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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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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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