Subscriptions, Current Issue & Back Issues

Current Issue | Annual Subscriptions | Back Issues

Tag: False Flags

Top Ten Reasons To Doubt The Official Story Assad Poison Gas Attack, by Jon Rappoport

Top ten reasons to doubt official story on Assad poison-gas attack

by Jon Rappoport

April 13, 2017

The sarin-gas attack story prompted the US missile strike on a Syrian runway. Here are the top ten reasons for doubting that story, and instead calling it a convenient pretext:

ONE: Photos show rescue workers treating/decontaminating people injured or killed in the gas attack. The workers aren’t wearing gloves or protective gear. Only the clueless or crazy would expose themselves to sarin residue, which can be fatal.

TWO: MIT professor Thomas Postol told RT, “I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the [US intelligence] document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun…Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.” How would a canister purportedly dropped from an Assad-ordered plane incur “crushing from above?”

THREE: Why would President Assad, supported by Russia, scoring victory after victory against ISIS, moving closer to peace negotiations, suddenly risk all his gains by dropping sarin gas on his own people?

FOUR: In an interview with Scott Horton, ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi states that his intelligence and military sources indicate Assad didn’t attack his own people with poison gas.

FIVE: Ex-CIA officer Ray McGovern states that his military sources report an Assad air strike did hit a chemical plant, and the fallout killed people, but the attack was not planned for that purpose. There was no knowledge the chemicals were lethal.

SIX: At consortiumnews.com, journalist Robert Parry writes, “There is a dark mystery behind the White House-released photo showing President Trump and more than a dozen advisers meeting at his estate in Mar-a-Lago after his decision to strike Syria with Tomahawk missiles: Where are CIA Director Mike Pompeo and other top intelligence officials?”

“Before the photo was released on Friday, a source told me that Pompeo had personally briefed Trump on April 6 about the CIA’s belief that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was likely not responsible for the lethal poison-gas incident in northern Syria two days earlier — and thus Pompeo was excluded from the larger meeting as Trump reached a contrary decision.”

“After the attack, Secretary of State Tillerson, who is not an institutional intelligence official and has little experience with the subtleties of intelligence, was the one to claim that the U.S. intelligence community assessed with a ‘high degree of confidence’ that the Syrian government had dropped a poison gas bomb on civilians in Idlib province.”

“While Tillerson’s comment meshed with Official Washington’s hastily formed groupthink of Assad’s guilt, it is hard to believe that CIA analysts would have settled on such a firm conclusion so quickly, especially given the remote location of the incident and the fact that the initial information was coming from pro-rebel (or Al Qaeda) sources.”

“Thus, a serious question arises whether President Trump did receive that ‘high degree of confidence’ assessment from the intelligence community or whether he shunted Pompeo aside to eliminate an obstacle to his desire to launch the April 6 rocket attack.”

SEVEN: As soon as the Assad gas attack was reported, the stage was set for a US missile strike. No comprehensive investigation of the purported gas attack was undertaken.

EIGHT: There are, of course, precedents for US wars based on false evidence—the missing WMDs in Iraq, the claims of babies being pushed out of incubators in Kuwait, to name just two.

NINE: Who benefits from the sarin gas story? Assad? Or US neocons; the US military-industrial complex; Pentagon generals who want a huge increase in their military budget; Trump and his team, who are suddenly praised in the press, after a year of being pilloried at every turn; and ISIS?

TEN: For those who doubt that ISIS has ever used poison gas, see the NY Times (11/21/2016). While claiming that Assad has deployed chemical attacks, the article also states that ISIS has deployed chemical weapons 52 times since 2014.

I’m not claiming these ten reasons definitely and absolutely rule out the possibility of an Assad-ordered chemical attack. But they do add up to a far more believable conclusion than the quickly assembled “Assad-did-it” story.

These ten reasons starkly point to the lack of a rational and complete investigation of the “gas attack.”

And this lack throws a monkey wrench into Trump’s claim that he was ordering the missile strike based on “a high degree of confidence.”

Top ten reasons to doubt official story on Assad poison-gas attack

Has Trump Crossed The Line? By G Squared

Putin, who America desperately needs as Russian leader, is now under attack to be replaced by Zhirinovsky. If you thought you had seen hawks and war mongers in contemporary history, you have not seen the crews Trump has just unleashed in Russia.

His one act of lunacy has actually woken The Bear.

