Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Egyptian Role in the A321 Crash: A Step Too Far

At this point it really seems that US policymakers would be better off on the unemployment line. The thing is, every time Washington tries to push Russia hard against the wall, the consequences range from disastrous to straight out catastrophic. The orchestrated coup in Ukraine resulted in Crimea rejoining Russia, the rigid sanctions regime resulted in EU agricultural products getting banned on Russian markets, the aggravation of the situation in Syria led to the destruction of “valuable US assets”, namely ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and all other sorts of radical Isalmists.

And now, to save itself from the humiliation of daily reports about Russia's successes in Syria, Washington brought down A321 over the Sinai peninsula. It's really irrelevant which intelligent agencies took part in this operation, the ongoing propaganda campaign in the Western media betrays those who are truly calling the shots. I was pretty curious when the suicide of a Russian servicemen in Syria wasn't heavily exploited in the media, the explanation didn't leave us waiting for long – there was a vicious plan in the making, the plan that claimed the lives of 224 Russian tourists, leaving the population of the largest country in the world mourning.
It still seems pretty unlikely that A321 was brought down by a bomb, simply because it is really inconvenient to track a plane to film the moment of the catastrophe just for the sake of filming. Yet, this version is being pushed hard by the Western media and Russia is pretending that it's buying it. There's a general evacuation of Russian tourists in Egypt being reported, but it's a clear exaggeration – tourists are leaving as they were planning to, but their luggage is being transported separately. Yet, as it was reported by Russian journalists returning from their vacations, no additional security measures had been implemented in Egyptian airports whatsoever. It leads us to the conclusion that Egyptian authorities are convinced that no wrong would happen with the planes on the ground, despite the fact that earlier on, Egyptians were adamant about the possibility of a bomb, not a missile, bringing down the ill-fated Russian airliner.

As it was reported by Sputnik:

The three-party investigative committee handling the in-flight recorders of the ill-fated Russian A-321 passenger jet that crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula over the weekend has ruled out the plane was struck by a missile, Egypt’s Al-Masri al-Youm news portal reported Monday, citing sources in the committee.

It's now clear that Egypt has something to do with the crash, and Russia knows it. The thing is that a series of miscalculations has clearly showed that there's no decent geopolitical analysts left in the West, and the downing of A321 is a vivid example of it. The thing is Russians, regardless of their rate of income, are determined to go to sea resorts at least once a year, even if it means spending all of their year's savings. The major attractions are Turkey and Egypt and the best part of the Russian mentality for both of these states is that Russians are not easily scared. So even at the height of the Muslim Brotherhood crackdown, Egypt was packed with Russian tourists. So it seems that Egyptian authorities decided that if they helped bringing an airliner down, it wouldn't hurt too much, since the majority of Russians wouldn't cancel their vacations either way. Yet, Russian authorities know better.

According to the New York Times:

President Vladimir V. Putin on Friday suspended all flights from Russia to Egypt, the most popular foreign tourist destination for Russians, until the cause of a mysterious plane crash that killed 224 people over the Sinai Peninsula can be established. Mr. Putin’s decision was the first breach in what has largely been a consistent response from Russian and Egyptian authorities to the crash on Saturday.

The thing is, the transportation of luggage for some 80,000 Russian tourists that are now leaving Egypt is a pretty costly endeavor, especially when this luggage is being transported by Russia's Ministry of Emergencies. Yet, stating that Egypt has something to do with the crash would mean closing the door on bilateral relations for decades, and there's hardly a way that Russia could allow this to happen. Back in the Soviet days, droves of Russian experts were employed in Egypt, building enormous infrastructural projects like the Aswan hydro-power complex that is still referred to as “one of the largest hydroelectric installations not only on the African continent, but also in the world.” This allowed Russians to establish close bonds of friendship with different levels of Egyptian society, bonds that have not been completely broken today. Yet, with the Egyptian political elites trying to play for both teams, Russia has to send a clear message to them, and it seems that it has done just that.

On October 10, a number of prominent Russian media outlets, while citing anonymous sources in the government, announced that the ban on the flights to Egypt can last for years and can even be expanded to other countries, should there be a reason to do so. According to recent studies, the tourism industry in Egypt produces 14,8% of country's GDP. With the absolute majority of tourist visiting Egypt coming from Russia, this ban can lead to a meltdown of the Egyptian economy.

Another major attraction for Russian tourists is Turkey, where the tourism industry produces 10.9% of country's GDP. What that basically means is that should any of those two countries allow Russian tourists to be targeted by terrorists again, billions and billions of dollars are going to be spent elsewhere, namely Crimea, Sochi, Thailand and Crete. Due to this careful and rational approach, Russia prevented what could be a series of Russian airliners going down every time positive news about Russia starts circulating in the international press. The message, it seems, is loud and clear, and it can be summed up in the words of an old American song: “You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, and you don't mess around with Putin...”

