War Pressure Builds as Iran and Israel Each Vow to Respond to Other’s Escalations – by Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

Iranian army troops march during a parade marking National Army Day in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2018. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

“This is the first time in seven years that the Israelis have deliberately killed Iranian revolutionary guards … Attacking T-4 airport is a pivotal incident in the history of the region that can’t be ignored.” — Iranian Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah

TEHRAN, IRAN – Iran has no intention of letting Tel Aviv get off scot-free after the Israeli military struck an alleged Iranian air-defense system at the T4 base in Syria earlier this month, according to a senior military official in Tehran who promised that the Islamic Republic “cannot remain indifferent” to escalations by Israel, the U.S. and its allies.

The comments come in defiance of repeated Israeli threats that any Iranian retaliation for the attack will be met with a devastating and disproportionate response, including the assassination of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani issued the warning prior to his departure to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Sochi, Russia. Shamkhani noted:

When a regime assumes the right to violate another country’s airspace in a planned move and also target forces fighting with terrorism, it should have definitely considered its consequences and retaliatory reactions.”


Tel Aviv’s ongoing intervention in Syria

The Israelis have expressed anxiety over Iran’s participation in the Syrian conflict on the side of the country’s government, claiming that Tehran is using its presence there to consolidate its regional power and place a “noose” around Israel. Among other accusations, Tel Aviv claims Tehran has built various GPS-guided missile factories in the country, is supporting militia who are encroaching on Israeli-occupied land in the southwest, and controls around 82,000 fighters who are in the country fighting alongside the Syrian Army.

Highlighting Tel Aviv’s insecurity about regional developments, officials have openly said that the consolidation of Iran’s “hegemony” in Syria poses a threat far greater than the Islamic State group (ISIS) or the Jihadist groups that form the bulk of Syria’s anti-government opposition, causing the Israelis to ramp-up direct support to opposition groups in Southwest Syria.

Israeli occupation forces seized the strategic 500-square-mile Golan Heights from Syria in its expansionist war of 1967 prior to outright annexing it. Amid intense military activity in the Syrian region of the Golan over the past several years of civil war, the Israelis have periodically attacked Syrian military targets in the Damascus-controlled portion of the Heights. The two countries have remained in a technical state of war for over five decades.

The Israelis have also acknowledged carrying out other air raids on government targets, including a power plant, arms caches and the alleged assets of Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah — a longtime Iran ally that has won impressive past victories over Israeli occupying troops and invasion attempts, heightening Tel Aviv’s angst and issuance of threats to launch devastating war on neighbors.

On early Monday, April 9, two Israeli F-15 jets launched eight missiles at Syria’s T-4 airbase near Homs, claiming the lives of Iranian military personnel, including a top senior officer in Iran’s developing aerial drone program, Colonel Mehdi Dehghan.

The Israelis had previously accused Iran of using the base to launch an Iranian Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) drone that penetrated Israeli airspace and was allegedly carrying “explosives” in a bid to carry out “an act of sabotage.” While the drone was shot down, the event sparked a debate in the ranks of the Israeli establishment about their preparedness in the face of the “drone threat.”

“This [February incident] is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” a senior Israeli military officer told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman earlier this month. “This opened a new period.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Israelis had also tracked an Iranian plane flying a Tor surface-to-air missile system from Tehran to the Homs base and were keen on preventing the system from being set up.

This month’s attack on the T-4 base was met by a furious reaction by Moscow: the Russian Defense Ministry quickly outed the Israelis as the culprits in the attack while other officials demanded clarification for the attack. The ministry said:

Two F-15 planes of the Israeli army hit the airbase between 03:25 am and 03:53 am Moscow time [0025 GMT and 0053 GMT] with the help of eight missiles controlled remotely from Lebanese territory, without entering Syrian air space.”

