All posts by 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, .. 
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"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.

Trump Administration Withholds Information That Could Debunk Russian Interference Claims

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On Tuesday Russia's President Putin again rejected US claims that his country interfered in the 2016 elections in the United States. Additional statements by Foreign Minister Lavrov provide that there is more information available about alleged Russian cyber issue during the election. He pointed to exchanges between the Russian and US governments that Russia wants published but which the US is withholding.

On Tuesday May 14 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Sochi to meet with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov and with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. It was Pompeo's first official visit to Russia. Pompeo's meeting with Lavrov was followed by a joined news conference. The statements from both sides touched on the election issue.

The State Department published a full transcript and video of the press conference in English language. The Russian Foreign Ministry provided an official English translation of only Lavrov's part. Both translations differ only slightly.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the opening statements with regard to cyber issues.

Lavrov:
We agreed on the importance of restoring communications channels that have been suspended lately, which was due in no small part to the groundless accusations against Russia of trying to meddle in the US election. These allegations went as far as to suggest that we colluded in some way with high-ranking officials from the current US administration. It is clear that allegations of this kind are completely false. [...] I think that there is a fundamental understanding on this matter as discussed by our presidents during their meeting last year in Helsinki, as well as during a number of telephone conversations. So far these understandings have not been fully implemented.
Pompeo:
[W]e spoke, too, about the question of interference in our domestic affairs. I conveyed that there are things that Russia can do to demonstrate that these types of activities are a thing of the past and I hope that Russia will take advantage of those opportunities.
During the Q & A Shaun Tanron of AFP asked Pompeo about the election issue:
[I]f I could follow up on your statement about the election, you said that there are things that Russia could do to show that election interference is a thing of the past. What are those things? What do – what would you like Russia to do? Thank you very much.
Lavrov responded first to the question. He said that there is no evidence that shows any Russian interference in the US elections. He continued:
Speaking about the most recent US presidential campaign in particular, we have had in place an information exchange channel about potential unintended risks arising in cyberspace since 2013. From October 2016 (when the US Democratic Administration first raised this issue) until January 2017 (before Donald Trump's inauguration), this channel was used to handle requests and responses. Not so long ago, when the attacks on Russia in connection with the alleged interference in the elections reached their high point, we proposed publishing this exchange of messages between these two entities, which engage in staving off cyberspace incidents. I reminded Mr Pompeo about this today. The administration, now led by President Trump, refused to do so. I’m not sure who was behind this decision, but the idea to publish this data was blocked by the United States. However, we believe that publishing it would remove many currently circulating fabrications. Of course, we will not unilaterally make these exchanges public, but I would still like to make this fact known.
The communication channel about cyber issues did indeed exist. In June 2013 the Presidents of the United States and Russia issued a Joint Statement about "Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)". The parties agreed to establishing communication channels between each other computer emergency response teams, to use the direct communication link of the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers for cyber issue exchanges, and to have direct communication links between high-level officials in the White House and Kremlin for such matter. A Fact Sheet published by the Obama White House detailed the implementation of these three channels.

One inference from Lavrov's statement is that the "fundamental understanding on this matter" between the two presidents that has "not been fully implemented" is the release of the communications about cyberspace incidents. The Russians clearly think that a release of the communications with the Obama administration would exculpate them. That would also exculpate Trump from any further collusion allegations. Why then does the Trump administration reject the release? Who is blocking it?

Pompeo did not respond to Lavrov's points. His next meeting that day was with President Putin.

Putin let him wait for three hours. Both sides issued short opening statements. The English translations of what Putin said differ. In the version provided by Russia Putin explicitely denies the alleged election interference:
For our part, we have said many times that we would also like to restore relations on a full scale. I hope that the necessary conditions for this are being created now since, despite the exotic character of Mr Mueller’s work, he should be given credit for conducting what is generally an objective inquiry. He reaffirmed the lack of any trace or collusion between Russia and the current administration, which we described as sheer nonsense from the very start. There was no, nor could there be any interference on our part in the US election at the government level. Nevertheless, regrettably, these allegations have served as a reason for the deterioration of our interstate ties.
The State Department version does not include the Russian denial of election interference but doubles the rejection of the collusion claim:
On our behalf, we have said it multiple times that we also would like to rebuild fully fledged relations, and I hope that right now a conducive environment is being built for that, because, though, however exotic the work of Special Counsel Mueller was, I have to say that on the whole he had a very objective investigation and he confirmed that there are no traces whatsoever of collusion between Russia and the incumbent administration, which we’ve said was absolutely fake. As we’ve said before, there was no collusion from our government officials and it could not be there. Still, that was – that was one of the reasons certainly breaking our (inaudible) ties.
An English language live translation of that paragraph (vid) by the Russian sponsored Ruptly does not include the word 'election' in the highlighted sentence, nor does a live translation (vid) by PBS.

It seem that the Kremlin later inserted the explicit denial of election interference into Putin's statement. It is quite possible that Putin, who did not read from a prepared paper, mangled the talking point that Lavrov had already made.

After the meeting Putin, Pompeo held a short press availability with the US journalists accompanying him. There is no mentioning of Lavrov's point.

