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TBR News January 5, 2016

Jan 05 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. January 5, 2016: ”It is always entertaining to read officiaol propaganda, disguised as factual reporting, in the American media. One example is the headline about “US-led Coalition strike…” There is no “US -led coalition” because the Russians are working with all the others in Syria but not the US. Perhaps the “US Coliation” consists of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Another entertaining fiction is the one that advises everyone that “US oil production is soaring.” It is not. American oil is very limited in quantity and now that Canada has discontiuned her pipeline south, America is more dependant on imported oil than ever before. This reminds me of the club boxer, battered after a fight, telling his friends, “Did you see how I smashed his fist with my nose in the second round?” The Sunni Saudis have been a cooperative crime partner for many years but Washington ought to realize that times change and it is important to change with them.”

New Saudi-Iran crisis threatens wider escalation

January 6, 2016

by Angus Modowall


Riyadh- The last time Saudi Arabia broke off ties with Iran, after its embassy in Tehran was stormed by protesters in 1988, it took a swing in the regional power balance in the form of Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait to heal the rift.

It is hard to see how any lesser development could resolve the region’s most bitter rivalry, which has underpinned wars and political tussles across the Middle East as Riyadh and Tehran backed opposing sides.

Riyadh’s expulsion of Iran’s envoy after another storming of its Tehran embassy, this time in response to the Saudi execution of Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr, raised the heat again, making the region’s underlying conflict even harder to resolve.

At the heart of the new crisis is Saudi Arabia’s growing willingness to confront Iran and its allies militarily since King Salman took power a year ago, say diplomats, choosing with his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to abandon years of backroom politics.

Last year, Riyadh began a war in Yemen to stop an Iran-allied militia seizing power in its southern neighbor and boosted support to Syrian rebels against Tehran’s ally President Bashar al-Assad. Its execution of Nimr, while mainly driven by domestic politics, was also part of that open confrontation with Iran, according to political analysts.

The interventions followed years of Riyadh complaining about what it regarded as unchecked Iranian aggression in the region. It has pointed to Iran’s support for Shi’ite militias and accused the country of smuggling arms to groups in Gulf countries – which Iran denies.

“We will not allow Iran to destabilize our region. We will not allow Iran to do harm to our citizens or those of our allies and so we will react,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters on Monday, signaling Riyadh would not back down.

The Saudi decisions in Syria and Yemen were also partly a response to Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which lifted sanctions on Tehran, theoretically giving it more money and political room to pursue its regional activities.

The new crisis has had the effect of hardening a wider confrontation between the loose-knit coalitions of allies each can call upon in the region; some of Riyadh’s allies also cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after the embassy attack, while Iran’s warned of repercussions.

That chain reaction may now complicate complex political talks over the formation of a government in Lebanon, efforts to bring Syria’s warring parties to talks, stalled negotiations to end Yemen’s civil war and Riyadh’s rapprochement with Baghdad.

U.S. in a Bind as Saudi Actions Test a Durable Alliance

January. 4, 2016

by David E. Sanger

New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday confronted the fundamental contradiction in its increasingly tense relationship with Saudi Arabia. It could not bring itself, at least in public, to condemn the execution of a dissident cleric who challenged the royal family, for fear of undermining the fragile Saudi leadership that it desperately needs in fighting the Islamic State and ending the conflict in Syria.

The United States has usually looked the other way or issued carefully calibrated warnings in human rights reports as the Saudi royal family cracked down on dissent and free speech and allowed its elite to fund Islamic extremists. In return, Saudi Arabia became America’s most dependable filling station, a regular supplier of intelligence, and a valuable counterweight to Iran.

For years it was oil that provided the glue for a relationship between two nations that share few common values.

Today, with the Saudi leadership fractured, the mutual dependency that goes back to the early 1930s, with the first American investment in the kingdom’s oil fields, no longer binds the nations as it once did.

But the political upheaval in the Middle East and the American perception that the Saudis are critical to stability in the region continue to hold together an increasingly fractious marriage. So when Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the dissident cleric, on Saturday, beheading many of them in a style that most Americans associate with the Islamic State rather than a close American partner, the administration’s efforts to explain the relationship became more strained than ever.

In fact, the executions were the culmination of a series of events in the past few years that have led to clashes between the two nations.

We haven’t been on the same page with the Saudis for a long time,” said Martin S. Indyk, the executive vice president of the Brookings Institution and a former top aide to Secretary of State John Kerry. “And it starts with Mubarak.”

In 2011, Saudi leaders berated President Obama and his aides for failing to support President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt during the Arab Spring, fearing Mr. Obama might do the same thing if the uprisings spread to the kingdom.

The nuclear deal with Iran only fueled the Saudi sense that the United States was rethinking the fundamental relationship — and Saudi officials, on visits to Washington, openly questioned whether they could rely on their American ally. It was King Abdullah who was quoted in a 2008 State Department cable, released two years later by WikiLeaks, exhorting the United States to “cut off the head of the snake” — Iran — by launching military strikes. He died before last summer’s deal, but Saudi leaders, who still see Iran’s hand behind every destabilizing act in the Middle East, argued that the administration was naïve to think that Iran would abide by any negotiated accord.

So ever since that accord was reached in July, the Obama administration has been offering reassurance. Mr. Obama invited the Saudis to join a meeting at Camp David to reassure Arab allies that the United States was not abandoning them — and would sell them larger weapons packages than ever before. But the administration has also been sharply critical of the Saudi intervention in Yemen, seeing it as a huge distraction from the bigger battle against the Islamic State.

