CHICKEN KIEV MEETS COLD TURKEY: BLACK SEA AXIS EMERGES?

South Front

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Kiev’s Unrequited Love

On the face of it, an alliance between Turkey and Ukraine seems like a rather odd creation, yet one that may surprisingly durable simply because neither country has anywhere else to turn. What practically dooms them to a partnership if not an outright alliance is their unenviable geographic and geopolitical position of occupying the strange “no man’s land” between Russia, NATO, and the Middle East. It is, of course, largely a predicament of their own making. Ukraine, with considerable Western backing and encouragement but nevertheless mostly through efforts of a faction of its own oligarchy, opted out of the Russia-centered network of loose alliances, trade partnerships, and other forms of cooperation that were mutually beneficial to the two in the previous two decades. But that defection was not rewarded by the West in a way the likes of Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk, Avakov, Parubiy, and other architects of the Maidan coup expected. Merely being stridently anti-Russian did not prove enough to warrant a shower of US and European cash, only onerous IMF loans which moreover come with conditions Kiev elites are in no hurry to abide by. EU foreign policy chief Josef Borrel lecturing Kiev that the European Union is not an “ATM machine” delivered that point loud and clear: Kiev is supposed to privatize whatever crown jewels its economy still has (at this point, mainly agricultural land), fight corruption of its own elites and facilitate the corruption of Western elites. Joseph Robinette Biden Junior is hardly the only Western politician with a talentless son in need of a lucrative sinecure. There are entire Western companies eager to participate in the thinly disguised plunder that the privatization of Ukraine’s economy will inevitably turn into. A Kiev court’s recent decision to declare the country’s anti-corruption institutions that were painstakingly stood up with considerable aid and tutelage from Western governments, down to screening appropriately-minded individuals for the job, looks as if it were calculated to send a middle-finger gesture to Borrel in terms even dense EU bureaucratic hacks will comprehend. Pro-EU newspapers like Kiev Post were quick to label this a “death of democracy”, presumably with the intent of interesting EU and NATO in sponsoring yet another Maidan since last one seems not to be delivering the goods. The expected shower of Western weaponry has not materialized, probably because NATO is afraid to give Ukraine so much aid that it will risk a full-blown war with Russia.

Ankara’s Burning Hate

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Erdogan’s Turkey, by contrast, is in process of de-facto opting out of NATO, though neither Turkey nor the alliance itself want to take the final step of severing ties completely. NATO membership is still beneficial to Turkey. While the procurement of Russian S-400 air defense systems angered NATO and US in particular, resulting in the expulsion of Turkey from the F-35 program and the cancellation of F-35 sale to the country, evidently Ankara hopes that by nominally remaining in the alliance it limits NATO and EU sanctions that would no doubt be far harsher if it were totally out of the alliance. The hope that Turkey, possibly post-Erdogan, will yet see the error of its ways and return to the fold, prevents NATO from adopting harsher stances that would definitely push Ankara away. Yet the drifting apart is unmistakable, and the animosity between Turkey’s leaders and their Western European counterparts is so intense as to beggar belief. While Germany’s Merkel is careful to tip-toe around the issue due to fear of another wave of refugees as well as unrest among the large Turkish diaspora in Germany, France’s Macron seems to have taken a personal affront to Erdogan’s suggestion he might need a mental evaluation and will press the issue of EU sanctions against Turkey at future Union summits.

But from Turkey’s perspective, getting a cold shoulder from the EU is par for the course. Its own migration to the geopolitical gray zone of Eurasia was motivated by EU’s failure to admit Turkey as a member after decades of leading it by the nose and promising neighborhood in some nebulously distant future right after Hell froze over. Like Ukraine, Turkey was not seeking EU membership because of some mythical “shared values”. It, too, saw EU as an ATM machine that would shower Turkey, one of the poorest countries on the continent, with development assistance and moreover allow Turks to freely travel and work throughout the Union. Needless to say, neither of these prospects appealed to pretty much any European country, no matter how close or distant it was geographically. So after decades of leading Turkey by the nose, EU politely put an end to the charade citing problems with Turkey’s democracy. Thus snubbed, Erdogan opted to chart an independent course and appears to be finding a similarly snubbed oligarch clique in Kiev looking for ways the two countries could extract mutual benefit from their isolated status.

Quid pro Quos

There are plenty of those to be had, as limited as Ukraine’s and Turkey’s resources are, compared to such patrons as EU, NATO, US. Faced with isolation and even a potential ban on arms exports, Turkey has a strong incentive to exploit the resources of the Ukrainian defense industry and engage in some export substitution in case vital supplies are no longer available from the West. Canada’s and Austria’s ban on exports of optronics and engines needed for the Bayraktar TB2 combat drones means Ukraine’s ability to provide substitutes would be most welcome. Ukraine, for its part, would not be against deploying a huge attack drone fleet of its own in the hopes of replicating Azerbaijan’s successful offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh on the Donbass, though there Ukraine’s drones would probably run afoul of Novorossiya’s air defenses in the same way Turkish drones were brought to heel over Idlib. Turkey’s Altay main battle tank is likewise little more than an assembly of components imported from other countries, particularly Germany. Since Germany has already placed a ban on export of powerpacks and transmissions for the Altay, Turkey has been casting about for replacements, looking as far as China. Whether Ukraine’s developments in this realm can be adopted to rescue the Altay project remain to be seen. However, the Oplot powerpacks and transmissions can probably be adapted to Altay use, resulting in Turkey realizing its goal of a home-grown MBT. Ultimately, the greater the contribution of Ukrainian defense industry to Turkey’s military modernization, the more freedom of action it would bestow on Turkey and make it less dependent on other foreign sources of military hardware who can exert influence over Turkey simply by withholding future technical support. If the United States were to follow up on the F-35 expulsion with a ban on servicing Turkish F-16s which form the mainstay of its airpower, the result would be crippling of the country’s air combat capabilities that drones cannot compensate for and which would be sorely missed in any confrontation with another comparable power like Greece. Turkey’s efforts to develop an indigenous fighter aircraft would benefit from Ukraine’s technological contributions and its own interest in indigenous aircraft designs. For Ukraine, the relationship would be an opportunity to acquire NATO-compatible weaponry with the caveat that it would have to pay in full for every last drone, either with cash or in kind. Turkey’s economic situation is not so strong as to allow largesse in the form of free military aid to anyone.

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Match Made in Hell

Mitigating against the long-term development of what Zelensky referred to as “strategic partnership” with Turkey is the erratic behavior of Erdogan who seeks to dominate any and all partners and tries to see how far he can push before the partners push back. This practice has led to the confrontations in Syria, Libya, and eastern Mediterranean. Ukraine, in contrast to Russia, France, and even Greece, is hardly in a position to push back. The most dangerous aspect of Turkish politics, from Ukraine’s perspective, is the ideology of Pan-Turkism that just might transform Ukraine’s Tatar community into a proxy force for Turkey right inside Ukraine, adding yet another fissure to the already fractured political picture. On the plus side, Erdogan does not appear interested in “combating corruption” in Ukraine, though that does not preclude the possibility Turkey’s military collaboration with Ukraine might not cost Ukraine dearly, though not to the same extent as EU-promoted privatization efforts.

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تركيا «وحيدةً» في حرب قره باغ

الأخبار

السبت 17 تشرين الأول 2020

تركيا «وحيدةً» في حرب قره باغ

توازياً مع استمرار المعارك بين أرمينيا وأذربيجان، بعد فشل الهدنة في وضع حدٍّ للاقتتال الدائر حول إقليم ناغورنو قره باغ الانفصالي، تبدو تركيا ميّالة إلى التصعيد ضدّ روسيا. وإن كانت الأخيرة لا تزال، منذ انطلاق جولة الاقتتال هذه، تحافظ على مسافة أمان مِن طرفَي الأزمة، فهيَ دشّنت، يوم أمس، مناورات عسكرية في بحر قزوين شمال باكو، تصرّ على أنها ليست موجّهة ضدّ أيّ طرفمنذ انطلاق جولة الاقتتال الأخيرة بين أرمينيا وأذربيجان في السابع والعشرين من الشهر الماضي، سعّرت أنقرة، باصطفافها إلى جانب باكو، الحرب الدائرة بين الجارتَين للسيطرة على إقليم ناغورنو قره باغ، في ظلّ مواقف دولية جديدة بدأت تتكشّف، وتشير إلى تصعيد تركي – روسي متضادّ، لاقته الولايات المتحدة على الطرف الآخر، حين انتقدت دور حليفتها الأطلسية في هذا الصراع، آملةً أن تتمكّن أرمينيا من «الدفاع عن نفسها» في وجه جارتها الأذربيجانية.

ومع استمرار المعارك بين القوات الأرمينية والأذربيجانية، بعد أسبوع مِن توقيع وزيرَي خارجية البلدين اتفاق هدنة برعايةٍ روسية، عَدّته الأخيرة مقدّمة لإطلاق محادثات «سلام» ترغب تركيا في أن تمثِّل «حلّاً نهائياً» لهذا الملفّ المتفجّر. غير أن المصالح المتضاربة حالت دون تطبيق بند وقف إطلاق النار، ما دفع روسيا إلى بدء تدريبات عسكرية في بحر قزوين، تصرّ على أنها ليست موجّهة ضدّ أيٍّ من دول الجوار. وتَجري المناورات العسكرية شمال شبه جزيرة أبشرون الأذربيجانية حيث تقع باكو، وتشمل إطلاق صواريخ ونيران مدفعية، ومشاركة ستّ سفن وسبع طائرات وأكثر من 400 جندي، بحسب بيان لوزارة الدفاع الروسية، أكد أن «الأنشطة… لا تشكل أيّ تهديد ولا تفرض قيوداً على الأنشطة الاقتصادية للدول المطلّة على قزوين».

إعلانٌ ما لبث أن ردّ عليه الرئيس التركي، رجب طيب إردوغان، إذ سعى إلى شرح موقفه «المبدئي» من الصراع حول قره باغ، بالقول إن بلاده لم ولن تعترف بضمّ روسيا غير المشروع لشبه جزيرة القرم الأوكرانية إلى أراضيها، مؤكداً في مؤتمر صحافي مشترك عقده، أمس، مع نظيره الأوكراني فولوديمير زيلينسكي، في إسطنبول، أن بلاده تعتبر أوكرانيا دولة محوريّة لضمان الاستقرار والأمن والسلام والازدهار في المنطقة. كذلك، أكد إردوغان أن أنقرة ستواصل دعم سيادة أوكرانيا ووحدة أراضيها، بما فيها القرم.

يبدو أن واشنطن بدأت تصطفّ بوضوح إلى جانب يريفان


في هذا الوقت، يبدو أن واشنطن التي شدّدت، منذ انطلاق المعارك، على ضرورة إيجاد «حلّ دبلوماسي» يجنّب أرمينيا وأذربيجان حرباً طاحنة، بدأت تصطفّ إلى جانب يريفان. ذلك ما بيّنته تصريحات وزير الخارجية الأميركي، مايك بومبيو، الذي أعرب عن أمله في أن تتمكّن أرمينيا من «الدفاع عن نفسها» في وجه أذربيجان، في ما بدا أنه مساندة لأحد قطبَي النزاع الدائر في منطقة ناغورنو قره باغ. وقال بومبيو في حديث إلى إذاعة محلية في ولاية جورجيا الأميركية: «نأمل أن يتمكّن الأرمينيّون من أن يدافعوا عن أنفسهم في وجه ما يقوم به الأذربيجانيون»، مجدّداً الدعوة إلى احترام وقف إطلاق النار و«المباحثات السلمية» لوضع حدّ للصراع. تصريحاتٌ جاءت بعدما أعرب الدبلوماسي الأميركي عن أسفه إزاء شروع تركيا في «دعم أذربيجان»، ودعا الأفرقاء الدوليين إلى عدم التدخل في المنطقة وتجنّب «تأجيج الاضطرابات» في «برميل بارود». وهو ما تساوق أيضاً مع إعلان وزارة الخارجية الأميركية أن الولايات المتحدة عبّرت لمستويات رفيعة في الحكومة التركية عن عدم قبولها حيازة أنقرة أنظمة أسلحة روسية مثل «إس-400»، وحذّرت من «عواقب وخيمة محتملة» لعلاقتها الأمنية مع تركيا في حال إقدامها على تفعيل النظام المذكور. وقالت الناطقة باسم الوزارة، مورغان أورتاغوس، في بيان: «إذا تأكَّد ذلك… سندين بأشدّ العبارات اختبار إطلاق صاروخ من منظومة إس-400 باعتباره لا يتّسق مع مسؤوليات تركيا كعضو في حلف شمال الأطلسي وكشريك استراتيجي للولايات المتحدة».

RUSSIA SAYS “NO PROBLEM” DELIVERING S-400 MISSILES TO IRAN WHEN UN EMBARGO EXPIRES

Originally appeared at ZeroHedge

Currently Iran already operates the S-300 anti-air defense system, but just ahead of the major UN weapons embargo set to expire this month, which the US contests, Russia has once again strongly suggested that it’s poised to transfer its more advanced S-400 system to Iran.

The latest comments on the issue were made Saturday by Russia’s ambassador to Tehran Dzhagaryan who told an Iranian newspaper Saturday it would be “no problem” for Moscow, in effect signaling a green light for such a deal.

“As you know, S-300s have already been delivered. Russia has no problem delivering S-400s to Iran. This was never a problem from the very beginning,” the ambassador said.

Russia Says "No Problem" Delivering S-400 Missiles To Iran When UN Embargo Expires
Russian S-400 file image

Source

The UN arms embargo expires October 18, but Washington has vowed to go it alone in imposing ‘snapback’ sanctions after a failed UN bid to extend the embargo. European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal have denied that the US has this legal authority, given it pulled out of the JCPOA in 2018.

On that note, Amb. Dzhagaryan remarked that Russia “took a strong stance against the United States and called on the deal’s three European signatories to stand together with us.”

“But the issue I want to address is very important: the three European countries did not support the United States, but they also continue to criticize Iran’s activities in the region. On one hand, they say that the arms embargo against Iran should be lifted,” he said in the interview. On the other, they say that Iran should not continue its activities. The Russian side has said from the start that there would be no problems selling arms to Iran starting on October 19.”