Iranian Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah blasted the attack as a strategic miscalculation that would force Israel to finally face Iran:

This is the first time in seven years that the Israelis have deliberately killed Iranian revolutionary guards … Attacking T-4 airport is a pivotal incident in the history of the region that can’t be ignored … All those thousands of terrorists in Syria do not concern the Israelis, while they have every kind of weapons; however, they are afraid of just few revolutionary guards there”


When Push Comes to Shove…

Since launching their attack, the Israelis have spared no effort to play up Iranian promises of retaliation as potentially meaning Iran and allies like Hezbollah will attempt “to strike at Israeli and Jewish targets outside the region,” as analyst and former Brigadier General Shimon Shapira forecast.

Tel Aviv frequently accuses Iran and Hezbollah of seeking to commit “terrorist attacks” on Israeli civilian targets far from the theater of conflict, yet officials for both parties have denied that they would fight back in such a manner.

Last Friday, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Vice Commander Hossain Salami reminded the Israelis that their air bases are “within reach” of Iran’s military and could be targeted at any time. The next day, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned that his organization has “the ability, the power and the missiles to hit any target in Israel.”

Now that Russia is threatening to send an S-300 ground-to-air defense complex to Syria in the aftermath of U.S.-led coalition attacks on Syrian military targets, the Israelis are growing increasingly nervous that their window for attacking Syrian targets with impunity may be shrinking fast.

Judging by Iranian officials’ words, the country has reached its limits and isn’t willing to continue accepting further aggressive attacks from the Israelis. Shamkhani noted:

The Islamic Republic of Iran has paid a considerable price in order to establish regional stability and fight against Takfiri terrorism. Therefore, it cannot remain indifferent to the worrying increase of destabilizing measures by the U.S., the Zionist regime [Israel], and some of their regional allies.”

Top Photo | Iranian army troops march during a parade marking National Army Day in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2018. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

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City beneath city: RT films massive network of militant-built tunnels under Syria’s Douma (VIDEO) – By RT


The Syrian military has been combing through a vast network of tunnels built by jihadists in Douma, not far from Damascus. RT Arabic filmed vehicles easily fitting in the passages and asked locals how the militants treated them.

Located 15 meters deep under the surface, the massive tunnels are supported by metal pillars and are paneled with some sort of liner plates, creating a subway look. They stretch for kilometers under the town, located in the area of eastern Ghouta, forming an entire city beneath the city.

To complete the set, the tunnels are equipped with electricity, parking lots and workshops. They are so big that a minivan could easily move through them, as seen in the footage. The military discovered that the tunnels were specifically used to stockpile machinery and vehicles.

The militants forced the locals to build the tunnels for them by starving the people, who refused to work, Douma residents told RT. “They starved us, they harassed us,” one man said, adding that the extremists also made captives and civilians work on the tunnels. “They [the militants] would not feed those, who refused to work,” he said.

READ MORE: Moscow slams western media ‘disinformation campaign’ about OPCW experts being denied entry to Douma

The Russian military said they found a chemical laboratory operated by militants in central Douma soon after the city’s liberation. The facility, located in the basement of a residential building, had some sophisticated equipment, including an industrial chemical reactor, which the military said was used by the jihadists to create toxic agents. Vast stockpiles of various chemicals were also found in the laboratory.

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US ‘May Provoke Conflicts in Latin America’ Amid UNASUR Row – By SPUTNIK

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Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay decided to leave the South American bloc last week, and this is a huge step back for the whole region, political analyst Sonia Wiener believes.

The decision of six Latin American countries to temporarily leave the Union of South American nations (UNASUR) jeopardizes regional integration, encourages interstate conflicts and puts at risk the protection of natural resources, Sonia Wiener, a political scientist from the University of Buenos Aires, told Sputnik.

“It is no coincidence that the decision is made during Bolivia’s presidency in the Union,” the researcher noted.

“This disintegration will not only hamper the development of the regional identity and the unity of the countries of the region, but also weaken territorial sovereignty, cooperation and protection of strategic natural resources […],” she added.

READ MORE: Russian Diplomat Slams ‘Destructive and Irrational’ US Policy Toward Venezuela

According to Wiener, the withdrawal of the six countries from the bloc “creates the ground for foreign interventions, in particular, by the United States and Great Britain, what is exactly happening now in the region.”

