Monday, October 7, 2019

Springtime for Erdogan, winter for the YPG

I'd love to blame this one on Donald the Dove, but, sadly, I think the upcoming betrayal of the Kurds who fought for U.S. objectives in Syria is likely to have happened under any U.S. government. There's just no compelling national interest there, and the notion that they would have gained any sort of lingering obligation from Uncle Sammy by killing and dying for him was...well, the YPG could have asked any Vietnamese highland clansman or Iraqi translator what happens when you put your faith in the Big Guy to stand by you when you're no longer of any sort of geopolitical value.

The sadly-ironic part is that we're again reminded that for all his tough-guy talk Donnie is a puff-pastry when real dictators come into view, and his "foreign policy" is entirely based on what's in it for him.

In this case at least his cupidity and political cowardice will insure that the dead are "only" dusky foreigners and not Americans. Given the wasteful spending of lives my country has indulged in since 2001 perhaps that's the best we could have hoped for.

For the Kurds, well...this must feel pretty familiar.

That said... THIS...
...is a nastily cynical bit of business. "Captured ISIS fighters"? My ass.

Look, if you want to throw your Kurdish proxies under the bus, fine. Man up and admit it. Come out and say "We no longer have compelling interests in northern Syria and will not stand in the way of Turkey's desire to crush armed Kurdish forces, wherever they may be." Or, if you have to, try and make up at least a more plausible lie. "Captured ISIS fighters" is ridiculous nonsense; Trumpkins who don't care about dusky Mooslims can't be bothered, and anyone who knows anything about this sees it as the cheap and transparent lie it is.

Or, better yet, don't say anything. Dirty deeds are always done more appropriately in the night and the fog.

Update 10/8: Perhaps Sven is the only perceptive one here in sussing out that the supposed-Commander-in-Chief doesn't really command jack shit and his words are, indeed, meaningless:
My guess, though, is that Trump did, indeed, direct the abandonment of NE Syria and that the military and whatever-is-left-of-the-diplomatic-corps is trying to slow-roll the troop movement to let adults try and talk Liddle' Donnie out of whatever caused his tantrum after getting off the phone playdate with his buddy Erdie. There is no real reason to do this other than whatever bat is in Trump's belfry; if a handful of GIs can keep Turkey and the YPG from going at each other that really is better than the alternative, regardless of how you feel about idiotic U.S. adventures in the Middle East in general.

This, on the other hand, is just TOO perfect:

Update 10/12:
The "Celebrity Geopolitical Apprentice" showrunners are clearly now past just doing weed and blow and are huffing sterno straight from the can, because it would take a perfect fool to set up this ridiculous plotline; the orange-tinted frontman, having bloviated that he will #endendlesswars proceeds to feed more GIs into the meatgrinder. And, in the unintentionally comic kudo of the season, claims that the move will inaugurate a new - or, rather, a return to a very old and discredited - military tradition; renting the nation's armed forces to a client state in return for cash:

Coupla things here.

First, if I was one of those zoomies I'd be pretty chapped. First, because I'd be me, and as me I would happily tell Prince Bonesaw and his merry band of religious nuts to fuck off and die in a hole. Outside of Israel, Saudi is the most worthless "ally" the US has in the Middle East. The people who Trump says should die now because they didn't help us on D-Day are a thousand times more valuable to US interests than the most pimped-out Saudi royal.

Second, IIRC Bush the Elder got most of the costs of the '91 Second Gulf War repayed by the various oil sheikdoms, so this isn't like Trump is coming up with some brilliant stroke of foreign policy here. Like he always does, he's just slapping his brand on other people's work.

And, third, the Bush example is a good counterpoint to how you do this if you really know how to play the foreign policy game. You ostentatiously lend support to your clients, emphasizing what a great partner you are, how strong and magnanimous you are and will be...and then, quietly, you stick out a hand so your grateful pals can slap you on the palm with some Franklins. You don't blow your intention to get moo-la-la in return for your mercenaries out your piehole first before you get so much as a single rial so you don't look like a fucking chump if and when the client stiffs you.

Mexico was gonna pay for that wall, amirite? Bwa-ha-ha...

Look.

I'm as tired of these idiotic whack-a-muj exercises as anyone. There's no real point to them anymore, largely because there has never been a genuine attempt to assess what the U.S.'s interests are in these parts. It's all fear and panic and "radical Islamic terrorism" all the way down.

