The EU armed force issue still prompts a heated debate. Speaking to Sputnik, European analysts have shared their views about the potential formation of a unified military structure in Europe and the possibility of the creation of a common EU-Russian defensive bloc.

The establishment of an EU-Russian defensive alliance is possible in case Moscow and European capitals create a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok — a concept proposed by President Vladimir Putin several years ago, German political scientist Alexander Rahr suggested, adding, however, that it’s not happening anytime soon.

“It is going to be decided in the next 25 years, if a perspective of a common Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok takes shape,” he told Sputnik. “Then there will be trust and understanding that we need to jointly resist the challenges of international terrorism and the collapse of the Middle East. In this case I see a great chance for Russia and Europe and Russia to combine their defense structures and form a pan-European security system. That would be perfect.”

German Bundeswehr soldiers (File)
© AP Photo / Matthias Schrader
Conspiracy Theory or Truth? Bundeswehr ‘Secretly Building a Common European Army’ Under Its Control

However, today there is little, if any, possibility to push ahead with this process: “Now Europe is integrating closer into the Transatlantic bloc, it is being embedded in it,” Rahr noted. According to the political scientist under these circumstances it is unlikely that Russia will be interested in a common defensive platform. “Perhaps the next generation of politicians will understand that we need to act together,” he presumed.On the other hand, he raises a question about the probability of the creation of a pan-European military structure.

According to Rahr, the Americans are covertly blocking and torpedoing the process of forming a potential alternative to NATO. The US’s view of European security could be described by the following: “Let the Europeans unite economically, but in no case create an alternative to NATO,” the scientist explained. “Therefore, there is no basis to claim that Europeans are capable of creating something in the military sphere without NATO.”

Commenting on the future of the potential European army, Rahr suggested that it would be an army of cutting-edge military equipment in the first place. He presumed that future warfare would involve artificial intelligence, drones, rockets and robots.

In this context the military industrial complexes of Russia and Europe would need to create a common anti-missile shield and defensive weapons against Islamists instead of working against each other, he said.

Mountain infantry soldiers stand in front of a troops transporter Boxer after an exercise of the mountain infantry brigade 23 of the German Bundeswehr near the Bavarian village Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, on March 23, 2016
© AFP 2018 / CHRISTOF STACHE
Mountain infantry soldiers stand in front of a troops transporter “Boxer” after an exercise of the mountain infantry brigade 23 of the German Bundeswehr near the Bavarian village Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, on March 23, 2016

Why Analysts Cast Doubt on EU Armed Force

For his part, Igor Delanoe, deputy director of the French-Russian Analytical Center Observo, reminded Sputnik that the European army project is rather old. “However, there is NATO, this organization has existed for a long time and operates quite efficiently,” he added.

Delanoe expressed skepticism about the prospects for the full-fledged EU military structure. “The already existing European corps, the Franco-German brigade is the maximum of what can take shape,” the scholar believes.

German Bundeswehr soldiers of the 122th Infantry Battalion take part in a farewell ceremony in Oberviechtach, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.
© AP Photo / Matthias Schrader
EU’s PESCO Pact: Viable Alternative to NATO or Much Ado About Nothing?

At the same time, the scholar does not exclude that Russia and the EU are able to team up in the sphere of defense. “Not at the moment, of course, but it could be a positive step towards normalization of relations between the EU and Russia,” he said, suggesting that the creation of a joint cyber center would bolster trust between “the actors of international politics.” However, mutual distrust still remains within the bloc. Speaking to Sputnik, a German Left Party lawmaker, Alexander Neu, opined that European nations have no desire to forgo something for the sake of their allies. It raises the question “whether Greece or Bulgaria will sacrifice their soldiers for the sake of France or Germany,” he said. “The EU is engaged in a number of new projects, but I have big doubts that they will lead to a full-fledged military integration.”

According to Neu, the creation of an EU army is unrealistic, while the formation of a unified EU military structure raises even more doubts.

EU Army is Being Formed Little by Little

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has long been one of the proponents of the EU defense union.

“By 2025, we need a functioning European defense union. We need it, and NATO would like us to have it,” Juncker said in mid-September 2017 while delivering an annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament.

Portuguese soldiers serving in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) stand at attention before the arrival of the NATO secretary general during his visit to Pristina on January 23, 2015
© AFP 2018 / ARMEND NIMANI
‘Not a European Army’: PESCO is About ‘Cooperation, Not Integration’ – General

In the same month, in his two-hour speech at the Paris-Sorbonne University, French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted the necessity to create joint Rapid Reaction Forces, form a single defense budget and a common doctrine for action.The idea of a unified military structure was enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007. The prototype of the European armed force was called the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

In November 2017, 23 EU states including non-NATO members — Austria, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden — officially notified Brussels that they were going to kick PESCO off.

“It was important for us that we Europeans stand up independently, especially after the election of the US president. Nobody will solve our security problems for us. We have to do it ourselves,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said, commenting on EU defense ministers signing a joint notification on PESCO on November 13.

For his part, Juncker tweeted on December 11 that European security “cannot be outsourced,” welcoming the first operational steps taken by EU members “to lay the foundations of a European Defense Union.”

​In late March, the EU presented a plan to increase its military mobility within the PESCO framework. This indicates that the European army is being formed little by little.

The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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The tangled web of deceit: The Pentagon calls out a perfect mission – all 105 missiles struck target; “Mission Accomplished”, announces the Commander-in-Chief.  Chemical warehouses and research centres destroyed: yet no chemicals have been released into the Syrian atmosphere, in the destructive aftermath of the raid.  Britain insists that it has suffered a deadly nerve agent attack by Russia, but its two victims seem to be recovering nicely from a normally invariably fatal attack. The ‘tares’ in the Syria narrative are opening. There will be political repercussions. But what, and where?

Governments are having to lie brazenly, to hold tight the two chemical weapons narratives, and to hide the disarray resulting from internal discord.  It is clear that Trump was not accurately informed by his staff.  Did he believe the chemical weapons narratives were unquestionably true?  Was he aware of the potential flaws to these stories, before launching a possibly illegal act, and without bothering about evidence?  How is it, that he was taken by surprise to learn that the US had expelled 60 Russian diplomats, when he thought it would only be a matching exercise to the European actions: i.e. about four or five persons?  How is it Nikki Haley announces more sanctions on Russia – and has Trump yelling at his own television that she is wrong?

It is reported that Trump may have been told by General Kelly that ghastly images were emerging on TV of dead children with foam at the mouth.  Trump, from what we know of his character, likely would have reacted instinctively and with visceral anger.  It is reported that his first instinct was to react against the Syrian government forcefully.

But the Russians (General Gerasimov) had already warned the Pentagon (General Dunford) one month earlier of their having received intelligence of a false flag chemical weapon claim being prepared in East Gouta. Why would the jihadists want that? Why – Because a major attack was being planned on Damascus by the 30,000 odd militants gathered at Gouta, with some 4,000 insurgents massing separately, in the south, as reinforcements.  The Russians warned Damascus of the danger. At this point, the Syrian forces were heavily engaged in Idlib province; and had quickly to about-turn, and stage a lightning invasion of Gouta, whose very speed took the insurgents by surprise; and who consequently were quickly overwhelmed. The chemical weapon claim was a blatant attempt to rally overseas support for the Ghouta insurgents, and to keep alive the failing prospect of an attack on Damascus that would bring a paradigm change to Syria (for which the insurgents, and certain supporting states, apparently hoped).

The consequence was ‘war’ within the US Administration: Colonel Pat Lang, a senior and highly respected, former US Defense Intelligence Officer, writes:

“I am told that the old neocon crew argued as hard as possible for a disabling massive air and missile campaign intended to destroy the Syrian government’s ability to fight the mostly jihadi rebels. John Bolton, General (ret.) Jack Keane and many other neocons argued strongly for this campaign as a way to reverse the outcome of the civil war. James Mattis managed to obtain President Trump’s approval for a much more limited and largely symbolic strike but Trump was clearly inclined to the neocon side of the argument. [But] what will happen next time?”

But then comes the discrepancy between the Pentagon’s original claim of eight targets having been selected for attack in Syria; the 105 missiles launched; and Trump’s subsequent assertion of ‘mission accomplished’ – in total contrast with the very different Russian version of events.  In the latter, eight targets were indeed selected by the US, and missiles were fired at the eight. But only four targets were hit.