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Watch Out, Egypt, ISIS is Coming at Ya

It seems that there's a light at the end of the tunnel for the Syrian people that have been pressed against the wall by a violent proxy war launched against them by the Persian Gulf monarchies, Turkey, Israel, and you've guessed it right – the US. The transition to peace won't be quick and it won't be easy, but with a brilliant military operation being carried out by Russian warplanes in Syria along with the regular forces of the Syrian army, the US was certainly in no position to dictate its terms at the recent talks in Vienna. The only question is – where will ISIS go? With Iraq considering the possibility of demanding Russia's help, it seems there's no place to hide. Or is there?

Here Is the News

With the Russian military intervention in Syria becoming a PR nightmare for Washington, it was obvious that something was bound to happen. Just like it was in Ukraine in July 2014, when after a number of humiliating military defeats Kiev troops suffered in an attempt to suppress the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions, a Malaysian Boeing MH17 was shot down from the Ukrainian sky just in time to make the news. The Western media was quick to push the blame on the Donetsk militia that somehow got their hands on the fairly advanced Buk anti-air system. Now the tragedy of Russian Airbus A321 that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, claiming the lives of 224 people (including 25 children) came just in time to save Washington from the day-to-day humiliation that was brought upon it by Russia's success in Syria. A pattern can be clearly observed here, but this time around it will be an Airbus instead of a Boeing, and an S-200 instead of a Buk. Those aspects are important for the propaganda value, since a regular observer could have the impression that these two tragedies were otherwise somehow connected. Amazingly, Western journalists are not making any conclusions beforehand this time around, perhaps due to newly found decency.

Sisi in the Way of ISIS

Egypt has been the victim of foreign meddling for a while now, even despite the fact that it was formally a US ally in the region. After the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak who ruled Egypt for two decades in 2011, all power in the country was taken by the Muslim Brotherhood. As it was reported by Tony Cartalluci back in 2014:

The Muslim Brotherhood is a faux-theocratic sectarian extremist movement – a regional movement that transcends national borders. It is guilty sowing decades of violent discord not only in Egypt, but across the Arab World and it has remained a serious threat to secular, nationalist states from Algeria to Syria and back again. It is the factor of chaos of choice by the West and its regional collaborators, who generously fund it, arm it, and provide it with a steady stream of political recognition

Within a year those who supported the group as a new hope for Egypt, realized that the Muslim Brotherhood is only concerned with the well-being of the Persian Gulf monarchies, and, as the living conditions of Egyptians were deteriorating rapidly, they took to the streets to get rid of these foreign agents in their government. In July 2013, as the clashes grew more violent, the Egyptian army decided to side with the people of the country they swore to protect, with the Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah el-Sisi issuing an ultimatum demanding all political parties of the country obey the will of the protesters. As the then President Mohamed Morsi was arrested, Sisi had no choice but to take power until the elections. However, even when he became the legitimate president of Egypt his troubles were far from over. While the situation in the country remains pretty tense, Sisi has no choice but to try to walk a tightrope, balancing his policies in an attempt to seek cooperation with Russia without making the Persian Gulf monarchies and, ultimately, the US too angry about this fact. Egypt had to formally announce its support of the illegal Saudi intervention in Yemen, while making no real effort to fight the Houthi insurgency. It seems that in the eyes of Persian Gulf monarchs Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has overstayed his welcome, so ISIS militans will try to bring him down

As it was reported by the Guardian:
Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis (ABM), or Champions of Jerusalem, first emerged in 2011, amid a security vacuum caused by the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Based in the isolated northern Sinai desert, next to the Israeli border, ABM's operations expanded drastically after the Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in July 2013. But what began as a Sinai-based insurgency now seems to have spread to the Egyptian heartland, with ABM now capable of increasingly sophisticated attacks both in and outside the peninsula.

Then in 2014, the group was re-branded to fit the West's agenda, by becoming the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - Sinai Province. Formally it was done by all members taking the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. No matter what it's called, it has organized a series of terrorist attacks over the years, with the taking down of a military helicopter with a MANPADS missile back in January 2014. This attack was carefully filmed and then uploaded to the Internet. Now the same group claims that it has brought down a Russian civilian jet over Sinai.

Russian military experts arriving at the crash site of Airbus A321 may have a sense of deja-vu. Back in October 2001, Ukraine shot down a Russian civilian jet over the Black Sea with an S-200 missile during military games as a result of criminal negligence. Kiev has denied its involvement in the tragedy for a long time, until the moment search teams discovered fragments of the plane that were covered in holes. The thing is that an S-200 does not hit a plane, instead it explodes while approaching it, hitting the aircraft with a cloud of shrapnel. At that point Ukraine was forced to admit that its military made a fatal mistake. Immediately after the crash of Airbus A321 Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis published a video, showing the jet being hit by an explosion directly underneath it, before it starts falling. With the group having a history of uploading credible footage and with the Islamic state's PR success being in decline, why would this group claim that they carried out a terrorist act, when they didn't. Why would they keep silent about an S-200 being used? Well, the anti-air system would have almost certainly have been brought from Libya, which had a total of 900 missile sites deployed across its territory by 2010, and is more than just a rocket. It's takes a total of five to six large trucks and a launch pad to deploy that system, and they must have been packed in a hurry after the attack to avoid a counter strike.

