Friday, June 14, 2019
By Eliot Higgins
Internet databases confirm much about the incident, but the Trump administration hasn’t provided convincing evidence of Iran’s culpability.There has been considerable cynicism worldwide about American claims that the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday were conducted by Iran. Iran has denied the accusation, and on Twitter, the term “Gulf of Tonkin” trended alongside the “Gulf of Oman.”
That historical reference is telling. It was in citing the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” — the North Vietnamese were accused of attacking American destroyers in that gulf in 1964 — that President Lyndon B. Johnson persuaded the Congress to authorize greater American military involvement in Vietnam. Historians have concluded that the attack never happened and Johnson’s ploy is now seen as the quintessential false flag operation.
With tensions rising in the region since attacks on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates in May, understanding what happened and who is to blame is crucial. Could the Gulf of Oman attack be the 21st century version of the Gulf of Tonkin incident?
Thanks to the internet and the range of publicly available information, confirming or denying such an attack has become far easier since the 1960s. A distance of several thousand miles does not mean much today.Tools and information like satellite imagery that was once only available to intelligence agencies can now be found on everyday tools such as Google Maps. Social media allows far-flung people to share information.Online databases containing all kinds of information are now available to people anywhere. It is with these databases that we can start with our investigation into what happened in the Gulf of Oman.Initial reports named the attacked vessels as the Kokuka Courageous and Front Altair. But how can we be sure these names are accurate when we are thousands of miles away with no reporters nearby?
Vessel tracking websites that collect transponder data from thousands of ships from fishing boats to cruise liners across the world in real time allow you to search for vessels and find their current location. Both the Kokuka Courageous and Front Altair could be found on the tracking website MarineTraffic, which showed both vessels at a standstill in the Gulf of Oman. MarineTraffic published the paths of both vessels through the gulf on its Twitter account.
Earlier this morning, two #tankers, #FrontAltair & #Kokuka Courageous, were reportedly torpedoed off the coast of #Oman. Watch their final movements before the reported #incidents in this past track video and learn more here: https://bit.ly/2WEwKQx #marinetraffic
That’s because MarineTraffic users photograph vessels and share the pictures on the website. Anyone can see them and verify if the vessel you are looking at is the one it is claimed to be.Similarly, the Sentinel Hub website publishes imagery taken by its satellites. Soon after the incident in the Gulf of Oman, an image became available showing the Front Altair on fire.With the incident confirmed, the next question was, what happened to the vessels? The United States Central Command gave one answer, publishing a statement that detailed the activity around the two vessels observed by American naval forces in the area.The statement included images of the Kokuka Courageous (my colleagues and I checked them against reference images of the ship to confirm the vessel’s identity) that showed a hole on one side of the ship, along with an object on the side of the hull that was described in the statement as a “likely limpet mine.”
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We can compare the video to the photograph from US Centcom, which is already confirmed as being the Kokuka Courageous, and it shows the position of the alleged mine is at the same point as the object removed from the vessel. Along with the statement and image a video was published showing what was claimed to be an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Gashti class patrol boat removing the unexploded limpet mine from the hull of the Kokuka Courageous, the implication being it was Iran that placed the mine there and was recovering evidence of its involvement.Given the political import and the source of the statement, it is necessary to check the claims made. What can we actually see in the American evidence from the Gulf of Oman?Identical markings on the side of the Kokuka Courageous above the a
lleged limpet mine are visible in both the photographs of the vessel and in the video showing its apparent removal by the Gashti patrol boat.Photographs and video published by Iran’s Press TV network show the same type of patrol boats as part of a ceremony marking the delivery of such vessels to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Yet what the videos and photographs published by the United States don’t show us is more important. While the object on the side of the Kokuka Courageous is described as a “likely limpet mine” the images presented aren’t clear enough to verify that. Nothing presented as evidence proves that the object was placed there by the Iranians. The video shows only that the Iranians chose to remove it for an as yet unknown reason.