There were secret communications between the Obama administration and the Russian government about the alleged election interference and 'hacks' of the DNC and of Clinton's campaign manager Podesta. They are not mentioned in the Mueller report nor in any other open source. As Russia wants these communications released it might be possible to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to press for their publication. The Trump administration response to such a FOIA request could at least reveal the reasons why it is withholding them.

The allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections are partly based on the fact that a commercial Russian enterprise used fake characters on Facebook to sell advertisement. A review of the themes and ideological positions those fake characters provided demonstrates that they were not designed to influence the US elections.

In contrast to those Russian fakes other fake characters on Facebook, provided by an Israeli company and revealed today, were clearly designed to influence elections:
Facebook said Thursday it banned an Israeli company that ran an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries and has canceled dozens of accounts engaged in spreading disinformation.
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Many were linked to the Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm that boasts of its social media skills and ability to "change reality."
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On its website, Archimedes presents itself as a consulting firm involved in campaigns for presidential elections.

Little information is available beyond its slogan, which is "winning campaigns worldwide," and a vague blurb about the group's "mass social media management" software, which it said enabled the operation of an "unlimited" number of online accounts.
Don't expect any protest from Washington DC about such obvious election interference in other countries.

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Hat tip to Aaron Maté for pointing out Lavrov's statement

Reprinted with permission from MoonOfAlabama.

Venezuela – Guaidó Got Snookered

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Yesterday's failed coup attempt in Venezuela significantly hurt the Trump administration's international standing. It delegitimized its Venezuelan clients Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López. After recognizing that their original 'regime change' plan failed (again) the White House starts to beat the war drums.

That wasn't the plan:
The Trump administration, which has backed Mr. Guaidó since he first challenged Mr. Maduro’s authority more than three months ago, clearly thought the day would unfold differently.
There is no official explanation why the Trump administration believed that the comical coup attempt by Juan Guaidó and his master Leopolo López would work.

There are signs though that the government of President Nicolas Maduro set a trap. Several people in the top echelon of the Venezuelan government gave false promises that they would join the US proxy side. They snookered Guaidó into launching his coup to let him fail.

A Washington Post wrap-up says that everyone expected important people to change sides:
The chaos in Caracas indicated that, while a plan had been in motion, it may not have unfolded as anticipated. 
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Announcements by senior Maduro officials that they were changing sides did not materialize, and the administration appeared increasingly concerned as it debated next steps. 
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Earlier Tuesday, Bolton had told reporters that Trump is watching political developments in Venezuela 'minute by minute.' Bolton also put unusual public pressure on individual Venezuela government officials to renounce Maduro and embrace the political opposition. 
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“It’s a very delicate moment,” Bolton said. 'The president wants to see a peaceful transfer of power,' which he added would be possible if enough military and government figures switch allegiances. 
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In an apparent attempt to divide Maduro’s government, Bolton said senior officials, including Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, had been in secret talks with Guaidó, and he called on them to “make good on their commitments” to help oust Maduro. 
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Bolton called by name for three officials in Venezuela — the defense minister, the chief judge of the Supreme Court, and the commander of the presidential guard — to support Guaidó taking power. 
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A senior Latin American official said opposition talks had been going on with Padrino and the other two for 'the last several weeks,' and that the three had been promised retention in their current positions if they came out publicly in support of “constitutional order” that would allow Guaidó to take power. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the fast-moving and confusing situation, said those involved in the negotiations had no initial explanation for what went wrong, ... 
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Elliott Abrams, the administration’s special envoy for Venezuela, told reporters Tuesday that the United States had expected Padrino, along with the head of the Maduro-appointed Supreme Court and the head of the national guard, to declare their support for the Venezuelan constitution, if not necessarily for Guaidó himself. 
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He said that opposition figures had held discussions with the three influential officials in Maduro’s government ahead of those planned demonstrations. 
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Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s ambassador to the United States, also said Monday that the opposition leadership had had 'conversations with part of the inner circle of Maduro' and that “they know that Maduro is not going anywhere. That Maduro is the past . . . and that’s why they want to look for a different future for Venezuela.”
Everyone in Washington believed that significant figures in the Venezuelan government would change sides. They did not do so. Vladimir Padrino rejected the coup within an hour after Guaidó announced it. It seems that the Guaidó side got played by the Venezuelan Defense Minister and several other officials and officers. They seem to have promised to support Guaidó only to bait him into taking steps that would embarrass him.

A McClatchy piece headlined "What went wrong?" seems to confirm this interpretation:
Shortly after Guaidó gave his predawn speech at the Carlota Air Force Base in Caracas, rumors spread that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Jose Ornelias and powerful commander Jesús Suárez Chourio were behind the military uprising. But just as quickly both men joined a growing list of officials swearing loyalty to Maduro. 
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That military officials who owe their careers and livelihood to Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela didn’t abandon him shouldn’t have come as a surprise, said a former US diplomat in Washington, who would only talk on background.

He said he’d known about Guaidós plans to call for an uprising for at least 10 days.

'If I knew it, then everyone knew it,' he said. 'The [Maduro] regime saw it coming and was prepared. The regime probably even knew that people in the government were talking to the opposition and probably even approved of it.'
The total failure of the coup is obvious when one looks at what happened to Leopoldo López, the mentor of Juan Guaidó. He was under house arrest for leading the violent demonstrations and deadly riots in 2014. Yesterday morning the guards let him go. While the circumstances are not clear, the police chief responsible for the guards has been fired. López promised his followers that he would go to the Miraflores Presidential Palace. But he wasn't even able to leave eastern Caracas. Yesterday evening López, with his wife and daughter, fled into the Chilean embassy. They seem to have disliked the accommodations. Two hours later they moved into the Spanish embassy. While the embassy food may be good, it will be a quite different life than in their own comfortable mansion. A few of the soldiers who supported Guaidó took refuge in the Brazilian embassy. Guaidó is still free.

