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China and Russia Warn the U.S.

Russia and China make it quite clear: No regime change, regime collapse, accelerated reunification or military deployment north of the 38th parallel dividing the Korean Peninsula.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-12/in-sanctioning-kim-china-and-russia-warn-u-s-no-regime-change

China and Russia Warn the U.S.

By Ting Shi and David Tweed

Beijing, Moscow worked to weaken sanctions on North Korea
China says it will never allow war on Korean peninsula.

September 13, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – In supporting a watered-down version of North Korea sanctions, China and Russia had a stern warning for the U.S.: Don’t try to overthrow Kim Jong Un’s regime.

The measures passed on Monday at the United Nations Security Council included reducing imports of refined petroleum products, banning textile exports and strengthening inspections of cargo ships suspected of having illegal materials. U.S. envoy Nikki Haley called them the “strongest measures ever imposed on North Korea” even though they ended up dropping demands for an oil embargo and freeze on Kim’s assets.

More worrisome for China and Russia was Haley’s remark that the U.S. would act alone if Kim’s regime didn’t stop testing missiles and bombs. The UN representatives of both countries on Monday reiterated what they called “the four nos“: No regime change, regime collapse, accelerated reunification or military deployment north of the 38th parallel dividing the Korean Peninsula.

“The Chinese side will never allow conflict or war on the peninsula,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Tuesday.

The comments in the wake of the sanctions signaled that both China and Russia are only willing to go so far in pressuring Kim to abandon his attempts to secure the ability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. Both nations have called for dialogue, something President Donald Trump has resisted.

China and Russia realize their combined effort “works better than individual action,” said Wang Xinsheng, a history professor at Peking University. “Both oppose North Korea to become a full-fledged nuclear state, and both think parallel action from the U.S. is needed to affect any change in the situation.”

China and Russia — the biggest economic patrons of North Korea — both share the view that North Korea won’t give up its nuclear weapons without security guarantees, and they don’t see the point in fomenting a crisis on their borders that will benefit American strategic goals. At the same time, they don’t want Kim provoking the U.S. into any action that could destabilize the region.

“Sanctions of any kind are useless and ineffective,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters earlier this month at a summit in Xiamen, China. “They’ll eat grass, but they won’t abandon their program unless they feel secure.”

Russia and China were singled out at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday on financing for North Korea’s nuclear program. Republican Chairman Ed Royce said the U.S. should target Chinese banks, including Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and China Merchants Bank Co., for aiding Kim’s regime. Assistant Treasury Secretary Marshall Billingslea said in prepared remarks to the committee that North Korean bank representatives “operate in Russia in flagrant disregard of the very resolutions adopted by Russia at the UN.”

U.S. officials said the new UN sanctions — combined with earlier measures — would cut North Korean exports by 90 percent, pinching the regime’s ability to get hard currency. The textile export ban alone would cost North Korea about $726 million a year, the U.S. said.

Still, analysts saw the efforts to dilute the original proposal as successful.

“The stiffer sanctions won’t change anything in the near-term,” said Stuart Culverhouse, head of macro and fixed income research at specialist frontier markets investment bank Exotix Capital. “The new embargoes are incrementally tougher, but diplomacy meant they had to be compromised to an extent that they are very unlikely to change minds in Pyongyang.”

Tactical Nukes

North Korea has said it will never give up its nuclear weapons unless the U.S. drops its “hostile” policies toward the regime. Kim has claimed the ability to fit a hydrogen bomb onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, but the U.S. military says he has yet to master re-entry and guidance systems that would allow him to target an American city.

Many analysts think Kim will wait until he’s mastered his weapons before negotiating, as it would strengthen his hand. It might take tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea — something President Moon Jae-in has opposed — to bring Kim to the negotiating table earlier, according to Lee Ho-ryung, chief of North Korean studies at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

“If South Korea, Japan, or both could have the U.S. deploy tactical nuclear weapons, that’ll put pressure on Kim to come to dialogue,” Lee said. “When competition to have better weapons escalates, it’s always the poorer one who gives up.”

George Lopez, a former member of the UN Security Council panel of experts for sanctions on North Korea, said that the U.S. should seek unity of message with China and Russia in addition to a unanimous vote on sanctions. The U.S. should look to engage diplomatically to find a level of security that North Korea and its neighbors will be happy with, he said.

“We did it against powers that have thousands of nuclear weapons,” Lopez said. “We certainly should be able to do this against a power that has less than two dozen.”

U.S. Missile Defense: Not as Effective As We Think

While you could argue with the relevance of events dating back to 1991, this does show how easy it is for militaries to pretend how good their anti-missile capabilities are in a real war theatre, as opposed to a pre-prepared test.

With countless missiles flying everywhere, and a radar-jammed environment, I expect THAAD could be useless.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/u-s-missile-defense-not-as-effective-as-we-think/

U.S. Missile Defense: Not as Effective As We Think

Can THAAD avoid the system failures of the first Gulf War?

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Sometime after midnight on the night of January 21, 1991, I was awoken by the sound of an air raid siren. At the time, I was sleeping in an apartment in Eskhan Village, an abandoned suburban housing area outside Riyadh that served as a barracks facility for thousands of American service members deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Storm. Following protocol, I quickly donned my chemical protective ensemble, inclusive of gas mask; not following protocol, I headed up to the flat roof of the two-story building to see what was happening.

