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The Khashoggi Affair…Trump Emerges As The Big Winner…

October 17, 2018

Poverty In Saudi

As to what happened with Jamal Khashoggi and why…Frankly I don’t think we’ll ever know all the details…but now a nearly two weeks later there are some themes that are emerging…

Basically Khashossi is a man who knew too much, about Turkish, Saudi machinations here and there (Syria, 9-11) ..and with his death a number of possible embarrassments for both the Saudi and Turkish government are less likely to see the light of day. And ultimately, a man who is known to be a part of the Muslim Brotherhood network, yet close to the Wahhahbist leadership of Saudi Arabia not only has intimate knowledge of these two competing wings of Sunni Islam, but also probably knows what Washington has been up to as well. Thus for different reasons and probably with different levels of involvement, all three would not shed too many tears at his death and were willing to sacrifice him for “higher causes” – ie, protecting their own reputations.

There are some suggestions, yet to be proven – that all three of the main players – Saudi, Turkey and the U.S. had prior knowledge that some foul deed would occur to Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul and to one degree or another are complicit in Khashoggi’s cruel fate. While the Saudis are ultimately responsible for killing him, one of their own, none of these three are innocent. Given that the Saudi’s over-reacted and then underestimated the furor of world public opinion, they are in a vulnerable position to be blackmailed in different ways.

Basically both the Trump Administration and Erdogan are seeing just how much they can extract from Saudi in exchange for putting “the incident” – the murder and dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi – behind them. Both Washington and Istanbul are squeezing the Saudi lemon for all its worth, which is a fair amount. Each day that Turkey reveals another aspect of this sordid affair – and each day it does – it probably forces Salman and co. to cough up more $ or make yet another strategic concession. 

In Washington’s case, at the very least it was a bit like a mini case of “the Shock Doctrine”, to maximize its leverage in face of a foul deed of which they had some prior knowledge, not intervening in a way that could have saved Khashoggi’s life and then using the crisis to maximize the fall out to its own benefit, to see what it could get out of the episode…and as noted below, the Trump Administration appears to have been – through blackmail – the big winner. 

In discussions with my friend Ibrahim Kazerooni and co-participant in KGNU Boulder’s “Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues”, we noted the parallels between the Khashoggi murder and the 1988 Lockerbie Pan Am 103 incident. The indications are that the Khashoggi case will be regulated in a similar manner – some lower level Saudi member of the Istanbul embassy will be the sacrificial lamb, there will be a big Saudi payoff to Washington to hush up the whole thing, or last tone down the growing criticism of Saudi actions and the mainstream media both in the US and Europe, rather than pursuing the issue and getting to the bottom of it, will simply accede to Washington’s pressure.

In the period just after the year 2000, the United States entered into a somewhat similar arrangement with the Algerian government. In that case, in exchange for Washington granting the military junta there international credibility – it had been accused of having committed rather heinous war crimes against its own people – the Algerian government entered into a poorly publicized but increasingly coordinated strategic relationship with Washington. The Clinton (and then the Bush) Administrations agreed to downplay the military junta’s role in Algeria’s civil war of the 1990s – and to sell them U.S. weapons – in exchange for Algeria giving the U.S. military/Special Forces, intelligence sharing etc.

The result is that the world will probably never know either all the gory details nor how the whole plan was hatched., nor all the secret arrangements between this unholy trinity that are in the making and the offing. So think of what follows as little more than a sketch. Still as the dust partially settles there is an emerging pattern of what is shaping up that looks something like this:

