Analysis: The Politics Behind the Thailand Coup Explained

Thai troops in the streets of BangkokBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org
In the early hours of Thursday, the Thai government of acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, which had been appointed on May 7 of this year, was dissolved. Executive rule is now in the hands of the Peace and Order-Maintaining Command (POMC), led by Army General Prayuth Chan-ocha and composed of the commanders-in-chief of the Royal Air Force, Navy and Police. The 2007 Constitution has been suspended and the leaders of all political factions have been arrested. The POMC has taken over all broadcasting facilities in the country and has warned social media hosts that they are not allowed to publish content that is “misleading” to the public, “escalates political conflict” or “opposes the mandate of the POMC”. Thai military officials continue to deny that this is a coup, but the actions of the POMC reflect textbook tactics of juntas, down to the suspension of regular broadcasts and their replacement with patriotic songs and military marches.

None of this is surprising, given Thailand’s turbulent political history. Since 1932, when the country became a constitutional monarchy, there have been nearly 30 military-led mutinies, rebellions, and armed insurrections in the country, including 18 attempted coups, 12 of them successful. The most recent coup prior to last Thursday’s was in 2006, when the armed forces toppled the legally elected government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was accused of abusing his power and disrespecting the country’s monarchy. In January of this year, political forecaster Jay Ulfelder, who served for a decade as research director of the United States government’s Political Instability Task Force, predicted that Thailand was close to a military coup. He published a mathematical model analyzing the likelihood of a military coup materializing in most of the world’s countries in 2014. Notably, Thailand was the only non-African nation among the ten candidates that topped Ulfelder’s list.

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Document confirms CIA role in 1953 Iran coup

Iran and its regionBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Almost exactly 60 years ago, on August 19, 1953, a military coup d’état deposed Iran’s legally elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with General Fazlollah Zahedi. Mossadegh was placed under house arrest, while his senior government associates and thousands of his supporters were arrested. Many, including Hossein Fatemi, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mossadegh’s trusted friend, were tortured and eventually executed. The coup, which reinstated the Shah at the helm of Iran’s government, is believed to have been planned and executed by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in cooperation with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This, however, has never been publicly acknowledged by the CIA. The Agency has consistently refused comment on the matter, saying that most of the records of its involvement in Iran at the time were “lost or destroyed” in the mid-1960s. This policy of silence, however, appears to have changed this week, after the CIA released an official document that acknowledges the Agency’s leading role in the coup. The document, entitled The Battle for Iran, is part of an internal CIA historical report produced in the mid-1970s by an Agency historian. Parts of it were declassified in 1981, but its most important chapter, titled “Section III: Covert Action”, had been redacted prior to its public release. Sometime ago, George Washington University’s National Security Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the complete release of the report. This was not granted; but the CIA did release a new public version of the document, which contains fewer redacted passages. Among the newly uncovered information is a brief description of the operational side of the August 1953 coup, which the CIA codenamed TPAJAX. Read more of this post

Alleged coup attempt against North Korean leader in Pyongyang

Kim Jong-un surrounded by generalsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A prolonged exchange of gunfire that took place in the North Korean capital last November was part of a failed military coup against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to intelligence sources. On Wednesday, South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo quoted an anonymous intelligence source in Seoul, who said the coup was linked to an ongoing power struggle unfolding inside the North Korean armed forces. The unnamed source told the paper that Seoul had confirmed the accuracy of rumors of an “armed skirmish” that took place at a central location in downtown Pyongyang in mid-November of 2012. The exchange of gunfire, which stunned residents of the eerily ordered city, was allegedly an effort to assassinate Kim, but failed after the assailants were rounded up and arrested by troops loyal to the country’s leadership. The culprits appear to be members of the Reconnaissance Bureau of the General Staff Department, which operates as the primary intelligence-collection agency of North Korea’s Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces. In early November of last year, the Reconnaissance Bureau was restructured to accommodate two newly amalgamated intelligence agencies, the Intelligence Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea and a combat-intelligence unit of the People’s Armed Forces. A number of North Korean generals, who were previously leading these amalgamated agencies, were demoted to reflect their new posts under the Reconnaissance Bureau. Among them was Kim Yong-chol, who saw his rank change overnight from a four-star general to that of a two-star lieutenant general. Read more of this post

