Monday, November 9, 2015

The Metrojet Airbus and the New Cold War

What we get when we read the news is not what is really going on. We get a general picture, almost like clip art, and then a large, elaborate, well-constructed frame to adorn the picture and shape how we perceive it.

If you read the news every day, attempt to follow the presentation of the clip art, you develop a kind of sixth sense when something is awry. And something is definitely awry when it comes to the story of the Russian charter jet that blew apart the weekend before last over the Sinai, killing all 224 on board.

At first, all officials -- from Russia, Egypt, the United States, Britain -- denied that the Airbus A321-200 could have been downed by a terrorist attack. Why? Because Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, Islamic State's affiliate in the Sinai, allegedly doesn't possess surface-to air missiles capable of reaching the altitude of an Airbus jetliner.

But the weakness of that argument is the assumption that the only way a terrorist can strike is with a missile.

Then there were several-days worth of stories chock full of MacGuffins about the structural integrity of the Metrojet Airbus, its previously repaired tail section, the shoddy nature of Russian commercial aviation, etc.

During this time you had the Pentagon interjecting anonymously -- why? -- that it had satellite imagery showing a flash emanating from the plane which pointed to an explosion; meanwhile Russian and Egyptian officials maintained their ludicrous denials of foul play.

Finally the dam broke when the U.K. suspended flights to the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh after concluding a bomb blew apart the Russian charter jet. The Brits started shuttling their nationals out of the Sinai peninsula with the plane cargo holds empty. What does that tell you?

Obama performed an about-face and said terrorism could very well have brought down the Metrojet. Over the weekend the storyline shifted to a "those wacky Egyptians and their lax security" theme. Now it is broadly acknowledged that a bomb smuggled aboard the Airbus, as Michael Schmidt reports in "Consensus Grows for Bomb as Cause of Russian Jet Crash, Officials Say," was the cause of the crash.

Where most regular news consumers immediately assumed foul play, the mainstream media at the behest of their official minders in government took their readers, listeners and viewers on a week-long wild goose chase. Why?

Because something is happening here. Tectonic plates are shifting and realigning. I am of the opinion that Western-style democracy in the industrial core is getting harder for the power brokers to manage (look at the U.S. presidential campaign). Watching the NFL games yesterday, I have never seen such a mixing of the military with popular sports. Coaches and players wore camouflage gear on the sidelines. It is an homage to Veterans Day, but it runs far deeper than that, as the report, "Tackling Paid Patriotism," of Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake makes clear. The Pentagon pays millions to have sports teams honor the military. This is fascism of course.

But the Pentagon needs to spend that money in order to maintain support for all its foreign interventions, such as bolstering its troop presence in Europe.

Russia is making its own play, and not just with its forceful intervention in Syria. Pepe Escobar makes the case in "What’s the Big Deal Between Russia and the Saudis?" that Russia is negotiating with its enemies al-Saud and Turkey on oil and pipelines. While Mike Whitney argues in "Turkey Goes to War" that a post-landslide-election Erdogan is still aiming to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria with Turkish troops.

When everything appears to be in flux -- the G20 meeting in Turkey this weekend should be interesting -- stick with the obvious. The Russian charter jet was obviously brought down by a terrorist attack. The jihadis have not been successful  in bringing down commercial jets with on-board bombs, as Michael Schmidt points out:
If the Islamic State was behind the crash, it was able to mount the kind of attack that Al Qaeda has found difficult to carry out in recent years. At least three times since 2009, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen has come close but failed to bring down an airliner using bombs that were designed to be undetectable. 
Western intelligence officials have feared that the Islamic State has larger ambitions for attacks outside Syria and Iraq — where it seized large stretches of land in 2014 — especially after the United States and Russia began separate military operations against the group.
Why now? And why didn't the jihadis go after the United States? The U.S. has purportedly been bombing ISIS longer than Russia.

Bombs in cargo holds reek of spy craft, double agents and intelligence agencies. If the British were able to make a determination of terrorism because they intercepted chatter about the Metrojet explosion, they either knew that it was going to happen or knew that an ally agency was running the operation. This was definitely a tit-for-tat attack in the New Cold War.

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