As it turned out, we were under attack. Iraq had launched four of its extended-range SCUD missile derivatives toward Riyadh. The flight paths of two of these missiles were visible to the naked eye, where residual fuel burned from the nozzle of the rocket. As part of a team of SCUD missile analysts assigned to the intelligence section of Central Command headquarters, I was fascinated by this first-hand opportunity to see the SCUD in action. The irony of being on the receiving end of the very missiles I was working to destroy barely registered before I was stunned by the sound of Patriot anti-missile batteries, staged in close proximity to the housing area, firing multiple salvos of interceptors at the incoming SCUDs. Each of the interceptors homed in on their target, their S-shaped trajectories reflecting the in-flight corrections provided by the Patriot’s target acquisition radar as it tracked the flight path of the SCUDs. With dramatic effect, the Patriot interceptors exploded along the flight path of the SCUDs, which continued on their ballistic arc before impacting somewhere on the horizon with a bright yellow-green explosion.

This wasn’t the first launch of SCUD missiles by Iraq against Saudi Arabia during the war. In the days prior, there had been several missile attacks targeting the sprawling military complex at Dhahran, all of which authorities claimed had been successfully intercepted by Patriot missiles. I had counted more than a dozen Patriot interceptor launches in the vicinity of Eskhan Village on the night of January 21, 1991; more than 35 interceptors in total had been fired in the Riyadh area that night. Reports that crossed my desk the next morning indicated that all four SCUDs targeting Riyadh had been successfully intercepted and destroyed by the Patriots, a finding which puzzled me—the Patriot intercepts I had witnessed against the two SCUDs I was able to visually track seemed to be exploding behind the SCUDs, and none appeared to stop the SCUDs from detonating on the ground. Later, as part of a team of missile specialists assembled to evaluate the SCUD missile debris from the January 21 attack, I could find no evidence of any shrapnel having impacted the body of the SCUD missile.

After the war, while serving with the United Nations Special Commission charged with disarming Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (inclusive of its SCUD missiles), I read an article in International Security by MIT Professor Theodore Postol titled “Lessons of the Gulf War Patriot Experience.” Postol questioned the Patriot’s 96 percent success rate claimed by the Army during the Gulf War. Later, while working with Israeli intelligence on the Iraqi SCUD problem, I was able to speak with members of the Israeli Defense Force who were able to confirm Professor Postol’s findings: The Patriot missile defense system successfully intercepted less that 10 percent of the SCUDs fired at Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab States during the Gulf War, and only 2 percent of those fired at Israel.

The failure of the Patriot missile defense system to perform during the Gulf War has been largely ignored. The reasons for this are many and varied. There was an extensive and intensive effort undertaken by the Raytheon Company (the manufacturer of the Patriot missile), the Army, and the Department of Defense to challenge Postol’s findings, thereby muddying the waters. The fact that Iraq’s SCUDs were inaccurate and did not carry WMD likewise skewed public opinion—a dud warhead landing somewhere in the desert or ocean did not generate the kind of excitement of a chemical warhead landing in a densely populated area. In the quarter of a century that has passed since the Gulf War, the performance of the Patriot has improved, as has missile defense in general. (Witness the success of Israel’s “Iron Dome” system.) But the fact remains that, at the time of the Gulf War, the Patriot was a largely untested system which failed to perform as needed. Had Iraq had better missiles, or if they had been tipped with chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads, this failure could have been catastrophic.

My experience with the Patriot missile during the Gulf War has colored my assessment of the deployment of America’s new front-line missile defense weapon, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to South Korea. The THAAD is intended to defend against the threat posed by North Korean short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Like the Patriot missile of 1991, the THAAD has only been tested under carefully scripted peacetime conditions, with launch crews having the advantage of long flight times (easy to track) and medium speed closure rates (easy to kill) involving single missile launches. The THAAD has not been tested under realistic wartime conditions, involving large salvos of missiles possessing high-closure rates of speed. In war, it is the unexpected that trips you up. During Desert Storm, the structural failure of Iraq’s extended-range SCUDs caused the warhead to separate from the main body of the missile, creating multiple targets the Patriot radar was unable to discriminate against. This, combined with the higher-than-anticipated closure speeds of the longer-range missiles, contributed to the poor performance of the Patriot system.

North Korea has demonstrated the ability to conduct simultaneous launches of up to four ballistic missiles. Given their proximity to South Korea, these weapons would be tracked for a far shorter time with closure speeds greater than the missile targets the THAAD has been tested against to date. Moreover, the North Koreans have demonstrated a high-loft launch profile, which would have the missile closing in on its target at a far steeper angle, and at much higher speeds, than the conventional ballistic trajectories the THAAD has trained against. The THAAD interceptors are tied to the high-tech AN/TPY-2 target acquisition radar, which can cover a 120-degree frontage.  North Korea’s newly proven submarine-launched ballistic missile capability provides Pyongyang with a capability to maneuver behind the surveillance arc of the THAAD’s radar. Such an attack presumes that neither the South Korean or U.S. naval forces would detect and destroy a North Korean submarine attempting such an attack, or that the U.S. Navy’s Aegis missile defense system would fail to intercept a launched missile. The point here isn’t the likelihood of North Korean success, but the reality that the THAAD is not omnipotent.

Perhaps the greatest threat facing the THAAD, or any defensive system currently deployed in the vicinity of South Korea, is that North Korea could employ a ballistic missile tipped with a nuclear warhead for the purpose of generating a massive electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would knock out the THAAD’s radar and electronics—along with most, if not all, of South Korea’s and America’s electrical systems stationed in the region. The likelihood of such a scenario seems slim, given the consequences North Korea would endure in the aftermath of any use of nuclear weapons. However, the fact remains that the one attack the THAAD is specifically deployed to prevent—that of a nuclear-tipped North Korean missile—is the one attack that could be its undoing.

