Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rocket Fire Increasing On Israel's Northern And Southern Borders, Liberman: 'We Won't Ignore Provocation'

Rocket strikes Negev

Terrorists fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip that exploded in an open area near the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.

There were no casualties and no damage was reported. The red alert siren did not sound because the rocket was fired at an open area.

The southern border has recently been quiet compared with Israel's northern border. This morning, the IDF Spokesperson clarified that there had been no leakage of mortar shells from Syria into the northern Golan Heights, as reported by the media.

Surveys in the area indicate that a single machine gun was fired at the UNDOF camp near the fence in the northern Golan Heights, and a fire broke out in a nearby minefield.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel Monday night, not causing any damage, but breaking a tense calm amid rising tensions with the Palestinian enclave.

The launch was claimed by a salafist group linked to the Islamic State, according to Hebrew media reports.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers said earlier this month they were not interested in a fresh round of conflict, even as electricity cuts requested by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and facilitated by Israel, threatened to lead to a new round of violence.

Israeli security concerns have shifted in the last few days to the northern border, where fighting in neighboring Syria has bled into Israel, with fire from mortars and small arms hitting in the Golan Heights.

Israel has struck back at Syrian regime targets several times in retaliation.

The Israeli Air Force on Monday night struck two Hamas infrastructure targets in the north and south of the Gaza Strip, the military said.

The IDF said the strikes came in response to a rocket launch from the Strip earlier in the night.

There were no immediate reports of casualties by Palestinians.

Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for any attacks emanating from the territory it controls, and has in the past responded to any launch with strikes on Hamas targets.

Hamas rulers said earlier this month it was not interested in a fresh round of conflict, even as electricity cuts requested by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and facilitated by Israel, threatened to lead to new violence.
Abbas has led a high-stakes campaign to weaken Hamas by gradually reducing the flow of electricity to the territory he lost to the terrorist group in 2007.

Egypt has since stepped in to ship in fuel to make up for most of the power cuts, though its not clear how long the shipments will continue.

On Monday, the Haaretz daily reported that human rights groups and officials in Gaza suspect Abbas is also attempting to keep Gazans from being able to seek medical attention in Israel as a means of ramping up pressure.
Israeli security concerns have shifted in the last few days to the northern border, where fighting in neighboring Syria has bled into Israel, with fire from mortars and small arms hitting in the Golan Heights.

Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman said Monday that Israel has “no intention of launching a military operation” against Syria or rebel groups operating within it even as tensions have spiraled in recent days.

Speaking at the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs committee, Liberman rejected predictions made by some in Israel’s political echelonthat the next conflict with either Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in the south is just around the corner.

“If you read the newspapers it seems that we have many prophets predicting a hot summer,” the defense minister said. “Let me be clear once again: We have no intention of initiating a military operation, neither in the north nor in the south.”

But Liberman said that despite the military establishment’s hope for calm on Israel’s borders, it will not tolerate any provocations, even accidental fire that spills over from a neighboring conflict.

“We won’t hold back if necessary and when needed we will respond with all our might,” he said, adding that Israel will not allow Syria to become a base for attacks against Israel.

“Anyone that wants to turn Syria into an Iranian base against Israel should think again. We will not allow Syria to become another front against Israel,” he said.

In the past three days there have been three incidents of errant shells landing in Israel. The IDF has responded with force, targeting Syrian army installations, which Israel holds responsible for all incidents originating from Syrian soil.

Syria responded Sunday to Israel’s strikes with its own warnings
“The general staff of the Syrian army warns of the dangers of these aggressive actions and holds the Israeli enemy responsible for the grave consequences of these repeated actions, despite any excuse there may be,” the Ynet news site quoted the Syrian military as saying.
The Syrian general staff also published photos of at least three men it said were Syrian soldiers killed in Israeli strikes. It did not provide a date or any other information on when they were killed.
Also on Sunday, Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij visited troops in southern Syria to mark the end of the Ramadan monthlong fast where he vowed the regime would continue fighting until it conquers “every morsel of the homeland.”

Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian civil war, which broke out in March 2011, but has over the years acknowledged that it helps treat wounded Syrians who arrive at its border, and provides some of them with humanitarian assistance.

Are Big Changes Coming In U.S. Policy In Syria?

