The Afghan Quagmire Gets Deeper, Denser and Bloodier – By Brian CLOUGHLEY (Strategic Culture Foundation)

The Afghan Quagmire Gets Deeper, Denser and Bloodier

In April 1971 John Kerry, who served gallantly in Vietnam and was later Secretary of State, stood in front of a US Senate Committee and asked “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Today, we could do with a John Kerry to ask the same question about the war in Afghanistan.

On August 5 it was reported that “a suicide bomber has killed three Czech NATO soldiers in an attack in eastern Afghanistan. The victims were targeted while on a routine foot patrol alongside Afghan forces, NATO officials said in a statement. A US soldier and two Afghan soldiers were wounded in the attack in Charikar, the capital of Parwan province.”

Just what is being achieved by Czech soldiers on fighting patrols 5,000 kilometres from home is not explained by any of the authorities responsible for their deployment — and thus for placing them in jeopardy of their lives — but the usual nauseating platitudes were promptly mouthed by some of them.

The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis, declared that the dead soldiers were “heroes who fought against terrorism so far from home.” Well, he should know about operating far from home. Forbes lists him as being worth four billion dollars and owning “a Michelin-starred restaurant, La Paloma, in the French Riviera” which is no doubt some consolation to the relatives and friends of the men who were killed. Babis, of course, sent his “deepest condolences to their families,” as did the ever-ready General John Nicholson, the sixteenth commander in Washington’s seventeen years of war, who, never at a loss for futile banality, babbled that “Their sacrifice will endure in both our hearts and history and further strengthen our resolve.” What utter garbage.

The “sacrifice” of these Czech soldiers won’t be felt by any hearts other than those of their grieving families, and it is insulting to claim that it will. And their deaths won’t get even the tiniest footnote in history. As to “strengthening our resolve” — resolve to do what? — to carry on mouthing phoney inanities about the utter chaos in Afghanistan?

This tawdry exhibition of fake emotion sticks in the gullet — but it’s not as sickening as the observation in The Economist that the war’s “current cost — roughly $45 billion and around a dozen lives a year — is modest enough to invite little interest from Congress or the media. That suggests Mr Trump’s strategy is sustainable.”

The talented intellectuals of The Economist think that the deaths of a dozen American soldiers every year in the unwinnable Afghan War indicate that the policies of Trump and the Pentagon can be maintained indefinitely. What’s a dozen lives, after all?

Well, listen to me, you clever little intellectuals and you swaggering military strategists, because I’m going to tell you a few home truths.

The soldiers who have died — and those who are going to die —have relatives who love them. They have parents, brothers, sisters, wives, partners, children, all of whom suffer when the lives of their nearest and dearest are sacrificed by a bunch of no-hopers as part of a “modest” cost in a supposedly “sustainable strategy” in a country that is ungovernable.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University estimates that more than 100,000 people have died in the war in Afghanistan. They weren’t all soldiers, of course, because in conflicts like this, the civilian population always suffers from action by both militants and the armed forces involved. In July, the UN reported that 1,692 Afghan civilians were killed, and 3,430 injured in the first six months of 2018, which is the record for that period in the seventeen years of this catastrophe.

But let’s get back to the soldiers who are dying.

On August 9 it was finally acknowledged by the Kabul government that over twenty Afghan soldiers had been killed in an insurgent attack on August 3 in Uruzgan province. There were no US-NATO troops involved, so there has been little reporting of the disaster by the western media, and no mention of it whatever by NATO headquarters, but it is the most serious setback suffered by the Afghan Army for several months.

Consider what happens to the dependant families of dead Afghan soldiers: the widows are entitled to pensions, of course — but Afghanistan is the third most corrupt country in the world. Do you imagine for a moment that these anguished women receive a fraction of the tiny amount to which they are entitled? Of course they don’t. Usually, they don’t get a bean, because the money is stolen by crooked and heartless government officials. What have you to say to that, General Nicholson? Does it strengthen your resolve to do anything?

As reported by the Japan Times, “Help for Afghan Heroes, an Afghan non-profit organization supporting 5,000 families of wounded or dead security forces, said corruption is a key reason many women do not receive assistance.” Nasreen Sharar, special projects officer for the group, said that “they are asked to pay a bribe to get the application processed and they often don’t have the money.”

Of course they don’t have the money. They are just tiny inconsequential and stricken blobs in a “sustainable strategy” that costs $45 billion and “around a dozen lives a year.”

Hashratullah Ahmadzai, spokesman for Kabul’s Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, told Arab News “We are in a state of war. The number of women who become widows is increasing. Those who fight on the government side and those on the side of the Taliban and the militants have wives and mothers too. People on both sides suffer and women on all sides are affected more than anyone in this war.”

But what about the Czech army soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan? The western media carried the 130 word Reuter‘s report about their deaths, and then forgot all about them, which makes a sick joke of Nicholson’s pompous pronouncement that “Their sacrifice will endure in both our hearts and history.”

They were Staff Sergeant Martin Marcin, 36, and Corporals Kamil Benes, 28, and Patrik Stepanek, 25, about whose deaths the Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar declared that “We have witnessed a tragedy that can hardly be prevented when you serve in the army.” I would really like to be able to put that grubby politician on a patrol in Afghanistan, along with the intellectuals of The Economist and all the other smart-assed commentators to whom soldiers’ lives and grieving widows mean nothing.

Not that the Czech government told us much about the widows or other relatives of the soldiers Mr Metnar sent to die in Afghanistan. All that was reported by Czech Radio was “One leaves behind a widow and a three-month-old baby.”

At least, she’ll probably be paid her pension, unlike so many widows of Afghan Army soldiers who also died for… What?

In all the years of useless conflict in Afghanistan the western media has never listed the names of Afghan Army soldiers killed in action, because these soldiers don’t matter in the greater scheme of things — the “sustainable strategy” — in which they are but inconsequential pawns, as are all the civilians who are killed by bombing, whether on the ground by the Taliban, or from the sky by Afghan-US-NATO airstrikes.

The BBC reports that “Since President Trump announced his Afghanistan strategy . . . the number of bombs dropped by the US Air Force has surged dramatically. New rules of engagement have made it easier for US forces to carry out strikes against the Taliban” and this surge in aerial blitzing has certainly had an effect.

In the first six months of 2018 the UN documented “353 civilian casualties (149 deaths and 204 injured) from aerial attacks, a 52 per cent increase from the same period in 2017. The mission attributed 52 per cent of all civilian casualties from aerial attacks to the Afghan Air Force, 45 per cent to international military forces, and the remaining three per cent to unidentified Pro-Government Forces.”

While Afghan and foreign air forces blitz the country, and the Taliban and other militants wreak havoc with their constant attacks, all that happens politically is that corruption thrives and the murderously criminal vice-president, Abdurrashid Dostum, returns from self-imposed exile to create further chaos. The place is ungovernable, and the foreigners should get out, now.

