Headlines of interest, mid to late December 2015…
A summary of its itinerary over the past month: leaving the Ukrainian port of Nikolaev on Dec. 1, the Armada Fair went to the Turkish port of Mersin (in the vicinity of the Syrian border), then headed back to the Black Sea, initially listing its next port of call as the Russian port of Kavkaz – an odd itinerary considering the accusations that the Russians have been leveling against BMZ Group investor Bilal Erdogan as a trafficker of ISIS oil. Upon entering the Black Sea, however, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) on board was apparently turned off, as the ship’s movements went dark for 34 hours. Incidentally, as the Armada Fair was entering the Black Sea, the USS Ross was leaving. Bosporus ship spotter tweets…
The ship later reappeared off the coast of Ukraine, then anchored in international waters (circa Lat. 46.28103 N., Long. 31.10284 E.) near Odessa until Sunday morning, Dec. 20, when just after midnight UTC it proceeded towards the port of Dneprobugsky, where it docked. On the evening of Dec. 21 it departed port and listed its next stop as Ravenna Italy (ETA: 2015-12-29 02:00), but instead its next port was the Turkish canal of Canakkale on Christmas Eve, from which it then proceeded through the Aegean and Adriatic en route to Italy. Its exact whereabouts between 12-29 02:08 (where it was located just off the coast of Ravenna) and 12-30 16:43 (same location) are uncertain as there is no AIS data during this period. At present (12-31 01:01) it is docked in Ravenna (this is according to VesselFinder.com whose last AIS “ping” was at 18:48 UTC, while MarineTraffic.com has it anchored off the coast of Ravenna, as of 16:43).
It is worth noting that another BMZ Group oil tanker, the Mecid Aslanov, departed Izmir in western Turkey on Dec. 18 and according to its original itinerary was scheduled to to arrive Dec. 22 in the Portuguese port of Porto; it however changed course and ended up docking in the Ukrainian port of Yuzhny on Christmas Eve. Its AIS then went dark for over 27 hours and then turned back on (9 minutes after our update of Dec. 26 01:00 UTC) just before leaving port. Its next port of call is Port Sudan (ETA 2016-01-03 12:00), but not without a brief stop (like the Armada Fair before it) at Canakkale on Dec. 28.
Another in the BMZ Group, the Begim Aslanova (a chemical tanker), is en route to Marseille (ETA: 2016-01-08 10:00) having departed (ATD: 2015-12-30 10:40) from the Ukrainian port of Izmail (ATA: 2015-12-27 11:34), with its previous port of call listed as Haifa in Israel (ATD: 2015-12-19 22:37).
Note: we have been relying primarily on MarineTraffic.com, according to which the Armada Fair in the second week of December was only anchored near Mersin without making a port of call. VesselFinder.com however lists the Armada Fair as having made a port of call at Mersin on Dec. 11, 12:20 UTC.
Mersin has been the site of other sorts of shady trades…
Wayne Madsen Report – December 16-17, 2015 — The link between Houston and ISIL’s vehicles
Last December, jihadist guerrillas of the Ansar al-Din Front, one of the many jihadist groups in Syria that have been backed by the Central Intelligence Agency, Turkey, and Israel, were shown in the back of an armed Ford F250 pickup truck bearing a decal with the name of the Mark-1 Plumbing company in Houston, Texas. It turns out that the company’s owner, Mark Oberholtzer, had sold the truck tothe Charlie Thomas Ford dealership. The dealer failed to remove the decal before it resold the truck. The truck eventually ended up in the hands of the Islamic State and Oberholtzer was subjected to death threats and a vicious hate campaign when a photograph of the jihadists in his truck hit the news wires. Oberholtzer is suing the Ford dealer for over $1 million in personal and financial damages.
The truck was sold at an auction by the Ford dealer last November 11 and on November 18 it was shipped from Houston to Mersin, Turkey, which lies about 100 miles from the Syrian border. No information has been provided about the Turkish interlocutor in the sale of the truck nor the identity of the sales agent in Houston who bought the vehicle at auction on behalf of the Turkish client. The media is asking how a used truck in Houston could have ended up with the Islamic State in Syria. As previously reported by WMR seven years ago, there is a “protected” pipeline of stolen vehicles from Houston to the Middle East…
Klassekampen – IS kan pumpe olje i ti år
Al Arabiya – Saudi King Salman meets Turkey’s Erdogan
The Russians foul the air of Istanbul – the Smetlivy (which had the little dust-up with a Turkish fishing vessel earlier in the month) passes through the Bosporus on Dec. 27…
Erdogan now sparring with Greece?…
H KAΘHMEPINH – Greek and Turkish jets in dogfight over Aegean
How close to WWIII?…
We are still digesting Seymour Hersh’s latest, which on certain points defies things we thought we knew – not that we are epistemically privileged, of course, but our best guesses suggested otherwise. One point of contention – which may show poor judgement on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – would be the notion that Israel has an interest in seeing Islamic State and particularly Jabhat al-Nusra defeated, when in fact there is evidence that the latter has received logistic support from Israel.
London Review of Books – Military to Military
…The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State…
Germany, Israel and Russia were in contact with the Syrian army, and able to exercise some influence over Assad’s decisions – it was through them that US intelligence would be shared…
…The Joint Chiefs let it be known that in return the US would require four things: Assad must restrain Hizbullah from attacking Israel; he must renew the stalled negotiations with Israel to reach a settlement on the Golan Heights; he must agree to accept Russian and other outside military advisers; and he must commit to holding open elections after the war with a wide range of factions included. ‘We had positive feedback from the Israelis, who were willing to entertain the idea, but they needed to know what the reaction would be from Iran and Syria,’ the JCS adviser told me. ‘The Syrians told us that Assad would not make a decision unilaterally – he needed to have support from his military and Alawite allies. Assad’s worry was that Israel would say yes and then not uphold its end of the bargain.’…
His worries were justified. See for instance this article from Jan. 14, 2015 in Al Monitor – Are Israel, Jabhat al-Nusra coordinating on attacks in Syria?
