Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Breedlove comment on false narrative creation

... One of the first aspects of the hybrid war is to attack credibility and to try to separate a nation from its support mechanisms, the general said.
“Informationally, this is probably the most impressive new part of this hybrid war, all of the different tools to create a false narrative,” he said. “We begin to talk about the speed and the power of a lie, how to get a false narrative out, and then how to sustain that false narrative through all of the new tools that are out there.”
Military tools remain relatively unchanged, he said. “But how they are used or how they are hidden in their use, is the new part of this hybrid war,” the general said. “How do we recognize, how do we characterize and then how do we attribute this new employment of the military in a way that is built to bring about ambiguity?”...http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/nato-commander-breedlove-discusses-implications-of-hybrid-war

bth: The Small Wars Journal is worth reading and this article in full.  My surprise given Breedlove's recent battering he took from the German Foreign Minister and Der Spiegel is:
1. If you want to maintain credibility your narrative needs to stay close to the truth.
2. NATO must actually release credible and verifiable information about Russian troop movements into Ukraine.  Unfortunately the world isn't willing to take Breedlove's word on the matter. 
3. Breedlove's discussion is focused on new methods of distribution, namely Russian planting of false stories in the news, creation of credible but propaganda blogs supporting the Russian storyline and use of a large number of trolls that hit major news stories and blogs bombarding them with alternate narratives and conspiracy theories almost on queue. No doubt his plan is to pay some US defense contractor like Booz Allen to create its own army of drone minded contractors and sergeant level PR guys.  The modern technical methods of using the internet being used so effectively by the Russians were refined by the Israelis a couple of years go, 
4. And the basic principals of false narratives and big lies are easily traced to WWII Germany and really back at least to Napoleon.
5. Breedlove's proposed response seems locked in a military mindset.
6. Sadly the biggest problem is that the 'truth' about Russian involvement in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine is very scary and people will find all kinds of reasons not to confront this reality.  It is very hard to wake a man who pretends to be asleep.

Here is another article on the subject that makes the point, modern methods allow separation of the source of the false narrative from its actual source. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/international/europe/2015/03/18/nato-allies-brace-for-russias-hybrid-warfare/24979545/

Here also is an article which is compelling from RT where the Russians are already outing and bashing to NATO proposal with frankly some logical and effective arguments. http://rt.com/op-edge/243237-eu-russia-propaganda-counter-war/ The general thrust of their evolving narrative is that NATO and specifically the US are the ones pushing Russia and Europe into war.  Given the lose of credibility the US encountered with Iraq, it is not surprising that this narrative would have traction.

Islamic State revenue stream March 2015

Islamic State’s revenue stream:
  • $500 million: Seizing state-owned banks in Iraq
  • More than $300 million: Skimming government employee paychecks
  • $100 million: Oil trafficking
  • $25 million to $45 million: Kidnapping for ransom
  • Revenue Unknown: Human trafficking
  • Revenue Unknown: Agriculture theft
  • Revenue Unknown: Artifact smuggling
Sources: Financial Action Task Force and WSJ reporting


bth: the linked article from WSJ is very good at describing the process of IS taking its 30% cut of salaries given to government employees in Mosul.  Worth a full read.

Baghdad has lost $4b in two months from war and lost oil fields - Rudaw

... He said that in the last two months security problems in Iraq and the government’s loss of some oil fields to the militants decreased oil production and exports, causing “Baghdad $4 billion in financial losses.”

Speaking of a larger budget deficit in Iraq, Eghabi said: “the Ministry of Oil needs to ramp up oil production to 3.3 million barrel per day in order to deal with the budget deficit that Iraq is facing from local financial problems and falling oil prices.”

International oil prices have dropped by nearly 60 percent, reflected in Iraq’s 2015 budget with an estimated 22 billion of deficit.

In a statement released on Sunday, the IMF announced that Iraq’s 2015 budget deficit is expected to be much larger than officials had anticipatet.

In January, Iraq's parliament approved a budget worth 119 trillion Iraqi dinars ($105 billion), revised to lower the forecast for oil to $56 a barrel from $70 as originally assumed. It came with a deficit of 25 trillion dinars ($22 billion dollars).