Trump is delivering slappies in Syria while making a face, while hardcore to the death Russia is screaming. Stalingrad, Zhukov, and The 1945 Battle of Berlin. And certainly American activities in: Crimea, Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Chechnya, and Ossetia, alone do not look good on America’s track record.

The Bear Will March if Putin is replaced. America will be hit, and it will never forget it. Europe will be subsumed again. The USN will be destroyed by Russia and China.

America has just detected Russian submarines along its coasts. I have previously written of the Russian bases at Santa Clara and Lourdes (Cuba). And of Russian TU nuclear bomber overflights of Guam and The American West Coast.

Zhirinovsky just reminded The Russian Duma, that America has lost every single war it has ever prosecuted since 1945.

The former British ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, in a BBC interview, just stated The American created Jihadists have now been enlived to stage further False Flag Chemical Attacks, based on what they have just seen of The West being led by the gullibility of The MSM.

Tillerson immediately scheduled a flight to Moscow to meet Putin. Putin’s office responded by advising that there will be no meeting with Putin. He can talk to Lavrov if he wants. Previously Tillerson of Exxon-Mobil was always well received in Russia. Putin had even met with the grand liar Kerry. But Tillerson has been advised that he cannot be entered into Putin’s calendar. When Tillerson’s representatives mentioned that Syria was to be discussed, they were advised by Putin’s representatives; that Syria is now ‘Off the table’.

China has just moved an additional 150,000 troop mechanised Rapid Reaction Group to The Yalu-Amnok border with North Korea.

America has moved The USS Vinson Carrier Group One from Singapore to The Korean Peninsula. In that group there are three junk Aegis vessels; two destroyers and one cruiser. Remember the Russian EMP disarming of The USS Donald Cook, and the joke played on The USS Porter?

The USS Vinson was the one involved in The Osama bin Laden Capture Lie. It carries just 90 aircraft; which will have nowhere to land if China takes the initiative.

Image result for uss vinson deployment 2017

Mattis has come out making noises to the effect that the ill thought Syrian attack has caused 20% damage to The Syrian Air Force. However he determined that gymnastic concerning refuelling and ammunition supplies, he didn’t factor in the reality of an Act of War by America, and the fact that Russia has already rectified what he claims in his nonsense narrative.

Iran’s Rouhani; who can strangle America with one move in The Strait of Hormuz; has correctly stated that America is not the world’s leader.

The forthcoming G7 meeting in Italy of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and America, will privately discuss what can be done to alleviate the damage caused by America, while publicly giving full support to the current village idiot. The European states at issue are flooded by Islamists of various drivings, courtesy of America.

The radicals are enlived. Britain and France will no longer need to stage false flags to maintain focus. Unless they distance from America, they appear to be heading down a nasty path.

Words By G Squared, Images added by Martin Harris.

Liberty Report, Ron Paul.

And Now They Love Him: Media Reaction To Trump’s Missile Strike.

THIS IS FROM MY MSN FEED THIS MORNING, NO AUTHOR ATTRIBUTION:

The cruise missiles struck, and many in the mainstream media fawned.

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” declared Fareed Zakaria on CNN, after firing of 59 missiles at a Syrian military airfield late Thursday night. (His words sounded familiar, since CNN’s Van Jones made a nearly identical pronouncement after Trump’s first address to Congress.)

“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,” read a New York Times headline.

“President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens — a frequent Trump critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist. He added: “Now destroy the Assad regime for good.”

Brian Williams, on MSNBC, seemed mesmerized by the images of the strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word “beautiful” three times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons” — without apparent irony.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams.© Reuters MSNBC anchor Brian Williams.

Quite the pivot, for some. Assessing Trump’s presidency a few weeks ago, Zakaria wrote that while the Romans recommended keeping people happy with bread and circuses, “so far, all we have gotten is the circus.” And the Times has been so tough on Trump that the president rarely refers to the paper without “failing” or “fake” as a descriptor.

But after the strikes, praise flowed like wedding champagne — especially on cable news.

“Guest after guest is gushing. From MSNBC to CNN, Trump is receiving his best night of press so far,” wrote Sam Sacks, a Washington podcaster and journalist. “And all he had to do was start a war.”

Why do so many in the news media love a show of force?

“There is no faster way to bring public support than to pursue military action,” said Ken Paulson, head of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.

“It’s a pattern not only in American history, but in world history. We rally around the commander in chief — and that’s understandable.”

Paulson noted that the news media also “seem to get bored with their own narrative” about Trump’s failings, and they welcome a chance to switch it up.

But that’s not good enough, he said: “The watchdog has to have clear vision and not just a sporadic bark.”

