By Michael Snyder, on October 7th, 2015
Billions of barrels of oil have been discovered in Israel, and this discovery could essentially make Israel energy independent for many decades to come. But there is just one problem. This discovery was made in the Golan Heights. If you are not familiar with the Golan Heights, it is an area that Israel took from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967. The government of Israel considers the Golan Heights to now be part of Israeli territory, but the United Nations does not recognize Israel’s claim. Instead, the UN still recognizes Syrian sovereignty over that area. So now that massive amounts of oil have been discovered there, what will this do to tensions in the region? Could this discovery of oil help set the stage for World War III?
When I first read about the discovery of all this oil, I was quite stunned. Ever since 1948, Israel has had to import virtually all of the oil that it uses, and so this oil in the Golan Heights could be a huge game changer. The following is an excerpt from an article in an Israeli news source about this discovery…
Three drillings have so far taken place in the southern Golan Heights which have found large reserves of oil. Potential production is dramatic – billions of barrels, which will easily provide all Israel’s oil needs. Israel consumes 270,000 barrels of oil per day.
Although the existence of the oil in the ground is a fact, the critical phase now is to check how easily it can be extracted and whether it involves high production costs. In a period of very low oil prices, extraction will have to be relatively cheap to make exploitation of the field profitable.
Just as Israel’s offshore Mediterranean gas discoveries have created an entire energy industry, so the Golan oil find could also generate a new industry around it.
As I write this, the price of U.S. oil is sitting at $48.13 a barrel, so when you are talking about “billions” of barrels of oil you are talking about a tremendous amount of money.
Do you think that Syria and Israel’s other Arab neighbors are going to enjoy sitting there as Israel pumps “their oil” out of the ground?
Apparently this discovery is highly unusual. Here is what one scientist told Israeli television about what they found…
“We are talking about a strata which is 350 meters thick and what is important is the thickness and the porosity. On average in the world strata are 20-30 meters thick, so this is ten times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities,” geologist Yuval Bartov of Afek Oil and Gas told Israeli television.
Needless to say, this is great news for Israel.
But it is also going to give renewed motivation to those that wish to take the Golan Heights back from the Israelis. The following comes from a Jewish news source…
Syria has claimed the entire Golan since it lost the strategic and water-rich area in the Six-Day War in 1967.
If oil can be extracted, it will be a huge bonanza for Israel and an enormous reason for whoever rules in Syria, or for Hezbollah that is fighting with Assad’s forces and is based in Lebanon, to launch a war on Israel.
And this comes at a time when tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians have reached a fever pitch. Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters have been regularly clashing in the heart of Jerusalem, and Palestinians were even temporarily banned from Jerusalem’s Old City for the first time in decades due to a series of recent stabbings and shootings.
Things have gotten so bad that Benjamin Netanyahu felt that he had to cancel his upcoming visit to Germany just to deal with the crisis. The following comes from Reuters…
Israel’s prime minister canceled a visit to Germany on Wednesday after a spate of attacks that included the stabbing of an Israeli soldier by a suspected Palestinian militant who police said was then shot dead by special forces.
A steady rise in street violence, which Israeli and Palestinian leaders have sought to calm, has been fueled by confrontations around Jerusalem’s al Aqsa mosque complex, Islam’s third holiest shrine which Jews also revere as the vestige of their two ancient temples.
In the third knife attack in Jerusalem in less than a week, a young Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli on Wednesday near that contested site and was then shot by the injured man.
The international community has become desperate to find a solution to this never ending cycle of conflict and violence. The call to establish a Palestinian state has become deafening, and most global leaders seem to believe that two states living side by side in peace could finally bring stability to the region.
Many had expected France to introduce a UN Security Council resolution which would give formal recognition to a Palestinian state last month, and there is still a chance that it may be submitted for a vote in the weeks ahead. France has indicated that it will not go ahead without U.S. approval, and so that means that the fate of the division of the land of Israel lies in the hands of Barack Obama.
So what will he ultimately do?
According to Politico, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has twice asked Obama to publicly announce that he would veto any such resolution, but Obama never responded…
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on two different occasions this year went to White House chief of staff Denis McDonough seeking a public commitment from President Barack Obama that he would veto any U.N. resolution calling for an independent Palestinian state.
Both times, Obama did nothing.
And in recent months there have been other signs that Obama is weighing his options…
In June, Obama and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power declined to commit to blocking a Palestinian resolution.
Behnd the scenes, Reid — who is Obama’s most steadfast ally on Capitol Hill — first approached McDonough shortly after Earnest’s comments and asked that the president reverse his position.
