Archive for the ‘Russia – Syrian war’ category

Iran, Russia Boost Military Ties Amid U.S. Action In Syria

April 24, 2017

Iran, Russia Boost Military Ties Amid U.S. Action In Syria, Washington Free Beacon, , April 24, 2017

(Please see also, Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway. — DM)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (L) looks on after a joint press conference after their talks in Moscow on April 14, 2017./ AFP PHOTO  ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia can serve as a major military ally for Iran and help provide it with not just military capabilities, but nuclear technology. Iran and Russia inked several deals in the past years to build a series of new light water nuclear reactors across the Islamic Republic.

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Iran and Russia are moving closer together in their military alliance, working to boost ties and coordination in Syria and elsewhere in the region following the U.S. decision to launch a military strike in Syria, according to regional reports and experts.

Iran’s defense minister is slated to visit Moscow at the end of the month to discuss increased military ties, a move that is meant to deter U.S. action in the region and show a sign of increased force, according to regional experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Tehran-Moscow axis has been growing since the landmark Iran nuclear deal, with Russia making good on a series of weapons deliveries, including the Russian-made S-300 missile defense system. The two countries have been signing an additional number of military deals in recent months and that cooperation is likely to increase in light of the Trump administration’s decision to launch strikes against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is being backed by both Russia and Iran.

Iranian leaders have signaled in recent days that the alliance with Russia is a top priority going forward and that a number of new military deals are in the works.

“The visit by Iranian [President Hassan] Rouhani that took place on March 28 was another step toward developing extensive cooperation between Moscow and Tehran,” Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei was quoted in the country’s state-controlled press.

“We hope that we will witness even broader bilateral ties across all areas in the future,” Sanaei said during an event last week marking the Iranian Army Day.

Sanaei also celebrated the recent delivery by Russia of the S-300 missile system, which Tehran had been coveting for some time. The system is viewed by Iran as a major deterrence factor aimed at intimidating U.S. forces in the region.

The delivery of the S-300 system to Iran is a sign that Russia has an interest in bolstering Tehran’s military might, Sanaei said.

Since signing a massive military deal in 2015 with Russia, “important steps have been taken to strengthen bilateral relations in the area of defense,” Sanaei said. “One such step was the delivery of S-300 missile systems to Iran. This is an indicator of mutual trust in defense cooperation.”

As Iran’s defense minister gears up to visit Moscow, regional experts predict that the military ties between the countries will only increase as Assad comes under greater international pressure.

However, the alliance between the countries remains fragile and largely one of convenience.

“Russia and Iran have a similar goal in keeping Assad in power at all costs,” Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, told the Free Beacon. “However, how each perceives the end state in Syria and the other’s role in that future is one of the big questions in the relationship.”

In the short term, both Iran and Russia will aggressively work to “show a united front after America’s first strike on the Assad regime,” Zilberman said. “This is what we are seeing in the flurry of activity, but it is yet to be seen if anything of substance comes out of these talks.”

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at FDD, said that Russia views Iran as a chief counter to U.S. power in the region. The alliance between the countries is likely to strengthen as long as Moscow can use Tehran to offset American influence in the region.

“Russia can and will likely continue to use Iran instrumentally in its larger strategic competition with the United States,” Ben Taleblu said. “One wonders however, how the leadership of the Islamic Republic, which derided the late Shah of Iran for his closeness to the U.S. are able to justify—legally, politically, and even spiritually, the concessions they have made to befriend Russia. As a reminder, no country has taken more territory away from Iran and threatened its sovereignty in the past half millennia than Russia.”

Russia can serve as a major military ally for Iran and help provide it with not just military capabilities, but nuclear technology. Iran and Russia inked several deals in the past years to build a series of new light water nuclear reactors across the Islamic Republic.