Looking ahead to the UN embargo’s expiration, under two weeks ago Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov indicated to Interfax news that Russia will pursue the “opportunity” of lawful weapons sales to Iran the moment the embargo expires:

“New opportunities will emerge in our cooperation with Iran after the special regime imposed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 expires on Oct. 18.”

“The amount of this cooperation and the areas in which it will develop is a separate question,” he added.

Ryabkov added that Russian cooperation with the Islamic Republic has “nothing to do with the unlawful and illegal actions of the U.S. administration, which is trying to intimidate the entire world.”

Iraq submits request to purchase Russian S-400 system despite US threats

By News Desk -2020-04-19

The Parliamentary Security and Defence Committee of Iraq submitted a detailed study requesting the purchase of Russian long-range, surface-to-air S-400 missile defence systems for the consideration of the country’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on 18 April.

“The issue has already been discussed with relevant figures at the General Command of Armed Forces, and now awaits the prime minister’s agreement,” committee member Badr al-Ziyadi was quoted as saying by the Arabic-language newspaper al-Sabaah.

As he underscored the country’s need to enhance its defence capabilities, the parliamentarian explained that the acquisition of the S-400 missile system could be finalised after ratification of the deal by the new government that succeeds the current caretaker one, adding his parliamentary committee “will support the next Iraqi government’s decisions in this regard, and will present relevant proposals and pieces of advice to it”

“The approval to acquire such a sophisticated system requires large financial allocations and a political decision in order to diversify the sources to get the weapons as we cannot just rely on the Western camp, but rather need to incline towards the Eastern camp as well,” said Ziyadi.

In a number of previous instances, the Iraqi lawmaker had gone on record as voicing concerns over attempts to pressure Baghdad to forgo signing arms contracts with other states.

Thus, last month the Iraqi lawmaker had revealed that US and Israeli arms companies were urging his government to refrain from negotiating the purchase of sophisticated military equipment with other countries.

“There are companies and traders pushing to prevent Iraq from concluding contracts to purchase weapons from developed countries,” he was cited by the Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency as saying on 18 March.

ALSO READ  Russian military testing new hypersonic missile

Earlier, on 20 January, Badr al-Ziyadi said Baghdad, in a bid to boost its security from any possible aggression, was mulling dispatching delegations to a number of countries to negotiate the procurement of advanced air defence missile systems.

“The delegations intend to visit countries like Russia, China and Ukraine to negotiate the purchase of modern systems to protect Iraq’s airspace… The Iraqi parliament is right now forming a joint executive and legislative delegation to visit developed countries and sign contracts on procuring advanced weapons,” al-Sabaah daily quoted the official as saying.
Heightened US-Iraq Tension

Baghdad has been considering buying Russian S-400 missile systems as concerns mount that Washington might withdraw support for Iraq, the Wall Street Journal quoted Karim Elaiwi, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defence Committee as saying in January 2020.

“We are talking to Russia about the S-400 missiles but no contracts have been signed yet. We need to get these missiles, especially after Americans have disappointed us many times by not helping us in getting proper weapons,” said Elaiwi.

The move was confirmed by Abdul Khaleq al-Azzawi, another Iraqi parliament defence committee member, who said:

“We authorised the [Iraqi] Prime Minister to get air defence weapons from any country he wants and we authorised him to spend the money for it, from any country. From Russia or anyone.”

The Iraqi moves came amid heightened tensions between Iraq and Washington that were exacerbated after the American military on 3 January launched a drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, near Baghdad International Airport.

ALSO READ  Russian military holds first M-4 Highway patrol after Turkish Army breaks up jihadist protest in Idlib

Related News

One Russian Airbase Could Take Down Turkey’s Entire Fighter Fleet?

March 11, 2020

One Russian Airbase Could Take Down Turkey’s Entire Fighter Fleet? New Assessment Shows a Favourable Military Balance in Syria Underlying Moscow’s Success

by Aspelta for The Saker Blog

While much uncertainty remains surrounding what exactly was agreed to in Moscow regarding the ceasefire agreement in Syria’s Idlib province, or how long Turkey intends to adhere to the new ceasefire agreement, it is clear that despite its bellicosity towards Damascus, Ankara has been extremely cautious about provoking Russia or undermining the strong relationship built over the past three years. Positive relations with Russia have remained particularly critical to Turkish interests since 2016 for a number of reasons. Increasingly alienated from the Western Bloc and its Gulf Arab allies, which are strongly suspected of having at least tacitly supported an attempted military coup that year, Turkey needed to quickly diversify its sources of economic and military security. Moving quickly to make amends for the downing of a Russian Su-24 strike fighter a year prior in November 2015, Turkey arrested the F-16 pilots responsible for the attack. Ankara subsequently saw its relations with Moscow quickly improve to the benefit of both sates – from the S-400 deal to growing exchange of tourists.

Russia for its part has a big stick to complement the carrot of positive defence and economic ties, and is capable of reigning in Turkish ambitions over Syria to a large extent accordingly. Alongside sanctionscutting the flow of tourists and other economic measures, Russia has heavily fortified its position in Syria since November 2015 to deter attacks by Turkey and other potentially hostile parties. It has capitalised on this asset in a number of ways, more conspicuously by deploying Su-35 fighters to intercept Turkish incursions into Syrian airspace and more recently by deploying its Military Police to guard the strategically critical M4 and M5 highways and the city of Sarakeb. These targets were directly in the path of advancing Turkish backed Islamist militias in the first week of March, and with these militants relying heavily on Turkish air and artillery support to advance and take ground from the Syrian Arab Army, deployment of Russian personnel in tandem with the opening of negotiations drew a line under how much Moscow was willing to tolerate the jihadist push into Syrian territory.

What it is important to keep in mind is not only that Turkey needs Russia far more than vice versa – but also that, in regards to Syria, the balance of power between the two parties remains extremely one-sided. While NATO’s willingness to overtly support Turkey should it provoke an armed conflict with Russian forces remains highly questionable, an assessment of the military capabilities of both parties shows a tremendous Russian advantage in the field in the event of an armed conflict – with the far smaller size of Russian units in Syria compensated for by overwhelming technological supremacy. Underlining this often-missed point, I would strongly recommend the following video which assesses the outcome of a potential air war between Russian units at Khmeimim Airbase and the entire Turkish Air Force. This includes assets deployed to the airbase from December 2015 in response to the Turkish attack on the Russian strike fighter, such as Su-35 air superiority fighters and S-400 and S-300V4 surface to air missile systems.

A further lesson one can take from this assessment is why Turkey appears so eager to upgrade its air fleet in short order – either with the F-35 or with some combination of Russian Su-57Su-35 and MiG-35 jets, having shown interest in all three. Negotiations to acquire the Su-35 in particular, the oldest of the three designs which has been in service since 2014, was reported in October 2019 to have reached its final stages. Given the precedent set by Russia’s Su-35 deal with Egypt, which was signed in 2018 but not announced until March the following year, it remains possible that a deal has already been made for transfer of the fighters to the Turkish Air Force to complement its S-400s.

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US tries to shake Turkey down on Patriot missile deal

Turkey Will Not Receive Patriot System unless it Returns S-400 to Russia – Pentagon

Military vehicles and equipment, parts of the S-400 air defense systems, are unloaded from a Russian transport aircraft, at Murted military airport in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, July 12, 2019

By Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor -March 10, 2020

Turkey Will Not Receive Patriot System unless it Returns S-400 to Russia – Pentagon

…from Sputnik News, Moscow

[ Editor’s Note: Well it looks like Erodgan’s testing out the US, trying to shake it down for some freebie Patriots did not go too well. If I remember correctly, Putin offered the S-400s on credit, which he loved at the time.

Trading them for Patriots would lower Turkey’s air defenses so he will not do that. Erdo was fishing around to show his people in tough economic times that he is a “Bibi wannabe”, in that can get anything out of Trump that he wants, playing him off against Putin.

And Moscow has to worry about ever being paid for the S-400s as Turkey is broke, and part of that due to massive looting by his political clan. Turkey cannot financially support the level of aggression it is on now without finding someone to pay the tab  Jim W. Dean ]

Erdogan and Putin are in a standoff now

– First published … March 10, 2020 –

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The United States continues to condition the supply of the Patriot air defense systems to Turkey on returning the already purchased S-400 systems back to Russia, US Defense Department spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a briefing on Tuesday.

“Turkey is not going to receive a Patriot battery unless it returns the S-400,” Hoffman told reporters.

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States has softened its stance on Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence systems and reduced its demands to asking Ankara not to put the weapon on active service.

Russia began delivering the S-400 to Turkey in July 2019. The United States has demanded that Turkey cancel all purchases of the S-400, saying it expects Ankara to purchase US-made Patriot air defence systems instead. The United States also threatened to delay or cancel any deliveries of the fifth-generation F-35 jets to Turkey.

However, Turkey has refused to make any concessions regarding the S-400 purchase. Erdogan said last week that the S-400 would enter service in Turkey in April.

Exceeded expectations: the Turks tested the S-400

Source

December 09, 2019

Exceeded expectations: the Turks tested the S-400

Russian S-400s tested in Turkey

Translated by Scott Hunor

Source: Gazeta.ru
https://www.gazeta.ru/army/2019/12/05/12849368.shtml

The Turks counted on the high combat qualities of the Russian s-400 anti-aircraft missile system and the complexes exceeded their expectations, despite the fact that their flyby program in its saturation and intensity exceeded similar Russian drills.

After the delivery of the first regimental set of anti-aircraft missile systems S-400 Triumph to Turkey, they have already been tested and showed results that exceeded the expectations of the buyer, according to the source of the Gazeta.ru familiar with the situation.

During the testing, as a rule, it is specified at what ranges, altitudes and courses the detection of air objects is carried out, their stable support in certain modes and compliance of data obtained with the previously stated tactical and technical characteristics. The Turkey’s military carried out the so-called flyby of the regular and attached radar assets of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system-the 91N6E radar complex as part of the system’s command post, the 92N6E multi-functional radar of the anti-aircraft missile division and the 96L6E all-altitude detector, which was deployed on a 24-meter-high tower.

According to the source of the Gazeta.ru, the Turks carried out a flyby program, which in its intensity surpasses even similar Russian drills. Two F-16s, one F-4 and a helicopter for eight hours with refueling in the air constantly were in the air, coming from different directions and heights (including extremely small), they flew into the so-called “dead funnels” of radar (objectively, every radar has some of those), carried out passes over the complexes and stations with a variety of speeds.

The entrance to the zone of destruction of air defense systems of aircraft and helicopters ended with an electronic shot of the S-400 air defense system, i.e. not a real missile was launched, but its electronic model.

In addition, the Turkish aircraft were grouped, diverged and, most importantly, flew around the radar S-400 in a circle. This means in practice that their radial velocity for the S-400 locators was close to zero. The Turkish side initially had doubts whether the Triumph would be able to detect and sustainably accompany air objects with zero radial velocity. According to the results of the flyby, they had an unambiguous confidence that such targets S-400 accompanies easily.

It was noted that by the results of the flyby, Triumph demonstrated exceptionally high ability to detect and accompany air objects.

The Turky military counted on the high combat qualities of the Russian anti-aircraft missile system, but the reality exceeded all their expectations, the source said.

As for the statements of some military experts that “testing of the S-400 was conducted in passive mode“, they should be recognized as false, because without raising to high voltage of the SAM (ЗРС and ЗРК) transmitting devices and going on the air, no overflights are possible in principle.

Many questions arose in connection with the possibility of interfacing controls of the S-400 “Triumph” with automated air defense/missile DEFENSE combat control systems of NATO.

Obtaining information about an air enemy from superior and interacting units and connections within the automated control system (ACS) air defense / missile DEFENSE of the North Atlantic Alliance for the S-400 will never be superfluous, as, indeed, for any other anti-aircraft missile system.

As previously reported by the Gazeta.ru, the problem of coupling the SAM S-400 is technically solvable. The whole question is about its time and price.

To solve this problem, all it takes is creation of appropriate protocols for information exchange and rack [cabin] pairing. In this regard, it will require at least the joint work of two designers — from the Russian side and from the relevant developer of NATO systems. However, it is difficult to imagine such a level of interaction at the present time.

The opinion of some high-ranking American generals (for example, Curtis Scaparotti) that the S-400 is allegedly impossible to integrate into the overall air defense system of the North Atlantic Alliance is erroneous. There are no fundamental obstacles to the integration of the Triumph air defense system into the NATO air defense/MISSILE defense system.

In addition, a certain concern of the United States in regard to Turkey’s purchase of S-400 Triumphs was associated with the problems of integration of the identification system “friend-foe.” S-400, they said, could (mostly hypothetically) negatively affect the overall air defense/missile DEFENSE system of NATO.

The fact is that the US and NATO member States use the Mark-XII state identification system (Mk-XII). It implements the following modes of operation: 1 and 2 (military modes), 3/A (civilian mode, provided in the S-400 radar delivered to Turkey), 4 (military provides protection against provocation).

With the fourth mode Mk-XII in the S-400 SAM in Turkey, it was made necessary to use a purely Turkish cryptocomputer in the ground radar interrogator (NRZ), which will ensure the operation of mode 4 and thereby exclude unwanted imitation of the operation of the “friend-foe” system.

The first S-400 regimental set was delivered to Turkey with a Russian-made Mk-XII (NATO) ground radar interrogator. It is built to the well-known STANAG 4193 standard and is compatible with the ICAO (international air traffic control civil secondary radar) standard.

In addition, the radar interrogator (NRZ) system Mk-XII Russian production and the antenna of each electronic means of S-400 Triumph will work on the transmission with a well-known frequency of 1030 MHz, and reception with a frequency of 1090 MHz.

In Turkey, at first there was an unambiguous opinion that it would be impossible to integrate the Turkish crypto-block into the Russian NRZ with mode 4 due to many technical and organizational obstacles. An acceptable solution in this regard is the use of a Turkish interrogator in the S-400 air defense system together with the national crypto unit.

Therefore, the first regimental set of S-400 SAMS is delivered to Turkey with the Russian MK-XII NRZ system (NATO). Subsequently, it will be replaced by a Turkish ground-based radar interrogator developed by Aselsan. In the delivery of the second regimental set of S-400 is planned to immediately use NRZ Turkish production.

