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Explaining Israel’s Syrian strike: Israel tries to reverse shift in military balance

All the indications are that the latest Israeli strike was primarily intended to defeat Syria’s increasingly effective air defence system, and as not principally targeted at Iran

Alexander Mercouris

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Eric Zuesse has done an expert job untangling the web of lies and obfuscation surrounding the recent Israeli missile strike on Syria, and the various counter strikes.

To my mind Zuesse has shown clearly that the Israeli claim to have retaliated against an Iranian missile strike on Israel is most unlikely to be true.

What then is happening?

Firstly, it should be said clearly that the recent Israeli strike on Syria was many orders of magnitude bigger than other Israeli strikes on Syria which we have reported recently.

The most detailed account of the strike has been provided by Russia’s Defence Ministry, which makes clear its scale.

Participating in the air raid were 28 Israeli planes F-15 and F-16, which fired more than 60 air-to-surface missiles on different parts of Syria. Also Israel launched more than ten tactical surface-to-surface missiles.  The attacks were against the deployment sites of Iranian armed groups and also Syrian air defenses in the area of Damascus and in southern Syria

Note that the Israelis are not disputing the numbers of Israeli forces committed to the strike which the Russians are giving

This seems to me to be as good a point as any to highlight one very important fact which the recent US led missile strike on Syria and which this latest Israeli strike have highlighted.

Within hours of the strikes and before the US and Israel had provided details the Russians released what gives every appearance of being highly accurate information about the strikes, detailing the number of missiles launched, the number and types of aircraft used, and the other military assets which participated.

By way of example, in the case of the US led missile on Syria the Russians reported almost immediately that 103 missiles had been launched by the US led coalition against Syria.

The actual number turned out to be 105: a figure so similar to the one the Russians claimed as to make no practical difference (the discrepancy may be accounted for by the fact that two missiles malfunctioned).

The US has denied that it shared information with the Russians about the strike before it took place.

That confirms that the information the Russians gave about the strike was obtained by their own intelligence.

It is highly likely that the same is true about the information the Russians are giving about the latest Israeli strike.

The accuracy of the details the Russians provided about the US led strike confirms that the Russians have what amounts to complete knowledge in real time of what is happening in the skies and on the seas in and around Syria.

That is an extremely impressive achievement, and also a very important fact.  It confirms the technological potency of the air defence system the Russians have brought with them to Syria, and the effectiveness of the radar systems and other electronic surveillance devices it uses.

The fact that the Russians have such total knowledge of what is happening in the air and on the seas in and around Syria is a good reason for taking their claims about the number of missiles they say the Syrians have shot down seriously.

In the case of the US led missile strike the Russians initially claimed that the total number of missiles the Syrian air defence shot down was 71.  Following an on-site investigation Russian investigation that number was reduced to a still very impressive 66.

In the case of the latest Israeli strike the Russians say the Syrian air defence shot down “more than half the Israeli missiles”.

Since the Russians say 70 missiles were launched, that would mean that the Syrian air defence shot down over 35.

In both cases the US and Israel of course deny the Russian claims – the US claims all its missiles hit their targets – but have failed so far to provide a detailed refutation.

Given the completeness of Russian knowledge about what is happening in the skies and on the seas in and around Syria, it is all but inconceivable that the Russian are simply mistaken about their claims about the numbers of missiles shot down.

That means that either the Russians are lying about the number of missiles they say the Syrians have shot down or they are telling the truth.

In the case of the US led missile strike one recent US action which has passed by almost completely unnoticed suggests that the Russian may be telling the truth.

On 9th May 2018, whilst Russia was celebrating Victory Day, the US announced a further range of sanctions against Russian companies and individuals involved in producing systems for Russia’s air defence complex.

Bizarrely two Russian entities which were sanctioned were two Russian military units: the 183rd Guards Anti Aircraft Missile Regiment and the 11th Training Centre of Russia’s Anti Aircraft Missile Forces.

It is surely not a coincidence that these are the two Russian military units which have recently provided training to Syria’s air defence forces.

