Syraq SITREP 54: No Way to Swerve and Avoid Head On Mideast Collision?

The Trump Effect on the Likelihood of an Israeli War with Syria/Iran/Hezbollah

Our first observation is that the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation is rapidly running out gas, as the desperate deep state flails away before the whole Russiagate hoax is exposed as a false flag operation (can anyone say: Natalia Veselnitskaya pretending to work for the Russian Prosecutor General's office during her Trump Tower meeting with Donald Jr. while actually being in the pocket of Fusion GPS aka CIA/MI6). In theory the weakening of his Anglo-American deep state adversaries creates more political room to maneuver for President Trump, including in his expected peace talks with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. But in practice, Trump is dependent on the Israel Lobby's support to help him beat back the Russiagate soft coup, and on Saudi Arabia for a higher oil price that bolsters rapid domestic energy development and military industrial complex hiring ahead of 2020.

Whereas President Reagan used a military build up and cheaper Saudi crude to break the already weakening Soviets resolve, the 'Reaganesque' Trump needs a military build up and more expensive Saudi oil to win reelection. To use RogueMoney guest The Saker's terminology, the 'Zionist' faction of the 'Anglo-Zionist' Empire is about to pummel the 'Anglos' faction, including some of its prominent crime families the Bushes and Clintons.

Viewed in this context, Mueller suddenly shifting his investigation from the failing Russia collusion narrative to the much more plausible case that the real foreign powers influencing the Trump camp were Israel and the Gulf States, may be a sign that 'the cabal' is desperately positioning itself as the peace party, versus the Trump-Netanyahu 'party of war'. This is of course an oversimplification, as the anti-Trump faction pushed for conflict with Russia, but Trump's abandonment of the Iran deal and re-imposition of sanctions is indeed creating tensions with European powers, playing right into Putin's hands -- as the #Resistance narrative says. The fact that many if not most European industry lobbies were already tired of the idiotic Russia sanctions or Washington's plans to replace their Russian gas with more expensive American shipped liquefied natural gas is not something American Democrats think about much if at all.

As W the Intelligence Insider explained to us in several telephone conversations, the North Korean peace deal frees up U.S. firepower to deal with the Middle East. The post-Desert Storm Pentagon goal of being able to fight two major theater wars simultaneously was and has been since 9/11 an impossible task for the current all-volunteer military. So while the Korea peace deal is spectacularly bullish news for the One Belt One Road / Russian gas pipeline to Pusan package, it won't lead to a similar negotiation with Iran. The distinction is that the Iranians are attacking the petrodollar, whereas despite their considerable paper dollar counterfeiting operations, the North Koreans don't have oil to do so. As the disposal of Qaddafi and Saddam proved, openly dumping the dollar has been a death sentence for regimes in the past -- unless they had the protection of nuclear armed great power protectors Russia or China.

Target Hardening -- More Pantsirs, Rockets and the Kornet-D for Syrian Forces

As stated in the introduction to this piece, we do not know what Putin and Netanyahu agreed on, beyond the broad parameters of Iranians not being needed in Syria because ISIS has been defeated. The Israeli Ambassador to Russia, Harry Koren, has promised Israel will deconflict with the Russians to prevent any harm to Russian personnel in future Israeli strikes. S300 system has not been delivered to Syrian forces, though London Paul believes the SAMs have been shipped to Tartus or Kheimmim where Syrians could be trained to operate them under Russian protection (or most likely, to avoid Israeli surveillance, Syrian crews are being invited to Russian territory to learn how to operate them). According to The Saker, the Pantsir short range SAM / gunnery system is more important to the defense of Syrian territory from Israeli stand off missiles and kamikaze drones than long range S300s can be. It was an Israeli drone bomb that destroyed a single Pantsir battery that had exhausted its ammunition and was caught un-camouflaged in the open with several crew members killed on May 10.

