Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ukraine sees renewed fighting killing 8 Ukrainian soldiers and 3 rebels.

Medics take a wounded Ukrainian soldier to an ambulance. EPA/New York Times.

Ukraine sees renewed fighting which has killed 8 Ukrainian soldiers and 3 rebels. New York Times. Though the territorial gains in the fighting were minor, the renewed fighting is raising concerns about the stability of the region. The territory taken was in the "gray zones" between the front lines which were used as buffer zones after the cease fire. Each side in the conflict blamed the other for the escalation. Journalists posted near the front lines reported psy-ops targeted against the Ukrainian soldiers. It is unclear what the United States and the new president Donald Trump, will do about the issue. Ukraine fears that better relations between Russia and the United States could cut off support they have received from the United States. 

My Comment:
It's been a long time since I talked about Ukraine. Back in the day I followed the war closely. It seemed as though it was never going to end and it essentially hasn't. It has just been on the back burner. People still die and violence still happens, but as a whole the war has calmed down considerably. The front lines have largely remained the same since the cease fire happened. The days of me watching fresh video from the battle at Donetsk airport are long over.  

All that being said, something seems to have changed now. The Ukrainian forces have advanced into buffer zones. That is a major escalation in the war and threatens the cease fire. I do think that regardless of who started firing first, Ukraine's government deserves most of the blame for the increase in fighting. 

Why? Well to me this looks like a transparent test of the the Donald Trump administration. Ukraine policy didn't really come up that much during the election and to be honest, I don't know what Trump will do here. I don't think anyone really knows other then Trump and his staff. My guess is that either Ukraine took advantage of "normal" rebel shelling or just decided to advance anyways to see what Trump will do. They need that information so they can plan on what to do if he's not on board with the last administration's policy. 

What Trump will do is a good question. It does seem that Trump is way more pro-Russia and anti-intervention than the last president and what Hillary Clinton would have been. If you take him at his word, he is opposed to getting the United States involved in stupid wars and I can't think of a war stupider then the current Ukraine conflict. He generally seems to be looking out for America's best interest and I doubt that he thinks an escalation in the war there is in our interest. 

On the other hand Trump has always been unpredictable. He also hasn't withdrawn US troops that are in Ukraine right now training soldiers there. Part of that is how incomplete his cabinet is, but it's possible he might like the status quo. Trump always likes a strong negotiating position and he can use the threat of Ukraine to possibly bring Putin to the negotiating table. I don't find that too likely but it is possible. 

I also think that this is the first time that any nation has challenged Trump so directly. As far as I can tell this really is the first test for Trump in international relations. Most of what Trump has done so far has been proactive and this is the first time that he has to react to something. I was honestly expecting China to the ones that tested Trump for the first time, but that didn't happen. 

As for Ukraine, I would like again to point out how stupid our policy in Ukraine was. The State Department, along with the CIA helped support the revolution against a legitimate, though corrupt, government for no other reason other than the fact that they liked Russia. When the new government passed laws discriminating against their Russian minority, we supported them. And when the civil war predictably broke out we started to train the Ukrainians, including some of the militias who included some actual, honest to God, Nazis. 

As for the war itself, I don't see it actually spiraling out of control. I really think that this little escalation really was nothing more then a test of Donald Trump. I seriously doubt that Ukraine really wants the war to heat up again. It almost bankrupted them and the battles bled their army dry. They gain very little with an increase in fighting and I think things will calm back down to the status quo very soon. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

VIDEO: Saudi warship damaged in suicide boat attack. Two sailors dead.

RT screengrab of the moment of impact. 

Houthi rebels have damaged a Saudi Arabian warship during a routine patrol. RT. The Houthis claim that the ship was hit and destroyed by an anti-ship missile. However, the Saudi's claim that they were attacked by a fleet of three boats, two of which they destroyed. The third was a suicide attacker and blew itself up, killing two sailors and wounding three. The frigate was set on fire but resumed patrol duty after extinguishing the fire. 

My Comment:
Just a few quick notes on this story. 

1. The attack on a Saudi frigate is getting almost no coverage in the western news media. I usually don't use RT as a source, since they are obviously biased, but they were about the only media outlet that was covering it. The only other ones I could find were Fox News and the Wall Street Journal and the WSJ article was behind a paywall. Some of this is due to other news stories, such as the Trump immigration orders or the attack in Canada, but still, you would think an attack like this with video of the incident would get more coverage. 

2. I don't know why the Houthi rebels are lying about this attack. I saw no missile on the video so I think the Saudi's account of what happened is a lot more credible. My only guess is that they want the world to think that they have more anti-ship missiles then they have. Or, possibly, they want to downplay their ability to launch suicide attacks against ships. 

3. I am surprised that the Houthis are using suicide tactics. They are Shia Muslims and suicide attacks are more of a Sunni things. It's not unprecedented but still rather rare. 

4. The relative success of this attack makes me wonder how vulnerable our own ships are. Back in 2000, the USS Cole was hit by a similar attack that killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 more. The threat was real so the navy developed the Littoral Combat Ships to counter it. Unfortunately the LCS program has been a giant boondoggle and the ships are under-powered, under-armed and prone to breakdowns. 

5. Yemen continues to be a mess and one of the most under reported wars happening right now. 

6. I hope the video for this attack stays up. The Youtube channel seems to be from the Houthi's themselves and there is a good chance that they will be banned at some point... 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Major US raid in Yemen kills at least 57 people, including multiple al-Qaeda leaders. One US service member dead

Apache helicopters like the ones used in the raid in Yemen. AFP.

A major US raid targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has killed 57 people including 3 high ranking members of the terror groups. AFP. Local sources claim that a dawn raid of Apache helicopters hit a school, mosque and medical facility used by AQAP and that 16 civilians, women and children, were killed in the raid. Unverified reports say that US commandos were deployed as well. The three leaders were brothers Abdulraouf and Sultan al-Zahab along with Saif Alawai al-Jawfi. All had strong links to al-Qaeda. The attack in Yemen is notable as it is believed to be the first one ordered by President Donald Trump. AQAP is al-Qaeda's most dangerous surviving group and have taken advantage of the Saudi-Iranian proxy war to gain a substantial foothold in Yemen and have used it as a base to launch attacks at westerners, including the Charlie Hebdo attacks. 

Breaking news as I wrote this: Fox News and other outlets are confirming that one US service member was killed and three more were injured during this raid. An aircraft used in the raid was destroyed by US forces in the operation after it became inoperable due to a hard landing that injured another service member. 

My Comment:
The more things change the more things stay the same. This raid would not have been out of place in the Obama administration. Despite his reputation, Obama sure loved his commando raids and air strikes. It seems that our current president has taken a page out of the Obama playbook and hit these AQAP areas hard. 

Not that there is anything wrong with that. To use Trump's lexicon, AQAP are "bad hombres". They are the most dangerous of the remaining al-Qaeda franchises and the only one left that really poses much of an international terrorist threat. Core al-Qaeda has lost a lot of it's influence, power, prestige and money due to the rise of ISIS and the heavy attacks against them by US forces. AQAP is pretty much their last major chapter as even the al-Nusra Front has abandoned al-Qaeda and struck out on it's own. 

