Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Oil & Gas fields and pipelines around Dayr az-Zawr

One can see the importance of the Dayr az-Zawr area as a focal point for oil and gas pipelines across the Euphrates the Syrian government held areas and also its importance as a source of cash from oil and gas fields. 

This area appears far more important to the various players in the region, Kurds, Sunni Arabs, IS, Syrian regime and its mafia sublords than Raqqa. Who really needs to take Raqqa anyway?

How To Install a Real Time Location System (RTLS): Host Louis Sirico

Decawave RTLS and ranging demo

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mass Sighting Of Something Over Iran & Kuwait 2/20/17

Quick clips on ISIS financial trends

Key findings
—- Estimates vary widely. It remains impossible to say exactly how much money Islamic State has at its disposal.
—- The group’s most significant sources of revenue are closely tied to its territory. They are: (1) taxes and fees; (2) oil; and (3) looting, confiscations, and fines. We have found no hard evidence that foreign donations continue to be significant. Similarly, revenues from the sale of antiquities and kidnap for ransom, while difficult to quantify, are unlikely to have been major sources of income.
—- In the years since 2014, Islamic State’s annual revenue has more than halved: from up to $1.9b in 2014 to a maximum of $870m in 2016. There are no signs yet that the group has created significant new funding streams that would make up for recent losses. With current trends continuing, the Islamic State’s “business model” will soon fail....

The fall of Michael Flynn: A timeline - WaPo


This is the first full timeline I have seen of the Mark Flynn and Russia affair.

Russia increases involvement in Libya by signing oil deal - Guardian

Italy’s Eni and France’s Total are working in Libya and Schlumberger , the world’s largest oilfield services company, resumed operations in the country about three months ago.
Mustafa Sanalla, the chairman of NOC, one of the few functioning, bipartisan technocratic bodies in Libya, signed the agreement with the Rosneft chairman, Igor Sechin.
“We need the assistance and investment of major international oil companies to reach our production goals and stabilise our economy,” said Sanalla. “This agreement with Russia’s largest oil company lays the foundations for us jointly to identify areas of cooperation. Working with NOC, Rosneft and Russia can play an important and constructive role in Libya.”

Missouri man charged with trying to plan terrorist attack - ABC News

A Missouri native who said he wanted to participate in a terrorist attack that would cause many deaths and injuries is charged with helping plan a Presidents Day attack on buses, trains and a train station in Kansas City, federal officials said Tuesday.
Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., a Missouri-born U.S. citizen, was charged in federal court in Kansas City with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The 25-year-old Columbia, Missouri, man was arrested Friday when he arrived at a meeting with what he thought was an Islamic State sympathizer who was an undercover FBI agent. The arrest was made public Tuesday after Hester made his first court appearance, during which a judge ordered him to remain in custody. A detention hearing was scheduled for Friday.....

Monday, February 20, 2017

Illusions vs Reality: Twenty-Five Years of U.S. Policy Toward Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


The U.S.-Russian relationship is broken, and it cannot be repaired quickly or easily. Improved personal ties between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin may be useful, but they are not enough. The Trump administration needs to temper expectations about breakthroughs or grand bargains with Moscow. Instead, the focus should be on managing a volatile relationship with an increasingly emboldened and unpredictable Russian leadership. The real test for any sustainable approach will be whether it advances U.S. interests and values, especially in the wake of Moscow’s reckless meddling in the November presidential election.

Key Themes

  • The breakdown in U.S.-Russian relations is a product of long-standing disagreements about the fundamentals of each country’s national security interests and policies.
  • The Kremlin’s political legitimacy is increasingly predicated on stoking fears of external threats and anti-Americanism.
  • Moscow’s relationship with its neighbors will be inherently unstable due to persistent Russian attempts to dominate their political and economic orientation, and a yawning power and wealth differential.
  • Better U.S.-Russian relations are impossible without a major course correction by either or both sides. It is unlikely that Putin will compromise on core Russian interests. Thus, unless Trump is prepared to cave on U.S. principles and interests, relations will remain largely competitive and adversarial.

Policy Recommendations

Four principles should guide U.S. policy toward Russia and its neighbors:
The United States’ commitment to defend its NATO allies will remain unconditional and ironclad. America should fully implement the measures it has announced to bolster deterrence and to defend NATO’s eastern flank.
The United States and its allies will defend the norms that underpin European security. These include the Paris Charter for a New Europe and the Helsinki Final Act.
The United States will continue its strong support for Ukraine. Halting the conflict in Donbas, deterring further Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s domestic reforms will be top priorities for U.S.-EU diplomacy.
Engagement with Russia will not come at the expense of the rights and interests of Russia’s neighbors. The United States must recognize, however, the limits on its capacity to promote democracy and human rights in this region.
The following problem areas should be addressed without delay:
  • signaling to Russia that its interference in the domestic politics of the United States or its allies is unacceptable and will be met with a strong response;
  • reducing the risk of an accidental or unintended NATO-Russian military confrontation;
  • achieving a durable, verifiable ceasefire in eastern Ukraine; and
  • working together on Iran and other countries of proliferation concern to keep WMD and nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists and dangerous regimes....

