Monday, 13 August 2018

Operation Featherweight: Month 50, Week 1, Day 7.

A direct continuation of;

In that post I identified the Central Syria area. This makes up the bulk of Syrian territory and is under the control of the Syrian government. I also identified two pockets within that Central Syria area which remain outside of the control of the Syrian government;

The area in the Syrian desert around the Bobby Sands base at al-Tanf which remains under ISIL control.

The East Ghouta area which encompassed the East Ghouta suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, the East Qalamoun Mountains and the Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian refugees. These areas were under the control of a mixture of the Army of Conquest and ISIL.

In late February 2018 the Syrians launched an operation to liberate the East Ghouta suburb itself. This operation ended in success on April 12th (12/4/18). The Army of Islam faction of the Army of Conquest surrendered surrendered the town of Douma placing the entire East Ghouta suburb under Syrian control.

While conducting operations within the East Ghouta suburb the Syrians were also attempting to regain control over the East Qalamoun Mountains.

As it has been across Syria the Syrians objective in the East Qalamoun Mountains was to regain control with the minimum of violence and loss of life. This meant that prior to any fighting the armed groups were offered the chance to surrender and that offer remained on the table throughout.

Under the terms of what is really that standard surrender offered by the Syrians members of any armed groups would be granted amnesty.

That meant they would not be arrested or imprisoned. They wouldn't even have to disband as a military force. However they would need to make amends for their past crimes by fighting on behalf of the Syrian government in what are termed; "Amnesty Battalions."

Groups who did not wish to join the Amnesty Battalions were instead given the option of being transferred to another part of the country. Once they had disarmed and disbanded as a fighting force.

As the fighting raged in East Ghouta itself negotiations were taking place with different groups in the East Qalamoun Mountains over these surrender options. Following the Army of Islam's defeat in East Ghouta itself the groups in the wider Army of Conquest surrendered the East Qalamoun Mountains with the minimum of resistance.

On April 15th (15/4/18) the Army of Islam along with the FSA fragments the Ahmad al-Abo Martyrs Brigade/Faylaq Ahmad al-Abo and the Lions of the East Army/Jaish Osoud al-Sharqiya surrendered a number of areas. These included the main towns of Dumair, Ruhayba and Nasiriyah.

On April 17th (15/4/18) the Army of Islam formalised their surrender in those areas. Agreeing to transfer to Jarablus within the Garvaghy Road area. The Lions of the East Army also formalised their surrender agreeing to join the Amnesty Brigades.

Despite giving up territory the al-Abo Martyrs however pledged to continue fighting as part of the Army of Conquest. On April 18th (18/4/18) the al-Abo Martyrs even went so far as to assassinate Shaher Jumea who had been negotiating with the Syrians on their behalf.

The transfer of the Army of Islam began on April 19th (19/4/18). By the time it was completed on April 22nd (22/4/18) 6,500 fighters plus their families had been transferred to the Garvaghy Road area. During this period there was little in the way of any fighting.

On April 21st (21/4/18) all armed groups in the East Qalamoun Mountains including the al-Abo Martyrs formally surrendered. They agreed to be transferred to the Garvaghy Road and the Sudetenland areas. Completed on April 23rd (23/4/18) this saw around 3,200 fighters plus their families transferred.

On April 25th (25/4/18) Syrian forces formally entered and raised the Syrian national flag over the towns of Ruhaybah and Jayroud. This marked the complete and total liberation of the East Qalamoun Mountains area.

The Battle of East Ghouta saw all the Islamist groups unite to attack Syrian forces across the country. In an effort to support the Army of Islam in the battle by dividing the Syrian forces.

This Islamist alliance included ISIL who began attacking the Syrians from the Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian Refugees. On March 16th (16/3/18) the Syrian lines around the Yarmouk Camp collapsed allowing ISIL to take control of the adjoining al-Qadam district to the west and the adjoining Hajar al-Aswad district to the south. Both of which are districts of Damascus itself.

On April 15th (15/4/18) the Syrians began an operation to recover the al-Qadam and Hajar al-Aswad districts and to expel ISIL from the Yarmouk Camp completely.

Any attempt to fight a battle within the Yarmouk Camp was always going to be particularly challenging. As with the Old City districts in Raqqa or Mosul it is a tightly packed maze of narrow alleyways and chaotic side streets. It has only three of what would normally be considered roads meaning that you cannot use tanks and armoured vehicles.

Instead troops on foot have to comb through it room-by-room, house-by-house, street-by-street in slow moving and intense fighting. Although its probably not something anyone wants to dwell on many of those killed during the fighting in the Old City districts of Raqqa and Mosul were not shot or blown up. Instead they were stabbed or beaten to death in bloody bare-knuckle fights.

Added to that in ISIL you have an enemy that thinks nothing of rigging the buildings in a street with explosives. Then detonating those explosives in order to demolish the buildings onto advancing troops and civilians being held prisoner.

So in order to avoid that bloodshed and destruction the Syrians began their operation with shelling and airstrikes as a show of force. That show of force was accompanied by an offer to transfer the roughly 1,200 fighters plus their families to either the Sudetenland or the pocket in the Syrian desert.

Sadly that offer was rejected by ISIL and ground operations began on April 20th (20/4/18).

The other problem presented by the Yarmouk Camp is that it was surrounded on two sides by areas under the control of the Army of Conquest. The al-Tadamon district to the north-east and the Yalda district to the south-east.

As such the first day of fighting was focused on the al-Tadamon district in order give the Syrians access to the camp itself and cut the camp off from the Yalda district. On that first day of fighting Syrian forces were able to liberate the Iman Ali Mosque prompting a surrender of the Army of Conquest groups in the al-Tadamon district.

The Syrian operation was in fact being led by Palestinian groups. Most notably the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA). The military wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

On April 23rd (23/4/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies opened up a new axis to the south-east of the Yarmouk Camp. This focused on the Zein neighbourhood which divides the Yalda district and the Hajar al-Aswad districts. They were quickly able to liberate the Mujaheddin Mosque.

In response to these losses ISIL shelled the Qudsayya suburb of Damascus in an effort to kill and injure civilians.

On April 24th (24/4/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies opened a third axis at the Qadam district to the west. They rapidly liberated the al-Baradi and al-Baradat neighbourhoods. This effectively cut the Qadam district in half giving them access to the Hajar al-Aswad district and the Yarmouk Camp through the Jorah Groves.

In response to these loses ISIL shelled the Nahr Aisha district of Damascus in an effort to kill and injure civilians.

On April 26th (26/4/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies opened a fourth axis at the south-west of the Qadam district. Specifically at the Madaniyah neighbourhood. They also called upon the Army of Conquest to surrender their positions in the Yalda district.

On April 27th (24/4/18) the Army of Conquest did give the Syrians and their Palestinian allies permission to enter the Yalda district but stopped short of surrendering. The Syrians and their Palestinian allies also made progress in the Madaniyah, al-Jouli and al-Asali neighbourhood of Qadam district allowing them to progress in the north-east of the Yarmouk Camp along the 30th Street Road.

In response to these loses ISIL shelled the Bayader Nadir district of Damascus in an effort to kill and injure civilians.

On April 30th (30/4/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies broke ISIL's lines in the Madaniyah neighbourhood of Qadam district.

