Russia: 4 dead in apartment collapse, apparent gas explosion

Terrorism

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian emergency officials say that at least four people have died after sections of an apartment building collapsed after an apparent gas explosion in the Ural Mountains region.

The authorities say four others have been hospitalized with injuries, and 68 other residents remained unaccounted for in the accident in Magnitogorsk, a city of 400,000 about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) southeast of Moscow. They say some residents could have been buried under debris after Monday’s accident.

The Investigative Committee said the collapse of a section of the ten-storey apartment building was apparently caused by a gas leak. It happened before dawn when most residents were still asleep.

The Kremlin said that President Vladimir Putin has been briefed on the situation. Cabinet officials headed to Magnitogorsk to oversee the rescue efforts.

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Russia will build missiles if US leaves treaty, Putin warns

Politics, Power, SEcurity, Tech, War
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Nato’s accusation was a pretext for the US to leave the treaty

Russia will develop missiles banned under a Cold War agreement if the US exits the pact, President Vladimir Putin has warned.

His comments follow Nato’s accusation on Tuesday that Russia has already broken the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Signed in 1987 by the US and USSR, it banned both countries’ use of all short and medium-range missiles.

But Mr Putin says the accusation is a pretext for the US to leave the pact.

In televised comments, the Russian leader said many other countries had developed weapons banned under the INF treaty.

“Now it seems our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that [they] must also have such a weapon,” he said.

“What’s our response? It’s simple – in that case we will also do this.” 

US President Donald Trump has previously said the country would leave the treaty because of Russian actions.

Analysts say Russia sees the weapons as a cheaper alternative to conventional forces.

Arriving for talks with Nato foreign ministers, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini urged the two countries to save the treaty, saying it had “guaranteed peace and security in European territory for 30 years now”.

What has Nato said?

On Tuesday, the Western military alliance formally accused Russia of breaking the treaty.

“Allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security,” the Nato foreign ministers’ statement read.

The statement said the member nations “strongly support” the US claim that Russia is in breach of the pact, and called on Moscow to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance”.

A Russian missile is fired during military exercises
Image captionRussia denies building missiles that violate the accord

Speaking after the release of Nato’s statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Russia had 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty, after which time the US would suspend its own compliance.

“During this 60 days we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied breaking the Cold War treaty.

Presentational grey line

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty?

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in 1987
Image captionSoviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty in 1987
  • Signed by the US and the USSR in 1987, the arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges, except sea-launched weapons
  • The US had been concerned by the Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile system and responded by placing Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe – sparking widespread protests
  • By 1991, nearly 2,700 missiles had been destroyed
  • Both countries were allowed to inspect the other’s installations
  • In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the treaty no longer served Russia’s interests
  • The move came after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002

Russian tech giant dashes hopes for smartphone

personality, Tech, World Bank

Yandex instead announced a new smart speaker that uses the voice of "Alisa"—a virtual assistant similar to Amazon's Al
Yandex instead announced a new smart speaker that uses the voice of “Alisa”—a virtual assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa

Russian internet giant Yandex disappointed tech enthusiasts on Monday by failing to unveil what many hoped would be a highly anticipated Russian-made smartphone.

Speculation has been mounting for years that Yandex—which dominates internet services in Russia—will put forward its own mobile device to rival giants like Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

Excitement reached fever pitch when Yandex announced it would be holding a presentation at its glossy Moscow headquarters, with Russian media reports anticipating a smartphone launch that would be a major step for the company.

But Yandex instead announced a new smart speaker that uses the voice of “Alisa”—a virtual assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa—that will cost around 40 euros.

Asked by disappointed journalists about the potential smartphone, Yandex representatives said only: “We are not commenting on this question.”

Yandex started in the 1990s as a search engine similar to Google but has since expanded into every corner of the Russian internet, developing maps, taxi and food order apps that Russians use every day.

A Russian-designed smartphone—the YotaPhone—was launched in 2013 but has failed to catch on and tech observers have been waiting anxiously for Yandex to jump into the field.

Tom Morrod, research director at IHS Markit, said that once Yandex does enter the market it will likely be with a mid-range option aimed at supporting its services.

“Non-hardware companies are often happy to take a mid-market position, without hoping to make money. Yandex’s smartphone would likely run on Android but they would put their own environment on it, with all their apps that you probably will not be able to delete,” he said.

“It’s about getting people locked into their ecosystem, collect data and advertise,” he added.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-11-russian-tech-giant-dashes-smartphone.html#jCp

S.Korea presents tentative list for Russia World Cup

News

Seoul, May 14 (IANS) South Korean football coach, Shin Tae-yong, on Monday presented a preliminary list of 28 players for the 2018 Russian World Cup and explained that he hopes to announce a final squad of 23 players on June 3. The roster has been increased to 28 as several players are still recovering from…

Seoul, May 14 (IANS) South Korean football coach, Shin Tae-yong, on Monday presented a preliminary list of 28 players for the 2018 Russian World Cup and explained that he hopes to announce a final squad of 23 players on June 3.

