Monday, December 30, 2013

Double bombing in Volgograd - a first assessment

The recent double bombing in Volgograd (ex-Stalingrad) represent a definitive escalation in the low-level but constant war which has opposed Wahabi insurgents to not only the Kremlin, but also to all the traditional Muslim authorities in Russia.  Before looking into what these latest attacks could mean for Russia in general and for the upcoming Sochi Olympic games, it would be helpful here to go over some basic fact.


First, it would be a mistake to assume that any "Islamic" terrorist act committed in Russia would have to involve Chechens.  The reality is that Chechnia has not only been pacified, it is actually peaceful.  The Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov literally pulled-off a miracle when he turned the war-ravaged Chechen "black hole" into a prosperous and *truly* peaceful republic.  The fact that this miracle was either not reported or ridiculed by the Anglo-Zionist pundits, who had all gone on record saying that the Chechen insurgency would never be defeated, makes sense: recognizing it would simply be politically unthinkable.  Still, the fact that the young man who had all the external appearance of an average Chechen thug turned out to be an extremely capable and wise political leader is undeniable and even though no "war on terror" is ever truly "won", it would be fair to say that, at least for the time being, the Chechen terrorist phenomenon has been brought down to almost zero.  Unfortunately, if the future looks really bright for Chechnia, things are infinitely worse in neighboring Dagestan.


Chechnia and Dagestan are neighbors, but they could hardly be more different.  For one thing, Chechnia is mostly inhabited by Chechens, whereas there is really no such thing as a "Dagestani": more than a dozen different ethnic groups live side by side in Dagestan.  In fact, Dagestan is the most diverse of all the Russian republics where no single group can form a majority.  This aspect is absolutely crucial because the fact that there is no one dominating ethnic group means that there cannot be a "Dagestani Kadyrov".  Second, the Dagestani economy is run by very corrupt elites who fight against each other and each other's clans.  In practical terms this means that the "recipe" used in Chechnia (to give a local Chechen leader a maximal level of autonomy and authority) would be a disaster for Dagestan.  The "solution" for Dagestan does probably involve a very forceful intervention from the Federal Center and a destruction of the current ethnicity-based clan system - not something anybody in the Kremlin would look forward to.

For the time being, however, Dagestan is the hotbed for Wahabi terrorism.  You could say that the Wahabi cancer that first took hold in Chechnia, spread to Dagestan while it was being destroyed in Chechnia.  The extreme poverty of Dagestan, combined with the millions of dollars provided by the Saudis to their allies and agents made it very easy for them to very successfully market their brand of Wahabism in Dagestan and to recruit local agents of influence and terrorists.

The Dagestani terrorists have learned the lessons of Chechnia well, and they are never trying to hold on to any territory or to create some kind of Wahabi statelet in Dagestan:  quite to the contrary, day after day after day, the security forces engage the Dagestani terrorists who each time end up either captured or dead (mostly the latter).  The reason for that is obvious: the Dagestani terrorists are weak and they cannot take on even the local cops.  But they are just strong enough to strap explosives on some young man or woman and send them to blow themselves up on a bus or train station.

Wahabis in the rest of Russia:

It also would be wrong to assume that all Wahabi terrorism in Russia has to come from Dagestan or even the Caucasus.  The Saudi-backed Wahabis are recruiting literally everywhere - from the south of Russia to Saint Petersburg and from Tatarstan to Moscow.  As a result, there are cases of ethnic Russians who are involved in Wahabi terrorist acts.  The bottom line is this: Wahabi terrorism in Russia is not a regional problem or an ethnic problem - it is an ideological problem.  So we should not jump to conclusions here and assume anything about who might be behind the latest attacks.  It literally could be anybody

From Volgograd to Sochi?

Volgograd has been the scene of several terrorist attacks in the recent past and the last two are only the latest in a series of events.  Why Volgograd?

Well, Volgograd is - along with Rostov-on-the-Don and Krasnodar - one of the major cities of southern Russia and it is close enough to Dagestan to make it fairly easy for the Dagestani Wahabis (assuming that they are involved) to organize a terrorist attack in that city.  In fact, Volgograd is pretty much at the same distance from Dagestan as Sochi.  Not a pleasant thought.

Another factor which might have played a role in the terrorist's decision to strike at Volgograd is that most Russian counter-terrorist efforts are currently concentrated in, and around, Sochi.  One of the basic rules of counter terrorism says there are always more targets to protect than resources to protect them.  Even if Volgograd had been put on total lockdown, the terrorist could have chose Astrakhan, Elista, Stavropol or any other city.  My guess is that the local and Federal security are primarily focused on keeping the Olympic infrastructure safe and that, as a result, Volgograd was unusually exposed.

What do we know so far?

Several of you have written to me (by email or the comments section) asking me if I thought that these latest attacks were a result of the recent Saudi threats.  Honestly - I don't know, this is way too early to tell.  The Russians are working fast and Russian media sources report that the suicide-bomber which blew up the railway station yesterday has been identified as Pavel Pechenkin.
Pavel Pechenkin
D. Sokolov and N. Asiialova
As far as I know, this has not been officially confirmed and DNA analyses are still being conducted.  If true, however, this would point to a group of ethnic Russians which would include Dimitri Sokolov, who was recently killed by the security forces, was an ethnic Russian who lived in Dagestan and who joined a terrorist group in the city of Makhachkala.  However, it is interesting to note that his contact with the Wahabi underground did not begin in Dagestan, but in a mosque in Moscow were he had signed up to take lessons of the Arabic language.  Sokolov was the common law husband of Naida Asiialova, a suicide-bomber who blew herself up in a crowded bus in Volgograd in October of this year.  Pechenkin, Sokolov and Asiialova apparently all were part of the same terror cell which, while based in Dagestan, included ethnic Russians.