McDonough said the White House “would look into it,” said a source close to the issue, but took no action.
On the second occasion, Reid, a strong supporter of Israel during his career in the Senate, believed such a declaration by Obama would help assuage nervous Senate Democrats as they weighed whether to back the president on the Iran nuclear deal. Reid was hopeful that he could block the Iran disapproval resolution, but he wanted to be certain he would have the votes in the face of fierce opposition from pro-Israeli groups.
When push comes to shove, I fully expect that Barack Obama will eventually give his full public support to the UN Security Council resolution that France has been working on.
I believe that we will see an internationally-recognized Palestinian state, but I also believe that this will just set the stage for war on a scale that the Middle East has never experienced before.
Category: Gog-Ezekiel 38 & 39
By Michael Snyder, on October 7th, 2015
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7516
With Russia’s Dep. Army Chief due in Israel, Moscow posts 64 S-300 ship-to-air missiles off Syria, N. Israel
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 5, 2015, 2:18 PM (IDT)
Russia’s deputy chief of staff, Gen. Nikolay Bogdanovsky, accompanied by a large military delegation, arrives in Israel for a two-day visit on Tuesday, Oct. 6, to discuss increased coordination between the two militaries. However, Moscow seems to be sending Jerusalem an altogether different message: Friday, Oct. 2, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the surprise deployment of Navy cruiser, the Moskva, armed with 64 advanced anti-aircraft missiles S-300 ship-to-air missiles opposite the Syrian coastal town of Latakia.
debkafile’s military sources point out that Russia, without saying so publicly, has thus created an effective no-fly zone over most of Syria, most of northern Israel, including the Golan, as well as southern Turkey, for US aircraft based there for air strikes in Syria; Cyprus, the site of British air force bases; and Jordan.
Since 2012, The Obama administration has been discussing the possibility of establishing no-fly zones in northern and southern Syria on a number of occasions, but has shelved the plan whenever a decision was imminent. Now, with one move, Moscow has imposed a no-fly zone over Syria.
The presence of the wide-ranging S-300s means that the Turkish, British, Israeli and Jordanian air forces will need to coordinate their aerial operations in Syrian or Lebanese airspace with Russia, or face the risk of their planes being shot down.
In the view of debkafile’s military sources, the only aircraft capable of evading those advanced missiles are stealth planes. Neither the Israeli, British, Jordanian or Turkish air forces, nor the US squadron in Turkey consisting of F-16 fighters, have such aircraft at their disposal.
The S-300 has a range of 150 kilometers and can shoot down any type of missile, including cruise missiles, as well as planes.
If US President Obama truly wanted to deal effectively with Moscow’s military moves in Syria, besides saying that Russia is bound to fail, he would have ordered the deployment of US stealth fighters to Turkey and Israel. However, may have been held back from this step by fear of antagonizing Iran, which has so far delayed sealing the nuclear agreement with the world powers by putting it to vote in parliament.
The presence of Moskva off the shores of Syria and close to northern Israel creates a new situation that will very likely be discussed in the talks that start Tuesday in Tel Aviv between Russia’s deputy chief of staff and his Israeli counterpart, IDF Gen. Yair Golan.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during their summit in Moscow on September 21 not to allow S-300 missiles reach the hands of the Syrian military, he made no promises about positioning them on a Russian warship in the Mediterranean facing Syria and northern Israel. .
Our military sources point out that Russian air strikes have not been confined to any single area so far, but the injection of S-300s into the war arena widens the Russian air force’s options.
In an interview with CNN on October 4, Prime Minister Netanyahu described how the Russian operation in Syria had affected relations with Moscow. “We don’t want to go back to the days when, you know, Russia and Israel were in an adversarial position,” he said. “I think we’ve changed the relationship. And it’s, on the whole, good.” He added that Israel’s close relations with the US were in a completely different and special category.
When asked whether he thought Russia’s intervention would cause instability in the region, he seemed to avoid giving a detailed response, only saying, “I don’t know. I think time will tell”.
However, on the topic of the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hizballah, the prime minister was very clear. ”If anybody wants to use Syrian territory to transfer nuclear weapons to Hezbollah, we’ll take action,” he said.
It marked the first time for an Israeli prime minister to speak publicly on the possibility that the terrorist organization could acquire atomic weapons.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7514
The United States and its NATO allies denounced Russia on Monday for violating Turkish air space along the frontier with Syria, and Ankara threatened to respond if provoked again, raising the prospect of direct confrontation between the Cold War enemies.
NATO summoned the ambassadors of its 28 member states for an emergency meeting to respond to what Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called “unacceptable violations of Turkish air space”.