The roster has been increased to 28 as several players are still recovering from injuries and their current state doesn’t allow their presence in the final list to be confirmed, Efe news reported quoting Shin’s statement.

Although half of the list has players from the domestic league, the primary core of the group is made up of players from European clubs and with a lot of experience.

Set to headline the national team is Tottenham Hotspur attacker Son Heung-min.

Old faces like midfielders Koo Ja-Cheol (Augsburg), Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City) and Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace) also feature on the list.

Although there are veterans over 30 years of age such as strikers Lee Keun-ho (Gangwon FC) or Kim Shin-wook (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors), Shin seems to be betting on a face-lift to avoid a repeat of the team’s poor performance at the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

Only nine players from the former world cup are back on the team, with the addition of new talents like Lee Seung-Woo (nicknamed “South Korean Messi”), who in 2018 debuted in the Serie A with the Hellas Verona FC after his transfer from Barcelona.

South Korea, which has been put in Group F with Mexico, Sweden and Germany opens against Sweden in Nizhny Novgorod on June 18 and will play with Mexico in Rostov on June 23 before closing the group matches in Kazan against Germany on June 27.

Social News XYZ.

via S.Korea presents tentative list for Russia World Cup — Social News XYZ

 

Bellingcat: 9 Russian officers directed Ukraine attack

international News, Military, News

 

MOSCOW – The Bellingcat investigative group says that it has identified nine Russian officers who allegedly were directly involved in the rocket attack on an eastern Ukrainian city that killed at least 30 civilians. The group, which has previously released reports on the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the fatal downing of a Malaysian airliner […]

MOSCOW – The Bellingcat investigative group says that it has identified nine Russian officers who allegedly were directly involved in the rocket attack on an eastern Ukrainian city that killed at least 30 civilians.
The group, which has previously released reports on the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the fatal downing of a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held territory, says it analyzed video and audio data that Ukraine is providing to the International Court of Justice.
Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Azov Sea, came under rocket fire on Jan. 24, 2015. Separatist rebels initially announced they were advancing on the city, then backtracked and blamed Ukrainian forces.
Russia persistently denies allegations of supporting separatist rebels in Ukraine. The Defense Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday’s report.

 

via Bellingcat: 9 Russian officers directed Ukraine attack — INKLING LEAGUE

An Israeli minister hints that Assad could be assassinated over any Iranian attacks on Israel from Syria — National Post

international News, Middle East, News, Politics, SEcurity, SYRIA

JERUSALEM, May 7 (Reuters) — Israel could respond to any Iranian attack on it from Syria by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Israeli security cabinet minister said on Monday, hinting that Assad himself may be targeted for assassination. Israel and Iran have traded blows over Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation…

JERUSALEM, May 7 (Reuters) — Israel could respond to any Iranian attack on it from Syria by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Israeli security cabinet minister said on Monday, hinting that Assad himself may be targeted for assassination.

Israel and Iran have traded blows over Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation could be looming ahead of next week’s review decision by U.S. President Donald Trump on the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran.

On April 9, an air strike killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members at the Syrian base. Tehran blamed Israel and vowed unspecified retaliation, drawing Israeli counter-threats to broaden attacks on Iranian military assets in Syria.

Sharpening these warnings, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday that Assad may find himself in Israel’s sights.

“If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime,” Steinitz told the Ynet news site.

Asked if that meant Israel might assassinate Assad, Steinitz said: “His blood would be forfeit.” He also appeared to suggest that his remarks did not reflect Israeli government policy, saying: “I’m not talking about any concrete proposal.”

There was no immediate response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office or from Israel’s Defence Ministry.

A Ynet text story had quoted Steinitz as saying explicitly that Israel would kill Assad, but this was not borne out by a video clip of the interview.

Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Russia have been reinforcing Damascus against a seven-year-old Syrian rebellion. The Israelis worry that Iran’s garrison will remain, linking with Hezbollah to form a broad Syrian-Lebanese front against them.

On Sunday, Israeli media carried what they described as an alert by Israel’s intelligence services that Iran was planning a missile salvo against Israeli military bases from within Syria.

Some analysts interpreted the publication as a warning to Iran that its plans were known, lest it try to carry out the missile strike without explicitly claiming responsibility.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss Syria, where Moscow wants to see Assad’s rule restored.

“Whoever is interested in Assad’s survival should do the honour of telling Assad to prevent attacks on Israel,” Steinitz said, alluding to Putin.

via An Israeli minister hints that Assad could be assassinated over any Iranian attacks on Israel from Syria — National Post

Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki to perform in Russia ahead of World Cup — Skyafrica24

Africa, News, sports

via Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki to perform in Russia ahead of World Cup — Skyafrica24

Petersburg’s most prestigious venues, which will also host the Egyptian team’s matches, reported Al-Masry Al-Youm. Al-Shaer added that the concert is already a great success as almost 3,000 people have bought tickets.

