Current Top Picks
R. Galustian on Libya
International Policy On Libya: Arm *Someone* And Hope For The Best
Recent MoA Posts
“How Many Villages Do They Have To Massacre Before They Become Bad Guys?”
May 25, 2016
“How Many Villages Do They Have To Massacre Before They Become Bad Guys?”
U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing May 23 2016
U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing May 24 2016
May 23, 2016
No U.S. Troops in Libya? One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others
Another excellent piece of journalism by Borzou Daragahi …
Buzzfeed, May 23 2016
“… there won’t be boots on the ground anytime soon.”
Washington Post, May 12 2016
CNN, May 13 2016
Washington Times, May 16 2016
AFP via AlArabiya, May 17 2016
You will have noticed that one of the above things is not like the others. It is spin piece at the top in which the stenographer dully wrote down what the Pentagon told him: that U.S. special forces in Libya do not wear boots or somehow levitate above the ground. Unless someone kills then. Then the Buzzfeed stenographer will note that they died on duty vacation wearing their boots sneakers. Or whatever nonsense the Pentagon will dictate.
The general quality of journalism really isn’t great right now. But to write a piece which presents obvious falsehoods dictated by the Pentagon as factual claims when everybody else already reported the opposite is way below even the now usual level.
May 22, 2016
Some Morally Defective ‘Superpower’ Claptrap
Please guess which two countries are meant here:
May 20, 2016
U.S. Election Thread 2016-02
Room to bash whatever candidate deserves it …
Open Thread (NOT U.S. Election) 2016-19
News & views …
May 19, 2016
Syria – After Detours U.S. Finally Agrees To Russian Ceasefire Plan
The recent talk between the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry brought some progress. The U.S. was so far not willing to agree to a real ceasefire in Syria and persisted on a lower level “cessation of hostility” agreement. This now changed. The U.S., for the first time, agreed to proceed towards a full ceasefire between its proxy forces in Syria and the Syrian government and its allies. In the press availability after the Tuesday talks Kerry said:
Those last sentences are mainly directed at Ahrar al Sham which never signed the cessation agreement but claimed to be part of it while continuing its attack on Syrian government forces and civilians. Kerry is conceding to the Russian standpoint that Ahrar, by its action, is a terrorist group that needs to be fought down.
Kerry had agreed to this position on al-Qaeda ad the Islamic State in earlier talks but later retracted with weak excuses that “intermingling” between al-Qaeda and “moderate rebels” made fighting al-Qaeda nearly impossible. That “intermingling” is no longer an excuse. The U.S. now agreed that Russia and the Syrian government will fight al-Qaeda and that any other groups standing nearby and getting hit have only themselves to blame.
By the way, the New York Times account of the talks and the press conference by chief manipulator David Sanger are waaay off from what was really said.
The “cessation of violence” has held up quite well since the end of February. The south is mostly quite and there are only few hotspots elsewhere where fighting still flares up. Over 100 settlements and their local forces have, with Russian mediation, signed ceasefire agreements with the government.
There is also a new, deeper level of Russian and U.S. cooperation of Syria and on fighting al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. A common rough plan was agreed upon to attack and eliminate both group. As part of this plan Iraqi forces under U.S. control attacked and occupied Rutba in west Iraq. Rutba, part of Anbar province, controls much of the open land and desert in the triangle of the Iraqi, Jordan and Syrian border. This move cuts off the southern route that connected the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Syrian/Russian part of this move will be the liberation of Deir Ezzor in south-east Syria in the upcoming months. An attack on the Islamic State held Raqqa will only follow later on after a large concentration of force is made possible.
There are a few other active flashpoints in Syria. In East Ghouta, east of Damascus city, the Saudi sponsored Salafists of Jaish al-Islam are fighting groups once supplied by the CIA and now associated with al-Qaeda/Jabhat al Nusra for control of the area. This fight is already part of the disassociation from Nusra that the U.S. agreed upon. But the fighting is bloody with at least 500 losses on both sides during the last weeks. The Syrian army is the laughing third party in this and today took a significant part of the south of the East-Ghouta pocket.
