Iran denies attacking Israeli positions — Peace and Freedom

Middle East, News, SEcurity, SYRIA

Iran has denied involvement in rocket attacks on the Golan Heights that led to Israeli strikes on Iranian sites in Syria. The UN has called for an end to “hostile acts” amid fears of further escalation.

    
Tanks on the Golan Heights (picture-alliance/Xinhua News Agency)

Iran on Friday rejected accusations by Israel that it had fired rockets at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, describing them as ” freely invented and baseless” charges designed to justify Israel’s own attacks on Syria.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi also criticized the international community for not condemning Israeli airstrikes in Syria on Thursday that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a retaliation against Iran’s aggression.

Image result for Bahram Qasemi, photos

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi

Its silence “only gives the Zionist regime (Israel) the green light for further aggressions that serve only to make the region more insecure and unstable,” he said.

The defense committee of Iran’s parliament also said Iranian forces had nothing to do with the attacks on Israeli positions.

“This is another lie from the Zionist regime for propaganda purposes, ” said committee spokesman Mohammad Nabandegani. Nobandegani also denied that Iran had any military forces in Syria at all.

Read more: The West tends to ‘exaggerate’ Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict

 

Israel announced early on Thursday that its forces had hit “almost all” Iranian infrastructure sites in Syria during airstrikes carried out in retaliation for Iran’s firing of 20 rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Netanyahu said that Iran had “crossed a red line” with the rocket attacks.

The attacks were some of the worst direct violence between arch rivals Israel and Iran in years and have raised fears of a wider conflict in the region. Israel has long expressed concern that Iran could establish a military presence in Syria amid the instability caused by Syria’s long-running civil war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed fears of further escalation in a tweet in which he called for an end to “all hostile acts and any provocative actions.”

António Guterres

✔@antonioguterres

The Middle East is already embroiled in terrible conflicts with immense suffering of civilians. I urge an immediate halt to all hostile acts and any provocative actions to avoid a new conflagration in the region. https://bit.ly/2I4yCzH 

A UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters that Guterres had been in contact “with various people at various levels” about the attacks.

‘Right to self-defense’

Germany’s Foreign Ministry has sided with Israel in condemning Iranian aggression. In a tweet, it said the rocket attacks were “a serious provocation that we condemn in the harshest way possible. Israel has, as we have stated several times, a right to self-defense.”

Washington also slammed what it called “the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks” and reiterated its support for “Israel’s right to act in self-defense.”

Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, has called on the UN Security Council and Guterres to condemn Iran and call on Tehran to remove its forces from Syria.

However, in light of the divisions within the Security Council over Syria, it seems unlikely that the body will issue any statement on the matter.

tj/ng (AP, dpa, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/iran-denies-attacking-israeli-positions/a-43736095

via Iran denies attacking Israeli positions — Peace and Freedom

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Syrian state TV: blast kills one, wounds others in Damascus — peoples trust toronto

News

https://ift.tt/2K5SBuo May 9, 2018 BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian state television said a blast killed one person and injured others on Wednesday in the Maysat square of the capital Damascus. It said the origin of the “terrorist explosion” remained unclear. Footage on the state-run channel broadcast showed the shell of a burnt vehicle which turned into […]

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian state television said a blast killed one person and injured others on Wednesday in the Maysat square of the capital Damascus.

It said the origin of the “terrorist explosion” remained unclear. Footage on the state-run channel broadcast showed the shell of a burnt vehicle which turned into a pile twisted metal.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Vía One America News Network https://ift.tt/2I1AJVb

 

via Syrian state TV: blast kills one, wounds others in Damascus — peoples trust toronto

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

Israel: Former Defense Minister says Northern Front Not Ready for War — Peace and Freedom

News, Politics, sports

“Our main problem with Iran is that it itself is trying to incite threats in Syrian territory.” BY JPOST.COM STAFF MAY 1, 2018 09:36 Netanyahu’s full unveiling of Iran’s secret nuclear program in text, video Iran ‘had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program,’ White House says IDF troops stationed near Kiryat Shmona in the north.. (photo […]

 Netanyahu’s full unveiling of Iran’s secret nuclear program in text, video

 Iran ‘had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program,’ White House says

IDF troops near Kiryat Shmona.

