between the PUK and the Iraqi government and guiding the Shia militias supporting the Iraqis.

What nationality please to the "Shia militia" in Iraq have? Are they from Mars?

When ISIS rose in 2014 U.S. President Obama held back support for the Iraqi government to get rid of the just reelected Prime Minister Maliki:

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.

Iran with its Revolutionary Guards jumped in and hastily trained and equipped volunteers into Popular Mobilization Units. These groups managed to stop ISIS from taking Baghdad. The PMU  are under the exclusive command of the Iraqi government. They are official Iraqi government forces, not exclusively Shia and no longer accompanied by Iranian advisors. No Iranian troops or advisers were involved in the liberation of Kirkuk. Sky's claim is all wrong. Sky has a hobby horse:

A compromise of some sort could be reached on confederation for Kurdistan and a special status for Kirkuk.

On October 19 Emma Sky appears in The Guardian: Iraq’s Kurds have overplayed their hand. Now both sides must talk. Within that piece she claims:

When the Iraqi security forces fled in the face of Isis in 2014 it was the Kurds, with support from the US-led coalition, who fought back and pushed them out of Kirkuk.

That was definitely not the case. ISIS never touched Kirkuk. Indeed the piece Emma Sky links to as reference never says so. It mentions that Iraqi army deserters were fleeing from ISIS in Mosul towards Kirkuk. In June 2014 the Kurdish Peshmerga invaded Kirkuk, threw out disoriented Iraqi government forces and occupied the city. This was at the very same time as ISIS took Mosul. ISIS and Peshmerga fighters delineated their borders and had their checkpoints only a few meters apart. Video showed them inviting each other for dinner. Sky's core point in the piece is that the Kurds, for their falsely claimed "rescue" of Kirkuk from ISIS, now deserve some part of it:

It is time to revisit the idea of a special status for Kirkuk, with power-sharing between the different communities

A "special status" for Kirkuk is not reasonable. It is a normal Iraqi city and, like many others, has a religiously and ethnic diverse population. That Sky tries to justify a special status for Kurds in Kirkuk with a fight against ISIS that never happened demonstrates how dishonest the claim is.

The "special status" idea for Kirkuk came up in 2003 when an ignorant British governor of Kirkuk, imposed by the U.S./UK occupation, was lost in internecine claims to the oil rich province between Kurdish expansionists and local Arabs. That governor was one Emma Sky.

Like other imperial freaks Sky later found a warm place at Yale.

An extensive discussion of Emma Sky's prior misdeeds in Iraq was published in June 2016 by Maniza Naqvi. The author summarized:

Emma Sky—the woman who assisted in the unraveling of Iraq and the region, who became the right hand of General Odierno in Iraq—and the architect of the ‘Sunni Awakening'---is perhaps, the Mother of Daesh, the word for terror in Iraq and Syria and the entire region or as the West calls it, ISIS.

The piece follows Sky's way as imperial overlord throughout the U.S. occupation. It quotes from her questioning in front of the the British Iraq Inquiry Committee. The transcripts reflect how completely unprepared the U.S. and its British stooges were when they arrogantly imposed themselves onto the country.

Cont. reading: Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

Posted by b at 03:43 PM | Comments (68)

October 19, 2017

The U.S. Military - Pampered, Safe And Very Scared

The U.S. military is a socialist paradise:

Service members and their families live for free on base. People living off base are given a stipend to cover their housing costs. They shop in commissaries and post exchanges where prices for food and basic goods are considerably lower than at civilian stores. Troops and their families count on high-quality education and responsive universal health care. They expect to be safe at home, as bases, on average, have less violence than American cities of comparable size. And residents enjoy a wide range of amenities—not just restaurants and movie theaters but fishing ponds, camp sites, and golf courses built for their use.

Of course, some bases are better than others. But even the most austere provides a comprehensive network of social welfare provisions and a safety net that does not differentiate between a junior employee and an executive.

For those who stay on, the military provides a generous retirement pay.

"But life in the military is dangerous!"

Not so.

According to a 2012 study by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC) the risk to ones life is lower for soldiers than for civilians:

In the past two decades (which include two periods of intense combat operations), the crude overall mortality rate among U.S. service members was 71.5 per 100,000 [person-years]. In 2005, in the general U.S. population, the crude overall mortality rate among 15-44 year olds was 127.5 per 100,000 p-yrs.

The huge difference is quite astonishing. The death rate for soldiers would still have been lower than for civilians if the U.S. had started another medium size war:

If the age-specific mortality rates that affected the U.S. general population in 2005 had affected the respective age-groups of active component military members throughout the period of interest for this report, there would have been approximately 13,198 (53%) more deaths among military members overall.

Those working in the U.S. military, even when the U.S. is at war, have a quite pampered life with lots of benefits. They have less risk to their lives than their civilian peers. But when some soldier dies by chance, the announcements speak of "sacrifice". The fishermen, transport and construction workers, who have the highest occupational death rates, don't get solemn obituaries and pompous burials.

There may be occasions where soldiers behave heroic and die for some good cause. But those are rather rare incidents. The reports thereof are at times manipulated for propaganda purposes.

The U.S. military spends more than a billion per year on advertisement.  It spends many uncounted millions on hidden information operations. These are not designed to influence an enemy but the people of the United States. In recent years the U.S. military and intelligence services have scripted or actively influenced 1,800 Hollywood and TV productions. Many of the top-rated movie scripts pass through a military censorship office which decides how much 'production assistance' the Department of Defense will provide for the flick.

A rather schizophrenic aspect of its safe life is the military's fear. Despite being cared for and secure, the soldiers seem to be a bunch of scaredy-cats. The military's  angst is very ambiguous. It meanders from issue to issue. This at least to various headlines:

Members of the U.S. military live quite well. They are safe. Their propaganda depicts them as heroes. At the same time we are told that they are a bunch of woosies who fear about anything one can think of.

I find that a strange contradiction.

/snark

Posted by b at 12:32 PM | Comments (120)

October 18, 2017

Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

There is dangerous news evolving from Raqqa, Syria. While ISIS is largely defeated seeds get sown for its reappearance.

The Kurdish forces under the label SDF and led by U.S. special forces have defeated ISIS in Raqqa. Cleanup operations continue. The victory came only after the the U.S. and its proxies agreed to give free passage to the last few hundreds of foreign and Syrian ISIS fighters and their families. Since these boarded buses and were moved out of Raqqa on Saturday night nothing has been heard of them.

On Monday the U.S. coordinator for the fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk, brought an unwelcome visitor to Syria.

Raqqa24 @24Raqqa - 9:49 AM - 17 Oct 2017

Brett McGurk visited Ayn Issa today with the Saudi minister Thamer al-Sabhan (former Ambassador to Iraq) & joined 3 different meetings. #R24

First meeting was with the local council of #Raqqa then with reconstruction committee at the least they met with elders of Raqqa

Picture of the visit of Brett McGurk and Thamer al-Sabhan. Source: Unknown


via Raqqa24 - bigger

The visit was confirmed by a (pro Kurd) journalist:

Wladimir‏ @vvanwilgenburg - 5:06 PM - 17 Oct 2017
Wladimir Retweeted Raqqa24

I was there. No pictures allowed. Meeting was indeed about reconstruction.

Thamer al-Sabhan is the Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs. He is known to be extremely sectarian and anti-Shia.

In 2015 Thamer al-Sabhan was appointed as the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq since the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait in 1990. He made no friends in Baghdad when he ranted against the Popular Mobilization Units, which had stopped and fought back ISIS. He denigrated the most revered religious scholar in Iraq:

Cont. reading: Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

Posted by b at 10:04 AM | Comments (58)

October 17, 2017

Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

The bid of the Kurdish Barzani clan for an independent Kurdistan in north Iraq and beyond has utterly failed. Masoud Barzani, the strongman of the Iraqi Kurdish  region, had called for the referendum to divert from his government's financial problems. Other Kurdish powerhouses saw it as a last attempt by Barzani to save his failing political position. The referendum asked for independence including in "Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region". It was an annexation bid. National Iraqi forces as well as the international powers turned against it. Masoud Barzani and his family are now likely to lose their leading position.

The various unilateral Kurdish assertions since 2003 will be driven back. The dream of Kurdish independence in Iraq and Syria is, for now, dead. This is a positive development for both countries.

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Since 2003 and especially since 2014 the Kurds had pushed far beyond their original borders. They occupied areas with diverse populations and with critical Iraqi oil reserves. With backing from the Iraqi parliament, public opinion and international support the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Abadi had for months demanded a return of the 2003 borders. It condemned the illegal independence bid.

The ruling Barzani family mafia sold the oil and pocketed the money that by law was owned to Iraq's federal government. The Barzani militia mafia occupied the federal border stations to neighboring countries and kept all custom income to themselves. Meanwhile teachers and other public workers in the Kurdish region went unpaid.

The Barzani family clan is only one of the powers in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Historically its main competitors are the Talabani clan. Both clans control their own political parties (KDP and PUK) and militia. Both had been fighting against each other during a civil war in the 1990s. Then the Barzanis called in help from Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to defeat their local enemies.

Over the last decade the Talabanis were handicapped by their ailing patriarch Jalal Talabani. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq he eschewed a major role in the Kurdish region in exchange for the ceremonial position of a president of Iraq. When Jalal Talbani died on October 2 his family immediately asserted its position. It negotiated a deal with the central Iraqi government to reign in the Barzanis' quasi dictatorial powers. The Iranian General Qassam Suleiman helped to arrange the agreement.