The rebel part of Aleppo city, controlled by al-Qaeda, is now cut off from its only supply line. Improvised rockets from the rebel side are daily hitting civilians in the densely populated government held side. To eliminate the now besieged al-Qaeda in east Aleppo city will be a very bloody and destructive fight that might take months.
In the north Turkish supported “moderate rebels” still try to move towards east along the Turkish-Syrian border to eliminate the Islamic State access there. But each time they announce to have taken this or that town away from IS, a counterattack follows and IS regains its positions. This infighting between hostile forces is again to the advantage of the Syrian government.
Around Palmyra the Islamic State has made some surprise attacks on the Shear oil field and the T-4 military airport on the western road to Palmyra. There was, according to unofficial sources, some significant damage to Syrian and Russia material on the air base but no news about the incident was published. The advances the Islamic State made in area have by now, with significant Russian help, all been reversed. Following a consolidation phase a renewed push from Palmyra eastward to Deir Ezzor is expected.
Hizbullah has pulled back all troops for the Aleppo area where they were replaced by Iranian forces. It is unwilling to commit additional forces just to move some ceasefire lines a few miles back or forth. It continues its engagement around Damascus and in the border region to Lebanon with IS and al-Qaeda being the main targets.
Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and the Syrian government are all aware that the U.S. is “flexible” with its interpretation of agreements and tends to cheat whenever it believes that it can do so to its own advantage. They are fully prepared to respond and escalate again should the U.S. proxy forces divert from the new agreements or should some significant other changes on the battlefield occur.
May 18, 2016
International Policy On Libya: Arm *Someone* And Hope For The Best
by Richard J. C. Galustian
The decision on Monday in Vienna to provide ‘arms’ to a Libyan Government that exists in name only, the GNA, has taken the international communities stance from the sublime to the completely ridiculous.
Exactly what military kit is being supposed to be supplied? This is a critical question which needs a whole article devoted to it and cannot be dealt with herein because of space.
To keep it simple, the West has decided to supply ‘arms’ to a not yet in existence Government of National Accord (GNA) sometimes referred to as a Unity Government yet its core, the nine-man Presidential Council and its Prime Minister were not at all selected by any Libyan but by a combination of the UN, EU, US and UK. Within the EU the primary mover with the most commercial interests of that side being Italy.
The GNA/PC means seven men (as two dropped out) who are essentially two or three members sometimes available to be seen by visiting dignitaries at a heavily fortified Naval Base a couple of miles away from the Militia controlled Mitega Airport. The PC of seven, if you will can be considered as a quorum for a yet to be selected 90 member government comprising of 30 ministers and 60 deputy ministers. The PC/GNA control no territory, no area of either Tripoli or Libya except for the one naval ‘bunker’ they can meet people in to maintain the facade that they are legitimate. Its a ‘ Potemkin Village’ lie of epic proportions.
But wait, the best I save till last. Their military component is an assortment of militias of varying shades of extremist mainly from Tripoli, Sabratha, Zuwaia and importantly Misrata. Not forgetting in addition the forces that represent the coalition between former LIFG (read for them an Al Qaeda affiliate) which has aligned itself squarely with the Muslim Brotherhood, best described as the Sinn Fein political wing to IRA terrorists of the 70s.
So as in Syria, the Americans are going to give ‘arms’ to the ‘good’ guys but not the ‘bad’ ones. Good luck with that one!
May 17, 2016
How Will The “West” Cover Up Its Retreat From Afghanistan?
The Obama administration seems to have given up on Afghanistan. It should have done so seven years ago but the military ambushed the just installed Obama administration when the only alternatives it presented on Afghanistan was a huge surge and an even bigger surge in deployed troops. Those additional deployments failed to change the realities on the ground and Afghanistan is slipping back into the permanent local war between “western” supported warlords and Pakistan supported Taliban. The later have the huge advantage of some medieval but largely consistent ideology while the former are only driven by greed. This makes the Taliban the likely winner as the U.S. and others are no longer willing to sacrifice their own men and money for the enrichment of a small class of very greedy Afghan criminals.