Clara Jeffery, editor in chief of Mother Jones, offered a simple explanation: “It’s dramatic. It’s good for TV, reporters get caught up in the moment, or, worse, jingoism.”

She added: “Military action is viewed as inherently nonpartisan, opposition or skepticism as partisan. News organizations that are fearful of looking partisan can fall into the trap of failing to provide context.”

And so, empathy as the president’s clear motivation is accepted, she said — “with no mention of the refugee ban keeping those kids out, no mention of Islamophobia that has informed his campaign and administration. How can you write about motive and not explore that hypocrisy?”

Mocking “the instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader,” Glenn Greenwald in the Intercept recalled John Jay, one of the Federalist Papers authors, who wrote more than 200 years ago: “However disgraceful it may be to human nature . . . nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it.”

In fact, Jay wrote, “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it” — except, of course, to scratch that eternal itch for military glory, revenge or self-aggrandizement.

Groupthink, and a lack of proper skepticism, is something that we’ve seen many times before as the American news media watches an administration step to the brink of war.

Most notoriously, perhaps, that was true in the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, the start of a long disaster there.

Stephen Walt, Harvard professor of international affairs, thinks the press and the public should have learned some things by now.

“Syria remains a tragedy because there are no good options,” he wrote in Foreign Policy, and America’s interventions in the Middle East very seldom end well.

Walt later told me that the news media now must look forward and ask deeper questions.

“What is Trump’s overall strategy for Syria,” given that “the balance of power on the ground is unchanged and we are no closer to a political settlement.”

Missile strikes may seem thrilling, and retaliation righteous.

But journalists and commentators ought to remember the duller virtues, too, like skepticism, depth and context.

And keep their eyes fixed firmly there, not on the spectacular images in the sky

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/opinion/perspective-the-media-loved-trump%e2%80%99s-show-of-military-might-are-we-really-doing-this-again/ar-BBzzzHG?li=BBqdk7Q&ocid=SK2MDHP

Still running the show, regardless of who the President is.

Bomb Blast St. Petersburg, “Probable” Terror Attack Coincides With Putin Visit: 10 Dead.

Breaking: See updates at Aljazeera, second device de activated.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/04/blast-hits-st-petersburg-metro-carriage-170403120753707.html

 

Ten people were killed and more than 20 were injured when an explosion tore through a train carriage in a St. Petersburg metro tunnel on Monday in what authorities called a probable terrorist attack

Russian news media reported that police were searching for a man recorded on surveillance cameras who was thought to have been involved in the attack, which coincided with a visit to the city by President Vladimir Putin.

A grainy photograph published by the Fontanka news outlet showed a middle aged man with beard and black hat.

An injured person stands outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station, following explosions in two train carriages at metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia.© REUTERS/Anton Vaganov An injured person stands outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station, following explosions in two train carriages at metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Interfax news agency cited unnamed sources as saying the bomb, packed with shrapnel, may have been hidden in a train carriage inside a briefcase.

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee said an explosive device had been found at a different metro station, hidden under a fire extinguisher, but had been made safe.

The Investigative Committee, a state body which investigates major crimes, opened a criminal case on charges of terrorism.

Russia has been the target in the past of numerous bomb attacks, frequently targeting public transport. Most were blamed on Islamist rebels from Russia’s North Caucasus regio

The rebellion there has been largely crushed, but security experts say Russia’s military intervention in Syria has made Russia a potential target for Islamic State attacks.

Soon after the blast happened at 2:40 p.m., ambulances and fire engines descended on the concrete-and-glass Sennaya Ploshchad metro station as a helicopter hovered overhead.

“I appeal to you citizens of St. Petersburg and guests of our city to be alert, attentive and cautious and to behave in a responsible matter in light of events,” St Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko said in an address.

The blast raised security fears beyond Russian frontiers. France, which has itself suffered a series of attacks, announced additional security measures in Paris.

Video from the scene of Monday’s blast showed injured people lying bleeding on a platform, some being treated by emergency services and fellow passengers.

The entrance to Sennaya ploschad metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia.© Alexander Nikolayev/Interpress/via REUTERS The entrance to Sennaya ploschad metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Others ran away from the platform amid clouds of smoke, some screaming or holding their hands to their faces.

“I saw a lot of smoke, a crowd making its way to the escalators, people with blood and other people’s insides on their clothes, bloody faces,,” St Petersburg resident Leonid Chaika, who said he was at the station where the blast happened, told Reuters by phone. “Many were crying.”

