The Regime Change Special; Derailed By Travesty

Uncle Volodya says, "The most reliable indicator of a sociopathic serial bully is not a clinical diagnosis, but the trail of devastation and destruction left behind throughout their life."

Although this blog deals mostly with Russian politics, political figures and issues, occasionally the connection is purely peripheral. So it is today, when we’re going to talk about Russia and China’s veto of a UN Security Council Resolution centered on the situation in Syria. The fact that Russia is one of the countries which vetoed the resolution is largely secondary to the hysteria going on in the western press as a result of it, the fascinating glimpse of diplomatic maneuvering it offers, and the brass boldness of the western plan for Syria after the cataclysmic wreckage of Libya – brought about by the same regime-change blueprint.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flipped her wig over the veto – to be more specific, she said, “What happened yesterday at the United Nations was a travesty”. America’s U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went further, pronouncing herself “disgusted” with the vote and, if gossip is to be believed, swearing at Russian Ambassador Vasily Churkin. In a totally unsurprising glimpse of why the vote had been held even with the likelihood of a Russian/Chinese veto (because the framework of the resolution is known long in advance so negotiation can iron out any no-go issues and so the arm-twisting can take place behind the scenes: the actual vote is about as exciting as Little House on the Prairie reruns), Ms. Rice intoned for posterity, “Any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands”.

That kind of struck a familiar chord with me; I thought, where have I heard that before? And I remembered – in a discussion with the always-interesting Patrick Armstrong, a fellow Canadian, at Russia; Other Points of View. On that occasion, coincidentally enough, we were discussing the U.N. Security Council Resolution on Libya, which might have served as a copy-and-paste template for the Syrian one which aimed to push Bashar al-Assad off a cliff like Gaddafi.

Anyway, in a comment on the Libyan-resolution vote – in which I argued Medvedev made a fool of himself by publicly criticizing Putin for his “NATO crusades” remark – Mr. Armstrong supported his agreement with Russia’s abstention rather than a veto thus: “NATO says, if only it weren’t for Kadaffy-loving Russia, we could have saved hundreds of lives…” In hindsight, that was a remarkably perceptive piece of crystal-ball work, because it’s eerily close to Ms. Rice’s remark that further bloodshed in Syria will be Russia’s (and China’s) fault. Also in hindsight, Putin was right – the NATO effort in Libya went far, far beyond “protecting civilians”, brought to power a transitional government that had the al Qaeda standard flying above the Benghazi courthouse as soon as NATO pulled out and celebrated with a sea of al Qaeda flags throughout the city, and resulted in a prosperous, peaceful free-market democracy in much the same way that tapping an orange with a spoon turns it into an apple.

Western sources insist, comically, that the resolution on Syria was not about regime change. Let’s take a look at it. Right away, you notice among the co-sponsors appear the newly-back-under-Sharia-law Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The first is a new bobblehead that will rubber-stamp any western initiative likely to result in expansion of Islamic fundamentalist influence. The latter two are reliable western stooges; one advertises itself as “America’s strongest partner in the Gulf”, and the other is a monarchy in which everything is subject to state censorship, the authorities are unelected and unaccountable, women are largely excluded from the labour force and one in seven adults is illiterate. Gallant company, indeed.

Anyway, back to the resolution. Hmm… it calls for Assad to withdraw all his military forces to their barracks, to release all persons detained and to allow peaceful protests. My, that’ll certainly calm things down, won’t it? Additionally, he is to facilitate a “political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations or ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition”. In my experience, calling upon the leader to allow a “political transition” is a hint that they want you to take a hike. And, sure enough, the Jerusalem Post gleefully reports that no less than President Obama himself says Assad “must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately”. But the resolution was not about regime change. Of course not.

Sergei Lavrov described the western reaction to the veto as “hysterical and unseemly“, and it would be hard to call that overreaction. He pointed out that Russia had only requested the vote be delayed until the Russian delegation (Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkhov) returned from Damascus. The Security Council would have none of it, insisting the matter be put to a vote immediately and, as I suggested earlier, doubtless well aware it would inspire a veto. It should surprise none that the impatient partner so insistent on an immediate vote – even though it made a veto probable – was newly-pugnacious France, the hard-right prime mover of the Libyan debacle. France didn’t want to wait then, either, airdropping weapons to the Libyan “rebels” without bothering to inform its NATO partners. This time around, France is more cautious, insisting the vote went ahead because there were no objections although it is clear Russia did object and that going ahead in spite of objections would almost certainly lead to a veto.

What’s really going on in Syria? I say “really” going on, because I note western accounts rely exclusively on activists. Activists want a western military intervention that will empower them, and – obviously – have a motivation to offer a colourful narrative and to spin events to suit their objective. This was such a resounding success in Libya that western news agencies actually staged a fake collapse of Tripoli on the rebels’ behalf and broadcast it, to demoralize the state military and enable the rebel offensive – completing the bridge from reporting the news to making the news to making up the news. Since the press has regularly displayed great courage in the past, its reliance now on activist reports rather than its own journalists suggests it does not want to know what’s really happening, the better to pretend ignorance later.

This impression is strengthened by the Report of the Arab League Observer Mission, which largely supports the Syrian government’s version of events while discrediting the hand-wringing, weeping, stop-the-genocide-of-Assad offered by the mainstream media – who, as far as I can determine, ignored the report altogether. Here’s a teaser for you: “Immediately on arriving in Homs, the Head of the Mission met with the Governor of the city, who explained that there had been an escalation in violence perpetrated by armed groups in the city. There had been instances of kidnapping and sabotage of Government and civilian facilities. Food was in short supply owing to the blockade imposed by armed groups, which were believed to include some 3000 individuals. The Governor further stated that all attempts by religious figures and city notables to calm the situation had failed. He made enquiries regarding the possibility of addressing the issue of soldiers and vehicles blocked inside Baba Amr.”

This is Homs, where Britain’s representative to the United Nations would have you believe Assad’s forces were besieging the city with heavy artillery just the night before the U.N. vote. More? Sure: “In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed”. The British Ambassador remarks caustically that jelly-spined Russia would not get with the program even after language that expressed very modest concern about weapons was taken out, because Russia worried it might constitute an arms embargo. And no doubt it would if, say, Russia decided to move a few SAM systems into Syria to deter air attack on government forces. But a few may remember that the great Islamic-fundamentalist-empowerment festivities in Libya kicked off with…that’s right, Resolution 1970, an arms embargo. Did that have any effect on military intervention? Certainly not – Resolution 1973 merely rode right over it; “notwithstanding the provisions of Resolution 1970…”

As noted in the MSNBC link with which I led off, the Syrian government has tried to warn the western media that it is being gamed by opposition figures. Western governments respond that they believe the activists. How you gonna argue with logic like that? “The Mission noted that many parties falsely reported that explosions or violence had occurred in several locations. When the observers went to those locations, they found that those reports were unfounded. The Mission also noted that, according to its teams in the field, the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns”.

Why, then, are there no western journalists on the ground in Syria? Too dangerous, maybe? It’s not too dangerous for crazy Irishwoman Lizzie Phelan, reporting from Damascus. Appearing not in the least concerned about danger, she avers that actual events broadly support the narrative of the Observers Report; that much of the spin stovepiped to the western media comes from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – a London-based agency with a questionable background and alleged ties to western intelligence services – and that western media descriptions of Assad’s thugs shooting into crowds of peaceful protesters are completely fabricated. A recent interview which I picked up at Sublime Oblivion, conducted by Algeria’s La Nouvelle Republique and featuring French journalist Thierry Meyssan, lends authoritative weight to Ms. Phelan’s conjectures: according to Meyssan, there is no real “Free Syrian Army” as portrayed in the western press. Instead, it consists of a couple of hundred individuals who are based in Turkey and Lebanon, and parades for the cameras whenever the western media wants a money shot. The real resistance to the Syrian government is al Qaeda-affiliated irregulars under the command of Libyan Abdel Hakim Belhaj. Belhaj is a controversial individual who was recently detained leaving the airport in Tripoli with a large bag of cash for the Syrian “rebels”. Qatar – America’s Strongest Partner in the Gulf” – has been fronting the “rebels” weapons. Again according to Meyssan, the U.N. High Commissioner cited some 5000 “victims of repression”, but could supply only two names, neither of which checked out. The armed factions fighting the government are Pashtuns and Arabs recruited by Saudi Arabia and trained by German and French Special Forces. He closes with the observation that the Muslim Brotherhood which the west would like to install in Syria is historically linked to MI6, and is “swimming in grants from the Gulf Cooperation Council”. High-octane stuff.

The west has a solid motive for taking Syria off the board; it is a regional ally of Iran, and Iran is the final domino. But the west wants it isolated and alone. And Washington, at least, is undeterred by the Russia/China veto. Showing more resemblance all the time to Bush-style foreign policy, Washington is busily agitating for an international coalition to support the Syrian rebels, outside the diplomacy of the U.N. You almost have to admire that kind of single-minded unity of purpose. Almost.

But it’s important to remember, in the days to come, that it’s based on lies. Just like the notion that casting a veto to stop irresponsible military action is a disgraceful act on a par with farting in church. Come on; Mrs. Clinton has been in politics a long, long time. She surely remembers the 42 times the United States has vetoed U.N. Resolutions on behalf of Israel between 1972 and 2011 – 3 of them in a row increasingly-desperate efforts to halt the military operations in Gaza which ultimately killed 100 Palestinians for every Israeli who died – and which in each case saw the USA cast the single opposing vote.

I am indebted to readers Yalensis and Alexander Mercouris for material that appears in this post.

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197 Responses to The Regime Change Special; Derailed By Travesty

  1. alterismus says:

    Sincerely thanking you for your work, Mark, it is brilliant as always. I don’t suppose we are ever going to see the day when objectivity and reason, such as yours, prevail in most news outlets?

    Am outraged they haven’t Freshly Pressed you yet🙂 Not so much for the sake of Russia, but rather for the sake of showing people that it is imperative to learn to practice common sense before deciding who and for which sins should be cursed on this planet.

    Am sharing everything you write with everyone I know😉

    • marknesop says:

      Always a delight to hear from you, M, and thank you for your kindness! In this case all the brilliance is coming from my sources, and I hope being the dupe of the power-brokers and intriguers will not prove as attractive as it did last time. Because if this is what journalism has devolved to, why bother?

      What’s the feeling in China, generally? Are you able to get a sense whether people feel the Chinese government did the right thing?

      • alterismus says:

        As far as China goes, there is no discussion as such. All news is pre-approved by the State, and the countries that take center stage are Russia (always in positive light) and the US (mostly portrayed in the negative). I would estimate @90% of the population will have a hard time saying where Syria is exactly. The State won’t report on Syria because it will inevitably make people ask what that whole thing is about – the root of all the Middle Eastern drama, the protests, were never widely reported here… You don’t go about telling people how entire populations rise up against their governments when your own government is oppressive. Chinese are very unhappy about all the internal problems, there is just too many of them (widespread child kidnapping, trading organs, people for sale in countryside – it’s a Pandora’s box…) and the State can’t risk sparking any active thought/questioning. Too sad.

        • sinotibetan says:

          Hi!
          Are you from China? I am Chinese but from south east asia. It’s good to hear the views of a Chinese from China!

          sinotibetan

          • alterismus says:

            Hi sinotibetan! No, I am Russian, but I’ve been living in China since 2006, so technically it’s views of a Russian from China🙂 Not the same thing as a Chinese from China, for sure, but a perspective nonetheless!

            • sinotibetan says:

              Hi alterismus,

              Indeed! You probably will have a better knowledge of Chinese views from China than I do! Looking forward to your viewpoints.

              sinotibetan

  2. yalensis says:

    Excellent post, Mark. You make a very good point that Iran is the ultimate domino. Seen in this way, Syria is simply a milestone on the way to toppling this Iranian domino. Also, this puts into perspective all the nonsense with McFaul and the Orange movement in Russia and so on. Russians (and I am guilty of this too) sometimes look at the world through a narcissist/paranoid lens and think that everything is ultimately about us. Like we are the ultimate targets. But maybe in this case Iran is the ultimate target, and even Russia is simply a means to an end for this imperialist plot against Iran. McFaul is way too smart to think he could simply overthrow Putin with a few street demonstrations. More realistically his goal might have been to intimidate the Medvedev government into abstaining on the the UN Syria vote. Hey, it worked once before, right?
    Realistically, Russia’s only real power in this world consists of its UN veto, so it is reasonable that Americans would try to chip away at that. Americans are obviously playing a very complex chess game, with many moves planned in advance. (And how ironic that the game of chess was invented by the Persians!)

  3. An absolutely excellent summary in all respects. I would merely add that Patrick Armstrong has himself pointed out the extent to which the gross abuse of Resolutions 1970 and 1973 have poisoned the international atmosphere and make it difficult to achieve consensus in the Security Council.

    • yalensis says:

      The other thing that has poisoned international atmosphere and totally discredited a once-noble United Nations is the figure of Ban Ki Moon. This dishonest and corrupt man is supposed to be neutral and uphold the interests of all humanity. Instead, he is a partisan hack and a pro-American shill. He is a disgrace to his office. He should be replaced as soon as possible with an adequate diplomat.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Yalensis,

        You are TOTALLY right about this. Ban Ki Moon is a complete disgrace. He is by far the worst Secretary General the UN has ever had. I find it incredible that he was re elected last year.

      • marknesop says:

        While I agree Ban Ki-Moon is as useless as a chocolate teapot, I’m bound to suggest it could have been much worse, looking at the other candidates. What started out as a mild interest – hey, I wonder who else was up for the office besides Ban the Social Hand Grenade – turned into a very interesting glimpse of what a nightmare it must be filling the position. I didn’t know there were so many rules; for example, the U.N. Secretary-General cannot be a national of any of the permanent members: China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA. That answered my question as to why the former Secretaries-General have come from odd places like Ghana and Myanmar. But the permanent members hold a veto, so what they want goes a long way. In 2006, China indicated it would not support a non-Asian candidate, which suggested they would veto any other choice. But obviously, that person could not be Chinese. An organization called Equality Now campaigned hard for the first female Secretary-General – but while a number of probably very well-qualified candidates was suggested, no Asian women were nominated, bringing the process back to the threat of a Chinese veto.

        In a way, the nomination process for the position of Secretary-General is a microcosm of the often-dysfunctional squabbling over a major resolution – everyone maneuvers for national advantage, while pretending their choice is made from purely altruistic and selfless motives. In the end, after a series of straw polls, all candidates but Ban Ki-Moon withdrew (which must have made the victory party a little anticlimactic). Shashi Tharoor, the UN Under-Secretary for Public Information, actually got more votes – but China indicated they would veto him if he were nominated, as he is Indian. It’s refreshing to know the process is not about getting the best person for the job, but about catering to special interests – hey, just like real life!!!

        But what I meant when I said it could have been much worse was the roster of proposed nominees who did not agree to run, which included Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Not only are both nationals of countries which are permanent security council members, Blair was still Prime Minister of the UK at the time. I wonder how those who lobbied for their nomination thought they were going to get around that rule? But think what a disaster either would have been.

        Jean Chretien was a “possible” too, and I kind of liked him. He would have been a better choice than Ban Ki-Moon, but ultimately not a good choice, as he was an OK Prime Minister but probably not up to the demands of international diplomacy on that scale.

        • yalensis says:

          Kofi Annan was pretty good, but Americans didn’t like him, because he was too Third Worldy. He also had a corrupt son.

  4. People might also fancy having a look at this article about the veto of the Resolution by Craig Murray.

    http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2012/02/know-your-limits-syria/

    Craig Murray is a particularly authoritative voice on diplomatic questions because like Patrick Armstrong he was formerly a senior diplomat. He was previously British ambassador to Uzbekistan where he tried to expose human rights abuses by the regime there. Since this was contrary to the policy of the British government, which supported (and supports) the Uzbek regime, he became the target of a revolting smear campaign, which led to his dismissal. All the charges that were brought against him were subsequently proved to be untrue but his career in the British diplomatic service was destroyed. Before his dismissal he met and worked with such people as Susan Rice and has also met such people as Gaddafi. Because of his background he still has access to sources within the British Foreign Office. I would add that on domestic British politics his is the only blog I read though I occasionally disagree with him on particular issues.

  5. Dear Yalensis,

    On the point about McFaul, I am afraid that I rather think that there are people in the US who probably do include McFaul who DO believe that it might be possible to overthrow the Russian government by orchestrating demonstrations.

    I says this because for me the single most important thing to come out of Wikileaks was the revelation of what an utterly delusional view of the world the US has and of the extent to which it explains events to itself in such a ways as to fit in to its preconceptions. Thus the US believes in all seriousness that Putin is a billionaire on the strength of no more than gossip, that the second Khodorkovsky trial was a show trial though the representative of the International Bar Association who was there warned it otherwise, that China is about to ditch North Korea on the strength of some gossip passed on by the South Korean Vice President and that a Spanish judge’s failure to indict Russian gangsters is not because of the absence of evidence against these people but because of the sinister machinations of the Russian government. In fact as several people have pointed out the extent of US paranoia about Russia that comes out from the Wikileaks cables is so extreme as to border on the pathological. Given what we know from the Wikileaks cables about what the US thinks of Putin and Russia it seems to me entirely possible that there are people there who believe that Russia is a country whose government is ripe for collapse and which can be overthrown given the right sort of push.

    I would just finish with two last points:

    1. The two most revealing Wikileaks cables were for me one about a party that Kadyrov attended at which nothing at all happened but which a US diplomat who was there nonetheless described as a gangsters’ orgy and a cable from the US office in Havana that Moore’s film Sicko had been banned by the Cuban authorities because its excessively positive spin on the Cuban health service might provoke anger amongst ordinary Cuban people, which was sent at the very time the film was being shown in all the major cinemas in Havana and on Cuban national television.

    2. Aren’t the Russians the masters of chess? In the good old days of the Cold War we used to say that the reason Russians and Americans don’t understand each other is because when the Russians play chess the Americans play poker.

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      US State Department patsies from the unelectable opposition, the kind that meets with McFaul, and their Western journalistic friends, are actively promoting the idea that Putin cannot win in the first round of elections. I have started cataloguing what I found so far in my last post:

      http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2012/2/8/nemtsov-predicts-violence.html

      Personally I find the minds of Russian liberals to be pathological.

      • marknesop says:

        That’s a great post, Leos! Boris Nemtsov just makes me laugh; he’s so transparently struggling to remain relevant. Anyone familiar with his “white papers” would be unsurprised at his suggestion that “obviously” Putin cannot win in the first round, because to him “obviously” means “this is what I hope will happen, so therefore it should be a self-evident truth”. Boris is a bit of a gambler, which is one of the few things about him I admire; he reasons that if he says something is “obvious” while nobody else thinks anything of the sort, and somehow that is exactly what happens, everyone will say, “Why didn’t you see that coming? It was so obvious to Nemtsov!!!” But routinely going against conventional wisdom simply in the hope of being right when everyone else is wrong is risky and – if you’ll forgive me, Boris – kind of desperate.

        I see, though, that he also hedges his bets with “anything could happen”. Well, that’s certainly helpful, isn’t it?

        In what way does this kind of posturing spell “leadership” to anyone? I mean, Boris Nemtsov is not stupid. He’s held power positions before and, arguably, has done a reasonably good job. What possesses him to make these crazy fortune-teller predictions that mostly just make people laugh? Is it because he has a huge ego? Maybe. But that begs the question how you can be consistently wrong and still have a huge ego. Maybe I was wrong about him not being stupid.

      • Hunter says:

        You should probably also include the poll done by “SuperJob” on January 21-22, 2012. See the Russian wikipedia entry on the 2012 Russian presidential election and the English wikipedia entry on it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_presidential_election,_2012). You can find more of that poll here: http://www.superjob.ru/community/life/62707/

        I think it should be included because I am sure that what will happen is that the western MSM will jump to this one poll which showed Putin with 26% and Prokhorov with 21% support as supposed proof that the election was stolen even though “SuperJob” is a job search and recruitment site and not a professional polling organization. I tried to find out more about the founder (Alexei Zakharov) but haven’t been successful (especially as that seems to be a common enough name on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Alexey/Zakharov). I would expect that when Putin wins the first round (or in the very unlikely event that it goes to the second round he wins that one), the theme in the western press will be that Prokhorov should have won (despite a lot of the western press speculating that he was a “kremlin stooge” only weeks after he announced his candidacy) and will cite that single poll as some kind of proof despite the fact that in every other poll (see in particular the Russian wikipedia entry on the 2012 Russian presidential election) before or since that SuperJob poll, Mr. Prokhorov never got more than 5% (and this hold true for all the professional polling organizations such as FOM, VTSIOM and Levada Centre).

        Of course how a man who advocates extending the work week by 20 hours would ever truly gain popular support in any country is beyond me.

        • Guest says:

          Dear Hunter,
          Thank you for pointing at this particular poll. The poll by SuperJob is based on answers from 1600 respondents – active internet users, representing growing “middle class” living in major Cities of Russia, as stated on SuperJob website, (and potential voters for Mr. Prokhorov.).

          • Hunter says:

            Thanks for the explanation Guest.