When the Iraqi government forces, as previously announced, moved to retake Kirkuk from the Kurds the Kurdish militia forces (peshmerga) under PUK/Talibani command retreated as planned. The militia under KDP/Barzani command were left in an indefensible position and had to flee in haste.

Yesterday and today Iraqi national forces retook control of various large oil fields the Kurds had occupied. They are also back in control of border stations with Syria and Turkey. After three years the Yazidi can finally go back to Sinjar. The Mosul Dam is again in government hands. Without oil and customs dues the Kurdish region lacks the assets and income to finance any regional independence. While his project collapsed in front of everyone's eyes, not a word was heard from Masoud Barzani.

The Iraqi government will not only retake full control of the areas the Kurds under Brazani had illegally usurped. It will also demand new regional elections. It is doubtful that Masoud Barzani, or any of his sons, can win such local elections after all the mismanagement and disasters they caused.

In Syria the Kurdish YPG/SDF forces today took full control of Raqqa. It will take months to clear the last remands ISIS left behind. It will take years to rebuild the city as it was largely destroyed by U.S. air support during the fight against ISIS.

Cont. reading: Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

Posted by b at 09:49 AM | Comments (81)

October 16, 2017

How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

by Ahab Jezebel

One of the most prestigious US medias, The Washington Post clearly has no built-in review mechanism for monitoring the quality and veracity of its source material relating to the coverage of war zone news. This is particularly apparent with regard to the reporting of the ongoing war situation in Syria. At present these professional standards have slipped and the paper has placed itself outside the ranks of real journalism and professionalism on which it built its enviable reputation - long before the war in Syria.

Spreading propaganda, and relying only on activists, is not professional. It resembles paid publicity, designed to affect public opinion, and it takes advantage of less informed readers and politicians.

We can open a small window into one of the latest articles on Syria by The Washington Post entitled:”Civilian casualties spiral in Syria as air raids target areas marked for cease-fire”. The article was not written from Syria but from Beirut (Lebanon), although it speaks authoritatively about Syria in great detail – and this from a journalist who has never been to Syria, and certainly not during the six years of the war.

In its second paragraph the newspaper talks of "groups monitoring the conflict": but every single human being on Earth interested in the Syrian war is monitoring the conflict - including my 87 year-old neighbour, Louise (her name). She is able to tell me stories about daily bombing and "Daesh" (The "Islamic State" – ISIS) attacking "every day and maybe coming to Europe," according to her conclusions drawn from monitoring mainstream media. She believes Syria is a country of ghosts and that Assad, Daesh and the US are "working together against evil Russia".

The Washington Post further undermines its own credibility by quoting the “White Helmets,” who apparently report that “80% of ... attacks targeted civilian areas”. Not everybody knows how biased the White Helmets are: in fact some of their histrionic performances have been said to rival Shakespeare. Professional journalism by a reputable newspaper should be ill at ease when quoting “a fake professional exhibitionist group.” And where, indeed, in Syria were the White Helmets based? In an al-Qaeda controlled city, working very closely with that terrorist group- the very same group responsible for 9/11!

The newspaper doesn’t stop at that: it insinuates - according to its title and introduction - that "pro-government forces launched hundreds of bombing raids across areas marked for international protection": yet the same journalist who wrote that article re-tweeted that "there were also 1,278 declared Coalition strikes in Syria last month".

Cont. reading: How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

Posted by b at 09:21 AM | Comments (58)

Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Today the Iraqi government took Kirkuk back from occupying Kurdish forces. This marks the end of the Kurdish independence project in Iraq.

in 2014 the Islamic State occupied Mosul.  At the same time the regional Kurdish government under Masoud Barzani sent its Peshmerga troops to take the oil rich city of Kirkuk from the collapsing forces of the central Iraqi government. There were plausible allegations and some evidence (vid) that the Kurds had made a deal with ISIS and coordinated the move.

In 2016 and 2017 Iraqi forces defeated ISIS in Mosul. Kurdish groups took the opportunity of the ISIS defeat to occupy further land, even as that did not have a Kurdish majority population and did not belong to their autonomous region.

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The red lined area is the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq as accepted by the Iraqi constitution. The red dotted line is the additional area the Kurds intended to take and at times controlled.

The Iraqi government insisted that the situation be turned back to the pre-2014 lines. The vast majority of the people in Kirkuk are Arab and Turkmen. Kirkuk produces two-third of all oil in north-Iraq. There was not a chance that any central government of Iraq would leave the city and these riches to Kurdish occupiers. The central government move to reassert federal authority is backed by parliament decisions and was announced in a press conference on Tuesday.

bigger

But the Kurdish leaders did neither think nor listen. The leading Barzani clan and his KDP party, long associated with Israel, tried to solidify their resource robbery. On September 25 they held an "independence referendum" in all areas under their control. All countries, except Israel, spoke out against this move.

But Barzani was urged on by the Zionists and international neo-conservatives:

Cont. reading: Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Posted by b at 04:38 AM | Comments (58)

October 15, 2017

Open Thread 2017-37

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

October 7 - Syria - Erdogan Is Afraid Of Entering Idleb

Turkish forces eventually entered Idleb (see below). But not as the Astana agreement had foreseen.

October 8 - Missing - A Motive For The Las Vegas Killing Spree

There has been no new information on the massacre in Las Vegas. No new gun laws to restrict (semi-)automatic weapons seem to be forthcoming. The whole affair has vanished from the news.

October 9 - Syria - Turkey Violates Astana Agreement - Renews Alliance With Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda could do so much damage to Turkey that Erdogan has to ally with it. Here are details of the Idleb arrangement between Turkey and al-Qaeda as narrated by an al-Qaeda member. Turkey will not touch al-Qaeda and enters Idleb only to besiege the Kurds.

October 10 - Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

The fires are still raging - 6,000 house so far have been completely destroyed (vids). Only the chimneys are left.

October 11 - Russia Interfered!" - By Purchasing Anti-Trump Ads?

The latest Russia nonsense comes from CNN which, in the headline and lede, say that Russia used the Pokemon game to influence Americans, but down in the piece admits that it has no evidence for the claim.

October 12 - Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

The U.S. secret services dislike the Kaspersky anti-virus package presumably because it is difficult to hack. They use their bullhorns to practically ban it from the market. This makes the Kaspersky suite the most recommendable anti-virus snake-oil.

October 13 - 8 Out Of 10 Will Only Read This Headline

Recent examples of headlines asserting facts that the pieces below those headlines do not back up or even refute.

October 14 - Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Trump acts like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Fun to watch - until one is part of the china.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:33 PM | Comments (106)

October 14, 2017

Free Passage Deal For ISIS In Raqqa - U.S. Denies Involvement - Video Proves It Lies

After free passage negotiations with the U.S. and its Kurdish proxy forces, ISIS is moving its fighters out of Raqqa city. When the Syrian government reached similar agreements the U.S. childishly criticized it. The U.S. coalition claims that it was "not involved in the discussions" that led to the Raqqa free passage agreement. A BBC News report shows that the opposite is true.

Over the last two years the U.S. and its Kurdish proxy force in Syria made several deals with the Islamic State. In 2016, for example, they negotiated a deal with Islamic State fighters to move from Manbij to the Turkish border to avoid further casualties in the fight about the city.

But when in August 2017 Hizbullah and the Lebanese and Syrian government negotiated a deal with some 300 besieged ISIS fighters and their families at the Lebanese-Syria border, the U.S. loudly protested. The U.S. military blocked and threatened to bomb the evacuation convoy over several days and the U.S. envoy McGurk ranted against it:

7:20 AM - 30 Aug 2017 - Brett McGurk @brett_mcgurk

Irreconcilable #ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi border without #Iraq's consent 1/2
Our @coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter #Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling "caliphate." 2/2

Over the last months U.S. supported Kurdish proxy fighters besieged the city of Raqqa and fought to take it from ISIS. An immense amount of U.S. bombs was released to lower the casualty numbers of the U.S.proxy forces. The city was literally "destroyed to save it". Many of its civilian inhabitants were killed. During the last days rumors abounded that a deal was made between the U.S. and ISIS. It would give ISIS fighters free passage when leaving the city. Today these rumors were confirmed:

Cont. reading: Free Passage Deal For ISIS In Raqqa - U.S. Denies Involvement - Video Proves It Lies

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (80)

October 13, 2017

Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Trump hates the international nuclear deal with Iran.  The agreement put temporary restriction of Iran's nuclear program and opened it up to deeper inspections. The other sides of the deal committed to lifting sanctions and to further economic cooperation. Trump wants to get rid of the deal; but he is unwilling to pay the political price.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was negotiated and signed by the five permanent UN Security Council members (U.S., Ch, Ru, UK, F), Germany, the EU and Iran. If the U.S. defaults on the deal it will be in a lone position. The diplomatic isolation would limit its abilities to use its influence on other issues.

Trump has little knowledge of Iran, the nuclear deal, the Middle East or anything else. What he knows comes from Fox News and from Netanyahoo and other Zionist whisperers who get to his ear. All he heard is that the deal with Iran is bad. Therefore, he concluded, it must end.

The White House handed a paper to the media which is supposed to describe President Donald J. Trump's New Strategy on Iran. But there is no strategy in that paper. It list a number of aims the Trump wants to achieve. But it does no explain how he plans to do that. It is a wish list, not a program to follow.

