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April 05, 2016

Syria – As Rebels Break Ceasefire Army Gathers For New Campaign

The ceasefire in Syria held for some five weeks but is now about to end. During the ceasefire Russia reduced its forces in Syria and the Syrian Arab Army made significant progress against the Islamic State.  But the opposition and their sponsors abused the ceasefire to rearm. They prepared and executed new attacks against the Syrian government and Syrian civilians.

The sponsors of the opposition, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. deliverednew arms and munition to the “moderate” opposition. It is known that up to half of all supplies the “moderates” receive is inevitably delivered to al-Qaeda in Syria. The sponsors also broke a long-standing taboo and introduced portable anti-air missiles (MANPADs) onto the battle field. Several fighters of the U.S. and Turkey supported Al Hamza brigade posted pictures showing off their new toys. The U.S. claims that these fighters are supposed to only fight the Islamic State. But the Islamic State has no aircraft and these weapons are clearly to be used against the Syrian government and its supporters.

Today Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist group near to al-Qaeda, downed (video) a Syrian Su-22 ground-attack plane with a MANPAD near the city of Tal Eis, south of Aleppo city. The pilot, Lt. Col Musad Zayed Hirani, was taken prisoner by al-Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al Nusra). This incident shows that MANPADs immediately proliferate on the battle field and beyond and may soon be used against civilian planes in the Middle East and around the world.

Also today “moderate” rebels launched improvised artillery attacks on the mostly Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood in the government held parts of Aleppo city. At least 17 civilians were killed and more than 50 were wounded.

The “moderate” opposition in Syria which is receiving official U.S. support isnot willing to distance itself from al-Qaeda:

“We absolutely do not agree with Jabhat Al Nusra. We do not want Jabhat Al Nusra’s ideology to be in Syria now or in the future. But we need fighters who will fight with us against the regime,” said Zakaria Malahefji, a political officer with Fastaqim Kama Umrit, a coalition of rebel groups in the city of Aleppo.

“Jabhat Al Nusra are our brothers,” said Hajj Bakri, a rebel leader in Hama. “We have no problem with them.”

“Our relationship with Jabhat Al Nusra is good and there is a collaboration with Jabhat Al Nusra in military operations and security responsibilities,” said Abu Zeid, a commander with the hardline Salafi militia Ahrar Al Sham in north-western Syria’s Akrad Mountains. As one of the most powerful rebel factions in the war, Ahrar Al Sham is Al Nusra’s most important single ally.

Al-Qaeda in Syria was, like the Islamic State, not part of the ceasefire agreement. The U.S. officially regards al-Qaeda in Syria as a terrorist entity and enemy. Al-Qaeda has zero interest in any negotiated peace and is therefore doing its best to sabotage it. During the last weeks it succeeded in convincing the “moderates” to join it in renewed fighting:

Faced by an internationally-mediated cessation of hostilities that threatened to irreversibly erode its influence, Nusra had begun in mid-March a process of talks inside Syria aimed at convincing opposition groups to resume their fight against the regime. As such, the last 48 hours of opposition advances south of Aleppo represent a victory for al-Qaeda in its efforts to undermine the political process and to put back in place conditions more amenable to its long game strategy for Syria.

On Saturday several U.S. supported “moderate” rebel groups joined al-Qaeda in an attack on the government held city of Tal Eis in the south Aleppo countryside:

Syria’s partial cease-fire appeared to be unraveling Saturday as fierce fighting between government forces and opposition fighters, including members of the al-Qaida affiliated Nusra Front, erupted outside the country’s second largest city of Aleppo and other parts in the country’s north.At least 25 pro-government and 16 opposition fighters died in the clashes south of Aleppo, where the Nusra Front and rebel militias captured a village overlooking a major highway, a Britain-based monitoring group told The Associated Press.

A number of groups — including some nominally party to the truce agreement — acknowledged on social media that they were battling government forces.

The Islam Army, whose political coordinator heads the opposition delegation during halting peace talks in Geneva, announced it had killed 20 government soldiers in fighting outside Damascus Friday. It announced Saturday it was also fighting in the south Aleppo countryside, though the group is not known to have a major presence there.

It is obvious now that the “moderate” rebels have broken the ceasefire and are openly in full cooperation with al-Qaeda.

Unless the opposition sponsors manage to immediately reign in their proxies, all out war in Syria will soon be back. The Syrian government and its allies are now mobilizing more forces to regain the lost areas in the southern Aleppo country side. For the first time ‘advisors’ of the regular Iranian army (not the Revolutionary Guard) will take part in the fighting. The Russian air force is likely to reintroduce some parts of its Syria contingent that had been withdrawn.

The Russian side had agreed with the U.S. to stop the fighting and to take the political walk through negotiations in Geneva. This decision was made against the wishes of the Syrian government and its Iranian allies. They would have preferred to at least free Aleppo city of all opposition forces before any talks.

But even if the ceasefire now breaks down the Russian move was valuable. It showed that it is able to hold its allies to a ceasefire when promised. It also demonstrated that the U.S. side is either not able, or not willing to implement and keep a ceasefire but abuses such period to rearm its proxies for new fighting.

The coming Syrian government campaign, with full support of its allies, will likely be at a more intense level than its last offensive. That attack had the rebels on the run, defeated and in parts fleeing the battle field when it was stopped by the ceasefire agreement. The coming attack will be more intense and will not stop until the opposition has taken very significant damage.

Today the Syrian army issued a statement asking all civilians to leave the areas held by the opposition within the next 48 hours. It promises that the new campaign will “give a lesson” to al-Qaeda and its followers.