This triggered a largescale collapse in ISIL's defences which saw them withdraw entirely from Qadam district into the Yarmouk Camp. Allowing the al-Jouli and al-Asali neighbourhoods to come completely under the control of the Syrians and their Palestinian allies.

Having been forced to retreat into the Yarmouk Camp at the north-west ISIL then launched an attack from the south-east of the camp. On Army of Conquest positions in the Yalda district.

This prompted the Army of Conquest to formally surrender to the Syrians.

Under the terms of the surrender Al Qaeda fighters plus their families would be transferred to the Sudetenland. Army of Islam fighters plus their families would be transferred to Garvaghy Road. FSA fragments such as the Army of al-Ababil/Jaish al-Ababil would be transferred to Daraa Province in the Yarmouk River Basin area.

By May 1st (1/5/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies had made progress along the 30th Street Road and consolidated the positions surrendered by the Army of Conquest. Together these gains put them in control of around 20% of the Yarmouk Camp and surrounding districts.

On May 3rd (3/5/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies liberated the Younis Hospital, the Telephone Exchange building and Munif Enadi School. These all sit on the east-to-west portion of the 30th Street Road. Meaning that the Syrians and their Palestinian allies had succeeded in cutting the Yarmouk Camp off from the Hajar al-Aswad district.

May 3rd (3/5/18) also saw the start of the transfer of around 4,000 Army of Islam fighters plus their families to the Sudetenland and around 2,700 Army of al-Ababil fighters plus their families to Daraa Province. However on May 4th (4/5/18) the Army of al-Ababil changed their minds and decided to join the Syrian Amnesty Brigades instead. The transfer of the Army of Islam was completed on May 8th (8/5/18).

On May 8th (8/5/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies declared the southern half of Hajar al-Aswad district to by fully liberated. Leaving only the northern half of the district to be liberated before they could enter the Yarmouk Camp from the south.

On May 9th (9/5/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies liberated the Japanese Hospital and Sports Town complex. These sit at the south-eastern tip of the Yarmouk Camp bordering the Yalda and al-Tadamon districts.

These gains were celebrated by the announcement of a formal agreement between the Syrian government and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) to rebuild the camp so Palestinian refugees could return to live there.

ISIL responded to this latest round of losses by detonating a car bomb in and shelling Marjah Square in Damascus. In an effort to kill and injure civilians.

On May 10th (10/5/18) ISIL launched mortar attacks on the centre of Damascus. In an effort to kill and injure civilians. However these were widely mistaken for and indistinguishable from Israeli airstrikes which were targeting Damascus at the time.

On May 14th (14/5/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies liberated the Asuad Ibn al-Furat School, the UNRWA School, the Labour Office building, the Jazira roundabout and the Rus roundabout. These all sit either side of the 30th Street Road in both the Hajar al-Aswad district and Yarmouk Camp itself.

On May 15th (15/4/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies liberated the al-Quds Mosque and surrounding Naqab neighbourhood. This effectively marks the liberation of around 30% of the Yarmouk Camp between the 30th Street Road as it runs north-to-south and the Yarmouk Street road.

On May 16th (16/5/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies were able to declare the Hajar al-Aswad district fully liberated. ISIL responded by shelling the Victoria Bridge in the Marjah district of Damascus. This saw two civilians killed and 16 wounded.

On May 17th (17/5/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies entered the Yarmouk Camp from the Hajar al-Aswad district to the south. This meant that ISIL were under attack from all sides within the camp itself.

On May 21st (21/5/18) ISIL finally took up the offer of surrender. This saw them surrender all but their light weapons and be transferred to the small pocket within the Syrian desert.

On May 22nd (22/5/18) the Syrians and their Palestinian allies took full control of the Yarmouk Camp.

This marked the complete closure of the East Ghouta area pocket within the Central Syria area.

17:15 on 13/8/18 (UK date).

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Operation Featherweight: Month 50, Week 1, Day 3.

My most recent post on the war in Syria was all the way back on May 4th (4/5/18). More than three months ago.

The main reason for this was the World Cup. Although I can't really complain about having to keep quiet while I watch football this did set me back quite badly.

Hosting the World Cup is obviously a matter of great prestige for any nation. The 2018 World Cup was held in Russia. I don't think it's escaped anyone's attention that Russia are a significant player in the war in Syria. So my absence during the World Cup was not totally bunking off. Just 98-99% bunking off.

The World Cup was preceded by and slightly overlapped by Ramadan. The holy Muslim month of fasting. It ends with the Eid al-Fitr which is celebrated in much the same way that Christmas is celebrated in western nations. Families gather together for a few days of public holiday which is normally spent eating all the things they've been unable to eat for the past month.

As a result this is not a period in which you would choose to launch any large military operations. Particularly in a conflict which in some ways has become a competition over who can be the most devout and extreme Muslim.

Therefore in two the three months of my absence not a great deal has happened. Certainly not compared with previous years.

At the time of my last post Syria could be roughly divided into six main areas; Shangri-La, Garvaghy Road, Afrin Canton, the Sudetenland, Central Syria and the Yarmouk River Basin.


This is located in north-eastern Syria. Essentially it is everything to the north-east of the Euphrates River.

It is under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF/QSD).

The largest element of the SDF coalition is the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). They operate alongside Assyrian/Syriac Christian, Turkmen and Arab Muslim forces.

The Arab element which makes up around 50% of the SDF is comprised of both elements of the long defunct Free Syrian Army (FSA) and local tribes indigenous to north-eastern Syria.

The SDF also contains a small International Brigade made up of foreign volunteers. They are supposedly supported by the US-led coalition; Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR) both with air power and Special Operations Forces (SOF's).

The boundaries of Shangri-La were fully established through the SDF's "Cizre Storm" operation launched in September 2017. This saw the SDF clear the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from an area between roughly the Khobar River and Syria's border with Iraq.

Since then operations have been focused on eliminating the small presence ISIL maintain along the northern banks of the Euphrates River and along the Iraq/Syria border. Particularly around the towns of al-Dashisha and al-Hawl.

Garvaghy Road:

This sits directly to the west of Shangri-La where the Euphrates River enters Syria from Turkey. It's stretches roughly 100km (60 miles) from the Euphrates to the towns of Kilis/Azaz.

It was invaded by Turkey in August 2016 and remains under the illegal occupation of  the regular Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). Within Garvaghy Road Turkey commands a coalition of Islamist armed groups known as the Army of Conquest/Jaish al-Fatah (JAF).

The most high profile member of the Army of Conquest coalition is Al Qaeda/The Base. Their affiliate within Syria is known as Jabhat al-Nusra/The Support Front. However in order to disguise both their and the Army of Conquest's links to Al Qaeda they have gone through numerous name changes. Currently they prefer to be referred to as; The Organisation for the Liberation of the Levant/Hayat Tahrir a-Sham.

Although they are dominant within the Army of Conquest Al Qaeda only have a limited presence within the Garvaghy Road area. There the main group within the coalition are the United Turkmen Army (UTA).

The UTA are formed out of the paramilitary wing of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who are known as the Grey Wolves. Taking their brigade names from famous Ottoman Emperors such as Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror the UTA are also sometimes known as the Syrian Turkmen Brigades (STB).

