Warning: Graphic Images

Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
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

QUESTION: Well, sir, I know you said that you don’t know much about Ahrar al-Sham and what they did in al-Zahraa. I have the photograph that I mentioned. I was reluctant to show it because of how graphic it was, but now I think I will do so and maybe this will prompt you to look into this group. And I want to ask you why should this group have protection under the cessation of hostilities when they clearly don’t care about cessation of hostilities?MR TONER: Look, I’m just not aware of this incident. I’m not – I was not casting doubt or not trying to – I just am not aware of it.

May 12, 2016 – Members of Ahrar al-Sham above their handiwork in Zahraa

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing May 24 2016

QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked a few questions that you said you would look into. First about the reported brief visit of an Ahrar al-Sham representative to Washington, D.C. Did his visit raise any red flags? Second, what does the U.S. think about this group Ahrar al-Sham, and why should they have the protection under the cessation of hostilities when, by many accounts, they don’t care much about that cessation of hostilities?MR TONER: […] Look, I mean, we talked a little bit about this yesterday, but Ahrar al-Sham is not a designated foreign terrorist organization. And as we talked about, it is part of this vetted group of opposition forces that are part of the HNC, High Negotiating Council. That was a process mostly led by Saudi Arabia […] You talked about the attack, and I think we did condemn that. [..] We have serious concerns about that kind of violence.
MR TONER: — we believe that that kind of action at this point in time would have a damaging effect on the cessation, as well as on the whole political process. We agreed that this group would be a part of the HNC, with the expectation that they will not commit violations of the cessation and that they will not carry out brutal attacks. We’re aware of last week’s attacks. […]

QUESTION: Is this a yellow card?

QUESTION: Did you know that —

QUESTION: How many times – how many villages do they have to massacre before they become bad guys?

Cont. reading: “How Many Villages Do They Have To Massacre Before They Become Bad Guys?”

Posted by b at 05:04 AM | Comments (2)
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

No, U.S. Ground Troops Aren’t Headed To Libya Anytime Soon

“… there won’t be boots on the ground anytime soon.”

Well …

Washington Post, May 12 2016

U.S. establishes Libyan outposts with eye toward offensive against Islamic State

American Special Operations troops have been stationed at two outposts in eastern and western Libya since late 2015, tasked with lining up local partners in advance of a possible offensive against the Islamic State, U.S. officials said.

CNN, May 13 2016

U.S. military upping anti-ISIS activity in Libya

Washington Times, May 16 2016

Special ops teams deployed to Libya in campaign against Islamic State

AFP via AlArabiya, May 17 2016

Pentagon admits US troops still in Libya

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.

Posted by b at 10:42 AM | Comments (22)
May 22, 2016

Some Morally Defective ‘Superpower’ Claptrap

Please guess which two countries are meant here:

These two countries, bedeviled by decades of misunderstandings, violence and wariness, now have the chance to create a partnership …

Cont. reading: Some Morally Defective ‘Superpower’ Claptrap

Posted by b at 10:49 AM | Comments (52)
May 20, 2016

U.S. Election Thread 2016-02

Room to bash whatever candidate deserves it …

Posted by b at 01:48 PM | Comments (56)

Open Thread (NOT U.S. Election) 2016-19

News & views …

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (122)
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:

[T]oday, we believe we moved the ball forward in some ways, and I’ll say specifically.First, we pledged our support for transforming the cessation of hostilities into a comprehensive ceasefire. And we committed to use our influence to use the parties to the cessation in order to ensure compliance.

Second, we agreed that if a party to the cessation of hostilities engages in a pattern of persistent noncompliance, the task force can refer that behavior to the ISSG ministers or those designated by the ministers to determine appropriate action, including the exclusion of such parties from the arrangements of the cessation. Interpreted directly, that means that if they continue to do it and they’re pretending to be part of the cessation and they’re not, they could be subject to no longer being part of the cessation immediately.

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.

Fourth, we call on all parties to the cessation of hostilities to disassociate themselves physically and politically from Daesh and al-Nusrah and to endorse the intensified efforts by the United States and Russia to develop shared understandings of the threat posed and the delineation of the territory that is controlled by Daesh and al-Nusrah and to consider ways to deal decisively with terrorist groups.

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.

Posted by b at 01:59 PM | Comments (106)
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!

Cont. reading: International Policy On Libya: Arm *Someone* And Hope For The Best

Posted by b at 07:12 AM | Comments (52)
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:

Taliban insurgents have cut the main highway that links the capital with northern Afghanistan and neighboring countries for the past three days, according to Afghan officials in the area.

The northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif was cut off, as were road connections to eight northern provinces.

Earlier this month, insurgents launched heavy attacks on security check posts along the Ring Road between Greshk and Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, overrunning three police positions and killing 15 police officers, and taking six officers prisoner. That again cut the strategic stretch linking Kandahar, the biggest southern city, with Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province.For months, the stretch of Ring Road linking Kandahar and Kabul has been subject to regular Taliban ambushes and so-called flying check posts, making travel dangerous except under heavy guard, for most of the distance. Only the short stretch between Kabul and Wardak Province is passable regularly.

The highway has also been shut down by insurgent ambushes in northern Jowzjan and Faryab Provinces, in western Farah Province and along stretches in Kunduz and Oruzgan Provinces, according to local officials and the police in those areas.

Recently, even the main highway from Kabul to the Torkhum border crossing with Pakistan has been occasionally shut down by Taliban ambushes.

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:

With an estimated 25,000 troops officially based in Helmand, the government should have enough muscle to confront the Taliban.The problem is many of those troops don’t exist.

A recent investigation by Helmand’s provincial council found that approximately 40% of enlisted troops did not exist. The authors of an analysis commissioned by the Afghan government – and obtained by the Guardian – said the share might be even higher.

US officials are equally concerned: in a report released on 30 April, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) claimed that, “neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist, how many are in fact available for duty, or, by extension, the true nature of their operational capabilities”.

One security official cited in the government report said 300 troops had been deployed to a base in Sangin, but when the base fell, there were less than 15 left.

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:

According to the government report, insurgents control 95% of Kajaki district, a lynchpin for British efforts to win “hearts and minds” by powering a dam to supply southern Afghanistan with electricity.In Marjah, where 15,000 coalition troops staged Operation Moshtarak, one of the largest offensives of the entire war, the Taliban control 80% territory.

In Sangin, only the army and police headquarters are standing. Nawzad and Musa Qala are fully under Taliban control, as is 60% of Gereshk, where most UK and US soldiers were based.

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?

Posted by b at 12:56 PM | Comments (52)
May 15, 2016

U.S. State Department Releases A Statement – As Instructed By Netanyahoo

10:01am · 15 May 2016Barak Ravid @BarakRavid

Netanyahu spoke last night with SecState @JohnKerry and asked him to condemn the Holocaust denial cartoon contest in Iran

1:43pm · 15 May 2016Matt Lee @APDiploWriter

#US @StateDept on #Iran Holocaust cartoon contest:pic.twitter.com/yirOSwNaQX

Meanwhile John Kerry expressed his concern (not) for human rights in Arab lands :

1:39pm · 15 May 2016John Kerry @JohnKerry

Meeting with @KingSalman today in #Jeddah underscored breadth & depth of US-#SaudiArabia relationship. pic.twitter.com/B1idXVypXr

Posted by b at 09:59 AM | Comments (86)
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

Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute.NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey, whose moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad’s departure with increasing vehemence.

Precisely what kind of MANPADs have been delivered to Syrian rebels is unclear and NBC News did not provide details. Such weapons range from the primitive to highly sophisticated.

What anti-air missiles the “rebels” acquired became obvious in November 2012 when the “rebels” posted pictures of themselves posing with such weapons:

In photographs recently posted online, two fighters were shown holdingmodern variants of heat-seeking, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles.

So this development, the apparent capture of complete SA-16 and SA-24 systems, will bear watching. If these weapons are turned toward Syrian military aircraft, then supporters of the uprising will have reason to hail them, and Syrian military pilots will have new grounds for worry on their next sorties. But if these are sold — and weapons of this sort are often said to fetch four- and five-figure dollar sums on black markets — and fired at commercial aircraft, then the consequences and regional security implications of the war in Syria will have become much worse.

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

Clashes broke out early Friday with rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, near the town of Cukurca, in Hakkari province, killing six soldiers, a military statement said. Eight other soldiers were wounded.A military helicopter sent to the area to support the soldiers later crashed, killing its two pilots, the military said, adding that the crash was due to a technical fault.

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.

Posted by b at 01:52 PM | Comments (34)
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 Russia’s bid to blacklist Syrian rebel groups at UN blocked by US, others

The U.S. and other countries at the United Nations Wednesday blocked Russia’s bid to blacklist two rebel groups in Syria saying it would undermine the war-torn country’s halt in fighting.Reuters reported that Britain, the U.S., France and Ukraine blocked the bid to blacklist Jaish al-Islam [(Army of Islam)] and Ahrar al-Sham. Moscow claimed the groups should have been excluded because of their ties to militant groups including ISIS and Al Qaeda.