However, during the flyby, the Turkish side was convinced that the request-response system put together with the S-400 SAM is perfectly integrated into their national system of state identification. Therefore, it is possible that the second set will be delivered with our means of identification, suggests the source for the Gazeta.ru.

Moreover, the Turks finally convinced that in the S-400 Triumph there is no means to transfer anywhere the so-called key information. That is, in the system of identification “friend-foe “”codes” are not transmitted anywhere.

The S-400 simply doesn’t have equipment and radar facilities for such transmission. When forming a request or response code, a set of certain pulses is transmitted and, except for the receiving and transmitting antennas of the NRZ, it does not go anywhere.

Moreover, according to the Gazeta.ru, the Turks wished that in the second regimental set of S-400 SAMS, which will soon be sent to Turkey, in the request-response equipment was pre-installed option to identify the “friendly target”.

The Turkish side believes that such an additional mode of operation of the interrogator in the S-400 is necessary for them in the national territory.

At the same time, Bundestag Deputy from the Social Democratic party of Germany (SPD) Nils Schmid said that NATO should respond to Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 complexes and be able to deploy US anti-missile systems in Turkey.

“First, this has become a problem for NATO, and therefore we need a strong response from NATO, because we believe that the deployment of Russian weapons on Turkish soil threatens the unity of NATO. That is why we must find another way to protect the territory of Turkey from missiles,” RIA Novosti quoted him.

Mikhail Khodarenok, a military observer for the Gazeta.ru

Author’s bio:

Mikhail Mikhailovich Khodarenok is a retired Colonel.

Graduated from Minsk Higher Anti-Aircraft Missile Engineering School (1976),

Military Command Academy of Air Defense forces (1986).

Commander of the s-75 anti-aircraft missile division (1980-1983).

Deputy commander of the anti-aircraft missile regiment (1986-1988).

Senior officer Of the General staff of the Air Defense Forces (1988-1992).

Officer of the main operational Directorate of the General staff (1992-2000).

Graduated from the Military Academy of the General staff of the Armed forces of Russia (1998).

Columnist “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” (2000-2003), editor-in-chief of the newspaper Military-industrial courier “(2010-2015)

Towards “NATO-Exit”? Shift in the Structure of Military Coalitions. Turkey’s Alliance with Russia, China and Iran?

Global Research, December 07, 2019
Global Research 31 March 2019

Recent developments confirm that NATO is in crisis.

Turkey is a NATO heavyweight which is allied with Iran and Russia. 

The Pentagon’s policy of “encirclement” of Iran formulated in the wake of the 2003 Iraq War is defunct. Iran has good relations with neighbouring countries including Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan. All three countries have refused to collaborate with Washington.

Needless to say the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in crisis. America can no no longer rely on its staunchest allies.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What will be the outcome?  

Towards a movement to Exit-NATO leaving the Pentagon to “pick up the pieces?  

(Michel Chossudovsky, December 7, 2019). First published in March 2019

***

Reminiscent of World War I, shifting alliances and the structure of military coalitions are crucial determinants of history.

Today’s military alliances, including “cross-cutting coalitions” between “Great Powers” are equally dangerous, markedly different and exceedingly more complex than those pertaining to World War I. (i.e  the confrontation between “The Triple Entente” and “the Triple Alliance”).

Contemporary developments point to a historical shift in the structure of military alliances which could contribute to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East as well as creating conditions which could lead to a breakup of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO constitutes a formidable military force composed of 29 member states, which is largely controlled by the Pentagon. It is a military coalition and an instrument of modern warfare. It constitutes a threat to global security and World peace. 

Divisions within the Atlantic Alliance could take the form of one or more member states deciding to “Exit NATO”. Inevitably an NATO-Exit movement would weaken the unfolding consensus imposed by our governments which at the this juncture in our history consists in threatening to wage a pre-emptive war against the Russian Federation.  

***

In this article, we will largely be addressing a concrete case of a NATO member state’s intent to exit the Atlantic Alliance NATO, namely Turkey’s “NATO-Exit” and its evolving rapprochement with Russia as well as with Iran and China.

Turkey is contemplating a “NATO-Exit”, the implications of which are far-reaching. Military alliances are being redefined.

In turn, Turkey in Northern Syria is fighting against America’s proxy Kurdish forces, i.e. one NATO member state is fighting another NATO member state.

Russia’s stance in relation to Turkey’s military actions in Northern Syria is ambiguous. Russia is an ally of Syria, whose country has been invaded by Turkey, an ally of Russia.

From a broader military standpoint, Turkey is actively cooperating with Russia, which has recently pledged to ensure Turkey’s security. “Moscow underscores that Turkey can calmly withdraw from NATO, and after doing so Ankara will have guarantees that it will not face any threat [from US-NATO] in terms of ensuring its own security,” (According to statement of Turkish Air Force Major-general Beyazit Karatas (ret))

Moreover, Ankara will be acquiring in 2020 Russia’s state of the art S-400 air defense system while de facto opting out from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system. The S-400 deal is said to have caused “concern” “because Turkey is a member of NATO and the [S-400] system cannot be integrated into NATO’s military architecture”.

Russia’s S-400 Triumf (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) is the latest long-range antiaircraft missile system that went into service in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and surface targets. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 kilometers and at an altitude of up to 30 kilometers. (Tass, December 29, 2017)

What does this mean?

Has NATO’s “heavyweight” (in terms of its conventional forces) namely Turkey chosen to exit the Atlantic Alliance? Or is Turkey involved in an alliance of convenience with Russia while sustaining its links with NATO and the Pentagon?

The Atlantic Alliance is potentially in shatters. Will this lead to a NATO Exit movement with other NATO member states following suit?

Moscow’s intent in this regard, through diplomatic channels is to build upon bilateral relations with selected EU-NATO member states. The objective is to contribute to NATO “military deescalation” on Russia’s Western frontier.

Apart from Turkey, several EU countries including Germany, Italy, Greece (which has established defense ties with Russia) as well as Bulgaria could contemplate a NATO-Exit.

Turkey’s “Rapprochement” with Russia is strategic. While playing a key role in the Middle East, Turkey also controls naval access to the Black Sea through the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus. (see image right)

In other words, Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO would have an immediate impact on NATO’s land and naval deployments in the Black Sea basin, which in turn would affect NATO military capabilities on Russia’s doorstep in Eastern Europe, The Baltic States and the Balkans.

Needless to say, the Moscow-Ankara alliance facilitates the movement of Russian and Chinese naval forces to and from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus.

Turkey’s realignment is not limited to Russia it also includes Iran as well as Pakistan, which is in the process of severing its military ties with the US, while extending its trade and investment relations with China. Pakistan as well as India are full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement (SCO).

The broader structure of military as well trade/ investment alliances must also be addressed, including maritime routes and pipeline corridors.

US Influence and Hegemony in the Broader Middle East

These geopolitical shifts have served to weaken U.S. influence in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.

Turkey has an alliance of convenience with Iran. And Iran in turn is now supported by a powerful China-Russia block, which includes military cooperation, strategic pipelines as well extensive trade and investment agreements.

In turn, the unity of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States is now in jeopardy, with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait building an alliance with Iran (as well as Turkey), to the detriment of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia’s economic blockade directed against Qatar has created a rift in geopolitical alliances which has served to weaken the US in the Persian Gulf.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is profoundly divided, with the UAE and Bahrain siding with Saudi Arabia against Qatar. In turn Qatar has the support of Oman and Kuwait. Needless to say, the GCC which until recently was America’s staunchest Middle East ally against Iran is in total disarray.

U.S. Central Command Military Base in Qatar 

While Turkey is deploying  troops in Qatar, it has also established the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in Qatar (in cooperation with the Qatari Ministry of Defense) under an agreement signed in 2014.

The Qatar based Al Udeid US military facility is the largest in the Middle East. Under USCentCom with headquarters in Tampa, Florida, Al Udeid  hosts CentCom’s “forward headquarters” of all US military operations in the entire Middle East-Central Asian region.

Al Udeid –which houses some 10,000 US military personnel–, has played a strategic role in the ongoing conduct of US air operations against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

There is however a fundamental contradiction: America’s largest military base in the Middle East which hosts USCentCom is at present located in a country which is firmly aligned with Iran (i.e. an enemy of America). Moreover,  Qatar’s main partners in the oil and gas industry including pipelines are Iran and Turkey. In turn, both Russia and China are actively involved in the Qatari oil and gas industry. 

In response to Qatar’s rapprochement with Iran, the Pentagon has already envisaged moving its Central Command forward headquarters at the Al Udeid Air Force base (image left) to the Prince Sultan Air Force base in central Saudi Arabia, 80 km south of Riyadh.

The structure of military alliances pertaining to Qatar are in this regard strategic.

Why? Because Qatar is a Geopolitical Hot Spot, largely attributable to its extensive maritime reserves in natural gas which it shares with Iran.

Iran and Qatar cooperate actively in the extraction of  maritime natural gas under a joint Qatar-Iran ownership structure. These maritime gas fields are strategic, they constitute the World’s largest maritime gas reserves located in the Persian Gulf. (For further details, see Michel Chossudovsky, Middle East and Asia Geopolitical Alliances, Global Research, September 17, 2017)

In March 2018, Washington demanded that Qatar’s Al Jazeera News agency register in the U.S. as a “Foreign Agent” intimating that Doha has an “alliance” with enemies of America, including Iran and Russia.

Is this not a prelude to “Qatar-Gate” under the helm of Trump’s newly instated “war cabinet” (with Pompeo taking over from Tillerson at the State Department)?

Screen shot Middle East Monitor, March 9, 2018

In November 2017, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani intimated during a visit to Washington that “Qatar does  not rule out the possibility of a Saudi-led military operation against it”. While this option is unlikely, a “regime change” in Doha sponsored by the US and its Saudi ally is a distinct possibility.

The Incirlik Air Force Base in Southern Turkey 

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is envisaging moving US Air Force facilities and personnel out of the Incirlik base in southern Turkey:

Earlier in March, Johnny Michael, the spokesperson for the US European Command (EUCOM), denied “speculative” reports that the US military reduced its operations at Incirlik base, adding that all military activities continued normally.

A day before Michael’s remarks, a Wall Street Journal report suggested that the US “sharply reduced” combat operations at the airbase and was considering permanent cutbacks there. (Al Jazeera, March 26, 2018)

Concluding Remarks: With NATO in shambles, America’s “war hawks” do not have a leg to stand on.

The alliance between Washington and Ankara is in crisis. NATO is in crisis. In turn, a Turkey NATO-Exit could potentially destabilize NATO.

We are at a dangerous crossroads. The US-NATO military agenda threatens the future of humanity.

How to reverse the tide of war? What concrete actions should be taken?

“NATO-Exit” could become a rallying call, a movement which could spread across the European landscape.

Both the European and North American anti-war movements should concretely focus their grassroots campaign on country-based “NATO-Exit” with a view to breaking the structure of military alliances required by Washington to sustain its global military agenda.

No easy task. This movement will not emanate from the governments. Most of the heads of State and heads of government of  NATO member countries have been coopted.

Moreover, many of the West’s civil society organizations and NGOs (financed by corporate foundations) are tacitly supportive of US-NATO “humanitarian wars”.

What this means is that the anti-war movement has to be rebuilt.

NATO Summit in London: Culmination of disagreement

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by Alpha for The Saker Blog

The NATO Summit, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Alliance, was held in London on December 3 and 4 and was marked by an atmosphere of controversy between the leaders of the participating countries. The members of the alliance were not able to come to a common decision and determine the guidelines for development.

The discord that was felt throughout the summit was facilitated by a series of events that occurred the day before. The central figure, which gathered the greatest number of disagreements around it, was US President Donald Trump, whose relations with the leaders of other countries significantly escalated.

A week before the summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concern that Trump’s presence could undermine the parliamentary election campaign in London on December 12, and asked him to refrain from interfering. Then, on the first day of the congress, a column of demonstrators opposing the policies of Trump and NATO as a whole proceeded to Buckingham Palace, where the British Queen invited the leaders of the participating countries to a banquet.

Relations with Emmanuel Macron also staggered after the bold statements of the French president that NATO was “experiencing a brain death”: despite the fact that this statement provoked a radical but necessary discussion, it caused wide resonance and great discontent from Trump, who complained to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that this is “an irresponsible and disrespectful statement by France”.

The growing trade confrontation between the United States and France, which entailed the introduction of 100% tariffs on French imports to the United States, is compounding the situation. In this regard, Trump tried to emphasize that it was currently unprofitable to spoil relations with America in France, and also questioned the further membership of France in the alliance.

The views of Trump and Erdogan also diverged significantly after Turkey acquired the Russian S-400 missile system, then the tension in relations was aggravated by the situation in northeast Syria. This could not but affect the nature of the interaction of the presidents at the entrance of the summit. Disagreement with Erdogan’s policies was repeatedly expressed by Macron.

The culmination of universal controversy, in particular concentrated around Trump, was the conversation between Macron and Johnson, as well as the Prime Ministers of Canada and the Netherlands – Justin Trudeau and Mark Rutte – during which state leaders mocked Trump for his impromptu speech during the press conference.

“His team just had a jaw dropping on the floor…”, – Trudeau commented on the speech of Trump.

The rest participants of the conversation supported the Canadian leader. The conversation was filmed by reporters and immediately went online. Subsequently, Trump called Trudeau “duplicitous”, recalled Canada’s refusal to pay 2% of GDP for defense spending, thereby emphasizing disagreement about the dialogue, canceled his last speech at a press conference and left the London NATO summit ahead of the expected departure date.

The general agenda of Trump’s political efforts, trying to plunge certain regions of the world into chaos and destroy the transatlantic union, also adds fuel to the fire, thereby destroying the economy of the European Union, the main political and economic competitor of the United States. Thus, Trump advocates the destruction of the alliance rather than a further alliance within it. The situation with Turkey remains unclear, which a number of Western media have dubbed the “problem child of NATO”: in its desire to receive support in the fight against terrorism, the country only faces the fact that the most important members of the alliance support terrorist organizations.

In general, the goals and strategies for the continued existence of NATO remain dubious even for the alliance’s member countries. According to Macron, the main agenda for the near future is the need to build a new architecture of trust and security in Europe, readiness for an “open and full-fledged dialogue with Russia,” as well as considering China as a new enemy of the North Atlantic bloc. However, in conditions of radical disagreements reigning between the participants of the alliance, which is gradually weakening its strength, these new vectors of development cannot be properly implemented.