Right after the U.S. government shot down a Syrian government plane in Syria, the Russian government broke off the coordination of its operations along with the U.S. and America's allied forces in Syria (otherwise known as «deconfliction of forces» there), and warned that:

In areas where Russian aviation is conducting combat missions in the Syrian skies, any flying objects, including jets and unmanned aerial vehicles of the international coalition discovered west of the Euphrates River, will be followed by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets» — meaning ordered out, or else immediately shot down. 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford, spoke at the National Press Club in Washington later that day. Only a video from the National Press Club is, as of yet, available of this important event (the first post-warning top U.S. government official public statement about it), no transcript yet; but here is what Dunford said (and the time he said it in the video), which struck this reporter as being important in his comments, at this historic moment when the likelihood of a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia — World War III — was higher than it has been ever since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and U.S.S.R. Premier Nikita Khrushchev:

9:00- prosecute the defeat-ISIS campaign in Syria, which is the reason why we are in Syria»

He said that to «defeat ISIS» is «the reason», not «a reason», we’re there. Very important word-choice. Profoundly meaningful in this context.

His stating that «the reason why we are in Syria» is to «prosecute the defeat-ISIS campaign in Syria», means that we are not in Syria in order to overthrow and replace Syria’s government — that we are not there in order to conquer Syria. That’s not «the reason», nor even «a reason», we’re there. People who have been following the Syria-war matter closely over the past few years will find this a shocking assertion from the U.S. government, because it is such a stark contrast to U.S. President Barack Obama’s constant demands that «Assad must go».

And, it is being made not by Trump’s U.N. Ambassador, nor by any other mere mouthpiece, but instead by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, who would not be saying it unless he had just previously communicated directly with the President after that extremely grave Russian warning.

Trump, it now seems, knows that this is serious, and by allowing his CJCS to go public with this, he is overriding here the many neocons whom he has appointed to lead the Defense Department. Dunford represents the President, not merely the military of which the President is the Commander-In-Chief. (Dunford’s role, as CJCS, is purely advisory, both to the President and to the Secretary of Defense, but he is «the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense».) That clause in a sentence — and especially its «the» instead of an «a» — means more than most officials’ entire speeches do.

13:05: «Our stated objective at this point is a stable secure and sovereign Iraq and we are supporting Iraqi security forces in defeating ISIS inside of Iraq, and I think that the issue of a Kurdish referendum is one that will have to be worked out between President Barzani and Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi people».
This means that Trump respects the sovereignty of each individual nation. He is asserting this in specifically the case of Iraq. But its meaning reverberates clearly also in Damascus, and in Istanbul, just as well as it does in Baghdad. It means: no Kurdistan.
The CIA, and Israel, and DC’s think-tanks such as the Brookings Institution, are all neoconservatives who favor breaking up Syria, and as part of that, establishing an independent Kurdistan across all three countries.

Trump’s Pentagon, under the neocon James Mattis, had blatantly violated Syria’s sovereignty on Syrian soil.

But now, in Dunford’s totally unhedged statements, immediately after the U.S. government had perpetrated that blatant violation, Trump’s own Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was, effectively, committing the man whom he directly advises on military-strategic matters, this President, against the neoconservatives whom this same President had brought in to run his Pentagon. 

On strategic matters, the Joint Chiefs Chairman stands even closer to the Commander-in-Chief than does the Secretary of Defense or, sometimes, even, than does the National Security Advisor (the neocon H.R. McMaster, who has thus-far been loudly silent on this matter).

A 3PM update on June 19th, the day of Russia’s warning — an update by this reporter to my news earlier that day which was headlined «Russia Announces No-Fly Zone in Syria — War Against U.S. There» — provided the earliest-published indications that Trump had turned away from the neocons whom he himself had appointed; and, here is that update, to provide broader context for Dunford’s remarks:

Al Masdar News, the go-to site for the latest news regarding the Syrian war, headlines, as of 3PM Eastern time, «Pentagon changes disposition of US-led coalition aircraft in Syria», and reports, from several reliable sources, such as Joseph Dunford, the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicate a U.S. climb-down, and a desire to cooperate with Russia in Syria. If this is not a lie (as so much from the U.S. government has turned out to be), then the U.S. will stop protecting its jihadists in Syria; and, consequently, the war in Syria will end on terms which are suitable to Syria, Russia, and Iran, but which have not heretofore been acceptable to the U.S.-Saudi (and other fundamentalist Sunni) coalition

The signs, at least as of 3PM, are that Trump will quit the war against the Syrian government, regardless of how much this might disappoint the Sauds (and the Israelis). 