“I’m afraid that the US can provoke interstate conflicts in Latin America and then try to resolve them by military means, because war is business,” the analyst warned.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay decided to suspend their membership in the South American bloc on April 20.

The move was prompted by the fact that the bloc, according to the governments of these countries, has been inefficient due to grate differences in positions of its members and subsequent inability to find a consensus.

The idea of replacing the US contingent in Syria with Saudi troops is doomed to failure – By DMITRY MININ ( Strategic Culture Foundation)

The idea of replacing the US contingent in Syria with Saudi troops is doomed to failure


The White House has had a hot new idea – to leave Syria but also stay there at the same time by deploying an Arab contingent to US military bases, primarily from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). So to Arabize one of the bloodiest wars of our time in keeping with the bitter memory of Vietnamization. 

It seems that the plan was worked out during the almost month-long stay of Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in America. And the plan’s existence was announced on 17 April by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, during a joint press conference with the UN secretary general, António Guterres. Following the missile attack on Syria, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, reiterated that President Donald Trump still wants an early withdrawal of US troops from the country. The introduction of a Saudi contingent in their place seems to Washington to be in the interests of the United States. And the US government has not just suggested to Saudi Arabia that it replace the American contingent, but to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as well. They would take a back seat to the Saudis, however. There is also talk of these regimes providing money to rebuild Syria’s destroyed north. It seems they wouldn’t just be counting on military force, but on “buying” the local population as well.

It does raise a question, of course: have the Americans asked the Syrian government or its own allies – the Kurds and, at the very least, Turkey, Russia and Iran – about the desirability of such a replacement? No, of course they haven’t. Even while withdrawing, the US is unable to forget about its “exclusivity”. For many reasons, however, the idea of replacing Americans with Arabs is doomed to failure.

That Damascus will resolutely resist the proposed reoccupation of its territory by the forces of a “fraternal country” is obvious. It can only lead to more fighting and a rise in regional tensions. Almost as well-equipped as the Americans, the Saudis will never be a worthy opponent of the battle-hardened Syrian army. They have already shown what they’re capable of in the endless war in Yemen, where barefoot Houthis are inflicting one embarrassing defeat after another. Riyadh’s intention to fight a “decisive battle” against Iran on foreign soil will not be realised, either. With its ally Iraq behind it, Tehran would soon have the advantage.

All in all, not a single one of Syria’s neighbours is in favour of the arrival of Saudi troops to replace the Americans except Israel. Iraq is categorically against the idea, since it wants to avoid having to deal with an upsurge in fighting between Sunnis and Shi’ites on its borders. Turkey has no need for the Saudis either, because they would undermine its influence in the Ankara-controlled area of northern Syria. Suffice it to say that the nearly 30,000 troops now under Turkey’s wing from Eastern Ghouta, which was recently liberated by government troops, have been on Riyadh’s payroll for the entire war. Turkey has every reason to fear that Saudi Arabia will use these and other groups to assert its dominance over the area. Libya is also against the appearance of Saudi Arabia on the Syrian stage, fearing that clashes between Sunnis and Shi’ites will move to within its own borders. Even Jordan, which is dependent on Washington and London, is weary of the initiative. As a pragmatic politician, King Abdullah II of Jordan has a good idea of all the possible negative repercussions of such an undertaking. 

The proposals have also been criticised by Egypt, which has completely ruled out its involvement in their realisation. Mohammad Rashad, a senior official in Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, expressed himself in no uncertain terms: “The Egyptian Armed Forces are not mercenaries and cannot be leased or ordered by foreign states to deploy in a certain area.” Rashad continued: ““This is not acceptable. No one should dare to direct or give orders to Egypt’s army.” The statement is an indirect response to an appeal by the US president’s new national security advisor, John Bolton, to the head of Egypt’s intelligence services, Abbas Mustafa Kamil, inviting Cairo to be involved in the project.