Other significant factions within the Army of Conquest include; The Islamic Movement of the Freemen of the Levant/Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (Ahrar al-Sham) and The Army of Islam/Jaish al-Islam (JAI). The Army of Islam are famous for being far more extreme than both ISIL and Al Qaeda. In fact they have executed members of ISIL for being too moderate in their pursuit of genocide.

The Army of Conquest also includes a vast number of small, Islamist fragments of the long defunct Free Syrian Army (FSA). Within the Garvaghy Road area these fragments have been entirely absorbed into the UTA.

Afrin Canton:

Centred around the city of Afrin this roughly 2,400kmsq (1,400 milesq) area directly borders Garvaghy Road to the west.

Historically an ethnically Kurdish area of Syria Afrin Canton has been under the control of first the YPG and then the SDF since the conflict began in 2011.

However in January 2018 Afrin Canton was invaded by Turkey and remains under the illegal occupation of the regular Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). As within Garvaghy Road Turkey commands the Army of Conquest coalition within Afrin Canton. With the UTA being the dominant group in the coalition.

The Sudetenland:

This area sits directly south of Afrin Canton. It crosses parts of both Idlib Province and Hama Province. It is centred around the city of Idlib.

It's name refers to Nazi Germany's annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland in 1938. Under the guise of a humanitarian intervention.   

As with Garvaghy Road and Afrin Canton the Sudetenland is under the occupation of the Army of Conquest. 

However in this area Al Qaeda are very much the dominant part of the coalition. Alongside the other elements of the Army of Conquest within what is their heartland in Syria Al Qaeda operate alongside a small group of ISIL fighters and Al Qaeda's longtime ally the Turkistan Islamic Party (TiP).

Unlike in Garvaghy Road and Afrin Canton Turkey does not officially command the Army of Conquest coalition within the Sudetenland.

However the regular Turkish military (TSK) have established a network of 12 Control Points across the area. These are effectively small bases have been established in collaboration between Turkey and Al Qaeda.

The most southern of these Turkish Control Points sits close to the town of Lataminah in northern Hama Province. Sitting around 15km (10 miles) south of the town of Khan Sheikhoun this really marks the southern border of the Sudetenland.

Central Syria:

The southern border of the Sudetenland marks the start of a vast area under the control of the Syrian government. It really includes all parts of the country which are not otherwise designated. I would refer to it simply as; "Syria" only that would cause more confusion by implying the other areas are not part of Syria.

The liberation of Central Syria was the result of a nearly year long operation by the Syrians. In both the north and the south of the country this saw them advance from west to east.

In the north of the country the Syrians set out from Aleppo City in May 2017. By late July 2017 this northern axis had arrived at and liberated the town of Dalhah which sits on the southern bank of the Euphrates.

To the south of the country the Syrians set out from the Syrian capital Damascus. Also in May 2017. By early June 2017 this southern axis had reached the border between Syria and Iraq at the town of al-Tanf.

From al-Tanf the Syrians then advanced on the city of Palmyra which sits almost exactly in the centre of Syria. Palmyra had been liberated from ISIL by the Syrians in March 2017.

In August 2017 Syrian forces from both Palmyra and Dalhah converged on the town of as-Suknah. From there they began the operation to liberate the southern banks of the Euphrates.

In December 2017 the Syrians liberated the towns of Qataa, Jalaa, Ramadi and Buqan. This allowed them to declare the southern bank of the Euphrates fully liberated from ISIL.

Within the Central Syria there are two small pockets that remain outside of Syrian control.

The first one of these is an area of the Syrian desert around the town of al-Tanf. This remains under the partial control of ISIL.

This ISIL pocket has been created by CJTFOIR who operate a base close to al-Tanf designated; "Bobby Sands" which they use to train the Islamist Revolutionary Commando Army/Maghawir al-Thara (MaT).

Due to the presence of now exclusively US troops the Syrians cannot engage ISIL in the vicinity of Bobby Sands. Likewise due to the presence of Syrian troops CJTFOIR also cannot engage ISIL in the vicinity of the base.
The second, much larger, pocket is centred around East Ghouta. This is a suburb which sits directly adjacent to the east of the Syrian capital Damascus.

The East Ghouta area though extends into the East Qalamoun Mountains. Ruhaybah, the main town in the East Qalamoun Mountains, sits around 35km (20 miles) north-east of Duma, the main town in the East Ghouta suburb. The East Ghouta area also includes the Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian refugees which sits around 5km (3 miles) south-west of the East Ghouta suburb.

East Ghouta itself and the East Qalamoun Mountains were long under the control of the Army of Conquest. The dominant members of the coalition in the area being Al Qaeda and the Army of Islam. However their influence reduces the further you get into the East Qalamoun Mountains. An area largely controlled by small fragments of the long defunct FSA.

The Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian refugees was long under the control of ISIL. 

Yarmouk River Basin:

This area is the basin of the Yarmouk River in the very south-west of Syria. It includes Daraa Province, Quneitra Province and As-Suwayda Province. These run along Syria's borders with Jordan and Israel including the disputed Golan Heights and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) zone.

The Army of Conquest has a presence in the area. Again with Al Qaeda and the Army of Islam being the locally dominant factions within the coalition.

The ISIL affiliate the Army of Khalid Ibrahim al-Walid/Jaish Khalid Ibrahim al-Walid also operate in the Yarmouk River Basin.

The main group in the area though is the Southern Front. This is a loose coalition of FSA fragments which did not join the Army of Conquest. Backed by particularly Britain and Jordan they are a difficult group to place ideologically. So fragments are secular like the SDF. Others are deeply Islamist and owe more to the Army of Conquest.  

Tomorrow I will move on to provide a series of updates on how that situation has changed since my previous post.

17:15 on 9/8/18 (UK date).

Friday, 27 July 2018

Has It Been Hot This Week?

From Wednesday (25/7/18) through to, well now I have been visiting my mothers.

As I think we all know by now my mothers live in Salisbury. That city in the South-West of England which is now globally famous due to the Skripal poisoning.

My mothers had actually arranged to go to the New Forest Agricultural Show with my sister. As such I really went down to join them and also spend time with my sister at the show. Which is a posh way of saying; "Getting drunk in a field while staring at horses."

That meant that while I travelled down to Salisbury I actually spent most of my time in neighbouring Hampshire. I certainly didn't get the chance to start my launch my long planned new business; "Novichok Walking Tours" in the style of London's "Murder Mile Tours."

The thing you have to remember about Salisbury is that it is a relatively small city. This Skripal story has been absolutely massive. Part of the reason I went down was to end complaints from my mothers that they get to see the people from CNN and China's CCTV News more than they get to see me.

Which ever network they're representing those journalists all seem to illustrate their stories with the same footage of a card shop with a red sign which is next to a small bridge. On one side of that bridge there is the city's main car park. On the other side of that bridge is the city centre itself. In order to get from the car park to the shops you have to cross the bridge.

Although the cordons have more or less gone now the decontamination area around that bridge has effectively cut the city in half. This has been going on for nearly five months now.

Therefore it is hard to overstate just how fed up with this everybody in Salisbury has gotten. So the challenge is really to talk about just anything else. Particularly if you have travelled in from a part of the World where this hasn't been dominating daily life for five months.

So you'll be surprised how little the topic actually came up while I was down there.

In fact the only time it got mentioned was when the national ITV News at Ten revealed the commercial waste bin where this perfume bottle was found. Recognising the bin in question and knowing how frequently it is emptied that would give the police a very narrow window of time to check if their Russian suspects were in proximity.