Posted by b at 10:14 AM | Comments (47)
April 04, 2016

Selective Leaks Of The #PanamaPapers Create Huge Blackmail Potential

A real leak of data from a law firm in Panama would be very interesting. Many rich people and/or politicians hide money in shell companies that such firms in Panama provide. But the current heavily promoted “leak” of such data to several NATO supporting news organization and a US government financed “Non Government Organization” is just a lame attempt to smear some people the U.S. empire dislikes. It also creates a huge blackmail opportunity by NOT publishing certain data in return for this or that desired favor.

Already some 16 month ago Ken Silverstein reported for Vice on a big shady shell company provider, Mossak Fonseca in Panama. (Pierre Omidyar’sIntercept, for which Silverstein was then working, refused to publish the piece.) Yves Smith published several big stories about the Mossak Fonseca money laundering business. Silverstein also repeated the well known fact that Rami Makhlouf, a rich cousin of the Syrian president Assad, had some money hidden in Mossak Fonseca shell companies. He explains:

To conduct business, shell companies like Drex need a registered agent, sometimes an attorney, who files the required incorporation papers and whose office usually serves as the shell’s address. This process creates a layer between the shell and its owner, especially if the dummy company is filed in a secrecy haven where ownership information is guarded behind an impenetrable wall of laws and regulations. In Makhlouf’s case—and, I discovered, in the case of various other crooked businessmen and international gangsters—the organization that helped incorporate his shell company and shield it from international scrutiny was a law firm called Mossack Fonseca, which had served as Drex’s registered agent from July 4, 2000, to late 2011.

A year ago someone provided tons of data from Mossak Fonseca to a German newpaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The Munich daily is politically on the center right and staunchly pro NATO. It cooperates with theGuardian, the BBC, Le Monde, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and some other news organization who are all known supporters of the establishment.

The Sueddeutsche claims that the “leaked” data is about some 214,000 shell companies and 14,000 Mossak Fonseca clients. There is surely a lot of hidden dirt in there. How many U.S. Senators are involved in such companies? Which European Union politicians? What are the big Wall Street banks and hedge funds hiding in Panama? Oh, sorry. The Sueddeutsche and its partners will not answer those questions. Here is how they “analyzed” the data:

The journalists compiled lists of important politicians, international criminals, and well-known professional athletes, among others. The digital processing made it possible to then search the leak for the names on these lists. The “party donations scandal” list contained 130 names, and the UN sanctions list more than 600. In just a few minutes, the powerful search algorithm compared the lists with the 11.5 million documents.For each name found, a detailed research process was initiated that posed the following questions: what is this person’s role in the network of companies? Where does the money come from? Where is it going? Is this structure legal?

Essentially the Sueddeutsche compiled a list of known criminals and people and organizations the U.S. dislikes and cross checked them with the “leaked” database. Selected hits were then further evaluated. The outcome are stories like the annual attempt to smear the Russian president Putin, who is not even mentioned in the Mossak Fonseca data, accusations against various people of the soccer association FIFA, much disliked by the U.S., and a few mentions of other miscreants of minor relevancy.

There is no story about any U.S. person, none at all, nor about any important NATO politician. The highest political “casualty” so far is the irrelevant Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson who, together with his wife, owned one of the shell companies. There is no evidence that the ownership or the money held by that company were illegal.

So where is the beef?

As former UK ambassador Craig Murray writes, the beef (if there is any at all) is in what is hidden by the organizations that manage the “leak”:

The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate mediafollows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is part of theOrganized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is financed by the U.S. government through USAID.

The “leak” is of data selected by U.S. friendly organization out of a database, likely obtained by U.S. secret services, which can be assumed to include much dirt about “western” persons and organizations.

To only publish very selected data from the “leaked” data has two purposes:

  • It smears various “enemies of the empire” even if only by association like the presidents Putin and Assad.
  • It lets other important people, those mentioned in the database but not yet published about, know that the U.S. or its “media partner” can, at any time, expose their dirty laundry to the public. It is thereby a perfect blackmailing instrument.

The engineered “leak” of the “Panama Papers” is a limited hangout designed to incriminate a few people and organization the U.S. dislikes. It is also a demonstration of the “torture tools” to the people who did business with Mossak Fonseca but have not (yet) been published about. They are now in the hands of those who control the database. They will have to do as demanded or else …

Posted by b at 12:25 AM | Comments (186)
April 02, 2016

U.S. CentCom History: “2014 – Syrian Terrorist Group ISIS Invades Iraq”

Significant parts of the U.S. military, its secret services and its politicians want to deny any culpability in the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Thus they resort to extreme falsifications of historical facts. They create fantasy narratives that completely leave out their own mistakes.

The U.S. Central Command created a coalition of several countries’ military to wage war on ISIS. The operation is known under the the moniker “Inherent Resolve”. CentCom created a website that propagandizes the operation. On the About page of that website we find this “History” of ISIS:


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HISTORYIn the summer of 2014, a new terrorist group which had risen during the chaos of the Syrian Civil War attacked across the Syrian-Iraqi borders and seized large swaths of Iraqi territory in the Euphrates River Valley and northern Iraq. Several Iraqi towns fell to the invaders, who called themselves “The Islamic State.” By the end of summer, it seemed that Baghdad itself was threatened by IS.

This is not only far away from the truth but an outrageous fabrication to deny and distort what really happened. ISIS was not created in Syria but in Iraq, it existed way before 2014 and its existence has nothing to do with war on Syria. To state that ISIS somehow came from Syria and in 2014 invaded Iraq is like claiming that Hitler invaded Germany in 1944.