Egyptian singer Amr Diab is also expected to hold a concert in St. Petersburg on June 18.

Al-Shaer added that around 10,000 fans from Egypt will be attending Egypt’s first three matches, adding that the number has pushed the company to reach a new agreement with the organizing committee to extend the time required to produce identifications for the spectators as well as the tickets till May 1, due to the increase in last minute bookings.

Al-Shaer also declared that the second most popular packages after the ones allowing Egyptians to attend three of the national team’s matches are the packages for the final.

Egypt is expected to play its first game against Russia on June 19. This is the first time Egypt has made it to the World Cup since 1990.

Mohamed Hamaki is an Egyptian singer who won the award “Best Arabian Act” in the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2006 for “Ahla Haga Fiki” (The Most Beautiful Thing About You). Famous songs of his include “Bahebak Kol Youm Aktr” (I Love You More Everyday), “Kheles El-Kalam” (Nothing Left to Say) and “Wahda Wahda” (Take it Slow). He is currently a coach on the hit talent show “The Voice Arabia.”

Russia Reveals Who “Staged” Syria Gas Attack, As US Claims Moscow “May Have Tampered” With Site

international News, Politics, Power, SYRIA

Russia Reveals Who “Staged” Syria Gas Attack, As US Claims Moscow “May Have Tampered” With Site

The Russian envoy to the chemical weapons watchdog group, OPCW, said that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by the UK and US carried out the April 7 chemical attack in the Damascus, Syria suburb of Douma.

Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Alexander Shulgin, said Russia has irrefutable evidence that there was no chemical weapons incident in Douma.

“Therefore, we have not just a “high degree of confidence,” as our Western partners claim, but we have incontrovertible evidence that there was no incident on April 7 in Douma and that all this was a planned provocation by the British intelligence services, probably, with the participation of their senior allies from Washington with the aim of misleading the international community and justifying aggression against Syria,” he stated. –Sputnik

Shulgin added that the US, UK and France are not interested in conducting an objective investigation of the attack site. “They put the blame on the Syrian authorities in advance, without even waiting for the OPCW mission to begin to establish the possible facts of the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said.

The nine-member OPCW mission people has yet to deploy to the city of Douma according to the organization’s Chief, citing pending security issues.

“The Team has not yet deployed to Douma. The Syrian and the Russian officials who participated in the preparatory meetings in Damascus have informed the FFM Team that there were still pending security issues to be worked out before any deployment could take place. In the meantime the Team was offered by the Syrian authorities that they could interview 22 witnesses who could be brought to Damascus,” OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said as quoted by the organization.

The Russian Envoy says that the controversial “White Helmets” were one of the anti-Assad “pseudo-humanitarian NGOs” which staged the event. As Disobedient Media and others have reported, the White Helmets are funded in large part by the United States.

a

“The Syrian Civil Defense Force (aka the White Helmets) is funded in part by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Included here are two links showing contracts awarded by USAID to Chemonics International Inc. (DBA Chemonics). The first award was in the sum of $111.2 million and has a Period of Performance (POP) from January 2013 to June 2017. It states that the purpose of the award will be to use the funds for managing a “quick-response mechanism supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria.” The second was in the sum of $57.4 million and has a POP from August 2015 to August 2020. This award was designated to be used in the “Syria Regional Program II” which is a part of the Support Which Implements Fast Transitions IV (SWIFT IV) program.” Via Disobedient Media

Source:

Putin declares US-led Syria strike an ‘act of aggression’

Politics, Power, War

Putin declares US-led Syria strike an ‘act of aggression’

Russian officials warned of “consequences” after President Donald Trump announced his approval of U.S.-led military strikes in Syria against the Russian-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Early Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement saying the Western coalition’s “act of aggression” would only exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.

Putin called the strike a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations” and said Moscow would call for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria December 11, 2017. Picture taken December 11, 2017. To match Special Report RUSSIA-FLIGHTS/ Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/ via REUTERS/File Photo  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC1DE7734AA0

Russian President Vladimir Putin alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria on Dec. 11, 2017.  (Reuters)

Immediately following Trump’s televised address Friday night, announcing the U.S.-led strikes, loud explosions and thick smoke were reported in the Syrian capital city, Damascus.

Syrian air defense units shot down 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched by the U.S., Britain and France, the Russian military claimed Saturday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry had earlier asserted that none of the missiles launched by the U.S. and its allies entered areas protected by Russia’s missile defense.

Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi attends a news briefing in Moscow, Russia, September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin - D1BEUCEWLEAA

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff.  (Reuters)

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff said Saturday that the Syrian military used a Soviet-made missile defense system to shoot down all the missiles targeting four key Syrian air bases. He added that there were no casualties from the strike and its targets suffered only minor damage.