Trump just adds a particularly idiotic icing to this shitcake.

As he is with U.S. domestic politics; he's not the disease. He's a symptom.

But...damn if it's not a pretty nasty virus.

Update 10/14: What a fucking shitshow:
"Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the words of a senior American diplomat — likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team."
Stable genius!

Update 10/16:
Sweet Holy Jesus Fucking Roosevelt Christ, get the fucking net!
"Syria may have some help with Russia, and that’s fine. It’s a lot of sand. They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So there’s a lot of sand that they can play with."
What the...what the actual fuck..?

One thing I think is important is not to overestimate the rock-bottom level of Orange Foolius' actual understanding. I don't know much about the topography and geography of Syria, but right off the top of my head I don't think there really IS a "lot of sand over there". The deserty parts of eastern Syria are mostly rocky desert (the Hamad) or bare soil (the Homs desert).

But here's the thing; when this simple fucker hears "Arab" he probably really does think "Ahab, the A-rab, Sheik of the Burnin' Sands".

Seriously.

It's like having a really simple ten-year-old as a president.

Jesus wept.

Update 10/18: So apparently the Trump Administration and Erdogan's Turkey arrived at some sort of agreement to pause Operation Peace Spring for about five days. As the linked piece notes, it's pretty much a Munich Agreement between the US and Turkey to allow Erdogan to get his piece of Syrian Sudetenland:
"This is essentially the US validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population," a senior US official familiar with operations in Syria told CNN. "This is what Turkey wanted and what POTUS green lighted. I do think one reason Turkey agreed to it is because of the Kurds have put up more of resistance and they could not advance south any further as a result."
My question is "What does this operational pause (since it's NOT a ceasefire and fighting is going to continue) "mean for the U.S. on the ground in Syria?"

I mean, the only way this actually helps is if there's a massive Dunkirk of Kurds from NE Syria; lock, stock, pots, pans, cats, kids...everyone gets marshaled out of their farms, towns, and cities, trucked to the railhead or airhead, and then from there to secure locations...where? somewhere south in Syria? To refugee camps at the tender mercies of Assad's Mukhabarat? To Iraq or Jordan?

Trump sure as hell ain't gonna take million of filthy wogs here in God's Great America.

And how does the US actually facilitate this? The logistics alone are breathtaking, and would require a massive commitment from a superpower - how the hell are the Syrian Kurds themselves going to do this alone? Surrounded by enemies (or at least people who are indifferent to their survival) and without a welcoming place to go to? I'm sure they might get a grudging reception from Iraqi Kurdistan, but those provinces are not rich, and have little in the way of resources (or need) for million of displaced relatives; it's be like having my in-laws come to live in our basement.

I mean...after Trump greenlighted this atrocity it's good that his people have managed to somehow deflect some of it. But I don't see how this works as anything but a rolling goatscrew without massive, immediate, and well-organized US-supported and internationally-coordinated evacuation.

To kick back and congratulate yourself over this is pure Trumpian looney-tunes.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Gumbo

Saudi Whistleblower:  MbS was supposed to visit Saudi troops at Najran on the border with Yemen.  But it appears he is cancelling that trip.  Meanwhile Saudi troops there are reported to be openly cursing him.  Time for a coup???

https://english.almasirah.net/details.php?es_id=9129&cat_id=2


Sanctions:  The Brit Exchequer sidestepped President Bone-Spurs sanctions on Iran.  They paid Iranian Bank Mellat $1.6 Billion in damages from a ten-year old squabble that was finally adjudicated by the Supreme Court.   Bank Mellat although mostly private is 17 per cent owned by the Iranian Government.  The US Treasury has Bank Mellat on their watchlist of Iranian banks trading in violation of UN Security Resolutions.   So it seems Boris just gave a big FU to Donny-Boy.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/uk-dodged-sanctions-to-settle-with-iranian-bank-mellat-5xwkclgdm


This Day in History:   "With all available men conscripted, 100,000 Moscow women, children & elderly are digging vast defensive trenches around city."  (Hat tip to RealTimeWWII twitter account)


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

President Bone-Spurs Wet Dream


The Mother of All Parades!    

People's Republic of China celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding with both a gigantic military parade and a people’s parade.  Despite the rioting and the shooting(s?) in Hong Kong.  Was Donny's dream about the parade?  Or about the violent crackdown on protestors wishing he could do the same to Nancy and the WH press?