Editorial: Debt inquiry — PM has shown a lack of understanding of the larger macroeconomic forces at play
PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan has said he will set up an inquiry commission to look into the reasons why Pakistan’s total debt climbed from Rs6tr in 2008 to Rs30tr by 2019. He wants to know “where all this money went”.Retrospective analyses of economic management and where things have gone wrong are a good idea, and perhaps national-level reflection on how things have been run thus far is necessary to prevent a repeat of previous mistakes. But what is of concern is that it looks like the prime minister has made up his mind at the outset, rather than seeking to arrive at the results at the end of the search.
In fact, far from being a search for the deeper dysfunctions that afflict our economy it seems that what Mr Khan has in mind is some sort of law-enforcement probe to see if somebody may have made off with the money.
Given the amounts involved — a Rs 24,000bn rise in total debt over a decade — it is hard to imagine that individual malfeasance alone can be the explanation.
This was an era of sharply rising government indebtedness across the world as countries struggled to emerge from the ravages of the 2008 financial crisis.
Second, when looked at in absolute terms, the amount seems alarming, but if we take it as a percentage of GDP, which is the proper proportion to maintain here, the alarm bells lose much of their sound. Gross public debt, which measures only the government’s borrowing and excludes the private sector, rose from 58.6pc of GDP in June 2009 to 74.4pc by March 2019. This is a large rise undoubtedly, though probably not the largest in the country’s history, and does not seem quite as alarmist as when stated as an absolute quantity.
Mr Khan has shown a lack of understanding of the play of larger macroeconomic forces.
Debts of this magnitude do not accrue because somebody, or even a lot of individuals, are putting the money somewhere. They accrue because the economy is suffering from large debilitating deficits that require urgent attention.
He would have an idea of how this works, because in a period of 10 months alone, since he came to power, the government has had to borrow almost 2pc worth of GDP just to deal with these deficit itself.
Both his current financial adviser and previous finance minister explain the massive jump in the country’s debt profile by saying their hand was forced by necessity.
If the commission ever comes around to seeking answers for the rise of the country’s debt in the last decade, chances are high they will arrive at the same conclusion. Perhaps the commission should be converted into a group led by economists, that is tasked to search for answers instead of hunting for scapegoats.
اگر میڈیا آزاد نہیں،اگر عدلیہ خود مختار نہیں، اگر قابل احترام ججز کوسازش کے تحت ہٹایا جا رہا ہے، اگر قومی اسمبلی میں اس ملک کے نمائندے اپنی عوام کی نمائندگی نہیں کر سکتے تو اس پاکستان میں اور مشرف کے پاکستان میں کیا فرق ہے؟— PPP Punjab Social Media Official (@PPPPunjab_SM) June 14, 2019
Former president Asif Ali Zardari, who is in the custody of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), advised Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan on Friday to step down from his office and go home.“I give the PM an advice to resign and go home,” he said, while interacting with journalists on the premises of the accountability court where he was brought by NAB officials for the hearing of the fake bank accounts case.
To a question about the prime minister’s decision to appoint a high-powered commission to probe the massive debt piled up over the past decade, the PPP co-chairman asked the premier to task the body with a probe into the foreign loans taken over a period of the past two decades.
He said the passage of the federal budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 depended on which side of the aisle Balochistan National Party Mengal (BNP-M) chief Akhtar Mengal chooses to sit in Parliament.
“How did Imran Khan say that the country has stabilised. Have people’s salaries been increased,” he questioned, recalling that their salaries were increased during his term in power.
To another question about the prime minister saying that he won’t worry if he loses his life in his struggle to bring corrupt elements to justice, Zardari said the premier was not saying this for the first time.
“He [Imran] would say that he would kill himself than to go to the International Monetary Fund [for a bailout package],” the PPP co-chairman said.
As NAB chairman Justice (rtd) Javed Iqbal allegedly told a respectable journalist references are lying in the NAB office against a number of PTI leaders and allies but these are not being pursued simply because if these are taken up the PTI government would fall in 10 minutes which, according to the NAB chief would be against national interest. Statements of the sort which brazenly display a clear tilt in the process of accountability rub away the veneer of even-handedness maintained by NAB.