Rudskoi said Russian air defense assets in Syria monitored the strike, but didn’t engage. He also noted that while Russia had refrained from supplying Syria with its state-of-the-art S-300 air defense missile systems, that could be reconsidered now.

Prior to Putin’s statement, other Russian officials issued grim reactions to the Western military effort.

“The worst apprehensions have come true,” Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., tweeted Friday. “Our warnings have been left unheard.

ant99

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.  (Reuters)

“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,” Antonov said. “Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.

“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible,” he said. “The U.S.—the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons—has no moral right to blame other countries.”

“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible. The U.S. — the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons — has no moral right to blame other countries.”

– Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, denounced the U.S. in a Facebook post Friday for the strikes on Syria — a country that, she wrote, “for many years has been trying to survive terrorist aggression.”

zak99

Maria Zakharov, spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry.  (Reuters)

“The White House stated that its assuredness of the chemical attack from Damascus was based on ‘mass media, reports of symptoms, video, photos as well as credible information,’” she wrote. “After this statement the American and other Western mass media should understand their responsibility in what is happening.”

Russia and the U.S. had disagreed over a proper response in Syria after a suspected chemical attack by the regime last weekend in rebel-held Douma, a town about 10 miles east of Damascus, killed at least 40 people and injured more than 500, mostly women and children. The attack occurred amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce.

Earlier Friday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters in Moscow that the claims of the suspected gas attack were a fabrication.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov listens for a question during a shared news conference with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini following their talks n Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 24, 2017. Lavrov has vowed to use Moscow's influence to get Ukraine's separatist rebels to comply with a cease-fire deal. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov  (Associated Press)

“Intelligence agencies of a state that is now striving to spearhead a Russo-phobic campaign were involved in that fabrication,” Lavrov said, without elaborating or naming the state.

A Russian lawmaker claimed the strikes were aimed at disrupting the work of international investigators looking into whether Syria used chemical weapons in the town of Douma.

“The airstrikes were carried out by the U.S.-led coalition consciously to spoil the investigation,” Russian parliament member Dmitry Sablin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom hit the Syrian capital in response to the use of chemical weapons; Jennifer Griffin shares latest details.

Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee, likened Trump to Adolf Hitler, and considered the strikes to be a move against Russia.

Trump “can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time — because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union,” state news agency RIA-Novosti quoted Sherin as saying.

The strike came hours after Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that “the United States estimates that Assad has used chemical weapons in the Syrian war at least 50 times.”

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says she is proud of President Trump's response to the chemical attack in Syria.

“Did a chemical weapons attack happen? Yes,” Haley told reporters before the meeting. “The U.S. has analyzed, yes, it has happened. The U.K. has analyzed, yes, it has happened. France analyzed, yes, it has happened. Three separate analysis all coming back with same thing. There is proof that this happened.”

Haley said during the meeting that should the U.S. and its allies decide to act in Syria, it would in the defense of “a bedrock international norm that benefits all nations” from the use of chemical weapons.

Russia’s military on Friday again refuted the claim that chemical weapons had been used in Douma, citing a lack of evidence.

En esta imagen cortesía de los Cascos Blancos de la Defensa Civil Siria, cuyos contenidos han sido autenticados por AP, se muestran las columna de humo después de un ataque aéreo de las fuerzas del gobierno sirio en la localidad de Duma, en la región de Ghouta oriental, al este de Damasco, Siria el sábado 7 de abril de 2018. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

Smoke rising after Syrian government airstrikes hit in the town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus, Syria, on Saturday, April 7, 2018.  (Associated Press)

“According to the results of a survey of witnesses, studying samples and investigating locations undertaken by Russian specialists and medical personnel in the city of Douma, where chemical weapons purportedly were used, the use of poisonous substances was not shown,” said Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria.

Yevtushenko also said the Russian military would supply security for investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as they worked to determine whether chemical weapons had been used.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said earlier Thursday that Douma was under the control of Syrian forces and that some 1,500 fighters of the Army of Islam group had left the city.

Yevtushenko said that the action was to “prevent provocations, guarantee security, for the support of law and order and organize aid for the local population.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

SYria Bombing Update: 105 missiles were launched in strikes against Syria

international News, Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA

105 missiles were launched in strikes against Syria

In a briefing on Saturday morning, the Pentagon provided the following breakdown of the military weapons used to strike Syrian targets overnight.

 

From the Red Sea:

USS Monterey (Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser) – 30 Tomahawk missiles

USS Laboon (Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) – 7 Tomahawk missiles

From the North Arabian Gulf:

USS Higgins (Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) – 23 Tomahawk missiles

From the eastern Mediterranean:

USS John Warner (Virginia class submarine) – 6 Tomahawk missiles

A French frigate ship (could not understand name) – 3 missiles (naval version of SCALP missiles)

From the air:

2 B-1 Lancer bombers – 19 joint air to surface standoff missiles

British flew a combination of Tornado and Typhoon jets – 8 storm shadow missiles

French flew a combination of Rafales and Mirages – 9 SCALP missiles

A US Defense Department photo of the missile strikes against Syria conducted on April 14. The guided missile cruiser USS Monterey fired a Tomahawk missile in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. 

