Saturday 7 November 2015

The Knife War - Infographics

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Saudi War on Al-Mayadin

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A few thoughts about the rumors around the downing of Kogalymavia Flight 9268

Well, I tried to avoid writing about this topic until more hard facts became available.  But since this is apparently turning into a political fight between, on one side, Russia and Egypt and, on the other, the US and UK, I think that I can at least offer a few general thoughts.
What we know so far is this: Kogalymavia Flight 9268 had left Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, Egypt, en route to Pulkovo Airport in Saint Petersburg. The aircraft reached an altitude of 33,500 ft (10,200 m) at 404 kn (748 km/h; 465 mph).  Then something absolutely catastrophic happened.  The pilots did not radio anything at all, the plane dropped and crashed.  The tail section was found 5km away from the rest of the plan.  Just from that data we can come to some initial conclusions: this was not a “regular” mechanical failure (like, say, an engine fire) but something which happened so fast that the pilots did not even have the time to react.  The aircraft broke up in mid-air.  Only three things could have caused this:
  1. A sudden and catastrophic structural failure
  2. A anti-aircraft missile
  3. A bomb inside the aircraft
The first option is possible, and there are reports that the tail had a crack in the back.  Other reports mention that the aircraft was involved in an tailstrike 14 years ago.  However, this aircraft was inspected, several times, the tailstrike incident was recorded and the long term dangers of tailstrikes are also well known.  So the possibility of a catastrophic structural failure is sound.
The second option makes no sense to me at all.  I know of no man portable or even SUV-mounted missile which could strike an aircraft flying at over 10km high and at over 700km/h.  As for a bigger missile, well, we would have the same problem as with MH-17, only worse: not only would such a larger missile leave a visible plume, and make a very loud noise but, unlike in the Ukraine, in the Egyptian desert the missile launcher and crew would have nowhere to hide after the launch.  In fact, even getting such a large missile into the crash area would be very difficult: just like the Ukraine, Egypt is a war zone and there are a lot of “eyes in the sky”.  Finally, unless the missile can acquire an infra-red signature at 10km altitude, it would have to be cued to the aircraft by radar and that emission would also be detectable.  I cannot prove a negative, and I suppose one ought never to say never, but I don’t buy the missile hypothesis at all.
Which leaves the bomb.  To my great regret, this is the version which I find most plausible, if only by Occam’s razor.  No offense to anybody here, but the Egyptian security services don’t exactly have an impressive track of protecting tourists.  And while it is clear to me that the US and UK are trying to capitalize on this tragedy, I would note that Medvedev just publicly ordered the Russian security services to provide point security in airport terminal were Russian aircraft take off from.  Could it be that the Russian security services have already come to the same conclusion as the Brits and Americans?
So it boils down to this: what is more likely – a massive sudden structural failure or a bomb.  I believe that the latter is much more likely.
Still, we really should wait for the official report.  “Much more likely” does not mean that this is what happened.  It is “much more likely” that a coin will fall heads or tails, but sometimes they do end up standing on the edge.   There have been tailstrike induced catastrophic failures in the past, and the Kogalymavia airline was facing some financial difficulties, so maybe maintenance was less than stellar.
So what if it really was Daesh which blew up Flight 9268?
Horrible as this may sound, I don’t think that this is very significant, at least not on a political level.
First, Russian officials have always said that the terrorist threat for Russia was real.  As soon as the Russian military operation in Syria began, officials were asked whether this would not dramatically increase the risks of terrorist attacks against Russian.  Their answer was always the same one: “we already are under maximal threat, this does not make it worse“.  This is forgotten in the West, but Russia is still battling a terrorist insurgency in Dagestan.  Wahabi crazies are regularly arrested even in Moscow!  The anti-terror war for Russia has never stopped and the intervention in Syria is just one more episode of a war which really began following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  Yes, this is an immense human tragedy, but it is no worse than Budennovsk or the Nord-Ost episode.  Russian expect no less from the shaitans they have been fighting for decades now.
Second, the fact that Daesh had to strike abroad indirectly indicates that they did not have the means to strike inside Russia.  Again, one should never say never, but the FSB-protected Russia is a tough one to crack for the Wahabi crazies.
Third, while I would not put it past the Egyptians to lie in their report (they really have a lot to lose!), I don’t think that the Russian officials will lie about the cause of this crash.  This is too high visibility a case and, unlike the “Kursk”, this is not a military or national-security matter.  The risks of attempting a cover-up much outweigh the potential benefits.  Simply put: unlike the Egyptians, the Russians have no imperative reasons to lie (and that is not to say that I suspect the Egyptians of lying; I am only saying that they have  much bigger motive to do so than the Russians).
Fourth, regardless of what the final report will say in a couple of months, the Egyptians will pay a huge economic price in lost income as there will always remain a suspicion about what happened.  Even if the Egyptian security services did nothing wrong, and even if the final report fully clears Egypt from any wrongdoing, the panic induced by this precedent (fueled by US and UK statements) will badly hurt Egypt.  In that sense, Daesh has already greatly benefited from this tragedy.
All of the above leads me to a paradoxical conclusion: whatever the final report will say, it will make very little difference to the situation on the ground.  The damage has been done and there is nothing which will undo it.