            That would probably make the poll one of the least accurate though since it is based off the internet. How did they know that the respondents were actually in Russia unless they were using IP addresses? And how did they know the respondents were even Russian citizens or eligible to vote? At least a telephone poll or walking in the street has some measure of control (a telephone poll to residential numbers is likely to give you citizens who live independently and thus are eligible to vote), but a poll across the internet? As you said, it would be likely to draw more potential voters for Mr. Prokhorov but in that instance it sounds like one of the least representative samples as it would exclude the rich, the poor, the people dwelling outside the cities and the people who actually have a job (and are content with it). Instead it would manage to zero in on middle class people who are in search of a job (whether or not they have a job) or who are searching for workers. At least some of those people (recruiters) might like the idea of an extended work week, but I still can’t see how a majority of Russians (or a majority of citizens in any country) would like the idea of extending the work week by 20 hours.

            If this poll is accurate in that all of its respondents actually lived in Russia, were citizens and were eligible to vote then it is interesting to note that even among the middle class job-seekers and recruiters Putin has the most support of any of the candidates (not a whole lot compared to other, more representative polls) and that the (rejected) candidate that one would expect that voting base to be drawn to (Yavlinsky) still only had 6% support (which is still a lot better than his support in other polls where it hovers at 1-2%; but it still seems to further show how unrepresentative the sample for this poll seems to be).

        • yalensis says:

          “Of course how a man who advocates extending the work week by 20 hours would ever truly gain popular support in any country is beyond me.”

          He will gain the vote of the “Workaholics Anonymous” crowd. 🙂

        • Leos Tomicek says:

          I know about this one. According to my information, Venediktov cited it on Ekho Moskvy, but I have not seen it being cited ever since. I think it must seem dodgy even to the liberals.

    • yalensis says:

      @alex, yes there are Russians who are very good at chess. (I am not one of them, unfortunately, I am not smart enough to play.) But the game was invented by ancient Persians. The English word “chess” is a derivative of Persian “Shah” (King). The English word “check-mate” derives from Persian “shah-mati” (“to take the King”, from the Persian verb “mati” – “to take”). Russian word for the game “chess” is шахматы “shakh-mati”, showing the original Persian derivation.

  6. Dear Yalensis,

    I have not been able to find you a link to the alleged exchange between the Qatar envoy and Churkin but you might find this report interesting:

    http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/russia-un-envoy-denies-threat-to-qatar-over-syria

    It is quite clear that what happened was another piece of disinformation concocted by one wonders who. On this occasion I am afraid I fell for it. It just shows that you cannot be too careful.

    • marknesop says:

      Maybe somebody just wished it into existence, since it’s the kind of thing many would like to see happen. But in reality it takes a special kind of person to be a diplomat on that level, and unflappable calm and muted language are essential. They try to provoke each other all the time, and anyone who could be so easily drawn would not last long.

    • yalensis says:

      In Churkin’s shoes I would probably blow my stack and say something like that. But that is why I do not seek a career in diplomacy. Unless the Qatari guy has a tape proving the opposite, then this incident never happened.

  7. There are just a few points I want to make about the Resolution that was vetoed on Saturday. As always with such documents the devil is in the detail and it is important to read them carefully.

    1. It has been repeatedly said that the Resolution expressly rules out the use of force. In fact it does no such thing. What it does in the Preamble is refer to the Security Council’s “intention” to seek a “peaceful resolution” of the crisis. An “intention” is not a commitment and there is nothing in the Resolution that would prevent the Security Council or those sponsoring the Resolution from changing that “intention” at a later date. As I said in a comment to Mark’s previous post, paragraph 15 sets as 21 day time limit for the Syrian government to comply with the provisions of the Resolution, which are couched in terms of an ultimatum and threatens “further measures” if this is not done. In other words if the Resolution had passed there would have been another Security Council meeting in three weeks time in which the western powers and their Arab allies would have been entitled to demand “further measures”, which could have included military action on the grounds that the fighting in Syria was escalating. As the Resolution overwhelmingly blames the Syrian government for the violence, the Russians and the Chinese having agreed to the Resolution that blames the Syrian government for the violence and faced by reports of escalating violence would have found it very difficult if not impossible to resist these demands.

    2. Contrary to what is being said the Resolution does in fact demand that Assad step down. I accept that it does not do so expressly but that is its clear meaning. Repeatedly in the Preamble, and in paragraphs 5 and 7, the Resolution refers with approval to the decision of the Arab League of 22nd January 2012. That decision was a call to Assad to stand down and to hand over power to his Vice President. Paragraph 7 which refers to a “transition” does so precisely by reference to the decision of the Arab League of 22nd January 2012. In other words if the Resolution had passed the Security Council including Russia and China would have passed a Resolution that demanded a transition in accordance with a decision of the Arab League made on 22nd January 2012 that Assad should step down.

    The concessions supposedly made during the negotiations to the Russians and the Chinese were purely cosmetic and the substance of the Resolution was unchanged. In essence it is a demand that Assad step down, hand over nominal control to his Vice President and cede control of the cities to the opposition with a threat of further action (including possible military action) against him in 21 days if he does not. The Resolution is a straightforward demand for regime change though one couched in convoluted language, which is why the Russians and the Chinese vetoed it.

  8. One of the most infuriating aspects of the western media coverage of the UN discussions over Syria is that the fact tha Russia presented a draft Resolution about Syria to the Security Council as long ago as October is never mentioned. Here is the draft

    http://columlynch.tumblr.com/post/9423151677/russian-draft-resolution-on-syria

    This draft is still before the Security Council. The western powers and their Arab allies have prevented it from being put to the vote. It has however been backed by China and the other BRICS states including India and South Africa. I understand that Pakistan has also indicated it would support it.

    As one can see, what the Russian proposed Resolution does is call for a general cessation of violence. It reminds the Syrian government of its responsibilities and calls on the opposition to enter into dialogue with it but makes no peremptory demands and contains no threats.

    If the priority really was to pass a Resolution on Syria there would be nothing to prevent a Resolution being passed based on the Russian text. The Russians have repeatedly made clear that they are prepared to negotiate its terms and that their draft is a basis for discussion though obviously they are not going to agree to changes that will alter the meaning of the Resolution beyond recognition. Obviously if such a Resolution were passed it might not immediately end the violence but the Resolution is not intended to end diplomatic process but to start it. As such it is an appropriate Resolution if the intention really were to bring an end to the violence. Of course it is not an appropriate Resolution if the agenda is regime change if only because it calls for a dialogue between the oppositon and the government something which with the encouragement of its western and Arab sponsors the opposition is rejecting so long as Assad remains in power.

  9. yalensis says:

    Putin warns against Western intervention in Syria:

    http://rt.com/news/putin-speech-syria-libya-821/

  10. Hunter says:

    Very interesting and thought-provoking article Mark. But I have to wonder if the the sponsors of the vetoed Resolution really did have open intervention in mind (as opposed to further pressure and covert intervention) and if they aren’t just as happy with the Resolution being vetoed since it is partly for show.

    Libya took months to complete with over 5,000 targets being bombed apparently. After the discontent in the US Congress over Obama’s use of force in Libya without first seeking a resolution from Congress I can’t imagine a similar scenario being played out again, especially in an election year. And of course without the US, the rest of NATO is unlikely to want to carry out a similar operation against Syria (which for starters has something like 4 times as many SAMs alone including much newer designs that Libya ever had). In fact US action seems really unlikely unless there is actually some event which directly impacts or could conceivably be construed as directly impacting the United States (such as the Straits of Hormuz being blocked for instance). And with Assad seemingly having learned from Libya in not employing airborne forces to counteract rebels there would be little point to a No Fly Zone.

    I get the feeling that this Resolution was drafted to bring more diplomatic pressure on Assad (with the call to hand over power within 21 days and so on) and that further action would have included an arms embargo and yet more sanctions and the possibility of de-recognition and open funding (and recognition) of the rebels. Only after that could I even see the possibility of outright military action against Syria. However it would not surprise me if the drafters of the Resolution pushed for the a vote because they knew that:

    1. if Russia and China abstained then it could lead to further actions as outlined above and bring more immediate pressure on Assad

    2. if Russia and China vetoed it as expected then they could grandstand and attempt to paint them in bad light for supporting Assad while now having an excuse to do things outside of the scope of the UN

    The reason I get this feeling is because from what I gather if Syria’s situation was really seen as a problem then it could be presented before the UN General Assembly where two-thirds of the members could vote to adopt a resolution concerning Syria. If the drafters really felt they needed the proposed UNSC resolution on Syria passed they could easily get some other members to sponsor a new version of it to the General Assembly and call for an Emergency Special Session. They don’t seem to be pushing this line because the mere proposal of the Resolution was probably designed to be pressure enough on Assad (diplomatically and in PR terms) and had it passed it would have been just icing on the cake. Having it fail allows them to play to the choir about Syria, Russia and China all at once while still making Syria’s government look bad. I’m not sure too if they could get the support of two-thirds of the UN members at any Emergency Special Session to pass the Resolution either, so that’s probably another reason they haven’t been pushing for this to be taken to the General Assembly.

    Now though they can use the veto as justification for working outside the UN framework and openly supporting the rebels with arms and money (and using special forces in covert actions as you outlined in that Debkha link). That’s something they would have been unlikely to achieve via any UN resolution anyway.

    • yalensis says:

      In Libya war, NATO destroyed Gaddafi’s anti-air capability very early in the game, leaving Libyan completely vulnerable and undefended against bombings. Talking brass tacks here: will Syria be able to mount a good anti-air defense when the bombers start flying over?

      • Dear Hunter,

        “I get the feeling that this Resolution was drafted to bring more diplomatic pressure on Assad….and that further action would have included an arms embargo, and yet more sanctions and the possibility of de-recognition and open funding (and recognition) of the rebels. Only after that could I even see the possibility of outright military action against Syria”.

        I agree with you. I am sure that is exactly how things would have turned out. The point is that as the text of the draft Resolution makes clear the agenda most definitely is regime change.

        The point to understand is that if the Resolution had been passed it would have provoked a political crisis within Syria. The Security Council would in effect have endorsed an Arab League plan that calls for Assad to step down and moreover would have insisted on his doing so within 21 days. It would have done so moreover on the basis of a Resolution that blames Assad for the violence. Even if Assad himself resolved to defy the Resolution his supporters in the government and the army seeing what happened to Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi and feeling abandoned by Russia and China would surely have started to sense that the writing was on the wall. Even though the regime has so far held together well the probability is that we would have started to see defections, which would have added to the impression that the regime was crumbling. The armed opposition in the meantime would feel emboldened and would step up its attacks. Needless to say the resulting violence would have been blamed on Assad just as all the violence up to now has been blamed on Assad and the Russians and the Chinese having agreed to a Resolution that blamed Assad for the violence would have been in no position to argue otherwise. The next Resolution with the sanctions you mention would then have been passing bringing the sense of crisis to a new level. If this too proved insufficient to remove the regime then I am sure that military action would have followed.

        The fact that the Resolution did not pass has at least relieved Assad from facing this scenario. You are of course absolutely right that the sponsors of this Resolution have not given up on their plans for regime change and will now look for ways to achieve it outside the UN framework. However that does not mean that the failure of the Resolution was without significance. At the very least it has bought Assad time and space and given him a lifeline and made the task for the sponsors of the Resolution of engineering regime change much more complicated. That is why their response to the Russian and Chinese decision to veto the Resolution has been so extreme.

        I would just add a few further points:

        1. I am no judge of military matters. However I find it difficult to believe that if there were a military campaign against Syria led by the US and involving Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, that the Syrian military would be able to resist it. Lavrov incidentally has hinted as much. He has said that whilst Russia cannot prevent a military campaign being launched against Syria what it can and will do is prevent the Security Council and the UN from being used to provide legal cover for it.

        2. I should say that as I understand it in terms of international law the imposition of an arms embargo is construed as a form of military action.

        3. The point about Russia (and China) preventing the Security Council and the UN being used to legitimise a military campaign intended to engineer regime change is absolutely fundamental and it is what the joint Russian and Chinese veto is all about. As the Chinese government is pointing out today misuse of the Security Council in this manner is in fact incompatible with the terms of the United Nations Charter since in effect it amounts to using the Security Council as an instrument to legalise aggression against a UN member state. Ever since the cascade of Resolutions that followed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 the US and its allies have been continuously pressing for the Security Council to be used in precisely this way just as they have sought to rewrite international law to place limits on state sovereignty, which they of course give themselves the right to decide when to violate. They have however been meeting growing resistance from Russia and China, who on this question are quietly supported by a host of other countries including India, Brazil, South Africa, Germany and Pakistan a fact that was made clear by the comments of the Indian, South African, German and Pakistani ambassadors at the Security Council meeting on Saturday and by the Pakistani foreign minister during her visit to Moscow yesterday even though under who knows what pressure all of these countries voted for the Resolution on Saturday.

        This struggle over the proper function of the UN and of the Security Council is at the heart of what happened on Saturday and is I am sure in Russian and Chinese minds more important than the question of Syria itself. I would just finish by saying that a good commentator on this attempt to appropriate the Security Council and to rewrite international law to serve US foreign policy is Mark Sleboda though the literature on this subject is vast.

        • marknesop says:

          Nonetheless, overt deployment of foreign troops by western or Arab nations on Syrian territory with the intent of assisting the “rebels” (who, as you’re aware, are not really rebels at all so we may as well call them what they are, which is “mercenaries”) to overthrow the government by force – and kill Asssad, which would be just one of those unfortunate consequences; they came, they saw, he died – is a violation of Syrian sovereignty and of the Laws of War. It need not be a declared war for the law to apply, and the invaders need not themselves engage in actions against civilians or those which threaten civilians; operating in direct support of those who do is enough. I’m sure the west is going to pursue action, because it has set itself up as the arbiter of justice and world governance and its pride will not allow it to back down. However, it does not bode well for international institutions in general and the United Nations in particular, because it is clear that the west will clamor for adherence to the rule of law only so long as the decision goes their way. If it does not, presto! there are no rules.

          Who wants to dedicate resources and loyalty, not to mention forbearance from acting in one’s own national interests, to an organization that is so obviously a corrupt rubber stamp for conquest? More to the point, if you consistently violate the law or interpret the law so that it allows you to do what you want to do, shouldn’t you stop looking down your nose at everyone else who doesn’t meet the imaginary standard that you yourself ignore when convenient?

          The west has progressed from covert support of dissident movements that serve its interests – as it did when it overthrew Mosadegh in Iran – to boldly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the most unprincipled and savage rabble imaginable; people it obviously has no hope or interest in welding into a coherent national government once the dust has settled. If Syria is taken, it will be left like a scrap of meat to be tugged at and fought over by warring factions, just like Libya. At some point in the future it may be in the west’s interest to reconquer these lands, with legions of fresh-faced noble troops, and to throw down its former allies and reshape the country once again.

          But for now, it’s only a means to an end.

        • Hunter says:

          Alexander,

          excellent points.

          Yes, I probably did miss the significance of the double veto in my post. The sense I get though is that had the Resolution passed it would have been the desired scenario for the sponsors of the Resolution but having it vetoed is also a “win” in their view, though of a lesser calibre (as they can now use the double veto to berate Russia and China and use it as an excuse to act outside the UN framework).

          ” I am no judge of military matters. However I find it difficult to believe that if there were a military campaign against Syria led by the US and involving Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, that the Syrian military would be able to resist it. Lavrov incidentally has hinted as much. He has said that whilst Russia cannot prevent a military campaign being launched against Syria what it can and will do is prevent the Security Council and the UN from being used to provide legal cover for it.”

          I’m sure Syria couldn’t resist if such a campaign was launched. However the lynch-pin of any such campaign would have to the be the United States and after the opposition Obama got from Congress over his Libyan campaign being launched without approval from Congress I can’t see that scenario being replayed with elections coming up in November unless Obama wants to give the Republicans some fodder. And without the US none of the other potential actors (Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) would be willing to join in. Maybe France and Britain would contemplate trying to do something without the US being involved in the bombardment, but in that case I could envision some serious losses as the region around Damascus is actually heavily defended and unless they are granted overflight rights by Lebanon then the Syrians would from which directions to expect allied aircraft to be approaching (from the north via Turkey or coming in from the coast and from the south via Jordan maybe). Knowing the flight routes is exactly how that Yugoslav anti-air battery brought down a US F-117 during the Kosovo conflict and in this case there would be no stealth aircraft unless the US became actively involved with B-2s. I’m sure Syria would still lose in the end but it wouldn’t be nearly as easy as Libya was for any anti-Assad coalition.

          “Ever since the cascade of Resolutions that followed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 the US and its allies have been continuously pressing for the Security Council to be used in precisely this way just as they have sought to rewrite international law to place limits on state sovereignty, which they of course give themselves the right to decide when to violate.”

          And funnily enough those Resolutions in 1990 and early 1991 were actually used in the way it would have been intended for the UN to act (to prevent one state, in that case Iraq, from carrying out aggression against a neighbouring state, in that case Kuwait). However ever since as you rightly pointed out Resolutions have been drafted which instead use the UN to act on internal affairs (Yugoslavia, Somalia, Libya, Ivory Coast) with the result that UN authorized action has been used to take part in civil wars, usually on the side of the rebels (the Ivory Coast being an exception where the former government ended up becoming the rebels by refusing to recognize that it actually lost the election and holding on to power).

          • yalensis says:

            @Hunter: I agree mostly with your comment, with one exception. The American presidential elections will actually INCREASE the chance of America going to war against Syria. Obama uses his military adventures to gain popularity and divert public from domestic economic problems. If he is at war with Syria (or Iran) in November, then his re-election is assured. His Republican opponents are impotent against this play, because (with the exception of some fringe “isolationist” elements like Ron Paul) they are not actually opposed to these imperialist adventures. Their criticisms of Obama (that he is anti-American wimp who “apologizes” for American greatness) only inspires him to use even more military force on international scene, to prove that he is macho he-man.

      • marknesop says:

        It’s all relative; I doubt any nation in the world can stand alone against U.S. air power. It all depends how costly you can make an attack, and what the arbitrary acceptable level of losses is. But the first aircraft in will be jammers and SAM suppression types, before the fighter/bombers are risked. That’s assuming there will be any air attack at all, which is doubtful at this point since it cannot have the imprimatur of international support. Expensive and capable SAM systems will be kind of a joke if they’re overrun by al Qaeda irregulars carrying small arms and rockets.

        Unless Syria is resupplied, it will fall eventually, because the mercenaries have an endless supply of bullets and rockets and explosives. Time for Iran to wake up, because they will be next.

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          Dear Hunter,

          Thank you for your kind words.

          Basically I agree with you. The defeat of the Resolution on Saturday is a setback but no more. The objective remains regime change and the authors of the Resolution will now look for a means to achieve it outside the UN framework exactly as they did during the Kosovo crisis of 1999. As you rightly say they have also got themselves something else to abuse China and Russia with.

          Just to take up a few points:

          1, If military action had been authorised by the Security Council I doubt that Obama would have had much trouble getting it authorised by Congress even in an election year. The fact it is an election year might actually make it easier to obtain authorisation if the Republican candidate supports it, which is likely, and if Israel supports it, which is also likely. It will be much harder to get such approval now that the Security Council has not authorised it. Having said this I don’t think one should discount the possibility.

          2 @ Mark

          “Unless Syria is resupplied it will fall eventually because the mercenaries have an endless supply of bullets and rockets and explosives”.

          During the discussions in the Security Council Churkin made the specific point that Russia could not agree to an arms embargo for precisely the reason that you say. He pointed out that when an arms embargo was imposed on Libya it was interpreted by the western powers and their Arab allies as applying only to the Libyan government whilst the western powers and their Arab allies felt themselves free to supply arms and send troops to help the rebels. Churkin made it clear that Russia will never again be party to such a one sided embargo. I interpret these comments as a clear warning that if the western powers and their Arab allies continue to arm the rebels (as of course they are already doing) then Russia will retaliate by resupplying the Syrian army.

          • marknesop says:

            I imagine you’re right, Alex; and Russia can afford it, while the west is in not as good a position money-wise.

            I want to be clear that if no doubt existed that Assad is the savage brute they say he is, I’d support action against him. It is by no means clear that this is the case, and considerable evidence suggests it is a fabricated excuse for grabbing a sovereign nation and wrecking it, just as was done with Libya. I didn’t care much for Gaddafi, either, but I liked him better than I do Sarkozy, and I wouldn’t have advocated the bombing and destruction of France based on dummied-up evidence. A great deal of money and education has gone into teaching the pending generation of leaders, statesmen and responsible citizens that you can’t simply crush people you don’t like because you have power yourself and powerful friends. It’s called “ethics”. Once upon a time the USA and its western allies advocated influencing events “not with the example of our power, but with the power of our example”. That’s still the best way, but some people are impatient and can’t wait to reshape the world.