To hear the Americans tell it, the new Saudi leadership struggling for influence under King Salman is headstrong, “more interested in action than deliberation,” in Mr. Indyk’s words.

When Mr. Kerry warned the Saudis against executing Sheikh Nimr, a Saudi-born Shiite cleric who directly challenged the royal family, he was ignored. “This is a concern that we raised with the Saudis in advance,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, acknowledged Monday. He said the execution has “precipitated the kinds of consequences that we were concerned about.”

But that was about as strongly as the administration was willing to criticize the Saudis. Pressed to condemn Sheikh Nimr’s execution, officials urged calm on all sides. The State Department spokesman, John Kirby, urged the entire region to move on to the business of confronting the Islamic State and dealing with the Syria crisis.

If you are asking whether we are trying to become a mediator in all this, the answer is no,” Mr. Kirby told reporters. “Real, long-term solutions aren’t going to be mandated by Washington, D.C.”

Privately, several American officials expressed anger at the Saudis for picking this moment to conduct the executions.

They noted that Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have been in regular contact with members of the Saudi leadership. Mr. Obama called to urge the Saudis to join the Syrian peace process talks — across the table from the Iranians. Mr. Kerry traveled to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and later asked the Saudis to organize the Syrian rebels into a single group to negotiate a cease-fire with President Bashar al-Assad.

But the Saudis were reluctant partners, telling their Western counterparts that they would go along, but predicting that Mr. Kerry’s effort would collapse because Iran would never agree to any process that led to Mr. Assad’s removal. Meanwhile, the Saudis’ early participation in airstrikes against the Islamic State petered out as they moved military assets to their campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Others who deal with the Saudis say there is a degree of stress on the leadership in Riyadh they have rarely seen before.

The kingdom faces a potentially perfect storm of low oil income, open-ended war in Yemen, terrorist threats from multiple directions and an intensifying regional rivalry with its nemesis, Iran,” Bruce Riedel, a former senior C.I.A. officer with long experience in the region, wrote Monday.

Patrick Clawson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, saw a desire to send a pointed message to Washington. The Saudis were saying, Mr. Clawson wrote, that “if the United States will not stand up to Iran, Riyadh will do so on its own.”

The Saudi concern that the Obama administration is about to embrace Iran is almost certainly overblown. Since the nuclear agreement, the Iranians have tested ballistic missiles twice, and the administration — after some delays — appears to be readying sanctions in return. And last week, Iranian naval ships fired rockets within 1,500 yards of a United States aircraft carrier group. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ruled out cooperation with the United States — though the Iranians have shown up at the Syria talks.

On occasion, American officials muse about whether the United States and Iran might, one day, constitute more natural allies than the United States and Saudi Arabia. But that seems far off.

It’s not as if you have an Iranian alternative,” a senior gulf Arab official said recently. “And if you have no alternative, your best choice is to stop complaining about the Saudis.”

Eric Schmitt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed reporting.


Iran-Saudi crisis ‘most dangerous for decades’

January 4, 2016

by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen


Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are at their worst for nearly 30 years.

Tensions have spiralled following the execution of Saudi cleric Nimr al-Nimr, the subsequent setting ablaze of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and Riyadh’s expulsion of Iranian diplomats.

The struggle between Riyadh and Tehran for political and religious influence has geopolitical implications that extend far beyond the placid waters of the Gulf and encompass nearly every major conflict zone in the Middle East.

Most notably, perhaps, the crisis means prospects for a diplomatic breakthrough in Syria and Yemen now look much more remote, just as international momentum for negotiations seemed to be on the verge of delivering results.

Years of turbulence

The current standoff is as dangerous as its 1980s predecessor, which first saw diplomatic ties suspended between 1988 and 1991.

This occurred at the end of the turbulent opening decade after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the grinding eight-year Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988.

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states backed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein during the war and suffered Iranian attacks on their shipping, while in 1984 the Saudi air force shot down an Iranian fighter jet that it claimed had entered Saudi airspace.

Saudi and other Arab Gulf governments also linked Iran’s post-revolutionary government with a rise in Shia militancy, an aborted coup in Bahrain in 1981, and a failed attempt to assassinate the emir of Kuwait four years later.

Meanwhile, the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah al-Hejaz was formed in May 1987 as a cleric-based organisation modelled on Lebanese Hezbollah intent on carrying out military operations inside Saudi Arabia.

Hezbollah al-Hejaz issued a number of inflammatory statements threatening the Saudi royal family and carried out several deadly attacks in the late 1980s as tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia rose sharply.

Deep distrust

While the current crisis lacks as yet equivalent instances of direct confrontation, tensions are as dangerous as in the 1980s for three reasons.

The first is the legacy of years of sectarian politics that have done so much to divide the Middle East along Sunni-Shia lines and foster an atmosphere of deep distrust between Iran and its neighbours across the Gulf.

In such a supercharged atmosphere, the moderate middle ground has been sorely weakened and advocates of a hardline approach to regional affairs now hold sway.

Second, the Gulf states have followed increasingly assertive foreign policies over the past four years, partly in response to what they see as perennial Iranian “meddling” in regional conflicts, and also because of growing scepticism about the Obama administration’s intentions in the Middle East.

