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Sunday, January 31

If Google News is highlighting Boko Haram attack, why not also the IS one in Syria? (UPDATED 12:30am 2/1)

UPDATE
RT reports on the latest death toll from the Boko Haram attack:
Boko Haram militants killed 86 people, including children in their recent attack on villages in northeastern Nigeria on Saturday. Horrifying details of the attacks emerged on Sunday.

The Saturday night assault on the outskirts of the Nigerian city of Maiduguri – the birthplace of Boko Haram – lasted for hours, targeting villages and camps housing some 25,000 refugees, AP has reported, citing survivors and soldiers at the scene. By Sunday afternoon, 86 bodies had [been]  collected, officials said, adding that another 62 victims were being treated for burns. [...]

*****
As of this time (10:07 PM EST), and for about the last hour, when I began checking the "World Top Stories" at Google News tonight, the site was still featuring a report from Reuters published by Huffington Post at 10:40 AM EST about the terrorist attack likely carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria: 
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Jan 31 (Reuters) - At least 65 people were killed during an attack by Islamist militant group Boko Haram near Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri, a Reuters reporter said after counting bodies at a hospital morgue.
The remains of a dozen victims were burnt beyond recognition in Saturday's attack when militants opened fire on residents, set fire to houses and targeted a crowd with suicide bombers, security and medical officials said.
A Nigerian military spokesman, Colonel Mustapha Ankas, said that Boko Haram militants attacked the community of Dalori, about 5 km (3 miles) east of Maiduguri in Borno state.
[...]
But while there was also an attack today in Syria that Islamic State claimed credit for, and which killed by AFP's count 71 civilians including children with scores wounded and by SANA's latest count 45 killed and more than 100 wounded, there is no mention of the Syria attack in Google News headlines. This, despite the facts that the attack:

> occurred near a burial shrine that is important to all Shiites, not only Syrians;
> took place as UN negotiations with Syrian opposition groups got underway; and
> was near Syria's capital of Damascus, which is under government control.

So while the Boko Haram attack was fully as  horrific as the IS one, the latter has very important international ramification at this time.

Yes, by clicking on the Google News Syria headlines link, the report on the attack in Syria is brought up, but if the Boko Haram attack on civilians on belongs on the front page, why not the Islamic State one?  

So were the Google News bots napping? Oddly they did consider the Geneva negotiations worthy of mention as top news -- but wait!  Two reports on the Syrian attacks just popped up on Google News Top Stories (around 10:30 PM EST). One from the Los Angeles Times from 5 hours ago, another from CBS News from an hour ago. 

Step it up, Google. If you're shaping the public's perceptions to support the Obama administration's view of the Syrian conflict, don't make it so obvious. 

And while I'm sure you're not losing sleep over this, just let you know I spend very little time at Google News anymore and I visit the site last after RT, SANASputnikAl-Masdar News (Lebanon) and FARS. That's because I'm looking for news on the Syrian conflict that is not a propaganda effort by American, European, and Saudi-controlled press outlets. 

And I am getting news from those sources that is completely suppressed in the Western outlets. 

In other words, it's one thing to disort a news story or omit key facts from it -- standard practice with propagandists -- but it's quite another if the public doesn't even know about an important incident. That's why I depend now on sites such as Al-Masdar for news on the Syrian conflict. 

Of course the sites I named also feature propaganda, but at least I am getting news on Syria that gives me a more informed accounting of the conflict than I could scrape together from the wall-to-wall propaganda at Western outlets.

Islamic State bombings near Syria Shiite shrine kill 71
January 31, 2015 - approx. 4:30 PM EST
Agence Presse France

Beirut (AFP) - Bombings claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group killed 71 people and wounded dozens more on Sunday near a revered Shiite shrine outside the Syrian capital Damascus, a monitor said.

The blasts, which came as the UN's Syria envoy struggled to convene fresh peace talks in Geneva from which IS is excluded, tore a massive crater in the road, overturning and mangling cars and a bus and shattering windows.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said 71 people were killed in two blasts near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, including five children.

The first blast was a suicide car bomb, followed by a second suicide bomber who detonated his explosive belt when a crowd gathered, the monitoring group said.

Syrian state media earlier reported more than 50 people killed and over 100 injured in what it described as three blasts.

Official news agency SANA said the first blast was caused by a car bomb that detonated at a bus station near the shrine, which both Iran and Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah have vowed to defend.


It said two suicide bombers then set off their explosive belts when people gathered at the scene.

An AFP photographer said the explosions damaged the facade of a nearby building, scorching all of its six storeys.

Sayyida Zeinab, south of Damascus, contains the grave of a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed and is particularly revered as a pilgrimage site by Shiite Muslims.

It has continued to attract pilgrims from Syria and beyond, particularly Shiites from Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq, throughout Syria's nearly five-year brutal conflict.

Sunni Muslim extremist groups such as IS consider Shiites to be heretics and have frequently targeted them in attacks.

In the aftermath of Sunday morning's attack, smoke rose from the twisted carcasses of more than a dozen cars and a bus, as ambulances ferried away the wounded and firefighters worked to put out blazes.

In a statement circulated on social media, IS claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying two of its members had detonated suicide bombs.

"Two soldiers of the caliphate carried out martyrdom operations in a den of the infidels in the Sayyida Zeinab area, killing nearly 50 and injuring around 120," it said.

The area around the shrine has been targeted in previous bomb attacks, including in February 2015 when two suicide attacks killed four people and wounded 13 at a checkpoint.

Also that month, a blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shiite pilgrims headed to Sayyida Zeinab, killing at least nine people, in an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

The area around the shrine is heavily secured with regime checkpoints set up hundreds of metres (yards) away to prevent vehicles from approaching.

According to the Observatory, members of Lebanon's powerful Shiite group Hezbollah are among those deployed at the checkpoints.

Hezbollah is a staunch ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and has dispatched fighters to bolster his troops against the uprising that began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Early on, the group cited the threat to Sayyida Zeinab as the motivation for its intervention in Syria's conflict.

More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict, which has also displaced upwards of half the country's population internally and abroad.

It has evolved into a complex, multi-front war involving rebels, jihadists, regime and allied forces, Kurds and air strikes by both government ally Russia and a US-led coalition battling against IS.

In a new effort to find a political solution to the conflict, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has invited regime and opposition delegations to Geneva for fresh talks.