Pentagon: Clear message to Syrian regime

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said that the strikes on Syria overnight by US and allies were “a powerful show of allied unity.”

“We deployed 105 weapons against three targets that will significantly impact the Syrian regimes ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future. It’s been said before but I want to emphasize again that by compassion, this strike was double the size of the last strike in April 2017.”

CNN

@CNN

Pentagon says that by comparison, this strike in Syria was “double the size” of the last strike in April, 2017 https://cnn.it/2HAL1rA 

Pentagon: Strikes will set back Syria’s chemical weapons “for years”

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said that the coordinated strikes which struck targets in Syria overnight will set the country’s chemical weapons capability back “for years.”

He added that “none of our aircraft or missiles in this operation were successfully engaged” by Syrian regime.

Map of US-led airstrikes in Syria provided by the US Department of Defense.

Full transcript of Trump’s address on Syria airstrikes

international News, personality, SYRIA

President Trump announced late Friday that the United States had conducted a military attack against the Syrian government in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that killed civilians in a rebel-held town outside Damascus last weekend. This is the text of his speech.

trum 10“My fellow Americans, a short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both.

Tonight, I want to speak with you about why we have taken this action.

One year ago, Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people. The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian Air Force.

Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians — this time, in the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital of Damascus. This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.

The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.

Following the horrors of World War I a century ago, civilized nations joined together to ban chemical warfare. Chemical weapons are uniquely dangerous not only because they inflict gruesome suffering, but because even small amounts can unleash widespread devastation.

The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States. The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power — military, economic and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.

I also have a message tonight for the two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime.

To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?

The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.

In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. Assad’s recent attack — and today’s response — are the direct result of Russia’s failure to keep that promise.

Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path, or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran — but maybe not.

I will say this: The United States has a lot to offer, with the greatest and most powerful economy in the history of the world.

In Syria, the United States — with but a small force being used to eliminate what is left of ISIS — is doing what is necessary to protect the American people. Over the last year, nearly 100 percent of the territory once controlled by the so-called ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq has been liberated and eliminated.

The United States has also rebuilt our friendships across the Middle East. We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-ISIS efforts. Increased engagement from our friends, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and others can ensure that Iran does not profit from the eradication of ISIS.

America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances. As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home. And great warriors they are.

Looking around our very troubled world, Americans have no illusions. We cannot purge the world of evil or act everywhere there is tyranny.

No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East. It’s a troubled place. We will try to make it better, but it is a troubled place. The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.

In the last century, we looked straight into the darkest places of the human soul. We saw the anguish that can be unleashed and the evil that can take hold. By the end of World War I, more than one million people had been killed or injured by chemical weapons. We never want to see that ghastly specter return.

So today, the nations of Britain, France and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.

Tonight, I ask all Americans to say a prayer for our noble warriors and our allies as they carry out their missions”

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U.S., France, U.K. Launch Strikes on Syria After Chemical Attack

Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA, War

U.S. launches missile strikes in Syria

usaa

In Moves that could lead to the beginning of the Third World War, President Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.

In a speech monitored from the White House and following the path of the United States’  political undertones in recent days, the President maintained that the strike was against areas where supposed chemical agents were manufactured and the US does not seek any permanent engagement in Syria.

The coordinated strike marked the second time in a little over a year that Trump has used force against Assad, who U.S. officials believe has continued to test the West’s willingness to accept gruesome chemical attacks.

Trump, speaking from the White House late Friday, said the attack last weekend was “a significant escalation” of Assad’s use of chemical weapons and warranted a stepped-up international response. Russia, the Syrian regime’s most powerful ally, harshly criticized the airstrikes but did not respond militarily.

The alleged chemical weapons use was not the work of “a man,” Trump said. It was “the crimes of a monster instead.”

Trump said the mandate for an allied attack was open-ended, but Pentagon chiefs later said the strikes Friday would be repeated only if Assad took further action that warranted a response.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military, in conjunction with British and French forces, struck three sites — a scientific research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a storage facility and command post also near Homs.

Dunford said that unlike the unilateral U.S. strike in Syria last year, in which only one site was attacked, the United States worked with two allies and hit the three sites in an operation that he said would result in the long-term degradation of Syria’s ability to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons.

The attack involved munitions fired from aircraft and naval vessels, including about 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to a Defense Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details. The Pentagon also employed the B-1 strategic bomber.

The assault came despite the lack of a definitive independent finding that chemical weapons were used or who had deployed them. An initial team of inspectors had only arrived in Syria on Friday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declined to say whether he thought the attack would prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again.

“Nothing is certain in these kinds of matters. However, we used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year,” he said. “It was done on targets that we believed were selected to hurt the chemical weapons program. We confined it to the chemical weapons-type targets.”

