This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Reality Intrudes

"That statement is premature and is based on no real facts."
"Yes, we know that components of the plane have been thrown over a wide area. That says that the breakup took place in the air, at a high altitude. But it is very premature to talk about the reasons. I would like to call on the aviation community to abstain from premature statements."
Alexander Neradko, head, Russian Federal Air Transport Agency

"The Islamic State has so far focused on acquiring territory and grasping at the trappings of statehood rather than acting like a traditional terrorist organization."
"If indeed the airliner was brought down by ISIS, this would represent a new and dangerous development. ISIS combining the bloodiest aspects of statehood and terrorism into one dangerous mess."
Jens David Ohlin, professor of international law and security, Cornell University

"What the Egyptian affiliate of IS has achieved is that it has shaped the narrative about what happened to the plane."
"That's what matters to IS -- to show its capability, its invincibility when it comes to convince its support base that it is powerful to get vengeance against its enemies, particularly Russia."
Professor Fawaz Gerges, London School of Economics and Political Science

"In terms of perception, it's certainly a temporary win for ISIS, in that they managed to control the public discussion for a while."
"ISIS could not have shot down the plane [but a bomb on board might be feasible]."
"The possibility that ISIS managed to get down the plane with an explosive device on board is theoretically possible, but that would raise other questions about security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
But to bring down a plane at that altitude you need a physical support base and ISIS does not have such a base -– at least in that area where the plane came down."
HA Hellyer, Arab affairs specialist, Royal United Services Institute, London

"On the one hand, saying that it was ISIS might be convenient from the point of view that it’s not actually lax maintenance and safety standards [that caused the crash]."
"But on the other hand, saying it was ISIS could be saying it was actually a response to Russia being in Syria, which may also be considered politically unacceptable."
Alex Kazbegi, transport analyst, Renaissance Capital
The small Russian airline whose plane tragically exploded in mid-air killing all 224 passengers and crew aboard, 24 minutes after leaving Sharm Al-Sheikh headed for St.Petersburg with vacationing Russian families, released a statement to the media exonerating itself of malfeasance in operating an aircraft whose mechanical system was not up to par. As far as they are concerned, the chartered Kogalymavia plane's destruction was caused by "external" factors.

The oblique suggestion that a bomb was involved and the immediate assumptions about Russia's involvement in bombing rebel and ISIL sites in Syria being the provocation that resulted in the downed airliner gave Russian officials apoplexy. The Russian investigators tasked to open a probe into the crash were looking for criminal negligence on the part of Metrojet, searching their offices for clues. Metrojet hadn't paid its employees for two months, reflecting troubled finances, according to Russia's Federal Labor Agency.

As validation of the suspicion that the plane was not in prime flight condition, a state-owned television channel broadcast an interview with the wife of the co-pilot, who claimed her husband was concerned about poor plane maintenance. Alexander Smirnov, deputy general director of Metrojet insisted that factors such as bad fuel or engine failure would never have resulted in the midair breakup of the plane. Furthermore, company authorities insisted, the plane was reviewed regularly for structural weakness.

"The only explanation could be a mechanical impact on the aircraft", Smirnov reiterated without elaborating on what kind of impact could conceivably have been involved.
Egyptian soldiers collect belongings strewn about the crash site in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. A Russian cargo plane brought the first bodies were brought back to St.Petersburg on Monday -- Washington Post
Sinai Province, a branch of Islamic State, has broadcast footage of its fighters training with and firing at least one shoulder-fired anti-aircraft system, in a video recently posted on jihadist forums. Israeli officials felt the video portrayed a Russian-built SA-18 Igla, capable of hitting aircraft flying at a maximum of 11,000 feet. A year ago, Sinai Province released a video of a fighter shooting down an Egyptian military helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile, the aircraft falling in a fireball of orange flames.
According to James Record, a former commercial airline pilot, and now an aviation professor at Dowling College, New York, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration "has long warned U.S. airlines against flying over the Sinai because of the risk of hazards from extremists". The most recent warning, he said, "advised airlines to fly at least 26,000 feet above Sinai to stay out of range of anti-aircraft weapons."

None of that will now be useful to the vacationing families whose loss has caused Russians and particularly St. Petersburg residents great anguish over Russia's worst ever airline crash. Now, it might be said, Russians can fully empathize with all those who mourned the loss of life of passengers and crew of the Malaysian airliner that went down in eastern Ukraine. Ironically, it was a Russian buk missile launched by the Kremlin-backed Ukrainian rebels that caused the death of 283 passengers and 15 crew in July of 2014.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin understandably has no wish for Russian citizens to believe that his decision to launch airstrikes in Syria and dispatch Russian soldiers on the ground to aid embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as having been responsible for this kind of deadly pay-back. And nor, for that matter, is Egypt whose tourism industry has suffered so grievously in the past several years, anxious to have other potential tourists be put off at the thought their lives might be endangered by Islamists operating in the Sinai close to tourist sites.

The wholesale deaths of so many people in one  fell swoop will be certain to harm both countries' aspirations, irrespective of what a full investigation will reveal. It seems that other countries' airlines are sufficiently concerned of the possibility that jihadists may have had a hand in the destruction of the St.Petersburg-headed plane to convince them to avoid Sinai air corridors for more complex routes for the time being.

And the hundreds of Russian tourist who fled Russia's early winter cold and dismal dark atmosphere for warmer climes, beaches and relaxation will now have to gird themselves to make the return voyage back home, hoping against hope that they too will not be so horrendously threatened by the latest enemies their president has engaged who are eager to do them harm as payback for another Russian playbill proving unpopular with those whose stock-in-trade is terror.

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