As John Kerry said, almost fifty years ago: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Must-Watch Russian Documentary, Banned in The West: ‘The Magnitsky Act – Behind the Scenes’ – By CaptainWho/ BitChute (SOTT)

magnitsky act documentary

Who was Sergei Magnitsky, and why are we supposed to believe he was a hero?

The official story:

  • Bill Browder was an American businessman who ran a hedgefund in Russia.
  • Corrupt Russian cops, with the help of the Russian mafia, stole his business through a convoluted fraud scheme.
  • The lead cop grew rich from his stolen money.
  • Sergei Magnitsky was one of Browder’s lawyers.
  • Magnitsky reported the fraud to the Russian government.
  • Magnitsky was arrested and brutally treated in jail.
  • 7 riot cops beat Magnitsky to death while he was handcuffed.
  • The official cause of death listed ‘heart failure’.
  • Browder has since spent all his time and money lobbying Western governments to sanction Russian individuals in honor of Magnitsky, and scored a major breakthrough when US Congress passed the first round of anti-Russia sanctions via the Magnitsky Act in 2012.

Andrei Nekrasov, the Russian film-maker and director of this documentary (The Magnitsky Act – Behind the Scenes) set out as a believer in Browder’s story about the heroic Magnitsky and the evil Russian government. In the course of making a dramatic movie about it, however, Nekrasov and his crew realized that many details didn’t add up. And so their production evolved into an investigative documentary…

What they discovered instead:

  • Bill Browder used a simple ‘power of attorney’ to transfer his company to the Russian mafia.
  • Magnitsky was never a lawyer, but rather an accountant.
  • Magnitsky had worked for Browder since the 1990s.
  • Magnitsky met with the Russian mafia to transfer the ownership.
  • Browder used this period of unclear ownership to launder over $200 million.
  • The mafiosi in question then died mysteriously. Along with several other mafiosi.
  • The lead cop bought his house before property values went up.
  • The lead cop sold his house to fund a defamation lawsuit against Browder.
  • A woman who worked for Browder reported the crime.
  • Browder and HSBC called the report false.
  • Magnitsky went to jail and was asked to testify.
  • No record exists of Magnitsky reporting any crime.
  • Magnitsky had diabetes and died of neglect.
  • Magnitsky’s mother believes the prison was negligent, but did not intentionally kill her son.
  • Browder is using the Magnitsky story to avoid an Interpol warrant for tax fraud in Russia.
  • Browder’s sworn testimony in the US contradicted his company’s statements in Russia.
  • Browder’s sworn testimony relies on him not remembering details he wrote a best-selling book about.
  • Every official Western report concerning this case relies solely on Bill Browder and his sources.
Comment: Bill Browder is the man named by Vladimir Putin in his press conference with Donald Trump last week in Helsinki. Putin let it be known that $400,000 of the millions Browder’s Hermitage Capital defrauded from the Russian state went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign fund. So yes, ‘Russian funny money’ played a role in the 2016 US presidential election, but it’s not what you’ve been told by the media.

In addition to being the key witness that got ‘anti-Russia sanctions’ rolling in 2012 (i.e., BEFORE things went down in Ukraine and Russia ‘annexed’ Crimea), Browder also popped up in the Russiagate hearings to effectively testify against Don Trump Jr over that meeting involving a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in mid-2016.

Browder’s shady business history in Russia and his newfound role as a ‘human rights campaigner’ are explored in the must-read book by Alex Krainer, Grand Deception: the Truth About Bill Browder, the Magnitsky Act, and Anti-Russia Sanctions, a book banned by Amazon and now available in hard copy from Red Pill Press. Radio interviewed author Alex Krainer late last year about his research into Bill Browder and his ‘friends in high places’…

Israel takes its last breath in southern Syria as Hezbollah and Iran join Syrians in confrontation with ISIS on Golan border – By Elijah J. Magnier ( (SOTT)

daraa map

The Syrian army and the allies of Hezbollah and Iran are preparing to finish off the last pockets of militants and jihadists in the city of Daraa (the western part of it), as well as the Quneitra governorate, where the “Islamic State-Welayat Houran” (ISIS in Quneitra) militants are in control of 18 km along the 1974-line separating Syria from the occupied Golan. The presence of these terrorist groups has been tolerated and even supported by Israel in the last years of the Syrian war.

The next battle will be decisive in ending all pockets outside the authority of the Damascus government. Despite this fact Israel is still trying to intervene in the Syrian south, resisting any acceptance of the status quo: the years of war are over on its borders, and Syria is regaining the control of its territory. Actually, it is also the Israeli officials who are breathing their last in the Syrian war, which is nearing its end. What will remain to be liberated is the US & Turkish occupied North of Syria.

But the failure of the regime change is not hitting only Israel but the entire assembly of pundits in Arab and western countries. Daraa al Balad (the place where the first the slogan was raised in 2011 “Allawites to the coffin and Christians to Beirut” (Alawi ila al-Tabut wal Masihi ila Beirut)), has capitulated to the Syrian Army, who are in control of 85% of the province of Daraa. The Syrian Army is also advancing in ISIS & Huran controlled territory and is taking control of the high ground in order to pound the terrorist group’s position. The sound of bombardment is heard in the occupied Golan Heights, under the nose of the Israeli Army – which is incapable of changing the course of this next battle.

Sources in the Syrian capital say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow will only weaken Israel’s position, revealing not only President Putin’s intention not to meet the demands of his Israeli guest, but also that Israel’s reference in Syria, as it has not resorted to its traditional ally (the United States), has become Moscow, not Washington.

Netanyahu’s presence in the Russian capital – in parallel with the presence of the envoy and adviser of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati in Moscow – will only bring him back empty handed to Tel Aviv. Instead of presenting himself as a prestigious political leader “trying to score points in his favour”, Netanyahu is looking extremely weak, and also politically impotent. Trying to compensate for his diplomatic failure with Moscow by bombing the three abandoned positions of the Syrian army in Quneitra will achieve nothing. Netanyahu has only managed to appear feebler: he does not dare hit the Syrians and their allied forces (Hezbollah and Iran), in the presence of the hundreds of special units who are in the process of liberating the south.

Several days ago, Netanyahu bombed positions at the T4 military airport, sending his jets deep into the desert of al-Badiyah and towards Homs province. It is clear that he is aided by the American forces occupying northern Syria, who allowed Israel to use its military airports built in al-Hasaka province.

However, the first response Israel got came from the Lebanese “Hezbollah” which sent more special forces to confront ISIS in the Quneitra province. The Syrian Army and its allies are preparing for this forthcoming important battle once the 18km enclave occupied by ISIS is completely besieged. Therefore, before beginning the last battle in the south, the evacuation of all Jabhat al-Nusra (aka Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) and other jihadists and militants is necessary.