Mattis said that to his knowledge there were no U.S. or allied losses from the strikes Friday.

Dunford said that the only communications that took place between the United States and Russia before the operation were “the normal deconfliction of the airspace, the procedures that are in place for all of our operations in Syria.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting and condemned the U.S.-led strike as an act of aggression that would “have a destructive effect on the entire system of international relations.”

“The staged use of poisonous substances against civilians was used as a pretext” for the missile strike, Putin said in a statement. “With its actions, the United States further intensifies the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, causes suffering for civilians, in essence indulges the terrorists who for seven years have bedeviled the Syrian people, and provokes a new wave of refugees from this country and the region as a whole.”

The Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the airstrikes represented the latest blow to the Syrian people “from those who claim to have moral leadership in this world.”

Russia seemed keen, however, to keep military tensions from escalating further. The Defense Ministry said that Russian air defense systems were not used to ward off the strike because the attacking cruise missiles did not enter the Russian systems’ “zone of responsibility” in the skies above Syria. The Russian Embassy in Damascus said it was not aware of any Russian casualties, Interfax reported.

It was not immediately clear how the Syrian military responded to the attack. Russia said that Soviet-made Syrian air defenses succeeded in shooting down a significant number of cruise missiles. Dunford said that Syrian forces fired surface-to-air missiles but that he did not have a full picture of the response. He said the Pentagon would provide more details Saturday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement saying the attacks were a response to “circumstances of pure horror.”

In a statement, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “Our response has been limited to the Syrian regimes facilities enabling the production and deployment of chemical weapons.”

The European Union voiced support for the allies. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted, “The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice.”

Vice President Pence left the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, to place calls to all four congressional leaders in advance of the airstrikes, speaking directly to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that he was also notified just prior to Trump’s statement.

The assault followed repeated threats of military action from Trump, who has been moved by civilian suffering to set aside his concerns about foreign military conflicts, since the reported chemical attack that killed civilians in a rebel-held town outside Damascus last weekend.

The operation capped nearly a week of debate in which Pentagon leaders voiced concerns that an attack could pull the United States into Syria’s civil war and trigger a dangerous conflict with Assad ally Russia — without necessarily halting chemical attacks.

Both Syria and Russia have denied involvement in the attack, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov alleged had been staged.

The episode is the latest illustration of the hazards arising from a conflict that has killed an estimated half-million people and drawn in world powers since it began as peaceful protests in 2011.

The attack raised the possibility of retaliation by Russia or Iran, which also provides military support to Assad, threatening in particular to increase the risks facing a force of 2,000 Americans in Syria as part of the battle against the Islamic State. While the United States has not been at war with the Syrian government, U.S. troops often operate in proximity to Iranian- or Russian-backed groups.

In the wake of last weekend’s gruesome attack, some U.S. officials advocated a larger, and therefore riskier, strike than the limited action Trump ordered in April 2017, also in response to suspected chemical weapons use.

That attack involved 59 Tomahawk missiles fired from two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea. It fulfilled Trump’s vow that chemical weapons are a “red line” that he, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, would not allow Assad to cross. But the airfield targeted by the Pentagon resumed operations shortly after the attack and, according to Western intelligence assessments, chemical attacks resumed.

Assad’s defiance presented Trump with a choice of whether to make a larger statement and incur a larger risk this time. Planning for these strikes focused on ways to curb Assad’s ability to use such weapons again.

Risks of the renewed attack include the possibility of a dangerous escalation with Russia, whose decision to send its military to Syria in 2015 reversed the course of the war in Assad’s favor. Since then, Russia has used Syria as a testing ground for some of its most sophisticated weaponry.

Since last year’s strike, multiple chemical attacks have been reported in opposition areas, most of them involving chlorine rather than the nerve agent sarin, as was used in 2017, suggesting the government may have adjusted its tactics.

Earlier Friday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, accused Russia of lying and covering up for the Assad government, which had used chemical weapons at least 50 times in the past seven years of warfare, Haley claimed.

“Russia can complain all it wants about fake news, but no one is buying its lies and its coverups,” she said. “Russia was supposed to guarantee Assad would not use chemical weapons, and Russia did the opposite.”

Russia had called for the emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria as military action seemed likely.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, had accused the United States, France and Britain of saber-rattling.

“Why are you seeking to plunge the Middle East into such difficulties, provoking one conflict after another, pitting one state against another?” he said at the United Nations in New York on Friday, claiming that anti-government militias had received “instructions” to begin an offensive as soon as an act of force begins. “Is the latest wave of chaos being unleashed only for the sake of that?”

Russia has deployed thousands of troops and military advisers, as well as air defense systems, in Syria.

Russia’s military threatened to shoot down any U.S. missiles that put Russian lives at risk. Russia could also fire at the launch platforms used — potentially U.S. planes or ships. Russian officials had said U.S. and Russian military staffs remained in contact regarding Syria, even as Russian media carried stories in recent days about the potential outbreak of “World War III” as a consequence of a U.S. airstrike against Assad.

