30-April-17 – There’ll Be Plenty for the New British Troops To Do in Afghanistan

By Musa Khan Jalalzai

Author of The Afghan Intel Crisis : Satellite State, War of Interests and the Blame-Game

Just an idea what the British will be facing this time around in Afghanistan.

Due to the politicization of Afghanistan’s civilian and military intelligence agencies, Afghan security forces [are] undergoing a serious security crisis. The ANA [lacks] intelligence collection capabilities. NATO and the US lost thousands of troops, and spent half a trillion dollars to build a strong army, but now they seem unwilling to address the exponentially growing corruption culture within the Afghan armed forces. Civilian casualties rose to a record level as the Taliban retrieved sophisticated weapons from Russia. Desertion and retention became a persistent challenge for ANA commanders as thousands of soldiers and officers joined either Taliban or the ISIS terrorist groups. Afghan Defense Ministry was losing as many as 5,000 soldiers and officers every month in cases of desertion and casualties in 2015 and 2016.

In February, the ANA arrested and disarmed 30 cops with alleged Taliban ties, including the police chief of Helmand’s Sangin district. Drug trafficking was another serious challenge where, according to the Russian Narcotics Agency report, almost a third of the ANA officers turned to drug trafficking. Army generals and officers were deeply involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom. The question of merited appointment also remained unsolved as the Military Headquarters and the Intelligence agencies done nothing to oversight selection process to ensure merited promotions.

Those who fought against insurgents during the last 15 years were removed from their posts, and those who enjoyed a comfortable life in Kabul were promoted to the rank of general. The ambassador of the European Union to Afghanistan expressed his dismay that the number of Afghan army generals exceeded several times than those in Britain, Italy, Germany and France. On 11 October 2016, President Ashraf Ghani sternly criticized appointments of unprofessional officers and soldiers within the ranks of the Afghan armed forces. On 15 October 2016, a number of MPs in the lower house of parliament criticized intelligence agencies and warned that the lack of war strategy resulted in the exchange of districts between ANA commanders and Taliban insurgents.

…All military commanders are answerable to their political masters and war criminals with conflicting priorities rather than to the state and government. On 29 December, Afghan police commanders loyal to a specific political group refused to fight against Taliban in Helmand. In the end of 2014, more than 100 Afghan police joined Taliban.

19-April-17 – After Six Years of War, The Syrian Army Has Effective Anti-Rocket Missiles

By Valentin Vasilescu

Trans. by Alice Decker

The Role of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles in Syria

Since 2012, Syrian rebels have taken control of several of the Syrian army’s weapons depots, capturing ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) manufactured by Russia such as the 9M113 Konkurs and 9K115-2 Metis-M. Later, in 2014, Saudi Arabia which already had over 15,000 ATGMs (nearly 10,000 of them being BGM-71 TOW 2s) acquired another 14,000 TOW 2s (BGM-71D) and TOW 2As (BGM-71E) from the American corporation Raytheon, for which they paid nearly $ 1 billion.

It just so happens that, in 2014, the “moderate” Islamist rebels supported by the Gulf states, Turkey and the US were supplied with 2,000 to 3,000 ATGM systems of various types, including the 9K111 Fagot [Russian for “bassoon”], the 9M133 Kornet, the 9M113 Konkurs, and the H-8 and H-73C (produced in China), the Milan (from France–Germany) and the BGM-71 TOW2.

The media have shown evidence that the FSA rebels (Free Syrian Army) alone received about 790 BGM-71 TOW 2 systems from Saudi Arabia from April 4–15, 2014. They would have been delivered clandestinely at the Turkish border with the complicity of Qatar and the US.

Following the Russian air force intervention in Syria at the invitation of Bashar Al Assad in November 2016, ATGM shipments to rebel groups were increased exponentially. Another nine Islamist groups including Al Nusra (Syria’s Al-Qaeda subsidiary) have in their possession nearly 2,000 BGM-71 TOW2 systems.

According to Armament Research Services,

The US-produced TOW[1] missiles are in use by many armed forces, including Syria’s regional neighbors Bahrain, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, and Yemen.

