No Minister

Posts Tagged ‘Syria

The Ayatollah Boogaloo

As the combined pressures of US sanctions and Iranian government incompetence steadily increase – including now appearing to have been hit worse by the coronavirus than almost any other nation short of China itself – the question has become how long the Iranian theocracy can last.

Sadly I think the answer is some time yet. While it’s true that there were huge, nation-wide protests in Iran in 2009 and 2019, plus many smaller regional ones, the same could be said of the Soviet Imperial project with riots in East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, plus numerous smaller eruptions in places like Poland. But the whole thing still did not collapse for another couple of decades.

One primary difference of course is that the people of Iran are considerably more free than Communist peoples were, on both the streets and with modern information technology. And so when their idiot government of theocrats decides to push propaganda at them – they push back.

Insulting the Little and Great Satans

Here’s a recent example, where the authorities have painted the US and Israeli flags on places like steps and footpaths so that people will walk on them – the ultimate insult in Iranian culture.

Except that the Iranian people are walking around them, as seen in videos in this link.

“Walk On By”

At a mosque in Khuzestan, Iran, a single pair of shoes sits on the American and Israeli flags placed as as a mat for shoes. Everyone else went out of their way to respect the flags — and this is among the pious.
— Mike (@Doranimated) January 16, 2020

In fact the Mullahs got so desperate that they lined up their own sad little bands of supporters for a bit of agit-prop.

This is not a sign of a strong regime.

Meantime, in the wake of these idiots shooting down a Ukranian airliner filled with many Iranians, the Iranian people got very angry and started protesting in ways not seen before.

Which is to say that the protestors began to shout slogans that they would normally be too frightened to utter in public as these videos show:

“Death to the Dictator! Death to the Dictator!” “Sepah (Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps) does crimes! The Supreme Leader defends them!” “Khamenei is a murderer! His rule is void and invalid!” “Death to the liar! Death to the Liar!”

And as a couple of the videos show the protestors have begun to encounter members of the security forces who made it clear they weren’t going to simply sweep them off the streets on behalf of the Mullahs.

<= Then this happened!

To a certain extent this Tweet was greeted with a shrug by Iranians. The Iranian regime constantly lies to the people, who understand they are being lied to, including by state media people like “Iran’s State TV Anchor“.

Nobody in Iran takes seriously claims from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Foreign Minister Zarif or President Rouhani, and the people take their cues from first-hand information, not from “official” reports.

Then there was the recent Parliamentary elections. In the West much was made of how the “hardliners” had strengthened their position v the “moderates” and how this was an example of US sanctions were creating “blowback”.

What was not so widely reported was that the reason for this was that election turnout was hopelessly low as Iranians demonstrated their contempt for the system by not voting. There’s not much point boasting about an election when that happens and while the regime knew the turnout would be very low, they pegged it at 40%, while opposition leaders said it was half as great. The opposition was more accurate. The regime had lied. Again.

Put another Qud on the Barbie

It’s also become clear that replacing General Qassem Soleimani is proving to be far more difficult than expected (as I pointed out at the time). Again contrary to initial Western reactions, which held that he was ” an easily replaceable man“:

“Analysts and officials” told the Post that “[Ismail Qaani] lacks the ambition, charisma and strong connections of his predecessor.” Indeed Suleimani’s old outfit is now in such difficult straits that “a struggle may already be underway to clip the Quds Force’s wings.”

And as Parnaz Foroutan, an Iranian journalist whose parents fled the nation in 1983, explained, Soleimani was hardly beloved by the Iranian people anyway, despite the government putting every effort into making it seem like they did – a propaganda effort once again swallowed hook, line and sinker by the likes of the NYT (“Iran is in mourning”).

Elsewhere, the regime is cracking down on violations of Sharia law, for example in Iraq, where celebrations of Valentine’s Day have become popular. Iran is trying to ban cards, chocolates and presents, and the Qom prosecutor’s office threatened to close down businesses that sell Valentine’s symbols and set up a hotline for trade union leaders to report anyone buying stuff for the holiday.

The economy is not in great shape, as this story from The Asia Times noted:

One average salary pays for a small apartment outside the center, utilities, enough calories to keep body and soul together, and bus fare, which is subsidized. Throw in cell phone service, clothing, fruits and vegetables, and one or two meat meals a month, and an Iranian couple will require two average salaries. 

In turn that has led to Iranian family life getting hammered.


The decline in absolute numbers of births is unprecedented outside of wartime, and it should be noted that the number of Iranian women of child-bearing age increased slightly over the same period, so the collapsing birth rate clearly reflects decisions not to have kids.

As a result, over the next two decades Iran is going to face a demographic crisis possibly worse than anywhere else: even worse than Japan and China, but without their strengths.