For many in the Gulf, the primary threat from Iran lies not in Tehran’s nuclear programme but in Iran’s support for militant non-state actors such as Hezbollah and, more recently, the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Both the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the multinational coalition against terrorism announced last month by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman show Saudi officials in no mood to compromise on regional security matters.

‘Death knell’

Finally, the breakdown in diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran probably sounds the death-knell, at least for now, for regional efforts to end the wars in Yemen and Syria.

Lost in the furore over the execution of Nimr al-Nimr was an announcement that the fragile ceasefire agreed in Yemen on 15 December had broken down.

Neither the ceasefire nor the UN-brokered talks that started at the same time had made much headway, and while the UN talks were due to resume on 14 January that is unlikely if the Saudi-led coalition and Iran intensify their involvement in Yemen.

A similar outcome may now await the Syrian peace talks due to begin in Geneva in late January, as weeks of patient behind-the-scenes outreach to align the warring parties will come to nothing if the two most influential external parties to the conflict instead double down and dig in.

After Executing Regime Critic, Saudi Arabia Fires Up American PR Machine

January 4, 2016

by Lee Fan and Zaid Jilani


Saudi Arabia’s well-funded public relations apparatus moved quickly after Saturday’s explosive execution of Shiite political dissident Nimr Al-Nimr to shape how the news is covered in the United States.

The execution led protestors in Shiite-run Iran to set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, precipitating a major diplomatic crisis between the two major powers already fighting proxy wars across the Middle East.

The Saudi side of the story is getting a particularly effective boost in the American media through pundits who are quoted justifying the execution, in many cases without a mention of their funding or close affiliation with the Saudi Arabian government.

Meanwhile, social media accounts affiliated with Saudi Arabia’s American lobbyists have pushed English-language infographics, tweets, and online video to promote a narrative that reflects the interests of the Saudi regime.

A Politico article about the rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran by Nahal Toosi, for instance, quoted only three sources: the State Department, which provided a muted response to the executions; the Saudi government; and Fahad Nazer, identified as a “political analyst with JTG Inc.” Nazer defended the executions, saying that they served as a “message … aimed at Saudi Arabia’s own militants regardless of their sect.”

What Politico did not reveal was that Nazer is himself a former political analyst at the Saudi Embassy in Washington. He is currently a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, a think tank formed last year that discloses that it is fully funded by the Saudi Embassy and the United Arab Emirates.

The Washington Post quoted consultant Theodore Karasik of Gulf State Analytics as saying that the executions were a “powerful message that Saudi Arabia is intent on standing up to its regional rival.” Karasik is a columnist at Al Arabiya, an English-language news organization based in the UAE and owned by Middle East Broadcasting Center, a private news conglomerate that has long been financially backed by members of the Saudi royal family. Its current chairman is Sheikh Waleed bin Ibrahim, a billionaire Saudi businessman whose brother in law was the late King Fahd. (Al Arabiya‘s coverage of the crisis is almost comically pro-Saudi, featuring headlines like “Storming embassies.. Iranian speciality.”)

An editorial published by the Wall Street Journal approvingly quoted Joseph Braude of the Foreign Policy Research Institute claiming that Nimr was a violent extremist who advocated a “military option” against Saudi Arabia. But as journalists and editors from the Christian Science Monitor, the Guardian, the BBC and other prominent outlets have reported, Nimr advocated nonviolence and encouraged his followers to protest peacefully. Braude did not provide any evidence for his claims beyond anonymous “Saudi sources.”

Braude is a contributor to several Saudi-owned media outlets, including Al Arabiya and Al Majalla, a magazine owned by a member of the Saudi royal family. Neither of these affiliations were disclosed in the Wall Street Journal editorial. (Braude was also convicted in 2004 of attempting to smuggle 4,000-year-old artifacts looted from the Iraqi National Museum after the fall of Baghdad into the United States.)

Braude’s depiction of Nimr aligns with the Saudi Arabian view. “Saudi Arabia’s terrorism law includes as acts of terrorism merely criticizing the government, merely criticizing the monarchy,” Sarah Lea Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division, told The Intercept.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Embassy is blasting out its message through social media.

As we have previously reported, Saudi Arabia’s lobbyists, including Qorvis and Targeted Victory, a social media company founded by Republican strategists, help to maintain a Saudi Embassy effort called Arabia Now, which puts a positive spin on all things Saudi Arabian.

Arabia Now has retweeted content from a reportedly Saudi government-run Twitter account called Infographics KSA, which produced a slick English-language video and infographic that derides Nimr as a “sedition instigator” and that points to 10 years he spent abroad in Iran. On Twitter, the same account has started releasing English-language infographics defending Saudi moves to expel Iranian diplomats and bar air travel to Iran, using the hashtag #SaudiCutsTiesWithIran.

The U.S. government is obviously not  eager to alienate a government that President Obama has wooed with warm words and over $90 billion in arms sales. The diplomatic offensive by Saudi-financed flacks and media has provided some space for it to provide a muted response to the execution.

In a statement issued after the executions, the State Department avoided any condemnation, simply expressing concern “that the execution of prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.”

US Should Stop Supporting Likely Saudi War Crimes

January 5, 2016

by Ivan Eland


The United Nations top official on human rights recently told the U.N. Security Council that the U.S.-supported, Saudi Arabian-led coalition of Sunni nations fighting Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen bore a disproportionate responsibility for attacks on civilians. Since the civil war in Yemen began in March 2015, more than 2,700 civilians have been killed and dozens of hospitals and schools have been attacked, leading the United Nations to warn of violations of international law.