The "Core Elements of the Presidents New Iran Strategy" are:

Cont. reading: Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (87)

October 12, 2017

8 Out Of 10 Will Only Read This Headline

Headlines lie to catch attention. Only few read beyond them.

They will miss the facts, and the falsehood of the headlines. It is a dangerous development.

Here is an Australian example of current headline writing:


Top secret information about Australia’s military hacked

The lede:

TOP secret technical information about new fighter jets, navy vessels, and surveillance aircraft has been stolen from an Australian defence contractor.

The story could be relevant - if true. But it does not hold what the headline promises. The text says:

  • ".. the firm was subcontracted four levels down from defence contracts."
  •  ".. a mum and dad type business ... with about 50 employees"
  • "the admin password, to enter the company’s web portal, was ‘admin’ and the guest password was ‘guest’"
  • "the information ... included a diagram in which you could zoom in down to the captain’s chair and see that it was one metre away from the navigation chair"
  • "the information disclosed was commercially sensitive, it was unclassified"

The last snippet completely rebuts the headline. It appears in 18th of the 20 paragraph story.

A truthful (but boring) headline might have said: "Mechanics rat-shop puts marketing stuff on open website". No one would have clicked on it.

Headlines disproved by the following text have become common:

"It was not immediately clear what Trump was responding to."
"A large number of ads appeared in [other] areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections."
"It is too soon to map out exactly how the drug war will affect the health of Filipinos."

News content is now of lesser relevance than ever. "Clicks" are generated by headlines:

"Clicks" generate "visits" which convert into advertising revenue. Such headlines make economic sense - short-term. But the best paying advertisers seek a quality audience. In the long-term they will avoid such sites.

Once upon a time sensationalist false headlines were the loony realm of tabloid media. That is unfortunately no longer the case. Headlines of even reputable media no longer transmit facts. One has to dive deep into the stories to get to real information.

This trend will lead to a further stultification of the population. It makes it easier to manipulate the plebs.

Posted by b at 12:43 PM | Comments (42)

October 11, 2017

Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

Since May 2017 certain U.S. circles openly campaign against security products provided by the Russian company Kaspersky Labs. Three recent stories claim involvement of the software in rather fantastic "Russian hackers" stories. It is renewed attack after a silent spy campaign in 2015 against Kaspersky had failed. The current stories seem inconsistent, lack logic and evidence.

If one believes all the now made claims then Israel hacked Kaspersky, which was hacking an NSA employee who had stolen NSA hacks, while being hacked by Russia which was hacked by the NSA, while the NSA was warned by Israel about Russian hacks. Makes sense?

The Russian company Kaspersky Lab makes and sells the probably best anti-virus protection software available. All anti-virus software packages need full access to the system they run on. It is the only way to assure that the packages themselves are not compromised by some super-virus. Anti-virus packages upload malware they find for further analysis. They also update themselves through a secure internet connection. This enables the product to detect new viruses soon after they have been discovered in the wild. Both of the characteristics, full system access and online-update, make these tools inherently dangerous. They can be abused either by their producer or by someone who infiltrates the producers systems.

Computer geeks call such products "snake-oil" as they promise a grade of security that can not be guaranteed, even while they themselves constitute a significant security risk. One either must trust such anti-virus packages or not use them at all.

Since May 2017 Congress made noise about banning Kaspersky products from the U.S. Defense Department and other government entities. In September the Department of Homeland Security order all federal agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their system. Kaspersky Lab makes some 60% of its total revenues in the United States. The DHS order and the resulting press reports will do very serious damage to its business. It will help to sell competing U.S. products.

Eugene Kaspersky, the owner of the company, has offered to provide the source code of the products for review by U.S. government specialists. He also offered to testify before Congress. Both to no avail.

There is fear mongering, without any evidence, that Kaspersky may cooperate with the Russian government. Similar accusations could be made about any anti-virus product. U.S. and British spies systematically target all anti-virus products and companies:

The British spy agency regarded the Kaspersky software in particular as a hindrance to its hacking operations and sought a way to neutralize it.
...
An NSA slide describing "Project CAMBERDADA" lists at least 23 antivirus and security firms that were in that spy agency's sights. They include the Finnish antivirus firm F-Secure, the Slovakian firm Eset, Avast software from the Czech Republic. and Bit-Defender from Romania. Notably missing from the list are the American anti-virus firms Symantec and McAfee as well as the UK-based firm Sophos.

That the NSA and the British GCHQ did not list U.S. and British made anti-virus products on their "to do" list lets one assume that these packages can already be controlled by them.

In February 2015 Kaspersky announced that it found U.S. and UK government spying and sabotage software infecting computers in some 42 countries. It released a detailed report about the "Equation group", its name for NSA and GCHQ spy tools. In June 2015 Kaspersky Lab detected a breach in its own systems by an Israeli government malware. It published an extensive autopsy of the breach and the malware programs used in it. Meanwhile the NSA attacked Kaspersky products and customers:

The NSA has also studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses, obtaining sensitive customer information by monitoring communications between the software and Kaspersky servers, according to a draft top-secret report. The U.S. spy agency also appears to have examined emails inbound to security software companies flagging new viruses and vulnerabilities.

Later that year the CIA and FBI even tried to recruit Kaspersky employees but were warned off.

That the U.S. government now attempts to damage Kaspersky is likely a sign that Kaspersky Lab and its products continue to be a hard-target which the NSA and GCHQ find difficult to breach.

To justify the public campaign against Kaspersky, which began in May, U.S. officials recently started to provide a series of cover stories. A diligent reading of these stories reveals inconsistencies and a lack of logic.

On October 5 the Wall Street Journal reported: Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense:

Cont. reading: Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

Posted by b at 08:14 AM | Comments (58)

October 10, 2017

"Russia Interfered!" - By Purchasing Anti-Trump Ads?

After the ludicrous "Russian hacking" claims have died down for lack of evidence, the attention was moved to even more ludicrous claims of "Russian ads influenced the elections". Some readers are upset that continue to debunk the nonsense the media spreads around this. But lies should not stand without response. If only to blame the reporters and media who push this dreck.

As evidence is also lacking for any "Russian interference" claims the media outlets have started to push deceiving headlines. These make claims that are not covered at all by the content of the related pieces. The headlines are effective because less than 20% of the viewers ever read beyond them.

On the NYT Homepage today we find another one of these: Google Finds Russia Bought Ads to Interfere in Election.

Google has found no ads that "Russia", the state or nation, has bought. There is also no evidence that the ads in question interfered in any way with the election. There is evidence that any of the ads in questions aimed to achieve that. The opener of the piece repeats the false headline claims. But now we have "Russian agents", not "Russia", which allegedly did something.

Google has found evidence that Russian agents bought ads on its wide-ranging networks in an effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign.

The term "Russian agents" is not defined at all. Where these "secret agents" or Public Relation professionals in Washington DC hired by some Russian entity?

Using accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government, the agents purchased $4,700 worth of search ads and more traditional display ads, according to a person familiar with the company’s inquiry ...

"Accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government." Believed by whom? And how is "connected" defined? Isn't any citizen "connected" to his or her government?

Those believed, connected accounts bought a whopping $4,700 of ads? Googles 2016 revenue was $89,000,000,000. The total campaign expenditures in 2016 were some $6,000,000,000. The Clinton campaign spent some $480,000 on social network ads alone. But something "Russian" spending $4,700 was "interference"?

But wait. There is more:

Google found a separate $53,000 worth of ads with political material that were purchased from Russian internet addresses, building addresses or with Russian currency. It is not clear whether any of those were connected to the Russian government, and they may have been purchased by Russian citizens, the person said.

So now we are on to something. A full $53,000 worth of ads. But ....

The messages of those ads spanned the political spectrum. One account spent $7,000 on ads to promote a documentary called “You’ve Been Trumped,” a film about Donald J. Trump’s efforts to build a golf course in Scotland along an environmentally sensitive coastline. Another spent $36,000 on ads questioning whether President Barack Obama needed to resign. Yet another bought ads to promote political merchandise for Mr. Obama.

The film is anti-Trump. Obama not resigning would have been anti-Trump. Selling Obama merchandise may have been good business, but is certainly not pro-Trump. So at least $43,000 of a total of $53,000 mentioned above was spent by believed, connected "Russians" on ads that promoted anti-Trump material. How does that fit with the claims that "Russia" wished to get Trump elected? Putin pushed the wrong button?

The allegedly "Russian" Facebook ads were just a click-bait scheme by some people trying to make money. The allegedly "Russian" Goggle ads were of a volume that is unlikely to have made any difference in anything. They were also anti-Trump.

Clinton lost because people on all sides had learned to dislike her policies throughout the years. She was unelectable. Her party was and is acting against the interest of the common people. No claim of anything "Russian" can change those facts.

Posted by b at 11:37 AM | Comments (56)

Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

Below the fold:

An impressive video of a ten minutes bicycle ride, at night, through a burning Santa Rosa neighborhood.

The people got out. But those plywood buildings had no chance. (One wonders why such buildings are seen as investments.)