IDF troops stationed near Kiryat Shmona in the north.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The north is unprepared for an escalation with Iran, should it occur, said MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union), who served as minister of defense during the Second Lebanon War, on Tuesday. Israel’s main problem, he added, is Iran trying to “incite threats in Syrian territory.”

“A central point is that in the North, we are not prepared from the perspective of defending the home front, we have a lot to do,” he told Army Radio. “We have to invest close to NIS 2 billion so that we will be prepared on the northern front.”

In March, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman made similar comments, saying, “If we want fortifications in the North, there must be a multi-year plan of one billion shekels a year. This is the minimum to bring the north to the level of the south.”

Peretz also discussed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelation of secret nuclear activity in Iran last night, noting necessary changes that would need to be made to the 2015 accord.

“What do we want to achieve in changes to the nuclear deal? Do we want to cancel the agreement now or do we want to make significant changes that will also extend the period that prevents Iran from dealing with nuclear weapons?” he queried.

“And most importantly,” he said, we have “to try to get clauses that forbid [Iran] from continuing to arm the terror organizations in our region because our main problem with Iran is that it itself is trying to incite threats in Syrian territory.”

United States President Donald Trump said he will likely remove the US from the deal if it is not “fixed” by May 12th, a deadline by which he must sign waivers in order to continue the country’s involvement in the deal.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.
.

 https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Former-defense-minister-Israels-northern-front-unprepared-for-war-553192

via Israel: Former Defense Minister says Northern Front Not Ready for War — Peace and Freedom

Syria’s Endgame Could “Get Ugly”: Washington’s Balkanization Plan. Turkey’s Military Presence in Northern Syria — peoples trust toronto

Middle East, Military, News, SYRIA

 https://ift.tt/eA8V8J While Syrian troops carry on their liberation of Damascus’ suburbs from radical militants with the support of Iranian troops and Shia militia detachments, the United States and Saudi Arabia are planning to take advantage of Ankara’s tacit consent and launch … Vía Global Research https://ift.tt/2r3fB6e

via Syria’s Endgame Could “Get Ugly”: Washington’s Balkanization Plan. Turkey’s Military Presence in Northern Syria — peoples trust toronto 

While Syrian troops carry on their liberation of Damascus’ suburbs from radical militants with the support of Iranian troops and Shia militia detachments, the United States and Saudi Arabia are planning to take advantage of Ankara’s tacit consent and launch 

Syria’s Endgame Could “Get Ugly”: Washington’s Balkanization Plan. Turkey’s Military Presence in Northern Syria — peoples trust toronto 

Vía Global Research https://ift.tt/2r3fB6e

Rare glimpse of Assad family ties to Russia in kids’ stay at seaside camp

News, SYRIA, Terrorism
Reuters 
© Reuters. A general view of the Morskoi camp, part of the Artek International Children's Centre, located near the city of Yalta© Reuters. A general view of the Morskoi camp, part of the Artek International Children’s Centre, located near the city of Yalta

By David Axelrod

SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (Reuters) – News that Russia hosted the teenage children of Bashar al-Assad at a lavishly-rebuilt Black Sea summer camp in Crimea last year has given a rare glimpse into the personal lives of the Syrian president’s family and his close relationship to Moscow.

Nestled on the Crimean coast since 1925, the Artek Seaside camp served for decades as an elite summer holiday resort for children of those favored by the Soviet Communist Party and foreign delegations invited from its satellite states.

Russia has given the camp a $180 million renovation since seizing the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Guests stay in newly-built dormitories by the sea.

That Assad’s sons Hafez and Karim and daughter Zein had stayed there last year with a group of other Syrian children was made public only this week, when a Russian lawmaker on a delegation to Damascus said Assad had mentioned it.

Alexei Kasprzhak, the resort’s director, told Reuters he learned of the children’s identities only after they arrived last year. The three children were given no special treatment, joining the regular programme with the other Syrian children in their group, he said.

If any of the other Syrian children had any issues with being at camp with the president’s kids, “it passed quickly and didn’t create any problems for us and therefore we didn’t have to resolve them, thank God,” Kasprzhak told Reuters.

A source close to the camp’s management who spoke on condition of anonymity said the president’s children “didn’t stick out at all” during their three-week stay.

“They also attended all the events organized in the camp, they went to the evening campfire like everyone else, so it is not the case that they lived in some kind of special premises or slept on special pillows.”