Just as many problems await the Saudis in and around the area of their proposed location. To begin with, the Kurds from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who control the area with the help of the US will certainly not welcome their arrival. It would mean the Kurds giving up control of the local Arab population in favour of the incoming contingent and losing most of the power they have won. It is quite possible that the Americans are secretly pushing for a scenario in which, as well as Arabization, there will also be a “dekurdization” of northern Syria, but at someone else’s hands. Then it would seem as if they are not betraying the Kurds, while calming Arab national feelings and ironing out differences with the Turks at the same time. Don’t think that the Kurds will remain passive bystanders in this situation, however. Chances are they will occupy the vacated US bases and refuse to let anyone in. It is even possible they will finally realise that, in the current situation, the most sensible course of action to resolve the Kurdish national question would be an alliance with Damascus. For the time being, Damascus is prepared to extend the rights of Kurds, but should they find themselves on the losing side later on, their window of opportunity will gradually close. 

And for Saudi Arabia, a direct clash with the Islamic State (IS), which, according to the official version, is the terrorist group that the Saudis must go to Syria to fight, could prove fatal. The truth is that many of the IS militants still fighting in Syria are mujahideen from Saudi Arabia and their ability to indoctrinate their fellow countrymen should not be underestimated. It could happen that any direct contact between the Saudi contingent and IS militants will eventually extend the latter’s influence to the Kingdom, something that the Islamic State has long dreamed of. In the countries of the Persian Gulf, there are already some who think it would perhaps be better to hire Sudanese nationals, Pakistanis or some other poor souls for the operation.

The new plan for America to save face in the Middle East is just as chimerical as all of America’s previous attempts at a global reorganisation of the region. The outcome of Arabization will not be any better than the outcome of Vietnamization was all those decades ago. And this will continue to be the case until Washington starts taking into account the positions of all interested parties, including Damascus.

US violating intl law by breaking into Russian consulate in Seattle – embassy – By RT

US violating intl law by breaking into Russian consulate in Seattle – embassy
The US government is violating international law with its decision to break into Russia’s locked consulate in Seattle, the Russian embassy in Washington said in a statement.

What we see now is a gross violation of the Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Convention on Consular Relations,” commented Nikolay Pukalov, the head of the embassy’s consular department. “The Russian side did not agree on stripping diplomatic status from our property in Seattle and did not give permission to American officials to enter our territory.”

The spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called the development “a hostile takeover” of the compound by the US.

The diplomatic building was evacuated earlier this week due to an order from Washington, which expelled 60 Russian diplomats and told the embassy to shut down the Seattle consulate in retaliation for the poisoning of a former double agent in Britain.

After the diplomats left on Tuesday, they locked the building. US officials on Wednesday broke into the compound.

The closure of Russia’s Seattle consulate was the latest in a string of diplomatic mission reductions taken by both sides over the past years. The pretext for this particular expulsion was the British accusation that the Russian government ordered an assassination of a former double agent. London failed to provide any public proof of the allegation and instead launched an international campaign to punish Moscow, finding a most eager participant in Washington.

The US claimed that the 60 diplomats it expelled were Russian spies and that the consulate in Seattle was heavily used for espionage purposes. Similar justifications were used when Washington ordered the shutdown of Russian missions in San Francisco and New York in September 2017.

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Silence of the shams: Western media puts Syrian boy’s witness account on hold – By SPUTNIK


© Sputnik
Hassan Diab

If it doesn’t fit the narrative, there’s no harm in shelving it. It appears that evidence proving the purported chemical weapons attack in Douma was staged has been largely disregarded by the mainstream newsmakers in the West.

The alleged attack and the subsequent airstrikes by the US, UK and France have been dominating the Western news agenda for several weeks now.

On April 7, several media outlets reported that the Syrian army had used chlorine in Douma, killing up to 70 people and injuring hundreds. Footage showing the aftermath of the “attack” appeared on social media, showing men and women shouting, rushing and hosing down adults and children inside a hospital building.