Aside from having to dodge roaming news crews, police sentries and dirty looks from pretty much everyone who recognised me I have to say that the trip was well worth it. Although I did have to relent and buy a broad brimmed hat even outdoors in the midday sun the weather was still a good 5C cooler than it was in London. 

17:30 on 27/7/18 (UK date).

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The 2018 Eurovision Song Contest: Expansion Pack.

The most common question asked by newcomers to the Eurovision Song Contest is; "Why are Australia in it?"

The second most common question is; "Why are Israel in it?"

The reason is that the Song Contest is organised by a group of television and radio broadcasters called the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

This was founded in 1952 in the wake of the Second World War. A time when the European continent was still emerging from turmoil and it's national borders were still shifting.

The EBU's main mission is and continues to be to advance broadcasting technology through international cooperation. Through this spirit of communication and cooperation the EBU also aims to minimise division and conflict of the sort that led to the First and Second World Wars.

As a result when it was founded the EBU opened its membership far beyond what is normally considered the European continent. Original members include nations such as Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Libya. Even discounting the geographic bemouth of Russia EBU members such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia extend far East of what is normally considered Europe.

Australia though was not one of the original members of the EBU. However due to its close links with the UK it has always taken a close interest in the EBU and the Song Contest in particular.

In the late 1970's and early 1980's the EBU started broadcasting the Song Contest live in Australia in partnership with the Australian Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).  Primarily this was done to see if the EBU had the technology to transmit live satellite feeds that far.

The Song Contest was an instant hit with Australians. Particularly with its gay community. So despite it being broadcast at breakfast time in Australia many Australians gathered together to throw Eurovision parties and watch the Song Contest live.

Since then Australia's Eurovision fans have been banging on the door of the EBU begging to a allowed to participate in the Song Contest.

In 2014 the EBU finally relented and Australia were granted a sort of official observer status. This meant that Jessica Mauboy was allowed to perform at the Song Contest that year. However she was only allowed to give an intermission performance during the Second Semi-Final rather than compete in the competition itself.

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the Song Contest. As a special treat Australia were allowed to compete in the competition itself and Australian viewers were allowed to vote.

This was supposed to be a one off. Every had so much fun though no-one had the heart to tell Australia they couldn't come back in 2016.

So since then Australia has been a recognised participant in the Song Contest. Australia's only complaint is that they haven't also been forced to become full members of the EBU taking on the obligations and responsibilities that entails.

As advancements in broadcast and communication technology have made the World a smaller place interest in the Song Contest has grown far beyond Europe's borders.

This is particularly true of nations who have hosted an Olympics and therefore had to stage Olympic and Para-Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies. In many ways the Song Contest is an annual competition in who can stage the best, three minute Olympic Ceremony.

In their hosting of the 2016 Summer games Brazil actually reached an agreement with the EBU to allow the EBU to share footage of the Para-Olympic games amongst its members. This led to it being the most widely broadcast Para-Olympics ever.

Having worked closely with the EBU Brazil then became desperate to be allowed in the Song Contest. This led to the 2017 winner; "Amar Pelos Dios (For the Both of Us)" by Salvador Sobral in the language Portugal and Brazil share.

In response to the interest from Brazil and 2018 Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics hosts the Republic of Korea (RoK/South) the EBU changed the rules of the Song Contest. Associate members like Brazil and the RoK would now be able to participate alongside full members such as France and Germany.

Given the years they spent battling to be included in the Song Contest Australia used their entry this year - again performed by Jessica Mauboy - to express their concern that it had become too easy. I have to say that I'm also not totally comfortable with these new rules.

That's not because I want to exclude other nations. Although the notion of a 193 nation Song Contest does slightly terrify me. As it should anyone who properly thinks about.

My concern is that it is one thing to watch the Song Contest on TV and enjoy it. It is quite another to put together a Eurovision entry and then support it through the week of competition.

The Song Contest is quite cliquey and sometimes can resemble a weird cult. It doesn't do much have complex in jokes but complex in jokes about complex in jokes. For example the main topic of conversation is year was all the things that went wrong in past three Song Contest from 2015. That discussion included references to the 1974 Song Contest and the 1982 Song Contest.

If you didn't participate in those Song Contests or at least are unfamiliar with them you're going to have a really tough time joining in with those conversations. You're certainly not going to have an enjoyable time.

When Australia came to join the Song Contest their route was really being made up as it went along. I think though there is a lot of benefit to formalising an official observer status a route for nations wishing to join the Song Contest.

So for example in the first year of expressing an interest a nation could be allotted an allocation of spectator tickets. This would allow them to experience what it is like to be at the Song Contest.

The following year they could send a non-participating delegation. This would allow them entry to the backstage areas of the contest allowing them to experience all the preparations and horse trading.

The year after that they would be allowed to stage an intermission performance. Rather like Jessica Mauboy in 2014. This would give them the experience of putting together an act without the pressure of actually being in competition.

Finally they would be allowed to compete fully in the Song Contest.

Obviously almost everything at Eurovision is flexible and up for discussion. So nations would only progress to the next stage when it was agreed they were ready. However I can't see any nation completing the process in less than four years.

The other problem is with the public voting.

Obviously there isn't a right way or a wrong to vote at Eurovision.

However before it can participate full a nation needs to develop a core of fans who understand what they are voting for. People who understand why a particularly good Israeli entry is being marked down. Or why a Hungarian entry which isn't your typical Eurovision song is being marked up.

Obviously if a nation doesn't have a song in the competition then viewers in that country can't vote in the competition.

However there's nothing to stop a non-competing host broadcaster holding a sort of mock election.

Viewers can phone in to vote giving the points that nation would have handed out of it were competing. Comparing those mock scores with the votes cast by viewers in competing nations would also provide an insight into newcomers understanding of the Song Contest.

Within Eurovision points are arrived at in two ways. The public vote and by the professional judging panels. Those panels submit their scores in set criteria on an official form.

What Australians used to do before they could officially vote was make copies of these judging forms and hand them out at their Eurovision parties. So each party would have it's own unofficial results. Which they could discuss and argue about amongst themselves and with people who'd been at different parties.

Although I've just argued against letting nations join right away and instead laid out a roadmap for new entrants I'm tempted to make an exception for the RoK.

Although they don't have any experience of Eurovision directly through K-Pop and the Cold War propaganda games with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/North) they certainly have a lot of relevant experience. While time consuming learning the history of the Song Contest is hardly an impossible task. It's certainly no secret with most of it being up on the Eurovision website.

Plus if the 2018 Olympics taught us anything it's that Koreans are funny. Like really, really funny.

The only problem is Eurovision's core value of promoting diversity and tolerance. I think that would make it impossible for the Song Contest to accept the RoK but exclude the DPRK.

The obvious solution would be to accept a joint Korean entry. It would be up to the two nations to decide how to unify their efforts for the Song Contest.

17:10 on 25/7/18 (UK date).

Monday, 23 July 2018

The 2018 Eurovision Song Contest: Winners & Stand Outs Pt.5

This is best read as a continuation of Part 4;

Hungary: This year they were represented by AWS with the song; "Vizlat Nyar (Goodbye Summer).

AWS are a heavy metal band formed in 2006 with three albums to their name. A recurring theme of their work is juxtaposing images of celebrity and wealth with images of violence and poverty. This puts them in the Situationist school of art.

