Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

Argentina: Cristina, Iran, #Nisman, and The New Yorker and The Tower reports

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Six months ago, prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead of a bullet to the head on January 28 in his Buenos Aires apartment, on the eve of the day when he was scheduled to testify to congress on his findings regarding a civil lawsuit he had filed the week prior accusing president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of colluding with Iran to obscure the investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing.

Nisman’s civil lawsuit was dismissed.

The investigation into his murder is still pending.

Three days ago, president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner tweeted a transcript and video of her interview with The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins,

Cristina may have been hoping for a puff piece like Vogue magazine’s infamous profile of Asma al-Assad.

Filkins met her at the Quinta Olivos, asked questions, and let her talk (which she did – boy, did she ever, for over two hours).

Rather than a puff piece on the self-absorbed Cristina, Filkins wrote an excellent article on the Nisman case,
Death of a Prosecutor
Alberto Nisman accused Iran and Argentina of colluding to bury a terrorist attack. Did it get him killed?
This is what Filkins had to say about his conversation with Cristina,

Pesident Kirchner works in an ornate mansion in central Buenos Aires known as “the Pink House”—for the tint of its walls, once supplied by horse blood—but her official residence, in a northern suburb, is called Quinta de Olivos. Dating to the sixteenth century, Olivos, as it is known, is a white three-storied palace that resembles an enormous wedding cake.

When I met Kirchner there, two months after Nisman died, the mystery was still dominating the news. I was ushered into a wide split-level room that had been set up as a television studio. Kirchner entered a few minutes later, in a flouncy dress and heavy makeup, followed by two dozen aides, nearly all of them men. With the cameras running, Kirchner reached over, before the interview began, to fix my hair. “Is there some girl who can help him with his hair?” she asked. “We want you to be pretty.” Then she began to straighten her own. “I want to primp myself a bit,” she said. “Excuse me, I’m a woman, besides being the President: the dress, the image—”

“Divine!” one of her aides called from off the set.

While Filkins did not refute any of Cristina’s lies, his is not a puff piece at all,

Over time, Kirchner has grown more dictatorial and, according to muckraking reports, more corrupt.

The article must be read in its entirety.

Likewise, Eamonn MacDonagh reports at The Tower on Alberto Nisman’s Secret Recordings, Revealed
Before he was murdered, the Argentinian prosecutor investigating the massive 1994 Buenos Aires bombing wiretapped over 40,000 phone calls. His one question: Did the Argentinian government conspire to cover up Iran’s involvement in the attack?

An idea of the importance of the recordings can be gleaned from a February 2013 conversation between alleged Argentine government intelligence operative Ramón Héctor “Allan” Bogado and Khalil. In that call, which was widely reported in the Argentine press, Bogado told Khalil, “We have a video of the [AMIA] attack,” leading Khalil to reprimand him for not being more careful when speaking on the phone. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure who Bogado meant by “we,” but one distinct possibility may be that the AMIA bombing was filmed by Argentina’s intelligence services, or that a video recording of it, perhaps containing vital evidence about the identity of the terrorists who carried out the attack, fell into their hands.

Both Filkins’s and MacDonagh’s articles are indispensable reading on the Nisman case.

Investigative journalist Jorge Lanata, in his show Periodismo Para Todos (Journalism For All), continues his coverage of the Nisman murder, and commissioned forensic expert Cyril Wecht for his opinion on whether Nisman’s death was a murder or a suicide. You can watch the report here.

Wecht’s interview starts 35 minutes into this YouTube; the show is in Spanish but Wecht’s portion is in English,

One of the world’s foremost forensic experts, Wecht asserts that Nisman’s death is most likely a murder.

Which comes as no surprise.

Also in Lanata’s report: The man in charge of internet security at Nisman’s apartment building has been in charge of cyber defense for Argentina’s military since January.

Tom Clancy would have had a field day.

ISIS’s Chilean spokesman UPDATED

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The man in this video, Abu Safiyya, spokesman for jihadist terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), was identified by Norwegian public TV NRK as 24-year old Bastián Alexis Vásquez.

Vásquez was born and raised in Norway of Chilean parents. After converting to Islam he took the name Muhammad Jundullah or Abu Saffiya, and joined radical islamist Norwegian group. “Profetens Ummah”.

ISIS English-language outfit, Al-Hayat media, released two videos Sunday, one of which features Abu Safiyya,

The high production values make Al-Hayat videos appear far more sophisticated than the average jihadist propaganda and serve to attract Western viewers, who may be inclined to join ISIS. Unlike other jihadist groups, they are seeking to build their numbers by persuading Western Muslims–not jihadists already active in the area. This explains the development of a theme song and editing of a mass execution to make it look like a scene out of a World War II movie. ISIS’s adeptness with media makes it one of the most dangerous of such threats against the Western world, and as it expands, expect the group to parade its international recruits more prominently in subsequent videos.