A huge hole was blown open in the side of a carriage with metal wreckage strewn across the platform.

Passengers were seen hammering at the windows of one closed carriage. Russian TV said many had suffered lacerations from glass shards and metal, the force of the explosion maximized by the confines of the carriage and the tunnel.

Smoke fills a St Petersburg metro station after an explosion on a train.© Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock/Rex Images Smoke fills a St Petersburg metro station after an explosion on a train. ALL STATIONS CLOSED

Officials said earlier on Monday that the death toll from the explosion was 9, but the health minister later revised that upwards to 10 dead.

Authorities closed all St. Petersburg metro stations. The Moscow metro said it was taking unspecified additional security measures in case of an attack there.

Russia has been on particular alert against Chechen rebels returning from Syria, where they have fought alongside Islamic State, and wary of any attempts to resume attacks that dogged the country several years ago.

At least 38 people were killed in 2010 when two female suicide bombers detonated bombs on packed Moscow metro trains.

Over 330 people, half of them children, were killed in 2004 when police stormed a school in southern Russia after a hostage taking by Islamist militants.

In 2002, 120 hostages were killed when police stormed a Moscow theater to end another hostage-taking.

Putin, as prime minister, launched a 1999 campaign to crush a separatist government in the Muslim southern region of Chechnya, and as president continued a hard line in suppressing rebellion.

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/blast-in-st-petersburg-metro-station-kills-10-authorities/ar-BBzi2oO?li=BBqdg4K&ocid=SK2MDHP

BOMBSHELL! Obama Defense Deputy Makes Huge Blunder – Admits On MSNBC How They Surveilled President Trump And LEAKED It To The “Hill.”

This is just too good to be true.  This poor woman,  Evelyn Farkas, “leaks” the whole story to MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski.  Talk about putting your foot in your mouth…wow, did she ever do that!  Below is some of the very important transcript taken from the show in which Farkas speaks:

 

“The Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about the Trump staff dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would not longer have access to that intelligence.”

“I became very worried because not enough was coming out into the open and I knew that there was more. We have very good intelligence on Russia. So then I had talked to some of my former colleagues and I knew they were trying to also get information to the hill.”

“That’s why you have the leaking.”

 

What was the woman thinking?  We don’t care…we will happily take it!

 

These are the bullet points of the report:

  1. The White House surveilled the Trump campaign and then leaked information to anti-Trump allies in congress (on “The Hill”).
  2.  The Russian hacking claim hinges on a CrowdStrike Report from Dimitri Alperovitch.
  3.  Alperovitch was forced to retract statements in a report blaming Russia for hacking Ukrainian military equipment – a failed attempt to smear Putin.
  4.  Alperovitch, along with White House Leaker Evelyn Farkas and Ukrainian Oligarch Victor Pinchuk, are all senior fellows on the Atlantic Council – which is vehemently anti-Russia.

 

CIA Could “Easily Fake Russian Hack”

Monday, Mar 13, 2017 03:00 AM NZDT

WikiLeaks’ CIA dump makes the Russian hacking story even murkier — if that’s possible

WikiLeaks’ new trove suggests the CIA could easily fake a Russian hack. It’s no smoking gun, but it’s disturbing

WikiLeaks' CIA dump makes the Russian hacking story even murkier — if that's possible(Credit: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Salon/Mireia Triguero Roura)

Russia hacked the election. Russia didn’t hack the election. Russia sort of, maybe, possibly hacked the election.

Is your head spinning from this story yet?

The latest WikiLeaks disclosures concerning the CIA’s hacking abilities has further complicated the hall of mirrors that is the Russian hacking story. The “Vault 7″ leaks are believed to be authentic and reveal a few uncomfortable truths about the overreach of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Reactions to the leaks have varied from those who think they could be more significant than the Edward Snowden revelations to those who think it’s all a bit of a non-story. Basically, it’s a pretty clear split between those who regard WikiLeaks’ editor Julian Assange as a trustworthy whistleblower and those who regard him as a tool of the Kremlin.

Among other things, the leaks revealed that the U.S. government is essentially paying out to exploit the vulnerabilities in software without telling companies and, disturbingly, that they could be using your iPhone or Samsung TV as a microphone — even when it’s supposedly switched off.