            • yalensis says:

              I knew zero about Libya when that war started, and I just passively assumed the usual tropes, that Gaddafi was this goofy but brutal dictator who committed vile terrorist acts abroad and oppressed his people at home. As I learned more, I came to change my opinion about Gaddafi, and now see him as actually one of the good guys. Every accusation against him that Western propagandists made (corrupt, brutal, etc.) turned out to be either an outright lie, or an exagerration. Gaddafi was accused of salting billions away in Western banks. (That turned out to be false, and BTW that’s the same accusation they make against Putin.) He was accused of imprisoning and torturing political dissidents, but it turns out he only jailed violent jihadists (the same ones who overthrew him with NATO assistance). The list goes on. Given this, Western press has zero credibility, and I refuse to believe so much as one word they say about Assad. I don’t necessarily think he is a good guy, like Gaddafi, but I doubt if he is the monster they portray.
              P.S. Anybody who wants to peek inside Gaddafi’s soul should watch the movie Lion of the Desert , a biography of Libyan national hero Omar Mukhtar (played by Anthony Quinn), who fought a guerrilla war against Italian invaders. (Rod Steiger plays Mussolini.) Gaddafi was obsessed with Mukhtar, who was his personal hero, and bankrolled the movie. (Okay, so Gaddafi was a TAD corrupt; not everybody gets to bankroll their own movie!) But it is a very good movie, Hollywood production values and well-known actors, and you can learn a lot about Libyan history by watching it. Throughout the film there is the character of this little boy whose father was murdered by Italian occupiers, his family is befriended by Mukhtar, and at the end, after Italians have hanged the guerrilla leader, the little boy finds Mukhtar’s spectacles on the scaffold and keeps them as a memento. Even though this was before Gaddafi’s time, it is clear that Gaddafi identifies himself with that little boy, who will go on to take up the mantle of Omar, and the film is saying that the struggle against colonialism is passed on from one generation to another.
              Anybody who watched this movie could not have had any doubt that Gaddafi would fight to the death, because that is what his hero Mukhtar did. Gaddafi could no more betray the memory of Omar Mukhtar than he could betray his own soul.
              As for Assad, who knows? He seems like a faceless bureucrat. Maybe he would be the type who would accept a deal and go into exile to save his skin once the bombs started falling? I really wish the Russians and Chinese had drawn their red line in Libya and not waited until things got this bad.

              • Dear Yalensis,

                I totally agree that the Russians and the Chinese should have drawn the line at Libya. Had they done so they would not be facing the demands to vote for a Resolution over Syria that they are facing now.

                On the subject of atrocities I have long since given up believing atrocity news when it appears in the western media. I have heard exactly the same stories reported in the same emotional way during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (babies pulled from incubators etc), Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Darfur and last year in Libya. Subsequently after the event more sober academic studies show that the claims were either enormously exaggerated or completely untrue, Despite this the western media agencies responsible for publicising these stories never admit this fact and nor does it stop them doing the same thing in whatever other conflict the western media cavalcade next turns its attention to. I see no reason to think that western news reporting from Syria (at the moment from Homs and its environs) is any more reliable than it has been in any of the other places I have mentioned.

                I would just add that even if what we are being told about Homs is true it does not come close to the devastation of Falluja during the Iraq war not to mention the emptying of Turghawa by the Misurata militias that you have told us about. Those stories are receive no attention (Turghawa) or are reported in a completely diffferent way (Falluja), I also have vivid memories of the central American wars of the 1980s with their rampaging US funded Death Squads and of the murder of the heroic Archbishop Romero of El Salvador on camera on the steps of his own cathedral. Who remembers him now? Of course I accept that atrocities in one place do not justify atrocities in another but when the reporting of atrocities is so selective one cannot but question the motives of those reporting them.

                • yalensis says:

                  Not to mention the destruction of the city of Sirte through NATO carpet-bombing (and rebel rocket bombardments). NATO bombed Sirte back to the stone-age in its frenzied attempt to murder Gaddafi. This video shows the before-and-after of a once vibrant modern city that was on the way to being a business and cultural hub for the continent of Africa. Millions of dollars lost in property values, complete destruction of infrastructure: water, electricity, etc., plus untold human lives lost, and everybody homeless now.
                  Thanks, NATO!

                • marknesop says:

                  How not to run a hearts and minds campaign. I can’t imagine the hatred this has nourished in the minds of Libyans who were citizens of the most progressive, highest ranked country among African nations by a significant margin. Let’s make a pledge to revisit Libya a year from now, and see where it is on the HDI. This hatred is both honestly earned and unsurprising – let’s recall what sort of reception you might have received in England throughout the 1940’s if you announced you were German, and England was very capable of fighting back as well as ending up on the winning side. Remember what the Americans thought of the Japanese after 1941, and although things did not work out as the Japanese had planned – resulting in disgrace because the declaration of war was not received before the attack as had been intended – the vast majority of Americans did not suffer personally except for pride. Libya, by contrast, was devastated from one end to the other. Some authority (cough, The Guardian, cough) floated the idea that Gadaffi was “hiding tanks” inside the Great Man-Made River, Gadaffi’s single greatest achievement and gift to Libyans, and NATO claimed it was being used to store military hardware. This was a blatant fabrication designed solely to add it to the target list, and in the most reprehensible act of the invasion, NATO bombed it. Note that The Guardian described the system as “irrigation tunnels”. This trivializes the fact that it supplied some 70% of Libyans with drinking and household water. There were no arms of any significance stored inside this gigantic water pipe, and denial of this essential basic to the civilian population was a huge war crime on a par with an enemy bombing the London power grid because they said there were some rifles hidden in a power station. I wonder how understanding the English would be in that situation. The individuals who dropped those bombs should be sickened with shame, because it was completely unnecessary and did not satisfy any military objective besides breaking the will of the population to go on fighting. Will NATO get its day in the dock to answer for its actions and their consequences? Ha, ha.

                  Now Libyans are saddled with a “government” that is much more repressive than Gaddafi was, and billions of dollars in war damage. It should be clear to even the most rednecked, gun-rack-sporting, pickup-truck-driving good ole boy that if the Libyans are orders of magnitude worse off now than they were, then most of the accusations against Gaddafi were made up as an excuse to attack, and he really wasn’t so bad. Syria need not look far for an example of the future NATO plans for it.

  11. yalensis says:

    Le Figaro on Syrian situation:
    http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2012/02/06/01003-20120206ARTFIG00721-syrie-des-militaires-russes-omnipresents.php
    Russian marines are being dispatched under-cover to protect Russian naval base at Tartu:

    Plus que jamais, le drapeau russe flotte aux côtés du fanion syrien à l’entrée de la base navale de Tartous, sur la côte méditerranéenne, ultime tête de pont de Moscou au Moyen-Orient. «Ces derniers mois, de nombreux coopérants de la marine russe ont été envoyés sous couverture en Syrie, rapporte un expert militaire français au Moyen-Orient, mais il s’agit de conseillers militaires et d’agents du renseignement, qui ont été dispersés dans l’armée, les services de sécurité et certains ministères à Damas.» Objectif: influer sur la crise provoquée par la répression sanglante d’un soulèvement, qui menace le pouvoir du président Bachar el-Assad, leur dernier allié au Moyen-Orient.

    Russian diplomats offered to dialogue with some elements of Syrian opposition, maybe even try to bring some of them into the Assad government, but were rebuffed:

    En fin de semaine dernière, des diplomates de l’ambassade russe à Damas ont multiplié les contacts avec des leaders de l’opposition sur place. En vain. Ces derniers refusent l’invitation de Moscou pour engager un dialogue avec le régime. Ce n’est pas la première fois que la Russie tend une perche aux opposants. En juin déjà, Moscou avait invité certains ténors de l’opposition; et quelques semaines plus tard, ses émissaires avaient proposé à l’un d’entre eux de diriger un gouvernement, toujours présidé par Assad.

    Russia to provide additional anti-aircraft to Syria, something called Yak-130 which can help to fend off NATO bombs, however the deliveries have not yet taken place::

    La Russie est soupçonnée d’avoir récemment livré des batteries antiaériennes à Damas, qui redoute des bombardements de l’Otan. Moscou a également conclu un accord de 550 millions de dollars portant sur la livraison de 36 avions d’entraînement et d’attaque légers Yak-130, mais la première fourniture n’a pas encore eu lieu.

    Russia will help Assad to reorganize and reform the Baath party:
    La coopération sécuritaire n’est pas la seule à avoir été renforcée. Depuis quelques semaines, des experts russes encadrent la réorganisation du Baas, le parti unique au pouvoir, qu’un Congrès général doit entériner le mois prochain. «Les Syriens sont en train de transférer des pouvoirs et de l’argent de l’État ou de certaines administrations vers un nouveau Baas, qui doit être en position de force lorsqu’Assad annoncera théoriquement en mars l’ouverture au multipartisme», avertit un observateur libanais.

    All of this if successful would allow Russia to retain some control over the situation and avert an all-out war in Middle East. I predict Americans will not back down and will just recklessly go for it. Russia cannot back down either, so there will be a big war. I hope I am wrong.

    • Hunter says:

      Yak-130s can’t help to fend off NATO bombs. They are trainers/light-attack aircraft.

      The quoted section of the article says Russia is suspected of having delivered anti-aircraft batteries to Damascus which fears a bombardment by NATO and that an agreement was also signed for the Yak-130s.

      • yalensis says:

        Thanks again, @Hunter. My French is a little rusty nowadays.

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, I meant to mention that it says so in the text Yalensis posted in French; “attack trainers”. But I ran out of time and had to leave for work. It says Russia has agreed to supply Yak-130 light attack trainers but the first has yet to be delivered.

        Without a UN Resolution or a formal coalition-building effort, I don’t see an aerial component on the scale of Libya this time around, because it could not be labeled anything but an invasion. I’m sure Sarkozy is just itching to get in there – especially since I saw a news item the other day which suggests the hard right is making gains in France (although I doubt it will be enough to save Sarkozy from the axe this time around), but even if that were the case, light attack trainers would do little to alter the balance. The ideal would be to force enemy aircraft to follow certain routes (hard to do in desert terrain), and make them pay heavily to get in. But Syria’s best bet is to get undeniable proof that they are being set up by the mercenaries – preferably catching them in the act of an atrocity – and get it out through a friendly/neutral state’s media. The west will shout that it’s photoshopped or doctored, but if they push it hard enough it should begin to erode public support for more war. Either that, or somebody else is going to have to get involved with mercenaries of their own; on the down-low, as they say. A few squads of al Qaeda irregulars wiped out in a particularly gruesome way would have a powerful sobering effect.

  12. Alexander Mercouris says:

    I don’t want to venture too far into territory with which I am unfamiliar but surely large scale deployment of anti aircraft missiles from Russia around Damascus would be a highly visible act, which if it were happening would provoke uproar. Wouldn’t the Russians also need to train the Syrians to use such missiles? Similarly the aircraft deliveries mentioned are surely months if not years away in which case they have no direct bearing on the military aspects of this crisis. I suspect that the deal to supply the aircraft, like the naval deployment a few weeks ago to Tartus, are largely symbolic acts intended to underline Russia’s support for the Syrian government.

    • Hunter says:

      With regards to the missiles ( if they were even delivered) I don’t think the Syrians would need any more training as they already operate a range of Soviet and Russian made surface-to-air missiles and so should be quite familiar with whatever missiles were delivered unless they were newer varieties.

      • yalensis says:

        Agree. The Syrians will prove themselves to be already fully trained in the use of all this Russian equipment (unlike the Libyans, who had no clue how to use state of the art equipment).
        During Libyan war, there were persistent rumors that Russia had figured out a way to upload viruses into the controlling software of American drones. I guess we will find out if that was true or not, once the drones start flying over Syria.

        • marknesop says:

          There is nothing which currently prevents Russia from selling and delivering military hardware to Syria, and there would be no need to do it covertly. There’s nothing to prevent Russia selling SAM systems to Iran, but they allowed themselves to be persuaded to back out of the deal based on western pleading and arm-twisting. That, however, was back in the days when Russia perhaps thought there would be some quid pro quo to be had by acquiescing to western persuasion. That’s just not going to happen, unless Russia subordinates itself under a weak leader and allows a substantial degree of western control.

          All the disadvantage in selling to Syria right now would be found in loud and constant condemnation from the west for supporting tyranny. Russia is already being spat upon for vetoing the west’s shiny resolution, so what’s it got to lose? Russia should also be helping Syria get the real story – that the government is under direct attack by a mercenary army acting on behalf of the west – out in a manner that cannot be refuted.

        • Hunter says:

          “During Libyan war, there were persistent rumors that Russia had figured out a way to upload viruses into the controlling software of American drones.”

          Hmmm….might explain how Iran got that US drone the other day…..

          • marknesop says:

            I’m not sure that was blamed on Russia; I believe the proposed culprit was Iran. However, this article appears to suggest the mission profile is preloaded in the unit before it takes off, and although there is likely to be a local command link that can be used to take the drone in hand control, uploading a virus (which does appear to be true) would be astronomically unlikely to allow another nation to take control of the drone. It would likely, if it worked at all, insert random commends that would make the drone’s performance erratic and might cause it to crash. In that event, it would likely be wrecked.

            Realistically, although these aircraft have come a long way in terms of reliability, they are extremely complex and crashes are not uncommon. Of the first 6 Global Hawks, 50% experienced failures, some simply due to stupidity as the drone did just what it was told.

            What interests me is the difference between stories; the USA says the drone was quickly located and that it was “a pile of wreckage”. Iran says it was recovered basically intact. U.S. experts countered with allegations that what Iran had was a model. Looks like a hell of a good model.

            • yalensis says:

              One of the commenters on the “wired” link pointed out similarities with the “Stuxnet” worm that was purportedly created by Israeli programmers to attack controlling software of Iran’s nuclear plants. Thanks to this worm, Iran’s nuclear program was set back approx. one year. I wonder if Iranian programmers, in the course of clearing and studying this worm, managed to modify it to work on American drones? Humans are devilishly clever creatures: any weapon you hurl at them, they will figure it out and hurl it back, in possibly improved form.
              If so, that would be a positive development for the anti-NATO side, hopefully Iran would share this anti-drone technology with Syria. Why did they not share with Libya? Because Iran was anti-Gaddafi and did not give him any solidarity, even though they had a common enemy.

              • cartman says:

                Australia: F-35 JSF no match for Sukhoi T-50.
                http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/jsf-no-match-for-latest-russian-fighters-or-chinese-radar/story-e6frg8yo-1226265180090

                Hacked and infected drones should delay plans to make weapons completely unmanned.

                • Alexander Mercouris says:

                  Dear Cartman,

                  As I have said I am not at all expert on military matters but here is an article about the troubled F35 programme (and its F22 predecessor) that you and the other people with military backgrounds (including of course Mark) might find interesting.

                  http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/09/the-heritage-foundation-then-and-now/

                  It looks this is a programme that is in serious trouble.

                • Alexander Mercouris says:

                  ,,, and here is another article about the F35 programme that is if possible even more scathing than the one for which I have just provided a link.

                  http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/30/the-on-going-scandal-of-the-f-35/

                • marknesop says:

                  “Hacked and infected drones should delay plans to make weapons completely unmanned.”

                  That’s actually a very farsighted statement, and suggests an ability to form logic chains that certainly far outstrips mine – that’s an angle I had not considered. But you’re right; the sectors of the military-industrial complex involved in manufacturing manned fighter aircraft will use this chink in the armor of the drone project to argue that it’s a nerd fantasy at best and siphoning money from more worthy defense projects at worst.

                  I’d like to defend the F-35 – since my country is committed to buying it – but I can’t. As far as I can make out, although I’m not an aviation engineer, it is a dog from every angle you look at it except price, and that presumes you are the seller rather than the buyer. As you can see, Winslow Wheeler takes the almost unprecedented step – as an American – of arguing in print that allies should not buy an American aircraft because it is an overpriced turd that nobody could polish enough to make it equal the performance achieved by cheaper designs.

                  This sort of argument goes further than you might think. Although the conservative government – long ago having embraced American ethos and global objectives, and eager to please – would not cancel the project even if the plane was revealed to be as aerodynamic as a coke machine, an opposition that was on the ball would be all over Winslow Wheeler’s allegations that even with a deep discount to Canada, the airframe is still going to cost about twice what the official figures suggest and will not perform even as well as the aging CF-18 Hornet. That would have to be the New Democrats, I’m afraid, since the Liberals decimated themselves in the last election. Most unfortunately, the charismatic and pugnacious leader of the NDP – Jack Layton – succumbed to cancer only 4 months after his party blew the liberals out of the water (eerie how much he looks like Lenin in this picture). I can’t claim to have ever been a fan – the NDP is too socialist for me – but I can tell you Jack Layton would have been on Wheeler’s cost appraisals like Rush Limbaugh on a baked ham before the ink was even dry. But somebody in the opposition (preferably the Defense Critic) should be riding this issue like Seabiscuit.

                  Nor is the article I linked above the only arrow in Wheeler’s quiver; he really seems to hate the F-35. Who is this Wheeler guy? The Director of the Straus Military Reform Project; lots more of his ideas on national defense here.

              • marknesop says:

                It’s always easier and cheaper to engineer a countermeasure to a sophisticated and expensive weapon than to develop your own sophisticated and expensive weapon. But the only thing that will interfere with the guidance of a drone that is flying using only its own internal program as a reference (preloaded before takeoff) is a powerful jammer that will overpower and overload its circuitry. Many of these use a steerable beam, and many also cover a range of frequencies. But they need raw power, and lots of it. Otherwise, a drone is just a big, sophisticated flying thumb drive that is receiving all its navigation commands from the internal program.

                People who use a protected net seem to never learn – someone always gets lazy and inserts a USB stick into their work computer without air-gapping it first (scanning it on a stand-alone computer that is not connected to the net), and there goes the whole network. Modern viruses immediately hide themselves deep in the root directory, and even garden-variety viruses now replicate themselves in such a way that if you clean them off, they come right back as soon as you restart the computer. But again, injecting a virus such as a destructive worm into the control computers would not be able to replace a drone’s navigation program with a duplicate that would make it fly across the Iranian border and then gently land itself for an easy recovery. It would probably crash and break up, and if you were really unlucky it wouldn’t even take off, thus betraying a problem before the drone was even placed at risk.

                Most short-range remote units use a datalink, and that is susceptible to interference. But if you want to take the drone in hand control, maybe deviate from it’s programmed flight to go take a look behind that ridge or follow that car, you’d have to use a datalink, even though those drones are flying at phenomenal ranges. Lots of remote vehicles constantly scan their own link and, if they receive bad data, take a preset action like flying in slow circles or coasting. I suppose it’s possible that the default action would be to reduce power and land. So it’s not a ridiculous proposition, just unlikely.

                • cartman says:

                  A few months ago I heard they were planning to make drones that use facial recognition software. I figured that was admission that remote control drones could ultimately be defeated (although the rise of the machines cannot). Asking Siri (the iphone voice) for directions to the abortion clinic can be hilarious. A killbot with facial recognition that precise is not.

                • marknesop says:

                  I don’t know how they’d get that kind of resolution. A few years back I worked with a guy who was scary-brilliant, and as a very junior military member he had convinced Imagis Technologies to grant him a temporary license to use their biometric software for a project he was developing. As I mentioned, he was scary brilliant, but the military focused on the scary part (he had some anger management issues and a few paranoid tendencies), and showed him the exit door.

                  But this guy developed – in his room while he was on a trade course and later in his living room at home – a portable biometric recognition system. You could wear it and walk around with it, and using relay transceivers that could have been placed on a ship you could get a range of about a quarter-mile. He built a database of known faces using anyone he knew who would volunteer to let him use the system to store their image. The camera was in a vest that you wore that looked like a flak jacket with a lens in it, only lighter. He integrated a pair of glasses, off the shelf technology, that project a computer desktop image in the air in front of the wearer; only he or she can see it, and you use that to access the database. Lastly, a glove – gamer technology of the day, which was more than 10 years ago now – which used pitch and roll sensors from hand movement like a mouse, and finger attachments that would let you type in the air. The typed command appeared on your “invisible” virtual desktop.

                  Using this, I saw him demonstrate that he could photograph someone whose image was already in the database, command it to search and come up with the right ID, every time. The database at that time probably had less than 20 images in it, but still…it was creepy. It ran on battery power, and you didn’t need to carry around a bulky drive with thousands of images on it – that was all taken care of by the relay transceiver, which could be up to a quarter mile away.

                  Imagis, who were pioneers in biometric software, advertised at the time that their facial recognition software did a comparison of more than 300 datapoints in the triangle formed by the corners of your eyes and the base of your nose. It was more accurate than a fingerprint, which uses orders of magnitude less points of comparison. The only way you could fool it would be to obscure the target area with, say, dark glasses. My acquaintance reasoned that if the system were used in an airport security role, you could always ask the person to remove their glasses and they’d have to do it. Similarly, you would be within your rights to ask them to look directly at the camera.

                  That system was up and working when Canada was just toying with the idea of getting into biometrics for security at airports, and companies were jostling to sell them big, bulky, unproven fixed-machine designs that were so expensive that airports would be able to afford only enough to cover high-risk gates. I couldn’t say what the current state and cost of biometric security systems is in Canada, but I believe my acquaintance had spent something like 10,000.00 on his system. And it was portable. So far as I know, it never got beyond development.

