Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Israel's futile battle against Hamas

Israel cannot eradicate Hamas. In fact every Palestinian it kills now in Gaza is a justification for the existence of Hamas and will drive more Palestinians to support Hamas.

If Israel wants to be seen by the Palestinians as a reliable partner that is prepared to let them live and prosper it should behave as such. It should stop stealing Palestinian houses and land. It should stop suffocation the Palestinian economy and it should take a murdered Palestinian just as serious as a murdered Jew.

Just as the English in Northern Ireland they will still have to suffer terrorism for a while. But that will gradually decrease and in the end stop when it follows an appropriate policy.

Problem is that Israel is in the same position as the whites in the US in the 19th century when they largely exterminated the Indians. They too have a large lobby that is growing rich by stealing land. They too have politicians who know that there is a group against which they can safely indulge in hate mongering. And they too are largely left off the hook by the world public opinion.

But given Israel's geographical position among a sea of Arabs it is a dangerous strategy that well may go wrong in the long term.

Obama makes it hard not to believe conspiracy theories

Sometimes Obama makes it hard not to believe conspiracy theories.

If he really cared about the MH17 he would long ago have released his satellite data and pressured Kiev to release conversations of the plane with the control tower. Instead he hides data and evades questions about why the plane followed an alternative route and was forced to fly lower and whether there was an Ukrainian fighter jet near the plane.

If he really cared about Ukraine he would have pressed for real negotiations. Putin could live with the Orange revolution. He won't ask too much now. Instead the US is pressuring Kiev not to negotiate at all.

Putin is fully aware that sanctions are a kind of blackmail and that ceding to them will only result in more blackmail. So if Obama wants him to change his behavior he will have to negotiate and make concessions.

So my guess would be that Obama is playing for two audiences:
- for the neocons he is going to extremes to look how far he can humiliate Russia. Obviously he doesn't care about the casualties.
- for the oil lobby he doing what he can to raise the oil price.

Once I hoped Obama would be a capable president. Nowadays I consider him a fool who very well might start World War III.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Questions remaining about the MH17 disaster in Ukraine

As the US seems to jump to the conclusion that the pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the downing of the MH-17 there are still quite a few questions that should be answered:
- the Ukrainian government initially claimed that the plane had been shot down by Russian fighter jets. Where did that come from?
- According to Russia the Ukrainian Army had recently sent some Buk units to the East. Russia claims it caught their radar signal when the plane was downed. Given that the rebels have no air force this raises the question: why? The investigation should have a look at this subject. Russia has suggested that Ukraine should provide an inventory of its Buk missiles.
- the communication between the control tower and the MH17 should be published - as was the communication between the MH370 and its control tower.
- Radar images of the last minutes/hours of the plane should be published by the Ukrainian government.
- the Ukrainian government published some fragments from telephone conversations of the rebels that should prove their guilt. These were fragments that were carefully selected by the Ukrainian secret service. It may very well be that none of those involved was aware whether their side had shot some missiles and that they were just assuming. So we should have access to the full conversations and other conversations that have been intercepted. And of course they should be checked by experts: Russian experts claim they were falsified. See also this audio analysis.
- On previous flights on the same route Malaysian Airlines used a more southern route over the Sea of Azov. This raises the question why this time it followed a more northern route that went straight over a war zone. Where they ordered by Air Control? It has also been claimed that Air Control ordered them to fly at the lowest allowed height instead of 1 km higher as they wanted. Another point for investigation. Russia has also claimed that the war zone is not completely covered by radar.
- A Buk is normally operated together with a guiding radar installation that is on a separate truck. Without such an installation it is of limited use. One commenter I saw on internet who claimed that he had operated a Buk claimed that the missile is only self directing for the last kilometer. With a good operator such a standalone missile might be useful against military planes who fly low and typically fly not faster than 500 à 600 km/hour. But hitting a civilian plane flying at 10 km height with a velocity of over 900 km/hour looks almost impossible. In addition there is the question of how they could see the plane: it was a clouded day.
- The Ukrainian government has solved the targeting problem by claiming that is was not lonely missile truck that the rebels had captured from the rebels but that it were the Russians who had sent a complete Buk installation including a radar truck. To match this with their prior declarations they claim that the radar truck was at a few km distance. They have many different versions on the why. One version claims that they were targeting an IL76 "Candid" transport plane that flew a few km away and was supplying Ukrainian troops that were encircled.
- A Buk that is fired creates a trail of smoke and vapor that lasts for considerable time. Yet no one has reported to see such a trail. Interpretermag claims that the plane may have been shot from a location between Snizhne and Pervomaisk (a village south of Snizhne). They offer a picture of a weak vapor trail.
- If it was a Buk there is considerable confusion about from where it was shot. Kiev has named different places. Rebels have claimed that some of those places were out of range from the location where the plane was hit.
- immediately after the disaster Ukraine started a military offensive in the direction of the crash site from both the north and the southwest. In this offensive they evaded the rebel troops in order to advance fast to the crash site. Note that the distance between Luhansk and Donetsk is about 150 km and that there are only 10,000 rebel fighters who are mostly stationed around the big cities. So it was not hard to find an unguarded road to enter rebel territory. Normally this would have entailed the risk of being encircled, but in this case that was not the case as two days after the crash the Security Council adopted an armistice for the region with a radius of 20 or 40 km (this was disputed) around the disaster site. The big question is why Ukraine took this risk: where they looking to find or remove evidence?
- Then there is the case of the claims of a respectless treatment of the remains by the rebels. Both the claim of stealing and the claim that the rebels made fun of the victims were later retorted by showing videos from which the incriminating pictures had been grabbed ny the Ukrainian secret service. The question is why they need this kind of low propaganda trick if they have the truth on their side.
- where The Guardian claimed that a Buk truck had been seen in Torez the Independent went to Torez and could not find a single person who had seen the Buk. The BBC claimed to have found witnesses who claimed to have seen a Buk installation with what looked to be a Russian crew.

Of course there are also some less probable theories:
- there is "Carlos", who claims to be a Spanish air operator working in Kiev who claims there was a kind panic within air control after the crash and all foreigners were asked to leave. Ukraine claims not to employ foreigners and not to know the guy.
- there is also the Alexander Khodakovsky, rebel commander of the Vostok Battalion who was claimed to have admitted that the rebels possessed a Buk and that it may have come from Russia. Later he denied to have said that to Reuters.
- This video from a weather satellite claims to show the firing of a Buk from territory controlled by Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoyski.
- This article claims that something went wrong during an Ukrainian military exercise.
- Newsweek claimed that a pro-Russian soldier had admitted to the Italian Newspaper Corriere della Sera that his unit shot down the MH17, mistaking it for a military one.
- Ukrainians claimed that the Russians shot down the wrong plane because they went to the wrong Pervomaisk village.

Other interesting sites:
- this is a rather slow site and its conspiracy level is high. But it is an extensive article and it contains many useful links.
- Interpretermag gave on 15 september an overview of the facts from the pro-Kiev point of view. This includes a reconstructed time table.