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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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Why did Trump recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind US President Trump’s sudden recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Following Trump’s statements as US President, acting Israeli Foreign Minister is saying that Trump will make it official and sign an executive order to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian border territory on Monday.

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Via DW

Israel says White House officials are preparing an official document to codify support for Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights, which will be signed by US President Donald Trump on Monday.

The signing of the decree will be witnessed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Trump at the White House, Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz (pictured), said in a Tweet.

“Tomorrow, President Trump, in the presence of PM Netanyahu, will sign a decree recognizing Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan. Israel-US ties are closer than ever,” Katz said.

Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, subsequently annexing it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Trump’s tweet annoys allies

Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to accept Israel’s widely-contested claim to the border territory.

The decision has been criticized by many US allies — Germany, Britain, France and the EU have all said they still consider the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.

Syria and other states in the region said the recognition, if confirmed, would violate international law.

Netanyahu has long pushed for Washington’s endorsement, and many analysts see Trump’s comments as a campaign gift ahead of Israel’s April 9 election.

In 2017, Trump drew condemnation throughout the Middle East when he recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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Russia Gives US Red Line On Venezuela

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems that Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied.

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, President Donald Trump was again bragging that the military option was still on the table, in his press conference with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is bluffing or not yet up to speed with being apprised of Russia’s red line.

The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement. The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.

Abrams is no ordinary diplomat. He is a regime-change specialist with a criminal record for sponsoring terrorist operations, specifically the infamous Iran-Contra affair to destabilize Nicaragua during the 1980s. His appointment by President Trump to the “Venezuela file” only underscores the serious intent in Washington for regime change in Caracas. Whether it gets away with that intent is another matter.

Moscow’s interlocutor, Sergei Ryabkov, is known to not mince his words, having earlier castigated Washington for seeking global military domination. He calls a spade a spade, and presumably a criminal a criminal.

The encounter in Rome this week was described as “frank” and “serious” – which is diplomatic code for a blazing exchange. The timing comes at a high-stakes moment, after Venezuela having been thrown into chaos last week from civilian power blackouts that many observers, including the Kremlin, blame on American cyber sabotage. The power grid outage followed a failed attempt by Washington to stage a provocation with the Venezuelan military over humanitarian aid deliveries last month from neighboring Colombia.

The fact that Washington’s efforts to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro have so far floundered, might suggest that the Americans are intensifying their campaign to destabilize the country, with the objective of installing US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido. He declared himself “acting president” in January with Washington’s imprimatur.

Given that the nationwide power blackouts seem to have failed in fomenting a revolt by the civilian population or the military against Maduro, the next option tempting Washington could be the military one.

It seems significant that Washington has recently evacuated its last remaining diplomats from the South American country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the evacuation by saying that having US personnel on the ground “was limiting” Washington’s scope for action. Also, American Airlines reportedly cancelled all its services to Venezuela in the past week. Again, suggesting that the US was considering a military intervention, either directly with its troops or covertly by weaponizing local proxies. The latter certainly falls under Abrams’ purview.

After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly: “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.

For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.

“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.

The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.

That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.

Washington’s gambit is a replay of Syria. During the eight-year war in that country, the US continually proffered the demand of a “political transition” which at the end would see President Bashar al Assad standing down. By contrast, Russia’s unflinching position on Syria has always been that it’s not up to any external power to decide Syria’s politics. It is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people to determine independently.

Nearly three years after Russia intervened militarily in Syria to salvage the Arab country from a US-backed covert war for regime change, the American side has manifestly given up on its erstwhile imperious demands for “political transition”. The principle of Syrian sovereignty has prevailed, in large part because of Russia’s trenchant defense of its Arab ally.

Likewise, Washington, in its incorrigible arrogance, is getting another lesson from Russia – this time in its own presumed “back yard” of Latin America.

It’s not a question of Russia being inveigled by Washington’s regime-change schemers about who should be president of Venezuela and “how we can manage a transition”. Moscow has reiterated countless times that the legitimate president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro whom the people voted for last year by an overwhelming majority in a free and fair election – albeit boycotted by the US-orchestrated opposition.

The framework Washington is attempting to set up of choosing between their desired “interim president” and incumbent Maduro is an entirely spurious one. It is not even worthy to be discussed because it is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. Who is Washington to even dare try to impose its false choice?

On Venezuela, Russia is having to remind the criminal American rulers – again – about international law and respect for national sovereignty, as Moscow earlier did with regard to Syria.

And in case Washington gets into a huff and tries the military option, Moscow this week told regime-change henchman Abrams that that’s a red line. If Washington has any sense of rationale left, it will know from its Syria fiasco that Russia has Venezuela’s back covered.

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

Now, the desperate Americans could still try more sabotage, cyber or financial. But their options are limited, contrary to what Trump thinks.

How the days of American imperialist swagger are numbered. There was a time when it could rampage all over Latin America. Not any more, evidently. Thanks in part to Russia’s global standing and military power.

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With RussiaGate Over Where’s Hillary?

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain. She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


During most of the RussiaGate investigation against Donald Trump I kept saying that all roads lead to Hillary Clinton.

Anyone with three working brain cells knew this, including ‘Miss’ Maddow, whose tears of disappointment are particularly delicious.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was designed from the beginning to create something out of nothing. It did this admirably.

