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Total number of comments: 53 (since 2013-11-28 16:32:42)

David

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  • Is Kerry Right? Are Freemen of Syria and Army of Islam Radical Terrorists?
    • Thanks for that concise assessment, Juan. It would appear that the Department of State has a collective case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

  • Top 5 things that Make Bangladesh a natural Target for Extremists
    • Presumably they mean earthly rewards, and not that suicide bombers get 144 virgins. Has anyone seen a published Daesh schedule of rewards for jihad?

  • Clash Looming? Russia-backed Syrian Army heading for ISIL's al-Raqqa in race with US-backed Kurds
    • A clash is unlikely, because while the Kurds have pushed towards Raqqa, it is in their interests to leave the capture of Raqqa to someone else, who will most probably be the Syrian Government forces.

      Raqqa is well outside the Kurds' Rojava project. As much as the US would like Raqqa to be liberated by non-Government forces, as a step towards partitioning Syria, the Kurds would be reluctant to spill Kurdish blood to advance on it. For the Kurds, the area around Menbij and west to Afrin is the highest priority.

  • Could Chile be the Saudi Arabia of Wave Power?
    • Oops! Inter Press Service appears to have reduced Chile's wave energy potential by a factor of 1000. The original report says 164.9 GW (not MW).

      Interesting to note that the original report is not new- it is dated 2009.

  • US confused over Russia’s real intentions in Syria
    • Only by his potted bio from the website of the Middle East institute, in particular-
      '... is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. He focuses on terrorism, insurgency and sub-state security threats across the Middle East. He is also a senior consultant to The Shaikh Group’s Track II Syria Initiative, within which he has helped coordinate a two-year process of engagement with the leaderships of over 100 Syrian armed opposition groups. He was formerly a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar ...'

      I note also that he speaks English and French, but not Arabic, so he would be rather limited compared to analysts who can read primary sources themselves .

      Having spent two years organising opposition groups, he could hardly make any claim to objective analysis. I'm willing to be disabused of my conclusion, but unfortunately, he looks very much like just another ambitious, willing mouthpiece for Gulf-based interests.

  • Is Saudi Arabia's 'Islamic' Coalition against Terrorism a Paper Tiger?
    • Definitely an ironic notion, particularly given the problems facing Saudi Arabia itself- falling oil revenues, tension within the Royal Family, unemployment, budget pressures, a military debacle in Yemen ...

  • Syria: Russia Targets Daesh in Palmyra despite Drawdown
    • Clarification- Tadmor is the modern city; Palmyra is the archaeological zone to the the immediate south-west of Tadmor.

      Until recently, the greatest threat to the Government came from FSA/Nusra/Ahrar etc, rather than Da'esh. The aforementioned were the groups closing in on the government-held 'heartland' (Damascus, Latakia, Aleppo), not Da'esh, hence they got priority.

      Most of Da'esh's territorial gains were at the expense of other rebel groups, notably its takeover of Raqqa. IIRC, apart from Deir Ez-Zor, Tadmor is the first major Government-controlled centre that has fallen to Da'esh- only some 15 months ago.

  • Has Western intervention prolonged the Syrian Civil War? & has our Press Covered it up?
    • I suggest that you read Hugh Roberts' article- then you might understand why the author wrote as he did.
      link to lrb.co.uk.

      Syria situation is vastly more complex than your 'Assad started ...' assertion. Saudi Arabia, with Western connivance, had been seeking to destabilise Syria for years. Syria had already experienced an Islamist uprising thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood.

      I'd agree that the government , and particularly the provincial administrations mishandled the initial response to civilian demonstrations, but once the Islamists took up arms, the situation became irreversible.

  • What's A Rigged Economy? How the Rich keep you Poor
    • Wasn'y it Voltaire who said 'the comfort of the rich depends upon a plentiful supply of the poor'?

  • Kerry warns of break up of Syria; but is that Realistic?
    • I'm not sure who Kerry thought he would be scaring with his talk of partition, but it is a low probability for a whole lot of reasons.

      The Kurds would be better off within a new Syria rather than an independent state- safe from attack by Turkey, and with greater recognition from Damascus, given their territorial control. They would be better off without any kind of formal linkage to the Iraqi Kurds, given that the ruling Barzani clan and their klepto friends seem to be driving that region into economic ruin; militias not paid for six months etc

      In other areas, the USA cannot afford to leave any part of Syria under the control of extremist Islamist elements like Nusra (al Qaeda) or Daesh- any such region would become a haven for extremist of all kinds, the very thing that the West has been trying, less than successfully, to achieve so far with their bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.