Moscow’s unexpected move last week to launch air strikes in Syria has brought the greatest threat of an accidental clash between Russian and Western forces since the Cold War.
Russian war planes and those of the United States and its allies are now flying combat missions over the same country for the first time since World War Two, with Moscow repeatedly targeting insurgents trained and armed by Washington’s allies.
Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO, scrambled two F-16 jets on Saturday after a Russian aircraft crossed into its airspace near its southern province of Hatay, the Turkish foreign ministry said.
In a second incident, the Turkish military said a MiG-29 fighter jet – an aircraft used both by Russia and Syria’s own air force – had harassed two of its F-16s by locking its radar on to them on Sunday as they patrolled the border.
Turkey summoned Moscow’s ambassador to protest against the violation and said Russia would be held “responsible for any undesired incident that may occur” if it were repeated. Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, as well as key NATO partners.
By Monday afternoon, Russia had not given its own public account of the incidents. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the Russian ambassador had been summoned and said “some facts were mentioned there which are to be checked”, but gave no further details.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he had been told by Russia that the violation was a “mistake” that would not happen again.
“Turkey’s rules of engagement apply to all planes, be they Syrian, Russian or from elsewhere … Necessary steps would be taken against whoever violates Turkey’s borders, even if it’s a bird,” he said in a live interview on HaberTurk TV.
“For Russia, which long opposed foreign intervention in Syria and blocked UN Security Council resolutions, to be actively involved in Syria is both a contradiction and a move that has escalated the crisis.”
A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington doubted the incursions were an accident.
“We’re deeply concerned about it and consider it something that just contributes to our overall sense that there’s real strategic and tactical problems with the way Russia is conducting itself in Syria right now.”
The United States and its allies are waging their own air campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria, while demanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down and supporting other insurgents fighting against him.
Russia says it is targeting Islamic State, but the anti-Assad coalition including Washington, European powers, Turkey and most Arab states, say Moscow has mainly targeted other insurgents and hit few Islamic State targets.
The potential confrontation comes at a time when relations between Russia and the West are at their worst since the Cold War, with the United States and European Union having imposed financial sanctions on Moscow over its intervention in Ukraine.
Over the past year, NATO has repeatedly accused Moscow of sending planes to violate the air space of the alliance’s member countries in Europe.
Speaking during a trip to Spain, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter compared Moscow’s effort to bolster Assad to tethering itself to a sinking ship.
“By taking military action in Syria against moderate groups targets, Russia has escalated the civil war,” Carter said in a speech in Madrid.
More than 40 Syrian insurgent groups, including some of the most powerful groups fighting against Assad and armed by Arab states, called on regional states to forge an alliance against Russia and Assad’s other big foreign backer, Iran.
Regional cooperation was needed to counter “the Russian-Iranian alliance occupying Syria”, they said. “Civilians have been directly targeted in a manner that reminds us of the scorched earth policy pursued by Russia in its past wars.”
By infuriating Ankara, Russian President Vladimir Putin risks adding another name his costly and expanding enemies list: fast-growing Turkey is a big buyer of Russian gas and Moscow has announced ambitious plans to build pipelines across it to reach markets further west.
Turkey is one of Assad’s fiercest foes in the region, has by far the biggest army on the border with Syria and has taken in the largest number of refugees.
President Tayyip Erdogan said Russia’s defense of Assad was a “grave mistake”.
“Assad has committed state terrorism, and unfortunately you find Russia and Iran defending (him),” Erdogan was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as telling a crowd of supporters in Strasbourg, France, late on Sunday.
“Those countries that collaborate with the regime will account for it in history,” he said.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Twitter: “(The) Russian incursion into Turkish air space raises stakes in what is already a high risk situation.”
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7505
Russia’s military intervention in Syria has expanded radically in two directions. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that China sent word to Moscow Friday, Oct. 2, that J-15 fighter bombers would shortly join the Russian air campaign that was launched Wednesday, Sept. 30. Baghdad has moreover offered Moscow an air base for targeting the Islamic State now occupying large swathes of Iraqi territory
Russia’s military intervention in Syria has five additional participants: China, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizballah.
The J-15 warplanes will take off from the Chinese Liaoning-CV-16 aircraft carrier, which reached Syrian shores on Sept. 26 (as debkafile exclusively reported at the time). This will be a landmark event for Beijing: its first military operation in the Middle East as well the carrier’s first taste of action in conditions of real combat.
Thursday night, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, made this comment on the Syrian crisis at a UN Security Council session in New York: “The world cannot afford to stand by and look on with folded arms, but must also not arbitrarily interfere (in the crisis).”
