One week after a U.S. Navy F/18E shot down a Syrian Air Force SU-22 bomber, leading Moscow to declare that American-led Coalition aircraft could be tracked as hostiles via air or surface to air missile radars, the Russians struck Islamic State terrorists with a barrage of Kalibr missiles. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, six low flying cruise missiles were fired from the Admiral Essen and Admiral Grigorovich frigates in the eastern Mediterranean. Russian military based at Kheimmim air base outside Latakia informed the Turks and Israelis via their military-to-military hotlines of the missile strikes against ISIL.
The following is a translation from our Florida-based Swiss-White Russian friend The Saker on what the Russians told the Americans regarding the risks of further attacks against Moscow-backed Syrian planes and troops:
First, here is the exact original Russian text:
«В районах выполнения боевых задач российской авиацией в небе Сирии любые воздушные объекты, включая самолёты и беспилотные аппараты международной коалиции, обнаруженные западнее реки Евфрат, будут приниматься на сопровождение российскими наземными и воздушными средствами противовоздушной обороны в качестве воздушных целей»
A literal translation would be:
“In areas of the combat missions of Russian aviation in the skies of Syria any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicle of the international coalition discovered to the West of the Euphrates river, will be tracked by Russian ground based an airborne assets as air targets”
Military Chess Pieces Moving for Final Checkmate of ISIS/USUS, Race to the Euphrates/Deir Ez Zor
Moscow says the strike destroyed multiple vehicles and an ammunition dump used by the terrorists in the Syrian desert east of Palmyra. The missile strike happened days after Russia's ally Iran fired multiple ballistic missiles from its territory at an ISIS controlled town located outside the besieged Syrian Army held city of Deir Ez Zor. All of these moves, along with leaks from the Pentagon that the U.S. Department of Defense is resisting Trump Administration National Security Council (NSC) civilians' desire for more American troops to engage in a quasi-permanent occupation of southeastern and northeastern Syria, are indicators that ISIS is on its last legs -- and time is a'wasting to use the defeated terrorists as a pretext for the U.S. or its allies to seize more sovereign Syrian territory.
The situation has been compared to the rivalry between anti-Soviet U.S. commanders like Gen. George Patton and the Red Army drive through a defeated Nazi Germany at the end of WWII, yet the race for the Euphrates is far more dangerous in this case due to the 'Allies' and Russians having not agreed on spheres of influence in advance of their armies taking territory from the common enemy.
Some analysts believe that Moscow, by declaring an air defense identification if not shoot down zone west of the Euphrates, have made that body of water the new Elbe dividing line in Syria. Other analysts believe the Assad government, backed strongly by Iran which has shed the most blood alongside Hezbollah and its Iraqi Shia allies to defend Damascus, intends to reclaim every inch of Syrian territory in the long term -- even if Assad must tacitly accepts Turkish occupation in the north and full Kurdish autonomy. The problem for the latter group being that by openly identifying with Saudi Arabia and criticizing the pro-Qatari Turks and Syrian government alike, the PYD/YPG Kurds could find themselves friendless save for the Americans, who were blocked by Turkey from establishing a contiguous Kurdish statelet from the Med to the Iraqi border.
While the Americans are correct to surmise that Russia won't fight them to help Assad regain all of Syrian territory, neither will the U.S. garrison in northeastern Syria be entirely insulated by the Kurds from insurgent attacks, should hostilities erupt this autumn between Israel and Hezbollah or the Iraqi Shi'a revolt against U.S. occupation again.
Will the Kurds Take American Bribes to Be Set Up as Cannon Fodder for a U.S. Partition of Syria?