With its roots in Surrealism and Dadaism Situationalism centres around subverting a situation. In order to make the observer question the situation itself and how they think about it.

One example I'm particularly familiar with is; "Guerrilla Gardening" which emerged as a form of environmental protest. It involves things like planting flowers in the cracks in the pavement in order to bring the natural world into the urban environment. Thus forcing the observer to explore the way that man is encroaching into and damaging the natural environment.

Situationalism has enjoyed a long relationship with Graffiti art. One of the largest examples I can think of is the artists Banksy's "Walled Off Astoria" project. Between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank there is a massive security barrier. In the shadow of this big concrete wall Banksy has built a hotel based on the famous Waldorf Astoria. It's a luxury hotel in a place that absolutely no-one wants to visit.

Here AWS have been trying to examine the Song Contest's relationship with the gay community and gay rights issues. By bringing a song which has quite homophobic undertones to an event which is widely considered a beacon of gay rights within Europe.

February and March saw the 2018 Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics held in PyeongChang in the Republic of Korea (RoK/South). As the big, global social/political event this frequently referenced the Eurovision Song Contest. As Europe's big social/political events.

One of the big topics of discussion at the 2018 games was the practice of making false claims of foreign aggression in order to rig elections.

Ahead of the RoK's 2012 Election the incumbent President Lee Myung-bak decided that there was a threat of foreign interference in the election. Specifically from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK/North). This allowed Lee to task the RoK's equivalent of the FBI with setting up a special unit to rig the election in favour of Lee's designated successor Park Geun-hye under the guise of protecting South Koreans from foreign interference.

Ahead of the US 2016 Election the incumbent President Barack Obama decided that there was a threat of foreign interference in the election. Specifically from Russia. This allowed Obama to task the FBI with setting up a special unit to rig the election in favour of Obama's designated successor Hillary Clinton under the guise of protecting Americans from foreign interference.

Obama's attempt to rig the 2016 Election of course failed. Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump. So the FBI's work quickly morphed into an attempt to overthrow the elected President Donald Trump in the form of an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Needless to say Mueller's anti-democratic and treason efforts were widely trashed at the 2018 games. Particularly by the US' closest friends and allies.

So during the games - on February 14th (14/2/18) - Mueller's FBI team 'forgot' to intervene to stop a young man shooting up the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This resulted in the deaths of 17 students.

Obviously in the midst of such a tragedy suddenly no-one in America was watching what was going on at the Winter Olympics. Through retired agent Kevin Hogg and his son David the FBI teamed up with the Democrat Party to keep this distraction going. Through a series of marches and political campaigns which continue even now.

So while the world was watching Mueller and his claims of foreign interference being torn apart America was focused entirely on the issue of gun control. Particularly the April 20th 1999 (20/4/99) shooting at the Columbine High School in Colorado. That resulted in the deaths of 13 students along with the two perpetrators.

In the nearly 20 years since the Columbine shooting the US has become extremely good at profiling and stopping the type of troubled teens who would carry out a school shooting. This is true of the federal level right down to front line teachers.

That makes it extremely hard to explain why the FBI failed to act to prevent Nikolas Cruz carrying out the Parkland shooting. Despite being warned about him and the threat he posed on no fewer than 23 separate occasions.

Columbine though was really the first mass school shooting. As a result it triggered a sort of mass panic in America as people scrambled to work out what would drive otherwise nice boys from good families to commit such an horrific act.

One theory popularised by the religious right is that they had been brainwashed into it by the demonic heavy metal music. Specifically the music of Marilyn Manson.

At the time Marilyn Manson was dating Rose McGowan who has recently become very famous for her activism in bringing Harvey Weinstein to justice. So that conversation road is certainly open, if you want to take it.

In societies where homophobia is still widespread such as Russia or Hungary people feel the same moral panic over the Song Contest.

It is the gay music which is brainwashing otherwise nice boys from good families to commit these horrific and shameful acts. Therefore you must pass laws banning this type of gay propaganda and brainwashing.

The video in support of the song clearly highlights this issue. It juxtaposes AWS performing with home movie footage of them growing up. It reveals quite a happy and prosperous upbringing with the boys horse riding, sailing and crucially being very active in the Church. Making you wonder what went so wrong that they would start playing this angry music and want to appear at a gay event such as Eurovision.

In tackling this type of homophobic attitudes the Song Contest really doesn't do itself any favours. As the beacon of gay rights in Europe it does have a tendency to present itself as a sort of brainwashed cult.

It involves people gathering together in an arena to wave flags and chant repetitively while all listening to the same music. Due to the unspoken convention that during Eurovision you can only talk about Eurovision it even seems to have its own secret language which outsiders need to be initiated into.

The music issue was particularly bad in the early 2000's when the competition was opened up to all the new eastern European nations. They saw the Song Contest as a way to boost their profile and establish their national identity. As a result they all entered the type of song that they thought Eurovision fans would like in an effort to win.

This led to the Song Contest becoming essentially the same gay pop song being played 41 times on a loop.

One interesting thing I've noticed is that as homophobia has reduced within societies it has led to the dispelling of this myth of; "gay music." Gay people now seem to have the freedom to come out and say that actually they don't like listening to Kylie Minogue and they don't like listening to show tunes. They'd much rather listen to something like this or the Netherlands' Country inspired entry.

Eurovision fans also seem to be obsessed with homosexuality. At the expense of all other issues. This has led to the sort of errors of judgement which at best make them appear feeble minded and at worst mentally ill.

The prime example is Eurovision fans support for Shamali Province as a way to spite Russia and its anti-gay propaganda laws. Created from the ruins of Ukraine Shamali Province is run by Nazi groups who fought as the 1st Galician Division of the Waffen SS. With their pink triangles and death camps Nazis are certainly no friends of the gay community nor supporters of gay rights.

Of course what makes Eurovision fans resemble a strange cult is not that they're mentally ill people who've been brainwashed into homosexuality. It is that they are a sub-culture brought together by a shared interest.

You could level the same charge against football fans during the recent World Cup. They all gather together in arenas to wear the same clothes, wave the same flags and chant the same songs.

They too have a sort of secret language that newcomers need to be initiated into. What I like about the World Cup is that I can talk to someone in Nigeria about a match between Mexico and Japan being played in Russia and we'll instantly understand each other.

Obviously though it can be difficult to get people who have not been initiated into the sub-culture and don't want to be to understand that.

At the 2018 games one the nations that was most critical of Mueller was the Netherlands.

In July 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Shamali Province. Under Obama the US attempted to blame Russia. The implication being that it was a deliberate act in retaliation for the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 during the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia.

The Netherlands who conducted the MH17 investigation very strongly disagreed with the US on this. They concluded the main cause of the crash was the US instructing a passenger aircraft to be flown into a combat zone where aircraft were being shot down on a regular basis. The Dutch also rejected electronic evidence provided by the US regarding the missile launch site. The implication being that this had been falsified by the US.

During the 2018 games the Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra resigned. He had claimed to have attended a meeting in which Russian President Vladimir Putin had claimed he was trying to build a new Russian Empire in eastern Europe. Zijlstra was forced to resign after it emerged that he had simply made this up.

In the week following the 2018 Song Contest the new Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok made his first visit to the US on May 18th (18/5/18). This event was marked by yet another school shooting. This time at the Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas resulting in the deaths of ten people.