Cont. reading: Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

Posted by b at 02:21 AM | Comments (59)

October 09, 2017

Syria - Turkey Violates Astana Agreement - Renews Alliance With Al-Qaeda

Yesterday Turkish army forces entered the Syrian Idleb governate from the west. The move is officially part of a de-escalation supervision process agreed upon between Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran. One point of the agreement is to continue the fight against al-Qaeda in Syria, currently operating under the name Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). HTS controls large parts of Idleb governate.

This is confirmed in the official Turkish Idleb Operation Explanation. "To purge terrorist organisations, especially DAESH, PKK/PYD-YPG and HTS from the region," is  describes as one aim of its de-escalaton force.

But the Turkish forces have made a deal with HTS. When their reconnaissance teams entered Idleb yesterday they were escorted by heavily armed HTS forces (video). According to their agreement with the terrorists the Turkish forces will only take up three positions. All of these will be bordering the Kurdish enclave Efrin (Afrin).


bigger

An (anti-Syrian government) journalist reports:

Hassan Hassan‏ - Verified account @hxhassan - 5:22 PM - 8 Oct 2017

1. Turkey established three checkpoints in Darat Izzat, west of Aleppo, in coordination with HTS.
A senior HTS official tells @MousaAlomar Turkish forces won't be present anywhere other than those checkpoints "for now."
2. Mousa asks a series of questions to the HTS official:
 Q. Will the Turkish army enter [rebel-held] areas?
 A. Yes (but not beyond the three areas agreed with HTS)
 Q. Any imminent battle in Idlib?
 A. No. So far things are good, unless Turkey changes its position
My own sources confirm that an effort to keep things peaceful between Turkey and HTS is so far successful.

The purpose of this Turkish incursion is obviously not to counter al-Qaeda/HTS but only to surround the Kurdish held enclave around Efrin.

An aggressive Turkish move could now  try to cut of the Kurdish Efrin area (yellow) from the Syrian government held areas (red) by connecting the Turkish controlled rebel area in the north (blue) with the al-Qaeda controlled Idleb governate (green). Such a move would encounter fierce resistance not only from Kurdish elements and the Syrian government but also from Iran. Auxiliary Iranian troops hold the government corridor between Aleppo and Efrin to protect some important Shia villages in the area.

On one side one can understand the Turkish abrogation of its duties under the Astana agreement. Erdogan is afraid of the domestic backlash a real fight against  HTS would likely cause. But it was Turkey that created the mess by supplying al-Qaeda in Syria with men and goods for nearly six years. It is its duty to kill the monster it created. It also has to uphold its diplomatic agreements.

Turkey has proven again that it is not trustworthy. Erdogan may hope to get NATO cover should he incur new Russian wrath about his breach of trust and his abrogation of the de-escalation agreement. But the expanding spat between the State Department and the Turkish government, as well as low Turkish standing within NATO populations, do not bode well for any bet on that alliance.

Posted by b at 05:35 AM | Comments (88)

October 08, 2017

Missing - A Motive For The Las Vegas Killing Spree

The currently known tale of the Las Vegas mass murder feels astonishingly incomplete. Several rumors and reports appeared about a potential second shooter. But there is no hard evidence. The police keeps saying there was only one person involved. It claims to have copious video evidence of that. None has yet been released.

It seems possible that one person alone did this. A large, densely packed crowd, a position high up, automatic weapons - it was a "shooting fish in a barrel" situation - not a chance to miss.

The shooter was white. He was therefore mentally disturbed. Would he have been black, he would have been an evil terrorist. But being mentally disturbed or under pharmaceutical influence doe not fit with the long planning and the diligence of preparation.

Stephen Paddock, the allegedly lone shooter, is a curious personality. Only bits of his life seem to be known. An accountant who, on the side, made millions in real estates? He must have been a thrifty person do achieve that, with a good sense for numbers. Why would such a person go to casinos and put money into video poker machines? It is a sure way to lose and any sane persons knows this.

The above gives rise to dozens of crazy theories. The man must have been CIA. ISIS ordered him to do it. Putin must have done it to somehow sow discord in America.

All these theories miss the same decisive detail that is lacking in the prevalent tale. A rational motive.

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (259)

October 07, 2017

Syria - Erdogan Is Afraid Of Entering Idleb

The Turkish President Erdogan announced the start of a Turkish operation in Idleb province of Syria. Idelb has been for years under the control of al-Qaeda in Syria, currently under the label Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

In the talks in Astana, Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed on a deescalation zone in Idelb to be supervised by all three of them. But the fight against al-Qaeda, aka HTS, would continue. Turkey is supposed to control the western part of the province including the city of Idleb. But the Turkish government is afraid to go there.

During the last days there have been many reports and lots of pictures of Turkish force movements along the north-western Syrian border. But Turkey made no attempt to enter the country and it is doubtful that it will.

Erdogan's announcement needs some parsing:

Cont. reading: Syria - Erdogan Is Afraid Of Entering Idleb

Posted by b at 12:04 PM | Comments (59)

October 06, 2017

Open Thread 2017-36

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (78)

October 05, 2017

Syria - Russia Issues Third Warning Against U.S. Cooperation With Terrorists

The Syrian Army was on its way across the Euphrates river to liberate the oil- and gas-fields east of Deir Ezzor city. The U.S. countered the move. It sent a small forces of Arab tribal mercenaries who were earlier allied with the Islamic State (ISIS). These proxy forces came from a northern direction and moved through Islamic State held areas without fighting and casualties up to the walls of Deir Ezzor city.


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

The Syrian army was about to win the race when it started to cross the Euphrates. But it suddenly was surprised by a large al-Qaeda attack in southern Idleb province. That area had been quiet for months. 29 Russian troops who were supervising a deescalation zone there were nearly encircled by al-Qaeda forces. They only escape after an emergency relief operation had cut through al-Qaeda lines. The Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. of having communicated the position of the Russian platoon to al-Qaeda.

Shortly thereafter a Russian general, visiting Deir Ezzor city to supervise the Euphrates bridge crossing, came under extremely well aimed mortar fire by the Islamic State. The general and two other high ranking officers were killed. During years of fighting around Deir Ezzor ISIS had never shown the capability for such a precise strike. Someone must have communicated with the terrorists and transferred the exact position of the local headquarter, as well as the time of the Russian general's visit.

A week later a concentrated ISIS attack on the main supply road between Palmyra and Deir Ezzor was attacked by a large number of ISIS forces. It is trying to retake al-Suknah in the middle between the two cities. The Russian Defense Ministry claims that the attacking ISIS forces came from southern areas of al-Tanf near the Jordan border which are under control of U.S. forces. Should ISIS take al-Suknah the Syrian-Russian contingent in Deir Ezzor would gain be cutoff.

Due to those three attacks the Syrian-Russian move towards the eastern oil-fields came to a near standstill. U.S. proxy forces are now slowly taking the area.

It seems obvious that the U.S. military is again cooperating with terrorist groups in Syria. There must be at least some information flow between U.S. intelligence and al-Qaeda and ISIS. It seems that deconflicition data the Syrian-Russian alliance is sharing with U.S. forces in Syria is ending up in the hands of the extremists. This explains how al-Qaeda and ISIS can suddenly and very precisely attack critical Syrian and Russian positions which are known to only very few people.

The Russian have protested several times and had warned the U.S. not to continue with their nefarious scheming. The third severe warning came yesterday with statements by the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and direct accusation against the U.S. military by the spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry.

In an interview with the semi-official Saudi paper Asharq al-Awsat Foreign Minister Lavrov was extraordinary frank (the full interview was covered only in the Arabic edition). Interfax recapitulates:

Cont. reading: Syria - Russia Issues Third Warning Against U.S. Cooperation With Terrorists

Posted by b at 03:00 AM | Comments (129)

October 04, 2017

Intercept Augments Its Anti-Syrian Stable

We wrote on the dubious outlet that The Intercept has become. It has long taken anti-Syrian positions. The new hire of a prejudiced author will reinforce its hostile stand against the Syrian government and its people.

On September 21 The Intercept hired Maryam Saleh:

Maryam Saleh is our new Washington-based associate editor. Saleh worked as an immigration attorney before switching tracks and attending Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her writing has appeared in U.S. News & World Report, Public Radio International, Syria Deeply, the Tampa Bay Times — and The Intercept, where she has been an editorial fellow since July.


Pic via The Intercept.

Saleh's staff page at The Intercept identifies her as:

an editor and reporter based in Washington, D.C., whose work focuses on immigration and national security.

Saleh tweets under the verified account مريم @MaryamSaleh_. Her Twitter page is crowned by a picture of the U.S. financed propaganda group Kafranbel Media Center. The KMC and its founder have close relations with the Salafist terrorists of Ahrar al-Sham. Maryam Saleh's twitter profile starts with "Syria, always; ...".

On September 30 Maryam Saleh tweeted:

Cont. reading: Intercept Augments Its Anti-Syrian Stable

Posted by b at 12:59 PM | Comments (37)

October 03, 2017

The "Russian Ads" On Facebook Are Just Another Click-Bait Scheme

Congress is investigating 3,000 "suspicious" ads which were run on Facebook. They were claimed to have been bought by "Russia" to influence the U.S.presidential election in favor of Trump.

With more details now known we can conclude that these Facebook ads had nothing to do with the election. The mini-ads were bought to promote click-bait pages and sites. These pages and sites were created and promoted to sell further advertisement. The media though, has still not understood the issue.

On September 6 the NYT asserted:

Providing new evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that it had identified more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on hot-button issues purchased by a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin.
...
The disclosure adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign, which American intelligence agencies concluded was designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election.