The video has been acquired and shown by most Western news media under the tagline “Children are treated after a suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Douma, Syria” or similar headlines.

Responding to the video and the allegations, the Syrian Defense Ministry said the claims were based on hearsay and testimonies by jihadist militants, and not backed up by hard facts. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all proofs by the West were “based on media and social networks.”

However, the footage and the “irrefutable evidence” reportedly in possession of French President Emmanuel Macron were evidence enough for the allies – US, UK and France – to conduct cruise missile strikes on a number of targets in Syria.

In his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Macron refused to reveal what that “irrefutable evidence” was. Nevertheless, the events around the alleged attack received detailed coverage by British, American and international media as essential developments of the situation in Eastern Ghouta.

Staged Participation

Proof that the Douma hospital video was staged was presented to the international media on April 18, when the Russia 24 TV channel released an exclusive interview with the Syrian boy Hassan Diab, who was originally seen in the Douma video. Hassan said he was rushed to the hospital with his mother, and when they entered the hospital, unknown people grabbed and poured water on him, placing him with other patients after that.

“We were in the basement. Mom told me that today we don’t have anything to eat and that we will eat tomorrow. We heard a cry outside, calling “go to the hospital.” We ran to the hospital and as soon as I entered, they grabbed me and started pouring water on me,” Hassan Diab said.

Hassan’s father also spoke about the incident, saying “there were no chemical weapons” and that the “militants gave them dates, cookies and rice for participating in this film.”

Left Out of the Media Picture

The interview, however, went largely unnoticed by mainstream newsmakers. In the rare cases the interview with Hassan got a mention, it was referred to as line pushed by “Russian state media.”

A precursor to the Sun’s news headline “Russian TV claims Syria chemical attack boy, 11, filmed being doused with water was tricked into taking part in return for biscuits” was the phrase: “Fake Views.”

A Times’ headline attributes the fact that Hassan was paid off with food – to Russian TV, not the boy’s father, who made the statement.

In comparison, the Times didn’t attribute mentions of the alleged Douma attack to information presented by the White Helmets, a foreign-sponsored organization operating in Syria. Moreover, if some of the Times’ headlines featured the phrase “gas attack” in quotations, the effort wears out, as seen in other titles.

Throughout the development of the Douma story, most news channels have made the effort of calling the reported event “an alleged attack” – and some still oblige. But as time passed, headlines omitting the crucial qualifier started popping up online and in television discussions.

Syrian medics ‘subjected to extreme intimidation’ after Douma attack” and “Syria attack: Chemical weapons inspectors retrieve samples from Douma” are just a couple of examples – with the latter actually referring to the fact that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) experts haven’t yet established the use of chemical weapons.

The US broadcaster Fox News posted the alleged attack video online under the headline “Disturbing video: Children being treated after chemical attack in Syria” on April 9, which indicated certainty that the attack did happen and that chemical weapons had been used. However, a search for mentions of or statements by Hassan and his father on the Fox News website gives zero results.

CNN’s coverage follows a similar scenario. Even though some of CNN’s headlines on Douma stipulate that it was a “suspected” attack, others simply define it as a “chemical attack in Syria.” There is no information on Hassan and his recollection of events that took place on April 9.

Searches on the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post return no articles telling the story of Hassan and his father.

Due Impartiality

Very little coverage has been dedicated overall to Hassan’s witness statement, in effect disproving the pretext for an international military attack.

As a consequence, international audiences were largely left out of the balanced discussion over a matter so imperative to the public. According to a recent poll, respondents in Britain mostly opposed a missile attack against Syrian military targets.

The principle of section five of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, under which all media operate in Britain, is “to ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.” Disregarding important developments around the Douma “attack” does not appear to be in compliance with not “favoring one side over another.”

Hassan Diab may be brought to testify to the OPCW, Russia’s Permanent Representative to OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, said in a recent interview.

“At a certain point, I told my Western colleagues: we, probably, will have to use another language, since you don’t understand what we are saying. We will bring here, in The Hague, eyewitnesses who will personally tell you it was a choreographed provocation. I will do my best to have this boy speak here,” Mr. Shulgin said.