ISIS was created in Iraq due to the U.S. war on Iraq. The leading ISIS members, former Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters, found each other and planned the creation of ISIS Caliphate in 2006 in the U.S. prisoner camp Bucca in Iraq:

According to a CBS News investigation, at least 12 of the top leaders of ISIS served time at Camp Bucca, including the man who would become the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. CBS News obtained photos of 10 of them in Bucca’s yellow prison jumpsuits.

“I think it’s undeniable that one of the main causes of ISIS’s explosive growth after 2010 was Bucca. It’s where they met, it’s where they planned,” said Patrick Skinner.Skinner is with the Soufan Group and was a former CIA case officer who spent time in Iraq.

It is undeniable that ISIS started in Iraq years before the war on Syria:

October 2006 – AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri announces the creation of Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and establishes Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its leader.April 2010 – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes leader of ISI after Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri are killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation.

April 2013 – ISI declares its absorption of an al Qaeda-backed militant group in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front. Al-Baghdadi says that his group will now be known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani rejects ISIS’s attempt to merge with the group.

The above CNN timeline jumps over 2011 when the Al-Nusra’s leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani was sent by al-Baghdadi to Syria from Iraq to reorganize Al-Qaeda cells that were secretly established in Syria long before the first demonstrations there took place. Al-Jawlani, who had also been imprisoned in Camp Bucca, came to Syria in March 2011 when the first demonstrations against the Syrian government just started:

A leader of Jordan’s ultra-Orthodox and banned Salafi movement said al-Baghdadi sent al-Golani and Abu Jleibeen, a senior al-Qaeda operative who has a relationship by marriage to al-Zarqawi, to fight in Syria, ..

Like Ahrar al-Shams, Jabhat Al-Nusra cells were secretly establishing themselves even before the “revolution” in Syria began:

The Ahrar started working on forming brigades “after the Egyptian revolution,” Abu Zayd said, well before March 15, 2011, when the Syrian revolution kicked off with protests in the southern agricultural city of Dara’a.

To claim that the Islamic State somehow started in Syria, as CentCom does, is to claim the opposite of what really happened. The Islamic State under Baghdadi sent fighters and leaders to Syria to created and prop-up the “revolution” against the Syrian state. The religious and philosophical roots of ISIS are grounded in Wahhabism and are of Saudi, not Syrian or Iraqi, origin.

Another fake history story is build by the CIA elements and U.S. politicians who launched the war on Syria from the “color revolution” side. Witness this astonishingly false CBS headline: Obama Nixed CIA Plan That Could Have Stopped ISIS: Officials

The CIA in 2012 proposed a detailed covert action plan designed to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, but President Obama declined to approve it, current and former U.S. officials tell NBC News.

[The CIA chief] Petraeus and others who supported the plan believe it could have prevented the rise of ISIS, Assad’s use of chemical weapons, the European refugee crisis and the tens of thousands of civilian deaths that have happened since, the former officials say.

Overthrowing the Syrian government would have created more chaos in Syria which very likely the Islamic State, already established in Syria at that time in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra, would have used to take Damascus and to gain primacy in Syria. Everything else is pure wishful thinking which ignores the military superiority the Takfiri groups like Ahrar, Nusra and ISIS have always had compared to the “moderate” Jihadist rebels that have direct U.S. support. The CBS piece is also about the former CIA man who was the original author of the covert action plan. He seems to disagree with what the CBS headline claims:

Looking back, Laux now says he doesn’t believe his or any other covert plan could have stopped the rise of ISIS or ended Syria’s bloody civil war. “There were no moderates,” he says.

It is frightening to think that Central Command, which is supposed to fight the Islamic State, might believe its own propaganda, that ISIS came from Syria. One can not successfully fight ISIS when one does not know its real origin: the U.S. war on Iraq and CentCom’s own meager to ignorant performance during that war.

Posted by b at 11:45 AM | Comments (63)
April 01, 2016

Open Thread 2016-13

News & views …

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (146)
March 31, 2016

Chicken Propaganda (Graphic)

This circulates as the picture of a Sunni boy slaughtered by Iran led Shia militia in Fallujah, Iraq.

But like many pictures and videos from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere this one does not show the full extend of the massacre.

More pictures of the boy …

Cont. reading: Chicken Propaganda (Graphic)

Posted by b at 06:08 AM | Comments (44)
March 30, 2016

How The U.S. Continues To Arm al-Qaeda

Exhibit 1

According to rebels in the Turkish border zone, weapons have flowed steadily into Syria since the ceasefire began. Even those who hope for a political settlement aren’t betting on one any time soon. Instead they’re stockpiling for the next round, which they expect will be as desperate as the last.

“We ask the Friends of Syria and they give us,” [Colonel Hassan Rajoub, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Division 16], said with a smile.“They have just now given us new supplies of everything. But we want some special weapons to give us a little bit of leverage.”

[S]everal FSA commanders said the United States had been forthcoming during the ceasefire period, replenishing arms stocks and leaving open the possibility that some anti-aircraft missiles might be released into northern Syria.“We expect a surprise,” said one satisfied commander.

“The U.S. military commanders are always with us,” Rajoub said. “We ask. They are very cooperative. They understand our needs.”


Around Aleppo, It’s Not Peace—Just a Break, Thanassis Cambanis, Century Foundation, March 28 2016

Exhibit 2

Hard-core Islamists in the Nusra Front have long outgunned the more secular, nationalist, Western-supported rebels. According to FSA officers, Nusra routinely harvests up to half the weapons supplied by the Friends of Syria, a collection of countries opposed to Assad, and has regularly smashed FSA factions that were corrupt and inefficient — or that Nusra thought were getting too strong or too popular.