The problem is that the United States is supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes by providing intelligence for targeting and also by refueling coalition’s war planes, thus extending the range of their bombing. Domestically, Saudi Arabia has a horrendous record on human rights that it is exporting to Yemen via bombing civilians there. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein exacerbated the Sunni-Shi’ite division throughout the Islamic world, and the war in Yemen is actually a joust for influence in the Persian Gulf between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, which are bitter regional rivals. Saudi Arabia does have substantial interests at stake in Yemen, which borders the autocratic kingdom, but the United States does not and should cease providing weapons and the aforementioned support, which is tainting the US with support for a country that very well may be committing war crimes.

Yemen is a small, poor, and insignificant (from the perspective of US vital interests) country just South of Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t even produce much oil; but of course Saudi Arabia does – and that’s why the Saudis are getting so much US support, despite Saudi Arabia’s despicable foreign and domestic policies. The US government ousts dictators in Iraq and Libya and loudly criticizes Iran’s bad human rights policies; in contrast, the United States mutes its criticism of Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record, sweeps under the under the rug that the 9/11 attackers were mostly Saudi nationals, and ignores that Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of militant Sunni Islamism by its support for radical schools around the Islamic world. Why does the world’s only superpower tolerate a major ally supporting potential US enemies (the US has the same toleration for Pakistan doing a similar thing)?

The reason dates back to World War II, when Saudi King Abdel Aziz bin Saud traded US access to Saudi oil for US protection of that oil. Yet although Saudi Arabia is the anchor of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel, the country does not have the control over the world’s oil market that both policy makers and the public believe. OPEC, like most cartels, has failed to achieve long-term control over the price of its commodity. For example, right now, world oil supply exceeds demand – because of new non-OPEC sources of supply, such as from new fracking technology in the United States and because of slack demand due to sluggish economies around the world – thus driving the price down. In fact, Saudi Arabia has even given up trying prop up the price by reducing production. The Saudis, who produce oil very inexpensively compared to other producers, are afraid of losing market share to those exporters and so are keeping production high, despite the low world price.

And forecasts for the oil market estimate that such factors – including increased Iranian oil output into the world market due to the lifting of international sanctions against that country because of its nuclear agreement with the great powers – will continue for some time.

But once upon a time – in 1973 – didn’t Arab oil producers launch an embargo and production cutback that brought US economic ruin and lines at gas stations? No, subsequent economic studies of the 1970s have shown that US stagflation (inflation plus slow economic growth) was caused by poor US government economic polices rather than by the Arab oil embargo and production limits. Gas lines in the United States were caused because the US government still had price controls on oil. (Japan had no price controls, thus allowing price rises to naturally curtail demand, and thus no gas lines.)

Moreover, if the oil embargo and production cutback were so successful, why haven’t the Arab countries ever tried it again during other wars in the Middle East. Similar to what brought about the fracking technology recently, higher oil prices in the 1970s just increased supplies – non-OPEC sources of energy were found and conservation practices became more prevalent. Finally, industrial economies are much more resilient to oil price hikes than is commonly perceived and have become even more so since the 1970s, because oil consumption accounts for a smaller percentage of developed nations’ GDP.

` Contrary to official and popular belief, oil is only strategic when needed to power military forces in a war. Fortunately, as I noted in my book No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, the United States produces enough oil domestically to supply its military in a fairly large war several times over, and this ability is rising as the US substantially increases oil production via fracking. As for getting oil supplies to the United States during a war somewhere in the Middle East, if oil production is reduced from one or more countries in conflict, increased prices will cause non-affected producers to produce more oil. Moreover, in the past, valuable oil exports have traveled around and even through wars.

If the United States had a truly vital interest in holding its nose and supporting an autocracy like Saudi Arabia, that would be one thing. However, ignoring the despotic kingdom’s domestic oppression and likely international war crimes – in the erroneous belief that Saudi Arabia can successfully trump global market forces to manipulate long-run oil prices – is unnecessary, ethically questionable, and only increases the likelihood of blowback terrorism against the United States from the victims of Saudi aggression.

Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.




Conversation No. 11a

Date: Monday, April 29, 1996

Commenced: 9:17 AM CST

Concluded: 10:11 AM CST


GD: Good morning, Robert. Interesting news on the wire.

RTC: Good morning. What news is that, Gregory?

GD: I see that Colby 1appears to have had a boating accident.

RTC: So I understand.

GD: I believe you mentioned this earlier.

RTC: I very possibly may have, Gregory. We live in dangerous times indeed.

GD: Apparently he went out for a midnight excursion on the Potomac and did not come back.

RTC: A terrible loss. They haven’t found him yet have they?

GD: Not yet. Depends on the temperature of the water. When gasses build up in the body, it will rise like Jesus to the surface. We used to call them floaters when I was doing pathology and believe me, they stank badly. That is unless the bottom feeders got to him first. I can foresee a closed casket and lots of air freshener, Robert.

RTC: Graphic side to a great national tragedy. When we shot Paisley in the back of the head and chucked him off his sail boat, we put weights on him so he wouldn’t come up. When divers did find him, he was rotten to the core. Had to cut off his hands to try to get fingerprints.

GD: What was his transgression?

