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Russia is launching advanced missiles against Jihadis near Aleppo

As part of its renewed air campaign in Syria Russia deploys and launches advanced Kalibr, Kh-101, Onyx and Pantsir missile systems, partly to target the Jihadis but also as a warning to Israel, Turkey, NATO and the US.

Alexander Mercouris

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The renewed Russian air offensive against the Jihadi fighters in northeast Syria has been marked by the use of some of their advanced missiles.

As widely predicted, the Russian fleet launched Kalibr long range subsonic cruise missiles against Jihadi targets in Idlib and Homs province from the eastern Mediterranean.  The Kalibr is the Russian fleet’s long range land attack cruise missile.  It was first used to spectacular effect against Jihadi targets in Syria around a year ago, when Kalibr missiles were launched against Jihadi targets in Syria by ships of Russia’s Caspian Sea fleet.

The Russian air force has in the meantime been launching cruise missiles of its own.  As previously reported by The Duran, Russia’s heavy bombers were equipped with cruise missiles, and long range subsonic TU95 heavy bombers have been launching them at Jihadi targets (there is no word so far of the far more advanced long range supersonic TU160 heavy bombers participating in the operation).

The cruise missile launched at the Jihadi targets by the TU95 bombers is the long range subsonic Kh-101 cruise missile. Despite a superficial physical resemblance to the Russian fleet’s Kalibr cruise missile, the Kh-101 is actually a completely different and supposedly more advanced cruise missile designed by an entirely different bureau.

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It seems that the Kh-101 not only has a longer range than the Kalibr, but it can be re-targeted after launch (making it theoretically capable of destroying mobile targets) and is far more stealthy, making it practically invisible to whatever radars the Jihadis use.

However, perhaps the most spectacular cruise missile the Russians have launched at the Jihadis is the Mach 2.5 supersonic Onyx missile, which was launched by a Russian manned Bastion coastal defence battery located in Syria itself.

This is the first occasion that a supersonic cruise missile has ever been launched at a land target.  With its sonic boom and its suddenness and speed of attack the psychological effect of a strike by such a missile must be devastating.  Moreover in contrast to a subsonic cruise missile, which can in theory be shot down by ground fire before it reaches its target (there were actually some cases of that happening during the 1990-1991 Gulf War), the Jihadis have no means to shoot down such a missile, and therefore lack even a theoretical defence against it.

For the Russians the use of ground based Onyx missiles against Jihadi targets in Syria serves multiple purposes.

Firstly it enables the Russians to test in battlefield conditions a very advanced weapons system that has never been used before.

Secondly, it enables them to advertise to potential buyers of the Onyx/Bastion system that the Onyx missile has a land attack capability.  Onyx was designed and has up to now been marketed as purely an anti-ship missile.  The fact that it also has a land attack capability was previously unknown.  Potential buyers of the system (eg. the Chinese and the Indians) have now been shown it is more versatile – and therefore more cost effective – than they may have realised.

Lastly, by launching Onyx missiles from a Bastion complex located in Syria itself, the Russians have made known to the US, NATO and Israel that the Bastion coastal defence missile complexes in Syria are manned by Russians and are controlled by Moscow. That should remove any doubts about the skills of their operators, and remove any temptations the Western powers and the Israelis might have to attack them.

The Russians have made it publicly known that the Bastion coastal defence missile complexes they have deployed to Syria stand ready to defend their fleet in the eastern Mediterranean and their bases in Syria from anyone foolish enough to attack them.  Combined with the presence of the highly advanced S-400 and S-300MV Antei-2500 anti aircraft and anti missile complexes in Syria, the now advertised use of the Onyx and Bastion systems deployed in Syria makes it clear that the Russians are prepared for any attacks by sea as well.

Lastly, there has been one further deployment of missiles in Syria which has received less attention. Photographs have now appeared confirming the deployment of short range mobile Pantsir anti aircraft combined cannon and missile systems around Aleppo. It is not known whether these systems are being operated by the Syrians or the Russians, but it is more likely that they are being operated by the Russians. Even if they are being operated by the Syrians, it is a certainty that Russian advisers will be present and working alongside them for support and guidance.

Unlike the advanced S-400, S-300MV Antei-2500 and Onyx/Bastion missile complexes deployed to Syria, the short range Pantsir systems are not intended to defend against or deter attacks by the US air force and navy, or by Israel. Rather their purpose is clearly to deter or defend against attacks by the much less sophisticated Turkish air force, which in recent weeks has been in action in northeast Syria as part of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield.

There continues to be a widespread belief that there is some sort of agreement between Russia and Turkey that the Turkish military will not involve itself in the fighting in Aleppo. Whether this is so or not, with the Turkish army and its Jihadi allies now pressing their offensive against the ISIS controlled town of Al-Bab, which is within artillery range of Aleppo, the Russians are clearly taking nothing for granted, and are taking precautions against any possible Turkish foray against Aleppo as well.

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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