Despite all that, I don't want to give you the impression that AQAP is the JV team of international terrorism. The Charlie Hebdo attack was one of the most effective terror attacks in the world. Not only did they accomplish their objective it made people too afraid to post images of Mohamed, or at the very least more reluctant. 

Not all of us are afraid to do so. 

There is no doubt in my mind that these AQAP leaders were planning additional attacks. Perhaps not these individuals themselves, but the organization as a whole wants to launch more attacks against western targets. Unlike ISIS, AQAP doesn't just instruct it's followers to hit random targets. Instead they go for more high profile targets in operations that more resemble hits then traditional terror attacks. They even have some consideration for civilian casualties as long as they aren't the direct targets of the attack. If ISIS is the stick up gang robbing credit unions and stealing wallets, AQAP is the group trying to steal from a casino. 

That has largely been their downfall. AQAP and al-Qaeda as a whole have a preference for large disruptive attacks and shun the smaller ones that ISIS has adapted. The problem with that is that these larger operations are easier to disrupt and often fail miserably, while the smaller scale ISIS stuff involving one guy with a knife, gun or truck, works out more often. 

All that being said, this was Donald Trump's first action in Yemen  and the first US death under his watch. I suppose that is noteworthy and historic even as our role in Yemen is unclear. I don't really see Trump changing much in the Yemen theater of war. We will still be a bit player between the main conflict between the Saudi backed Yemeni government and the Iranian backed Houthi militias. Our main concern is AQAP and ISIS and making sure that they don't gain power in the area. The rest of the war, as horrible as it is, is a sideshow for us. 

I do have to say that anyone worried that Trump was going to chicken out when it comes to ordering risky missions can breath a little easier. I don't know who those people were since I think Trump has more of a reckless reputation, but either way, he took a chance here and it paid off. Sending in Apache helicopters instead of drones is a risky move. I am assuming that it is very possible for AQAP to have MANPADS, as many of the other factions in Yemen do, so it's not like there wasn't a risk of this raid going south on Trump. And the fact that one US service member died in this raid means that it kind of did. Trump knew that was a risk but ordered the mission anyways. That shows that he at least understands that is part of his role as president. 

I do have to say something about civilian casualties. It is, of course, a tragedy when civilians die and nobody wants to see it happen. I will say that they probably shouldn't have been hanging out with terrorists, but given the treatment of women and children in the region, they likely had little choice. Of course since the source of the civilian casualties is local, we should always know that there is a chance that the information is false. 

Either way though, civilians die in war. Obama ordered raids on a large scale and many civilians died under his orders as well. Back then the anti-war groups gave him a pass but I wonder if that will be the case for Trump. I am guessing that the media will attack him, because that is what the media will do. If they do attack him though, it will be interesting if it is because of the one US service member killed in the attack or the civilian casualties. 

It's very unclear about the circumstances of the death of the US service member. I have no information about his branch or rank and I don't even know if I should be calling him a "he" though that is a safe guess. If I get more information this morning I will update this post, otherwise I will may just move on to other things. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

President Donald Trump says he will defer to his Defense Secretary and CIA head over the issue of waterboarding.

President Donald Trump speaks with British Prime Minster Theresa May. AP/ABC News.

President Donald Trump says that he will defer to his Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo on the issue of waterboarding. ABC News. Trump notably disagrees with his newly confirmed cabinet members about the effectiveness of waterboarding and famously called to bring it back, and do worse, on the campaign trail. Trump said that the practice was effective and is nothing compared to what ISIS has done throughout the world. Despite that, Trump said that he was giving Mattis and Pompeo permission to overrule him on the issue. As of this report Trump is not going to bring back waterboarding.

My Comment:
The most interesting thing about this report isn't the fact that Trump supports waterboarding. That is well known and not really anything new. Nor is the fact that he is kind of breaking a campaign promise. I will get to those issues in a moment but what I am surprised by is how Trump is running his White House. 

In the past when a cabinet member disagreed with his or her President, that dispute was kept quiet. It wasn't broadcast on multiple interviews and speeches and made public for the world to see. Indeed, it almost seems like Trump is trying to have his cake and eat it too. He's acting like he is in favor of waterboarding (and may very well be, his descion on it might have more to due with legal issues and bad press) but by deferring to his cabinet, he makes himself look reasonable. If the press wasn't so against Trump, it might even have helped him, but I don't see that happening. If he raised the dead and created world peace the press would still spin it so that he looks like Adolf Hitler Jr. 

I have heard other people speculate, and I would cite a source if I could remember it, that Donald Trump was really likely to run the White House differently than any other President. Instead of a normal presidency who sets down the law of the land, Trump will run it like the president of an actual company. Instead of making every descion himself, he will delegate when possible and only take direct action when necessary. VP Pence would take an active role in the White House and his cabinet members would control a lot of the policy. Given this incident, it really looks like that is the way it is going to be. 

Whether you like that or not really depends on how much you like Trump's VP and cabinet. It really seems like they are going to have a lot of power to do things and will probably come up with policy to a greater extant then we are used too. That's a pretty big change from the Obama, Bush and Clinton White Houses, and presumably the ones that were before them.  I personally don't have a problem with it and would likely do the same thing if I was president, but so far that's largely because I really like Trump's cabinet picks. James Mattis alone is an absolute legend and if he says waterboarding doesn't work then I am inclined to agree with him. 

That does mean though that Trump might end up breaking a few campaign promises. To be fair, if the only campaign promise Trump breaks is this one, it speaks well for him, and so far this is the only one I can think of that he has broken. Trump has been almost obsessive this week trying to push through quite a bit of his promised actions and so far he has been pretty good at keeping his word. Indeed, if Hillary Clinton was president now I doubt she would have gotten a quarter of the stuff done that Trump has, and I think you can agree with that no matter who's policies you support more. He's been getting things done and keeping his word, for the most part. 

But that could change if he gets different advice from his cabinet. Ironically enough, as someone who really wanted what he promised, the idea that he could be so easily talked out of waterboarding makes me a bit nervous. So far, he hasn't been talked out of anything else, but that could very well change down the road. It's part of the reason I am glad Mitt Romney didn't make as Secretary of State...

Of course if Trump was going to break one of his campaign promises, this was a good one to do so on. I have always been of two minds on the issue of waterboarding, enhanced interrogation and even torture. On the one hand I have no moral issue with using the methods to gather intelligence. I have always said that if there was danger of an upcoming attack then it was obviously acceptable to use torture. The pain and suffering of one person isn't worth the risk of deaths from terror attacks. Famously I gave a persuasive speech to that effect back in college in one of my required communication classes (I got a B, but only because I didn't use enough sources). There is also something emotionally satisfying about seeing these ISIS and al-Qaeda monsters getting some of their own medicine, though that's hardly a valid argument. 