A no less significant development occurred at about the same time when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, speaking to the US PBS NewsHour, said he would welcome a deployment of Russian troops to Iraq to fight ISIS forces in his country too. As an added incentive, he noted that this would also give Moscow the chance to deal with the 2,500 Chechen Muslims whom, he said, are fighting with ISIS in Iraq.
debkafile’s military sources add that Al-Abadi’s words came against the backdrop of two events closely related to Russia’s expanding role in the war arena:
1. A joint Russian-Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi war room has been working since last week out of the Iraqi Defense Ministry and military staff headquarters in Baghdad to coordinate the passage of Russian and Iranian airlifts to Syria and also Russian air raids. This command center is also organizing the transfer of Iranian and pro-Iranian Shiite forces into Syria.
2. Baghdad and Moscow have just concluded a deal for the Russian air force to start using the Al Taqaddum Air Base at Habbaniyah, 74 km west of Baghdad, both as a way station for the Russian air corridor to Syria and as a launching-pad for bombing missions against ISIS forces and infrastructure in northern Iraq and northern Syria.
Russia has thus gained a military enclave in Iraq, just as it has in Syria, where it has taken over a base outside Latakia on the western coast of Syria. At the same time, the Habbaniyah air base also serves US forces operating in Iraq, which number an estimated 5,000.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7500
Exclusive: Joseph Farah likens alliance to ‘apocalyptic visions of John the Revelator’
Published: 15 hours ago
World War III is shaping up in Syria right now, thanks to Barack Obama.
According to Russian Sen. Igor Morozov, Beijing has agreed to dispatch naval forces, including an aircraft carrier, to Syria alongside a Russian military force that will join Hezbollah and Iranian army regulars in Syria, an immediate neighbor to the north of Israel, and Iraq to fight ISIS.
Now this is both good news and bad news:
• Good news: Somebody’s got to fight ISIS. And it’s clearly not going to be the U.S. under Barack Obama. Somebody’s got to soundly defeat and destroy ISIS. And that’s clearly not going to be the U.S. while Obama’s around.
• Bad news: It’s going to be a coalition of Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah in the Middle East – something that sounds vaguely out of the worst apocalyptic visions of John the Revelator.
Obama has left this vacuum wide open for two powerful, nuclear nations to bring the U.S. down – one or both of which was responsible for the greatest act of cyberwarfare in the history of the world against the U.S., hacking into government computers and getting data on every past and present federal employee, including spies and military personnel, just months ago.
China is sending an aircraft carrier – a provocative act that it hasn’t invoked against U.S. interests since the Vietnam War era.
But it gets worse.
What is the mission?
The mission of Russia and China is to ensure Bashar Assad’s regime is not overthrown by ISIS or any other “terrorists.” The mission of Iran and Hezbollah, on the other hand, is hegemony over much of the Middle East – from Persia to the Levant, as they say.
Meanwhile, what is the U.S. trying to do? The U.S. is at the forefront of supplying and training forces to overthrow Assad, including arming groups associated with al-Qaida. Some of the arms provided by the U.S. have fallen into the hands of ISIS.
So the U.S. is on a collision course with Russia and China in the Middle East.
Russian military presence in Syria and Iraq has been increasing since 2012. Syria is now equipped with sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons that make U.S. flights vulnerable, and Russia began airstrikes against anti-Assad forces in Syria yesterday.
Israel, which knows it cannot depend on Obama for support, has been quietly negotiating with Russia. Israel’s main concern are periodic attacks on its civilians and territory by Hezbollah militia groups.
The Jewish state is going along with the Russians and, now, apparently, the Chinese. Benjamin Netanyahu, no fan of Assad, understands that stability in the Middle East is better than ISIS chaos and savagery. So he now has a hotline directly to Vladimir Putin to deal immediately with any misunderstandings. As you know, Netanyahu does not have Obama on speed dial – unless it’s to leave crank calls.
Russia is building up its forces in Syria because of its frustrations with Obama for not taking on ISIS in any meaningful way.
Now, apparently, China is stepping in.
“It is known, that China has joined our military operation in Syria, the Chinese cruiser has already entered the Mediterranean, aircraft carrier follows it,” said Morozov.
This is what happens when the U.S. fails to act, or, in the case of Obama, chooses the wrong target at the wrong time – namely the Syrian Assad regime.