  • 4 missiles targeted the Damascus International Airport; 12 missiles: the Al-Dumayr airdrome. All missiles were shot down.
  • 18 missiles targeted the Blai airdrome: All the missiles shot down.
  • 12 missiles targeted the Shayrat air base: All missiles shot down. The air bases were not affected by the strikes.
  • 5 out of 9 missiles were shot down targeting the unoccupied Mazzeh airdrome.
  • 13 out of 16 missiles were shot down targeting the Homs airdrome. There was no major damage.
  • In total, 30 missiles targeted research facilities near Barzah and Jaramana. 7 were shot down.

What happened, and why such western incredulity that their operation was not somehow ‘perfect’?  Well, the Russian statistics tell the tale: Pantzir S: 23 hits with 25 engagements; Buk-M2: 24 of 29 – and the old Soviet era, S200 – well, 0 hits, with 8 launched missiles. 

Simply, the Pantzir and Buk M2 are new in Syria, whereas the earlier air defence systems, are old Soviet era systems. The Pantzir and the Buk are effective. That’s all. The Pentagon, to cover the discrepancy of missile losses, suggests that it sent no less than 76 cruise missiles against the non-hardened, non-defended Barzeh research center. This was a small two story building complex, which recently been declared free of chemical weapons, and weapon research, by the OPCW.  In other words, enough missiles to flatten a city (34 tons of warhead explosives) were directed at this small two story conventional building, the Pentagon states. This is not credible (see here for an expert analysis)

This will not be the first time of facts being fitted around the narrative: Former head of the British Navy, Lord West, recalls: “When I was chief of [UK] Defence Intelligence, I had huge pressure put on me politically, to try and say that our bombing campaign in Bosnia was achieving all sorts of things which it wasn’t. I was put under huge pressure, so I know the things that can happen with intelligence.”

But why again the deceit?  Have his aides told Trump that it was not exactly a ‘perfect’ mission accomplished?  Perhaps not.  Have aides told Trump, have aides told Mrs May, have aides told Macron of the possibility that the childrens’ deaths in Douma may well have resulted from asphyxia – and not chemicals? Were they warned by their aides that they were at risk of repeating the error of the Iraq war (wrong intelligence), but compounded on this occasion, by the complete lack of any prior investigation, of any real evidence, or UN resolution?

It may not ignite immediately, but the fuse of subsequent scandal has been lit. It may take some politicians down with it (Mrs May first perhaps).

How to account for it? Colonel Pat Lang suggests that as in Iraq, the neocons have again their foot firmly in the door of policy-making, “and [just as they] drove the United States in the direction of invasion of Iraq and the destruction of the apparatus of the Iraqi state, [they are doing the same in respect to Syria]. They did this through manipulation of the collective mental image Americans had of Iraq and the supposed menace posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Not all the people who participated in this process were neocon in their allegiance, but there were enough of them in the Bush Administration to dominate the process”:

“Such people, then and now, fervently believe in the Manifest Destiny of the United States as mankind’s best hope of a utopian future and concomitantly in the responsibility of the United States to lead mankind toward that future. Neocons believe that inside every Iraqi, Filipino or Syrian there is an American waiting to be freed from the bonds of tradition, local culture and general backwardness. For people with this mindset the explanation for the continuance of old ways lies in the oppressive and exploitative nature of rulers who block the “progress” that is needed. The solution for the imperialists and neocons is simple. Local rulers must be removed as the principal obstacle to popular emulation of Western and especially American culture and political forms.”

Today’s geo-politics is presented in America’s recent Defense Strategy papers, as simply being one of the re-emergence of great power rivalry and competition: America as the upholder of a homogenous, rules-based global ‘order’ – with China and Russia, as the ‘revisionist powers’, threatening the smooth running of that order.  It is true (insofar as it goes), that an axis of China, Russia and Iran are working in concert, to reassert the principle of cultural and political difference and heterodoxy, within the global sphere.  But is great power-competition sufficient explanation for the crisis that we are living today?

The present crisis over Syria has very little to do with chemical weapons (except to satisfy the European and American love of virtue signalling). Trump may, or may not, believe the story.  But that is not very relevant either way.  This new chemical weapons claim – in the long line of such claims, reaching back to the Kuwaiti fraud of ‘babies being thrown out of their incubators by Iraqi soldiers’ – has always had one objective: to provide a pretext for a full court, military ‘something or other’ (i.e. local rulers being removed as the principal obstacle to popular emulation of Western and especially American culture and political forms, in Pat Lang’s formulation).

Professor John Gray, writing in his book, Black Mass, notes that “the world in which we find ourselves … is littered with the debris of utopian projects which, though they were framed in secular terms that denied the truth of religion, were in fact vehicles for religious myth”. The Jacobin revolutionaries launched the Terror as a violent retribution to élite repression – framed in Rousseau’s Enlightenment humanism – as violence justified by the violence of élite repression; the Trotskyite Bolsheviks murdered millions in the name of reforming humanity through Scientific Empiricism; the Nazis did similar, in the name of pursuing ‘Scientific (Darwinian) Racism’. 

All these utopian projects, Gray asserts, represent visions of apocalyptic beliefs in an ‘End Time’, when the evils of the world would pass away in a world-shaking, massacre of the corrupt, and from which only the Elect would be spared. The Jacobins and the Trotskyites may have detested traditional religion, but their conviction that there can be a sudden break in history, after which the flaws of human society would be forever abolished – through human will and technology, rather than by act of God – essentially represents the inversion into secular form, of the Jewish apocalyptic tradition for which Jesus was a protagonist (believing that the world was destined for imminent destruction, so that a new, and perfect one, could come into being), Gray relates.

What has this to do with Syria?  Well, quite a lot: firstly, the parallel of Jacobite impulses of a terror unleashed against the then French ‘repressive state system’; and what is being threatened for Syria, against the ‘tyrant Assad’, are plain enough. 

But also, the contemporary western meta-narrative of a world converging on a single type of government and economic system – universal democracy and liberal market ‘prosperity for all’ – An ‘End to History’ is nothing other, Gray argues, than the most recent version of the Jewish apocalyptic tradition as implanted into Christianity (and influenced by later Manicheanism). In other words, the secular military ‘regime change’ projects of modern times are no more than a mutant version of the violence that was justified originally, by apocalyptic visions of ‘End Time’ – but which now, are justified by the utopian vision of an ‘End to History’ lying with America’s universal project of a humanity converging on a coda of values embedded in an American-led, global ‘order’.

And the nature of our crisis?  Just as the world did not End – nor Redemption occur – for the early Christians, so too History did not End – nor is Utopia arriving – as has been expected by America’s élites.  And now, it is for the latter to manage the crisis of our disillusion. (Historically, the failure of God’s will was attributed to it being resisted by the power of evil, which was personified as Satan – and see here, for an example of Satan’s modern personification as Putin, being distributed widely in British schools).

How else to explain why Lord West in his BBC interview provides an entirely coherent accounting of why President Assad might not be responsible for any chemical attack in Douma, but nonetheless feels obliged to demonise Assad and Russia: President Assad is “nasty, unpleasant, loathsome, horrible” – and the Russians “lie as a matter of policy”. He did not explicitly say it, but the implication was that deceit and lying is in the nature of the Russian, as loathsomeness is in the nature of Assad.

In short, Assad and Russia stand for today’s secular utopianists as the mythical ‘Satanic’ that apocalyptic End Time is supposed to bring to its blood- soaked end.

Ismail Shamir has reported the (understandable) Russian bafflement at the unrelenting western hostility toward Russia:

Now, with the US Navy in place, with the support of England and France, the countdown to a confrontation has apparently started. The Russians are grimly preparing for the battle, whether a local one or the global one, and they expect it to begin any moment.

The road to this High Noon had led through the Scripal Affair, the diplomats’ expulsion and the Syrian battle for Eastern Ghouta, with an important side show provided by Israeli shenanigans.

The diplomats’ expulsion flabbergasted the Russians. For days they went around scratching their heads and looking for an answer: what do they want from us? What is the bottom line? Too many events that make little sense separately. Why did the US administration expel 60 Russian diplomats? Do they want to cut off diplomatic relations, or is it a first step to an attempt to remove Russia from the Security Council, or to cancel its veto rights? Does it mean the US has given up on diplomacy? 