                  But back to the resolution issue. I know satellite systems can achieve incredible definition from staggering ranges. But is it good enough to capture a triangle about 5 inches across? What about the direct angle necessary for face-on comparison, from thousands of feet up? How would this drone access its database? It might be able to carry it onboard; storage media has made enormous leaps in 10 years. But there might be privacy issues…I don’t know. It’s theoretically possible, but some pretty big problems would have to be solved to make it work.

                • yalensis says:

                  The virus supposedly just logged keystrokes. So it might have been simply a utility to learn the command language and capture passwords. Then maybe a spy located somewhere else directed the stolen drone. The whole Iranian incident could have been just a proof-of-concept test.

                • marknesop says:

                  It’s usually a mistake to hope that the motivation for inserting a virus was the most benign among the possibilities, and the American IT professionals could have isolated and removed a simple keystroke logger without even breaking a sweat.

                  A remote-controlled unit that can operate at long range, as I mentioned, usually includes data-comparison circuitry that checks its own uplink constantly. Interference is one reason, and can occur if the drone gets out of range of its transmitter; then it should initiate some kind of “lost link” action that will protect it from damaging itself and minimize its chances of running into something else. That’s when it’s beginning to receive broken instructions because some are too weak.

                  Similarly, if it began to receive too many – as you have described when someone tries to take over control – it should go into its “lost link” routine. An outside agency preempting American control to seize control of a drone in flight would rely on the outside agency having the same software so the vehicle would understand its commands, and be broadcasting on the same uplink/downlink frequency. I think. you’ll agree that’s unlikely

                  It’s far more likely that an operator sent the drone an incorrect instruction (such as happened with one of the Global Hawks that crashed, basically because the operator directed it to crash itself) and it was operating too low to recover in time (drones are usually so high that they are not visible and they go undetected in the great majority of cases), a minor control failure that forced it to land relatively undamaged, or what the Iranians have is a model as some U.SD. intelligence agencies suggest. I’d discount the last, because the Iranians would have to know not only that the USA had lost one, but exactly what it looked like, and I don’t think the time between its failure and the Iranians producing it was long enough for that. If the “model” were not identical to the one lost, the U.S. would surely have said so.

  13. yalensis says:

    Libya: pogroms against ethnic Africans:

    http://rt.com/news/libya-war-crimes-racism-827/

  14. Alex says:

    Hi everyone! Im Russian. Thank you for this perfect analysis of current situation around Siria. Thank you for truth- Its so rare today.

    • marknesop says:

      Hello, Alex, and welcome!! It’s hard to say what is the truth, especially when there is such a deliberate effort to hide it and keep secrets. But the insistence of western reporters on sticking with the storyline provided by activists – some of whom are not even in Syria – rather than the observations of designated Arab League representatives who were there and who have no reason to do Assad any favours – speaks volumes.

      • Alex says:

        Its a copy of Livia scenario

        • sinotibetan says:

          Dear Alex,

          Agree completely.

          sinotibetan

        • marknesop says:

          Very much so; I imagine western governments regard Libya as a great success – although it is a mess now and the lives of its citizens much worse than they were under Gadaffi. When a formula strikes you as very successful, you naturally want to try it again. Although senior western figures such as Hillary Clinton and the British Ambassador to the UN say there was nothing in the resolution about regime change or use of force, those who have a good grasp of law (such as Alexander Mercouris, who often comments here) have pointed out that it gave Assad only 21 days to implement changes demanded in the resolution. If he failed to do that – and unless he simply quit and handed over power to a chosen successor, nothing he did would be satisfactory) – there was provision for a second resolution with different terms. The first was “a foot in the door” as they say in English. In this instance, the veto by Russia and China was the right thing to do and the west’s ambitions had nothing to do with saving the Syrian people.

          • yalensis says:

            Apparently there is a very old Arabic proverb about the merchant and his camel. One night it was very cold in the desert, and the merchant was trying to stay warm in his tent, while the camel slept outside. The camel started complaining: “It is so cold out here, won’t you let me into your tent?” and the merchant replied, “There is not enough room in my tent, you must sleep outside.” The camel continued to beg: “May I not just put my nose inside your tent, then at least my nose will be warm?” The kindly merchant consented, and allowed the camel to insert his nose inside the tent. When he awoke the following morning, the merchant found himself shoved outside, he was freezing his ass off, and the camel was sleeping inside the tent! Moral of the story: Do not let the camel put even so much as his nose inside your tent, if you want to keep the tent!

            • Alexander Mercouris says:

              Dear Mark and Yalensis,

              That is exactly right. If the Resolution had passed it would have been a foot in the door (or a camel’s snout inside the tent!).

      • sinotibetan says:

        Dear Mark and all,
        Hope you guys still remember me! Had not commented for a while. Thanks to Mark for this excellent post. I hope you blog gets more ‘publicity’ so that English-speaking readers would be aware of the precarious situation we are in – sadly being ‘orchestrated’ by some powerful elites in the West/US.
        yalensis – Russia is not the ‘only’/’main’ target by the Imperialists – but it’s a crucial power to be ‘paralyzed’ to realise their own dreams of how the world should be run. I still think Putin will regain the presidency despite all the noise of the likes of Navalny(who failed to get his 1 million ‘protesters’ in the recent protest) and the machinations of Washington. Putin winning this presidency is crucial for Russia, in my opinion – for Russia: to ensure internal stability and for the world: also to ensure stability. A further weakened Russia would mean an even more unchecked Washington.
        I think what ultimately happens to Syria hinges also on what happens to Russia in the aftermath of 4th March. IF Russia destabilizes(i.e. Washington’s plans succeed), Syria would go the way of Libya. The Chinese, in my opinion, would not ‘stand by’ Syria if Russia becomes non-committal in her stand(which should be if the country destabilizes). Once Syria experiences ‘regime change’, Iran will be the next target. If Washington’s machinations on Russia fails, the chances of regime change in Syria this year would be slimmer. Moreover, a Putin presidency would be probably more anti-Western than his previous tenures – so there’s a chance that Assad might garther enough(and ‘continuous’) Russian and Chinese backing to discourage American MILITARY intervention for the time being.
        yalensis – thanks for your interesting comments about chess. I too am not smart enough to play that game. Hmmm…’shah mati’ and ‘check mate’. In the Malay language, ‘shah’ can sometimes mean a title for some form of ruler and ‘mati’ means ‘dead’. I don’t know the etymology of those words in Malay. ‘Check mate’ for Assad means a dead Assad(shah mati). Hmmm…..apt words for the real intention of the Washington imperialists!
        A bit off-tangent but thought of sharing the views from “Eurasian Review”:-
        http://www.eurasiareview.com/10022012-russias-white-revolution-oped/
        And this website tells us that the US is hypocritical when it deals with disparate ‘unfree’ regimes – one wonders if the American position is ethically or morally justified when America is OK with Saudi Arabia but oppose Iran as ‘evil , unfree regime’:-
        http://www.timeslive.co.za/world/2012/02/10/malaysia-detains-saudi-journalist-for-insulting-islam

        sinotibetan

        • yalensis says:

          Hello my dear friend, Sino-T! I hope you are doing well in your part of the world.
          Well, don’t feel bad about not playing chess. They have a computer now who can beat a grandmaster. So what’s the point? Ha!

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks, Sino-T, and it’s great to see you back!! I agree Putin will win the presidency, unless some last-minute bomb is rolled under his door (figuratively speaking) in the last day or two prior to the vote – when the undecided could still go another way, when all but the most hardcore loyalists could still be swayed and when it’s too late to rebut it before the electorate goes to the polls. I need hardly point out that this is a favourite tactic in American elections, and it remains a go-to in the toolbox because it continues to be effective.

          I have difficulty expressing just how disappointed I am in Obama, whom I genuinely liked and respected and whom I really thought was progressive and different. When I see him up there proselytizing about how Assad “must step down”, just as he said Gaddafi must step down, I realize he is no different than the rest of the political crop; only better-spoken and more articulate. Consequently, I no longer care who wins the American presidential election, although my money would still be on Obama if it came to a wager. But maybe having a spoiled rich-boy predatory capitalist president who thinks tax cuts for the top earners equal prosperity for all is just what America needs.

  15. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Yalensis,

    Have you seen this BBC film about the role of Special Forces in Libya?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16624401

    What I find ironic is that when the British and the French in March jointly drafted Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 that prohibited deployment of an occupation force or mercenaries in Libya they were planning to do just that.

  16. marknesop says:

    Well done, team – today marks a new record for this site for single-day traffic; 1,247 hits, exactly 100 better than the previous high. I say “team” because a lot of visitors drop in as much for the comments as for the original post itself, and learn a great deal from them (as I do). Your thought-provoking and insightful comments regularly take the conversation in new and interesting directions. Once again, I am particularly grateful to Alex Mercouris and Yalensis for more or less dropping the story, whole and breathing, into my lap. The report from the Arab League Observers Mission was the linchpin of the whole post, and once I had seen it, it was impossible not to write it. Thanks, guys.

  17. cartman says:

    Obama’s Russia Failure by Anthony T. Salvia, who worked for the State Department under Reagan and is executive director for American Institute in Ukraine (http://www.aminuk.org/)

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4187649,00.html

    This is a sane article so it attracts a lot of nasty talkback comments. You also have to give Israeli media credit for outdoing the rest of the world in scaremongering. They usually have whole sections dedicated to the latest threat.

    • yalensis says:

      Good link, @cartman. Obama’s Russia policy has been Epic Fail for USA. Despite Mr. Obama’s pretensions to be a sophisticated world traveller, he knows absolutely Squat about foreign policy. This is why he relies on the “expertise” of the Clintons who, themselves, are ignorant yet arrogant Arkansas hillbillies! Do any of these people speak so much as one word in any foreign language? Mitt Romney at least speaks a little French, for whatever that is worth.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Thank you also for this link Cartman.

        Though I was never a fan of the man Reagan had some clever people working for him. One who writes well especially on economic matters is his former Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts.

        Just two further things I wanted to say:

        1. Obama made an utterly disastrous mistake right at the start of the reset, which was to try to play Medvedev off against Putin. He or possibly his foreign policy team seem to have bought into the fantasy that Medvedev was a potential liberal counterweight to the conservative nationalist Putin. Needless to say this merely damaged Obama’s standing with Putin who was always in the end the dominant partner. Besides it violates the fundamental diplomatic principle, which is that you do not choose your negotiating partner. Unfortunately the US always makes this mistake since it takes it for granted that it both can and should manipulate the internal affairs of its partners, whether they are its adversaries or its friends.

        2. A year or so ago I read a fascinating article by Dimitri Simes in I think Foreign Policy in which he outlined the totally disastrous policy that Clinton when President pursued towards Russia and how Clinton and his people completely misjudged the situation in Russia. Simes showed that the Clinton administration was not only pushing relentlessly the liberal reforms in the 1990s but that when these ran into resistance in the Russian parliament tthat Clinton badgered Yeltsin to dissolve it and send in the tanks and that Clinton therefore shared responsibility with Yeltsin for the political crisis of 1993. Nixon who had been President in the 1970s and who has to this day been the only important US politician since Roosevelt to develop a reasonable working relationship with the Russians apparently tried to warn Clinton that his approach was disastrous but needless to say was ignored. Simes also showed that at the same time that Clinton was urging Yeltsin to embrace the most extreme possible liberal agenda in Russian domestic policy he was also bullying Yeltsin to support every possible twist and turn of US foreign policy however extreme or bizarre and even when it was directed against Russian interests to the point where apparently even Yeltsin’s ultra liberal and pro US foreign minister (I forget his name) apparently eventually became privately completely disillusioned and started to complain about it.

        McFaul was an executor of these policies and Hillary Clinton of course was a member of her husband’s administration. Susan Rice as I have said is connected both to Hillary Clinton and to Madeleine Albright, who was Clinton’s Secretary of State. It seems that these people have learnt nothing from the failure of their policies. Of course if you never admit your mistakes you never learn from them.

        • yalensis says:

          Madeleine Albright + Hillary Clinton + Susan Rice = the three Norns of America’s Götterdämmerung. Except that the Norns were not evil per se..

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Yalensis, that’s brilliant!

            (PS: They could also be the Three Furies of Aeschylus)

            • yalensis says:

              (I stole this from Wikipedia, it goes without saying, Google “Norns”…)
              How The Three Norns (Russophobe, Bubbette and Angry) determine the Fates of men.
              Þaðan koma meyjar
              margs vitandi
              þrjár ór þeim sæ,
              er und þolli stendr;
              Urð hétu eina,
              aðra Verðandi,
              Skuld ina þriðju;
              þær lög lögðu,
              þær líf kuru
              alda börnum,
              örlög seggja.

              Thence come the maidens
              mighty in wisdom,
              Three from the dwelling
              down ‘neath the tree;
              Urth is one named,
              Verthandi the next,–
              and Skuld the third.
              Laws they made there,
              and life allotted
              To the sons of men,
              and set their fates.


              Okay I retract it all: those three madames are neither “maidens”, nor are they “wise”!

        • marknesop says:

          As disgusted as I am with Obama, I still attach most of the blame to ideological social engineers like Clinton, Rice and Power for trying to out-tough the boys in their obsession with military action. Obama is to blame for abrogating the decision-making to a warhawk who has no stake in making him look good (Clinton, who probably tells herself daily that it should have been her while she acts as if she were the president) and assorted activist zealots busy building their dreamworld. Obama is too distracted and busy trying to hold the home front and fend off the attacks of crazy Republicans.

          It’s unfortunate that politics seems to draw the wrong sort of idealists these days. I mean, you want idealists in politics, and once those who stubbornly refused to be turned from their course turned out to be right, and to have done the world a great service; that likely would never have happened if you replaced the idealist with a plodding, pedestrian demagogue. That time seems very long ago now, and in recent history those who stubbornly refused to be turned from their course turned out to have done incredible damage, to have been completely wrong and to have done both the world and their country a great disservice. Where once the western powers couldn’t seem to do anything wrong (although a certain amount of that was propaganda for domestic consumption as well), now they can’t seem to do anything right. Where once their motives and inspirations seemed so lofty and cerebral that ordinary people found them difficult to grasp, their motives and inspirations now seem base and grasping… and all too easy to discern.

          • hoct says:

            They are his cadres, he picked them. He could have gone for anyone, but he brought in Clinton, Rice and Power. Their views were no secret. His responsibility.

            • marknesop says:

              Yes, true enough. I wonder if he knew at the time that he was choosing women with hardliner views that favoured military force as a solution to every problem from recalcitrant dictators to short-notice dry cleaning – or if he was simply picking high-profile overachievers whose gender would please special-interest agitators pressuring him to pick more women.

              In any case, his getting on board the Assad-must-go train without even a token attempt at even-handedness was the last straw for me. Previously I worried a bit that some nut like Rick Perry, a pretender to intellectualism like Newt Gingrich, a homophobic cross-waver like Rick Santorum or a soulless gold-digger like Mitt Romney would win the presidency. I say “a bit” because I don’t really think any of them can beat Obama. As a very interesting side-note, I saw a story which suggested one of the unforeseen consequences of recognizing corporations as people – thereby allowing them to buy elections with unlimited political donations – has been to drag out the primary process forEVER. Normally by now the richest would have prevailed and those who couldn’t afford to keep up would have dropped into the dust.

              Anyway, now it doesn’t matter to me at all. If Romney wins, trade relations between Canada and the U.S. are unlikely to be affected, and what happens to the American voters is up to them. I once thought Obama was a superior leader and it would be a damned shame if he didn’t win a second term, but now I couldn’t care less.

  18. Pingback: Экстренное сообщение о смене режима, сорванное благодаря фарс | За Россию, Путина и Народный фронт

  19. cartman says:

    Andrei Shleifer – the most unethical economist who ever lived:

    Seven things I learned about transition from communism
    http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/7593

    • marknesop says:

      I couldn’t tell from this, and I’ve never heard of him before. He seems a bit full of himself, but that certainly wouldn’t make him stand out among economists. He points out that democratization efforts do not bring about immediate and amazing prosperity, which is accurate and should not be expected. He blames some of the failure of reform on political incompetence, and it’s hard to argue with that, as I bet few could name 5 politicians since 1950 who were not blindingly incompetent in at least one facet of their responsibilities.

      Unless I’m missing something, I didn’t see anything in this article that made him appear unethical, and I have to say he makes more sense than Mau, Guriev, Gaidar and Inozemtsev all rolled together. That doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about and, as I’ve often suggested, it doesn’t take much in the way of economic chops to analyze trends that have already happened. But he’s less offensive about it than most.

      • cartman says:

        USAID hired Harvard University in the 90s to help Russia with privatization. Shleifer led that with uncompetitive bids, pocketed $40 million from the US funds, then started dealing on the stocks he privatized. I think he is worth about $2 billion – probably the richest academic in the world.

        • marknesop says:

          Ahhhh….he was one of Jeffrey Sachs’ “Harvard Boys”. I didn’t know that. Yes, that being the case, “unethical” is not a stretch at all.

          • cartman says:

            I saw this article on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, but not in the context of “disgraced economist”. I hate this sort of cluelessness.

            • marknesop says:

              Well, Sullivan probably knows better, but western media sources tend to take western luminaries at face value without too much backchecking. I don’t recall seeing any of the Harvard Boys named except for Sachs, although they may have been.

              As we know, the western media is very forgiving and bygones-should-be-bygones as long as the subject is not on their list of once-a-thief-always-a-thief countries.

    • kievite says:

      Andrei Shleifer – the most unethical economist who ever lived
      Not at all. IMHO he was pretty capable mid-level gangster, member of the Harvard gang directed by Summers that was quite sucessful in economic rape of Russia.

      See http://groups.google.com/group/total_truth_sciences/browse_thread/thread/c5635f1d6ca7e00f

  20. marknesop says:

    Hey, remember Thierry Meyssan’s suggestion in the article cited as support for this post, in which he alleges all these domino wars were planned back at the beginning of the decade – “Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya and Syria, Sudan and Somalia, and finally Iran”?

    Right on schedule……

    Good to see al Qaeda is at least back to being a “terror group” that is presumably the enemy. For a while there they made it as far as the ranks of “caretaker governments for lands we have conquered”.

    • yalensis says:

      In some movies Al Qaeda plays the good guy. In other movies he is the stock villain.
      He always plays whatever role his agents need him to play. What a flexible little character actor he is!

      • marknesop says:

        …..aaaand right on cue, here’s the Arab League, inveigling for “the formation of a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force to oversee the implementation of a ceasefire”, not to mention “opening communication channels with the Syrian opposition and providing all forms of political and material support to it”.

        This piece continues to rely on “activists” for its daily death toll and menu of government atrocities, doubtless served up hot and tasty by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (AKA The Muslim Brotherhood). It says the Arab League scrapped its Observer Mission because of “criticism that it was ineffective in the face of continuing violence”. Failing to report what the league and its western cheerleaders wanted to hear…ahhh…didn’t come up. It does, however, note that the head of the Mission resigned today, so what he has to say – if anything – is bound to be interesting.

        An odd element is introduced in the final sentence: “Uprising activists have condemned such attacks, and blamed them on the regime itself, but US officials are reported to believe they were the work of al-Qaeda.”

        Do tell. What “officials” would those be? I can tell you none of their names are Clinton, Rice or Power. And if this is the official U.S. government position, why is Obama droning that Assad must step down while Rice snarls at Russia for vetoing a resolution that would have assisted an al Qaeda takeover in Syria? Could this be the beginning of a return to sanity?

        Probably not.

        Unsurprisingly, the chief agitators are Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who continue to press for formal recognition of the Syrian Transitional Council (STC) as the legitimate government of Syria. Sound familiar?

        The good news, if there is any, is that the mercenaries are still not winning. If they were, all these initiatives to tie Assad’s hands so his enemies can come and kill him easily would not be on the table.

        • yalensis says:

          BBC: “Earlier, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri backed the Syrian uprising in a video message, telling the opposition not to rely on the West or Arab countries for support. … So… if the rebels are the good guys, and al-Zawahiri is backing the rebs, does that mean the West is saying Al-Zawahiri is a good guy now? I am becoming very confused….

          • marknesop says:

            Precisely. It puts NATO and al Qaeda, at the very least, on the same side and with the same objectives; overthrow of a secular leader in favour of a “transitional council” formed by the Muslim Brotherhood. That business about “don’t trust the west to do it for you, my lad” is just a fig leaf so NATO can claim enmity between itself and al Qaeda, and while I have no special knowledge, it would be difficult from this not to draw the conclusion they are singing joyously from the same song sheet. Once in power, the “transitional council” will resist giving up power with every means at its command, just as the military junta is doing in Egypt and just as the transitional government will do in Libya, claiming the country is just too unsettled right now to hold elections. Since the current situation was never the will of the population (except in the case of Egypt, and they deserve whatever happens to them for being rolled so easily), that will not be a difficult claim to substantiate.