On the other hand, even back then I wasn't sure if torture even worked. (as an aside, during the question portion, despite quite a few people disagreeing with me on ethics, nobody even asked if I thought it worked or not). The problem with using torture is that you are extremely likely to get false information. People don't like pain or discomfort and will often make up whatever you want to hear to get it to stop. I think there might be ways to get around that but I don't think it's worth the risk of false positives and false negatives that you could get. There is also the very real issue of mistaken identity where you could have a completely innocent person tortured for no reason.  

I have never been able to make up my mind between those two options. It's a tricky, thorny issue and I don't think I will ever be able to decide between them. In order to prove it works you would have to do it and that seems like a high price to pay if it turns out it's useless, especially if it results in false information. We do know that traditional interrogation techniques do work, so, for now, we might as well stick with them. Still, I worry about the nightmare scenario where a major 9/11 scale terror attack, or worse, happens and we had someone in custody who knew it was coming but didn't talk... 

Of even bigger concern is the fact that not using waterboarding and whatever else Trump wanted to do takes one arrow out of the quiver of the news media and the Democrats. Regardless of your opinion on waterboarding you have to admit that President Bush paid an extreme political price for using it. Not only did he get a ton of flack from the press and international governments, he also had to do quite a bit of legal clean up afterwards. That's a massive headache that I would like the Trump administration to avoid. Hopefully, Mattis and Pompeo

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Violence erupts between Syria rebels and the former al-Nusra front

Young Syrians walk near a bombed out house in Tafas, Syria. Reuters. 

The former Al-Nusra Front group has crushed rival rebels after accusing them of backstabbing them by participating in peace talks. Reuters. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, who cut ties with al-Qaeda and changed their name from the al-Nusra Front last year, attacked the rebels in Idlib province. Fatah al-Sham crushed the rival Jaish al-Mujaheddin group and took their territory and rebels are warning that the same thing could happen to them if they don't organize against the group. Fatah al-Sham also took back a rebel prison and released the prisoners. With the fighting breaking out in the rebels last major stronghold in Syria, it creates an opportunity for Bashar al-Assad's regime to take back the area. 

My Comment:
This is what happens when you ally yourself with Jihadists. Of course, since the Free Syrian Army is largely made up of slightly less extreme Jihadists, I don't exactly feel sorry for them. When al-Nusra Front was the glue holding the rebellion together, the FSA didn't have a problem with the fact that they were bad people. All they cared about is that they fought hard and now they are paying the price. They made a devil's bargain and now he's coming to collect. 

Of course the fact that al-Nusra/Fatah al-Sham is expanding is a bad thing. Though they formally cut ties with al-Qaeda, that doesn't mean that they are suddenly good people. They are still violent Jihadists and if it wasn't for ISIS they would be the most dangerous faction currently fighting in Syria. And I don't personally believe that the split from al-Qaeda was anything other then a public relationship campaign. They want to downplay their ties so they look less dangerous to outsiders and potential recruits, but their core ideology hasn't changed. They are still violent Jihadists looking to create an Islamic State (but not the same one as ISIS's Islamic State) and they can, will, and have killed non-Sunni Muslims simply for the fact that they aren't Sunni Muslims. 

I do think that Fatah al-Sham does have a point here. Not that I support them in any way, but if I was them I would be upset that my allies were engaging with peace talks that I wasn't allowed to attend. As I said, without al-Nusra, most of those rebel groups would have been wiped out a long time ago. To suddenly have them go against them is probably a betrayal. Since the betrayed party is a bunch of ruthless Jihadists, I don't feel bad for them, but I do understand why they are doing this. They got the raw end of the deal with the peace talks and cease fires, so it is no surprise that they are acting out. 

For the rebels, this is an utter and complete disaster. They were already devastated from losing Aleppo a short time ago. Idlib province is their last major holding in all of Syria. The last thing they need is a new front to open from their former allies. Losing the area, either to Fatah al-Sham or the Syrian regime would be the final deathblow to an organization already on it's last legs. For them it's not a question of overthrowing the regime anymore, it's about just surviving and now even that goal looks out of reach.  

Will the Syrian regime be able to take advantage of the chaos? Probably not. Not only are their troops exhausted from liberating Aleppo, they are also facing renewed offensives from ISIS. They were under heavy attack in Dier Ez Zor, which seems to have held, and now are under attack near the town of Khanaser, a critical supply point. The regime seems to be winning these battles, but I doubt they have the troops to rush to a new offensive targeting the rebels. For the time being, I think they are safe from the prospect of a major offensive from the regime, especially with the peace talks ongoing. This battle will probably be confined to the rebels and Fatah al-Sham and whoever decides to bomb them. 

Speaking of the peace talks, this does throw a wrench into them. Indeed, that seems like it is Fatah al-Sham's goal. They are putting immense pressure on the rebels to pull out of these talks and abandon the cease fire. And if they don't go along with it, the rebels could be wiped out entirely. Though if that does happen it would end the need for peace talks since the only factions left would be the regime, the Kurds and the various Jihadist groups. 

I am hoping that these attacks will finally get Fatah al-Sham the airstrikes they so richly deserve. In the past, our former president, Barack Obama, was reluctant to hit the group due to their close ties to the other rebel groups. With those ties now shattered their is no reason that Donald Trump couldn't bomb the hell out of these guys. Trump might have done so anyways, but I really do hope that the pace of bombing increases, both from the US and the Syrian and Russian military as well...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

US lawmaker Tulsi Gabbard met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). AFP Photo.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad this month. AFP. Gabbard was on a fact finding trip in Syria with the goal of finding a way to end the conflict. After meeting with refugees, opposition leaders and family member of fighters on both side of the war, she was given an opportunity to meet with Assad. She said that no matter what people think of Assad, he is the president of Syria an he needs to be included if a peace deal is to be reached. Gabbard has a long history of clashing with her party on foreign policy, especially on Syria, and she also met with Donald Trump after he won the election. 

My Comment:
Just in case people thought I was incapable of saying anything nice about Democrats, I have to say that I really like Tulsi Gabbard. She's a veteran and for a Democrat, she makes a lot of sense. Indeed, she reminds me a lot of Jim Webb, who was the only presidential candidate in the Democratic Party that I actually could of voted for. There were rumors that Gabbard was being considered for a post in the Trump White House and if that happened I would have been fine with it. 

Indeed, I would hope that there are more Democrats out there like Gabbard. Though I certainly don't agree with all of her positions, or even most of them, but it's clear that she's got a more level head on her shoulders. If the Democratic party is going to survive they are going to need people like Gabbard. I am hoping Gabbard and the people like her can steer the course for the party onto a more rational path. 

As for the meeting with Assad, I wonder what was discussed. As far as I know there aren't any new plans for Syria. Right now status quo ante seems to be the idea for the Trump administration. Part of that is because of the transition. It will take some time for the Trump administration to get up to speed and come up with a new strategy against ISIS. I am guessing that this was more of an unofficial fact finding mission than the start of something big. Gabbard probably just wanted to figure out what Assad wants and what he would accept in return for a end to the war. 