Make no mistake about it: Assad is a terrible actor – but by Middle East tyrant standards, he’s practically a saint. He runs a country that doesn’t actively discriminate against Sunnis, Shia, Christians, Alawites or Druze. In fact, his army is made up of non-Sunni minority groups. Women are not treated like garbage in Syria. Meanwhile, he faces overthrow at the hands of ISIS, the most brutal and barbaric Sunni Muslim force since shortly after the time of Muhammad 1,300 years ago. It has already taken over strategic territory in the Middle East roughly the size of Great Britain. ISIS is just outside the gates of Damascus.
America could have interceded to destroy ISIS. It didn’t. Instead, Obama insisted on a path of doing all it could support non-ISIS groups to attack Assad’s Syria – which, if successful, would only help ISIS take over.
Do you see where all this potentially leading?
Russia and China swoop in to defend Syria, while it remains a target for toppling by the U.S.
Who is strengthened by all this? Iran: the regional power that just got a sweetheart nuclear deal from the U.S.
The trouble with foreign military powers that engage in the Middle East is simple: It’s easy to get in. Not so easy to disengage, as the U.S. has figured out.
Once the Russians and the Chinese start fighting ISIS – in Syria and Iraq – will they ever get out?
And I haven’t even mentioned that the U.S. seems to be more fixated on battling Russia in Ukraine.
Where will all this lead?
It’s the most obvious potential flashpoint for World War III.
But, hey, what could go wrong?
Maybe those Blood Moons and Shemitah predictions were right.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7496
DEBKAfile Special Report September 30, 2015, 6:06 PM (IDT)
That Russia launched its first air strikes in Syria Wednesday, Sept. 30 was confirmed by the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow and criticized by US officials. Moscow stressed that it acted in support of Bashar Assad’s war on the Islamic State, assisted by other foreign powers including Iran and Iraq working together from an allied command center in Baghdad. Its targets were described as stores, ammunition dumps and vehicles, located according to US sources around Homs and Hama. The Russian communiqués did not indicate which organizations were bombed.
The Russian aerial offensive marks a turning point in Middle East affairs. Russia is emerging strongly as the number one power in the region. The governments which hitherto coordinated their military polices with the US, like those of Israel, Jordan and Turkey will have to reassess their orientation and affinities in a hurry.
For Israel it is the end of years of freedom for its air force to strike its enemies from the skies of Syria or Lebanon. It also marks the end of any plans Turkey and Jordan may have entertained for setting up buffer and no-fly zones in Syria to protect their borders.
Washington quickly criticized the air strikes, but said Moscow’s moves would not change the US-led air campaign targeting the Islamic State in Syria. That remains to be seen.
Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the Russian air strikes are “not helpful,” and ran counter to the effort to make sure mishaps do not happen inadvertently in the air.
debkafile earlier reported on the fast-moving developments of Wednesday, Sept. 30.
A day after the White House said that “clarity” on Russian intentions in Syria had been achieved at the Obama-Putin summit in New York, the Russian President Vladimir Putin notched up the military tensions around Syria Wednesday, Sept. 30. A senior US official said that Russian diplomats had sent an official demarche ordering US planes to quit Syria, adding that Russian fighter jets were now flying over Syrian territory. US military sources told Fox News that US planes would not comply with the Russian demand. “There is nothing to indicate that we are changing operations over Syria,” a senior defense official said.
Earlier, Putin sought from the Russian upper house, the Federation Council, authorization for the use of military force abroad. He did not specify the country or region, but the only part of the world where Russia is currently building up its ground, air and naval forces outside the country is Syria.
A short time after the request, the Federation Council announced that it had unanimously authorized the use of Russian military force in Syria. The last time Putin sought this authorization was in early 2014 when he decided to annex the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. His action now contradicts his assertion to CBS on Sept. 28: “Russia will not participate in any troop operations in the territory of Syria or in any other states. Well, at least we don’t plan on it right now.”
debkafile’s military sources report that Russian preparations for military action in Syria are clearly not limited to that country. They are being run by a joint coordination forward command and war room established a few days ago by Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria in Baghdad. It is designed as the counterpart of the US Central Command-Forward-Jordan war room established north of Amman for joint US-Saudi-Qatari-Israeli-Jordanian and UAE operations in support of Syrian rebel operations against the Assad regime.
Two rival power war rooms are therefore poised at opposite ends of the Syrian arena – one representing a US-led alliance for operations against Assad, and the other a Russian-led group which is revving up to fight on his behalf.
Conspicuous in the swiftly evolving Syrian situation is the detailed advance planning which went into the Russian military buildup and partnerships, and the slow perception of what was going on, on the part of the United States and Israel.
Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter instructed his staff to establish a communication channel with the Kremlin to ensure the safety of US and Russian military operations and “avoid conflict in the air” between the two militaries. The Russian defense ministry shot back with a provocative stipulation that coordination with the US must go through Baghdad, an attempt to force Washington to accept that the two war rooms would henceforth communicate on equal terms.