The Defense Logistics Agency’s WebFLIS service shows that BGM-71E-3B missiles have seen service with both the US Army and US Marine Corps, with the Marines having recently become the primary managing organization for this item. This particular example is marked as having been produced by Hughes Aircraft Company as part of a contract first awarded in January 1990 (see contract number, also visible in the image below). This contract was taken over by Raytheon when Hughes was purchased by them in 1997 and has been re-awarded seven times since its initial issue, with the most recent award in 2004. Consequently, the missile was probably produced between 1990 and 1997 [2].

Electro-Optical and IR Countermeasures

ATGMs, especially the BGM-71 TOW 2, used in urban combat, have become a nightmare for Syrian tank operators because they have caused significant losses and damaged the Syrian army’s morale. For example, in February 2015, during the offensive to take Idlib, the ATGM-armed Islamic rebels destroyed about 40 Syrian army tanks.

This was possible because the Syrian army’s old T-53 and T-62 tanks had little protection, mainly some armor on the tank chassis. In order to reduce the cost as much as possible, the newest tanks (T-72) were ordered from the Soviet Union without any supplementary packages of “Kontakt” or “Relikt” Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) applied over their own armor. ERA provides additional protection equivalent to 620–700 mm of RHA (Rolled Homogeneous Armor). Neither did the Syrian tanks have any active-type armor (such as the “Arena” or “Shtora” system found on Russian T-72B3M / B4M and T-90 tanks) that automatically detects, intercepts and detonates antitank munitions before they hit the tank.

To remove this vulnerability, in 2012 the Syrian Scientific Research Center (SSRC) started a research program to create a jamming device against ATGMs that use the SACLOS (Semi-Automatic Command to Line of Sight) principle. ATGMs with 2nd generation SACLOS require the operator to keep his weapon’s target in the weapon sight until the missile has impacted. ATGMs are capable of destroying tanks and armored vehicles, bunkers, fortifications, buildings and other obstacles. ATGM jammers were available but Syria could not buy them because it was under the UN embargo. The Shtora on the Russian T-90 tank was too complex and the SSRC could not fit on the T-55, T-62 and T-72 tanks.

Instead, in 2014, the Syrian Army intelligence service captured 18 BGM-71 TOW2 systems from the FSA rebels in northern Syria. These were dismantled and studied by the SSRC. The BGM-71 TOW2 has a range of 3,750 m and has a 5.9 kg high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead which operates in two stages, that is, a small warhead explodes on impact with the tank, then detonates the main warhead. The main warhead emits a jet of gas and molten metal at a speed of 1,500–3,000 m / s which can penetrate armor as much as one meter thick. The BGM-71 TOW2 missile features a xenon lamp and a thermal beacon at the rear, allowing it to be tracked and guided by the sensors and the operator through the IR and thermal sighting and targeting.

The Syrian Sarab System

The Syrian army first used its Sarab-1 (“mirage”) active protection, mounted above the turret on T-62 tanks, near the NSVT 12.7mm heavy machine gun, in its offensive on Khanaser, south of Aleppo (21–29 February 2016). This proved to be a good antidote against the 9M113 Konkurs ATGM used by the Islamic State. The Sarab-1 disrupted the optical command link between the operator and the ATGM sensor, so that the ATGM missiles could not receive the operator’s corrections to the trajectory; instead they received false commands transmitted by Sarab-1 via IR and they missed their targets.

The Sarab-1 system uses several transmitters that cover about 120 ° of the front of the tank. The transmitters are based on high-powered infrared LEDs and uses lenses to focus the light rays. Sarab-1 is a primitive form of Shtora and has shown to have an efficiency rating of over 80%. The Syrian army has also used Sarab-1 to protect its fixed support points (artillery pieces, fortified buildings, etc.) against ATGMs. Sarab-1 was not developed and tested according to the standards of the weapons industry but directly on the battlefield, against Islamic rebels.