The same article points out other aspects of government incompetence, with water mis-management the worst of any industrialised nation and 97% of the country facing drought conditions.

And in the wake of Soleimani’s death it’s become clear that a lot of Arab Shiite Muslims are actually not very happy about Iran “leading” them, as explained by Hanin Ghaddar, a Lebanese expat and an analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East policy:

In Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, and inside Iran itself—the countries that fall along the Shia Crescent—the people have realized that the enemy is within. It’s their own governments that have allowed the Iranian regime to take over the state and its institutions…. The Shia Crescent…is finally turning against the Iranian regime and its proxies.

[It] started when the Iraqis—mostly in Shia towns and cities—started to chant “Iran, out out, Iraq free, free,” and when the Lebanese took to the streets with one unifying slogan: “All of you means all of you.” This nightmare became a serious challenge when Iraqi protestors set Iranian consulates on fire and when Lebanese protestors included [Hezbollah chief] Hassan Nasrallah among the failed Lebanese political figures, and blamed Hezbollah for Lebanon’s calamities.

In the face of all this the regime has responded the only way it knows how: brutal crack-downs and propaganda cranked up. However the former is creating blowback and the latter – like the sad flag-stomping efforts – show that the Mullahs suffer from the same gross stupidities that have always arisen from a regime that has barely any understanding of the outside world.


On February 9, the Islamic Republic of Iran failed for the third (or maybe the fourth) time to place a rocket in orbit around the earth.

Not only that, but as part of this launch the regime’s Minister of Information, Mohammed-Javad Azari-Jahromi, unveiled what he claimed was a model of an Iranian spacesuit. In reality, it was a twenty-dollar American kids’ costume that had the American flag removed and the regime’s flag stitched in its place. I don’t think the word “farcical” covers it.

Missile launches, the economy, the currency, dozens of people trampled to death during Soleimani’s funeral, water, birth rates, kickback from Shiites around the Arab world….

It’s just one giant and growing clusterfuck by the Mullahs.

And now they’re being hit by the coronavirus, and the Mullahs aren’t coping very well (I know, right?), with so many dead that the huge burial pits are visible from space:


At the Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran, the excavation of a new section of the graveyard began as early as Feb. 21, satellite images show, and then rapidly expanded as the virus spread. 

By the end of the month, two large trenches — their lengths totaling 100 yards — were visible at the site from space.

The official toll as of February 28 was 34 deaths.

Oom is a very religious part of the nation and to show how faithful they are they’ve shown videos of pro-regime people urging their children to kiss and lick the shrines. FFS! That link also includes a video selfie of a nurse begging people to stay in their homes because “…since this morning 100 people have died before my eyes”.

Given the nature of the country, its close ties with China and its increasing dependency on them, perhaps this should not be a surprise. I doubt the Iranian Mullahs would have acted to cut flights between Iran and China. Naturally it’s tough to get information out of the regime but opposition groups estimate that over 3,600 people have died from the virus to date, and there’s no sign that it’s peaked yet. The situation is so dire that Iran is asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help for the first time in 60 years.

Following Britain’s loss of the American colonies a friend of Adam Smith asked him if this meant that Britain would be ruined if things went on like this, to which Smith famously replied:

“Be assured young friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation”

What he meant by that is that it takes an awful lot of bungling by political leaders to truly destroy a nation.

However, since then various nations have proven that it can be done – most recently Zimbabwe and Venezuela. As well as they’ve survived these last forty years the Islamic Republic of Iran and its thug Mullah leaders are facing an increasingly dangerous series of broad-spectrum failures. They could be the next to breach Smith’s assurance.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 15, 2020 at 11:03 am

Posted in China, Middle East, USA

Tagged with , , , ,

The Greek Shield

The Greek-Turkish Border

 

“I thank Greece for being our European shield in these times.”
E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Wait! What?

The EU Commission President said that? Did she check with her old boss, Mama Merkel, first? Because that certainly does not sound like the sort of thinking we heard a few years ago when the German Chancellor defended her open-door policy that resulted in more than a million refugees settling in Germany.

Now, they’re worried about a few tens of thousands of refugees from Turkey getting across the border with Greece?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the increasingly tense and violent situation on the Turkish-Syrian border, but this story did not seem to get much attention in the Western media (or this blog for that matter – zero comments on it). As usual the West did not seem to give a damn about news of 700,000 Syrian refugees trying to get across that border into Turkey to escape the wrath of Syrian President Assad and his merry band of Iranian and Russian-backed troops. The Turks are defending that border with the Syrian Idlib province

But they’re doing the opposite a few hundred miles to the North-West, where they’ve opened their border with Greece to allow Syrian refugees to escape into Europe.

I expect that more media attention will now be paid, even though the two problems are connected. What journalist can resist photo ops like this one – and with no danger of being shelled!