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon denied Tuesday night that Israel was coordinating its operations with the Russian army, stressing that Israel reserves the IDF’s right to freedom of action over Syria and would continue to prevent arms supplies reaching terrorist organizations such as Hizballah.
Meanwhile, six advanced Russian SU-34 strike fighter jets landed at Latakia’s Al-Assad international airport, after flying to their destination through Iraqi airspace.
The Russian military buildup is assuming far greater proportions than either imagined, far outpacing US or Israeli efforts at coordination.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7492
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 26, 2015, 1:17 PM (IDT)
As US President Barack Obama welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping to the White House on Friday, Sept. 25, and spoke of the friendship between the two countries, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning-CV-16 docked at the Syrian port of Tartus, accompanied by a guided missile cruiser. This is revealed exclusively by debkafile.
Beijing is not finding it hard to dance at two weddings, wooing the US for better relations, while at the same time backing Russia in its military intervention in Syria. Coupled with the warm smiles and handshakes exchanged at the lavish reception on the White House lawn, Beijing was clearly bent on showing muscle – not just in the South China Sea, but by allying itself with the Russian-Iranian political and military buildup in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime.
debkafile’s military sources report that the Chinese aircraft carrier passed through the Suez Canal on Sept. 22, one day after the summit in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
When they talked, Putin made no mention of the Chinese warship entering the eastern Mediterranean or its destination. Its arrival has upended the entire strategic situation surrounding the Syrian conflict, adding a new global dimension to Moscow and Tehran’s military support for Assad.
This was grasped at length by US Secretary of State John Kerry. On Sept. 25, he sent Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who also led the US negotiating team for the nuclear talks with Iran, to announce that the Obama administration is ready for dialogue with Iran about the situation in Syria, and this topic would be raised when Kerry’s met Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Jawad Zarif in New York on Sept. 26.
But if the top US diplomat hoped to bypass the Russian initiative in Syria by going straight to Tehran, he was too late. Iran is already moving forward fast to augment its military presence in the war-torn country, buttressed by the ground, air and sea support of two world powers, Russia and China.
This turn of evens has a highly detrimental effect on Israel’s strategic and military position. It also strengthens Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his determination to turn the nuclear deal concluded in July into a tool for isolating the US politically, militarily and economically in the Middle East, rather than a milestone on the road to a breakthrough in ties with Iran, as the Obama administration had hoped.
Our military sources find evidence that the Chinese forces are digging in for a prolonged stay in Syria. The carrier put into Tartus minus its aircraft contingent. The warplanes and helicopters should be in place on its decks by mid-November – flying in directly from China via Iran or transported by giant Russian transports from China through Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
This explains the urgency of establishing a Russian-Syria-Iranian “military coordination cell” in Baghdad in the last couple of days. This mechanism, plus the Russian officers sighted in Baghdad, indicates that the Russian military presence is not limited to Syria but is beginning to spill over into Iraq as well.
The coordination cell – or war room – was presented as necessary to begin working with Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting the Islamic State in both places. But more immediately, it is urgently needed to control the heavy traffic of Russian, Iranian and Chinese military flights transiting Iraqi air space.
Our sources report that the Chinese will be sending out to Syria a squadron of J-15 Flying Shark fighters, some for takeoff positions on the carrier’s decks, the rest to be stationed at the Russian airbase near Latakia. The Chinese will also deploy Z-18F anti-submarine helicopters and Z-18J airborne early warning helicopters. In addition, Beijing will consign at least 1,000 marines to fight alongside their counterparts from Russia and Iran against terrorist groups, including ISIS.
debkafile’s counterterrorism sources point out that just as Russian marines will be instructed to single out rebel militias with recruits from Chechnya and the Caucasus, the Chinese marines will seek out and destroy Uighur fighters from the northern predominantly Muslim Chinese province of Xinjiang.
In the same way that Putin has no wish to see the Chechen fighters back in Russia, so too Chinese President Xi wants to prevent the Uighurs from returning home from the Syrian battlefields.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7488
By Jonathan Spyer September 21, 2015 , 7:00 am
The current increase of the Russian military presence in northwest Syria is a function of the declining military fortunes of the Assad regime. It represents a quantitative, rather than qualitative, change in the nature of the Russian engagement in Syria.
Moscow’s goal throughout the conflict has been to keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power by all means necessary.
The ends remain the same. But as the situation on the ground changes, so the Russian means employed to achieve this goal must change with it.