This group was very well known to the Russian security services and the parents of Sokolov and Pechenkin both made desperate statements to the Russian media begging their sons not to commit any violent acts and to give up a life of terrorism.  While these people definitely had accomplices, Sokolov and Pechenkin were clearly the public image of this group and, as far as I know, there are no more senior figures of this cell on the run from the security services.  As of now, and that is a very preliminary assessment, there are no "Saudi fingerprints" on these attacks.  They appear to be what the Americans call a case of "home grown terror" and, if there is a Saudi link, it is through the massive funding of Wahabi mosques in Russia (and worldwide).

Russian internal options

As H. L. Mencken wrote, "for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong".  In this case this simple solution is to shut down all the Wahabi linked mosques in Russia and some simple minded individuals in Russia have already expressed their desire to see that happening.  There are many problems with such a "solution".

1)  That would be simply illegal.  Russia has (finally!) more or less become a country where the rule of law matters or, at least, Russia is on its way to become such a country.  What is certain is that the vast majority of Russians want their country to become a normal, civilized, country where the rule of law is central to the political life.  To shut down mosques would be simply illegal.  On what grounds should they be shut down to begin with?  On "suspicion of Wahabism?".  There is no such crime in Russian law.  For receiving foreign money?  That is not illegal either.  For being linked to terrorist networks?  Yes, that would be illegal, but that is also very hard to prove and there is no way that the FSB or the Investigative Committee could make such charges stick in a court of law against most such mosques.  The bottom line is this: Putin is not a dictator and he cannot act outside the Russian law, nor would he want to.

2) That would be immoral.  I lived for many years literally right next to a big mosque fully financed by the Saudis and, to my knowledge, not only did that mosque never ever have anything to do with terrorism, the people attending that mosque were not even involved in a single case of petty crime.  God knows that I hate the Wahabi ideology with all my mind and heart, but I cannot say that most Wahabis are bad people at all, or that they are linked to terrorism.  They are not and they should not be the scapegoats for the actions of others.  I am fully in favor of the physical destruction of every single Wahabi terrorist on the planet, but as long as they don't take up arms and start murdering and maiming their fellow human beings, the followers of Ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab should not be made to pay for the actions of others.

3) It would be counter-productive.  The one good thing about leaving such Wahabi-linked mosques free to operate is that that gives the security forces a perfect target to penetrate and keep an eye on.  Shut down these mosques and you will push them into an underground where they might be much harder to infiltrate.  In fact, such Wahabi-linked mosques can even be used as honeypots to attract, identify and arrest homegrown terrorists.

No, the best way to deal with the Saudi financed propaganda and terror is to support anti-Wahabi, traditional, Islamic organizations and religious leaders.  There are plenty of smart and well educated Muslims in Russia, including quite a few well-known imams, who can take the ideological and spiritual fight to the Wahabis and denounce them for what they are.  What the Russian state should do is a) physically protect these people b) listen to them and their assessment of the situation c) explain to the non-Muslim population that these are vital allies in the struggle against Wahabi terrorism.

What if a Saudi trace is found?

That is a big "if"!  But let us assume, for argument's sake, that the Russians do find some kind of Saudi "fingerprints" in these attacks, or in upcoming attacks during the Sochi Olympics, and look at various Russian responses:

1) An overt retaliatory strike on Saudi Arabia:

In purely military terms, this is a no-brainer.  The Russians could strike with bombers, submarine based cruise missiles, ballistic missiles - you name it.  And while the US would express all sorts of outrage, CENTCOM would do nothing about it because the original purpose of CENTCOM was to prevent a Soviet invasion of Iran, not to defend the Saudis against a Russian retaliatory strike.  The problem with this option is that it would be illegal under international law and that is something Russia does not want.  If Russia decided to publicly and officially accuse Saudi Arabia of terrorist attacks against Russia, it would have to go to the UNSC or the International Court of Justice and make the case legally.

2) File an official complaint at the ICJ and try get a UNSC vote to condemn the KSA:

Actually this is a very neat option because it would put the Saudis in a very embarrassing political position.  Depending on the wording of the resolution, the US would either abstain or veto it since, no matter how much problems there have been between the two sides recently, the US and the KSA are still strategic allies.  Still, such an official complaint by Russia against the Saudi regime would put even more egg on the faces of the medieval monkeys in power in Riyadh.  I would personally like that a lot, but this would not be in Putin's style - he prefer a much more low key kind of diplomacy.

3) A covert retaliatory strike on Saudi Arabia:

Also well within the means of the Kremlin not only because it could use Russian capabilities to hit some Saudi prince or two, but because it could easily subcontract that job to an allied force.  The problem with that is even if this would be a retaliatory strike it would still be an act of terrorism.  So far, the only case that I am aware of the Russians assassinating somebody is when they killed the notorious terrorist Ibn al-Khattab: the Russian special services intercepted a letter for Khattab, and laced it with a special poison which would be harmless for anybody except Khattab (a far more effective and sophisticated method than the idiotic accusation that they would use polonium to kill somebody).  In this case, however, the Russians admitted their role and even made more or less official declarations giving the details of the operation.  While this assassination was conducted using covert methods, this was not a true covert operation because the Russians voluntarily admitted that they were behind it.  Khattab was such a piece of scum that nobody sane expressed any problems with it: this was one of those very rare, black and white, slam dunk, case where pretty much everybody agrees that the killed person truly had it coming and that justice was served.  But that is the exception.  All too many so-called "covert operations" are simply a pious euphemism for terrorist (counter-)attacks i.e., something a civilized country should not do.

4) What then?  Aiming at the long term:

In a struggle against terrorism keeping the moral high ground is absolutely vital: you have to do your utmost to deny your enemy the status of "freedom fighter".  To do that, you absolutely must keep your hands as clean as possible and you have to only engage in those actions which, if discovered, would make you look honorable.  Dick Cheney's notion that "now the gloves are off" is just a reflection of his lack of sophistication.  The same thing can be said of the CIA's "plausible deniability".  The result of such self-delusion is that the USA is hated and despised worldwide and there literally isn't a vile, dishonorable or stupid action which anybody would put past the US covert operations community.  Does Russia really want to become the "next villain" (again!)?!