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Assessing the Vienna declaration: The Saker

Saker drawing from community
I would argue that, at least so far, Russia has achieved many important goal in her intervention in Syria.  Most importantly, the Russian intervention in Syria forced the USA to agree to a conference in which all the regional actors, including Iran, would be invited.  At the end of its proceedings the conference adopted a joint statement which I have fully reposted here: 

I believe that this statement represents a major diplomatic defeat for the USA and yet another Russian diplomatic victory.  Here some points which have been agreed upon (with relevant section of the declaration indicated in brackets):
  • Iran will participate in the negotiations about the future of Syria (preamble)
  • Syria will not be allowed to break up (#1)
  • Syria will not be ruled by a religious regime (#1)
  • The Syrian military will not be disbanded (#2)
  • Daesh and other terrorists must be defeated (#6)
  • The Syrian people will get to chose their leader (#8)
Now let’s translate that into political terms and see what this implies.
  • The USA has failed to isolate Iran whose crucial role is now recognized by all
  • The USA will not be allowed to partition into a Wahabistan and an Alawistan
  • None of the factions supported by the US (all being religious) will be allowed to rule
  • The Syrian military (which is solidly pro-Assad) will not be disbanded or disarmed
  • All the factions supported by the US (all being Wahabi extremists) must be militarily defeated
  • Assad will be allowed to remain in power (since he is by far the most popular leader)
Now, I am not stupid or naive to believe for one second that the USA will truly abide by these terms.  Quite to the contrary.  All I am saying is that Russia has inflicted yet another massive diplomatic defeat on the USA similar to the one Lough Erne or to the Minsk-1 and Minsk-2 Agreements.   In Lough Erne, for example, the USA had to accept the following statement: “We call on the Syrian authorities and opposition at the Geneva Conference jointly to commit to destroying and expelling from Syria all organisations and individuals affiliated to Al Qaeda, and any other non-state actors linked to terrorism.”  In other words, Daesh-linked Wahabis were told to join forces with the Syrian military to defeat Daesh!  Of course, we all know that this did not happen.  But what is important here is that the US actions and policies are so indefensible that the USA has to condemn or, at least, contradict them, in any public forum.
Let me repeat this once more: what the US is doing on the ground, in reality, is in complete and total contradiction with the declaratory policy of the USA:
US actions/policies/goalsUS official policy on Syria
Full military support for DaeshCategorical opposition to Daesh
Promotion of a Wahabi regimePromotion of a secular regime
Breakup of SyriaMaintaining a unitary Syria
Destruction of the Syrian militaryMaintaining the Syria military
Removal of Assad at any costSyrian people get to elect Assad
Sabotage of all Russian effortsCollaboration with Russia
Regime change in IranIran as a partner
While, at least so far, the USA has been successful in doing the exact opposite of what it has been declaring, this becomes extremely difficult once the Russian military is directly involved.  This was best illustrated by the surreal moment when following US accusations that Russia was bombing the “wrong” guys the USA refused to give Russia a list of bad guys and a list of good guys.
This tactic, to force the USA to formally agree to something which they oppose is also what Putin used in the Minsk-2 Agreement where the Russians basically forced the USA and its puppet regime to accept a dialog with the Novorussians even though such a dialog is absolutely out of the question.  This is what Russia is doing now: forcing the USA to negotiate with Assad and Iran.
Russia’s declared policies and actions in contrast, are as simple, straightforward and in full conformity with each other: defeating terrorists, support the legal Syrian government, uphold international law.  In Russia’s case, there is no need to hide anything and, in fact, the Russians have been amazingly transparent about their operations.
For years now the USA has been dreaming of doing to Assad what was done to Hussein and Gaddafi and they most definitely have the military might to do so: what they are discovering, to their great distress, is that Russia is capable of defeating US plans by skillfully using a mix of intense diplomacy and limited military efforts.  So far, the US have not found a way of coping with this situation.
On the military front the situation remain, at best, complex.  The best reports about the combat situation that I have found so far are, yet again, on Colonel Cassad’s website.  To make a long story short and in sparing you all the details battle by battle, it appears that the Syrian Army is making slow progress on many directions, but it has been unable to capitalize on the Russian airstrikes and these modest tactical successes have not produced any operational breakthroughs.  In simple terms: the government forces are struggling very hard to achieve even modest progress.
I am, by the way, in no way blaming the Syrians for that.  The frontlines are long, convoluted, the Wahabis are well dug in, the Russian air force contingent is very small and can only do so much.  One Russian expert declared today that he believes that the Syrian military lost about 85’000 men since the war began.  If that is true, it would explain, at least partially, the fact that the Syrians are over-stretched and are having a hard time concentrating enough forces in one location to achieve a breakthrough.
Still, it is quite possible that the combined efforts of the Russians and the Syrian will eventually yield an operational success and that the Daesh forces will suddenly collapse, at least on one section of the front.  The problem with that is that both sides are in a race for time: the next round of negotiations is scheduled in two weeks already and, so far, neither side as much to show to come to the negotiating table in a position of strength.  Apparently, the Americans are planning some kind of attack on Raqqa, and they want to use primarily Kurdish forces.  If so, then this is a rather bizarre plan.  After all, why would the Kurdish forces agree to such a dangerous and potentially costly (in terms of equipment and lives) operation far away from their own zones which they must protect on more or less all directions?!  In comparison, the Russian plan of unblocking the Syrian military and helping it reconquer Aleppo and the key highway linking Damascus to Homs and Aleppo appears much more realistic, if full of potential difficulties.  If the Syrians fail to achieve these goals in the next 2 weeks, then this will immensely complicate the upcoming negotiations and might forces Iran and Hezbollah to commit a much larger force to relieve the Syrian Army.
The next couple of weeks will be crucial.