Like any Congress investigation the current one concerned with Facebook ads is leaking like a sieve. What oozes out makes little sense. If "Russia" aimed to make Congress and U.S. media a laughing stock it has  surely achieved that.

Today the NYT says that the ads were bought by "the Russians" "in disguise" to promote variously themed Facebook pages:

There was “Defend the 2nd,” a Facebook page for gun-rights supporters, festooned with firearms and tough rhetoric. There was a rainbow-hued page for gay rights activists, “LGBT United.” There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.

No one has explained how these pages are connected to a Russian "influence" campaign. It is unexplained how these are connected to the 2016 election. Both is simply asserted because Facebook said, for unknown reasons, that these ads may have come from some Russian agency. How Facebook has determined that is not known.

With each new detail from the "Russian ads" investigation the framework of "election manipulation" falls further apart:

Late Monday, Facebook said in a post that about 10 million people had seen the ads in question. About 44 percent of the ads were seen before the 2016 election and the rest after, the company said.

The original claim was that "Russia" intended to influence the election in favor of Trump. But why then was the majority of the ads in questions run after November 9? And how would an animal-lovers page with adorable puppies help to achieve Trump's election victory?

More details via the Wall Street Journal:

Roughly 25% of the ads were never shown to anyone. That’s because advertising auctions are designed so that ads reach people based on relevance, and certain ads may not reach anyone as a result.
...
For 50% of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent.

Of the 3,000 ads Facebook originally claimed were "Russian" only 2,200 were ever viewed. Most of the advertisements were mini-ads which, for the price of a coffee, promoted private pages related to hobbies and a wide spectrum of controversial issues. The majority of the ads ran after the election.

All that "adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign"? "...designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election"?

No.

But the NYT still finds "experts" who believe in the "Russian influence" nonsense and find the most stupid explanations for their claims:

Clinton Watts, a former F.B.I. agent now at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, said Russia had been entrepreneurial in trying to develop diverse channels of influence. Some, like the dogs page, may have been created without a specific goal and held in reserve for future use.

Puppy pictures for "future use"?

Nonsense.

Lunacy!

The pages described and the ads leading to them are typical click-bait, not part of a political influence op.

The for-profit scheme runs as follows:

Cont. reading: The "Russian Ads" On Facebook Are Just Another Click-Bait Scheme

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (60)

October 02, 2017

Another Day, Another U.S. Mass Shooting

"Turn down the music. You know uncle Stephen goes berserk when one disturbs his sleep." /snark

One Stephen Paddock rented a room on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel. Over three days, he brought some ten guns into it. The room was chosen to overlook the space of on upcoming open air concert. 

Last night Paddock waited for the concert to start and then fired his automatic weapons into the crowd. At least fifty-eight people died and some 400 were wounded. The murderer later killed himself.

Paddock is portrait as a reclusive, well-off retiree and is thought to be a professional gambler. There is no hint yet of the mans motive. He is white and has a Christian name. Thus, according to U.S. standards, his killing spree was not terrorism.

The state of Nevada allows about anyone to buy and own automatic rifles. With one pull of the trigger one can fire off a full 30 round magazine within a few seconds.  The use of such machine guns leave the victims in an attack like this no time to escape. With a bit of training, a change of magazines takes less than five seconds. The man must have had more than a thousand rounds to cause such a number of casualties.

The statistics paint a horrible picture of gun violence in the U.S. There is now one mass shooting, with more than four victims, per day:

First 9 months of 2017:
-11,572 gun deaths
-23,365 gun injuries
-271 mass shootings
-1,508 unintentional shootings
-2,971 kids/teens shot

The Onion headlined: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens . It was the fifths time in the last three years that the Onion used the same headline and story. They only switched the photo, the name of the city and the body count.

The gun lobby will again say, "Let's not politicize this tragedy by talking gun control."

Sure, let's wait a few months, at which time there will be another mass shooting.

Every gun massacre is an advertisement for guns. The stocks of gun manufacturers soared today, casino stocks fell.

Posted by b at 01:20 PM | Comments (279)

October 01, 2017

On Catalonia's Referendum

Some people in Catalonia, a rich and culturally distinct area in north-east of Spain, want to secede from the larger country. According to polls (pdf) less than half of the people in the area support the move. The local government prepared for a referendum and called for a local vote.

Polling stations were set up for today. But Spanish laws do not allow for such polls or a separation. Catalonia, like other Spanish regions, already has a good degree of autonomy. If Catalonia were to secede the Basque areas in the north would likely follow. Spain would fall apart. Under Spanish law the referendum is illegal. The central government sent police to prevent the procedure. Street melees ensued.

A lot of mistakes have been made by the central government. It was stubborn in negotiations. It reacted too late to - at least partially - reasonable demands. Its insensitivity only incited resistance to it. But it is also responsible for the country as a whole. The behavior of local government is not much better. It is just as conservative, in its own way, as the government in Madrid.

Catalonia has a GDP per capita of some $33,580/year. For Spain as a whole the GDP per capita is $26,643/year. Many factors account for the difference. Catalonia has an advantages in climate, in the vicinity of the French border, the high attractiveness for tourists with its capital Barcelona and its beaches. It has a well developed industry. But the "rest of Spain" is also, by far, its biggest market.

A richer part of the country does not want to subsidize the poorer ones. But it still wants to profit from them.

In general the splitting off of sub-states from the bigger, established nations weakens both. It is easier for outside forces to manipulated smaller states than larger ones. While the motives in this or that case are understandable, they are also, in my view, shortsighted.

During the Spanish civil war in the 1930s Catalonia and Basque areas were the last Republican strongholds against the winning right-wing Nationalists. That history lives on in today's conflict. No one should wish to repeat it.

Posted by b at 06:16 AM | Comments (131)

The "Russian Influence" Stories Promote Russia's Might - Is Putin Paying For Them?

It was probably premature to write The "Russian Influence" Story Falls Apart:

The story about "Russian influence" was made up by the Democrats to explain Clinton's loss of the election and to avoid looking at her personal responsibility for it. It also helps to push the new cold war narrative and to sell weapons. As no evidence was ever found to support the "Russian influence" campaign, Facebook and others come under pressure to deliver the "evidence" the U.S. intelligence services could not produce. The now resulting story of [Russia is] "sowing chaos" is out of la-la-land.

The last nonsense of the "Russia hacked the election" campaign was a recent letter from the Department of Homeland Security which warned 21 states, a year too late, that their election systems were attacked by something "Russia". So far three of the 21 states have debunked the DHS claim. Wisconsin, California and Texas all say that their election systems were not attacked at all and DHS had to concede as much.

These states also pointed out that the only "attacks" DHS found were port-scans of some non-election systems. Port scans are requests from one server to another to check for the availability of certain services - some computer asking another computer if a web-service or mail-service is available on it. Such requests are not attacks but regular behavior of internet systems. Sometimes email-spammers use port scans to find unsecured email-servers they could potentially abuse. These are like small time thieves checking a parking lot for the one unlocked car with the expensive camera on the front seat.

But the need to build Russia up as the new enemy is still there. How else can Europe be kept down? How else can more money be spend for useless weapon systems?

Thus the campaign has changed from "Russia installed Trump" or "Russia influenced the election" to "Russian influence wants to destroy America". The campaign has also grow more lunatic.

Consider the Republican senator James Lankford who's claims of "Russian influence" have been picked up by the Washington Post, Reuters, NPR and others. They want you to believe that Russia is involved in the NFL protests:

"We watched, even this weekend, the Russians and their troll farms, their Internet folks, start hashtagging out 'take a knee' and also hashtagging out 'boycott the NFL,' " Lankford said at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday.

"They were taking both sides of the argument this past weekend ..."

Surely, taking both sides on an issue which is heavily debated is a trademark of Russian spies. That is at least what the NPR author implies:

Cont. reading: The "Russian Influence" Stories Promote Russia's Might - Is Putin Paying For Them?

Posted by b at 02:52 AM | Comments (75)

September 28, 2017

Storm Hits Foreign American Island - Reveals System's Failure

A new example of how little Americans know about their own country - Washington Post, September 28

Puerto Rico is not a foreign country, at least it isn’t if you live in the United States. It is a U.S. territory, and those on the island who were born in Puerto Rico are American citizens (though, like denizens of the District of Columbia, have no voting rights in Congress).

But a new poll by an outfit called Morning Consult, as reported in the New York Times, found that only 54 percent of Americans know that people born in Puerto Rico are American citizens.

Someone belonging to the 46% of uninformed Americans is headline editor for the print edition of the Washington Post.

bigger

(The print edition headline, ‘Why can’t we get out of here?’ asks stranded American, was changed to ‘Why can’t we get out of here?’ Airports in Puerto Rico, other islands, damaged and slow to recover for its online version.)

Cont. reading: Storm Hits Foreign American Island - Reveals System's Failure

Posted by b at 06:50 PM | Comments (147)

By The Grace Of Israel - The Barzani Clan And Kurdish "Independence"

The Kurdish region in Iraq held a "referendum" about splitting off from Iraq to form an independent state. The referendum was highly irregular and the outcome was assured. That such a referendum was held now had more to do with the beleaguered situation of the illegitimate regional president Barzani than with a genuine opportunity to achieve independence. The referendum was non-binding. It is now onto Barzani to declare independence or to set the issue aside in exchange for, essentially, more money.