Sarab-2, an improved version, was mounted on the T-62 and T-55 tanks used in the fight against Islamic State near Palmyra. At 2.34 seconds from launch and after traversing approximately 520 m (considered to be its minimum limit of efficiency) the BGM-71 Tow2’s IR sensor automatically switches from Large Field of View mode (with an angle of more than 6°) to the Narrow Field of View mode (between 1 and 0.25°). At this stage, the Sarab-2 emits stronger IR beams than those in the rear of the antitank missile (which are tracked by the launcher’s guidance system). These false data emitted by Sarab-2 cause the ATGM guidance system to send sudden corrections to the vertical flight and the rocket hits the ground before it gets near the target. Batteries provide 10 hours of operating power for Sarab-2, and its transmitters cover a frontal sector of 180°.

The latest version, Sarab-3, also uses laser beams and protects the tank in a complete 360 ​​° sector. The only problem is that the Sarab family has no effect on wire-guided or optical fiber ATGMs, RPGs (Rocket-Propelled Grenades), or portable man-launched rockets.

And Low-Tech Protection

US armored vehicles used in the invasion of Iraq (2003) and in Afghanistan were provided with a steel grille mounted at a distance of 1 m from the vehicle and providing 360° coverage. This solution was effective against RPGs (RPG-7, SPG-9) and some ATGMs, because the projectiles explode on contact with the tank’s grille and even if they pierce the armor itself, they do not explode inside the vehicle.

In February 2017, on the outskirts of Damascus, hundreds of Syrian Army vehicles were observed, T-72 M tanks, BMP-2s (IFV), ZSU-23-4 tanks and bulldozers from the 4th Tank Division, with a steel grating mounted on them. Bulldozers with armor plates welded on are used extensively in Syria’s urban areas to create the corridors needed to get tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces through, past the ruins of buildings.

April-16-17 – We Just Survived World War III

Here we have it. First, The Donald’s tough talk – “I’m crazy. I can start WW 3. I fear nothing!”

The tough talk is immediately followed by weak facts as we have a fake gas attack, all staged, like on a movie set.

Then we have a fake Tomahawk attack where 60% of the missiles disappeared and “nobody knows where.” The Russians are saying that they were not within their reach; the Syrians are mum; and the US declares it was a complete success, a wipe-out strike, without accounting for anything on their side. No signs of damage on the Syrian side, either, although the US claims to have inflicted a devastating blow to “the Syrian regime” (20% of Assad’s air force, which would be something like 100 planes, and the air base “disabled forever,” and so on).

Now comes the second act in this Kabuki theater: the Tough Donald takes on North Korea.

First we have 600,000 people evacuated from Pyongyang and preparations for a “major event,” then all the foreign journalists are summoned, just to announce a street opening.

Then we have the gathering of the entire military leadership and dozens and dozens of Korean submarine-launched missiles, ICBM missiles, medium-range missiles, all within a one-mile radius brought together in the center of Pyongyang creating an open invitation for an all-out American bulls-eye strike. One would expect a Mother Of All Bombs to wipe out the entire military leadership and at least 20% of their toys, as in Syria.

But the devastating blow came later, not with a Boom but the Hiss of a deflating balloon — in this case, a failed launch of a Korean missile. Was it the launch of a state-of-the-art ICBM? No, just a routine medium range, maybe even short-range missile. Maybe no range at all.

So now McMaster, and all the other masters of the US full-spectrum dominance, supposedly took out a toy missile. The mountain gave birth to a mouse.

Maybe it was the overwhelming concentration of forces by the “full spectrum dominant” force, their satellites, aircraft carriers, submarines, THAAD, cyber/electronic warfare, all brought together to stop this missile in its flight. But maybe, also, the Korean Boy who runs the fearless Korean war machine set up a prank, maybe together with the Chinese (maybe agreed at the famous chocolate-cake war room conference at Mar-a-Lago), so that they had a launch and self-destroyed it instantly.

Now everybody can go home and have their Easter eggs. Oof, we avoided World War III! Or, maybe we that was it, we just had it. Who knows?

But we all survived, and now the Donald has had himself awarded the title of a war president, and he can now negotiate with the Chinese and the Russians – from a position of strength . . . the demise of the United States.

Happy Spring to a new world.