McClatchy also looked at the consequences of the failing coup:
' .. Guaidó’s move is also a highly precarious bet,' [Risa Grais-Targow, an analyst with the Eurasia Group,] wrote. 'If Maduro can successfully put down the rebellion, it will be a strong signal that he still enjoys a high degree of military support, which in turn will probably deflate the opposition.' 
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Guaidó took a risk announcing the military support, [Venezuela security expert Brian Fonseca, a former Marine and US Southern Command intelligence analyst who now serves as the director of the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy at Florida International University] said, and if the Army does not back him, it could be crippling. 'If today’s movement falls flat — what does that mean for credibility of the Guaidó movement?'
Guaidó and his backers in the Trump administration were made to believe that some significant elements of the Maduro government and of the army would turn on Maduro. They launched a coup attempt that fell apart within a few hours as no one changed sides. All their blustering has now been deflated. Guaidó has lost his credibility. Washington may still support him but in Caracas there is likely no one left who believes in him.

Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams and of course Donald Trump have been exposed as buffoons who, despite their powerful positions, can not even organize a simple coup. They publicly supported through dozens of tweets and interviews what turned out be a bad amateur theater play. The diplomatic corps will joke about this episode for the next decade.

As the Saker remarks:
The Empire only appears to be strong. In reality it is weak, confused, clueless and, most importantly, run by a sad gang of incompetent thugs who think that they can scare everybody into submission in spite of not having won a single significant war since 1945. The inability to break the will of the people of Venezuela is only the latest symptom of this mind-boggling weakness.
When it became obvious that the coup attempt failed, the White House started to blame others. It claimed that Russia dissuaded Maduro from fleeing the country. It said that Cuba, which has 20,000 doctors but no soldiers in Venezuela, controlled the Venezuelan military and prevented its uprising. It is now starting to beat the war drums.

Having lost face the Trump administration today upped its rhetoric:
Washington is open for 'military action' in dealing with Venezuela’s crisis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced. Softening his war-mongering rhetoric, he said that a peaceful option is still more preferable.

'If the question is, is the United States prepared to consider military action if that’s what it takes to restore the democracy there in Venezuela, the [US] president’s been consistent and unambiguous about that, that the option to use military force is available if that’s what is ultimately called for,' Pompeo said in an interview on Fox News.
The Trump administration also launched what can be considered to be psychological warfare:
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday evening issued an orderprohibiting US air operators from flying below 26,000 feet in Venezuela’s airspace until further notice, citing “increasing political instability and tensions”.

The FAA notice said any air operators currently in Venezuela, which would include private jets, should depart within 48 hours. 
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American Airlines Group Inc in March said it was indefinitely suspending its flights to Venezuela, as the country continued to struggle with political turmoil and unrest.
Several other airlines also canceled their flights:
Spanish airline Air Europa says Wednesday’s Caracas flights have been canceled. Flights over the next 10 days also might also be affected because of the “latest developments” in Venezuela.

The Caracas-based travel agency Molina Viajes says flights to and from Miami on Wednesday have been suspended.

Estelar airline says its Wednesday flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Caracas has been cancelled. However, it says flights to and from Peru and Chile are operating.
Such FAA orders are only given for countries where an active air war is going on and where air-defense weapons are expected to be fired. For now no one believes that the US will launch cruise missiles or make bombing runs on Venezuela. It would be in no way justified.

Then again - what might it do should a 'massacre' happen in Venezuela. If hundreds of Guaidó supporters get mowed down by machine gun wielding troops in a false flag operation, the US would surely accuse the Maduro government. With the US media and the Democratic Party fully aligned with the White House regime change strategy there would be little resistance to the use of force. A 'humanitarian' bombing run against Venezuelan government targets, primarily its air defenses, might then be considered to be the right response.

Here is another ominous sign (Spanish, machine translated) that something is up:
The acting Secretary of Defense of the USA, Patrick Shanahan, canceled a trip to Europe that was due to begin this Wednesday, May 1, in order to "coordinate more efficiently" with other branches of the Government, both the situation in Venezuela and the Army's mission in the border with Mexico.

'Secretary Shanahan will no longer travel to Europe, as he has decided that staying in Washington DC will allow him to coordinate more efficiently with the White House National Security Council (NSC) and the State Department the situation in Venezuela.', the Pentagon said in a statement. 
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During his tour of Europe, Shanahan had planned to travel to Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
Another sign that something is up is a phone call (Russian, machine translated) today between the Foreign Minister of Russia Sergej Lavrov and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:
On May 1, on the American initiative, a telephone conversation took place between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, and the US Secretary of State, M. Pompeo.