He added, however, that “everything is possible” and Hassan might not be allowed to give a statement at the OPCW.

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Press review: What’s next for Russian-Armenian ties and IT watchdog’s clampdown on Google – By TASS

April 24, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday



Izvestia: Armenian-Russian ties to withstand test of time

Following Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation after staying in office for less than a week amid mass protests nationwide, Karen Karapetyan has been appointed acting Prime Minister, while the new PM and cabinet are expected in a week’s time. Sargsyan’s appointment by the national parliament on April 17 sparked widespread demonstrations across the country last week demanding his resignation. Despite the recent developments, economic relations between Armenia and Russia will remain solid as the two countries enjoy well-established and strong ties. More importantly, Moscow is a key economic partner for Yerevan, Izvestia writes with reference to experts.

Valery Mironov, Deputy Director of the Center for Development Institute of the Higher School of Economics, told the newspaper that he does not expect the resignation of PM Sargsyan to have a substantial effect on the trade and economic relationship between Russia and Armenia.

“The protesters noted that this was not a second Maidan, and they aren’t against ties with Russia, they oppose [unlimited] tenure of power. This means that relations with Russia will be fully maintained. That said, another subject for discussion is that they should be expanded, in particular it is necessary to increase mutual trade turnover between the two countries,” he said. According to the expert, “new contracts might be delayed, though the situation will stabilize in the near future, and contracts between Moscow and Yerevan will be resumed.”


FBK Grant Thornton’s Igor Nikolayev told Izvestia that Russia is a key trading partner for Armenia now, and “everyone understands that trade and economic ties should be maintained and developed.” Last year, trade turnover between the countries rose by 29%, according to the data provided by Russia’s Federal Customs Service. Russian exports to Armenia increased 27.7% to $1.2 bln, while imports from Armenia went up 32.2% to $515 mln. Moscow is also among the biggest investors in the Armenian economy, with Russia accounting for over 44% of the total amount of foreign investments in the country, the paper says. The amount of accumulated Russian capital investments in the Armenia economy is over $4 bln.


RBC: Russian media watchdog clamps down on Google in Telegram blockade battle

As Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media is expanding its blockade of resources used by Telegram messenger in the country, it has included Google IP addresses to the list of banned resources. Experts polled by RBC believe that a worst-case scenario can prompt Google to quit the country. Russian Internet users reported problems with operations of Google resources, including google.com, google.ru, and Gmail, late last week. Problems were mainly reported from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Izhevsk and Krasnoyarsk.

In its official statement, the Russian watchdog said that Google had not met its demands and was violating the court’s verdict by continuing to allow the Telegram Messenger Limited Liability Partnership company to use its IP addresses for activity on Russian soil. As a result, the watchdog has included in the registry of banned information a number of IP addresses of Google, which are used by Telegram to carry out its activity in Russia.

Head of Society for Internet Protection Mikhail Klimarev told RBC that the watchdog is seeking to prevent push-notifications used by Telegram to avoid blocks. “Push-notifications are one of the ways to distribute content on the Internet. Any service can use this technology if the client agrees to accept those messages,” he said, adding that by fully blocking push-notifications, the regulator can make Android and iOS smartphones inoperable. Klimarev assumes that Google cannot ban Telegram from using its infrastructure and does not violate the law in this particular case.

“In fact, Zharov (watchdog’s chief Alexander Zharov – TASS) behaves as a punisher, and the Service’s actions against Google are pure blackmail aimed at forcing the company to cooperate with the authorities,” he said. The expert added that Google could even leave Russia in a worst-case scenario. “Of course, Google will lose money, but Russia’s share in the company’s total revenue is less than one percent, and those are not going to be considerable losses against the background of its global business,” he said.