The choice of destination shows how close Assad’s personal ties with Russia have become since Moscow entered the Syrian conflict in September 2015, turning the tide in his favor. Now in its eighth year, the war has killed more than 500,000 people.

The Seaside camp, 12 km (7.5 miles) from the Crimean city of Yalta, is the oldest of a network of 10 Artek camps run by the Education Ministry. During the Soviet era, winning a place there for a summer was a valued prize both for Soviet children and for visitors from countries in Moscow’s orbit.

In 2015, a year after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, the Russian government launched a five-year programme to revamp it. As of last June over 11 billion roubles ($180.71 million) had been spent on renovations, the RIA news agency reported.

Records published on the state procurement site show that 9.2 billion roubles worth of tenders to develop the resort were awarded to Stroygazmontazh, a construction firm on U.S. and European sanctions blacklists, owned by Arkady Rotenberg, a former judo sparring partner of president Vladimir Putin.

Dozens of bodies found in Raqa mass grave: official

Africa, News

The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria 14 April 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

QAMISHLI, Syria – Dozens of bodies, including those of jihadists and civilians, have been found in a mass grave in the former Islamic State group stronghold of Raqa in Syria, a local official said on Saturday.

The former de facto “capital” of the group in northern Syria, Raqa saw the jihadists ousted by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October 2017.

Nearly 50 bodies had already been recovered from the mass grave, which could contain up to 200 bodies, Abdallah al-Eriane, a senior official with Raqa Civil Council now running the city, said,

The mass grave was located under a football pitch, close to a hospital where the jihadists had dug in before being chased out of the city.

“It was apparently the only place available for burials, which were done in haste. The jihadists were holed up in the hospital,” the official said, adding that some bodies were marked with the nom de guerre of the jihadist while civilians just had first names.

In recent months, both Syria and Iraq have discovered mass graves in areas previously occupied by the jihadists.

Syrian troops uncovered a mass grave containing the remains of more than 30 people killed by IS in Raqa province in February.

It followed two other similar finds by the Syrian army.

The Islamic State group, which proclaimed a “caliphate” over swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, has now lost almost all the land it once controlled.

It has been held responsible for multiple atrocities during its reign of terror, including mass executions and decapitations.

AFP

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:

Chemical weapons team kept from reaching alleged Syria attack site

Middle East, Politics, Power, SYRIA

AFP and AP

© Hasan Mohamed, AFP | A child runs along a street in front of clouds of smoke billowing following a reported air strike on Douma, the main town of Syria’s rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on March 20, 2018.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-04-16

Independent investigators were prevented by Syrian and Russian authorities Monday from reaching the scene of an alleged chemical attack near the Syrian capital, an official said.

The incident comes days after the USFrance and Britain bombarded sites they said were linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program.

The lack of access to the town of Douma by inspectors from the watchdog group, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has left questions about the April 7 attack unanswered.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syrian and Russian officials cited “pending security issues” in keeping its inspectors from reaching Douma.

“The team has not yet deployed to Douma,” two days after arriving in Syria, Uzumcu told an executive council of the OPCW in The Hague.

Syrian authorities were offering 22 people to interview as witnesses instead, he said, adding that he hoped “all necessary arrangements will be made … to allow the team to deploy to Douma as soon as possible”.

Heather Nauert

✔@statedeptspox

Chemical weapons were used on Syrian men, women, and children in . Reports that  weapons inspectors require special @UN passes are completely false.  and  need to stop the disinformation and allow unfettered access to the attack sites.

Syria says false alarm set off its air defenses

international News, Islam, Middle East, Military, SYRIA, War

Syria says false alarm set off its air defenses

A picture taken from a helicopter during a press tour provided by the Russian Armed Forces on September 15, 2017 shows an aerial view of the modern city of Palmyra, in Syria's central province of Homs.© DOMINIQUE DERDA/AFP/Getty Images A picture taken from a helicopter during a press tour provided by the Russian Armed Forces on September 15, 2017 shows an aerial view of the modern city of Palmyra…AMMAN, April 17 (Reuters) – A false alarm led to Syrian air defense missiles being fired overnight and no new attack on Syria took place, Syrian state media and a military commander said on Tuesday.

Syrian state TV reported overnight that anti-aircraft defenses had shot down missiles fired at an air base in the Homs area, and a media unit run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah said missiles had also targeted an air base near Damascus.