As Kuwaiti Al Rai media group correspondent Elijah J. Magnier writes from Lebanon and Damascus, the Kurds are being set up to be exploited by Washington's divide and conquer policy, now that the 'moderate' Sunni Arab rebels have proven too militarily weak to oppose the Syrian Arab Army (SAA)'s continued advances. Nonetheless such a policy, along with the Trump Administration's hare-brained embrace and belated walk back from the impetuous Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's blockade of the Turkish-backed Qataris, threatens to bring Ankara and Tehran together irrespective of Washington and Riyadh's efforts to stoke the Sunni-Shi'a sectarian fires:
It is clear that Washington hawks believe that they can provoke or belittle Moscow in Syria: the US bombed the Syrian military airport of Shyay’rat where Russian forces were stationed with other Syrian units. Moreover Washington jets bombed on three consecutive occasions Russia’s allies close to the Syrian-Iraqi border crossing in Al-Tanf. And last but not least, in recent days, the US Air Force shot down an Iranian drone and Syrian Su-22 jet whose bombing objectives were the “Islamic State” (ISIS) terrorist group area, while US backed Kurdish forces were advancing on the city limit of of Rusafa in rural Raqqah.
All these hostile US military actions have been carried out unlawfully on Syrian territory and against the Syrian army not against terrorist groups. The US have no legal jurisdiction or international mandate or consensus to attack the Syrian Army on its own soil, particularly when the US aim, in fact, is to support the partition of an independent country rather than to fight terrorism. It is simply related to Washington’s influence and control over that part of Syrian territory needed in north-east Syria for occupation without any legitimate international support and to establish military airports and a base in Bilad al-Sham.
Obviously, Washington pays little attention to Moscow’s possible reaction to US military action against Russian allies in Syria as they advance to reclaim the Syrian territory. But Russia is responding by bombing Washington’s allies in Syria. It is not unlikely that US jets may accidently bomb Russian forces embedded with Syrian groups and Russian jets may bomb US Special Forces embedded with their Kurdish proxies operating in the north of Syria. This is when the situation may get out of control and the prestige of superpower countries may be dented creating an unwanted but almost inevitable reaction; this would drive the Middle East into another destructive dimension that may affect the World.
Russia’s main ally in Syria, Iran, is raising the level of tension in relation to US forces in Bilad al-Sham:
-It has injected thousands of fresh troops to recover the 55.000 sq km Syrian Badiya (Steppe) and managed to defeat the US proxies (Usud al-Sharqiyah) and ISIS in the semi-desert of south-eastern Syria: to date over 25,000 sq.km have been recovered from Suwaida province to the south of al-Tanaf borders.
-Iran pushed forces above the Tanaf (where US forces are established) to close the northeast path to Deir al-Zour, establishing a new demarcation line, and isolating the US in al-Tanaf.
-Iran coordinated with Iraq the advance of the Iraqi security forces on the al-Tanaf from the Iraqi side to block the US forces. Iraqi troops are moving north from al-Tanaf towards al-Qaem to meet the Syrian army and its allies along the borderline.
-Iran launched its “Zulfuqar” (Prophet Mohammed’s cousin, the fourth Caliph and first Shia Imam Ali Bin Abi Taleb’ sword) 700 km mid-range ballistic missiles against ISIS, but also to send multiple domestic (revenge for the double terrorist attack) and international messages to the US and its allies in the Middle East, just 24 hours after the US ban on the Iranian missile program. Tehran pays no attention to American decisions, telling Washington that its decision will not be taken into consideration; that Iran’s arm is long and can hit any target in the Middle East (Israel, Saudi Arabia, US military bases in the Middle East), and that Iran doesn’t feel concerned about all the conventional rules. It is capable of hitting any target whenever it wants and where it wants; Iran launched its missiles from Kurdistan-Iran, the same province from which the ISIS Iranian Kurds who launched their double terrorist attack this month against Iranian institutions.