But while the opposition agreed to travel to Geneva after days of delays, it has so far refused to engage in indirect talks with the government.

It is demanding that UN Security Council resolutions on ending sieges and protecting civilians be implemented first.

On Sunday, the UN envoy held informal talks with the main opposition delegation, saying afterwards that he remained "optimistic and determined".

The Damascus delegation's chief negotiator, Syria's UN envoy Bashar al-Jaafari, accused the opposition of being "not serious" about the talks.


Bomb Site


[END REPORT]

The Battle for M-4 Highway. What's at stake? Civilization.

"If this offensive is ultimately successful in east Aleppo, then in the coming weeks ISIS forces will be split apart along the Aleppo-Raqqa Highway."


Bonsai! Pound 'em, Tiger Forces! [waving her Syrian flag]  Let's hear it for the 4th Mechanized Division! Go go go NDF! Pundita stop jumping up and down on the edge of the recliner, it's going -- [crashing sounds] to tip over. By the way it's "Banzai." 

You know, I'm beginning to think the war reporter for Vogue is a bad influence on her. All right, get set for a cliffhanger this week. Here's Leith Fadel's report today 6:45 am Lebanon time for Al-Masdar News:

Hezbollah, Iraqi forces prepare for large-scale offensive in east Aleppo
According to a senior officer from the Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Mechanized Division, Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujaba (Iraqi paramilitary) forces have flooded the Sheikh Najjar Industrial District inside Aleppo City’s northeastern sector these last two weeks in order to prepare for the large-scale offensive to cut off the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham” (ISIS) between the Al-Safira Plains, the Deir Hafer Plains and the Al-Bab Plateau. 
The goal of this large-scale offensive will be to link the Sheikh Najjar Industrial District with the Aleppo Thermal Power Plant that the Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces” are attempting to seize from the ISIS terrorists along the strategic Aleppo-Raqqa (M-4 Highway) in the Aleppo Governorate’s eastern countryside.

While several Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujaba brigades are going to remain in southern and northern Aleppo; this new offensive will be specifically geared to accelerate the encirclement of the ISIS forces in the Al-Safira Plains, where the aforementioned terrorist group has launched several offensives in the past two years.
Joining Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujaba during this offensive will be the National Defense Forces (NDF) of Aleppo City, Liwaa Al-Badr (Iraqi paramilitary), Liwaa Abu Fadl Al-Abbas (Iraqi paramilitary) and Kata’eb Hezbollah (Iraqi paramilitary). If this offensive is ultimately successful in east Aleppo, then in the coming weeks, ISIS’ forces will be split apart along the Aleppo-Raqqa Highway.
[END REPORT]
Now is it really a battle for civilization going on in Syria? I have before me another report from Al-Masdar, datelined today and filed by Paul Antonopoulos:

US Senator: Saudi Arabia spreads hatred
Senator Chris Murphy [D-Connecticut] has come out saying that Saudi Arabia funds up to 24,000 radical religious schools in Pakistan by handing out a “tsunami of money” in order to “export intolerance.”
“In 1956, there were 244 madrassas in Pakistan. Today, there are 24,000. These schools are multiplying all over the globe. These schools, by and large, don’t teach violence. They aren’t the minor leagues for al-Qaeda or ISIS. But they do teach a version of Islam that leads very nicely into an anti-Shia, anti-Western militancy,” he said in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“The United States should suspend supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, at the very least until we get assurances that this campaign does not distract from the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda, and until we make some progress on the Saudi export of Wahhabism,” he added.
The senator is not entirely correct; the madrassas are the foundation for the thinking of groups such as Islamic State and are critical to promulgation of the thinking among hundreds of millions of children.

But Syria, unlike Pakistan, is the bastion in the Middle East of religious freedom -- or it was, until Al Saud determined to destroy Bashar al-Assad. So given that the United States and European Union along with the majority of Gulf Arab oil kingdoms are supporters of Al Saud, Syria turns out to be civilization's last stand for the present generation and the one to follow. As unlikely as it might seem at this moment, if we lose Syria we lose everything.  

********

Saturday, January 30

Metamorphosis: The Butterfly Dress

If I told you what you're actually looking at in the photo you might not believe me, but to get in the ballpark it's the enchantment that can happen when a computer is embedded in a show-stopping ball gown. 


The video, below, from Intel's IQ website shows how the dress works; I'd suggest you watch it in full screen mode. There are also videos at the website about the making of the dress and a more detailed text explanation.

Two Turkish fashion designers, Tuba and Ezra Çetin, a sister team, collaborated with Cagri Tanriover, a Turkish software development engineer at Intel Labs, to create the gown Cinderella would have loved to wear at the ball:
At first it was a clunky conversation — engineers trying to work with fashion designers — but after much brainstorming and trial and error, Tanriover said that it didn’t take long for everything to click.
The visionary sisters and software engineer are interesting on their own but also because they remind that behind the headlines of war and political unrest in the Middle East, creative people there are just going about their lives, and in the process helping to build this amazing era. The same is happening all over the world.  



********

"Schizophrenia does not apply here" Pepe Escobar's dead-on Syria sitrep

This map, published January 12 by IHS Jane's 360, is a little dated and misleading in that it doesn't show Salma and doesn't make clear how much the Syrian army has boxed in the enemy in several key places. But it's helpful for orientation. And it's the first (and still only) war map I've seen that shows how much unpopulated desert there is in Syria -- all the pale gray areas on the map. That's why so much of the war is about control of roads; often there are reports about a contested "key" or "imperative" village or group of villages. Those are the pit stops on the roads, many of which are now back under Syrian military control.    


"The [Kurdish] YPG and its allies are planning a major attack to finally seize the 100-kilometer stretch of the Syria-Turkey border still controlled by ISIS/ISIL/Daesh – thus reuniting their three cantons. Erdogan was blunt: if the YPG pushes west of the Euphrates, it’s war. Well, looks like war then. The YPG is getting ready to attack the crucial towns of Jarabulus and Manbij. Russia most certainly will aid the YPG to reconquer Jarabulus. And that will directly pit – once again - Turkey against Russia on the ground."