I do think that Assad is probably not going to be removed under a Trump administration. Trump has always been opposed to that and I think that he genuinely does want to end the war. I don't think that this early in the presidency, he isn't going to be able to do much. But the lines of communication are opening, lines of communication that didn't exist under the Obama administration. A peace deal might be a tall order, but unlike Barack Obama, he looks like he will try it. Time will tell if it succeeds. 

I also like that there seems to be some bipartisan support for ending the war in Syria without moving Assad. I think it's pretty clear that the Syrian War issue isn't a division between the right and left, but between globalists, like Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and nationalists, like Gabbard, Trump and Bernie Sanders. The problem is what are we going to do when those globalists try to stop efforts like Gabbard's? John McCain and Lindsey Graham seem desperate to overthrow the Syrian government, and I don't think they would agree to a peace deal... 

Do I have a lot of hope that this meeting will have an effect? Probably not. Though Gabbard is an important figure, she alone can't stop the war. The Trump administration could try but we have to remember that the Syrian opposition might not go along with it. More then anything else, they are the ones that can derail a peace process... 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump expected to issue executive orders on immigration this week.

Donald Trump speaks at the Armed Services Ball. Reuters. 

President Donald Trump is expected to issue new executive orders on immigration this week, including his controversial ban on immigration from Muslim countries. Reuters. Trump is expected to ban all immigration from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Libya and Yemen. In addition, all refugees from all countries will be temporarily banned until a more vigorous vetting system can be put into place in a couple of months. Legal experts have said that Trump is well within his rights to restrict immigration. It is likely that Trump will enforce the ban by stopping the issuance of visas from those countries and rejecting visas that have already been issued. Trump is not expected to issue any orders related to the border wall or deporting illegal immigrants this week.  

My Comment:
Very good news from Donald Trump. The ban on immigration and travel from these countries was a major reason I voted for Donald Trump and it is good to see him keeping one of his campaign promises so soon into his presidency. This is a huge relief for me and I am glad that our country is not going to continue on the path that is currently destroying Europe... 

I am only surprised at one of the countries on the list. All of the countries listed above have major Sunni Muslim insurgencies going on and active terror groups except for one. Iran seems like the obvious man out here and I wonder why they made the list. The country is till a state sponsor of terrorism and supports Hezbollah, but they are also a Shia Muslim country. Though Shiites have occasionally conducted terror attacks, it is not common and I wonder what the reasoning was for putting them on this list. Perhaps it has something to do with fears of espionage? They are still our enemy after all. 

I also think that there are a couple of obvious countries not on the list that really should be. Specifically, Afghanistan and Pakistan also have huge problems with Islamic extremism. But they are not on the list despite the obvious threat. I am not sure why either. There is the theory that they are US allies but so is Iraq and they made the list. And though ISIS isn't very active in Pakistan they do control some territory in Afghanistan and it would be nice if both of them were on the list. 

Overall though this is a very good move. It's been clear for awhile that ISIS and other terror groups were using fake documents to take advantage of our loose immigration laws to come into our country. Europe has had several terrorist attacks that used that route and several attacks inside the United States happened because of 1st and 2nd generation migrants, many of whom came into the country via the refugee route. 

The media has also greatly downplayed the threat from false documents. Back in 2015 I posted about the fact that ISIS had captured a massive amount of blank Syrian passports and were issuing new ones that were indistinguishable from the real ones. ISIS got those passports from Raqqa and Dier Ez Zor and were being used to infiltrate both Europe and the United States. Though the situation has obviously changed in Syria since then I haven't heard any information suggesting that the threat isn't still there. Our media probably wouldn't report on it anyways, after this report landed, I didn't hear anyone talk about it. 

There are likely to be complaints on the left about this. I don't think any of those complaints are really genuine. Everyone understand the threat of ISIS or other terrorist groups coming into the country. Everyone also knows that by doing this we reduce the risk to our country from terror attacks. But the left will ignore that reality because they think it is racist and they also desperately want more Muslim migrants because they tend to support the Democratic Party. They think the risk of another 9/11 or Pulse nightclub attack is worth it if it means hurting the Republicans and not being seen as racist. 

The problem is that there is absolutely nothing that they can do about it. The president has absolute authority over immigration enforcement and the other party has no standing to question it. It is the president's role to handle this things and the legal experts agree. The only chance they had is if he had gone with his original "total Muslim ban" idea. Though that was probably legal, at least there it was a question if it was constitutional. A ban based on countries neatly sidesteps that issue.

Their is a problem though. The ban also effects non-Muslims, such as Christians, Yazidis, Druze and various other groups that are currently suffering genocide in the Middle East. The security threat is real though. There is no reason that an ISIS infiltrator couldn't just pose as one of these groups and they have done so in the past. Besides, it's not like America was saving these people anyways. Sunni Arabs were given the fast track while the rest of these people were left hanging in the lurch by the Obama administration. 

I do have some concern that Trump doesn't seem to be taking much action on illegal immigration in this country. There has been no action on the border wall or repealing Obama's orders on immigration. There also hasn't been an increase in deportation so far either. On the other hand, it's only been a couple of days and there is a good chance that Trump knows that if he did anything right away he might face more resistance then he would once he is more established. Either way, it's way too early to complain about Trump not keeping his promise on immigration, especially since he just fulfilled one of his largest promises on the issue. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Are President Trump's international properties at risk for terror attacks?

Trump Towers in Istanbul, Turkey. AP

President Donald Trump's international properties may be at heightened risk for terrorist attacks. AP. Security experts claim that Trump's properties could be targeted by terrorists or criminal gangs. In addition to terror attacks, there are worries that workers or residents at Trump properties could be kidnapped for ransom or execution. Trump's sons, who now run the business, have secret service cooperation and claim that the business is in contact with local, national and international police and intelligence forces. Trump properties in Istanbul, Turkey, Bali, Indonesia and  Dubai in the UAE are seen as especially vulnerable. 

My Comment:
Honestly, I am more worried about a domestic terror attack then an attack on Trump's foreign properties. The left in America has it's own fair share of crazies and I wouldn't be that surprised if one would walk into one of Trump's properties and opened fire. But the article didn't mention a possible domestic threat at all. The media tends to play down leftist threats in general, so that's no surprise. 

But is this AP report correct? Are Trump's properties at special risk? Possibly. I think it depends on which terror organization is doing the attack. ISIS doesn't seem to have much rhyme or reason in what targets they choose to attack and seem much more interested in doing whatever works instead of the huge symbolic strikes that have a high chance of failure. They have done targeted attacks in the past, but for the most part they are too pragmatic to target the obvious places. Core ISIS might try and pull off this kind of attack, but they seem less interested in targeting our president then they are in targeting Europeans. 

Lone wolf attackers could be a different story. They are a lot less predictable in which targets they attack. Indeed, I am kinda of worried that the AP report could encourage a lone wolf attacker to attempt an attack on Trump properties. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't have written the article, but I still worry about it and about this post itself. 