The second video is much violent, as you can see here.

ISIS declared a caliphate last Sunday. Among other propaganda released is this other video, not as polished, in Spanish (which I translated), staking a claim on Spain,

UPDATE:
Abu/Bastián is the guy who taunted Obama to buy diapers.

Bolivia: What the “Bolivarian revolution” means, in practice

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Bolivia’s Descent Into Rogue State Status
The country is a hub for organized crime and a safe haven for terrorists.

The government is an advocate for coca growers. The Iranian presence is increasing. And reports from the ground suggest that African extremists are joining the fray.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is also the elected president of the coca producers’ confederation, and Vice President Alvaro García Linera, formerly of the Maoist Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, began building their repressive narco-state when they took office in 2006.

Step one was creating a culture of fear. Scores of intellectuals, technocrats and former government officials were harassed. Many fled.

With the opposition cowed, President Morales has turned Bolivia into an international hub of organized crime and a safe haven for terrorists. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been expelled. United Nations data show that cocaine production is up in Bolivia since 2006 and unconfirmed reports say that Mexican, Russian and Colombian toughs are showing up to get a piece of the action. So are militants looking to raise cash and operate in the Western Hemisphere.

The Tehran connection is no secret. Iran is a nonvoting member of the “Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas” ( ALBA ). Its voting members are Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Read the whole thing.

Mexico: From exchange student in Iran to political refugee in 5 easy steps

Monday, August 12th, 2013

The Washington Post has a report on “Carlos”, a Mexican college student who got suckered into going to Iran for indoctrination at the Oriental Thought Cultural Institute, in the ancient city of Qom:
With lure of religious classes, Iran seeks to recruit Latin Americans

Of the institute’s director he knew nothing, having never heard of Rabbani or his alleged ties to terrorism in Argentina and elsewhere. Later he would encounter the former cultural attache at the school and learn of his prominence from Iranian television programs and Web sites, where Rabbani is a tireless proponent of exporting Iran’s Islamic revolution to the Spanish-speaking world.

In addition to the training centers he runs, Rabbani helped start Iran’s largest Spanish-language Web site and was instrumental in launching HispanTV, a cable network that broadcasts Iranian programs and commentary in Spanish. Rabbani would boast in a 2011 interview of having shattered “the American myth” by helping drive Latin American opinion away from the West and toward Iran’s vision of revolutionary Islam.

“Carlos” ought to have googled Mohsen Rabbani before heading to the Institute.

The WaPo article:

A former cultural attache in Buenos Aires, Rabbani was accused by Argentina ofaiding the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in that city that killed 85 people, the country’s deadliest terrorist attack.

I had blogged about Rabbani’s aggressive proselytizing in Latin America back in 2011, pointing out that Reinaldo Azevedo blogged at Veja (link in Portuguese) that once converted to Islam, the young Brazilian men will travel to Iran, all expenses paid, with the official objective of “religious instruction.”

The WaPo does not specify whether “Carlos” was officially a convert, but I assume that the Iranians regarded him as such. By running away, he, in their eyes, is guilty of apostasy, which in Iran is punishable by death.

Now “Carlos” has had to go into hiding, seeking asylum . . . in the USA. Can’t Mexico afford him protection from Iranian agents the Mexican government is allowing in the country?

The Brazilian demonstrations Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, June 24th, 2013

LatinAmerARGENTINA
New ‘moderate’ Iranian President involved in AMIA bombing, son suicided over father’s extremism

BOLIVIA
Bolivia prison inmates protest at closure plan
Inmates at Bolivia’s biggest prison have said they are protesting against government plans to close the jail.

BRAZIL
Protests in Brazil Injure 15
A day after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called for an end to violent protests, some 60,000 marchers took to the streets again in the southern city of Belo Horizonte, injuring at least 15.

Protests in Brazil
Taking to the streets
Bubbling anger about high prices, corruption and poor public services boils over into the biggest demonstrations in two decades

Despite Assurances by Brazil’s President, Protesters Stage Another Day of Demonstrations

The map lies to you

Brazil is saying what we could not: we don’t want these costly extravaganzas
From the World Cup to the G8, many countries are paying an extortionate price for hosting these pointless displays

COLOMBIA
D.E.A. Agent in Colombia Is Killed in Possible Attempt at Robbery

CUBA
The Case to Keep Cuba on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism, via Babalu.