Nearly all internal road communication lines in Afghanistan are now broken or under control of the Taliban:
The Afghan government and officials in Kabul are building more walls to surround their compounds out if fear of bomb attacks. Such walls will not keep mortars and rockets from falling onto their roofs. It is rather predictable how this will end. Those with some money will flee the country, those without will arrange themselves with the foreseeable winner, the Taliban. The official government will fall apart. The coalition government, U.S. imposed after the “democratic process” ended up in a stalemate of bribes, did not achieve anything.
The army and police exist on paper but in reality are just some gangs solely benefiting their leaders:
The “west” pays for the official number of Afghan troops but the money does not end up paying soldiers or policemen but only those who control the official enrollment lists.
The meager troops that do exists will soon leave the south where the Taliban are ready to again take full control:
The situation in other parts of the country is not better. There were huge demonstrations in Kabul last week over the route of a new high voltage electricity line that will allow for the import of more energy. The original technical evaluation recommended to put the line through Bamyan, a Hazara-dominated central province. But someone in the recent government decided to route it through the much more vulnerable Salang pass. The demonstrators believe that ethnic hate against the Hazara led to that change though some local bribery seems more likely.
The project also shows that 15 years of “western” development in Afghanistan did nothing to really build the country. Afghanistan has no means to pay for the import of electricity. Instead of building high power import lines it should (have) build many small hydro-power dam projects. The generated electricity would likely be less than the possible imports but it would be sustainable. The new import line, should it ever be finished, will either get blown up by this or that side of a local conflict, or fall into disuse due to a lack of import payments.
The “west” has failed in Afghanistan in a more devastating way than the Soviet Union failed there. Despite deploying many troops over many years no military solution could be obtained. Despite billions spend on development no sustainable economic achievement is visible. Despite thousands of “democracy” initiatives the basic might-makes-right rules of the land did not change.
Whoever wins the presidential U.S. election will need some very creative propaganda writing to cover up the devastating results of the war on Afghanistan and the retreat from the country. What story line will they come up with?
May 15, 2016
U.S. State Department Releases A Statement – As Instructed By Netanyahoo
Meanwhile John Kerry expressed his concern (not) for human rights in Arab lands :
May 14, 2016
MANPAD Used By PKK Against Turkish Helicopter May Have Come From Turkey Via “Rebels” In Syria
A Turkish helicopter was shut down by the Kurdish PKK with the help of a modern handheld air defense system. A possible source of this system may be an earlier delivery of such systems from Turkey to “rebels” in Syria.
July 31 2012 – Reuters Syrian rebels acquire surface-to-air missiles: report
What anti-air missiles the “rebels” acquired became obvious in November 2012 when the “rebels” posted pictures of themselves posing with such weapons:
From known losses of the Syrian air-force it appears that at least some of the systems the “rebels” were given in 2012 were probably never used. They may indeed have been sold off.
Now they may have reappeared.
AP reported yesterday: Turkey: 8 soldiers dead in clash with PKK, helicopter crash
The PKK today published a video (alternative source) which shows that the claimed “technical fault” was a complete separation of the tail rotor section from the Turkish AH-1W SUPER COBRA attack helicopter due to direct hit by a SA-18 MANPAD.
While Russia might work with Kurdish elements in Syria it is extremely doubtful that it trusts any Kurdish group enough to provide it with modern MANPAD system just to anger Turkey. A possible source of the shown system is the older Turkish shipment to the “rebels” in Syria who might have “lost” or sold off some to whoever offered a decent amount.
What goes around comes around.
Independent of where the system revealed now came from, the hit on the Turkish helicopter will likely end any further talk of providing anti-air systems to the “rebels” in Syria. The battlefield there is too confusing to guarantee that any delivered system really ends up where it is supposed to go and not in the behind of its provider.
Turkey will likely have to reduce its use of attack helicopters against in own citizens in east Turkey. While some countermeasures can defeat older MANPAD systems none is really reliable. They are difficult to defeat especially in the mountainous east of Turkey. All Turkish air assets will now be vulnerable unless they fly very high.
