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Russia’s military bases in Syria

As a result of the Syrian war Russia is building a base complex in Syria which for the first time rivals that of the US in the eastern Mediterranean.

Alexander Mercouris

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A reason frequently given by Western commentators for Russia’s support for President Assad is Russia’s supposed wish to protect its naval base in Tartus in Syria.  Some commentators have suggested conversely that one of the reasons for the whole Syrian war was to drive the Russians out of Syria.

In my opinion neither of these claims is true, but there is no doubt that one consequence of the war is that it has hugely increased the scale of Russia’s military presence in Syria beyond anything conceivable in 2011 when the Syrian conflict started.

Russia now operates two large bases in Syria which are definitely known about, and a third one whose existence is sometimes alluded to but which has never been publicly confirmed.

(1) Tartus naval base

The Russian navy has maintained a presence in Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus since the 1970s (some reports claim since 1971, other reports put the start date later).

Though the facility at Tartus was often called a base, until recently it was better described as a small logistics facility tasked with providing support for the Russian navy’s Mediterranean deployments.  The facility lacked the capacity to hosting more than a small number ships, and none of anything beyond corvette size.   Apparently it was mainly staffed by civilian contractors.  At the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011 it had apparently fallen into decay, and was barely in use.

Russia has now contracted a 49 year lease for the base, which is set for a huge expansion.   The objective is to enlarge it so that it can host simultaneously 11 warships, some nuclear powered.  Apparently work has already begun.

Assuming this work is completed, it will transform the base into a major naval base comparable in scale to those the US and NATO elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

(2) Khmeimim air base

This did not exist prior to September 2015, and is a hurried adaptation of a part of the civilian Bassel Al-Assad airport.  It consists of a single  2,979 metre asphalt runway, and was pressed into service by the Russian air force in September 2015 to enable it to conduct its air campaign against the Jihadis in Syria.

Russia has now contracted a 49 year lease for this base.  There is talk that it too will be expanded, with the building of a second larger concrete runway more suitable for high performance aircraft such as fighter jets and bombers.

This too would transform the base into a facility more comparable to US bases in the area, such as Incirlik in Turkey.

Alongside the extra runway there will presumably also be permanent facilities for the personnel manning the base, together with all the standard equipment required for such a base.

(3) Latakia listening station

From time to time reports dribble out of a large Cold War Russian listening (SIGINT) station in Latakia province in Syria, though details confirming its existence are hard to find.

In October 2014 Jihadis overran a listening post at Al-Harra in south west Syria close to the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.  This appears to have been a small listening post supposedly codenamed “Centre S”.  Possibly it was a branch of the much bigger complex located deeper within Syria in Latakia province that rumour speaks of.

Assuming this facility exists it will certainly have been affected by the revolution in electronic and signals intelligence which has taken place since the end of the Cold War.   This has made it easier to monitor signals traffic from within Russia, reducing the need for foreign based listening stations such as the one that supposedly exists in Latakia.  Having said this it is likely that this facility does exist, and that it is still active.

Russian reports occasionally give the impression that signals traffic in Syria is now being monitored from a facility actually located within Khmeimin air base.  It could be that the listening station has been relocated there, or – more probably – that this is being said in order to conceal its true location.

These three facilities are now protected by a complex belt of inter-locking defence systems, including the very powerful S-400 and S-300VM Antey 2500 anti aircraft missile systems deployed to Syria last year, the shorter range Pantsir S1 missile gun point defence missile gun system which came with the original Russian force that went to Syria in September 2015, the very advanced Krasukha 4 electronic warfare system (said to be capable of jamming AWACS aircraft and satellites), and the batteries of supersonic Bastion anti missiles redeployed along Syria’s coast late last year from Crimea.  There are now reports that Russia is sending batteries of Tochka-U short range ballistic missiles to Syria as well, though the Kremlin is refusing to confirm this.

Moreover since all these facilities are located within a small area in Latakia province they are able to function together as a single giant air and naval base complex, possibly under the supervision of a single base officer.

Whether US support for the Jihadis in Syria really was motivated by a desire to drive the Russians out of Syria is open to doubt.  However if it was then the conclusion must be that it has not only failed, but that it has achieved the opposite of what was intended to do.

Not only is Syria now more closely tied to Russia than ever before, but as a direct consequence of the Syrian war the Russians are now building an air and naval base complex in Syria the like of which they have never had in the Mediterranean before, making it possible for the first time for their land based aircraft to patrol the skies of the eastern Mediterranean, and for their ships to operate there without having to be supported at a distance from Russia’s home ports.

Moreover this is the first air and naval base complex on this scale to exist in the Mediterranean since the Second World War which is not controlled by the US or by one of its allies, but which is controlled instead by one of the US’s rivals.

Not the least consequence of the Syrian war is that it has not only weakened the US’s position in the Middle East, but it has also for the first time since the Second World War shaken the US’s hitherto unbreakable grip on the Mediterranean area.

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James Woods Suspended From Twitter Over Satirical Meme That Could “Impact An Election”

James Woods crushes Jack Dorsey: “You are a coward, @Jack.”

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Outspoken conservative actor James Woods was suspended from posting to Twitter over a two-month-old satirical meme which very clearly parodies a Democratic advertisement campaign. While the actor’s tweets are still visible, he is unable to post new content.

The offending tweet from July 20, features three millennial-aged men with “nu-male smiles” and text that reads “We’re making a Woman’s Vote Worth more by staying home.” Above it, Woods writes “Pretty scary that there is a distinct possibility this could be real. Not likely, but in this day and age of absolute liberal insanity, it is at least possible.”