We first wrote about the Kurdish problem and Kurdish ambitions in Iraqi back in December 2005(!). The problems of an independent Kurdish region we then pointed out are still the same:

A landlocked Kurdish state of some kind could produce a lot of oil, but how would this oil reach the markets, especially Israel? The neighbors Turkey, Iran and Syria all have Kurdish minorities and have no reason to help a Kurdish state to enrich itself and see that money funneled to their unruly minorities. After [Kurdish] grabbing [of] Kirkuk, the Arab rest of Iraq will also not support pipelines for then Kurdish oil.

Arabs, Turks, and Persians see the Kurds as a recalcitrant nomadic mountain tribe and stooge of Israeli interests.

In the mid 1960s and 70s Israel cooperated with Iran, then a U.S. ally under the Shah, to fight against its Arab enemies - Iraq, Syria and Egypt. As part of the cooperation the Mossad sent Lt. Colonel Tzuri Sagi to develop plans for and build up a Kurdish army to fight Iraqi troops in northern Iraq. Tzuri Sagi was also responsible for the Israeli assassination attempts against Saddam Hussein. His Kurdish cooperation partner was the leader of the Barzani clan, Mullah Mustafa Barzani. The Kurdish army the Israelis created is now known as Peshmerga. The son of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, Masoud Barzani, is now the illegitimate president of the Kurdish region of Iraq.


Lt. Colonel Sagi with Mustafa Barazani. Photo reproduction: Yossi Zeliger - source - bigger

Cont. reading: By The Grace Of Israel - The Barzani Clan And Kurdish "Independence"

Posted by b at 10:22 AM | Comments (129)

September 26, 2017

The "Russian Influence" Story Falls Apart - A New Fairy Tale Is Needed

The Obama White House and some Democratic officials pressed Facebook to find evidence for alleged "Russian interference" in the U.S. election. When Facebook found none, the pressure increased. Facebook went back, again found nothing and political pressure increase further. Congress threatened to investigate. Senator Warner flew to California and demanded the "right" results. Eventually Facebook gave in:

By early August, Facebook had identified more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the United States between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency.

All hailed Facebook - finally there was something they could build their anti-Russian campaign on.

It is of course idiotic to believe that 3,000 ads for which some $100,000 was spent over two years would somehow effect a U.S. election. In a U.S. presidential election more than $2 billion is spend on advertising. Facebook's ad revenue per year is some $27 billion.

Moreover - as it now turns out these 3,000 advertisements which "appeared" to be "associated" with something "Russian" were not anti-Clinton or pro-Trump but were a mix of pro- and contra ads on various social issues:

The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign.

The Russian campaign — taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics — also sought to sow discord among religious groups. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.

(Note again - there is no evidence that any of the ads were "Russian bought" or part of a "Russian campaign". Those are mere assertions by the Washington Post authors.)

As we now learn that these ads were not, as earlier assumed, pro-Trump and anti-Clinton, the narrative has to change. Earlier it was claimed that the alleged Russian aim was to get Trump elected. That no longer holds:

“Their aim was to sow chaos,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “In many ­cases, it was more about voter suppression rather than increasing turnout.”

How pro- and anti-Black Lives Matter ads might have suppressed voter turnout will stay Senator Warner's secret.

Instead of "Russia helped Trump" we now get an even more implausible "Russia wanted to sow discord" narrative. As if Donald Trump's campaign style had not been enough to cause controversies.

The Washington Post has been the major outlet to push the "Russian influence" baloney. It has long left all journalistic standards behind. Today it goes even further. An editorial now claims that Russia interfered in the German elections by pushing the right-wing AfD vote through last minute tweets from some Twitter bots:

Cont. reading: The "Russian Influence" Story Falls Apart - A New Fairy Tale Is Needed

Posted by b at 01:50 PM | Comments (126)

September 25, 2017

Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia

Yesterday three high ranking Russian officers were killed in an "ISIS attack" in eastern Syria. It is likely that they were killed by U.S. special forces or insurgents under U.S. special forces control. The incident will be understood as a declaration of war.

The U.S. Central Command in the Middle East wants the oil fields in east-Syria under control of its proxy forces to set up and control a U.S. aligned Kurdish mini-state in the area. The Syrian government, allied with Russia, needs the revenues of the oil fields to rebuild the country.


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Last week the Russians issued sharply worded statements against U.S. coordination with al-Qaeda terrorists in Idleb province and warned of further escalation.

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. military in east-Syria of direct collaboration with the Islamic State:

US Army special units provide free passage for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through the battle formations of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, the ministry said in a statement.

“Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,” the statement reads.

The newly released images “clearly show that US special ops are stationed at the outposts previously set up by ISIS militants.”

“Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

This map marks the currently relevant conflict area - (U.S. proxies - yellow, SAA - red, ISIS - black):


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

The accusations are plausible. Large parts of ISIS in Deir Ezzor consist of local tribal forces from eastern Syria. U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk recently met tribal leaders who had earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS. Deals were made. As we wrote:

Cont. reading: Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia

Posted by b at 05:22 AM | Comments (175)

September 24, 2017

A German Election Analysis

As your host is German you may want to read his opinion and  analysis of today's federal election results in Germany.

German election results (ARD 6pm exit poll) Update: Preliminary official result:

  • CDU/CSU - 33.0%
  • SPD - 20.5%
  • AfD - 12.6%
  • FDP - 10.7%
  • Left - 9.2%
  • Greens - 8.9%

No great surprise there.

The participation rate slightly increased to 76.2%.

The result is bad for the top-candidates Merkel (CDU) and Schulz (SPD). The CDU lost 9 percentage points compared to the 2013 election, the SPD lost 5. These two parties once held a total of 81% of votes between them. They are now down to 53% of total votes.

Voter migration analysis will show that the CDU loss was caused by Merkel's centrist and socially liberal policies and especially her gigantic immigration ("refugees") mistake. It caused the right-wing CDU voters to go over to the new right-wing party AFD. Other CDU voters (re-)joined the FDP.

Her party will punish Merkel for this catastrophic result. I doubt that she has two or more years left in her position. Her party will shun her and move away from the center and back into its traditional moderate-right corner.

The voters lost by the formerly moderate-left, now also centrist, SPD went over to The Left and the FDP. Many also abstained.

The FDP is back in the game after having been kicked out of parliament is the 2013 elections. The Greens and the Left Party results are mostly unchanged.

Over the last 25 years both of the traditionally big parties, CDU and SPD, had moved from their moderate-right, respectively moderate-left positions towards a "centrist" neo-liberalism. In consequence The Left split off the SPD and now the AFD from the CDU.

The AFD is by no means a "Nazi" party though a few Nazis may hide under its mantle. The voters are mostly traditionalist, staunch conservatives and anti-globalization. They were earlier part of the CDU.

The SPD will not want to enter another government coalition with Merkel, It played Merkel's junior partner over the last eight years and that led to ever increasing voter losses. It nearly killed the party. The mistake of selecting the colorless Schulz as top-candidate will lead to some (necessary) blood loss in the party's leadership. SPD head Gabriel will, like Schulz, have to step back from leadership positions.

Merkel will have difficulties forming a coalition. She will avoid the AFD as her campaign had discriminated that party as "Nazi" (in itself a huge strategic mistake). She will try to build a coalition with the Green and the FDP. It will be enough to rule for a while but is a somewhat unstable configuration.

The new parliament will be more lively than the previous ones under the large CDU-SPD coalition. More parties and a real opposition will create more public discussions.

We will likely have new elections within the next two years.

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (164)

September 23, 2017

NATO's Fakenews Russia Scare Increases Defense Waste

The military of the Russian Federation is organized in four districts - west, central, east and south. Each year one of the districts will stage a division size maneuver. 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers leave their quarters to move against imaginary adversaries. Their training is complemented by various military and civilian staffs exercises. The active part of the medium-size maneuver takes about a week and includes some live firing.

This year, like in 2009 and 2013, the turn was on the western military district to run its quadrennial exercise. It included, as is usual in the western district, units from and within Russia's ally Belarus. The name of this regular training event is simply "West", Zapad in Russian. Zapad-2017 was publicly announced and foreign military observers were invited to watch it.

NATO and its associated media used the occasion to launch a gigantic fear- and warmongering campaign against the Russian Federation. Over months hundreds of news pieces were weaved around dark murmurs from various NATO officials and "experts". Examples:

The Zapad 2017 maneuvers ended yesterday. They were exactly what Russia and Belarus had announced - a regular, medium-size training event with no special intent or effect.

NATO and its various spokesperson had done what they like to accuse Russia of. They created fakenews about the maneuver based on nothing but hot air:

Zapad-2017 concluded earlier this week, by which time it had seriously fizzled out, in Western media terms at least.
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And the Russians are enjoying a rare last laugh. They point out, with some justification, that their numbers were accurate, there was no dissembling, international borders were respected. All the Russian troops introduced into neighbouring Belarus for the exercise are going home, too. After all the Western accusations that Russia has been waging an information war with the help of “fake news”, who is disseminating “fake news” now, they ask. Is this not further evidence that Western opinion formers are stuck in the rut of Cold War stereotypes? They have a point.