I personally think that it is crucial for a civilized country to have its official, declaratory, public policy in harmony with what it does behind the scenes.  There is nothing inherently wrong with covert operations as long as they are conduced in such a manner as to make those who ordered them look reasonable and honorable if the operation is discovered.  Russia cannot constantly speak of the absolutely crucial role which should be played by international law in international relations and then happily go on violating the basic rules of international law.  For this reason, any use of force (military or covert) by Russia has to be predicated on the following principles:

1)  All other non-violent options have either been already attempted or are impossible to implement.
2) The use of force is proportional to the attack which triggered it.
3) Every effort is made to avoid innocent victims.

Sounds Pollyannaish?  Well, it shouldn't!

Decades of absolutely irresponsible and reckless use of force by the USA, the Israelis, the Europeans and the Soviets have thoroughly desensitized us to the fundamental immorality of violence.  Raised as most of us have been on John Wayne movies and Ronald Reagan presidencies, we have lost the disgust of the civilized man for the ugliness and immorality of violence.  Worse, we are so conditioned by decades of watching CNN special reports from the Pentagon showing the latest "briefing" about some US military intervention that we forget that "shooting from the hip" is a most ineffective way of dealing with a problem.

When dealing with an issue like terrorism, it is always better to plan for the long term.  From that point of view, I would argue that the Saudi regime is a big enough problem to deserve to be considered a inherent national security threat to Russia and that, in turn, means that it should be a Russian national security strategy to achieve regime change in the KSA.   This goal, however, should be pursued only or, at least, mainly, through legal means such as, for example, arming the Iranians and the Syrians who, in turn, will arm Hezbollah.  This goal can also be achieved by isolating Saudi Arabia on the international scene by means of "consultations" with allies and friendly nations.  Furthermore, Russia should seek to expand its role and influence in the Muslim and Arab world in order to counteract the current influence of the Saudis and the other Gulf monarchies.  

In the short term, the Russian public needs to be openly told that terrorism cannot be eradicated, that this is a pipe dream cooked up by dishonest politicians.  But if no nation or government can really eradicate terrorism, one can learn how to live with it.  After all, the actual amount of victims of terrorism is extremely small, far less than, say, road accidents.  The real power of terrorism resides in the psychological effect it has not on its direct victims, but on those who witness it.  As soon as the general public accepts the notion that even if terrorists attack can be brought down to a minimum, some will always remain possible, terrorism will lose its real force.  Terrorism can either be accepted as a fact of life, or a nation can be drawn in an endless spiral of futile counter-terrorist measures which are far more damaging than the terrorism which triggered them.

Does Russia really want to become a terrified and paranoid Fascist state like the USA?  Or does it prefer to accept the fact that terrorism will never be "defeated" and keep on living as best as can be in an always dangerous world?

Russian politicians are already hotly debating whether to cancel the current moratorium on the death penalty: Nikolay Pligin, United Russia MP and head of the Duma’s Constitutional Law committee, declared that "no social groups will be discriminated against, no special activities will be carried out against any specific group – all activities will be conducted solely within the constitutional norms and in accordance with existing laws” while Ramzan Kadyrov urged the parliament to “infinitely increase the penalty for those, who not only commits terrorist acts, but share the ideas of the terrorists, spread their ideology and train them. I’m absolutely sure that we won’t cope with this evil by playing democracy and humanity”.  

Well, at least both agree that the correct place to discuss this issue and decide on what policies to adopt is the Parliament.  I expect that Duma to speak in one voice and give the Kremlin pretty much any law the latter would want, so the real decision will be in Putin's hands.  I am personally confident that his choice will be to abide very strictly to the letter and spirit of Russian national law and international law and that there shall be no Russian over-reaction.

The Saker

PS: Sorry about all the typos, weird sentences and poor grammar - I am writing that under a lot of time pressure (-: yes, I do have a life :-) and I simply don't have the time right now to sit down and proofread this text.  My apologies for that!  The Saker
PPS: most (all?) of the numerous typos and other horrors of the text above have been kindly corrected by S. to whom I owe a big debt of gratitude for all his kind help!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

May I suggest a New Year's resolution?

The BBC reports that a new and "virulent form of ransomware has now infected about quarter of a million Windows computers (...) Cryptolocker scrambles users' data and then demands a fee to unencrypt it alongside a countdown clock". The article then goes on to describe a few general things about Cryptolocker and ends by providing a list of measures Dell and, by implication, the BBC recommend to protect computers from malware/viruses/backdoors:
  • Install software that blocks executable fields and compressed archives before they reach email inboxes
  • Check permissions assigned to shared network drives to limit the number of people who can make modifications
  • Regularly back-up data to offline storage such as Blu-ray and DVD-Rom disks. Network-attached drives and cloud storage does not count as Cryptolocker can access and encrypt files stored there
  • Set each PC's software management tools to prevent Cryptolocker and other suspect programs from accessing certain critical directories
  • Set the computer's Group Policy Objects to restrict registry keys - databases containing settings - used by Cryptolocker so that the malware is unable to begin the encryption process
This is *laughable*.  What these corporations and corporate shills do not tell you is that all versions of MS Windows are inherently and inevitably dangerous because of deep design flaws.  Because of that, it is possible, but extremely difficult, to secure a Windows computer.  A very skilled and experienced professional system administrator can, if he takes the time, make a Windows computer more or less secure, but no home user will ever acquire that level of skills.  If you really think that by installing a firewall, an anti-virus application and, say, some kind of backdoor detector you are making your Windows computer safe you are kidding yourself. Anybody who says otherwise is lying to you.

What are your options?