Al-Qaeda is a different story. They have long tried to pull off spectacular attacks on prominent targets and have carried out targeted attacks, like the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The good news there is these attacks often fail horribly and al-Qaeda is just a shell of what they used to be. They haven't done much of note since the Charlie Hebdo attack though if an attack were to happen, it would fit their M.O. 

As for the kidnapping threat, I don't know why Trump employees would be at any higher risk then anyone other person that works in a western business. Or any westerner in a country that has a large Muslim population. The fact of the matter is that anyone who works for a western company is in danger in these countries no matter what. Just because Trump used to own the business doesn't mean they are in danger more than any other group of people.

If the unthinkable happens and Trump's employee's or properties get attacked how will he react? I think he would take it a little more personally than he would if it was just a typical terror attack. Still, the response would probably be the same. Everything I know about Trump tells me that he would respond to an attack using whatever measures available. That doesn't change if it is his properties or his former employee's.  

The real question is what happens if the terrorists target his family. Trump's sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. control the business now and could be attacked by terror groups. If that happens then all bets are off. Even Donald Trump's detractors admit that he loves his children and if they come under attack or, even worse, get hurt or killed, then I am guessing there will be hell to pay. To be honest I wouldn't blame Donald Trump one bit... 

Out of Trump's properties I think the Istanbul towers are the most vulnerable. Turkey is a basket case right now and have multiple insurgencies going on. Not only are they facing regular ISIS attacks, they are also involved in a civil war with their Kurdish minority. Though I doubt that the Kurds would have reason to attack but ISIS sure does. And the security situation in Turkey is pretty horrible. If an attack happens it probably will be there... 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Trump takes on the media. Media responds by lying.

Capture from CNN's gigapixel photo of the inauguration. Take note of the white building in the background.

One of the various photos being spread by the media. The white building does not show the crowd that was there when Trump was speaking in the gigapixel photo. See the white building again.  PBS

Donald Trump has taken a combative tone with the news media after his inauguration. Reuters. Donald Trump and his press secretary say they are in a running war with the media after accusing them of lying about the size of his crowds at the inauguration. Trump has accused the media of misleading the people by posting edited photos that downplay the size of his crowds. Press Secretary Spicer also claimed that the inauguration was the most watched ever. Trump and Spicer also complained about verified fake news claiming that the MLK bust was removed from the White House.

My Comment:
Though Trump wasn't completely correct in his complaints, Obama's 2009 inauguration did have more viewers and a larger crowd, he is also completely justified in attacking the media here. As you can see above someone is being completely dishonest here. The viral photos I have seen that have made the mall look half empty are fake news. The tiniest bit of fact checking shows that the 2nd image I posted was complete bunk. It was obviously taken before Trump was speaking. The crowd is obviously still smaller than the one Obama had, but you can't argue that the media isn't being dishonest here. 

There are also some obvious mitigating factors that hurt Trump's crowd size. The most obvious was weather. In 2009, Obama had cold but clear weather and no rain. Trump had to contend with rain which will always depress crowd numbers. 

Barack Obama also didn't have to deal with the kind of security that Trump had. After all, far left protesters were doing everything in their power to disrupt and damage the inauguration event. There was rioting in the streets and very heavy security. The violence probably convinced a few people to stay home and the security meant that a lot of people were still waiting in line when the event happened. 
Another CNN screengrab showing the crowds of people that hadn't gotten in yet. 

Even more people who had not gotten in yet as Trump was speaking. Note again that these crowds aren't visible in the viral images 

Finally, and most obviously, Trump's core of support is not in the mostly liberal East Coast. Much of his support came from the Midwest rust belt, the deep south and rural areas in general. There are very few Republicans in Washington DC and the surrounding areas. I know for a fact that I would have gone to the inauguration if it wasn't a 13 hour drive or an expensive airplane ticket. The fact that Trump was able to get that many people there at all is a minor miracle and shows how dedicated Trump's fans are. 

So even if numbers were down for Trump's inauguration it's not some kind of huge statement about him being an unpopular president. He has massive support but various factors, including violence from the left, depressed turnout. Even though turnout was down, the media made it look like hardly anyone showed up and never mentioned any of the mitigating factors. That's a valid reason for Trump to complain and if the circumstances had been similar for Barack Obama they would be bending over backward to do the exact opposite that was done to Trump. 

And Trump was correct to complain that the story about him removing the MLK bust was fake news. That never happened but the media reported that he did. That's two verifiable lies 1 day into his presidency. Trump is damn right to complain about that. 

I hope that Trump continues to hammer the press. I would be happy if he starts pulling credentials from some of these news organizations who lie to the American people to their faces and then accuse the president of lying when they are called out on their falsehoods.

Don't get me wrong. Trump does have a creative relationship with the truth. He often exaggerates and misleads.  That is, of course, universal for politicians and, indeed, humans in general. The press can and should call him out when he makes a mistake or says something that isn't true. 

But to do that they need credibility and right now they have zero. As I was reading up in preparation for this post I had just assumed that Spicer was correct and that this was the most viewed in history. That wasn't true (but it was damn close and beat out other inaugurations) but I thought it was false anyways because it was so obvious that the media was lying about the crowd size. That's the danger of having a dishonest media. Without credibility they can't call out the president when he is in the wrong. People won't believe them. 

My general stance, when it comes to Trump, is to disbelieve everything I hear in the media until I can confirm it from different sources. What I tend to do is look at primary sources without the filter of the media. In this case I looked at photos of the inauguration itself. When it is a speech I listen to what Trump actually said in context instead of the short clips or quotes shown in the MSM. When it is a tweet, I actually go and look at his twitter feed. Very often, I have found the media either out and out lying about what happened or greatly exaggerating what was said. 

The problem is that people don't do that largely because it takes too much time. And the entire purpose of the media is so you don't have to do that kind of fact checking yourself. The media is supposed to be unbiased and fair. In the past you could trust them to give everyone a fair shake. That isn't true anymore but I am shocked that so many people just assume that it is... 

US military uses airpower to destroy ISIS's fleet of evacuation boats in Mosul.

One of the five bridges over the Tigris river destroyed in previous airstrikes. AFP/USA Today.

US airstrikes have destroyed a fleet of ISIS evacuation boats being used in the battle of Mosul. USA Today. 90 boats were destroyed, along with three barges, in the airstrikes. ISIS was using the boats to evacuate the eastern part of the city. The boats were the only escape route for the ISIS fighters, short of swimming, All the bridges over the Tigris in the city have been destroyed and are now in control of Iraqi forces on the eastern side. With the fleet of boats destroyed the Iraqi forces in the area will now concentrate on liberating the western half of Mosul, which ISIS still controls. 

My Comment:
This is probably a critical move in the battle of Mosul. Whatever ISIS troops are still left in the eastern half of the city are stuck there now with no way out short of swimming. And I don't even know how possible that is. It would depend on the depth, current and width of the river and how good the ISIS fighter was at swimming. And that assumes that they don't get picked off by Iraqi troops near the river itself. My guess is that most of the ISIS fighters wouldn't even try it.