The result is that the EU have hit the panic button. They already bribed Turkey several years ago with a deal that included $US 6.6 billion and enhanced EU-Turkey ties, including visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. In return Turkey agreed to stop the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it has, from crossing into Europe.

Ursula von der LeyenAnd now the EU is having to bribe Greece, with von der Leyen announcing a support package of $800 million in funding for Greece to use in maintaining infrastructure on the borders. For “infrastructure” read riot police. The photo above is from last Friday when refugees clashed with Greek riot-control police, who fired tear gas and water cannons at them and made thousands of arrests. And of course Greece is still in a financial and political crisis of its own, as it has been for almost a decade now. It can’t handle the influx.

But how long can the EU spend like this, given their own financial problems with the departure of Britain? Sooner or later they’re going to run out of other people’s money.

Erdogan of course is more than happy about all this. His border police and troops actually stopped the refugees from returning across the border from Greece after their clashes with the Greek border patrols.

While he may not have been able to get NATO to help him out militarily with Syria he knows he’s got the EU over a barrel. They either pay him more billions to keep the Syrian refugees in-country – or he simply allows them to start walking into the EU. The spirit of 2015 has long vanished in the EU: their leaders know there will be a social explosion if they allow that to happen again.


Still, the reference to a “Greek shield” took me by surprise. Perhaps Ms von der Leyen is less a Eurocrat and more of a populist than I thought? She has seven children, which already marks her out as very unusual in the Euro elite. And perhaps she knows ancient European history.

Certainly Greece’s nearer European neighbours such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland appear to. They were acting to help Greece even before the EU announcement, and they’re not just sending money but physical support such as logistics.

Can their troops be far behind?

Written by Tom Hunter

March 8, 2020 at 8:22 pm

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Other things to worry about?

Not NZ specifically since we’re so far away, but it seems the whole Turkey-Syria fight has flared up a little more than before:

Airstrikes and artillery attacks by Syria killed 33 Turkish troops on Thursday as Ankara edged closer to all-out war with the Syrian regime. Turkey hit back, targeting Syrian positions up and down the line, bringing the two sides closer to a major escalation that’s bound to involve Russia.

Worse is that there is some motion afoot in the Turkish parliament to make an actual declaration of war against Syria, which would be novel in our modern world where wars are fought without such traditions, but which would not be a smart move, given that Russia is backing Syria and has troops in-country. Iran is now reportedly also threatening Turkey, saying its troops must leave Syria or face a missile barrage.

And of course Turkey is still part of NATO.

Barely, it’s true, given the increased tensions between Europe and Turkey over the last twenty years as Erdogan has strengthened his control of Turkey. Similarly with the USA being part of NATO: after several years when Bush and Obama tried being friendly with Erdogan the Trump administration finally saw the light and has stopped the sale of the F-35 fighters to Turkey after it purchased advanced S-400 AA missile systems from Russia. Still, that’s has not stopped Erdogan from trying it on:

“We call on NATO to (start) consultations. This is not (an attack) on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” one of Erdogan’s spokesmen told media outlets.

It’s hard to see the rest of NATO being willing to exercise their commitments to come to the defence of a member when that member has effectively declared war of Russia as well as Syria. Erdogan is not so stupid as to think the request will be honoured, but it has to be made formally, and then some stick added by giving his fellow NATO nations a heads-up as to what may happen if he doesn’t feel their love:

A Turkish official declared that the borders would be opened, allowing tens of thousands of refugees access to central Europe. While not official, Greece and Bulgaria are reinforcing their borders, determined to keep the newcomers out.

Turkey is home to about 3.6 million Syrian refugees already! The thought of even a good portion of them heading for Europe must be keeping the EU leaders awake at night. Germany would probably keep its borders open, but others would likely follow the path of Greece.

And there are likely more on the way into Turkey itself. Between 700-800,000 are on the move in the Syrian province of Idlib on Turkey’s border. It’s this area where most of the fighting is now as Iranian, Russian and Assad’s Syrian forces try to take back control. They’re doing it via the tactic that has proved successful elsewhere: bomb the crap out of the area until all the civilians have left and the rebel and terrorist groups are the only ones remaining or leave with the civilians.

The new Turkish offensive in Syria and the aggressive moves by the pro-Assad coalition which is trying to re-conquer the last major rebel hub in Idlib have created an unprecedented humanitarian disaster even by Syrian standards.