The Syrian Revolution Against al Qaeda, Thanassis Cambanis, Foreign Policy, March 29 2016

Posted by b at 12:19 PM | Comments (31)
March 29, 2016

Libya – Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention – by Richard Galustian

The extensive piece below on the situation in Libya is by Richard Galustian, a long time Middle East and North African security specialist and author. In February we discussed the whitewash U.S. media is giving Hillary Clinton and the U.S., British and French 2011 war on Libya. In March we borrowed from Richard Galustian’s work in and on Libya for a look at some curious personal interests in the current build up to a sequel of the earlier war.Galustian discusses the situation on the ground in Libya, the details of the various local groups and interests involved and the continuing and coming international interference in Libya. He analyses possible alternative steps forward. His thoughts on the subject are based on his extensive on-the-ground knowledge of the tribes and militias of Libya. This presents a unique insight into the most complex labyrinth of inter-connected Libyan and foreign interests.

Libya – Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention

by Richard Galustian

It is something that had never happened in any country since the formation of the United Nations. The UN has, without an election, created unilaterally its own government for a country, and then immediately recognized it. The Government of National Accord, the GNA for Libya is a government based in exile and not elected but chosen by the “International Community”.
A concerted effort over Easter for the GNA in exile in Tunis to ‘take power’ in Tripoli failed completely despite the spin and false optimism of the UN and the U.S. and UK in particular.
Let’s rewind a little.
The recent United Nations plan to bring peace to Libya and eliminate ISIS was/is a two stage process fraught with great risk, uncertainty and is poorly thought out.
First is to persuade Libya’s factions to unite under a Government, the GNA while it is in exile. Second, to provide weapons, training and air support for a newly united Libyan army to attack ISIS.
These are totally unrealistic expectations that will never happen.
The background needs to be understood. The critical fact being that Libya’s main factions are divided into two very loose camps.
One camp supports the elected parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk. The other is made up of the previous parliament, the General National Congress (GNC) and supports ‘Libya Dawn’, an Islamist-led coalition of militias that include the extremist elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) revolutionaries. The LIFG is an al-Qaeda offshoot.
Civil war began in July 2014 when ‘Libya Dawn’ seized Tripoli by force after the elections saw sharp losses for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies including notably former leader of the LIFG, the infamous Abdel Hakim Belhadj, currently suing in the London Courts the then Foreign Minister and MI-6.
The HoR won international recognition straight after the UN announced its election was free and fair, but under intimidation (that’s when Islamists destroyed Tripoli International Airport etc) from militias, the HoR fled east to Tobruk.
To further complicate the situation one must realize that within these two camps are a lattice work of rivalries and tribal divisions.
Libya has no ‘third force’ of police or army acceptable to all sides. The militias are the third force! Essentially they represents ‘guns for hire’. The army and police are first and second.
The problem for the international community is while destroying ISIS is their stated priority, both Libya’s rival camps see each other as the greater threat. ISIS is a threat, but neither camp believes it is an existential threat, so the priority for both camps is fighting each other.
    1.1 In Derna,1.2 In Sirte,1.3 In Sabratha
2 Tobruk (HoR) Government Forces
    2.1 Regular forces, 2.2 Petroleum Facilities Guard, 2.3 Zintan + Warshefa militias
3 ‘Libya Dawn’
    3.1 ‘Libya Dawn’ – Pro GNA militias, 3.2 ‘Libya Dawn’ –  Anti-GNA militias
4 Prospect of a Divided Country
5 Deployment of International Military Forces
6 Divisions among Outside Powers
7 Military Training
8 Other Factors
    8.1 Sanctions – stop and search ships and planes, 8.2 Muslim Brotherhood, 8.3 Libyan Institutions, 8.4 Benghazi
Conclusion

Map of Libya, Oil and gas locations

1 ISIS in Libya
Bases: Derna, Sirte, Sabratha; Strength: 6,000 (Pentagon estimate)
1.1 In Derna
ISIS arrived in Libya in the summer of 2014 and established control of the eastern town of Derna, aided by a Yemeni preacher and a group of 200-300 ISIS fighters, many of them Libyan, includes many of the Al Badr Brigade, which had fought in Syria and Ansar Al Sharia whom some credit for killing the US Ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi.
In June 2015 a mixed force of regular army and an Al Qaida affiliated militia, Omar Mukhtar Brigade, pushed ISIS out of the town to its base in the forested green mountains to the south, the only high ground in the East.

Cont. reading: Libya – Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention – by Richard Galustian

Posted by b at 10:17 AM | Comments (53)
March 28, 2016

Syria – How The Palmyra Victory Changes the Narrative

The liberation of Palmyra is a decisive turning point in the war on Syria. While there were earlier military successes by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the publicity value of securing the valued Roman ruins of Palmyra is much higher than any earlier victory. It will change some of the false narratives of the conflict.

The Syrian government is no longer “the Assad regime” and the Syrian Arab Army no longer the “Assad forces”. Ban Ki Moon, the head of the United Nations, congratulated the Syrian government to its success:

In a news conference in Jordan, Ban said he was “encouraged” that the UNESCO world heritage site is out of extremist hands and that the Syrian government “is now able to preserve and protect this human common cultural asset”.

One important part of liberating Palmyra was the use of Russian electronic warfare equipment to interfere with electromagnetic signals around Palmyra. The Islamic State rigged the ruins with improvised explosive devices but was unable to remotely detonate them.