One of the most interesting disclosures concerns how the CIA can cover its tracks by leaving electronic trails suggesting the hacking is being done in different places — notably, in Russia. In fact, according to WikiLeaks, there’s an entire department dedicated to this. Its job is to “misdirect attribution” by leaving false fingerprints. If you’ve been at all skeptical about the recent levels of Russia-related hysteria, promoted heavily by U.S. intelligence agencies, alarm bells are probably going off in your head.

Keeping these tactics in mind, the evidence presented to prove that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee in an effort to throw the presidential election to Donald Trump becomes flimsier than it was before. And it was pretty flimsy to begin with.

Recall, for example, that cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike conveniently concluded within one day that the Russian government was behind the attack on the DNC servers. I say conveniently, because the DNC paid for CrowdStrike’s services — and it’s fair to say the DNC had an unhealthy fixation on all things Russia for the duration of the election cycle.

The evidence provided by CrowdStrike included the fact that malware found on DNC servers was the same as malware believed to be used by Russian intelligence units, that metadata files included information in Cyrillic text, and that emails had been sent using the Russian email service Yandex. In other words, it was nothing the CIA couldn’t have done itself in order to “misdirect attribution.” What’s more, CrowdStrike actually admitted that it deliberately left out evidence that didn’t support its claims that Russia was responsible.

FireEye, a competitor of CrowdStrike, made similar claims on thin evidence. The hackers, they explained, “appeared to cease operations on Russian holidays, and their work hours seem to align with the UTC +3 time zone, which contains cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

In a thorough and thought-provoking piece on Russian hacking, investigative journalist Yasha Levine picks this “evidence” apart:

So, FireEye knows that these two APTs [Advanced Persistent Threats] are run by the Russian government because a few language settings are in Russian and because of the telltale timestamps on the hackers’ activity? First off, what kind of hacker — especially a sophisticated Russian spy hacker — keeps to standard 9-to-5 working hours and observes official state holidays? Second, just what other locations are in Moscow’s time zone and full of Russians? Let’s see: Israel, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, Lithuania, Ukraine. If non-Russian-speaking countries are included (after all, language settings could easily be switched as a decoy tactic), that list grows longer still: Greece, Finland, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Kenya — the countries go on and on.

“This is forensic science in reverse,” Levine writes. “First you decide on the guilty party, then you find the evidence that confirms your belief.”

Does any of this mean that Russia is not actually hacking or attempting to hack American institutions and agencies? Of course not. All major powers dedicate huge amounts of time and resources to hacking each other, pretty much on a constant basis. It’s highly doubtful that hacking ceases on national holidays. The question is whether Russia is actually responsible in the instances described by firms like CrowdStrike and FireEye.

The Vault 7 leaks are not exactly a smoking gun for those who maintain Russia’s innocence where the DNC hacks and leaks are concerned — but they’re not insignificant either. If anything, the new leaks should make people think a little harder before putting their complete trust in the CIA’s public conclusions about the acts (or alleged acts) of enemy states.

On the other hand, for those who still believe Russia is responsible for the DNC hack, the latest WikiLeaks dump could also easily have confirmed their beliefs. Russia is the only country specifically named by WikiLeaks as a potential victim of these “misdirected attribution” tactics. This will heighten suspicions that U.S. intelligence agencies have in some way been infiltrated by Russia to facilitate the leaks of damaging (but true) information. It will confirm, for some observers, that WikiLeaks is in Vladimir Putin’s pocket.

Personally, given that WikiLeaks has an impeccable record in terms of the authenticity of the material it releases, I’m inclined to disagree with the analysis that paints Assange as a Kremlin stooge. What we really need to be skeptical about is the way these stories are framed and promoted by both government agencies and media. The fact that the CIA — an organization of professionals trained in the most sophisticated methods of deception — is front and center promoting the idea that Assange is a Russian agent, should be enough for anyone to take that idea with a pinch of salt.

The Russia story has turned into a game of “pick your favorite conspiracy theory” — but what we label as conspiracy theory is most often whatever we find unpalatable to our built-in biases. We go around looking to confirm our own theories by seizing on the evidence that matches our ideas of how things are. No one is immune to this.

What we should work toward is a better awareness of these tendencies. If journalists can do that — and they should — perhaps they can begin to employ more exacting standards to their investigations and reporting. Maybe then we can come a little closer to determining the real truth, rather than the truth as we would like it to be.

Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance journalist, writing mostly on geopolitics and media. She is based in Budapest, but has also lived in the U.S., Germany and Russia. Follow her on Twitter.
https://www.salon.com/2017/03/12/wikileaks-cia-dump-makes-the-russian-hacking-story-even-murkier-if-thats-possible/

Is This The Real Reason For The Electronic Device On Airflights Ban?

