Debkafiles – June 22, 2018
Syria’s moves in the southwest this week followed Russia’s failure to persuade Israel to stand aside and allow Assad’s army to take charge of the Quneitra and Daraa regions on the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Moscow hoped that the Syrian rebel forces defending the two areas would lay down their arms and go over to Bashar Assad’s army. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Netanyahu government spurned Russia’s plan – not least for lack of trust, suspecting that the Syrians would cheat and let Hizballah reach its border. Last month, an attempt was made to trick Israel, after its consent to a previous Russian plan to hand the Beit Jinn enclave on Mt Hermon to Syria, by providing Hizballah troops with Syrian Army 4th Division uniforms.
The same deception is being practiced at present in the southwest regions of Daraa and Quneitra. Russian and Syrian propaganda machines claim that Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militiamen are being withdrawn from the Israeli and Jordanian borderlands, when in fact they are not moving after being disguised in Syrian army uniforms. The Russians don’t mention an Iranian withdrawal because Moscow pretends they don’t exist, when in fact an Iranian command center is fully operational in that part of Syria.
REUTERS – June 20, 2018
AMMAN – The Syrian army stepped up shelling of opposition-held parts of the southwest as it mobilizes for a campaign to regain the area bordering Jordan and the Israeli Golan Heights, opposition sources said.
Violence erupted at the frontline town of Kafr Shams, near the Syrian-held Golan Heights, and further east in the town of Busra al Harir, which was struck by dozens of mortars from nearby army positions, the sources said.
Syrian state media said militants had escalated attacks on civilians in the area which is part of a “de-escalation” zone agreed by the United States and Russia last year with the aim of containing the conflict in the southwest.
An offensive in the southwest would risk a major escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria. Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.
DW – June 18, 2018
US President Donald Trump announced a sweeping new space policy on Monday that will focus both on reducing satellite clutter in space as well as creating a specific “Space Force” as the newest branch of the military.
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” said Trump, saying that he wished to revive the US’ flagging space program that has been bogged down by rising costs and a lack of political will.
Trump said he does not want “China and Russia and other countries leading us.”
“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Trump said.
Henry Holloway – June 7, 2018
Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin was responding a question during his annual phone-in where he takes questions from the members of the public.
He warned World War 3 would be the end of civilization, and that should “restrain” world powers from taking “dangerous steps”.
Relations between Russia and the West have plunged to Cold War lows amid tensions over Syria, Crimea, NATO build-ups and Sergei Skripal.
Putin said pressure on Russia from the West will end when they realize they are “counter productive”.
And he said fears of mutually assured destruction from nuclear is forcing “powers to respect each other”.
Newsmax – June 9, 2018
Chinese President Xi Jinping will open late Saturday a two-day regional security summit attended by Russia, Iran and other allies confronting rising tensions with the US over trade and Washington’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.
Armored vans lined the streets of the coastal city of Qingdao as world leaders arrived Friday for the 18th annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security bloc led by China and Russia.
Its member states also include four ex-Soviet Central Asian republics, Pakistan and India. Iran is an observer member.
Authorities emptied an entire ocean-side swathe of the city — clearing out shopkeepers, residents and day-trippers to make way for Xi, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also attend the meeting.
RT – May 24, 2018
Settlements in US currency could be dropped by Russia in favor of the euro if the EU takes a stand against the latest US sanctions on Moscow, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
“As we see, restrictions imposed by the American partners are of an extraterritorial nature. The possibility of switching from the US dollar to the euro in settlements depends on Europe’s stance toward Washington’s position,” said Siluanov, who is also Russia’s first deputy prime minister.
The EU initially supported Washington’s sanctions against Moscow, but has recently criticized US President Donald Trump’s policy of imposing trade restrictions on other countries. The EU was also hit by the introduction of US import duties on steel and aluminum. The situation escalated even more after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran.
“If our European partners declare their position unequivocally, we could definitely see a way to use the European common currency for financial settlements, such as payments for goods and services, which today are often subject to restrictions,” Siluanov said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Sputnik News – May 26, 2018
The region of Daraa is enjoying a ceasefire negotiated after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in July 2017. The region, known as the “cradle of the revolution” during the Arab Spring in 2011, is now mostly controlled by numerous anti-government organizations.
The US State Department issued a statement late Friday saying it was “concerned” by leaflets, which were reportedly dropped by government aircraft in the province of Daraa. According to reports circulating among pro-opposition monitors, the leaflets called on the militants to stop fighting and reconcile with the Syrian government, otherwise they would allegedly “gamble their lives” and head to “inevitable death.”
“We also caution the Syrian regime against any actions that risk broadening the conflict or jeopardize the ceasefire,” said spokeswoman Heather Nauert, noting that the ceasefire had been reaffirmed by Washington and Moscow last November. “As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations,” she added.
RT – May 19, 2018
The Russian military is expected to deploy the Sarmat ICBM in 2020 and the Avangard hypersonic glider warhead in 2019, according to Vladimir Putin. He described both weapons as essential for future nuclear deterrence.
The deadline for the deployment of the two weapon systems was confirmed by the Russian president on Friday during a meeting with defense officials and contractors – the first such meeting since the reshuffle of the Russian cabinet earlier this week.
The Sarmat is Russia’s future silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile, which will replace the ageing Voyevoda ICBMs. The new weapon is said to have extended range, which allows such missiles to reach US territory from the south, where they cannot be stopped by anti-ballistic interceptors deployed in Alaska.
The Avangard is a nuclear warhead, which can glide through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds that make it virtually impossible to intercept with modern and near-future technologies. The Sarmat is expected to carry Avangard gliders.
Debkafiles – May 16, 2018
Light was shed on Wednesday, May 16, on Russia’s mysterious intentions after its puzzling non-interference in the Israeli-Iranian clashes in Syria.
President Vladimir Putin informed the Russian high command meeting in Sochi of two decisions: “Our ships carrying Kalbr cruise missiles will be permanently deployed in the Mediterranean Sea,” he reported. They will take up position opposite the shores of Syria, Lebanon and Israel. DEBKAfile’s military sources take this step to mean that the Russian army command believes the military confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria is not over and more clashes are still to come.
It was also revealed by military sources in Moscow that the Assad regime’s 4th Armored Division had received from Russia heavy rocket launchers deliberately dubbed Golan-1000, of 500mm caliber, which can deliver three rockets loaded with 500kg of high-explosive fragmentation ammunition. They have a range of up to 6km and are powerful enough to knock over IDF fortifications on the Golan. Those fortified bases remained unscathed by the Iranian Al Qods 20-missile barrage on May 9.
Mac Slavo – May 10, 2018
After reports surfaced the immediately after president Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, Israel attacked Iran in an airstrike raid. Now, Iran has retaliated sparking fears that this could be the beginning of another war.
The initial airstrikes against Iran by Israel were said to have killed 23 people, both Syrian and non-Syrian, but all military personnel.
According to The Daily Mail UK, Iran and Israel traded blows on the Syrian border overnight, marking the first time Tehran has directly attacked Israel. Last night, Iranian forces fired 20 rockets from Syria at Israeli front-line military positions in the Golan Heights, the Israeli military said.
Israel said the 20 Iranian rockets were either shot down by its Iron Dome air defense system or fell short of the Golan targets, claiming the Quds Force, an external arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, carried out the launch. And Israel has already retaliated to some extent. In retaliation, Israel launched dozens of missiles on Iranian positions in Syria, which hit a radar station, air defense positions, and an ammunition dump, Syrian state media said.