Israeli propaganda made hay out of destroying one of the latest Russian SAM systems, but didn't emphasize that Russian air defenses are designed to work in groups rather than alone. Meaning the Pantsir crew should have had at least two more systems nearby with one loading and the other ready to fire to cover its displacement to a camouflaged reloading point. It's also clear that unlike the Anglo-American-French strikes of mid-April, the Syrians did not have as much warning of the Israeli raid due to the geographic proximity to the enemy, and Russian electronic warfare systems were engaged to bring down incoming missiles. Without massive direct Russian support however, the Syrians will never be able to shoot down all incoming missiles. Even with the Russian radars from Tartus and Kheimmim assisting, the Syrian air defense network can be spoofed and overwhelmed by increasingly sophisticated Israeli Air Force tactics, including using drones and their own electronic jamming.

Estimated missile ranges of Hezbollah rockets in southern Lebanon compared to Israel map

Estimated missile ranges of Hezbollah rockets in southern Lebanon compared to Israel map

In light of these facts and the advantages the Israelis have on the attack, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA)'s best defense is a good offense. Or more accurately, a counteroffensive capability that can hit the Israelis weakness, which is not inflicting pain but absorbing it. As a small country the size of New Jersey with a population slightly above 7 million, the Israelis are acutely sensitive to casualties and their enemies know this. Which is why Hezbollah has built up an arsenal of 100,000 missiles capable of raining destruction onto the Ben Gurion Airport and other high value economic infrastructure -- a counter-value proposition that makes Israel threaten to destroy much of Lebanon in retaliation if it's unleashed.

Without being able to stockpile vast numbers of rockets like Hezbollah has over two decades, the SAA can nonetheless copy Hezbollah's tactics to fluster the Israelis and deny them easy targets. In light of this military reality, a Kremlin adviser's cryptic statement that "the Syrians have all they need" to fight back makes slightly more sense. As Al-Masdar News reports, the SAA has received the most modern and longest ranged Russian anti-tank missile, the Kornet-D.

Pro-Syrian rebel sources claim the SAA used this weapon to ambush a jihadi commander, firing the weapon from several thousand meters away. With eight kilometers range, Kornet Ds deployed to the Golan Heights where Syrian and Israeli forces are in their closest proximity could be a game changer in deterring aggressive IDF moves, by forcing the Israelis to contend with their frontline posts and vehicles getting incinerated. Thanks to the missile's fire and forget capability, an SAA Kornet-D team could set up in barely a minute, launch a missile, displace on foot or in a light vehicle, then fire again from another planned point before IDF counter-battery radars would detect the incoming missile, which in any case would fly a few meters off the ground zig-zagging before impact.

A Hezbollah militant posing with a Russian made Kornet ATGM

A Hezbollah militant posing with a Russian made Kornet ATGM

Moscow supplying the Kornet-D sends a dual message, one to Israel, the other to the U.S. The IDF well remembers the stinging losses of many Merkava tanks to the original Kornet in Hezbollah hands back in 2006, and the weapon's range superiority to the American Javelin missiles supplied to Ukraine may lead to them being supplied to the Donbass forces if the Ukrainians launch a 'World Cup offensive' this summer (more on that in another article).

No Sign the Iranians Are Leaving Syria Anytime Soon --
and KSA's Desire to Draw the U.S. Directly into the Yemen War Point to Escalation

The launch of another Houthi missile at the city of Jizan as the Saudis plan an offensive on the Houthi held Red Sea port of Hodeidah shows how the conflict is dragging on. Pro-Saudi media are touting Houthi defeats and claiming the Coalition forces are successfully taking out missile caches (likely with U.S. satellite, drone surveillance and special forces assistance). Yet the 'year of missiles' raining down on Saudi Arabia and Houthi raids across the border have not stopped. As we've reported here at RogueMoney the Saudis have covered up thousands of casualties since 2015. More recently, their Sudanese mercenary allies consider quitting the conflict, and the Kingdom's military incompetence has fueled tensions with their UAE allies.