(The answer “it’s war” didn’t come to their minds at that time) …

Let us hope and pray we shall survive the forthcoming cataclysm.

Friday 13 April didn’t lead to cataclysm (it easily might have, but for General Mattis). This is how things are now: a chance agglomeration of people and circumstance, may lead one way – or in another quite different, direction.  This is not to do with reason, but the differing natures of men, and their emotions.

The attack on Syria is not some ‘bump in the road’, easily passed, and after which, we may sigh, and slump back to business as usual.  The trauma generated by secular western utopianism (European Enlightenment) being in dissolution is not something to be passed through quite so easily.  ‘Otherness’ – other cultures – are coalescing and taking us to different outcomes, albeit still in their latency.  We should expect more ‘bumps in the road’.  We should expect surprise.  The next ‘bumps’ might well be more dangerous.  The West’s trauma of its dissolution will not be short or without its violence, particularly as the shock of finding that ‘technology’ is not somehow inherent to western culture, but that the ‘other’ can do it as well, or even better, strikes at the very core of the western ‘myth’ of its own exceptionalism.

Guardian columnist Owen Jones has fired an opinion-rocket right into the midst of his own kind – journalists. His claim that the mainstream media is an invite-only club run by public school pals has not gone down well.

It began when the author and columnist tweeted some of the lessons he’s learned working in the British media. Labeling the profession a “cult” in the UK, Jones goes on to say the mainstream media (MSM) is “afflicted by a suffocating groupthink, intolerant of critics, hounds internal dissenters, full of people who made it because of connections and/or personal background rather than merit.”

Hurling such accusations against the British media did not solicit a positive reaction from the club’s members. Jones himself described the onslaught that followed against him as an “inferno” of fury… which in turn, sparked an article detailing exactly what is wrong with the UK press.

Journalists from publications across London (where most mainstream outlets are based) were outraged by the comments. There were anecdotes given to disprove Jones – with one reporter even quipping that “no one tells me what to think.”

Jones goes on to describe what’s known as the ‘huddle’ – to put it simply, that’s when reporters get together after Prime Minister’s Questions (or other media events frequented by lobby journalists) to decide what to say or write about. “[L]obby journalists will often stand together and/or walk back to the press lobby together and agree on ‘what just happened,’ if you like,” Jones writes.

Other ways the huddle – or “groupthink,” as he calls it – manifests in the media is through peer pressure. Jones included a comment from right-wing blogger Paul Staines in explanation: “there is for example peer pressure on new hacks to not rock the boat,” even if that pressure is applied by an “exasperated collective groan [from other reporters] if someone asks a dissonant question.”

Staines’ comments end by adding that it is “not a conspiracy, just peer pressure.”
Times columnist David Aaronovitch‏, ex-BuzzFeed writer James Ball, Financial Times editorial director Robert Shrimsley‏, and freelance journalist Robin Whitlock were some of many to swipe back at Jones. ITV news royal editor Chris Ship simply tweeted back his educational history, as the virtue signaling and defensiveness told their own story.

PoliticsHome editor Kevin Schofield followed suit. “I grew up in a working class household, went to state schools, worked my arse off on local papers for years and finally made it to Fleet St,” he tweeted, nose thoroughly out of joint.

It turns out Jones was referring to the media elite of the national titles and broadcasters; and not the “army of poorly paid and insecure freelancers or local reporters who are deeply undervalued,” as he describes them.

To go with the truth bomb he lobbed into the center of the media scrum, Jones dug up one or two supporting statistics – and it turns out that many in the media had a very privileged start to life.

“Just 7% of the British population are privately educated. But according to the Sutton Trust in 2016, 51% of Britain’s top journalists are privately educated,” Jones writes. Poverty Commission in 2014, 43% of newspaper columnists are privately educated; just 23% went to comprehensives. Two thirds of new entrants to journalism came from managerial and professional backgrounds: more than twice the level of the rest of the population.

“According to another government study, journalists are second only to doctors when it comes to the dominance of those from professional or managerial parental backgrounds. In other words: journalism is one of the most socially exclusive professions in Britain.”

That hasn’t stopped journalists and writers from coming out of the woodwork to slam Jones – or, at least, to enjoy others doing so.

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At 4am on April 14, the United States, France and the United Kingdom executed a strike on Syria. The Syrian Free Press reported:

US Navy warships in the Red Sea and Air Force B-1B bombers and F-15 and F-16 aircraft rained dozens of ship- and air-launched cruise missiles down on the Syrian capital of Damascus, an airbase outside the city, a so-called chemical weapons storage facility near Homs, and an equipment-storage facility and command post, also near Homs. B1-Bs are typically armed with JASSM cruise missiles, which have a 450 kg warhead and a range of 370 kms. US Navy warships launched Tomahawks, which have 450 kg warheads and an operational range of between 1,300 and 2,500 kms. The British Royal Air Force’s contingent for the assault consisted of four Tornado GR4 ground-attack aircraft armed with the Storm Shadow long-range air-to-ground missile, which the UK’s Defense Ministry said targeted ‘chemical weapons sites’ in Homs. These weapons have a range of 400 kms. Finally, France sent its Aquitaine frigate, armed with SCALP naval land-attack cruise missiles (SCALP is the French military’s name for the Storm Shadow), as well as several Dassault Rafale fighters, also typically armed with SCALP or Apache cruise missiles. According to the Russian defense ministry, the B-1Bs also fired GBU-38 guided air bombs. Undoubtedly weary of the prospect of having their aircraft shot down after Israel lost one of its F-16s over Syria in February, the Western powers presumably launched their weapons from well outside the range of Syrian air defenses, with all the targets located just 70-90 kms from the Mediterranean Sea, and having to fly through Lebanon first.

Recapping the information on the strike, the US and its allies used the following assets:

● 2 destroyers (USS Laboon, USS Higgins)

● 1 US cruiser (USS Monterey)

● 1 French frigate (Georges Leygues)

● 5 Rafale jets

● 4 Mirage 2000-5F

● 4 British Tornado fighter-bombers

● Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner

● 2 US B-1B bombers

Their ordnance brought to bear consisted of the following:

● The cruiser Monterey launched 30 Tomahawk missiles

● The destroyer Higgins 23 Tomahawks

● The destroyer Laboon 7 Tomahawks

● The submarine John Warner 6 Tomahawks

● 2 B-1 bombers 21 JASSM missiles

● 4 British Tornado GR4 fighter bombers 16 Storm-shadow missiles.

● The French Languedoc fired 3 MdCN land-attack missiles.

The US Pentagon reports the strike group targeted:

– 76 missiles at the Barzah research center in Damascus:

(Source)

– 22 missiles at an undefined “chemical” structure:

 (Source)

– 7 missiles against an undefined “chemical bunker”:

 (Source)

The Syrian anti-aircraft forces responded, firing a total of 112 air-defence missiles:

● the Pantsyr system fired 25 missiles and hit 24 targets;

● the Buk system fired 29 missiles and hit 24 targets;

● the Osa system fired 11 and hit 5 targets;

● the S-125 system fired 13 missiles and hit 5 targets;

● the Strela-10 system fired 5 missiles and hit 3 targets;

● the Kvadrat system fired 21 and hit 11 targets;

● the S-200 system fired 8 and hit no targets.

(Source)

The Russians have stated that the target of the raids and the effectiveness of the missiles have resulted in a big fiasco for the Americans:

● 4 missiles were launched targeting the area of the Damascus International Airport; these 4 missiles were intercepted.

● 12 missiles were launched targeting the Al-Dumayr Military Airport; these 12 missiles were intercepted.

● 18 missiles were launched  targeting the Bley Military Airport; these 18 missiles were intercepted.

● 12 missiles were launched targeting the Shayarat Military Airport; these 12 missiles were intercepted.

● 9-15 missiles were launched  targeting the Mezzeh Military Airport; 5 of them were intercepted.

● 16 missiles were launched targeting the Homs Military Airport; 13 of which were intercepted.

● 30 missiles were launched targeting targets in the areas of Barzah and Jaramani; 7 of which were intercepted.

The effectiveness of the attack is called into question, especially in light of the prompt reaction of the civilian population that took to the streets in support of Bashar al Assad and the Syrian government only a few hours after the US-led attack.