  21. yalensis says:

    File this under “Things that I thought about Abdul Hakim Belhaj” :

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099984/Libyan-occupied-50-hotel-suites-demands-1m-compensation-MI6-torture-claims.html#ixzz1mBYjIyWc

    (1) I thought that Belhaj was supposed to be in Syria, leading the glorious Al Qaeda “Freedom Fighters” against tyrranical Assad regime. Turns out he was just the bag man for the FF’s, not an actual soldier. So he is enjoying himself staying at a fancy Raddison hotel in Tripoli? Well, at least he is using the hotel pool and gym, so I guess he is trying to stay in shape for the Revolution.
    (2) I thought that Belhaj was a strict Muslim. So how come he is swilling cocktails from the hotel minibar? Isn’t that … er… against the teachings of the Koran?
    (3) I thought that Belhaj was heterosexual. But here he is with his boy-toy. (Nice clothes and accessories, they look Italian!)

  22. Mr.T says:

    Very interesting post. This is the first article that I read here, will definitely read the rest. Very surprised (in a positive way) that people so far from Russia and especially in such unfriendly for Russia environment take time to understand, or rather get to, the truth in stead of simply following the mass media rhetoric.
    Just going to express some of my modest and immature opinions:
    Iran is not the final target here. There is no final target as it is. The Great Game is a constant process, as many of you know. If we are talking short/mid term the aim is to create chaos in the middle east. If we look at the events of 2011, the so called “Arab Spring” (who comes up with these names?), we will see that America and its close allies in Europe such as GB (an American battle ship in Europe) and France (for no logic reason what so ever, except for a president that acts in the best way for US rather than his own country) have been destroying the system that has been build for years. In all states where America had loyal governments the events of 2011 have put in place the opposite of what you would call a loyal regime – radical Muslim movements. Why? My opinion is because the current world order is changing. America has to go due to numerous reasons and unlike the last world order – collapse of USSR there is no one to pick up the torch and suggest the alternative way, as America did it 20+ years ago. It seems to me that Americans clearly understand the situation and are, as mentioned above, creating chaos for everyone else. Who would suffer the most from the burning middle east? Not the US, for sure. It will be Europe and especially China. Both are struggling for resources, especially China (did I put especially twice?). Russia even if trying very hard will not be able to support both sides of the continent, plus as mentioned in some of the comments – people like McFaul (interesting name by the way) are keeping it busy with internal problems. By the way, I think, that both Russia and China clearly understand the seriousness ( I would even say shittiness) of the situation and thats why nothing was done to save Libya, as I see it they were both trying to buy more time for Syria.
    In any case – we are all living during some very, very interesting times.

    Sorry for not very good writing style..I’m more of a reader, rather than a writer.

    • marknesop says:

      I welcome your interesting opinions, Mr. T; I agree that Iran is not the final objective – merely the endgame in this subset. But Iran is important in that the west would probably not be able to topple it using surrogates like al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood as footsoldiers. It would more likely have to take it by military force, which could be expensive.

      A source I read suggested Gaddafi had been allowed to fall, where resistance to Syria following suit is stronger, because Gaddafi had been so erratic with his alliances; forming them with many and betraying them all. He just wasn’t very good at diplomacy, and had no real friends when the acquisitive eye fell on Libya. That rings true to me. It also appears that too much of the alternative opinion where Syria is concerned – that mercenaries within Syria rather than the Syrian government forces are causing most of the carnage – is beginning to leak out. This is finally making the west a little more cautious.

      I’m afraid I don’t understand at all why the west, chiefly the USA and UK, is deliberately destabilizing the Middle East and empowering the radical Islam that was so recently its sworn enemy, but your explanation is as good as any.

      • Mr.T says:

        Mark, thank you for your response.

        Thats the thing, that the war in Iran would be a very expensive and would a very real one, unlike the movements we’ve seen so far in 2011. Arab Spring is only a preparation for the real thing. I believe that this is exactly what American government is trying to achieve. In my very humble opinion, America needs war and is trying to provoke it as hard as possible. Doest it really matter that US cant afford it? What can they afford at this point? America cant afford many things it has right now, such as the biggest and truly the most advanced army machine, the social, pension and medical systems they have in place now, the multi billion bailouts they have provided for their financial institutions. Thats by looking at their current national debt. What I’m trying to say is that the war with Iran is not the problem, it is a solution, as they see it.

        I complete agree with you here (well, and everywhere else) that Gaddafi promised too much to too (too many too’s) many countries (Russia and France for example in terms of the weapon deals) and he thought that he could play this game for some time. As for the mercenaries, again, it is exactly as you put it in your article – the UN resolution for Syria is completely based on the Libyan one. Same is here with the mercenaries – they do all the real “work” when the “Syrian Civilians” are just for the media camera shots. Exactly the same as it was in Libya.

        As to the true reasons behind the current situation, yes – we can only guess. Hopefully we will be there to judge on the final result.

        • marknesop says:

          Iran has made it clear that an attack from Israel will bring an immediate counterattack not only on Israel, but on 40 U.S. military bases in the region. It’s unfortunate that it has to be that way, but the USA has associated itself with Israel countless times, Israel has been tireless in its efforts to goad the United States into attacking Iran on its behalf and Iran has been itself threatened so many times that nobody should be surprised. It’s likewise a shame that things cannot be more civil – unfortunately, the world has learned that talk of conciliation and compromise is the kiss of death, and results only in violent overthrow of the government because it was perceived that it would not or could not defend itself. Before those days, Iran’s belligerent sabre-rattling would have struck a jarring note, and sounded unnecessarily aggressive. In the brave new world of regime change by force, it sounds like the only way to avoid being rolled up like the rest – by making it so costly that a deterrent effect is achieved.

        • yalensis says:

          Lots of good points, Mr. T. Your reading of Gaddafi jibes with what I deduced from my reading: I got the impression that Gaddafi was actually a very decent human being, but didn’t always play well with others. He had some psychological issues and was not good at crafting stable strategic alliances. And, like many strongman rulers, he did not have a succession plan, other than looking to his son Saif (who is a very smart guy but also has some psychological issues and not always possessing the best judgment). Well, being a strong ruler AND a diplomat is a specialized skill, very few men possess it. Certainly not Napoleon. Maybe Bismarck, I can’t think of too many examples. Not knowing much about Assad, but he does seem to have some diplomatic skills, and it is probably the only thing keeping him alive right now. If only Russia and China will stand firm againt America’s bully-boy attitude and refuse to allow NATO to bomb and invade (I don’t really trust China not to cave, and I barely trust Russia!), then Assad is sure to win against this jihadist rabble. They are few in number, unpopular, and cannot prevail against regular army.

      • Hunter says:

        “A source I read suggested Gaddafi had been allowed to fall, where resistance to Syria following suit is stronger, because Gaddafi had been so erratic with his alliances; forming them with many and betraying them all. He just wasn’t very good at diplomacy, and had no real friends when the acquisitive eye fell on Libya. That rings true to me.”

        Well that makes sense to me as well. Gaddafi in his heyday managed to have Libya involved in conflicts (whether by accident or not) with just about all of his neighbours (a very brief war/skirmish with Egypt, bombing Sudan once, the adventure in Chad which brought him into conflict with the French and even Zairte as a result; support Amin which brought him into conflict with Tanzania….) and of course there was the various confrontations between the US and Libya in the 1980s. And he was also erratic in unification ideology. At first he was more of a Pan-Arabist (and pursued unions with Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia and Iraq) and then attempted to pursue a union with Chad (which would presage his move away from Pan-Arabism to Pan-Africanism) before finally fully committing himself to Pan-Africanism in 1998 while at the same time supposedly saying “I have no more time to lose talking with Arabs…I am returning back to realism…I now talk about Pan-Africanism and African Unity. The Arab world is finished…Africa is a paradise..”. I’m also sure that if he real did reportedly say “I would like Libya to become a black country. Hence, I recommend to Libyan men to marry only black women and to Libyan women to marry black men.” it wouldn’t go down well with some in his country and others in the Arab League.

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          China’s policy is to avoid whenever possible vetoing a Resolution by itself. If Russia had voted against the Libyan Resolutions 1970 and 1973 I am sure China would have voted against them as well because as quickly became clear China did not agree with them. Medvedev’s decision to support rather than vote against Resolution 1970 and to abstain rather than vote against Resolution 1973 was the key decision in ensuring that those two Resolutions were passed. There were as we know recriminations within Russia about this decision with Putin very unusually going public with his criticisms and I strongly suspect that behind the scenes the Chinese will have made clear their displeasure with Medvedev as well.

          In the broader context the importance of what happened on 4th February 2012 in the Security Council cannot be overstated. For the first time since the mid 1980s Russia and China decided to veto a Resolution by themselves even after they had been deserted by their erstwhile allies, India, Pakistan and South Africa. That is not a sign of the isolation of these two countries. Rather it is an indication of the strength of their informal alliance and of their growing self confidence.

          • marknesop says:

            “That is not a sign of the isolation of these two countries. Rather it is an indication of the strength of their informal alliance and of their growing self confidence.”

            I suspect this is accurate and, more significantly, that it previews a slow return to the polarization of the world, wiping out years of rapprochement and diplomacy. Some countries that were former ideological foes – such as Germany – have built constructive relationships with Russia that may endure. But the attitude of the USA and UK, which seems to be that the cold war never really ended, and the pugnaciousness of France under Sarkozy foreshadow a reversal of diplomatic overtures and the reduction of outreach in Russian foreign policy. I believe the Russian government realizes it can expect to make no new friends, and should therefore rely on traditional allies and the gathering-together of former Soviet Union satellites. The wild card remains Russia’s status as the world’s largest energy producer.

            • marknesop says:

              Furthermore, the sellouts at the Arab League are not deterred in the least from their purpose, which is the elimination of the Syrian government. The Arab League proposes a joint Arab/UN “Peacekeeping force” (which would legitimize a military deployment that would soon be fighting shoulder to shoulder with the mercenaries). Syria rejected it, of course. But the EU, unsurprisingly, “welcomes the leadership of the Arab League” – if only those spineless turncoats could get a preview of how quickly Ashton and the New Valkyries would turn on them if they weren’t so supine and compliant – and would dearly love to get some troops on the ground.

              As before, Russia remains pretty much Syria’s only defender. And where Medvedev really screwed up with his decision on Libya was that now it looks as if Russia is acting out of self-interest, to protect its arms market and its warm-water port; a veto on the Libya decision would have projected more consistency on Russia’s part.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear Mark,

                Everything you say here is absolutely.

                Incidentally I am sure everyone has noticed the totally different way China and Russia are being treated over this affair. 99%+ of the abuse for vetoing the Resolution is being directed at Russia with China scarcely getting mentioned even though its reasons for vetoing the Resolution were exactly the same as Russia’s. This is an obvious attempt to play the two countries off against each other, which I am glad to say at the moment doesn’t seem to be working. Incidentally the fact that this totally transparent attempt to play China and Russia off against each is going on is a further indication if any more were needed that the western media is tightly controlled and follows orders on these sort of questions.

          • yalensis says:

            It is really painful to see the degeneration of South Africa. By all rights South Africa should be the leading country on the continent and standing up for Africa on the world stage. There was so much hope when Mandela was elected president. What happened?

            • Alexander Mercouris says:

              Dear Pyrrhus,

              South Africa has disappointed many people. An Eritrean friend of my brother’s is spitting blood about how it betrayed Africa over Libya.

              The ANC has become increasingly corrupted by power and is losing its edge. When I was a student in London in the late 1970s and early 1980s I remember hearing ANC representatives who used to say that it was the USSR that was largely funding and supporting the ANC and was keeping it going. This made a big impression on me in those days when I was (of course) extremely anti Soviet. It all seems far in the past now.

              I remember also how in the 1980s it was the USSR and Cuba that fought the apartheid army to a standstill at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola, an event whose importance is consistentlly underestimated except in Africa itself where it is widely recognised as the single most important event in persuading the apartheid regime that the game was up and that they had to open negotiations with Mandela and the ANC. My brother who had lots of friends in the African student community used to keep me regularly posted during the battle and I can remember all sort of excited talk from him and his friends about MiG23s and SAM 8 Geckos (is there really such a machine?) that left me completely bewildered but which had my brother and his various African friends fired up. I suspect that very few Russians know of the role of their country in ending apartheid but it was absolutely fundamental and needs to be written up properly some day. Obviously it is not something you read about in the west but many Africans know about it and Russians should be proud of it.

              Turning back to South Africa’s current posture I have heard that one factor is that Zuma, the current South African President, is apparently nervous of doing anything that will undermine Obama, who is the US’s first black President. If this is the case then of course all Zuma is doing is opening himself and South Africa up to US manipulation.

              • marknesop says:

                Indeed there is such a thing as the Gecko; in its Army role it was designated the SA (Surface to Air) – 8. It debuted in the early 70’s and was quite revolutionary for its time; it was also widely exported, and there are doubtless still a few of them around.

                The Gecko was also manufactured in a naval variant, the SA-N (Surface to Air, Naval) – 4. It had a much smaller range envelope than its larger land cousin, and “popped up” in pairs on a retractable launcher, as shown here. this is what is known as a “point defense” missile system, and the navy retrofitted them on many classes that also had a longer-range surface-to-air system, because they were small and you could carry a lot of them. The missile did quite well in trials.

                Even older missile systems have their uses; I remember years ago when I was on course in the UK, we visited a test range that had a lot of older Russian missile systems on it. Some had been captured in various countries, some had been “inherited” in the German reunification, and so on. A few were fairly modern, but most were older – they’d all be old now. They showed us a technique that had been employed to good effect, called “Sambush”. A modern low-level anti-air missile would be sited next to a larger, older missile battery that had a longer range but poor capability at low level due to ground clutter. But they didn’t care, because all they needed from the bigger missile was its acquisition radar – when pilots detected it, they would dive to get away from it…right into the envelope of the newer missile. Similarly, the Mujahedin developed a tactic in Afghanistan, where wary fixed-wing and helicopter pilots used to fly down the middle of the rocky gorges, cautious of shoulder-launched missiles like Stinger. A pilot who spotted a launch early enough might be able to avoid it, but at close range it usually was just too quick. So the Mujahedin would station a spotter on one side of the gorge with a few smokes. The Stinger team would be on the other side. When the spotter saw an aircraft coming, he would pop off a smoke, which the pilot would often interpret as a Stinger launch. He would swerve to avoid it, right into the Stinger approaching from his disengaged side.

                • Alexander Mercouris says:

                  Astonishing Mark! Thank you.

                  PS: I addressed my last comment to my brother Pyrrhus. It should have been addressed to Yalensis instead. Freudian slip. Sorry!

              • yalensis says:

                Is true that USSR played a big role to end apartheid in South Africa. Just one of many good things that USSR did for the world. (Defeating Hitler was another. Also putting a man in space. The list goes on.)
                In addition, during the struggle against apartheid, the South African Communist Party (which, unlike CP’s in many other countries was a very decent and vibrant organization) worked together with the ANC and played a huge role in the anti-apartheid struggle. The CP was a mainly white organization (mostly English, just a few Afrikaaners), and the fact that many white people struggled against apartheid and even offered prominent intellectuals as martyrs (imprisoned, tortured, etc.) ensured that when ANC did come to power, there would be racial harmony and no pogroms against whites, which did happen in some African countries when they achieved independence.
                South Africa was almost a classic case of everything going right and turning out well. If things got so bad now, and if Zuma is to blame, and if Zuma is driven by his desire to cultivate favor with Obama, well, what can be said? Other than, once again Obama has proved himself to be a destructive force in the world. He is half African, yet he has done incalculable harm to Africa. Obama’s mother was pro-Third World and anti-colonialist, but Obama has unerringly sniffed out his way to the Money and the Power. I guess it happened when he became a milionaire from selling his stupid book. He has betrayed both of his parents.

                • yalensis says:

                  @alexander: Ha! I wondered why you called me Pyrrhus. I figured it was a literary allusion! 🙂
                  P.S. What were your parents thinking giving your brother such a name?!

                • Alexander Mercouris says:

                  Dear Yalensis,

                  Pyrrhus is an unusual name even in Greece. I don’t whether you know but it was the name of an ancient Greek general who fought and won several battles but suffered such heavy losses in the process that when someone congratulated him on his latest victory he replied “another victory like that and we’ve lost!”. There is even an expression “pyrrhic victory” for a victory so costly that is as bad as a defeat. The reason my brother has this name is because a branch of my family comes from Epirus, the same region of northern Greece from which this general came, where the name is still quite common.

        • yalensis says:

          I have no idea if Gaddafi said those things about Libyan Arabs should intermarry with blacks (which they do anyway, like all contiguous human communities intermarry). If he did, he probably meant it as a taunt againt the Benghazi racists, because he knew they would take offense.
          Is definitely true that Gaddafi, who ideologically wanted to build a socialistic confederation of Thirld World nations like the Soviet Union, turned TOWARDS Africa and AGAINST the Arab world in disillusionment, especially with Sadat and the other Arab leaders turning towards the West and conciliation with Israel. Gaddafi’s Arab hero was Egyptian President Nasser, an iconic opponent of Israel and Western colonialism.
          Hence, it is no accident that Libyan rebels, continuing their counter-revolutionary frenzy, recently tore down a statue to Nasser in Benghazi:

          http://english.ruvr.ru/2012/02/12/65918227.html

  23. yalensis says:

    @mark, continuing above thread about American drone landing in Iran:
    Your scenario sounds the most likely. In other words, there was some kind of technical screw-up, and the drone-operator in Nevada accidentally issued a “land gently” instruction to the drone, which just happened to be flying over Iran. The operator’s last words, before being demoted back to Private, were probably, “Oh, SHIT!”

  24. I’ve just been reading a long but excellent report on post-Mubarak Egypt from the KP. Russian readers may be interested.

    http://kp.ru/daily/25833.5/2807814/

    What do we have?

    Rising xenophobia, Islamism in fashion, young liberals left by the gutter. Coptic Christians fleeing the country to the tune of 100,000 last year alone. Etc…

    Needless to say, you won’t read about any of this in the Western media.

    • marknesop says:

      It’s horrible to wish misfortune on anyone, so I won’t wish it on the Egyptians; and to be fair they tried to get rid of Mubarak for years, only the west kept backing him and helping him weather the political storms. But there’s something about the malicious glee with which the western press picks up the narrative about power-to-the-people-right-on-babe and social media running the old fogies out of power and brave new world this and that that just makes me shake with rage. Quite a lot of cooler heads knew well what was in the plan for Egypt, and the cheering and jubilation made me want to say, serves you right – see what comes of your twittering and your networking: you’re just enabling a force that means you harm, and you’re so insufferably fucking smug about it that I can’t wait for it to happen so I can see that smirk wiped off your face.

      But now it’s just sad. I wouldn’t have said it was a great country in the first place; lots of poverty and problems, but it didn’t deserve to be wrecked by self-righteous children in search of a new high. It was only exciting when it was a big feather in democracy’s cap, and now that it’s started to stink nobody wants any part of it.

      I’m damned if I can see what sort of game the west is playing. Post 9-11, American hatred of Islam – especially the fundamentalist kind – was almost palpable, you could smell it. Now the west is busily setting up fundamentalist Islamic governments all over the Middle East and in contiguous regions. What the hell is going on? The west is obviously not serious about democracy in these broken countries, and abandons them before the fist-of-democracy posters have stopped blowing around in the gutters. It doesn’t raise an eyebrow when the incoming transitional government proclaims its common cause with the hated al Qaeda, and re-imposes sharia law where there was secularism and choice. And the west, with its new tag-alongs the Arab League, just keeps on pushing.

      Rational people don’t do irrational things over and over. They shake their heads, say, that didn’t work out at all like I planned – what the hell was I thinking? But now it just keeps bulling ahead in a manner that suggests this is a coherent objective rather than random nuttiness. What’s going on? Is this a push for a worldwide collapse, so the United States will still have a chance of coming out top of the heap? I just don’t have any sense for what’s coming together.

      • “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

        Wars for oil? Maybe… but what small share of Iraqi oil passed on to American and UK oil corporations was on largely favorable terms to Iraq. Though the mere opening up of Iraqi oil reserves to a world where supply was stagnating and demand rising surely played a substantial role.

        Geopolitics? Iraq is now almost an Iranian satellite, and Libya was never strategically important to begin with. Syria would make sense though.

        Genuine humanitarianism? LOL. Too many contradictions and counter-examples for that to be plausible,

        Fomenting chaos to undercut Eurasian powers (as Mr T supposes)? But it could just as easily snap back into something that’s unpleasant for the West as easily as for Russia and China.

        I can see no other explanation. Insanity it is, Davos Man-style insanity – the delusion that profoundly different cultures will easily and eagerly become liberal democratic capitalists like themselves if only given a chance. Western leaders are insane.