Even As It's Collapsing, ISIS/USUS Focuses Its Fury on the Iraqi Shi'a and Hezbollah
The Iraqi PMU who are a Shi'a militia officially supported by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense if not directly by the U.S. military, present another major obstacle to Saudi-Israeli inspired U.S. policies in Syraq. Even if the rumors about Damascus and Moscow greenlighting a Turkish Army offensive against the PYD in Afrin are false, the reinforcement of the SAA by thousands of PMU and other Shi'a militia fighters from Iraq is an indisputable fact. The defeat of ISIS in Mosul, now reduced to a last stand pocket of suicidal fighters, has freed up thousands of Iraqi Shia soldiers to fight alongside the largely Sunni SAA and the Shia of Lebanese Hezbollah. This means that ISIS guerrilla tactics of hiding out from air strikes in desert caves and small bunkers, massing for counterattacks against long and exposed SAA convoys, no longer are effective. A Daesh attack on the road to the SAA liberated town of Resafa failed, leaving scores of Daeshbags' bodies in the desert. The Russian trained, battle hardened SAA is getting better and better at blunting ISIS counterattacks, while Daesh is running short on both manpower and anti-tank missiles that are no longer sent with love from Qatar.
Another counterattack by the Daeshbags, carried out further to the east last week at the Syraqi border, was more successful. According to Al-Masdar News the terrorists claimed to have killed 17 Iraqi PMU militiamen and burned or captured 31 vehicles from the border post inside Iraq. The fact that ISIS is hitting Damascus-friendly Iraqi forces with nary a U.S. air strike or HIMARS rocket barrage that's well within range from the American FOB at Al-Tanf raining down on the Daeshbags in broad daylight is of course, just a coincidence. Again, Magnier writes that the Iraqis are going to continue ignoring such examples of passive aggressive indifference to Daesh attacks on the Americans part, when ISIS behaves suspiciously like an anti-Shia shock force rather than the avowed enemy of infidel occupiers in the Levant:
Iraqi forces are moving along the border with Syria, telling the US forces that it is cooperating with Damascus and is not concerned by any American project in the region. Baghdad will not accept the presence of any US forces on its territory after defeating ISIS. The US will maintain a training contract with the Iraqi government but will have no influence over the country’s decisions and relationship with its neighbours, including Syria and Iran.
All the forces on the ground – except the Kurds and some remnants of the Syrian opposition forces – will be working against the US forces in Syria, starting from ISIS (as insurgents after the war ends in Syria and Iraq), Al-Qaeda (vowed to hit the US anywhere in the World), Turkey (which refuses the US support for the Kurds autonomy in Syria), Damascus (will strike the Kurds after finishing off ISIS control of territory) and Syria’s allies (Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi militia in Syria) are waiting for the right opportunity to strike US forces along the lines of what Hezbollah did in Beirut (blowing up the Marines’ headquarters and the US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in the 80s). Therefore, the US has won many enemies and very few friends, who will find themselves on their own, because Washington will have no alternative but to abandon them sooner or later. It is well known that the US does not have friends; it has business partners and common interests. When the US interests will cease in Syria, the soldiers will have no alternative but to leave the country.
The secular Kurds of Syria have erred in adopting a new policy that was never adopted by the Kurds of Iraq. They declared hostility to Damascus and allied themselves with America and its allies in the region (Wahhabi Salafi Saudi Arabia). The Kurds took an anti-Iranian stance and accepted that their militants would become burning wood to recover the Arab-majority city of Raqqah, sustaining considerable casualties only to fulfil a US plan to establish military bases in north-eastern Syria. Kurds will be the future’s biggest losers: the forces of Damascus and their allies are recovering territories by the Kurds side and advancing in rural Raqqah to prevent the US proxies militants from expanding and occupying oil field west of the Euphrates River.