On April 13, Moscow’s Tagansky court blocked access to the cloud-based instant messaging service, Telegram, in Russia over its failure to provide encryption keys to the Federal Security Service, the FSB. The court satisfied the lawsuit by Russia’s telecom watchdog filed on April 6. Telegram said those demands would be impossible to implement since the keys were stored on users’ devices. On April 16, the court’s decision on blocking access to all of Telegram products in Russia came into effect. Data operators received information on restricting access to the messenger. On the same day, the Russian media watchdog started blocking IP addresses of Google and Amazon subnetworks used by Telegram. Malfunctions of other resources, which their hosting services used, were reported.


Media: Sanctions relief to Rusal’s rescue

Potential sanctions relief for Russia’s aluminum giant, Rusal, announced by US Treasury Department on Monday is an unprecedented step, RBC says referring to Brian O’Toole who worked at the US Department of the Treasury from 2009 to 2017 who said that the announcement was “very unusual”. The move shows that “companies (primarily European) that otherwise would have been forced to break deals with Rusal, are facing serious difficulties,” he pointed out. Another source told the paper that OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) never makes announcements on this day of the week and at this time, which highlights a certain crisis.” “The path for the United States to provide sanctions relief is through divestment and relinquishment of control of RUSAL by Oleg Deripaska,” the authority said earlier. The US Treasury’s OFAC also extended the deadline for ending transactions with the Russian aluminum producer Rusal to October 23, 2018.

Previously, Rusal warned of possible technical defaults on certain types of debt obligations after the US Treasury slapped sanctions on the producer. On April 6, the US Treasury put Oleg Deripaska, the main owner of Rusal, and eight companies he controls, on a special SDN list together with other Russian businessmen and entities. According to an explanatory note attached to the list, the US authorities ordered American investors to dump shares of sanctioned Russian companies by May 7, 2018. In addition, prior to June 5, American investors should cancel all contracts they had signed earlier with all 12 blacklisted companies. Later it became known that a number of traders, including Glencore, announced force majeure on some contracts for the supply of Russian aluminum.

ACRA analyst Maxim Khudalov suggests that the recent statement is only aimed at calming the markets. “I don’t believe very much that the company will be excluded from the sanctions list. I think that this rhetoric is aimed at calming the markets as a surge in metal price hits American and European consumers. Once prices stabilize, the US will probably continue efforts to hinder the operations of Rusal, which is why they are taking a pause till the end of October,” he said.


Izvestia: UNESCO broke ties with Crimean partners under western pressure, Russian envoy says

UNESCO’s Secretariat is no longer maintaining contact with the administrations of the World Heritage List sites in Crimea, Russian envoy to UNESCO Alexander Kuznetsov said in an interview with Izvestia. “Under the western pressure the secretariat of UNESCO has broken all contacts with their traditional partners in Crimea, including the World Heritage List site – the Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese. The Secretariat even rejects accepting reports on its integrity,” he said.

According to Kuznetsov, the UN cultural organization uses monitoring results based on Kiev’s reports, which are biased. “They [the reports] are extremely politicized and unilateral. So what ‘monitoring’ in Crimea are we talking about? UNESCO simply ignores the real state of affairs on the peninsula,” he emphasized.

The tendency of politicizing the work of the organization makes its operations far less efficient, the diplomat stressed. “We believe that politicization hurts UNESCO’s work. This humanitarian platform has been established for dialogue and cooperation, not for discussion over political issues, which contradicts its mandate,” he added. Still, Kiev and Western states continue to raise the issue of Crimea’s belonging at UNESCO sessions. “At every session, Ukraine and Western countries promote one the same exact resolution on Crimea, which only aims at stating that Crimea is part of Ukraine, in defiance of reality,” Kuznetsov said.

However, he noted that members of the organization’s executive board do not consider it necessary to add the Crimean issue to the agenda. “A growing number of countries realize how blind it is to discuss the issue in UNESCO. During this session, the number of votes against the Crimean resolution increased from 5 to 11, with 16 participants supporting it,” he said speaking about the latest 204th session of the UNESCO executive board in Paris, adding that the remaining delegates either abstained from the voting or skipped the meeting.