The second response came from Iran, sending a drone to penetrate 10 km into Israel. This act constituted a blow to the Israeli defences, showing their slow reaction and intelligence and military defence weaknesses – even if the plane was later shot down by a Patriot missile.

The bottom line: Israel has pushed Iran to violate all the “red lines” that existed (even if these were not announced and agreed by the parties concerned). Instead of the Iranian-Israeli conflict taking place outside the borders of Israel, the military bras-de-fer has moved into Israeli airspace. The Iranian and Hezbollah violation of Israeli airspace – unthinkable to any country or organisation in the Middle East – has become a regular promenade.

Netanyahu is begging the Russian leader – this is the third visit in 6 months – to prevent Iran and Hezbollah’s presence on the Syrian border. It is obvious that he has failed in his attempt, due to Hezbollah and Iran’s manifest presence in the southern battle of Syria. The Israeli Prime Minister will also ask Donald Trump to raise the same topic at the upcoming summit between the Russian and the US leaders in the coming days. But no great achievement in this regard is expected for the following simple reasons:

  1. Syria is determined to regain full control of its southern territories. Actually, the battle was imposed during the Russian-Israeli negotiations and President Assad is determined not to give up any inch of territory. Therefore, he has not succumbed to the Israeli threats.
  2. Israel lowered its ceiling of demands when President Bashar al-Assad helped remove Prime Minister Netanyahu from the tree he climbed by ordering his forces to begin the battle, imposing his own tempo and asking his allies to participate in the battle against Jihadists.
  3. Damascus does not meet all Russian demands, despite their joint military collaboration across Syrian geography. This difference has emerged in more than one battle in recent years, without necessarily causing any fundamental clash of interest between the two parties.
  4. Assad meets his Iranian ally’s goals and objectives: the two agreed on their common hostility to Israel without interfering with the good Russian-Israeli relationship.
  5. Assad will not abandon the “axis of resistance,” which has proved itself by its fulfilment of its obligations, supporting Syria with men and weapons. This “Axis” has always been, and still is, confident in the cause of the Syrian president, even though he almost lost the country in 2013. The advocates in this axis defended the Levant without imposing their faith or making demands on Assad in exchange for their intervention. Moreover, the members of the “Axis” gave complete freedom of decision to Assad to decide what he considered his priorities and objectives. They did not interfere in his internal policies and – unlike Russia on several occasions – did not stake a claim to the day when the Syrian President must step down from office (apparently to appease the West and the Arabs).

Israel is expected to strike again and to bomb in Syria, pretending to be relaxed and comfortable. In fact, Israel looks like a wounded bird hit by a hunter: it is dancing from the pain of leaving Syria.

Israel pulled out from Lebanon in 2000 unconditionally, and today it is abandoning its allies in the Syrian south, leaving these – as it did with the South Lebanon Army – without any support.

Israel contributed to the rise of the resistance in Lebanon in 1982 which gave birth to Hezbollah, the most powerful organisation in the Middle East, which now competes with many regular armies in the Middle East. Israel erred in supporting the jihadists in Syria and assisting the plan to overthrow Assad: it managed only to create a “Hezbollah-Syria”.

Syria has downed more than one Israeli jet; drones flew over Israel and rockets and missiles were fired at its soldiers in the occupied Golan Heights. Today, Israel is reduced to threatening any force violating the 1974 line – which has never been violated for the last 40 years.

Following 2006, Israel has once more been defeated, and in Syria. The aggressive stance it has used when claiming to “defend itself” will no longer be successful with an “axis” which is determined to liberate all Syria’s occupied territories… and in the Lebanon. It is now no longer be possible for Israel to use “the right to defend itself” as an excuse to do just what it wants.

Proof read by: Maurice Brasher

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About Elijah J. Magnier

Veteran War Zone Correspondent and Senior Political Risk Analyst with over 35 years’ experience covering the Middle East and acquiring in-depth experience, robust contacts and political knowledge in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Syria. Specialised in terrorism and counter-terrorism, intelligence, political assessments, strategic planning and thorough insight in political networks in the region. Covered on the ground the Israeli invasion to Lebanon (1st war 1982), the Iraq-Iran war, the Lebanese civil war, the Gulf war (1991), the war in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1996), the US invasion to Iraq (2003 to date), the second war in Lebanon (2006), the war in Libya and Syria (2011 to date). Lived for many years in Lebanon, Bosnia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria. View all posts by Elijah J Magnier

Comment: Yesterday the Syrians completely liberated the city of Daraa. All that remains are the pockets of FSA/al-Qaeda/ISIS along the border with occupied Golan. See: Where it all began: Syrian Army liberates Daraa from western-backed terrorists

Vanessa Beeley: ‘Dehumanized, discounted, marginalized’ Syria’s victors defying airbrushed US narrative – By Vanessa Beeley (RT) (SOTT)

war in Syria

© Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

The war in Syria has lasted more than seven years, bringing with it a devastation and bloodshed which has thrown a prosperous and stable Middle Eastern nation into chaos and uncertainty.

In the West we are used to reading a history of such conflicts written by the victor. The imperialist narrative is the dominant one. History is distorted to preserve the perceived moral prowess of the conqueror.

The reality is this: A proud nation is brought to its knees by sanctions, hostile media attention and the inevitable military campaign waged directly or indirectly via proxy forces chosen from viable opposition elements. Power is multiplied by the US and her partners in the UK and France with assorted NATO-member vassal states hanging onto their coat tails.

Crimes against humanity are glorified in Hollywood. The dirty underbelly of these lawless, vigilante military campaigns is concealed beneath the mantra of “democracy.” What does it matter if Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was sodomized and murdered, publicly torn apart, if it was done to make the world a “better place”?

History will omit the fact that Libya is now a den of iniquity, a failed state battling slavery, mass migration, prostitution, drug cartels and the inevitable sectarian, extremist warlords who rule mafia-style over the vanquished nation. Hell, this is “Democracy”!

I guess, for the American exceptionalist nation, bombing to bring peace has its downsides after all, but history will put that right when it’s written by the perpetrators who heaped universal misery on the Libyan people in the sacrosanct name of “democracy.”

Syria is another story. The Syrians have confounded the US and its allies. At every turn, every plan B, Syria has responded with unity, resistance and pride in its independence and territorial integrity. Syria has upheld international law, it has called upon its historical allies and they have responded, to the consternation of the Western policy designers. The multitude of aligned narrative-pushers and history-writers cut their Syrian cloth long ago, but they failed to incorporate the rich tapestry of Syrian society which has survived centuries of foreign invasion and influence and emerged victorious.

While history-writers in the West have been poised to sketch the fall of the Syrian government – torn asunder by the prefabricated ‘Arab Spring’ uprising – the Syrian people have pushed back against the stream of invective that threatened their secular existence, their right to determine their own future. They have refused to succumb to the narrative concocted for them by the war hawks and the neocons in Congress. The Syrian people have fought back and sacrificed everything to make their history their own.