Or, see Nicola Nasser in the Dec. 19 2014 Asia Times – Israel lends al-Nusra a hand in Syria
A little help (in looking the other way) from the Russians…
Israeli aircraft killed Kuntar and a number of Syrian civilians, including women and children, when they fired four long-range air-to-ground missiles at a residential building in the densely-populated Jaramana neighborhood of Damascus. The Israeli planes may have been beyond the radar coverage of the Russian S-400 air defense systems deployed in Syria to protect Russian and Syrian government forces. However, some Hezbollah officials suspect that Russia gave the Israelis the green light to launch their missiles against Kuntar.
Late last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met in Paris during the International Climate Conference. The leaders hailed the increased military cooperation between their two nations and the military officials of the two countries are holding periodic meetings. In September, Netanyahu flew to Moscow for talks with Putin on Syria and in October it was announced that a military hot line had been established between the air forces of the two nations.
In early December, a Russian military plane veered over Israeli airspace but it was not shot down as was another Russian jet that strayed over a small portion of Turkish airspace in Hatay neighboring Syria.
Hezbollah officials suspect that Syria’s Russian allies may have sold out the Lebanese group to the Israelis and permitted the Israeli attack on their commander in Damascus by standing down Russian forces operating in Syria and in the eastern Mediterranean. Privately, Syria, Iran, and Hamas are all demanding an explanation from Moscow about how the Israeli attack could have occurred with the Russian radar surveillance umbrella over Syria.
Boiling Frogs Post (EyeOpener Report with Sibel Edmonds and James Corbett) – The Final Stage of Erdogan’s Takedown?
Intelligence Online – Paris lands $600 million arms deal in Riyadh for Xmas
Zero Hedge (citing the Twitter feed of “J. Pierpont Morgan“) – ISIS, Al Qaeda And The CIA: The Documented Connection
Veterans Today – CIA-Mossad Party Animal Caught in Iraq
Middle East Eye (AFP) – Qatari royal planes land in Switzerland over medical emergency
U.S. boots on the ground in Libya? These are the ones who were caught. We would wager that there are others…
Maghreb Confidential – Former Gaddafi lobbyist White & Case to work for Tobruk
Economic Policy Journal – Muammar Gaddafi’s Address to the London School of Economics, December 2010
Al Monitor – Has Israel’s civil war already started?
Argentina Independent – Thousands Protest Against Changes to Media Law
New York Times – Donald Trump Takes On Bill Clinton’s Behavior Toward Women
Cleveland.com – Tamir Rice decision: No indictments of Cleveland police officers
Intercept (Glenn Greenwald) – Those Demanding Free Speech Limits to Fight ISIS Pose a Greater Threat to U.S. Than ISIS
Intelligence Online – Israel’s Magen reinvents Wifi interception
The Sullen Bell – Ashton Carter – his proximity to the Rothschilds
Intercept – The Secret Surveillance Catalogue
Defense One – NSA Will Overhaul Its Workforce Next Year
ENENews – “Nuclear Nightmare”: Children with mutations “on almost every street” — Deformed heads, lopsided bodies, “toad skin”, eyelids turned inside out — School built using radioactive waste “part of community outreach project” — Nuclear Expert: “Exceptionally worrying, no one should’ve been living anywhere near”
Democracy Now (Erin Brockovich) – California Methane Gas Leak is Worst U.S. Environmental Disaster Since BP Oil Spill
And finally, from the WMR news and pithy coments page…
- Malaysian 370 possibly hit by US Tomahawk missile to prevent an aerial terrorist attack on Reunion. Link not available:
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing may have been hit by an American Tomahawk missile to prevent co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid from carrying out a terrorist attack in Reunion Island, an overseas department of France, Andrey Karaulov alleged in the 14 December edition of his “Moment Istiny” weekly programme on the St Petersburg-based national Channel Five.
Fariq Abdul Hamid, who was Muslim by religion, may have wanted to take revenge for cartoons about Prophet Muhammad that were published by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, Karaulov explained.
There is indeed a US military base in the Indian Ocean that has Patriot missiles, historian and military expert Aleksandr Shirokorad said.
“The theory of an attack from the French overseas department is quite convincing,” Shirokorad noted.
“This is the only plausible explanation,” Karaulov’s guest Mikhail Delyagin agreed.
According to Karaulov, on 8 March 2014, when the Boeing! 777 disappeared, the publisher and the editor in chief were on vacation in Reunion. The co-pilot directed the aircraft there because it did not have enough fuel to fly to Paris, he deduced.
The USA have satellites that monitor the Indian Ocean, so they could have detected the stray airliner even with its communication systems turned off. “They realized that it was a terrorist threat” and decided to down it with a missile, Karaulov said.
Even if we ask the Pentagon head whether they shot the Boeing down, he will give an evasive answer and “tell us to call tomorrow”, because if truth comes out, he will be held accountable, Karaulov added. “When I called the Berkshire sheriff [sic!] and asked him whether it was indeed the body of Berezovskiy that you handled, he told me to call again tomorrow,” Karaulov said, slightly diverting from the main topic of the programme. He explained that he did not believe exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovskiy had committed suicide b! ecause the latter had loved his mother very much.
- Source: TRK Peterburg Channel Five TV, St Petersburg, in Russian 2015 gmt 14 Dec 15