      Even allowing a 'moderate' group to have its own territory carries extreme risks. We have seen only too often the fluid alliances between the 1000 or so militias operating in Syria . To expect that this pattern will cease, and moderates won't play footsies with extremists, is hopelessly optimistic.

      The USA may not publicly support what Russia and the Syrian Government are doing, but it is in the US best interests that they do so. Kerry just can't say so out loud.

  • Saudi Arabia 'Ready' to send Thousands of Ground Troops to Syria
  • Russian Strike on al-Qaeda Lair kills 51 at Prison, as US hypocritically slams Moscow
    • How long before Donald Trump catches on that that the Administration is being very soft on al Qaeda, and makes an issue of it?

  • Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
    • Look at it historically. There was a well-established trade route between Babylon and the Eastern Mediterranean, which traversed the territory that gave rise to Islam. In the early centuries AD, this route was plied by Jewish traders. Remember that Babylon had a significant Jewish population- they didn't all return to Jerusalem, as inferred by the Old Testament.

      The native population living in this area were allegedly polytheists, but they would have had ample time to be exposed to Judiasm, to learn of Christianity, and to absorb aspects of these more advanced religions into their own religious belief structure, which became formalised with the writings of Muhammad.

  • ISIL/ Daesh can be Starved of Oil Revenue: Here's How
    • As the article says, the oil trucks plying their trade are a low-density target. Warthogs can be effective once they find a target, but they are expensive to operate. As much as I admire Warthogs, drones would be a more cost-effective weapon.

  • Why did Turkey dare shoot down a Russian Plane? The Proxy War in Syria
    • Interesting map of the aircraft track in the Guardian (link to theguardian.com) suggests that the intrusion into Turkish airspace occurred over a narrow promentory of Turkish territory between Rabia and Jisr As-Shigour.

      If this is so, then the Turks appear to be too calculating by half- the plane would never have been in Turkish airspace longer than a few seconds anyway, as it traversed the promentory and re-entered Syrian airspace. This trajectory would have been evident to the Turkish air controllers. It suggests that they were looking for an excuse to attack.

      I think my biggest concern in this is that NATO senior staff may see taking a tough line as an opportunity to burnish the organisation's international standing, at the expense of trying to reduce tensions in the region.

  • 'Very Soon' US forces will Arrive in Syria; Russia bombs near Turkey
    • Have the 'moderate rebels' ever been explicitly identified? Opinions as to which groups are 'moderate' probably depends on who you ask- Turkey, Saudi Government and Russians probably have very different ideas on this, which will need need to be resolved before anyone is invited to the negotiating table. eg, is the Gulf's favourite salafist group, Ahrar al-Sham, considered 'moderate'?

  • Is Daesh/ ISIL a modern Raiding Pirate state?
    • Indeed. While I would expect that much assistance travels in the form of cases of crisp US dollar bills, given the US capacity to scrutinize and control international financial flows, it is curious that transactions from various Gulf-based 'charities' to recipients haven't received closer attention.

  • Netanyahu taps Squatter who called Obama Muslim hate sympathizer, as he demands $5 bn./yr. from U.S.
    • Does this mean that Baratz will replace the unctuous Mark Regev as the Israeli Government mouthpiece, or are we to be blessed with both of them?

  • Who are the ISIL Fighters in Egypt's Sinai, claiming to down Plane?
    • There are reports in the Independent of comments from a Brit tourist that airport staff were offering them bypass of security/check-in queues for 20 quid. If this level of entrepreneurial security prevailed, it would not be hard to get an explosive case onto a plane.

  • Facing ISIL Propaganda, Russia Denies its Syria Campaign is a "Holy War"
    • With Jaw-droppingly tactless and unthinking friends like these, Putin doesn't need enemies. They are neck and neck with the GOP hopefuls in the stupid stakes

  • To Stem the Flow of Refugees, Stop the Syrian Regime's Barrel Bombs
    • While not denying barrel bombs are a noteworthy factor in driving refugees, I consider Mr Roth weakens his case by oversimplifying it to place almost sole emphasis on these weapons. Too often in recent times, oversimplification of Syrian affairs has led to faulty analysis and dubious conclusions.