What we see now is a desperate scramble by the policy-makers in the US, aided and abetted by their aligned media, think tanks and policy institutions, to respond to the truth expansion that is stealing their lies and burying them beneath an awakened public consensus. What can they do to regain the moral high ground? They built their foreign policy hopes on a morass of extremist and terrorist groups which have converted Syria’s landscape into a shattered, craggy lunar warscape, littered with reminders of the US coalition’s failure to bring this proud nation to her knees.

The history-writers are floundering, their ability to respond is flailing under fire from quarters they never expected to have ammunition. Comments have been selectively removed from the ‘Comment is Free’ Guardian – in some cases comments are not allowed at all. The history-writers don’t like their version of events being corrected and contradicted by a Western ‘Media Spring’ uprising that is not funded by the state but is a genuine expression of disgust at the lies being marketed as “truth.”

Recently, a number of the history-writers have attempted a counter coup to suppress the ‘Media Spring’ storm which threatens to engulf them. Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s campaign manager battled furiously against logic and rational debate on Twitter with little support or success:

Benedict retreated into the corner these history-writers have drawn onto their “humanitarian” road map to war, and from there he tried to fling the default ad hominem, narrative-defense missiles – “conspiracy theorist, Assadist, Putinist,” any kind of “ist” that reduces a logical examination of fact down to the lowest form of bias, even when arguments are being made by Syrians against the prevailing narrative. They are, after all, the ‘wrong kind of Syrian.’

During this skirmish, @JJScott made a very important point that was utterly ignored by Benedict because it would mean diverting history into an area where the mainstream narrative is deprived of oxygen. Scott mentioned that prior to 2009 it was almost impossible to find negative criticism of President Bashar Assad.

I also responded with the supporting argument that, in 2003, Tony Blair had communicated to George Bush – the hope that perhaps Iran and Syria could avoid the fate of Iraq by accepting a “different relationship,” a relationship that was soured when President Assad proved he was no stooge for the West and said “no” to a variety of the deals the West considered to be slam-dunk.

One of those deals was acceptance of the Qatar-Turkey oil pipeline over the Iranian (Russian preferred) pipeline. President Assad refused. What? “We don’t offer knighthoods to independent thinkers & visionaries, we crush them,” would have been the thought-bubble hovering above Blair’s knitted brow at that point.

Despite all evidence of the Syrian ‘Arab Spring’ being fomented and incubated well before its emergence in 2011, a couple more history-writers have even tried to float the concept that the invasion of Syria was never in the top drawer of the ‘intervention filing cabinet’ in the US.

Ex-Guardian history-writer Brian Whitaker, who had a good innings rewriting Libya’s tragic history according to the Western guidelines, has done his utmost to repeat the exercise on Syria. One of his most recent forays into the Twitter public sphere entailed the claim that “regime change” was never a plan for the neocons in Congress, or the Tories and Blairites in the UK Parliament.

It was just one of those uprisings that emerged organically from grassroots unrest and dissatisfaction, and the uprisers conveniently happened to have a couple of TOW missiles under their beds for just that kind of occasion. Like so many history-writers, Whitaker stuck to his guns but was seen running for cover under a barrage of fact and evidence from an increasingly dismayed and disillusioned public.

Another pro “Syrian revolution” history-writer at Mother Jones, Shane Bauer, attempted a similar tactic of denial of imperialist designs on Syria, but he retreated more rapidly under a hail of derision and deleted the tweet, we believe.

Screenshot of deleted tweet

Screenshot of deleted tweet

The infamous, multi-million-dollar propaganda construct, the White Helmets were fashioned by NATO member states and Qatar to revise Syrian history in the image of their creators. The White Helmet’s Oscar nominated ‘Last Men in Aleppo‘ movie, erased Al-Nusra Front, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and more than 50 splinter factions of sectarian, extremist armed-to-the-teeth militants in East Aleppo and replaced them with the ‘fire-breathing dragons’ of Syria and Russia who ‘consumed Syrian civilians’ in their rampage towards “retaking Syria” – for Syrians, as it turns out.

More than 120,000 civilians from East Aleppo fled the White Helmets and Al Qaeda-led occupation for the safety of the Syrian government in secure West Aleppo during the liberation in December 2016. But Hollywood has airbrushed this inconvenient truth along with a plethora of others in favour of a sanitized history freed from a reality of US criminal intent in the region.

In 2006 an article appeared in TIME entitled ‘Syria in Bush’s Crosshairs.’ “The Bush Administration has been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad. Parts of the scheme are outlined in a classified, two-page document that says that the US already is ‘supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists'” in Europe. The document bluntly expresses the hope that “these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists.”

The sources of evidence of a planned regime change in Syria are undeniable and overwhelming: The redacted DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) documents, WikiLeaks, Roland Dumas exposing a British plot to back the “rebels” before 2011, the Chilcot report, Bush-Blair communiqués, General Wesley Clark, released CIA documents (Bringing Real Muscle to Bear Against Syria 1983), Professor Jeffrey Sachs discussing operation Timber-Sycamore on NBC

“We know they sent in the CIA, to overthrow Assad.”

There is a history of CIA interventions in Syria stretching back into the last century. If any of these history-rewriters actually bothered to read history they might find it rich in source material but it goes against the grain to consider historical fact when their version of “history” depends upon it being relegated to conspiracy theorism.

The current geopolitical somersault being executed by the history-writers in the US is Donald Trump’s apparent willingness to “cut a deal” with President Vladimir Putin in Syria in what appears to be an attempt to weaken Iranian influence in the cradle of resistance against to Western meddling.

The regime change project is a failure and now we see the damage-limitation teams being deployed. History must not register a defeat, it must be recalibrated for the US alliance to maintain a veneer of respectability. The “glorious, upstanding” US coalition must not be seen limping from the battlefield.

The history-writers are effectively feeling the impact of having the pen wrested from their grip by those who will reveal the hidden facts, context and diverging views. History is being rewritten by the people who denied the history-shapers their victory, it is being written by those that US ‘history’ would have us dehumanize, discount, marginalize. It is being written by the true conquerors in Syria who will ensure a kinder history for humanity in the future.

Vanessa Beeley is an independent investigative journalist and photographer. She is associate editor at 21st Century Wire.

Syria and the major turn of events in the south – By Willy B (Sic Semper Tyrannis) (SOTT)

Jihadi surrender

Jihadi surrender

Whoever’s making US policy in Syria, it’s certainly not Nikki Haley. Despite her rabid statement of Friday, in which she declared that “Russia will ultimately bear responsibility for any further escalations in Syria,” Russian war planes joined the battle for Daraa overnight, last night, after having been “conspicuously absent” as Reuters put it earlier on Saturday.