Simple - use any other operating system.  OSX, iOS, Android, GNU/Linux, or any form of BSD are all far more secure out of the box then any version of Windows.

Apple products come with a long list of bad features: they are hyper proprietary, they are overpriced, they are typical bloatware, and they suffer from terminal vendor lock-in.

Android is an excellent OS, but it is designed for mobile devices and you really can't run it on a notebook, laptop or desktop.  But for mobile devices, that is the way to go.

All BSD versions are very good and highly secure out of the box, but they are not very user friendly.

The best choice, by far, is GNU/Linux aka "Linux".  Linux comes in various "flavors" (called "distributions").  Here are few I recommend:

Debian, the Universal Operating System
Mint, the easiest to use distribution
Xubuntu, distribution for older hardware
Knoppix, general purpose distro on live-CD
Puppy, small size distribution and live-CD
Tails, the privacy and security oriented distro
Ubuntu Studio, distribution for artists
Trisquel, the 100% free software distro

Frankly, if you are new to Linux, I recommend the Linux Mint distribution.  It is extraordinarily easy to install, easy to use, it comes with an absolutely superb desktop environment (user interface) called Cinnamon and it has an extremely friendly user community.  The latest version of Linux Mint is called "Linux Mint 16 Petra".  The hardware requirements to run Mint 16 are minimal:
  • x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
  • 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
  • 5 GB of disk space
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD/DVD drive or USB port
The vast majority of computers in use today fall well within these specs, so no need to spend any additional money.  And, of course, you can download Linux Mint legally and for free from here:

Finally, you can test-drive Linux Mint at no risk by burning a live-CD which you can also use to install if you like it.  You can even keep your old Windows OS if you want by installing Linux Mint and Windows side by side.  The Linux Mint installer will offer to install Mint while keeping Windows.  You will have a "multi-boot" computer with both OS installed.  And when your Windows crashes you will easily be able to access your files and rescue them using Linux Mint.

Guys, be good to yourself, don't continue to suffer in "Windows hell", ditch the damn thing and switch to the free world of GNU/Linux.  And if you don't want to do that for technical reasons, do it for political, moral and ethical ones: you cannot fight the Empire and sheepishly use its tools.

Do the smart thing and the right thing, make a really good New Year's resolution, ditch Windows and replace it by Linux Mint!

The Saker

Speech of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah - memorial of the martyr Hassan Lakkis 20/12/201

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Saker's "man of the year 2013": the Syrian soldier

Yes, I know, this "man of the year" business is silly.  But then, when I see at the pathetic choices made for man of the year by the corporate media, I feel that if they can't even do a halfway decent job in that rather easy task, why should I not indulge myself and choose my own man, or woman, of the year.  So anyway, here is my choice.

Runner up: Vladimir Putin

First, I thought of nominating Vladimir Putin.  Pretty obvious, I would say.  Not only did he stop the US in its planned attack on Syria, he thereby also prevented an almost inevitable domino effect of having Iran drawn in and then even possibly Russia.  Throughout the Syrian war, Putin showed an ironclad consistency in upholding the rule of international law and demanding that a negotiated solution be found.  If we consider that the US attack on Yugoslavia on behalf of the Kosovar guerrillas marked the official death of international law, the Russian move to stop the US attack just days before it occurred was, quite literally, the resurrection of international law.  Just for that Putin deserves the Nobel Peace Prize while Obama should be stripped of his.

Putin also firmly resisted the Saudi offer of money in exchange for caving in on the Syrian problem, and even when Bandar threatened terrorist attacks on Sochi, Putin held firm.  When Netanyahu showed up in Moscow with, basically, the same demands, Putin also warmly welcomed him, smiled a lot, and then sent him home empty handed.

Putin also did an absolutely stellar job of beating back the Anglo-Zionist propaganda machine: he did not yield on the homo-lobby's campaign to organize a "pride parade" in Moscow, instead he actually got a law passed making the propaganda of homosexuality amongst minors a criminal offense.  He did not yield in the infamous "Pussy Riot" case either - Amnesty International called these creatures "prisoners of conscience", but that did not prevent him from sticking them exactly where they belong: in the company of other petty criminals in a work camp.  Nor did Putin yield even a millimeter to the liberal crowds who attempted to organize a color-coded coup similar to the one they later attempted on the Maidan square in Kiev.  When Western oil interests dispatched Greenpeace's activist to try to stop Russia from exploring and exploiting its arctic shelf, Putin showed that he did not intend to yield to that sort of pressure either, instead he made sure that Russia would develop the means and capabilities to defend its national interests on the North Pole.  Last, but not least, he got two of his most formidable opponents (Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky) to plead for his mercy (the former was killed for doing so, the latter left Russia).

All of the above proved to the Anglo-Zionists that Russia was no longer their colony and that Russia had recovered most,though not all, of its sovereignty.  That is a huge achievement as for the first time since February 1917 a sovereign Russia reappeared on the world map.

And yet, I think that there is somebody which deserves even more praise and whom I will nominate my "man of the year 2013":

Saker Man of the Year 2013: the Syrian soldier

Simply put - if it had not been for the amazing courage of the Syrian soldier Putin would not have had the opportunity to maintain his principled stance over Syria simply because Syria would have been run over by the Wahabi liver-eaters and there would have been no more Syria to defend.  Worse, the political and military "line of defense" would have been moved by to the Iranian border and across the Persian Gulf.  As for Hezbollah, it would have been facing a much more dangerous environment stuck as it would have been between the Zionists on one hand and the medieval apes from the Gulf monarchies and their paid agents in Lebanon.

True, the Syrian military did get help from Iran and Hezbollah, and probably by Russia too, but that one remained mostly covert.  Still, the Syrian soldier was literally the cornerstone of the entire Resistance in the Middle-East and if that Syrian soldier had been overcome or discouraged, the entire Resistance would have greatly suffered.