Putin warned Macron in a phone call Friday that the situation remained tense, the Kremlin said in a statement.

“Most important, it is imperative to avoid badly planned and dangerous actions that would be crude violations of the U.N. Charter and would have unpredictable consequences,” the Kremlin said. “Both leaders directed the ministers of defense and foreign affairs to maintain close contact with the goal of de-escalating the situation.”

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres told the Security Council that he feared events could escalate rapidly into a regional and even global conflict, and he urged all states “to act responsibly in these dangerous circumstances.”

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Karen Pierce, noted that May’s cabinet had “agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.”

Announcement of that approval Thursday did not specify that the response should be military, although that was the expectation.

The Washington Post.

A look at the region’s firepower shows who would win if the US and allies fought Russia and Syria today

international News, Politics, SYRIA, War

Business Insider reviewed an Institute of International Strategic Studies report on the military balance in Syria to give a breakdown of who has the edge.

The US, France, and the UK, appear on the verge of combat with Syria, and possibly its ally Russia, over suspected chemical weapons use against civilians — and it could easily spiral into one of the most complicated, advanced military skirmishes of all time.

But the US has a ton of firepower in the Middle East, though the stock has been depleted since ISIS’s all but total defeat caused the US to send some assets home, and some assets elsewhere.

Business Insider reviewed an Institute of International Strategic Studies report on the military balance in Syria to give a breakdown of what countries have what assets in striking range of Syria.

Find out how the forces stack up, and who has what below:

planes

The US has the air superiority fighters in place and ready to go. (US Air Force)

The US has the air superiority fighters in place and ready to go.

The US has a squadron of F-15E Strike Eagles in Jordan and a half-strength squadron of F-22 Raptor fighter jets in the United Arab Emirates for air supremacy.

In Qatar, the US has B-1B Lancers replacing the old deployment of B-52 Stratofortresses, and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are never far away, thanks to refueling and bases around the world.

Elsewhere in the region, the US has A-10s and nine US Marine Corps F/A-18A+ Hornets.

Source: IISS

 

The US two destroyers in the region and tons of power under the waves.

The USS Florida.playThe USS Florida.

(Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Lynn Friant)

At sea, the US has two Arleigh-Berke class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook and the USS Winston S. Churchill, which hold up to 96 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the very same type the US used in its last strike on Syria in April 2017.

But underwater, the IISS estimates the US has one fast-attack nuclear submarine with up to 40 Tomahawks, and possibly another former nuclear-missile submarine converted to carry 154 Tomahawks, greatly upping the ante.

Source: IISS

 

US ground forces also can’t be underestimated.

US ground forces also can't be underestimated.playUS ground forces also can’t be underestimated.

(Wikimedia Commons)

The US has ground-launched missiles that could riddle Syrian or Russian defenses, but would carry a high risk of counter attack as they’re less mobile.

Source: IISS

 

France has jets and a ship already sailing with the US.

A Dassault Rafale combat aircraft performs during the inauguration ceremony of Aero India 2013 at Yelahanka air force station near Bangalore, February 6, 2013.playA Dassault Rafale combat aircraft performs during the inauguration ceremony of Aero India 2013 at Yelahanka air force station near Bangalore, February 6, 2013.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

France, whose President Emmanuel Macron has been coordinating a response with Trump for the better part of a week, has 10 Rafale multirole fighters in the region, as well as a navy destroyer deployed alongside the USS Donald Cook.

The French destroyer, the Aquitaine, is equipped with new Missile De Croisière Naval cruise missiles.

Source: IISS

 

The UK has jets nearby and a ship capable of air defense for the allied fleet.

ts and ground crew prepare combat aircraft Panavia Tornados at RAF Marham on December 2, 2015 at RAF Marham, United Kingdom.playts and ground crew prepare combat aircraft Panavia Tornados at RAF Marham on December 2, 2015 at RAF Marham, United Kingdom.

(Getty)

The UK, which has also decided to participate in the strike, has the HMS Duncan in Eastern Mediterranean as the flagship of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, though it does not have any land-attack capacity, and can only contribute to air defenses.

In the air, the UK has a mix of Tornado and Typhoon jet fighters in Cyprus.

Source: IISS

 

UK and French jets can conduct standoff attacks on Syria.

Two French F-2 Rafales aircraft fly over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Jan. 8, 2016. US Air Force.playTwo French F-2 Rafales aircraft fly over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Jan. 8, 2016. US Air Force.

(Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

The UK and French jets can conduct standoff attacks on Syria from outside its airspace with Storm Shadow and Scalp EG cruise missiles.

Source: IISS
Russian and Syrian air defenses offer stiff resistance.

Russian and Syrian air defenses offer stiff resistance.playRussian and Syrian air defenses offer stiff resistance.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

On the side of the Russia and Syria, sophisticated air defenses would keep US and allied forces on their toes.