Breaking News: Pepe tops himself, which isn't easy, in a biting, crystal-clear analysis of what the heck is actually going on with the Syrian war. Sorry, RT, I'm republishing the whole thing here, but first there has been a development since RT published Pepe's discussion:
Official Syrian opposition to join Geneva 3 peace talks after about-face: UN mediatorPublished time: 29 Jan, 2016 22:27 - Edited time: 30 Jan, 2016 02:12
RT
The long-delayed Syria peace talks, which are expected to last six months, have opened in Geneva without representatives from the leading opposition group or the Kurdish faction, but the UN promises more parties will be joining the negotiating process.
A senior Western diplomat briefing the media proclaimed that the talks organized to end the five-year conflict in Syria were “a complete failure” before they had even begun.
However, after the first day, which wasn’t expected to produce any positive results, a UN mediator brought a piece of good news.
“The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) [aka Riyadh faction] decided to participate in the Geneva talks after receiving American and United Nations guarantees,” said UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura.
“I have good reasons to believe that they are actually considering that very seriously. And therefore [I hope] to be in a position probably Sunday to actually start the discussions with them in order to be able to proceed with intra-Syrian talks.”
HNC represents a coalition of 15 leading, and mostly “moderate” opposition factions that were put together in Saudi Arabia last month. The group said earlier that it would not join the negotiations unless Bashar Assad’s government abandoned sieges of settlements, put a stop to air strikes, and released numerous captives. It remains unclear what kind of humanitarian intervention the UN was able to guarantee.
[Pundita note: Nothing is what the UN could guarantee] 
Conflicting information has emerged about who will represent the HNC during Geneva-III negotiations, which are designed as “proximity” talks in which the adversaries do not sit face-to-face, but speak indirectly through de Mistura as he moves between several rooms. 
AFP reported that “about 30, 35” HNC members would go to Geneva following internal opposition debates held in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, after claiming earlier that a low-status three-man team was en-route to the Swiss city.
The official HNC Twitter feed confirmed that its members would be present, but only “for discussions with the UN, not negotiations.”
[...]
To be exact, all the participants will be divided into four rooms. For details see the rest of the RT report, which includes excellent analysis of the talks by Joshua Landis, Director of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma. 

I note with an attempt at humor that the Riyadh faction's about-face might have occurred when they read Pepe's analysis. If I were a moderate Salafist jihadi I would have decided to get my butt to Geneva after I saw things spelled out this clearly:     

You have now landed in Geneva, Syria
Published time: 29 Jan, 2016 - 15:32 GMT
Pepe Escobar
RT

The alleged Syrian peace process now enters its Geneva charade stage. This could last months; get ready for lavish doses of posturing and bluster capable of stunning even Donald Trump.

The notion that Geneva may be able to impersonate Damascus in a suit-and-tie pantomime is ludicrous to begin with. Even the UN envoy, the sartorially superb Staffan de Mistura, admits the Sisyphean task ahead - even if all relevant players were at the table.

Then we have Syrian “opposition figure” George Sabra announcing that no delegation from the Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee will be at the table in Geneva. As if Syrians needed an “opposition” instrumentalized by Saudi Arabia.

So in the interest of providing context, here’s an extremely concise recap of recent, crucial facts on the Syrian ground which the “new capital” Geneva may ignore at its own peril.

Let’s start with last summer, when Iranian Quds Force superstar commander Qasem Soleimani laid down the law, in person, in Moscow, establishing without a doubt the grim situation across the Syrian theater of war.

Essentially Soleimani told the Kremlin and Russian intelligence that Aleppo might be about to fall; that Jabhat al-Nusra was at the doors of southern Damascus; that Idlib had fallen; and Latakia – home to Russia’s naval base at Tartus – would be next.

One can imagine the effect of this jolt of realpolitik on President Putin’s mind. That clinched his resolution to stop the fall of Syria, and prevent it from becoming a Libyan remix.

The Russian Air Force campaign turned out to be the ultimate game-changer. It is in the process of securing the Damascus-Homs-Latakia-Hama-Aleppo network – the urban, developed Western Syria that holds 70 percent of the country’s population. ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and/or Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, have zero chances of taking over this territory. The rest is mostly desert.

Jaysh al-Islam – a motley crew weaponized by Saudi Arabia – still holds a few positions north of Damascus. That’s containable. The country bumpkins in Daraa province, south of Damascus, could only make a push towards the capital in an impossible 1991 Desert Storm context.

“Moderate rebels” – that Beltway concoction – did try to hold Homs and Al-Qusayr, cutting off the resupply of Damascus. They were repelled. As for the gaggle of “moderate rebels” who took all of Idlib province, they are being pounded mercilessly for four months now by the Russian Air Force. Aleppo’s southern front is also being secured.

Don’t bomb “our” rebels

It’s easy to pinpoint who’s livid with all the Russian action: Saudi Arabia, Turkey and – last but not least – the ‘Empire of Chaos’, all at the table in Geneva.

Jabhat al-Nusra - remote-controlled by Ayman al-Zawahiri - is intimately linked to a gaggle of Salafi-jihadists in the Saudi-sponsored Army of Conquest, as well as tactically allied with myriad outfits nominally grouped in the nearly extinct Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The CIA, using the Saudis for plausible deniability, fully weaponized “vetted” FSA outfits, which received, among other things, TOW anti-tank missiles. Guess who “intercepted” virtually all the weapons: Jabhat al-Nusra.

The follow-up was nothing short of hilarious: Washington, Ankara and Riyadh furiously denouncing Moscow for bombing their “moderate rebels” and not ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

Slowly but surely, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), parallel to the Russian offensive, retook the initiative. The “4+1” – Russia, Syria, Iran (Special Forces, many of them from Afghanistan), Iraq, plus Hezbollah – started coordinating their efforts. Latakia Province – which hosts not only Tartus but the Khmeimim Russian airbase – is now under total control by Damascus.

And that brings us to Ankara’s nightmares. Russian Air Force smashed most of Ankara’s Turkmen proxies - heavily infiltrated by Turkish fascists - in northwest Syria. That was the key reason for Sultan Erdogan’s desperate move of shooting down the Su-24.

It’s by now clear that the winners, as it stands, on the ground, are the “4+1”, and the losers are Saudi Arabia and Turkey. So no wonder the Saudis want at least some of their proxies at the negotiating table in Geneva, while Turkey tries to change the subject by barring the Syrian Kurds: these are accused of being terrorists, much more than ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

Exit Geneva, enter Jarabulus


As if this was not messy enough, US ‘Think Tankland’ is now spinning there is an “understanding” between Washington and Ankara for what will be, for all practical purposes, a Turkish invasion of northern Syria, under the pretext of Ankara smashing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in northern Aleppo.