  1. Khashoggi was killed by the Saudis in their Istanbul embassy
  2. The reasons why remain unclear – there is much speculation – although the emerging narrative from the Kingdom – and supported by the Trump Administration – is not credible (ie – that the Saudi government didn’t mean to kill him (only to torture him?)
  3. The United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have come to some kind of arrangement as to how minimize the negative fall out
  4. The biggest “winner” – basically blackmail $ to protect what is left of the good name of the Saudi kingdom is …the Trump Administration which will be the unofficial public relations firm engaged in damage control. There are reports that in exchange for  Washington not aggressively pursuing the investigation of Khashoggi’s death that the Trump Administration will receive something in the order of $500 billion in what amounts to hush money. There is also the possibility that the Saudis will cancel their deal to buy Russian S-400 antimissile systems as a part of the deal.
  5. Turkey will gain certain concessions from Saudi as well – not sure what they are but believe it has something to do with white washing Turkey’s active role in support of mercenaries sent to Syria. Don’t be surprised if boils down to Saudis funding the Islamic mercenaries about to be flooding Turkey as the Syrian offensive to liberate Idlib province gets going. Will Saudi be willing to pay for the transfer of these rogue elements to points beyond Turkey, paying for their transport and future upkeep as a part of the deal?
  6. Another plus for Turkey is that a person with considerable insider knowledge of Turkey’s dirty role in Syria has been neutralized so to speak…and his body cut up in little pieces. Apparently Khashoggi through his contacts with the Saudi embassy in Washington also knows a fair amount about the Saudis and the September 11 (2001) attack on the United States.

While the details involved in the aftermath of the Khashoggi murder are, of course somewhat different still the basic pattern is the same: a government having committed human rights violations (for the Saudis – Yemen, Qatar, their own violent repression of dissidents at home) is granted “credibility” of some sort, or “forgiveness” in exchange for granting Washington either economic or strategic advantages. In the Libyan and now Saudi cases – “forgiveness” entails large financial transactions, otherwise known as blackmail or bribery in exchange for silence as well as reducing or eliminating barriers of economic penetration; in the Algerian case, the price for putting a bit of make up on the corpse that was the Algerian military junta’s role in the war against its own people has been increasing economic penetration of that country’s oil and gas industry and greater security cooperation in the African Sahara.


Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, Cheyenne Bottoms, Fall, 2018

October 5, 2018


Returning to Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Reserve

We came a little earlier this year than last. The migratory birds are arriving from the north,  feeding up a storm, waiting a few days until the winds die down and then heading to points south, the south Texas coast, Central America and even further. But the height of the migratory season at Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira is still a couple of weeks away. Managed by the state of Kansas, Cheyenne Bottoms is just north of Great Bend, Kansas, Quivira, a national wildlife preserve, lies some 25 miles south of town.

Taken together the two wetlands are among the world’s most crowded migratory bird stop overs. The data from 143 weather stations gleaned from satellite radar predicts that some four billion – you read correctly – will fly from Canada over the United States during the fall migration this year. They will be met by another 700,000,000 avian residents of the lower 48 states and together the two groups, numbering 4,700,000,000 birds will head to points south this time of year. The birds passing  through Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira in Kansas are a part of a migration through what is called “the central flyover.” Read more…

United Steelworkers Protest at National Mining Hall of Fame 31st Induction Banquet – Denver, September 29, 2018

September 30, 2018

It was the 31st Induction Banquet of the National Mining Hall of Fame held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Denver, a formal event of tuxedos, and women dressed to the nines. A friend pointed out that by some oversight that there are no miners who are in the National Mining Hall of Fame, only corporate types.

A small group of protesters gathered outside.The protest was organized by the United Steelworkers of America’s Local 5114 from Mullan, Idaho.  A delegation from the union were protesting the unfair labor practices of  of the Hecla Lucky Friday mine management. They were there to underline the refusal of Hecla Lucky Friday mine CEO, Phillip S. Baker, Jr ,attending the event. Several union members went inside to confront Baker

Production at the mine stopped on March 13, 2017. Since that day more than 560 days ago, the miners have been on strike. Since then, Hecla has used replacement workers for limited production. From April 2016 until the strike began, union workers stayed o the job without a contract for eleven months while negotiations proceeded, removing 3.6 million ounces of silver from Lucky Friday in 2016. CEO Phillips Baker described 2016’s production as “the most in sixteen years.”

