All posts by Moon of Alabama

30+ Afghans Killed In Drone Strike While CIA Celebrates 18 Years Of War On Afghanistan

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From the abstract of a (paywalled) piece about the never ending US war on Afghanistan:
Slow failure: Understanding America’s quagmire in Afghanistan

The United States government has no organised way of thinking about war termination other than seeking decisive military victory.

This implicit assumption is inducing three major errors.

First, the United States tends to select military-centric strategies that have low probabilities of success.

Second, the United States is slow to modify losing or ineffective strategies due to cognitive obstacles, internal frictions, and patron-client challenges with the host nation government.

Finally, as the US government tires of the war and elects to withdraw, bargaining asymmetries prevent successful transitions (building the host nation to win on its own) or negotiations.
The Taliban were created to suppress the corrupt warlords in Afghanistan who menaced the people. They achieved that and the people were greatful. But the Taliban did not have the means to govern the country. When the World Trade Center towers came down the US accused al-Qaeda and went to war to oust the Taliban who had given some Arab friends a retreat in Afghanistan.

The CIA still celebrates the moment:
The war against the Taliban in Afghanistan was won in 2001. The Taliban were ready to lay down their arms and to make peace. But the US rejected all their offers. It instead captured, tortured and killed them whenever it could. It set up a new government filled with the same corrupt warlords the Taliban had previously ousted. That was a major strategic mistake.

The warlords robbed left and right and created the usual mess with the people. The Afghan government never gained the necessary legitimacy to rule the country. The insurgency against the warlords grew again and the Taliban reestablished their networks.

The US tried to suppress them first with its own (incompetent) military campaign and then by building an Afghan army under government control. But the utter corruption that has only grown under the warlords guarantees that the Afghan army will never become a competent force. Meanwhile the Taliban are winning the war. They already rule over more than half of the country.

The US is looking for a way out by negotiating with the Taliban. It wants a face saving exit but has no leverage to achieve that. The talks also got sabotaged by the ruling warlords in Kabul, which the CIA still pays, as well as by the borg in Washington DC.

The war on Afghanistan was never run under a common command or plan that incorporated all the necessary civil and military elements under one hat. The CIA did its thing, the military something different and the development people tried all kinds of really stupid things. No part coordinated with the others. The same obvious mistakes were made again and again. That made it impossible to win.

It is also the reason why, eighteen years after the CIA bribed the warlords to fight on the US side, sh*t like this is still happening:
A US drone attack killed 30 pine nut farmers and wounded at least 40 others in Afghanistan Wednesday night, the latest killing of innocent civilians by American forces as the "war on terror" enters its 19th year.

The farmers had just finished work and were sitting by a fire when the strike happened, according to tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul.
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Reuters reported that there may be more farmers missing:

Haidar Khan, who owns the pine nut fields, said about 150 workers were there for harvesting, with some still missing as well as the confirmed dead and injured.

A survivor of the drone strike said about 200 laborers were sleeping in five tents pitched near the farm when the attack happened.
Is that the CIA's way to celebrate 18 years of war?

Each of the families of those killed or wounded day workers will now send another son to join the Taliban.

As all three steps described in the above abstract have failed to 'win' in Afghanistan there is only one way left to end the war on Afghanistan.

Stop paying the warlords, leave the country and forget about it.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Saudi Arabia Acknowledges Defeat In Yemen – Starts To Sue For Peace

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Two weeks ago we wrote that war on Yemen will soon end. The Saudis lost their ally, they lost the war and would have to sue for peace. They are now doing so. But their fighting in Yemen will continue until that country finds a new balance.

Today the United Arab Emirates airforce bombed the Yemeni proxy forces of its 'ally' Saudi Arabia:
Yemen's internationally recognized government accused the Emirati air force of attacking its troops Thursday as they were heading to the key southern port city of Aden to fight separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates. The airstrikes killed at least 30 government forces, a Yemeni commander said. 
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Col. Mohamed al-Oban, a commander of the government's special forces in Abyan province, said the troops were on the road, headed from Abyan toward Aden on Thursday, when the strikes took place, killing at least 30. 
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At least six raids were carried out by Emirati warplanes around the temporary capital, according to government military sources who asked to remain anonymous.
Southern separatist forces under the Southern Transitional Council and supported by the UAE hold Aden. Between 1967 and 1990 south Yemen, then named the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, was separated from the mountainous north. After uniting with north Yemen the south became neglected even though its eastern desert holds most of the country's hydrocarbon resources.

Since 2015 the coalition of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with US and British help, waged war against the Houthi in northern Yemen. The coalition is now falling apart. Both countries claimed to fight against the Houthi, which control the capital Sanaa, in support of the internationally recognized 'legitimate' government under 'President' Hadi. But both countries had from the very beginning more egoistic war aims.

The Wahhabi Saudis want a Yemeni government that is not controlled by the Zaydi-Shia Houthi with whom they fought dozens of wars over two provinces that Saudi Arabia once annexed. They also want to control Yemen's oil and a pipeline from the Saudi oil region to a harbor in Yemen. It would help Saudi oil exports to avoid the Iran controlled Strait of Hormuz.

The UAE is big into the port business. It wants to control the strategic port of Aden and other Yemeni harbors on the southern coast. As it has no direct border with Yemen it largely does not care who controls the rest of Yemen.

The UAE leader Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ) is not an absolute king. He is the son of the Emir of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates that form the UAE. His aggressive foreign policy, with military engagement in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya, has come under criticism of the rulers of the other emirates. Wars are expensive and bad for regular business. MbZ's alliance with the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) was seen as dangerous. While the Saudis would like the US to wage war on Iran, the UAE, and especially Dubai, would become a casualty of such a war.

In June the emirs decided to change cause. The UAE retreated from active war in Yemen and started to make nice with Iran. It hoped that the southern separatists it had trained would keep Aden under control and continue to do the UAE's bidding. The Saudis and the 'legitimate government' under Hadi they control do not want to condone that.

The Saudis are extremely angry that the UAE changed course:
But this month, at his Mecca palace, Saudi King Salman took the unusual step of expressing 'extreme irritation' with the UAE, his closest Arab partner, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The comment appears to be evidence of a fissure in the alliance, which is led in practice by the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), and the UAE de facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MbZ). 
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The king’s annoyance was voiced in a conversation on Aug. 11 with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, head of Yemen’s Saudi-backed government, according to two Yemeni sources and one other briefed on the meeting.

Hadi’s forces in Aden had just been routed by troops supported by the UAE, as nominal allies in the country’s south turned on each other in a power struggle.
The Saudis must end the war against the Houthi that was launched at the behest of its clown prince. The war cost the Saudis an enormous amount of money even as they are still losing it. Only yesterday 25 of their forces were killed in a Houthi ambush. With the help of Iran the Houthi acquired long range missiles and drones and they now use them in volleys that reach deep into the Saudi's land:
Beginning on Aug. 24, the Houthis said its forces conducted two drone strikes on the King Khaled airbase in Khamis Mushayt and the Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia. A day later, another round of drone strikes were reported on both targets.

On the same day, ten Badr-1 ballistic missiles were reportedly fired into Saudi’s Jizan city. However, Saudi officials reported that the country’s air defense systems shot down six ballistic missiles. The officials did not confirm if more missiles were included in the barrage.