Missile defense has always been more theoretical than practical. The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems of the Cold War were never used, and eventually mothballed. The Patriot failed miserably during the Gulf War, only to succeed a decade later during the 2003 invasion of Iraq by using a much-improved interceptor against a far less capable foe. The much-vaunted Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defense system performed well against the homemade rockets of Hamas, but has yet to be tested against the much more capable arsenal possessed by Hezbollah—or, for that matter, Iran. The THAAD system is a 30-year-old technology untested in combat, under-tested in peacetime, and is our only line of defense against a North Korean ballistic missile threat that has taken the world by surprise in terms of its scope, breadth, and capability.

During the Gulf War, the Patriot’s poor performance did not have any strategic consequences—28 Americans tragically lost their lives when a SCUD hit their barracks, and a few Israelis died of heart attacks. The absence of a tangible result wasn’t from a lack of effort on the part of Iraq—Israeli’s Dimona nuclear reactor was targeted multiple times, and had any missile caused significant Israeli casualties, Israel would have entered the conflict, placing the delicate coalition President George W. Bush had built at risk, and perhaps changing the outcome of the war. There is little reason to believe that North Korea’s missiles lack accuracy, that their targeting will lack purpose, or their warheads will be benign. Whether or not THAAD is up to the task of protecting the South Korean peninsula (or, for that matter, Guam, Japan, and Alaska) from any North Korean ballistic missile attack is still yet to be seen. However, if history is any indication, the likelihood is that the THAAD will significantly underperform—a possible outcome American military and civilian planners should take into consideration when plotting their next moves against Pyongyang.

Turkey kills 99 Kurdish militants in Iraq border area

Both Turkey and the US recognise the PKK as being terrorists, and yet the US is using them as its “boots on the ground”.  I wonder if they are going to dare to complain about Turkey killing them.

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security/turkey-kills-99-kurdish-militants-in-latest-operations-military-idUSKCN1BK0CR?il=0

<h2><b>Turkey kills 99 Kurdish militants in latest operations: military</b></h2>

Reuters Staff

September 9, 2017

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish security forces have killed 99 Kurdish militants, including a high-ranking one, in operations in southeast Turkey over the last two weeks, the armed forces said on Saturday.

Security forces targeted outposts and caves used by the militants for shelter and storage in the southeastern provinces of Sirnak and Hakkari, near the Iraqi border, the military said in a statement.

“Ninety-nine terrorists have been neutralized. One is in the so-called leading ranks,” it said.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union, has waged a more than three-decade insurgency against the state.

The PKK, which seeks autonomy for the largely Kurdish southeast, has bases in the mountains on both sides of the Turkey-Iraq border and is frequently targeted by Turkish security forces.

The operations, which were carried out between Aug. 24 and Sept. 7, led to the seizure of 420 kg (925 lbs) of ammonium nitrate, used to make explosives, as well as bombs, guns and rifles, the military said.

Syrian “poison gas” lies

This long and very detailed article completely debunks the idea that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons, and that the main culprits were probably the rebels themselves, with the MSM selectively choosing the “facts” that supported their argument. Why would they do this if they were aiming to present a balanced report of the situation ?

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/47775.htm

A New Hole in Syria-Sarin Certainty

Special Report: A new contradiction has emerged in the West’s groupthink blaming Syria for an April 4 chemical attack, with one group of U.N. investigators raising doubt about the flight of a Syrian warplane, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

September 09, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – The U.S. mainstream media is treating a new United Nations report on the April 4 chemical weapons incident in Khan Sheikhoun as more proof of Syrian government guilt, but that ignores a major contradiction between two groups of U.N. investigators that blows a big hole in the groupthink.

Though both U.N. groups seem determined to blame the Syrian government, the frontline investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that spotters of departing Syrian military aircraft from Shayrat airbase did not send out a warning of any flights until late that morning – while the alleged dropping of a sarin bomb occurred at around dawn.

The report by the U.N.’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic noted that “two individuals interviewed by the OPCW claimed that on the morning of 4 April the early warning system did not issue warnings until 11 to 11:30 a.m., and that no aircraft were observed until that time.”

If the OPCW’s information is correct – that no warplanes took off from the government’s Shayrat airbase until late in the morning – then the Trump administration’s rationale for launching a retaliatory strike of 59 Tomahawk missiles at that airfield on April 6 is destroyed.

But the U.N. commission’s report – released on Wednesday – simply brushes aside the OPCW’s discovery that no warplanes took off at dawn. The report instead relies on witnesses inside jihadist-controlled Khan Sheikhoun who claim to have heard a warning about 20 minutes before a plane arrived at around 6:45 a.m.

Indeed, the report’s account of the alleged attack relies almost exclusively on “eyewitnesses” in the town, which was under the control of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and allied jihadist groups.

The report also gives no attention to the possibility that the alleged sarin incident, which reportedly killed scores of people including women and children, was a staged event by Al Qaeda to reverse the Trump administration’s announcement just days earlier that it was no longer U.S. policy to seek “regime change” in Syria.

The Khan Sheikhoun incident prompted President Trump to launch the missile strike that, according to Syrian media reports, killed several soldiers at the base and nine civilians, including four children, in nearby neighborhoods. It also risked inflicting death on Russians stationed at the base.

Lost History

In the U.N. commission’s report, the possibility of a staged event is not considered even though the OPCW had previously uncovered evidence that a chlorine-gas attack in the rebel-controlled town of Al-Tamanah, which also was blamed on the Syrian government, was staged by Al Qaeda operatives and their civilian “relief workers.”

OPCW investigators, who like most U.N. bureaucrats have seemed eager to endorse allegations of chlorine-gas attacks by the Syrian government, ran into this obstacle when townspeople from Al-Tamanah came forward to testify that a supposed attack on the night of April 29-30, 2014, was a fabrication.