خياران متصادمان في العراق: الدولة/ اللادولة وأميركا/ اللاأميركا

أكتوبر 7, 2019

د. عصام نعمان

الصراع في العراق وعليه ليس في الشارع وحسب بل بين أهل السلطة ايضاً. في الشارع، لم يكن للمتظاهرين قائد. في أروقة السلطة ثمة قادة كثر من دون ان يكون اولٌ بينهم. انها ظاهرة فريدة وغير مسبوقة.

المتظاهرون كان لهم دعاة لا قادة. كانت ثمة دعوة للتظاهر تداولتها وسائل التواصل الإجتماعي وفعلت فعلها بسرعة قياسية. الناشطون في الشارع اطلقوا شعاراً لافتاً: لا للسياسيين، لا للمعمَمين . مطلقو الشعار لم يحددوا هوية معيّنة للسياسيين والمعمَمين المطلوب إستبعادهم. ذلك سمح للمراقب الحصيف باستنتاج سريع: المتظاهرون يعارضون، وربما يعادون، كل المسؤولين الناشطين في المشهد السياسي منذ احتلال أميركا للعراق سنة 2003.

ثمة دليل على صحة هذا الإستنتاج: لم يَسْلَم من التخريب مقرّ ايّ حزب او تنظيم مشارك في السلطة في مناطق عدّة من البلاد. ربما لهذا السبب امتنعت المرجعية الدينية العليا ممثلةً بآية الله العظمى السيد علي السيستاني في الايام الثلاثة الاولى للحراك الشعبي عن التعليق على ما رافقه من حوادث واحداث.

الى ذلك ثمة ظاهرات اخرى استوقفت المراقبين:

أكثف التظاهرات كانت في مدن الجنوب الشيعي الكبرى: البصرة والنجف وكربلاء والناصرية، ناهيك عن الحلّة في الوسط.

امتناع التيار الصدري، بقيادة السيد مقتدى الصدر، عن المشاركة في التظاهرات. إلاّ ان الصدر طوّر قراره لاحقاً بإعلانه سحب كتلته، سائرون ، من البرلمان ومطالبته الحكومة بالإستقالة وإجراء انتخابات نيابية مبكرة.

معظم الاحزاب ايّد، بادئ الأمر، مطالب المتظاهرين إلاّ ان عمار الحكيم، زعيم تيار الحكمة، ورئيس الوزراء السابق حيدر العبادي حزب الدعوة سارعا لاحقاً الى تأييد مقتدى الصدر في دعوته الحكومة الى الاستقالة وإجراء انتخابات.

حتى رئيس الوزراء عادل عبد المهدي – ابن الناصرية – ايّد مطالب المتظاهرين، وحرص على القول بأنّ البلاد تقف امام خيارين: الدولة او اللادولة . في مفهومه، الدولةُ تعني الأمن والنظام كما تعني ايضاً الفئة الحاكمة التي تقبض على ناصية السلطة.

معظم المتظاهرين وضعوا اهل النظام كلهم في سلة واحدة وطالبوا بإسقاطهم. أقسى التهم الموجهة اليهم واكثرها رواجاً هي الفساد والسطو على المال العام. لعل احداً لا يجادلهم بأن الفساد في العراق سلطان. ثمة تقارير رسمية تكشف انه، منذ إسقاط نظام صدام حسين بفعل الإحتلال الأميركي، ابتلع الفساد نحو 450 مليار دولار من الأموال العامة، ايّ أربعة اضعاف ميزانية الدولة وأكثر من ضعفيّ الناتج المحلي الإجمالي للبلاد. مفكر وباحث عراقي يساري رصين من اهل النجف اكّد لي انّ دخل العراق من النفط منذ 2004 فصاعداً تجاوز مبلغ تريليون ألف مليون دولار، ومع ذلك لا اثر لمردود مجزٍ لهذا الدخل في ايٍّ من ميادين الصناعة او الزراعة او الخدمات العامة، اذ ما زالت مناطق عدّة في البلاد بلا كهرباء وبلا مياه نظيفة للشرب، وما زال اكثر من 30 في المئة من الشباب عاطلين عن العمل، واكثر من 25 في المئة من العراقيين تحت خط الفقر.

اذ يتضح عداء الشعب العراقي، في معظمه، لأميركا وما جرّته على البلاد منذ احتلالها من ويلات، استوقفت المراقبين فورة الغضب التي تبدّت في تظاهراتٍ عمّت مدن الجنوب الشيعية ما يحمل على التساؤل عمّا اذا كانت هذه الغضبة تطال ايضاً إيران والاحزاب التي تدعم انصارها في السلطة. في هذا السياق، أشار مراقبون الى أحزابٍ معادية لأميركا والسعودية اكدت ثبوت قيام موظفي السفارة الأميركية في بغداد بتحريض منظمات المجتمع المدني المدعومة من قبلها على المشاركة في التظاهرات وإطلاق شعارات ضد إيران وضد حكومة عبد المهدي.

الحقيقة ان ثمة اختلافاً وانزعاجاً متبادلين بين أميركا وعادل عبد المهدي سببهما خطوات خمسة اعتبرتها واشنطن استفزازية اتخذها الرجل وحكومته في الآونة الأخيرة تتمحور حول امورٍ خمسة:

اولاها، زيارته الصين منتصفَ الشهر الماضي وتوقيعه اتفاقات معها لبناء وتطوير بنى تحتية عراقية.

ثانيها، تنديده بـ صفقة القرن واتهامه إسرائيل بالوقوف وراء استهداف عدد من مقار الحشد الشعبي خلال شهريّ تموز/ يوليو وآب/ اغسطس الماضيين.

ثالثها، قيامه بتوقيع اتفاقيات مع شركة سيمنس الالمانية لتطوير قطاع الطاقة الكهربائية، مستبعداً بذلك شركة جنرال الكتريك الأميركية.

رابعها، توجهه الى روسيا لشراء منظومات دفاع جوي من طـراز أس 400 بعد اتهامه إسرائيل بإستهداف مقار الحشد الشعبي .

خامسها، قيامه بكسر اكبر المحظورات الأميركيـة وهو إفتتاح معبر القائم – البوكمال الحدودي مع سورية، معبّداً بذلك طريق طهران بغداد دمشق – بيروت ما يدعم لوجستياً قوى المقاومة العربية الناشطة ضد إسرائيل .

التطور الأهم تخلّي المرجعية الدينية العليا عن موقف الصمت. آية الله السيستاني أصدر بياناً أيّد فيه مطالب المتظاهرين المحقة ودعا الحكومة الى استجابتها بلا إبطاء، مؤكداً على وجوب تأليف لجنة خاصة من خبراء اختصاصيين من خارج الحكومة وخارج محيط الاحزاب المؤيدة لها مهمتها درس الاوضاع الإقتصادية والإجتماعية وتحديد مفاصل الاصلاح الشامل ومتطلبات مكافحة الفساد. عادل عبد المهدي سارع الى تأييد موقف السيستاني ومطالبه والإشادة بمرجعيته كصمام امان للبلاد.

إذ حدّد السيستاني لأهل السلطة طريق الخروج من الأزمة التي عصفت بالبلاد وهدّدت الدولة الهشة بالإنهيار، فإنّ عبد المهدي أدرك بلا شك أنّ ما حدث هو حصيلة سنوات طويلة من صراعات اهل السلطة أنفسهم الذين عاد معظمهم بمواكبة الأميركيين مع احتلال البلاد، وان تهافتهم على إحتلاب مواردها وتقاسم خيراتها أنهك بنيتها الاجتماعية ومؤسساتها الاقتصادية، وأغرى قوى خارجية متعددة بإبتزازها واتخاذها ساحة لتصفية حسابات اقليمية ودولية. ولا يفوت عبد المهدي ايضاً الإدراك بأنّ القوتيّن الابرز في الصراع داخل العراق وفي الاقليم هما الولايات المتحدة وإيران، وانّ تداعيات الصراع بينهما وتكالب أهل السلطة على المال والنفوذ وضع البلاد أمام خيارات متصادمة، وانّ شراسة ادارة ترامب، ومن ورائها إسرائيل ، في مواجهة إيران مداورةً بمحاصرتها اقتصادياً، ومباشرةً بالضرب في عمق حلفائها الأقربين سورية والمقاومات اللبنانية والفلسطينية والعراقية دفع الى واجهة الصراع خياراً إضافياً لعله الأكثر إلحاحاً وأهمية هو وجوب بناء عراق بلا أميركا بعدما تمكّن العراقيون الأحرار، او كادوا، من تحرير العراق من الإرهاب والإرهابيين.

اجل، المطلوب من أحرار العراق اعتماد خيارين متكاملين: الدولة القوية الديمقراطية، وعراق متحرر من أميركا المستبطنة دائماً عدوانية صهيونية فاجرة، ومتحرر من مخططات ومطامع اقليمية ماثلة.

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Why Patriot Missiles Are Useless

South Front

Missile strikes that shut down a half of Saudi oil production not only marked a new round of escalation in the Persian Gulf, but also revealed the limitations of the Kingdom’s air defense. Over the past years, Saudi Arabia, the state with the third largest military budget in the world ($82.9bn), has spent billions of dollars building up six battalions of US-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles and associated radars. However, these seemingly sophisticated air-defense systems appeared to be not enough to protect key infrastructure objects.

Yemen’s Ansar Allah movement (more widely described by the media as the Houthis) claimed responsibility for the September 14 attack. According to Ansar Allah, its forces employed Qasef-3 and Samad-3 unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as some mysterious “jet-powered unmanned aerial vehicles”, launched from three different positions. The movement added that the strike was a response to the Saudi aggression against Yemen and warned of more strikes to come.

Saudi Arabia and the United States are putting a different version foreward, claiming that the strike did not originate from Yemen and was carried out with Iranian-made drones and cruise missiles. The Saudi military explained the air-defense failure by claiming that drones and missiles came from the northern direction, while its air defense radars were oriented towards Yemen in the south. Saudi Arabia and the US are yet to state directly that the supposed strike was launched from Iranian territory, but mainstream media outlets are already speculating on this topic using their lovely anonymous sources.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rushed to defend the reputation of the Patriot system.

“Look, anytime – we’ve seen air defense systems all around the world have mixed success.  Some of the finest in the world don’t always pick things up. We want to work to make sure that infrastructure and resources are put in place such that attacks like this would be less successful than this one appears to have been.  That’s certainly the case,” Pompeo said during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

However, the truth is that this was not the first time that Saudi Arabia’s Patriots have failed. Over the past years, Ansar Allah has carried out dozens of successful drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia, targeting airports, military camps, oil infrastructure and even the Saudi capital, Riyadh. All these attacks were delivered from the ‘right direction’, but this did not help Saudi Arabia to repel them with anything that could be described as a high degree of success.

Multiple incidents involving Patriot missiles failing, malfunctioning or even returning to explode near the launch area do not add credibility to the Saudi Air Defense Forces and their Patriots. One of the most widely covered of such incidents happened on March 25, 2018, when at least 5 Patriot missiles missed, malfunctioned or exploded mid-air during the Saudi attempt to repel an Ansar Allah missile strike.

The repeated failures of Patriots to defend targets in Saudi Arabia already turned them into a meme at an international level.

It also should be noted that the Patriot was originally created to shoot down aircraft, not missiles or drones. The Patriot got the ballistic missile capability after the missile and system upgrade dubbed the PAC-2. This included the optimization of radar search algorithms, the beam protocol in “theatre ballistic missile search”, and the introduction of the PAC-2 missile optimized for ballistic missile engagements. The missile got larger projectiles in its blast-fragmentation warhead and was optimized for high-speed engagements. The method of fire to engage ballistic missiles was changed. Instead of launching two missiles in an almost simultaneous salvo, a brief delay was added in order to allow the second missile launched to discriminate a ballistic missile warhead in the aftermath of the explosion of the first.

During the Gulf War (1991), Patriot missiles attempted to intercept hostile ballistic missiles over 40 times. The results appeared to be controversial. Then President George H. W. Bush declared that the Patriot intercepted 41 Scud missiles of 42 engaged. This would be a 98% success rate. However, a post-war analysis of presumed interceptions suggested that the real success rate was below 10%. Since then, the Patriot has received multiple upgrades.

In 1995, 1996 and 2000, the Patriot underwent three stages of major upgrades known as the PAC-3 configuration to increase its anti-ballistic missile capability. The Patriot got multiple system and software improvements, a new radar and a new missile almost fully designed to engage ballistic targets, the PAC-3.

According to a 2005 report by Office of the US Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Patriot PAC-3, GEM, and GEM+ missiles demonstrated a high success rate engaging 9 hostile ballistic missiles. The report described 8 of them as successful. The ninth engagement was declared as a “probable success”.

These PAC-3 configuration Patriots are the core of the Saudi Air Defense Forces. According to Russian military sources, Saudi Arabia’s northern border is protected by 88 Patriot launchers: 52 of which are the PAC-3 version, 36 – the PAC-2. Therefore, it is possible to suggest the PAC-3’s real success rate in combat conditions could be lower than the 2005 report claimed. This may explain why more and more states seek to acquire non-US systems, for example the Russian S-300 and S-400, despite US diplomatic and sanction opposition to such moves.

Another possible explanation of the inability of Saudi Arabia to protect its infrastructure from missile and drone attacks is that it lacks layered defenses that include long-range, short-range point defense systems and electronic warfare systems which are capable of repelling mixed attacks of this type.

For example, Russia pairs its long-range S-400s and S-300s with short-to-medium range Pantsir and Tor systems designed to engage smaller targets at shorter distances. During the past few years of the Syrian conflict, Pantsirs and EW systems deployed at the Hmeimim airbase successfully repelled dozens of attacks of armed drones. At the same time, the Syrian Armed Forces, drastically limited in resources and mostly equipped with Soviet-times air defenses, demonstrated a surprising effectiveness for a military suffering from an almost 9-year long war.

All kinds of traditional air-defenses could struggle to repel mixed attacks massively involving relatively cheap drones and missiles. However, the air defense capabilities of some systems and the ability of some states to employ these systems does seem to be somewhat overestimated.