Looking at the way the Western press are reporting on the matter, they're going to allow him to withdraw as quietly as possible.

So, as soon as Russia made clear that it's willing to go all the way to defeat the U.S.-Saudi-Sunni-fundamentalist invasion, the West, apparently, will simply quit. 

 All the jihadists in Syria will soon be scrambling to escape from there. Without U.S. protection, they can't win. But will Russia, Iran, and Syria, simply kill them all, right there? If not, then those jihadists will end up going back 'home', wherever that might happen to be, and far more dangerous in those countries than they had been there before.

A top U.S. missile and chemical weapons expert has documented for months that the Syrian government did not carry out a chemical weapons attack against civilians, and that contrary claims by the Trump White HouseFrench intelligence services, the New York TimesCNN and other “mainstream” sources are wrong … and worthless propaganda.

Former top military and intelligence officials  – including many who warned against the faulty Iraq intelligence in advance of the Iraq war – have long said that the claims that Assad carried out the chemical weapons attacks was bunkum.

Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh – who broke the stories of the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam and the Iraq prison torture scandals, which rightfully disgraced the Nixon and Bush administrations’ war-fighting tactics – reported yesterday in the large German publication Weld that U.S. military officials tried to tell Trump that a chemical weapons attack never occurred at all:

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

 A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides

Monday, June 26, 2017

Syria And Russia vs The U.S.

The Syrian Coalition Must End US-Kurdish Aggression Now

The US plan for the Balkanization of Syria is now laid bare for all to see. The events of the past few weeks have removed any rose-colored glasses from all but the most blind American hegemony apologists. The shooting down of Syrian pilot Captain Ali Fahed’s plane was like a period at the end of a criminal confession.

Simply put, the phony US anti-terrorism coalition wants to push as much of the remaining ISIS forces out of Raqqa into combat with the Syrian-Arab Army (SAA) and replace the “liberated” territories with a new occupier. Who could that possibly be?

Well of course, it is the good old USA and its New Kurdish Army who are showing they never planned to push ISIS out of just their own Kurdish part of Syria, but to grab as much of the historically Arab populated areas as possible, particularly those with economic resources like water, agriculture and oil.

We have reports of a US 50-truck convoy crossing into Kurdish territory last week filled with more arms than were brought in to take Raqqa. Someone is planning a stage two that will be bigger than the Raqqa campaign, and in non-Kurdish areas. Who gave them permission to do that?

Exposure of this plan was spotlighted with the F-18 Hornet shoot-down of Captain Fahed’s aged SU-22 in a bushwhack manner, similar to the Turks’ shooting down the of Russian plane in NE Syria – attacking it after a bombing run from behind with an air-to-air missile. Veterans Today’s analysis concludes that the US triggered this event in an attempt to establish an occupier type red-line.

The US is establishing a new forward base in Tabqa city, an Arab town. Raqqa itself is not Kurdish territory, but has been Arabic for ages. Yet the US and the Kurds are openly challenging Syria for possession of its own territory. Calling the US actions an anti-terror campaign is one in name only. Syria is being carved up like a Christmas turkey.

The huge new arms shipment coming in when the battle for Raqqa is a forgone conclusion, coupled with the new US base at Tabqa, can mean only one thing. The US is planning a major move to grab the oil fields with the SDF forces and push east so as to take control of all those key natural assets of Syria. These will be addes to the planned Kurdish state, which will become totally dependent on US military power and Saudi cash as part of the de facto Balkanization that was originally planned for Syria.

As Syria clears these rear areas of ISIS units, that releases those SAA static defensive troops for the big offensive push to Deir-Ezzor. The Syrian coalition has to block the US coalition from advancing wherever it wishes. This is hardly aggression on the Syria’s part, but a duty to the Syrian people. That is why the US gambled on this SU-22 shoot down, which so far has backfired.