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Yemeni Army, Committees Control Saudi City of Raboa’a Completely

Local Editor

The Yemeni army and popular committees managed on Friday to control the bordering Saudi city of al-Raboa'a in Assir area after launching a sudden attack.

The Yemeni fighters bombarded all the Saudi military sites in the area in order to prevent them from interfering in the battle.

The Yemeni military media posted a video which shows how the Saudi soldiers were escaping the battle when it started.

This video has more:

Yemeni army and the Revolutionary Committees managed on Thursday to achieve major victories over the Saudi-US aggression mercenaries in the province of Taiz south-east of the country, inflicting them heavy casualties in material and personnel.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for 225 days now to restore power to fugitive President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Saudi-US aggression has so far killed at least 6,579 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Despite Riyadh’s claims that it is bombing the positions of the Yemeni national military, Saudi warplanes are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

Source: Agencies
06-11-2015 - 22:08 Last updated 07-11-2015 - 12:57

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‘Corrupt regimes region’s biggest problem’

The leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, says the existence of corrupt governments is the biggest problem facing people in certain Arab countries in the region.
He made the remarks as thousands of Yemeni protesters took to the street across the country on Friday to condemn the Saudi war on Yemen.
During the speech, the Ansarullah leader elucidated the main reasons behind the exploitation of some Muslim nations at the hands of the big powers, saying subservient rulers in the past were mainly to blame for the current miserable condition in some Islamic countries.