The Western "opinion formers" have, of course, reason to hype everything their selected boogeyman does. That reason is greed. This year nearly all NATO countries increased their military budgets. The U.S. Senate passed a record $700 billion trough for the Pentagon with 89 to 8 votes. The more than 10% budget increase was even higher that what President Trump had requested. It broke all earlier commitments:

The $700 billion is $91 billion beyond the spending caps outlined in the 2011 Budget Control Act, which demanded a "sequestration" of military spending in order to rein in federal costs.

There was no public outrage over this increase. Meanwhile Russia cut its 2018 defense budget by 25.5% down to a total of some $48 billion.

There is obviously little fear in Russia that the U.S. budget increase will effect U.S. military capabilities. The Russians are right. Most of the Pentagon budget goes to waste. The military as well as the politicians know this well. From a recent NYT piece about options against North Korean missiles:

Cont. reading: NATO's Fakenews Russia Scare Increases Defense Waste

Posted by b at 12:39 PM | Comments (70)

September 22, 2017

Syria - Crap Hits Fan As U.S. Proxies Kill Russia's Allies - SEE UPDATE

UPDATE - 5:55PM:

The alleged incident did NOT happen. (At least not the way describe below.)

No SAA soldiers were killed by the U.S. proxy force near Deir Ezzor.

I am sorry for the false alarm and any irritation it might have caused.

      - b


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Late afternoon today (local time) U.S. hired, equipped and advised Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters killed nine Syrian Arab Army soldiers. The soldiers were in a boat crossing the Euphrates river near Deir Ezzor city.

Two sources independently reported the incident. There is so far no official confirmation. The following assumes that the above indeed happened.

The killers were from a U.S. hired gang of Arab tribal fighters under one Ahmad Abu Khawla. He is well known as a local criminal who had earlier fought for the Islamic State (ISIS). His gang is nominally under the command of the YPK/PKK which is the main U.S. ally in north-eastern Syria. U.S. special forces are in the area as "advisors" to the various SDF groups.

Cont. reading: Syria - Crap Hits Fan As U.S. Proxies Kill Russia's Allies - SEE UPDATE

Posted by b at 04:15 PM | Comments (48)

Open Thread 2017-35

News & views ...

Posted by b at 11:27 AM | Comments (70)

September 21, 2017

Syria - Russia Accusing U.S. Of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play With Al-Qaeda

The situation in Syria is reaching another critical point. There is an increased possibility of a large scale clash between U.S. and Russian forces. We had warned of such a clash over control of the rich fields east of Deir Ezzor. At least three incidents over the last days point to more significant escalations.

  • On the 17th the U.S. accused Russia of a light air attack on its proxy forces north of Deir Ezzor. Russia denied that it had attacked those forces.
  • On the 18th and 19th large contingents of Russian and Syrian troops crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor in east-Syria. The U.S. Kurdish/Arab proxy force in the area actively tried to hinder that movement.
  • In parallel a large al-Qaeda attack was launched in west-Syria. The Russian forces accuse U.S. intelligence services of having initiated that campaign. (The Syrian-Russian forces defeated the attack.)
  • Today the Russian military accused the U.S. Kurdish proxies near Deir Ezzor of firing artillery on its forces. It threatened massive retaliation.

The most dramatic incident was the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb.

Cont. reading: Syria - Russia Accusing U.S. Of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play With Al-Qaeda

Posted by b at 08:42 AM | Comments (96)

Samantha Power - Fakes History, Makes False Claims, Warns Of Fake News

While warning of Russian influenced fake news and hacking, Samantha Power, Obama's banshee and ambassador at the UN, spreads fake news about "Russian hacking".

Power starts off by retelling fiction as historic fact:

Soviet agents were instructed to infiltrate party and campaign staffs in the United States in search of embarrassing information to leak to the press, while Soviet propagandists pushed a set of anti-Reagan story lines to the Western media. Ultimately, they failed to influence the election. President Reagan defeated Walter F. Mondale, winning 49 states. Margaret Thatcher, who was similarly targeted, also won re-election in a landslide.

There is no historic evidence of any such Soviet operation. But, as Mark Ames points out (@0:30m), the Samantha Power tale of a Soviet influence campaign against Reagan is the storyline of a 1980 spy thriller by Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss. Both authors were corrupt rightwingers and known CIA assets. Their bestselling book about nefarious Soviet influence, The Spike, was political fiction.

Power continues with more fake news:

Cont. reading: Samantha Power - Fakes History, Makes False Claims, Warns Of Fake News

Posted by b at 02:27 AM | Comments (34)

September 20, 2017

"The Vietnam War" - Documentary Or Epic Of Fiction?

Arte TV yesterday showed the first parts of The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It also runs on PBS.

The first three parts of the ten part "documentary" are a whitewash of the motives of the politicians who sold the war to the public. The CIA's and military "deep state" machinations behind them is not investigated but covered up.

A comment in the first episode declares that it was a "civil war" of Vietnamese against Vietnamese. That is ahistoric nonsense. After the defeat of the (U.S. financed) French colonialists in 1954, the leader of the Viet-minh Ho Chi Min was the undisputed hero of all Vietnam. He would have won any election by huge margins. But the Russian (and Chinese) backers of the liberation war against the French did not want to walk the last mile and insisted on negotiations in Geneva. They allowed the partition of the country. It would have been interesting to learn why.

The "documentary" makes it seem as if the south-Vietnamese ruler Ngo Dinh Diem appeared from heaven instead of being installed by the CIA. It put him into his position. It helped to arrange the "election" that gave him a laughable 98.2% of the votes. It financed him. The episode has arch-imperialist Leslie Gelb, who was part of the deep state that created and ran the war, declaring that "we did what Diem said". That is nonsense. Diem was ruthless dictator but he would not have survived a day without U.S. support and protection.

Part two is a undeserved homage of Kennedy and his "brilliant" staff. McNamara is especially lauded. But his bean-counter mind lacked any capacity to judge human behavior and motives. That had catastrophic consequences. The war is depicted as fight for "liberty" and against "communism". Those were Kennedy's sales points but they had little to do with what happened. Kennedy, like Johnson after him, was mostly driven by domestic policy issues. He wanted to reach certain domestic aims. His Vietnam decisions were just a cover against attacks on him for being "weak".

Part three whitewashes the Gulf of Tonkin lie. It is mealymouthed about what really happened, but then speaks of U.S. 2retaliation". The "unprovoked attack" of Vietnamese forces on U.S. ships was fictitious. The Congress' "Tonkin resolution" which escalated the war was prepared by Johnson's staff two month before the "incident" happened. The "Tonkin" show was set up to push it through. A main motive of the escalation was to get Johnson reelected. Like Kennedy he knew that the war was fought against a national liberation movement and unwinnable. But his "response" to the "incident" made him look strong. He won in a landslide.

Altogether I am disappointed by the series. It is well done cinematography, but it lacks historic depths. There is no investigation of the deeper motives for the political decisions within the U.S. government. Instead we get a repetition of the marketing slogans that were used to sell the decisions. The military and CIA machinations, and the drug business in Vietnam it inherited from the French, are left out. The motives and the strategies of the Viet-minh get too little cover, as does the civil life in Vietnam during the war.

Cont. reading: "The Vietnam War" - Documentary Or Epic Of Fiction?

Posted by b at 08:44 AM | Comments (116)

September 19, 2017

"Sovereign Nations" Is Main Theme Of Trump's UN Speech

Today the President of the United States Donald Trump spoke (rush transcript) to the United Nations General Assembly.

The speech's main theme was sovereignty. The word occurs 18(!) times. It emphasized Westphalian principles.

[W]e do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

All leaders of countries should always put their countries first, he said, and "the nation state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition."


The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648 - bigger

Sovereignty was the core message of his speech. It rhymed well with his somewhat isolationist emphasis of "America first" during his campaign.

The second part of the speech the first by threatened the sovereignty of several countries the U.S. ruling class traditionally dislikes.

This year's "axis of evil" included North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and Cuba:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."

Many people will criticize that as an outrageous and irresponsible use of words. It is.

But there is nothing new to it. In fact the U.S., acting on behalf of the UN, totally destroyed Korea in the 1950s. The last U.S. president made the same threat Trump made today:

Cont. reading: "Sovereign Nations" Is Main Theme Of Trump's UN Speech

Posted by b at 01:05 PM | Comments (105)

September 18, 2017

How The Military Defeated Trump's Insurgency

Trump was seen as a presidential candidate who would possibly move towards a less interventionist foreign policy. That hope is gone. The insurgency that brought Trump to the top was defeated by a counter-insurgency campaign waged by the U.S. military. (Historically its first successful one). The military has taken control of the White House process and it is now taking control of its policies.

It is schooling Trump on globalism and its "indispensable" role in it. Trump was insufficiently supportive of their desires and thus had to undergo reeducation:

When briefed on the diplomatic, military and intelligence posts, the new president would often cast doubt on the need for all the resources. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson organized the July 20 session to lay out the case for maintaining far-flung outposts — and to present it, using charts and maps, in a way the businessman-turned-politician would appreciate.

Trump was hauled into a Pentagon basement 'tank' and indoctrinated by the glittering four-star generals he admired since he was a kid:

The session was, in effect, American Power 101 and the student was the man working the levers. It was part of the ongoing education of a president who arrived at the White House with no experience in the military or government and brought with him advisers deeply skeptical of what they labeled the “globalist” worldview. In coordinated efforts and quiet conversations, some of Trump’s aides have worked for months to counter that view, hoping the president can be persuaded to maintain — if not expand — the American footprint and influence abroad.