        • yalensis says:

          A history professor once told his class: “Never underestimate the factor of human ignorance in affecting the course of history.”
          Well, Bush Jr. was clearly an idiot: he sincerely believed that his invasion of Iraq would create a pro-American parliamentary democracy that would serve as a “beacon” to the rest of the Middle East and cause the Arab masses to turn their backs on the “Islamo-fascist evil-doers”..
          Unlike Bush, Obama is not an idiot, he is quite deliberately trying to build Islamic despotisms and bring the likes of Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood to power in these countries. Why? No, no, I am not implying that Obama is a “secret Muslim”, although I am surprised the Republican Party has not seized upon this as proof — on the contrary, the Republicans are completely in tune with this Islamist strategy as well, with the exception of Ron Paul and a couple of other outliers. And remember, it’s not just Obama promoting the cause of radical Islam: It is Sarkozy too, and David Cameron, even the Israelis.
          What is the game? What is going on here? As Yul Brynner says, in “Anna and the King of Siam: “Is a mystery…”

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          It is because they sense that power is slipping away from them so to conceal this fact from themselves and assuage their anger they are becoming more violent.

          ” At the end of a dynasty there often appears some show of power. It lights up brilliantly just before it is extinguished, like a burning wick the flame of which leaps up brilliantly a moment before it goes out, giving the impression that it is just starting to burn, when in fact it is going out”

          Ibn Khaldun, “An Introduction to History”, AD 1377

          • marknesop says:

            This certainly is the best-substantiated view thus far, and it is indisputable that American power is eroding dramatically since American strategists regularly complain about it; a powerful contributor to the ballooning of the defense budget, the sanctity of same when cost-cutting is discussed and cries for the military to be made even bigger. Somewhere along the way the idea of inspiring through example (which actually worked pretty well) was abandoned in favour of inspiring through invasion (which doesn’t work).

            It would be well to remember, though, that even as a second-rate economic power America will be around and influential for a long time. Keep in mind what people said about China while they were number two (which they still are, for a little while).

            Another contributing factor is the dramatic weakening of America’s traditional allies, to the point that a nation the size and power of France could not take out a nation the size and power of Libya without whistling up the USA to do all the heavy lifting, as Doug Bandow discusses comprehensively here.

      • Hunter says:

        Conspiracy theorists would probably come up with the idea that it is all part of a giant conspiracy to create new enemies to focus attention on and provide justification for massive military spending. After all, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq winding down there really wouldn’t be much to do in a Middle East that was stable. But an Islamist Egypt, Libya and Syria that make common cause with Al Qaeda could all be new targets of the Military Industrial Complex in the future.

        Personally I think it is more stupidity and ignorance than insanity. The Wikileaks cables showed that the US embassy in Georgia was quite willing to be spoon-fed propaganda from the Georgian government and only some time after it was painfully clear that what they were being fed was bullshit did the reports become more moderate (but only ever so slightly). So in the Middle East it might be a cause of pre-disposed and prejudicial biases causing governments in the West to see what they want to see (young, hip Arabs wanting democracy) and to be blind to what is going on (some young, hip Arabs wanting democracy being drowned out by some Islamists making common cause with Al Qaeda). Given the reduction in funding for human intelligence and translators in the intelligence agencies and various intelligence agencies’ directors succumbing to pressure to craft information according to what their bosses want to believe a kind of reinforcing loop of ignorance has probably been set up where people like Clinton will believe whatever intelligence comes from rebels (despite the example of Chalabi and Iraq only a few years ago) and disbelieve anything written or spoken by governments which aren’t on their list of friends. So they might become more inclined to trust scant evidence confirming their views and more distrusting of strong evidence which contradicts those views (so they may even question or downplay the Al Qaeda link). Couple that with the information overload of the modern age and the need to summarize everything (thus leaving the recipients vulnerable to getting highly interpretive summaries) and we could end up with a situation where the US government genuinely believe the Iranian government stole the last election, that anti-Ahmadinejad protesters are actually in the majority; that hip, former Google employees are representative of the protesters in the Egypt, that the Islamists (in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria but notably not in Somalia) are marginal and that links with Al Qaeda are tenuous, coincidental or minor and thus not worth being concerned about.

        The blowback from this failure to take adequate stock of the actors involved has the potential to be massive.

        • yalensis says:

          @Hunter: Your theory about (causality = human igorance) is very convincing, especially given the state of American education. (Although it doesn’t explain why the Europeans are going along with American B.S., since they have a better education; unless all humans are simply getting stupider from eating too much sugar??)
          Here is another person’s theory:
          http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/al-qaeda-paradox-freedom-fighters-who.html
          This is a really great article, BTW, everybody should read.
          Bullet points:
          -“They hate us for our freedom”, but now THEY are the Freedom Fighters? Those crazy jihadists .. Ha ha!
          -Fact: Al Qaeda was created by the CIA to destroy the Soviet Union.
          -Fact: After collapse of Soviet Union, Al Qaeda proved useful in destroying Yugoslavia (via Kosovo).
          -Fact: Then Al Qaeda was used to consolidate American invasion of Iraq. (See “Sunni Awakening”).
          -Fact: Then Al Qaeda was used to de-stabilize Middle East. (See “Arab Spring”).
          -Fact: Then Al Qaeda was used to bring down Gaddafi in Libya.
          -Surmise: Now Al Qaeda is being sent to conquer Syria. After Syria, it is Iran’s turn.
          -This was all planned in 2001, as Wesley Clark noted in 2007 when he published a hitlist of 7 countries.
          The author’s summary conclusion is brilliant: “Al Qaeda is Wall Street’s Arab Foreign Legion”
          In other words, this is basically Fort Zinderneuf, except with Wall Street accountants instead of Beau Geste.

          Al Qaeda is America’s Arab foreign legion. The “War on Terror” is a fraud. We have been lied to about both 9/11 and the true nature of the “Arab Spring,” as well as the justification for the approaching war with Iran. We are not witnessing a convergence of random events and interests, we are witnessing a concerted, long-planned agenda being executed under the guise of increasingly tenuous propaganda that not only leads to a “new Middle East,” but direct confrontations with both Russia and China. This is not a battle for democracy and human rights, but rather a battle to fulfill the Hitlerian hegemonic ambitions fleshed out in the Project for a New American Century.

          All I can add to this is that Barack Obama was bought and paid for by Goldman Sachs. This is a fact. Goldman contributed big bucks to Obama’s election campaign in 2008, this is common knowledge.

          Should I also mention that Gaddafi’s government, just before being deposed, was on the brink of suing Goldman for billions of dollars and potentially a controlling interest in the company? Long story, you can Google it, but basically Gaddafi made a bad investment (of Libyan sovereign funds) in Goldman, lost a lot of Libyan government money on the stock market in 2008, decided there was massive fraud on Goldman’s part, and decided to sue Goldman, seeking a huge chunk (possibly controlling amount) of shares in Goldman as compensation. After Gaddafi was overthrown (and murdered), then Goldman Sachs no longer had to worry about this lawsuit.

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear Yalensis,

            Finally a front page admission from the Guardian that Libya is falling apart:

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/14/libya-tense-eve-revolution-anniversary

            Not that they’ll learn anything or admit they were wrong or that it will stop them demanding war against Syria. In the meantime Yalensis don’t resist the temptation to say I told you so.

            • yalensis says:

              This is a typical piece of Guardian propaganda. They make a few admissions (militias in-fighting, unpopular government, country falling apart, etc.) but try to end on a high note, with the quote from the construction official: “Our problem is that for 40 years we were used to taking the orders from one man. Now we have to learn how to work together. It will take time.”

              Yeah, “democracy can be messy”, as Donald Rumsfeld used to say.

              Connoisseurs of written propaganda will recognize this trope, it was typical of Soviet propaganda vehicles like Pravda in their time. I forget what the trope is called, but it is basically something like: “Admit that mistakes were made, but ask for more time to fix them, and offer hope that things are getting better.”

              • marknesop says:

                I think what he actually said was “Freedom is untidy”. But you’re right, it’s exactly the same kind of cavalier line that is supposed to make people run down to the nearest Oxfam and send a donation to the Libyan Transitional Council. You’re also right about it being an identifiable propaganda vehicle; Thomas Friedman made a living from it from about 2002 to 2008.

          • Hunter says:

            “(Although it doesn’t explain why the Europeans are going along with American B.S., since they have a better education; unless all humans are simply getting stupider from eating too much sugar??)”

            The Europeans didn’t really say much on Egypt or Tunisia. When it came to Libya, there were other interest as well stemming from the long interactions (both positive and negative) between Libya under Gaddafi on one hand and France, the UK and Italy on the other. I would imagine the same holds true for Syria. France has some extensive history there and in Lebanon (when Syria was also involved). That Syria is also allied with Iran probably has a lot to do with it also.

            Oddly enough, contrary to what you said earlier, the Israelis aren’t promoting the cause of radical Islam. I remember with Mubarak they seemed outwardly concerned that he should fall and even offered to allow him to deploy more troops in the Sinai in contravention of the peace treaty. Similarly with Syria, I can’t see Israel being too enthused if Assad were to fall and be replaced by a radical regime. Their best hope would probably be for some regime which would sign a peace treaty ratifying things the way they stand (including giving the Golan Heights to Israel), but failing that they are probably quite comfortable with a peace treaty that returns the Golans and gives them guarantees. They obviously can’t achieve either with a radical Islamic regime. So they may hope for a secular military government running Syria and failing that they would probably prefer to have Assad before any radical regime. Israel’s problem though is that should they openly come out in support of Assad then it would rob Assad of a lot of legitimacy.

            • Alexander Mercouris says:

              Dear Hunter,

              I am afraid I take a rather more cynical view of Israel’s silence on the Syrian conflict. I agree that Israel was very unhappy about the fall of Mubarak but I am pretty sure it would be happy to see the back of Assad given that the likely result of his fall is not a strong Wahhabi regime in Syria but rather Syria’s political fragmentation. However the Israelis are not saying this publicly because they know that nothing is more likely to rally the Syrian people behind Assad than a public statement by Israel of its support for the Syrian opposition.

              • marknesop says:

                Egypt was the first Arab nation to recognize Israel and – together with Jordan – was a party to the Camp David Accords, which laid out a framework for territorial agreements in the Middle East. Of those nations, I don’t think there would be too much disagreement in most quarters as to which failed to hold up its end of the bargain, but the fact remains that Israel saw in Egypt a partner and sometime honest broker with which it could warily do business. It matters not that these accords took place under Sadat, or that Mubarak categorically refused to go the extra mile and recognize Israel as a Jewish state; Israel did not see a threat to its existence in Egypt.

                By way of contrast, Assad was a reliable advocate for Palestinian rights, and on the occasion of Hamas winning a majority in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, he urged Hamas – in a speech at the University of Damascus – not to recognize Israel, and cautioned that a hidden agenda was at work considering the Palestinian Authority had already recognized Israel.

                I imagine you’re quite right that Israel would shed few tears if Assad was swept from power, although their silence on the issue is probably due to fears of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power there as well – just as that was the reason for their silence during the Egyptian riots. Interestingly, the state that has an ear to everyone’s door and prides itself on its intelligence service knowing everyone’s dirty little secrets called Egypt exactly wrong. Or maybe that was just an example of the power of positive thinking.

            • yalensis says:

              Thanks, @Hunter. You make good points, it would not be logical at all for Israel to support radical Islamic regimes as neighbors. (UNLESS… these Islamists are not quite as anti-Zionist as they claim to be…??)
              It is a fact that Israeli special forces assisted quite a lot in the overthrow of secular Gaddafi, most certainly knowing that this would bring Islamists to power in Libya. That did not seem to worry them very much, except for some analysts at debka. It is also a fact that Palestinians never received much support from Islamists, only from secular Arab regimes.
              I speculate that maybe, brokered by Americans, Israelis have already made a secret deal with the Muslim Brotherhood/Al Qaeda? The deal would be that Al Qaeda type regimes come to power all over the Middle East, and they do not necessarily recognize Israel officially, but they do leave Israel alone, and Israelis get to do whatever they want with Palestinians. That is my theory, at least for now.

    • yalensis says:

      “you won’t read about any of this in the Western media..”
      Nor will you read about all the rapings of Western female journalists that is happening in these countries. Jihadists really enjoy raping women. There was a nasty case in Libya a couple of weeks ago. A female journalist was lured into an “interview” by Benghazi “rebels”. She went to the interview alone, I guess thinking naively that these are the “good guys” and they will respect her because she supported their cause.
      The rebels gang-raped her, videotaped the whole thing, and posted it on you-tube. They did not even bother to hide their faces (or penises). They are grinning for the camera and having a wonderful time while the woman lies there groaning in pain. The video was immediately taken down from you-tube, but not before thousands of people had watched it. Nobody knows who the woman is, other than she is a journalist from some European country. If she is still alive she will probably return home in disgrace and never press charges. Nobody ever presses charges, and the “rebels” always get away with their crimes.

  25. Moscow Exile says:

    Latynina is desparately in need of treatment! Here from her latest Moscow Times diatribe is her prognosis of events in the Middle East:

    “The world is rapidly moving toward a military conflict in the Middle East. If civil war in Syria is followed by an Israeli strike against Iran, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is likely to seize the opportunity to stage his long-awaited attack on Georgia. There are clear signs of contingency planning for this attack. The 58th Army is under new command, and almost all of its weaponry has been modernized. What’s more, waging a war directly after the March 4 presidential election is the best way to stir up a patriotic frenzy and destroy Russia’s “radical opposition” at the same time…

    “If this scenario leads to the end of a democratic Georgia, as well as to the grassroots freedom movement in Russia, the blame must fall not only on the Kremlin, but also on the cowardly commission headed by Heidi Tagliavini and other European bodies. It was they who shamelessly failed to say clearly in their official investigation who attacked whom in the Russia-Georgia war of 2008”.

    I really do think she has lost her marbles.

    See:

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/from-south-ossetia-to-war-with-georgia/453075.html

    • marknesop says:

      I’m afraid this time she’s right. After all, what could be more of a giveaway of pending military action than change of command of the 58th Army and modernization of its equipment? What other Army does that – western armies typically retain the same Commanding Officer from the time they are created, and never modernize their equipment. When it’s time for new equipment, they disband the Army and create a new one.

      Ha, ha, ha. Yulia, you are such a cut-up.

      You can’t fault her reasoning, though. If only Ms. Tagliavini et al had correctly identified who attacked who, perhaps there might have been a western rescue. Then instead of having to worry about war next month, Russians would have been taken under guidance by the nation that has threatened its citizens with terror alerts whenever it needed to guide their thinking for the last 10 years. Obviously, that would be an improvement over Vladimir Putin’s constant threatening of amorphous attackers which has kept Russians on the edge of their seats for as long as he’s been in politics.

  26. yalensis says:

    This former CIA agent says Gaddafi was INNOCENT of Lockerbie bombing:

    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/03/04/lockerbie-diary-gadhaffi-fall-guy-for-cia-drug-running/

    I know, sounds like conspiracy theory, but most Libya experts came to same conclusion a long time ago.

  27. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Moscow Exile,

    Latynina is one of these people who inhabit their own reality transforming an imminent US aggression against Iran into a Russian aggression against Georgia.

    If I was a Russian what I would find particularly offensive about Latynina’s article is her equation of Russia (her own country!) at the end of the article with Nazi Germany and the South Ossetia war of 2008 with the Nazi attack on Poland.

    People like Latynina complain bitterly about the way they are persecuted. The reality is that they are extraordinarily privileged. If a US or British journalist of similar prominence made that kind of comment about their own country there would be total uproar.

    By the way is Moscow Times published in Russian? I understand that Moscow News, which also has a liberal bias but is in all other respects a far superior and even decent newspaper, now once again is.

    PS: One point I would say. If there is a US attack against Iran and if Georgia is involved in it then the stakes in the Transcaucasus rise dramatically. Saakashvili will have antagonised both Russia and Iran and will have fought or participated in wars against both making the situation in the Transcaucasus extremely dangerous and unpredictable.

  28. Moscow Exile says:

    The Mosow Times is only published in English. However, I do recall several years ago that after having done a survey of its readership, the MT announced that 67% of its readers were Russian. I’ve never ever seen the MT on sale by the way: it’s always delivered to five-star hotels and big business HQs, e.g. KPMG, and left at the check-in or reception for the discerning reader to pick up. I agree with you about Moscow News, which, as you say, also has a Russian language version. MN has an interesting history: it was founded by an American woman journalist in the 1930s who, like many other Westerners at the time, was impressed with what she saw in Stalin’s USSR. It basically became a Soviet government English language organ: as a Russian language undergraduate I used to read it in the ’80s, when it was freely distributed in UK institutes of higher education Russian language departments. It closed down when the SU ended, but was resurrected and is now often critical of the government, but not manically so as the MT often seems to be.

  29. cartman says:

    MP Denis MacShane warns against investing in Russia

    A former minister for Europe has urged the Government to attach “health and safety” warnings to promotional material that encourages businesses to invest in Russia.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/yourbusiness/9082666/MP-Denis-MacShane-warns-against-investing-in-Russia.html

    • Far from the first time I’ve heard of this MacShane fellow.

      I wonder what his beef is with Russia?

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I used to work at the publishers of Moscow Times, a firm that was founded by a Dutchman in the Yeltsin years and who made a fortune after getting the publishing rights for the Russian versions of Cosmoplolitan”, “Elle” and other similar glossies. His name is Dirkes. He still has an office there, but he is no longer the CEO. I rememember him once saying that there were only two cities in Russia – Moscow and St. Petersburg – the rest are villages. I often very discretely used to try and find out when working there how MT payed for itself: it has no price on its front page.

        MT consistently has commentators that just consistently pour filth over Russia and Putin, of course. There is one such regular columnist who is always presented as “a native Muscovite”. I checked him out. He is a Moscow-born financier in NY who, as a 17-year-old, emigrated with his family from the USSR to Israel, where he graduated, and then he moved on to the USA. He is an American citizen.

        I contacted MT about this, saying that although it is true that their mud-slinging correspondent is a Muscovite, he has not lived in Moscow as long as I have and that furthermore, I have lived in the Russian capital for almost 20 years not as a well-heeled immigrant financier, but in a Kryshchevka on a lower-middle Russian income as a permanent registered foreign resident. I proposed that I contribute for a small fee a column to their publication in order to describe daily life in Moscow not as a fat-cat foreign born financier, but as someone who, unlike their native Muscovite contributor, has experienced Soviet life in the final year of the USSR, the trauma of the Yeltsin years, and the resurgence of the past ten years.

        I am still waiting for a reply to my proposal.

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          As I said in a previous post I first came across Moscow Times when I visited Moscow in 2004 at which time it was being distributed free on Aeroflot liners. Initially I confused it with Moscow News. I was told then that its actual owner was Berezovsky who supposedly operated it through various dummy companies. I cannot say whether that is true or not.

          Anyway according to Wikipedia it is today owned by the Sanoma group, a giant Finnish based media empire partly owned and largely controlled by the Erkklo family. They are said to be the richest family in Finland and have been a powerful presence in Finnish political life for decades.

        • marknesop says:

          “I am still waiting for a reply to my proposal.”

          Ha, Ha!!! As you are likely to do for a long time!! It always makes me laugh, the way western – mostly American and UK – media portrays Russia under Putin as a blasted wasteland for free speech, in which you run the risk of harassment or violence if you speak your mind and where independent stations are shut down for criticizing the leaders. Western newspapers would not likely get away with the daily expressions of pathological loathing that such papers as Novaya Gazeta and the Moscow Times do. Moreover, this sanctimonious bleating comes from the country that pilloried the Dixie chicks just for saying they were ashamed that President Bush came from the same state they did, and the country that framed their complaint in its reporting (U.K’s The Guardian, naturally) in the most provocative way possible while editing out all the anti-war context. At that time the great majority of the British public had turned against the war in Iraq, and Lord Mayor of London Livingstone was quoted as calling George Bush “the greatest threat to life on this planet that we’ve probably ever seen”.

          But while we’re on the subject of asking for something and not getting it, I asked Surgutneftegaz for some assistance with their company policies and got no reply. I want to have a go at Stanislav Belkovsky and his nutty ramblings about Putin sitting on filched billions, and Surgutneftegaz is one of the companies in which Putin is supposed to own huge shares. I say energy companies have to disclose the identity of majority shareholders and cannot shelter “ghost partners”, and that this is likely spelled out in company policies. I asked for that policy in writing and said I would print it. But I didn’t get an answer. Much of the company’s policy is online, but it’s in Russian and wading through it would be tremendously tedious. Any suggestions on where I can get the information? Ditto for GAZPROM and Gunvor.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            As regards this regular line pumped out by the West about the absence of freedom of speech in Russia, they’re going great guns now in the “free world” about the troubles that Ekho Moskvy is facing. Much has been made of Putin’s statement that he was getting sick of the “diaorrhea” that that radio station pours over him and now orders have come from the top – the “top” being the majority shareholder of that station, Gazprom – to call a board meeting with a view to re-elect the station board of directors. All this is being portrayed in the Western media as typical of Putin imposed curtailment of freedom of speech and expression of opinion, especially so as the presidential election is just three weeks away.

            It goes without saying that any radio station in, say, London, would be able to express without let or hindrance its distaste for the British prime minister, broadcasting continuosly that he is a thief sitting on siphoned away millions, that he is building palaces for himself all over the country, that he is the leader of a political party consisting of thieves and swindlers and so on ad infinitum ad nauseam.

            That’s what happens in a “real” democracy, you see, unlike tin such a faux democracy as the despot Putin controls in Russia: you can express whatever you like in the West and need present no evidence for the accusations that you make, because freedom of speech and expression is a core value of Western democracy.