The myth that the Syrian and Russian government are in cahoots with the Islamic State, told by various propagandist as well as the British and U.S. government, has now proven to be false. But other false claims are still made:

Lost in the celebrations was a discussion of how Palmyra had fallen in the first place. When the Islamic State captured the city in May, the militants faced little resistance from Syrian troops. At the time, residents said officers and militiamen had fled into orchards outside the city, leaving conscripted soldiers and residents to face the militants alone.

That depiction of the battle is pure nonsense. The Islamic State offensive that ended with its occupation of Palmyra took thirteen days from May 13 to May 26 2015. Heavy fighting and several Syrian army counter offensives took place during those days. After the Islamic State finally captured the city, the Syrian army immediately prepared for a larger operation to regain the city. This was launched successfully in July 2015 but for lack of air support the gains made were again lost a week later.

Throughout the 2015 fighting around Palmyra the U.S. air force, which claimed to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, did not intervene at all. ISIS was free to resupply through the open east-Syrian desert.

The sole reason that the Islamic State could successfully attack Palmyra was a very large ongoing attack by al-Qaeda Jihadists and CIA mercenary forceson the Syrian government forces in Idleb governate. The Syrian army moved troops from Palmyra to defend Idleb and Latakia and the forces left behind were no longer large enough to repel the Islamic State attack.

The attack on Idleb, for which the CIA allowed its proxy forces to directly cooperated with al-Qaeda, was supported by electronic warfare from Turkey which disrupted the Syrian military communication. The attack and the obvious cooperation between the Jihadists and Turkish and U.S. secret services was the reason that Russia and Iran decided to intervene in the conflict with their own forces. It had crossed their red line.

What followed was the roll up of all “rebels” that posed an immediate danger to the Syrian government. After Turkey ambushed a Russian jet all “rebel” forces supported by Turkey became priority targets. When the success of large scale offensives in Latakia and around Aleppo was established, Russia imposed a cease fire on the U.S. supported forces and on the Syria government. This cease fire freed up the Syrian, Iranian and Russian forces needed to successfully take back Palmyra. From there on the attack will progress eastward to Deir Ezzor and later on to Raqqa.

The Palmyra victory was the biggest defeat yet of the Islamic State. It poses a problem for the Obama administration:

Washington has endeavored to portray the battle against Islamic State as a project of the United States and its allies, while accusing Moscow of attacking “moderate” rebels instead of the extremists. Palmyra seems to embody an alternative narrative.

Congratulations, though still with loads of obligatory anti-Assad rhetoric, are now coming from unexpected corners like the conservative mayor of London:

I cannot conceal my elation as the news comes in from Palmyra and it is reported that the Syrian army is genuinely back in control of the entire Unesco site.There may be booby traps in the ruins, but the terrorists are at last on the run. Hooray, I say. Bravo – and keep going.

I concur.

Posted by b at 05:50 AM | Comments (93)
March 27, 2016

Palmyra’s Liberation, Ishtar’s Resurrection And The Easter Walk

The Syrian Arab Army and its allies have taken the Palmyra ruins and Tadmor city next to them from the Islamic State. To the chagrin of the U.S. State Department (vid), the Islamic State occupiers pulled back into the eastern desert after losing some 500 men. The Syrian government can now use the air base in Palmyra and from there regain control of the eastern desert country up to Deir Ezzor and the Syrian/Iraqi border in the east and towards the Jordan border in the south.

The Easter holidays and the fertility symbols of the hare and the eggs are said to be derived from the Germanic goddess Eostre or Ostara. But it is probably more likely that they derive from the older Mesopotamian goddess of Ishtar:

Ishtar is the Mesopotamian East Semitic (Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the earlier attested Sumerian Inanna, and the cognate for the later attested Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte. Ishtar was an important deity in Mesopotamian religion which was extant from c.3500 BC, until its gradual decline between the 1st and 5th centuries AD in the face of Christianity.

Interestingly the myth of Ishtar includes her descent into the underworld of death and her resurrection and return to life after higher divine intervention:

One of the most famous myths about Ishtar describes her descent to the underworld. In this myth, Ishtar approaches the gates of the underworld and demands that the gatekeeper open them.  … The gatekeeper hurried to tell Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. Ereshkigal told the gatekeeper to let Ishtar enter, but “according to the ancient decree”. The gatekeeper let Ishtar into the underworld, opening one gate at a time. At each gate, Ishtar had to shed one article of clothing. When she finally passed the seventh gate, she was naked. …
After Ishtar descended to the underworld, all sexual activity ceased on earth. The god Papsukal reported the situation to Ea, the king of the gods. Ea created an intersex being called Asu-shu-namir and sent it to Ereshkigal, telling it to invoke “the name of the great gods” against her and to ask for the bag containing the waters of life. Ereshkigal was enraged when she heard Asu-shu-namir’s demand, but she had to give it the water of life. Asu-shu-namir sprinkled Ishtar with this water, reviving her. Then, Ishtar passed back through the seven gates, getting one article of clothing back at each gate, and was fully clothed as she exited the last gate.

Ishtar brings us back to Palmyra which hails from the same age:

Palmyra entered the historical record during the Bronze Age around 2000 BC, when Puzur-Ishtar the Tadmorean (Palmyrene) agreed to a contract at an Assyrian trading colony in Kultepe. It was mentioned next in the Mari tablets as a stop for trade caravans and nomadic tribes, such as the Suteans.

Today there is a hotel named Ishtar just a two minute walk away from the ruins of Palmyra. Book it for your next years Easter holiday.

For me Easter (or Ishtar?) is no Easter without rereading Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Easter Walk from his Faust I opus:

Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,

Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.