Kommersant: Price tag for building new satellite for Angola maybe $130 mln

On Monday, Angolan officials officially acknowledged the loss of the Angosat-1 telecom satellite. Russia’s aerospace corporation, Energia produced the satellite and agreed to construct an updated version, Angosat-2. However, a rocky financial road is foreseen when implementing the project, Kommersant business daily writes. The payment for the production of the second satellite is expected to come from the insurance reimbursement for the lost AngoSat-1 satellite worth $121 mln. However, the insurance will only cover half of the related works, with the Russian side having to pick up the tab and look for other ways to pay for it. The Angosat-2 project is estimated to cost $130 mln at least.

Angosat-1 telecom satellite was launched on December 26, 2017, from the Baikonur space center on the territory of Kazakhstan with the aid of the Zenit-2SB launch vehicle and the Fregat booster. On December 27, after separating from the booster, the ground control center lost communication with the satellite. The ground control mission attempted to regain communication with the satellite up to mid-January 2018 when the latter left the zone of direct radio visibility from Russian territory. Angolan Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies Jose Carvalho da Rocha said that the satellite indicated a malfunction, which made its use impossible. He confirmed to Kommersant that the contract stipulates the obligation of the Russian side to construct a second satellite within 30 months.

The terms are going to be a “heavy burden” for Russia’s Energiya, a top manager of one of the companies involved in the project told the newspaper. A total of $252 mln was poured into the first satellite in 2011. Taking into account the suggestions of the Angolan side, the final sum is going to reach at least $250 mln, which means the corporation will have to find $129 on its own, using borrowed funds, loans, etc. A source in Russia’s government told Kommersant that this is an image-building effort, but simultaneously a substantial financial loss: “Those funds could have been spent on the construction of satellite systems for the development of the Arctic.”


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review




Russia capable of providing S-300 to Syria within one month — source – By TASS

April 23, 18:46 UTC+3

According to the source, there are two options of delivering the S-300 to Syria

© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, April 23. /TASS/. Russia is technically capable of providing its air defense systems S-300 to Syria within one month, a military-diplomatic source has told TASS, adding that for this the launchers already at the Defense Ministry’s disposal might be used after the required reconfiguration, a military-diplomatic source has told TASS.

According to the official, there are two options of delivering the S-300 to Syria. One is Russia may provide to Syria the export configuration of the air defense launchers. In that case Syria will get them in 18 to 24 months from now. The other possibility is the available systems may be retrieved from the Defense Ministry’s reserves. Those replaced by S-400 in the Russian army might be use, too.

“Naturally, the used S-300 systems that may be taken to Syria will have to be reconfigured to suit the standards of the Syrian air defense. This work may take about a month,” the source said.

TASS has no official confirmation of this.


Earlier, the daily Kommersant quoted its own sources as saying that Russia in the near future might start the delivery of S-300 Favorit air defense systems to Syria.


S-300 for Syria


Russia’s General Staff declared it might be possible to raise the question once again of providing S-300 systems to Damascus shortly after the United States, Britain and France on April attacked Syria with cruise missiles. The agreement with Syria on providing S-300 was signed back in 2010 only to be frozen due to objections from the West and Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on April 16 said Russia might be prepared to consider all the necessary steps for enhancing Syria’s defense capabilities, including the supplies of S-300 systems. On April 23 Lavrov said the question of providing S-300 to Syria had not been settled yet, but Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed that possibility with the Defense Ministry “from the standpoint of preventing a situation where Syria might turn out insufficiently prepared for aggressive attacks, like the one that took place on April 14.”

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from comment when asked if S-300 might be delivered to Syria in the near future.




Empire Collapse: Russian Missile Tech Renders America’s Trillion Dollar Navy Obsolete – By Dmitry Orlov /Russia Insider(SOTT)

Dmitry Orlov

kinzhal hypersonic missile

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.

‘Common Shield’: Will Russia, EU Ever Create a Defense Alliance? – By Sputnik

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

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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.”

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
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.

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.

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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