The focus was on the situation in Venezuela, where on the eve of the opposition, with the clear support of the United States, attempted to seize power. It was stressed on the Russian side that Washington’s interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, the threat against its leadership is a gross violation of international law. It is indicated that the continuation of aggressive steps is fraught with the most serious consequences. Only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their destiny, for which the dialogue of all political forces in the country is demanded, for which its Government has long called for. A destructive external influence, especially a forceful one, has nothing to do with the democratic process.
The generals in the Pentagon will not like the rhetorical build-up at all. They will look at their maps and find that Venezuela is twice the size of Iraq and 30% larger than Afghanistan. It has impenetrable jungles, mountains and slums that even Venezuelan troops do not dare to enter. It has a functioning army and halfway decent air defenses which were recently upgraded by Russian specialists.

It is unlikely that Trump wants to launch a war on Venezuela. He likely knows that it would not be a cake walk, and that it would be a severe risk for his reelection. But who knows what Bolton or Pompeo might tell him to get their way. They just got snookered by the Maduro government. Why would they not snooker Trump?

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Libya – From Gaddafi To Hafter

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In March 2011 the United Kingdom, France and the US set out to destroy the government of Libya. Muslim Brotherhood militia and al-Qaeda aligned forces, equipped by Qatar and supported by Britain, took the eastern city of Benghazi. The US airforce destroyed government troops on the ground and helped the militants to capture and murder Muhammar Ghaddafi. Chaos ensued as various tribal forces, local militia and Islamist fought over control of the cities and the spoils.

One person who tried to insert himself into the chaos as new leader of Libya was the former general Khalifa Haftar. He had taken part in the coup that brought Ghaddafi to power but later fell out with him and changed sides. The CIA sponsored him to launch a coup against Ghaddafi. The coup failed and since 1990 Hafter lived in Virginia where he also became a US citizen.

Haftar's attempt to take power among the chaos of 2011 failed. The Muslim Brotherhood aligned militia saw him as a secular Ghaddafi follower and rejected him. The situation changed in 2014 after the military in Egypt ousted the Muslim Brotherhood aligned president Morsi from power. Egypt, under the new president Sisi, feared the Islamist gangs in Libya and wanted to eliminate them. Hafter was called up to build an army and to take over Benghazi. The United Arab Emirates financed the project. With UAE money, Egyptian air support, Russian supplies, French intelligence and special forces support Hafter slowly defeated the various Islamist gangs and took control over Benghazi.

It took him more than three years to consolidate his control and to build up his Libyan National Army (LNA) that would allow him to take the western parts of Libya.

Those western parts, including the capital Tripolis, are controlled by various feuding families, clans and tribes, each with their own militia. There is also a nominal Government of National Accord under Fayez al-Sarraj. It is recognized by the UN but has no forces of its own. It depends on the support of local militia in Tripoli and support coming from the coastal city of Misrata. That city has a strong tribal militia which even operates a small air force.

Libya - January 1 2019
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Misrata is also what blocked Hafter from moving his troops from Benghazi in the east along the coast towards Tripoli in the west. The blocking force made it necessary for Hafter to move through the thinly populated south and then west and again north towards Tripoli. An attempt to do so in 2018 failed when local forces in the southwest (pink), supported by Algeria's military, resisted Haftar's move.

This year Algeria has its own problems as mass protests forced its president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down. The Algerian military is busy at home with installing a new ruler. Hafter, with the help of UAE money, bought off the southwestern forces and thereby opened the roads towards Tripoli. He also took control of Sirte in the north and the El Sharara oil fields near Wasi al Hayaa in the south. The field produces some 300,000 barrels of oil per day which can be exported through Sirte's ports. Control of these assets gave Haftar a huge power boost.

Libya - April 6 2019
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Haftar's LNA is now some 20 miles from Tripoli but resistance from local militia and from forces sent from Misrata is building up. Yesterday Haftar's military briefly took the defunct international airport of Tripoli but was soon ousted. Today fighter jets launched from Misrata attacked his forces.

Tripoli - April 6 2019
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If Hafter wants to succeed he will have to take the road between Tripoli and Misrata to split his enemies. He could then take Tripoli and announce his own national government. There are rumors that some of the warlords in Tripoli are willing to change sides and to join Haftar.

Hafter has open support from France, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia. The Trump administration is not interested to step into the mess. Hafter is an old CIA asset and if he takes control there is a good chance that the US will have influence over him. As long as Libyan oil flows and keeps the global oil price down Trump will be happy. Russia is trying to stay in the background to not give the anti-Russian forces in Washington an excuse to intervene.

The Muslim Brothers, supported by Turkey and Qatar, are still in play in Misrata but have otherwise lost their influence on the ground.

Hafter and his troops seem to have nearly all advantages on their side. Their supply route from Benghazi through the south towards Tripoli is too long, but France is helping to protect it by keeping rebels from Chad and Mali in Libya's south under control. The Egyptian air force may well help again and destroy whatever planes Misrata has left.

But war is unpredictable and militia in Libya have often changed sides on a moments notice. It may take 10 days to take Tripoli without many casualties or 100 days of intense fighting. The attempt could even fail.

Libya is a divers tribal country that is unlikely to function as a democracy. A strongman like Muhammad Ghaddafi can control it by distributing the income from its mineral resources and by keeping the Islamists down. Hafter may be able to replicate that.

But he is 75 years old. A years ago he was evacuated to France for some medical emergency procedures. His sons, two of which lead some of his militia, are of unknown quality. Another problem is brewing in Benghazi where Wahabbi preachers, trained in Saudi Arabia, replaced Muslim Brotherhood preachers and now introduce Saudi style rule over women and local culture.