Missed in the initial reporting was that Russia had air cover in the vicinity of the shoot down, but did not fire on the F-18 as a “force protection” reaction. The Russians never bite on a quick trigger provocation, and the Navy pilot is still alive because of this. What Moscow has done, is effectively made the area west of the Euphrates a no-fly zone for the US Coalition, and the US has already re-positioned its air assets.

The Russian Defense Ministry was quite blunt in its announcement. “Repeated combat actions by U.S. aviation under the cover of counterterrorism against lawful armed forces of a country that is a member of the U.N. are a massive violation of international law and de facto a military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The US has pulled back before. After the knee-jerk Trump missile strike after an alleged gas attack in Idlib that had not even been investigated, the US switched to only using drone attacks for Raqqa combat support missions and flew only F-35s as air cover, due to their enhanced stealth capability.

The New York Times agrees with my analysis, “The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war. The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war.”

If I were the Syrian coalition, I would extend the no-fly zone into a “no go” zone for the SDF, that it will be attacked if it advances any further into Syrian Arab territory, period. The Pentagon would have to back down, as the American people will not support the occupation of Syria under the guise of removing ISIS. Congress will, but not the people.

The big question now is, will Iraq play a key role in releasing a division or two of the Popular Militias to attack ISIS from the rear, up the Euphrates from the al-Bakumal crossing? ISIS would then have a major two-front war on its hands and the Syrians could advance much quicker from Palmyra to relieve their long-surrounded garrison at Deir-Ezzor. More important, ISIS would have no escape route where it could live to fight another day.

It is time to let the US coalition know that if it wants a war in Syria, all it has to do is try to take more Syrian territory using the SDF and their proxy forces, or impede the Syrian coalition from its liberation work. The US is not needed to defeat ISIS now. In a coalition, Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq can defeat ISIS.

If they stand together, they can build some long-term security for themselves by fully controlling their borders and not allowing freedom of action by the US coalition, which with its proxies would just be replacing ISIS as the mortal threat to Syria and others.

Israel Explains Two Days Of Airstrikes Into Syria

WATCH: Israel Says Two Days of Airstrikes into Syria Were in Self-Defense

Israel said it defended itself from stray missiles launched from Syria’s civil war on both Saturday and Sunday.

One America’s Kelly Ayers has the latest.

Syrian Army Warns Israel, IDF Girds For Possible Hezbollah Clash, Trump Eager For Meeting With Putin

After IDF retaliates for spillover, Syrian army warns Israel

The Syrian army on Sunday issued a warning to Israel, following two IDF retaliatory strikes on its territory in as many days for spillover fire from the war-torn country.

The regime said that three Syrian soldiers had been killed by Israeli fire.

Around 10 mortar shells from Syria struck the Golan Heights on Saturday, prompting an Israeli response that reportedly killed two Syrian soldiers. On Sunday, several more projectiles hit Israel, in what the army said was spillover fire.

The IDF on Sunday again responded to the errant fire, confirming it targeted a Syrian military vehicle. Arab media reports said five people were injured in the Israeli raid.

“The general staff of the Syrian army warns of the dangers of these aggressive actions and holds the Israeli enemy responsible for the grave consequences of these repeated actions, despite any excuse there may be,” the Ynet news site quoted the Syrian military as saying.

The Syrian general staff also published photos of at least three men it said were Syrian soldiers killed in Israeli strikes. It did not provide a date or any other information on when they were killed.

Also on Sunday, Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij visited troops in southern Syria to mark the end of the Ramadan monthlong fast where he vowed the regime would continue fighting until it conquers “every morsel of the homeland.”

In Sunday’s strike, the IDF “targeted two artillery positions and an ammunitions truck belonging to the Syrian regime,” an Israeli military statement read, noting the army had also ordered Israelis to keep away from open areas along the border near Quneitra, where internal fighting was heavy.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Saturday night that the regime would continue to “suffer the consequences” of any attack on Israel emanating from its territory.

Israel, he said, had “no intention of accepting challenges to our sovereignty and threats to our security, even if they are caused by ‘spillover’” from Syrian infighting.

The IDF is reportedly preparing for the possibility that Hezbollah may seek to launch an attack against Israeli forces during the construction of a new border fence along the northern front, slated to begin next month.

