Monday, January 13

But I still need time away

I put up the last two posts - photos of snowscapes and a pondering dog -- as my way of saying I'm okay after my rather dramatic announcement the other day that I was saying goodbye for now. But a sense of resignation has come over me, as I watch American machinations continue full bore in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

I think I should take time off from blogging until, say, February 2, Groundhog Day. Maybe I'll return sooner but that's how things stand with me right now.  

In the meantime I hope you'll, er, ponder the grim essay I wrote yesterday about what I termed "The American Disease," even though it's not uniquely American.

Until Groundhog Day, then --



Pondering in the rain.

Many of the photos Sputnik snatches up are from other sites -- the following one is from Instagram -- but the photo editors sure have a great eye. By the way the photos are always larger at the Sputnik site than the copies I make, and this one is no exception.  There's also video of the pondering. 


Sunday, January 12


Some photographs from Sputnik's winter photo gallery, published today, with captions. Credits for the above photographs:



The American Disease is spreading across the world. It must be stopped.

Two major convergent factors explain much about the steadily increased aggressive behavior and mental disorders in American society, which are spreading across 'modern' societies the world over.

The First Major Factor

Science is discovering that the human animal, as with all other living creatures, needs a great deal of sunlight to function normally. The dermatology and cancer research industries are not taking this latest scientific correction well, after they spent decades warning Americans to stay out of the sun and slather themselves with sunscreen if they had to be in sunlight. 

But the jury is already in -- hundreds of diseases, even many cases of melanoma, and all kinds of mental  disorders, are due to inadequate sunlight.

The Second Factor

It turns out that many pharmaceuticals, ranging from powerful heart medications to seemingly innocuous ones available without prescription, such as antihistamines, can create personality changes that result in aggressive and suicidal behavior in many who've taken them on a regular basis.

The findings on this factor aren't actually new, but they were so scattered, it's only very recently scientists have noted the pattern and its striking connections. But it's now becoming evident that a great many Americans made a deal with Devil: take prescription and OTC drugs to keep up your lifestyle no matter what the ailment, and hang the physical side effects. 

The Devil, we now learn, isn't just in the physical side effects.  

Significant Co-Factor Associated With the First One

Widespread use of artificial light, both during daytime hours and at night, has greatly disrupted the Circadian Cycle, which is critical to the normal functioning of humans -- and again, all living creatures.

In other words, humans are getting the wrong kind of light at the wrong times, and not getting enough of the right kind of light. 

"Nation after nation turning into beasts."

The upshot is the proliferation of people and indeed entire societies exhibiting monstrous behaviors. The behaviors are  routinely chalked up to political and ideological factors. It's actually the reverse because people make ideologies and political systems. If a preponderance of those people can't think straight, then here I'm reminded of the Isley Brothers 1976 song "Harvest for the World," in which they warned that nation after nation was turning into beasts.

But even the most predatory beasts are not monsters; they kill to eat and defend territory. It was that way with our race, too, for a long time. But more and more, Americans kill for the heck of it. They kill others, they kill themselves, for reasons that signify a diseased mind. They fly into rages over the smallest thing.  And it is here in the United States of America than the two factors I named and the co-factor are most prevalent, although they're also endemic in urban centers across the world. 

What is to be done?

First, get educated about the factors, then work at applying the antidotes in your own life; once you've achieved some success, teach what you've learned to your relatives and friends, and then your immediate community, and so on.

Regarding the second factor, which again has only been recognized recently as a distinct phenomenon, you can start by reading Zaria Gorvett's January 8 report for the BBC, The medications that change who we are.

Regarding sunlight and human health, there is Embrace the Sunlight by Marcus B. Sorenson et al., published February 2018. 

So much has been written about the Circadian Cycle and the human costs in flouting it, all you need do is enter the terms in a search engine to come up with near-countless articles, books, and scientific reports on the subjects. 

But again, it is the convergence of these factors that is dooming entire human societies to madness and has made routine the kinds of behaviors that can be termed evil.


Saturday, January 11

Goodbye for now

I need to get my bearings after this horrific week.