May 13, 2016
Terrorists Commit War Crimes, U.S. State Department: “We continue to have dialogue with them.”
Russia asked the UN to blacklist Ahrar al Sham and Jaish al Islam as terrorist groups. The U.S. rejected that. “We continue to have dialogue with them,” said the State Department.
A day later Ahrar al Sham joins al-Qaeda in breaking the ceasefire in Syria and in assaulting and ethnically cleansing a village loyal to the Syrian government. Meanwhile Amnesty International accuses both groups of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including by use of chemical weapons, and of other war crimes.
May 11, 2016
U.S. Election Thread 2016-01
Months ago I was asked who will win. I responded: “Not Clinton.”
Open Thread (NOT U.S. Election) 2016-18
News & views (NOT related to U.S. elections) …
May 10, 2016
Charles Lister Asks “Moderate Rebels” To Hide Their Cooperation With Al-Qaeda
Dear moderate Jihadis in Syria,
your cooperation with al-Qaeda terrorists is fine with me.
But please cover it up.
Your Jihad advisor
At the end of April an influential Jihadist scholar in Syria, Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, lauched a new recruiting campaign. A few days later al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman az-Zawahiri also called for all Muslims to join Jihad in Syria. The son of Osama Bin Laden, Hamza, also issued such a call. This is an unprecedented recruiting campaign which points to new upcoming offensives.
More and more experts wake up to the long term danger that an entrenched al-Qaeda in Syria poses. Al-Qaeda has little income from taxes or oil but must have some obviously quite generous individuals and state sponsors in the Gulf region. It has more money to spend than the “western” financed mercenaries and can afford to parade the nicer fire trucks. This lets it gain local support. The “water” the Jihadi “fish” can swim in.
Propagandists like Lister try to sell al-Qaeda in Syria as a “moderate” force. It is nothing like that. It is the same al-Qaeda with the same agenda then the one entrenched in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area. The more homegrown Salafist Jihadis of Ahrar al Shams in Syria are now the Taliban of Syria and Turkey is taking up Pakistan’s duplicitous role.
Like in Afghanistan in the 1980s the U.S., while probably not directly supporting al-Qaeda, is indirectly facilitating it because it is an effective fighting force which can be used to further short term U.S policy aims. The U.S. delivers thousands of tons of weapons to “moderate” rebels in Syria even as it know that these give half of each haul to their al-Qaeda allies. It also protects al-Qaeda from being bombed by Russian forces during the on and off ceasefire.
But al-Qaeda is still al-Qaeda and its brutal fight for its ideology will not stay in Syria. Just like its earlier incarnation did not restrict its fight to Afghanistan but came back to bite its former sponsors.
May 09, 2016
What The Russians Remember On Victory Day
On May 9 the Russian people and other people of the former Soviet Union celebrate Victory Day. It was the Red Army of the Soviet Union that utterly defeated the Axis armies in Operation Bagration and on its march to Berlin. Militarily the D-Day invasion of continental Europe by the U.S. and its “western” allies was a mere diversion from the huge Soviet offensives in the east. By end of August 1944 the German forces and their allies had essentially lost the war.
This graph, too little known, shows the huge sacrifices the Russians and others made. It explains why the Russians remember their victory.
May 08, 2016
North Korea (Again) Announces A Defensive Nuclear Policy
It was known to the various experts that North Korea poses no real “nuclear threat”. It has sound reason to build nuclear weapon systems and it had never threatened to use them in any offensive capability.
But the “western” public learned little of these issue until now. It is somewhat refreshing to find two newspapers today which explain the basic issues.
First: Why does North Korea believe that nuclear weapon capability is to its people advantage?
During the Korea war North Korea was totally devastated. Nearly a third of its population died. Its industries were destroyed. Hardly any structure with more than one level had not been bombed. Thereafter North Korea poured an immense amount of human and material resources into the build up and maintenance of a large conventional army. The threat from the U.S. army and its South Korean cannon fodder was perceived as huge. All civil development was subordinate to a “military first” policy.