A strongman ruling all of Libya from Tripoli is certainly better for Libya and its people than the long chaos that ensued after the war the US, Britain and France waged against the country. Given some time Hafter may well achieve that. But he is not a long-term solution. The best one can hope for is that he wins enough time for Libya to come back to its senses and for the civil war to die down. 

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Libya – From Gaddafi To Hafter

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In March 2011 the United Kingdom, France and the US set out to destroy the government of Libya. Muslim Brotherhood militia and al-Qaeda aligned forces, equipped by Qatar and supported by Britain, took the eastern city of Benghazi. The US airforce destroyed government troops on the ground and helped the militants to capture and murder Muhammar Ghaddafi. Chaos ensued as various tribal forces, local militia and Islamist fought over control of the cities and the spoils.

One person who tried to insert himself into the chaos as new leader of Libya was the former general Khalifa Haftar. He had taken part in the coup that brought Ghaddafi to power but later fell out with him and changed sides. The CIA sponsored him to launch a coup against Ghaddafi. The coup failed and since 1990 Hafter lived in Virginia where he also became a US citizen.

Haftar's attempt to take power among the chaos of 2011 failed. The Muslim Brotherhood aligned militia saw him as a secular Ghaddafi follower and rejected him. The situation changed in 2014 after the military in Egypt ousted the Muslim Brotherhood aligned president Morsi from power. Egypt, under the new president Sisi, feared the Islamist gangs in Libya and wanted to eliminate them. Hafter was called up to build an army and to take over Benghazi. The United Arab Emirates financed the project. With UAE money, Egyptian air support, Russian supplies, French intelligence and special forces support Hafter slowly defeated the various Islamist gangs and took control over Benghazi.

It took him more than three years to consolidate his control and to build up his Libyan National Army (LNA) that would allow him to take the western parts of Libya.

Those western parts, including the capital Tripolis, are controlled by various feuding families, clans and tribes, each with their own militia. There is also a nominal Government of National Accord under Fayez al-Sarraj. It is recognized by the UN but has no forces of its own. It depends on the support of local militia in Tripoli and support coming from the coastal city of Misrata. That city has a strong tribal militia which even operates a small air force.

Libya - January 1 2019
undefined


Misrata is also what blocked Hafter from moving his troops from Benghazi in the east along the coast towards Tripoli in the west. The blocking force made it necessary for Hafter to move through the thinly populated south and then west and again north towards Tripoli. An attempt to do so in 2018 failed when local forces in the southwest (pink), supported by Algeria's military, resisted Haftar's move.

This year Algeria has its own problems as mass protests forced its president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down. The Algerian military is busy at home with installing a new ruler. Hafter, with the help of UAE money, bought off the southwestern forces and thereby opened the roads towards Tripoli. He also took control of Sirte in the north and the El Sharara oil fields near Wasi al Hayaa in the south. The field produces some 300,000 barrels of oil per day which can be exported through Sirte's ports. Control of these assets gave Haftar a huge power boost.

Libya - April 6 2019
undefined

Haftar's LNA is now some 20 miles from Tripoli but resistance from local militia and from forces sent from Misrata is building up. Yesterday Haftar's military briefly took the defunct international airport of Tripoli but was soon ousted. Today fighter jets launched from Misrata attacked his forces.

Tripoli - April 6 2019
undefined


If Hafter wants to succeed he will have to take the road between Tripoli and Misrata to split his enemies. He could then take Tripoli and announce his own national government. There are rumors that some of the warlords in Tripoli are willing to change sides and to join Haftar.

Hafter has open support from France, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia. The Trump administration is not interested to step into the mess. Hafter is an old CIA asset and if he takes control there is a good chance that the US will have influence over him. As long as Libyan oil flows and keeps the global oil price down Trump will be happy. Russia is trying to stay in the background to not give the anti-Russian forces in Washington an excuse to intervene.

The Muslim Brothers, supported by Turkey and Qatar, are still in play in Misrata but have otherwise lost their influence on the ground.

Hafter and his troops seem to have nearly all advantages on their side. Their supply route from Benghazi through the south towards Tripoli is too long, but France is helping to protect it by keeping rebels from Chad and Mali in Libya's south under control. The Egyptian air force may well help again and destroy whatever planes Misrata has left.

But war is unpredictable and militia in Libya have often changed sides on a moments notice. It may take 10 days to take Tripoli without many casualties or 100 days of intense fighting. The attempt could even fail.

Libya is a divers tribal country that is unlikely to function as a democracy. A strongman like Muhammad Ghaddafi can control it by distributing the income from its mineral resources and by keeping the Islamists down. Hafter may be able to replicate that.

But he is 75 years old. A years ago he was evacuated to France for some medical emergency procedures. His sons, two of which lead some of his militia, are of unknown quality. Another problem is brewing in Benghazi where Wahabbi preachers, trained in Saudi Arabia, replaced Muslim Brotherhood preachers and now introduce Saudi style rule over women and local culture.

A strongman ruling all of Libya from Tripoli is certainly better for Libya and its people than the long chaos that ensued after the war the US, Britain and France waged against the country. Given some time Hafter may well achieve that. But he is not a long-term solution. The best one can hope for is that he wins enough time for Libya to come back to its senses and for the civil war to die down. 