They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ’s resurrection to-day.

For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor’s bonds and traffic’s prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world’s night,
All have come out to the day’s broad light.

The people of Syria, of Palmyra/Tadmor, have good reason to celebrate today. And to take a happy Easter walk. Happy Easter!

Posted by b at 05:21 AM | Comments (67)
March 26, 2016

The Wahhabis’ War On Yemen One Year On – When Will Riyadh Fall?

One year ago the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, supported by the U.S., the Brits and several Gulf states, launched a war against Yemen:

Yesterday the Houthi led rebellion had kicked the Saudi/U.S. installed president Hadi out of the country and took control over most of its cities including the southern capital Aden. The Houthi are allied with the former president Saleh, himself a Houthi and replaced two years ago with his vice president Hadi after a U.S. induced light coup. Saleh and the Houthi are supported by significant parts of the Yemeni army.

There seems to be the idea that Saudi/U.S. selected president Hadi, out now, could be reintroduced through force. The U.S. claims that Hadi was “elected” but with a ballot like this any “election” is a mere joke. There is no way Hadi can be reintroduced by force.

A year later the Houthis are no longer in Aden. Saudi proxy troops, which include “western” mercenaries, “liberated” it. But Aden is now infested with Al Qaeda and Islamic State militants who launched several suicide attacksover the last days killing many more people than were recently killed in Belgium. It is known that at least Al Qaeda in Yemen has direct Saudi support and is fighting on its side.

But despite all its proxies, massive bombing and many announcements the Saudis did not get anywhere near the capital Sanaa. Instead Houthi forces attacked Saudi forces within Saudi Arabia and destroyed several hundred Saudi tanks and armored vehicles.

The Saudis and the U.S. and British military supporting them are guilty of war crimes willfully targeting hospitals, schools and civilian infrastructure as well as many people who were not involved in the war. Haykal Bafanatalked to BBC Newshour today from Sanaa in Yemen about the war and the Saudi crimes.

Shortly before the war started Pat Lang wrote:

The Houthi descendants of my old acquaintances are not servants of Iran. They are not dangerous to Western interests. They are dangerous to AQAP. Get it? Salih will return. pl

That is as right today as it was a year back. Here are some pictures from Yemen today.

A pro-Saudi demonstration in Yemen as published by Saudi media:

Half of the anti-Saudi demonstration on Sabaeen Square in Sanaa (video) today. Saleh’s GPC party had called for it. Former president Saleh attended and the crowd sang the national anthem. Saleh is baaaackk!:

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A separate anti-Saudi demonstration in Rawdah Sanaa. The Houthi had called for this one. Many women attended:

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The Saudis managed to bomb the Yemenis back to Saleh! If the Saudis continue with their war on Yemen, Yemen will survive. But it will be Saudi Arabia that will at the end be destroyed. Riyadh, not Sanaa, will fall.

Posted by b at 01:27 PM | Comments (59)
March 25, 2016

Roundup Of Current News On Syria

In January the Jordan King Abdullah talked to a bunch of U.S. lawmakers behind closed doors. He accused Turkey of willfully transferring “refugees” and terrorists to Europe and of doing oil business with ISIS.

Those well founded accusations is not new for anyone who actually followed the issue. What is new is that some U.S. lawmaker felt a need to leak this now:

King Abdullah of Jordan accused Turkey of exporting terrorists to Europe at a top level meeting with senior US politicians in January, the MEE can reveal.The king said Europe’s biggest refugee crisis was not an accident, and neither was the presence of terrorists among them: “The fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy and Turkey keeps on getting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

Asked by one of the congressmen present whether the Islamic State group was exporting oil to Turkey, Abdullah replied: ”Absolutely.”

The king presented Turkey as part of a strategic challenge to the world.

“We keep being forced to tackle tactical problems against ISIL but not the strategic issue. We forget the issue [of] the Turks who are not with us on this strategically.”

He claimed that Turkey had not only supported religious groups in Syria, and letting foreign fighters in, but had also been helping Islamist militias in Libya and Somalia.

Abdullah claimed that “radicalisation was being manufactured in Turkey” and asked the US senators why the Turks were training the Somali army.

That Turkey is supporting Jihadis not only in Syria but also in Libya and in the Balkans has been documented but was missing from main stream news. We can hope that some of the bigger media will now pick up on this.

In Syria the Syrian Arab Army is proceeding to envelope the Islamic State held city of Tadmur/Palmyra. It is systematically taking the heights around the city but has not yet brought the fighting deeper into the city. The Islamic State fighters have defended well so far but have no means to counter the heavy Syrian and Russian air strikes that support the ground troops. They are losing a lot of men. There are strong sandstorms announced for the next 72 hour which will make further air support impossible. The Syrian troops would be well advised to hunker down along defensible lines for now and to only take on the city once the sandstorms are over and air support is again available.

In south-west Syria, right next to the Israeli and Jordan border, Shuhada al-Yarmouk is fighting and making gains (map) against U.S. supported insurgents. Shuhada al-Yarmouk is believed to be part of the Islamic State. It has never officially announced such but is led by a known Islamic State commander. One wonders how the group, completely cut off from other Islamic State held areas in east-Syria, can resupply and take care of its wounded. In the past Israel had supported and supplied Jabhat al-Nusra fighters on the Golan heights against the Syrian army. Is it now supporting the Islamic State against U.S. supported insurgents in south Syria?

The talks between Secretary of State Kerry and The Russian President and Foreign Minister have brought no immediate new results. But it is important to see that the U.S. now has to admit that its attempt to “isolate” Russia has failed:

His mission in Moscow centred on Syria, but Kerry also ushered in a warm front, interpreted as a softening of the often-hostile rhetoric between the U.S. and Russia.