Since the outset of the Syrian civil war, the key problem for Assad has been manpower.
Against a Sunni Arab rebellion with a vast pool of potential fighters from Syria’s 60 percent Sunni Arab majority and from among foreign volunteers, the regime has been forced to draw ever deeper from a far shallower base.
At the outset of the conflict, the Syrian Arab Army was on paper a huge force – of 220,000 regular soldiers plus an additional 280,000 reserves. But the vast majority of this army was unusable by the dictator. This is because it consisted overwhelmingly of Sunni conscripts, whose trustworthiness from the regime’s point of view was seriously in doubt. Since then, the army has shrunk in size from attrition, desertion and draft dodging.
The story of the last four years has been the attempt by Assad and his allies to offset the reality of insufficient manpower for the task at hand.
This has been achieved by two means.
First, the regime has chosen to retreat from large swathes of the country, in order to be able to more effectively hold the essential areas it has to maintain with its limited numbers.
The abandonment of the country’s east and north led to the emergence of the areas of control held by Kurdish, Sunni Arab rebel, and later al-Qaida and Islamic State forces in these areas.
But of course retreating in order to consolidate is a strategy that can be pursued only so far. At a certain point, the area remaining becomes no longer viable for the purpose intended – namely, the preservation of the regime in a form that can guarantee the needs of its Russian and Iranian backers, and the relative security of the ruling elite itself and to a lesser extent of the population which relies on it and upon which it relies.
To offset the arrival at this point, Assad and his friends have striven in ever more creative ways to put sufficient men in the field, and to maintain the edge in military equipment which could hold back the masses of the lightly armed rebels.
There were the hastily assembled Alawi irregulars of the “shabiha.” Then an increasing commitment of Iranian regional assets – including the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militia forces. Then there was the Iranian-trained National Defense Forces. In recent months, northwest Syria has witnessed the arrival of “volunteers” from as far afield as the Hazara Shi’ite communities of Afghanistan (paid for by Tehran).
Despite all this effort, the rebels have, since the spring, been pushing westward toward Latakia province.
If the rebels reach Latakia, there is nowhere left to retreat to. The regime and its allies must hold the province or face defeat. The appearance of apparently Russian-crewed BTR-82A APCs on the Latakia battlefield appears to be testimony to Russia’s awareness of this – and its willingness to dig deeper for Assad – even if this means the direct deployment of Russian personnel on the battlefield in a limited way.
The apparent deployment of a growing force of the Russian army’s 810th Independent Marine Brigade at and around the naval depot of Tartus in Latakia province offers further evidence of this commitment, as well as a pointer to the interests in Syria that Moscow regards as vital.
The bolder claims of Russian Pchela 1T UAVs and even Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets over the skies of the Idlib battlefield are not yet confirmed.
But the respected Ruslanleviev Russian investigative website found the evidence regarding the APCs and the marines around Tartus to be persuasive.
There is a reason why the rebel march toward Latakia cannot simply be absorbed by the regime as a further tactical withdrawal, analogous to earlier retreats from Hasakah, Quneitra, most of Deraa, Aleppo, Idlib and so on.
Latakia province is the heartland of the Syrian Alawi community.
It is a place where regime supporters have been able to convince themselves for most of the last four years that here, at least, they were safe.
If the rebels break through on the al-Ghab Plain, and the front line moves decisively into the populated areas of Latakia, this will be over.
The loss of Latakia province would render the hope of keeping a regime enclave intact no longer viable. It will raise the possibility of the regime losing its control of Syria’s coastline (vital for Assad’s Russian and Iranian backers).
This, in turn, could mean rebel capture of the Tartus naval depot. Hence the deployment of the marines, who, according to information available, have not yet been placed in forward positions facing the rebels. Rather, they are gathered around Tartus for its defense.
So the steady rebel advance in the direction of Latakia is producing a Russian response of a volume and nature not before witnessed on the Syrian battlefield.
Russian weaponry and Russian diplomatic support have been the vital lifelines for Assad throughout the last four years. Previous levels of support are no longer enough. So more is being provided.
Still, the current indications do not appear to suggest or presage a major conventional deployment of Russian forces.
That would go against the known pattern favored by President Vladimir Putin.
Rather, Russian assistance, while on the increase, is likely to be limited to an active support role, perhaps extending to the use of some air power, along with behind-the-scenes advisory and training roles and the use of some specialized personnel in combat or combat support roles.
Meanwhile, as the Russians arrive in Latakia, the rebel mopping up of remaining regime enclaves in Idlib province adjoining Latakia is continuing.
A force of the Jaysh al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) this week captured the last remaining regime air base in the province, at Abu Zuhour.