Trump was sold the establishment policies he originally despised. No alternative view was presented to him.

It is indisputable that the generals are now ruling in Washington DC. They came to power over decades by shaping culture through their sponsorship of Hollywood, by manipulating the media through "embedded" reporting and by forming and maintaining the countries infrastructure through the Army Corps of Engineers. The military, through the NSA as well as through its purchasing power, controls the information flow on the internet. Until recently the military establishment only ruled from behind the scene. The other parts of the power triangle, the corporation executives and the political establishment, were more visible and significant. But during the 2016 election the military bet on Trump and is now, after he unexpectedly won, collecting its price.

Trump's success as the "Not-Hillary" candidate was based on an anti-establishment insurgency. Representatives of that insurgency, Flynn, Bannon and the MAGA voters, drove him through his first months in office. An intense media campaign was launched to counter them and the military took control of the White House. The anti-establishment insurgents were fired. Trump is now reduced to public figure head of a stratocracy - a military junta which nominally follows the rule of law.

Stephen Kinzer describes this as America’s slow-motion military coup:

Cont. reading: How The Military Defeated Trump's Insurgency

Posted by b at 11:20 AM | Comments (80)

September 17, 2017

Syria Summary - Eliminating ISIS' Remains

The last Syria Summary was headlined A New Clash Looms in Syria's East. It stated:

Critical oil fields are north and east of Mayadin. The Omar oil field in the east is the biggest one in all Syria. The U.S. wants these under its control to finance its Kurdish and Arab proxies in north-east Syria. The Syrian government needs the oil to rebuild the country. Should the U.S. supported forces try to annex the area we will likely see a direct conflict between them and the Syrian government forces. Would the U.S. and Russia join that fight?


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Yesterday a first clash of forces occurred. Syrian government and Russian special forces (red) have crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to reconnaissance the area for their next large operation. A crossing in force towards the north of Euphrates and east of Deir Ezzor is expected during the next few days. The Russian military had informed the U.S. of its area of operation. Despite that, formerly ISIS aligned tribal forces, now paid by the U.S. under the label SDF, tried to extend their areas north of Deir Ezzor (blue). A "warning shot" was delivered to them in form of a small air attack. Several "SDF" were wounded, the U.S. special forces accompanying and commanding them were not harmed.

The Russia military is asking who, really, those forces are:

“Over the past few days, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Russian control and reconnaissance facilities have not identified a single combat of Islamic State terrorists with armed representatives of any ‘third force.’ Therefore, only representatives of the international coalition can answer the question as to how ‘opposition members’ or ‘military advisers of the international coalition’ managed to get to the IS-held areas in the eastern part of Deir ez-Zor without striking a blow.”

Our last summary noted that these new U.S. proxies Brett McGurk had hired, the 'third force' in the Russian statement, allegedly progressed some 30 kilometers into ISIS country without firing a shot. These forces are evidently ISIS fighters now under a new banner and with U.S. special forces directing them.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Eliminating ISIS' Remains

Posted by b at 07:58 AM | Comments (106)

September 15, 2017

Afghanistan - U.S. Resolved To Repeat Failures

The U.S. military and political leadership is so devoid of learning capability that it does not fight multiyear long wars. Instead it fights one disconnected campaign after the other on the very same battlefield. Each of these campaigns will repeat the mistakes that previous ones made and will have the same outcome.

Thus we have seen several increases in troop numbers in Afghanistan. Each time such a surge happened under Bush, under Obama and now under Trump, the result was an increase in Taliban activity and success.

We have seen the use of local militia forces fail under Obama when these were called Afghan Local Police. The 20,000 men strong ALP was supposedly "trained" to hold land against the Taliban. But the local police groups turned out to be local gangs who, thanks to their "official" status, could rob, rap and kill people without fear of retaliation. The suppressed population then turned to the Taliban for relief.

The idea to create such a local force was so bad that it is time to repeat it:

The American military has turned to the [idea of a local militia] force as a potential model for how to maintain the Afghan government’s waning control — without too high a cost — in difficult parts of Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban are resurgent.
...
The size of the new force is yet to be finalized, but it could number more than 20,000, according to a senior Afghan official
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While the senior Afghan official insisted that only the conceptual framework of the force has been agreed to, and that details were still being sorted out, several Western officials said that preparations were already underway to pilot the new force in southern districts of Nangarhar Province.

We can predict with confidence that a year from now those very same districts of Nangarhar province will again staunchly support the Taliban.

In 2001 the CIA and U.S. special forces kicking out the Taliban with the support of northern alliance war-criminals. Arial bombing based on partisan information continued for years. After their defeat the Taliban had given up on ruling the country. They offered to dissolve in exchange for amnesty and an end of the war. But the bombing, often on direction of some local wannabe strongman, continued. Many people not involved with the Taliban or any resistance were killed and maimed. Their communities called out for help. The Taliban revived and came back to fight the invaders.

For a while the indiscriminate, unaccountable bombing seemed to calm down. But the insurgency, once revived, continued. Time then to repeat and expand the scheme - if only under a different logo and in more countries:

The C.I.A. is pushing for expanded powers to carry out covert drone strikes in Afghanistan and other active war zones, a proposal that the White House appears to favor despite the misgivings of some at the Pentagon, according to current and former intelligence and military officials.

More indiscriminate bombing will obviously lead to more resistance and more war.

An argument can be made that the U.S. military and intelligence complex is willfully and systematically creating new enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere to justify the continuation of its campaigns.

But that argument presume that there is sufficient intellectual capacity in the Pentagon and CIA to develop and follow such a design. Arrogance, bureaucratic inertia and lack of curiosity are the simpler and maybe more likely explanations.

Posted by b at 10:33 AM | Comments (121)

September 13, 2017

Links On And Of Propaganda

(Some bug caught up with me. I am too incapacitated to compose a decent blog post. A few links around the issue of propaganda shall substitute for it.)

Remember the sensational front page news about "Russian doping" during the Sochi Olympics and beyond? Well, here is the outcome of that "scandal":

World Anti-Doping Agency Clears 95 Russian Athletes

The World Anti-Doping Agency, the regulator of drugs in sports that produced mountainous evidence of Russia’s doping scheme, has agreed to clear 95 of the first 96 athletes whose cases have been reviewed, according to an internal report circulated among the organization’s executives in recent days.

The "mountainous evidence" the NYT regurgitated was evidently of a molehill.

Here is another slip in the "dangerous Russia" matrix. NATO expansion, we are now told, was not about Russia at all:

Western arms makers lobbied hard for the expansion of NATO into former Soviet satellite countries after the collapse of Communism. They have since lobbied both new and old NATO member states not to stray outside the alliance for weapons purchases that would cut into their business.

But to sell new weapons to eastern Europe one first has to get rid of its old ones. If possible by Making a Killing:

Since the outbreak of war in Syria, weapons from Central and Eastern Europe have flooded the conflict zone through two distinct pipelines – one sponsored by Saudi Arabia and coordinated by the CIA, and the other funded and directed by the Pentagon.

Related: How Western Capital Colonized Eastern Europe

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The current campaign of Saudi financed jihadis in Myanmar is only the appetizer for a larger attack on Chinese (and Indian) interests. More foot soldiers need to be produced for that by infecting more people with radical Wahhabi propaganda:

Bangladesh approved the construction on its territory of 560 mosques on Wednesday, April 26. The project is financed by the Saudi government to the tune of over a billion dollars.
...
[T]he Gulf monarchy has reportedly spent more than 70 billion dollars (about 65 billion euros) since 1979 to finance such projects abroad.

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During the election some unidentified dude on Facebook called for an anti-immigrant rally in Twin Falls, Idaho. Four (4) people claimed they came to the event but no rally took place.

Three (3!) Daily Beast "journalists" were tasked to investigate the issue. They produced a sorry whiff of hot air: Exclusive: Russia Used Facebook Events to Organize Anti-Immigrant Rallies on U.S. Soil

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The New Yorker also wants to put crap into your brain:

Pyongyang is a city of simulated perfection, without litter or graffiti—or, for that matter, anyone in a wheelchair. Its population, of 2.9 million, has been chosen for political reliability and physical health.

Surely, the yearly Disability Days in the DPRK, with performances and sport events, never take place. The new school year ceremony at Pyongyang's Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability (vid) is just a fantasy.

On wonders how much the North Korean defector who enlightened the New Yorker was paid for that insight. Propaganda is costly. South Korea recently upped the top rate for North Korean opportunists to $860,000 a piece. The more outrageous their claims are, the higher their income.

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The Global Engagement Center ...

.. is an interagency entity, housed at the State Department. ... It was established pursuant to Executive Order 13721, signed on on March 14, 2016, which states that the Center “shall lead the coordination, integration, and synchronization of Government-wide communications activities directed at foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations,” such as ISIL.

... of "international terrorist organizations" - hmmm -

... allowed the Global Engagement Center to ask the Pentagon for $40 million, bringing its total 2017 spending to about $80 million. About $60 million of that was to be used to counter Russian influence operations; about $19 million was aimed at ISIS.

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Contrasting the above is some real journalism from the Cincinnati Enquirer: Seven Days of Heroin - This is what an epidemic looks like  - recommended!

Posted by b at 12:07 PM | Comments (118)

 
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