As with the Columbine shooting the Santa Fe shooting was carried out with a shotgun. Revealing the futility of Mueller and the Democrats campaign to ban all semi-automatic rifles in the wake of the Parkland shooting. It also drew a response from Kelly Clarkson at the Billboard Music Awards held on May 20th (20/5/18). Kelly Clarkson was of course part of the inspiration behind Israel's 2018 winning entry.

Stef Blok's difficult visit to the US led to a reversal of the Dutch position on MH17. On May 24th (24/5/18) the Dutch dropped their objections to the US' electronic evidence being included in the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) report. Despite that 'evidence' being thoroughly discredited more than a year ago.

Ironically within Russia the moral panic has moved on from concerns about homosexuality and gay propaganda. It is now obsessed with the actual Columbine shooting and so-called; "Columbine Communities."

These are a predominately online subculture that has emerged among Russian High School children. They glorify the Columbine shooting and venerate the shooters as some sort of heroes. They have triggered a rash of copycat style school attacks including three in the space of a week in January 2018.

On July 10th (10/7/18) the Russian Parliament passed a bill to empower the police to more effectively track and shutdown these Columbine Communities and crack down on what is being referred to as; "Suicide Propaganda."

That is just one of a few Columbine related stories which have been buzzing on the wires recently. In the UK on Friday (20/7/18) two High School boys were jailed for plotting a Columbine inspired attack.

This seems to have pricked a guilty conscience getting Mueller's team in the US worried that the net might be closing in on them over the Parkland and Santa Fe shootings.

On July 15th (15/7/18) the US arrested Russian national Maria Butina on charges of being a covert and therefore illegal Russian agent.

Founder of the Russian political group; "Right to Bear Arms" Butina has introduced herself to people and been filmed introducing herself as a representative of the Russian Federation. 

She operates a website in which she introduces herself as a representative of the Russian Federation. It details her life growing up in Soviet Siberia and operating a chain of furniture shops before moving to Moscow and then the US advocate for gun rights.

Today it is is being reported that Butina appeared before the US Senate Intelligence Committee in early 2018. There she introduced herself as a representative of the Russian Federation and provided details of  how her political group was funded by Konstantin Nikolaev.

In short the allegation that Butina was some sort of covert Russian agent is utterly bogus. 

However it does serve to take the pressure of Mueller's team by linking people asking difficult questions about the Parkland and Santa Fe shootings to this supposed vast Russian conspiracy.

16:45 on 23/7/18 (UK date). 

Thursday, 19 July 2018

The 2018 Eurovision Song Contest: Winners & Stand Outs Pt.4

This is best read as a continuation of Part 3;

Georgia: It has been a big year for Georgia.

February and March saw the 2018 Winter Olympics. These picked up the baton from the 2014 Winter Olympics which were held in Sochi, Russia.

As a result the main talking point at this year's games has been aggression towards Russia. Not least the US decision to overthrow the government of Russia's immediate neighbour Ukraine triggering a civil war during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

At the cross section between Olympics and aggression towards Russia Georgia are something of the experts.

The 2008 Summer Olympics were held in Beijing, China. The then Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili used this as an opportunity to attack Russian forces on the border between the two nations triggering eight days of war.

Saakashvili's thinking was that the NATO nations would immediately leap to Georgia's aid and go to war with Russia. This would allow NATO to finally conquer Russia and Saakashvili would be welcomed as a hero of the west.

Saakashvili got this just spectacularly wrong. Recognising Georgia's aggression NATO stood-by and the Georgian military were quickly defeated by the Russian military.

Rather than being welcomed as a hero this miscalculation saw Saakashvili and Georgia cast out by the west. Any suggestion of them joining NATO or the European Union (EU) ended there and then.

Georgia's isolation has been particularly evident at the Eurovision Song Contest. One of the few pan-European events it is still able to participate in.

Their 2014 entry; "Three Minutes to Earth" by The Shin & Mariko was weird, random and completely disconnected from what was going on in the rest of Europe. Perfectly reflecting Georgia's position in the west following the 2008 attack on Russia.

In 2016 Georgia tried really hard with the song; "Midnight Gold" by Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz who were one of the most cutting edge bands in Georgia at the time. However as many people pointed out the most cutting edge band in Georgia in 2016 was a lot like the bands of the "Madchester" music scene such as The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays back from the early 1990's.

Georgia began to emerge from the diplomatic deep freeze in 2012 when Saakashvili was deposed as President. In 2014 Saakashvili was indicted in no fewer then nine criminal cases including the murder of Prime Minister Georgia Zurab Zhvania in 2005 and the murder of Sandro Girgvliani in 2006.

At this point Saakashvili fled to Ukraine. Where at the US' insistence he was made a Ukrainian citizen and appointed Governor of the Odessa region. Significantly undermining US claims of both a popular revolution and of Ukrainian independence.

In July 2017 Ukraine started to learn from Georgia's mistakes stripping Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship. In December 2017 Ukrainian police arrested Saakashvili following a bizarre roof top chase. During the 2018 Winter Olympics Ukraine finally expelled Saakashvili from the country on February 12th (12/2/18).

Another main topic at the 2018 Winter Olympics was the practice of making false claims of foreign aggression in order to rig elections. Again due to Saakashvili this is a topic in which Georgia are something of the experts.

In May 2010 Saakashvili's United National Movement (ENM) Party were contesting elections in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

On March 13th (13/3/10) Imedi TV ran their weekly news show; "Special Report" as usual. The show opened with the breaking news that a protest in Tbilisi by the opposition Movement for Fair Georgia had been attacked by gunmen resulting in the deaths of many protesters.

Taking the form of rolling news over the course of the next hour Special Report claimed that Movement for Fair Georgia had blamed Saakashvili for the killings and called on Russia to invade to free Georgia from the; "Saakashvili Tyranny." Russia responded by invading Russia. Events Special Report reported on live complete with footage of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia. 

This was all entirely fake. However because it was on a recognised news network presented by recognised journalists people believed it. Georgian military units mobilised on the basis of the news report of a Russian invasion and three people were killed in the chaos.

In explanation Imedi TV claimed that they were recreating the famous 1938 Orson Welles production of; "The War of the Worlds" in the US. However people quickly pointed out that the broadcast certainly whipped Georgian voters up into a frenzy of support for Saakashvili's ENM and opposition to the Movement for Fair Georgia.

The illegal seizure of ownership of Imedi TV in 2007 is just one of the nine criminal cases Saakashvili is currently under indictment in.

This year Georgia were represented by Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao with the song; "For You."

The band see it as their musical mission to blend traditional Georgian vocal folk music with modern influences such as jazz. Their name comes from; "Iriao-uruao" a phrase common in the "Krimanchuli" form of Georgian yodelling. In their presentation the band are very much in the modern, fashionable "Hipster" style. With sharp suits, even sharper haircuts and elaborately crafted facial hair. 

Despite its isolation Georgia has a very young population who like to see themselves as uber cool innovators and creators. They have a very large drug fuelled rave music club scene and like to present themselves as emerging leaders in the fashion world. Demna Gvasalia who is the creative director at the Spanish fashion house Balenciaga being probably the most high profile example.