April-12-17 – U.S. Intelligence Source: Syria Chemical Weapons Attack Launched From Saudi Base

Trump Withholds Syria-Sarin Evidence

April 12, 2017

Exclusive: Despite President Trump’s well-known trouble with the truth, his White House now says “trust us” on its Syrian-sarin charges while withholding the proof that it claims to have, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

After making the provocative and dangerous charge that Russia is covering up Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the Trump administration withheld key evidence to support its core charge that a Syrian warplane dropped sarin on a northern Syrian town on April 4.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman to the Pentagon, March 16, 2017. (DoD photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

A four-page white paper, prepared by President Trump’s National Security Council staff and released by the White House on Tuesday, claimed that U.S. intelligence has proof that the plane carrying the sarin gas left from the Syrian military airfield that Trump ordered hit by Tomahawk missiles on April 6.

The paper asserted that “we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence,” but then added that “we cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this attack due to the need to protect sources and methods.”

I’m told that the key evidence was satellite surveillance of the area, a body of material that U.S. intelligence analysts were reviewing late last week even after the Trump-ordered bombardment of 59 Tomahawk missiles that, according to Syrian media reports, killed seven or eight Syrian soldiers and nine civilians, including four children.

Yet, it is unclear why releasing these overhead videos would be so detrimental to “sources and methods” since everyone knows the U.S. has this capability and the issue at hand – if it gets further out of hand – could lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

In similarly tense situations in the past, U.S. Presidents have released sensitive intelligence to buttress U.S. government assertions, including John F. Kennedy’s disclosure of U-2 spy flights in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan revealing electronic intercepts after the Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983.

Yet, in this current case, as U.S.-Russian relations spiral downward into what is potentially an extermination event for the human species, Trump’s White House insists that the world must trust it despite its record of consistently misstating facts.

In the case of the April 4 chemical-weapons incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which reportedly killed scores of people including young children, I was told that initially the U.S. analysts couldn’t see any warplanes over the area in Idlib province at the suspected time of the poison gas attack but later they detected a drone that they thought might have delivered the bomb.

A Drone Mystery

According to a source, the analysts struggled to identify whose drone it was and where it originated. Despite some technical difficulties in tracing its flight path, analysts eventually came to believe that the flight was launched in Jordan from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base for supporting Syrian rebels, the source said, adding that the suspected reason for the poison gas was to create an incident that would reverse the Trump administration’s announcement in late March that it was no longer seeking the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

President Trump at a news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on April 5, 2017, at which the President commented on the crisis in Syria. (Screen shot from whitehouse.gov)

If indeed that was the motive — and if the source’s information is correct — the operation would have been successful, since the Trump administration has now reversed itself and is pressing Russia to join in ousting Assad who is getting blamed for the latest chemical-weapons incident.

Presumably, however, the “geospatial intelligence” cited in the four-page dossier could disprove this and other contentions if the Trump administration would only make its evidence publicly available.

The dossier stated, “Our information indicates that the chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft that took off from the regime-controlled Shayrat Airfield. These aircraft were in the vicinity of Khan Shaykhun approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began and vacated the area shortly after the attack.”

So, that would mean – assuming that the dossier is correct – that U.S. intelligence analysts were able to trace the delivery of the poison gas to Assad’s aircraft and to the airfield that Trump ordered attacked on April 6.

Still, it remains a mystery why this intelligence assessment is not coming directly from President Trump’s intelligence chiefs as is normally the case, either with an official Intelligence Estimate or a report issued by the Director of National Intelligence.

The photograph released by the White House of President Trump meeting with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017, regarding his decision to launch missile strikes against Syria.

The White House photo released late last week showing the President and a dozen senior advisers monitoring the April 6 missile strike from a room at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida was noteworthy in that neither CIA Director Mike Pompeo nor Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was in the frame.

Now, it is the White House that has released the four-page dossier supposedly summing up the assessment of the “intelligence community.”

An Argumentative Dossier

The dossier also seems argumentative in that it assumes that Russian officials – and presumably others – who have suggested different possible explanations for the incident at Khan Sheikdoun did so in a willful cover-up, when any normal investigation seeks to evaluate different scenarios before settling on one.

It is common amid the “fog of war” for people outside the line of command – and even sometimes inside the line of command – to not understand what happened and to struggle for an explanation.