It's mostly academic though. Almost all of the eastern half of Mosul is under Iraqi control now. From the maps I have seen it looks like ISIS only controls a sliver in the north of the city while the rest is under Iraqi control. There are certainly stragglers and sappers left behind to cause as much chaos behind enemy lines as possible but these will be few and far between. The eastern part of the city itself has been largely liberated.

I have to admit, the bombing of the bridges by US forces really did help speed up the battle. I was skeptical at first, because of the obvious humanitarian damage it would cause, but it created a logistical nightmare for ISIS. With the bridges destroyed ISIS could no longer move troops and equipment across the river, except by boat, and now that option is gone as well. Most importantly they could not transport their most effective weapons, car and truck bombs, over the rive. With that weapon gone they ended up losing the battle for the east of the city.

With the eastern part of Mosul mostly retaken, the battle is going better than I expected. I hadn't expected the battle to be half over at this point and my earlier prediction that Mosul would not be liberated until Fall at the earliest seems like it might have been premature. Of course if Mosul is liberated sooner that would be great but I probably should have realized that bombing the bridges would have this effect on the battle.

But what happens now on the eastern side? From what I have seen there is quite a bit of crap in the way of the Iraqi forces before they can really hit Mosul itself. To the south there are several villages that need to be retaken, along with the Mosul airport and the north and west still belong to ISIS and will take some time to liberate. I am guessing that after the cleanup operation on the east side of the river is over, it will take some time to move forces around to attack from the other directions

I don't think simply crossing the river is an option. I am betting if they have some kind of riverine force it could be deployed but there isn't a reliable way to get the vehicles the Iraqi Army needs to operate with across the river. The Iraqi's probably don't have the capability to repair the bridges fast enough and the US government just blew up all the available boats in the area. I am guessing that other then a few light forces, they will just have to attack from a different area for the time being.

I do think that the battle for Mosul will continue to be tough. It won't be as simple to destroy the supply lines for ISIS this time around, which means they will be able to use car bombs effectively. Those car bombs are a force multiplier and also act to harm the morale of Iraqi forces fighting against them. My guess is that the battle will probably go more slowly then the eastern side went. Will the city be liberated before next Fall? Maybe. It really depends on the next couple of months because I am guessing that the war will slow down in the sweltering summer months.

Finally, I wonder if the Iraqi's aren't squandering an opportunity west of the city. The ISIS stronghold of  Tal Afar lies to the west of the city and is currently being threatened by ISIS forces. Though Tal Afar is a tough nut to crack and is rumored to be home of some of ISIS's most brutal fighters, taking the city would largely cut off the city of Mosul from ISIS strongholds in Syria. I think if they shifted their forces around to hit that city first they might lose some time but make the battle of Mosul go much quicker. And if they do take the city they will trap the forces in Mosul which would help to ensure that none of the fighters and leaders there make it back to Syria...

Friday, January 20, 2017

Donald Trump is officially the 45th president of the United States.

President Trump's official portrait. 

Unless you are the worlds most unaware person, you know that President Donald John Trump was sworn in today as the 45th president of the United States. As it happens I already made one of my 2017 predictions false because I was able to watch some of the inauguration. I was supposed to be sleeping since I work nights, but in the end I wasn't able to do so, probably because of a combination of excitement and nervousness. Trump gave a very good speech (which the "smart set" will hate) and there were no major disruptions of the event itself, despite rioting elsewhere in DC. 

A few random, disorganized thoughts about the election and presidency of Donald Trump:

-A reminder to everyone. The Democrats cheated and still lost. Not only did they rig the primary election against Bernie Sanders, they also collaborated with the media to ensure that Clinton had good coverage. All of this came out and was a huge embarrassment to them. I get the feeling the situation is like the old cartoons where the villain is in a race with the hero and he is in first place but then stops to cheat. Everything goes wrong and if the bad guy had just played fair he would have won outright. 2016 was always going to be an extremely tough election for the Democrats to win, but their chances would have been better if they had just played fair. 

-The Democrats as a party are as weak as they have ever been and have a good chance of losing what little control they have right now. The 2018 midterm elections are not looking good for them and there is a very good chance that the election will buck the historical trend where the president's party loses seats in Congress. The entire party is lost and leaderless now and are in danger of becoming completely irrelevant. The supposed unity in opposing Trump is the only glue holding an extremely fragile coalition together. The party needs to figure out how to get the social justice/racial supremacist wing of their party under control if they want to survive as a credible opposition party. 

-Donald Trump continued with the rhetoric that got him elected in the first place in his speech. Once again he bashed Washington DC as the rotten cesspool that it is. Given that he gave that speech in front of the very politicians and press he was talking about, it did not go over well. But if you simply trust the media you would miss the message that Trump gave. He reached out to all Americans, condemned racism and promised that the normal men and women that make up the US lower classes would not be forgotten. If Donald Trump wasn't Donald Trump, the left would have loved this speech. 

-There was some violence in DC and other cities. I'm conflicted about it. On the one hand I am utterly disgusted by this kind of violence. That should go without saying. But on the other hand, someone said once that you should never interrupt your enemy while they are making a mistake. And the left in the country is making a huge mistake with these riots, attacks and protests. They are simply driving more people into the arms of the Republican Party and Donald Trump. Almost nothing had a bigger impact on my this election cycle than the riots and attacks, often funded directly by the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign.   

-I personally had mixed emotions today. On the one hand, I worked hard to get Donald Trump elected. Though I was only a reluctant supporter at first, I eventually became a full supporter of Donald Trump for reasons I don't want to go into here. I spent a lot of time on this blog and elsewhere doing everything I could to help him win. Today was obviously a good day for me. But I was heartbroken to see so much vitriol thrown at Trump and his supporters, some of which came from people I would have otherwise respected. I can't help but feel that I failed in getting my message to these people and it cuts deep. 

-Donald Trump will be under a microscope for his entire presidency. The normal "honeymoon" period with the media did not happen with Trump. Mere hours after Trump was sworn in, there were already calls from the media for Trump's impeachment. Though it will be nice for there to be some accountability for the president, something that was lacking for Barack Obama, the l├╝genpresse will continue with their lies... 

-Somehow people still like Barack Obama. I won't say anything else about that fact but this. I don't get it and probably never will...  

That's all for now. Sorry for not having a better post up for today, but I'm exhausted. I'm glad that I saw the inauguration, but sleep would have been nice. I am hoping that the first 100 days for Donald Trump are successful and that people give him a fair chance... 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Barack Obama's probable last military action, B-2 bombers strike ISIS training camps in Libya.

Smoke rises from an airstrike in Libya last November. Reuters. 

In what is likely to be President Barack Obama's last military action, B-2 bombers have struck an ISIS training camp in Libya. Reuters. More than 80 ISIS militants, some of which were suspected of planning attacks in Europe were killed in the attack outside of the former ISIS stronghold of Sirte. The B-2 bombers dropped more than 100 precision bombs on the target. The ISIS fighters were probably survivors from the battle of Sirte, a recent defeat that left ISIS with no territory in Libya. US airstrikes were deployed in that battle and were helpful in winning the battle. 