FOUND THIS ON MY MSN FEED TODAY< NO AUTHOR CREDITED:

https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/analysis-trump-won%e2%80%99t-allow-you-to-use-ipads-or-laptops-on-certain-airlines-here%e2%80%99s-why/ar-BByAhpT?li=BBqdg4K&ocid=SK2MDHP

From Tuesday on, passengers traveling to the U.S. from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries will not be allowed to have iPads, laptops or any communications device larger than a smartphone in the cabin of the plane.

If you are traveling from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the UAE on Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, or Turkish Airlines, and you want to use your laptop on the flight, you are probably out of luck.

So why is the United States doing this, and how can it get away with it?

Emirates passenger planes at Dubai airport in United Arab Emirates.© AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File Emirates passenger planes at Dubai airport in United Arab Emirates.

The U.S. says it’s all about security

The Trump administration says the new rules were introduced because of intelligence that shows terrorists are continuing to target airlines flying to the United States.

An unidentified person familiar with the issue has told The Washington Post that officials have long been worried by a Syrian terrorist group that is trying to build bombs inside electronic devices that are hard to detect.

However, as Demitri Sevastopulo and Robert Wright at the Financial Times suggest, non-U. S. observers are skeptical of this explanation.

They note that the United States has not been forthcoming about whether the ban is based on recent intelligence or long-standing concerns. There is also no explanation for why electronic devices in the cabin are a concern, and electronic devices in the baggage hold are not.

There is an alternative explanation

It may not be about security. Three of the airlines that have been targeted for these measures — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — have long been accused by their U.S. competitors of receiving massive effective subsidies from their governments.

These airlines have been quietly worried for months that President Trump was going to retaliate. This may be the retaliation.

These three airlines, as well as the other airlines targeted in the order, are likely to lose a major amount of business from their most lucrative customers — people who travel in business class and first class.

Business travelers are disproportionately likely to want to work on the plane — the reason they are prepared to pay business-class or first-class fares is because it allows them to work in comfort. These travelers are unlikely to appreciate having to do all their work on smartphones, or not being able to work at all.

The likely result is that many of them will stop flying on Gulf airlines, and start traveling on U.S. airlines instead.

As the Financial Times notes, the order doesn’t affect only the airlines’ direct flights to and from the United States — it attacks the “hub” airports that are at the core of their business models.

These airlines not only fly passengers directly from the Gulf region to the United States — they also fly passengers from many other destinations, transferring them from one plane to another in the hubs.

This “hub and spoke” approach is a standard economic model for long-haul airlines, offering them large savings. However, it also creates big vulnerabilities. If competitors or unfriendly states can undermine or degrade the hub, they can inflict heavy economic damage.

The United States is weaponizing interdependence

As we have argued in the past, and talk about in forthcoming work, this can be understood as a variant form of “weaponized interdependence.”

We live in an interdependent world, where global networks span across countries, creating enormous benefits, but also great disparities of power. As networks grow, they tend to concentrate both influence and vulnerability in a few key locations, creating enormous opportunities for states, regulators and nonstate actors who have leverage over those locations.

In this context, the United States is plausibly leveraging its control over access to U.S. airports, which are central “nodes” in the global network of air travel between different destinations.

It is using this control to attack the key vulnerabilities of other networked actors, by going after the central nodes in their networks (the hub airports) and potentially severely damaging them.

There may not be much that Gulf airline carriers can do

Gulf airlines have tried to defend themselves against political attacks from U.S. competitors by appealing to free trade principles. The problem is that standard free trade agreements, such as World Trade Organization rules, don’t really apply to airlines (although they do apply to related sectors, such as the manufacture of airplanes).

This has allowed the Gulf airlines to enjoy massive subsidies, without having to worry too much about being sued in the WTO.

However, it also makes it hard for Gulf states or the states of other affected airlines to take a WTO case against the new U.S. rules, even if these rules turn out to be motivated by protectionism and the desire to retaliate, rather than real underlying security questions.

If this were happening in a different sector, it would make for a pretty interesting case. States preserve carve-outs from international trade rules when they feel that their security is at stake.

Would the United States prevail in a case like this, where there is a colorable security justification, but where there is also a very plausible argument that the real motivation doesn’t have much to do with security?

Or would the WTO defer to the United States’ proposed justification? It’s very likely that the Trump administration will make more unilateral rules that are justified using the language of national security, but are plausibly motivated by protectionism, so we may find out.