On Aug. 26, another ballistic missile, the newly-announced Nakal missile, was reportedly fired at Saudi troops near Najran. Later in the day, another round of drones were reportedly intercepted near the King Khaled airbase in Khamis Mushayt.

As drones were hitting the King Khaled airbase, a separate attack was purportedly occurring near Riyadh with the new Samad-3 suicide drones. If confirmed, this marks the second time Houthi drones have hit the Saudi capital. The first was a reported strike on an Aramco facility near the capital last month.

On Aug. 27, the Houthis showcased another newly-announced ballistic missile, the Qasem-1, by allegedly hitting Saudi troops positioned near the Yemeni border in Najran. Another drone was intercepted and destroyed by Saudi forces over Khamis Mushayt as well.

And yesterday a new cruise missile, the Quds-1, was launched towards the Abha airport. Though, Saudi officials stated that the missile was intercepted and destroyed.
The Saudi king must have recognized that he has no longer any chance to ever win the war. It seems that he asked the Trump administration to work out an agreement with the Houthi:
The Trump administration is preparing to initiate negotiations with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in an effort to bring the four-year civil war in Yemen to an end, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The effort is reportedly aimed at convincing Saudi Arabia to take part in secret talks with the rebels in Oman to help broker a cease-fire in the conflict, which has emerged as a front line in the regional proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran.
The brother of the clown prince came to Washington to prepare for the talks:
Prince Khalid met with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday and discussed 'US support for a negotiated resolution between the Republic of Yemen government' and a breakaway group known as the Southern Transitional Council, according to a statement from State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
The Hadi government is irrelevant. The Southern Transitional Council will demand independence from the north. The Houthi will demand to control the north and reparations for the war the Saudis waged against them. North Yemen's infrastructure is largely destroyed. It will cost several dozens of billions to rebuild what the five year long Saudi air war destroyed. As the Houthi can continue to harass the Saudis at will, even in their capital, their is no way out for the Saudis but to pay whatever the Houthi demand.

It was the clown prince Mohammad bin Salman who launched the war in Yemen soon after he came to power. It was supposed to defeat the Houthi within a few weeks. Five years later and after at least a $100 billions was spent on it, the Saudis lost the war.

Will the King hold his son responsible for the large loss of money and face that he caused?

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Violent Protests In Hong Kong Reach Their Last Stage

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The riots in Hong Kong are about to end.

The protests, as originally started in June, were against a law that would have allowed criminal extraditions to Taiwan, Macao and mainland China. The law was retracted and the large protests have since died down. What is left are a few thousand students who, as advertised in a New York Times op-ed, intentionally seek to provoke the police with "marginal violence":
Such actions are a way to make noise and gain attention. And if they prompt the police to respond with unnecessary force, as happened on June 12, then the public will feel disapproval and disgust for the authorities. The protesters should thoughtfully escalate nonviolence, maybe even resort to mild force, to push the government to the edge. That was the goal of many people who surrounded and barricaded police headquarters for hours on June 21.
The protesters now use the same violent methods that were used in the Maidan protests in the Ukraine. The US seems to hope that China will intervene and create a second Tianamen sceneThat US color revolution attempt failed but was an excellent instrument to demonize China. A repeat in Hong Kong would allow the US to declare a "clash of civilization" and increase 'western' hostility against China. But while China is prepared to intervene it is unlikely to do the US that favor. Its government expressed confidence that the local authorities will be able to handle the issue.

There are rumors that some Hong Kong oligarchs were originally behind the protests to prevent their extradition for shady deals they made in China. There may be some truth to that. China's president Xi Jingpin is waging a fierce campaign against corruption and Hong Kong is a target rich environment for fighting that crime.

The former British colony is ruled by a handful of oligarchs who have monopolies in the housing, electricity, trade and transport markets:
The book to read is Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong (2010) by Alice Poon, which explains how the lack of competition law created outrageous wealth for the tycoons. It’s a complex subject but the key point is that in Hong Kong all land is leasehold and ultimately owned by the government, which uses it as a means of raising revenue. This goes back to the days of empire when British policy required colonies to be self-funding. The system kept taxes down and attracted business – but one side-effect was that it gave the government an interest in rationing land to keep it expensive. That didn’t matter much when the local economy comprised a few traders but, in the modern technological world of 2012, it puts the government at odds with every person and business wanting affordable space. Indeed, it induces the government to distort and damage the economy, and indeed society.

This system paved the way for a handful of Hong Kong families to become unimaginably wealthy by getting their hands on cheap land back in the days before the city started to boom.
Rents and apartment prices in Hong Kong are high. People from the mainland who buy up apartments with probably illegally gained money only increase the scarcity. This is one reason why the Cantonese speaking Hong Kong protesters spray slurs against the Mandarin speaking people from the mainland. The people in Hong Kong also grieve over their declining importance. Hong Kong lost its once important economical position. In 1993 Hong Kong's share of China's GDP was 27%. It is now less than a tenths of that and the city is now more or less irrelevant to mainland China.
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Democracy in Hong Kong is restricted to further the interests of the oligarchs:
In the 70-seat legislature, only half of the members are directly elected. The other half are selected by special interest groups—such as the financial and real estate professions—meaning that the body tends to be controlled by a mostly pro-Beijing business elite rather than by voters. The city’s Beijing-backed leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, likewise lacks a popular mandate.
The current protests are surely not an incentive to remove those restrictions or to invest in Hong Kong. They are counter productive.

While the protests against the extradition bill may have been backed by some tycoons, it is obvious that there is also a large US government influence behind them. It is the US, not some oligarchs, which is behind the current rioting phase.

In 1992 Congress adopted the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act which mandates US government 'pro-democracy' policies in Hong Kong. Some Senators and lobbyists now push for a Support Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act which would intensify the interference. Before the June protests started Secretary of State (and former CIA head) Mike Pompeo met with the Hong Kong 'pro-democracy' leader Martin Lee and later with 'pro-democracy' media tycoon Jimmy Lai. The National Endowment for Democracy finances several of the groups behind the protests.

Such interference is against Hong Kong's Basic Law:
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.
Despite that law the US National Endowment of Democracy spends millions on organizations in Hong Kong:
The political officer of the US consulate in Hong Kong, the largest in the world, meets with notorious rabble-rousers like Yoshua Wong.

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That some protesters sing the US national anthem and wave US flags (vid) or fire US made grenade launchers (vid) will not motivate patriotic locals to join them. The protesters also fly Pepe the frog flags and use that rightwing fringe symbol on their pamphlets and flyers. It rather fits that Hillary Clinton and Dominic Raab support them.

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To use the British colonial flag to call for Chinese 'colonists' to leave requires some brain twisting.

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The rioters equipment comes from "strangers" who create depots of gas masks, helmets, laser pointers etc, that trusted demonstrators then distribute to their fellows. Mysteriously hundreds of subway tickets appear which are handed out for free to the junior university students who, during their current holidays, make up the mass of the violent black block that attacks the police.
The rightwing Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions has long been financed by US regime change organizations. That it represents the airport workers may be the reason why the protests recently escalated there. The last three days protesters blocked the Hong Kong airport and violently hindered people from departing on their booked flights.