The South China Morning Post claims 15,000 troops paraded, with overflights by 160 aircraft, and there were 580 pieces of weaponry and equipment.  Advanced weaponry shown including the new hypersonic DF-17 glide vehicle and the longer range DF-100 (is it a missile, a drone or a nuke tipped reentry vehicle?).  I personally like the tiny two-man, open-cockpit helicopter, or is it an autogyro?  It’d be great for a commute to beat Seattle traffic and could land in my daughter’s tiny back lot.  Two links below, the short version at just over three minutes, and the full version at almost three hours.

Baby copter/autogyro is at 1:12:03

And oh I forgot, for FDChief they had two battalions of women-at-arms parading in boots and miniskirts.  The ladies are at 1:00:45 and again at 1:03:15.  Here is a preview teaser:



And a precedent, they allowed foreign troop contingents to march at National Day for the first time ever.  Mostly the usual suspects, but also Mexico, Afghanistan, and the Republic of Fiji.  No GIs of course, but  China Central TV was kind enough to call out the contribution of Chennault's Flying Tigers.



The civilian portion of the parade had several million pompoms and flower bouquets,  angel-voiced pre-teens, high school glee clubs, 21 open-top sightseeing buses full of Civil War and Sino-Japanese War veterans too old to march, parade floats that put the Rose Parade to shame, cheek tats, ethnic minorities in traditional dress (including the much maligned Uighurs).  Lots of stone-faced suits in the reviewing stand with iron bladders.  This civilian version can be seen startin at 1:40:00 of the three-hour video above.



 Festivities are continuing through the 7th.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Operation Decisive Strike


September 26th marks four and a half years of the Saudi and Emirati war in Yemen.  With US support!  Below is a link to a piece from April 2015, a month after that intervention started.  Titled US generals: Saudi intervention in Yemen ‘a bad idea’.  Some flag officers at CENTCOM and at Special Ops argued strenuously against supporting the Saudi-led intervention because the "Houthi movement has been an effective counter to Al-Qaeda."  Those Special Ops guys were also clairvoyant in noting that Saudi/UAE intervention was doomed – even as the Saudis were saying it would take a few weeks.  Supposedly some in SOCOM still “favor the Houthis, as they have been successful in rolling back AQ and IS.”  
 
The Saudis labeled it 'Operation Decisive Strike', a criminal misnomer IMO.  There are 91,000+ dead Yemenis many of them civilians, hundreds of thousands devastated by cholera and malnutrition, three million displaced, 54 months of indiscriminate bombing of marketplaces & funerals & weddings et al, and billions of dollars down the toilet.  Just glad it is Saudi and Emirati dollars, except for the million or two US $$ for refueling flights.  But it looks like the T-Rump is going to increase that by an order of magnitude with this new force package he is sending to protect the House of Saud and their pinheaded prince.


And recently in Aden some Saudi supported factions and Emirati supported factions started killing each other.  Yemen is now looking worse than the goat-rope in Syria.  There are at least five different wars-within-war going on there:  

1] Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their minions against the Houthis and their tribal allies. The minions later included some help from Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.  This is the main fight, and was meant to restore the propped up president, Abdrabbuh Manṣūr Hādī (who like an absentee landlord lives in luxury in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)  -  and thrash the Houthis who they consider heretical and convert them to a creed more in line with Wahhabi thinking.  

2] Add in Iran support to the Houthis.  Although I don’t believe they were ever outright proxies of Tehran.  Reportedly Iran advised the Houthis NOT to take over the Yemen capitol of Sana’a back four and a half years ago.   But they did anyway.  And after the bombing campaign started Iran gave what support they could.  Undoubtedly there is funding and IRGC connivance in weapons supply.  And probably targeting intel within KSA via the Saudi Shia resistance, which is infiltrated by Iran.  But bin-Salman and bin-Zayed and our neocons seem to believe the entire Houthi movement started at the behest of the Ayatollahs.  I object, but those guys get paid much more than I. .

3] Another conflict is the battle for influence and control between the Saudis and Emiratis.  Both back factions opposed to one another.  Current shoot-em-ups are between the Saudi-supported Yemeni government in exile (Hadi) and southern separatists backed by the UAE (the STC or Southern Transitional Council).  The STC wants a two state Yemen like it was during the period from the early 1960s up until unification in 1990.