May 11 – State Department Daily Press Briefing

QUESTION: — on this issue? Both Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam – I mean, they have exactly the same bylaw, almost the same bylaws. They don’t have a constitution. They have what they call internal document. They espouse the same dogma, they believe the same thing, they practice the same practices as Jabhat al-Nusrah and as al-Qaida. Why shouldn’t they be designated as a terrorist organization?MS TRUDEAU: So we constantly review information. We are constantly assessing these groups. At this stage our position is that these groups are members of the cessation of hostilities. We continue to have dialogue with them. If our position changes, we’ll make that assessment then. But we are in constant review of this.

May 12 – Syria’s al-Qaida branch seizes central Alawite village

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria’s al-Qaida branch and allied fighters from ultraconservative rebel factions on Wednesday seized a village of President Bashar Assad’s minority Alawite sect in central Syria, following fierce clashes with government troops.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group tracking the conflict, said families disappeared from Zaara after the militants overran the village. Along with Syria’s al-Qaida branch known as the Nusra Front, other hard-line factions that took part in the raid on Zaara included Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman.

May 13 – Syria: Armed opposition groups committing war crimes in Aleppo city

Armed groups surrounding the Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo city have repeatedly carried out indiscriminate attacks that have struck civilian homes, streets, markets and mosques, killing and injuring civilians and displaying a shameful disregard for human life, said Amnesty International.

Two of the armed groups attacking YPG forces in Sheikh Maqsoud – Ahrar al Sham and Army of Islam – have sent their own representatives to the UN-brokered negotiations over the Syria conflict in Geneva. The other armed groups have approved other delegates to represent them at the talks.“The international community must not turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence of war crimes by armed opposition groups in Syria. […],” said Magdalena Mughrabi [interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.]

Posted by b at 11:17 AM | Comments (53)
May 11, 2016

U.S. Election Thread 2016-01

Months ago I was asked who will win. I responded: “Not Clinton.”


Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (91)

Open Thread (NOT U.S. Election) 2016-18

News & views (NOT related to U.S. elections) …

Posted by b at 01:50 PM | Comments (68)
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

Charles Lister


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.

Posted by b at 02:08 PM | Comments (46)
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.

purple=military death (millions); green=civilian death (millions); blue=total death (% of population)

Posted by b at 02:40 PM | Comments (57)
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?

Mr. Kim was using the rare political gathering to rally the party behind his so-called “byungjin” policy. On Saturday, Mr. Kim said that policy was not a temporary step but his party’s “permanent strategic line.”The byungjin — or “parallel advance” — policy calls for stockpiling nuclear weapons in the belief that the deterrent would allow the country to focus on economic recovery.

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:

During the congress, Kim repeated the line that North Korea would not go on the offensive with its weapons.“As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by anyaggressive hostile forces with nukes,” Kim told the meeting, according to KCNA.

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.

Posted by b at 06:31 AM | Comments (27)
May 06, 2016

Syria: An “Airstrike” That Did Not Happen

There is reasons to believe that this “airstrike” did not happen:

Syrian monitors say at least 28 people have been killed in airstrikes on a makeshift refugee camp close to the border with Turkey. The attack on Sarmada, in Syrian rebel-held territory, follows more deaths in Homs.

Sarmada is in north-west Idleb province, just three miles from the Turkish borders and air defense.

Wounded were rushed across the border for treatment in Turkey, said the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, adding that the death toll was likely to rise.Social media footage showed the charred frames of tents that had been pitched in a muddy field. The Observatory said those killed included women and children.

It was not initially clear who had carried out the raids on Sarmada in rebel-held territory in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province and about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of divided Aleppo.

Abu Ibrahim al-Sarmai, an activist, said “two aerial strikes” hit the makeshift camp for displaced people.

Nidal Abdul Qader, an opposition civilian aid official who lives about one kilometer (half a mile) from the camp, said around 50 tents and a school had burned down.

Take a look at the video evidence the rebel propaganda put out.

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?

-End Update-

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.

Posted by b at 04:49 AM | Comments (72)
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:

As Malley and representatives of the State Department, including Wendy Sherman and Secretary of State John Kerry, engaged in formal negotiations with the Iranians, to ratify details of a framework that had already been agreed upon, Rhodes’s war room did its work on Capitol Hill and with reporters. In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else.So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal.

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.

Posted by b at 03:19 PM | Comments (148)

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