(Celebrations the morning of the 14th of April in Umayyad Square, Damascus)

What emerges immediately from the Syrian/Russian and American narratives are contrasting assessments of the outcome of the attack.

We can certainly try to dispute some statements. The Americans repeated that at least two chemical-weapons laboratories together with a chemical-weapons storage center were affected. As evidenced by the images shot by PressTV a few hours after the attack, the structure is destroyed but there are no chemical contaminations. To confirm this, the television operators were able to perform interviews and live footage a few meters from the site of the strike without experiencing any physical effects, which would have been impossible were the American version of events true, given that the release of chemical agents would have made the whole area inaccessible.

Further confirmation comes from Ammar Waqqaf interviewed on The Heat on CGTV, claiming that his relatives were about 500 meters from one of the alleged chemical-weapons research centers attacked by the Americans. Ammar says that even in this case, no chemical agent appears to have been released, thus disproving Washington’s claims.

Another important consideration concerns the targets. For Washington, the targets were limited to research laboratories (Barzah and Jaramani) and storage centers. But Moscow revealed that the objectives also included military bases as well as the civilian Damascus International Airport, namely: Al-Dumayr Military Airport, Bley Military Airport, Shayarat Military Airport, Mezzeh Military Airport, Homs Military Airport. These were mostly unsuccessful attacks.

In light of the foregoing, we can assume that the operational goal of the Americans was twofold. On the one hand, it was aimed at the media, to show a response to the (false) accusations of a chemical attack in Douma (Robert Frisk has just dismantled the propaganda and RT reminds us of the various false flags perpetrated by the US in the past to start wars); on the other, it was used by the military to actually permanently damage the Syrian Air Force, as suggested by the warmongering neocon Lindsey Graham. The failure of this latter objective could be seen in the following hours when the Syrian planes resumed operational tasks.

What does all this information tell us? First of all, the American goal was not to hit the non-existent chemical weapons or their production sites. The aim was to reduce as much as possible Syrian Air Force assets at different military airports. The mission was a failure, as reported by the Russian military envoy in Syria thanks to the air-defense measures of the Syrian forces as well as probably a high electronic-warfare (EW) contribution from the Russian forces present in the country. Very little has been leaked out in technical terms from the Russian Federation, which officially states that it did not contribute towards defending against the attack. It is probable that Russia played a decisive role in terms of EW, with its little-known but highly effective systems as demonstrated in previous attacks in 2017.

Moscow has no interest in promoting its cutting-edge EW systems, and often does not confirm the reports issued by more or less government agencies, as in the case of the USS Donald Cook in 2014. Yet Russia Beyond explains EW as probably being fundamental in foiling the American attack:

Before the electronic jamming system kicks in, the aircraft scans the radio signals in its zone of ​​activity. After detecting the traffic frequencies of the enemy’s equipment, the operator on board the aircraft enables the jamming system in the required bandwidth,” a defense industry source told Russia Beyond. In addition to onboard systems, there are ground-based Krasnukha-4 EW complexes stationed around the Khemeimim airbase, Russia’s key stronghold in the Middle East. Their purpose is to suppress enemy “eavesdropping” and weapons guidance systems. The Krasnukha-4 blinds enemy radar systems to targets at a distance of 250 km.

The general public is yet to understand that the American attack was a complete fiasco, much to the irritation of Lindsey Graham, thereby confirming Damascus’s narrative, which presented Syria’s response as decisive and effective.

The logic of the matter must also be considered. We know that the US and her allies launched 105 missiles aimed at various targets, including some military bases, but none of them hit the targets indicated, except for two buildings already emptied previously and a non-existent chemical-weapons depot. The Pentagon amplified the military report with the lie that only two research centers and a chemical-weapons depot were intentionally bombed with something like 105 missiles; this in order to account for the number of missiles launched and to drown out other assessments that contradict the preferred narrative. But it is ridiculous to believe that the US used 76 missiles to hit three buildings. A much more plausible explanation is that there were many more targets but only three of them were hit, this measly success carrying zero tactical or strategic importance.

We should ask ourselves what the real goal of Washington was. First, let us split the story into two parts. On the one hand we have a PR exercise, and on the other an intended military strategy. In the first case, Washington was able to pursue its self-assigned role as “protector of the weak”, like those victims of the alleged Douma chemical attack. The intended optics were those of a humanitarian intervention, in line with the West’s self-assigned role of regent of the post-World War II neoliberal world order. In reality, we know very well that US hegemony is based on millions of deaths in dozens of wars scattered around the globe. According to the fictitious narrative of the media, it all boils down to good-guys-versus-bad-guys, and Assad is the bad guy while the US is the good guy punishing the regime for the use of chemical weapons.

The success of PR exercise depends very little on the military outcome and much more on the story as told by the media. It is based solely on the affirmation of the role taken up by the US and her allies, that of being in the right and driven only by the noblest interests. But such a series of unreasonable lies has only served to drag the world into chaos, diminished the role of the mainstream media, and destroyed the credibility of practically the whole Western political class.

From a military point of view, however, the goals, intent and results show a far more disturbing result for Washington and her allies. Soviet-era weapons that were updated by Moscow and integrated into the Russian air defense infrastructure network severely degraded the effectiveness of the American attack. Washington wanted to ground the entire Syrian air force, hitting air bases with precision, but failed in this objective. It remains to be seen whether this attack was a prelude to something bigger, with the USS Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group currently heading towards Syrian territorial waters. Following the logic of deconfliction with Russia, it seems unlikely that a more intense attack will occur, rumors even circulating that Mattis dissuaded Trump from targeting Russian and Iranian targets, being well aware of the risks in a Russian response.

Let us focus for a moment on the risks in this kind of scenario. We are told that it would have brought about World War Three. This is probably true. But the consequences could also entail something much worse for Washington than for the rest of the world. The rhetoric that an American attack on Russian forces in Syria would trigger a direct war between the two superpowers is certainly true, but perhaps it is wrong in its interpretation. The danger seems to lie less in the possibility of a nuclear apocalypse and more in exposing the US’s inability to go toe to toe with a peer competitor.

While we cannot (and hope not to) test this hypothesis, we can certainly join the dots. If Soviet-era systems, with a slight Russian modernization, can nullify an American attack, what could the Russian forces do themselves? They could probably even block an attack of the scale visited on Baghdad, where several hundred missiles were directed towards civilian and military targets. It would be highly unlikely in such a scenario for Washington to peddle the false propaganda of a successful attack with little in terms of bomb-damage assessment commensurate with the number of missiles launched.

Already in the April 14 attack, the explanation that 76 cruise missiles were directed against three buildings is ridiculous but is nevertheless sustained thanks to the lies of the mainstream media and the paucity of available information. However, when thinking of 500 Tomahawks launched with limited damage to the Syrian infrastructure, even that would be impossible to sell to a very ignorant and deceived public. It would be the definitive proof of the decline in American military effectiveness and the potency of Russian air-defense systems. Just like during Putin’s presentation of new weapons some months back, when the Empire feels its core (military power) is threatened, it simply dismisses such reports as false, in the process becoming a victim of its own propaganda.

Yet one would only need to listen to the words of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Michael Griffin, in a conference at the Hudson Institute where he explained how Moscow and Beijing capabilities are far more advanced in hypersonic and supersonic missile defense and attack capabilities. He openly explained that Washington takes about 16 years to implement a paper-to-service idea, while its rivals in a few years have shown that they can move from concept to practical development, gaining a huge advantage over rivals like Washington.

The problem is inherent for the United States in its need to keep alive a war machine based on inflated military spending that creates enormous pockets of corruption and inefficiency. Just look at the F-35 project and its constant problems. Although Moscow’s spending is less than twelve times that of the United States, it has succeeded in developing systems like hypersonic missiles that are still in the testing phase in the United States, or systems like the S-500, which the US does not possess.

The S-300, S-400, P-800 anti-ship missiles and the 3M22 Zircon hypersonic missiles, in addition to EW, pose a fundamental problem for Washington in dealing with attacks against a peer competitor. The military in Washington are probably well aware of the risks of revealing the US to be a paper tiger, so they prefer to avoid any direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, more for the purposes of maintaining military prestige than out of a desire to avoid risking World War Three. If Russian forces ever were targeted by the US, in all probability Moscow would simply disable the electronics of the US ship rather than sinking it, leaving it to float in the Mediterranean uncontrolled for days.