Best regards to all,

It's official: UN will continue humanitarian assistance to Al Qaeda in Idlib

UNSC Adopts European Resolution on Cross-Border Humanitarian Aid Deliveries to Syria
January 11, 2020

The United States, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia abstained from voting on the resolution, while other 11 members voted in favour.
The United Nations Security Council has renewed its cross-border humanitarian aid operation in Syria, but the number of crossings and length of authorisation has been reduced.
Aid deliveries will continue from Turkey, paragraphs 2 and 3 of Security Council resolution 2165 (2014), for six months, but two cross-border points - the Al-Yarubiyah border crossing with Iraq and the Al-Ramtha crossing with Jordan - were dropped, according to Reuters.
The document also requests UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report to the Security Council by the end of February this year on the possibility of using alternatives for the crossing of Al Yarubiyah to ensure that aid reaches Syria through the most direct sources.
Speaking after the vote, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said that his country did not cast a veto on the European resolution because of people in Idlib who heavily rely on such assistance.
"We say frequently that humanitarian assistance must remain within the context of the humanitarian focus", Nebenzia said.
A draft resolution on deliveries of humanitarian aid to Syria via Turkey was submitted by Russia earlier on Friday. The document demanded the exclusion of the Al Yarubiyah and Al-Ramtha border crossings for a period of six months (till 10 July 2020). It also stipulated that humanitarian assistance into Syria should be delivered based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence by the phrase that such aid should be provided " in accordance with the guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance, as contained in UNGA resolution 46/182".
The agreement was reached after Belgium and Germany decided to amend the original version of their joint resolution, which proposed keeping three points for cross-border deliveries into the Arab republic. Germany and Belgium, along with Kuwait, represent the so-called humanitarian troika on Syria.
The cross-border assistance mechanism was established back in 2014 and has since been renewed every year. It allows humanitarian aid to be delivered through UN-approved checkpoints.
Russia has been extremely concerned about who is actually receiving aid deliveries in Syria, fearing that the original 2014 resolution was politicised in order to favour certain groups over others.
"All cries about the catastrophe which the North-East faces if we close one cross-border point are irrelevant because humanitarian assistance to that region is coming from within Syria. But the situation on the ground changed. We have to reflect it", Russia's Envoy to the US said. 


Islamic State praises US murder of Soleimani as divine intervention

RT, January 11, 2020 - 02:17

Islamic State terrorists rejoiced at the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at the hands of his American ‘allies,’ according to a weekly newspaper affiliated with the group that once controlled much of Syria and Iraq.

Soleimani was killed by a US drone strike on January 3, as he drove by the Baghdad international airport in Iraq. In reprisal, Iran launched a limited strike on US bases in Iraq with ballistic missiles on Tuesday, causing no casualties but demonstrating capability to hit US assets at will.

The weekly Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) newspaper Al-Naba portrayed Soleimani’s death as an act of god in support of its cause, and Muslims in general, according to BBC Monitoring.

An editorial in the jihadi paper was careful not to credit the US or even mention Soleimani by name. It couched the gloating in a historical analogy, referring to “Roman-Persian wars” that enabled early Muslims to overrun both Persia – today’s Iran – and parts of the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium.

The paper also reported on the US and its allies suspending operations against IS as an opportunity for the group’s resurgence, according to BBC journalist Mina Al-Lami.

While IS has not been entirely destroyed, it has not controlled any territory for months. Soleimani’s Quds Force fighters were among those that turned the tide against the IS ‘caliphate,’ alongside the Syrian Army and the Russian expeditionary force in Syria – while the US-backed Iraqi army and Kurdish militias advanced from northern Syria and Iraq.

Citing the possibility IS might reappear, the US is refusing to withdraw from Iraq in open disregard for its ‘partners’ in the government in Baghdad. Iraqi lawmakers passed a nonbinding resolution demanding US withdrawal shortly after Soleimani’s killing, but the State Department said on Friday that no such thing was happening.

Both the US and several of its NATO allies have suspended their training operations of Iraqi security forces for the moment, as they braced for Iranian reprisals. Some allies even pulled their personnel out of Iraq into the neighboring Kuwait. However, US President Donald Trump has called for an expanded role of NATO in Iraq.