      There are other significant reasons driving departures.
      Young men of military age risk being either indefinitely conscripted into the Syrian Army, or being forced to join Islamist militias- then likely as not ending up as a suicide bomber or human wave sacrifice. Young men also leave in hope of finding work so they can send money back to their family.

      Given the extent of economic collapse, there is often no prospect of income- from any source. For several aid agencies, funding has run out until western donor nations come good on their pledges. Staying and starving is hardly an option. Families in rebel areas who stay also face the prospect of having their daughters taken for 'marriage' to rebel fighters.

  • US Intel Chief: Iraq and Syria may not Survive as States
    • Thanks Juan, for an important insight. A significant factor that seems to be overlooked by the 'authorities' in the article is how the Syrian population feels about their nationality.

      The vast majority of Syrians grew up in a mostly stable, secular republic. While they carried varying degrees of religious, ethnic, and geographic attachment, most of them usually identified as Syrian rather than sunni/shia/Bedouin etc (Kurds may have been an exception).

      To them, rebuilding Syria will mean just that, rather than rebuilding rump states of dubious nature.

  • Iran Deal: The Calculus of Power in the Mideast just Changed Forever
    • The opportunities are enormous. Within eighteen months, European and Iranian business interests will be all over one another like fourteen year olds at a school dance.

      US business interests will have to move quickly to avoid missing out.

  • Did rise of Daesh/ ISIL ensure Iran Nuclear Deal?
    • But companies supplying oil industry-related equipment and know how stand to do very comfortably when the rejuvenation of Iran's oil fields and infrastructure gets underway. Think Halliburton- there will be some very conflicted Republicans ...

  • 50 Egyptian Soldiers, others, Killed in Daesh Sinai Rebellion
  • Syria: When al-Assad Regime shuts off Internet, State Violence Spikes
    • Is there something naive about these 'results'? Of course any side in a conflict that has the ability to mess with the enemy's communications will do so.

      Taking the Assad regime's fight against rebel groups out of context and calling it 'state violence' is misleading, and not helpful to any realistic characterisation of the nature of the conflict as it has evolved.

      'State violence' suggests (and is usually applied to) violence directed by a state against its civilian population, as in the Egyptian example; it's hardly the relevant description for a conflict between a state and coalitions of well resourced and armed rebel militias.

      Egypt and the CAR are much better representatives of the 'state violence' situation than Syria. Was this a case where the research focused on Syria because the Syrian case study (despite its lesser applicability) could provide better data?

  • The Middle East Policy of President John Ellis "Jeb" Bush: Iraq, Iran Wars?
    • It's a policy designed to appeal to the Republican base, not to actually advance the USA's interests in the region.

      Indeed, it would only deepen the hole that the US is currently in. Most his proposed initiatives have already been tried and have failed spectacularly.

  • Al-Qaeda in Syria rubs out 23 members of Druze Religious Minority, Persecutes Others
    • Like the French Generals at the beginning of World War 2, Jumblatt seems determined to fight the last war, not the one he's actually engaged in.

      As for giving succour to The Support Front and Al Qaeda, does the Turkish Government never think that these groups might turn their gaze northwards?

  • Modest Increase in Iraq Training Mission shows Obama still Uninterested & Maybe he's Right
    • I'm not sure you've thought this through, so consider this question. If the Assad government were to suddenly disappear, which organisation, given the present situation, would be most likely to take over?
      Da'esh is easily top of the list. Is a Da'esh-ruled Syria what you want?

  • Tom Cotton's 'Chickenhawk' Taunt at Iran FM Demeans Jeb Bush, GOP Field
    • Harvard must be cringing. Cotton's the antithesis of a good advertisement for Harvard.

  • Top Ten Ways Islamic Law forbids Terrorism
  • Do GOP Frontrunners have an Iran policy besides Sanctions and Bombs?
    • Amongst other post-sanction purchases, Iran is said to be in the market for up to 250 civilian airliners. Even if the actual number is half this, I would expect Boeing executives to be already on their way to Tehran, hoping to get in ahead of the Airbus executives. And then there's the pent-up demand for aircraft spare parts ...

