Syraq SITREP 51: ESCALATION Israeli Missiles Hit Syria, Clashes Between Pro-Damascus Militia and U.S.-Backed SDF Along Euphrates

After U.S.-UK Strikes Debacle, Did Israel Use A Ballistic Missile That Would Be Harder for the Russians to Jam or Intercept?

If confirmed as Israeli Air Force strikes using standoff missiles -- which initial reports claimed came from the southeastern direction of Al-Tanf where the U.S. occupation maintains a base along the Jordanian border -- then this would be the third IAF strike within a month. An alternate theory being reported by pro-Syrian Arab Army account @Brasco_Aad suggested that the Israelis used their Jericho ballistic missiles launched from the Negev desert. If true, this would represent a significant escalation -- as well as a decoy deploying weapon capable of avoiding intercept by the Kheimmim based Russian S400 -- that would also account for the more powerful blast with a 1,000-1,200 kilogram warhead

A standoff missile strike the Syrians and Russians blamed on the Israeli Air Force and later acknowledged to the media in Israel killed at least seven Iranians at the T4 air base on April 9. Following that attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Netanyahu not to attack Syrian government forces again. But after insisting Israel would preserve its "freedom of action" in Syria meaning violate Syrian and Lebanese air space at will, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (a fluent Russian speaker born in the Moldovan SSR who has sometimes translated for Netanyahu in conversations with Putin) declared the IAF would not seek conflict with the Russians, but would destroy any air defense system or weaponry posing a threat to Israel.

What we do know from our telephone conversation with 'W' the Intelligence Insider is that the Jericho II or III missiles would be coming in at hypersonic speeds and, because it is designed to deliver a nuclear payload, would be shielded against electromagnetic interference to a far greater extent than the Tomahawk or StormShadow missiles the Russian EW 'off switch' jammed and helped the Syrians shoot down on April 14

NBC News Puts Out Pentagon Propaganda About Killing Hundreds of 'Russian Mercenaries'

Last week NBC News aired a special report by Richard Engel, in which he met with a US special forces commander at the site of the Conoco Oil Field, where the U.S. Army clashed with Syrian units that included a contingent of Russian mercenaries. According to the commander Engel spoke with on camera, there were an estimated 200-300 Russian casualties from American air strikes on the attackers, supposedly ordered only after multiple calls on the deconfliction hotline with Russia's base in Syria. However, the audio recording Engel's report includes as 'authenticated' is a brief snippet and could easily be faked by Russian speakers anywhere -- including in the Security Service of Ukraine in Kiev. And the U.S. Army commander's 'confirmation' of 200-300 Russian PMC KIA/WIA was contradicted by a story published in Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, in which the Russian contingent's dead were said to number in the teens.

Nonetheless, the message of the war propaganda put out by NBC News was clear: the Russians are using mercenaries in Syria for plausible deniability, and deliberately probed U.S. defenses in the country using a PMC contingent -- in case the raid was repulsed with heavy losses. The Americans stand ready to inflict more losses on the Russians in any future engagement. Except that the attack scenario of February 7-8 presented in the NBC News video makes no sense -- veterans of the Donbass fighting against U.S. proxies would not assume that the Americans who are known to rely heavily on their airpower would respond to a combined infantry and artillery assault the same way the poorly trained and lacking airpower Ukrainians do. Nor contrary to Engel's reporting is the use of private military contractors or at least, non-servicemen volunteers a secret in Russia. It's been reported for months, with the State Duma attempting to establish formal legal recognition of what hitherto has been a semi-legal practice, considering it is unlawful for a Russian citizen to fight as a mercenary in any action not explicitly authorized by the Ministry of Defense. 

The real point of the propaganda is to assure Americans that their troops are not exposed to another Iraq War style scenario, and to burnish the 'Russia is the enemy' script. The uncharacteristically blunt admission by the chief of Special Operations Command last week that Russian electronic warfare was interfering with the communications and other systems of an EC130 Compass Call aircraft may have been part of the same psyops campaign. On the other hand the U.S. is not accustomed to its air dominance over any prospective battlefield being challenged or realizing its technology is not the best. Either way, the Russian Analyst knows if actual Russians intended to attack or kill US soldiers, they certainly would not have done so in a clumsy attack launched over open ground with a few artillery rounds fired as a likely warning to the SDF Kurds to vacate the Conoco gas field while missing any actual U.S. positions, easily observable by drone. What most likely happened and which the Der Spiegel story accounts for is a botched handover of the gas field that the PMCs expected to happen with only brief resistance by the Kurds. Everything had likely been arranged, but a trap was clearly set to 'kill Russians'.