“Seven witnesses stated that frequent alerts [about an imminent chlorine weapons attack by the government] had been issued, but in fact no incidents with chemicals took place,” the OPCW report stated. “[T]hey [these witnesses] had come forward to contest the wide-spread false media reports.”

In addition, accounts from people who did allege that there had been a government chemical attack on Al-Tamanah provided suspect evidence, including data from questionable sources, according to the OPCW report, which added:

“Three witnesses, who did not give any description of the incident on 29-30 April 2014, provided material of unknown source. One witness had second-hand knowledge of two of the five incidents in Al-Tamanah, but did not remember the exact dates. Later that witness provided a USB-stick with information of unknown origin, which was saved in separate folders according to the dates of all the five incidents mentioned by the FFM [the U.N.’s Fact-Finding Mission].

“Another witness provided the dates of all five incidents reading it from a piece of paper, but did not provide any testimony on the incident on 29-30 April 2014. The latter also provided a video titled ‘site where second barrel containing toxic chlorine gas was dropped tamanaa 30 April 14’”

Some other “witnesses” who alleged a Syrian government attack offered ridiculous claims about detecting the chlorine-infused “barrel bomb” based on how the device sounded in its descent.

The report said, “The eyewitness, who stated to have been on the roof, said to have heard a helicopter and the ‘very loud’ sound of a falling barrel. Some interviewees had referred to a distinct whistling sound of barrels that contain chlorine as they fall. The witness statement could not be corroborated with any further information.”

Although the report didn’t say so, there was no plausible explanation for someone detecting a chlorine canister in a “barrel bomb” based on its “distinct whistling sound.” The only logical conclusion is that the chlorine attack had been staged by the jihadists and that their supporters then lied to the OPCW investigators to enrage the world against the Assad regime.

The coordination of the propaganda campaign, with “witnesses” armed with data to make their stories more convincing, further suggests a premeditated and organized conspiracy to “sell” the story, not just some random act by a few individuals.

The Ghouta Attack

There was a similar collapse of the more notorious sarin incident outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, which killed hundreds and was also blamed on the Assad government but now appears to have been carried out as a trick by Al Qaeda operatives to get President Obama to order the U.S. military to devastate the Syrian military and thus help Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to win the war.

You might have thought that these experiences with staged chemical attacks would have given U.N. investigators more pause when another unlikely incident occurred last April 4 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which was under Al Qaeda’s control.

The Trump administration had just announced a U.S. policy reversal, saying that the U.S. goal was no longer “regime change” in Syria but rather to defeat terrorist groups. At the time, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, the Islamic State and other jihadist forces were in retreat across much of Syria.

In other words, the Syrian government had little or no reason to provoke U.S. and international outrage by launching a sarin gas attack on a remote town with only marginal strategic significance.

Chemical attacks, especially the alleged use of chlorine but sarin gas as well, also offer minimal military effectiveness if dropped on a town. Chlorine gas in this form rarely kills anyone, and the international outrage over sarin far exceeds any military value.

But the jihadists did have a powerful motive to continue staging chemical attacks as their best argument for derailing international efforts to bring the war to an end, which would have meant defeat for the jihadists and their international allies.

And, we know from the Al-Tamanah case that the jihadists are not above feeding fabricated evidence to U.N. investigators who themselves have strong career motives to point the finger at the Assad regime and thus please the Western powers.

In the Khan Sheikhoun case, a well-placed source told me shortly after the incident that at least some U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that it was a hastily staged event in reaction to the Trump administration’s renunciation of Syrian “regime change.”

The source said some evidence indicated that a drone from a Saudi-Israeli special-operations base inside Jordan delivered the sarin and that the staging of the attack was completed on the ground by jihadist forces. Initial reports of the attack appeared on social media shortly after dawn on April 4.

The Time Element

Syrian and Russian officials seemed to have been caught off-guard by the events, offering up a possible explanation that the Syrian government’s airstrike aimed at a senior jihadist meeting in Khan Sheikhoun at around noon might have accidentally touched off a chemical chain reaction producing sarin-like gas.

But U.S. mainstream media accounts and the new U.N. report cited the time discrepancy – between the dawn attack and the noontime raid – as proof of Russian and Syrian deception. Yet, it made no sense for the Russians and Syrians to lie about the time element since they were admitting to an airstrike and, indeed, matching up the timing would have added to the credibility of their hypothesis.

In other words, if the airstrike had occurred at dawn, there was no motive for the Russians and Syrians not to say so. Instead, the Russian and Syrian response seems to suggest genuine confusion, not a cover-up.

For the U.N. commission to join in this attack line on the timeline further suggests a lack of objectivity, an impression that is bolstered by the rejection of OPCW’s finding that no take-off alert was issued early on the morning of April 4.

Instead, the U.N. commission relied heavily on “eyewitnesses” from the Al Qaeda-controlled town with unnamed individuals even providing the supposed identity of the aircraft, a Syrian government Su-22, and describing the dropping of three conventional bombs and the chemical-weapons device on Khan Sheikhoun around 6:45 a.m.

But there were other holes in the narrative. For instance, in a little-noticed May 29, 2017 report, Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, challenged the Syria-government-did-it conclusions of The New York Times, Human Rights Watch and the Establishment’s favorite Internet site, Bellingcat. .

Postol’s analysis focused on a New York Times video report, entitled “How Syria And Russia Spun A Chemical Strike,” which followed Bellingcat research that was derived from social media. Postol concluded that “NONE of the forensic evidence in the New York Times video and a follow-on Times news article supports the conclusions reported by the New York Times.” [Emphasis in original.]