ISIS moving Mosul cement factories to Syria - Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The Islamic State has begun moving cement factories in Mosul to Syria, allegedly in advance of the impending attack on the ISIS-held city, an Iraqi lawmaker has told Rudaw.

Yunadem Kana, head of the National Rafidain party in Iraqi parliament said on Tuesday the Sunni militants have relocated at least three huge cement factories in Mosul’s western towns of Badosh, Shangal and Awir to neighboring Syria, where the group is still in control of large swathes of territory.

Islamic State militants in their self-proclaimed capital Mosul have been reportedly preparing for a prolonged battle that Iraqi military officials, the coalition forces and Kurdish Peshmerga have been planning for months.  Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to the militants in June 2014.

Other reports have emerged of ISIS creating vast defenses, including trenches and other fortifications, and laying landmines along roadways leading to the city. 
-bth: One presumes that IS thinks will lose these cement plants so it is relocating them to safer ground in Syria.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Changing configuration of leadership and attacking forces around Tikrit

So various news reports and interviews of Badr commanders and Iraqi Army leadership would suggest a change in command is occurring within forces besieging Tikrit.

This AFP article says that Iranian general and spy master Qassam Solaimani has left the area and returned to his headquarters. http://news.yahoo.com/iran-general-iraq-whenever-says-militia-chief-131726510.html

This article/interview has Shia commanders calling the Iraqi Army weak for not directly attacking Tikrit proper without American air or armor support. http://news.yahoo.com/iraq-militia-chief-slams-army-weaklings-over-tikrit-142811365.html

This article says that the Iraqi Army cannot advance without support from the air and against IEDs which one estimate puts at 10,000 around Tikrit.  http://news.yahoo.com/iraq-army-says-coalition-strikes-needed-tikrit-140147364.html

This article says that there has been no request from the Iraqi government for American support in the Tikrit operation. http://news.yahoo.com/no-iraq-request-coalition-air-support-tikrit-campaign-122903962.html

So it is not clear who is in charge of the Tikrit operation at this point.  It would suggest that a rotation of control has occurred between Iranian backed Shia forces and the regular Iraqi Army perhaps with American support from the air.  Whatever the case, a large number of casualties are expected as the center of Tikrit and key Saddam palacing are apparently laced with IEDs placed there over the last 8 months. Solaimani is a shrewd man and my guess he has decided to leave the scene to avoid being held responsible for large casualties and to let the Americans take the blame for bombing Tikrit should we choose to assist Iraqi Army which may or may not have actually made a request for assistance.