      Several sectors of US business, and the labor they employ, stand to benefit from the agreement. Congress members intending to reject the agreement should expect some forceful lobbying.

  • Iran FM Zarif Schools GOP Senators on Int'l Law: This is a UNSC Resolution
  • President Obama's Biggest Mideast Policy Challenges, 2015
    • State Dept has rarely had problems averting their eyes from human rights failings when ruthless dictators were being useful to it (Saddam, anyone?). What's changed now?

  • Should Iran and the US accept a Good, but not perfect Nuclear Deal?
  • Obama's budding Cambodia Policy in Syria
    • Thomas- what is your basis for suggesting that the generally moderate Sunnis of Syria would prefer IS to the Syrian Government? Some may be conservative in a rural kind of way, but neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor JN has demonstrated the extremism of IS. No doubt IS would use it as propaganda, but there is little evidence that Syria's Sunnis are clamoring for an IS victory. While Iraq's Sunnis may have temporarily cooperated with IS to rid themselves of the al-Maliki control, this has only occured at the end of several years of ethnic cleansing by al-Makiki's shia militias. Such large scale ethnic cleansing has not taken place in Syria.

  • The Debacle of the Caliphates: Why al-Baghdadi's Grandiosity doesn't Matter
    • Juan, thanks for some more invaluable insights into why the current extremists think and act the way they do.
      Still, the sooner they declare their Caliphate, the sooner they can start splitting into factions and commence the process of deepening internal disagreement that will set them at one another's throats, rather than anyone else's.

  • The Second Iran-Iraq War and the American Switch
    • How long before we see Syrian Army-USA cooperation, in the form of a thrust towards Raqqah, to weaken the ISIS advance by attacking from behind???

  • Iran "Happy" Video Arrestees out on Bail but Pharrell Cover goes Viral
    • farhang & saf- despite his position, President Rouhani is not all powerful. This is a consequence of the manner in which power is distributed through the various civil, religious, judicial and military organs of government. Some of these are quite relaxed about such incidents, others see them as a direct threat, and none is in full control, so an agency that feels confronted by such an incident may act on its own, without consultation.
      In any case, the 'youthful and educated Iranian population' is, as far as I am aware, a mainly urban entity. Less well educated youth from rural areas are generally more conservative, and this is where some entities involved in government, such as the Basij, draw their support from (IIRC, these were the elements that were used to put down unrest in the wake of the 2009 elections).

      There will be more events like this, where some section of the authorities feels the need to make an example of the transgressors, but they will increasingly be seen for what they are- a rearguard action by the conservative elements. There are many more pressing issues facing the Iranian Government.

  • Iraq's Freedom Agenda shouldn't Include Child Marriage and Summary Divorce
    • How much, if any, of this draft legislation is posturing to attract conservative elements ahead of the elections?

  • Will Russell Crowe as Noah help Egypt Separate Religion and State?
    • Ah! if only the Monty Pythons had made a film about Noah and/or the Old Testament. It might have given conservative religious elements something more challenging to complain about, rather than this leaden Aronofski/Crowe effort.

  • Camel Bones and Jerusalem: Archeology Shows Bible written Late, Full of Errors
    • Good to see another piece of hard evidence getting some publicity. In fact, most of the conventional religion-based content of the Pentateuch has now either been undermined by archaeology, or is on very shaky ground. No evidence for tribes wandering in the desert, or indeed for the exile in Egypt. A number of the towns mentioned in connection with the exile/return saga would have been well known to those hearing the stories in the time they were written in the mid-1st millennium, but the excavation evidence indicates they weren't inhabited at the time in the second millennium when the events were supposed to have taken place.

      All societies seem to like to have a foundation myth- in this case, the evidence is very much that they wrote themselves a past. However, despite all the evidence, there seems to be a general reluctance to address the implications this evidence has for the religions practiced by the peoples of the Book.

  • Saudi Arabia forces Women to Cancel Driving Protest, Asserts Authoritarianism in Region
  • Are Chemical Weapons use in Syria really Obama's Red line? (Feaver)
    • Given the chaos inside Syria, the probability that chemical weapon record keeping by the Syrian bureaucracy has been less-than-perfect (hell, even the USA has occasionally mislaid nukes) and the capture of numerous military bases by rebels, it should be unsurprising if at least small quantities of sarin or its pre-cursors are in rebel hands by now.