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Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again

Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again

September 20, 2019

By Aram Mirzaei for The Saker Blog

August was an eventful month for the Syrian Army and its allies as the battle for northwestern Syria saw a breakthrough after months of static frontline movements. Just like in the previous 3 years, the month of August has been one accompanied by important victories for Damascus. The Syrian Army managed to break through the jihadist lines at the Khan Sheikhoun front and from there steamrolled through the entire frontline, eventually encircling and trapping the jihadist militants in a pocket in northern Hama. Despite counteroffensives launched by Tahrir Al-Sham and their allies from the “Rouse the believers” operations room, the SAA managed to hold on to the newly liberated areas.

With this development, Hama city and Christian towns such as Mhardeh are now safe from the encroaching jihadist threat. This offensive should be expanded now that the Syrian Army still has the initiative, especially with the jihadist morale still shaken by the loss of their doorway into Hama. It is important for Damascus to clear out the remainder of the Latakia province as well as western Aleppo since both these areas are heavily populated and hold strategic value. If Latakia and Aleppo are cleared, then the jihadist threat will be contained to a single province in the country, leaving them pretty much besieged in Idlib as Ankara’s support seems to be fading, as evident by their passiveness during the Syrian Army’s August offensive.

Since the conclusion of the offensive, with a new ceasefire having been declared and expired, the Syrian Army is said to be amassing troops near the Al-Ghaab front in a potential move to completely kick the jihadists out of Hama and thereby finally paving the way for the liberation of Jisr Al-Shughour. This news seems to have been expected by the Jihadists as the Jaysh Al-Izza terrorist outfit has already begun making preparations for the upcoming battle, reportedly sending over 2000 men to the Western Hama countryside. The Syrian Army would do well to be careful here as the key hilltop town of Kabani, overlooking Jisr Al-Shughour still hasn’t been liberated.

Meanwhile, last weekend saw more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production go down in flames as the Saudi Aramco oilfields and refineries came under heavy drone attacks. The attacks caused the greatest drop in oil production in history, prompting oil prices to jump 19 percent. If oil prices rise further, the world will inch closer to a global recession, which, among other things, could cost Trump his reelection. Immediately after the attacks, the Yemeni Houthis issued a statement where they took responsibility for the attacks with the movement’s spokesperson General Yahya Sare’e adding that 10 drones were deployed against the sites at Khurais and Abqaiq. “This was one of the largest operations which our forces have carried out deep inside Saudi Arabia. It came after careful intelligence and cooperation with honorable and free people inside Saudi Arabia,” he said without elaboration.

Washington was quick to dismiss the Houthi claim of responsibility when Trump said that Washington has “reason to believe that we know the culprit,” noting that Washington is “locked and loaded depending on verification” and is waiting to “hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack.” The same response was voiced by Pompeo and Lindsey Graham who called for Washington to strike Iran in an attempt to “break the regime’s back”.

Surely Washington understands how embarrassing this debacle is for them. The Saudis have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on purchasing US military equipment and weapons. Equipment and weapons that Washington has spent quite some time claiming is superior to anything else the world has to offer. Last week, a Saudi prince took to twitter and claimed that Saudi Arabia could “destroy Iran in 8 hours”, adding that Iran’s military technology belong to the “museum”.

That same claimed superior weaponry failed to stop a single attack that took out half of the kingdom’s oil production. This makes me wonder if they’re laying the blame on Iran in order to cover up the even greater embarrassment, that American and Saudi military forces and their networks of advanced air defenses never detected the Yemeni drones that were launched on Saturday to strike oil facilities deep inside Saudi Arabia, proving futile the billions of dollars that the Riyadh regime has spent on them to protect its territories. What message does this send to US vassals around the world? In an attempt to downplay the uselessness of the Patriot system, Pompeo, sounding surprised by the vastness of the operation, said: “This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before.”

Really? Never seen before? So the thousands of drone strikes that Washington has launched across the Islamic world is something that they’ve never seen before?

In any case, Pompeo immediately traveled to Riyadh to assure Washington’s vassals that everything is under control, and to discuss “potential responses”, calling the incident “an act of war”. By now, this blame game has become routine, Washington keeps using the same miserable strategy of intimidation, thinking it will work at the 500th attempt.

So here we are again, another dubious incident in which Tehran is held responsible, without any evidence presented. Of course, Tehran didn’t just stand idly by while Washington made these threats, both Ayatollah Khamenei and foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued separate responses, vehemently denying Iran’s role in the attack and warning that any attack on Iran would spark an all out war. Khamenei also went on to talk about the importance of not falling for the failed US maximum pressure campaign, which this is all about. Speaking on Tuesday, Khamenei said entering talks with the US under the current circumstances would be tantamount to surrendering to Washington’s pressure campaign. “Negotiating would mean Washington imposing its demands on Tehran. It would also be a manifestation of the victory of America’s maximum pressure campaign,” he noted.

Thus, the Islamic Republic has correctly calculated that Washington’s maximum pressure campaign is nothing but a bluff to intimidate Iran into entering negotiations. Khamenei said “I had already said that America’s objective of [pursuing] talks is to impose [its demands], but they have become so insolent that they even speak about this openly.”

“The US regime is after making its domestic rivals and the Europeans accept this as a definitive policy that maximum pressure is the only way to confront Iran,” added Ayatollah Khamenei. “Their objective in [offering to hold] talks is to prove to everyone that the policy of maximum pressure has yielded results, and that Iranian authorities were forced to come to the negotiating table despite what they said.”

The most probable conclusion is that there won’t be a war. Washington knows very well that it cannot afford a regional war, especially not now when Washington has been exposed for not being able to defend its vassals. If indeed Iran was behind this attack, then one can imagine that if a single drone strike took out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, imagine what an all-out war would result in for Washington and its vassals. The consequences of this debacle can be very severe for Washington in the future as Moscow has already offered the Arab states to purchase Russian weaponry instead, slowly outmanoeuvring Washington as was the case with Turkey and the S-400 deal. It is a real pathetic mess that Washington has got itself into. Washington’s own allies won’t even back their lies. “We are not aware of any information that points to Iran,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

“We believe the Houthis carried out the attack based on the statement claiming responsibility,” he added, referring to the Yemeni group incorporated into the armed forces fighting back a Saudi-led war on Yemen.

Washington’s list of options grows thin, the US better retract its words, repent and return to the nuclear accord that it has violated or see itself fall even further into decay as Washington’s days of being the sole unipolar power that everyone used to fear are quickly fading away.

The Ansarullah’s Aramco Drone Strike versus “The Real Act of War” against Yemen

Global Research, September 19, 2019

Pompeo’s provocative pronouncement that the Ansarullah’s drone strike on Aramco’s oil facilities was an “act of war” is extremely hypocritical because it ignores the fact that the Saudis were the ones to initiate the international dimension of the War on Yemen as part of the US’ long-running Hybrid War on Iran, and any conventional US and/or Saudi attack against the Islamic Republic in response to its alleged involvement in the attack would amount to an “act of war” against the entire world due to the global economic consequences that such a move would very likely trigger.

US Secretary of State Pompeo provocatively described the Ansarullah’s drone strike on Aramco’s oil facilities last weekend as an “act of war“, thus making many observers fear that his country and the Saudis are plotting a reciprocal response against them and their Iranian political supporters that both also blame for complicity in the attack, therefore potentially leading to a larger regional conflict. There are reasons to doubt that such a scenario will actually transpire, but the arguments thereof will be explained after elaborating on the hypocrisy of the “act of war” pronouncement.

It was the Saudis, not the Ansarullah, that initiated the international dimension of the War on Yemen out of their serious concern that this rebel group’s rapid successes in the neighboring country would eventually lead to their Iranian rival making military inroads on their doorstep (whether conventional or more likely unconventional) if its political allies captured control of the coast. The Saudis, however, sold their intervention to the public as an attempt to restore Hadi’s internationally recognized government to power following his request for military assistance to this end, which was technically true but didn’t officially touch on the Iranian angle even though the authorities have since emphasized it to the extreme.

Seeing as how no evidence has emerged in the past 4,5 years to corroborate the Saudis’ suspicions about Iran’s future plans to tilt the regional balance of power against it in the event that the Ansarullah were to have taken full control of Yemen, it can be said that their formal intervention was predicated on the concept of “preemptive war” to offset that seemingly impending scenario that they convinced themselves (whether rightly or wrongly) was on the brink of unfolding had they not actively thwarted it. Critics allege that perspective is nothing more than the paranoid delusions of a crumbling Kingdom, but it should be pointed out that Iran has never made a secret of exporting its Islamic Revolution, with its justification for going on the counter-offensive against Iraq in the First Gulf War of the 1980s being a case in point that continues to send chills down the back of its royalist rivals. They, however, weren’t completely innocent in that sense either because they fully supported Iraq’s war of aggression against Iran, as did many other countries in the world at that time including interestingly also the US and USSR. The reason why so many feared the Islamic Revolution is because it presented a credible “third way” for Muslim countries to follow in the Old Cold War and thus upset bipolarity.

To simplify a very complex series of events, the 1979 Islamic Revolution set off a regional — and to an extent, even a global — security dilemma that continues to influence International Relations to this day, most recently when forming the implied basis behind the Saudis’ “preemptive” War on Yemen that eventually led to the Ansarullah asymmetrically responding out of self-defense through their massive drone strike against Aramco’s oil facilities last weekend. Even in the unlikely event that Iran somehow contributed to the attack through logistics, military, or other forms of support like the US and Saudi Arabia allege, that wouldn’t change the fact that it would have been a response to the Hybrid War that those two have been incessantly waging against it since 1979 and which markedly intensified in nearly the past 1,5 years since the imposition of the anti-Iranian sanctions. Even so, many observers fear that the US and Saudi Arabia are prepared to strike (back at?) Iran and ominously climb the conventional escalation ladder to dangerously new heights, but while that certainly can’t be discounted, there are valid reasons for arguing that it probably won’t happen owing to Iran’s control of the asymmetrical escalation one that could impose unacceptable costs to them and the world if that ever occurs.

Irrespective of whether there really was a secret Iranian hand behind the Aramco attack or not, few doubt that the country has the drone and missile capabilities to turn that incident into child’s play and carry out something far more devastating if it were ever attacked. The US’ Patriot missiles failed to intercept the Ansarullah’s ten drones, revealing a glaring regional security shortcoming that therefore means that practically every oil processing facility in the Gulf is vulnerable to this sort of attack unless they’re able to rapidly improve their defensive capabilities, which can’t realistically happen for some time even if they were to purchase Russia’s S-400s and anti-drone equipment to complement or partially replace their inefficient American systems. World-renowned geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar is correct in predicting that

“The real reason there would be no ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz (author’s note: if the US and Saudi Arabia attack Iran) is that there would be no oil in the Gulf left to pump. The oil fields, having been bombed, would be burning”, which would collapse the Gulf economies and also instantly trigger the world’s worst economic crisis in history.

With this in mind, a US-Saudi strike on Iran would be an actual “act of war” against both their target itself and the rest of the world.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Houthi Rebels Overturned the Middle East Geopolitical Chessboard

The Yemeni Shiite group’s spectacular attack on Abqaiq raises the distinct possibility of a push to drive the House of Saud from power

Global Research, September 19, 2019
Mohamed Bin Salman

We are the Houthis and we’re coming to town. With the spectacular attack on Abqaiq, Yemen’s Houthis have overturned the geopolitical chessboard in Southwest Asia – going as far as introducing a whole new dimension: the distinct possibility of investing in a push to drive the House of Saud out of power.

Blowback is a bitch. Houthis – Zaidi Shiites from northern Yemen – and Wahhabis have been at each other’s throats for ages. This book is absolutely essential to understand the mind-boggling complexity of Houthi tribes; as a bonus, it places the turmoil in southern Arabian lands way beyond a mere Iran-Saudi proxy war.

Still, it’s always important to consider that Arab Shiites in the Eastern province – working in Saudi oil installations – have got to be natural allies of the Houthis fighting against Riyadh.

Houthi striking capability – from drone swarms to ballistic missile attacks – has been improving remarkably for the past year or so. It’s not by accident that the UAE saw which way the geopolitical and geoeconomic winds were blowing: Abu Dhabi withdrew from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s vicious war against Yemen and now is engaged in what it describes as a  “peace-first” strategy.

Even before Abqaiq, the Houthis had already engineered quite a few attacks against Saudi oil installations as well as Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports. In early July, Yemen’s Operations Command Center staged an exhibition in full regalia in Sana’a featuring their whole range of ballistic and winged missiles and drones.

The Saudi Ministry of Defense displays drones and parts from missiles used in the refinery attack.

The situation has now reached a point where there’s plenty of chatter across the Persian Gulf about a spectacular scenario: the Houthis investing in a mad dash across the Arabian desert to capture Mecca and Medina in conjunction with a mass Shiite uprising in the Eastern oil belt. That’s not far-fetched anymore. Stranger things have happened in the Middle East. After all, the Saudis can’t even win a bar brawl – that’s why they rely on mercenaries.

Orientalism strikes again

The US intel refrain that the Houthis are incapable of such a sophisticated attack betrays the worst strands of orientalism and white man’s burden/superiority complex.

The only missile parts shown by the Saudis so far come from a Yemeni Quds 1 cruise missile. According to Brigadier General Yahya Saree, spokesman for the Sana’a-based Yemeni Armed Forces,

“the Quds system proved its great ability to hit its targets and to bypass enemy interceptor systems.”

This satellite overview handout image from the US government shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaiq.

Houthi armed forces duly claimed responsibility for Abqaiq:

“This operation is one of the largest operations carried out by our forces in the depth of Saudi Arabia, and came after an accurate intelligence operation and advance monitoring and cooperation of honorable and free men within the Kingdom.”

Notice the key concept: “cooperation” from inside Saudi Arabia – which could include the whole spectrum from Yemenis to that Eastern province Shiites.

Even more relevant is the fact that massive American hardware deployed in Saudi Arabia inside out and outside in – satellites, AWACS, Patriot missiles, drones, battleships, jet fighters – didn’t see a thing, or certainly not in time. The sighting of three “loitering” drones by a Kuwaiti bird hunter arguably heading towards Saudi Arabia is being invoked as “evidence”. Cue to the embarrassing picture of a drone swarm – wherever it came from – flying undisturbed for hours over Saudi territory.