Both parties confirmed the UN timetable for steps to be taken by the Syrian government and the opposition. The Russians again emphasized that the Kurdish people in Syria must be involved in the talks. At the same time theywarned the Syrian Kurds that any element of autonomy or federation will likely be much less than they envision:

MOSCOW, March 25. /TASS/. Moscow is explaining in its contacts with Kurds that Syria is an indivisible country that should not be broken into parts, Russia’s presidential envoy on the Middle East and North Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters on Friday.

One should ignore all the claims that Russia wants to federalize Syria. I see no evidence for that and I believe that Russia knows well that any federalization would be more troublesome than a centralized Syrian state.

Posted by b at 01:00 PM | Comments (38)

Open Thread 2016-12

Judas: Still on for Friday?
Jesus: Friday?
Judas: Yeah, the last supper.
Jesus: The what?
Judas: Supper, normal supper with the fellas.

News & views …

Posted by b at 10:42 AM | Comments (141)
March 24, 2016

Clinton’s Plan To “Defeat ISIS” Is A Threat

Hillary Clinton’s three part plan to defeat ISIS is to:

  • Defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria
  • Destroy ISIS everywhere
  • Prevent ISIS attacks in the U.S.A.


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That plan, to me, seems similar to George W. Bush’s plan to defeat the Taliban which was to defeat the Taliban. Or maybe more like Nixon’s plan to defeat drugs which had nothing to do with drugs but was actually a plan to criminalize blacks and antiwar hippies.

The real motive behind the above Clinton nonsense may be the interest of the powers-that-are to keep the war on ISIS going forever. Obama already did his best to establish ISIS. He refrained from fighting it in its infancy in 2012, refrained from holding it back in Iraq to “regime change” Prime Minister Maliki and kept its revenues flowing until Putin shamed him into finally bombing its oil infrastructure.

Clinton’s plan, which declares only aims without any steps to reach them, would mean endless wars in this or that Middle East country and/or in Africa or Asia. It means further suppression of any privacy and opposition at home.

It is not a plan but a threat. Will she win votes with such nonsense?

Posted by b at 02:22 AM | Comments (109)
March 22, 2016

Mr. Trump Goes To Washington

Donald Trump toured Washington yesterday for backroom meetings with Republican party bigwigs, for pandering to the Israel lobby and for an examination by the neoconned Washington Post editors.

The Republican party has given up its resistance to Trump. See for example the Republican functionary John Feehery who opined on February 29 that Trump is an authoritarian, and:

We beat the Nazis and the Japanese in the World War II and protected freedom and democracy by beating the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It would be a damn shame if we lost it all by giving in to the authoritarian impulse in this election.

The same guy only twenty-two days later:

Republican voters can support the nominee picked by a majority of the voters, they can sit this election out, or they can start a third party. The last two choices give the White House to the Clinton machine.I am not happy that Donald Trump could be our nominee, but I am learning to live with that distinct possibility.

That, in short, is the revised position of the Republican party. It has given up on fighting Trump and will now propel him into the White House. What will happen thereafter? Who knows?

Trump is pure marketing. A salesperson throughout. This video explains how his linguistics works – words with only very few syllables, strong buzzword at the end of the sentences. It is fourth grade reading level language. Exactly the level needed to sell his product to the U.S. public and the Republican party. He is an expert in doing this.

But what product does Trump sell? Does he know it? Does he know how that product functions? Is he serious in what he claims that product to be. I have my doubts.

So has Par Lang. He remarks on yesterday’s Trump appearance at the U.S. Zionists beauty contests:

Trump’s pander was so extreme that one ponders the possibility that he was mocking the audience.

Trump probably does not even care what political product he sells. For now he is selling the salesman himself. Buy Trump and all problems will be solved. He does this convincingly. Most of what he said so far is just nonsense and solely for marketing purpose. There are only few consistent political lines that did not (yet) change over time. These are the lines that rilethe Washington Post editors:

Donald Trump endorsed an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs Monday during a day-long tour of Washington, casting doubt on the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and expressing skepticism about a muscular U.S. military presence in Asia.

“At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?’ ” Trump said in the editorial board meeting. “I know the outer world exists, and I’ll be very cognizant of that. But at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially the inner cities.”Trump said U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, breaking with nearly seven decades of consensus in Washington. “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” he said, adding later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”

To this the editors opine:

Unfortunately, the visit provided no reassurance regarding Mr. Trump’s fitness for the presidency. “I’m not a radical person,” he told us as he was leaving. But his answers left little doubt how radical a risk the nation would be taking in entrusting the White House to him.

But who are the real radicals, the real radical risk? The salesperson Trump or the neoconned Washington Post publisher and editors? You may judged that from this excerpt at the end of the talk’s transcript:

[FREDERICK RYAN JR., WASHINGTON POST PUBLISHER]: You [MUFFLED] mentioned a few minutes earlier here that you would knock ISIS. You’ve mentioned it many times. You’ve also mentioned the risk of putting American troop in a danger area. If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?TRUMP: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

RYAN: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS? [CROSSTALK] …

The salesperson stopped there. Instead of answering that question Trump asked for personal introduction to the people taking part in the event. To nuke some lunatics in Toyota technicals is not Trumps idea of his product. He would not sell that. Not even for gaining the support of the WaPo neocons.

Buying Trump is buying a pig in a poke. One does not know what one might get. But I find it unlikely that he would pursue an interventionist policy. Then again – George W. Bush also pretended to be a non-interventionist – until that changed.