Gvasalia's own label Vetements has risen on a wave of what is termed; "Anti-Fashion," Inspired by the Situationist school of art this involves taking everyday items such a police uniforms and turning them into high fashion items with high fashion price tags. Gvasalia announced his term at Balenciaga with a handbag in the style of an IKEA carrier bag with a price tag of $2,500.

Again it must be said that this anti-fashion trend does really remind me of Britain in the early 1990's. During the rave scene everyday items such as construction workers hi-vis clothing and all white dust suits and masks became highly fashionable.

The key part of Georgia's entry was the difference between the video in support of the entry and the live performance.

The video includes these two ethereal white clad female dancers. They were noticeably missing from the live performance.

Those female dancers represented the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. These autonomous border regions have long been a source of tension between Russia and Georgia. The eight days of war in 2008 were triggered by Georgian attacks on Russian peacekeepers in those regions.

Particularly now the media have whipped US voters into an absolute frenzy people will claim that South Ossetia and Abkhazia and regions of Georgia that Russia has invaded. As is often the case with the US media the truth is different from that and much more complicated.

In 1917 a series of revolutions overthrew the Russian Monarchy and collapsed the Russian Empire. Nations such as Finland used the chaos as a way to escape the Russian Empire and declare independence. 

Georgia went in the opposite direction launching a war against the Bolsheviks in order to keep the Russian Empire intact with Georgia very much a part. A conflict made famous by the White Russian cocktail.

When the Soviet Union broke apart many nations such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia decided to become independent states. The majority of Georgia joined them. The regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia though decided to remain part of Russia and never joined an independent Georgia.

After some thirty years of conflict you have to ask the question of whether its worth continuing to try and force people who want to be Russian to be Georgian instead. Particularly when that conflict is keeping Georgia out of international organisations such as the EU.

By not including South Ossetia and Abkhazia in their live performance Georgia were posing just this question. Primarily for the domestic audience.

Understandably this is a controversial question in Georgia. So on the night of the Grand Final Georgian police mounted heavy handed raids against nightclubs in Tbilisi. This triggered mass protests intended to represent protests against letting South Ossetia and Abkhazia go.

Moldova: This year they were represented by DoReDoS with the song; "My Lucky Day."

DoReDos are a three piece band who all grew up in the town of Rybnitsa. This is in a very specific part of Moldova, the Transnistria region.

When the Soviet Union collapsed Moldova became independent. However much like South Ossetia and Abkhazia Transnistria decided it wanted to remain part of Russia and broke away.

Moldova's big gimmick during the live performances was that they performed in front of this giant wall on stage. During the performance different doors and windows in this wall would open revealing different band members in different positions. Eventually it was revealed that this was achieved by using the band and near identical body doubles.

As if the band had suddenly broken away into two parts.

In November 2017 the governments of Moldova and Transnistria reached an agreement which would open both countries up in a number of areas such as road access, access to crossborder farmland and mobile telecommunications network. The video in support of the song shows one of the band being forced to use an old payphone presumably to call home from Moldova's Black Sea coast.

The song celebrates welcoming Transnistria back into Moldova. Unlike previous Moldovan entries such as 2014's "Wild Soul" by Cristina Scarlat this song was very much in the style of western low culture rather than Russian high culture. Traditionally this has been used at the Song Contest to signify support for the west. 

In this case it was expressing a desire for the united Moldova to join the EU. Officially the song was about enjoying 'relations' with multiple partners.

28 partners to be precise. Although Britain might pull out early.  

17:25 on 19/7/18 (UK date). 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

I'm Having Korea Flashbacks.

Specifically to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Held in PyeongChang in the Republic of Korea (RoK/South).

In December 2012 the Republic of Korea held a Presidential Election.

This was a so-called "Change Election." The incumbent Lee Myung-bak had reached his term limit so could not be re-elected. However he wanted his Saenuri Party to continue to rule the country under his designated successor Park Geun-hye. Daughter of South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee.

So Lee Myung-bak decided that there was a threat of foreign interference in the election. Specifically from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK/North).

This conclusion allowed Lee Myung-bak to task South Korea's equivalent of the FBI - the National Intelligence Service (NIS) - to set up a special cyber unit. This unit was tasked with monitoring Internet traffic surrounding the election and labelling comments supportive of Park Geun-hye's rival Moon Jae-in and comments critical of Park Geun-hye as; "foreign interference" and removing them.

This special cyber unit were successful in rigging the RoK's 2012 election. Park Geun-hye was declared winner over Moon Jae-in took up the office of President in February 2013.

In October/November 2016 this election rigging scandal broke resulting in the impeachment of Park Geun-hye. Just as America was heading into its November 2016 Presidential Election.

That too was a Change Election. Having reached his term limit the incumbent Barack Obama could not be re-elected. However he wanted his Democrat Party to continue to the rule the country under his designated successor Hillary Clinton. Wife of former US President Bill Clinton.

So Barack Obama decided that there was a threat of foreign interference in the election. Specifically from Russia.

This conclusion allowed Barack Obama to task the FBI with setting up a special cyber unit. This unit was tasked with monitoring Internet traffic surrounding the election and labelling comments supportive of Hillary Clinton's rival Donald Trump or critical of Hillary Clinton as; "foreign interference" and removing them.

Barack Obama's special election unit went further than Lee Myung-bak's. Aside from censoring discussion about the election it was also used to spy upon the campaign of the Democrats election rivals and to support Democrat campaign claims of hacking of their computer servers.

Barack Obama's special election failed to rig the outcome of the election. However it quickly morphed into an attempt to overthrow the elected President Donald Trump in the form of an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The uncovering of the 2012 South Korean election rigging scandal brought down Park Geun-hye. The subsequent Presidential Election in March 2017 saw Moon Jae-in elected. It fell to him to open the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It almost goes without saying that Barack Obama's claims of foreign interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election and the subsequent Mueller investigation were given short shrift at the games. Both by the hosts and the nations in attendance.

The Opening Ceremony itself was marred by claims of a cyberattack involving a virus named; "Olympic Destroyer."

The Republic of Korea passed copies of this virus to a private US company named; "Crowdstrike." Continuing to be employed by the US Democrat Party Crowdstrike remain the only entity to examine the Democrats servers and remain the sole source of claims of hacking, Russian or otherwise.

Crowdstrike analysed Olympic Destroyer and concluded it was a Russian cyberattack. Much to the amusement of the South Korean programmers who had written the software as part of the Opening Ceremony.

The Opening Ceremony of course featured the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. The Cauldron the South Koreans had chosen closely resembled one of  "Martian Fighting Machines" from the 1897 novel; "The War of the Worlds" by H.G Wells.

In October 1938 the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) broadcast an Orson Welles radio play of The War of the World's. Listeners believed this to be a genuine news broadcast and America went into a panic thinking it was being invaded by Martians.

This radio broadcast is widely recognised as the biggest Fake News Hoax in American history. Or at least it was until Barack Obama started claiming that America's 2016 Presidential Election was being invaded by Russians.

This very public global criticism of their attempts to rig the 2016 Presidential Election did not go down well with the elements of the US intelligence community responsible.

So during the games - on February 14th (14/2/18) - they 'forgot' to intervene to stop a young man shooting up the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This resulted in the deaths of 17 students.

Obviously in the midst of such a tragedy suddenly no-one in America was watching what was going on at the Winter Olympics. Through retired agent Kevin Hogg and his son David the FBI teamed up with the Democrat Party to keep this distraction going. Through a series of marches and political campaigns which continue even now.

