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March 17, 2016

Open Thread 2016-11

News & views …

Posted by b at 12:35 PM | Comments (47)
March 16, 2016

Syrian Kurds Risk Their Gains With New Federalization Demands

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cont. reading: Syrian Kurds Risk Their Gains With New Federalization Demands

Posted by b at 10:45 AM | Comments (88)
March 14, 2016

Putin: Withdrawal Of Russian Forces From Syria Starting March 15

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

TASS reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b at 01:56 PM | Comments (133)

U.S. Politicians Discuss Accountability

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


bigger (source)

 

Posted by b at 10:35 AM | Comments (44)
March 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

Here are some of here recent tweets:

Jenan Moussa @jenanmoussaJenan Moussa Retweeted ياسين ابو رائد

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

4:44 AM – 11 Mar 2016

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

Here full video of Nusra attack on protestors in Maaret ElNoman. Its seriously amazing some dared to carry FSA flaghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=D-_ymP4BMxo

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

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

Moment when Nusra attacked AbuElias AlMaaeri, local anti-Assad celebrity. They took his mic for singing FSA sloganshttps://pbs.twimg.com/media/CdRReICWEAAq-sa.jpg

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

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

Posted by b at 03:30 AM | Comments (58)
March 12, 2016

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

What is a pro-democracy nonprofit?

Pro-Democracy Nonprofit Is Banned in Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b at 12:03 PM | Comments (48)
March 10, 2016

‘The Obama Doctrine’ Is To Whitewash His Foreign Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b at 01:13 PM | Comments (134)
March 09, 2016

Ignatius, Off His Meds, Has Syria Delusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b at 09:46 AM | Comments (78)
March 07, 2016

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

Daniel Larison recaps the War on Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remarks a Yemeni analyst:

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

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (65)
March 06, 2016

Syria – Preparing For The Next Major Push

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted by b at 01:57 PM | Comments (71)
March 05, 2016

Open Thread 2016-10

News & views …

Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (216)
March 04, 2016

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

A ‘newspaper of record‘..

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

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

 

biggerLink

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

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

We should all be proud to merit such epiphany.

Cont. reading: Whereas The Paper Of Record Gauges The Big (Or Small?) Global Question

Posted by b at 01:20 AM | Comments (144)
March 03, 2016

Russia Is ‘Weaponizing’ … Everything

NATO Commander Breedlove agrees, naturally, with LunaticOutpost.com.

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

 

Posted by b at 07:46 AM | Comments (78)
March 02, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b at 05:09 AM | Comments (81)
March 01, 2016

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

Updated below

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by b at 10:06 AM | Comments (50)

Reading About Zika May Hurt Your Brain

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Posted by b at 06:40 AM | Comments (20)
February 29, 2016

Sanders Must Offer Tulsi Gabbard The VP Slot. Now!

Tulsi Gabbard, a U.S. Congress representative from Hawaii, stepped down as a vice chair of the Democrat National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders. In the video below the fold she explains her reasoning. It is Clinton’s militarism in foreign policies that makes her take the other side.

Described as “libertarian-leaning progressive” the woman is smart, pretty and speaks well. She is also a former officer in the U.S. military with combat experience and an interest in foreign policy.

Politically her endorsement is manna from heaven for Sanders.

Sanders should IMMEDIATELY offer her the Vice-President slot. Her task in the campaign is to stand in on all foreign policy issues. Sanders then can continue to focus on inequality in the United States.

Hillary Clinton would have no chance to beat that team. Unlike the neoconned Clinton, a Sanders/Gabbard ticket can attract young voters which will be needed to beat Trump. If Clinton runs against Trump the large and growing “anything but Clinton” crowd would likely let her loose.

Someone tell Sanders that he better act fast to announce her nomination before Clinton collects more states and takes away the buzz that the Sanders campaign urgently needs.

 

Cont. reading: Sanders Must Offer Tulsi Gabbard The VP Slot. Now!

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (103)

#BREAKING News As Propaganda

For your daily media competence training:

The hint that the above AFP #BREAKING tweet was nonsense is the use of the word may. Like in “#BREAKING Sky may have fallen”. There is also the rhetoric redundancy in “have starved to death”.

But notice the 217 retweets which likely will have caused many secondary retweets and many, many more viewer impressions.

Three hours later …

Cont. reading: #BREAKING News As Propaganda

Posted by b at 12:54 PM | Comments (23)

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