Syraq SITREP 56: Russian Casualties from ISIS Attack, Israel-Iran Negotiations Via Jordan

Russian Air Force jet photo from: Al-Masdar News

Russian Air Force jet photo from: Al-Masdar News

Israel and Iran Negotiating via Jordan Over Looming Syrian Offensive

This week a Russian air force SU34 jet was spotted high over northern Lebanon, in an area where Israeli jets have often violated Lebanese air space to strike targets inside Syria using stand off missiles. Some social media accounts speculated the Russian plane was warning off an Israeli F16I, but no footage or photos of an IAF jet in the vicinity could be confirmed. Moscow recently tested the standoff missile firing capabilities of its stealthy 5th generation SU57 fighter jets in Syria.

The ISIS attack is likely to meet swift Russian retribution, and Moscow is not going to be intimidated by Washington's threats to back down from Damascus retaking its southwestern territories adjoining the Israeli-held Golan Heights. After Putin's meeting with Netanyahu on May 9 in Moscow, Israel entered into negotiations with Iran via Jordanian mediators in an Amman hotel. This was likely done with Moscow's blessing or direct involvement, as the Russians have already warned the Daraa militants they can lay down their heavy weapons and negotiate with Damascus, evacuate the area on the green buses to Idlib, or be destroyed.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Iranian Ambassador to Jordan, Dr. Mostafa Moslehzadeh, reiterated his public stance that no Iranian soldiers or Tehran-backed Shi'a militias would set foot anywhere near the Golan, and only SAA and Russian units would enter the area. If the JPost story is correct, then the SAA Tiger Forces are not expecting Israeli artillery to engage them as they roll up the jihadi pocket around Quneitra and Daraa, nor will the Israeli Air Force (IAF) or Patriot missile defenses engage Russian jets providing close air support to the SAA operation. The downside of the Israelis backing off along the contact line is their insistence on the quid pro quo of their 'right' to strike Iranian or Hezbollah forces anywhere in Syria, an activity they've already engaged in far from their northern borders. Moscow of course, is not happy about the Israeli raids, but is willing to tolerate them if they do not cross its red lines. These include harming Russian personnel or seriously threatening the life of Assad or the stability of his government.


U.S Admits to NBC News Its Training MEK Terrorists to Target Iran

While the indirect Israeli-Iran negotiations would appear to be a positive sign that a broader Mideast War can be averted, the same cannot be said for the signals coming from the Trump Administration. Since the appointment of Iran-hater John Bolton as National Security Adviser followed by CIA Director Mike Pompeo taking over for the fired Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, the trajectory of U.S. policy is toward confrontation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to exploit Franco-German objections to Washington's renewal of the Iran sanctions the JCPOA had removed, while recently hosting Chancellor Angela Merkel at Sochi and President Emanuel Macron at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). The problem is, regardless of any slackening of Israel's aggressive posture in response to Russian diplomacy seeking to wind down the Syria War, the Administration isn't even trying to hide its aggressive intent towards Iran. London Paul has already covered extensively Secretary of State Pompeo's recent bombastic speech promising Tehran will suffer "the strongest sanctions in history" and demands that it abandon its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi resistance against Saudi aggression in Yemen.

NBC News, which aggressively pushed the story about 'hundreds' of Russian mercenaries being killed in a February battle with U.S. Army troops illegally occupying Syria's former Conoco developed gas field, covered the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) training camp established on the territory of a NATO member state in Albania. A likely reiteration of the training camps that prepared the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) for a terrorist-ic insurgency against the Serbs before the 1999 NATO bombing of Belgrade, the fact that these terror-sponsoring activities are being reported in the open is astounding. So too, is the fact that the MEK have paid Bolton and Trump attorney/former NYC Mayor on 9/11 Rudy Guliani to give speeches to their organization, which had previously been on the State Department's terrorist list for participating in the 1979 U.S. Embassy hostage seizure in Tehran.

The MEK have also been funded by the Saudis, who are also paying the Kurds who have engaged in firefights with Arabs and Assyrian Christian Syrians who object to being conscripted into the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The conscription issue has led to anti-Kurdish and Syrian Arab Republic flag waving protests against the American presence in Raqqa.

'Stretching' Russia: Why Stepped Up Jihadi Attacks on Russian Forces Are Likely to 'Coincide' with a Ukrainian Offensive in the Donbass to Draw Moscow Directly into the Fight

The Russians are, in the words of 'W' the Intelligence Insider in telephone conversations with the Russian Analyst, being 'stretched'. Putin has drawn down the number of Russian troops in Syria but the unfinished remnants of ISIS, who flow freely between the open badiya (desert steppe) and nominally U.S. controlled territory along the Iraqi border, may draw more spetsnaz back into the fight. As Damascus based correspondent Elijah J. Magnier writes, Russia wants to end the Syria War, even if this objective in partnership with a partial Turkish occupation in the north around Afrin and Manbij differs from Assad and the Iranians' goal of reclaiming every inch of Syria's sovereign territory.

Despite the overall cuts to the Russian defense budget, it isn't clear if the Russian Air Force and Navy have reduced their operations in the Eastern Mediterranean one bit. Trump is also, according to 'W', trying to play ping pong with the Chinese in the South China Sea as two US Navy vessels, the USS Higgins and Antietam, sailed within twelve nautical miles of Woody Island. Unlike other 'freedom of navigation' exercises that flexed US Navy muscles near China's bases constructed out of reefs, this one passed an island Beijing has controlled since the Taiwanese abandoned it in 1956. Woody Island is also where People's Liberation Army Air Force long range H-6K cruise missile capable bombers landed in what Beijing described as a 'training exercise' last week.

Angering the Chinese may make Trump look 'tough' in trade or North Korea talks in the short run, but will certainly lead to blowback in the form of greater support by Beijing for Moscow, and rumored Chinese armaments shipments to Tehran. But the Trump Administration, notwithstanding the resumption in North Korea talks, appears to be doubling down everywhere else, with more aggressive posturing in Syria and Ukraine.

The global oil market, where higher prices blamed on Iran tensions are benefiting Russia, is another economic battleground -- one where Moscow. Tehran and Riyadh all have a shared interest (alongside China's petroyuan expansion) in undercutting U.S. crude exports to Europe. Part of the motive behind the Administration's anti-Iran policy, as Steven Ben Noon of Israeli News Live and others in the alt-media know, is to block Iranian integration into Moscow's Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Beijing's New Silk Road mega-project (even though, short of all out war with Iran this appears to be an impossible goal). Pandering to the Saudis' obsession with Iran and the Shi'a and aiding their war on Yemen is also intended to keep the Kingdom and its ambitious young Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (we're ignoring for the moment rumors MBS was recently wounded or killed in a palace coup attempt) out of the petroyuan. But as Dr. Jim Willie's listeners know, secret negotiations have already taken place for several years on Riyadh selling its oil to Beijing in yuan.

The Russians know, that in any war, including economic warfare, there are always losses. They do not have the illusion of invulnerability that many Americans and Israelis have about their respective militaries, delusions Washington and Tel Aviv have worked hard to maintain since their 2000s fiascoes in Iraq/Afghanistan and Lebanon. Nonetheless as the clip aired below on the main public affairs program in the country makes clear, the patience of many Russians with Putin's go slow and let Donbass proxies endure the onslaught approach in Ukraine is wearing thin. Additional casualties in Syria via sophisticated 'non-state actor' jihadi drone attacks on Russian forces or a U.S. abetted ISIS 'USUS' resurgence will only add to the pressure on Putin to respond more forcefully.