The incident underscored fears of a further escalation in the Syrian conflict after a U.S., British and French attack on Syrian targets on Saturday and an air strike on an air base the previous week that Damascus blamed on Israel.

Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying a number of air defense missiles had been fired but no foreign attack had taken place.

Separately, a commander in the regional military alliance backing the government attributed the malfunction to “a joint electronic attack” by Israel and the United States targeting the Syrian radar system.

The issue had been dealt with by Russian experts, said the commander, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

State television had showed pictures of a missile it said was shot in the air above the air base.

A Pentagon spokesman said there was no U.S. military activity in that area at this time. Asked about reports of the missile attack, an Israeli military spokesman said: “We don’t comment on such reports.”

Saturday’s strikes by the U.S., Britain and France were in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian military in eastern Ghouta. Both Damascus and its ally Russia have denied using any such weapons.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam in Damascus and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Additional reporting by Nayera Abdullah in Cairo, Yara Bayoumy in Washington and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

France’s Macron says he persuaded Trump to keep troops in Syria

Politics, Power, SYRIA
A Syrian firefighter is seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018.© REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki A Syrian firefighter is seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018.PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he had convinced U.S. President Donald Trump to keep troops in Syria, as he defended joint air strikes he said were legitimate and allowed France and allies to regain credibility.

Early on Saturday, the United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what they said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7.

“Ten days ago, President Trump was saying ‘the United States should withdraw from Syria’. We convinced him it was necessary to stay,” Macron said in an interview broadcast by BFM TV, RMC radio and Mediapart online news.

“We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term.”

The United States, Britain and France said they only hit Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and that the strikes were not aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or intervening in the civil war.

Macron said limiting the strikes to these specific targets was not necessarily Trump’s initial plan.

“We also persuaded him that we needed to limit the strikes to chemical weapons (sites), after things got a little carried away over tweets,” he said.

Saturday’s strikes on Syria were the first major military operation since Macron’s election in May last year.

He reaffirmed that there was proof of chemical attacks, adding: “We had reached a point where these strikes were necessary to give back the (international) community some credibility.”

Macron said he wanted to engage in dialogue with all parties involved, including Russia, which backs Assad politically and militarily, in order to find a political solution for Syria.

There are no changes to his planned trip to Russia next month, he said.

However, he said that Russia had made itself complicit in the Syrian government’s actions.

“Of course they are complicit. They have not used chlorine themselves but they have methodically built the international community’s inability to act through diplomatic channels to stop the use of chemical weapons,” he said of Russia.

Macron had warmer words for Turkey. “With those strikes we have separated the Russians and the Turks on this. The Turks condemned the chemical weapons.”

Macron added that the strikes on Syria had been “perfectly carried out”.

“All of our missiles reached their target,” he said. (Reporting by Laurence Frost, Michel Rose, Marine Pennetier Writing by Ingrid Melander Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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.

Warship Ruse, New Stealth Missiles: How They Attacked Syria

international News, Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA
Bloomberg  Toluse Olorunnipa, Jennifer Jacobs, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

French Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly make an official statement in the press room at the Élysée Palace in Paris, France, on April 14. “We cannot tolerate the recurring use of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and our collective security,” said the French government’s statement.

Gallery by photo services(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump’s outrage over another apparent chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was clear. And for the second time in his presidency, the U.S. commander-in-chief demanded retaliation.

As images of sick or dying children flooded global media all week, the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Winston Churchill churned toward the Mediterranean to join a flotilla of allied warships, including another U.S. destroyer, the USS Donald Cook.

It was a ruse.

While both vessels carry as many as 90 Tomahawk missiles — the main weapon used in the Friday evening strike on Syria — neither ship in the end fired a shot. Instead, according to a person familiar with White House war planning, they were part of a plan to distract Russia and its Syrian ally from an assault Assad’s government could do little to defend itself against.

It worked. Pentagon officials on Saturday said they faced little resistance to their targeted attack on what they said were three Syrian chemical weapons facilities. Most of the Syrian countermeasures, including defensive ballistic missiles, were fired after U.S. and allied weapons hit their targets, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters on Saturday.

“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” McKenzie said. He described the joint U.S., French and U.K. strike as “precise, overwhelming and effective.”