On April 6, before Trump’s missile strike, I and others received word from U.S. military intelligence officials in the Middle East that they, too, shared the belief that the poison gas may have resulted from a conventional bombing raid that ruptured containers stored by the rebels, who – in Idlib province – are dominated by Al Qaeda’s affiliate and its allies.

Those reports were cited by former U.S. intelligence officials, including more than two dozen who produced a memo to President Trump urging him to undertake a careful investigation of the incident before letting this crisis exacerbate U.S.-Russia relations.

The memo said “our U.S. Army contacts in the area” were disputing the official story of a chemical weapons attack. “Instead, a Syrian aircraft bombed an al-Qaeda-in-Syria ammunition depot that turned out to be full of noxious chemicals and a strong wind blew the chemical-laden cloud over a nearby village where many consequently died,” the memo said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressing the audience at a concert for Palmyra, Syria, via a satellite link on May 5, 2016, after the ancient city was liberated from the Islamic State. (Image from RT’s live-streaming of the event)

In other words, to suggest possible alternative scenarios is not evidence of a “cover-up,” even if the theories are later shown to be erroneous. It is the normal process of sorting through often conflicting initial reports.

Even in the four-page dossier, Trump’s NSC officials contradicted what other U.S. government sources have told The New York Times and other mainstream news outlets about the Syrian government’s supposed motive for launching the chemical-weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

According to the earlier accounts, the Syrian government either was trying to terrorize the population in a remote rebel-controlled area or was celebrating its impunity after the Trump administration had announced that it was no longer seeking Assad’s removal.

But the dossier said, “We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in northern Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure.” Although Khan Sheikhoun was not near the fighting, the dossier presented the town as an area of support for the offensive.

Assuming this assessment is correct, does that mean that the earlier explanations were part of a cover-up or a propaganda operation? The reality is that in such complex situations, the analyses should continue to be refined as more information becomes available. It should not be assumed that every false lead or discarded theory is proof of a “cover-up,” yet that is what we see here.

“The Syrian regime and its primary backer, Russia, have sought to confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks,” the dossier declared.

But the larger point is that – given President Trump’s spotty record for getting facts straight – he and his administration should go the extra mile in presenting irrefutable evidence to support its assessments, not simply insisting that the world must “trust us.”

[In a separate analysis of the four-page dossier, Theodore Postol, a national security specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concluded that the White House claims were clearly bogus, writing:

“I have reviewed the document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.

“In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4. This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment, is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

April-12-17 – U.S. Intelligence Source: Syria Chemical Weapons Attack Launched From Saudi Base

Award winning journalist Robert Parry says incident was likely a false flag

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
April 12, 2017


Award-winning Iran-Contra journalist Robert Parry says the chemical weapons attack in Syria was launched from a joint Saudi-Israeli special operations base in Jordan, according to his intelligence sources.

U.S. intelligence analysts determined that a drone was responsible for the attack and “eventually came to believe that the flight was launched in Jordan from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base for supporting Syrian rebels,” according to the source.

“The suspected reason for the poison gas was to create an incident that would reverse the Trump administration’s announcement in late March that it was no longer seeking the removal of President Bashar al-Assad,” writes Parry.

As we highlighted back in 2013 after another chemical weapons attack in Ghouta that was blamed on Assad, rebels freely admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they had been given the weapons by Saudi Arabia but had “handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions.”

Parry’s background lends the information credibility. He covered the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press and Newsweek and was later given a George Polk award for his work on intelligence matters.

The contention that the incident was a “false flag” to create a justification for air strikes has also been voiced by former Congressman Ron Paul as well as numerous other prominent voices, including Vladimir Putinhimself, who went on to warn that rebels could now stage a similar incident in Damascus to goad the U.S. into toppling Assad.

Whoever was responsible for the attack does not take away from the horror of the event and the fact that innocent people and children died.

Parry dismissed the four page report released by President Trump’s National Security Council that blames the Syrian government for the chemical attack as being heavy on assertions but lacking actual evidence.

The white paper states, “we cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this attack due to the need to protect sources and methods,” although as Parry points out, “In similarly tense situations in the past, U.S. Presidents have released sensitive intelligence to buttress U.S. government assertions, including John F. Kennedy’s disclosure of U-2 spy flights in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan revealing electronic intercepts after the Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983.”