This is utter nonsense. Ankara’s game is three-pronged; prop up their heavily battered Turkmen proxies; keep very much alive the corridor to Aleppo – a corridor that crucially includes the Jihadi Highway between Turkey and Syria; and most of all prevent by all means necessary that YPG Kurds bridge the gap from Afrin to Kobani and unite all three Syrian Kurd cantons near the Turkish border.

None of this has anything to do with fighting ISISL/ISIL/Daesh. And the nuttiest part is that Washington is actually assisting the Syrian Kurds with air support. Either the Pentagon supports the Syrian Kurds or Erdogan’s invasion of northern Syria; schizophrenia does not apply here.

A desperate Erdogan may be foolish enough to confront the Russian Air Force during his purported “invasion”. Putin is on the record saying response to any provocation will be immediate, and lethal. To top it off, the Russians and Americans are actually coordinating airspace action in northern Syria.

This is bound to be the next big thing, fully eclipsing the Geneva pantomime. The YPG and its allies are planning a major attack to finally seize the 100-kilometer stretch of the Syria-Turkey border still controlled by ISIS/ISIL/Daesh – thus reuniting their three cantons.

Erdogan was blunt; if the YPG pushes west of the Euphrates, it’s war. Well, looks like war then. The YPG is getting ready to attack the crucial towns of Jarabulus and Manbij. Russia most certainly will aid the YPG to reconquer Jarabulus. And that will directly pit – once again - Turkey against Russia on the ground.

Geneva? That’s for tourists; the capital of the Syrian horror show is now Jarabulus.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.

[END REPORT] 

Friday, January 29

A return to "Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West"

“If this is purely a conversation about counterterrorism cooperation, and if the Saudis are a big part of the problem in creating terrorism in the first place, then how persuasive of an argument is it?”
-- from the hair-raising New York Times investigative report, U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels; January 23, 2016

As the Times report makes clear, the U.S. government has been relying heavily on Saudi money for a long time to covertly finance highly questionable operations in other countries that the American public has had to learn about the hard way. So I think we might all benefit from a review of our ally Saudi Arabia. I'd recommend a book published in 2005, Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West by Laurent Murawiec (1951-2009), who was a defense analyst.

In a briefing in July 2002 to the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, Murawiec said, "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldiers, from ideologist to cheerleader."

Yet the strong words hardly state the threat, as you will see when you read the book, parts of which are available in a free preview from Google Books. He introduces readers to the men who since the 1960s plotted and methodically executed a plan to bring about the destruction of human civilization -- although of course the Saudis wouldn't put it that way. 

That the Saudis might fail in this enterprise would be due, I think, to overplaying their hand. They became alarmed at President Obama's attempt at rapprochement with Tehran, his willingness to see Hosni Mubarak overthrown, and the speed with which fracking became a major industry. I think the alarm pushed them into overt actions of aggression -- in Yemen, in Syria -- which has brought unprecedented scrutiny to their actions.

Even so, with the European Union contemplating the prospect of collapse and swaths of the Middle East and Africa in chaos, it's still a toss of the coin as to whether the plan will succeed.

I caution that Murawiec makes no attempt to mask his dislike for the Saudis -- forgive him, he was French -- so I'm not sure the book could be published today, given that political correctness is at the zenith and many historians obsessively avoid statements that could be interpreted as reflecting the bigotry of Western colonialism.

Or it could be that Murawiec's words, when they were translated into English, seemed harsher than he intended. Everything sounds nicer in French. But I also think his scathing contempt is a bracing offset to commentators who try to find some good about the Saudi regime and view the Saudis as upholding stability both in the Middle East and the world. Yes, stability they wanted while they seeded societies around the world with people who would at some point overthrow their governments and install Wahhabist ones in the place. 

And in the wake of 9/11 Murawiec was intent on delivering the strongest warning he could to the American defense establishment about the Saudis. This led him into trouble while he worked at RAND corporation. His 2002 briefing to the Pentagon, which explicitly called for the removal of the Saudi regime or an ultimatum delivered to them by the U.S. government (it's not clear which from the Wikipedia article about him) was leaked to the public. He was fired from RAND.

Yet in light of unfolding events his warnng was prescient. Just this week news broke that a former imam at Saudi Arabia's Grand Mosque had explained there was no daylight between the Saudi interpretation of Islam and that of Islamic State.

However, it's likely the imam's frankness went over with the Saudi government like pork roast on the menu; they've been reeling since last year from bad publicity coming from many quarters and are trying hard to counter with positive news.  On the January 24 Al-Masdar News reported Saudi regime bans all books written by Salafi scholars:
The Saudi Ministry of Education has ordered the ban of all scholastic books written by the Salafist cleric Salman Al-Awda and his Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, including the infamous Egyptian Salafi cleric Yousif Al-Qaradawi.
According to Saudi publication “Al-Hayat”, the Ministry of Education has banned books that the regime deems to be promoting “terrorism” and misrepresenting Islamic Shari’ah Law. So far, 80 books issued by the Muslim Brotherhood have been banned by the Saudi Ministry of Education across the country; this number is likely to increase in the coming days, as the regime cracks down on the Salafi movement inside of Saudi Arabia.
The Muslim Brotherhood is primarily backed by the Al-Thani regime of Qatar – they are considered a terrorist group inside of Saudi Arabia, despite the warm relations the Al-Thani and Al-Saud families share.
[END REPORT]
So the headline is a little misleading; not all books by all Salafist scholars have been banned, just ones associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly others the regime views as promoting terrorism and misrepresenting Sharia. As to whether this is just a cosmetic move remains to be seen but I don't look for the kingdom to turn away from Wahhabism.  

As to whether the idea of removing the Saudi clan from the rule of Arabia should be dusted off -- we've have quite enough regime change for the early part of this century, don't you think? And none of it has worked out. Instead of trying to change others Washington might try changing its own behavior because it's written nowhere that the United States must maintain a close relationship with Al Saud.

********


Geneva talks on Syria start today without Riyadh crew present thank God

Now that's my idea of a productive negotiation: when your enemies don't show. Why didn't they show?  Because they're sulking. Unfortunately they're not sulking so much they can't bear to yap whine to the press. And by the way, Mr Mroue, they're not the "main" opposition, they're the opposition backed by Riyadh. But before his report, filed today for AP, I want to go back to an earlier one:

Saudi-backed Syria rebels boycott Geneva talks
Long-awaited negotiations to end the five-year war in Syria begin in Geneva today
Michael Jansen in Geneva

January 29, 2016
The Irish Times

The Saudi-backed Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee yesterday decided to boycott today’s long-awaited opening of talks in Geneva to end the five-year war in Syria.