Updated List of Daesch Leaders Feb 2015 - Sajad Jiyad

Following airstrikes and operations that have successfully killed several of the mid and high level leadership of daesh the new replacement appointments have been made quietly. Information gleaned from intelligence has revealed the names of the new leaders and this list is correct as of early February. Non-Iraqis are identified and the list is not exhaustive.
  1. Ibrahim Awad al-Badri AKA Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – Caliph
  2. Mustafa Abdul Rahman al-Khatuni AKA Haji Iman and Abu Alaa – Deputy Caliph and head of the Military Council
  3. Taha Sobhi Falaha AKA Abu Muhammad al-Adnani – Spokesman [Syrian]
  4. Dr. Wael al-Rawi – Head of Media
  5. Turki bin Mubarak bin Abdullah al-Binali AKA Abu Sufyan al-Silmi and Abu Dhurgham – Chief Shari’i (cleric) [Bahraini]
  6. Muhammad Yusuf AKA Abu Bakr al-Khatuni – Head of Shura Council for Iraq emirate
  7. Bakr Hadi AKA Dr. Salah Abu Jafar – Wali of Baghdad
  8. Ayad Bashar al-Mohamadi AKA Abu Anas – Wali of Forat region
  9. Mahmud al-Dulaimi AKA Abu Mansur and Abu Muawiya – Wali of Diyala region
  10. Fadhil al-Ithawi AKA Haji Arif – Wali of Southern region
  11. Yunus Salim Hussain al-Jibouri AKA Abu Hamza – Wali of Nineveh region
  12. Saad al-Obaidi AKA Abu Abdul Salam – Wali of Anbar region
  13. Ayub Sheehan al-Samri – Wali of border region
  14. Haji Kamil al-Isoodi – Wali of Salahudin region
  15. Hamid Shakir Mahmud al-Badri – Head of Security for Syrian emirate
  16. Bandar al-Shaalan – Head of Media in Syria [Saudi]
  17. Amer al-Rafdan – Wali of Deir Ezzour [Syrian]
  18. Saddam al-Jamal – Wali of Albu Kamal [Syrian]
  19. Tarkhan Batirashvili AKA Abu Omar al-Shishani – Head of the Mujahideen Army [Georgian]
  20. Walid al-Jilani – Head of Al-Battar Brigade in Libya [Libyan]
  21. Abu Anas al-Shaalan – Member of the Military Council
  22. Khalid Wajdi al-Inazi AKA Khalid al-Rusi – Member of the Military Council
  23. Amr al-Absi AKA Abu al-Athir – Wali of Aleppo [Saudi born Jordanian]
  24. Bakr bin Abdul Aziz AKA Abu Humam al-Athri – Member of the Media Board [Bahraini]
  25. Ali Musa al-Shawwakh AKA Abu Luqman – Wali of Raqqa [Syrian]
  26. Khalaf al-Dhiyab al-Halus AKA Abu Musaab – Member of the Military Council [Syrian]
  27. Tariq al-Jibouri AKA Abu Jalal – Member of the Military Council
  28. Abu Omar Qirdash AKA Abu Jasim al-Iraqi – Head of suicide bombers force
  29. Abu Omar al-Jibouri – Head of car bombing unit
Several names in the list are rumoured to have been killed in the past few weeks without a confirmation or denial by daesh so remain on the list for now. The Iraqi members of the list make up the majority and every single one of them was either in Saddam’s armed forces or security services.

Digging and dismantling IEDs in Tikrit

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ukraine Rebels Plan Offensive - Bloomberg

...  Khodakovsky, the rebel leader, said the idea of creating a land bridge for Russia was “in the air” before but no longer.
‘Blood-Covered Child’
“Nobody takes it seriously,” Khodakovsky, 42, said in his office building, where the corridors are adorned with drawings of a town burning from aerial bombs and a woman cradling a blood-covered child. “That’s a task for Russia because Crimea is Russian. I don’t see any indications that Russia has such a task.”
Khodakovsky, a historian and former commander in Ukraine’s special forces, said his ultimate objective is to push government troops back beyond the Dnieper River that bisects the country.
“Traditionally pro-Russian regions need to return to their normal condition,” Khodakovsky said. “I don’t accept the Donetsk People’s Republic as the final phase of existence for this bit of territory, for this reservation. It just goes again my nature.”  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/ukraine-rebels-plan-offensive-150301675.html;_ylt=AwrBEiEQbwxVa1kAg5TQtDMD

Russian Far-Right Idol: The Man Who Started the War in Ukraine - Der Spiegel

In the Ukraine crisis, the Kremlin gave people like Strelkov a long leash and state television provided a platform to neo-fascists and Stalin supporters so that they could rage against the West. Putin himself adopted their imperialistic slogans by often referring to the "Russian world." That world, Strelkov says, should include Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and perhaps even Central Asia. But Ukraine is definitely part of it, in his view. "The real separatists," he says, "are the ones in Kiev, because they want to split Ukraine off from Moscow."
Russia's right wing finds itself in a love-hate relationship with the Kremlin. The nationalists love Putin's martial appearances, but consider him to be far too hesitant. Some even believe he is working for the West. "Why didn't we destroy the Ukrainian army back in September?" Strolkov asks. ...

The Kremlin propaganda machine transformed Strelkov into a national hero almost overnight. But now, it looks as though Russia's leaders no longer have him totally under control and he has become the figurehead of the Russian far right, many of whom are critical of Putin for not having already annexed Donetsk and Luhansk. It is questionable whether this radical element of Russian society will continue to feel bound to the Kremlin on the long term.
Moscow is allowing "the Donbass to become scorched earth," Strelkov says, adding that the president must finally impose order in the Kremlin. The word Strelkov chooses when making that demand is "purge," which reminds everyone in Russia of the terror Stalin unleashed on the country. Reconciliation with the West, he says in parting, is no longer possible. "I hope that Putin understands that as well."