Parry challenged the Trump administration to make its evidence publicly available, while also questioning why both CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats were not show in a photo released by the White House which shows the President and a dozen of his senior advisers monitoring the April 6 missile strike from a room at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

“Given President Trump’s spotty record for getting facts straight – he and his administration should go the extra mile in presenting irrefutable evidence to support its assessments, not simply insisting that the world must “trust us,” concludes Parry.

Sent from my iPad

April-9-17 – Tillerson Will Not Be Meeting with Putin

Rossiyskiy Dialog April 9, 2017, 16:42

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will not fly to Moscow this Tuesday, April 11, to meet with President Vladimir Putin, despite the fact that just yesterday it was understood that Washington wants to persuade Russia to stop supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The meeting between Putin and Tillerson has been cancelled, as Steve Herman, head of Voice of America in the White House, made public Sunday afternoon, April 9.

According to Herman, the private talks with Putin scheduled for April 11–12 disappeared from his working schedule less than two days beforehand. The reasons for this cancellation have not been made clear.

[Earlier today, CBS News was still broadcasting that “Ahead of Moscow visit, Tillerson blames Russia’s ‘failure’ in Syria for killings.” At the same time, Stratfor reports that the “meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has been removed from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s schedule…” but that, “Regardless, Tillerson will continue discussions on Syria in person in Moscow on April 11-12.” ]

The American media reports that Tillerson is allegedly flying to Moscow with evidence that Damascus organized the chemical attack on Idlib on April 4, and with a demand that the Kremlin desist from further supporting the legitimate authority in Syria.

As previously reported by "Russian Dialogue," Tillerson has accused Russia of ignoring its obligations to dispose of chemical weapons in Syria, charging Moscow with responsibility for their possible presence in Damascus.

April-9-17 – Dacian Cioloş Should Defend Romania’s Interests, Not the Lords of Brussels

President of the Romanian Senate Calin Popescu-Tariceanu called for Dacian Cioloş to "defend Romania’s interests, not those of the bigwigs in Brussels." He says the former premier is in the service of a faction that feels Romania “should be content with the status of a colony within the EU."

"I’ve been quite surprised by the criticism coming lately from the technocrat Dacian Cioloş, former premier, and I think it’s worth a response. Not a personal response, because I don’t want to ascribe to Mr. Cioloş a greater importance than he merits. Dacian Cioloş speaks for a faction in Romanian politics that says Romania should content itself with the role of a colonial state within the European Union. We have politicians going around Europe with the same mindset of 250 years ago when the Phanariot rulers approached the Sublime Porte [seat of the Ottoman government] with the attitude, ‘better to bow your head than wind up dead.’ There are politicians out there who present it like a great victory for Romanians that the notion of a ‘multi-speed Europe’ has been replaced with a Europe ‘at different paces and intensity.’ It’s like the saying, ‘Still the same Mary, but in a different hat,’ Tariceanu wrote Saturday evening on Facebook.

He maintains that EU decisions are taken after "hard negotiations" in which each state has a responsibility to work "vigorously" to protect its own interests.

"Probably, some of these people think it’s better to be a slave with a generous master than to stand on one’s own feet. Others have gotten used to their luxurious lives as high-status functionaries with the same salary as the CEO of a private company, without even having to worry about getting in trouble with your employer. Whatever their motive, one thing is clear as daylight: all these politicians know that MCV is a political mechanism, and that decisions that have to do with Romania, like all the other second-tier Member States, are not automatically taken in accordance with European principles but have to be negotiated on the basis of economic or political interests. Even Dacian Cioloş says as much in a statement he sent in reference to discussions he’s had with other European leaders about postponing the country’s admission to the Schengen area. To use an expression that President Iohannis is fond of: that’s the elephant in the room, that everybody knows about. In the EU, decisions are made following tough negotiations in which each state has to act vigorously to protect its interests. “If you don’t do that, you’re going to lose.”

The Senate President gives Poland as a model negotiator and pleads in favor of a one-speed European Union.