The basic weakness of the NYT/Bellingcat analysis was a reliance on social media from the Al Qaeda-controlled Khan Sheikhoun and thus a dependence on “evidence” from the jihadists and their “civil defense” collaborators, known as the White Helmets.

Sophisticated Propaganda

The jihadists and their media teams have become very sophisticated in the production of propaganda videos that are distributed through social media and credulously picked up by major Western news outlets. (A Netflix infomercial for the White Helmets even won an Academy Award earlier this year.)

Postol zeroed in on the Times report’s use of a video taken by anti-government photographer Mohamad Salom Alabd, purporting to show three conventional bombs striking Khan Sheikhoun early in the morning of April 4.

The Times report extrapolated from that video where the bombs would have struck and then accepted that a fourth bomb – not seen in the video – delivered a sarin canister that struck a road and released sarin gas that blew westward into a heavily populated area supposedly killing dozens.

But the Times video analysis – uploaded on April 26 – contained serious forensic problems, Postol said, including showing the wind carrying the smoke from the three bombs in an easterly direction whereas the weather reports from that day – and the presumed direction of the sarin gas – had the wind going to the west.

Indeed, if the wind were blowing toward the east – and if the alleged location of the sarin release was correct – the wind would have carried the sarin away from the nearby populated area and likely would have caused few if any casualties, Postol wrote.

Postol also pointed out that the Times’ location of the three bombing strikes didn’t match up with the supposed damage that the Times claimed to have detected from satellite photos of where the bombs purportedly struck. Rather than buildings being leveled by powerful bombs, the photos showed little or no apparent damage.

The Times also relied on before-and-after satellite photos that had a gap of 44 days, from Feb. 21, 2017, to April 6, 2017, so whatever damage might have occurred couldn’t be tied to whatever might have happened on April 4.

Nor could the hole in the road where the crushed “sarin” canister was found be attributed to an April 4 bombing raid. Al Qaeda jihadists could have excavated the hole the night before as part of a staged provocation. Other images of activists climbing into the supposedly sarin-saturated hole with minimal protective gear should have raised other doubts, Postol noted in earlier reports.

Critics of the White Helmets have identified the photographer of the airstrike, Mohamad Salom Alabd, as a jihadist who appears to have claimed responsibility for killing a Syrian military officer. But the Times described him in a companion article to the video report only as “a journalist or activist who lived in the town.”

Another Debunking

In 2013, the work of Postol and his late partner, Richard M. Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories, debunked claims from the same trio — Bellingcat, the Times and Human Rights Watch — blaming the Syrian government for the sarin-gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

Postol and Lloyd showed that the rocket carrying the sarin had only a fraction of the range that the trio had assumed in tracing its path back to a government base.

Since the much shorter range placed the likely launch point inside rebel-controlled territory, the incident appeared to have been another false-flag provocation, one that almost led President Obama to launch a major retaliatory strike against the Syrian military.

Although the Times grudgingly acknowledged the scientific problems with its analysis, it continued to blame the 2013 incident on the Syrian government. Similarly, Official Washington’s “groupthink” still holds that the Syrian government launched that sarin attack and that Obama chickened out on enforcing his “red line” against chemical weapons use.

Obama’s announcement of that “red line,” in effect, created a powerful incentive for Al Qaeda and other jihadists to stage chemical attacks assuming that the atrocities would be blamed on the government and thus draw in the U.S. military on the jihadist side.

Yet, the 2013 “groupthink” of Syrian government guilt survives. After the April 4, 2017 incident, President Trump took some pleasure in mocking Obama’s weakness in contrast to his supposed toughness in quickly launching a “retaliatory” strike on April 6 (Washington time, although April 7 in Syria).

A Dubious Report

Trump’s attack came even before the White House released a supportive – though unconvincing – intelligence report on April 11. Regarding that report, Postol wrote, “The White House produced a false intelligence report on April 11, 2017 in order to justify an attack on the Syrian airbase at Sheyrat, Syria on April 7, 2017. That attack risked an unintended collision with Russia and a possible breakdown in cooperation between Russia and United States in the war to defeat the Islamic State. The collision also had some potential to escalate into a military conflict with Russia of greater extent and consequence.

“The New York Times and other mainstream media immediately and without proper review of the evidence adopted the false narrative produced by the White House even though that narrative was totally unjustified based on the forensic evidence. The New York Times used an organization, Bellingcat, for its source of analysis even though Bellingcat has a long history of making false claims based on distorted assertions about forensic evidence that either does not exist, or is absolutely without any evidence of valid sources.”

Postol continued, “This history of New York Times publishing of inaccurate information and then sticking by it when solid science-based forensic evidence disproves the original narrative cannot be explained in terms of simple error. The facts overwhelmingly point to a New York Times management that is unconcerned about the accuracy of its reporting.

“The problems exposed in this particular review of a New York Times analysis of critically important events related to the US national security is not unique to this particular story. This author could easily point to other serious errors in New York Times reporting on important technical issues associated with our national security.

“In these cases, like in this case, the New York Times management has not only allowed the reporting of false information without reviewing the facts for accuracy, but it has repeatedly continued to report the same wrong information in follow-on articles. It may be inappropriate to call this ‘fake news,’ but this loaded term comes perilously close to actually describing what is happening.”

Referring to some of the photographed scenes in Khan Sheikhoun, including a dead goat that appeared to have been dragged into location near the “sarin crater,” Postol called the operation “a rather amateurish attempt to create a false narrative.”

Now, another U.N. agency has joined that narrative, despite a key contradiction from fellow U.N. investigators.