At the same time, the US government informed the southern rebel groups via a letter seen by Reuters that it could expect no US military intervention on their behalf. This may have been the motivation for more units of the FSA to defect to the side of the Syrian army in order to fight against Hayat Tahrir al Sham, the latest incarnation of Al Qaeda in Syria. Were the Russian and US actions coordinated?

Though the evidence is only circumstantial, it would appear that, despite Haley’s threats, the Trump Administration is actually in support of the Syrian strategy to pressure any jihadi elements that don’t change sides to surrender and evacuate, as was done in Douma in April. No one on either the U.S. or Russian sides has said anything to such effect, of course. There hasn’t even been any acknowledgement on the Russian side, as of yet, that Russian warplanes are carrying out air strikes in support of Syrian forces in Daraa.

The time line of events over the past 24 hours or so is generally as follows:

Al Masdar first broke the news that Russian aircraft had joined the campaign at 12:20 AM local time last night. A military source said that Russian aircraft had launched some 20 air strikes across northeastern Daraa starting at about 11 PM local time but that the majority of them hit the town of Busra Al-Harir, which practically divides the jihadi-held area in half. Within 40 minutes the number of air strikes was up to 30. About the same time, Reuters reported that while Syrian government forces had so far made heavy use of artillery and rockets in the current assault, Russian warplanes had not been deployed until now.

“Throwing in Russia’s full military weight in the campaign to regain southern Syria will weaken the ability of mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel groups to withstand relentless bombing on civilian areas that forced their compatriots in other areas to submit to surrender deals,” the news agency further noted.

The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement at mid-day Moscow time today reporting that FSA formations in eleven settlements had joined with the Syrian army to fight against ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra. “By the end of June 23 these settlements were fully under control of the legitimate Syrian authorities,” the Center said. The statement comes just a day after the Syrian army and the FSA jointly repelled an attack by over a thousand of al-Nusra Front terrorists in the Syrian southern de-escalation zone, Sputnik adds.

At the same time, Reuters reported that the United States has told Syrian rebel factions they should not expect military support to help them resist a Russian-backed government offensive to regain opposition-held parts of Syria bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. A copy of a message sent by Washington to heads of Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups, which was seen by Reuters, said the U.S. government wanted to make clear that “you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us.” The U.S. message also told the rebels, according to Reuters, that it was left to them alone to make the right decision on how to face the Syrian army’s military campaign based on what they saw was best for themselves and their people.

It’s quite possible, it seems to me, that what we’ll be seeing over the next several days, is the implementation of the same reconciliation strategy that we saw in Eastern Ghouta, Aleppo and other areas where some so-called rebel fighters will lay down their arms and settle their status with the government, others will be evacuated to Idlib and those that refuse, most likely ISIS, will be destroyed. Iran’s Fars News Agency reported yesterday that some opposition (“terrorist”) groups are demanding exactly that. Fars cites local sources reporting that the army’s rapid advances in Dara’a province caused the terrorist groups to lay down their arms in the villages and towns of al-Lajah region (which according to the Al Masdar reports cited above was a major objective of the Syrian assault) and agree to the army’s terms and conditions, calling for implementation of the reconciliation plan.

Comment: Will the US keep its word, not engage and let Russia and Syria handle the reconciliation plan?

Upgraded to New M3M Standard, Tu-22 Takes to Sky in August – By Andrei AKULOV (Strategic Cultural Foundation)

Upgraded to New M3M Standard, Tu-22 Takes to Sky in August
Andrei AKULOV | 09.06.2018 | SECURITY / DEFENSE

The Tu-22M3M variant of the Tu-22, a supersonic variable-sweep wing bomber, is to make its maiden flight in August and enter into service in October. The Russian Air Force operates 62 Tu-22M3s. Some of the planes have carried out combat missions in Syria. According to the plans that have been announced, 30 TU-22M3s will have been modernized to meet the M3M standard by 2020. This aircraft is not classified as a heavy bomber and therefore is not covered by the New START treaty.

This far-reaching upgrade includes improved avionics, a new communications suite, an updated weapon-control system, digital radio-navigation equipment, and the ability to attack surface and sea targets with long-range precision-guided weapons.

It has the following specifications: a maximum speed of 2,300 km/h; a cruising speed of 900 km/h; an operating ceiling of 13,000 m; a maximum altitude of 14,000 m; a rate of climb of 15m/s; an operational range of 7,000 km (10,000 km with air refueling); an empty weight of 53,500 kg; a maximum takeoff weight of 126,400 kg; and a crew of 4. The pressurized cockpit is fitted with climate-control systems. The plane is powered by two NK-25 turbofan engines with large air intakes and dual exhausts. Each engine produces a maximum thrust of 25,000 kg. With its tricycle gear, the aircraft can land on unprepared runways.

The armament suite includes a Kh-32 long-range, multi-purpose missile specifically designed to attack US Navy carrier strike groups with a nuclear or conventional 500-kilogram (1,102 lb) warhead. It can hit land targets as well. The list of enemy assets it is capable of knocking out includes radar equipment, large vessels, bridges, power stations, command posts, and other military installations. Equipped with an inertial navigation system and a radio-radar seeker, it need not depend on satellites for guidance, making it immune to jamming.

The missile flies along a unique trajectory, climbing to the stratosphere (40 kilometers) after launch and then either going straight down to hit the target or executing a shallower dive in order to approach it flying as low as five meters above the surface. At such a low altitude the Kh-32 cannot be detected by radar until it is only about 10 km away, leaving a reaction window of approximately 10 seconds. Fast and maneuverable, air-defense systems have little opportunity to fend it off. The SM-6 surface-to-air-missile (SAM), America’s best air-defense tool, is useless against the Kh-32.

It has an operational range of up to 1,000 kilometers and a maximum speed of 5,400 kilometers per hour (1,500 meters per second) during the terminal phase of its flight.

The Tu-22M3M can carry three KH-32s (weighing about six tons each) or 12 of the lighter Kh-15 missiles. The Raduga Kh-15 is an air-to-surface hypersonic aero-ballistic weapon with an operational range of 300 km. The aircraft will be able to carry six to eight Kh-SD medium-range (up to 2,000 km) cruise missiles, and there are plans to develop and produce it under the auspices of Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018–27 (GPV-2027).

Its payload is also made up of FAB-250 or FAB-1500 free-fall bombs. The aircraft is armed with a double-barreled GSH-23 (23 mm) gun installed in the remotely controlled tail turret.

The Tu-22M3M uses the SVP-24 all-weather special computing subsystem for precise guidance. The GLONASS satellite navigation system constantly compares the position of the plane and the target. The SVP-24 measures environmental parameters to correct the flight. Information is received from all datalinks to compute its flight envelope. There are enough sensors to enable targeting even if the GLONASS receivers are jammed. With fire-and–forget guidance in place, the pilot can concentrate on countering threats and finding new targets to hit.