With the American public distracted Robert Mueller attempted to defend himself at the Winter Olympics. On February 16th (16/2/18) he issued indictments for 13 Russians claiming that they had interfered with the election.

Mueller's claim was met with a robust international response. The intelligence/law enforcement agencies of 31 nations made up of the EU, Israel, Australia and New Zealand made public details on the investigation into the so-called "Dark Web Paedophile" Matthew Falder.

The details of this investigation gave insight into the FBI's competence in cyber investigations. Particularly ones involving Russia.

The FBI had initially detected Falder and found electronic evidence proving him to be Russian. So they concluded he was Russian and stopped the investigation. It was only when these 31 other intelligence agencies took over it was discovered the FBI's electronic evidence proving him to be Russia was fake and Falder was actually British living in the city of Birmingham.

The criticism of what is widely viewed as evidence falsified by Mueller was not limited to just 31 of America's allies. The tech giant Apple used a character from the Telugu language to crash iPhones across India and Pakistan. This served as a reminder of another high profile case where electronic evidence was falsified.

In 2017 Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family were accused of corruption. As part of the investigation the daughter Maryam Sharif presented electronic evidence which she claimed to prove that she had brought apartments legally. However this electronic evidence was supposedly produced in 2006 but used a Calibri font which Microsoft did not introduce until 2007.

Apart from Pakistan's "Fontgate" as it's known another high profile case in which electronic evidence was falsified is the; "Sledgehammer" case in Turkey.

In 2010 Turkish President/Prime Minister/Emperor Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused 300+ people of plotting a coup to overthrow him.. The case fell apart when it emerged key pieces of electronic evidence in the 2003 plot had been created on MS Office 2007. Eventually all the electronic evidence was found to be fake and the case was dismissed.

After being savaged by a jury of his peers at the Olympics things then started to get worse for Mueller and his investigation.

In indicting 13 Russians back in February Mueller did so thinking that they would never turn up to trial. So there was no possibility of his claims ever being tested.

In May one of the indicted Russians turned up for trial. Never thinking that there would be a trial let alone preparing for it this prompted Mueller to seek an adjournment in the case. This was refused by the Judge and Mueller is now left trying to delay the start of the trial by slow walking the disclosure of evidence to the defence.

Meanwhile the US Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has been conducting a professional standards investigation into the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton espionage investigation in which she kept top secret emails on an unsecured server.

This is important because the lead investigator in that case was an FBI agent by the name of Peter Strzok. For more than a year Peter Strzok was the lead investigator for the Mueller investigation.

The OIG investigation discovered a high number of emails and text messages between Strzok and another FBI agent Lisa Page with whom he was having an affair. The FBI initially refused to hand these messages over to the OIG claiming they could not be recovered. However in January 2018 South Korean tech giant Samsung stepped in and provided the OIG with the messages.

Those messages reveal astonishing political bias on the part of Strzok. 

In one particular exchange on election day Page messaged Strzok; “He’s [Trump] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” 

To which Strzok replied: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”  

It was only after Samsung had provided these messages that Mueller finally removed Strzok from the investigation.

On June 14th (14/6/18) the OIG released its report. It recommended that criminal investigations be opened against five FBI agents including Strzok. On June 15th (15/6/18) Strzok was suspended by the FBI and physically escorted from the building.

In response to the OIG investigation the US Congress has held a series of hearings. Lisa Page was subpoenaed to appear before them on Wednesday (11/7/18). However she refused putting herself in contempt.

Peter Strzok did appear before Congress on Thursday (12/7/18) and was torn to shreds. At one point he was asked why the FBI had produced three different versions of the so-called Steele Dossier which was used to conduct surveillance on the Republican Presidential campaign.

Strzok simply refused to answer. As he did not explicitly invoke the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination this appears to put him to in contempt of Congress.

Needless to say that on Friday (13/7/18) morning - ahead of Page's rescheduled testimony that evening - all the talk was of appointing a Special Counsel to investigate and bring charges against Mueller and his team. Including Rod Rosenstein the Deputy US Attorney General overseeing the investigation

The pressure on Mueller and his team has not just been mounting domestically. From Thursday (12/7/18) through to Sunday (15/7/18) President Trump has been on an official visit to Britain.

Britain's big contribution to the Winter Olympics was the March 4th (4/3/18) poisoning of primarily Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, UK.

Sergei Skripal is a Colonel in the Russian GRU military intelligence who spied for Britain. The MI6 officer who recruited Skripal now works for Christopher Steele. The source for the dossier Rosenstein used to conduct surveillance on the Republican Presidential campaign.

Unfortunately Britain is currently governed by a weak, minority government made up of the Conservative Party who have a longstanding reputation for sleaze and corruption. A big donor to the Conservatives is a man named Bill Browder. He gives them huge amounts of money so they will use the apparatus of state in his vendetta against Russian former business associates.

So even before Britain's intelligence services had briefed the government the Conservatives were demanding the Skripal poisoning be blamed on Russia. So it could be used to push ahead with Browder's agenda. Namely the Magnitsky Amendment.

Having blamed Russia the British investigation then became focused entirely on finding just anything to back up the accusation. As a result they did not conduct the investigation and did not identify either the poison or the poisoner. 

This refuasl to look in the right places saw two more people being taken ill close to Salisbury on June 30th (30/6/18). One of whom who has since died.

On Wednesday (11/7/18) British police did finally find the source of the poison - a small perfume bottle. After being told its location by a man who is now strongly believed to be the poisoner.

This news broke on Friday (13/7/18) just as President Trump was meeting the British Queen. As a gift Britain has given First Lady Trump a small, personalised perfume bottle.

On Monday (16/7/18) the Trumps will travel to Finland to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. Thanks to the Queen's gift they will take with them a replica of the perfume bottle Britain used to poison the Skripals. A bespoke gift designed and manufactured before the police discovered their perfume bottle.

Also on Friday (14/7/18) Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Sharif returned to Pakistan. Where they were promptly arrested and transferred prison having been convicted in the Fontgate case.

As they did back in February Mueller and Rosenstein have again gone on the defensive.

As Trump was meeting the Queen and the Sahrifs were returning to Pakistan Mueller and Rosenstein indicted 12 members of the Russian GRU. Again feeling confident in the fact their claims will never be tested.

The indictments allege that Russian began hacking operations to influence the 2016 US Presidential Election on July 27th 2016 (27/7/18). That date was chosen for specific political purposes.

On July 27th 2016 now President Trump was holding an election rally. During he made an off-the-cuff joke that if the Russians were hacking the election they should try and find all those emails Hillary Clinton deleted.

In chosing that date Mueller and Rosenstein are trying to imply that this was direct collusion between Trump and Russia. Rather how a candidate would use a public speech to collude with a Super PAC.

The problem for Mueller and Rosenstein is why Trump was making that joke.

Two days before, on July 25th (25/7/18) the FBI publicly announced that it was opening an investigation into claims Russia had hacked the Democrat's servers. Claims the Democrats had been making since the start of June 2016.

If as Mueller and Rosenstein now claim if Russia only started hacking on July 27th (27/7/16) they could not have carried out the hacking which occurred before then.

If indeed that hacking ever occurred at all.

17:25 on 14/7/18 (UK date).