Who are the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army ?

So are the Rohingya jihadist terrorists?  The photo below, with ARSA posing with AK47s would seem to suggest they are.  So does making the announcement  to cease all military offensive operations, which implies they were previously at war, not doing humanitarian work.

https://www.theapolitical.in/world/myanmar-arakan-rohingya-salvation-army-declares-unilateral-ceasefire

Myanmar: Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army declares unilateral ceasefire

10/09/2017
ARSA-chief-560x416

 

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), notified as a terrorist organisation by Myanmar, have declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire, beginning on Sunday, to enable aid groups to help ease a humanitarian crisis in Myanmar’s northwest Rakhine state.

About 290,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh after the military launched counter-offensive operations following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) terrorists on 30 police posts and an army base on 25 August.

Around 30,000 non-Muslim civilians have been displaced in Rakhine as dozens of their members were killed in attacks by ARSA.

Urging humanitarian aid to all victims of the crisis, ARSA, in a statement yesterday, called on the Myanmar government to cease all military offensive operations and participate in assisting the victims.

“ARSA strongly encourages all concerned humanitarian actors resume their humanitarian assistance to all victims of the humanitarian crisis, irrespective of ethnic or religious background during the ceasefire period,” stated ARSA in the statement.

The impact of the unilateral ceasefire by ARSA remains unclear because the group does not seem to have been able to put up significant resistance against Myanmar’s military.

Myanmar says its military is conducting clearance operations to clear insurgents of the ARSA, which the government has declared a terrorist organisation.

The Myanmar government said that only 421 people have died as of Friday.

The UN yesterday said humanitarian agencies operating in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh urgently need US$77 million to assist people who have fled violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, Mr. Robert Watkins, said, “With the movement of people showing no signs of stopping, it is vital that agencies working in Cox’s Bazar have the resources they need to provide emergency assistance to incredibly vulnerable people who have been forced to flee their homes and have arrived in Bangladesh with nothing.”


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41160679

Myanmar: Who are the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army?

6 Sept 2017

More than 100,000 Rohingya people have fled their homes since 25 August. They are trying to escape violence, following a military counter-offensive

against Rohingya militants who attacked police posts.

The insurgents claim to be acting on the behalf of Myanmar’s Rohingya – but who are they?

Who are Arsa?

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) operates in Rakhine state in northern Myanmar, where the mostly-Muslim Rohingya people have faced persecution. The Myanmar government has denied them citizenship and sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Clashes erupt periodically between ethnic groups but in the last year, an armed Rohingya insurgency has grown. Arsa, previously known by other names including Harakah al-Yaqin, has killed more than 20 police officers and members of the security forces.

On 25 August it attacked police posts in Rakhine state, killing 12 people in its biggest attack so far. In turn, this prompted a counter-insurgency clampdown from the security forces.

The government calls it a terrorist organisation and says its leaders have trained abroad. The International Crisis Group (ICG) also says the militants have trained abroad and released a report in 2016 saying the group was led by Rohingya people living in Saudi Arabia. The ICG says Arsa’s leader is Ata Ullah, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Saudi Arabia.

However a group spokesman countered this, telling the Asia Times newspaper that it had no links to jihadist groups and only existed to fight for Rohingya people to be recognised as an ethnic group.

What kind of weapons do they have?

The government says the 25 August attack was done with knives and home-made bombs.

When did Arsa start?

The spokesman who talked to the Asia Times said Arsa had been training people since 2013. But their first attack was in October 2016, when they killed nine police officers.

What are its aims?

Arsa says its aims are to “defend, salvage and protect” the Rohingya against state repression “in line with the principle of self-defence”.

Arsa also rejects the terrorist label, saying it does not attack civilians. However, there are reports of it killing informers while training members

The ICG says Arsa members are young Rohingya men angered by the state’s response to deadly riots in 2012. Young men trying to escape the area used to be able to do so by boat to Malaysia, but the Malaysian navy blocked that route in 2015, which led to thousands of people being stranded at sea and, the group says, others considering violence.

This is in the context of extreme poverty, statelessness and restrictions on Rohingya people’s movement. The security forces crack down heavily on violence; a UN report in February described the “devastating cruelty” of soldiers who had beaten, raped and killed people in the region while it was in lockdown following the October 2016 attacks.

  • The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has said the scale of the destruction now is “far greater” than last year.

What effect has the insurgency had so far?

The attacks on security forces have prompted a crackdown from the military, who say they are fighting against civilian-attacking militants. More than 100,000 Rohingya people have fled their villages and crossed the border to Bangladesh, where refugee camps are full. Many of them say the military, assisted by Buddhist monks, have razed villages and killed civilians. The government says Buddhists and Hindus have also fled attacks in the area.

Media access to Rakhine, where the violence is, is severely restricted, making it hard to verify the situation on the ground.

Campaigners and politicians around the world have expressed concern at the refugees’ situation, warning of a lack of shelter, water and food. There are reports of children being injured in landmines as they try to leave the country.

A UN representative, and the Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai, called on leader Aun Sang Suu Kyi to stop the violence. Ms Suu Kyi has previously said there is “a lot of hostility” in the area but ethnic cleansing is “too strong a term” to use.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arakan_Rohingya_Salvation_Army

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), also known by its former name Harakah al-Yaqin (English: Faith Movement) is a Rohingya insurgent group active in the jungles of northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. According to a December 2016 report by the International Crisis Group, it is led by Ata Ullah, a Rohingya man who was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and grew up in Mecca, Saudi ArabiaOther members of its leadership include a committee of Rohingya émigrés in Saudi Arabia.