Yemenis take part in a massive rally denouncing the Saudi war on their country, in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, November 6, 2015. (Photo by Reuters)

“Our situation today is the result of what happened in the past, which transferred Islamic Ummah, which had international influence, to what it is today,” he said.
He said the oppressors strengthened their rule over Muslims over the years, adding that the Ummah must make efforts to get rid of the oppression.
The Houthi leader accused Saudi Arabia of allying with tyrant and corrupt regimes, saying the kingdom is repeating historical mistakes in a more obvious manner.
“Saudi Arabia is allying with Israel, like what happened in the early years of Islam…, when rulers… were against the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); Saudis today are doing the same.”

 Yemenis stand around a crater caused by Saudi airstrikes in the capital, Sana’a, October 16, 2015. (Photo by AFP)
Al-Houthi said some rulers of the Muslim countries are taking advantage of the resources of the Islamic world.
He said the interpretation of Islam provided by tyrant rulers and like-minded clerics are completely against the true teachings of Islam.
He said thousands of Yemeni people, including women and children, have been killed in the seven-month-long military operation by Saudi Arabia, while some clerics “authorize such crime and oppression in their religious decrees.”
“Today, the biggest suffering for our people is the existence of corrupt governments,” al-Houthi said.
Yemen has been witnessing ceaseless military attacks by Saudi Arabia since March 26. The military strikes are supposedly meant to undermine the Ansarullah movement and bring fugitive former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi back to power.
The Saudi aggression has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 7,100 people and injured nearly 14,000 others. The strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

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Papa Bush blames Cheney and Rumsfeld to help son win White House: US journalist

Video here
Fri Nov 6, 2015 6:57PM
Former US President George H.W. Bush has launched an effort to rebrand the Bush name in order to get Jeb Bush elected as next leader of the United States, an American journalist and political commentator says.
Papa Bush has blamed his son's top administration officials, Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for the foreign policy failures of the George W. Bush administration to clear the Bush name, Don DeBar told Press TV on Friday.
In a forthcoming biography, Bush had particularly harsh words for Cheney, who he says for the past 15 years has barely resembled the man who once served as the defense secretary during his presidency from 1989 to 1993.
“This entire media focus suddenly on Papa Bush, George H.W. Bush, is clearly some campaign by or on behalf of Jeb Bush’s campaign to rebrand the Bush name,” DeBar said.
He added that George H.W. Bush “was appointed by President Gerald Ford as the head of CIA, a position that he held for about a year but it was in the aftermath of the [Sen. Frank] Church hearings and expose of the CIA as doing horrible things around the world, and in the United States illegally.
“And he at that time actually accomplished the rebranding of the CIA at least among the media. And we learnt later that one of the ways this happened, both under Bush and his successors, was actually by paying journalists, putting them on the CIA’s payroll.
“Bush lasts a year in the job. Jimmy Carter takes office and he’s replaced, but he moves to a position as a director of the Council on Foreign Relations, which exerts a great deal of foreign policy influence in the United States.
“And then after being trounced by Ronald Reagan in the primaries in 1980 backroom machinations produced him as the vice presidential candidate.
“Now you have someone who sat on the top of the CIA suddenly being the vice president, behind a president who really has his main talent as reading off of the teleprompter. Ronald Reagan was one of the first what we now call spokesmodels in the political sphere, working for General Electric and others in the 1950 and 1960s before he became a governor of California.
“Most people now acknowledge the fact that George Bush was conducting foreign policy during the Reagan administration. He maintained serious influence within the CIA and hence he and the CIA maintained considerable influence over US foreign policy at the time.
“After Reagan’s two terms, Bush won election in 1988, one of the few times that he did; he had been only elected twice before to Congress, to the House of Representatives, not even to the Senate, and he was unseated.
“And then during his time, the main foreign policy objective of the United States, which was to take down the Soviet Union, was accomplished. Nevertheless, he was not reelected in 1992.
“The Bush brand has had some difficulties in the public space in the United States.
“In 2000, his son, George W. Bush, becomes president after what most people acknowledge was a stolen election, stolen in Florida and stolen in the US Supreme Court.
“In 2004, he was reelected only again through stealing the election in Ohio, as most people acknowledge, and also by a complete and abject surrender of the office, almost a quitclaim conveyance by John Kerry, who on the one hand refused to run against Bush on the issue that was most controversial at the time, the war in Iraq, and then by not defending the votes in Ohio and other places, despite the fact that he had promised to do so.
“So at the end of George W. Bush’s second term in 2008, the Bush brand had been so devalued both by foreign policy failures, by the abuses of the law here in the United States and of the Constitution, and not least of which the collapse of the economy in the United States, that the brand has been damaged severely.
“And as they took Jeb out for a test ride this year so far, they found that that damage persists.
“So they have two-pronged aim here that they have to accomplish, to actualize. One is to rebrand Bush, to distance the Bush name from the foreign policy failures, in particular of George W. Bush. That’s what this attempt to lay this blame on Cheney and Rumsfeld is, despite the fact that they originally came out from the Papa Bush administration, both as president and as vice president.
“And the other is however not to make it look like the Bushes can be unduly influenced by the likes of Cheney and Rumsfeld. That’s the reason that Jeb is stepping out and saying that ‘Oh my brother really ran the ship’.
“So as they attempt to reposition history, they have to face this contradictory pair of aims, and that’s what this entire public relations effort is about.”