            So are libel laws – especially in the UK.

            If a London radio station broadcast such scurrilous opinions, based only on rumour and hearsay, about the British prime minister and the UK government as does Ekho Moskvy about Putin, his political party and his present ministry, it would be buried under a mountain of writs for libel; if a British journalist had interviewed the parents of an IRA bomber who had been killed in the blast that he had detonated, which blast had resulted in the deaths of innocent British citizens by immolation, evisceration and other unspeakable injuries, and then published a story that the killer’s parents had described the terrorist as being basically a good kid – which is what Harding of the Guardian did after interviewing the parents of a so-called “black widow” (a teenage gangster moll, really) who had detonated a bomb on the Moscow metro 3 years ago — he would never have worked again for any British mainstream publication. That same Harding, by the way, proselytises his belief far and wide that Putin is the richest crook in Europe, his accusation being founded on the Wiki leaks. If Harding made similar accusations founded on similar sources against a British politician, his feet wouldn’t touch the ground. Yet when a so-called opposition radio station in Moscow daily pumps out slander and inuendo against the Russian government and its ministers; when one of its mouthpieces, Latynina, writes an article that compares the actions of the present Russian government with that of fascist Germany, writing that Russia is preparing for an aggressive war against a neighbouring state, that one of its armies has been fully re-equipped and its command structure changed, and that the re-election of Prime Minister Putin as president of Russia will herald in a period of extreme political reaction, there are no writs issued by the Russian government, no “D-notices”, as would very likely be the case in the UK.

            The only reaction has been a complaint from the prime minister that he finds the verbal diaorrhea of the opposition tiresome and the ofending radio station has had a warning shot fired across its bows, in that its majority shareholder, the state owned Gazprom, is seeking to have its board of directors dismissed. (See Moscow News: http://themoscownews.com/business/20120214/189453823.html).

            Such is the state of despotic tyranny that rules in Russia.

            • marknesop says:

              As far as Putin being “the richest crook in Europe” goes, Belkovsky appears to be “patient zero” for that information. As best I can make out, every other source that makes this allegation as if it were common wisdom can be traced back to either Belkovsky’s unsubstantiated accusations, or someone citing Belkovsky.

              I’m pretty sure you could not own half of Gunvor and remain anonymous; company policy likely says majority shareholders must be public. That’s what I’m interested in showing. Perhaps I’ll try my luck with GAZPROM and Gunvor.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                I did a lot of research some months ago into the question of Putin’s wealth, which I had intended to set out in a post on my blog. For various unrelated reasons I decided to stop my blog.

                In summary:

                1. The allegations involving Guvnor, which were originally fabricated by Belkovsky and which were repeated in 2007 by the Guardian and Luke Harding, are definitely untrue. The identities of the owners of Guvnor are fully established, there is no mystery about their ownership and none of them is a proxy for Putin. One is a well known Swedish businessman. Some years ago the Economist sought to publish this story, was threatened with a libel action by Guvnor and published a retraction in which it admitted that the owners of Guvnor are who they say they are and that they are not proxies for Putin.

                2. The Surgutneftegaz and Bank Rossia allegations also have no connection to Putin. There is something somewhat murky about some of these transactions but the assumption that this has anything to do with Putin is nothing more than a guess based upon certain very tenuous connections Putin had with some of the people involved going back to the time when he was working for Sobchak’s administration in St. Petersburg. There are in fact strong reasons for doubting that Putin is in any way the beneficiary of these transactions and none of the individuals involved appears to be his proxy. In my opinion what lies behind these transactions and explains their somewhat murky character is a determination on the part of the Russian authorities to keep former Gazprom assets in Russian as opposed to foreign ownership, which has led them to bend the rules in favour of certain favoured Russian businessmen. This has caused a great deal of annoyance in the west where the claims that Putin is the beneficiary of these transactions ultimately originate even though use has been made of Russian so called “whistleblowers” who however, when their stories are examined carefully, are invariably found to have nothing much to say.

                3. The same is true of another former Gazprom subsidiary Sibur, which has recently been bought from Gazprom by a Russian businessman who is also the owner and founder of Novatek. This story has not yet achieved the publicity of the others but has been discussed in private in business circles. Sibur used to be Gazprom’s chemicals division. Once again the strong impression I came away with after examining the transaction was that it was arranged in the way it was not in order to benefit someone specifically but in order to prevent Sibur and with it a vital part of the Russian chemicals industry from falling into foreign hands. The only reason for thinking that Putin might have been involved in the Sibur affair is that one of the persons involved in the acquisition of Sibur (though not the main shareholder) is one of the shareholders in Guvnor. However as I said before it has been established conclusively in the Guvnor affair that this person is an independent businessman and is not a proxy of Putin’s so this “clue” turns out to be a red herring.

                4. In fact all of the individuals involved in Gazprom, Sibur, Surgutneftegaz, Bank Rossia and Guvnor are definitely real, strong minded businessmen and very tough managers as I can definitely say in one case from personal knowledge. They are most definitely no one’s puppets.

                5. As for the notorious Italianate palace, that was built as a rich man’s folly by one of the shareholders of Bank Rossia. It has no connection to Putin. Security for the palace was briefly provided by the Presidential Security force but as even the Financial Times has been forced to admit the documentation shows that this was done on straightforward commercial terms. The idea that it ever belonged to Putin is actually absurd. If Putin is a dictator why does he need to conceal his ownership of the palace by using proxies? if Putin is not a dictator why would he flaunt his corruption in this very public way? Why would Putin need such a palace anyway when as President or Prime Minister he has any number of splendid palaces at his disposal? If his intention was to use the palace as a retirement home then he must be a complete idiot since he has built himself a palace that only publicises his own corruption and exposes him to probable criminal charges when he retires. No one has ever said Putin is an idiot and the idea is as I said absurd. In fact as I said the identity of the person who originally built the Italian palace is known as is that of its current owner.

                6. Demonstrating the circularity of these allegations, Putin’s non existent connection to the Italianate palace has been used to “prove” his equally non existent connections to Surgutneftgaz and Bank Rossia. Similarly the fact that US diplomats were caught gossiping about these allegations in the Wikileaks cables has been used as proof of the truth of these allegations even though the sources relied upon by the US diplomats for these allegations are the same sources as those used by everyoone else.

                Lastly, Moscow Exile is right that these allegations are grossly libellous, which does not prevent the Guardian and Luke Harding and all sorts of other people from reporting them as fact. Unfortunately for political reasons there is no possibility of Putin’s bringing a successful claim in defamation in respect of these allegations in a British Court, which is why they are repeated so freely.

                • Alexander Mercouris says:

                  On the subject of the Moscow Echo radio station, Moscow Exile is absolutely right that a radio station that broadcast the sort of material that Moscow Echo broadcasts would in Britain certainly be the object of fierce complaint. In fact it would probably have its licence to broadcast withdrawn as has just been done to Press TV.

                  I have to say that the affair looks to me from a distance a little like a storm in a teacup. Gazprom has apparently reshuffled the station’s Board, which as the radio station’s owner it is fully entitled to do. The anti Putin editor in chief however remains in post and the editorial policy is unchanged. I doubt that many people outside the tiny self indulgent gaggle of liberals in Moscow much care about this business and the torrent of complaints made about what must seem to most Russians a trivial affair will only confirm to them that the liberals are not interested in the sort of problems that most Russians worry about. Not surprislngly therefore the latest opinion poll shows Putin’s level of support is continuing to increase making his victory in the first round look more and more certain.

                  One very last point. Though liberals claim to be fanatical upholders of private property rights these apparently do not extend to Gazprom’s right to manage its own radio station.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            The native Muscovite whom I referred to above is a certain Alexei Bayer. At the end of his not infrequent scathing MT articles about Russia, there always appears the following postscript: Alexei Bayer, a native Muscovite, is a New York-based economist.

            As I mentioned above, when he was 17 Bayer emigrated from the USSR with his family to Israel and from there to the USA.

            Here is a short profile of Bayer:

            http://www.theglobalist.com/AuthorBiography.aspx?AuthorId=5

            The above profile, however, gives no indication of when Bayer left the USSR., nor that his first port of call was israel. In actual fact, Bayer left the Soviet Union in 1974, which means he is, or will be this year, 55 years old.

            Here, in Bayer’s own words (in Russian), is why he shall not return to his native country:

            http://www.besttoday.ru/read/2321.html

            And below is a link to his latest contribution to the Moscow Times, where he, as always, berates everything Russian. He spouts on with the voice of authority ( a native Muscovite, you know), providing those who have already formed their negative preconceptions of the Evil Empire with information that serves only to fortify that which they hold true for the nation that is enslaved under Putin’s tyranny. And if Bayer ever appears to have the slightest thing positive to say about Russia (a rare ocurrence in Bayer’s articles), then “the native Muscoovite” is always quick to point out the dark nature of that which at first glance appears to be beneficial, as this extract from the linked below MT article shows:

            “…A plan for the preservation of Kitai-Gorod, a historic neighborhood next to the Kremlin, recently caught the attention of Vladimir Putin’s election campaign. An architectural firm submitted a proposal to turn the neighborhood into a pedestrian district, evicting government offices and creating a historic hub similar to the ones that exist in cities across Europe.

            The plan also includes a public park on the site of the recently razed Rossiya Hotel. It is not a new idea, but amid his plummeting approval ratings Putin suddenly decided to back it. Moscow architectural authorities immediately organized a competition”.

            You see! There you have it! From a native Muscovite no less: Putin’s popularity is plummeting! And that can only mean that Putin’s certain victory in the coming presidential election will be fraudulent.

            See:
            http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/moscow-is-unlovable-and-unlivable/452894.html

            • marknesop says:

              As I believe I’ve often suggested, it’s probably a good thing I am not the leader of Russia, or of any country. I don’t have the patience for it, and I’m too weak to just shrug off insults. If I were Obama, for example, I couldn’t meet Mitt Romney ever again without kicking him in the balls, although the accepted political procedure is to just smile and shrug it off – it’s all business as usual in the world of politics, and if you are thin-skinned, it’s no place for you.

              But it goes against every value you learned at your mother’s knee; lying is okay, and if you get trapped in a lie, just say you “misspoke”. Doing anything and everything, using every dirty trick to win is just part of “the game”. Oftentimes politicians who are at least medium-honest lose in a knee-jerk reaction that is an expression of hate and disgust against all politicians in general, they just happen to be in the line of fire. So too it is with those who make their living from supporting and reporting on the political world. One almost inevitably develops biases, and uses the voice one is given to air them and try to affect the course of events.

              In this particular case, as often proves true, an insult from a fool is a compliment. Praise from Alexei Bayer would make one the object of suspicion in Russia, and abuse that is plainly made up – such as that Putin’s popularity is falling – has the opposite effect except in the international community where most people are content to believe what they hear provided they like it. In the country and the cities where the voting will take place, people can see for themselves what is actually happening, and the Moscow Times only has a circulation of something like 35,000 (and even that is probably based on print runs rather than how many copies are taken and read). Bare-faced lies such as that sometimes work when the target audience has no time to confirm the rumor before taking some action, such as floating the story that Putin has been taken into custody by the FSB for child pornography the day before the vote, and I expect something like that (probably not quite so crude), but generally people who are not already disposed to believe it will check and expose it as a lie if they have time. The aim is to rush a decision.

              This is not that kind of story, and nobody who lives in Moscow could be fooled by such twaddle. This is for the international audience and the sources who love to quote it as if it were holy writ. Although you’re right that it is probably setting the stage for “massive fraud” in the presidential elections. However, I doubt Putin’s feelings will be hurt to learn the west doesn’t like him; he must have arrived at that conclusion before 2004.

              Newspapers are whores who will print just about anything for money. If you know somebody who has a lot of it, convince him or her to run a prominent ad in the Moscow Times – in English, of course – that points out Alexei Bayer is about as Russian as gefilte fish and Coca Cola. I have no doubt they would run it if the price was right.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                In September 2010 on the ousting of Lyzhkov from the Moscow mayorality and the announcement at about the same time by that British buffoon of a Conservative Party politician, Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hagues, of a “re-set” of British relations with Russia, that scourge of all things Russian, the UK Guardian’s assistant editor Simon Tisdall, who has a column entitled “World Briefing”, solemnly declared “Beware friendship with Moscow”.

                Tisdall ominously stated: “For Russians, the affair [Lyzhkov’s ousting] provided an echo of Soviet-era putsches and purges. For outsiders, it was a timely reminder that Russia is not a normal country”.

                Here we go again! Not normal. But according to whose standards of normality, one may wonder. Probably that of “the international Community” Tisdall would no doubt counter.

                Later, Tisdall, the defender of Western values against the menace of the barbaric Semi-Asiatic hordes of the East that inhabit the “not normal” state of Russia goes on:

                “Knocking down Luzhkov presents a danger to the entire political and economic structure in Russia,” said Alexei Bayer in the Moscow Times. “For the past decade Russia has been producing massive corruption, successfully turning top government officials and well-connected entrepreneurs into Forbes A-list billionaires.” The political system was tightly and rigidly interlinked with this officially sanctioned sleaze, he said. “If such an important, huge link in the corrupt chain as the city of Moscow is tinkered with, the entire state edifice might come tumbling down.”

                Sounds like pretty impressive source that, doesn’t it? Alexei Bayer of the Moscow Times no less. A real Russian democrat journalist brave enough to risk the murderous wrath of the evil Sauron and who writes in the Moscow Times even. That must be like the New York or London Times, mustn’t it?

                What?

                He isn’t Russian?

                And the Moscow Times is an English language daily freebee with a printout – sorry, circulation – of 35,000.

                So who reads the MT, apart from Simon Tisdall?

                Hang on a minute though! Wasn’t this British “liberal” newspaper, the Grauniad or whatever, the one that was always going in convulsions about the loathsome slimy toad of a homophobe that passed off as Moscow’s mayor and who had been in that office year in year out because he was a Kremlin appointee? So would it not be a mistake to believe that the removal of Lyzhkov could be judged as a positive move?

                No?

                Tisdall and Harding of the Guardian – what a team!

                Here’s another extract from Tisdall’s article about Mordor – sorry again! – Russia, linked below:

                “For all the talk of modernisation, reform and defeating corruption, the fiefdom of the so-called “power tandem” – prime minister Vladimir Putin and president Dmitry Medvedev – remains a very foreign land of dark forests, hidden currents and murky deeds”.

                See:

                http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/28/beware-friendship-moscow-russia-medvedev-putin

                • Alexander Mercouris says:

                  Dear Moscow Exile,

                  It is never fully clear to me what the particular role of particular journallists in an organisation like the Guardian is but Simon Tisdall’s column seems intended to convey the impression that he is some sort of diplomatic expert. Anyway I have always found his musings completely dreadful. His Russophobia and antagonism to Putin is every bit as intense as Luke Harding’s. He continues to claim by the way that Russia attacked Georgia in 2008 not the other way round and despite the findings of the Tagliviani report says this as if it were fact. Of course he is not the only journalist to play this sort of game. Most British journalists who write about the Khodorkovsky affair continue to say that his prosecution was politically motivated whilst ignoring the repeated findings of the European Court of Human Rights that say the opposite.

                • marknesop says:

                  There’s an alternate reality in which all those things are true, and it helps western nations feel good about themselves; after all, anything is justified when you are fighting pure evil. Face-value transmission of known lies is a time-tested media manipulation technique.

                  Speaking, however, of blatant interference in the affairs of other countries – here’s a gem I noticed on Odessa Blog: an emissary from Mrs. Clinton allegedly told Ukraine’s government that further loans through the IMF would unfortunately not be possible….as long as Yulia Tymoshenko is in jail.

                  Mama don’t allow no collective punishment ’round here. Try to imagine that was Vladimir Putin, telling Ukraine he would shut off its gas if it didn’t join the customs union. Now try to imagine the howls of fury from the west. Try further to imagine the deeply negative press coverage it would receive from bucketmouth Russophobes like Tisdall and Simon Shuster at Time Magazine, not to mention RFE/RL and Open Democracy.

                • marknesop says:

                  In fact, The Putin-Haters Club of North America and Western Europe did a big end-zone dance when Luzhkov got kicked to the curb, and bloggers/journalists like Julia Ioffe took a bow – as well she might, because she wrote post after post excoriating Luzhkov for his attitude during the fires that surrounded his city while he was mayor. His attitude was truculent and stank of entitlement, I have to agree. La Russophobe capered with rage, and penned lengthy rants against Bloodsucker Baturina and her Billions. But after Luzhkov walked the plank, suddenly everybody was sorry at the shitty treatment meted out to him by Hitman Vladimir Putin (although it was Medvedev who fired him). Not Ioffe, though; I have to admit she stuck to her guns (at least as far as I saw). Others, though, found the soft spot in their hearts for poor Luzhkov that had been blanked previously by….oh, I don’t know…corrosive, blinding hate?

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Just a little update on the above: the Dutchman’s name is Derk Sauer; he was the the founder and publisher of MT; the publishing company that he founded is called United Media (the firm I worked for), which publishing house owned MT, founded in 1992, until 2005, when IM was acquired by the Finnish publishing house Sanoma. Sauer is now classified as “Chairman of Supervisory Board”. I reckon that is a result of his being bought out by Sanoma. As I said earlier, MT is distributed free of charge in places where expats gather; one can, however, subscribe, though I hardly think anyone does so. The paper consistently follows an anti-government line and publishes articles by headbangers such as Latynina and others who clearly have an axe to grind as regards the present regime. I really cannot remember the paper’s line during the Yeltsin years: I seldom read it or even saw it then. The MT regularly announces vacancies for proofreaders. I once considered applying for this position before being warned off by a compatriot who had been employed by MT in such a capacity. “Don’t do it”, he said, “they pay buttons”.

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear Moscow Exile,

            Just a thought. If the Moscow Times is not on general sale but is distributed free how does it track the nationality of its readers?

            • Moscow Exile says:

              Dear Alexander Mercouris,

              In reply to your query as to how the freely distributed MT keeps track of the nationality of its readership, I reckon they must have just done a straw poll at a distribution point such as the reception desk of Hotel Metropole.

              Everyday in Moscow at places where I work, I see piles of untouched copies of MT. Most that pick up copies of MT, in my opinion, are Russian speakers. They are usually 30-somethings who, I suspect, take a copy in order to read “real” English.

              When the Exile still existed, I saw far more young Russians reading that free publication, mainly, I am sure, because of its often outrageous irreverence, its vulgar and often obscene content, its dirty language and its childish pranksterism. It very often semed to me that those Russians whom I knew that clamoured after Exile, only took it in order to brush up their dirty English. Nevertheless, the Exile sometimes used to embark on investigative journalism. I suppose it only kept its head above the water financially because of the mass of advertising – mostly from whore agencies – that it contained. In the Moscow “Irish pubs” that are popular amongst expats and Russians alike, I used to notice how quickly all the copies of Exile were quickly snapped up, whereas the stack of MT copies was barely touched.

              The oldest foreign language newspaper in Moscow is Die Moskauer Deutsche Zeitung (The Moscow German Newspaper), founded just over 100 years ago (it was shut down during the Soviet years and resurrected in the ’90s). Although MDZ also follows the Western line of endless criticism of the Russian government – in the latest edition it gives the “military expert” Pavel Felgenhauer the opportunity to air his view that “Putin’s time will run out this year”-, it is less strident than MT in this matter and concentrates far more on European (especially German, of course) business relations with Russia; it also has a Russian language supplement.

              See: http://www.mdz-moskau.eu/index.php?gid=0

  30. Moscow Exile says:

    Would that perchance be Denis Matyjaszek, the Labour MP who was exposed as a participent in the UK parliamentary expenses scandal and who has also demanded that Vladimir Putin not be invited to the UK during this year’s London Olympic Games?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/11/vladimir-putin-not-welcome-olympics-mps

  31. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Denis MacShane is of all British MPs possibly the most vehemently anti Russian, something which may be connected to the fact that his father was Polish and was an exile from Poland after the Second World War. He takes consistently anti Russian positions on all major questions including (of course) the 2008 South Ossetia war. He was also an outspoken supporter of extending NATO eastwards and of the Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO and he also wrote a strongly favourable piece about Kaczynski, the Polish President who was killed in the Smolensk air crash, shortly after Kaczynski’s death making MacShane one of the few British politicians to have a good word to say about Kaczynski. Needless to say he has also taken up the Khodorkovsky and Magnitsky affairs in a big way where his stance is completely predictable. Even by British standards the strength of his feelings about Russia is unusual to say the least and probably means that he is not taken entirely seriously on the subject.

    MacShane is also well known in Britain for various other matters. He was one of the MPs who was criticised during the parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009 and he has also been involved in various other rows including one the details of which escape me but which concerned his alleged bullying of House of Commons staff.

    Anyway his latest demarche to try to prevent British businesses from investing in Russia is consistent with his longstanding hostility to the place.