According to the lead interrogator of ARSA suspects jailed in Sittwe, Police Captain Yan Naing Latt, the group’s goal is to create a “democratic Muslim state for the Rohingya” in Myanmar.

 

THAAD launcher deployment in South Korea

How about this for “provocative”?  In this game of sabre-rattling with nukes, the US thinks itself above reproach. It only has to say “We don’t want war, these are regular defensive exercises” and the MSM and everyone else will agree. This is bizarre, as it is what NK thinks that is important here. If you don’t care what Kim thinks, because he has a funny haircut or is fat or some such nonsense, then you might be making the biggest mistake of your life.

https://www.rt.com/news/402228-south-korea-thaad-protest/

Hundreds scuffle with police over US THAAD launcher deployment in South Korea

7 Sept. 2017
Residents of the South Korean province of Gyeongsangbuk-do have taken to the streets objecting to the local installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Hundreds of protesters confronted police, the Yonhap news agency reports.
Nearly 400 people showed up in front of the community’s administrative building to protest the deployment of the advanced US missile defense system. The standoff occurred near the future site of the rocket launchers at the US base in Seongju, some 300 kilometers (135 miles) southeast of the capital.
Injuries have been reported among the residents, as police officers tried to scatter the crowd. The protesters reportedly tried to break into the administration building.

Live footage shows riot police officers and villagers in their droves crowding into a small area. Local media reported it was difficult for medical staff to get to the injured.

According to the Newsmin website, the residents have been gathering since 3:15pm local time, with no major disturbances breaking out.

Four civilians tried to cross the fence of the THAAD site. Those arrested have been taken to Kimcheon police station for investigation.

The protest and scuffles followed an announcement by the South Korean defense ministry on Wednesday that the batteries will be installed as soon as Thursday. Designed to protect South Korean and American troops from the unpredictable Northern neighbour, THAAD’s deployment has been sped up because of the growing threat from Pyongyang.

The decision came despite long standing protests of villagers and political activists, who fear the deployment will further escalate the crisis on the peninsula and make their town a primary target for the North’s attacks.

On Sunday, North Korea tested an underground hydrogen bomb, which can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile, prompting the international community to condemn the blast as a “dangerous provocation.” While the US insists that it is time to impose “the strongest possible measures,” Moscow and Beijing are calling on both sides to consider the double-freeze plan, which would imply Pyongyang suspending its missile tests in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korea drills.

‘Sorry, but they’ve got to go somewhere’

Michael Patrick Flanagan, an attorney and former member of the US House of Representatives, told RT that although he “cannot blame” the locals for voicing their concerns over the deployment he believes that the decision to station additional THAAD launchers is justified by the growing threat from the North.

“If I were having a defence system designed to prevent North Korean aggression put next door to me, that would make me a specific target of an attack because of this weapons system, I would have great concern, too,” Flanagan said, adding that he is “sorry” but the launchers “have to go somewhere.”

“It got to go somewhere and we got to protect South Korea, the region, Japan and eventually the United States, now that North Korea has long-range missiles from their aggression,” he said.

Noting a new, more hard line, take on North Korea adopted by the new US administration compared to the previous one, he said that the US used to give in to blackmail from Pyongyang, but that is not the case any more.

“We cannot do that anymore, it has to stop now,” Flanagan said.

Japan increases defense budget

Now that’s not provocative, is it? – increasing the defense budget and considering getting AEGIS Ashore and THAAD anti-missile systems.  Everybody, including China, should be quite happy with that.  How stupid is THAT kind of thinking.  Of course China is going to be angered by that.

https://www.rt.com/news/401722-china-japan-defense-budget/

China accuses Japan of ‘exaggerating’ threats amid record $48bn defense budget request

China accuses Japan of ‘exaggerating’ threats amid record $48bn defense budget request
China has accused Tokyo of “exaggerating” the threats it faces, urging it to explain its “true intentions” behind boosting military spending on the same day as the Japanese Defense Ministry requested a record $48 billion defense budget.

“Japan’s national defense budget has been rising for years indeed, and has reached a record high. We are concerned about that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said during a Thursday press briefing, when asked whether Beijing is concerned that North Korea is contributing to an arms buildup in the region.

“In recent years, Japan has never stopped fabricating, exaggerating, and playing up all kinds of threats it faces. In the meantime, it has been expanding its national defense budget, upgrading its military arsenal, and taking steps to implement the new security bill.

“All countries should be on high alert as to what Japan has done and its real motives. We believe that Japan should honestly explain its real motives to the international community,” Hua said.

She urged Japan to “exercise caution in the military and security field,” saying she hopes Tokyo can “learn from history.”

Hua’s comments came just hours after Japanese media reported that the country’s defense ministry was seeking 5.26-trillion yen (US$48 billion) to boost its missile defense capabilities.

As part of the budget plan, Tokyo aims to purchase a land-based anti-missile system known as Aegis Ashore, according to The Japan Times. It is also considering an option of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), according to AP.

Other purchases would include a SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missile, which the defense ministry says will boost Japan’s defense capabilities and improve its ability to shoot down a ballistic missile launched into space on a steep “lofted” trajectory.

An upgraded version of the current Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-missile system would also be bought, allowing for greater ability to down cruise missiles and jets.

The budget would also go towards assembly costs associated with maintaining the US-made Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft; two compact destroyers; a new lithium battery-powered submarine; and six F-35 stealth fighters to be deployed at Misawa in northern Japan.

If approved, the budget request – which represents a 2.5-percent increase from last year – would represent the sixth straight annual defense spending increase for Japan. It would go into effect for fiscal year 2018, which begins on April 1, 2018.