"This is a fact that states like Poland understand, but people like Prime Minister Dacian Cioloş do not apply it. They still believe in the logic whereby, if in the final negotiations they offer a several-billion-euro contract to a Dutch company to build ships, without putting it out to bid, they will gain the goodwill of the Netherlands. Posing as convinced Europeans, they say all this to me, who was Prime Minister at the time we joined the European Union. I believe in the European Union, but a single-speed European Union, not one with ‘colonies’ and ‘great powers,’ not a Europe with ‘first-tier citizens’ and ‘second-tier citizens.’ I believe such a European Union can be achieved, in which Romania will be a strong state, possibly even the seventh largest economic power in Europe, as befits the size of its territory and population. This is one of my objectives in traveling Monday to Brussels, where I am going to meet with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and with Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice," said Tariceanu.

According to him, Romania must uphold its "interests" in Brussels.

"This EU, which I think every Romanian wants, can be achieved only if we uphold our interests in Brussels and do not accept the status of a servant. Politicians like Dacian Cioloş want to sell an illusion to those few Romanians who still believe him. The illusion that if we behave ourselves and don’t bother anyone, we will get what we deserve. The illusion that if we keep still while our rights and freedoms are infringed, we will be counted among “the good guys.” The illusion that if we applaud every decision made by today’s leaders in Brussels, we will be given a front-row seat. But if there is a lesson to be learned from Romanian history, it’s this: when we were other people’s servants, we were weaker and lived poorly. When we dared to look up from the ground, we were stronger. I hope that Dacian Cioloş and the other politicians like him will find this courage. Whether they do or not, I, together with ALDE and our partners in government, will continue to work to gain a stronger position for Romania in the EU,” said Tariceanu.

Agerpres / (Author: Livia Popescu, editor: Nona Jalbă, online editor Anda Badea. Translated by Alice Decker.)

April-7-17 – Trump’s Attack in Syria

My reading of the attack is that it is a highly choreographed non-attack, fake news attack.

Not real. Having the Chinese President at his side, and hitting empty fields, Trump (and Putin) prevents a real attack and might even set the stage for a backlash against possible false flag attacks.

Not real.

Don’t kid yourselves, Trump is bluffing. All he can do and all he is doing is hard bargaining the “controlled demolition” of the US. He might get an extra 10 years from Xi. But the writing is on the wall and has been for some time.

Can you imagine Trump notified the Russians in advance: “herefrom these two little ships we will volley our cruise missiles, just over your heads, you can see them with naked eye”. And the Russians were “defeated”, just like that. This a war-story for children.

Nothing is real in this episode.

April-02-17 – The US Has Opened a New Front in Syria by an Air Assault Operation

By Valentin Vasilescu

Trans. by Alice Decker

Raqqa, the Islamic State “capital,” was cut off from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) trained and led by the US military from the north, west and east, within a radius of 20–35 km. The city’s defenders had only one link left with other territories: that from the south. Some 45 km southwest of Raqqa is Tabqa Cty, an important outpost for the defense of Raqqa on the banks of the river Euphrates. After the Syrian army liberated Dayr Hafer from ISIS, they advanced to Tabqa on the southern shore of Lake Assad, 40 km from the city. To the west of Tabqa city is a strategic objective — the Tabqa dam. It was built in the 1960s and 1970s with help from the USSR. It is a major dam, 4.5 kilometers long, and provides 35% of the electricity in Syria. There is another, smaller dam on the Euphrates River, called the Baath. It is 20 km east of Tabqa dam, between Tabqa and Raqaa.

On the night of 21/22 March 2017, the US military launched a joint airborne operation in Syria, carried out initially for about 80 American soldiers from the 75 Rangers Regiment Special Operations Forces and 400 Kurdish YPG fighters, now called SDF. The purpose of this operation was to occupy a strategically important area on the southern shore of Lake Assad and the Euphrates. The area is bounded to the west by a portion of the road linking Tabqa with Aleppo, in the middle by the Tabqa dam and the Tabqa Air Base, and in the east by a portion of the road that connects Tabqa and Raqaa. This operation occurred a week before the Syrian army’s maneuver, preventing it from participating in the liberation of Raqaa city from the Islamic State.