Russian officials remain silent about the cause of the crash. Once there's confirmation that a Russian civilian jet was brought down by an ISIS affiliated group, Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis is going to have all the media attention it could dream of, which would persuade ISIS troops in Syria to seek fortune in some other places, say Egypt, which may seriously aggravate the situation in this North African country. Yet, as US sanctions against Russia have intensified Sino-Russian rapprochement, this tragedy may play a pivotal role in facilitating Egypt's decision to join the ranks of Russia's allies. It's safe to assume that there's a plan being drafted somewhere in Moscow on the support that is to be provided to Egypt to prevent the destruction of yet another country.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The life and death of a Russian soldier

On the early morning of August 6 1915, the German offensive against the Russian fortress of Osowiec began with a wicked trick against humanity – a gas attack. The defenders refused to yield even after one of the most brutal artillery bombardments in history, but even when the fortress itself was reduced to rubble, the surviving Russian soldiers used stones and craters for protection. German generals fancied that a group of exhausted men shouldn't stand in the way of a major offensive, so they shipped a couple thousand gas cylinders filled with chlorine assuming that those would do the trick. 

According to the medical journals of the time:

"The first effect of inhalation of chlorine is a burning pain in the throat and eyes, accompanied by a sensation of suffocation; pain, which may be severe, is felt in the chest, especially behind the sternum. Respiration becomes painful, rapid, and difficult ; coughing occurs, and the irritation of the eyes results in profuse lachrymation. Retching is common and may be followed by vomiting, which gives temporary relief. The lips and mouth are parched and the tongue is covered with a thick dry fur. Severe headache rapidly follows with a feeling of great weakness in the legs; if the patient gives way to this and lies down, he is likely to inhale still more chlorine, as the heavy gas is most concentrated near the ground. In severe poisoning unconsciousness follows."

Since those defending the Osowiec fortress had no gas mask whatsoever, the effect of this massive gas attack was truly devastating. A total of 1600 defenders suffered a painful and excruciating death, while the surviving few were coughing up blood heavily. Then fourteen battalions of Landwehr - at least 7000 infantry men slowly crossed the no man's land to occupy the Russian positions still covered by green gas. Then the surviving remnants of the 13th company - up to 60 soldiers decided to give the invading forces the taste of Russian hospitality – a bayonet charge. Rising from piles of dead bodies, dying soldiers all covered in their own blood with bayonets attached to their rifles charged the terrified Germans and forced them to flee, all of them. The attack that is widely referred to today as the “Attack of the Dead Men” is a remarkable example of courage and valor, but what were the soldiers with zero chances of survival thinking of while experiencing the unbearable pain? I guess we all feel like being betrayed by life at some point in our lifetime.

The concept of betrayal is a tricky one, since a person is rarely capable of foreseeing the possible consequences of his actions. The moment I saw reports that a Russian servicemen committed suicide at the Russian military base in Syria, I knew blood was in the water. Sharks wouldn't leave you waiting for long. So what one must do during such adversity? The Western propaganda machine that has been writing delusional articles about “Russia hitting nonexistent hospitals no one has ever seen” has finally got something to chew on. Regardless of the consequences of this tragic death, it will be exploited in every way possible to portray Russia in the ugliest of ways. 

Vadim Kostenko, aged 19 was a professional servicemen who decided to pursue the military career and was truly proud of it. On his personal page within the Russian social media network 'VK' he wrote:

“There's a popular belief that serving one's country in the army is something that one must avoid. The most important duty in a man's life is now portrayed as a form of punishment, which is funny and sad at the same time. If I hadn't decided to enlist in the armed forces, my life would have been completely different. For sure, it's not a walk in the park, since we are to get used to this experience, the experience of being transformed into a new human being. But I can state in all seriousness that every one of us must face this experience to become a better man. Even when it was getting tough, there was not a single day that I regretted my decision.”
Vadim's fellow servicemen all agree that he was a cheerful and thoughtful person who was very serious about executing his duties properly, this is how he got to serve in Syria in the first place. And even if there was no honor, no valor involved in his death, there's little doubt that he would never abandon his comrades on the field of battle and would charge the enemy with a bayonet attached to his rifle along with the heroes of the 13th company.

The loss of life is always a tragedy, especially when those deceased were the brave souls that dedicated their lives to serving and protecting others. Yet, suicide is pretty common in any army, since being away from one's loved ones for prolonged periods of time along with the immediate access to firearms is a pretty explosive mixture. The US army has scored a sort of a record in 2012 with 349 servicemen taking their lives in that year. However, the situation with those who left the army is much more grave, according to America's own Department of Veterans Affairs (pdf), every day approximately 18-22 veterans in the United States take their own lives. In 10 years, that adds up to more than 80,000 deaths, almost twice as many as died in Vietnam. It seems that the absence of any interest towards their problems from elected officials makes them feel betrayed, just like Vadim Kostenko felt betrayed by his girlfriend on the eve of his fatal decision. However, we are going to read a lot of nasty things about Vadim's death this month across all of the West's major news sources, without US servicemen or veterans being mentioned anywhere. Who cares about helping those in dire need when you can harass Russia? I guess we all feel like being betrayed by life at some point in our lifetime.