The Japanese Defense Ministry says the planned upgrades are designed to improve the country’s response to unexpected and simultaneous missile attacks, including ones on a lofted trajectory.

The move comes after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japanese airspace on Tuesday, in a move which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an “unprecedented, grave, and serious threat.”

Following the launch, China urged all sides to avoid further provocations, while warning that tensions on the Korean Peninsula had reached “tipping point” and were “approaching a crisis.”

China, along with Russia, has developed a ‘double freeze’ plan which would see North Korean suspend its ballistic missile tests in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korea military drills. The plan has been rejected by Washington.

In addition to North Korea, Japan also views China as a security threat, and has expressed concern about its growing military presence in the disputed South China Sea. It also has an ongoing territorial feud with Beijing in the East China Sea. However, China’s ambassador to Japan accused Tokyo and Washington in March of portraying Beijing as an enemy in order to strengthen their long-standing security alliance.

Arkema chemical fires

Oh dear, quite unexpectedly, three of the nine refrigerated vans stopped being refrigerated and the “self accelerated decomposition” (fire) began.  Who would have thought it?  But its all right, Arkema, the company responsible for it, says “it is not anything that we feel is a danger to the community at all…” (Well, they would say that , wouldn’t they?)  Despite this the police maintaining the safety cordon all went to hospital for tests.

https://www.rt.com/usa/401541-arkema-chemical-plant-explosion/

Hurricane Harvey: Two explosions at Arkema chemical plant near Houston, injuries reported

Hurricane Harvey: Two explosions at Arkema chemical plant near Houston, injuries reported
Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas has confirmed that two explosions have occurred at the site. People have been taken to the hospital, according to emergency workers, cited by local media.

“At approximately 2 a.m. CDT, we were notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas,” Arkema wrote in a statement.

The statement goes on to say that although the plant followed hurricane preparation protocol, “unprecedented flooding overwhelmed our primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. As a result, we lost critical refrigeration of the products on site. Some of our organic peroxides products burn if not stored at low temperature.”

“Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out,” the statement reads.

Arkema says it is working “closely with federal, state and local authorities to manage the situation.”

However, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez stressed during a press conference that “it wasn’t an explosion, I want to be very clear, it was not an explosion…”

He instead explained the incident as a series of “pops.” 

“There were different organic peroxides of different grades that were released and it created a pop in the containers where they were being stored and some gray smoke initially emanated from it and eventually turned into black smoke” after a fire began.

Gonzalez went on to state that it is “not anything toxic, it is not anything that we feel is a danger to the community at all…”

The “pops” occurred inside one of nine 18-wheel box trucks at the site, according to Bob Royall, an assistant chief with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office.

“There are nine vans. Of the nine, three had lost refrigeration to keep them cool. the other ones are still under refrigeration,” he said, adding that the chemicals are “in containers in cardboard boxes inside the vans.”

Royall added that the incident has played out in the way that authorities anticipated.

“Right now everything is going according to what we thought was going to happen so far. We are in a defensive posture, the fire department is out there on the scene, there is air monitoring being deployed by a contractor by the company to try to find out and watch and see where the smoke might go…” he said.

A sheriff’s deputy was among those taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes, according to a tweet from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Nine other deputies drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution.

“We had a number of deputies out there that were maintaining the perimeter. As a precaution, they were taken to a nearby hospital for testing…” Gonzalez said.

Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the county fire marshal’s office, said it is unclear whether all residents obeyed the evacuation order for the 1.5 mile radius of the plant, adding that the office has received an unconfirmed report of a woman who may still be in the evacuation zone.

An Arkema spokesperson stated late Wednesday that a fire at the site was inevitable.

“The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature… as the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire. So the fire is imminent. The question is when,” spokesperson Janet Smith said.

The plant makes organic peroxides used in the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, paints, and other products.

Organic peroxides are “relatively unstable compounds which can decompose spontaneously and sometimes explosively,”according to Arkema’s Luperox website. They are “generally flammable and burn vigorously.”

When such compounds reach a temperature above the SADT (Self Accelerating Decomposition Temperature) the reaction becomes “uncontrolled and violent.”

Nuclear power site choice

Just 16 Km from the tidal lagoon at Matagorda on the Texas coast, and 10 Km from the tidal estuary of Tres Palacois Bay is the South Texas Nuclear Generating Project, which is the third biggest nuclear facility in the US at 2.7 GW capacity.  It is on the flood-plain and only 8 metres above sea level.

South Texas Project

It is only 5 Km from the Colorado River, which Google Street View shows being bridged by a low bridge, with a new high bridge being constructed. GoogleEarth shows the new high bridge completed and the low bridge removed.

Colorado Bridges

My questions are:

What is the height of flood waters now? 

Is the nuclear power station safe from flooding?

And will the vast artificial water reservoir be able to withstand being over-topped by the rains?

– “we are monitoring it” is not good enough. “This is the biggest flood in history” is not good enough.

https://www.facebook.com/stpnoc/ proudly say they are running at full capacity with a skeleton staff of 250 and monitoring the flood situation continuously.

Elsewhere at Crosby, TX, Arkema Inc who make chemicals used in the pesticide industry have had to close  after Tropical Storm Harvey knocked out power and flooding swamped its backup generators.  (Sounds familiar – didn’t Fukushima have a similar problem before they had a triple meltdown?).  Various chemicals that require storage at cool temperatures have been moved to refrigerated vehicles and are being monitored.  Arkema said the situation at the plant “has become serious”. No doubt when it all blows up they will say the contamination will be effectively diluted by all the floodwater.

No nuclear power station should be put in a stupid flood-prone area like this – its just asking for trouble, whatever the happy smiling faces on FaceBook say.