Read a QuickTake on whether the world can really stop chemical weapons

Brazen as it was perceived to be, the Assad regime’s decision to again use chemical weapons on own people didn’t by itself spur the U.S. to act. The Trump administration was also motivated by how closely the attack followed the use of a nerve agent to poison a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in England in March, an action the U.K. government and its allies blamed on Russia.

a close up of a person: "To confront those who really fight international terrorism on the ground in Syria is criminal," Vassily Nebenzia said.© Provided by AFP “To confront those who really fight international terrorism on the ground in Syria is criminal,” Vassily Nebenzia said.The English incident added to concerns held by Trump, his top aides, and leaders in the U.K. and France that not responding might encourage proliferation of chemical weapons, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.

As the strategy of how to respond took shape, Trump appeared to telegraph his intentions to the world with a tweet on April 11: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!”’

Analysts suggested Assad’s regime would respond to Trump’s threats by protectively moving weapons and personnel away from likely targets. An already difficult battle plan — which required hitting Assad without provoking Russian reprisals or injecting the U.S. further into Syria’s seven-year civil war — was getting harder.

‘Big Price’

In the White House, Trump met with military officials and made several calls to his French and British counterparts, President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May, with the goal of following through on a threat to impose a “big price’’ on Syria — a vow made in an earlier tweet, on April 8.

During a meeting with the National Security Council and top military leaders early in the week, Trump had been presented five large target options — called sets — for potential strikes, according to the person familiar with the plans. The president largely listened as Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Corps General Joe Dunford and other military leaders did most of the talking. New National Security Adviser John Bolton — who started work on April 9 — and Vice President Mike Pence were also on hand.

A Syrian military officer records a video inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018.© REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki A Syrian military officer records a video inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018.The president asked Bolton and the military leaders to justify each potential target, and was particularly focused on limiting the risk of escalation by Russia. There was unanimity among Trump’s top national security staff about conducting strikes but debate about how hard to hit the Syrians, the person said.

Haley’s Voice

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley was especially blunt in her assessment of the Syrian regime during meetings with Trump, the person said.

Haley told the UN Security Council on Friday that Assad and his Russian backers were to blame for the deaths of thousands of Syrian civilians. In a private meeting with Trump and national security officials earlier in the week, Haley was a leading voice pushing for a robust military response to the chemical weapons attack on humanitarian grounds, the person said.

Dunford told reporters Friday that the U.S. sought targets that would limit any involvement with Russian military forces in Syria and reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

Trump, who just a week earlier said he wanted to pull U.S. troops out of Syria “very soon,” didn’t want to become drawn into the civil war there and instead focused the military response on deterring the use of chemical weapons, according to the official.

Missile Barrage

With the allies on board and the USS Winston Churchill arriving in the Mediterranean region, the attack was nearly under way.

As the president addressed the nation at 9 p.m. Washington time, on Friday, a barrage of 105 U.S., U.K. and French missiles converged on Syria. They came from the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean, homing in from three directions to overwhelm whatever missile defenses Assad’s regime might deploy. Russia’s more advanced air defense system didn’t engage the allied weapons.

According to the Pentagon, the allied weaponry included 19 new “Extended-Range” stealthy Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Attack Munitions launched by two B-1B bombers based out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, and six Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the Virginia-class USS John Warner submarine. The bomber-launched missiles, build by Lockheed Martin Corp., had never been used in combat.

Red Sea Attack

The cruiser USS Monterey fired 30 Tomahawks and the destroyer USS Laboon fired seven Tomahawks from the Red Sea. The destroyer USS Higgins fired 23 Tomahawks from the North Arabian Gulf, according to McKenzie.

The weapons also included French SCALP-EG cruise missiles and British Storm Shadow standoff missiles launched by Tornado and Typhoon jets. Nine SCALP missiles were fired at what the Pentagon said was a chemical weapons storage complex at Hims-Shinshar, along with two SCALPS, nine Tomahawks and eight Storm Shadows.

The morning after the barrage, Trump tweeted “Mission Accomplished!”, a phrase closely associated with President George W. Bush. The 43rd U.S. president prematurely declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq in 2003 while standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham, in front of a large banner bearing those words.

Trump, like Bush, may live to regret using the phrase. The latest U.S.-led operation was narrow in scope, with little damage done to Assad’s war-fighting capabilities. The country remains a toxic brew of foreign forces, militias and terrorist groups. Haley, the UN ambassador, said this week that Assad has used chemical weapons dozens of times since war broke out in 2011. He might well use them again.