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

Judge Identifies CIA Related Man Who Led The Raid On North Korea’s Embassy In Spain

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A Spanish judge released new information about a raid on the embassy of North Korea in Spain. The leader of the raid was a shady US 'activist' who earlier reports from Spain associated with the CIA.

On March 13 the Spanish newspaper El Pais Spain reported that Spanish authorities identified two CIA related persons who took part in a raid of the North Korean embassy in Madrid. The raid happened on February 22, a few days before the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, and seemed designed to influence that event. We asked Who Ordered The CIA To Assault North Korea's Embassy In Spain?
The embassy raid was no normal thievery. There were eight people in the embassy when it was raided at 3:00 PM local time. They were bound, bags were put over their heads and some were interrogated. The thieves left with computer hardware and the cellphones of the personnel.
The Spanish version of the El Pais piece included this detail (machine translated):
After analyzing the recordings of the security cameras in the area, questioning the hostages and analyzing the diplomatic vehicles used in the flight, it has been possible to identify some of the assailants. Although the majority were Koreans, at least two of them have been recognized by the Spanish information services for their links with the American CIA.

The indications that point to the US espionage service, in probable cooperation with that of South Korea, are so strong that Spanish interlocutors have contacted the CIA to ask for explanations. The response was negative, but "unconvincing", according to Government sources.
Two days after the El Pais report the Washington Post national security reporter claimed that the raid was done by a shady group of allegedly North Korean revolutionaries. The report was based on anonymous sources and a 'former' CIA analyst. The group was identified as Cheollima Civil Defense or Free Jaseon.

As the group and its website had all the signs of a CIA regime change front Moon of Alabamaheadlined:

  CIA Blames Its Proxy For Its Raid On North Korea's Embassy In Spain

We also noted that the British Sun related the group to the South Korean spy service which is essentially a subsidiary of the CIA.

Yesterday a Spanish judge lifted the seal of the case and issued arrest warrants against two of the people involved in the raid:
De la Mata identified citizens of Mexico, the United States and South Korea as the main suspects being investigated on charges that include of causing injuries, making threats and burglary. He named Adrian Hong Chang, a Mexican citizen living in the United States, as the break-in’s leader.

Hong Chang flew to the US on Feb. 23, got in touch with the FBI and offered to share material and videos with federal investigators, according to the court report.
...
While in Madrid, Hong Chang also applied for a new passport at the Mexican Embassy, the investigation found, and used the name “Oswaldo Trump” to register in the Uber ride-hailing app.
...
Others identified as part of the assailants’ group were Sam Ryu, from the US, and Woo Ran Lee, a South Korean citizen. Their whereabouts and their hometowns weren’t immediately known. None of the suspects were thought to be still in Spain, the judge wrote.
The New York Times adds:
Mr. Hong Chang left for Lisbon and then boarded a plane to Newark Liberty International Airport, where he landed on Feb. 23, according to Judge de la Mata. He said that Mr. Hong Chang got in touch with the F.B.I. and offered to share “audiovisual material” obtained during the embassy attack.
On March 20 the Cheollima Civil Defense group uploaded a new short video to its Youtube channel. It says "Recently, on our homeland's soil .." and then shows a man, face hidden, taking pictures of the deceased North Korean rulers Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il off a wall and smashing them on the floor. Embassy grounds are considered to be territory of the country they represent. It is likely that the video "on our homeland's soil" was made during the raid on the North Korean embassy in Spain.

After the Spanish judge's report appeared, the Cheollima entity published a Facts about Madrid pamphlet that confirmed its role and its contact with the FBI. It claims to feel betrayed:
No information about Madrid was shared with any parties with the expectation of any benefit or money in exchange. The organization shared certain information of enormous potential value with the FBI in the United States, under mutually agreed terms of confidentiality. This information was shared voluntarily and on their request, not our own. Those terms appear to have been broken.

Some time later, some journalists began writing speculative stories about the incident in Madrid, and the identities or affiliations of those involved, citing US government sources. That information was leaked to the media was a profound betrayal of trust. We ourselves never spoke to the media or shared any information with them.

We did not begin this work without full knowledge of the risks we bear. Freedom has already been paid with the blood of families and colleagues. Some of us will be imprisoned, tortured or killed in the course of this fight. But to share information that may help identify any of us who take risks to protect others is to aid and abet the regime in Pyongyang. The leaks and breaches of trust were abhorrent acts pursued in the name of political expediency, in service to a regime who has tortured and killed millions.
The person identified as leader of the raiding party, Adrian Hong Chang, is a know anti-North Korea activist. He usually goes under the name Adrian Hong, not Hong Chang as the AP and NYT reports claim:
Hong was the co-founder and Executive Director of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), an international NGO devoted to human rights in North Korea. In May 2006, LINK helped arrange the first asylum to be given to North Korean refugees by the US.

Hong was arrested and deported from China for his efforts to help North Korean refugees living in the country illegally.
...
In 2009, Hong was selected as a TED fellow and an Arnold Wolfers Fellow at Yale University.
A 2007 UN Human Rights Council paper (pdf) list Hong as a member of Freedom House, a neo-conservative infested influence organization largely funded by the US State Department.

Over the years Adrian Hong wrote several op-eds for US outlets. A 2011 piece in Foreign Policy calls for violent regime change:
The time to topple the criminal government in Pyongyang is now. Here's how to do it.