Attempts to find some accommodation with the U.S. failed. The probably best chance had been the Agreed Framework of 1994 that would have compensated North Korea for giving up any nuclear plans with hydrocarbon fuel deliveries and commercial nuclear reactors. Both the Clinton and the Bush administration first sabotaged and then abandoned the framework.
North Korea then decided to proceed with its byungjin policy. A credible nuclear weapon capability as deterrent against any invasion or decisive strike would allow for massive decreases in front line troops and mass artillery units. The saved expenses and resources would then be used for civil purposes. There are some signs that this strategy actually works. Currently neither the U.S. nor South Korea would dare to attack North Korea even though its nuclear arsenal is only small and unproven. According to some estimates the North Korean economy is now growing at a healthy 7% per years.
But “western” hawks, especially the revisionist rightwingers in Japan, want to use the imaginary “nuclear threat” from North Korea to build up their own (nuclear) capabilities. The U.S. military wants to use the “threat” from North Korea to install long range missile defense systems in South Korea. These systems would be useless against any North Korean system but could probably neutralize Chinese capabilities.
It is therefore important that North Korea now declared that it would not use its new weapon systems against South Korea or Japan unless these countries themselves deploy nuclear forces against it:
One might argue that such declarative policies are of no value but the seventy years history of nuclear deterrence have been build on such declarations and so far all of these have held what they promised.
May 06, 2016
Syria: An “Airstrike” That Did Not Happen
There is reasons to believe that this “airstrike” did not happen:
Sarmada is in north-west Idleb province, just three miles from the Turkish borders and air defense.
The camp is in a rather wide, flat but stony area. The tents and plastic tarp structures are 15 to 30 yards from each other. Both videos show the skeleton of one larger tent that burned down. There is smoldering school material on the ground. Fire fighters in expensive equipment are dousing some hot spots. These are “White Helmet” rescue workers, part of the large U.S. and UK government financed anti-Syrian propaganda campaign.
The burned down tent is supposed to be the prove of an airstrike. But other tents and flimsy tarp structures just some 10-20 yards away from the fire show no damage or blast effects. None at all. Their thin plastic covers are intact. There is a small mobile phone antenna mast visible in the first video which also shows no damage. There are no people around but the rescue workers. There are no casualties visible, no ambulances, no blood, no civilians looking for next of kin or salvaging damaged property. There is no impact crater visible and no ammunition debris. There is also no potential military target around.
If this was an airstrike the pilot must have dropped some fire crackers from his cockpit. Any bomb or air to ground missile would have created an explosion blast that would have blown off tarps and created damage all around.
So what happened here? It was windy. A local fire burned down some tents. Maybe some people got hurt. A nearby “reporter” and a few well paid “White Helmet” background actors make a show out of it. The media, even with zero real evidence of an airstrike or casualties, takes that as truth and splashes it around.
Someone just pointed me to this video which purports to show the alleged second airstrike on the camp. But the sound of the airplane in the video is not original. There is no sound at all of an impact or explosion. Nor is that tiny “explosion” dust cloud the result of an air delivered bomb. Why are there no civilians around? And why is that fireman, just after the “impact” of that second “air strike”, so completely unfazed and busy taking pictures of his expensive engine?
This story, like others, is a diversion from the ongoing massive attacks by al-Qaeda and “moderate” rebels, again united under the Jaish al-Fatah label, against positions of the Syrian government south-west of Aleppo city and elsewhere. These attacks continue despite a ceasefire Secretary of State Kerry had agreed to in the name of the “moderate”, U.S. financed and equipped opposition.
May 05, 2016
One Way The White House Manipulates
A portrait of Obama’s spokesperson and policy guru Ben Rhodes explains how government propaganda works. This part is about selling the Iran deal to the U.S. public:
You can replace the “Iran deal” with “regime-change in Syria”, “Russia’s aggression” or some big trade deal the White Hosue wants to push through. It works the same way with every issue. Some experts in some (well paid) thinktanks get fed some juicy bits, they go out to cheerlead clueless reporters who then write whatever validates the various White House claims.
It is all test driven and works. Unless of course people have time and energy to inform themselves through other than the usual sources. Only few are able to do so.