But Trumps current non-interventionist position is a big contrast to Hillary Clinton. She unashamedly offers her well known toxic brew of neo-liberal and neo-conservative orthodoxy. She will wage war, Trump may. As a foreigner that is the decisive difference to me.

But if I were a voter in the U.S. my position would be based on economic policies. There Bernie Sanders is surely preferable to Trump and very much preferable to Clinton.

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (115)
March 21, 2016

How Do Weekly Demonstrations Indicate A Lack Of Free Speech?

This sentence, in a typical Guardian human rights sniveler piece about Cuba, has me confused:

“I’ve been detained and beaten countless times,” said Eralidis Frómeta Polanco, an activist who turned up in the all-white clothes of thedemonstrators, who march silently along 5th Avenue each week in protest at the lack of freedom of expression. [emphasis added]

What actual “freedom of expression” do these people claim to lack? It is obviously not the freedom to publicly demonstrate each week. So what is it?

My hunch is that these are the typical rabble rousing agitators who accompany each and every U.S. “regime change” attempt. By promoting these the Guardian is propagandizing the weaponization of human rights. “Regime change”, chaos and atrocities are allowed if done behind the veil of promoting a few selected human rights like some freedom of expression. Indeed, the U.S. government co-opted “human rights” (vid, start at ~10min) as pretext for nefarious deeds.

But what about the human right to work, the human right to equal pay, the human right to just and favorable remuneration, the human right of an adequate standard of living or the human right to free education? Cuba is a champion of promoting these rights while the U.S. is shunning all human rights whenever it fits its purpose. When was the last time Human Rights Watch, or the Guardian, has called out for economic and social human rights? Would they ever support “moderate rebels” who fight for those?

Posted by b at 05:31 AM | Comments (77)
March 19, 2016

A U.S. 2016 (S)Election Circus Threat

Your likely choices:


Pics via Billmon

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (109)
March 18, 2016

The Islamic State Is Pretext To Again Mug Libya

There are currently two governments in Libya. A “moderately Islamist” one in the west in Tripoli and one in the east in Tobruk. The eastern one is internationally recognized and “secular” but also supported by some Salafist groups. Both governments have their own parliament and various supporting militia. In the middle of the long east-west coastline the Islamic State led by some cadres from Iraq and Syria has taken a foothold in Sirte. It is recruiting followers from north Africa and moving to capture nearby oilfields to finance its further expansion.

The “west” is alarmed about this development and wants to intervene with military force. Special forces from several countries are already on the ground. But both governments and their parliaments do not want such foreign intervention.

The UN or someone came up with the glorious idea of creating a third government which is supposed to supersede the two existing ones. The task of this third government will be to “invite” foreign forces and to rubber-stamp whatever they will do. That third government is now constituted in Tunisia and has zero power on the ground in Libya:

[T]here is no guarantee that the other factions will back down. So what is a war between two rival governments backed by militias risks becoming a war among three rival governments, none of which recognize the others ..

Naturally the Libyans hate that idea of a foreign imposed government. They will likely fight any third force that tries to usurp their sovereignty. Confronted with a foreign imposed government and foreign military forces more Libyans will join the Islamic State to fight the intruders. The shortsightedness of the UN and the “western” governments on this issue is breathtaking.

But there is still a lot of money to be made in Libya and especially the French and British governments want to keep robbing the country blind. This requires some feet on the ground. The “brain” and a likely main profiteer behind all this seems to be one well known figure.

A revealing piece in the Times of Malta describes some of the astonishing political-business connections behind the scenes:

[A] major military operation by a collection of foreign powers is in the works to tackle Isis and install a UN-backed government but the shabby way it has been put together carries the risk it will blow back in everyone’s faces.First, there is the strange situation that [Britain’s Ambassador to Libya, Peter] Millett takes his orders from Britain’s Libya envoy, Jonathan Powell, a contractor to the FCO. Yes, the same Powell who, along with then prime minister Tony Blair, brokered the deal with Muammar Gaddafi to end his dictatorship’s isolation a decade ago – and lead to fat Blair consultancies with that same tyrant after the prime minister left office.

Among other beneficiaries of this new opening up of Gaddafi’s dictatorship was a massive property development contract handed out to a company chaired by none other than Powell’s brother, Lord Charles Powell, which also involved an array of colourful London-based, well-known Arab millionaires. Which makes Powell more of a close relative of an interested party.

Libya is awash with weapons and munitions of all kinds and these are bought and sold in open markets. With the right amount of money one can easily buy powerful anti-tank weapons or anti-air guns readily installed on the ubiquitous Toyota technicals. But Britain also wants to sell, not buy weapons:

Millett revealed that he wants to sell Libya yet more [weapons] – but only to the ‘right’ militias, that is, those supporting the new UN-backed government of national accord (GNA).The GNA, designed to replace Libya’s two warring governments, in Tripoli and Tobruk, is the cornerstone of Western policy in Libya, designed to unite the country to turn its united guns on Isis. Hence the weapons.

Millett insists the weapons will only go to the ‘right’ militias, an echo of a Western statement about supporting the ‘right kind’ of terrorists in Syria in the war against Isis.

Here now comes the real business part with the most valuable piece being the Libyan Investment Authority with some $65 billion in assets. This fond is owned by the Libyan people but whoever controls it will be able to siphon off tons of money:

Cont. reading: The Islamic State Is Pretext To Again Mug Libya

Posted by b at 01:34 PM | Comments (43)
March 17, 2016

Open Thread 2016-11

News & views …

Posted by b at 12:35 PM | Comments (211)

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