My Comment:
Barack Obama's last military action (hopefully) is one I approve of. Of course if he hadn't authorized the overthrow of Momar Qadaffi, ISIS never would have had a chance to get a foothold in Libya in the first place... but that's a discussion for another time. The attack though is notable for that alone and will go down in the history books despite being a rather minor incident in the Libyan war. 

This action against ISIS is welcome. I have no doubt in my mind that the ISIS fighters killed in this attack were plotting further attacks, either in Europe or North Africa (targeting Europeans). ISIS fighters in Libya were responsible for the terror attacks in Tunisia and may have been involved in smuggling terrorists in with the massive migrant waves that have Libya as their last stop before Europe. 

Destroying these terrorists makes Europe and North Africa slightly safer. I am guessing multiple terror attacks were disrupted. But that is not the only benefit of this bombing. After a bitter defeat in Sirte where many ISIS fighters died to the last man, the survivors were trying to regroup and rearm. Libya is still an unstable country so it is very possible that if the pressure was let off of ISIS they would have retaken territory and expanded. 

I have to say that using B-2 bombers and 100 bombs seem like overkill. I am guessing that a few F-15's and F-16's could probably have done the same thing. Perhaps we had nothing stationed in the area? I know we didn't have any Navy assets right now. From what I understand all of our aircraft carriers are docked right now, or at the very least, aren't anywhere near the Mediterranean. Perhaps our expensive and valuable B-2 bombers were the only planes available to pull off this strike? If so that's a potential embarrassment. The most powerful nation in the world couldn't even blow up a terrorist camp without using our most expensive weapon? 

It's really amazing to me that ISIS has suffered so badly in Libya. I had not expected that they would have been beaten back so fast. I am sure Barack Obama wants to take credit for that, but I don't think he deserves full credit. Though US airstrikes did help in the battle of Sirte, and he can have some credit for that, it was the government and their soldiers that won the battle. They are the ones that won the battle, not Barack Obama. 

I have said in the past that the fate of ISIS in Libya will probably be a sneak preview of what will happen if/when ISIS is finally defeated in Syria and Iraq. In Libya ISIS is no longer a state. It is now a more traditional terrorist organization, less focused on taking territory and more focused on terror attacks. Though they don't have the credibility they once had they are still a dangerous force and will continue to be so in the future. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Russia and Turkey launch first joint airstrikes in Syria.

Lt. General Sergei Rudskoy briefs the press. Reuters. 

Russia and Turkey have launched joint airstrikes against ISIS in Syria for the first time, marking a drastic turn around in the relations between the two countries. Reuters. Both countries sent airstrikes targeting ISIS militants in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab. Turkey and Russia have put aside their differences on the fate of Bashar al-Assad to work to their common goal of defeating ISIS and are organizing further peace talks in Kazakhstan starting next week. Nine Russian jets and eight Turkish jets participated in the air raid and Russian military leaders claimed the strike was effective. Russia also launched airstrikes to support the regime in Deir Ez Zor and near Palmyra as well. 

My Comment:
It's amazing how much can change in such a short time. Just a year ago everyone was worried that Turkey and Russia would go to war over Syria. Turkey had shot down a Russian plane and had done a lot of other provocative things. Since Turkey was a NATO ally that could have drawn the US into a global war. But now? Turkey and Russia are working together and are trying to end the war in Syria.

What has changed? I am guessing it was the failed coup that changed things. Turkey's president Tayyip Erdogan was almost deposed and I have to think that it changed things. Turkey seems to have blamed the US government for the revolution and are furious that we haven't turned over Fetullah Gulen, the Turkish activist blamed by the Turks for the uprising. Though I don't know if Gulen and the United States were responsible for the coup attempt or not, but either way it seems clear that Erdogan blames us for that.

Since we didn't do what Turkey wanted, a vacuum opened up and Russia has rushed in to fill it. The Turks, feeling betrayed by the Obama administration, have found a new ally in Russia and that ally is now helping them on the ground. Remember, Turkey has troops on the ground in Syria and they are targeting al-Bab right now. The fact that Russia is able to support those troops shows how close the relationship is. 

Again, I have to stress how much of a change this is. In the past it would have been unthinkable for a NATO member to work so directly with Russia. Our current president would not allow it. The fact that it is happening anyways shows how little influence Barack Obama has over Turkey now. Though I am no fan of the current Turkish government I am disturbed that our standing with them has collapsed this badly. 

I also find it interesting that the Syrian regime is tolerating these incursions by the Turks. It seems as though something has changed with that relationship as well. In the past Syria and Turkey were enemies with regime change being the official position of the Turkish government. That may still be the official party line but it seems that realpolitik was won out. The Reuters article is speculating that Syria may be in agreement with the Turkey about splitting the country up. Presumably that means that Turkey will gain de facto control of the Kurdish areas in the north. 

If that is the end game then it is a huge betrayal for the Kurds. The Kurds have mostly worked closely with almost everyone in the region. Turkey, Russia, Syria and the United States. They have been the most effective fighters against ISIS in Syria and to let them fall under Turkish control would end their goal of independence. Though many of the Kurds are far left communists, I still wouldn't have had this happen to them... 

As for ISIS, it seems as they are under quite a bit of pressure. I think part of the reason that Russia and Turkey are conducting these airstrikes is to counter ISIS. It is less about taking al-Bab and more about countering ISIS's momentum. I posted yesterday about ISIS's new offensive in Deir Ez Zor and although al-Bab is pretty far away from the city, you have to think that these airstrikes will force ISIS to move some troops around. Perhaps taking Deir Ez Zor would be a better prize then hanging onto al-Bab, but I doubt it. 

With President Obama almost gone, I wonder how President Trump will handle Syria. My hope is that our planes will join these Russian and Turkish airstrikes. Though all three countries have some pretty serious differences, we all have a common enemy in ISIS. No matter what Trump's policy in Syria ends up being I hope, at the very least, we can have cooperation between all the factions fighting ISIS. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Major ISIS attack in Deir Ez Zor cuts off supply lines to the Syrian city.

Tanks near Deir Ez Zor. AFP. 

A major ISIS offensive has been launched in the besieged city of Deir Ez Zor, held by the Syrian government. AFP. The city has been cut off from the rest of Syria's forces since 2015 but has been resupplied by the Syrian military and aid groups for the entire siege. That has now come to a stop due to ISIS advances in the city. The government held eastern and western parts of the city have been cut off from each other and the airport supply route has also been cut. Syrian and Russian airstrikes are blasting ISIS positions but the attacks haven't blunted the offensive. The ISIS assault involved multiple suicide bomber attacks and have been described as the worse the city has experienced in more than a year. The Syrian government has sent in reinforcements and called on civilians to join the battle on the front lines.