Russian-made Pantsir-S1 and Buk-M2E operated by Syria pose a threat, and batteries of S-400 and S-300V4 long-range surface-to-air missiles protecting Russian air and naval bases haveconsistently given NATO planners pause.

Source: IISS

Russia’s air force in Syria is no joke.

Russia's air force in Syria is no joke.playRussia’s air force in Syria is no joke.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

Russian fighter aircraft in Syria, like Su-34s and Su-30SMs, can pose a real threat to allied aircraft, but the F-22, the world’s most deadly combat plane with a combination of stealth and dogfighting ability, could likely run cover for US air operations.

Source: IISS
So who would win?

A US soldier in the town of Darbasiya, Syria in 2017.playA US soldier in the town of Darbasiya, Syria in 2017.

(Rodi Said/Reuters)

Since Trump announced that US missiles would soon hit Syria, Business Insider spoke to several experts in different fields who all unanimously responded that Russia’s military in Syria would lose a conventional fight to the US forces in the region alone.

For that reason, they all said it’s unlikely Russia actually wants a fight with the US, and may simply be blustering with some of its more direct threats.

While the US regards Russia’s air defenses as potent, and experts say even F-22 stealth jets wouldn’t have an easy time taking them out, the US can just overwhelm any defenses with a massive volley of cruise missiles.

Source: IISS

 

Russia vetoes US resolution on Syria gas attack

international News, SYRIA, Terrorism, War

SyraRussia vetoed a U.S.-drafted resolution at the United Nations Tuesday that would have condemned a suspected poison gas attack by the Syrian regime on a Damascus suburb.

The vote in the 15-member U.N. Security Council was 12 in favor, with Russia and Bolivia opposing and China abstaining. It was the 12th time Russia has vetoed a resolution concerning Syria and sixth veto related to chemical weapons.

The resolution would have also established a new body to determine responsibility for chemical weapons attacks during Syria’s ongoing civil war. The Security Council voted down a rival Russian resolution moments later.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the U.S. “went the extra mile” to get Russian support for the resolution to ensure that the proposed investigative body would be impartial, independent and professional. By contrast, Haley said the Russian resolution would allow Moscow to veto investigators and staff for the new body — and to block its findings.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of wanting the resolution to fail “to justify the use of force against Syria.”

He added that the resolution was trying to recreate the old expert body, whose extension Moscow blocked in November. He called that body “a puppet in the hands of anti-Damascus forces.”

Earlier Tuesday, the international chemical weapons watchdog said it was sending a fact-finding mission to the town of Douma, where the suspected chemical weapons attack took place, following a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers that appeared to be aimed at averting punitive Western military action.

Syrian leaders are continuing to deny responsibility for the chemical attack. Conor Powell has the reaction from the region.

It was not immediately clear whether the announcement by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would delay or prevent a U.S. strike in Syria. President Donald Trump has vowed to respond “forcefully” to Saturday’s attack and warned that Russia — or any other nation found to share responsibility — will “pay a price.”

The incident has sparked international outrage and ratcheted up tensions in the already volatile Mideast, raising the specter of possible imminent American retaliation amid Russia’s warnings against any such action, and denials that any chemical weapons attack took place.

Adding to the tensions, Iran, a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, threatened to respond to an airstrike on a Syrian military base on Monday that the Syrian government, Russia and Iran have blamed on Israel.

Seven Iranians were among the estimated 14 people killed in the missile strike, and a senior Iranian official visiting Damascus said the attack “will not remain unanswered.” Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Iran’s supreme leader, spoke upon arrival in the Syrian capital on Tuesday.

The Syrian air base was struck by missiles a little more than 24 hours after the alleged chemical attack. Israel does not typically comment on its operations in Syria, and it is unclear whether the missile attack was linked to the alleged use of chemical weapons.

Iran is one of Assad’s strongest backers and has sent thousands of troops and allied militiamen to support his forces.

On 'America's Newsroom,' Republican congressman from Illinois says he would love to see Assad as a target.

Chemical weapons attacks have killed hundreds of people since the start of Syria’s conflict, with the U.N. blaming four attacks on the Syrian government and a fifth on the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

The OPCW, in its statement, said its technical Secretariat has asked the Syrian government to make the necessary arrangements for the deployment of a fact-finding mission. The group is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997, which has been signed by 192 member states.

Syria became a member in 2013 as part of a deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia after a chemical attack in eastern Ghouta killed hundreds of people. That attack was widely blamed on government forces, who denied responsibility.

Syrian opposition activists and paramedics said more than 40 people were killed in last weekend’s suspected chemical attack and blamed the government. The Syrian government and its Russian backers strongly deny the allegations, and questioned whether a chemical weapons attack even took place.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday he was outraged by the reported attack, and that the use of chemical weapons would be a violation of international law. He also reaffirmed his support for an OPCW investigation.

Fox News’ Ben Evansky and The Associated Press contributed to this report.