“For the past two years Tehran has been drawing closer to Moscow,” Ben Taleblu explained. “Iran will look to Russia to help it drive the U.S. from the region, as well as support its nuclear development under the auspices of the [Iran deal], and engage in a highly selective modernization process for its military. Russia and China will likely become the two largest sources for arms as a UN-mandated arms ban is set to expire in 2020.”

[UPDATED] Syria moves all its fighter jets to Russian base

April 19, 2017

Syria moves all its fighter jets to Russian base, DEBKAfile, April 19, 2017

The Pentagon disclosure came ironically just hours after a senior Israeli military officer confidently informed military correspondents in Tel Aviv that the mechanism introduced for Russian-Israeli air force coordination in Syria had been successfully adopted by other nations operating in Syria, such as Turkey and the United States. He reported that the arrangement included reciprocal visits once every two months by heads of the operations divisions of the two armies.

These visits will probably go the same way now as the entire arrangement.

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Syria has moved all its fighter aircraft to the Russian Hmeimim air base in Latakia three weeks after 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles knocked out one-fifth of its air force at the Shayrat base, in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians in Idlib. This was reported Wednesday night, April 19, by the Pentagon. The Russian high command in Syria has its seat at that base.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Syrian air force will operate henceforth under Russian protection and behind the advanced Russian S-300 and S-400 air defense shield without fear of US reprisals.

President Vladimir Putin’s response to the Trump administration’s call to distance Moscow from the Assad regime is therefore a flat rejection. He is instead fortifying Russian support for that regime.

The upsurge of Russian-US military tension places at risk the operational coordination accords prevailing between the air forces of Russia, the US and Israel in Syrian skies.

Syrian operational staff officers working in Hmeimim will now have access to the advanced Russian surveillance instruments tracking the movements of all foreign aircraft moving through Syrian air space. Syrian intelligence officers will also be close to Russian SIGINT facilities which the Russian spy agency GRU has installed there. In other words, by a single move, the Russians have substantially upgraded the Syrian air force’s operational and intelligence capabilities.

How does this affect the Syrian and Iranian air freight traffic ferrying military supplies from Iran? Where will they deliver their cargoes? Will they too be allowed to land at the Russian base in Latakia? If they are, the Israeli air force will be prevented from cutting down the flow of Iranian weapons for Hizballah. The new move more or less buries the Russian-Israeli agreements covering Syrian skies.

The Pentagon disclosure came ironically just hours after a senior Israeli military officer confidently informed military correspondents in Tel Aviv that the mechanism introduced for Russian-Israeli air force coordination in Syria had been successfully adopted by other nations operating in Syria, such as Turkey and the United States. He reported that the arrangement included reciprocal visits once every two months by heads of the operations divisions of the two armies.

These visits will probably go the same way now as the entire arrangement.

Official: U.S. Concludes Russia Had Advanced Knowledge of Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

April 11, 2017

Official: U.S. Concludes Russia Had Advanced Knowledge of Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack, Washington Free Beacon, April 10, 2017

(Russia took all of the Syrian chemical stuff away, just as Saint Barack told us. Saint Bashar wouldn’t use chemical weapons on Syrians even if he had some, and Saint Vlad wouldn’t condone it for a minute if he did. It just a strange coincidence and it must have been a false flag attack, probably by wicked Christians, Jews or Hindus. Evil Trump must have glommed onto it to appear strong and good. Right? — DM.) 

A civil defence member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

The United States has concluded Russia knew in advance that the Syrian regime would employ chemical weapons in a large-scale attack last week, according to the Associated Press.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime reportedly ordered the chemical bombings that hit a rebel-held town in the Idlib Province on April 4. At least 80 people were killed, and video footage of women and children fighting to draw breath because of lethal chemical gas spread around the world.

BREAKING: Senior U.S. official says U.S. has concluded that Russia knew in advance of Syria’s chemical weapons attack last week.

According to a senior official, a Russian-operated drone flew over a Syrian hospital while victims sought treatment, and later a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital. The official said the drone’s presence revealed that Russia knew the attack was coming:

Hours after the drone left, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what American officials believe was an attempt to cover up the usage of chemical weapons.