RTC: We let it get out he was suspected of dealing with the Soviets but actually, it had to do with the Kennedy business. Now that the box has arrived here, we will discuss this historical event much further. By the way, Gregory, when I turn it on, all the birds vanish from the area like magic. I can only imagine what must be going on inside. At least it works with the birds and one other thing I noticed. Some local was walking his dog on their side of the street and the dog began to yelp and howl when he came in range. Do you think the Swiss are more sensitive than dogs? I was halfway expecting to hear screaming from over there. Well, I followed your advice and only left it on for about twenty minutes for the first time and a little longer for the second.

GD: I’m glad you’re happy, Robert.

RTC: Well, another DCI gone.

GD: And lamented?

RTC: Certainly not by me, Gregory. Nor, I should think, by many others over there. A nasty man who had a mouth problem.

GD: I hope for the sake of all of us they find him but without a bullet in the back of his head. If the body never comes up, there will be endless books and articles about his vanishing. Some drooling pinhead will swear they saw him playing golf in Madrid. When Kitchener went down with the Hampshire, years later there were claims he was alive and well in Patagonia, running a penguin farm.

RTC: Yes, there’s a lot of that. The Kennedy business has the myth makers working overtime. Have you read any of the fantasy books? Men with umbrellas? People hidden in the sewers? Hoover shooting at him from some bank building? The Hunt brothers potting away from a black helicopter? Well, we’re responsible for a lot of that. Feed silly rumors to the babblers in the nut fringe and they stir up so much mud, you can’t see the truth.

GD: Maybe it’s on the bottom with Colby.

RTC: Remind me to avoid crab cakes for a few months.

GD: Mueller was telling me about Dulles.

RTC: Which one? Allen or John?

GD: Both, actually.

RTC: What did he say about Allen?

GD: Mueller knew him before he became DCI, when?

RTC: In ’53.

GD: Yes.

RTC: Kennedy forced him out in ’61. Kennedy did not trust us and threatened to break up the CIA. Not a wise move.

GD: No, it wasn’t. And Kennedy is dead and the agency lives on.

RTC: Yes, it does. What did Mueller tell you about Allen?

GD: Oh, that he met Dulles in Switzerland during the war. Dulles had no idea who Mueller was. Heini told me Dulles was a sucker for the plant and he loaded him up with all kinds of fake information about what was going on in Germany and Dulles ate the whole horse, saddle and all.

RTC: Allen was never too bright. His brother was a dyed-in-the wool Nazi, just like another one of our DCI’s father. Prescott Bush. But Allen was not a particularly deep or thoughtful man all in all. His son got shot in the head in Korea and came back an idiot so Allan was very bad to him.

GD: Beat him up?

RTC: Worse. He ignored him. Allen was not a kind or thoughtful man. But his wife really did a number on him at the end. Allen was dying in ’69 and they had a Christmas party at his place. Wife was downstairs with the guests, having a wonderful time. Not a word about Allen except that he was not feeling well. Finally, one of the boys decided to go up and wish Allen a Merry Christmas. Guess what he found?

GD: Tell me.

RTC: Allen lying in a urine and shit soaked bed, completely out of it and mumbling to himself. She had left him up there for quite a while. Ugly. She really must have hated him. The boys picked him up, wrapped him in a clean blanket and took him to the hospital where he died about a month later. She didn’t care at all and was very upset that they used one of her good blankets.

GD: You mentioned Prescott Bush. I have an original medal presentation paper giving a high Nazi decoration to him. Signed by Hitler in 1938. I’m surprised this never got out. I also have a picture of IBM’s Watson with a higher decoration, sitting in opera box with Hitler. The IBM people have been trying to buy that from me for ten years.

RTC: You asking too much for it?

GD: No. I thought it might look good in a book. Was George a good DCI?

RTC: George was a sly, effeminate creature as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. When he was VP, they attended a state dinner in the White House and he brought his older boy with him. That one was a chronic boozer and during an intermission, he went out and pissed in one of the downstairs halls. I understand Nancy Reagan 86’ed him out of the White House. His brother is a con-man, unconvicted of ripping banks off because Daddy put on the pressure. And his wife is like something out of a Norse legend. A real dominatrix-type. You never know what goes on behind the curtains, Gregory, but I do. It’s enough to shake anyone’s belief in the honesty of our leaders, who hasn’t worked inside the Beltway long enough. Bush was only DCI for a year and I never had any use for him. Smiled a lot and as vicious and back-stabbing as anyone I ever knew. But then so many of them are.

GD: Did you know a William King Harvey?

RTC: Oh, indeed I did. What do you know about Bill?

GD: Mueller knew him and was boffing his wife. Mueller said he was an ex-FBI man whom Hoover fired for being a chronic drunk.

RTC: That’s true. Hoover was a prim and proper one.

GD: And Harvey used to carry a gun around and point it at people.

RTC: Harvey was fat and apparently hung like a stud cricket so the gun made up for what nature had forgotten.

GD: What is it that they said about the flat-chested woman? What nature has forgotten she can remedy with cotton?

RTC: I’ve heard that somewhere before.

GD: Nothing is original. Well, if and when Colby floats, will you go to his funeral?

RTC: That would be a little hypocritical, wouldn’t it Gregory?

GD: Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, Robert.

RTC: You’re a very wise person, Gregory. No wonder Bill and Tom are so upset with you.

GD: And don’t forget Wolfe.

RTC: I don’t like to go to the archives for fear he’ll slink up to me with more hate stories about you.

