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Pentagon confirms previous report that US fearing Russian missiles has sharply cut air operations in Syria

Pentagon confirms that following Russian suspension of de-confliction hotline US has sharply cut back air operations in Syria

Alexander Mercouris

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A few hours ago I wrote an article for The Duran which, drawing on reporting by The New York Times, pointed out that the actual effect of the US missile strike on Syria has been to reduce US air operations in Syria as a result of the Russian decision to suspend the hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria.

I also pointed out that the reason for this is the presence of powerful Russian air defence missiles in Syria, and the uncertainty the US now has about Russian intentions following the suspension by the Russians of the hotline.

The Pentagon has now confirmed that US air operations in Syria have indeed been sharply cut back.  This is what Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Pentagon press corps on Wednesday 12th April 2017

We have made adjustments to our operations to account for the potential tensions that resulted from the strikes that were conducted because of the Syrian regime’s chemical attack.  But make no mistake, we do plan on continuing our operations and we do continue to look for ways to accelerate them.  It’s just appropriate to make sure that you’re taking appropriate measures to account for that.  We don’t want to be reckless and we don’t want to have some type of incident that would cause a miscalculation, or some type of unintended incident.  The intent is to get back as quickly as possible to our normal operations and as fast a pace as we can manage.

This comes alongside Pentagon confirmation that over the past week the US led anti-ISIS coalition has carried out only 123 air strikes around Raqqa, ISIS’s “capital” in eastern Syria, as opposed to the more than 7,800 strikes which were conducted over the course of March.

One of US Secretary of State Tillerson’s primary objectives in Moscow was to get the hotline reopened.  That this is so was confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov during his joint news conference with Tillerson following Tillerson’s meeting with Russian President Putin.  Lavrov confirmed that Tillerson sought Putin’s agreement to re-instate the hotline.  Contrary to some media reports, it is clear from Lavrov’s comments that the hotline remains suspended, and that Putin imposed conditions on its reinstatement

We also very thoroughly discussed the situation with regard to our air forces with the U.S.-led coalition and the Russian forces, and we talked about the de-confliction memorandum during the operations in Syria. You know that this was halted, but President Putin confirmed our determination to put it on track again, confirming that the main aim, of course, is between these forces of the coalition and the Russian forces is to combat Jabhat al-Nusrah and other terrorist organizations and ISIL, of course.

(bold italics added)

In other words Putin told Tillerson that Russia would reinstate the hotline only after it received categorical assurances from the US that US forces would henceforth concentrate their fire on the Jihadi terrorists  – Jabhat Al-Nusra (ie. Al-Qaeda) and ISIS – and not on the Syrian military.  Until that happens the hotline remains closed and US air operations in Syria remain hobbled.  What this means in turn is that it is the Russians who have leverage over the US, and not the other way round, a fact which partly explains why all the talk of US ultimatums to Russia has amounted to precisely nothing.

The sharp reduction in US air operations in Syria as a result of the Russian decision to suspend the hotline is a matter of indisputable fact confirmed by the public record, including the Pentagon’s own statements and the reporting of The New York Times.  It has also been confirmed by the Belgian authorities, who have suspended operations by the Belgian air force supporting the US in Syria entirely.

It is a deeply regrettable fact that this is not being widely reported – a fact which is fostering an incomplete and distorted view of the crisis – but to pretend that it has not happened or that it is not happening is delusional and an exercise in denial.

Whether the US anticipated the Russians would respond in this way before it launched its missile strike is another matter, but it is the situation it is having to deal with now.

Meanwhile, that it is the Russians who hold the advantage is confirmed by the fact that though the US has been forced to scale down sharply its air operations in Syria since the missile strike, air operations by the Russian and Syrian air forces in Syria continue unabated.

Before leaving this subject I will touch briefly on claims that the reason most of the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles the US launched against Sharyat air base missed their target was because the Russians jammed their guidance systems.

This suggestion was discussed at length by The Saker in this article, in which he says the following

Explanation B: The Russians could not legally shoot down the US missiles.  Furthermore, it is incorrect to assume that these cruise missiles flew a direct course from the Mediterranean to their target (thereby almost overflying the Russian radar positions).  Tomahawk were specifically built to be able to fly tangential courses around some radar types and they also have a very low RCS (radar visibility), especially in the frontal sector.  Some of these missiles were probably flying low enough not to be seen by Russian radars, unless the Russians had an AWACS in the air (I don’t know if they did).  However, since the Russians were warned about the attack they had plenty of time to prepare their electronic warfare stations to “fry” and otherwise disable at least part of the cruise missiles.  I do believe that this is the correct explanation.  I do not know whether the Russian were technically unable to destroy and confuse the 23 missiles which reached the base or whether a political decision was taken to let less than half of the cruise missiles through in order to disguise the Russian role in the destruction of 36 missiles.  What I am sure of is that 36 advanced cruise missile do not “just disappear”.  There are two reasons why the Russians would have decided to use their EW systems and not their missiles: first, it provides them “plausible deninability” (at least for the general public, there is no doubt that  US signal intelligence units did detect the Russian electronic interference (unless it happened at very low power and very high frequency and far away inland), and because by using EW systems it allowed them to keep their  air defense missiles for the protection of their own forces.  Can the Russian really do this?

Take a look at this image, taken from a Russian website, which appears to have been made by the company Kret which produces some of the key Russian electronic warfare systems.  Do you notice that on the left hand side, right under the AWACs aircraft you can clearly see a Tomahawk type missile turning around and eventually exploding at sea?

How this is done is open to conjecture. All that we are told is that the missile is given a “false target” but for our purposes this really does not matter.  What matters is that the Russians have basically leaked the information that they are capable of turning cruise missiles around.  There are other possibilities such as an directed energy beams which basically fries or, at least, confuses the terrain following and or inertial navigation systems.  Some have suggested a “kill switch” which would shut down the entire missile.  Maybe.  Again, this really doesn’t matter for our purposes.  What matters is that the Russian have the means to spoof, redirect or destroy US cruise missiles.  It sure appears to be that for the first time these systems were used in anger.

 

 

This may indeed be what happened, and I would not personally be at all surprised if it was.  It is for example well-established that the Russians have deployed the Krasukha-4 jamming system to Syria, and it may be that the failure of so many of the Tomahawk cruise missiles was the work of this system.

However there is no official confirmation of any of this from the Russians, and in the absence of such confirmation this story is not a fact but is rather extremely well-informed speculation, which as is clear from his article is all the Saker claims it is.

In the meantime, until some confirmation for this theory comes from the Russians, I cannot accept this story as confirmed, and I cannot treat reports drawing on anonymous Syrian sources supposedly confirming it as authoritative and necessarily true.

 

 

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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