The State Department Speaks Before it Thinks

Posted: Jul 26, 2014 12:01 AM

Afghanistan: The voter fraud election audit did not resume as planned on the 24thbecause the presidential candidates and the election commission have no common definition of what is a fraudulent ballot. The commission said the audit will resume in a few days.

Comment: This audit might never resume. If it does, it will not be completed because neither candidate will accept the other's electoral victory. For example, the audit workers for candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai walked out last week because workers for candidate Dr. Abdullah were disqualifying too many ballots. A political settlement between the two candidates and their supporters will come, if it comes at all, from some channel other than the audit.

Iraq: Three persons were injured by a bomb explosion in Mahmoudiya district, about 20 kms south of Baghdad on Thursday evening. In Baghdad, a double car bombing ripped through the busy commercial district of Karradah as people gathered at dusk to break their daily fast for Ramadan, killing 21 people and wounding 33.

Comment: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have established Mosul as an alternative power center to Baghdad. In announcing an Islamic state they fragmented Iraq. In most fragmentation scenarios, the secessionists seek to defend their secession, as in eastern Ukraine. That is not what is happening in Iraq.

ISIL still seeks to capture Baghdad, but not to replace the current government and rule Iraq. It seeks to conquer modern Iraq and make it disappear by absorption into the Islamic State. Thus, it is important to monitor attacks in Baghdad and its suburbs. There have been three in two days. These are early indications of a growing ISIL capability plus continuing Iraqi complacency and lax Iraqi security.

Islamic State: Web postings indicate ISIL created a new province, Euphrates Province, which straddles the border of Syria and Iraq. It includes districts and cities in both countries. The stated purpose of the move is "to break the idol of the border instilled in the hearts of the people." The cities are Albu Kamal and Hajin in Syria and al-Qaim in Iraq.

Politics. On 24 July, veteran liberal politician and senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Fu'ad Ma'sum was elected president of the Iraqi Republic. . Ma'sum received 211 of 269 votes from parliament members in the second round.

Under a de facto power-sharing agreement, the president is a Kurd, the parliament Speaker a Sunni, and the prime minister a Shi'ite.

Comment: This is the second step in forming a new government. The most difficult challenge is the election of a new prime minister.

Israel: On Wednesday Palestinians launched 95 rockets towards Israel. On Thursday, 2 Israeli civilians were injured. More than 805 Palestinians have been killed.

Ukraine: Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said, "I announce my resignation in connection with the dissolution of the parliamentary coalition and the blocking of government initiatives." According to press accounts, a furious Yatsenyuk denounced a deadlocked parliament after two parties withdrew from the majority European Choice coalition.

Earlier on Thursday, two parties quit the government coalition, forcing the collapse of the government and the first parliamentary elections since President Viktor Yanukovych was forced from office in February.

President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the decision by the nationalist party Svoboda and the Udar (Punch) party of former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko to withdraw from the majority coalition in parliament.

"Society wants a full reset of state authorities," Poroshenko said in a statement. He said that the move showed that those who decided to quit the coalition were following the will of the people. A Poroshenko supporter said it would clear "Moscow agents" from the parliament

Comment: The next elections had been set for 2017, which would have completed a five year term. President Poroshenko wants early elections, in October 2014. This is a watershed development because many members of parliament, who were elected in 2012, originally were members of Yanukovych's pro-Russian coalition. They turned against him and changed sides in February after brutal street clashes between paramilitary police and street protestors.

A new election will be the first opportunity to judge the views of the people -- vice those of the Kyiv political elite, economic oligarchs and street activists -- about the direction of the country, assuming the elections are reasonably fair. Prior elections, including those in 2012, showed the electorate to be about evenly split on pro-Europe and pro-Russia views. That is not how western media present Ukrainian views.

Some Ukrainian analysts have accused Poroshenko of cronyism and manipulating appointments. His behavior and remarks show he wants and intends to work to get a more compliant parliament. For the pro-Yanukovych members who switched sides, they risk being removed and replaced by the political upheaval they helped create. With Yatsenyuk's resignation, the US has lost its champion in Kyiv. The portents for modern, pluralistic and inclusive democracy in Ukraine are not promising.

Ukraine-Russia: The US accused Russia of escalating its support for the eastern Ukrainian separatists. A US State Department spokesperson said, "We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to separatist forces in Ukraine and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russian to attack Ukrainian military positions."

The State Department spokesperson said the evidence derived from "human intelligence information," but declined to elaborate, saying it would compromise sources and methods of intelligence collection.

Comment: Today's statement contains less information than meets the ear. The first red flag is the admission that the new evidence is human source information, not radio intercepts or imagery. Human source information is not the best evidence of military events that are observable by technological collectors. Such military events include convoy movements and artillery shelling from Russia.

US TV ran video clips of artillery fire, although the source of the information about shelling is from human sources, according to State, not ground-based video or other imagery sources. The video was file footage, but not labeled as such. Nor did it identify whose guns were firing and where the firing occurred. It was electronic age disinformation.

Another concern is that the shelling has been taking place for days to weeks, according to the press conference. However, no Ukrainian regime, army or National Guard propagandists or spokesmen have made claims about Russian artillery fire. It is inconceivable that Kyiv would remain silent about an act of aggression of this magnitude.

The third concern is the admission that some human sources reported that Russia "intends" to deliver heavier weapons and more powerful rocket launchers to the separatists. Intent, a mental condition, may be inferred from behavior of some kind: words spoken or physical action taken or both. Thus, for this evidence to be credible someone had to have heard someone else speaking or to have seen physical activities that imply intent, but not planning. The sources did not report that Russia "plans" to deliver equipment, only that it intends to do so. The State Department spokesperson also was not questioned about what people in the Russian leadership have this intent or when they formulated it and intend to act on it.

Finally, a Russian decision to provide more and heavier weapons to the separatists plus artillery fire support would mark a major shift in Russian policy for handling the Ukraine situation. The evidence could be accurate, but a shift of this magnitude would have many ripple effects in the open source information domain for many reasons. Those ripples have not been reported by any open sources.

At this point, today's press statement featured an unprofessional disclosure of rawintelligence. The shelling has not occurred. The other information is unconfirmed.

Nigeria: At least 82 people were killed on Wednesday in two suicide bombings in the north Nigerian city of Kaduna. One was aimed at opposition leader and former president Muhammadu Buhari and his convoy and another at a moderate Muslim cleric about to lead a crowd in prayer.

Comment: Nigerian authorities judge that the attacks were the work of Boko Haram. However, some Nigerian analysts speculated they might have been the work of agents of Nigerian political parties

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