      From the rebels' point of view, the best use of these materials would be to increase the level of USA involvement in the conflict.

      A separate issue is the possibility that outside interests might 'seed' some chemical weapons within Syria, so that they can be 'located', and used to pressure the USA into deeper involvement in the region. Would the USA trust eg, Israel not to do this? No wonder Obama is cautious.

  • Jesus and Muhammad and the Question of the State
    • Professor Cole
      Christianity and Islam make different claims regarding their sacred texts- the old and new Testaments are accepted as the writings of human beings (and thus open to interpretation), whereas the Quran is claimed to be the actual dictated words of God, and thus (in principle at least) not open to disputation. To what extent has this been a factor in their capacity to adapt to changes in society?

  • Donald Trump versus the Aberdeen Wind Farm: Fiddling while Rome Burns
    • He's worried about the beauty?? Is this a first for the Donald? golf courses aren't exactly natural and beautiful either- they're highly artificial, cost a bundle to maintain, and don't generate a kilowatt.

  • Syrian Rebels capture UN Troops, face Raqqah bombings, are pledged UK Armored Trucks
    • Any number of US-supported dictatorships around the world attest to the fact that 'killing his own people' has generally been a second-order concern for the US Government.

  • As Rebels close in on Damascus, Obama warns he'll Intervene if Chemicals are Used
    • If I were the USA I'd be more worried about chemical weapons falling into the hands of extreme Islamist elements like the Nusra Front. Given that the rebels have already liberated items like surface-to-air missiles from military stores, the chances of them getting their hands on chemical weapons would appear fairly good.

  • Demonizing Muslims and the New McCarthyism (Bacevich)
    • Having the same god doesn't mean that you have all the same prophets. The 'People of the Book' all have the same Old Testament/Pentateuch God that gets the story from the Creation to Abraham. After that, things diverged as the Hebrews,'wrote themselves a past', writing the Arabs out of any claim to Israel through the story of Isaac and Ishmael.
      Later, the early Christians cast Jesus in the role of a Messiah so as to claim continuity with Old Testament prophecy, even though the Jews themselves never recognised Jesus as such.
      Men make gods in their own image- even Mormons and tele-evangelists.

  • The Age of Mass Killing Comes to Syria & France Pushes Gov't in Exile
    • any comments on Robert Fisk's report on Daraya in the Independent? Essentially saying it was a prisoner swap gone horribly wrong, ie not a straightforward massacre, as most the media are portraying it.

  • Top Ten Reasons Fracking won't Last Long
    • Juan- like you, I'd be happy to see greater adoption of solar, but we have to be realistic, and your characterisation of the situation in Australia is questionable. The three-quarters of a million homes is reliable, and an installed capacity of 1.7 GW is ok, but you can't equate that installed solar capacity (measured in Watts) to the output (measured in Watt-hours) of two nuclear plants- they're apples and oranges. Setting aside issues of maintenance downtime, solar in Australia operates at about the equivalent of 5.6 hours full production per 24 hour day, so it's only producing full output for about a quarter of the day, whereas the nuclear plant will be producing rated output for the full 24 hours (the sources only refer to installed capacity, not to production).

      And while there are many places in Australia that can be called 'sun-drenched'(including Ballina, NSW, the 'Melanoma capital of the world'), you can't generalise. There are many parts of southern Australia that would welcome a bit more sun-drenching. For example,Hobart, the southern-most state capital is about the same distance from the Equator as Boston.

  • Washington's Dangerous Blockade of Iran (Cole at Tomdispatch)
    • Brian- have a look at wikipedia- link to en.wikipedia.org.
      Most Iran's primary energy is from gas, then oil, then hydro (2%). In other words, a lot of gas/oil is used to provide stationary energy.

      The economics of the energy sector is complicated by large-scale subsidies, ie the government loses potential revenue when it provides domestic subsidies to oil and gas consumption. If these products could be exported, they would earn the Iranian Government money, ie there is massive revenue foregone.

  • China offered Qaddafi Armaments in midst of war
    • It's all very well to claim to be sceptical about anthropogenic greenhouse warming, but those who do make such claims need to provide an alternative thesis - backed up with data - to explain the unprecedented rate of increase in global temperature in recent decades. I'm not aware that Alexander Cockburn has done this.

      Otherwise they can't expect to be taken seriously.

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