Travelers who spoke Mandarin were attacked. The scene became extremely ugly when a journalist from the Chinese Global Times was beaten until he fainted. Protesters claimed that he was with the police and hindered paramedics from reaching and caring for the man. Only when police intervened were the first-aiders able to remove the unconscious person. One of the rioters who beat the man had a US flag in his hand (vid). When the stretcher was rolled out of the airport another protester with a US flag on a pole ran after it and beat the patient (vid).

James Griffith, a CNN International producer, was on the scene.
Read Griffiths whole thread here. There are also plenty of videos from the scene that document the ghastly behavior.

Later Griffiths further explained:
Another 'western' journalist expressed a rather wretched understanding of freedom of the press:
Melissa Chan worked for Al Jazeerah, the propaganda arm of the emir of Qatar. She now works for DW, the propaganda arm of the German government. By her own criterion she is neither a journalist nor should she be called one.

The airport now received a court order that allows it to restrict further protests.

The police still holds back as much as it can. In most other countries this scene, in which a beaten policeman briefly pulls his gun, would have ended deadly.

Last month the government in Hong Kong brought a former top officer out of retirement to handle the protests. There have since been some changes in police tactics. Where previously protestors got away with building barricades and throwing stones they now get arrested and end up in jail. Undercover policemen snatched some riot leaders off the streets.

Local people increasingly turn against the rioters. Those who depend on tourism have good reason to call for a crack down on them. The violent behavior of the protesters gives the police more public leeway for harsh responses. There are many additional methods that can be used. The police refrained so far from encircling and mass arresting rioters, a tactic that is used in many other countries. Its water cannon vehicles were shown off but not put into action. The police has not yet cracked down on the communication with "strangers" even though it is likely to listen to some of it. This end phase will soon come.

There is also an automatic end date for the riots. On September 2 the new semester begins and the students will turn back to studies. The rioters will lose their critical mass. The whole issue will end up as another failure without the US achieving any of its aims.

Mainland Chinese who view the chaos in Hong Kong in all its glory will now reject any talk of 'pro-democracy'.

Meanwhile China intensifies its belt and road initiative and Trump loses his trade war:
Responding to pressure from businesses and growing fears that a trade war is threatening the US economy, the Trump administration is delaying most of the import taxes it planned to impose on Chinese goods and is dropping others altogether.

The administration says it still plans to proceed with 10% tariffs on about $300 billion in Chinese imports [...]

But under pressure from retailers and other businesses, President Donald Trump’s trade office said it would delay until Dec. 15 the tariffs on nearly 60% of the imports that had been set to absorb the new taxes starting Sept. 1. Among the products that will benefit from the 3½-month reprieve are such popular consumer goods as cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, some toys, computer monitors, shoes and clothing.

The administration is also removing other items from the tariff list entirely, based on what it called “health, safety, national security and other factors.”
Russia's agriculture thrives on sales to China while US farmers lose market share. The anti-Chinese part of Trump's MAGA has yet to achieve any success.

Reprinted with permission from MoonofAlabama.

Violent ‘Color Revolution’ In Hong Kong Fails Despite Strong NYT Support

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When the US instigates its so called 'color revolutions', the transatlantic main stream media are usually supportive. But the support is rarely as extreme as the extraordinary one the New York Times gives to the rioters in Hong Kong.

For the timeline we check with Wikipedia on the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests:
Demonstrations against the bill first occurred in March and April, but greatly expanded in scale and intensity beginning in June. At least 240,000 people (up to one million according to organisers) marched in protest of the bill on 9 June.
...
Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and further declared it to be "dead" on 9 July.
Shortly before the first large demonstrations against a proposed amendment to an exiting extradition bill, the New York Times gave space to one (in)famous 'political activist' from Hong Kong. On June 4 one Ray Wong Toi-yeung wrote on the Times opinion pages:
When the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989, many Hong Kongers watched in horror on their TVs. A few days before, one million of them had marched in solidarity with the rebellious Chinese gathered in the square to ask for more liberalism and democracy from the Chinese authorities. Thirty years on, it is Hong Kong that is fighting for democratic values — for its very political survival, actually — against another onslaught by the same Communist government in Beijing.
Wong, who now lives in Germany, was a leader of the 2014 Umbrella movement, also known as the (NED Financed) Hong Kong Riots. He was since with several other anti-mainland organizations in Hong Kong. In 2016 he was seen in secret meetings with US consulate staff.

Other Hong Kong protest organizers and supporters were given op-ed space in the Times on June 10, June 15, June 17and June 28. Supportive editorials were published on June 10, June 13 and June 17.

On June 30 an op-ed by one Fred Chan Ho-fai (later updated) attempted to justify the rioters violence:
An important idea that has been circulating in online forums is now firmly planted in my mind. It is called the Marginal Violence Theory (暴力邊緣論), and it holds that protesters should not actively use or advocate violence, but instead use the most aggressive nonviolent actions possible to push the police and the government to their limits.

This is what some protesters have been doing today, July 1, on the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China from Britain in 1997. After a ceremony marking the anniversary, a group of protesters have stormed the Legislative Council’s building. Though they have damaged property, they are not seeking to harm anyone.

Such actions are a way to make noise and gain attention. And if they prompt the police to respond with unnecessary force, as happened on June 12, then the public will feel disapproval and disgust for the authorities. The protesters should thoughtfully escalate nonviolence, maybe even resort to mild force, to push the government to the edge.That was the goal of many people who surrounded and barricaded police headquarters for hours on June 21.
Provoking violent police reactions is the declared aim of the rioters.

More Hong Kong op-eds in the NYT followed on July 1, July 2 and July 3. A fourth supporting editorial was published on July 4. More op-eds followed on July 5, July 8 and July 12.

After an extraordinary run of 16 opinion pieces on the issue in just 38 days, the NYT opinion pages went suddenly quiet on Hong Kong. Who told the editors to stop?

Anyway, it does not mean the New York Times stopped to support the anti-government riots. Witness today's news piecethat is not only slanted against Hong Kong's government and police, but is also clearly lying:
Hundreds of protesters surrounded a police station in Hong Kong on Tuesday, some scuffling with officers, after the authorities said they had charged dozens of people with rioting over clashes with the police days earlier.

The rioting charges were a distinct escalation in the government’s response to protests that have shaken Hong Kong for weeks.
There were "clashes with the police" during unapproved demonstration. Taking part in these is not a sin in my book - been there, done that. But if one does take part in riots one should be ready to accept the consequences. Some violent people were caught. The government will punish them. Those are the universal rules of the game. So why is it seen as a "distinct escalation" when the Hong Kong government charges some rioters?
The charges will most likely add to the public anger. The government said Tuesday evening that 44 people who were arrested Sunday night had been accused of rioting. In addition, a 33-year-old man would also be charged with assaulting a police officer, and a 24-year-old man was charged with possession of offensive weapons.
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As news of the charges spread, hundreds of people dressed in black, the color of the protest movement, gathered around Kwai Chung Police Station, where the suspects were being held. The police told the crowds to disperse and used pepper spray against some demonstrators.
The writer seems to believe in the 'marginal violence theory'. He thinks that the charges will increase the rioters support. He will be disappointed. Most people in Hong Kong despise attacks on policemen and rioting that disturbs their businesses and daily life.