UN officials openly admit that now everything that matters is within the 1,500 km range of the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone: oil fields in Saudi Arabia, a still-under-construction nuclear power plant in the Emirates and Dubai’s mega-airport.

My conversations with sources in Tehran over the past two years have ascertained that the Houthis’ new drones and missiles are essentially copies of Iranian designs assembled in Yemen itself with crucial help from Hezbollah engineers.

US intel insists that 17 drones and cruise missiles were launched in combination from southern Iran. In theory, Patriot radar would have picked that up and knocked the drones/missiles from the sky. So far, absolutely no record of this trajectory has been revealed. Military experts generally agree that the radar on the Patriot missile is good, but its success rate is “disputed” – to say the least. What’s important, once again, is that the Houthis do have advanced offensive missiles. And their pinpoint accuracy at Abqaiq was uncanny.

This satellite overview handout image shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia. Courtesy of Planet Labs Inc

For now, it appears that the winner of the US/UK-supported House of One Saudi war on the civilian Yemeni population, which started in March 2015 and generated a humanitarian crisis the UN regards as having been of biblical proportions, is certainly not the crown prince, widely known as MBS.

Listen to the general

Crude oil stabilization towers – several of them – at Abqaiq were specifically targeted, along with natural gas storage tanks. Persian Gulf energy sources have been telling me repairs and/or rebuilding could last months. Even Riyadh  admitted as much.

Blindly blaming Iran, with no evidence, does not cut it. Tehran can count on swarms of top strategic thinkers. They do not need or want to blow up Southwest Asia, which is something they could do, by the way: Revolutionary Guards generals have already said many times on the record that they are ready for war.

Professor Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran, who has very close relations with the Foreign Ministry, is adamant: “It didn’t come from Iran. If it did, it would be very embarrassing for the Americans, showing they are unable to detect a large number of Iranian drones and missiles. That doesn’t make sense.”

Marandi additionally stresses, “Saudi air defenses are not equipped to defend the country from Yemen but from Iran. The Yemenis have been striking against the Saudis, they are getting better and better, developing drone and missile technology for four and a half years, and this was a very soft target.”

A soft – and unprotected – target: the US PAC-2 and PAC-3 systems in place are all oriented towards the east, in the direction of Iran. Neither Washington nor Riyadh knows for sure where the drone swarm/missiles really came from.

Readers should pay close attention to this groundbreaking interview with General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force. The interview, in Farsi (with English subtitles), was conducted by US-sanctioned Iranian intellectual Nader Talebzadeh and includes questions forwarded by my US analyst friends Phil Giraldi and Michael Maloof and myself.

Explaining Iranian self-sufficiency in its defense capabilities, Hajizadeh sounds like a very rational actor. The bottom line: “Our view is that neither American politicians nor our officials want a war. If an incident like the one with the drone [the RQ-4N shot down by Iran in June] happens or a misunderstanding happens, and that develops into a larger war, that’s a different matter. Therefore we are always ready for a big war.”

In response to one of my questions, on what message the Revolutionary Guards want to convey, especially to the US, Hajizadeh does not mince his words: “In addition to the US bases in various regions like Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Emirates and Qatar, we have targeted all naval vessels up to a distance of 2,000 kilometers and we are constantly monitoring them. They think that if they go to a distance of 400 km, they are out of our firing range. Wherever they are, it only takes one spark, we hit their vessels, their airbases, their troops.”

Get your S-400s or else

On the energy front, Tehran has been playing a very precise game under pressure – selling loads of oil by turning off the transponders of their tankers as they leave Iran and transferring the oil at sea, tanker to tanker, at night, and relabeling their cargo as originating at other producers for a price. I have been checking this for weeks with my trusted Persian Gulf traders – and they all confirm it. Iran could go on doing it forever.

Of course, the Trump administration knows it. But the fact is they are looking the other way. To state it as concisely as possible: they are caught in a trap by the absolute folly of ditching the JCPOA, and they are looking for a face-saving way out. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned the administration in so many words: the US should return to the agreement it reneged on before it’s too late.

And now for the really hair-raising part.

The strike at Abqaiq shows that the entire Middle East production of over 18 million barrels of oil a day – including Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – can be easily knocked out. There is zero adequate defense against these drones and missiles.

Well, there’s always Russia.

Here’s what happened at the press conference after the Ankara summit this week on Syria, uniting Presidents Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan.

Question: Will Russia provide Saudi Arabia with any help or support in restoring its infrastructure?

President Putin: As for assisting Saudi Arabia, it is also written in the Quran that violence of any kind is illegitimate except when protecting one’s people. In order to protect them and the country, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance to Saudi Arabia. All the political leaders of Saudi Arabia have to do is take a wise decision, as Iran did by buying the S-300 missile system, and as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did when he bought Russia’s latest S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system. They would offer reliable protection for any Saudi infrastructure facilities.

President Hassan Rouhani: So do they need to buy the S-300 or the S-400?

President Vladimir Putin: It is up to them to decide [laughs].

In The Transformation of War, Martin van Creveld actually predicted that the whole industrial-military-security complex would come crumbling down when it was exposed that most of its weapons are useless against fourth-generation asymmetrical opponents. There’s no question the whole Global South is watching – and will have gotten the message.

Hybrid war, reloaded

Now we are entering a whole new dimension in asymmetric hybrid war.

In the – horrendous – event that Washington would decide to attack Iran, egged on by the usual neocon suspects, the Pentagon could never hope to hit and disable all the Iranian and/or Yemeni drones. The US could expect, for sure, all-out war. And then no ships would sail through the Strait of Hormuz. We all know the consequences of that.

Which brings us to The Big Surprise. The real reason there would be no ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz is that there would be no oil in the Gulf left to pump. The oil fields, having been bombed, would be burning.

So we’re back to the realistic bottom line, which has been stressed by not only Moscow and Beijing but also Paris and Berlin: US President Donald Trump gambled big time, and he lost. Now he must find a face-saving way out. If the War Party allows it.

*

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are from Asia Times unless otherwise stated

Did Russia really prevent Israeli airstrikes in Syria?

Sat Sep 14, 2019 08:32AM

This file handout obtained from the Russian Defense Ministry's official Facebook page on November 26, 2015 shows Russia's S-400 air defense missile systems at the Hmeimin airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia. (Photo by Russia Defense Ministry)
This file handout obtained from the Russian Defense Ministry’s official Facebook page on November 26, 2015 shows Russia’s S-400 air defense missile systems at the Hmeimin airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia. (Photo by Russia Defense Ministry)

Moscow has reportedly moved to prevent Israeli airstrikes in Syria, with Russian President Vladimir Putin warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the strikes.

Putin told Netanyahu that allowing Israeli strikes on Syrian military assets would undermine Moscow’s relations with Damascus, the Arabic edition of the UK-based Independent newspaper reported on Friday.

The report comes after Netanyahu met with Putin in the resort city of Sochi on Thursday to discuss “security coordination” in Syria.

According to an unnamed Russian source cited in the report, Moscow has also threatened to use its “fighter jets or the S-400 air defense system” in order to counter any Israeli aircraft striking Syria.

In August, Moscow stopped an airstrike on the strategic Qasioun region near Damascus, where a Syrian S-300 missile battery is said to be placed, according to the report.

Moscow allegedly prevented another airstrike later on a Syrian outpost in the southwestern province of Quneitra and a third in the western coastal province of Latakia.

The report comes as Syria has intercepted several Israeli missile attacks in the past month, casting doubt on the extent of Russian commitment to counter Israeli ambitions.

The Israeli regime has acknowledged repeatedly launching attacks against Syria in recent years, some of which have been carried out from Lebanese airspace.

Such aggressive moves have been viewed by observers as attempts to weaken the Damascus government as it increasingly gains the upper hand fighting terrorist groups which have plagued the country since 2011.

‘A failed meeting’

The Independent report also cited unnamed Israeli sources who described Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin as “a failure”, falling short of reducing any Syria policy disagreements with Moscow.

Israeli sources added that Israel airstrikes on Syria had “embarrassed” the Russians from failing to protect its allies.

During the “failed” meeting, Netanyahu had also called for Tel Aviv to be given “freedom of action” against Iran by Russia.

The Israeli prime minister had even sought to use the meeting to “present positive message of the cooperation between the two countries” for his election campaign but failed, the report wrote.

According to the Russian source, Putin’s disagreements with Netanyahu also went as far as Putin condemning Tel Aviv’s recent actions in Lebanon, with the Russian president saying that he “rejects the aggression towards Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

Israel launched a number of drone attacks into Lebanon last month.

Following the drone raids, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, vowed in a televised speech that fighters of the movement would counter any further violation of the Lebanese airspace by Israeli drones, warning the Tel Aviv regime to immediately halt such breaches.

Last week, Hezbollah fired two anti-tank guided missiles at a moving Israeli armored vehicle at the Avivim base north of the occupied territories, killing and wounding its occupants.

Also Read

A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the US Command Structure

Global Research, August 03, 2019
Global Research 8 July 2019

Updated, July 21, 2019

In this article, we examine America’s war strategies, including its ability to launch an all out theater war against the Islamic Republic on Iran.

A follow-up article will focus on the History of US War Plans against Iran as well as the complexities underlying the Structure of Military Alliances. 

**

Under present conditions, an Iraq style all out Blitzkrieg involving the simultaneous deployment of ground, air and naval  forces is an impossibility. 

For several reasons. US hegemony in the Middle East has been weakened largely as a result of the evolving structure of military alliances.

The US does not have the ability to carry out such a project.

There are two main factors which determine America’s military agenda in relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

1. Iran’s Military

There is the issue of Iran’s military capabilities (ground forces, navy, air force, missile defense), namely its ability to effectively resist and respond to an all out conventional war involving the deployment of US and Allied forces. Within the realm of conventional warfare,  Iran has sizeable military capabilities. Iran is to acquire Russia’s S400 state of the art air defense system.

Iran is ranked as “a major military power” in the Middle East, with an estimated 534,000 active personnel in the army, navy, air force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It has advanced ballistic missile capabilities as well as a national defense industry. In the case of a US air attack, Iran would target US military facilities in the Persian Gulf.

2. Evolving Structure of Military Alliances

The second consideration has to do with the evolving structure of military alliances (2003-2019) which is largely to the detriment of the United States.

Several of America’s staunchest allies are sleeping with the enemy.

Countries which have borders with Iran including Turkey and Pakistan have military cooperation agreements with Iran. While this in itself excludes the possibility of a ground war, it also affects the planning of US and allied naval and air operations.

Until recently both Turkey (NATO heavyweight) and Pakistan were among America’s faithful allies, hosting US military bases.

From a broader military standpoint, Turkey is actively cooperating with both Iran and Russia. Moreover, Ankara has acquired (July 12, 2019) ahead of schedule Russia’s state of the art S-400 air defense system while de facto opting out from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system.

Needless to say the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in crisis. Turkey’s exit from NATO is almost de facto. America can no longer rely on its staunchest allies. Moreover, US and Turkish supported militia are fighting one another in Syria.

Moreover, several NATO member states have taken a firm stance against Washington’s Iran policy:  “European allies are grappling with mounting disagreements over foreign policy and growing irritated with Washington’s arrogant leadership style.”

“The most important manifestation of growing European discontent with U.S. leadership is the move by France and other powers to create an independent, “Europeans only” defense capability” (See National Interest, May 24, 2019)

Iraq has also indicated that it will not cooperate with the US in the case of a ground war against Iran.

Under present conditions, none of Iran’s neigbouring states including Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia would allow US-Allied ground forces to transit through their territory. Neither would they cooperate with the US in the conduct of an air war.

In recent developments, Azerbaijan which in the wake of the Cold War became a US ally as well as a member of NATO’s partnership for peace has changed sides. The earlier US-Azeri military cooperation agreements are virtually defunct including the post-Soviet GUAM military alliance (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova).

Bilateral military and intelligence agreements between Iran and Azerbaijan were signed in December 2018. In turn, Iran collaborates extensively with Turkmenistan. With regard to Afghanistan, the internal situation with the Taliban controlling a large part of Afghan territory, would not favor a large scale deployment of US and allied ground forces on the Iran-Afghan border.


Visibly, the policy of strategic encirclement against Iran formulated in the wake of the Iraq war (2003) is no longer functional. Iran has friendly relations with neighbouring countries, which previously were within the US sphere of influence.

The US is increasingly isolated in the Middle East and does not have the support of its NATO allies

Under these conditions, a major conventional theater war by the US involving the deployment of ground forces would be suicide.

This does not mean, however, that war will not take place. In some regards, with the advances in military technologies, an Iraq-style war is obsolete.

We are nonetheless at a dangerous crossroads. Other diabolical forms of military intervention directed against Iran are currently on the drawing board of the Pentagon. These include:

  • various forms of “limited warfare”, ie. targeted missile attacks,
  • US and Allied support of terrorist paramilitary groups
  • so-called “bloody nose operations” (including the use of tactical nuclear weapons),
  • acts of political destabilization and color revolutions
  • false flag attacks and military threats,
  • sabotage, confiscation of financial assets, extensive economic sanctions,
  • electromagnetic and climatic warfare, environmental modification techniques (ENMOD)
  • cyberwarfare
  • chemical and biological warfare.

US Central Command Forward Headquarters Located in Enemy Territory

Another consideration has to do with the crisis within the US Command structure.

USCENTCOM is the theater-level Combatant Command for all operations in the broader Middle East region extending from Afghanistan to North Africa. It is the most important Combat Command of the Unified Command structure. It has led and coordinated several major Middle East war theaters including Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003). It is also involved in Syria.

In the case of a war with Iran, operations in the Middle East would be coordinated by US Central Command with headquarters in Tampa, Florida in permanent liaison with its forward command headquarters in Qatar.

In late June 2019, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone President Trump “called off the swiftly planned military strikes on Iran” while intimating in his tweet that “any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”

US Central Command (CENTCOM), confirmed the deployment of the US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters to the al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, intended to “defend American forces and interests” in the region against Iran. (See Michael Welch, Persian Peril, Global Research, June 30, 2019). Sounds scary?