Sudan arrests senior intelligence officials linked to foiled coup plot

Salah GoshBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Authorities in Sudan have announced the arrest of senior current and former intelligence officials over an alleged coup plot, which has reportedly been foiled. Spokesmen for the government of longtime Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Thursday that thirteen senior “military and civilian figures” had been arrested for “inciting chaos [...], targeting leaders [and] spreading [false] rumors” about the President’s health. Among them is Lieutenant General Salah Gosh, who directed Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Services for a decade before stepping down in 2009 to become President al-Bashir’s Senior Security Adviser. Gosh was widely considered a key member of al-Bashir’s inner circle in Khartoum until April of 2011, when he was unexpectedly fired, allegedly for having raised criticisms of the President’s policies. Those arrested in the early hours of Thursday reportedly include Brigadier General Mohammed Ibrahim, a Field Commander in the Sudanese Army, and Major General Adil al-Tayeb, a senior military intelligence official. Reuters reports that witnesses in Khartoum saw several army tanks and dozens of armored vehicles speeding down a central street that links the capital with the Khartoum International Airport, shortly before midnight on Wednesday. However, reports from Khartoum this morning suggest that the city appears calm and traffic patterns are normal. The country’s Minster of Information, Ahmed Belal Osman, told local media that “the situation is now totally stable”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #797

Mohamed MorsiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt names new intelligence chief. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last week issued a decree naming Mohammed Raafat Shehata the country’s new head of intelligence, after the former spy chief was forced into retirement. Shehata had been acting director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Directorate since August 8, when his predecessor Murad Muwafi was sacked, after after gunmen killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai.
►►Ex-Blackwater firm to teach US spies survival skills. The Defense Intelligence Agency announced on Thursday evening it would award six private security companies a share of a $20 million contract to provide “individual protective measures training courses” for its operatives. Among them is Academi, the 3.0 version of Blackwater, now under new ownership and management. The US military’s intelligence service is hiring the firm, along with five others, to train its operatives to defend themselves as they collect information in dangerous places.
►►Turkey court convicts 326 of coup plotting. A Turkish court on Friday convicted 326 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the nation’s Islamic-based government in 2003, in a case that has helped curtail the military’s hold on politics. A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul’s outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek, and former army commander Cetin Dogan, to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term because the plot had been unsuccessful. The trial of the high-ranking officers —inconceivable in Turkey a decade ago— has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in the country in favor of civilian authorities.

Colombian government to probe calls for ‘military coup’

President Santos (in blue tie) with Colombian military officialsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Colombian authorities have opened an official investigation into calls to remove the government of the country, which were found circulating among former and current military officials. The investigation was announced on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after the appearance in the Colombian media of a series of personal email exchanges, which appeared to suggest that the national administration of President Juan Manuel Santos should be removed from power. Some of the emails were exchanged between two influential retired military officers, Major Jorge Galvis Noyes and General Eduardo Santos Quiñones. One message was authored by Galvis on May 15, 2012, shortly after a massive bomb exploded in Colombian capital Bogota, which killed five people and injured 17. The bomb, according to President Santos, was directed against the country’s former Minister of the Interior, Fernando Londoño Hoyos, who is said to have links with rightwing paramilitary groups. Galvis’ email lamented the “attempt [that] was made on the life of Fernando Londoño” and criticized the government of President Santos for not preventing it. He continued by suggesting that Santos should “fulfill his political duties […], otherwise he should be “removed from office”. Around that time, General Quiñones authored an open call against President Santos, which he apparently circulated via email among dozens of senior military officers. The letter blasted the Santos administration, stating that Colombia was ready for “a real leader”. In recent months, rightwing political figures connected to Colombia’s previous President, Alvaro Uribe, have been virulently attacking the Santos administration, accusing it of being “soft” against leftwing paramilitary groups –primarily the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Read more of this post