See RT site for copy of IS announcement (in Arabic).


Photograph that accompanied the AP report on Iran's acknowledgment of downing Ukraine airliner

The AP doesn't like it when their text and photos are copied from their site without payment but I hope they will forgive me this one time. The woman is expressing how I'm feeling.

The photographer's name is not credited in the AP report, but I think it will be published eventually.


Iran shot down Ukraine airliner in error, "deeply regrets"

As to how the plane could have continued flying for about a minute after the missile strike -- I have no idea. 

Iran says it ‘unintentionally’ shot down Ukrainian jetliner
23 minutes ago
The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran announced Saturday that its military “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible.
The plane was shot down early Wednesday, hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad. No one was wounded in the attack on the bases.
A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard. The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said. It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.
It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted.
Iran’s acknowledgement of responsibility for the crash was likely to inflame public sentiment against authorities after Iranians had rallied around their leaders in the wake of Soleimani’s killing. The general was seen as a national icon, and hundreds of thousands of Iranians had turned out for funeral processions across the country.
But the vast majority of the plane victims were Iranians or Iranian-Canadians, and the crash came just weeks after authorities quashed nationwide protests ignited by a hike in gasoline prices.
“A sad day,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster. Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”
The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran shortly after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Friday, January 10

Oman's ruler dead at 79

From RT:

Breaking News: Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said al-Said dies after 50 years in power, leaving key Gulf mediator between US & Iran without heir

11 Jan, 2020 00:16 / Updated 4 minutes ago
Oman’s monarch, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, has passed away at the age of 79 after a lengthy battle with illness, according to Omani state media.
Qaboos has ruled the Gulf Arab state since 1970, when he led the bloodless overthrow of Sultan Said bin Taimur – his father – with backing from Britain, formerly a colonial power in Oman. 
Throughout his tenure on the throne, he played a role mediating dialogue between the United States and Iran.
The ruler struggled with a bout of health problems and was flown to Belgium last month for treatment for colon cancer, after which he was said to be in “stable condition.” Omani authorities offered few additional details about his status after he returned home.
Qaboos had no children and never appointed a successor publicly, leaving some question about the line of succession. A statute passed in 1996, however, tasks the royal family with appointing the next sultan within three days after the throne becomes vacant.

Ukrainian airliner crash UPDATED 12:10 AM January 11

Tehran announces they unintentionally shot down plane by mistake. 

"Video shows that the burning aircraft flew for 60-70 seconds. If the aircraft had been hit by a missile it would have dropped immediately and there would be a very large debris field like it happened with flight MH17 in Ukraine."

- From updated Moon of Alabama report on crashed Ukraine airliner.  


Yes, Soleimani assassination was a U.S. message to Russia and China

I didn't see the January 7 Sputnik article (below) until yesterday but as I noted on the same day it was published, I believe Soleimani was killed in such showy fashion to send a message to a number of countries, including Russia and China, although I would put the most powerful European ones at the top of the list. Governments of those countries are carefully but inexorably inching away from the American orb. This is unacceptable to Washington. 

See the following article and Voltaire Network's December 31 article For the European Union, the time has come to use force: "The new European Commission has clearly stated its project in the era of US withdrawal: to restore Western Europe’s dominance over the rest of the world from the 16th to the 19th century. ..."

Thierry Meyssan, a French leftist and sometime conspiracy theorist, finds the prospect alarming because of the arguments the European powers are using to rationalize their intentions. Thierry's views run hot and cold but when all the planets are in proper alignment, in my view he is capable of pulling off an interesting analysis.  And he most certainly finds important news reports that receive no attention from the American media. 

In any case, his article is one of many signs of West Europe's determination to chart a course independent of America's. (Note The Diplomat article quoted in the following article.)  

Signs abound as well about the waning of U.S. leadership in the Middle East. The most powerful Gulf Arab governments are turning, more and more, to Russia and China for assistance.  See Yossef Bodansky's March 2019 report for Oil PriceNew Middle East Alliance Shakes World Powers. (Of course the alliance is also disturbing to the West European governments.) 