GD: He’s supposed to be such an expert on the Third Reich but he fakes it mostly. His great triumph was to discover an old record with an alleged speech of Himmler’s in which Reichsheini is talking about killing off all the Jews. Bob made such a fuss over his discovery. I got him to send me a tape of it because it’s in the archives and I got ahold a friend of mine who collects German newsreels. He had a 1939 UFA newsreel with a part of a speech by Himmler so he made a tape of that and I got another friend of mine to compare the speech patterns. Not the same. Either Bob’s precious record that he used to play for Jewish groups or the original newsreel was a stone fake.

RTC: I don’t think it takes a Harvard graduate to see which was which. Do you think he made it? And planted it?

GD: Not personally. His wife is German but Bob is not fluent enough to pull that one off. Probably got it from some co-religionist, planted it, discovered it and exploited it. Or, of course, they faked the Himmler speech on the newsreel. So much of these things are invented and of course the public believes it.

RTC: Tell me, Gregory, what does Wolfe think about our hiring the head of the Gestapo?

GD: Oh and many others. What? Well, he’s a torn person. He’d love to expose this but he can’t because he sucks up to officialdom and can’t have it both ways. I love to tell him about Krichbaum and others and when I do, I suppose he would like to kill me. Kill the messenger, not the message is the hallmark of the very small of mind.

RTC: True enough. And Bill and Tom are highly annoyed that we talk. I think they’re afraid of what I might say to you. Wouldn’t you agree?

GD: Yes. Another convocation of the small of mind.

RTC: But large of ego. When he was younger, we used to call Tom the Arrow Shirt Boy. Ring a bell? GD: The clean-cut drawings?

RTC: Yes. Really handsome men and beautiful women tend to be very shallow in their social relationships. That’s because they don’t have to make any effort to attract attention. Uglier people have to rely on personality.

GD: Yes, that’s true. My first wife was really beautiful but stupid as a post and very greedy. It’s amazing how we can delude ourselves, isn’t it? She wanted me to give a lot of money to her brother to buy a gas station. He fell off his motorcycle and did damage to his head. I don’t think he could run a bicycle pump, let alone a gas station. I refused and she retaliated by moving her bloated mother in with us. Mom brought four nasty cats with her. I like animals but these loved to shit on the carpets and one loved to take dumps on the kitchen counters. Talking about this did no good so one day while Mom and her hatchling were out trying to spend my money, I took the dear pussies, stuffed them into a potato sack and tossed them into the apartment house pool. When the bubbles stopped, I dove in, fished them out and laid them in a nice, wet, row at the edge of the garden. Threw the bag away. Mom and the Other came home and she started looking for the dear felines. When I told her I had put them outside to do their nasty business, Mom waddled outside, shrieking for her lovelies. Then she really started to wail when she saw the line-up by the pool. When I was at work the next day, they both moved out and took all the furniture with them. This was not a good idea because I had rented the place furnished. I had to pay for the furniture, of course.

RTC: Did she leave the cats behind?

GD: No, they were gone. I think they had a state funeral for them. Burial at Arlington.

RTC: I take it you got a divorce?

GD: Actually, no, I did not. A friend of mine saw the Other passing out drinks in Vegas but when I called personnel at her casino, they said she’d left the place about a month before. She did surface about twenty five years later. Someone sent me a package of old books from LA and wrapped them in the local paper. By God, there was the Other playing golf out at Palm Springs. The long and short of it was, Robert, that she had married a wealthy real estate developer and had two kids by him.

RTC: No divorce?

GD: No, she was too stupid to think of that. I took this to a lawyer I knew but he was not interested until he found out that her husband, who had serious IRS problems, had put all his assets in Other’s name. Then he got very interested because, as he pointed out to me, in California, property acquired by either party in a marriage is considered community property. He was suddenly very eager to take the case on a contingency fee basis because half of what she had was mine and we were still legally married. Here we’re talking about bigamy as well. Much uproar, threats by massive legal firms in LA and in the end, they settled before we made a public filing. I lived on the rewards of my patience and misjudgment for years. And then we were divorced, very privately. Love is a wonderful thing, Robert. Do you know the difference between Herpes and love?

RTC: I can’t say that I do.

GD: Herpes is forever, Robert.

RTC: Now that’s not kind, Gregory.

GD: A very shrewd observation. If I had been a kind person, I would not have sent you those wonderful poems.

RTC: That was not meant unkindly. Let’s say a joke.

GD: Well, we can talk about Kennedy one of these days, can’t we?

RTC: As I said. I can get in touch with you later this week if you want.

GD: Let me call you. I’m sure you’ll be watching and waiting for Colby to emerge from the depths.


(Concluded at 10:11 AM CST)


Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers ‘terrorists?’

January 3, 2016

by Janell Ross

The Washington Post

As of Sunday afternoon, The Washington Post called them “occupiers.” The New York Times opted for “armed activists” and “militia men.” And the Associated Press put the situation this way: “A family previously involved in a showdown with the federal government has occupied a building at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon and is asking militia members to join them.”

Not one seemed to lean toward terms such as “insurrection,” “revolt,” anti-government “insurgents” or, as some on social media were calling them, “terrorists.” When a group of unknown size and unknown firepower has taken over any federal building with plans and possibly some equipment to aid a years-long occupation — and when its representative tells reporters that they would prefer to avoid violence but are prepared to die — the kind of almost-uniform delicacy and the limits on the language used to describe the people involved becomes noteworthy itself.