Of course, the Syrian soldier had to show courage to fight against the international coalition which brought together western special forces officers and murderous Wahabi thugs from all over the planet.  But he also had to show a different kind of courage not to get discouraged with the so-called "friends of Syria" got together for that international meeting on how to crush Syria.  It took a very special courage for the Syrian soldier not to get disgusted and bitter when he saw the wave of betrayals coming from all over the Muslim and Arab world, especially from the political prostitutes of Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian "intellectuals" who sided with Uncle Sam and his Empire.  I can only imagine the anguish felt by the Syrian soldiers when they were told that Russia, Iran and Hezbollah would offer nothing more than words, while the West would offer money, guns and training to the insurgency.  And yet the fighting spirit  of the Syrian soldier did not break, even when some Syrian generals betrayed their fellow officers and defected to their western handlers.

And yet, somehow, even those who truly want the Syrian people to be free seem to take for granted that the Syrian military would fight with no hesitation or doubts.  Why?  They are not robots.  And I am quite sure that most of them are quite aware that the current Syrian regime is, shall we say, less than perfect and that the Syrian security services are not exactly beloved by the vast majority of the population.  In the age of the Internet, I am quite confident that the vast majority of Syrian are fully aware of all the ugly aspects of the regime Bashar al-Assad inherited from his father.  I guess they realize that he was simply not given the time to implement reforms he had been pondering as early as his years in the UK and they have forgiven him his clumsy handling of the earlier stages of the insurrection.  Whatever may be the case, the Syrian soldiers have plenty of reasons to doubt and fear that they would be swiped away like Gaddafi's regime.  And yet they stood firm, for two and a half long years and they held on long enough to finally see at least the general outline of a possible end to the conflict.

At the end of 2013 things definitely look better for Syria than in 2012 or 2011 and even though the Saudis are now clearly threatening a terrorist campaign, it is now possible to hope that 2014 will be a comparatively better year for the Syrian people.

Special distinction: Hassan Nasrallah

I have to mention another person who acted heroically in 2013: Hassan Nasrallah.  At a time when the vast majority of the Muslim and Arab world had betrayed the Syrian people and basically sold out to the Anglos, Zionists and Wahabis, Hassan Nasrallah took the very delicate decision to stand by the Syrian regime even though I am quite sure that he had little love for Assad or his brand of Baathism.  Nasrallah also must have known how corrupt the Syrian regime was, that it was chock-full of CIA/MI6/Mossad/DGSE/ agents and simply corrupt officials, and yet he made the correct call, very early on, to stand by Syria and its less-than-perfect President.  And when things got really tough, Hassan Nasrallah did send Hezbollah fighters to stand by the Syrian military even though that put him in a delicate political situation inside Lebanon.  As for Hezbollah fighters, they performed as always - in an absolutely stellar way - and they play the crucial role of turning the tide of the entire war during the battle for al-Qusayr.

The main reason why I did not give the title of man of the year to Hassan Nasrallah is that he would be more deserving of the title of "man of the decade".  Besides, think of it this way: in early 2011 who could have expected Hassan Nasrallah to act wisely and heroically?  Everybody, of course.  But who would have expected the Syrian soldier to show so much courage and fortitude?  Not very many people, I think.  What is sure is that Hassan Nasrallah remains one of the most popular leaders in the Middle-East while very few people render homage to the Syrian soldier and this is why I decided to single him out as my (collective) 'Man of the Year 2013'.

What are your candidates?

The Saker

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Threats from the House of Saud: real or hot air?

Last week, HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Britain and a member of the House of Saud, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled "Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone".  Besides the usual ideological propaganda statements and a predictable litany of Saudi complaints about the West not doing enough, the piece contains a definite though vague threat:
The foreign policy choices being made in some Western capitals risk the stability of the region and, potentially, the security of the whole
Arab world. This means the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no choice but to become more assertive in international affairs: more determined than ever to stand up for the genuine stability our region so desperately needs.  (...)  We will act to fulfill these responsibilities, with or without the support of our Western partners. Nothing is ruled out in our pursuit of sustainable peace and stability in the Arab World as King Abdullah — then Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince — showed with his leadership of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (...)  We continue to show our determination through our support for the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian opposition. It is too easy for some in the West to use the threat of Al Qaeda’s terrorist operations in Syria as an excuse for hesitation and inaction. Al Qaeda’s activities are a symptom of the international community’s failure to intervene. They should not become a justification for inaction. The way to prevent the rise of extremism in Syria — and elsewhere — is to support the champions of moderation: financially, materially and yes, militarily, if necessary (...) Saudi Arabia will continue on this new track for as long as proves necessary.
Much is said here, much is alluded to and much remains unsaid.  Let's parse this text for the key words: more assertive, nothing ruled out, determined to support the "Syrian opposition" financially, materially and militarily.  Sounds impressive, but is it really?  What can the Saudis really do?  Let's look at their options:

1) Continue to pour money into the international Jihadist gang which has been waging war on Syria for several years: yes, that is an option, but that is nothing new, the Saudis, and their allies, have already been doing that for a long while and it did not help the insurgency.  Pouring even more money into a largely defeated insurgency will really only serve to foster corruption and infighting and won't do anything to reverse the situation.

2) Continue to send weapons to the insurgency: just as with money, the Saudis and their allies have already been doing this too, and it did them no good.  Why?  Because the insurgency has enough light weapons anyway, whereas bigger, more complex, weapons systems are harder to deliver and they need trained personnel to operate.  Even more importantly, a few canons, tanks or multiple rocket launchers cannot be used effectively unless there is a full system of support around them: logistics, ammunition, intelligence, forward artillery controllers, etc.  There is a reason why even when they could seize such weapons from government forces insurgencies rarely could use them effectively.