The talks could go ahead with independent opposition groups, but the effort to reach a negotiated solution would be seriously weakened without the Saudi-formed committee, which claims to represent more than 100 groups.

Aware that continuing the conflict is not an option due to the flood of Syrian refugees entering Europe and the threat of extremist attacks, the US, France, Britain and Germany had urged the committee to dispatch its negotiators.

Earlier it had been reported that the committee would send a small representation, headed by chairman Riad Hijab, for “pre-talks” on implementing demands for an end to bombardments, sieges and blockades of insurgent-held areas in the war-torn country.

Impossible talks

These committee’s demands were submitted to UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon as conditions for the participation of the negotiating team. But they have been impossible to carry out without talks between the government and armed groups, some supported by Saudi ArabiaQatarTurkey and western powers.

The Riyadh negotiating team is led by a defected air force general, Asaad al-Zoubi, an officer of the Southern Command alliance, and Mahmoud Alloushfrom the Saudi-founded Army of Islam. The latter is regarded as a “terrorist” group by the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran.

The committee’s boycott was announced after UN envoy Staffan de Mistura’s spokeswoman denied reports that the talks would be postponed and the government delegation, headed by UN ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, had left Damascus for Geneva.

The Syrian government had agreed to attend talks when proposed for January 25th by the UN, the US and Russia. Syrian Democratic Council spokesmanHaytham Manna announced that 15 members of independent secular opposition groups and 16 advisers were in Geneva and ready to take part.

He reiterated that he would not attend because the leaders of his Kurdish partners have been excluded at the insistence of Turkey, which claims they are associated with Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy.

In a an attempt to secure the participation of the Saudi- backed opposition, Mr de Mistura altered the status of invitees and the format of the talks.

On Monday he had declared they would not only begin today for invitees ready to attend, but would also include a range of opposition factions, in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2254.

Mr de Mistura said participation was unconditional, dismissing the demands of the High Negotiations Committee, which also claims to be the sole representative of the opposition.

Separate rooms

He had said the opposition would be inclusive and separate rooms would be allocated for the government delegation, the Riyadh team, independents and civil society activists and women, indicating that they would be treated equally. He and his aides would shuttle among these participants.

However, the Riyadh faction – which also has US and European backing – had emerged as the lead opposition group while independents, civil society activists and women had been relegated to the status of advisers.

In anticipation of the talks, Mr de Mistura broadcast a message in Arabic to the Syrian people pledging to return “stability and peace and dignity” to Syria.

“Five years of this conflict have been too much,” he said. “The horror is in front of everyone’s eyes . . . You have seen enough conferences. This one cannot fail.”

He called upon Syrians to make participants hear their cries for an end to war.

[END REPORT]

UN Syria envoy to start talks in Geneva without opposition
By BASSEM MROUE
Jan. 29, 2016, at 8:52 a.m.
The Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — A U.N. official said Syrian peace talks will begin in Geneva as planned Friday, despite an ongoing boycott by the main Syrian opposition group which continues to stay away pending assurances from the U.N. chief on the implementation of Security Council resolutions related to humanitarian issues.

U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura will begin by meeting the government's delegation, which is headed by the country's ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari, according to de Mistura's spokeswoman Khawla Mattar. She said he would later meet other participants in the talks, including civil society representatives.

The opposition boycott is a blow to the U.N.'s first attempt in two years to bring representatives of President Bashar Assad's government and his opponents together for talks on ending the devastating five-year war. On the eve of the talks, de Mistura appealed to Syrians to make concessions and described the talks as "an opportunity not to be missed."

The indirect talks are part of a process outlined in a U.N. resolution last month that envisages an 18-month timetable for a political transition in Syria, including the drafting of a new constitution and elections.

The opposition is facing ongoing disputes over which parties will attend and has come under criticism for including the militant Army of Islam group that controls wide areas near Damascus and is considered a terrorist organization by the Syrian government and Russia.

The main Syrian opposition group, known as the Higher Negotiating Committee, or HNC, said it was still waiting for an official response from the United Nations about a list of concerns.

Ahmad Ramadan, a senior official with the Syrian National Coalition, which is part of the HNC, said the opposition will boycott the talks until it receives assurances on the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions on lifting the sieges on rebel held areas and halting bombardment of civilians in Syria.

"There cannot be any negotiations as long as the humanitarian issues have not been discussed or implemented," he said.

Basma Kodmani, a member of the opposition's negotiating team, said the HNC is now studying whether their delegation will come to Geneva to raise these concerns with the U.N. officials or stay in Saudi Arabia where they can raise them from a distance.

Ramadan said that de Mistura sent a letter on Thursday to the head of the HNC, Riad Hijab, which was deemed unsatisfactory. He and another opposition figure, Khaled Nasser, said the U.N. envoy wrote that the opposition's demands were reasonable and that humanitarian issues should be "above negotiations," but that he was powerless to implement them himself, adding that negotiations were the best way to force everyone to implement those resolutions.

In Syria, the official Tishrin newspaper boasted that the no-show by the Saudi and Turkey-backed opposition in Geneva "reflects the collective flight of terrorist groups backed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey from the political table, following their collapses on the battlefield."

"In light of their losses, the opposition abroad, especially in Riyadh, has chosen to run away" as a face-saving measure, it said in an editorial. The paper was speaking about recent victories by government forces on the offensive under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the moderate opposition was not attending the talks because Russia continues to bomb opposition-held areas in Syria, and that it is a "betrayal" to the moderate opposition to ask them to attend without a cease-fire.

"The truth behind their decision not to join is unfortunately the fact that some promises were not fulfilled," he said in Istanbul.

"Russia's constant bombing of the opposition regions is causing serious distress within the opposition. For them to attend (Geneva) without a cease-fire is ... a betrayal for those who are at the front," he added.