It is hard to imagine that none of the words mentioned above — particularly “insurrection” or “revolt” — would be avoided if, for instance, a group of armed black Americans took possession of a federal or state courthouse to protest the police. Black Americans outraged about the death of a 12-year-old boy at the hands of police or concerned about the absence of a conviction in the George Zimmerman case have been frequently and inaccurately lumped in with criminals and looters, described as “thugs,” or marauding wolf packs where drugs are, according to CNN’s Don Lemon, “obviously” in use.

If a group of armed Muslims took possession of a federal building or even its lobby to protest calls to surveil the entire group, it’s even more doubtful they could avoid harsher, more-alarming labels.

In fairness to those assembled in Oregon, it is true that there have been no reports of actual violence, injury or anyone being held inside the Oregon building against their will

And in the interim, some may feel particularly inclined to take real care with the language used to describe the situation so as not to inflame it or offend people who, in some cases, have already been troubled by the decision to charge a father and son pair of ranchers with arson under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The charge not only carries what many of the rancher’s supporters believe to be an unjust five-year jail term, but it brings the very same t-word into the mix.

For those who know the father and son — Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond — personally, it is understandable that they would disagree vehemently with any government action that implies that the men they know as engaged members of the community are terrorists. But one really cannot help but wonder where similar outrage lives when data clearly indicate that black Americans are far more likely than white ones to face serious charges and jail time rather than misdemeanor penalties for resisting arrest. Where has the lock-step adherence to careful and delicate language been in all of 2015 when unarmed black Americans were disproportionately more likely to be killed by police than others?

Beyond that seeming incongruity, the Hammonds are not among the occupiers. The man who has helped to organize the building occupation in Oregon is Ammon Bundy. Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who engaged in a standoff in 2014 with the government over grazing rights. And the younger Bundy has, again, described the occupiers as “armed” and prepared to die.

The armed occupation of a federal building might be what Bundy considers an assertion of rights and a mere gathering in a taxpayer-financed space. But it would seem to contain the real risk of violence, serious injury or even death.

Deliberate language choices are always a wise and reasonable move. That is especially true when telling stories of conflict with government and political protests. But the incredibly limited and relatively soft range of words in wide use Sunday seems to extend beyond all of that. The descriptions of events in Oregon appear to reflect the usual shape of our collective assumptions about the relationship between race and guilt — or religion and violent extremism — in the United States.

White Americans, their activities and ideas seem always to stem from a font of principled and committed individuals. As such, group suspicion and presumed guilt are readily perceived and described as unjust, unreasonable and unethical.

You will note that while the group gathered in Oregon is almost assuredly all or nearly all white, that has scarcely been mentioned in any story. You will note that nothing even close to similar can be said about coverage of events in Missouri, Maryland, Illinois or any other place where questions about policing have given way to protests or actual riots.

You will note the extended debate about whether admitted Charleston shooter Dylann Roof’s apparently racially motivated shooting spree was an act of terrorism or even violent racism and the comparatively rapid way that more than one news organization began hinting at and then using terms such as Islamic extremism to describe the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

The sometimes-coded but increasingly overt ways that some Americans are presumed guilty and violence-prone while others are assumed to be principled and peaceable unless and until provoked — even when actually armed — is remarkable.


The Ukrainians starting a new life – in Russia

About 1.5 million have fled the conflict in Donetsk, with their choice of destination largely set by their allegiance in the war

January 5, 2015

by Shaun Walker in Magadan, Kiev and Donetsk

The Guardian

“It’s a scary feeling when you land at the end of the earth and you literally know nobody,” said Tatyana Kurlayeva while sipping a cappuccino in a cafe in Magadan, a bleak city in the far east of Russia.

Kurlayeva, 32, fled to Magadan in 2014 from her hometown of Komsomolsk, near Donetsk in east Ukraine. She was one of dozens of refugees from the conflict zone to make a new life in Russia’s former Gulag capital. Across Russia, hundreds of thousands of east Ukrainians have arrived since the conflict started.

Some want to return now the fighting has stopped but many more want to stay. Icy Magadan is more than 4,000 miles from east Ukraine, but Kurlayeva has chosen to make it her new home.

She decided to leave Komsomolsk in August 2014, after her brother was kidnapped by the far-right Azov volunteer battalion. Although he was later released, the experience had shaken up the family and made them unwilling to stay.

Her husband wanted to join the pro-Russia rebel militia, but she persuaded him that the pair of them should take their daughter and flee. She closed down the children’s clothing shop she ran and the three crossed the border, then spent a week in a refugee camp near the city of Rostov.

It was horrible, I’m not used to living like that. I never thought I would be a refugee. We wanted to get out as soon as possible, and I had always read that Magadan was an interesting and friendly place, so we spent all our savings on tickets from Rostov via Moscow to Magadan. It was the first time I’d ever been on a plane.”

On arrival, Kurnayeva made a video appeal to ask locals for help, and the director of the local television station decided she was camera-friendly and offered her a job. “When people found out where we were from, they immediately helped us. Everyone here is so friendly,” she said.

Now, Kurnayeva reads the news on local television and never wants to return to Ukraine. The family is applying for Russian citizenship. She is thankful to Russia, and to Vladimir Putin personally. “Look at Putin: he’s strong, intelligent, manly. It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed with emotion when you look at him. He’s done so much for us,” she added.

