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Russia to respond after massive drone attack hits Syrian base

Irrespective of any possible US role, the attack further confirms that the Syrian war is not over and that the Russians still have a fight on their hands

Alexander Mercouris

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At the time of Russian President Putin’s December announcement of the partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, I wrote an article for The Duran saying that the war in Syria was far from over and that the announcement should not be treated as an indication that it is over or even close to being over:

BREAKING: Drones used in attack on Russia’s bases “could only be shipped from US”

The war in Syria is not over and it is not won.  Though ISIS’s back has been broken, it is still a force under arms in rural Deir Ezzor where it has recently taken the offensive against the US’s Kurdish allies.

In addition hundreds of ISIS fighters are still roaming free in the desert regions of central Syria even if they no longer control any important towns there.  These bands of fighters still pose a significant security threat, and will continue to do so for some time.

Further west Syria’s Idlib province remains under Jihadi control.

Worse still, there is now growing evidence that ISIS is trying to redeploy as many of its fighters as it can from central and eastern Syria to Idlib province.

With the Syrian military as always heavily over-stretched and still not in full control of much of the countryside it seems that this apparently planned redeployment of ISIS fighters from central and eastern Syria to Idlib province is not only taking place, but that it is actually meeting with some success.

Recently there have been reports of bitter fighting in Idlib province between Al-Qaeda – previously in undisputed control of the province – and the ISIS fighters who are being redeployed there from central and eastern Syria.  Moreover it seems that with Al-Qaeda severely weakened because of the massive losses it suffered last year in the Great Battle of Aleppo, it is ISIS which is gaining the upper hand in this fighting.

Whilst it is probably still alarmist to say that ISIS’s caliphate which has been driven out of Raqqa, central Syria and Deir Ezzor is now in the process of reconstituting itself in Idlib, the possibility that something like that might happen is certainly there, and the Russians cannot be unaware of it.

Elsewhere there are still significant pockets of Jihadi resistance in south western Syria, especially in the Golan Heights and near Damascus, whilst the Syrian government still faces a serious problem with the US-backed Kurds who currently control around a fifth of Syria’s territory in the north.

Last but not least there are still thousands of US troops in Syria, uninvited and potentially dangerous, with no one outside the Pentagon and CENTCOM knowing exactly how many of them there are.

If it does nothing else the recent drone attack on Russia’s two Syrian bases and an earlier mortar attack on Russia’s Khmeimim air base which killed two Russian soldiers and which caused some damage to some Russian aircraft confirms this (South Front has incidentally provided a detailed and definitive analysis of the mortar attack).

Photos believed to show damage to aircraft following a previous attack on New Year’s Eve

That the Kremlin is embarrassed by these attacks in light of the overly optimistic comments President Putin made at the time of the withdrawal announcement is shown by the unusually defensive language used in a press briefing following the drone attack by President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov

The remaining contingent and military infrastructure at Hmeymim and Tartus have the necessary capabilities to counter sporadic terrorist hit-and-run raids, which will regrettably continue. This merely emphasizes the need for stepping up political settlement efforts.

[In making the decision to pull out its military personnel from Syria] Russia proceeded from the assumption there are no grounds for conducting major offensive operations.

Everybody, including the president, were aware that terrorists’ attacks would not come to an end overnight, but will continue.

The usually well-informed Al-Masdar news agency is attributing the drone attack to ISIS, and it is possible that ISIS was responsible for the earlier mortar attack also.

If so then ISIS’s attacks on Russia’s two Syrian bases are clearly intended to bring home to the Russians as well as to ISIS’s own supporters that reports of its destruction are premature.

ISIS does indeed remain a significant force in eastern Syria, where groups of its fighters remain under arms in Deir Ezzor province and where ISIS retains a residual structure and command organisation.

ISIS is also an increasing presence in the Jihadi fastness in north west Syrian centred on Idlib province, where it is taking on Al-Qaeda and making a strong come back.

If ISIS was responsible for the attacks on Russia’s Syrian bases then they would indeed show that the organisation is still a force to be reckoned with in Syria, even if the attacks themselves were no more than pinpricks.

Since the Russian withdrawal announcement in December the Syrian army has remained on the offensive, making significant gains against various Jihadi holdouts near Damascus and on the Golan heights, and slowly encroaching on the main remaining area of Jihadi activity in Idlib province.

The attacks on the Russian bases might be a sign that the Jihadis in north west Syria in and around Idlib province are coming under pressure, in which case the attacks might be intended to pressure the Russians to get the Syrians to call their offensive in north west Syria off.

However the overall picture in Syria remains extremely complicated.

The diplomatic process in Geneva and Astana remains deadlocked. Despite the devastating military defeats it has suffered the Syrian opposition continues to insist on the removal of President Assad as a precondition for it agreeing to a peace settlement.  The US is now talking of arming a new Syrian insurgent group in north east Syria whilst the Turkish military – now present in northern Syria in large numbers – has been spotted installing anti-aircraft missiles on Syrian territory (aimed at whose air force?) and is said to be preparing to attack the US backed Kurds.

A successful Turkish offensive against the US backed Kurds should not be seen as a development which is favourable to the Syrian government.

Though it would pit two US allies against each other, any territory the Turks capture from the Kurds will be handed over by Turkey to President Erdogan’s Jihadi allies, not to the Syrian government.  The extent of Syrian territory under Jihadi control would in that case start to increase again.

Adding to this already overly complex Syrian picture are the two ongoing geopolitical conflicts which continue to rage in Syria: the one between Israel and Iran, and the one between the US and Russia.