The last fig leaf hiding the US military’s inadequacy rests in Hollywood propaganda that presents the US military as practically invincible. Accordingly, some sites have spread stories that Russia had been forewarned of the attack and that the whole bombing event was the same sort of farce as a year ago. In the first place, it is important to clarify that Moscow had not been given advanced warning of the targets, and the reason for this is simple: the attack was real and, as explained above, did not succeed precisely because of Moscow and Damuscus’s effective parries and blocks.

In reality, Washington has failed in its military strategy, and the media have turned to the usual propaganda of chemical weapons and the need to enforce justice in the world and proclaim a non-existent success. In the meantime, Moscow fine-tunes its weapons and prepares to deliver the S-300 to the Syrian state and its allies (Lebanon?), effectively limiting Washington’s ability to attack in the Middle East. This is a fitting conclusion for a story that has only damaged the status of the United States and her allies in the Middle East, bringing Syria closer to a final victory.

Israeli Brigadier-General (Reserve) Zvika Fogel (Wikipedia)

An Israeli general has confirmed that when snipers stationed along Israel’s boundary with Gaza shoot at children, they are doing so deliberately, under clear and specific orders.

In a radio interview, Brigadier-General (Reserve) Zvika Fogel describes how a sniper identifies the “small body” of a child and is given authorization to shoot.

Fogel’s statements could be used as evidence of intent if Israeli leaders are ever tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

On Friday, an Israeli sniper shot dead 14-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Ayyoub.

The boy, shot in the head east of Jabaliya, was the fourth child among the more than 30 Palestinians killed during the Great March of Return rallies that began in Gaza on 30 March.

More than 1,600 other Palestinians have been shot with live ammunition that has caused what doctors are calling “horrific injuries” likely to leave many of them with permanent disabilities.

As eyewitnesses and video confirmed, the child Muhammad Ayyoub posed no conceivable danger to heavily armed Israeli occupation forces stationed dozens of meters away behind fences and earthen fortifications on the other side of the Gaza boundary when he was killed.

Even the usually timid United Nations peace process envoy Nickolay Mladenov publicly declared that the slaying was “outrageous.”
Targeting children

On Saturday, Brigadier-General Fogel was interviewed by Ron Nesiel on the Israeli public radio network Kan.

Fogel is the former chief of staff of the Israeli army’s “southern command,” which includes the occupied Gaza Strip.

Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian lawmaker in Israel’s parliament, drew attention to the interview in a tweet.

A recording of the interview is online (it begins at 6:52). The interview was translated for The Electronic Intifada by Dena Shunra and a full transcript follows this article.

The host Ron Nesiel asks Fogel if the Israeli army should “rethink its use of snipers,” and suggests that someone giving orders “lowered the bar for using live fire.”

Fogel adamantly defends the policy, stating: “At the tactical level, any person who gets close to the fence, anyone who could be a future threat to the border of the State of Israel and its residents, should bear a price for that violation.”

He adds: “If this child or anyone else gets close to the fence in order to hide an explosive device or check if there are any dead zones there or to cut the fence so someone could infiltrate the territory of the State of Israel to kill us …”

“Then his punishment is death?” Nesiel interjects.

“His punishment is death,” the general responds. “As far as I’m concerned then yes, if you can only shoot him to stop him, in the leg or arm – great. But if it’s more than that then, yes, you want to check with me whose blood is thicker, ours or theirs.”

Fogel then describes the careful process by which targets – including children – are identified and shot:

“I know how these orders are given. I know how a sniper does the shooting. I know how many authorizations he needs before he receives an authorization to open fire. It is not the whim of one or the other sniper who identifies the small body of a child now and decides he’ll shoot. Someone marks the target for him very well and tells him exactly why one has to shoot and what the threat is from that individual. And to my great sorrow, sometimes when you shoot at a small body and you intended to hit his arm or shoulder, it goes even higher.”

For “it goes even higher,” Fogel uses a Hebrew idiom also meaning “it costs even more.”

In this chilling statement, in which a general talks about snipers targeting the “small body of a child,” Fogel makes crystal clear that this policy is premeditated and deliberate.

While presenting unarmed Palestinian children as dangerous terrorists worthy of death, Fogel describes the snipers killing them in cold blood as the innocent, vulnerable parties who deserve protection.

“We have soldiers there, our children, who were sent out and receive very accurate instructions about whom to shoot to protect us. Let’s back them up,” he says.
Lethal policy

Fogel’s statements are no aberration but represent Israeli policy.

“Israeli officials made it clear that the open-fire regulations would permit lethal fire at anyone attempting to damage the fence, and even at any person coming within 300 meters of it,” the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem stated in a recent analysis of Israel’s illegal targeting of unarmed civilians who pose no threat.

“Nevertheless, all state and military officials have steadfastly refused to cancel the unlawful orders and continue to issue – and justify – them,” B’Tselem added.

B’Tselem has called on individual soldiers to defy such illegal orders.

Following its investigation of the “calculated” killings of unarmed demonstrators on 30 March, the first day of the Great March of Return rallies in Gaza, Human Rights Watch concluded that the lethal crackdown was “planned at [the] highest levels of the Israeli government.”

Two weeks ago, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court issued an unprecedented warning that Israeli leaders may face trial for the killings of unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.

Potential defendants would be giving any prosecutor a gift with such open admissions that killing unarmed people in an occupied territory who pose no objective threat is their policy and intent.

The question remains whether anything will finally pierce the shield of impunity that Israel has enjoyed for 70 years.
Full Transcript

Brigadier-General (Res.) Zvika Fogel interviewed on the Yoman Hashevua program of Israel’s Kan radio, 21 April 2018.

Ron Nesiel: Greetings Brigadier General (Res.) Zvika Fogel. Should the IDF [Israeli army] rethink its use of snipers? There’s the impression that maybe someone lowered the bar for using live fire, and this may be the result?

Zvika Fogel: Ron, let’s maybe look at this matter on three levels. At the tactical level that we all love dealing with, the local one, also at the level of values, and with your permission, we will also rise up to the strategic level. At the tactical level, any person who gets close to the fence, anyone who could be a future threat to the border of the State of Israel and its residents, should bear a price for that violation. If this child or anyone else gets close to the fence in order to hide an explosive device or check if there are any dead zones there or to cut the fence so someone could infiltrate the territory of the State of Israel to kill us …

Nesiel: Then, then his punishment is death?

Fogel: His punishment is death. As far as I’m concerned then yes, if you can only shoot him to stop him, in the leg or arm – great. But if it’s more than that then, yes, you want to check with me whose blood is thicker, ours or theirs. It is clear to you that if one such person will manage to cross the fence or hide an explosive device there …

Nesiel: But we were taught that live fire is only used when the soldiers face immediate danger.

Fogel: Come, let’s move over to the level of values. Assuming that we understood the tactical level, as we cannot tolerate a crossing of our border or a violation of our border, let’s proceed to the level of values. I am not Ahmad Tibi, I am Zvika Fogel. I know how these orders are given. I know how a sniper does the shooting. I know how many authorizations he needs before he receives an authorization to open fire. It is not the whim of one or the other sniper who identifies the small body of a child now and decides he’ll shoot. Someone marks the target for him very well and tells him exactly why one has to shoot and what the threat is from that individual. And to my great sorrow, sometimes when you shoot at a small body and you intended to hit his arm or shoulder it goes even higher. The picture is not a pretty picture. But if that’s the price that we have to pay to preserve the safety and quality of life of the residents of the State of Israel, then that’s the price. But now, with your permission, let us go up one level and look at the overview. It is clear to you that Hamas is fighting for consciousness at the moment. It is clear to you and to me …

Nesiel: Is it hard for them to do? Aren’t we providing them with sufficient ammunition in this battle?

Fogel: We’re providing them but …

Nesiel: Because it does not do all that well for us, those pictures that are distributed around the world.

Fogel: Look, Ron, we’re even terrible at it. There’s nothing to be done, David always looks better against Goliath. And in this case, we are the Goliath. Not the David. That is entirely clear to me. But let’s look at it at the strategic level: you and I and a large part of the listeners are clear that this will not end up in demonstrations. It is clear to us that Hamas can’t continue to tolerate the fact that its rockets are not managing to hurt us, its tunnels are eroding …

Nesiel: Yes.