Until Monday, U.S. officials had said they weren’t sure if the drone was operated by Russia or Syria. The senior official said it still wasn’t clear who was flying the jet that bombed the hospital.

The official said the presence of the drone couldn’t have been a coincidence, and that Russia must have known the chemical weapons attack was coming and that victims were seeking treatment.

President Donald Trump responded to the chemical attack on Thursday, when he ordered the firing of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield in western Syria, where the chemical attack originated.

The Trump administration has stepped up its rhetoric against Russia in the wake of the Syria attack.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke Monday at a World War II memorial in Italy to issue a warning against countries that “commit crimes against the innocents.”

“We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” he said.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Sunday that the administration would not let Russia “cover for this regime anymore.”

“This is something to let Russia know, ‘You know what? We’re not going to have you cover for this regime anymore. And we’re not going to allow things like this to happen to innocent people,'” Haley said on “Meet The Press.”

US Air Force to quit Incirlik, move to Syria base

April 8, 2017

US Air Force to quit Incirlik, move to Syria base, DEBKAfile, April 8, 2017

When the work is finished, the rising complex of air bases will enable America to deploy twice as many warplanes and helicopters in Syria as the Russians currently maintain.

The five US bases in Syria are part of Trump’s three-pronged strategy which aims at a) fighting Islamist terror; b) blocking Iran’s land and air access to Syria; and c) providing the enclaves of the Syrian Kurdish-PYD-YPG with a military shield against the Turkish army.

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Several US engineering teams are working round the clock to build a big new air base in northern Syria after completing the expansion of another four. They are all situated in the Syrian borderland with Iraq, DEBKAfile’s military forces report.

This was going on over the weekend as senators, news correspondents and commentators were outguessing each other over whether the US missile attack on the Syrian Shayrat air base Friday, in retaliation for the Assad regime’s chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, was a one-off or the start of a new series.

As the White House parried those questions, the Trump administration was going full steam ahead on the massive project of preparing to pull US air force units out of the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, in active American use since 2002. Those units were in the middle of a big moving job to the five new and expanded air bases in Syria. Their hub is to be Tabqa, which is just 110km west of the Islamic State’s Syrian capital, Raqqa. The other five are Hajar airport in the Rmelan region, two small air fields serving farm transport in Qamishli, which have been converted to military us; and a fifth in the Kurdish Kobani enclave north of Aleppo near the Syrian-Turkish border.

Tabqa is also becoming the main assembly-point for the joint US, Kurdish, tribal Arab force that is coming together in readiness for a major charge on Raqqa.

When the work is finished, the rising complex of air bases will enable America to deploy twice as many warplanes and helicopters in Syria as the Russians currently maintain.

The site of the Tabqa air field was captured as recently as late March by the Syrian Democratic Force (Kurdish-Arab fighters) which were flown in and dropped there by the US Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. It was quickly dubbed “Incirlik 2” or “Qayyarah-2” after the US command center running the Iraqi military offensive against ISIS in Mosul.

Tabqa is designed to accommodate the 2,500 US military personnel housed at Incirlik. Like the Americans, the German Bundeswehr is also on the point of quitting Incirlik and eying a number of new locations in Cyprus and Jordan. The Germans are pulling out over the crisis in their relations with Ankara. The Americans are quitting because President Donald Trump wants to chill US ties with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan and cooperation with the Turkish army.

The five US bases in Syria are part of Trump’s three-pronged strategy which aims at a) fighting Islamist terror; b) blocking Iran’s land and air access to Syria; and c) providing the enclaves of the Syrian Kurdish-PYD-YPG with a military shield against the Turkish army.