[END REPORT]


Max Boot mistakes mercenary armies for insurgents

From Max Boot's January 12, 2016 op-ed for The Los Angeles Times Obama prefers special ops to combat forces in the war on terrorism. It's not working
Alas, when it comes to the Obama administration and the war on terrorism, leadership targeting is pretty much all there is. Where is the Obama strategy to stabilize lawless lands such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, which have become a terrorist's playground? Admittedly, it is much harder to restore order out of chaos than it is to simply kill a few bad guys. But it is also necessary.
What the administration has been missing all along in the fight against Islamic extremists is a comprehensive counterinsurgency plan, one that integrates political efforts, diplomacy, information warfare, development aid and security assistance.
Was Max living in a cave when generals McChrystal and Petraeus were overseeing a very comprehensive COIN plan in Afghanistan? Doesn't he remember this?



The Afghan COIN plan contained all the elements Max recommends. But it didn't work because of one situation, athough there were three others that together made it hard to see what was really happening in Afghanistan. Here are the three situations: 

> The ISAF British command's approach to maintaining order in Helmand turned the province into the opium capital of the world. This put fortunes in the hands of Afghan crooks who used their wealth to make it impossible for central and provincial Afghan governments to function as governments are meant to function. This in turn rendered the concept of politics a national joke.

> USD billions in development and aid projects were plugged into the country but they were implemented and overseen largely by people who were stupid or crooked or both, as SIGAR audits explain in agonizing detail. 

>  The 130,000 forces of the ISAF coalition, drawn from 51 nations, was so large -- one of the largest in history -- that it had to direct diplomacy and much of its energies to hashing out how its members functioned in the country.  

Yet even if those situations had never been in force it wouldn't have made a difference because of this underlying situation:

> What passed for insurgents was largely mercenaries paid for by Al Saud and commanded by retired Pakistani military officers in the pay of the ISI and by active-duty ISI and military officers.

So the complaint that President Obama has lacked a stabilization strategy, while true, is specious.   

Somewhere in Wikipedia's article on counterinsurgency it's mentioned that virtually all long-running insurgencies receive support to one degree or another from foreign interests. But the situations in Afghanistan and Syria don't fall into the category. 

What's been happening is a land grab by foreign governments that rely on mercenaries drawn from many countries to do the fighting. (The Assad regime counts foreign fighters from 100 countries in Syria; the U.S. military counts 80.) Call it a pussyfooting ploy by governments who know the United Nations gets upset about an outright armed invasion of a nation.

So while there can be genuine insurgents in countries targeted for takeover and plunder, it would be preposterous to assume the approach to dealing with them that Max Boot recommends would halt an invasion plan.

Unless and until invaders are treated for what they are -- which I note is the Russian approach in Syria -- the COIN tactics used to deal with insurgents would amount to the parable of the man who looks outdoors for keys he lost in the house because the light for searching is better out there. 

Same, if COIN is applied to transnational outfits such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda, which depend heavily on various governments to facilitate their plundering and in exchange provide fighters to the governments.

It's really a matter of calling a spade a spade, as we say in the USA. In other words, first identify what you're really dealing with. 
        
*******

Will Americans have to suffer the same fate to learn what's wrong with proxy wars?

City of Homs post-apocalypse. Take a good look President Obama, Members of Congress





Residents of Homs show pictures of relatives who were killed during a triple terrorist attack in the al-Zahra neighborhood on December 28, 2015

Photos taken for Sputnik by MICHAEL ALAEDDIN. The note accompanying Sputnik's gallery of photos of the devastated city:
Homs, one of Syria's largest cities, was finally liberated in December 2015 following a local ceasefire agreement between Damascus and the militants. Even though the local residents are now living in peace, it will take a long time to restore city to its former glory.
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.

Thursday, January 28

Leading Saudi cleric: IS, Saudi Arabian Islam are the same. Thanks for letting us know.

Now why didn't someone think before of simply asking a top Saudi imam about where Islamic State got its version of Islam from? But can you guess who's to blame for IS rampages? Of course, it's unnamed intelligence agencies and Other Countries. The Saudis are going to find a way to blame everything on the West. 

As to their complaint that the IS group is also big problem for them, sounds to me like a case of chickens come home to roost.     

Leading Saudi cleric says IS and Saudi Arabia 'follow the same thought'
Thursday 28 January 2016 - 16:28 UTC
Middle East Eye

A former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca has said that the Islamic State (IS) group follows the same brand of Islam as officially espoused by Saudi Arabia.

Footage translated by British think tank Integrity UK on Wednesday showed leading cleric Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani speaking to the Dubai-based channel MBC about what he believes are the roots of IS.

“We follow the same thought [as IS] but apply it in a refined way,” he said. “They draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, from our own principles.”

The cleric said that “we do not criticise the thought on which it (IS) is based".

Kalbani repeated the oft spread conspiracy that unnamed intelligence agencies had played a role in the rise of IS.

He said intelligence agencies had “exploited” those who followed the ultra-conservative Salafist brand of Sunni Islam.

“Intelligence agencies and other countries might have [helped] Daesh to develop, providing them with weapons and ammunitions, and directing them,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Kalbani was refused a visa to visit the UK in 2013. Although no official reason was given for the refusal, it was reported at the time that it may have been linked to televised comments he made calling Shia Muslims apostates.

Apostasy is a term used to describe Muslims who have left Islam.

In his MBC interview, which was broadcast on 22 January, Kalbani said IS and Salafists in Saudi Arabia shared the same opinion on apostasy, which is that those who leave Islam should be executed.

Kalbani also spoke about the killing of journalists by IS, including Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff, which drew global condemnation in September 2014.

He said “their blood was shed according to Salafist fatwas (religious edicts) not outside the Salafist framework.”

Saudi Arabia has regularly been compared with IS, in so much that both appear to stipulate similar punishments for crimes that include apostasy, adultery, and drinking alcohol.

However, Riyadh has rubbished such claims, and fought back by saying they face a domestic threat from IS and are working hard to round up supporters of the group in the kingdom.

IS has repeatedly said it wishes to topple the Saudi royal family and the group has declared a province in the kingdom.

IS has also claimed responsibility for several bombings in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of 2015, including multiple attacks on the Saudi Shia community and on police in the country’s southern region.


[END REPORT]

The day there was a break in the Cold War, and the moral for the Oregon protestors


So, some Russian pair skater had her heart broken by her partner and lover. He'd told her he was leaving her, leaving her for another skater and everything Irina Rodnina was not and could never be -- beautiful, elegant, balletic. All Irina had going for her was physical strength, a towering will to win in competitive skating, and the ability honed through years of practice to muster an almost Zen-like focus while on the ice. Those qualities not terribly conducive to romance. 