3) Directly intervene in Syria: well, he did say that "nothing is ruled out", didn't he?  So could the Saudis simply send their military across the border and attack the government forces?  Nope.  Why?  Simply because they do not share a common border and to get to Syria the Saudis would have to cross through western Iraq or Jordan.  Could the Saudis send their air force to provide support to the insurgency? Yes but, again, that would mean overflying Iraq or Jordan, and the Saudis could only do that with the agreement of CENTCOM which is highly unlikely, to say the least (more about that later).

4) Attack Iran or let the Israelis use Saudi airfields for an attack on Iran: sounds crazy, doesn't it?  But think about again.  First, after decades of semi-secret collaboration the Saudis and the Israelis have recently upgraded their relationship to something looking like a semi-official love story.  And, look at the example of "nothing is ruled out" which Prince Mohammed gives in his text: the Saudi 2002 "Peace Initiative" offered to Israel.  So if really "nothing is ruled out" then we should not rule out a sudden "strategic rapprochement" between the two crazy religious and racist regimes in the Middle East: the KSA and the Israel. Neither should we rule out a possible joint action against Iran by these two rogue states who now make no secret that feel that the Obama Administration is letting them down.  Scary though?  Yes, but considering the lunatics involved, one which we need to consider.

What is the main impediment for an Israel attack on Iran?  Distance.

Sure, the Israelis could use ballistic or cruise missiles, but they would not provide the kind of flexible capabilities needed to severely degrade Iranian nuclear facilities and associated research centers.  That is a job for the air force.  The problem for the Israeli Air Force is not only that it does not have a common border with Iran and that they would need to get all sorts of authorizations to cross the airspace between Israel and Iran, but also that considering the distances involved an airstrike would require air-to-air refueling which, in turn, would require even more aircraft in the air to protect strike force.  To make things worse, Iran is a big country, so several strike groups should be sent to different target groups to hit them and each strike group would have to be refueled, protected, and allowed to penetrate into Iranian airspace by dedicated suppression of enemy air defenses aircraft, including strike and electronic warfare aircraft.  Bottom line - it would be a huge operation and one which the Israelis simply cannot carry out.  But what if we assume that they could use Saudi airfields?

This option does not solve all problems, but it does address a lot of the worst problems involved in a direct attack from Israel.  First, if the Israelis were allowed to refuel in Saudi Arabia, they would not need to rely on always very complicated and dangerous air-to-air refueling.  That would immediately free many aircraft for other tasks.  Second, taking off from Saudi Arabia would place all of Iran well within the reach of Israeli strike aircraft which could then be "spread" all over the Iranian airspace to support each other.  The Israelis could even deploy helicopters to rescue
any downed pilot.  Third, taking off from Saudi Arabia would make it possible to attack some key Iranian targets with little or no warning since they are literally across the Persian Gulf.  The nuclear site at Bushehr could be revisited many times by successive waves from strike aircraft until the bomb damage assessment confirms that the target has been destroyed.  Furthermore, if the KSA takes the decision to offer its airfields to the Israeli Air Force it might as well offer military support, if only to protect itself.  If the Saudi Air Force decided to support the Israeli attack - especially with its AWACs and F-15s - it would make a huge difference.  The bottom line is this: if the Saudis and the Isarelis really decided to join forces they could strike Iran in a way which the Israelis alone could never hope for.  This would probably be a done deal by now if not for one big problem: CENTCOM.

All the fancy scenarios about a joint KSA-Isareli attack have to assume that the US CENTCOM would, at the very least, stand by and let such an attack proceed without taking any action.  This is highly unlikely because the Americans understand perfectly that any Iranian retaliatory strike would be primarily directed at them at which point the US would be as involved as the KSA or Israel.  From the American point of view, it would make no sense at all to let the Israelis and the Saudis start a war which would immediately result in the USA being involved.  At that point, the USA would be far better off starting the war by itself not only because the USAF and Navy are far more powerful and capable than the combined forces of Israel and the KSA, but primarily because the USA would be in control of the time, scope and manner of execution of the attack.  The USA, however, is clearly not interested in starting a war with Iran.

Knowing the Israelis, I am sure that they have carefully considered the option of simply ignoring Washington and going ahead with their customary chutzpah: let's start the war for the goyim - they won't dare stopping us anyway - and then see how they handle it.

Sounds crazy?  Yes, of course.  Because it is.  Too crazy for the Saudis and the Israelis?  I am not so sure.  The Saudis fully understand that if Assad remains in power this would make the so-called "Shia crescent" even more powerful than before the war against Syria started.  They also understand that if Assad is allowed to remain in power, the chances of a US attack on Iran will dramatically decrease, leaving them terrified of what their powerful neighbor might do.  The same goes for Israel which, for its own reasons, is also terrified of the Shia alliance of Hezbollah - Syria - Iran.  There can be no doubt at all that the Israelis and the Saudis would do anything for the Americans to get rid of the Shia threat against them.  But it appears that at least for the time being the USA does not want to comply with their crazy wish.

But would the Americans dare to use force to stop an Israeli attack on Iran?

That is really the key question and while we will only have a definitive answer to that if such a situation happens, I personally strongly believe that yes, the Americans would basically tell the Israelis to "turn back or else..."


Because what is at stake here is much more than just a local fight between Shia, Wahabis and Zionists: a US-Iranian war would inflame all of the Middle-East and possible spread way beyond this region.  According to some models, it could even result in a World War.  And that is something which Obama or, rather, those who put Obama into the White House do not want.  For all his long list of failings and screw-ups, there is one thing of significance which did do: he got rid of most of the Neocons and now the "Israel Firsters" have been replaced by "USA Firsters" and the latter have absolutely no intention to risk it all for the benefit of two rogue states lead by psychopaths.  It is impossible to prove it, but my guess is that, if really pushed into a corner by the usual Israeli arrogance, the Americans will use force to prevent an unauthorized Israeli attack on Iran.