Pentagon: Russia May Have Directly Participated in Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

April 7, 2017

Pentagon: Russia May Have Directly Participated in Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack, BreitbartJohn Hayward, April 7, 2017

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Getty Images

According to CNN, the Pentagon is particularly interested in whether a Russian warplane actually conducted the bombing run on the Khan Sheikhoun hospital where victims were receiving treatment within hours of the attack, “with the aim of destroying evidence.”

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A stunning update on Friday afternoon from the Associated Press said the Pentagon is investigating possible Russian participation in the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack.

These officials also supported the dire suspicion that nearby hospitals were attacked to cover up evidence of the WMD deployment:

The officials say Russia has failed to control the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.

They say a drone belonging either to Russia or Syria was seen hovering over the site of the chemical weapons attack Tuesday after it happened. The drone returned late in the day as citizens were going to a nearby hospital for treatment. Shortly afterward, officials say the hospital was bombed.

The officials say they believe the hospital attack may have been an effort to cover up evidence of the attack.

The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. They say they’re still reviewing evidence.

According to CNN, the Pentagon is particularly interested in whether a Russian warplane actually conducted the bombing run on the Khan Sheikhoun hospital where victims were receiving treatment within hours of the attack, “with the aim of destroying evidence.”

Such an inquiry will not, of course, sit well with Russia, which is currently demanding a U.N. Security Council investigation of American aggression.

There have been conflicting reports about whether any Russian personnel or aircraft, particularly helicopters, were present at the Sharyat airbase. Videos can be found online purporting to show Russian helicopters at the base as recently as February, but Fox News quotes Pentagon briefers stating “no Russian aircraft were at the Sharyat airfield” when the missiles struck.

However, the Fox News report also quotes U.S. officials who said “between 12 and 100 Russian military personnel” were present at the base, complete with their own barracks, which the U.S. “took pains” to avoid blowing up. If the chemical weapons attack on Idlib province was indeed conducted from the base, it would be very difficult for the Russians to argue they were unaware a war crime was in progress under their noses.

US strikes Syrian military airfield

April 7, 2017

US strikes Syrian military airfield, DEBKAfile, April 7, 2017

(Please see also, Condemnation will not stop Assad’s chemical war. — DM)

The US military launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, April 6, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago. The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, significantly expanded US military involvement in Syria.

The missiles were launched from two Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — in the eastern Mediterranean. They struck an airbase called Shayrat in Homs province, the site from which the planes that conducted the chemical attack in Idlib are believed to have originated. Syrian military aircraft, infrastructure and runways were hit

“Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types,” president Donald Trump said to reporters from Mar-a-Lago, Florida, where he is hosting China President Xi Jinping and his wife…

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” he said. He acted because of a “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

DEBKAfile: Washington has no doubt that the Syrian SU-22 bomber which Tuesday dropped a sarin gas bomb on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, killing up to 100 people, was a joint Russian-Iranian-Syrian gambit to divert the Trump administration from a comprehensive plan for Syria. As US President and commander-in-chief he could not ignore this provocation.

Our sources report that the new US administration’s plans for Syria center on an offensive to evict the Islamic State from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, a mission for which US military preparations have been going forward for the past two weeks at five centers. To this operation Moscow, Tehran and Damascus were not averse. But that operation was also designed to rid Syria of Iranian and Hizballah forces – to which they were.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that despite previous agreements, Syria had not surrendered its chemical weapons stockpile, and accused Russia of “failing in its responsibility to deliver on its commitment” to supervise the surrender of those chemical weapons. “Either Russia has been complicit or simply incompetent in its ability to deliver,” Tillerson continued.

The question now is whether Vladimir Putin will decide to hit back at the US operation. Russia did not retaliate for the Israel air strike on March 17 over the northern Syrian T4 air base. If Putin chooses to sit on his hands once again, the same question may be addressed to Iran and Hizballah.

Very possibly, Trump and Putin reached accord on the limits of the US punitive attack in Syrian in long hours of debate during the day between the US State and Defense Departments and the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries, which were first reported by DEBKAfile 24 hours ago. Pentagon sources report that Washington gave Moscow advance warning of the coming US attack on the Syrian Shayrat base where Russian air force units are also deployed.