The last straw for Washington was the tripartite naval drills between Russia, China and Iran. That was thumbing their noses at the United States on the world stage, at least in the Trump Administration's view. Something had to be done to put the three countries in their place. The response to the lesson from the European/British press, I note, has been to refer to Soleimani's killing as an "assassination;" e.g., this article from The Economist, Was America’s assassination of Qassem Suleimani justified?  

Assassination is a fraught term, one the U.S. rejects with regard to Soleimani. See this detailed analysis of the term from the Associated Press, published in the wake of Soleimani's killing. 

As to whether Washington is worried about America's "demise," as the following article asserts -- Sputnik is a Russian government news outlet, remember -- nobody is losing sleep over that prospect; the worry is about the waning of America's ability to control policies with a global reach and the 'narratives' that support them.  This said, there is considerable worry about Chinese and Russian de-dollarization, which the following article discusses in brief. 

One more note before I turn the floor over to Sputnik. They term the article an "editorial." Well, it's also a news report about various analyses, which granted support the Russian government's view. But it might be that Sputnik's policy is to term any article they publish an editorial if they give the author a byline, and it could be the same with RT. This was a British/European press policy, although it's now considered old-fashioned, I think. 

US Attack on Soleimani is a Signal to Russia-Iran-China Triumvirate to Cease Cooperation – Analysts
January 7, 2020
Sputnik Editorial

The US is trying to stop Eurasia's economic and political integration in order to delay its own demise, say international observers, explaining what message the US sent to the Russia-China-Iran "triumvirate" by killing Qasem Soleimani.

The assassination of Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and commander of the Quds Force, in a targeted US air strike on 3 January came on the heels of joint naval exercise launched by Russia, Iran and China in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.

The "growing Russia-China-Iran trilateral convergence", as The Diplomat dubbed it in late December, is seemingly hitting a raw nerve in Washington: speaking to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) on 2 January, Rear Admiral Khanzadi, the Iranian navy commander, said that Washington and its allies had held an emergency meeting aimed at disrupting the drills.
US Opposes Rapprochement of Russia, China and Iran Amid Policy of 'Maximum Pressure'
"Recent violent US attacks against Iranian allies in Iraq and Syria, culminating in the killing of Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani, are, in the wider geopolitical sense, meant to send signals to the building Eurasian triumvirate to cease their collaborative activities, let alone longer-term strategic and Belt and Road Initiative-linked designs," says Pye Ian, an American economic analyst and private equity executive.
According to Ian, the US decision to step up pressure on Tehran might be stemming from Washington's apparent belief that Iran is "the ‘weakest link’ in the strengthening Eurasian alliance."

However, "Russia, China and Iran cannot be attacked overtly, let alone invaded, occupied or 'regime changed'," the economic analyst highlights.

Christopher C. Black, a Toronto-based international criminal lawyer with 20 years of experience in war crimes and international relations, echoes the American economist.

"It is… in response to the close relationship between Russia, Iran and China and it is no coincidence that this murder took place just as the joint naval exercises in the Persian Gulf came to an end," he said. "Further, it is a threat to Russian strategic interests in Syria and to Syria itself."
Apart from this, the move indicates that "one of the reasons for US pressure on Iran is to control the oil supply to China in order to cripple China's development," Black suggests.

Russia and its military successes in the region have become yet another irritant for Washington, according to Max Parry, an independent American journalist and geopolitical analyst.

"The US likely feels the need to reassert itself as a hegemonic power in the region, considering it is Moscow that emerged as the new honest peace broker in the Middle East with the Syrian conflict," Parry notes. "Russia completely outmanoeuvred Washington and by the end of the war, Turkey was practically in Moscow's camp. Trump has reset US foreign policy with the withdrawal from Syria and the targeting of Iran."
By killing Soleimani, the US "has completely overplayed its hand and this could be the beginning of the end for Washington because a war with Iran would be no cakewalk", he emphasises.

Eurasian 'Triumvirate' is Moving Away From the US Dollar

According to Ian, in addition to being a thorn in Washington's flesh, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran have something else in common: the three nations have increasingly been drifting away from the US dollar.

