Wednesday, September 21, 2016

7 Reasons why the US bombing of Syrian Army positions was no accident

Does anyone still believe that the bombing in Deir Ezzor was an accident? Let me list the indications that is was not:
- conflicting reports: some say that the area had been observed by the US for days. Others that the decision was made on the spot.
- the Pentagon is trying to deflect the attention with an investigation whether the targeted soldiers were "former prisoners turned into makeshift conscript soldiers". Of course this is completely irrelevant.
- ISIS was ready and attacked immediately after the bombing
- strategic importance: this was not just the killing of a few of the thousands of Syrian soldiers in the area. It was a very strategic attack that gave ISIS control over the mountains near the airport and that way makes it impossible for the Syrian army to use the airport for its supplies. It may well lead to the fall of Deir Ezzor to ISIS.
- the Pentagon had made it very clear that they didn't like the truce. This was the perfect way to sabotage it.
- it is the second US led attack on Syrian government positions in the East of Syria. Previously we saw the US had the Kurds attack government positions in Hasakah. Note also that the US did nothing when in May 2015 ISIS conquered Palmyra and according to reports considered it even a good development. Interestingly now too the US had its allies (Danes, Australians and Brits) doing the dirty work.
- If the US had really felt sorry about inadvertently helping ISIS it would acknowledged the damage that it had caused - now it suggested just to have killed some Syrian troops that it didn't like anyway -, it would have transferred the responsible commander, appointed some high ranking person to lead the investigation, involved at least one of the other countries that had participated in the bombing and made some other moves to make it clear that it really regretted what happened. We saw nothing of it. Other than a vague announcement of an investigation the US acted as if nothing had happened.
- And then there was the performance of Samantha Power, one of the leading neocons, at the United Nations. She didn't show any regret at all and was in full attack mode.
- the timing of the attack - one day before the Russian elections - may have been no coincidence.
- When Russia contacted its American contact person for monitoring the truce he initially wasn't there. Only on a second attempt did they succeed in contacting and was the air attack on Deir Ezzor cancelled - after nearly an hour. Here too, the Pentagon is in attack mode, calling the first Russian call incoherent and blaming that for that reason they weren't understood well. This doesn't show any regret or desire for improvement. It is a deliberate insult that can only harm the cooperation.
- And finally there is that attack on the aid convoy. We see the classical contradicting statements: first the US claimed that Syrian planes did it and later they shifted the accusations towards the Russians, claiming that the Syrian army was not advanced enough to have done this. Yet rebels claimed that barrel bombs had barrel bombs had been used - a specialty of the Syrian army. In fact the attack carries all the classical symptoms of a false flag incident: the Syrians and Russians had nothing to gain from it while for the US and the rebels it comes very convenient to detract the attention from the Deir Ezzor incident and to have one more reason to end the truce.

See this article: US strikes on Syrian troops: Report data contradicts 'mistake' claims:
The report, released by US Central Command on 29 November, shows that senior US Air Force officers at the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar, who were responsible for the decision to carry out the September airstrike at Deir Ezzor:
• misled the Russians about where the US intended to strike so Russia could not warn that it was targeting Syrian troops
• ignored information and intelligence analysis warning that the positions to be struck were Syrian government rather than Islamic State
• shifted abruptly from a deliberate targeting process to an immediate strike in violation of normal Air Force procedures
The Russians were informed that the targets were nine kilometres south of Deir Ezzor airfield: they were actually only three and six kilometres from that airfield, respectively, according to the summary of its findings.
Originally, the CAOC had initiated a process called “Deliberate Targeting”, which is used for fixed targets and requires extensive and time-consuming work to ensure the accuracy of the intelligence on the targets, according to the report. But that had been changed abruptly to “Dynamic Targeting”, which involves “fleeting targets” – those that are either moving or about to move - for which intelligence requirements are less stringent.
The authors of the report found that change to be improper, given that the sites being targeted were clearly identified as defensive positions and could not justify such a switch to a hastily prepared strike. But again, it offers no explanation as to why.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

What's wrong with "Wir schaffen das" [Merkel]

On 31 August 2015 Merkel for the first used her now (in)famous sentence "Wir schaffen das" when discussing the increase of refugees. In many circles it was greeted as a courageous and moral standing. I beg to disagree.

It is a well known principle that the best place for refugees is neighboring countries. Yet the UN is complaining that is receiving less and less money to support the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. And the EU has cut at least as much as the rest of the world. Money can't be the problem: The total the UN asks for is 4.5 Billion dollar but it receives only a fraction of that. Yet the EU is spending much more on receiving the refugees and on paying off Turkey.

The EU has a problem that a large part of the refugees are economic refugees. Even many Syrians are not fleeing the violence but the economic catastrophe that is caused by the violence. In such a situation an experienced politician like Merkel knows that although you may do your best to receive refugees in a decent way it is not wise to say anything that might be explained by would-be refugees as an encouragement. It is puzzling that she did it anyway.

Then there is Turkey. Turkey was at that moment already trying to blackmail the EU by flooding it with refugees.In that light encouraging refugees to come was puzzling. Unfortunately Merkel's behavior towards Erdogan would become even more puzzling. In the refugee agreement she insisted on giving Erdogan largely what he wanted. Strange - you should punish blackmailers, not rewards them. By giving Erdogan what he wanted - including a visa-free travel agreement - and by going to Istanbul and telling the press there that the refugee agreement had brought Turkey closer to an EU membership Merkel helped Erdogan to win the elections a few months later.

The refugees are fleeing for the war in Syria. Turkey plays an important part in that war as the insurgents are mainly supplied through its territory. For a long time Turkey actively prevented refugees from travelling further towards the EU - seeing them as a reservoir from which it could recruit more rebel fighters. It is not really clear why it suddenly changed its policies and opened the gates. One theory is that it wanted to put the EU under pressure to do more to support the uprising. Other theories point to the fact that the US is supporting Merkel's position and mention old theories that Merkel is a CIA asset. They point to America's military doctrine that wants to prevent that the rising of dominant countries on other continents - including Europe.

The EU has largely supported Turkey's and America's active support of the uprising. Yet this constitutes a severe violation of international law. Stopping that support would soon end the war and the refugee crisis. Yet this option is considered taboo.

Merkel's "Wir schaffen das" was also undemocratic. She didn't have any mandate from the German parliament when she opened the door with her statement. It was a solo action. And it is by now widely detested among the population. She doubled down when next she tried to force the other EU countries to open their doors for refugees too.