BTW - those who still doubt that the incidents in Hong Kong are an attempt of a US instigated 'color revolution' should reread the last paragraph: "people dressed in black, the color of the protest movement".

Now comes a paragraph in which the NYT writer is outright lying:
Around 11 p.m., a small number of officers came out of the station to confront protesters, including one police officer holding a shotgun that he pointed at some of those gathered, but he did not fire. The gun did not have the distinct orange color of those the police have been using to fire rubber bullets, raising fears they were deploying more lethal weapons.
The Times uses this photo to illustrate the scene:

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That looks like an aggressive cop.

However, the picture and the text in the Times are highly misleading. Below are two videos posted by Stella Lee of HK News. They show that the mob violently attacked two lonely policemen, threw stuff at them, and even pulled one of them to the ground and trampled on him. Only when one of the policemen lifts his beanbag shotgun, do the attackers retreat.
Stella Lee later posted another video that shows a small group of policemen, under constant attack, retreat from the scene.
So who is the aggressor here?

The South China Morning Post notes:
A policeman pointed a shotgun at a protesting crowd on Tuesday night in fear for his life, after he was surrounded and had his helmet snatched, the force has said.

The sergeant aimed the weapon, loaded with beanbag rounds, during clashes in which 23 other officers were assaulted and splashed with corrosive liquid, it added.
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It said that at 9.30pm, when two police vehicles left the station, protesters threw corrosive liquid at officers nearby.

An hour later, some officers were sent to Kwai Fong MTR station, where there was a report of an assault. As they returned to the station, the statement read, “two officers were surrounded by a big group of radical protesters, who hurled objects and launched attacks”.

“One of them was assaulted by many people. In order to protect his life and personal safety, he raised a long gun loaded with beanbag rounds as a caution,” it continued. “The officer also had his helmet snatched.”
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The force said 24 officers were assaulted or had corrosives thrown at them in the ensuing fracas, with five sent to hospital.
The videos support the police description of the incident. The NYT report is clearly wrong.

The policemen who escaped lynching was immediately doxed. His family will need protection:
Suspected personal details of the officer, and a supposed photo of his family, appeared on social media hours after images of him pointing the gun were widely circulated.
That the protesters are not peaceful daisies is obvious. This can also be seen in these photos of previous fights with the police.

The SCMP also live blogged the riots on Sunday:
Hong Kong police and protesters clashed again on Sunday night in what has become a regular scene in Hong Kong.

Police made at least a dozen arrests while tear gas was fired at various locations on Hong Kong Island. Protesters marched unauthorised for the second night running, after an illegal demonstration ended in bloody clashes at Yuen Long MTR station on Saturday

The violence continued until the protesters dispersed at midnight ...
Some of the pictures in the live blog show the projectiles the protesters used against the police:
11:31PM - More protesters join last stand on Jubilee Street

About 100 protesters have come from the Wan Chai direction to take up positions at a road block on Jubilee Street again. The area is where police have pushed back demonstrators from the liaison office. On a nearby footbridge, bricks and bamboo sticks cut from building scaffolding are seen.
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The bricks and bamboo sticks laid ready to be hailed down on policemen. The use of such violence against them, as promoted on June 30 on the op-ed pages of the Times, seems to have some effect. At its end today's NYT piece notes that it encourages them to do their job:
The police were noticeably more aggressive about grabbing protesters and had detained at least 49 by Monday morning. They included 32 men and 17 women, aged 16 to 41. Two were temporarily released, while another two were granted bail pending further investigation, the authorities said. Those charged were expected to appear in court Wednesday morning.
The government of Hong Kong played the issue well. It removed, for now, the amendment that was used as pretext to launch the 'regime change' demonstrations. The participation in them immediately began to shrink. The government then turned the 'marginal violence theory' against the protesters. It let the core demonstrators, who are mostly students from movements the US secretly supports, escalate the violence. While the police held back from extreme measures, the rioters increased their level of force. Even those Hong Kong media that supported the demonstrations, had to take note of that. Now the fruits are ripe. The government can pick up the leaders of the riots and put them into jail. Everyone but the NYT acknowledges that it is the legal and right thing to do. It will not cause a wider public to protest against it.

The US and the NYT lost their second attempt to turn Hong Kong against mainland China. Three to five years from now they will try again. It will again be in vane.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Violent ‘Color Revolution’ In Hong Kong Fails Despite Strong NYT Support

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When the US instigates its so called 'color revolutions', the transatlantic main stream media are usually supportive. But the support is rarely as extreme as the extraordinary one the New York Times gives to the rioters in Hong Kong.

For the timeline we check with Wikipedia on the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests:
Demonstrations against the bill first occurred in March and April, but greatly expanded in scale and intensity beginning in June. At least 240,000 people (up to one million according to organisers) marched in protest of the bill on 9 June.
...
Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and further declared it to be "dead" on 9 July.
Shortly before the first large demonstrations against a proposed amendment to an exiting extradition bill, the New York Times gave space to one (in)famous 'political activist' from Hong Kong. On June 4 one Ray Wong Toi-yeung wrote on the Times opinion pages:
When the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989, many Hong Kongers watched in horror on their TVs. A few days before, one million of them had marched in solidarity with the rebellious Chinese gathered in the square to ask for more liberalism and democracy from the Chinese authorities. Thirty years on, it is Hong Kong that is fighting for democratic values — for its very political survival, actually — against another onslaught by the same Communist government in Beijing.
Wong, who now lives in Germany, was a leader of the 2014 Umbrella movement, also known as the (NED Financed) Hong Kong Riots. He was since with several other anti-mainland organizations in Hong Kong. In 2016 he was seen in secret meetings with US consulate staff.

Other Hong Kong protest organizers and supporters were given op-ed space in the Times on June 10, June 15, June 17and June 28. Supportive editorials were published on June 10, June 13 and June 17.

On June 30 an op-ed by one Fred Chan Ho-fai (later updated) attempted to justify the rioters violence:
An important idea that has been circulating in online forums is now firmly planted in my mind. It is called the Marginal Violence Theory (暴力邊緣論), and it holds that protesters should not actively use or advocate violence, but instead use the most aggressive nonviolent actions possible to push the police and the government to their limits.

This is what some protesters have been doing today, July 1, on the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China from Britain in 1997. After a ceremony marking the anniversary, a group of protesters have stormed the Legislative Council’s building. Though they have damaged property, they are not seeking to harm anyone.

Such actions are a way to make noise and gain attention. And if they prompt the police to respond with unnecessary force, as happened on June 12, then the public will feel disapproval and disgust for the authorities. The protesters should thoughtfully escalate nonviolence, maybe even resort to mild force, to push the government to the edge.That was the goal of many people who surrounded and barricaded police headquarters for hours on June 21.
Provoking violent police reactions is the declared aim of the rioters.

More Hong Kong op-eds in the NYT followed on July 1, July 2 and July 3. A fourth supporting editorial was published on July 4. More op-eds followed on July 5, July 8 and July 12.

After an extraordinary run of 16 opinion pieces on the issue in just 38 days, the NYT opinion pages went suddenly quiet on Hong Kong. Who told the editors to stop?

Anyway, it does not mean the New York Times stopped to support the anti-government riots. Witness today's news piecethat is not only slanted against Hong Kong's government and police, but is also clearly lying:
Hundreds of protesters surrounded a police station in Hong Kong on Tuesday, some scuffling with officers, after the authorities said they had charged dozens of people with rioting over clashes with the police days earlier.