Fogel: And it doesn’t have too many suicide bombers who continue to believe the fairytale about the virgins waiting up there. It will drag us into a war. I do not want to be on the side that gets dragged. I want to be on the side that initiates things. I do not want to wait for the moment where it finds a weak spot and attacks me there. If tomorrow morning it gets into a military base or a kibbutz and kills people there and takes prisoners of war or hostages, call it as you like, we’re in a whole new script. I want the leaders of Hamas to wake up tomorrow morning and for the last time in their life see the smiling faces of the IDF. That’s what I want to have happen. But we are dragged along. So we’re putting snipers up because we want to preserve the values we were educated by. We can’t always take a single picture and put it before the whole world. We have soldiers there, our children, who were sent out and receive very accurate instructions about whom to shoot to protect us. Let’s back them up.

Nesiel: Brigadier-General (Res.) Zvika Fogel, formerly Head of the Southern Command Staff, thank you for your words.

Fogel: May you only hear good news. Thank you.

Trump boasted on Twitter that the US-led strikes on Syria last weekend were a “mission accomplished”, which drew criticism from many who likened it to Bush’s infamously premature statement about Iraq.

There were differing reports about how many missiles were shot down by Syria’s Soviet-era air defense systems and the scale of damage that was wrought by the ones that did get through the country’s anti-missile shield, but the general consensus is that Trump’s mission didn’t accomplish much and may have even been more militarily ineffective than last year’s strike in reaction to the Khan Sheikhoun false flag chemical weapons attack from that time. Furthermore, a bold statement such as “mission accomplished” implies a victory much broader than just launching some missiles, most of which are regarded as having never even made it to their targets.

trump mission accomplished

Trump’s known for his grandiose and hyperbolic statements to stir up support among his base and generate widespread attention, but he may have inadvertently walked into a narrative trap entirely of his own making with this latest tweet. Just a few weeks ago he was talking about withdrawing from Syria, but then all of a sudden the Douma chemical weapons false flag attack was used as his pretext for launching the failed missile strike against the country. Not only that, but his UN Representative Nikki Haley later declared that American troops will remain in the Arab Republic until the US’ goals were accomplished, which she described as responding to reports of chemical weapons attacks, ensuring Daesh’s defeat, and keeping an eye on Iran. These open-ended objectives suggest that Trump’s Syrian mission is far from accomplished.

damascus air defense systems

Building off of the US’ new publicly declared goals in Syria, Washington will likely rely on its supposed anti-Daesh mission to justify expanding its military commitment to its allied Kurdish proxies in the northeast of the country, which could potentially see the US pushing for Damascus to recognize their unilaterally declared “federalization” from March 2016 in order to de-facto legitimize a new American client state in the region. This would complement the US’ real objective of “containing” Iranian influence in the Arab Republic, which it’s becoming more comfortable publicly admitting, especially in light of Israel’s threats to continue bombing suspected IRGC and Hezbollah targets in Syria. As the anti-terrorist phase of the conflict more openly returns to its original multidimensional proxy one, Trump might regret having prematurely declared that anything of significance was accomplished there.

Niall Bradley, editor and analyst for the independent news site SOTT.net, and John Mesler, retired local government employee and musician who’s now a peace activist, commented on the issue.

DAMASCUS: Inspectors from the OPCW, the chemical weapons watchdog, have visited the site of the fake events leading up to the joint Anglo-French-American air assault on Syria and have reportedly taken samples of soil, clothing and other artifacts for examination. Another grouping of the inspectors is interviewing citizens to get their take on the events of the Saturday before last and collecting blood samples from cadavers. All samples will be studies at the OPCW laboratory in Rijswijk, a suburb of the Hague. (Don’t ask me to pronounce that word.)

Of concern to SyrPer is the director of the OPCW, Ahmet Uzumcu, a former career diplomat with the Turk foreign ministry – a former Turk ambassador to the Zionist Apartheid State (7-28-1999 to 6-30-2002). He was also, amazingly, Turkey’s former representative to NATO. Being a Turk with qualifications like this would make anyone suspect that his credibility was fragile to nil.

As an example, recently there were allegations that Turkey used CW (chlorine) in its campaign against the SDF and PKK in ‘Afreen. Uzumcu claimed to have investigated the matter and found no “credible” evidence to justify a finding that Turkey used chlorine at that location. Surprise! He is clearly a compromised source of information and I’m just flummoxed by Russia’s insistence on a OPCW investigation knowing this Turk would have overall authority over the inspectors and their conclusions. If there were any conceivable questions about his appropriateness for the task at hand, they should have been brought formally so he could, at the very least, distance himself from any scientific conclusions.

At SyrPer we are expecting the inspectors to find nothing but hypoxia as confirmed by several medical doctors in the Ghouta. Evidently, as the narrative goes, there were citizens huddled inside fruit cellars, and the like, using them as bomb shelters. When bombs started falling, dust and particles were thrown up into the air and, then, descended into the make-shift shelters causing people to gag and show signs of oxygen deprivation (hypoxia). When the so-called criminals of the White Helmets started shouting “gas!” and “gas attack!”, people were in a panicked state. The entire event was staged and suspiciously, cameras and terrorist news crews began to appear and film children being hosed down in some crackpot show of emergency medical treatment. When you see the tapes, you cannot help but laugh as the so-called frauds exposed themselves to possible contamination.

I believe the OPCW will declare it is unable to assess whether or not CW was used at all. The OPCW is not an prosecutorial organization such that it can assess blame. It can only determine if CW was used, if at all. By announcing its inability to make the determination, this character, Uzumcu, will have fulfilled his duties as mole, spy, agent and treacherous Turk. He will leave Trump, Boris Johnson, Macron and May with a face-saving way out. Don’t be surprised to hear that the Russians “cleared the area of evidence”. The West will argue that that is the reason a “staged” sniper incident delayed the entry of the inspectors even though no members of the OPCW team or the Department of Safety and Security made any such allegation to anyone.

This is a strange world of dysfunction. Look at the Western characters in this dark comedy: A real estate investor with orange skin, orange hair and a habit of enjoying sexual relations with Playboy models while his model wife is having their first child. You have a French president married to a woman 30 years his senior. You have a British Foreign Minister who looks and acts like an English sheepdog. Top it off with a woman at the helm of England’s highest office but whose mien, temperament and lifelessness can only be matched by John Major. It is a clownish cast.

______________________________________________

We can confirm the deaths of ISIS’s commanders in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad and the Yarmook Camp: Abu Hishaam Al-Khaaboori (Saudi) and Abu ‘Ali Nafsha. Both were unceremoniously splattered by well-aimed infantry rocket fire.

The Al-Zayn Quarter located between Yalda and Al-Hajar Al-Aswad has been liberated by the SAA as of yesterday, April 21, 2018. This has effectively isolated ISIS and Alqaeda separating them from other pockets to their north. The army is advancing notably in Al-Tadhaamun and Al-Qadam.

A large number of buses have entered the East Qalamoon, specifically at Al-Ruhayba, Jayrood and Al-Naasiriyya. With the terrorists having turned over all their heavy and medium weapons, their next stop is Jaraablus where they will be recruited by Erdoghan to join the ranks of the rodents fighting the Kurds. Enjoy.

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NEWS AND COMMENT:
New York Magazine just proved Trump is a war criminal:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/ef47529f-e1e7-38f7-9d15-ed3e58950307/ss_officials-confirm-that-trump.html

Moon of Alabama and its colorful, insightful and rigorous analysis of CW in Douma:

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/04/syria-who-holds-up-the-opcw-investigation-in-douma.html

More scholarly article about Trump’s illegal conduct in Syria:

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/Voices/2018/04/20/Syrias-Assad-regime-is-brutal-but-retaliatory-airstrikes-are-illegal/8661524230379/

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered on Sunday a speech in which he addressed a huge electoral rally held in the Southern Lebanese city, Tyre.

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

At the beginning of his speech, Sayyed Nasrallah addressed the the father of the three martyrs, Hajj Sami Muslimani, who saluted the Resistance Leader, by saying: “You, the martyrs’ families, are the crown of heads.”

Starting from the place of the rally, His Eminence highlighted that “the city of Tyre, remained unobstructed by sedition, as it embraced and opened its homes to Palestinians displaced in 1948.”

“”Israeli aggressions on Lebanon started in 1949, not with the advent of the Palestinian resistance factions,” he said.