(Updates with background on strike from paragraph seven.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Toluse Olorunnipa in Washington at tolorunnipa@bloomberg.net, Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net, Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net, Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net, Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Bernard Kohn, Ros Krasny

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

‘Big price to pay’: Inside Trump’s decision to bomb Syria

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trum.jpgFrom the moment White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly first informed him late on the night of April 7 that dozens of people in a leafy suburb of Damascus had died choking and foaming at the mouth from another suspected gas attack, President Trump was determined to strike back in Syria.

For him, the only question was how.

This was a sudden change of tune for a president who only a few days earlier had said he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria’s in­trac­table war and, as he put it at an event in Ohio, “let other people take care of it now.”

But the images of last weekend’s atrocities haunted Trump, White House officials said, triggering six straight days of tense deliberations with his newly reorganized national security team — as well as coalition partners from France and the United Kingdom — over military options to retaliate against the alleged perpetrator he derided as “Animal Assad.”

trumpp.jpgThe result was 105 missiles raining down on three of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities Friday night. The morning after, Trump tweeted — perhaps fatefully, considering President George W. Bush’s premature declaration of victory in Iraq — “Mission Accomplished!”

Even with Trump’s jubilant response to the strikes, several advisers close to the president said they had no indication there was a long-term strategy for the region — and he seems essentially in the same position now as he was after last April’s attack on Syria.

The missile strikes Friday night came at an especially traumatic moment. The commander in chief was increasingly agitated over the past week as legal and personal crises converged around him, exhibiting flashes of raw anger, letting off steam on Twitter and sometimes seeming distracted from his war planning.

As the military brass put together the final details on the Syria strike plan, for instance, Trump was following the New York court proceedings involving his personal lawyer Michael Cohen and was fixated on media coverage of fired FBI director James B. Comey’s new memoir. The book paints a scathing portrait of the president’s conduct in office and character, and Trump was personally involved Friday in drafting the scorching statement attacking Comey that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read from her podium Friday, according to a senior administration official.

Friday’s surgical strikes were more restrained than the images Trump tried to conjure with his bellicose tweets previewing the action. Last Sunday, he warned Assad and his government’s backers, Russia and Iran: “Big price to pay.” On Wednesday, he wrote that missiles “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ ”

But in closed-door national security meetings, the tone from top officials was decidedly more nuanced. Hanging over the discussions was concern that a U.S. attack in Syria might provoke a conflict with Russia, which had threatened to retaliate.

The absence of a clear strategy in Syria complicated the discussions. Trump had campaigned as a noninterventionist and vowed to withdraw from Middle East entanglements that he decried as costing American lives and treasure.

And yet to Trump’s national security team, action of some kind seemed to be a requirement, as officials said they listened to the president deride his predecessor, Barack Obama, for sometimes discussing possible military action and then not delivering it. At a White House dinner last Tuesday, Trump opined that the problems in Syria were caused “because Obama did not enforce his red lines,” according to one attendee, Alan Dershowitz, a retired Harvard Law School professor.

Trump was insistent that the strikes impair the production of chemical weapons in Syria, and hoped that would prevent Assad from launching future attacks on his population, according to White House officials. He wanted to inflict more damage than the largely symbolic air assault he ordered in 2017 on a Syrian airfield, which Assad’s forces quickly repaired. After the attack, military officials took pains to present Friday’s operation as larger than the last time, emphasizing that the number of munitions used was roughly double.

As Trump said Friday night in announcing the strikes from the Diplomatic Room of the White House, “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.”

But as final options were presented, Trump was concerned about U.S. missiles harming civilians. When chemical weapons storage and research facilities were established as the targets, officials said, Trump sought assurances that hitting stockpiles would not let off plumes that could injure or kill people who lived nearby.

Military officials said Saturday that they believe that no one — not even Syrian government personnel — was killed in the attack, which struck nonresidential facilities in the middle of the night.

Although options for more-expansive actions were also discussed, the plan that Trump ultimately endorsed, with a mix of air- and sea-launched missiles and sophisticated standoff airstrikes, was designed to minimize risk to U.S. and allied personnel and lessen the chances of unwanted escalation, officials said.

National security adviser John Bolton, in his first week on the job, was a hawkish voice urging a meaningful show of force that would deter Assad. Trump also heard from some hawks on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who said he urged the president to forgo his plan to pull back troop levels in Syria.