Many other refugees in Magadan also never plan to return home. Alexander Burlakov, 37, Tatyana Spivak, 38, and their son Sergei, 12, left their home in rebel-held Gorlovka in August 2014, and flew to Magadan, leaving their parents behind.

“At the start it seemed cold, depressing and scary, but we soon realised how nice the people are here,” said Spivak, in the kitchen of the small apartment the family rents in Magadan. Working as a supermarket cashier in Gorlovka, she earned about £60 a month; doing the same job in Magadan she earns £300.


“It’s just like in the Soviet Union – everyone is so helpful and friendly. I miss home but I am delighted I am not part of Ukraine,” she added.

While some Donbass refugees feel at home in Magadan, those whose sympathies lie more with Kiev than with the pro-Russia separatists have generally gone the other way.

“I understood I didn’t feel comfortable in my own city,” said Evgeny Vasili, who ran a bar called Spletni in Donetsk. “For me, what was going on in Donetsk was wild, and I didn’t understand it, and was disgusted by the behaviour of rebels. I realised I couldn’t keep living there.”

Vasili moved to Kiev and took Spletni with him. The bar is now open in Kiev, with the same furniture, the same lighting and even the same weathered Soviet hardback books that propped up the bar in Donetsk. He rented a truck to take everything across the frontlines in late 2014 and reassembled the bar in central Kiev.

Many of the clients at the new Spletni are also from Donetsk – internally displaced persons (IDPs) who miss their home town.

“When you leave a place you have feelings of nostalgia, people come here and they feel freer, more at ease,” Vasili said. “It’s hard to rent a flat when you have a Donetsk registration. People are suspicious of you. We have had no help from the government or anyone else.”

Vasili said that even if peace came to eastern Ukraine, he did not see himself returning to Donetsk. “My house has been destroyed, I have nothing to go back for. We will stay here, and try to integrate as well as we can,” he said.

Because of the vagaries of the Ukrainian registration system, there are no reliable statistics on the number of IDPs but NGOs estimate there could be as many as 1.5 million. Around 300,000 are believed to have moved to Russia. Moscow has said it will begin deporting Ukrainians who are in Russia illegally, but will make an exception for those from the conflict zones. Some are able to apply for Russian citizenship if they do not want to return.

The huge number leaving for Russia and other parts of Ukraine has had a huge effect on the Donetsk region.

Enrique Menendez, a businessman in Donetsk, said: “The population profile has completely changed, the small middle class that had just started to appear has disappeared.”

Menendez used to manage an internet marketing company with 10 employees. The other nine have left, and the company has closed. Now, he works on distributing humanitarian aid. “There was a building across the street where 200 programmers work,” he said.

“They’ve all gone now. Nobody will need this kind of business for three to five years at least.”


How Russia’s relationship with Europe has evolved

January 5, 2016

by James Sherr


Russia’s relationship with the countries it calls “Europe” (the EU and the European Economic Area) has evolved significantly since the dissolution of the USSR.

Whereas its relationship with Nato has always been marked by suspicion, Boris Yeltsin’s reformers saw Russia as part of Europe and a potential beneficiary of closer integration.

They also hoped that integration between the EU and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, a regional organisation dominated by Russia) would assume a complementary form.

This liberal vision gradually fell victim to:

the opponents of market reform

the revival of Russian nationalism

the determination of Russia’s neighbours to chart their own course

Vladimir Putin swiftly understood that the EU was a project of deepening integration based on norms of business, law and administration at variance from those emerging in Russia. He also feared that EU enlargement would become a means of excluding Russia from its “zones of traditional influence”.

Despite these apprehensions, Russia’s trade with the EU increased by leaps and bounds.

In 2012, the EU accounted for 52% of Russia’s exports, 68% of which consisted of fuel and energy. Until the 2006 Russia-Ukraine energy crisis, stable interdependence was an article of faith that eased political tensions.

On this positive basis, negotiations on a successor to the 1994 EU-Russia Co-operation Agreement began in 2008, and a Partnership for Modernisation was concluded in 2010.

The recent Ukraine conflict has thrown these trends into reverse, but the deterioration in relations had started years before.

The EU’s Third Energy Package (2011), a robust series of measures against monopolistic practices, was viewed in Moscow as a blatantly hostile act.

The Eastern Partnership (2009), with its offer of association agreements to Russia’s neighbours, was perceived in time as a threat equal to that posed by Nato enlargement.

In summer 2013, the EU Council sharply condemned Russia’s mounting pressure on Eastern Partnership countries. In response to Crimea’s annexation in March 2014, the EU has suspended virtually all co-operation.

Its enhancement of targeted sanctions in July 2014, in unison with Washington, constrains Russia’s access to capital markets and blocks the export of dual-use and sensitive technology.

Russia’s intervention in Ukraine represents a collision between two visions of Europe: the first based on rights, rules and freedom of choice; the second based on spheres of influence and the merger of money and power.

None of this was pre-ordained. In 2001, Mr Putin told the German Bundestag that European culture “has always been our common asset”.

Eleven years later, he juxtaposed Russian “civilisation” and European post-modernism: “The choice of the Russian people has been confirmed… not by plebiscites or referenda, but by blood.”

Today he urges Europe to “relearn the lessons of Yalta”.

Even in this grim setting, the EU remains Russia’s biggest market. This is a major contrast to the Cold War, even a source of hope, but it does not rule out a further deterioration of relations



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