It is also surely not a coincidence that the reason given for sanctioning one of the Russian companies named in the sanctions appears to be that it is involved in the supply of advanced Pantsir-S1 systems to Syria.

This latest wave of US sanctions has resulted in a stiffly worded statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry which draws the obvious conclusions

Washington has imposed additional sanctions against Russia, allegedly for violating the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act, which has no connection to Russia. In effect, this US decision has been precipitated by a trivial desire to get even with Russia over the failed missile attack on Syria, which the United States, Britain and France launched on April 14 in violation of international law.

Evidence of this is the inclusion in the sanctions list of the Gatchina Surface-to-Air Missile Training Centre at the Mozhaisky Military Aerospace Academy and the 183rd Guards Air Defence Missile Regiment of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In all likelihood, they are being punished for providing good training and instructions to the Syrian air defence forces, which shot down the majority of the missiles launched by the Western aggressors.

It is notable that the sanctions list also includes the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian General Staff and Rosoboronexport (ROE). It appears that our American colleagues have forgotten that they imposed sanctions against these parties before and are seeking to intimidate us with the same threats that have failed.

Washington continues to nurture the illusion that economic or military pressure can prevent Russia from upholding its own interests and supporting its partners. A desire to maintain its unilateral global domination despite the costs involved is prompting the United States to take irrational and openly dangerous steps. We would like to tell US politicians that trying to “punish” everyone who pursues an independent policy is not a good idea. The latest sanctions essentially amount to recognition of the combat capabilities of the Soviet and Russian weapons used by the Syrian air defence crews on April 14, when they shot down the bulk of the incoming missiles.

(bold italics added)

In my opinion it is the growing potency of the Syrian air defence system, and its increasing success in shooting down Israeli aircraft, and US and Israeli missiles, which is almost certainly the true reason for the latest Israeli strike.

The revelation of the growing potency of the Syrian air defence system, and its recent successes against both the US and Israel, appears to be sending shockwaves throughout the US and Israeli defence establishments, which have become accustomed to taking their hitherto unchallenged air superiority in the Middle East for granted.

The result is a petulant decision to impose sanctions on those Russians the US thinks are responsible for this change in the situation, and a series of ever bigger Israeli strikes on Syria intended to reverse this and to restore at least the impression of Israeli aerial primacy over Syria, which had existed before.

It seems that the latest strike – involving no fewer than 28 aircraft and launched against a far larger range of targets than the earlier US led strike – was principally intended to defeat the Syrian air defence system.

It is notable that the video from the strike which the Israelis have published, and which they have ensured has been given the most international publicity, is one which shows a successful missile strike on a Russian supplied Syrian Pantsir-S1.

It is this small but potent point defence system which appears to be shooting down a disproportionate number of US and Israeli missiles, and which is threatening to nullify the effectiveness of these missiles in Syrian air space.  Not surprisingly, its presence in Syria appears to be causing the US and Israeli defence establishments the most concern.  Release of the video appears to be intended to provide reassurance – not least to the personnel of the US and Israeli militaries – that like all weapons systems the Pantsir-S1 is not invincible and can be beaten.

As for the role of Iran in these military exchanges, in my opinion too much should not be made of this.

Iran has become Israel’s and the US’s all purpose alibi in justifying their continued attacks on Syria.

Doubtless – as the Russians say – some Iranian or Iranian controlled facilities in Syria really were attacked as part of this latest strike, presumably in order to give some substance to this alibi.

However this constant dragging in of Iran to explain or excuse Israeli attacks on Syria should not mislead about what is really going on.  It was Syria and its air defence system not Iran which appears to have been the target.

In the aftermath of the US missile strike on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base last year the Russians said they would take steps to upgrade Syria’s air defence system.

It seems the Russians have been as good as their word, with the result that – as I have discussed previously – there has been a shift in the military balance between Syria and Israel in Syrian air space against Israel.

The Israelis are pulling out all the stops to reverse this, and this looks to be what was behind their latest big strike.

If Russian claims about the number of Israeli missiles shot down are true – and as we have seen there is reason to think they might be – then this latest Israeli strike appears to have failed.

If so then It is most unlikely to be the last one.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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