  32. marknesop says:

    Keep your ear to the ground this fall for another “spontaneous outburst of democracy” – if the west has any money left for occidentalism (a term I borrowed from Leos Tomicek). Although Chavez is getting a little long in the tooth and is threatened by the same winds of fortune as is Putin – a younger generation that came of age after reforms that bettered the lives of the citizens, and therefore impatient for the easy life – an opportunity to cut his reign short by a few years will likely prove too tempting to pass up. The bait is dangled a closing paragraph; “Capriles has indicated he will steer Venezuela’s international alliances away from Chavez’s faraway, ideologically motivated friendships with Iran, Belarus, Syria and other anti-U.S. governments. ” Hmm…prosperous oil economy that is operating at less than its wide-open potential, opportunity to get rid of a vocal ideological enemy…..sounds like the political equivalent of dragging a bag of Oreos past Hillary’s bedroom door to me. Not to mention an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on staunch Chavez ally Evo Morales.

    My money is on Chavez surviving this one. But it’s only a matter of time; people forget quickly, and are vulnerable to the lure of promises without any clearly-defined plan to show how they will be made reality. If that were not so, politics would be a great deal less attractive career prospect.

    • Yes, I think Chavez will survive too (not only politically, but physically – there’s different rumors going on about the severity of his cancer). I hope so.

      In fact I see a lot of resemblances in the attacks on Venezuela to the attacks on Russia, even historically speaking.

      History of neoliberal policies in the 1990’s wrecking people’s livelihoods and social welfare = check, see Perez in Venezuela.

      An independent patriot comes to power in both countries, combining economic practicality (despite the propaganda, Venezuela has maintained balanced fiscals under Chavez) with a wider civilizational vision (Putin – Eurasianism, Chavez – Bolivarianism).

      Almost all socio-economic indicators improved substantially, although violent crime has been a major exception under Chavez (Venezuela is now one of the most dangerous places in the world in homicides per capita).

      Nonetheless, both countries have very bad reputations, manufactured by the Western media, to the extent that many Westerners seriously think that Chavez is a caudillo who spends all his oil revenues on self-aggrandizement, and Putin is a multi-billionaire who steals most of the budget while ordinary Russians starve outside in the cold.

      Both major West-sponsored coups against both Chavez and Putin failed: 2002-03 against Chavez, via PDVSA oil company, and 2003 against Putin, via the Khodorkovsky gang trying to buy up Duma deputies and merge Yukos with Exxon.

      The Western media and elites hate both Chavez and Putin.

      Russian democracy is not substantially less developed than in the likes of Latvia or Georgia, darlings of the West. Likewise, while Chavez hasn’t been an angel in this regard, his authoritarianism has been much exaggerated. There is no objective metric by which it is worse than Colombia, where until a few years ago right-wing death squads murdered trade unionists and nosy journalists with impunity.

      Venezuela’s closure of that RCTV (in reality, suspension of its license) – presented as an assault on free speech by the Western media – was actually in response to its overt support of that 2002-3 coup attempt against Chavez. If FOX had done that against Obama its directors would probably be in prison for treason.

      In short, many parallels.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Anatoly,

        “There is no objective metric by which it (Venezuela) is worse than Colombia, where until a few years ago right-wing death squads murdered trade unionists and nosy journalists with impunity”.

        I cannot comment about journalists but in Colombia right wing death squads still murder trade unionists with impunity.

        http://www.usleap.org/files/Colombia%20Fact%20Sheet_June2011.pdf

        Needless to say this gets almost no attention in the western media or in the glowing account of the country I found in a Lonely Planet guidebook. Incidentally Lonely Planet is owned and published by the BBC.

    • yalensis says:

      Oh, pindosi have tried to get Hugo many many times, but the guy is like a cat with nine lives. One time they really thought they had nailed him: he was toppled by coup and arrested, he disappeared for 2 days and everybody thought he was dead. New junta were popping champagne corks in American embassy; and suddenly bang, Hugo shows up on TV, back in power and ranting against his enemies. His loyal supporters had freed him from jail, and majority of Venezuelan people (workers, peasants and poor people) rejoiced at his return.

  33. yalensis says:

    Speaking of “Georgia”, there is some intrigue in the last couple of days over the issue: did the Iranians really attempt terror attacks abroad against Israeli targets? Including a car bomb in Tbilisi:

    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/02/13/bombers-target-israeli-diplomats-in-georgia-india/

    Which, by the way, is one of the reasons why I prefer to use the term “Gruzia” instead of “Georgia”. It is not meant as derogatory at all (I have been accused of that), it is simply that American readers get very confused when they read about, say, bombs going off in “Georgia”. The very first sentence of the Fox story
    Assailants targeted Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia in near-simultaneous strikes Monday…
    will have many Americans (who are not so good at geography) rushing to their telephones to call their relatives in, say, Atlanta, Georgia. “Are you okay, Cousin Jim-Bob? I heard those f-king Iranians set off a bomb down there…”

    As to the bombings themselves, I see 2 possibilities:
    (1) Iranians really did do it, as payback to Israel for killing their scientists; or
    (2) Israelis did it themselves, as a provocation, and are trying to frame Iranians.

    For now, I would put my money on (2), especially since Gruzia was involved in this, and since there is no reason for Iran to attack any target in India..

  34. yalensis says:

    Today is the 1-year Anniversary of the NATO/Al Qaeda intervention against Gaddafi in Libya.

    NATO’s intervention plunged Libya back into the Stone Age and the civil war cost the country’s economy more than $40 billion, shrinking it by 60%, according to the IMF. Crude oil production that contributed half of the country’s GDP, almost vanished. Foreign trade also suffered, with imports being damaged by the blocked access to its foreign assets.

    http://rt.com/news/libyan-revolution-anniversary-ntc-453/

    • Alexander Mercouris says:

      Dear Yalensis,

      A most ominous anniversary!

      As you will of course remember at the time of the uprising against Gaddafi the western media was full of the most extraordinary atrocity stories about the hideous crimes he and his regime were supposedly committing in order to stay in power. Subsequently all of those atrocity stories turned out to be untrue. By contrast actual atrocities of exactly b the sort of which Gaddafi was falsely accused are now happening on a daily basis in “liberated” Libya but western governments and western media are silent about them and the western public is indifferent.

      For me three things stand out about that war:

      1. The grotesque circumstances of Gaddafi’s murder. Whatever he had been before at the time of his death he was a defenceless old man who was tortured in public for hours, was sodomised with a knife before he was killed and who then had his body put on public display. It was the most loathsome display of barbarism and inhumanity imaginable yet the self appointed champions of democracy and human rights have nothing to say about it and the people who perpetrated this unholy act are walking about free and are now supposed to be involved in the government of the country.

      2. The clearing of the town of Turghawa. The Guardian has just published a story about a “massacre” supposedly carried out by Gaddafi’s forces in Zuwiya. The “massacre” in question was the recapture of the city from armed rebels over the course of which perhaps 600 people were killed. By contrast a whole town has been emptied of its inhabitants after the fighting ended. Is this not the most flagrant example of Nazi style collective punishment in action directed apparently at people of another colour? Yet again western governments and western media have nothing to say and the US led by a black President is an accomplice.

      3. The destruction of Sirte the heaviest bombing of which happened after the fall of Tripoli. Whatever pretence there had previously been about western intervention being about protecting civilians the bombing of Sirte discredits it. It also explodes the fiction that the western intervention was authorised by Resolution 1973. In fact the destruction of Sirte by aerial bombing was in reality a straightforward war crime identical in almost every respect to the Nazi bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Yet it went on for weeks and the western media and public supported it.

      The war in Libya was a dark page in human history and the day will come when it will be seen as such. In the meantime like the American abolitionist I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.

      • yalensis says:

        Thanks, @alexander. Yes, it is very sombre to think about all the cruelty and inhumanity that was displayed in this war. A lot of it was videotaped. Nazis also used to film their own crimes, but not to this extent. Gaddafi was, as you say, was a 70-year-old man who was raped and tortured publicly on you-tube. This, after 40 years of doing quite a lot of good (along with some bad) for his country. Even the unfortunate King Lear did not have to endure such a level of suffering and indignity. There are also videos of the rape and murder of Gaddafi’s attractive “amazon” bodyguards at the hands of the Al Qaeda rebels. These “amazons” were not political actors, they were employed by Gaddafi as a flamboyant political statement. (As a Bedouin boy growing up in an extremely patriarchal society, Gaddafi promised his beloved mother that if he ever came to power he would try to do something to improve the status of women.) There are many videos of torture, brutality, and rape. In a just world, Cameron/Sarkozi/Obama would be prosecuted for inciting these crimes. This is one of the reasons why I do not believe in God, because there is really no justice. The worst one I ever saw was a video showing how a 5-year-old Libyan boy had been tortured by the “rebels”, the boy was out in the street waving a Green Gaddafi flag, and Misurata rebels grabbed him and drove the flagpole through his body, from anus on up through his chest. All these videos of torture and rape are available on you-tube, but I am not going to supply links, because this horror is not appropriate for Mark’s blog. Next to some of this stuff, Guernica seems pretty tame to me.

  35. cartman says:

    Mitt Romney stole the election in Maine from Ron Paul:

    http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2012/02/16/voting-out-the-war-party/

  36. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Since Mark’s original post on this blog is about the Resolution concerning Syria that was vetoed by Russia and China on the Security Council on 4th February 2012 I think it is only appropriate if I set out my views about the recent vote in the General Assembly.

    That vote, which supported by a large majority a Resolution that is similar in most respects to the one that was vetoed in the Security Council on 4th February 2012 is being represented in the western media as proof of the overwhelming support in the international community for the Arab League plan for regime change in Syria.

    This is not really the case. It is important to realise that this Resolution is non binding, which leaves UN member states free to vote in the knowledge that whether the Resolution is passed or not Syria is under no legal obligation to comply with it. In view of this and not surprisingly many UN states voted for a Resolution supported by the US, the west and the Arab League rather than antagonise these powerful countries by voting against something which they support. If the vote had actually mattered and not been purely symbolic the result would almost certainly have been completely different.

    If there had actually been real support for the Arab League peace plan and for the project for regime change in Syria the western powers and the Arab League would not have proposed a non binding Resolution. They would instead have proposed a legally binding Resolution under the Uniting for Peace procedure, which was introduced in 1950. This has been used on ten occasions since 1950 and makes General Assembly Resolutions binding in the same way as Security Council Resolutions. It was expressly created to enable the General Assembly to pass binding Resolutions in circumstances where the Security Council is deadlocked because one or more of the permanent members of the Security Council has exercised the right of veto. In other words it is a mechanism for overriding a Security Council veto where that veto has been exercised in defiance of international opinion. That this procedure was not invoked in this case shows that there is in fact no real international support for the Arab League peace plan and for the project for regime change in Syria and that the western powers and the Arab League know it.

    The other important point about the vote in the General Assembly is that China continued to vote together with Russia despite the intense efforts underway over the last few weeks to divide the two countries from each other and to play one off against the other.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks again, @alexander, for your legal expertise in explaining these subtle events. I had not known that the General Assembly can override a Security Council veto with a binding resolution, so this is very informative.
      I am sensing hopefully that Western powers, like the schoolyard bully when confronted, are backing off. They saw their bluff called by Russia and China. Syria will not be thrown under the bus, like Libya was. I am guessing that a lot of the credit has to go to Putin, who is playing a strong role behind the scenes.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Yalensis,

        Thank you for your kind words.

        Yes the General Assembly can pass a legally binding Resolution under a procedure known as Uniting for Peace that was introduced in 1950. It has been invoked and used on ten occasions. The procedure requires that there should first have been a vote in the Security Council resulting in deadlock. An application is then made by one or more UN member state for the General Assembly to review the matter. Any Resolution then passed by the General Assembly is legally binding in the same way that a Security Council Resolution would have been. No member state has the power of veto in the General Assembly and such a Resolution can be passed by a simple majority.

        I ought to say that though Resolutions voted by the General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace procedure are legally binding, enforcing them is another matter. In 1980 the General Assembly passed such a Resolution ordering the USSR to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The USSR paid no attention and there was nothing anybody could do about it. A Resolution concerning Syria voted by the General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace procedure would however have been an entirely different matter and would have had exactly the same effect as the Security Council Resolution that was vetoed on 4th February 2012. Also if the General Assembly had voted for such a Resolution then Russia and China would have been humiliated. That such a Resolution was never proposed is important and shows how bogus the supposed international consensus behind the Arab League peace plan really is.

        I am afraid I am less confident than you that their defeat in the Security Council and their failure (there is no other word for it) in the General Assembly means that the western powers and their Arab allies are retreating from their plans. My bitter experience is that since the early 1980s whenever war or intervention have been threatened or even talked about by the western powers against it has invariably taken place. The only exception is North Korea, which was protected by China and which has now obtained nuclear weapons. This by the way is why I am one of those who thinks that an attack on Iran is at some point going to happen.

        By contrast I completely agree with you that Putin is now playing an important role in these moves behind the scenes. In fact I have started to wonder whether the Libyan debacle and Medvedev’s failure to veto Resolution 1973 might have played a bigger role in the tandem switch than is generally appreciated.

        Lastly I should say that I was very upset by what you said about the cruelties in Libya and by the Misurata militia, who sound like a bunch of psychopaths. It makes me ashamed to think Britain could have been party to such things. Despite what you say I am sure there will be a reckoning one day.

        • yalensis says:

          Thanks, @alexander. You are right that the Misurata militias are sadistic psychopaths, who have committed many war crimes and many just ordinary crimes too (=looting, destruction of property, rape and murder). If World Court ever decided to prosecute them, there is so much evidence that it would take a century to sift through. (But so far the Hague has shown no interest in prosecuting anyone except the few remaining remnants of the Gaddafi family, like Saif, who never actually did anythinig wrong.)
          From Point of View of international law, Misuratans’ genocide and ethnic cleansing against the town of Tawergha is well documented. Many of their rapes and murders are well documented, since the Misuratan militiamen all have iPhones and like to videotape their crimes and post them on you-tube.
          The ordinary people of Tawergha will probably never see justice, but maybe one thing the militias ARE vulnerable to is their documented murder of a prominent POW, Moutassim (Gaddafi’s son), whom the militiamen captured alive in Sirte. Besides being Gaddafi’s son and a member of his inner circle, Moutassim was an officer in the Libyan army and thus subject to Geneva Convention protections. This video shows the POW alive and smoking a cigarette, then he is shown dead with a bullet hole in his throat. I have also seen a more extended video that shows Moutassim interacting with his captors. I don’t speak Arabic, but I have been told that they taunt him and he taunts them back, in a verbal duel. He is obviously wounded and there is blood on his shirt, but he does not yet have a bullet in his throat. His voice, as he responds to his captors, is growly and strong. He even smiles humorously. He drinks some water and smokes a cigarette, something also that he probably couldn’t do with a bullet in his throat. The actual death shot is not recorded, or was edited out of the tape, so I guess the Misuratans would say it couldn’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they killed him. But everybody knows that they did it. Such an important prisoner? They should have protected him like the apple of their eye.

          http://rt.com/news/mutassim-gaddafi-alive-dead-463/

        • yalensis says:

          @alexander again: Sorry to keep harping on this theme, but I just saw this new Amnesty International report on human rights abuses in Libya. I guess things must be really bad there for AI to become alarmed, as previously they cheerleaded on the “rebels” and made many false allegations against Gaddafi forces:

          http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29354

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear Yalensis.

            I have read the original Amnesty report of which I have a copy in the form of a word document. I don’t know how to attach it (I am hopeless with computers) but If you go to Amnesty’s website you can find it there. It makes spectacularly grim reading. It says that Amnesty has interviewed “scores” (!) of people who have been tortured or mistreated. Note that this only is people who Amnesty has interviewed. That Amnesty is apparently able to find without difficulty “scores” of people who have been tortured or mistreated suggests that torture and mistreatment have become so completely routine that they are what normally happen to people who end up falling into the militias’ hands.

            What is incredible when you read the report is that though the human rights abuses it documents are by any measure far worse than anything that happened under Gaddafi (when torture certainly took place but was nowhere near as widespread and was certainly not routine) it continues to give the present authorities in Libya the benefit of the doubt and continues to contrast them favourably with Gaddafi whilst implying that the problem is that the authorities, though well meaning, are unable to “control” the militias. The reality of course is that the present authorities in Libya ARE the militias. I believe I am right in saying that to this day the National Transitional Council in Benghazi has failed to produce a complete list of its members, which frankly leads me to suspect that it does not really exist.

            The truth is that Libya as described in the report appears to be descending into a Sadean nightmare or the worst sort of Mad Max film or even a snuff movie. It is deeply upsetting. In fact in terms of human rights violations it is completely off the scale. Yet there is a resounding silence about it. Far more gets written about human rights violations in Russia (!) (Khodorkovsky and Magnitsky & Co) than about this. It does make you wonder about the world in which we live.

            As for Amnesty, it has of course learnt nothing from this affair and preaches the same liberation doctrine for Syria that it did for Libya.

            • Alexander Mercouris says:

              Dear Yalensis,

              Here is an editorial in the Guardian “regretting” the “incomplete” job in Libya, which made me want to reach for my vomit bag but which does provide a link to the Amnesty report.

              http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/17/libya-torture-human-rights-abuses

              • cartman says:

                Yes it happens every time. Sending weapons to militias always results in heavily armed militias committing atrocities against one another for years. Somalia, Congo, Libya, Syria is next. All because Sarkozy and Cameron want to relive their little imperial fantasies when France and Britain could draw the borders of these same places.

                • marknesop says:

                  What happened in Libya was a disgrace, and has not even the fig leaf of ignorance of the possible outcome – the likely outcome of enabling the “rebel” mercenaries was obvious from the outset. The notion that this group ever had ambitions toward prosperity and progress for Libya and Libyans was always laughable, and their goal was always payback. NATO knowingly assisted them in this, and now has no interest in what takes place among the ruins it left behind.

                  I doubt the west has it in it to be ashamed of itself – particularly in view of its demonstrated intent to repeat the performance in Syria under the same shabby aegis of “protecting civilians” – but its silence now on the unraveling in Libya speaks volumes.

            • yalensis says:

              @alexander: I think you are right that the NTC never really existed. It was always a “Wizard of Oz” kind of “little man behind the curtain” fiction (created by Sarkozy/Cameron) to conceal the fact that Libya was going to be broken up into pieces and turned over to lawless Al Qaeda militias. Meanwhile:
              (1) NATO forces are still ensconced in Libya, and it is an open secret that NATO troops are directly controlling the oil refineries in Brega, and protecting their stolen loot with attack helicopters.
              (2) Something like 18,000 Libyan mercenaries (led by the omni-present Abdul Hakim Belhaj) have been dispatched to Syria to assist the uprising against Assad. Another reason why I started rooting for Assad. If he is able to defeat and kill these Al Qaeda mercenaries, then there will be fewer of them to return to Libya and practice their brand of sadism on the people there.

  37. yalensis says:

    Signs and portents that USA, sensing diplomatic setback, might be backing off on Syria and Iran:

    (1) Clinton announced today that she will enter into talks with Iran about their nuclear program. What? She will actually TALK to the Persians and not just spit venom at them?
    (2) Western media has started to “notice” that Al Qaeda is involved in Syrian opposition movement (file this under “Duh…”)
    .
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/02/16/139139/top-us-intelligence-officials.html

  38. yalensis says:

    This video shows Libyan militiamen beating up a guy in the town of Guarian. Purportedly they accuse the guy of being loyal to the late Colonel Gaddafi. As is often the case, the abusers videotape their own misdeeds (a fact that continues to baffle me):

  39. Moscow Exile says:

    They’re overplaying their collective hand in the West, I think, as regards this endless claim that the election was unfair. The reactionary British Daily Telegraph gives big coverage today to last night’s events at Pushkin Square, yet the majority of comments to the article are very critical of this sour grapes line as regards Putin’s victory and intense coverage of the actions of a small minority of losers and their supporters.

    Of course, all the commentaters could be Kremlin trolls though…

    According to the Telegraph article:

    ” Tonino Picula, the head of the OSCE parliamentary assembly delegation, added: ‘The whole point of an election is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia. It was not a level playing field’.”

    So if, in any election anywhere in the world, there is, as a result of a series of results from a series of independently organised opinion polls, sound evidence that a particular candidate has so much support that he is very likely to win the election and that if he doesn’t win, then there will be strong suspicions of something being severely untoward in that election, then, because the outcome of that election can be described as not uncertain, that election is, therefore, unfair.

    Not so many years ago in the UK, there was a whacky former popular singer who had his name changed by deed poll to Screaming Lord Sutch. At every general election he stood as a candidate for election to parliament. Needless to say, he was never elected, though he always did pick up a few votes. So when Screaming Lord Sutch was alive, all the elections that he took part in in the UK were unfair because there was no uncertainty about the possibility of his becoming prime minister as the head of his winning party, which was called “The Screaming Monster Raving Loony Party”?

    On the other hand, in the UK there is always absolute certainty who the next head of state will be, because there ain’t no vote for head of state in the UK!

    • marknesop says:

      I can see why you left. Who would want to live under the authoritarian jackboot of Cameron the Dictator, who obviously plans to rule forever? Someone get some democracy-promoting NGO’s in there, and fast. I might be interested in contributing to finance a no-fly zone.

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