News you may have missed #666 (superstition edition)

Gevork VartanianBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Soviet spying legend Gevork Vartanian dies. Legendary Soviet spy Gevork Vartanian, who helped foil Operation LONG JUMP, a Nazi plot to kill the three main Allied leaders in Tehran during World War II, has died in Moscow, aged 87. Operating in Tehran during World War II, he tracked German commandos, including the infamous Nazi operative Otto Skorzeny, who had arrived to attack a summit attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.
►►Turkey arrests ex-armed forces chief over coup charges. Turkish government prosecutors allege that Ilker Basbug, who retired as Turkey’s chief of staff in 2010, led a terrorist organization and plotted to overthrow the government. Remarkably, most English-language sources, including the Financial Times, managed to report Basbug’s arrest without mentioning Ergenekon, the ultra-nationalist network uncovered by Turkish police in 2007, which has resulted in hundreds of arrests, including that of Basbug.
►►Lebanon claims arrest of ‘longtime’ Israeli spy. The Lebanese army has detained a man on suspicion of collaborating for years with Israel’s Mossad spy agency. The man, identified as Elias Younes, is a retired employee of the state telecommunications company Ogero. Hezbollah-affiliated sources said Younes had been dealing with Israel for “over 35 years”. See here if you are wondering where you have heard before about Lebanese telecommunications employees allegedly spying for Israel.

News you may have missed #639

GCHQ

GCHQ

►►GCHQ will sell cyberdefense tech to private firms. The GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency, is to market some of its security technologies to companies in the private sector, in an attempt to bolster defenses against the foreboding threat of cyberwarfare. The UK government’s “cyber security strategy”, which was unveiled this month, has earmarked £650 million in public funding to set up a four-year National Cyber Security Program, a percentage of which will be used to collaborate with private companies. Click here for an excellent analysis on the public-private cybersecurity collaboration in Britain.
►►Was there a coup attempt in Trinidad? Many in Trinidad and Tobago were expressing skepticism yesterday about an alleged assassination plot, which Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said had been uncovered against her and several of her ministers. Police said nearly a dozen people had been arrested, including members of the army and police, but authorities have not given more details, citing the need to maintain security in operations to dismantle the plot.
►►US Senators resist $7 Billion in spending cuts for spy satellites. The Obama Administration wants to stop incessant spending by Defense Department contractors, especially those who have wasted billions of US taxpayers’ money in failed spy satellite projects. But the contractors’ friends in Congress, including lawmakers on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, are trying to stop the White House from cutting a $7 billion commercial satellite program being developed by GeoEye Inc. and DigitalGlobe Inc. What else is new?

Were British-funded mercenaries protecting Gaddafi in his final moments?

Muammar al-Gaddafi

Gaddafi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The South African intelligence services are reportedly investigating reports that a British security company was providing protection for Muammar al-Gaddafi when he was killed by rebels. On October 20, the Libyan leader and his armed entourage were traveling from his hometown of Sirte toward the Libya-Niger border, when they were hit by NATO missiles. Colonel Gaddafi was later captured and lynched by armed rebels loyal to Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC). But British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports that an unnamed British security company was paid millions of dollars by the Libyan leader to smuggle him out of Sirte and into Niger. According to The Telegraph, the company is now under investigation by South African authorities, because one of its agents, a woman based in Kenya, allegedly recruited at least 19 South African mercenaries for the operation to exfiltrate Gaddafi from Libya. The 19 joined a group of approximately 50 mercenaries, who were sent to Libya and were with the Libyan leader when he was captured by the NTC rebels on October 20. The paper says that several members of the mercenary group were former associates of Simon Mann, a British former Special Forces (SAS) officer who was arrested in Zimbabwe in 2004 while planning a coup against Teodoro Obiang, longtime dictator of energy-rich Equatorial Guinea. The Telegraph article quotes Danie Odendaal, a former member of South Africa’s apartheid-era security services, who claims he was among Gaddafi’s armed entourage during his capture on October 20. Odendaal claims that many South Africans were injured and at least two were killed along with Gaddafi. Read more of this post