My Comment:
Very bad news out of Deir Ez Zor. The city has been besieged for quite some time and remains the only real outpost the Syrians have in Eastern Syria. They have some outposts in the northeast, such as Hasakah, but that is surrounded by Kurdish forces and quite far away from the front lines. If they were to lose Dier Ez Zor than ISIS will have complete control of the eastern part of Syria, with the northern areas controlled by the Kurds being the only exception. 

ISIS has actually had some major gains lately., despite their poor fortune in Iraq. They recaptured the city of Palmyra in central Syria and have been pushing the Syrian regime out of the surrounding area. Though they have lost ground in the border area with Turkey thanks to the Turkish intervention, ISIS has advanced against the Syrian regime. This is a major reversal of fortune for a group that was retreating on all fronts just a few months ago. 

If ISIS were to take Deir Ez Zor it would be the biggest victory they have had for quite some time. Taking back Palmyra was a victory but not a major one since they had taken the city once before and the city was essentially abandoned. Taking Deir Ez Zor would almost be the equivalent of the Syrian regime taking back Aleppo. Doing so would entirely change the course of the war. 

The AFP report talked about the fate of the 100,000 civilians trapped in the city. Already, many have died in the fighting, and more will probably do so in the future. The biggest concern right now is how is the Syrian regime going to continue to feed and supply these civilians with the airport cutoff and supply drops from aid organizations suspended. I am guessing that they won't be able to and if this situation continues many of those trapped in the city will die. And that pales in comparison to what will happen if ISIS captures the city... 

If ISIS does manage to capture Deir Ez Zor, expect a slaughter. If the Syrian soldiers trapped there are foolish enough to surrender, expect quite a few of them to be unwilling starts in ISIS execution videos. ISIS has a long history of executing enemy soldiers in both Iraq and Syria so if any large amount of soldiers are captured, expect the deaths to continue. And I doubt the civilians will be spared either. Some will live under the regime, taxed and patrolled. Others will be executed because they are the wrong religion or because they worked for the regime. 

So how likely is that ISIS will take Deir Ez Zor? More likely than I would like. The fact that the Syrian regime is drafting civilians to fight on the front line without any training is a huge sign that things are not going well. Normally sending untrained civilians is more trouble than it's worth, but it's pretty clear to me that the Syrian regime just needs bodies to throw at ISIS. 

It's pretty clear to me that the victory in Aleppo had a pretty huge price for the Syrian regime. Their military has been bled dry and it has cost them in the fight against ISIS. Not only did they have no troops to reinforce Palmyra, they are having trouble to hold onto Deri Ez Zor as well. I think, that even with the victory in Aleppo, the Syrian regime has pretty much exhausted their military. 

As for ISIS they are falling into the same pattern they have for the entire war. Whenever a major battle erupts where they are on the defensive, they open up a newer offensive front. Though the battle of Mosul is in another country, they are using Deir Ez Zor as a way to sustain some momentum. If ISIS is able to capture the city, then losing Mosul will not be as big of a blow. It will still be a major defeat for ISIS but taking another major city will take some of the sting out of it for ISIS. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Left wing groups caught in undercover video planning a disruption of a Donald Trump inauguration event.

The US Capitol building during a dress rehearsal of the inauguration. Washington Times/AP

An undercover investigation has found a plot to disrupt a Donald Trump inauguration event planned by "anti-fascist" activists. Washington Times. Project Veritas uncovered the plot to target the "DeploraBall, a pro-Trump event occurring the day before the inauguration. The plot envisioned using burtyric acid, commonly used in stink bombs, to force an evacuation of the building. The back up plan was to somehow cause all of the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off at once. The activists, part of the DC Anti-Fascist Coalition are just one of the many groups attempting to disrupt the inauguration. These many groups have been posting under the hashtag #DisruptJ20. Due to the seriousness of the plot against the DeploraBall, the FBI, the Secret Service and the Washington DC metro police have been informed. The DC Anti-Facist Coalition has denied the hidden camera video. 

My Comment:
As always with Project Veritas, you must understand that these videos were probably not taken in context and some things have been edited out. That being said, the video was damning. There is no context that the video can be put into that makes what these people were saying correct. I'm all for free speech, but once the line has been crossed and you are plotting what is for all intents and purposes is a terrorist attack, than you don't have a right to continue. 

It's very clear to me what these men were planning was illegal. You cannot use a chemical to disrupt an event. Though butyric acid isn't deadly, it can cause harm and probably isn't safe to breath in. This attack probably wouldn't have killed anyone (though panic can cause injuries or even death) but it certainly would have caused harm. The 2nd plan involving setting off the sprinklers probably wouldn't have hurt anyone either, but it would have caused property damage.

And let me be very clear. This is not acceptable in any way. Using violence to advance your cause, even if the violence is minor and non-life threatening, is terrorism. Period. I am hoping that the FBI or whoever throws the book at these people and gives them the longest possible prison sentence. And that goes for anyone else involved in the #DisruptJ20 movement who wants to cause violence. We can not tolerate people who use violence to advance their goals. 

I also have to point out the irony of the entire anti-fascist movement. Not only are the vast majority of people they target are not fascist in anyway, they are using tactics that the Nazi's themselves would have used. Indeed, these anti-fascists have much more in common with fascism than the political groups they attack. 

I also think that these kinds of attacks and protests are a major reason that Donald Trump is going to be president anyways. I know for me personally that I voted for Donald Trump, in both the primaries and the general election, in part due to the attacks on Trump and his supporters during the election. I came out as an open Trump supporter after the attack on a Trump rally in Chicago that was carried out by operatives of Hillary Clinton who had similar political beliefs as the DC coalition. 

These organizations are being funded by someone. I think there should be an investigation into who gave the DC Anti-Fascist coalition their money and marching orders and when that person or persons are found they should be tossed into jail along with the rest of the plotters. I don't believe that these kinds of things happen organically anymore and I would love to see people higher up in the food chain exposed and denounced for what they are. 

As for the inauguration itself, I still say that it will probably go off without any major problems. Security is going to be so tight that I doubt any protests will be able to disrupt it. My worry is that softer targets, like the DeploraBall, will be hit instead. The DeploraBall wasn't an official event and probably didn't have anywhere near the level of security that the actual inauguration itself will have. Softer targets like the ball are prime targets for protest and violence. 

To be honest, there is probably more danger for the protesters and civilians near the inauguration then there is for the President elect and everyone participating in it. I think that the event would be a prime target for ISIS or ISIS sympathizers to strike. Though the event itself is probably safe, it is very possible that a terrorist could attack the easiest target available. And what better target then a bunch of protesters all bunched up together? They won't be able to hit the event itself but the people protesting it would be extremely vulnerable. 

Still, I think a terror attack, even a minor one like the DC Anti-Fascist Coalition was planning, is unlikely to happen at the inauguration. This plot has been disrupted and I seriously doubt anything will happen at the DeploraBall now. Security has been tightened up and people aren't going to want to attack a harder target. And ISIS is probably too disorganized in the United States to launch an attack. My original prediction still holds. 90% chance of the inauguration going off without a hitch, 5% chance of some minor disruption due to protests and 5% chance of riots or a terror attack. Let's hope I am right.