Part of the purpose of President Putin’s December withdrawal announcement was to reduce military activity in Russia’s Syrian bases so that they could be enlarged and converted to make them fit to be placed on a permanent footing.

Over the last few weeks scattered reports have appeared which suggest that the major building work needed to convert these bases is now finally getting underway.

Given the dramatic shift that completion of the massive planned Russian base complex in western Syria might cause to the military and geopolitical balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean it is entirely understandable that the US might be acutely concerned about this development, and might be taking steps to try to stop it.

If the US was in any way involved in the drone attack on the Russian bases – and despite strong Russian hints that has not been confirmed – then concern about the planned Russian base complex might provide the reason.

The attack would in that case be a warning to the Russians that the US will not stand by and let the base complex be completed, and the Russians will have a fight on their hands in which they must expect to suffer casualties if they press on.

If so then the open use of US technology for the attack, and the Russian reported presence of a US Poseidon surveillance aircraft near the bases during the attack, is presumably intended to tell the Russians that it is the US they are up against and who they will have to face if they disregard the warning they have just been given and press on with their plan to build the base complex.

This complicated mix of players and motives makes it difficult to say with certainty who was behind the two recent attacks on Russia’s Syrian bases and what the reasons for the attacks were.

The Russians will however be seriously concerned.  Already there is information that they are stepping up security around the bases.

Undoubtedly the Russians’ formidable intelligence operation in Syria will be working flat out to establish who was responsible for the attacks and what the reasons for the attacks were, with the Russians obliged to reassess their plans in Syria in light of them.

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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“Foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails (Video)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx): Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails was hacked by foreign actor, and it was not Russia.

Alex Christoforou

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A stunning revelation that hardly anyone in the mainstream media is covering.

Fox News gave Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) the opportunity to explain what was going on during his questioning of Peter Strzok, when the the Texas Congressman stated that a “foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Aside from this segment on Fox News, this story is not getting any coverage, and we know why. It destroys the entire ‘Russia hacked Hillary’ narrative.

Gohmert states that this evidence is irrefutable and shows that a foreign actor, not connected to Russia in any way, intercepted and distributed Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails.

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Via Zerohedge

As we sift through the ashes of Thursday’s dumpster-fire Congressional hearing with still employed FBI agent Peter Strzok, Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller plucked out a key exchange between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) and Strzok which revealed a yet-unknown bombshell about the Clinton email case.

Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia. When this was discovered by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), IG Chuck McCullough sent his investigator Frank Ruckner and an attorney to notify Strzok along with three other people about the “anomaly.”

Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” Recall that Horowitz concluded last month that despite Strzok’s extreme bias towards Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump – none of it translated to Strzok’s work at the FBI.

In other words; Strzok, while investigating Clinton’s email server, completely ignored the fact that most of Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity – while IG Horowitz simply didn’t want to know about it.

Daily Caller reports…

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert continued..

“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.”

Strzok admitted to meeting with Ruckner but said he couldn’t remember the “specific” content of their discussion.

“The forensic examination was done by the ICIG and they can document that,” Gohmert said, “but you were given that information and you did nothing with it.”

According to Zerohedge “Mr. Horowitz got a call four times from someone wanting to brief him about this, and he never returned the call,” Gohmert said – and Horowitz wouldn’t return the call.

And while Peter Strzok couldn’t remember the specifics of his meeting with the IG about the giant “foreign entity” bombshell, he texted this to his mistress Lisa Page when the IG discovered the “(C)” classification on several of Clinton’s emails – something the FBI overlooked:

“Holy cow … if the FBI missed this, what else was missed? … Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this.”

Via Zerohedge

In November of 2017, IG McCullough – an Obama appointee – revealed to Fox News that he received pushback when he tried to tell former DNI James Clapper about the foreign entity which had Clinton’s emails and other anomalies.

Instead of being embraced for trying to expose an illegal act, seven senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) wrote a letter accusing him of politicizing the issue.

“It’s absolutely irrelevant whether something is marked classified, it is the character of the information,” he said. Fox News reports…

McCullough said that from that point forward, he received only criticism and an “adversarial posture” from Congress when he tried to rectify the situation.

“I expected to be embraced and protected,” he said, adding that a Hill staffer “chided” him for failing to consider the “political consequences” of the information he was blowing the whistle on.

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Donald Trump plays good cop and bad cop with a weak Theresa May (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 55.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was momentous, not for its substance, but rather for its sheer entertainment value.

Trump started his trip to the United Kingdom blasting Theresa May for her inability to negotiate a proper Brexit deal with the EU.  Trump ended his visit holding hands with the UK Prime Minister during a press conference where the most ‘special relationship’ between the two allies was once again reaffirmed.

Protests saw giant Trump “baby balloons” fly over London’s city center, as Trump played was his own good cop and bad cop to the UK PM, outside London at the Chequers…often times leaving May’s head spinning.

Even as Trump has left London, he remains front and center in the mind of Theresa May, who has now stated that Trump advised her to “sue” the European Union to resolve the tense negotiations over Brexit.

Trump had mentioned to reporters on Friday at a joint press conference with Theresa May that he had given the British leader a suggestion that she found too “brutal.”

Asked Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show what that suggestion was, May: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.” May added…

“What the president also said at that press conference was `Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck.”‘

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris summarize what was a state visit like no other, as Trump trolled the UK PM from beginning to end, and left London knowing that he got the better of a weakened British Prime Minister, who may not survive in office past next week.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via CNBC

It wasn’t exactly clear what Trump meant. The revelation came after explosive and undiplomatic remarks Trump made this week about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the Brexit negotiations — as he made his first official visit to Britain.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and threatened to undermine May’s already fragile hold on power. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

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