As a result of the companies unfair labor practices, the state of Montana officially deemed Hecla and CEO Baker to be in violation of its “bad actor” law in a an effort to recoup over $30 million in environmental cleanup costs associated with another mine, the Pegasus Gold Corporation, where Baker was an executive until the company went bankrupt in 1998 leaving taxpayers with a massive bill.

CEO Baker made nearly $11.5 million between 2016 and 2017 – more than fifty

2018 - 09 - 30 - National Mining Hall of Fame Protest - 2

A delegation from Colorado WINS, state employees union representing 33,000 state employees is on hand to support USW 5114

times what the company pays its average hourly employee, but Hecla insists that major concessions from union workers are necessary to ensure the future of the mine. Protesters handed out information leaflets outside the hotel

The Liberation of Idlib, Turkish Headaches and the Shifting Balance of Power in the Middle East. Hear Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince on KGNU Boulder (88.5 FM, 1390 Am, Streaming at on Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues hosted by Jim Nelson. Tonight, Tues, September 25, 2018 @ 6-7 pm Mountain States Time

September 25, 2018

Read more…

Rocky Flats – Radioactive Polluted Former Weapons Manufacturing Facility To Open As A Wildlife Refuge

September 14, 2018

Despite the fact that six local school boards, including Denver’s,  will prohibit their students from taking field trips to it, this weekend the grounds of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons’ Plant will open as a national wildlife preserve, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On the same day (Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 1 pm)  number of peace and citizens groups, opposed to the opening, will be demonstrating at the downtown offices of the Environmental Protection Agency (1595 Wynkoop, Denver, 80202)

Rocky Flats will be the second radioactive contaminated nuclear site to be made into a wildlife preserve. A similar project has been developed – and for similar reasons (to attract tourism) in Chernobyl, Ukraine, site of the April 1986 nuclear reactor meltdown and worst radioactive accident until the Fukushima, Japan meltdown. As with Rocky Flats, the Chernobyl area levels of radioactive pollution were deemed safe for humans, wildlife and plants. Read more…

The Liberation of Idlib – Last Major Jihadist Stronghold in Syria – Will Proceed A Pace, Regardless of a Washington Cruise Missile Bombing Campaign

September 11, 2018

Elimination of Last Jihadist Stronghold Underway

As the liberation of Idlib Province in Syria, last major refuge for jihadist scoundrels, is about to be launched, Syria has come back into the news. In order to better control the narrative, YouTube has eliminated all news from Syrian government sites – as if that would change the outcome -, cruise missile U.S. warships are positioning themselves off of the Syrian coast, accusations of the old canard (repeated proven to have been false) of Syrian government use of chemical weapons, pretext for a U.S. strike, are in the air as is the speculation of possible Russian military responses to such an attack.

Attempting to deconstruct the mainstream narrative, I want to present a different narrative of the events unfolding, for consideration. Here is how I see the situation:

Trump – under pressure from military folks, AIPAC, Saudis – will create another false flag operation claiming Assad’s use of chemical weapons and will launch some missiles in the region of Idlib, last major stronghold for jihadist elements in Syria. This will do nothing to change the balance of power on the ground or prevent Syrian forces from liberating the town and region (although the bombing might delay it some). Syrian government with Russia air support will destroy the jihadist stronghold.

The irrelevancy of such attacks being the case, there are some arguments – credible to my thinking – that such cruise missile attacks are an attempt to create a “quadmire” for the Syrian state, Russia and Iran such as Vietnam was for the U.S. and Afghanistan was for the Soviets. Other argue that such attacks are a last ditch effort to  o deny Assad (and Putin) a victory. And that the missiles will target Bechir al Assad himself in an effort to “decapitate” the Syrian state.

Neither Turkey nor Israel will do anything to stop the Idlib offensive, their ruling circles having accepted “the new normal” – a single, unified Syrian state. Copycatting the US, Israel might bomb two… But in the end this show of force is a show of weakness. Turkey has switched sides and in exchange for getting some construction contracts through either Iran nor Russia, will help with the Syrian reconstruction in the Idlib area doing so under the false impression that it will retain some kind of foothold in the Syrian regions near its border.