The rioting charges were a distinct escalation in the government’s response to protests that have shaken Hong Kong for weeks.
There were "clashes with the police" during unapproved demonstration. Taking part in these is not a sin in my book - been there, done that. But if one does take part in riots one should be ready to accept the consequences. Some violent people were caught. The government will punish them. Those are the universal rules of the game. So why is it seen as a "distinct escalation" when the Hong Kong government charges some rioters?
The charges will most likely add to the public anger. The government said Tuesday evening that 44 people who were arrested Sunday night had been accused of rioting. In addition, a 33-year-old man would also be charged with assaulting a police officer, and a 24-year-old man was charged with possession of offensive weapons.
...
As news of the charges spread, hundreds of people dressed in black, the color of the protest movement, gathered around Kwai Chung Police Station, where the suspects were being held. The police told the crowds to disperse and used pepper spray against some demonstrators.
The writer seems to believe in the 'marginal violence theory'. He thinks that the charges will increase the rioters support. He will be disappointed. Most people in Hong Kong despise attacks on policemen and rioting that disturbs their businesses and daily life.

BTW - those who still doubt that the incidents in Hong Kong are an attempt of a US instigated 'color revolution' should reread the last paragraph: "people dressed in black, the color of the protest movement".

Now comes a paragraph in which the NYT writer is outright lying:
Around 11 p.m., a small number of officers came out of the station to confront protesters, including one police officer holding a shotgun that he pointed at some of those gathered, but he did not fire. The gun did not have the distinct orange color of those the police have been using to fire rubber bullets, raising fears they were deploying more lethal weapons.
The Times uses this photo to illustrate the scene:

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That looks like an aggressive cop.

However, the picture and the text in the Times are highly misleading. Below are two videos posted by Stella Lee of HK News. They show that the mob violently attacked two lonely policemen, threw stuff at them, and even pulled one of them to the ground and trampled on him. Only when one of the policemen lifts his beanbag shotgun, do the attackers retreat.
Stella Lee later posted another video that shows a small group of policemen, under constant attack, retreat from the scene.
So who is the aggressor here?

The South China Morning Post notes:
A policeman pointed a shotgun at a protesting crowd on Tuesday night in fear for his life, after he was surrounded and had his helmet snatched, the force has said.

The sergeant aimed the weapon, loaded with beanbag rounds, during clashes in which 23 other officers were assaulted and splashed with corrosive liquid, it added.
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It said that at 9.30pm, when two police vehicles left the station, protesters threw corrosive liquid at officers nearby.

An hour later, some officers were sent to Kwai Fong MTR station, where there was a report of an assault. As they returned to the station, the statement read, “two officers were surrounded by a big group of radical protesters, who hurled objects and launched attacks”.

“One of them was assaulted by many people. In order to protect his life and personal safety, he raised a long gun loaded with beanbag rounds as a caution,” it continued. “The officer also had his helmet snatched.”
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The force said 24 officers were assaulted or had corrosives thrown at them in the ensuing fracas, with five sent to hospital.
The videos support the police description of the incident. The NYT report is clearly wrong.

The policemen who escaped lynching was immediately doxed. His family will need protection:
Suspected personal details of the officer, and a supposed photo of his family, appeared on social media hours after images of him pointing the gun were widely circulated.
That the protesters are not peaceful daisies is obvious. This can also be seen in these photos of previous fights with the police.

The SCMP also live blogged the riots on Sunday:
Hong Kong police and protesters clashed again on Sunday night in what has become a regular scene in Hong Kong.

Police made at least a dozen arrests while tear gas was fired at various locations on Hong Kong Island. Protesters marched unauthorised for the second night running, after an illegal demonstration ended in bloody clashes at Yuen Long MTR station on Saturday

The violence continued until the protesters dispersed at midnight ...
Some of the pictures in the live blog show the projectiles the protesters used against the police:
11:31PM - More protesters join last stand on Jubilee Street

About 100 protesters have come from the Wan Chai direction to take up positions at a road block on Jubilee Street again. The area is where police have pushed back demonstrators from the liaison office. On a nearby footbridge, bricks and bamboo sticks cut from building scaffolding are seen.
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The bricks and bamboo sticks laid ready to be hailed down on policemen. The use of such violence against them, as promoted on June 30 on the op-ed pages of the Times, seems to have some effect. At its end today's NYT piece notes that it encourages them to do their job:
The police were noticeably more aggressive about grabbing protesters and had detained at least 49 by Monday morning. They included 32 men and 17 women, aged 16 to 41. Two were temporarily released, while another two were granted bail pending further investigation, the authorities said. Those charged were expected to appear in court Wednesday morning.
The government of Hong Kong played the issue well. It removed, for now, the amendment that was used as pretext to launch the 'regime change' demonstrations. The participation in them immediately began to shrink. The government then turned the 'marginal violence theory' against the protesters. It let the core demonstrators, who are mostly students from movements the US secretly supports, escalate the violence. While the police held back from extreme measures, the rioters increased their level of force. Even those Hong Kong media that supported the demonstrations, had to take note of that. Now the fruits are ripe. The government can pick up the leaders of the riots and put them into jail. Everyone but the NYT acknowledges that it is the legal and right thing to do. It will not cause a wider public to protest against it.

The US and the NYT lost their second attempt to turn Hong Kong against mainland China. Three to five years from now they will try again. It will again be in vane.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

The US Stunt In Hong Kong Will Make Other Issues More Difficult

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The current attempt of a US instigated color revolution in Hong Kong is failing:
Protesters wearing all black streamed through the Yuen Long area, even though police refused to grant permission for the march, citing risks of confrontations between demonstrators and local residents.

By nightfall, protesters and police were once again facing off in the streets, as they've done previously during the summer-long pro-democracy protests in the Chinese territory. Demonstrators threw objects and ducked behind makeshift shields, and police officers shot plumes of tear gas into the air.
In May the chief organizer of the demonstrations met with US leaders:
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Hong Kong pro-democracy leader Martin Lee on Thursday, the State Department said, as Hong Kong activists seek to derail a proposed extradition law pushed by Beijing.

'Secretary Pompeo expressed concern about the Hong Kong government’s proposed amendments to the Fugitive Ordinance law, which threaten Hong Kong’s rule of law,' the department said in a statement.

Lee founded the first pro-democracy party in Hong Kong in 1990 and has been a prominent voice calling for civil liberties for the city’s residents.
Lee and other US stooges organized large demonstrations against an extradition bill which would allow the government to send people who committed crimes in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau to those provinces where the crime was committed to receive their punishment. Hong Kong already has similar agreements with foreign countries.

Since then the government of Hong Kong temporarily pulled the bill back. The protest movement immediately diminished. But a core of black-clad students, influenced by the US paid leaders, is trying to keep the struggle up. Throughout the last weeks they broke into the parliament building and ransacked it. They defiled family graves or pro-Chinese politicians, attacked police lines, harassed elderly arrivals (vid) at Hong Kong's airport and today, during an illegal demonstration, destroyed a car which they falsely believed to have a Chinese mainland owner.

Such behavior will only diminish the popular support they might have received otherwise.