White House reinstalls visas for 2009 Honduran coup plotters

Manuel Zelaya

Manuel Zelaya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On June 26, 2009, a clandestine meeting of the Honduran Supreme Court issued a secret warrant for the arrest of the country’s democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya. Less than 48 hours later, in the early hours of June 28, uniformed officers of the Honduran Army stormed the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa and arrested Zelaya. Shortly afterwards, the deposed President was placed on a plane and sent into enforced exile. It was the first coup d’état in the Central American country since 1978, and the first in Latin America in several years. The US administration of President Barack Obama almost immediately condemned the coup and halted American military aid to Honduras; but it failed to officially designate Zelaya’s ouster as a ‘military coup’, which would have required Washington to outlaw and terminate nearly all forms of government —and some private— aid to Honduras. In August, after several weeks of heavy criticism from Latin American governments, the Obama White House proceeded to “temporarily suspend” non-immigrant visas for over 1,000 Honduran military and civilian leaders, who had endorsed President Zelaya’s unconstitutional ouster. Many of whom had participated in the first post-coup government of former Speaker of the Honduran Congress, Roberto Micheletti. But a news report by the Associated Press suggests that Washington may now be quietly reinstating visas to Micheletti government officials, and that some of them are already travelling to and from the United States. The article quotes a “US embassy spokesperson”, who “spoke on condition of anonymity”, as saying that “the Department of State has determined that some of the Hondurans whose eligibility for visas was restricted following the June 2009 coup d’etat are again eligible to be considered for visas”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #586

Stewart David Nozette

David Nozette

►►Top CIA official says Obama ‘changed virtually nothing’. An examination of Top Secret America, which aired on PBS’s Frontline yesterday, includes a rare and lengthy interview with 34-year-CIA-veteran John Rizzo, who is described as “the most influential lawyer in CIA history”. Among other things, Rizzo told Frontline that “with a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration”.
►►Turkish military intel chief arrested in coup plot. Lt. General Ismail Hakki Pekin, the head of the Intelligence Department of the Turkish General Staff, has been arrested pending trial over an alleged plot to overthrow the government. Around 200 members of the military are thought to have planned attacks on mosques and worked to create tension in neighboring Greece to pave the way for a coup to topple the government, as part of the Ergenekon operation.
►►US scientist accused of spying reaches plea deal. US government space scientist Stewart David Nozette, who is accused of trying to sell secrets to Israel, has reached a plea deal with prosecutors. US District Judge Paul Friedman scheduled a hearing Wednesday morning to take Nozette’s plea.

Documents reveal MI5 role in Guyana coup

Cheddi and Janet Jagan

The Jagans

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Secret intelligence documents declassified last week reveal that Britain’s Security Service, known as MI5, played a significant role in the lead-up to the 1953 coup that toppled the democratically elected government of British Guiana. The Latin American territory, which borders Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil, was once one of the British Empire’s most lucrative sugar-producing colonies. In 1963, after gaining its independence from Britain, it was officially renamed the Co-Operative Republic of Guyana. Instrumental in the fight for independence was Cheddi Jagan —an ethnic Indian former dentist who is today considered the father of the nation— and his American-born wife Janet (née Rosenberg). In 1950, the couple founded the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which became the primary pro-independence political vehicle in the British colony. But dozens of folders of classified documents that were released last Friday by Britain’s National Archives show that MI5 was suspicious of the Jagans, and believed that Janet had been a member of the Communist Party of the United States in the 1940s. Several MI5 reports from the 1950s express concern that the PPP intended to establish close proximity between a newly independent Guyana and the Soviet Union. The declassified MI5 archives contain countless transcribed telephone conversations between the Jagans and their political allies, as well as copies of intercepted correspondence and reports of physical surveillance by MI5 informants. They reveal that British intelligence closely monitored the Jagans for at least a decade. Even though MI5 concluded that the PPP had no close contacts with Soviet agents or agencies, and that the party was “not receiving any financial support from any Communist organization outside the country”, it continued to describe Janet Jagan as “a committed communist” and remained apprehensive of the couple’s “disruptive antics”. The British government of Winston Churchill decided to take aggressive action in 1953, after a landslide election victory for the PPP in British Guiana elections. Read more of this post

Did Russian secret services avert military coup in Sverdlovsk?