The Emiratis are pursuing a partition strategy to separate south Yemen from Houthi-dominated northern Yemen, playing on the Shi'a-Sunni split in the war and famine ravaged country. The Emirates have a plan to develop Aden port and Socotra Island, a potential tourism and ports jewel along the Maritime Silk Road to the Red Sea and Suez. The problem is Iran may opt to raise the pressure on the U.S. Gulf allies and supply the Houthis with more advanced weapons, including suicide drone high-speed jet skis or even mini-submersibles to hit the UAE navy, as well as more accurate and longer range missiles to strike oil refineries in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi counter to their failing military efforts is to seize Hodeidah, thereby getting a highly symbolic win that allows them to claim they've cut the flow of Iranian arms to the Houthis, then allow humanitarian aid to flow in via the port in order to ease criticism of the Kingdom's appalling blockade of Yemen. The Saudis are also emboldened by the $80 a barrel oil price spike which in turn, creates further incentives for them to talk tough against Iran. Finally, the oil price boost is helping the Kingdom to patch its budget hole, finance additional borrowing, and pay off the former Saleh loyalist/Houthi allied Sunni tribes it needs to for a face-saving pullback in Yemen. At least, that appears to be the plan in Riyadh. The fact that higher oil prices will also help Russia and its arch enemy Iran is a price worth paying, because desperate monarchs and the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's ambitions leave no other choice. Let the current Riyadh palace elites eat today, for tomorrow they die after several years when massive untapped American oil production hits a demand-depressed global market.

Coming up with some sort of plan to end the war in Yemen by summer will free up the Saudis to be prepared for facilitating direct Israeli strikes against their common adversary Iran. W the Intelligence Insider's assessment is that Netanyahu and his empowered war cabinet do not want to fight Hezbollah in southern Lebanon again like in 2006, but 'escalate to deescalate' by threatening Iran directly. Magnier agrees with part of that assessment, in that he writes this weekend about threats to the Straits of Hormuz, a global crude chokepoint that would not be effected if a war were confined solely to northern Israel and the Levant. Magnier's conclusion is ominous:

according to well-informed sources, there are regular meetings on political and military levels taking place in the Middle East, to discuss and plan the next military action and to study war scenarios against Iran and its allies. These scenarios are discussed, much beyond dozens of cruise missiles: a much larger war hitting Iran first and then turning against Damascus. This is all because the “regime change” fans refuse to accept the reality of facts and “give up” the Levant to Russia and the “axis of the Resistance”.

As quoted above, there are over 150,000 militants, armed, in the north and east of Syria, ready to re-engage and start all over again when Iran – and most probably Hezbollah – are under direct attack, incapable of defending their Syrian ally, believe the planners. It could be that the forces under Turkish control may be preparing to attack the Kurds or expand their perimeter of control to reach Aleppo. Nothing is certain in the Levant but one thing: it is not yet over.

This is the most pessimist scenario to apply in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to impose a “new Middle East” and defeat Russia indirectly. The US will be the biggest participant with its military machine – along with Israel – while Middle Eastern countries are happy to finance this campaign. In fact, Trump’s recent decisions against Iran raised the price of oil that is reaching its highest level in the last 4 years. This is providing additional finance to all countries ready to engage in a new war, even if Iran and Russia benefit also from the increase in oil price.

However, such a possible war scenario will fall heavily on the Middle Eastern (including Iran) and the European populations because the war will definitely – in this case – include maritime and air blockage, hitting the straits of Hormuz (or seizing ships) where almost 20% of the world oil trade flows. In 1988, 2007 and 2008, the straits observed a battle between the US and Iran.Any closure of the straits would affect world trade and price of goods worldwide.

No! No force is expected to pull out of Syria. President Putin can only wish, wanting to embark everyone involved in a political settlement, but knowing that he has no control over the players. Putin has no intention of being dragged into a wider war with any of the countries occupying territory in Syria. Therefore, he has no leverage to convince these countries to pull out.

Damascus and Tehran have the same realistic understanding of the rules of the game, while Putin’s wishes are unrealistic and far from being feasible at the moment.

The “game of the nations” is getting hotter, peace talks are still out of reach. The drums of war are still heard all over the Middle East…and maybe beyond.

The highly symbolic visit of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Gen. Qassem Soleimani to the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf, Iraq, a place associated for Shi'a Muslims with the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed Ali's martyrdom in battle, suggests Soleimani knows war is coming.