Currently Russia’s strategic aviation fleet is undergoing an extensive revamping. The modernization of the Tu-160 supersonic strategic heavy bombers is underway and due to be complete by 2030, along with the Tu-22M3M upgrade. The Russian Air Force’s ability to attack enemy assets as an element of conventional, not nuclear, warfare will be greatly expanded. The conventional strike capability of its armed forces is to be augmented by adding relatively low-cost multipliers to their existing arsenal of conventional offensive long-range weapons. This will significantly enhance its power projection capability. The conflict in Syria has been a good example of this. The successful updates to Russia’s long-range aviation forces illustrate the ability of the Russian defense industry to meet the challenges of today.

Uran-9: the Russian Army Leads the World in Ground-Combat Robots – B Arkady SAVITSKY (Strategic Culture Foundation )

Uran-9: the Russian Army Leads the World in Ground-Combat Robots

The Russian military is increasingly relying on robots to minimize casualties in current and future conflicts. The defense industry has achieved technological breakthroughs that have made it the world leader in the development of unmanned ground-combat systems. This gives Russian soldiers a major edge on the battlefield. The Platforma-M automated systems patrol key infrastructure installations, including military bases for ground and naval strategic nuclear forces. Other Russian military robots are already performing important missions on the ground. Many of them have been tested on Syrian battlefields.

The Uran-9 tracked Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), or remote-controlled tank, is larger than the others and is capable of the most difficult missions under combat conditions, in addition to its primary missions, which are reconnaissance and the fire-support of infantry units. Unique and unrivaled, this — the world’s one and only operational unmanned battle tank — is an example that illustrates how artificial intelligence boosts the capabilities of Russia’s contemporary systems.

This new “wonder weapon” has seen action in Syria. Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov, responsible for armaments and acquisitions, has confirmed this information.

The weapons system includes two vehicles to fulfill command and control functions and a transporter truck for moving the tank from place to place. The UGV can travel at a top speed of 35 km/h on highways. Its maximum cross-country speed is 25 km/h, and off-road — 10 km/h. The average specific ground pressure is 0.6kg/sq.

The armament suite includes a 30mm 2A72 automatic cannon, the primary weapon consisting of a coaxial 7.62mm 2A72 machine gun to engage ground-based light armored targets, four 9M120 Ataka anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs, two on each side), and 6 thermobaric rocket launchers (three on each side of the turret). The Uran-9 has been reconfigured to carry point-defense systems.

The auto-cannon has a fire rate of 350 to 400 rounds per minute and can shoot high explosive incendiary and armor-piercing ammunition against ground and low-flying aerial targets. The ATGMs have a range of 0.4 km to 6 km, enabling them to hit a tank with 90% probability. Four Igla-S surface-to-air missiles can shoot down low-flying aerial targets at a range of 3 km. In addition to this formidable suite of weapons, its smaller silhouette makes the Uran-9 harder to hit than any other platform of comparable lethality.

The system can take out any target from personnel assets to heavy vehicles and heavily protected sites. The heavily armed Uran-9 can provide backup for soldiers located in areas of contention.

The robot’s optics and targeting system consists of electro-optic and thermal imaging cameras and a laser designator. The fire-control system makes it possible to detect, identify, and track traveling enemy targets from a distance of 6 km during the day and 3 km at night. The drone can operate in either autonomous or manual mode.

The software is the hard part. It has been reported that Russia has already tested the Unicum software package (Skynet) that provides the artificial intelligence that allows unmanned systems to perform complicated functions on their own. Up to ten robotic systems can be guided, automatically distributing the information and assigning each mission to a commander . Any robotic system — sea, ground, or air-based — can be equipped with Unicum.

The software package can be used to coordinate the activities of the Uran-9 as a killing element and the Uran-6 – another example of Russian leadership in ground UGV technology. The remote-controlled mine-clearing robotic system can operate at a safe distance of up to one km. away, doing the work of 20 sappers. Able to survive mine explosions of up to 60kg of TNT, it searches for mines and unexploded ordnance in order to neutralize it and clear the way for the forces to advance. With a mine-clearing speed of 2 km/h and a maximum speed of 5 km/h, the Uran-6 robot can operate continuously for up to five hours, overcoming 1.2 m-high obstacles and crossing 1.5m-wide trenches. It can climb 20° inclines. The system did a great job clearing the area in and around the Syrian town of Palmyra in April 2016. Roughly, 19,000 explosive devices were defused.

Both the Uran-9 and the Uran-6 took part in the May 9 Victory Day Parade in Moscow and were presented to the spectators there as systems that had demonstrated their effectiveness in Syria.

Many nations are making efforts to develop unmanned ground combat vehicles, but only Russia has an operational UGV that has been tested under combat conditions, leaving the US behind. Under the direction of an operator working at a safe distance, the well-armed, fast, agile, and small Uran-9 is a real boon for the Russian infantry on the battlefield. The art of war is changing and so is Russia’s military, steadily building what other nations still don’t have — a ground force of unmanned tanks with formidable strike capability that utilize artificial intelligence to coordinate their activity.

Arctic stronghold: Might of Russia’s Northern Fleet shown in anniversary video – By RT


Arctic stronghold: Might of Russia’s Northern Fleet shown in anniversary video
The Northern Fleet, which is arguably the most powerful Russian naval force, is celebrating 285 years of operations. Its anniversary video shows state-of-the-art vessels and unique installations in the Russian Arctic region.

Established back in 1733, the Northern Fleet comprises some of Russia’s most remarkable military hardware, with 41 submarines, 37 surface vessels and ground troops making it a “cross-branch strategic force”, as the Russian Defense Ministry puts it in a Twitter post. Its anniversary video shows various military exercises staged by the Northern Fleet forces, including submarines firing cruise and ballistic missiles, Tu-95 strategic bombers flying training sorties and military divers holding underwater firing drills.

The flagship of the fleet is a nuclear-powered battlecruiser the ‘Pyotr Velikiy,’ one of the biggest nuclear-propelled ships in the world. The ‘Admiral Kuznetsov,’ Russia’s only serving aircraft carrier, which took part in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in Syria in 2016, is also part of the Northern Fleet.

The naval force also has some of Russia’s most advanced nuclear-powered multipurpose submarines equipped with cruise and ballistic missiles. Two state-of-the-art submarines – a Yasen-M class vessel the Severodvinsk, carrying as many as 32 Onyx and Kalibr supersonic cruise missiles, and a Borei-class submarine the Yury Dolgorukiy, equipped with 16 Bulava nuclear ballistic missiles – are already in service in the fleet, while another Yasen-M class submarine, the Kazan, is currently undergoing sea trials.

The strategic force, which is particularly tasked with “defending Russia’s national interests in the Arctic,” also controls some unique military bases within the Polar circle. Of particular interest is Russia’s northernmost military base, called Arctic Shamrock.