- bth: this article in De Spiegel is worth a full and studied read.  Strelkov is certaintly a fascinating person and willing creator of WWIII.  His personal comparison to Gavrilo Princip who killed Archduke Ferdinand and started WWI is telling.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How many Russians are fighting in Ukraine? - BBC

... The Kremlin has denied its forces are directly involved in combat, but the latest estimate by US Lt Gen Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army in Europe, says 12,000 Russian troops are operating inside the neighbouring country... He believes 90,000 troops were required in late 2014 to provide deployments around Ukraine, inside its eastern (rebel held) districts and in Crimea.
This effort has been so great, he argues, that, "it is obvious that there insufficient resources... to sustain military operations at the current level for over a year".
This intervention evolved in several phases:
  • initially deniable, in the summer of 2014, with perhaps a few hundred special forces organising locals and Russian volunteers
  • large-scale escalation, during August 2014, when several Russian regular army battalion tactical groups (numbering up to 1,000 each) were sent in to save the separatists from defeat by the Ukrainian military
  • a period of withdrawal and retrenchment, late in 2014, following September's Minsk ceasefire agreement, in which Russian troop numbers dropped
  • the reintroduction of several formed battalions and numerous specialist troops during renewed fighting, this January and February, allowing the capture of Debaltseve and a good deal of other territory from the Ukrainians ...http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31794523

Ukraine conflict: Inside Russia's 'Kremlin troll army' - BBC

Over the past year, Russia has seen an unprecedented rise in the activity of "Kremlin trolls" - bloggers allegedly paid by the state to criticise Ukraine and the West on social media and post favourable comments about the leadership in Moscow.
Though the existence and even whereabouts of the alleged "cyber army" are no secret, recent media reports appear to have revealed some details of how one of the tools of Russian propaganda operates on an everyday basis.
"Troll den" The Internet Research Agency ("Agentstvo Internet Issledovaniya") employs at least 400 people and occupies an unremarkable office in one of the residential areas in St Petersburg.
Behind the plain facade, however, there is a Kremlin "troll den", an investigative report by independent local newspaper Moy Rayon ("My District") suggests.
The organisation, which the paper ties to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur with close links to President Vladimir Putin who allegedly pays bloggers to produce hundreds of comments on top news websites and manage multiple accounts on Twitter, LiveJournal and other social media platforms....

... Any blog post written by an agency employee, according to the leaked files, must contain "no fewer than 700 characters" during day shifts and "no fewer than 1,000 characters" on night shifts.
Use of graphics and keywords in the post's body and headline is also mandatory.
In addition to general guidelines, bloggers are also provided with "technical tasks" - keywords and talking points on specific issues, such as Ukraine, Russia's opposition and relations with the West.
One recent technical task, former employee Lena told Radio Liberty, was devoted to the murder of prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.
"It was mandatory to convey the message to the people that Nemtsov's murder was a provocation ahead of the [opposition] march and that he was killed by his own associates," she said.
"As a result, hundreds and thousands of comments, where this idea is served up under different dressings, emerge under every news article of leading media," she added....

-bth: this kind of trolling and fake blogging has been very common in the last year since the Ukraine/Crimea/Russian conflict.  Its done by other countries including Israel and the US but I can't recall the shear scale of the activity seen now.  Usually the posts are perfectly spelled and quite lengthy.Sometimes they precede or coincide with some Russian government activity.  A noted exception was the Nemtrov murder which had a time delay and then a flood of commentary.  My guess is that it was not a planned event and it took 24 hours for the propaganda wheels to beginning turning in a coordinated manner.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tikrit battle and Persian New Year

There is a lot of speculation about the delay in retaking Tikrit by Iraqi Shia and Iranian forces.  I would venture one guess and that is that it maybe linked to a propaganda push by Iran around the Persian New Year beginning March 21 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowruz While this is largely speculative on my part, I would suggest that Quds have been on a PR push of late which seems linked to changing politics in Iran.  Is it easier for the Iranian regime to accept  a deal involving compromise on the nuclear program while parading victoriously past Saddam's destroyed tomb? We will see. bth