HAITI
Feeding Haiti
A new menu
The government tries to load up the plates of the poorest people in the Americas

HONDURAS
Make way for Mrs. Zelaya, Deposed Honduran president’s wife leads in campaign for presidency; coup backers trail

MEXICO
Documents show FBI monitored Mexican author Carlos Fuentes for more than 2 decades

NICARAGUA
Helicopter crash kills Nicaragua air force chiefs
Key members of Nicaragua’s air force, including the chief of staff, are among 10 people killed in a helicopter crash.

PUERTO RICO
American Red Cross Responds to Decision to Stop Collecting Blood in Puerto Rico

VENEZUELA
Why there is no “latino american spring”, and certainly not in Venezuela

As People Look For Pragmatism In Currency, Venezuelan Government Ready For More Controls

The week’s posts:
Venezuela’s Chernenko

Brazil: 300,000 protestors in Sao Paolo

Venezuela: Legitimizing Maduro, continued

Brazil’s protests: Anti-inflation, anti-corruption, pro-representation, pro-middle class

Venezuela: Legitimizing Maduro

Brazil: Huge demonstrations

Brazil: Huge demonstrations

Colombia: Legitimizing the FARC


Remembering the Farhūd

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I’m having a busy day taking care of non-blogging matters, but Gates of Vienna has an excellent article, Remembering the Farhūd, on the Iraqi Arab equivalent of the mass violence on Kristallnacht, which took place 70 years ago yesterday. Definitely a must-read.

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8 years of Iraq < Stimulus Act

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

CBO: Eight Years of Iraq War Cost Less Than Stimulus Act

As President Obama prepares to tie a bow on U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Congressional Budget Office numbers show that the total cost of the eight-year war was less than the stimulus bill passed by the Democratic-led Congress in 2009.

According to CBO numbers in its Budget and Economic Outlook published this month, the cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom was $709 billion for military and related activities, including training of Iraqi forces and diplomatic operations.

The projected cost of the stimulus, which passed in February 2009, and is expected to have a shelf life of two years, was $862 billion.

The CBO figures show that the most expensive year of the Iraq war was in 2008, the year when the surge proposed by Gen. David Petraeus and approved by President Bush was in full swing and the turning point in the war. The total cost of Iraq operations in 2008 was $140 billion. In 2007, the cost of Iraq operations was $124 billion.

Major Schadenfreude Alert

And, lest we forget, The stimulus jobs cost taxpayers $195,000 each.

UPDATE
Can’t Blame War For Spike In Deficit

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Obama takes credit for Iraq war

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Notice how half the speech is dedicated to “a new commitment to our veterans”, while making them more dependent on the government.

American Power has more.

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Jules looks back in anger

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Jules Crittenden’s powerful essay about the decade,
God Damn The Naughts

God damn the Naughts. It forced me to take sides. I never wanted to do that, and generally, like most, had successfully avoided doing so. My profession had made the idea of it anathema, though when it happened, I finally was ready to admit that had in large part been a lie.

It became so many things I never expected. It was a decade that demonstrated what a bitter thing winning could be. Remember how, despite the opposition party’s best political efforts to abandon a war effort and abandon a nation to deadly chaos, our political and military leadership found a way to prevail there? Most people have forgotten. The more than 4,300 Americans dead in Iraq don’t need to have died in vain, though the commonly accepted narrative will be that they did. They did something good there, for that nation whose future was always written in blood, for a region that was stabilized and shown that democracy is possible. The only satisfaction from all of that was of the sort that can barely be spat out in words … You see, we’ve done it. You tried to stop us. So many fought so hard, and would not be denied. It had to be done and now it has been.

Go read every word, and let’s all pray together for a good decade ahead.

Iran-backed terrorists hack US drones

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

… in Iraq and Afghanistan, using Russian software Skygrabber,
drone
Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones
$26 Software Is Used to Breach Key Weapons in Iraq; Iranian Backing Suspected

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

Iraq, Afghanistan, but possibly also Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia

Some of the most detailed evidence of intercepted feeds has been discovered in Iraq, but adversaries have also intercepted drone video feeds in Afghanistan, according to people briefed on the matter. These intercept techniques could be employed in other locations where the U.S. is using pilotless planes, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, they said.

Drones are inherently vulnerable:

Gen. Deptula, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said there were inherent risks to using drones since they are remotely controlled and need to send and receive video and other data over great distances. “Those kinds of things are subject to listening and exploitation,” he said, adding the military was trying to solve the problems by better encrypting the drones’ feeds.

The potential drone vulnerability lies in an unencrypted downlink between the unmanned craft and ground control. The U.S. government has known about the flaw since the U.S. campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s, current and former officials said. But the Pentagon assumed local adversaries wouldn’t know how to exploit it, the officials said.

Why weren’t drone communications encripted in the first place?