Vladimir Kvachkov

V.V. Kvachkov

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Russian intelligence services arrested members of an illegal paramilitary unit that planned an armed insurrection in one of central Russia’s biggest cities. According to reports from Yekaterinburg, the administrative capital Russia’s Sverdlovsk province, leaders of the alleged paramilitary unit hoped that their action would lead to a nationwide rebellion, eventually resulting in a military coup in Moscow. Several people were arrested by security forces of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service a few days before August 2, the day when the alleged insurrection was to have taken place. Sources from the FSB say that the plotters were working on a four-step plan of action. First, they planned to attack the FSB’s Sverdlovsk district command center, the Russian Ministry of the Interior’s regional headquarters, as well as the offices of Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, and capture or kill all senior staff. They would then blow up key power stations around Yekaterinburg, effectively shutting down the city’s electricity network. Taking advantage of the widespread confusion among the regional security apparatus and the population, they would move to seize local weapons depots. The alleged insurrection plan called for distributing the seized weapons among members of Yekaterinburg’s urban poor, in an attempt to widen the base of the rebellion. The plan’s final step viewed a widening insurrection in Yekaterinburg as a spark that would trigger similar Libya-style uprisings across Russia, resulting in a coup that would depose the current government in Moscow and replace it with a transitional military regime. According to news reports, the FSB arrested several leaders of the alleged insurrection, including former members of the Russian military, who are said to be linked with the People’s Militia, an insurrectionist group composed by former military and intelligence officials, led by Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov. Kvachkov, a retired Colonel in the Russian Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU), was arrested in December of 2010 on charges of planning “an armed rebellion for the forceful seizure of power in Russia”. Read more of this post

Tunisian security officials arrested, killed, amid counter-coup fears

Ali Seriati

Ali Seriati

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Several key figures in Tunisia’s crumbling security apparatus have being either apprehended or killed, amid fears that they were planning a countercoup against the country’s new unity government. Most notable among the arrestees is General Ali Seriati, longtime director of deposed Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s Presidential Security Force. Seriati was arrested on Sunday, reportedly “by citizens as he tried to cross into Libya”. Reports from Tunis suggest that Ben Ali’s Interior Minister, Rafik Belham Kacem, who commanded the country’s’ domestic intelligence apparatus, has also been detained. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Imed Trabelsi, a politically powerful nephew of the former dictator’s wife, was lynched to death late on Saturday. Seriati and Kacem’s arrests are seen as attempts by the new government to prevent a widely feared coup plot, organized by the remnants of Ben Ali’s security apparatus, aimed at returning him to power. Initial stages of the coup materialized on Saturday, when several gunmen riding in unmarked cars launched a wave of armed attacks against opposition targets in capital Tunis and elsewhere. Political observers in the country appeared to immediately connect the attacks with General Seriati’s Presidential Security Force, said to include some of the former president’s staunchest supporters. Read more of this post

US denies Ivory Coast coup claim

Emile Guirieoulou

Emile Guirieoulou

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The United States has emphatically rejected assertions by officials in the Ivory Coast that it is plotting to overthrow the government of the West African country. For weeks now, Washington has been echoing calls by the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union for Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to stand down, after losing in the November 28 national elections. But Gbagbo’s government, which controls most of the military, rejects the alleged election victory of his political rival Alassane Ouattara, and refuses to hand over power. On December 29, the Ivory Coast’s Minister of the Interior, Emile Guirieoulou, told a press conference that the United States had dispatched at least ten German “mercenaries” to its embassy in Abidjan, as part of a multinational Western plot to overthrow Laurent Gbagbo. He told journalists that the German mercenaries were onboard a US-operated flight from Algiers to Bouake, Ivory Coast’s second-largest city. Read more of this post

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