For one thing, it is not too hard to conceal from the general public what really took place in the airspace over Saudi Arabia in the middle of the night.  Second, if the Americans actually open fire on the Israeli strike force, the Israelis will have no other option than to turn back.  Finally, the Americans also have a much simpler option: they can prevent the Israelis from refueling on the Saudi airfields.

In other words, this Saudi-Israeli attack ain't happening, at least as long as Obama or his allies are in the White House.

It appears that for all his grand statements about Saudi Arabia going at it alone, Prince Mohammed cannot back his words with some meaningful action.  The House of Saud and the Netanyahu can make all the bellicose statements they want - unless Uncle Sam allows it there is absolutely nothing they can do.  CENTCOM is the real master and overlord of the Middle-East and as long as CENTCOM does not want something - it ain't happening.

The Saker

Replies to the comments posted under "Russia and Islam, part eight: working together, a basic "how-to"

Dear friends,

Thanks for your interesting comments!  I will reply to some of the questions which you have put to me:
alizard said...

"Another way to achieve a consensus and keeping the neutrality of paragraph 13.2, could be considered by looking at the example given lately by Croatia: Hold a referendum and introduce one or several new constitutional articles as safeguards from 'the plot against civilization'."

The Saker replies:

Yes, very good idea.  Besides, I really believe that the people need to be consulted much more often by means of referendums.  At the very least, all crucial, civilizational and moral questions should be submitted to a popular vote.

Anonymous said...

Such an outcome would throw the imperialists into a tizzy ... I think the vast majority of Muslims would celebrate - But I have to say, I 'm not sure, do you understand implications of this? A Russian recognition of Islamic in this context, while maybe political, would be a civilizational move - . Because it would rightfully, tie Russia to the "Islamic world" - not just as it is now, but real terms of the future of Russia. 

The Saker replies:

Modern Russia is already tied to the "Islamic world" not only because of the relatively large minority of Muslims living in modern Russia, but because Russia - along with Belarus - is eventually going to form a Federation with Kazakhstan.  Anybody believing that Russia is not tied to the Islamic world does just not understand the reality on the ground.  My position is simple: Russia would be far better of being proactive in tying itself to the Islamic world than being passive because in the former case Russia can influence what kind of ties it wants to have and with which part.  See, in my opinion, and no offense intended to anybody, the concept of the "Islamic world" is a nice fantasy, but not a reality.  There is no "ummah" out there, there are only very many countries, civilizations and various branches of Islam and Russia should try to get closer to those (such as the traditional Sufis of Chechnia and Kazakhstan or the Shia in the Middle East) with whom it could form an alliance against the liver-eating psychos.  Being deliberately tied to the Islamic world does not mean becoming an Islamic Republic or somehow losing the Orthodox roots of most Russians, it just means accepting a fact of history which presents both risks and opportunities and take action to maximize the latter.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately there are plenty decent agnostics and atheists.  So there must be hope for us! But what keeps a secular person decent?

The Saker replies:

First, and this is really important, so please everybody pay attention here: I consider that being an agnostic or an atheist is the normal and healthy reaction to exposure to false religions.  Furthermore, agnosticism and even militant atheism can have very different causes.  It can be a reaction against the absurdity or even dishonesty of false religions, it can be the result of inexplicable suffering and, literally, "anger at God" (in which case, of course, it is neither agnosticism nor atheism), it can be because of high ideals and honesty which are repelled by the very much less than perfect behavior of those who claim to believe, it can be what I call "existential cowardice" it can be simply the result of a lukewarm indifference to this issue.  In all this list, only the last two are reprehensible: existential cowards simply do not have the courage to cope with the possibility that there might be a God above them so they go into denial, while the lukewarm simply don't give a damn ("So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" Rev. 3:16).  The other forms of agnosticism and atheism are really a form of honesty and intellectual integrity.  Allow me a simple thought experiment to explain my point:

Let us assume that there are 100 religions out there, all different, all contradicting each other.  Since, by definition, the Truth is One and since, by definition, two religions contradicting each other cannot be both right, we have only two possible situations:

a) all 100 religions are wrong, invented, man-made, delusions, etc.
b) one of them is "right" and the 99 others are wrong, invented, man-made, delusions, etc.

Therefore, unless you have been exposed to the putative "true" religion, rejecting the 99 wrong ones is the correct thing to do.

Now what if you have been exposed to the putative "real one" and don't feel in your heart that it is the true one?  In that case, you follow your conscience (something which you should always do no matter the price to pay for it), and also reject it until and unless you change your mind.  God and man always act in synergy and as long as you are at least open to the concept that there might be a true religion out there, even if you have not identified it yet, you are doing nothing wrong and you are living according to your conscience, that is already a rightful way to live you live.

That, however, does not solve the other problem you raise: what can keep a secular person decent?  Logically?  Nothing.  Dostoevsky was quite right when he stated that "if there is no God all is permissible".  There is, however, something the Fathers of the Church called the "law of the heart", a leftover awareness in each human being that there is a right and a wrong along with a nostalgia or a yearning to communicate with God.  Of course, a atheist will deny that too.

Is there a logical reason to suppose that there might be a God and a true religion out there ? Yes, I think that there is.  If you really study the Old Testament you will realize that the ancient Jewish prophets really did predict the life of Christ with great accuracy.  As Augustine of Hippo wrote, "the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament".  Let me immediately say that the notion that the Old or New Testaments were retroactively change to "fit the bill" is ludicrous: first, there is no historical record of such a forgery and, second, knowing how sacred these books were for the faithful then, it would have been impossible to forge them without everybody immediately raising the alarm.  In fact, there was one attempt at forging them, by the Jewish Masoretes who tried to forge the Old Testament after 70AD, but since their Masoretic forgery could be compared to the original Greek Septuagint, that forgery failed miserably.  Having intellectually accepted the reality of the life of Christ accurately predicted centuries before His birth, you would have to conclude that this is indeed a "miraculous" events which points to His messiahship.  After that, "all" you need to do is find out if any of the 100 religions out there is still following His teachings without changing them or adding to them.