Number of ISIS fighters left in West Mosul

.... Iraqi spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool offered an estimate on the size of the ISIS force remaining in western Mosul, saying the government believes around 1,800 ISIS fighters remain there, with some 200 suicide bombers. He offered no timetable on actually taking the city, saying it would just depend on the way the battle unfolds....

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dozens of ISIS Leaders Escape from Iraq to Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

Erbil – Several ISIS commanders and their families are escaping from Mosul through Tal Afar and al-Baaj to Syria after managing to break the siege imposed by militias of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) around Tal Afar.
Sheikh of al-Shammar Tribe had confirmed that ISIS caliphate Abu Baker al-Baghdadi was injured after the coalition’s raid on Tal Afar while he was still inside the town.
Media Official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Mosul, Ghyath al-Surji told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS militants launched an extensive attack on PMF front lines to the west of Tal Afar. Using armored vehicles, tanks, and bombed cars, and after six continuous hours of battling, ISIS was able to break siege and open a passage towards Baaj.
According to Surji, during the night, dozens of cars carrying ISIS leaders and their families escaped on the road dug by the militants from Tal Afar to Syria, through Baaj.
Sheikh Thair Abdul Karim Watban al-Jarba, of the Arab Tribe Shammar in west Mosul, said that about 50 cars carrying militants of ISIS’ special forces coming from Syria tried to enter Tal Afar a few days ago.
The convoy was led by Iraqi national Abu Jannat, Baghdadi’s deputy, and was on a mission to accompany Baghdadi himself and several leaders and their families. Yet, Iraqi Air Force attacked them near al-Houl area where all but two cars were completely destroyed.
Jarba told Asharq Al-Awsat that during the air strike, Abu Jannat was killed along with head of security in Tal Afar, Zeid al-Afari.
According to information retrieved by the sheikh, Afari was one of the most prominent militants in ISIS and he was buried in Baaj, a day after the air strike.
Jarba confirmed that Baghdadi was injured during a coalition air raid in Tal Afar, almost ten days ago, and that was why he hadn’t been able to leave the city....


bth: So we are seeing similar patterns to other locations ISIS has evacuated. Burning of town  records, holding of hostages, a large-scale convoy heading through Baaj to Syria. In this case we have actually as rescue convoy trying to get in and then the convoys of families trying to get out. There is reference to a dug road but no other explanation and a 6 hour battle, one wonders where the air support was.  Also this story seems to confirm that Baghdadi was wounded in a prior attack. There has been much speculation about this.

Indonesian woman ‘tricked’ into killing North Korean leader’s brother -AP

The Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean leader's half brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia's national police chief said Friday, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.
Tito Karnavian told reporters in Indonesia's Aceh province that Siti Aisyah, 25, was paid to be involved in "Just For Laughs" style pranks, a reference to a popular hidden camera show.
He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.
"Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong Nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer," Karnavian said.
"She was not aware that it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents," he said.
Karnavian's comments come after a male relative of Aisyah said in an Indonesian television interview that she had been hired to perform in a short comedy movie and traveled to China as part of this work. Indonesian Immigration has said Aisyah traveled to Malaysia and other countries, which it did not specify...

bth: this is something right out of a movie.,

Daily Kos on Russian attempts to discredit western democracy

While Vladimir Putin is smart enough to understand that he could never succeed at a blacking mailing the U.S. government into consistently taking actions antithetical to U.S. interests, he could use whatever information he has – whether it is mundane but embarrassing conversations or salacious video tapes – to undermine faith in the American government and thus render the U.S. incapable of taking decisive action on the world stage.  This undermining of American citizens’ – and the world’s – faith in U.S. democracy is the true “Holy Grail” of Russian intelligence operations.  My sad (to again quote President Trump) conclusion is that Putin is succeeding.  If you doubt that assertion, just ask yourself what being a “patriot” means in today’s political environment.  Somehow, “patriot” has become the term applied to people who question American democracy, support armed insurrection and long for an American leader who is more like Putin (or Kim Jong Un or another dictator).
It is hard to doubt the depressing realization that Putin’s carefully orchestrated manipulation of the U.S. election and his careful nurturing of right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists have already taken their toll on faith in American democracy.  Over the coming months, we’ll all be witnesses as Putin continues his crusade by artfully doling out whatever “Kompromat” he has on President Trump and his inner circle to further undermine faith in a system of government that has endured for over 240 years.
So, where do we go from here?....

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Draft maritime law revisions say China may bar foreign ships from passing through its waters - Global Times China

China is to revise its 1984 Maritime Traffic Safety Law, which would allow the relevant authorities to bar some foreign ships from passing through Chinese territorial waters.
The Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council announced Tuesday it is soliciting public opinions on the revisions.
The draft would empower maritime authorities to prevent foreign ships from entering Chinese waters if it is decided that the ships may harm traffic safety and order.
The draft revisions stipulate that authorities will be able to designate specific areas and temporarily bar foreign ships from passing through those areas according to their own assessment of maritime traffic safety.
The revisions are based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and Chinese laws on the sea, adjacent areas and exclusive economic zones, the office said....