He further stated: “The city of Tyre city resisted the occupation in 1982 and on its land the first self-scarifying operations was carried to break the Zionist enemy’s arrogance and prepare for the “Israeli” humiliating defeat.”

In parallel, he underscored that “we meet here on the anniversary of April 1996 “Grapes of Wrath” aggression, which began on April 11, by striking Hezbollah’s military headquarters in Haret Hreik.”

“The “Israeli” air strike at that time failed to hit Hezbollah military Leader martyr Mustafa Badreddine as the missile hit the other room,” Sayyed Nasrallah clarified.

Moreover, he recalled that the “Israeli” chief of staff in 1996 said that Hezbollah have turned ‘April understanding’ into a boxing bag,” noting that “the sons of Imam al-Sadr from Amal movement and Hezbollah have developed the concept of resistance, that led to victory.”

Furthermore, His Eminence stressed that “the South and its people have waited the state since 1948 until Imam al-Sadr came and adopted the alternative by establishing the resistance.”

He also unveiled that “before 2006, it was the Resistance that asked the state and the Lebanese Army to be present in the South and along the border.”

“The Lebanese state has delayed its move and turned its back to the South,” Sayyed Nasrallah mentioned, noting that “it is not the poor, who bought arms from his own money to defend the land.”

Meanwhile, he added that “our crime is that we took up arms to defend our land and sovereignty.”

“The resistance that was the dream of Sayyed Sharaf al-Din and Imam al-Sadr has now turned to a real force that the enemy greatly fears,” His Eminence emphasized.

In addition, he went on to say that “Thanks to the resistance capabilities and achievements, South Lebanon is currently safe from the Zionist barbarism.”

To Sayyed Abdl Hussein Sharf Din and Imam Moussa Sadr, Sayyed Nasrallah sent a message of assurance: “There is no humiliation today that is able to hit the land of Jabal Amel [South Lebanon]

To Imam al-Sadr, His Eminence vowed: “The resistance that you have founded owes the capability, power, technology and missiles that can strike any target in the “Israeli” enemy’s entity.”

“The resistance came with great sacrifices and we aren’t to abandon it, as it means our dignity and pride,” he added.

Addressing the people of the Resistance, Sayyed Nasrallah told the crowd: “May 6 is your day of voting. It is a message to the world that we in the South have not left the resistance and won’t give up or turn our back. I hope that on May 6 … you will choose the Hope and Loyalty [electoral lists], the hope for the future.”

“Here in Zahrani-Tyre, you are not just voting for MPs, you’re voting for the next Lebanese House Speaker. There is no question that House Speaker Brother Nabih Berri should be reelected as House Speaker and he is the party’s strongest representation,” he said.

He further hailed the fact that “since the 1920s, there has been no internal peace in the history of the South as the one it’s enjoying from pride and dignity for the past 12 years.”

On the internal front, Sayyed Nasrallah noted that “Lebanon has witnessed a kind of understanding: one party will defend the country and protect it while the other side will take care of the economy.”

This comes as His Eminence confirmed that “we can say, ‘these are our successes.’ We protected our country. Stability and security have been available since 2006.”

In this context, he asked the Future Movement: “What are your achievements in administering Lebanon’s economics? Those in charge failed. Everyone agrees that we have an economic problem. We’re suffering from a huge debt that reached $ 80 billion.
The agriculture and the productive sectors are at an all-time low.”

Commenting on the National Defense Strategy, Hezbollah Secretary General reiterated that Hezbollah is ready to discuss it after the election ends.

However, he asked the Future Movement, “Who is escaping from forming a national economic strategy?”

On this level, Sayyed Nasrallah cautioned that corruption has extended to all state institutions. “When we talk about a strong country, corruption has no place. There is no discussion, no need for debate, the steps are clear. However, if the country keeps moving like this, it will crumble.”

In addition, he slammed the fact that Lebanon is suffering from sectarianism on all levels. Even Lebanese water and rivers have turned to a sectarian topic.”

“Even our gas and oil blocks are going to be distributed based on sects,” he feared, wondering: “what kind of country operates like that?”

He also said “This isn’t a US, Arab countries or “Israeli” fault. We have to take responsibility. When you have a minister working for his sect, his town and his kids, can we still call him a minister for Lebanon?”

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, April 23.

Kommersant: Russia ready to bury the cyber hatchet if US agrees, Putin adviser says

Moscow will not make any unilateral statements regarding cybersecurity, nor acquiesce to taking the blame for allegations that are being pinned on Russia, Putin’s special representative for international cooperation in the field of information security Andrei Krutskikh said in an interview with Kommersant daily. “We are ready for (cybersecurity – TASS) talks any time, in the event that they are serious and substantial, and we will wait if needed,” he vowed. “If any agreements are reached, (they should be) based on mutual guarantees, and even better – on broad guarantees and regulations like the ones proposed by Russia for many years. We will not abide by someone’s ultimatums, demands or provide unilateral guarantees,” he emphasized.

When asked whether Krutskikh considers it possible to apply cyber deterrence mentioned recently by US National Security Adviser John Bolton, he replied that this is extremely dangerous logic. “Those are various peculiar fields, with no patterns here. On the contrary, forceful competition by great powers should not be in focus in cyberspace, but rather boosting confidence, transparency and cooperation, involving as many as possible countries,” he said. According Russia’s representative, Moscow and Washington could lead those processes. “A situation when two cowboys are aiming ‘cyber’ pistols at each other is abnormal. We are ready to put down our ‘six-shooters’ if they are as well. However so far, tensions are only rising, whereas it is necessary to reach agreements and share this experience to others,” he said.

Particularly, Moscow’s proposal planned to be announced at a US-Russia meeting on cybersecurity in Geneva scheduled for the end of February 2018, was aimed at striking an agreement, “envisioning information exchange and direct and regular collaboration between departments,” the official mentioned. “Such an accord on cyberspace would increase transparency and predictability. We could not only notify each other about any suspicious things, but also undertake joint efforts to solve arising problems,” he said. “We arrived in Geneva with a high-profile delegation, with 17 high-ranking experts, and expected a similar team from the US. The agenda of consultations had been approved, and we were going to discuss all pressing issues and draft ways out of the deadlock,” Krutskikh added. As reported earlier the consultations failed to take place through the US administration’s fault, which prompted Moscow to postpone the strategic stability talks in Vienna on March 6-7.

 

 

Kommersant: Russia set to launch supplies of S-300 air defense systems to Syria

The issue of delivering the S-300 Favorit air defense systems from Russia to Syria, which “used to be primarily a political angle,” has almost been resolved as Russia is about to start its supplies, Kommersant writes with reference to military and diplomatic sources. Damascus struck contracts on those supplies back in 2010, though the agreement was later halted under Israel’s request. This time around, Favorit’s delivery is planned on a non-repayable basis as part of military and technical assistance to Syria. They will be used as a basis for the creation of a layered air defense system in the country as quickly as possible to counteract potential strikes by the US-led coalition and Israel, the newspaper says.

No official response on Russia’s plans to supply the S-300s to Syria has come from Israel yet, though some expect a knee-jerk reaction from Tel Aviv, the publication says. According to Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Director Ruslan Pukhov, Moscow “most likely chose the option of providing demonstrative support to Bashar Assad after the April strike, which required a certain response from Russia due to the US and its allies.”

Meanwhile, Russia assumes that deployment of the S-300s in Syria will help stabilize the environment in the country and prevent Israel and the US-led collation from freely eliminating civil and military infrastructure. Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for Defense and Security Viktor Bondarev believes that “the presence of efficient defense equipment in any sovereign country will sober up some loose cannons not just among NATO military and high-ranking officers.” Initially, plans are to keep Russian military advisors on the ground to coordinate actions of their Syrian counterparts, sources told Kommersant, adding that if, for example, Israel decided to attack the S-300s’ locations, the consequences “will be catastrophic for all sides.”

 

Vedomosti: Gazprom to build $20-bln gas processing plant near Baltic Sea

Russia’s top gas producer plans to construct a gigantic gas processing plant on the Baltic Sea in collaboration with RusGasDobycha, a company previously owned by businessman Arkady Rotenberg, Vedomosti writes with reference to sources in the industry. The cost of the project with annual capacity of up to 45 bln cubic meters of gas is preliminarily estimated at around $20 bln, sources said. Gazprom’s representative confirmed to the newspaper that the project is being hammered out. If implemented it may become the company’s second-biggest project in terms of investment expenditures after the Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline project.