I understand that faith is really not an intellectual process but a gift of God.  But if you brain tells you that there might be more out there than an nonsensical existence without meaning or purpose and that pretty good probability that there is a God out there, then you can simply repeat in your heart the simple words of this prayer: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

As long as you always follow your conscience and seek The Truth will all your heart, mind and will, you are living a righteous life :-)

Mindfriedo said...

In Islam, a law of Allah cannot be changed by humans.  Even though it may sound noble and logical at the time.(...)  "what Allah has made halal I cannot make haram,

The Saker replies:

That is absolutely logical and self-evident: what has been revealed cannot be changed.  One can only deny the reality of the revelation, but not demand that what has been revealed suddenly be changed to fit human desires.  Not being a Muslim myself I don't find it appropriate for me to make suggestions about this issue other than saying that it might be a "show stopper" in Christian-Muslim relations.  Beyond that, it is not for me to suggest alternative approaches.

Old auntie said...

Defending cultural, social and civilizational values together: Fine.
Doing this by changing the Russian constitution: Really?

The Saker replies:

I am not sure that this is the only way or even the best way.  I just think that this is a nice opportunity.

Anonymous said...

excellent post. I wonder though why you dismiss RC and the protestants

The Saker replies:

I am in no way dismissing the Papacy or the Reformed denominations.  I just don't believe that there is any possibility of collaboration with them.  For 1000 years now, the so-called "Christian West" has used every possibility to destroy or subjugate the Orthodox Church and that hostility is still evident all over the modern "post-Christian West".  I am not talking about individual people here, but the western "Christian" denominations are all more or less rabidly anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian.  It just makes no sense to deny that reality, at least not from the Orthodox point of view.  Having spent over 1000 years on the receiving end of the "brotherly love" of western Christian denominations we learned our lesson really well.

WizOz said...

What one can certainly agree upon, is that the whole problem is a particularly tricky one. I have the feeling that asserting a special role for Islam in the formulation of the Russian culture, society, system of values can lead only to the relativization of religion. The more that I am not convinced that its role was that important in shaping the character of Russia.

The Saker replies:

Pre-1917 Russia was indeed almost exclusively a product of the Orthodox culture and, after Peter I, the western Masonic elites.  But that old Russia is gone forever, murdered by the Commissars, killed by the Nazis and finished off by the "democrats".  What we have today is a qualitatively different reality I call "post-Soviet Russia" and that modern, post-Soviet, Russia has been from day 1 (which I place roughly around the turn of the millennium) strongly influenced by Muslims who, while fewer in numbers than the Orthodox Christians, are far more socially and political active.  Again, the example of Kadyrov and Chechnia immediately comes to my mind.  Who does modern Russia owe more to, that lying crook "Patriarch" Kiril, or Akhmad and Ramzan Kadyrov?

WizOz said...

Russia was the continuator of Byzance, her Tsar the defender of Orthodoxy and the protector of all Orthodox. Against that role all hell broke loose and we had the Revolution. Now the time to recover that role has come for Russia.

The Saker replies:

Yes, Russia had that potential, that calling, but nothing spiritual happens "automatically", it has to be struggled for in the spiritual battle between light and darkness.   I am sure you know the prophecies as well as I do: "Russia without a Czar is a stinking corpse" said Saint Anatolii of Optino, "God will have mercy on Russia and will lead through great sufferings towards glory if the Russian people repent" said Saint Serafim of Sarov while Father Ioann of Kronstadt said "if the Russian people do not repent the end of the world is near".  Do you see the Russian people repenting today?  Their indifference to the truth has made it possible for the Sergianists to occupy the holy churches of the Kremlin - is that not the the "abomination of desolation" which occurred first in Jerusalem and later in Rome, Constantinople and now Moscow?  Can you imagine what the millions of New Martyrs would say if they new what kind of individual is occupying the see of many holy patriarchs including Saint Patriarch Tikhon?

[Kirill Gundaev, besides being a well-known "clerical businessman" during the Gorbachev years, is also a "spiritual son" of Nikodim Rotov, a former KGB collaborator and a secret Papist who died in the hands of Pope John-Paul I; Gundaev is also a rabid ecumenist and, according to some well-informed sources of mine, there is indirect evidence - though no proof - that he is also a cardinal in pectore].

Alas, all the evidence shows that the Third Rome has lapsed just as the two first ones and "the one who restraints has been taken out" (точию держяй ныне дондеже от среды будет).

WizOz said...

It won't go to convert the Muslims or the Buddhists. But it cannot "hide the light under the bushel" either.  How do you bring "reconciliation" hiding the Truth?

The Saker replies:

You don't.  You clearly remove the topic from the conversation about collaboration and you leave it for each individual to freely decide in his heart according to his conscience.  There is a proper time and place for each thing, and both Muslims and Orthodox Christians claim that their faith is true.  Let them both freely and unambiguously proclaim it and then, having done so, let them sit down together and deal with the immediate issues at hand.  Both Christians and Muslims should be free to speak their mind freely anytime they want, but that does not mean that this is the only topic they can ever speak about.  After all, when Saint Alexander Nevsky - who armies were full of Mongols - fought back the Teutonic Knights he did not constantly have theological disputes with the Shamanist and Muslim Mongols who fought on his side.  I am in no way suggesting that either Muslims or Christians give up their faith, or that they accept that both are of "equal value" (stupid statement anyway), I am not advocating religious syncretism or some silly "ecumenical dialog of love".  I am just saying that we can fight battles together against our common enemies and, when we come home, after the battle has been won, we can have terrific theological disputations and passionate religious and historical debates and we can try to prove to each other that we are in the right until we are blue in the face.  But first, let's us deal with our common enemies.

Two brothers can live in one house, and defend that house together, without having to agree on every single issue.

The Saker