That the US is behind this can also be seen in the slanted coverage the riots receive in "western" media. The picture they draw is incomplete:
Unable to defeat the bill legislatively, Hong Kong's pro-Western opposition has taken to the streets. With the help of Western media spin - the illusion of popular opposition to the extradition bill and Beijing's growing influence over Hong Kong is created.

What is not only omitted - but actively denied - is the fact that the opposition's core leaders, parties, organizations, and media operations are all tied directly to Washington DC via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and corporate foundations like Open Society Foundation.
Hong Kong has 7.5 million inhabitants. While demonstrations of several ten thousands seems big, they does not represent a majority. The so called 'pro-democracy' parties in Hong Kong have lost in each and every local election. The pro-China parties always receive a majority of votes.

Hong Kong was once the exclusive "door to China." It lost that status when China opened up for trade. Today a number of much larger cities within the mainland are way richer and more important. Hong Kong has little influence on what happens elsewhere in China. The temporary special status it received after Britain's colonial rule is of little concern. Most people in Hong Kong recognize that. They know that their economic well being now depends on Beijing's good will.

The US may believe that the circus it creates with these student stunts might push China into doing something harsh. But the mainland is not concerned about such nonsense. It already knows how this will end:
'Trying to seize the opportunity to incite chaos in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region does not have popular support and will not be successful,' [Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang] said.
The students who were instigated to commit violence and crimes will go to jail. The extradition bill will be reintroduced at a convenient time and pass Hong Kong's legislative council with a large majority.

As that outcome was totally predictable one wonders why the Trump administration bothered to launch such nonsense. It will only make it more difficult to solve other problems, like North Korea or global trade, over which China has influence.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Ukraine Election – Voters Defeat Second Color Revolution

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Volodymyr Zelensky

The Ukraine, translated as “the borderlands,” lies between core Russia and the Europe's western states. It is a split country. Half the population speaks Russian as its first language. The industrialized center, east and south are culturally orthodox Russians. Some of its rural western parts were attached to the Ukraine only after World War II. They have historically a different culture.

The US, supported by the EU, used this split - twice - to instigate “revolutions” that were supposed to bring the Ukraine onto a “western” course. Both attempts were defeated when the Ukrainians had the chance of a free vote.

The 2004 run-off election for the president of the Ukraine was won by Viktor Yanukovych. The US disliked the result. Its proxies in Ukraine alleged alleged fraud and instigated a color revolution. As a result of the “Orange Revolution” the vote was re-run and the other candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was declared the winner. But five years later another vote defeated the US camp. Yanukovych was declared the winner and became president.

In 2014 the European Union made an attempt to bind the Ukraine to its side through an association agreement. But what the EU offered to Ukraine was paltry and Russia countered it. Unlike the Ukraine, which continues to get robbed by its oligarchs ever since its 1991 independence, Russia was economically back and in a much better position. It offered billions in investments and long term loans. Much of Ukraine's industry depends on Russia and Russian gas was offered to the Ukraine for less than the international market price. Yanukovych, who originally wanted to sign the EU association, had no choice but to refuse it, and to take the much better deal Russia offered.

The US and the EU intervened. They again launched a color revolution, but this time it was one that would use force. Militarily trained youth from Galicia in the west Ukraine was bused into Kiev to occupy the central Maidan place and to violently fight the police. Snipers from Georgia were brought in to fire on both sides. It was then falsely alleged that government forces were killing the “peaceful protesters”.

Yanukovych lost his nerves and fled to Russia. After some illegal political maneuvers new elections were called up and the oligarch Petro Poroshenko, bought off by the “west”, was declared the winner. The unreconstructed fascists from Galicia took over. The population in the industrial heartland in east Ukraine, next to Russia's border, revolted against the new rulers. A civil war, not a “Russian invasion”, ensued which the Ukrainian government largely lost. Lugansk and Donbas became rebel controlled statelets which depend of Russia. Russia took back Crimea, which in 1954 had been illegally gifted to Ukraine by then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, himself a Ukrainian.

To end the war in the east Ukraine, the French, German and Russian leaders pressed Poroshenko to sign a peace agreement with the eastern leaders. But the Minsk agreement was seen as a political defeat and Poroshenko never implemented it. The war in the east simmered on ever since. The extreme right-wing politicians, who gained notoriety after the Maidan coup, prohibited the use of the Russian language which more than 50% of the Ukrainians speak. All opposition was harshly suppressed.

The oligarchs continue their plunder. Everything of value gets sold off to EU countries. The US is allowed to build bases. Corruption, already endemic, further increased. The people came to despise Poroshenko.

In an attempt to regain support, Poroshenko launched a military provocation in the Kerch Strait which is under Russian control. The stunt was too obvious. Russia nabbed the sailors Poroshenko had send and confiscated their boats. No one came to Poroshenko's help.

One can watch the full story of the above in UKRAINE ON FIRE - The Real Story (vid), a just released 90 minutes long Oliver Stone documentary. An updated version of the documentary was supposed to run on the Ukraine TV station of pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk. The TV stations was forced to cancel it after right-wing groups mortared its its building in Kiev.

On March 31 new elections were held. Volodymyr Zelensky, a TV comedian who played a teacher who accidentally became president, won the first round. Zelensky is of Jewish heritage and from the east Ukraine. He speaks Russian, not Ukrainian.

The April run-off vote between Zelensky and Poroshenko was a disaster for the later. Zelensky received 73% of the votes. The only districts where Poroshenko won were in Galicia (map), where the descendants of the fascist who fought in World War II on the Nazi side still follow their forefathers ideology.

Zelensky wants to end the war in the east. He plans to work for better relations with Russia. His main domestic promise is to end the corruption throughout the government. But the parliament, still under control of the Maidan fascists, opposed him. Zelensky relieved the parliament and called for early elections. They were held yesterday and the results are now in.

Zelensky's party, named after his former TV show “The Servant of the People”, put forward mostly fresh, untainted candidates. It won by a large margin. It will have more than 50% of the 450 parliament seats. The prominent fascists lost.

The 2004 Orange Revolution was defeated by the 2009 election. The 2014 Maidan coup was defeated by the 2019 election. Evidently the revolution and coup plotters did not represent the people. But the Ukraine is still the Ukraine and unless someone defeats the oligarchs further intrigues are likely to happen.

Some allege that Zelensky is under influence of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. But so far there is little evidence to provide that.

The party which came in second is pro-Russian and won the majority vote in the east. It is controlled by Viktor Medvedchuk. Oliver Stone, in his recent interview with Vladimir Putin, discusses Medvedchuk's position on nationality with the Russian president. Putin rejects Medvedchuk claim that Russians in Ukraine belong to a Ukrainian nation. He sees all Russian people as part of one nationality.

Peter Porosheko and Yulia Tymoshenko lead the parties on the third and fourth place. They are themselves oligarchs. The populist Vakarchuk in the fifth place is backed by billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of ex-President Leonid Kuchma.

The Ukraine can not economically survive without good relations with Russia. The country depends to a large part on Russian energy sources but has no money to pay for them. When the new Nord Stream II pipeline between Russia and Germany comes online the current old pipeline through the Ukraine will no longer be needed. The Ukraine will have lost a pressure point that it often used to blackmail Russia for cheaper gas. Zelensky will have to make concessions to Russia, or the Ukraine will have to accept the full market price which it can not pay.