The unique base is the world’s only permanent infrastructure facility built in the area located 80 degrees of latitude north of the Equator. The autonomous complex, which occupies an area of 14,000 square meters, allows up to 150 people to live and work there for as long as 18 months without any external support.

The Russian infrastructure in the Polar region is “unmatched” by any other country, the country’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said, in December 2017.

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The Syria connection to Iran, Afghanistan and China – By Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author) (THE SAKER)


by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

Iranian academic spells out Iran’s position in the Middle East and questions US policy toward the region; amid reports that the Qods force is unlikely to disband, and that Daesh (ISIS) is being moved the Afghanistan-Pakistan border

A crucial question has been consuming policymakers in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: Does the Trump administration have a strategic plan for the Middle East or not?

Few are more apt to answer than Saadallah Zarei, dean of the Institute of Strategic Studies Andishe Sazan-e Noor in Tehran. Zarei, a soft-spoken, extremely discreet man I met in Mashhad a few days ago, happens to be not only one of Iran’s top strategic analysts but also a key brain behind the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani – the ultimate bête noire outside the Beltway.

So US strategists could do worse than paying attention to Zarei.

While the US “owns 37 fixed military bases and almost 70 movable bases in the Middle East”, Zarei said, “We do not observe specific and exact strategies.”

He stressed his perplexity with “contradictory behavior related to the Shi’ite population. America’s behavior in terms of the Shi’ite population of Bahrain and their rights, the Zaydi Shi’ite population in Yemen and Kashmir and also the Shi’ite population in Lebanon, which is 35% of the total population, is not specified and nobody knows how the Americans think about Shi’ites and how they act.”

Zarei also notes that “America does not have a specific policy about the democracies of Turkey and Iran. There is not any specific strategy about democracy in Iraq and Lebanon too. America talks about democracy as an American value and tries to generalize it, but in this region, we see that the best friends of the US are countries where there is no election in their political systems.”

The bottom line, according to Zarei, is that “the US strategy is not coherent in the Middle East. I think this is the main reason for the failure of American policies in this region.”

Enter the Hazaras

Now zoom in from the macro-analysis to the micro-view on the ground. Compare Zarei to Komeil, a 24-year-old Hazara Shi’ite from Kabul. Komeil is one among as many as 14,000 soldiers, all Hazara Afghans, carrying an Afghan passport, which made up the Liwa Fatemiyoun brigade fighting in Syria. We met in Mashhad, where he is spending Ramadan, before going back to the frontlines next month.

One of the key founders of Fatemiyoun, in 2013, was Abu Ahmad, killed by a missile, of unknown origin, near the Golan Heights, in 2015. At first, the brigade was a religious organization set up “to defend Shi’ite holy shrines in Syria” or, as Komeil prefers to stress, “defend humanity, weak people”.

No Fatemiyoun fighters carry Iranian passports – even though some, like Komeil, do live in eastern Iran; he’s been in Mashhad since 2011.  Almost all of them are volunteers; Komeil followed “friends” who joined the brigade. He undertook military training in Bagram airbase when he was part of the Afghan Army.

Komeil told me he engaged in direct combat with an assortment of Salafi-jihadis – from Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra to smaller outfits that were part of the vast, rambling Free Syrian Army umbrella. He’s been on the frontlines non-stop for three years, fighting mostly in “Sham and Zenaybi” near Damascus, and was also present at the liberation of Aleppo.

He described Daesh jihadis as “very difficult” in battle. He says he saw Daesh fighters wearing “American clothes” and carrying American-made rifles. Captured prisoners had “food from Saudi Arabia and Qatar”. He personally captured a “French lady working with Daesh” but did not know what happened to her, saying only that “Commanders treat our prisoners well.” He swears “less than 10%” of Daesh jihadis are Syrians – “There are Saudis, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pakistanis, English, French and Germans.”

In contrast to the propaganda barrage across the Beltway, Komeil is adamant there are no Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military commanders active with Fatemiyoun, and no Hezbollah. They fight “side by side” – and the Iranians are essentially military advisers. He depicted Fatemiyoun as a totally independent outfit. This would indicate their military training was mostly acquired as members of the Afghan Army, and not via the IRGC.

Komeil said the fabled Qods Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani did visit the group, but “only once”. Each force is responsible for its own area of operations; Fatimiyoun; Hezbollah; the Syria Arab Army (SAA); the Pakistanis (“strong fighters”); the al-Defae-Watan, which he portrayed as an equivalent of the Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi (also known as the “People Mobilization Units”); and the Medariyoun also from Iraq.

The ‘Shi’ite crescent’, revisited

The Obama administration admitted at least that Iranian military advisers, alongside Russia air power and Hezbollah fighters, helped the SAA to defeat Daesh and other Salafi-jihadi outfits in Syria.

But, for the Trump administration – in sync with Israel and Saudi Arabia – it’s all black and white; all forces under Iranian command have to leave Syria (and that would include Fatemiyoun). That’s not going to happen; the virtual total collapse of what is loosely defined in the Beltway as “moderate rebels” – al-Qaeda in Syria included – yielded a power vacuum duly occupied by Damascus. And Damascus still needs all these forces to extinguish Salafi-jihadism for good.

Iran exerts influence throughout an arc from Afghanistan to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As Zarei analyzed: “The Islamic Republic of Iran has a specific strategy in the region. We have specific principles, friends, and capabilities. In addition, we have a coherent understanding of our enemy and we know where should we stand in the next 20 years. Therefore, we try to use our capabilities carefully and manage the job gradually.”

This has nothing to do with a threatening “Shi’ite crescent”, as suggested by Jordan’s King Abdullah way back in 2004. It’s been essentially a slow-motion Iranian countercoup against the US non-strategy across Southwest Asia since “Shock and Awe” in 2003 – as Zarei identified it.

The Qods Force – formed during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s – is the extraterritorial extension of the IRGC. I talked to quite a few war veterans in Karaj, where they gather in an association set up in a replica bunker serving delicious osh soup – a Persian equivalent of Tuscan pasta and fagioli – after meetings. Commander Syed Mohammad Yayavi said there is no way the Trump administration’s demand, expressed by Secretary of State Pompeo, for Iran to dismantle the Qods Force, will ever be accepted.

The Qods Force could be described as an equivalent of the US Special Forces and CIA special ops all rolled into one. For Washington, that’s a terror organization. Yet in practice, the Qods Force is as much an arm of Iranian national security policy across Southwest Asia as the Pentagon and CIA enforcing US national security interests all around the world.

And there’s remarkable continuity. At the “bunker” in Karaj I talked to Mohammad Nejad, a retired Iranian Air Force colonel who acquired his Iran-Iraq battle experience when he was in his mid-twenties, fighting in Bushher. Two years ago he was back in Syria for two months, serving as a military adviser.

All eyes on the SCO

The incoherent US strategy in the Middle East described by Zarei also applies to Afghanistan. Another demand by the Trump administration is that Tehran must stop supporting the Taliban.