This weekend's raid by Arab tribal forces may have been in revenge for those events, or intended to remind the SDF that they are weak without their American protectors nearby -- and that the American soldiers cannot be everywhere along a broad Euphrates River defined demarcation line. Furthermore, as the Russian Analyst pointed out numerous times here at RogueMoney, the risk that Damascus would opt for Iraq insurgency style tactics such as planting IEDs to bleed the American troops occupying Syria is real. Fear of IRGC or Hezbollah sponsored suicide attacks on U.S. positions east of the Euphrates likely was one of the factors motivating Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford to dial back the air strikes launched by the U.S. and UK against Damascus.

'Trust the Plan'? The Larger Anglo-American-Saudi-Israeli Gambit: Driving a Wedge Between the Russians and Iranians in Syria, Expelling Iranian Forces from the Country?

To the extent there is a larger plan, some QAnon fans are suggesting that first Trump forced the North Koreans to heel, and next he's going after the Iranians. The recently disclosed detail in the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee report about Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's meeting with Ambassador Sergey Kisylak at his residence in Washington D.C. before flying to Moscow for RT's 10th anniversary gala in December 2015 (during which the retired Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) chief sat at Vladimir Putin's table) is consistent with one theory.

Gen. Flynn and his 'Flynn-stones' including key adviser Ezra Cohen-Watnick (since transferred from the National Security Council to the Justice Department, supposedly to fight the deep state) believed, like the Israelis, that they could drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians in Syria. A great deal of the Trump campaign outreach to the Russians and especially that managed by Flynn during the transition at Trump's request had to do with Israeli, not 'colluding with' Russian interests. Moscow was asked through Amb. Kisylak not to veto a UNSC resolution that had to do with Israel. And Russian and Iranian interests are clearly divergent in two key respects.

Moscow does not need Assad to liberate all of the pre-war territory of Syria to feel secure in its bases at Kheimmim and Tartus, while Iran wants Damascus to take back all of the country if possible (though the Turkish occupation in the north is likely to last for some time, possibly decades if northern Cyprus is a precedent). Nor does Moscow have any interest in taking a side in the Sunni-Shia divide roiling the Mideast. Indeed, the vast majority of Russian Muslims including the feared pro-Moscow Chechens are Sunnis. However the Russians know the terrorist threat to their motherland and the Islamic State caliphate was sponsored by the Saudis, while Riyadh and their Western backers cynically claim Iran is the world's leading sponsor of terrorism.

Russia has made it clear that it will not be drawn into war with Israel. Neither however, does Moscow want to give the Israelis free reign to attack its Syrian allies. The timing of this weekend's strike, as the Russians rehearse for their Victory Day parade and Vladimir Putin's inaugural on May 7, is auspicious for Israel's strategy to drive a wedge between the Russians and their Syrian/Iranian allies. But there may be asymmetrical forms of retaliation as well as hardened Russian resolve Tel Aviv and Washington are failing to anticipate. The Israelis in particular seem overconfident in their Iron Dome air defenses against Syrian or Hezbollah launched ballistic missiles, as well as their jets ability to evade the Syrians' rapidly improving Russian delivered SAM capabilities.

A decision looms as to how quickly Moscow can roll out the S300s its own crews will surely man until the Syrians can be trained on them. But S300s cannot likely intercept Jericho III missiles coming in at Mach 7. The only way to stop such a barrage using the deadliest and most powerful conventional if not 'mini-nuke' weapons in the Israelis arsenal is to strike back at Eeretz Yisrael -- hard. Hezbollah has the means, with its vast arsenal of long range missiles including some that journalist Elijah J. Magnier reports are a hell of a lot more accurate than what they fired at Israel in 2006, as the Israelis pummeled Lebanon. Major retaliation of course would mean giving the Israelis and many of their American supporters the huge war with Hezbollah they've been preparing for since the Lebanese Shi'a militia chased the IDF out southern Lebanon in 2006. The war that TeamRogueMoney's mentor W the Intelligence Insider has been predicting for many months...