The trend followed the Trump administration's:

· unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA) in May 2018;

· trade war waged against the People's Republic of China by Washington since March 2018;

· series of anti-Russian sanctions imposed against Moscow under the pretext of the latter's interference in the US 2016 presidential elections, something that Russia resolutely denies.

The economic analyst explains that "the dollar’s universal confidence trick requires uniform adherence, by natural adoption or by force". While the US allies remain obedient 
to the dollar- dominated system, those who resisted it such as Iraq under Saddam, Libya under Gaddafi and Venezuela under Chavez "triggered some Atlanticist force, either overtly or clandestinely, in order to try and put those nations back on a compliant page."

However, "the current state of dollar printing by the US Fed ad infinitum cannot last forever," Ian stresses.

"The global East and South are already ahead of Transatlantic banking, in a sense, by shifting further out of the dollar and Treasury securities into their own, or bilateral, currency exchanges, gold, and/or domestic or collaborative cryptocurrency endeavours," he says.
Russia, China, Iran, as well as India and some other Eurasian nations are switching to trading in local currencies and continuing to amass gold at a steady pace. Thus, for instance, Russia produced over 185.1 tonnes of gold in the first six months of 2019; the country's bullion reserves reached 72.7 million troy ounces (2,261 tonnes) as of 1 December 2019. 

For its part, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has accumulated 1,948.3 tonnes of the precious metal as of December 2019, according to World Gold Council.

Ian foresees that if the world's nations continue to shift out of US Treasury obligations and choose alternative currencies for energy pricing, trading and reserves recycling, it may "cause US interest rates to fly higher, cratering consumer, institutional and public debt obligations and re-importing an obscene level of inflation back into the US".


Photo: AFP 2019 / ALY SONG / POOL


Ukraine confirms Boeing 737 changed course after beginning to crash

BREAKING NEWS from Sputnik
The jet crashed on Wednesday in Iran, killing all 176 people on board. Tehran insists that the tragedy happened due to a technical error, while a number of countries refuse to rule out that the aircraft was downed by a missile.
The Boeing 737 in Iran changed its course shortly after it began to crash, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Debt Overload: A warning from the World Bank

World Bank warns of global debt crisis amid borrowing buildup
By Larry Elliott, Economics Editor
January 8, 2020
The Guardian
“Low global interest rates provide only a precarious protection against financial crises.”

The World Bank has highlighted the risk of a fresh global debt crisis after warning of the biggest buildup in borrowing in the past 50 years.
In its half-yearly Global Economic Prospects (GEP), the Washington-based organisation said of the four waves of debt accumulation since the 1970s, the latest was the largest, fastest and most broad-based.
The World Bank, which provides loans and grants to developing and emerging economies to help tackle poverty, said there could still be a financial crisis even though historically low interest rates were making debts more manageable.
“Low global interest rates provide only a precarious protection against financial crises,” said Ayhan Kose, a World Bank official. “The history of past waves of debt accumulation shows that these waves tend to have unhappy endings. In a fragile global environment, policy improvements are critical to minimise the risks associated with the current debt wave.”

"Survey: Most Americans Can’t Find Iran on a Map"

Report on the survey from New York magazine, January 8:
Fewer than a quarter of registered voters were able to identify Iran on a world map in a survey conducted by Morning Consult over the weekend. Just 23 percent of poll respondents were able to properly pick out Iran. When presented with a smaller map, showing just the Middle East, the number rose to 28 percent.

Gen.Soleimani was key figure in cooperation with Russia - Iran leader’s top adviser

TASS, January 6. Former Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps General Qasem Soleimani did much for strengthening strategic cooperation with Russia, foreign policy adviser to the Iranian supreme leader Ali Akbar Velayati said at the general’s farewell ceremony, the Al-Alam TV Channel reported on Monday.
"Soleimani was a key figure in our bilateral partnership with Russia and showed big respect for Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he had close relationship," the Iranian leader’s top foreign policy adviser said at the general’s farewell ceremony in Tehran.
"If not for the courage displayed by the commander of the Quds Force in most responsible moments, Baghdad would have fallen into the hands of terrorists from the Islamic State [terrorist grouping outlawed in Russia] while Salafi extremists would have come to power in Damascus," Velayati said.