It was so effective it paralyzed the country for more than two years, just like Europe has been held hostage by Brexit. And all of this because, in the end, the elites I call The Davos Crowd refused to accept that the people no longer believed their lies about the benefits of their neoliberal, globalist agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency was to be their apotheosis along with the Brexit vote. These were meant to lay to rest, once and for all time, the vaguely libertarian notion that people should rule themselves and not be ruled by philosopher kings in some distant land.

Hillary’s failure was enormous. And the RussiaGate gambit to destroy Trump served a laundry list of purposes to cover it:

  1. Undermine his legitimacy before he even takes office.
  2. Accuse him of what Hillary actually did: collude with Russians and Ukrainians to effect the outcome of the election
  3. Paralyze Trump on his foreign policy desires to scale back the Empire
  4. Give aid and comfort to hurting progressives and radicalize them further undermining our political system
  5. Polarize the electorate over the false choice of Trump’s guilt.
  6. Paralyze the Dept. of Justice and Congress so that they would not uncover the massive corruption in the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.
  7. Isolate Trump and take away every ally or potential ally he could have by turning them against him through prosecutor overreach.

Hillary should have been thrown to the wolves after she failed. When you fail the people she failed and cost them the money she cost them, you lose more than just your funding. What this tells you is that she has so much dirt on everyone involved, once this thing started everyone went along with it lest she burn them down as well.

Burnin’ Down da House

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain

She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

And she was willing to tear it down to keep him from having it no matter how much damage it would do. She’s worse than the Joker from The Dark Knight.

Because while the Joker is unfathomable to someone with a conscience there’s little stopping us from excising him from the community completely., even though Batman refuses.

Hillary hates us for who we are and what we won’t give her. And that animus drove her to blackmail the world while putting on the face of its savior.

And that’s what makes what comes next so obvious to me. RussiaGate was never a sustainable narrative. It was ludicrous from the beginning. And now that it has ended with a whimper there are a lot of angry, confused and scared people out there.

Mueller thought all he had to do was lean on corrupt people and threaten them with everything. They would turn on Trump. He would resign in disgrace from the public outcry.

It didn’t work. In the end Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone all held their ground or perjured themselves into the whole thing falling apart.

Andrew Weissman’s resignation last month was your tell there was nothing. Mueller would pursue this to the limit of his personal reputation and no further.

Just like so many other politicians.

Vote Your Pocketbook

With respect to Brexit I’ve been convinced that it would come down to reputations.

Would the British MP’s vote against their own personal best interests to do the bidding of the EU?

Would Theresa May eventually realize her historical reputation would be destroyed if she caves to Brussels and betrays Brexit in the end?

Always bet on the fecklessness of politicians. They will always act selfishly when put to the test. While leading RussiaGate, Mueller was always headed here if he couldn’t get someone to betray Trump.

And now his report is in. There are no new indictments. And by doing so he is saving his reputation for the future. And that is your biggest tell that HIllary’s blackmail is now worthless.

They don’t fear her anymore because RussiaGate outed her as the architect. Anything else she has is irrelevant in the face of trying to oust a sitting president from power.

The progressives that were convinced of Trump’s treason are bereft; their false hope stripped away like standing in front of a sandblaster. They will be raw, angry and looking for blood after they get over their denial.

Everyone else who was blackmailed into going along with this lunacy will begin cutting deals to save their skins. The outrage over this will not end. Trump will be President when he stands for re-election.

The Wolves Beckon

The Democrats do not have a chance against him as of right now. When he was caving on everything back in December it looked like he was done. That there was enough meat on the RussiaGate bones to make Nancy Pelosi brave.

Then she backed off on impeachment talk. Oops.

But the Democrats have a sincere problem. Their candidates have no solutions other than to embrace the crazy and go full Bolshevik. That is not a winning position.

Trump will kill them on ‘socialism.’

The Deep State and The Davos Crowd stand revealed and reviled.

If they don’t do something dramatic then the anger from the rest of the country will also be palpable come election time. Justice is not done simply by saying, “No evidence of collusion.”

It’s clear that RussiaGate is a failure of monumental proportions. Heads will have to roll. But who will be willing to fall on their sword at this point?

Comey? No. McCabe? No.

There is only one answer. And Obama’s people are still in place to protect him. I said last fall that “Hillary would indict herself.” And I meant it. Eventually her blackmail and drive to burn it all down led to this moment.

The circumstances are different than I expected back then, Trump didn’t win the mid-terms. But the end result was always the same. If there is no collusion, if RussiaGate is a scam, then all roads lead back to Hillary as the sacrificial lamb.

Because the bigger project, the erection of a transnational superstate, is bigger than any one person. Hillary is expendable.

Lies are expensive to maintain. The truth is cheap to defend. Think of the billions in opportunity costs associated with this. Once the costs rise above the benefits, change happens fast.

If there is any hope of salvaging the center of this country for the Democrats, the ones that voted against Hillary in 2016, then there is no reason anymore not to indict Hillary as the architect of RussiaGate.

We all know it’s the truth. So, the cheapest way out of this mess for them is to give the MAGApedes what they want, Hillary.

And hope that is enough bread and circuses to distract from the real storm ahead of us.

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