Facts on the ground are infinitely more nuanced. The endless US war in Afghanistan has generated millions of refugees; many of them live in Iran. In parallel, Washington has set up a permanent network of Afghan military bases – which Tehran identifies as a serious threat, capable of supporting covert ops inside Iran.

So what happens is that Tehran, with minimal means – and in tandem with intelligence services from Pakistan and Russia – does support small groups in western Afghanistan, around Herat, including some that are loosely linked with the Taliban.

But that fits into a much larger Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) strategy. SCO members Russia, China and Pakistan, as well as future member Iran, not to mention future member Afghanistan, all want an Asian, SCO-driven solution for the Afghan tragedy. And that must include a place for the Taliban in the government in Kabul.

Now compare that with the avowed Trump administration ploy geared to provoke regime change in Tehran. Saudi Arabia is already on it. Riyadh, via a think tank allegedly supported by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, has been funding a string of hardcore anti-Shi’ite madrassas in Balochistan in Pakistan, which borders Sistan-Balochistan province in Iran.

The Saudi plan is to at least disrupt the emergence of Chabahar port, which happens to be the entry point of India’s own New Silk Road to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan. BRICS member India, alongside Russia and China, won’t be exactly pleased; and India is also a new SCO member, and absolutely adverse to all forms of Salafi-jihadism.

Adding even more trouble to this heady mix, the Attorney General for Pakistan, Ashtar Ausaf Ali, on a visit to Iran, received a warning that Daesh “is being moved” to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Who’s doing the moving is unclear. What’s certain is that ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K – that is, Daesh’s Afghan branch – is actually fighting the Taliban.

Coincidentally, US airpower is also fighting the Taliban, via Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. One report detailed how “the number of US weapons released in support of Freedom’s Sentinel increased to 562 in April, the highest monthly total of 2018 and the second highest total for any month since October 2011.”

So, it’s the Taliban that are getting heavily bombed, not ISIS-K. No wonder SCO nations are on red alert. The real mystery is still to be unlocked by Pakistani intelligence: that is, in what part of the porous Af-Pak border are over 4,000 well-weaponized ISIS-K jihadis being lodged?

Who will rebuild Syria?

And that leads us to the ultimate inter-connector: China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Syrian colleague Walid Muallem have a very close relationship. President Xi Jinping is a firm supporter of the Astana peace process featuring Russia, Iran and Turkey. China announced last November that it would deploy special forces to Syria against all strands of Salafi-jihadism; the Chinese goal is to “neutralize” 5,000 Uyghur fighters who have acted as “moderate rebels”, because of concern about militants causing violence if they return to Xinjiang.

But most of all, China will be deeply involved in Syrian reconstruction; towns, villages, roads, railways, bridges, schools, hospitals, all connectivity networks. Syria will be rebuilt by China, Russia (energy, infrastructure) and Iran (power grids), not the US or the Gulf petro-monarchies. US and EU sanctions are still in effect, banning commercial operations both in US dollars and euros.

This coincides with a meeting in Beijing last week of SCO security council chiefs. Politburo heavyweight Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, discussed matters extensively with top Russian security expert Nikolai Patrushev.

The 18th SCO summit will be held in Qingdao on June 9. Russian President Vladimir Putin will be there. India and Pakistan will be there. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will be there, representing Iran as an observer, and will meet face to face with Putin and Xi. That’s where all Syria-Afghanistan connections will converge.

Russian Defense Minister Shoigu presents video of new Su-57 fighter launching new cruise missile from its weapons bay – By Tyler Rogoway ( (SOTT)

Russian Su-57 fighter jet

Russian Su-57 fighter jet

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has presented video of the country’s new Su-57 fighter-you can read our full analysis on this often misunderstood aircraft here-launching a new cruise missile from its internal weapons bay. This is the first video we know of not only of this missile being tested, but also of the Su-57s weapons bays in use.

In his statement, Shoigu mentions the Russian Ministry of Defense’s large effort to test and evaluate new weapons on the Syrian battlefield, but it’s not clear if this launch took place over the war-torn country or not. He says the test occurred in February, which is the same month a pair of Su-57s briefly deployed to Syria under puzzling circumstances. That excursion lasted less than two days and what the aircraft were doing there and why they returned home so quickly remains a mystery. It is possible that the Su-57s were there to test the missile on real targets, or the test could have just as easily occurred on ranges within Russia’s own borders.

The missile being launched appears to be the Kh-59MK2, a standoff weapon designed especially for the Su-57 and the confines of its two ventral weapons bays. The subsonic cruise missile has a modular, rectangular design that incorporates some stealthy features and coatings. It navigates using INS with embedded GPS (GLONASS/Navstar). An infrared seeker is used for terminal homing, allowing it to hit moving targets, have its final point of impact fine-tuned for maximum effect, or to be retargeted in real-time. The ability to loiter over a target area is another possibility based on the capabilities of similar designs.

A two-way data-link provides man-in-the-loop control between the missile and the launching aircraft all the way till impact. It would also be capable of hitting targets autonomously, at least stationary ones, albeit without the exacting precision that man-in-the-loop control provides. Range and payload estimates vary widely, but it’s likely to be able to reach targets at least 150 miles away while carrying a 500lb warhead. The modular nature of the design may allow for multiple configurations, such as larger fuel sections to be swapped for smaller warhead sections. But basically this thing is something between Israel’s Delilah and the U.S. Navy’s SLAM-ER.

Kh-59MK2 displayed at MAKS 2015

© Vitaly V. Kuzmin
Kh-59MK2 displayed at MAKS 2015

The missile will provide the fledgling Su-57 with a critical standoff attack capability, allowing it to stay far enough away from threatening air defense systems to remain undetected while still being able to attack them, or any targets under their protective umbrella. The use of an infrared seeker also puts maritime targets at risk.

I have already written at length about how the Su-57’s weapons menu is being creatively tailored to overcome some of its most apparent weaknesses, and seeing the Kh-59MK2 enter the testing phase so early in the Su-57s career certainly supports that narrative.

The entire video of Shoigu’s statement can be seen below, with the Su-57 segment beginning at time index 5:30:

If it works as intended, the weapon and its derivatives will also be a highly attractive export product for Russia’s defense-industrial apparatus, and it’s not as if a Su-57 is required to put it to use. Operators of modern Flanker and Fulcrum variants are likely to find its capabilities very attractive as well and Russia could incorporate it onto other platforms once it is operational such as the Su-30/34/35. The big question is will Russia actually buy them in substantial numbers. If Syria has taught us anything, Russia still relies heavily on dumb bombs and unguided rockets for the vast majority of its aerial combat punch.

But at least for the Su-57, of which there are less than a dozen in existence nearly a decade after it was first unveiled, the Kh-59MK2 will provide the jet with some serious standoff precision strike capabilities.

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