“The base is technically Qatari property playing host to the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command.” With 11,000 US military personnel, it is described as “one of the U.S. military’s most enduring and most strategically positioned operations on the planet”   (Washington Times). Al-Udeid also hosts the US Air Force’s 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, considered to be “America’s most vital overseas air command”.

What both the media and military analysts fail to acknowledge is that US CENTCOM’s forward Middle East headquarters at the al-Udeid military base close to Doha de facto “lies in enemy territory”

Since the May 2017 split of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Qatar has become a staunch ally of both Iran and Turkey (which is also an ally of Iran). While they have no “official” military cooperation agreement with Iran, they share in joint ownership with Iran the largest Worldwide maritime gas fields (see map below).

The split of the GCC has led to a shift in military alliances: In May 2017 Saudi Arabia blocked Qatar’s only land border. In turn Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE have blocked air transportation as well as commercial maritime shipments to Doha.

What is unfolding since May 2017 is a shift in Qatar’s trade routes with the establishment of bilateral agreements with Iran, Turkey as well as Pakistan. In this regard, Russia, Iran, and Qatar provide over half of the world’s known gas reserves.

The Al-Udeid base near Doha is America’s largest military base in the Middle East. In turn, Turkey has now established its own military facility in Qatar. Turkey is no longer an ally of the US. Turkish proxy forces in Syria are fighting US supported militia.

Turkey is now aligned with Russia and Iran. Ankara has now confirmed that it will be acquiring Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system which requires military cooperation with Moscow.

Qatar is swarming with Iranian businessmen, security personnel and experts in the oil and gas industry (with possible links to Iran intelligence?), not to mention the presence of Russian and Chinese personnel.

Question. How on earth can you launch a war on Iran from the territory of a close ally of Iran?

From a strategic point of view it does not make sense. And this is but the tip of the iceberg.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric underlying the official US-Qatar military relationship, The Atlantic Council, a think tank with close ties to both the Pentagon and NATO, confirms that Qatar is now a firm ally of both Iran and Turkey:

Put simply, for Qatar to maintain its independence, Doha will have essentially no choice but to maintain its strong partnership with Turkey, which has been an important ally from the perspective of military support and food security, as well as Iran. The odds are good that Iranian-Qatari ties will continue to strengthen even if Tehran and Doha agree to disagree on certain issues … On June 15 [2019], President Hassan Rouhani emphasizedthat improving relations with Qatar is a high priority for Iranian policymakers. … Rouhani told the Qatari emir that “stability and security of regional countries are intertwined” and Qatar’s head of state, in turn, stressed that Doha seeks a stronger partnership with the Islamic Republic. (Atlantic Council, June 2019, emphasis added)

What this latest statement by the Atlantic Council suggests is while Qatar hosts USCENTCOM’s forward headquarters, Iran and Qatar are (unofficially) collaborating in the area of “security” (i e. intelligence and military cooperation).

Sloppy military planning, sloppy US foreign policy? sloppy intelligence?

Trump’s statement confirms that they are planning to launch the war against Iran from their forward US Centcom headquarters at the Al Udeid military base, located in enemy territory. Is it rhetoric or sheer stupidity?

The Split of the GCC

The split of the GCC has resulted in the creation of a so-called Iran-Turkey-Qatar axis which has contributed to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East. While Turkey has entered into a military cooperation with Russia, Pakistan is allied with China. And Pakistan has become a major partner of Qatar.

Following the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in disarray with Qatar siding with Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar is of utmost strategic significance because it shares with Iran the world’s largest maritime gas fields in the Persian Gulf. (see map above). Moreover, since the GCC split-up Kuwait is no longer aligned Saudi Arabia. It nonetheless maintains a close relationship with Washington. Kuwait hosts seven active US military facilities, the most important of which is Camp Doha.

Needless to say, the May 2017 split of the GCC has undermined Trump’s resolve to create an “Arab NATO” (overseen by Saudi Arabia) directed against Iran. This project is virtually defunct, following Egypt’s withdrawal in April 2019.

The Gulf of Oman 

With the 2017 split up of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Oman appears to be aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf are potentially in jeopardy.

The Fifth Fleet is under the command of US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). (NAVCENT’s area of responsibility consists of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea).

With the split up of the GCC, Oman is now aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf would potentially be in jeopardy.

The strait of Hormuz which constitutes the entry point to the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman is controlled by Iran and the Sultanate of Oman (see map, Oman territory at the tip of the Strait).

The width of the strait at one point is of the order of 39 km. All major vessels must transit through Iran and/or Oman territorial waters, under so-called customary transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

More generally, the structure of alliances is in jeopardy. The US cannot reasonably wage a full-fledged conventional theatre war on Iran without the support of its longstanding allies which are now “sleeping with the enemy”.

Trump’s Fractured “Arab NATO”. History of the Split up of the GCC. 

Amidst the collapse of  America’s sphere of influence in the Middle East, Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) consisted at the outset of his presidency in an improvised attempt to rebuild the structure of military alliances. What the Trump administration had in mind was the formation of a Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), or  “Arab NATO”. This US-sponsored blueprint was slated to include Egypt and Jordan together with the six member states of the GCC.

The draft of the MESA Alliance had been prepared in Washington prior to Trump’s historic May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia, meeting up with King Salman, leaders of the GCC as well as “more than 50 high-ranking officials from the Arab and Islamic worlds in an unprecedented US-Islamic summit.”

The Riyadh Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the summit on May 21, 2017, announced the intention to establish MESA in Riyadh.” (Arab News, February 19, 2019). The stated mandate of the “Arab NATO”  was to “to combat Iranian hegemony” in the Middle East.

Two days later on May 23, 2017 following this historic meeting, Saudi Arabia ordered the blockade of Qatar, called for an embargo and suspension of diplomatic relations with Doha, on the grounds that The Emir of Qatar was allegedly collaborating with Tehran.

What was the hidden agenda? No doubt it had already been decided upon in Riyadh on May 21, 2017  with the tacit approval of US officials.

The  plan was to exclude Qatar from the proposed MESA Alliance and the GCC, while maintaining the GCC intact.

What happened was a Saudi embargo on Qatar (with the unofficial approval of Washington) which resulted in the   fracture of the GCC with Oman and Kuwait siding with Qatar. In other words,  the GCC was split down the middle. Saudi Arabia was weakened and the “Arab NATO” blueprint was defunct from the very outset.


May 21, 2017: US-Islamic Summit in Riyadh

May 23, 2017: The blockade and embargo of Qatar following alleged statements by the Emir of Qatar. Was this event staged?

June 5, 2019: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt sever diplomatic relations, cut off land, air and sea transportation with Qatar  accusing it of  supporting Iran.

June 7, 2017, Turkey’s parliament pass legislation allowing Turkish troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar

January 2018, Qatar initiates talks with Russia with a view to acquiring Russia’s  S-400 air defense system.


Flash forward to mid-April 2019: Trump is back in Riyadh: This time the Saudi Monarchy was entrusted by Washington to formally launching the failed Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) (first formulated in 2017) despite the fact that three of the invited GCC member states, namely Kuwait, Oman and Qatar were committed to the normalization of relations with Iran. In turn, the Egyptian government of President Sisi decided to boycott the Riyadh summit and withdraw from the “Arab NATO” proposal. Cairo also clarified its position vis a vis Tehran.  Egypt firmly objected to Trump’s plan because it “would increase tensions with Iran”.

Trump’s objective was to create an “Arab Block”. What he got in return was a truncated MESA “Arab Block” made up of a fractured GCC with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Jordan.

Egypt withdraws.

Kuwait and Oman officially took a neutral stance.

Qatar sided with the enemy, thereby further jeopardizing America’s sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf.

An utter geopolitical failure. What kind of alliance is that.

And US Central Command’s Forward headquarters is still located in Qatar despite the fact that two years earlier on May 23, 2017, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was accused by Saudi Arabia and the UAE of collaborating with Iran.

It is unclear who gave the order to impose the embargo on Qatar. Saudi Arabia would not have taken that decision without consulting Washington. Visibly, Washington’s intent was to create an Arab NATO Alliance (An Arab Block) directed against Iran “to do the dirty work for us”.

Trump and the Emir of Qatar, UN General Assembly, October 2017, White House photo

The rest is history, the Pentagon decided to maintain US Central Command’s forward headquarters in Qatar, which happens to be Iran’s closest ally and partner.

A foreign policy blunder? Establishing your “official” headquarters in enemy territory, while “unofficially” redeploying part of the war planes, military personnel and command functions to other locations (e.g. in Saudi Arabia)?

No press reports, no questions in the US Congress. Nobody seemed to have noticed that Trump’s war on Iran, if it were to be carried out, would be conducted from the territory of Iran’s closest ally.

An impossibility?

***

Part II of this essay focuses on the history and contradictions of US war preparations directed against Iran starting in 1995 as well as the evolution of military alliances.

*

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GAME CHANGER: WHAT’S BEHIND US-TURKISH CONFLICT OVER S-400 DEAL

South Front

According to the Turkish National Defense Ministry, receipt of the first batch of Russian S-400 missile defense systems was  completed on July 25th. Besides making headlines all around the world and causing a harsh response from the US, the delivery demonstrated Turkey’s readiness to provide independent defense and foreign policies in its own interests despite all the difficulties that it may face on this path.

The Russian S-400 missile defense system, according to Stratfor, is the “best all-around.” It is approximately 30 years in the making, as development began in the late 1980s, and it was officially announced in 1993.

The first successful tests of the system were conducted in 1999 at Kapustin Yar in Astrakhan and the S-400 was scheduled for deployment by the Russian army in 2001. By 2003, the system was yet to be deployed to Russia. Following various setbacks it was finally cleared for service in 2007.

  • The S-400 Triumph package consists of a 30K6E battle management system, six 98ZH6E SAM systems, 48N6E3 and (or) 48N6E2 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) ammunition load and 30TsE maintenance facilities. Use of the 48N6E SAM is possible.
  • An S-400 Transporter Erector Launcher has four missile containers. Each container can house one 48N6E or four 9M96 surface-to-air missiles.
  • The S-400 can be used with a semi-mobile package of towed trailer-mounted radars and missiles. Typically, it is towed by the Russian 6×6 truck BAZ-6402-015.
  • It takes 5-10 minutes to set system assets from traveling position and about 3 more minutes to set it to ready from the deployed position.

The S-400 has a target detection range of approximately 600 km, while being able to simultaneously track around 300 targets. The maximum speed of the target may be up to 4,800 m/s, approximately Mach 14.

It can simultaneously engage approximately 36 targets, or 72 guided missiles. It can engage an aerodynamic target at a range of between 3 and 250 kilometers, while a ballistic target can be engaged at 60 kilometers.

  • The Russian armed forces have several S-400, located at various positions, as well as plans to equip the Kirov-class battlecruiser Admiral Nakhimov with the 48N6DMK anti-aircraft missile derived from the land-based S-400. By 2020 Russia plans to have 28 S-400 regiments, each comprising of two or three battalions. In turn, each battalion consists of at least eight launchers with 32 missiles and a mobile command post.
  • Two S-400 systems are deployed in Syria for use in protection of Russian personnel.
  • Since 2016, Belarus has two S-400 missile systems, both provided by Russia free of charge, as per a 2011 agreement.
  • China received its first S-400 regiment in May 2018 and carried out successful tests in August 2018. There was an issue  where Russia had to send dozens of replacement missiles in early 2019 since a Russian cargo ship, reportedly carrying an export variant of the S-400’s most advanced interceptor, the 40N6E, was forced to return home as a result of damages sustained during a storm in the English Channel.  On July 25th, 2019, Russia began the delivery of China’s second S-400 missile defense system regiment;.
  • In October 2017, Saudi Arabia announced that it had finalized an agreement for the delivery of the S-400 missile defense system. Unsurprisingly, the US’ key ally in the Middle East wasn’t subject to sanctions and constant warnings over purchasing the S-400. In February 2019, the Kingdom and Russia held consultations on the S-400.
  • The S-400 missile defense system is expected to enter into service in India in October 2020. The United States threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. So far, it’s proving as effective as the threats towards Turkey.
  • As of January 2018, Qatar has allegedly been in advanced talks for the purchase of S-400, but no additional information has been provided since.
  • There are various rumors and confirmations by officials from Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Egypt for interest towards the S-400.

The US strongly opposes the purchase of S-400 by its allies, but mainly by Turkey, since Turkey was a key partner in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. According to US officials, there were constant fears that it could be used to steal the fighter jet’s secrets. Turkey has, for over a year now, maintained that the deal was done and there was nothing the US could do to dissuade it from purchasing despite threats of sanctions and other aggressive actions.

In a last ditch and quite absurd effort US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, allegedly on behalf of US President Donald Trump, suggested that the Turkish side may choose to “simply not turn on” their $2 billion system to avoid difficulties in the Turkish-US relations. This absurd proposal was later repeated by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US media claim that negotiations on an offer by the US for Turkey to purchase a Raytheon Patriot missile system are still on-going despite the S-400 delivery. How that makes sense is unclear, but the new US Defense Secretary Mark Esper was, after all, a Raytheon lobbyist. Regardless, the cost of the proposed Patriot is $3.5 billion, compared to the $2 billion Russian system.

Another factor why the US military political leadership opposes deliveries of Russian state-of-the-art air defense missile systems to other states is that such deals contribute to the Russian development programmes in this field. Right now, the Russian military is developing and testing interceptors of the A-235 Nudol anti-ballistic missile system and anti-satellite weapon. The system is set to replace the current one defending Moscow and the surrounding region from nuclear attacks, the A-135 Amur.

According to reports, the Nudol will operate in three stages:

  • Long-range, based on the 51T6 interceptor and capable of destroying targets at distances up to 1500 km and altitudes up to 800 km
  • Medium-range, an update of the 58R6 interceptor, designed to hit targets at distances up to 1000 km, at altitudes up to 120 km
  • Short-range (the 53T6M or 45T6 interceptor (based on the 53T6)), with an operating range of 350 km and a flight ceiling of 40-50 km

The main contractor for the project is Almaz-Antey, who created the S-300, S-400 and is working on the S-500. According to military experts, the future of the missile defense systems A-235 and S-500 will form the basis for the comprehensive, integrated aerospace defense system of Russia, which will include a variety of modern ground-based detection tools.