The liberation (and that is what it is) of Idlib will be a very messy affair since the Turks have not been able to work out any agreement with the jihadists, estimated to be 20,000-40,000 fighters’ strong, to separate themselves from the civilian population, in which ISIS and the like intend to hide. (Exact numbers are hard to come by. One publication, The Economist – 09-08-2018 – put the figure of jihadist fighters even higher at 70,000 – other sources are even higher at 100,000) Rather than placing the blame for the civilian deaths sure to follow where it belongs – on the Saudis, Israelis, Turks and ultimately on Washington for the likely civilian bloodshed about to take place, the media here will cry foul against the mean Assad government and of course Putin, because Putin is responsible for all evils.

Of course given a White House in which the likes Mike Pompeo is Secretary of State and James “Mad Dog” Mattis is Secretary of Defense – considered the more rational elements near the president – the best laid plans for limited engagement could go awry. Although I might be missing something – I often do – I seriously doubt that beyond dumb, destructive and strategically meaningless missile attacks that the Trump Administration will send in U.S. troops. although we might see some U.S.-Russian sparring in the skies, upping the ante for confrontation. In the end it will not amount to anything.

What is left for Washington in Syria is a U.S. base in Syria’s eastern region near the Iraqi border where some 4000 U.S. troops remain. It is a way station for jihadi stragglers to be sent on other sacred missions (Afghanistan, Horn of Africa, Maghreb – your guess is as good as mine). As that U.S. military base is surrounded by both Syrian and Iraq military forces, an isolated island in a sea of growing hostility, it is unlikely that it will be able to last for long.

All the talk of “humanitarian intervention is just a cynical coating on Washington’s interventionalist political strategy (Iraq, Libya, Syria (where it finally failed) – and was exposed to the entire world, minus some misguided elements in the USA. What has been missing from discussions on Syria (here and elsewhere) is the U.S. goal of  permanently partitioning the country either de jure or de facto. It is this strategy that met its Waterloo in Syria and as such is a major strategic American defeat, the dimensions of which are yet to be determined. Israel and the Saudis also suffered (some) political setbacks in Syria as the regional balance of power has shifted a few notches away from where it was in 2011.

Should the situation unfold as suggested, Syrian national integrity could be largely stabilized by the end of the year, the worst elements of the nightmare of these last years drawn to an end  and the long road of national reconstruction begun.

Read more…

Kristen Iversen, author of Full Body Burden, Reading at Barnes and Noble in Westminster, Colorado

August 30, 2018

Rocky Flats. The 24,100 Year Radioactive Pollution Problem (Actually that is just it’s half life; its toxicity probably lasts close to 200,000 years).

Kristen Iversen, author of Full Body Burden, held a reading last night (August 29, 2018) at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Westminster, Colorado. A new book, co-authored with a number of others, is coming out soon. Iversen commented that a film documentary of Full Body Burden will soon be out for viewing as well. All those newcomers flocking to Colorado’s Front Range these days should read the book to get a taste of what lies under the surface of some of the state’s breathtaking views. In fact, everyone everywhere should read it!

Rocky Flats produced plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons 16 miles from Denver. It caused 30 to 44 pounds of breathable plutonium-239 and plutonium-240 to catch fire in what would come to be known as the second largest industrial fire in US history. Filters used to trap the plutonium were destroyed and it escaped through chimneys, contaminating parts of Denver. Nothing was done to warn or protect downwind residents.

Iversen read a selection from the new book, stories of Rocky Flats whistle blowers, all moving, heartbreaking stuff, of how they were savaged by fellow employees at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant for testifying about health issues during Grand Jury hearings in 1988 that soon lead to the permanent closing of the plant. Iversen also read a selection about former director of the Jefferson County (Colorado) Health Department, Dr. Carl Johnson, fired from his job after a smear campaign by local real estate interests, angered that Johnson refused to issue building permits for developers wanting to build homes on radioactive polluted land. Read more…