Jaysh al-Fatah is a union of the northwest’s most powerful rebel groups. Prominent among its components is Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian franchise of al-Qaida. This coalition, supported by Turkey and Qatar and armed with advanced weapons by Saudi Arabia, is altering the military landscape of northwest Syria.
In the weeks ahead, the fighting in northwest Hama and Latakia provinces looks set to intensify, with the Sunni rebels seeking to push further toward the coast.
Assad’s benighted regime, aided by its Russian and Iranian friends, will be throwing everything into the effort to stop them. It remains to be seen if the Russian bear’s increased pressure on the scales will prove again sufficient to maintain the balance.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7477
Tensions rise between US and Russia over efforts in Syria
Russia’s military build-up in Syria has grown to include the shipment of a half-dozen highly sophisticated battle tanks — and more troops — a defense official told Fox News, in what the source called the “first clear sign of offensive weapons arriving in Syria.”
The Pentagon has now tracked a total of 15 Russian Antonov-124 Condor flights into Syria, reflecting a steady stream of military cargo into Syria. According to the latest intelligence, this also includes the arrival of two more Russian cargo ships, containing the tanks.
Up to this point, the official said, the Russian cargo and weapons that have been delivered to Syria could be viewed as defensive in nature. The arrival of tanks cannot be viewed this way.
The official said that Russian offensive operations could launch from Bassel Al-Assad International Airport “very soon.”
The massive Condor flights carrying all kinds of supplies now arrive twice a day through Iran and Iraq into Bassel Al-Assad International Airport outside the port city of Latakia. The cargo is for Russian soldiers, not Syrian government forces, but is seen as a build-up to aid Bashar Assad’s embattled regime.
The defense official, briefed on the latest satellite photos of the Syrian coastline, said: “This is the largest deployment of Russian forces outside the former Soviet Union since the collapse of the USSR.”
The two additional Russian ships arrived over the weekend in Tartus, a Syrian port used by the Russian Navy since the ’70s. The ships offloaded additional troops and armor and, for the first time, a half-dozen third-generation T-90 main battle tanks.
Accompanying the tanks were 15 fresh artillery pieces.
While not publicly confirming the arrival of Russian tanks into Syria, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday that the activities “suggest the establishment of a forward air operating base.”
In addition to the influx of tanks and artillery, 35 armored personnel carriers, similar to the U.S. Army’s Bradley fighting vehicles, have come ashore in Syria on top of dozens that arrived last week.
There are no signs of additional surface-to-air missiles, but as Fox News confirmed Friday, components for the SA-22 surface-to-air missile system have been seen assembled in Syria recently.
Additional housing units also have been seen from overhead by the U.S. military, making it possible for the Russians to house up to 1,500 combat troops.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7464
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 11, 2015, 8:45 AM (IDT)
Iran this week sent its first ground troops to Syria, around 1,000 marines and elite troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). They moved straight into Ghorin, a small military air facility just south of the port town of Latakia, and hooked up with the just-landed Russian marines at Jablah. Three weeks ago, DEBKA file began reporting on Russian-Iranian military intervention afoot for saving the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, followed on September 1 by the first disclosure of the Russian buildup in Syria.
Our military sources report now that Moscow is about to send a shipment of advanced S-300 air defense missile systems for deployment at Jablah, the base the Russians have built outside Latakia for the intake of the Russian troops. The S-300 systems will also shield the Iranian facility at Ghorin.
Jablah has been converted into a busy depot for the Russian troops still arriving in Syria, combatants from units of Marine Brigades 810 and 336.
Russian MiG-31 interceptor craft standing by at the Mezza airbase at Damascus airport offer the combined Russian-Iranian force air cover. To the west, the giant Dmitri Donskoy TK-20 nuclear submarine is on its way to Syrian waters. Latakia is therefore fast growing into a powerful Russian-Iranian military enclave, able to accommodate Assad and top regime officials if they are forced to leave Damascus.
According to our military sources, it is too soon to determine the exact function of this enclave, whether defensive or, after settling in, the Russian and/or the Iranian forces are planning to go after Syrian rebel and Islamic State forces making gains in northern Syria.
There is no evidence to bear out the curious briefing high-ranking defense sources gave Israeli military correspondents Thursday that the incoming Iranian troops have come to beef up the large-scale Syrian army-Hizballah units, who have been unsuccessfully battering away at the rebel fighters holding the key town of Zabadani for nearly two months. Our sources find the Iranian and Russian units fully occupied for now in expanding and outfitting their new quarters at Ghorin and Jablah.
Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=7459