The operation started 48 hours before the actual transport, when the US led nearly 50 coalition airstrikes against ISIS. They targeted pockets of resistance, ammunition depots and 50 Islamic State military vehicles. The targets were the city of Tabqa, Tabqa Air Base and near the Tabqa dam. After nightfall, about 75 US Marines in expeditionary unit 11 crossed Lake Assad using dinghies. Their mission was to create a safe overflight for American aircraft by clearing the southern shore of Lake Assad of Islamic State fighters.

At around 04.00 on March 22, in the district where the boarding for the airborne operation was to take place, just north of the town of Jabăr on the northern shore of Lake Assad, about 30 MH-47F helicopters and OV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff aircraft took off from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) Command. The OV-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. It combines the flight characteristics of winged aircraft with those of a helicopter, in that the wing on which the two engines are mounted can change its position by 90 degrees around the transverse axis of the aircraft. The OV-22 can transport 24 soldiers or a 4×4 Badger Phantom vehicle and has not only a gun inside the hatch but also a rotating machine gun with six barrels (7.62 mm caliber, firing at a rate of 6,000 projectiles per minute), operated by remote control, under the belly of the airplane. Now the OV-22 can protect itself in all directions while landing.

In the flight path and near Abu Hurayrah peninsula, the designated landing area, the transport aircraft were protected by US AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Another 124 American marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were deployed near the town of Jabar. They run a battery of M777 howitzers (155 mm caliber) and, together with the AH-64 Apache helicopters, they neutralized any attempt by Islamic State fighters to fire on the landing areas. The M777 howitzer fires Excalibur-type high-precision projectiles with a range of up to 40 km and is accurate to 4–10 m, due to the use of GPS and a digital fire-control system.

Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi, Chief of Operations of the Russian military’s General Staff, said the Americans’ 155 mm caliber projectiles had damaged one of the sluice gates and compromised the Tabqa dam. It is jammed shut, and there is danger of catastrophic flooding.

The distance between the boarding area of Jabar and the landing in Abu Hurayrah is 25 km. Thus, by March 22, 08.00, US aircraft made at least 60 deliveries including 480 troops, with weapons, ammunition, food, equipment engineers, etc. Note that the MH-47F helicopter is capable of carrying the 75th Rangers Regiment’s Humvee light armored vehicles. The first flights carried exclusively American servicemen and their armored vehicles. The MH-47F helicopter transports 33–55 troops, or weapons and ammunition up to 10,886 kg. They defend themselves with a 7.62 mm caliber machine gun operated form the open hatch at the tail. The mission of the 80 US soldiers from the 75th Rangers Regiment was to secure the two landing areas on the Abu Hurayrah peninsula.

By the end of the day, March 22, a bridgehead was established on the southern shore of Lake Assad. About 3,000 fighters and 300 SDF Marines or US Special Forces had been flown in. Additionally, the US Marines also provided landing ships which helped to deploy the SDF’s heavy machinery (Humvees, armored personnel carriers, mortars, artillery, bulldozers), on the south bank of the Euphrates. Later, the Tabqa Air Base was captured and most of the troops were deployed 10 km east of Tabqa in the direction of the Baath dam to prevent the Islamic State troops from migrating from Raqaa to Tabqa.

Because of the potential failure of the Tabqa dam, the original plan of operation was changed, meaning that SDF troops who had reached the northern end of it did not go ahead and seize it. Thus they missed the opportunity to open up transport routes for the SDF troops on the southern shore of Lake Assad. The American landing troops then proceed to encircle the Islamic State at Tabqa and to occupy the Baath dam. By crossing the Baath dam, SDF can pop up behind the Islamic State’s defensive deployment, located on the north bank of the Euphrates. By this means, the SDF troops on both sides will now be linnked.

Raqaa City straddles the north bank of the Euphrates. By occupying the Baath dam, SDF also surrounds the forward defense positions of the Islamic State, to the west and on the south bank of the Euphrates, near the city of Raqaa, completing the encirclement of the Islamic State capital. This new operation will end when the Islamic State fighters from Tabqa City surrender or are wiped out, and there will be no gap in the encirclement of Raqaa. Islamic State can no longer receive reinforcements from Raqaa or Deir-ez-Zor and Iraq.