“I fear when the dust settles, this strike will be seen as a weak military response and Assad will have paid a small price for using chemicals yet again,” Graham said.

Trump was characteristically impatient and wanted the military to take action quickly, officials said, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, steered a more deliberative and careful process.

Mattis and Dunford articulated to Trump the risks involved with operating in Syria, including the possibility of escalation with Russia and Iran, or an unintended event that might drag the United States further into Syria’s war, officials said.

“We were not out to expand this,” Mattis told reporters just after the attack. “We were very precise and proportionate.”

Military leaders calculated that retaliation from Syria or its allies could come immediately or in a harder-to-detect way, like the insurgent-style attacks that U.S. forces had faced from Iranian-backed militias during the Iraq War.

Despite Trump’s urgency to punish the Assad regime, the president allowed Mattis and his military leaders several days to coordinate an allied attack with the French and British, which the Pentagon argued would require naval maneuvers and target coordination among the three countries.

Military officials also said they needed time to develop the right targets. While officials had been watching known Syrian chemical sites on and off for years, aerial surveillance time has been dedicated mostly to other areas of Syria, where the United States and allied local forces continue to battle the Islamic State. That meant the U.S. military needed to refresh its intelligence on the chemical facilities before targeteers could build the “target packages” that would guide the operation.

As military leaders were busy plotting a strike plan in Washington, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley emerged almost immediately as a voice of the administration’s outrage over Assad’s suspected chemical attack — as well as over what she called Russian “disinformation” to protect its Mideast ally.

Haley used her position at the United Nations to place the American response in an international context, condemning both Syria and Russia during an emergency U.N. Security Council session on Monday. Hers was a display of traditional American diplomacy — fierce in the defense of civilians allegedly harmed by their own government, confrontational with Russia and mindful of the political and public relations needs of European allies — in an administration that frequently ignores regular diplomatic order.

“Only a monster targets civilians and then ensures that there are no ambulances to transfer the wounded,” Haley said Monday.

As Haley spoke alongside her counterparts from Britain and France, coordinating her remarks with theirs, Trump was on the phone with British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron to forge a coalition.

Spending the week at the White House with a pared back public schedule, Trump was often distracted.

On Monday morning, after learning that FBI agents had raided Cohen’s office, hotel room and residence, Trump stewed with anger the remainder of the day. He railed to advisers and friends that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation had grown far too expansive, complained about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and mused about firing Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. Officials said that Trump made little progress that day on Syria strategy.

But the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria lingered in his mind. On Wednesday, officials said, Trump awoke to learn on Fox News Channel that Russian officials had crowed that they could shoot down any American missiles fired on Syria. He vowed on Twitter, “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ ”

Trump’s apparent announcement of a missile attack surprised and rattled military leaders. Though the strategy talks were moving in the direction of military action, officials said, no decision had been made about whether, when or how to strike in Syria. It was not until Thursday that military leaders presented Trump final options on targets.

Looming over the discussions all week were differing levels of comfort among U.S. officials with the intelligence surrounding the reported April 7 attack in Douma, just outside the capital of Damascus.

Almost immediately, military officials identified the killings as more serious than other, smaller-scale chemical incidents that Syrian activists and medical workers had reported in recent months. Within hours of learning of the Douma incident through social media, military officials flagged it for their superiors and in short order began exploring retaliatory options for Trump.

At U.S. Central Command in Tampa, officials in a dedicated planning cell dusted off earlier scenarios and discussed what sort of action might be taken. In Washington, Mattis and other senior officials talked through a possible strike with the White House. And as Trump conveyed more urgency on Twitter, the pace of Pentagon planning intensified.

As they prepared to initiate the strike, U.S. commanders stepped up security measures for U.S. troops across the Middle East, putting a U.S. force of about 2,000 inside Syria, on high alert.

Mattis for several days resisted concluding definitively that Assad’s government was responsible for the Douma attack, officials said, saying he had not seen enough evidence that the Syrian government was responsible until last Thursday.

But his boss did not share that apprehension. Even before a full intelligence briefing on the incident had been prepared, Trump assigned blame on Twitter last Sunday morning.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump tweeted. He added, “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay.”

John Hudson and Jenna Johnson in Lima, Peru, 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.

Basic Facts and development on US and Collation Strike in Syria

Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA

Strikes in Syria: The US, UK and France launched coordinated air strikes in Syria, hitting targets associated with the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons program.