Irina's broken heart was a big drama in Russia but there was no interest in the United States, and no sympathy when she burst into sobs as she left the ice after the last time she skated with her beloved. It was the height of the Cold War, and nowhere was the nonviolent aspect of the war more evident than international competitive amateur sports, and especially in figure skating. 

The Russians had a huge advantage over the American skaters. It's said that polo is the sport of kings but it's actually amateur competitive figure skating because it costs a king's ransom to train for it. The Russian skaters had no worries about money; the state picked up the tab for the training and everything else the skater needed. The American amateur competitors and their families, rarely well-off financially, had to scrounge for sponsors then behave like trained seals to keep the sponsors happy.

But the judges from the Soviet and pro-Soviet countries didn't care about the very unlevel playing field, in fact they enjoyed seeing the Russians stick it to the Americans. So a Russian skater could have broken a leg in competition and this American, at least, wouldn't have cared. As to the loss of a skating partner, aw poor baby. The Russian state would find another partner for their diva, then spend a fortune getting him up to snuff for the big competitions.

The state did just that. His name was Alexander Zaitsev. A sweet-faced young man who turned out to have a spine of steel, or grew one fast. He needed that much spine to hold his own with La Irina.

I can't remember whether the championship in Bratislava was the first time Rodnina and Zaitsev faced off against her former partner. I just remember that during their program I jumped to my feet without realizing it and shouted, "Stop!" at the television screen. At least one of the judges had also jumped up and shouted at them to stop skating.

Irina Rodnina wasn't going to stop even though the program music had stopped. The people in the audience at the stadium made their decision within seconds and so did I. If Rodnina and Zaitsev were going for it, we would will them to keep time with music that wasn't there; by sheer force of will we would prevent them from making a mistake.

And so we began clapping -- and clapping and clapping and clapping, pouring our wills into theirs. Later I learned that television audiences around the world had made the same decision. And so for a few incredible moments during the Cold War everyone who watched the drama was cheering on a Russian team. 

They skated almost a flawless program.

That was 1973, a lifetime ago, so I'd have to look it up to tell you whether the judges disqualified them or allowed the skate and if so whether they won. But chiefly I don't remember the outcome because it wasn't important.    

However, the drama on the ice at Bratislava was a little deceptive. The pair was surely counting mentally from the second their program started, so they didn't actually need music to tell them when to jump and spin and keep their moves in sync. That's what you do, you count, with every move choreographed to the count.

The catch: break your concentration for even a couple seconds during the count and then you can have a problem, one that gets bigger the longer you're whizzing around the ice on one blade edge, and trying to jump and spin in time to music. 

Figure skating is 20 percent strength and 80 percent technique. If a skater's coach doesn't know the mechanics of figure skating, doesn't teach it properly, that is why so many landings from skating jumps are fought out by the skater through strength. In other words they should fall when they land, but they struggle to keep themselves upright, even if the struggle isn't very obvious. But if the skater has been properly trained, then because of the physics it's impossible to fall on a landing, unless there's an obstruction on the ice itself -- a big nick in the ice or sequin lodged there, etc. -- where the skater's blade lands. 

The trick to proper training is the skaters learning to keep every part of their body in line with the physics of the blade's movement on the ice. If they lean a little too far forward or back or the shoulders aren't level during the jump takeoff, then the jump and spin in the air are out of whack and a bad landing will follow.              

So to do it right takes a lot of good training, a lot of practice, a lot of experience under the pressure of competition where the skater can't re-do. Irina Rodnina had all three when she stepped onto the ice at Bratislava.

At the second the music tape broke she knew that to stop, then wait for the tape to be fixed, then start the program again would have broken their momentum, what they'd been primed to do during those minutes. If they were to have a chance to win the championship, she gauged it was best to keep skating without music, and fight out the disqualification issue with the skating federation later, if need be.

Whether or not her decision was correct for the championship, it made a historic break in the Cold War clouds. Yet someone with less experience and craftsmanship could not have pulled off the feat and would have had to leave the ice.

And with that I arrive at Tony Cartalucci's sage advice on January 26 for the Oregon protesters:
Oregon is going to end poorly (with one dead already, you can say it already is) -- and hopefully, hopefully -- people will learn from this and realize the folly of taking peashooters into the hills and fighting a trillion-dollar corporate oligarchy without a plan, without an alternative, and without any understanding even of the enemy they are opposed to.
 [...]
[If] you think taking time to build your own alternative system as a foundation upon which to build your resistance is unnecessary, then YOU ARE NOT READY TO RESIST. No successful revolution in the history of mankind has ever been spontaneous.They all were built on strong social, economic, political, and military foundations.
Even organizations we think of as "militant" like Hezbollah or the Donbass fighters have sophisticated social, political, economic, and diplomatic infrastructure -- as well as highly organized, well-funded, well-equipped (not to mention state-sponsored) military capabilities. I know that's not what Americans who want instant gratification want to hear, but it is reality.
[...]
The reality is the same whether organizing resistance or having to make a split-second decision during competitive skating. The will, the heart, can only take one so far. The rest is down to training and practice.
Bratislava 


********

Wednesday, January 27

Somebody blinked: Russia, OPEC to confab on cutting oil production to boost prices

Russians want to talk to OPEC about output, pipeline chief says
By JACK STUBBS and KATYA GOLUBKOVA
Jan 27, 2016 3:16pm EST
Reuters

(MOSCOW)  Russian officials have decided they should talk to Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries about output cuts to bolster oil prices, the head of Russia's pipeline monopoly said on Wednesday, remarks that helped spur a sharp rise in world prices.

Oil futures surged more than 5 percent after the comments by Nikolai Tokarev, head of oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, which gave the strongest hint yet of possible cooperation between the top non-OPEC oil producer and the cartel to try to reverse a record glut.

Brent crude rose by over $2 to $32.95 a barrel, after a session low of $30.83. It was also boosted by U.S. demand following a blizzard.

But there was still a long journey from starting discussions to actual cuts by Russian oil producers, with many of them saying reducing output was technically very difficult and could lead to Russia losing market share to its competitors.

Tokarev said oil executives and government officials meeting in Moscow on Tuesday had reached the conclusion that talks with OPEC were needed to shore up the oil price.