Basically a scorched earth campaign straight out the pages of history books. Erdogan could not give a damn about the Syrian lives lost, but he does not want any more refugees:

Erdogan’s nationalist ally, Devlet Bahceli, on February 11, said Turkey should prepare to march on Damascus to stop the Syrian offensive in Idlib that is threatening to send hundreds of thousands of refugees into Turkey,

While the Turkish concerns over massive refugee inflows is a legtimate, rational concern, the fact is that Erdogan is cut from the same cloth as Assad, Ayatollah Khamenei and Putin. While a Syria-Turkey scrap would once have been considered part of the Cold War those days are long past. Erdogan has imperial dreams and desires that Turkey to be the one with power, influence and control in the region. That contest between Russia, Iran and Turkey is really what’s at the heart of this latest increase in fighting and tensions. Syria is merely a puppet.

“The fight for freedom of the Syrian people is a fight for survival for Turkey’s 82 million people,” Erdogan said. 

Uh Huh. Here’s an example of his idea of “freedom”, as I pointed out last year:

Erdogan is not someone that the West should be eager to assist. While the burdern of responsibilty falls on Syria, Russia and Iran, Turkey has not helped itself here, and they’ve certainly got themselves off-side with their Western allies. It’s questionable whether the US, and Europe in particular even wants to help Erdogan out of this jam: they might prefer him to be weakened by it.

Even before the rise of Erdogan, NATO spent decades dealing with the internal strains of members Turkey and Greece going at eachother, sometimes with shots fired, so it might be interesting to see how Putin deals with balancing Syria, Iran and Turkey.

However, for similar reasons to that of NATO, Putin is probably content to let Syria, Iran and Turkey bleed themsleves for a while longer. He’s threatened some minor sanctions on Turkey but there are those missile sales to think about, possibly to be followed by more Russian military equipment and the prospect of prying Turkey away from NATO as part of his long-term plan to weaken the alliance and Europe further.

The question that Europe and the US must ask itself is whether they care about losing Turkey. Aside from the threat of those three million Syrian refugees I can’t think why they would.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 2, 2020 at 8:08 pm

NZL STAND OUT STANDING OUT

DPF on Kiwiblog here sez it all in covering off St Jacinda’s response to the US/GB/French strikes against Syrian chemical warfare facilities.

While others stood four square behind the action NZL merely ‘accepts’ the reasoning behind it … some may consider that damning it with faint praise.

One can fairly question the influence that our Putin’s poodle foreign minister had in watering down our statement of ‘support’.

Written by The Veteran

April 15, 2018 at 12:04 am

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with ,

ON SYRIA

Bashar el-Assad is, like his father before him, a despot and a killer prepared to do anything to retain his grip on power.   But he does have some things going for him … he is secular and allows freedom of religion (of a sort) and promotes female equality (perhaps due in part to the influence of his British wife)

The huge danger for the West in trying to engineer his downfall is simply … who for they replace him with?   You might argue that is for the Syrian people to decide.  Oh that was so simple … it’s not.  The Free Syrian Army formed in 2011 by defecting Syrian Army personnel was generally seen as a providing a centrist alternative to the Assad regime.    At the very best it was a disparate grouping and in recent years its influence has declined to the point where it is now a bit player to ISIL, the dominant force,  who are committed to the establishment of an Islamic State with all that implies.   

The Assad regime is supported by Russia who, while perhaps despairing at some of the goings on of Bashar regime are comforted by the fact that, while he is a bastard, he is at least ‘their bastard’.    Their support has allowed them to establish and maintain a military presence in the area.   They will not want to relinquish that. 

Syria looks like becoming a proxy for the USA vs Russia.   There is a small common ground.   Both are committed to the destruction of ISIL.     Beyond that not much.   Russia is committed to supporting Assad.  For the West and the question has to be … what’s the game plan should ‘they’ succeed in toppling the brute.    There are lessons to be learned from Iraq.  You leave a vacuum and that’s the recipe for mayhem.  I hope they have been learned well. 

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t perhaps!!!!!!!!

Written by The Veteran

April 18, 2017 at 8:56 am

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with ,

Guessing Game

Now that the dust has settled over Mr Assad’s Sarin storage facility, a few cautious observations and a guess or two..

  1. I wonder if Mr Putin could put sixty or so cruise missiles onto a target half way around the world, with pin point accuracy at short notice.  I doubt it.
  2. I wonder what Mr Assad thinks about Putin’s much vaunted state of the art air defense system?  He’ll ask for his money back.
  3. I wonder what will the next move be?  

I see the US has an aircraft carrier strike group patrolling in the South China Sea.  So my guess is during the next two weeks, the little fat Nork will fire off another ICBM in the direction of the USA upon which the US Navy with shoot the bloody thing down over international waters.  Trump will call the missile launch an act of war and China will quietly close the fat Nork down.

Looking behind the obvious it appears Mr Putin’s military does quite well against civilian aircraft from Malaysia but when it’s time for the real deal one has to wonder if they would simply fail.

Is Putin all piss and no wind, just like Saddam?.

Written by adolffinkensen

April 9, 2017 at 11:05 pm