The very progress of our global civilization is for naught if we continue to let the very idea of North Korea exist. North Korea is not a failed state, with warlords fighting for land and treasure. Its atrocities do not stem from factional fighting, crimes of passion, or mob violence. It is on another level entirely — a staggering system entirely built and mastered for the express purpose of propagating human suffering and ensuring the continued exploitation of the people so that the very few can benefit.

It is a moral obligation of the highest order that the international community intervene. What can be done, we must do — and now is the time.
Foreign Policy and other outlets introduce Adrian Hong as "Managing Director of Pegasus Strategies LLC". There are several companies under that name but none that seems to be related to Adrian Hong.

Cheollima, as the Adrian Hong's related regime change entity calls itself, is a mythical winged horse in Asian folklore. Pegasus is a winged horse in Greek mythology.

A 2016 San Diego Union Tribune piece introduces him as:
Hong, a San Diego native, is president of the Joseon Institute, an independent think tank undertaking policy-relevant research and planning in preparation for dramatic change on the Korean peninsula. He was imprisoned in China in 2006 for helping North Korean refugees escape.
At one point the Cheollima Civil Defense Group renamed itself to "Free Joseon". The Joseon dynasty ruled Korea from 1392 to 1897. It went down when Japan tried to gain control of the country which it achieved a few years later.

The Joseon Institute in New York(?) is preparing for regime change in North Korea:
The Joseon Institute draws on on cutting-edge research from the Korean Peninsula and the region, as well as international best practices and learnings from other sudden transitions in the past century, successful and failed, to best prepare for a new North Korea. A core team of scholars and staff in New York City works with a wide-network of world-class scholars, resident and non-resident fellows, policymakers, practitioners, researchers and volunteer collaborators around the world.

While much of the effort remains highly sensitive, the resulting research, blueprints and action plans will be provided to key government stakeholders invested in the future of the Korean Peninsula. Full cooperation, information sharing and assistance will be offered by the Joseon Institute to whatever entity is presiding over change.
While the Union Tribune introduces Adrian Hong as "president of Joseon Institute", the 'Institute's website says that the 'Leadership' of the group is "To be announced." Its 'Senior Fellows' and 'Fellows' are "Undisclosed." The site list twelve 'Planning Commissions' and four 'Task Forces' but zero content or persons related to them. It lists more than 23 'currently available positions' but seems to have hired no one. The two 'Events' listed at the site are from 2015. It says that Facebook hosted an event on April 1 2015 in New York about Education In A New North Korea. The 'Event Overview' lists a "Introduction to the Joseon Institute - Adrian Hong". There is no evidence that the event took place. The latest 'News' item on the site is an August 10, 2017 Update From The Joseon Institute with lots of claims of work done but zero content or links that provide evidence of such work.

The board of advisors of the Joseon Institute consists of a former prime minister of Libya who was "elected" after the murder of Muhammad Ghaddafi, a former prime minister of Mongolia, and the conservative Member of the British Parliament Fiona Bruce. A 2011 Financial Times piece - Christian Tories rewrite party doctrine - associates Fiona Bruce with evangelical Christians. Evangelicals are involved in "rescuing" North Korean defectors in China, something that Cheollima entity and Adrian Wong also claim to have done.

One wonders if any of these persons know of the high honor bestowed on them by being named as advisor to the empty hull of a regime change 'Institute'.

The other persons involved in the raid, Woo Ram Lee and Sam Ryu, are unlike Adrian Hong not easily identifiable.

The case of Adrian Hong and the raid on the embassy in Madrid will likely escalate. The Washington Post notes that the Spanish judge seeks their extradition from the United States to Spain where they will face up to 28 years in prison.

The NYT adds that the group has evidently prepared for a legal fight:
Lee Wolosky, a former national security and State Department official in several American administrations, said he had been retained as legal counsel by the group, which he said was called the Provisional Government of Free Joseon, or Cheollima Civil Defense.
Wolosky is a high caliber lawyer who for many years served on the National Security Council. As private lawyer he was involved in several legal cases related to 'national security'. He at least once used a variant of graymailing, 'a defensive tactic in an espionage trial whereby theaccused threatens to reveal secret information unless the charges are dropped':
Wolosky has led or co-led some of the firm's high-profile matters in recent years, including [...] Restis v United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a precedent-setting private defamation case in which the United States Government asserted the state secrets privilege, resulting in a victory for Wolosky's client UANI.

Should Wolosky defend Adrian Hong in a legal fight against the Spanish extradition request he might threaten to reveal secrets the US would not like to have published. The case would then be put down.
Hiring Wolosky must be expensive.

Adrian Hong and the Cheollima group, if it exists at all, have no apparent sources of income. One wonders through which routes the US and/or South Korean secret services finance this game.

Reprinted with permission form Moon of Alabama.

Netanyahu Asks Arabs to ‘Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran’

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The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the Europeans rejected that.

The State Department then changed the agenda:
“The idea was to have a conference, a ministerial, and basically break our diplomatic isolation on Iran,” said a person familiar with the planning of the event. “It started out as an Iran conference in disguise but has probably actually been forced to take on more actual broader Middle East content now."

The person added: “They changed some of the focus and were forced to pony up with content on Syria and Yemen particularly."