"At the meeting there was discussion in particular about the oil price and what steps we should take collectively to change the situation for the better, including negotiations within the framework of OPEC as a whole, and bilaterally," Russian news agencies quoted Tokarev as saying.

"The main initiative is being shown by, of course, our Saudi partners. They are the main negotiators. That means that they are the ones we need to discuss this with first of all."

He said output cuts would be on the agenda for talks with OPEC countries: "Yes, that is one of the levers or mechanisms that would allow us to in some way balance the oil price."

An energy ministry representative confirmed to Reuters that possible coordination with OPEC had been discussed at the meeting, which the ministry hosted.

"The meeting participants discussed the possibility of coordination of actions with OPEC members amid unfavorable market conditions on the global oil market," the Energy Ministry official said.

[END REPORT]

didgeridoo

I have a vague recollection that the documentary was about 'native' healing practices. It probably aired on public television; as to when it might have been a decade or two or three ago. The only segment I remember was about an American of European ancestry. I don't remember his name. He was a practitioner of healing arts used by Australian aborigines.

He was asked by the interviewer how someone like himself, a Westerner, had learned the arts.

He explained that one day a man wearing face paint and tribal dress appeared out of thin air in his living room and said to him, "Come see me," then vanished.

The American was living a completely ordinary life and had no knowledge of native cultures, but when something like that happens to you, believe you me you get yourself to libraries and bookstores -- or today there would be a lot of research online.

Finally he determined that the mystery man was likely an Australian aborgine. So he went to Australia, sought out aborigines, and described for them the man who'd appeared in his living room.

Someone said oh yes, you're looking for so and so; he's a healer. He named the man and gave the American directions for where to find him.

When he arrived there was the man who'd appeared to him. Without any greeting the healer told him that now it was time to continue his studies. That was that.

As to how many 'lifetimes' he'd been a student -- many enough that the teacher didn't waste money on a postcard to tell him vacation time was over.

********

Cato's dizzy advice: Al Saud very bad but keep selling them weapons

"The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization — a think tank – dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace." 
-- From the Cato website

In Stop Reassuring Saudi Arabia, a Worse Threat to the Middle East than Iran  (January 26), Cato senior fellow Doug Bandow outlines for Cato readers what he sees as wrong with the Saudi regime -- 
"... KSA ... operates as a slightly more civilized variant of the Islamic State. The royals run a totalitarian system which prohibits political dissent, free speech, religious liberty, and social autonomy." 
and explicitly warns that the Saudi regime "has become more harmful to America’s interests." He then presents his policy advice to the U.S. government: Stop treating the regime as a U.S. ally and put the relationship with the Saudis on a transactional basis:
“The two countries need a new, more normal relationship. They should work together when advantageous and disagree when appropriate. Sell weapons to Riyadh without committing to provide a royal bodyguard.”
I don't know how Bandow would justify the continued U.S. sale of weapons to Al Saud, given his criticisms of their government. But on the chance he would use a defense of free-market enterprise as justification, there is a difference between free enterprise and suicidal behavior. No rational person would sell weapons or any kind of materiel to a government he believes to be very dangerous.

Mr Bandow also writes that the Saudis trample American values. Okay, but when the people doing the trampling are demonstrably dangerous to the American state, this is not firstly an issue of values. This is first an issue of survival.

So while I laud Cato's dedication to individual liberty, before liberty must come rationality because few things are more troubling than a raving idiot at liberty. And before a defense of values must come the ability to think in non-contradictory terms. Surely the reason for this is clear; the whole concept of defense goes out the window if you keep shooting yourself in the foot.     

It's highly contradictory to argue that a regime is a serious threat to the United States (or the Middle East) but that it's okay for the U.S. to allow the sale of American weapons to the regime.

Bandow's writing for Cato only scratches the surface about why the Saudi regime is dangerous. So it could be that when he warns against the regime he doesn't view it as all that dangerous to the United States. If that's the case he would need to get better informed. But certainly, given that Cato's mission statement includes dedication to peace, it makes no sense to recommend that the United States pile more weapons into an already volatile situation in the Middle East.

********

Tuesday, January 26

Israel's defense minister: By the way Turkey's been funding Islamic State for years. YIKES!!

Turkey has "permitted jihadists to move from Europe to Syria and Iraq and back, as part of Daesh's terrorist network, and I hope this will stop, too," Yaalon added

Well, there goes improved Israel-Turkey relations out the window Pundita don't snort when you laugh it's not ladylike.

Are the Greeks and Russians ever having fun with this story and so is Pundita. My my, truth-telling is just bursting out all over.   

Three cheers for Minister Moshe Yaalon!    

Israeli defense minister says ISIS funded with ‘Turkish money’
Published time: 26 Jan, 2016 - 15:54 GMT Edited 16:51
RT

Israel’s defense minister has alleged that the Islamic State terror group has long been funded with “Turkish money.”

"As you know, Daesh (Islamic State, previously ISIS/ISIL) enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time. I hope that it will be ended," Moshe Yaalon told reporters in Athens on Tuesday after meeting his Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos, Reuters reports.

"It's up to Turkey, the Turkish government, the Turkish leadership, to decide whether they want to be part of any kind of cooperation to fight terrorism. This is not the case so far," he said.

Earlier, Russia had accused Turkey of shady dealings with ISIS. In December, the Russian Defense Ministry released maps and satellite images it said proved that Turkey was the main consumer of oil smuggled out of Syria and Iraq by the terrorists. The ministry also claimed that the Turkish president and his family were involved in the criminal dealings.

Iran has also said it was in possession of photographic and video evidence of ISIS oil entering Turkey in trucks.

In December, Syria’s envoy to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari also accused Turkey of supporting terrorist groups. The diplomat appealed to the UN, urging it to end Ankara’s "violations and crimes."

Turkey has denied the accusations, while the United States last month rejected Russia’s claims that the Turkish leadership was linked to ISIS oil smuggling.

Turkey has "permitted jihadists to move from Europe to Syria and Iraq and back, as part of Daesh's terrorist network, and I hope this will stop, too," Yaalon added, according to a transcript of the Israeli minister’s comments provided by the Greek Defense Ministry.


[END REPORT]

As a matter of fact I'm having so much fun it's time for a little Irish polka music. Stick with it; after the first 1:15 it is amazing although the entire improv is only 2:45 minutes. But life is like that, yes? Just when you know what you're doing it's time to say goodbye.

  

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