4] The fourth war pits al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and/or Ansar al-Sharia against everybody else.  With a few US drone strikes against known or supposed hi-value AQ targets.

5] This one is kinda like the fourth, but it is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Yemen Province (ISIL-YP) instead of AQ.

As of July.  Houthis in green, Saudi backed govt in exile in pink, UAE backed STC in khaki, AQ in white, IS in gray

Numbers 3, 4, and 5 have been mostly underreported, if reported at all in the western media.   



Monday, September 16, 2019

Do real men still want to go to Tehran..?

I've beat this drum before, but one of the really infuriating - and more than a little unnerving - things about the Trump Administration is that you can't be sure which of its lies are lies, which are damned lies, which are statistics, and which may, just possibly, be truths.

Case in point.
The Saudis apparently want the hell out of this to be Iran's doing. That makes geopolitical sense. The Saudis can't do anything to the Yemenis they're not doing already, they are regional power rivals to the Persians to the north, but they'll need some U.S. help to take a slap at the Iranians without getting slapped pretty hard in return.

If they can get the Yankees to buy it who sent the drone airmail doesn't really matter; they'll have their Gulf of Persia Resolution and it's Bombs Away! over Tehran.

What's less explicable is the intentions of this government as expressed by the various spokescritters within the Trump Administration.

Since the Saturday strike on the Saudi refinery at Abqaiq everybody and their dog (and Mikey Pompeo, but I repeat myself) has blamed the tricksy Iranian devils. Pompeo practically busted a nut on Twitter fulminating about the wascally Iwanian wabbits:

Thing is, there can't really be much doubt if there's physical evidence. There will be bits and pieces of the aircraft as well as the ordnance. There is likely to have been ground-to-air tracking of the UAVs in flight.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the U.S. doesn't 1) know where Iran's cruise missile launch sites are located, and 2) monitor the hell out of them, Iranian communications, and, especially, their aerial attack capabilities.

If this was as unequivocally an Iranian op I have to think that the U.S. intelligence services already know that.

Now...there may be an good reason to keep the intelligence sources on the downlow - tho the Boss doesn't seem to have problems with tweeting out classified reconnaissance photos - and there may be a reason (likely something to do with fire control problems at the Abqaiq facility that are delaying crater analyses and other on-the-ground intel collection that needs to be done to nail down the exact means and methods used) for playing cagey about whodunnit.

But if that's the case, why jump in with the scary ooga-booga "We Know You Did It!" stuff so soon?

I mean, in a tweet he fired off yesterday Trump appeared to say that all he needed was the go-ahead from his pal MBS to nuke those meddlesome Persians:
(As an aside, remember when Republicans used to go nuts about how Obama was just a cat's-paw of everyone who wanted him to use American force to meddle in foreign business? IIRC that was the point of denying him use of force in Syria regardless of red lines here and there; because we are Amurrikuns, gawddamnit, and we don't bow the knee to no furriners. Ah, yes, those were the days...)

However, at the latest White House presser Trump wouldn't directly say that.
"A reporter off-camera asked, "Could you clarify Mr. President? You said you think Iran is responsible for the attack, do you think --- "

"I didn't say that." "Why do you say that?" he asked. "I said we think we know who it was, but I didn't say anybody but ... Certainly it would look to most like it was Iran but I did not say it the way you said it."
So in classic Trumpenstyle the Orange One has managed to 1) make it seem like he's waffling around waiting for his Saudi pals to tell him what to do, and in so doing 2) irk the living shit out of a bunch of people in D.C. by opening his piehole before thinking about it.

Tulsi Gabbard's response “Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia's bitch is not ‘America First,’”may the juiciest, if not the most informative, but pretty much sums up the general enthusiasm for whatever-the-hell-the-Trumpkins-are-up-to.

But what's kind of weird about this is that if the Iranians DID blow the hell out of this Saudi refinery it's either an Iranian-Saudi problem (and only a US problem if we make it one, so why shout and make a fuss until we decide to do that?), or a "global oil supply" problem and thus an attack on everyone who depends on that supply, including the US - which means that we either take some action, or not; again, fulminating on Twitter seems a very odd way of re-envisioning the Ems Telegram.

Anyway, here's my take.