According to screenshots provided by an associate of Woods’, Twitter directed the actor to delete the post on the grounds that it contained “text and imagery that has the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election.

In other words, James Woods, who has approximately 1.72 million followers, was suspended because liberals who don’t identify as women might actually take the meme seriously and not vote. 

In a statement released through associate Sara Miller, Woods said “You are a coward, @Jack,” referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “There is no free speech for Conservatives on @Twitter.

Earlier this month, Woods opined on the mass-platform ban of Alex Jones, tweeting: ““I’ve never read Alex Jones nor watched any of his video presence on the internet. A friend told me he was an extremist. Believe me that I know nothing about him. That said, I think banning him from the internet is a slippery slope. This is the beginning of real fascism. Trust me.”

Nu-males everywhere non-threateningly smirk at Woods’ bad fortune…

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Another witness named by Ford becomes third person to deny being at party

A woman believed to have been one of five people at a party 35 years ago where Ford claims she was assaulted by Kavanaugh is now the fourth person to deny being at any such party.

The Duran

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Via The Washington Examiner


A witness, reportedly named by Christine Blasey Ford as one of the people at the high school party where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday she was not there.

The attorney for Leland Ingham Keyser told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Keyser does not remember being at the party Ford described as the location of the alleged assault.

“Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford,” Keyser said in the statement. CNN reported Keyser is a lifelong friend of Ford’s.

Keyser, whom the New York Times reported is one of the people Ford named as being in attendance at the party, is the third witness who has denied knowing about the alleged assault. Mark Judge and Patrick Smyth said earlier this week they did not remember the party in question.

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegation.

The news comes after Ford, through her attorneys, tentatively agreed to testify on Thursday, after days of negotiations over the timing and conditions of her

Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had repeatedly extended deadlines set for Ford’s team on the decision, including three on Friday and one at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Grassley threatened to proceed with a committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Monday if he did not hear from Ford.

“Five times now we [have] granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed [with] her desire stated one [week] ago that she wants to tell senate her story,” Grassley tweeted Friday. “Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. Come to us or we to u.”

The extended discussions have been labeled a delaying tactic by some Republicans.

Ford’s attorneys and Grassley’s aides will reportedly continue negotiations Sunday on the details of the conditions of Ford’s testimony, per the New York Times.

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Was NYT Story About Rosenstein ‘Coup Attempt’ A Setup?

The New York Times is reporting that Rod Rosenstein pushed a plan to record President Trump and invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

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Via Zerohedge


Is the FBI trying to goad President Trump into firing the man in charge of supervising the Mueller probe? That’s what Sean Hannity and a handful of  Trump’s Congressional allies think.

According to a report in Politico, Republicans in Congress are approaching a story about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attempting to organize a palace coup with extreme caution, despite having twice nearly gathered the votes to remove him in the recent past.

On Friday, the NYT reported a bombshell story alleging that Rosenstein had tried to recruit administration officials to secretly tape conversations with the president in order to help justify removing Trump under the 25th amendment. Rosenstein vehemently denied the story, which was largely based on confidential memos written by former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. And others who were reportedly in attendance at meeting between McCabe and Rosenstein said the Deputy AG was being “sarcastic” when he suggested that the president be taped.

Meanwhile, Trump allies including Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz are saying that the story should be treated with suspicion. Jordan and Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows once filed articles of impeachment against Rosenstein. But now, both Meadows and Jordan intend to proceed with caution, telling Politico that he would like to see the memos that the story was based on.

House Freedom Caucus leaders Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who led a charge to impeach Rosenstein this summer, have said they want to hear from Rosenstein and see documents allegedly describing the comments before they decide what to do.That’s awarded Rosenstein a courtesy they’ve never given him in the past.

“I think Rod needs to come before Congress this week and explain under oath what exactly he said and didn’t say,” Meadows said at the Values Voters Summit Saturday.

The newfound hesitation to oust Rosenstein highlights a cautious approach Trump allies have adopted as the Republican party barrels toward a potential bloodbath in the midterms. Some Republicans fear Trump firing Rosenstein now would only further energize Democrats making the case to voters that the president is corrupt and needs to be reined in by a Democratic House.

[…]

In a Friday interview, Jordan, one of Rosenstein’s fiercest critics in Congress, sidestepped questions about whether the House should revisit Rosenstein’s impeachment or try to hold him in contempt of Congress. Rather, he said, a more focused push to obtain sensitive documents from the Justice Department — which Trump’s allies say would expose anti-Trump bias and corruption the FBI — is the most urgent priority.

“I want to see those memos and evaluate them,” said Jordan, who has clashed publicly with Rosenstein over access to documents and accused him of threatening House Intelligence Committee staffers, an allegation Rosenstein denied.

Politico cites two possible explanations for lawmakers’ hesitation: Republicans are running out of time before members devote themselves full-time to their reelection campaigns. Republicans are worried that the story could have been intentionally planted to provoke Rosenstein’s firing in order to improve Democrats’ chances of retaking the Senate AND the House (Trump actively moving to crush the Mueller probe would be quite the propaganda win for the Dems).

Sean Hannity took this latter theory a step further during his show on Friday evening, where he urged Trump not to fire Rosie and instead insisted that the story could have been a “trap”. He added that he had been told by “multiple sources” that the story was planted by unspecified “enemies of Trump.”

“I have a message for the president tonight,” Hannity said Friday night. “Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody…the president needs to know it is all a setup.”

Still, a handful of conservative commentators, including Laura Ingraham, urged Trump to fire Rosenstein immediately. And for Trump’s part, he hinted at a rally Friday night in Missouri that he planned to “get rid” of the “lingering stench” at the DOJ, which many interpreted as a hint that his firing is imminent.

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