Zelensky will likely try to move the country back to a balanced positions between the “west” and Russia. With the large mandate he got and a secure majority in parliament he should have all the necessary means to achieve that.

But the “west” is unlikely to let him do that. The US wants to designate the Ukraine as a "major non-NATO ally" and use it against Russia.

Shortly after Zelensky was elected as president, “western” paid “civil society” groups issued a joint statement threatening a "third Maidan":
As civil society activists, we present a list of “red lines not to be crossed”. Should the President cross these red lines, such actions will inevitably lead to political instability in our country and the deterioration of international relations: 
...
Foreign Policy Issues:

- delaying, sabotaging, or rejecting the strategic course for EU and NATO membership; reducing political dialogue and destroying bilateral institutional mechanisms for cooperation with European and Euro-Atlantic partners

- initiating any actions that might contribute to the reduction or lifting of sanctions against the aggressor state by Ukraine’s international partners

- attempting to review any actions aimed at supporting international solidarity for Ukraine, restoring our territorial integrity, guaranteeing security and protecting the rights of all persons that have suffered from Russian aggression

...
National Identity: Language, Education, Culture

- attempting to review the language law

- attempting to review the law on education

- attempting to review the law on de-communization and condemnation of totalitarian crimes of the past

- implementing any actions aimed at undermining or discrediting the Orthodox Church of Ukraine or supporting the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine

...
The statement is signed by dozens of Soros, Omidyar, CIA and NATO funded organizations.
These “western” paid organizations support the fascists:
How can Ukraine prevent pro-Russian politics if voters prefer it? Another revolution, duh.

This movement is dubbed "The 25%," after their support for Poroshenko's failed reelection. Backers include allies from his party list: outgoing speaker of parliament Andriy Parubiy and state historian Volodymyr Vyatrovych — controversial nationalists who heroize figures implicated in the Holocaust as freedom fighters for independence from the Soviet Union. Parubiy takes credit for leading other Maidans. He and Vyatrovych are evangelists of "national liberation" and "national revolution" against Russian imperialism.

If there is a third Maidan, Ukraine's far right will lead it. Debunking Kremlin propaganda about Ukraine overrun by a fascist junta would grow even more difficult. It would also delight Moscow and further destabilize Kyiv – which is the opposite of what the West is supposed to be doing there.
One hopes that Zelensky is smart enough to foresee a "third Maidan". He should kick out all of them from the police and other forces. He should also raise the police pay. He will need their loyalty sooner than he might think.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Iran Keeps Calm While US And Britain Continue Their Provocations

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Great Britain has joined the US pressure and provocation campaign against Iran. It is creating incidents to put Iran into a defensive position and to provoke into a violent reaction.

Early today 'two US officials' spread a scare story about Iran which lead to this CNN headline: Iranian boats attempted to seize a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz
Armed Iranian boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday, according to two US officials with direct knowledge of the incident.

The British Heritage tanker was sailing out of the Persian Gulf and was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by boats from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, according to the officials.
The same 'two US officials' briefed ABCNews:
A British warship prevented an apparent attempt by five Iranian small boats to direct a British oil tanker towards Iranian waters on Wednesday, according to two US officials.
Remarkably the official British report came later than the US officials briefing. It showed significant differences:
The UK defence ministry said that "three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz."

"HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away," the ministry statement said.
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"There has been no confrontation in the last 24 hours with any foreign vessels, including British ones," the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement.
The US officials claimed 5, not 3 boats. They claimed the boats tried to seize the ship, while the Brits just say they probably were getting in the way of the ship. The US officials 'direct knowledge of the incident' seems to be lacking. Iran says that nothing happened at all.

There are reasons to believe that the Iranian statement is the most truthful one.

The BRITISH HERITAGE is a crude oil carrier with an overall length of 274 m, a beam of 49 m and a maximum draft of 17.8 m. How three of the typical 20 feet long fiberglass speedboats of the IRGC could try to 'seize' or even 'impede' such a huge ships is not conceivable.

According to CNN the ship came from Basra, Iraq, had stopped at the Saudi coast and then left the Persian Gulf. It was not carrying any cargo at the time of the incident. That is quite curious as a crude oil carrier is typical loading and not delivering crude to Persian Gulf countries.

Here is a Marine Traffic chart of the last course of the British Heritage.

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Of interest is also that the ship turned off its AIS signal, see the dotted line, during its passage through the Hormuz Strait.

CNN also noted that:
On July 10, the ship turned off its transponders for almost 24 hours, making it undetectable by radars. When it switched on its transponders at around 1pm Eastern Time, it appeared to have sailed through the Persian Gulf escorted by the HMS Montrose.
Turning of the AIS in a high traffic area and especially at night is quite dangerous. The AIS signals a ships type, speed and course and other ships use that data to plan their own course. But even without AIS the ship will still be visible on the Iranian surveillance radars that control the Hormuz Strait. A ship on the radar screen without AIS information would be suspicious.

So why would the British ship do that? Was that an attempt to draw special attention to it from the Iranian coast guard or military?

To me it seems that the empty British crude carrier, which was shadowed by a British frigate, was used as bait. There were probably Royal Marines on board waiting for an Iranian attempt to seize the ship. Iran did not fall for it.

On July 4 the British military in Gibraltar hijacked the tanker GRACE 1 which was carrying Iranian crude oil allegedly to Syria. The ship had planned to receive provisions in Gibraltar. The British controlled enclave changed its local regulations only a day before the ship arrived:
The new regulation, introduced on July 3, allows Gibraltar to designate and detain ‘specified ships’ for up to 72 hours if the chief minister has reasonable grounds to suspect a breach of EU regulations.

Crucially, Grace 1 can be held until any other legal proceedings in other jurisdictions against the owners of the cargo or tanker are settled. The seizure has triggered a diplomatic row between the UK and Iran, amid claims the detention was done at the behest of the US.
Tomasz Wlostowski, a lawyer specialized in EU regulatory affairs, found that there is no legal base in EU sanctions law and regulations to nab the tanker.

Today the police of Gibraltar arrested the captain of the ship:
The spokesman confirmed too that documents and electronic devices have been seized from the ship.

Both men were arrested on Thursday afternoon interviewed under caution. Neither has been charged at this stage and investigations continue.

On July 3 a US military spy plane crossed into Iranian airspace, twice, likely to provoke an reaction. The pirating of the GRACE 1 on July 4 was a US planned provocation of Iran but carried out by the Brits. The passage of the empty BRITISH HERITAGE without AIS but with a military shadow seems to have been an attempt to lure Iran into a revenge action. When that did not work John Bolton strew the scare story about a failed attempt to 'seize' the ship. The Brits say the incident was less serious, and Iran says it never happened. The arrest of the captain of the GRACE 1 is another step on the provocation ladder.

The people who planned these provocation do not understand how Iran acts and reacts. Its military forces are obviously under orders not to react to provocations as such could allow the John Bolton's of this world to escalate towards a war.