Former US President George H.W. Bush

Republican US presidential candidate Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush, who was the early frontrunner for the Republican nomination, has plummeted to the low single digits in a new national poll.
The Quinnipiac University survey released on Wednesday found Bush taking only 4 percent support, down from 10 percent in September.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Ben Carson continued to lead the crowded Republican field, with the New York billionaire gaining 24 percent support, followed by the retired neurosurgeon at 23 percent.

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More Money for Genocide: Israel Wants 60 Percent Increase in US Aid

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[Ed. note – And they will probably get it. A “fatal world” and a bubbling, overflowing fountain of blood and genocide is what aid to Israel invariably reaps. Increasing it will only make the situation worse. End all aid to Israel. Enforce international law. Stop the genocide! ] - Richard Edmondson
Press TV
Israel is seeking a large increase in annual military assistance from the United States and has held preliminary talks with the Obama administration on a 10-year financial package that would provide up to $50 billion, American congressional sources say.
During unofficial talks in recent weeks, Israel has asked the US to increase its annual military assistance by 60 percent to an average of $5 billion a year over the 2018-2028 period, the congressional aides said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

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Cheney, the Mossad, and 9/11

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Amazing words from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

Apparently, at least ONE Congressman has the brains and courage to reconsider the demonization of Putin and Russia.  I did not think that possible…

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Pentagon Expert Says Russians Would ‘Annihilate’ US Army on Battlefield


Despite the size of its military budget, the US Army isn’t as strong as one might think it is and it would certainly lose to the Russian Army in a direct confrontation on a battlefield, retired US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor said, according to Politico Magazine.

The deployment of the US Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment from Germany to Hungary that was intended to scare Russia was a joke and it wouldn't help in a real-life fighting scenario, said Macgregor, who also holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the US Military Academy at West Point.
"This Stryker parade [the line of US military vehicles that drove from Germany to Hungary] won't fool anyone in Moscow," Macgregor said, adding that perhaps the Russians may not know how to do certain things well, but when it comes to fighting wars they're second to none.
Macgregor is a famous US war hero whose squadron destroyed an entire Iraqi Armored Brigade in 23 minutes, while suffering only one casualty, at the Battle of 73 Easting, a decisive tank fight during the Gulf War.
Later, reflecting on his famous victory, Macgregor said that if his military unit came to a face-to-face confrontation not with poorly-trained Iraqi soldiers, but with the Russians, his army would have been defeated.
"Defeated isn't the right word, the right word is annihilated," Macgregor told US military expert Mark Perry, according to Politico.
During his presentation at the US Congress in November of 2013, Macgregor compared the state of the US Army to a nine-passenger rowboat, in which "four would steer, three would call cadence and two would man the oars," according to Politico.
In other words, Macgregor said that the US Army is poorly organized or not well-trained, and if it had to face another army, equal in numbers and as technologically advanced, such the Russian or Chinese forces, on a conventional battlefield there is a high chance that US forces would be destroyed.
"Even if you increased the Army to 600,000 in its current form… it would still fail. That's the problem and, by the way, the Army knows it," the US military expert said, as cited by Politico.

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