According to Hebrew media reports Sunday, the army believes that the Lebanese terror group may seek to take advantage of the large concentration of Israeli soldiers along the border to launch an attack.

The IDF’s Northern Command believes that Hezbollah may claim Israel violated the 2000 United Nations approved border as a pretext to strike, the Haaretz daily reported.

The purpose of the fence, which will stretch from Metulla to Misgav Am in the east and Hanita to Rosh Hanikra in the west, is to prevent the infiltration of Hezbollah operatives seeking to carry out terror attacks into Israel.
In recent years, Israel has carried out a series of construction projects along the border — including fences and artificial cliffs — in order to boost its defenses against Hezbollah.

While scheduled for some time, the upcoming work along the border comes amid heightened tensions in Israel’s north.

Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against attacking Lebanon or Syria, saying “hundreds of thousands” of Arab and Muslim fighters would be ready to strike back.
“The Israeli enemy should know that if it launches an attack on Syria or Lebanon, it’s unknown whether the fighting will stay just between Lebanon and Israel, or Syria and Israel,” Hassan Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah has significantly built up its weapons stockpile since the 2006 war and has upgraded its arsenal to about 150,000 missiles, Israeli officials say. Israel also fears that some advanced surface-to-sea and anti-aircraft weapons systems have reached Hezbollah from Iran.
Israel has reportedly sent messages to Iran via Europe warning it against continuing to expand Hezbollah’s war-fighting capabilities against Israel in southern Lebanon.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Saturday that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad would continue to “suffer the consequences” of any attack on Israel emanating from its territory.
Liberman’s comments came after around 10 mortar shells hit the Israeli Golan Heights in the afternoon, leading to retaliatory Israeli air strikes. The army said the mortar shells appeared to be errant fire from Syrian factions fighting each other across the border.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor which has been reporting on Syria’s six-year-war, said two Syrian soldiers were killed in the Israeli strikes.

It also reported fierce fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels in Quneitra.

“As part of the Israeli enemy’s continuing support for terrorist organizations, Israeli warplanes attacked services facilities and residential buildings in the surroundings of al-Baath city in Quenitra province at the same time as Jabhat al-Nsura terrorists were attacking the area,” said a statement published by the Syrain government’s SANA news agency.

Liberman, meanwhile, stressed Israel had “no intention of accepting challenges to our sovereignty and threats to our security, even if they are caused by ‘spillover'” from Syrian infighting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu too, said in a statement that Israel would not accept a “trickle” of projectile fire and would “respond with force to any firing into our territory.”

US President Donald Trump is eager to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin with full diplomatic bells and whistles when the two are in Germany for a multinational summit next month. But the idea is exposing deep divisions within the administration on the best way to approach Moscow in the midst of an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the US elections.

Many administration officials believe the US needs to maintain its distance from Russia at such a sensitive time — and interact only with great caution.

But Trump and some others within his administration have been pressing for a full bilateral meeting. He’s calling for media access and all the typical protocol associated with such sessions, even as officials within the State Department and National Security Council urge more restraint, according to a current and a former administration official.
Some advisers have recommended that the president instead do either a quick, informal “pull-aside” on the sidelines of the summit, or that the US and Russian delegations hold “strategic stability talks,” which typically don’t involve the presidents. The officials spoke anonymously to discuss private policy discussions.

The contrasting views underscore differing views within the administration on overall Russia policy, and Trump’s eagerness to develop a working relationship with Russia despite the ongoing investigations.

There are potential benefits to a meeting with Putin. A face-to-face meeting can humanize the two sides and often removes some of the intrigue involved in impersonal, telephone communication. Trump — the ultimate dealmaker — has repeatedly suggested that he can replace the Obama-era damage in the US-Russia relationship with a partnership, particularly on issues like the ongoing Syria conflict.

Nina Khrushcheva, a Russian affairs professor at the New School, said Trump is in an “impossible position.”
“He can’t be too nice to Putin because it’s going to be interpreted in a way that suggests he has a special relationship with Russia,” she said. “He can’t be too mean because Putin has long arms and KGB thinking. So Trump needs to have a good relationship with him but he also needs to fulfill his campaign promises of establishing better relations with Russia.”
The White House said no final decision has been made about whether a meeting will take place. It did not respond to questions about the opposing views within the administration.