Iran will react to these provocations and especially the British seizure of its tanker. But, as we noted in an earlier piece, its responses to such incidents are nearly always asymmetrical and come at an unexpected place and time.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

On Eve Of 4th Of July Parade US Attempts To Lure Iran Into Shooting Down Another US Plane

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Today a manned US reconnaissance plane entered Iranian airspace in a clear attempt to provoke Iran into shooting it down. Such an incident would have created an occasion for Trump to give the American people a special 4th of July fireworks.

On July 3 1988 the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes shot down the civil Iranian Flight 655 with 290 people on board. The US claimed that the plane's transponder was signaling an Iranian military identification code, that it was seemingly attacking the Vincennes, that the ship warned the plane 12 times, and that the ship was in international waters when the incident happened.

The crew of the Vincennes received medals for killing the Iranian civilians.

Investigations showed (pdf) that all the above claims were false. The shoot down was intentional. Iran sued the US in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over it. The case was settled in 1996 when the US agreed to apologize and to pay $61.8 million to the families of the victims.

On June 20 a large US reconnaissance drone, accompanied by a manned US military airplane, flew into Iranian air space east of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot the drone down. The US threatened to strike Iran over the incident but Trump did not follow through.

There were reports that some people in the White House doubted that the US Central Command, the US military command for the Middle East, told it the full truth about the incident. Two days before the drone incident happened Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, had unusual talks with the US Central Command. This led to speculations that the incident was designed to provoke Iran into a shoot down and to push Trump into a war on Iran.

The case today is not in doubt. The US military definitely tried to provoke Iran into shooting down another one of its planes.

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The US Airforce RC-135V Rivet Joint are signal intelligence planes that snoop on other countries. The plane flew over the islands Abu Musa and Sirri in the Persian Gulf which are Iranian territory and Iranian airspace. It falsely signaled that it was an Iranian plane.

The aviation transponder of the US spy plane was set to a code that is associated with Iran. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) defined (pdf) 24-bit addresses that identify the type of the plane and the country where a plane is registered . The 24 bit codes for Iranian registered airplanes begins with the country identifier 0111 0011, written in hexadecimal as 73. The flight radar page that Manu Gomez used displays these 'S-Mode' transponder codes the airplane sends as a six digit hexadecimal number.

This use of code that identified the plane as Iranian was not a mistake but absolutely intentional:
The track shows that the plane was coming from west north west, probably Kuwait, and flew directly over Sirri Island and Abu Musa. It then immediately turned around and flew again over both islands.

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Detail of the tweeted screenshot

Sirri Island is the location of an oil platform that was destroyed by the US Navy forces on April 18, 1988. The island has a landing strip and there are several oil and gas installations on it.

Abu Musa is a 12.8 square kilometer (4.9 sq mi) inhabited island near the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz. It is, like Sirri, Iranian territory and Iran has troops stationed there. They likely have decent air defense systems. Abu Musa is the Iranian 'castle' that controls the Strait and most traffic west of it. Its strategic importance is immense.

After Iran shot down the US drone its foreign minister posted maps showing the flight path of the drone and the demarcation of the Iranian airspace (red line). It is obvious that the US plane today entered it.

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This morning the US spy plane willingly penetrated Iranian airspace. It squawked a fake code which showed ill intention. This happened on the 31st anniversary of Flight 655. The Iranian military would certainly still like to take revenge for that mass murder. It was a huge provocation likely intended to lure Iran into shooting it down.

Trump recently threatened to 'obliterate' some areas of Iran should it attack "anything American":
This led to speculation that Trump was threatening a nuclear strike.

Had Iran shot the plane down it would have been clearly within its rights. But imagine it had done so. A manned US reconnaissance plane, not a drone, would have come down and the crew would be dead. US media would scream for revenge.

It would have happened on the eve of Trump's 4th of July speech which will be followed by the military parade and overflight he ordered. 5,000 people from military families are invited to the event.

An ideal TV situation to announce that the US Commander in Chief ordered a small nuke to be used to 'obliterate' Abu Musa island, the castle that controls the Strait of Hormuz. The US public would have loved those 4th of July fireworks. Newpapers would headline "The Commander In Chief Demonstrated His Resolve!" Trump's approval rating would soar to above 80%.

It would take days until the information that the flight was an intended provocation would enter the news. US media would simply ignore it just as they ignored the evidence about Flight 655. No one in the US would care about it.

One wonders who came up with this nefarious plan. Was it Trump, the great showman, himself? Was that the reason why he ordered the military 4th July parade on such a short notice? Or was it John Bolton or Mike Pompeo? Some minion at the CIA or CentCom?

Whoever came up with it, and those who signed off to allow this incident to happen, will now be disappointed. Iran clearly did not fall into their trap.

The world owns a big thank you to the Iranian air defense crews on Abu Musa for their disciplined behavior.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Trump Seeks ‘Coalition Of The Willing’ Against Iran

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After a somewhat quiet weekend the Trump administration yesterday engaged in another push against Iran.

Monday the Treasury Department sanctioned the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It also sanctioned Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his office! There will be no more Disney Land visits for them.

There is more to come:

The Treasury Secretary will designate Javad Zarif as what? A terrorist? Zarif is quite effective in communicating the Iranian standpoint on Twitter and other social media. Those accounts will now be shut down.

The Trump administration's special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said today that Iran should respond to US diplomacy with diplomacy. Sanctioning Iran's chief diplomat is probably not the way to get there.

All those who get sanctioned by the US will gain in popularity in Iran. These US measures will only unite the people of Iran and strengthen their resolve.

Iran will respond to this new onslaught by asymmetric means of which it has plenty.

On Saturday Trump said that all he wants is that Iran never gets nuclear weapons. But the State Department wants much more. Hook today said that the US would only lift sanctions if a comprehensive deal is made that includes ballistic missile and human rights issues. Iran can not agree to that. But this is not the first time that Pompeo demanded more than Trump himself. Is it Pompeo, not Trump, who is pressing this expanded version to make any deal impossible?

Brian Hook is by the way a loon who does not even understand the meaning of what he himself says:

Those are two good arguments for Iran to never again agree to any deal with the 'non-agreement-capable' United States.

It seems obvious from the above that the Trump administration has no real interest in reasonable negotiations with Iran:

“The administration is not really interested in negotiations now,” said Robert Einhorn, a former senior State Department official who was involved in negotiations with Iranian officials during the Obama administration. “It wants to give sanctions more time to make the Iranians truly desperate, at which point it hopes the negotiations will be about the terms of surrender.”

That is part of the strategy. But the real issue is deeper:

Pro tip: Sanctions against #Iran aren’t to retaliate for the downed drone or to punish tanker attacks or to improve the nuclear deal or to help the Iranian people but to foment revolution against the regime. The strategy is regime change with velvet gloves.

The US now tries to build an international coalition against Iran. Trump invited China and Japan to protect their tankers in the Middle East:

One wonders what the US Central Command and the US Navy will say when that Chinese carrier group arrives in the Gulf region.

Who else will join this?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he wants to build a global coalition against Iran during urgent consultations in the Middle East, following a week of crisis that saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran.

Pompeo spoke as he left Washington for Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates, .. 
...
"We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said about Iran.

Pompeo was hastily sent to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Brian Hook is now in Oman and Bolton is in Israel. The US will also pressure Europe and NATO to join a new 'coalition of the willing'. The UK will likely follow any US call as it needs a trade deal to survive after Brexit.

Other countries are best advised to stay out.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.