Despite the small success of its assault on one Iraqi border post, ISIS is still doomed in the Syraq region to be little more than a terrorist insurgency if that. Further Daesh attacks or convoys that remain mysteriously unbombed in open desert by the Americans, who seem quite eager to target Syrian Air Force jets or Iranian-backed militias instead, will only bolster Damascus narrative that the U.S. isn't whole-heartedly fighting ISIS but is instead tacitly aiding the terrorists. By firing more Kalibr cruise missiles at ISIS positions in eastern Syria, Moscow is making it very clear that such passive aggressive tactics designed to draw out the Islamic State's end game so U.S. forces can grab more Syrian land will fail. Russia has destroyed ISIS convoys containing scores of vehicles and will keep on killing the Daeshbags attempting to cross the open desert to attack Syrian government and Iraqi forces.
Global Hawk Down? Rumors That Russian S300 Antey SAM May Have Shot Down a Large U.S. Drone Over Eastern Med
Incidentally, another message Moscow may have sent to Washington this week came in the form of rumors that a 737-wing span sized Global Hawk drone which 'crashed' in California's remote Sierra Nevada mountains actually was blown out of the sky halfway around the world over the eastern Med, by a Russian S-300VM "Antey"-2500 or S400 SAM.
Speaking for ourselves, we cannot verify that the $132 million dollar ($220 million plus if you include R&D costs) unmanned aircraft built by Northrop Grumman was shot down by Russia's western Syria-based air defense systems. But we can point out that a release from the Inyo County sheriff's office to Los Angeles, California-based NBC affiliate KTLA5 does not contain any photographs of the wreckage, only a picture of smoke rising from a mountain side. As with the rumored strike by Russian Navy launched Kalibr cruise missiles on a NATO linked command post staffed by Saudi, Qatari and Israeli special forces inside Syrian territory late last year, there is ample reason for both sides to keep quiet about it.|
UPDATE Saturday, 24 June 2017 4 a.m. Eastern Time:
The Geopolitical Implications of a Russian Tripwire Base Southeast of Damascus
In another quiet development that has yet to be confirmed, Mossad-connected Israeli (dis)info site Debka.com is reporting that the Russians are setting up a small military base southeast of Damascus -- much closer to the Israeli held Golan Heights than they've ever operated before except from the air. If W the Intelligence Insider's estimate of an Israel-Hezbollah conflict brewing this autumn is correct, this base would likely be evacuated in the event of hostilities that would inevitably drag Hezbollah or allied Iraqi or even Pakistani Shi'a volunteers inside Syria into the war. In the meantime, keeping an eye on potential Israeli-Hezbollah clashes -- and perhaps operating surveillance drones along the borders to prevent a staged or false flag provocation this summer -- could be a mission for this Russian 'tripwire' force. Like the conciliatory tone of Putin's frequent appearances in Western interviews aired of late, we cannot help but conclude that the Kremlin is reading many of the same tea leaves as our Intel Insider...and truly wants to head off a second Israel-Hezbollah war many Lebanese and Israelis alike see as inevitable.
The Russian engineering corps has started building a new base in southeastern Syria at a small village called Khirbet Ras Al-Wa’r in the Bir al-Qasab district. Until now, Moscow adhered to a policy of restricting its military presence to the western part of the country along the Mediterranean coast; no Russian troops were based further east than Palmyra.
The new facility is the first to be established since Moscow’s initial military intervention in the Syrian war in September, 2015. DEBKAfile’s military sources say it will provide Russia with a lever of control over the volatile Syrian southeast and its borders, where US-backed and Iranian-backed forces are fighting for dominance. Russian forces will also stand closer than ever before to the Israeli border - 85 kilometers from central Golan and 110 kilometers from southern Golan, not far from IDF military positions.
The new Russian foothold will be located strategically 96 kilometers from northern Jordan and 185 kilometers from the American and Jordanian special forces garrison at the al-Tanf crossing inside the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi border triangle. -- Debka.com
Here's the drone shoot down story, accompanied by reports of additional, smaller U.S. drones besides the big RQ4 being downed by combined Russian/Syrian air defenses after Moscow's ADZ warning, from Messianic Jew Steven Ben Nun at Israeli News Live.