How we got here: The US and its allies blame Syria for an apparent chemical attack on the city of Douma just over a week ago. US President Trump and UK Prime Minister May said such action could not go unchallenged.

Pentagon: “2,000%” increase in Russian trolls in the last 24-hours

Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White ended a press briefing on Saturday by highlighting that the US had seen a “2,000%” increase in Russian trolls in the last 24-hours. White had been providing an update of the latest developments from overnight airstrikes on Syrian targets by US, UK and French forces.

The Russian disinformation campaign has already begun. There has been a 2,000% increase in Russian trolls in the last 24 hours therefore we will keep you all abreast of the facts moving forward.”

CNN

@CNN

Reporter: Can we expect any kind of retaliation after Syria strike?

Lt. Gen. McKenzie: “I can’t speak to that, but I can tell you that we’re ready for it. We’re postured both in the region and globally … we’re ready for anything.” https://cnn.it/2HAL1rA 

Britain says we had to attack Syria, strikes were highly successful – Reuter

Politics, SYRIA, War
Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman visitsLONDON (Reuters) – British had no alternative but to take military action to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capability, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Saturday after ordering air-launched cruise missile strikes along with the United States and France.

Four Royal Air Force Tornado jets from the Akrotiri base in Cyprus fired Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility near Homs where it was assessed that Syria had stockpiled chemicals, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

May cast the strike as “limited and targeted” and came after intelligence indicated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for an attack using chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Douma a week ago.

May said the missile strike, designed to minimise civilian casualties, was aimed at deterring further use of chemical weapons and was not an attempt to topple the Syrian government.

“This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change,” May said in statement made from her country residence at Chequers just minutes after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the strikes from the White House.

may 2Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the mission had been highly successful and implied that no further action was imminent.

“We don’t expect that we’ll be a position where we’re having to make further strikes,” he told LBC radio. “We believe that the strikes we have taken last night had a significant impact in terms of what the Syrian regime can do in the future.”

By launching strikes without prior approval from parliament, May dispensed with a non-binding constitutional convention dating back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She said speed was essential and that military action was in the national interest.

May, whose government is propped up by a small Northern Irish party, said Britain and the West had an obligation to deter both Assad and others from using chemical weapons after the poison gas attack in Douma near Damascus killed up to 75 people, including children, last Saturday.

However, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a fervent anti-war campaigner, called the strikes “legally questionable” and said May should have recalled parliament from a holiday and “not trailed after Donald Trump”.

“Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace,” he said in a statement. “Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way.”

Britain has accused Russia of being behind last month’s nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, southern England – a charge Moscow has denied.

“While this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity,” May said.

“We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world.”

May said Britain and its allies had sought to use every diplomatic means to stop the use of chemical weapons, but had been repeatedly thwarted, citing a Russian veto of an independent investigation into the Douma attack at the U.N. Security Council this week.

“So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime,” she said.

The Western missile strikes demonstrate the volatile nature of the Syrian civil war, which started in March 2011 as an anti-Assad uprising but is now a proxy conflict involving a number of world and regional powers and a myriad of insurgent groups.

Trump said he was prepared to sustain the response until the Assad government stopped its use of chemical weapons.

Russia, which intervened in the war in 2015 to back Assad, has denied there was a chemical attack and has accused Britain of helping to stage the Douma incident to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

“TARGETED STRIKES”

Britain’s defence ministry said “very careful scientific analysis” had been applied to maximise the destruction of stockpiled chemicals while minimising any risk of contamination to surrounding areas.

Many politicians in Britain, including some in May’s own Conservative Party, had called for parliament to be recalled to give authority to any military strike.

Slideshow (9 Images)

Former Prime Minister David Cameron lost a parliamentary vote on air strikes against Assad’s forces in 2013 when 30 Conservative lawmakers voted against action, with many Britons wary of entering another conflict after intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya failed to bring stability to the region.

A YouGov poll for The Times newspaper this week indicated that only a fifth of voters believed that Britain should launch attacks on Syrian military targets and more than two-fifths opposed action.

Williamson said Britain had had to act swiftly and added May would update parliament when lawmakers returned on Monday.

Additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill and William James; Writing by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Angus MacSwan and Peter Graff

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Full transcript of Trump’s address on Syria airstrikes

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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

 

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