FAA: Maybe we've been too lenient with Boeing. Ya think?

Very upsetting but very informative report from last year on Boeing's safety record:

By Michael Laris, Transportation Reporter
June 27, 2019
The Washington Post
Years before two Boeing 737 Max jets crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, U.S. regulators found a pattern of recurring safety problems with the manufacturing giant.
You might want to drink a beer or something stronger before you read the rest of the report. 

See also Bernhard's detailed analysis, Pentagon Accuses Iran Of Shooting Down A Ukrainian Plane But Its Evidence Is Flimsy; January 9, Moon of Alabama


A surprising ceasefire in Idlib

Your guess is as good as mine as to why. Unless Erdogan told Putin not to worry, soon he would be shipping 60 percent of the mercenaries in Idlib to fight Assad from Turkey. All right, Pundita, that's enough.  

January 9. 2020
Russian and Turkey reached a new ceasefire on Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern region, Maj. Gen. Yuri Borenkov, commander of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, announced late on January 9.
“In accordance with the agreements reached with the Turkish side, a ceasefire regime was introduced in the Idlib de-escalation zone from 02.00 pm Moscow time [11:00 GMT] on January 9,” RT quoted the Russian commander as saying.
The new ceasefire came as a surprise. Recent reports suggested that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) was preparing to resume ground operations in southeast Idlib.
A month ago, the army launched a large-scale military operation in southeast Idlib, capturing more than 40 villages and towns in the region.
Al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls most of Idlib de-escalation zone, has not commented on the Russian announcement, so far.
During the last year, HTS and its allies took advantage of several similar ceasefire agreements to reorganize their forces, fortify their areas and launch new attacks. This will most likely be the case with the new ceasefire.

Wednesday, January 8

Tired of the never-ending American reality show?

Tired of the U.S. hogging the world stage? Tired of the nonstop media chatter about the USA?  Me too -- and I'm an American.


US re Iran's missile strikes: Nothing to see here folks, move along.



Christmas in Damascus

Photo via ZOKA 

Russia's President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Damascus to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, and to get in a little discussion about defense matters. Assad and Putin visited the Umayyad Mosque and viewed the head of St. John the Baptist that is preserved by the mosque. Putin presented the mosque with a rare 17th Century edition of the Koran. Then it was on to the oldest Orthodox church in Syria, the Mariamite Cathedral, built during the second century. Putin gifted the church with an icon of the Virgin Mary painted in Russia.

Well, was it all worth it, to spend year after year watching the Syrian War from afar, and unable to do anything except pray and root for the Syrian Army and its supporting militias?  After all, I'd never visited Syria and never met a Syrian, and knew virtually nothing about the country and its history until I started following the war. These people were strangers to me.   

I grew old watching the Syrian War and I was often filled with despair by the course of the war and its unending horrors. But I never allowed myself to cry. Last night I watched the following video that featured part of a concert by Lebanese music artist Abeer Nehme singing Christmas songs with thousands of Syrians singing along. 

Strangers no more, I realized. Then, finally, the tears came, tears of happiness. Yes, yes, a thousand times, I do not regret a moment.


Iran missile strikes on US bases: Trump: All is well. Iran: We killed 80. UPDATED

sigh.  I'm not the Associated Press, you know. I'm not going to sit up all night watching this propaganda ping pong match.  

Here; you can read about the claim and counterclaim at one of Sputnik's Live Updates pages

As for FM Zarif's claim that Iran's "reprisal" missile attacks are in compliance with the UN Charter -- somehow I don't think the U.S. would agree. Anyhow, here's his argument, as posted at FARs, which I think addresses only one base. The Iranians have hit three so far. 

UPDATE -- the reports today are that they hit one base, and U.S. facilities at or near an airport in Erbil. As to reports of a third site, the name of which I can't remember at the moment -- no mention of it today.


Fresh updates at Sputnik on Iran-U.S. crisis



"Trump’s rationales for the Soleimani killing are falling apart" Washington Post

By Paul Waldman
Opinion Writer, The Washington Post
January 7, 2020 - 12:41 pm EST

"The assassination is also a clear acknowledgement that the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, which included crippling the Iranian economy, has been a complete failure."