Follow-up US military action may yet come after the US president asserted that for him, “many, many lines were crossed” by Assad’s chemical attack and his attitude towards Syria had changed..

Trump’s comprehensive plans for Syria our outlined in the latest DEBKA Weekly. If you are not yet a subscriber, click here for this and other exclusive revelations.

The Real War in ‘Syria’ and the Strategy for Long-Term Victory

April 7, 2017

The Real War in ‘Syria’ and the Strategy for Long-Term Victory, PJ MediaMichael Ledeen, April 6, 2017

(Iran is ripe for regime change and the sooner the better. Please see also, Iran’s Elections: A Breaking Crisis? and All 15 Arab Summit resolutions blast Iran.– DM)

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (Reuters, RTX34BQA)

Punishing Assad would be satisfying, but we’ve got a big war to win. It’s smarter and more effective to go after the regime in Tehran. Not militarily, but rather supporting the tens of millions of Iranians who detest the Khamenei regime. Call it political warfare, or subversion, or democratic revolution. It worked against the Soviet Empire, and there are good reasons to believe it would work in Iran as well. Most Iranians, suffering under the failed regime, want a freely chosen government that will address their problems instead of dispatching their husbands and sons sent to the battlefield.

Regime change in Iran would be devastating to Assad and Putin, and its positive effects would be felt in North Africa and our own hemisphere, striking at the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Latin America. And it would remind the tyrants that America’s greatest weapon is political. We are the most revolutionary country in the world, and we should act like it.

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Of course I loathe Assad. And of course I despise the Obamans for that phony red line and the subsequent retreat-and-bogus-Russian-deal. But just carrying out vengeance against Assad isn’t good enough. It fails to address the central problem of our time: the global anti-American alliance.

There is no Syria any more, and the enemy forces on the Middle Eastern battlefield come from various jihadi groups, and three regimes: Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus. We have to defeat them all, and other members of the enemy alliance, including Cuba and North Korea. Nikki Haley has it right: “The truth is that Assad, Russia and Iran have no interest in peace.”

Indeed, they are waging war, and the principal force driving that war is not Assad, but Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei’s killers have been alongside Assad’s from the very beginning, as the survival of the Syrian dictator is crucial to Iranian ambitions and quite likely also the survival of the Islamic Republic itself. Listen to Defense Secretary James Mattis a few days ago (from Reuters):

Asked about comments Mattis made in 2012 that the three primary threats the United States faced were “Iran, Iran, Iran,” Mattis told reporters that Iran’s behavior had not changed in the years since.

“At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of US central command and that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today,” Mattis said.

True, and Mattis’ characteristically strong language points the way to the best American action in the region, namely bringing down the Tehran regime. Lashing out at Assad isn’t nearly good enough. After all, what strategic objective would we accomplish by smashing, even removing, Assad? The Iranian and Russian fighters would still be there, as would the Islamist forces. The demands on our military would dramatically expand. We do not want to occupy a significant land mass in what used to be called Syria, nor do we seem to have sorted out what we want to do with the Turks and the Kurds.

Punishing Assad would be satisfying, but we’ve got a big war to win. It’s smarter and more effective to go after the regime in Tehran. Not militarily, but rather supporting the tens of millions of Iranians who detest the Khamenei regime. Call it political warfare, or subversion, or democratic revolution. It worked against the Soviet Empire, and there are good reasons to believe it would work in Iran as well. Most Iranians, suffering under the failed regime, want a freely chosen government that will address their problems instead of dispatching their husbands and sons sent to the battlefield.

Regime change in Iran would be devastating to Assad and Putin, and its positive effects would be felt in North Africa and our own hemisphere, striking at the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Latin America. And it would remind the tyrants that America’s greatest weapon is political. We are the most revolutionary country in the world, and we should act like it.