Part of gas from the plant, which is planned to be constructed in the suburbs of St. Petersburg, close to Ust-Luga, will be supplied to the Baltic LNG for liquefaction. The remaining gas will be exported via the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, sources told the newspaper. Gazprom and RusGasDobycha signed a memorandum of intent in the area of gas processing and gas chemical production in May 2017. However, Rotenberg’s spokesman told Vedomosti that the businessman has no connection to the company now.

Director at Fitch Ratings Dmitry Marinchenko believes that the development of oil and gas chemical production is crucial for diversification of exports both for Gazprom and the Russian economy in general. “Many global oil and gas companies, from the [oil] giant Shell to the relatively small Hungarian MOL are preoccupied with beefing up the share of petrochemicals in the revenue structure,” he told the paper, adding that from this viewpoint this Gazprom project is in line with the global trend. “Moreover, the project in Ust-Luga could help Gazprom resolve another challenging task – to maintain the amount of capital investment program at a reasonable level regarding both the company itself and its key contractors,” the analyst explained. Only 2-3 years are left before its main projects envisioning pipeline construction in Russia, including the Power of Siberia, will be completed, he added.

 

RBC: Business tired of state involvement, expects no major privatization deals, survey says

Around 90% of large Russian companies highlight mounting government involvement in the economy, a poll conducted by the Adizes Institute, a global consultancy, under RBC’s request showed. The bulk of respondents consider the state’s share to be extremely large, but expect no major privatization deals in the future, the paper writes. Both independent economists and government officials have been pointing to growing nationalization of the Russian economy as one of the main issues. Chief of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who drafted President Putin’s economic program, suggests working to reduce the state’s share as one of the nation’s key structural reforms. According to the CSR’s data, the state sector’s share grew from 39.6% in 2006 to 46% in 2016. The Federal Antimonopoly Service has provided even more dramatic statistics, saying that in 2015, around 70% of the economy was under state control, up from 35% in 2005.

With the state’s share in the economy mounting, the number of dependent companies also surges, Peter Shtrom, Adizes Institute’s Vice President says, adding that this trend in inevitable and most companies find it challenging to establish relations with the state. Meanwhile, Kirill Nikitin, PwC’s partner, a government and public sector expert, believes that “the state’s involvement in the economy does not affect operations of companies that understand how to cooperate with state bodies properly.” Without this skill, it is still difficult to enter the market in many sectors of the economy, he added. Meanwhile, business finds it easier to cooperate with private partners, as the research found out, with 100% of the respondents saying so. Three-quarters of those polled acknowledged that they have to work with private partners more often than with state companies, enterprises and public bodies.

 

Izvestia: Lunar exploration impossible without Moon research vehicles

Russia’s State Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics located in St. Petersburg is designing a new moon research vehicle to be managed from the Russian segment of the International Space Station for a space experiment, Director and Chief Designer of the Center Alexander Lopota told Izvestia. “It is impossible for carry out a full-fledged exploration of the Moon’s surface without mobile robotic vehicles. Though this is the next stage of lunar exploration, we should thinking about it right now,” he stressed.

According to Lopota, it is necessary not only “to define the types of future Moon research vehicles and their design, but also to develop technologies of communication with satellite vehicles located far away from the management center.” “A great variety of robotic platforms will be required at the lunar exploration stage. The Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics is designing a robotic geologist, which will explore a route of around 400 kilometers and the surface layer with soil experiments, carry out seismologic tests, and set up an automatic observation station for long-term monitoring,” he explained.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

Kinzhal (‘dagger’) hypersonic missile being test-fired by the Russian military.

For the past 500 years European nations-Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany-were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas. Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy.

The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires. This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme orneriness and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world. Or, rather, was able to do so-during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies. But now this imperial project is at an end.

Prior to the Soviet collapse, the US military generally did not dare to directly threaten those countries to which the USSR had extended its protection. Nevertheless, by using its naval power to dominate the sea lanes that carried crude oil, and by insisting that oil be traded in US dollars, it was able to live beyond its means by issuing dollar-denominated debt instruments and forcing countries around the world to invest in them. It imported whatever it wanted using borrowed money while exporting inflation, expropriating the savings of people across the world. In the process, the US has accumulated absolutely stunning levels of national debt-beyond anything seen before in either absolute or relative terms. When this debt bomb finally explodes, it will spread economic devastation far beyond US borders. And it will explode, once the petrodollar wealth pump, imposed on the world through American naval and air superiority, stops working.

New missile technology has made a naval empire cheap to defeat. Previously, to fight a naval battle, one had to have ships that outmatched those of the enemy in their speed and artillery power. The Spanish Armada was sunk by the British armada. More recently, this meant that only those countries whose industrial might matched that of the United States could ever dream of opposing it militarily. But this has now changed: Russia’s new missiles can be launched from thousands of kilometers away, are unstoppable, and it takes just one to sink a destroyer and just two to sink an aircraft carrier. The American armada can now be sunk without having an armada of one’s own. The relative sizes of American and Russian economies or defense budgets are irrelevant: the Russians can build more hypersonic missiles much more quickly and cheaply than the Americans would be able to build more aircraft carriers.

Equally significant is the development of new Russian air defense capabilities: the S-300 and S-400 systems, which can essentially seal off a country’s airspace. Wherever these systems are deployed, such as in Syria, US forces are now forced to stay out of their range. With its naval and air superiority rapidly evaporating, all that the US can fall back on militarily is the use of large expeditionary forces – an option that is politically unpalatable and has proven to be ineffective in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also the nuclear option, and while its nuclear arsenal is not likely to be neutralized any time soon, nuclear weapons are only useful as deterrents. Their special value is in preventing wars from escalating beyond a certain point, but that point lies beyond the elimination of their global naval and air dominance. Nuclear weapons are much worse than useless in augmenting one’s aggressive behavior against a nuclear-armed opponent; invariably, it would be a suicidal move. What the US now faces is essentially a financial problem of unrepayable debt and a failing wealth pump, and it should be a stunningly obvious point that setting off nuclear explosions anywhere in the world would not fix the problems of an empire that is going broke.

Events that signal vast, epochal changes in the world often appear minor when viewed in isolation. Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was just one river crossing; Soviet and American troops meeting and fraternizing at the Elbe was, relatively speaking, a minor event-nowhere near the scale of the siege of Leningrad, the battle of Stalingrad or the fall of Berlin. Yet they signaled a tectonic shift in the historical landscape. And perhaps we have just witnessed something similar with the recent pathetically tiny Battle of East Gouta in Syria, where the US used a make-believe chemical weapons incident as a pretense to launch an equally make-believe attack on some airfields and buildings in Syria. The US foreign policy establishment wanted to show that it still matters and has a role to play, but what really happened was that US naval and air power were demonstrated to be almost entirely beside the point.

Of course, all of this is terrible news to the US military and foreign policy establishments, as well as to the many US Congressmen in whose districts military contractors operate or military bases are situated. Obviously, this is also bad news for the defense contractors, for personnel at the military bases, and for many others as well. It is also simply awful news economically, since defense spending is about the only effective means of economic stimulus of which the US government is politically capable. Obama’s “shovel-ready jobs,” if you recall, did nothing to forestall the dramatic slide in the labor participation rate, which is a euphemism for the inverse of the real unemployment rate. There is also the wonderful plan to throw lots of money at Elon Musk’s SpaceX (while continuing to buy vitally important rocket engines from the Russians-who are currently discussing blocking their export to the US in retaliation for more US sanctions). In short, take away the defense stimulus, and the US economy will make a loud popping sound followed by a gradually diminishing hissing noise.

Needless to say, all those involved will do their best to deny or hide for as long as possible the fact that the US foreign policy and defense establishments have now been neutralized. My prediction is that America’s naval and air empire will not fail because it will be defeated militarily, nor will it be dismantled once the news sinks in that it is useless; instead, it will be forced to curtail its operations due to lack of funds. There may still be a few loud bangs before it gives up, but mostly what we will hear is a whole lot of whimpering. That’s how the USSR went; that’s how the USA will go too.

About the author

Dmitry Orlov is an engineer and author of several books, including The Five Stages of Collapse. His website is Club Orlov, and his Patreon page is here.