If I asked you, “Why did the United States assassinate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani?”, you’d probably have some trouble answering, given the multiple explanations the Trump administration has offered. Now here’s a tougher one: What is the administration’s objective with regard to Iran?
Once you begin to contemplate the second question, the incoherent and unpersuasive answers Trump and his defenders have given to the first question become even more alarming.

So as we try to determine whether we’ve been set on a course toward another disastrous war, it’s worth unpacking what the administration is saying. Let’s run down the rationales the administration has offered for the killing:
We killed Soleimani to stop an “imminent” threat. This is the most frequently repeated justification we’ve heard: Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on Americans, so it was urgent that we stop him. Officials say they have intelligence that would prove this assertion, though they refuse to release it publicly.
Yet some administration officials have told reporters that the evidence of an “imminent” attack amounted to nothing more than Soleimani going about his usual business.
The idea is also belied by the fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the most important advocate of military action against Iran, had reportedly been pressing Trump to assassinate Soleimani for months. If that’s the case, then it can’t be that the need to take him out suddenly emerged at the end of last week.
But even if what the administration says were true, it still makes zero sense as a justification for the killing. It isn’t as though Soleimani was a suicide bomber we intercepted before he could get to the train station, thereby averting a disaster. He was a general with thousands of people in his employ. Whatever operations he might have been planning can go right ahead without him.
We killed Soleimani to deter future attacks. In this formulation, it wasn’t so much that we stopped anything from happening now but that we’ll show how strong we are and make Iran afraid. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” said Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. Which it might do in the long term, but it certainly won’t in the short term. Quite the opposite: Iran now feels that it has to retaliate, and then we’ll retaliate, and on and on.
Furthermore, assassinating foreign officials as a means of deterrence is not only a violation of American and international law, but it’s also an utterly immoral and borderline insane way to conduct deterrence. Put aside for a moment what you might think about Soleimani and imagine if we made this an operating principle of our military policy. There are many countries whose future bad behavior we’d like to deter. Are we now going to assassinate the defense ministers of North Korea and Russia and China as well?
We killed Soleimani for revenge. Administration sources have also cited the death of an American contractor in a rocket attack on a base in Iraq two weeks ago, an attack attributed to militias allied with Iran, as a justification. But again, the fact that Soleimani was the architect of Iranian policies that included support for such militias doesn’t mean that once he is dead, that support will cease. His successor will presumably continue the same policies.
We killed Soleimani because of 9/11. This, the dumbest of all justifications, was offered by Vice President Mike Pence. No more needs to be said.
We killed Soleimani because he was a bad guy. This justification at least has the benefit of having a connection to something true. Soleimani was indeed a bad guy. [Pundita note: Many would dispute that.
But the world is full of government officials who are bad guys. How many of them do we intend to assassinate? And how is that likely to ensure that only good guys take their place?
The fact that administration officials have offered this shifting collection of lame and unpersuasive rationales suggests that they themselves aren’t really sure why they did it, other than the fact that it was what Trump decided one day. Indeed, one report after another describes the decision catching officials by surprise. As The Post put it, some were “stunned by his decision, which could lead to war with one of America’s oldest adversaries in the Middle East.”
The assassination is also a clear acknowledgement that the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, which included crippling the Iranian economy, has been a complete failure. It was supposed to make Iran compliant, sending Iranians crawling to the negotiating table where they’d beg for mercy and give us anything we wanted. Instead, the administration is saying, Iran is more dangerous than ever, which is why we have to start killing the country’s top officials. Maybe that’ll work.
That brings us, finally, to the more fundamental question: What is the Trump administration trying to accomplish with regard to Iran? What is the end state at which officials hope to arrive? Do they want to topple the regime? Defang it and eliminate its political influence in the region? Make it so weak that it can’t threaten our own position in the Middle East? Something else?
Your guess is as good as mine. And as good as the president’s and that of those who work for him, who seem to have no idea what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. Which is not exactly a recipe for success.
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