The meeting took place today but the European powers did not fall for the trick. They want keep the nuclear agreement with Iran:

Even Poland on Tuesday said it disagreed with the U.S. approach to Iran. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters the nuclear pact was valuable and expressed hope the conference could help participants find common ground.

While the U.S. delegation includes Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, other major players have either refused to attend or are sending low-level delegations. The EU’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said she had other commitments.

Germany and France only sent lower level staff. The British foreign minister will only attend a side session on Yemen.

The State Department went to some length to obfuscate the real purpose of the conference. Its press statement today says:

The agenda is wide-ranging, and will include a discussion of the Administration’s efforts to promote a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a conversation on how to address ongoing regional humanitarian crises. The Secretary will provide an update on the situation in Syria and discuss other U.S. priorities in the region, including concerns regarding Iran’s destructive activities.

Smaller breakout sessions will provide ministers the opportunity to focus on specific areas of concern such as missile development and proliferation, cyber security and emerging threats, and terrorism and illicit finance.

That State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:

I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran."

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[Update 3:40pm]

The statement has now been changed into "combating Iran". But that is not what Netanyahoo said in Warsaw and there is video to prove it. There were also witnesses:

Aron Heller @aronhellerap 18:44 utc - 13 Feb 2019

Did @netanyahu really say “war” with Iran? I was there and the word was ”milchama” = war.

[End Update]

Why is Netanyahoo doing this?

No other country, except maybe the U.S.,  has any interest in waging war on Iran. Certainly not the Arab countries near the Persian Gulf. In case of a war they are all extremely vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. Their oil and gas installations would be in serious danger. The desalination plants which provide their drinking water are all within easy reach of Iranian missiles.

By claiming that the conference is about waging war on Iran Netanyahoo is not only embarrassing the State Department and Secretary Mike Pompeo. He also makes it extremely difficult for other attendees to justify their presence. The Arabs will be especially furious that they are shown in such an open alliance with Israel and its hostility against Iran. Scheming with Israel in the dark is fine. But being publicly associated with a war mongering Israel is difficult to sell to their people. It would be unsurprising to see some of them leave.

The whole conference is an own goal for the Trump administration. Instead of showing unity with its allies it now only demonstrates the depth or their disagreement. Netanyahoo's statement may help him to win some votes in the upcoming election in Israel. But the hoped for alliance with the Gulf Arabs is now as far off as it has ever been.

Reprinted with permission from MoonOfAlabama.

Netanyahu Asks Arabs to ‘Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran’

undefined

The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the Europeans rejected that.

The State Department then changed the agenda:
“The idea was to have a conference, a ministerial, and basically break our diplomatic isolation on Iran,” said a person familiar with the planning of the event. “It started out as an Iran conference in disguise but has probably actually been forced to take on more actual broader Middle East content now."

The person added: “They changed some of the focus and were forced to pony up with content on Syria and Yemen particularly."

The meeting took place today but the European powers did not fall for the trick. They want keep the nuclear agreement with Iran:

Even Poland on Tuesday said it disagreed with the U.S. approach to Iran. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters the nuclear pact was valuable and expressed hope the conference could help participants find common ground.

While the U.S. delegation includes Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, other major players have either refused to attend or are sending low-level delegations. The EU’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said she had other commitments.

Germany and France only sent lower level staff. The British foreign minister will only attend a side session on Yemen.

The State Department went to some length to obfuscate the real purpose of the conference. Its press statement today says:

The agenda is wide-ranging, and will include a discussion of the Administration’s efforts to promote a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a conversation on how to address ongoing regional humanitarian crises. The Secretary will provide an update on the situation in Syria and discuss other U.S. priorities in the region, including concerns regarding Iran’s destructive activities.

Smaller breakout sessions will provide ministers the opportunity to focus on specific areas of concern such as missile development and proliferation, cyber security and emerging threats, and terrorism and illicit finance.

That State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:

I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran."

undefined

[Update 3:40pm]

The statement has now been changed into "combating Iran". But that is not what Netanyahoo said in Warsaw and there is video to prove it. There were also witnesses:

Aron Heller @aronhellerap 18:44 utc - 13 Feb 2019

Did @netanyahu really say “war” with Iran? I was there and the word was ”milchama” = war.

[End Update]

Why is Netanyahoo doing this?

No other country, except maybe the U.S.,  has any interest in waging war on Iran. Certainly not the Arab countries near the Persian Gulf. In case of a war they are all extremely vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. Their oil and gas installations would be in serious danger. The desalination plants which provide their drinking water are all within easy reach of Iranian missiles.

By claiming that the conference is about waging war on Iran Netanyahoo is not only embarrassing the State Department and Secretary Mike Pompeo. He also makes it extremely difficult for other attendees to justify their presence. The Arabs will be especially furious that they are shown in such an open alliance with Israel and its hostility against Iran. Scheming with Israel in the dark is fine. But being publicly associated with a war mongering Israel is difficult to sell to their people. It would be unsurprising to see some of them leave.

The whole conference is an own goal for the Trump administration. Instead of showing unity with its allies it now only demonstrates the depth or their disagreement. Netanyahoo's statement may help him to win some votes in the upcoming election in Israel. But the hoped for alliance with the Gulf Arabs is now as far off as it has ever been.

Reprinted with permission from MoonOfAlabama.