The bottom lines on this one are;

1) I have no idea who really blew up this Saudi refinery, and I could care less. The Houthis certainly had a good reason. But, frankly, with sanctions squeezing their own petroleum sales the Quds Force might well be disposed to remind their neighborhood sheiks that their own lifestyles aren't out of reach if they get too bitchy. Hell, it could have been the Saudis themselves trying to fool their Uncle Sammy and Tangerine Tiberius to launch a Operation Persian Pacification,

2) As a U.S. citizen, please tell me why I should care, or want to help the Saudis in any way? As far as petroleum goes, gas made from Iranian crude drives the ol' Subaru as far as Saudi, and as far as Islamic despotisms go I'd say the difference between the two gas-pump polities is "pick 'em". I don't have a dog in the Shia-Sunni fight, and the best thing my nation can get from Middle Eastern politics is "out", and

2) I'd be a lot less nervous about some moron starting Gulf War IV if I had a higher opinion of the grade of moron currently running things in the Fraudulency Administration, and this nonsense doesn't reassure me in any way. I think that there are still a lot of Bush Era ne'redowells in this Administration that still Want to Go To Tehran, and I don't trust the real-estate-grifter-in-chief to either recognize that or keep those damn gomers' hands off the bomb release levers.

Are WSSF?

We'll have to wait and see, unfortunately.

Update 9/18: There seems to be an increasing consensus that some Iranian organization(s) was/were involved in this attack. The only real question at this point is whether Trump will take his marching orders from his Saudi bros.

What makes this even more frustrating is that Trump's bobo, Pompeo, is straight-up confessing that this is all because his boss blew up the JCPOA:
“There is this theme that some suggest that the president’s strategy that we allowed isn’t working. I would argue just the converse of that. I would argue that what you are seeing here is a direct result of us reversing the enormous failure of the JCPOA,”
When you edit this for Trumpian Newspeak you get the gist that the problems Iran is involved in - whether caused by or not - are the direct result of some idiot blowing up the diplomatic agreement that was actually working and replacing it with nothing but Tweets-o-War and bombast.

The notion that people are going to die because Donald Trump's ego is chafed by the impudent Negro who twitted him at a dinner meeting years ago just reminds me of the scene in Shaw's Devil's Disciple where Richard Dudgeon objects to paying taxes to King George. GEN Burgoyne answers that a gentleman's part is to fulfill his obligations, regardless of their distastefulness, to which Dudgeon responds that it's not the money, it's being swindled by a pigheaded lunatic like George Hanover.

To which Burgoyne admits is another matter entirely...

Saturday, September 14, 2019

An open letter to my fellow U.S. citizens

I'm sitting in the dark house on a pre-dawn Saturday morning, sipping my coffee and watching Newcastle United look like boys against men in Liverpool, but - seeing how piss-poor the Lads are playing - I'm also parsing my Facebook feed and reading comments about the ill-advised recruiting stunt the Portland MEPs guys and the Thorns Front Office pulled last Wednesday (you can read about it here).

One of the comments is from another GI who talks about how emotional an occasion it is to swear to defend the people of the United States.

And it occurs to me that the Oath of Enlistment says nothing about "defending the people".

The exact wording is: "...support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

Domestic enemies?

That would be..."the people" sometimes, right?

Right.

Which is why past presidents have used us GIs to do things like shoot and kill striking workers, and ol' Dugout Doug MacArthur could use us to attack the Bonus Army of our fellow GIs and their families. If the Constitution in the form of the president or Congress tells us that some portion of We the People are a "domestic enemy"?

We as soldiers are obligated by that oath to use whatever means we are ordered to use to "defend the Constitution".

Kinda scary, innit?

Think about that next time you see one of those "Land of the Free Because of the Brave" bumper stickers, hmmm..?

As GIs you, my fellow citizens, give us a lot of tongue-bathing. You're constantly told to "support the troops". You get a crap-ton of military PR shoved at you, like the recruiting stunt at the Thorns match. And in general that's lovely. We all like to get some love.

But maybe - just maybe - as "citizens" you might want to be a trifle less credulous about all this "support the troops" stuff.

Because it usually takes troops to make "citizens" into "subjects".

Maybe I'm just being a cynical old sergeant. Sergeants are notorious pessimists, the Eeyores of the Army. We always look for the flaws in the officers' plans so we can head them off. And I'm certainly not telling you that my fellow GIs would agree to do that, or would blindly follow orders to herd you into a camp, or shoot you down when you take to the streets if, say, a President were to refuse to accept the result of an election and not yield his power to his elected sucessor.

But...you might want to think about what you're being told.
Just sayin'.