The additional experience and funds obtained by Almaz-Antey and Russian military experts during implementation of S-300 and S-400 deals around the world and their usage in the conflict zones such Syria will allow Russia to make its aerospace defense systems even more sophisticated and effective.

No, Israel Did Not Attack Iranian Targets In Iraq

 

By Moon Of Alabama

August 01, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – Israeli newspaper repeat a report which claims that Israeli planes hit Iranian targets in Iraq.

From the last one:

The IAF used its F-35i stealth fighter jets to hit two Iraqi bases that were used by Iranian forces and proxies and for storing ballistic missiles, the London-based Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.

Asharq Al-Awsat is owned by Faisal bin Salman, a member of the Saudi ruling clan. It is – like other Arab papers – often used to launder Israeli disinformation and propaganda that is then repeated in the Israeli press.

The original Asharq Al-Aswat report reads:

Israel has expanded the scope of its Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, western diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat amid reports that Tel Aviv carried out an airstrike earlier this month against an Iranian rockets depot northeast of Baghdad.

The July 19 attack was carried out by an Israeli F-35 fighter jet, they added.

On Sunday, the Ashraf base in Iraq, a former base used by the Iranian opposition People’s Mujahedin of Iran, was targeted by an air raid, said sources.

The base lies 80 kilometers from the border with Iran and 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad.

The sources revealed that the strikes targeted Iranian “advisors” and a ballistic missile shipment that had recently arrived from Iran to Iraq.

Last week, Syria’s Tal al-Hara was struck by Israeli jets.

The diplomatic sources said the attack targeted Iran’s attempt to seize control of the strategic hill, located in Daraa countryside in southern Syria.

The above F-35 promotion then goes on to laud the Israeli Arrows-3 air defense missile the U.S. paid for.

Of the three incidents Asharq Al-Awsat mentions only one, in Syria, really happened.

On July 19 a fire broke out at a camp of the 16th Brigade of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). It set off some ammunition. The 16th is a light infantry brigade. It does not have ballistic missiles. While the incident was first reported as a missile attack, an investigation later said (Arabic) that the fire was caused by a defect of some equipment (machine translation)

The Central Commission of Inquiry sent by the People’s Assembly on Sunday announced the results of the investigation into the bombing of the Martyrs’ Camp of the Commission, which is located near the city of Ameri.

The report of the specialized committee confirmed that the investigations conducted have proved that the explosion was not a military target as a result of a plane or a guided missile, but was a fire of solid fuel due to an internal defect.

No one was killed in the incident.

The alleged attack on Sunday never happened:

TØM CΛT @TomtheBasedCat – 17:29 UTC · Jul 30, 2019

The Camp Ashraf incident was nothing more than a rumor that started on Facebook. It’s not even called Ashraf anymore, the base is named after the Brigade 27 commander who was Martyred in Diyala battles.

Saudis hard at work creating Fake News.

It is not the Saudis that created this fake news but the “western diplomatic sources”, aka the Israeli ambassador in London, who briefed the Asharq Al-Awsat writer.

The third incident, in Syria, did happen:

Syria’s state media said on Wednesday an Israeli missile attack had targeted the country’s southern province of Daraa, but did not report any casualties.

State news agency SANA and state TV added that the “Israeli aggression” struck Tal al-Hara hill that is home to Syrian army posts adding that it only caused material damage.

The Tal al-Hara hill, a strategic area overlooking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, was for many years a major Russian military radar outpost until rebels took it over in 2014 before it was again recaptured by the Syrian army last year.

Israel did not hit any Iranian targets or anything else in Iraq. The Asharq Al-Awsat story is pure propaganda.

If the Israeli air force were stupid enough to bomb targets in Iraq, it would likely see consequences that it would not like:

TØM CΛT @TomtheBasedCat – 18:08 UTC · Jul 30, 2019

And besides

If Israel really wants to waste their time and resources striking sites in Iraq, by all means.

They’ll only accelerate the decision as to whether or not to purchase the S-400 system.

There are plenty of Air Defense Officers who are already fluent in Russian.

This article was originally published by “Moon Of Alabama” – 

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==See Also==

Israel to conduct new offensives in Iraq soon: “Israel has expanded its area of ??control against the Iranian presence in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq,” while indicated that it will conduct further strikes soon on Iranian sites in Iraq.

US “Boots” Turkey from F-35 Program

July 19, 2019 (Gunnar Ulson – NEO) – Turkey has been officially “booted” from the F-35 multirole combat aircraft program.
The F-35 multirole combat aircraft, produced by US-based arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin, is part of a massive weapons program exceeding $1 trillion. A single aircraft can cost over $100 million, or over twice the cost of Russia’s new Su-57 and many times more expensive than other Russian, Chinese and European-made aircraft already in operation.

The record-breaking costs however don’t translate into record-breaking performance. The F-35 has already seen its fair share of development hiccups and even when they are all ironed out, nothing the F-35 is even advertised as being able to do justifies its growing price tag.

It is amazing then that anyone has lined up to buy it at all let alone the large number of nations that have lined up.

Reuters in an older article titled, “The 11 countries expected to buy F-35 fighter jet,” would report:

Lockheed is developing three models of the plane for the U.S. military and eight partner countries that helped fund the plane’s development – Britain, Australia, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Canada. 

South Korea, Japan and Israel have also placed orders for the jet.

Since then, however, there has been public backlash in nations like Canada which are shouldering development costs even if they end up buying no F-35s at all, CBC would explain.

Despite headlines like the BBC’s, “US removes Turkey from F-35 fighter jet programme,” Turkey itself has probably benefited most from being “removed.” Other headlines across the corporate media have been using the term “booted,” “kicked out,” or “expelled,” but a more apt term would be “dodged.”

What would nations like Britain, Australia, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Canada, South Korea, Japan and Israel do with F-35s anyway?

Israel already reportedly has the new aircraft. They’ve even reportedly used them in their attacks on neighboring Syria. However Israel has used the aircraft for mostly standoff attacks, fearing Syrian air defenses despite the F-35s supposedly stealthy profile.

While Britain is likewise prone to acts of illegal military aggression like its Israeli friends, the remaining nations hardly have any role for the F-35 their existing aircraft, or newer, cheaper aircraft could not easily fulfill.

So why did any of these nations line up to buy the F-35 in the first place? Is there any historical precedent that can help explain why Lockheed Martin’s extraordinary expensive, but less-than-extraordinary performing combat aircraft has been so financially successful?

Yes, there is.

Lockheed’s F-104 Starfighter: Flying on a Wing and a Bribe 

This historical precedent is exceptionally relevant. Not only is it about an astronomically expensive, underperforming and essentially unnecessary combat aircraft, it was also made by Lockheed and pushed on America’s allies at the time, just like the F-35 is now.

It turns out that policymakers who chose the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter despite its many shortcomings were simply bought off, literally with crate fulls of money as was the case in Japan.

A very old 1976 article by the New York Times titled, “Japan’s Watergate: Made in U.S.A.,” illustrated Lockheed’s business practice of simply buying off policymakers to chose their aircraft over competitors even after official decisions were made. While Lockheed’s commercial airliners were mentioned in the article, the F-104 Starfighter was also involved in what was later exposed as a massive multinational multi-million dollar (billions in today’s dollars) bribery racket.

Bribery might explain why Canada has tried to back off from the F-35 today but still has stubborn holdouts demanding the aircraft be given a chance.

The Daily Kos in a more recent article would report on Lockheed’s massive bribery racket during the F-104’s days, that:

Lockheed executives admitted paying millions in bribes over more than a decade to the Dutch, to key Japanese and West German politicians, to Italian officials and generals, and to other highly placed figures from Hong Kong to Saudi Arabia, in order to get them to buy our airplanes. Kelly Johnson was so sickened by these revelations that he had almost quit, even though the top Lockheed management implicated in the scandal resigned in disgrace.

Despite the obvious reasons not to buy the Lockheed Starfighter, nations ended up with them in abundance. All in all, over 2,500 were built. Over the course of their operational history, they succeeded in shooting down 3 aircraft and allegedly forcing another to land. Conversely, hundreds crashed with West Germany alone losing 116 pilots between 1962 and 1984.

If US arms manufacturers like Lockheed could get away with bribing officials to buy hundreds of what were essentially “flying coffins” to allied nations back in the 1950s and 60s, killing far more allied pilots than the enemy ever did, how hard would it be to sell something slightly less deadly, semi-functional but simply overpriced?

Pretty easy apparently.

Between collective public amnesia regarding Lockheed’s past abuses, a corporate media that works for arms manufacturers and policymakers receiving millions in bribes, the collective defense of the West never stood a chance of getting affordable and effective defense capabilities.

Turkey Wasn’t “Booted From” the F-35 Program, It Dodged It

Turkey has undoubtedly played accomplice to Western machinations over the past half century. It has been a member of NATO since 1952 and has played a role in destabilizing the Middle East and even parts of Eurasia for decades on behalf of Anglo-American interests.

More recently it served as a springboard into neighboring Syria for tens of thousands of terrorists backed by a US-led coalition aimed at overthrowing the government in Damascus. Much of the current violence in China’s Xinjiang region is owed to Turkish meddling alongside US efforts to divide and destabilize the political order in Beijing.

Turkish forces have even partially invaded Syria, finding themselves mired in fighting with terrorists they themselves at one point supported and of course Kurdish militants, many of whom are supported by their own Western allies.

Ankara has also watched as US, European and even Israeli combat aircraft including F-35s have tip-toed around Syrian and Russian air defenses.

There is clearly much more going on behind the scenes as Western influence around the globe fades and Eurasian powers like Russia and China emerge upon the global stage. Turkish interests in the long-term will likely tip toward greater cooperation with the East rather than the West.

But the inability of Western forces to establish uncontested air superiority over Syria as they have done in virtually every other war in the past century including World War 2 surely isn’t being lost on anyone seriously interested in national defense, bribed or not.

Ankara knew by buying Russian S-400 air defense systems they would likely be “booted from” the F-35 program, so in reality, Ankara itself made the decision to leave it. It will acquire a premier air defense system that it itself has watched complicate US military intervention in Syria next-door.

Turkey has freed itself from a complicated and costly weapons program that would leave its coffers lighter and its borders no more or less safe than they are at the moment. Deepening its military relationship with the West removes rather than enhances any leverage Ankara has when dealing with Washington, London or Brussels.

Other analysts have made convincing arguments that Russian-made systems transferred to Turkey and used by Turkish forces gives Ankara more autonomy from the US and NATO who insist US-made weapons systems be manned by US troops and ultimately directed by US and NATO commanders. The US, for example, has refused to transfer technology associated with their S-400 alternative, the Patriot missile system. Russia, as part of its deal with Turkey, will transfer technology.

While some may be overstating the significance of Turkey’s latest decision, this is undoubtedly one of many steps Ankara is taking to move from West to East. The US, in “booting” Turkey from a program Turkey would not benefit from, is merely attempting to conceal the full extent of its waning influence.

Turkey will continue to be a nation straddling both East and West. But it is hard to recall another point in recent history where Turkey’s balance between the two has been more equitable.

We can recall several extremely risky moments during the Syrian conflict, including the downing and ambush of Russian pilots and rescuers and calls from many in the public for swift retaliation from Moscow. Moscow didn’t. Instead, it has patiently bided its time, and for doing so it has avoided what would likely have been a costly confrontation and instead reaped this recent success.

How significant or minor this success actually is, only time will tell. A major NATO partner buying Russian air defense systems while spurring an unprecedented US arms program certainly seems significant.

Gunnar Ulson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

America’s Latest Mideast Crisis May Have No Escape

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN • 

In October 1950, as U.S. forces were reeling from hordes of Chinese troops who had intervened massively in the Korean War, a 5,000-man Turkish brigade arrived to halt an onslaught by six Chinese divisions.

Said supreme commander General Douglas MacArthur:

“The Turks are the hero of heroes. There is no impossibility for the Turkish Brigade.”

President Harry Truman awarded the brigade a Presidential Unit Citation.

In 1951, Turkey ended a neutrality dating back to the end of World War I and joined NATO. In the seven decades since, there has been no graver crisis in U.S.-Turkish relations than the one that erupted this week.

Turkey has just received the first components of a Russian S-400 air and missile defense system, despite U.S. warnings that this would require the cancelation of Turkey’s purchase of 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” said the White House.

The sale has been canceled. The Turkish pilots and instructors training in the U.S. are being sent home. Contracts with Turkish companies producing parts for the F-35 are being terminated. Under U.S. law, the administration is also required to impose sanctions on Turkey for buying Russian weaponry.

Wednesday, the Pentagon warned Turkey against military action in an area of Syria where U.S. troops are deployed. The Turks appear to be massing for an incursion against American-backed Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara regards as terrorist allies of the Kurdish PKK inside Turkey.How America and Turkey avoid a collision that could wreck NATO, when the Turks field the second-largest army in the alliance, is not easy to see.

U.S. hawks are already calling for the expulsion of Turkey from NATO. And the withdrawal of American forces and nuclear weapons from the Incirlik air base in Turkey in retaliation is not out of the question.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sounds defiant:

“We have begun to receive our S-400s. …God willing, they will have been installed in their sites by April 2020. …The S-400s are the strongest defense system against those who want to attack our country. Now the aim is joint production with Russia. We will do that.”

While potentially the most crucial of recent developments in the Middle East, the U.S.-Turkish situation is not the only one.

The United Arab Emirates is pulling its forces out of Yemen as Congress seeks to restrict U.S. support for Saudi forces fighting Houthi rebels there and to sanction Riyadh for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

If the UAE pulls out, and the U.S. cuts its military aid, the Saudis cannot prevail in a war they have been unable to win with our help after four years of fighting. And if the Houthis win, the Saudis and Sunni Arabs lose, and Iran wins.

This week, to strengthen the U.S. presence for any confrontation with Iran, President Donald Trump is sending 500 additional American troops to Saudi Arabia.

While the U.S. and Iran have thus far avoided a military or naval clash that could ignite a major war, the “maximum pressure” sanctions Trump has imposed are choking Iran’s economy to death. How this ends in a negotiated resolution and not a shooting war remains difficult to see.

In Doha, Qatar, the U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban over the conditions for a withdrawal of the 14,000 American troops still in Afghanistan. And with the Taliban controlling more of the countryside than they have since being ousted from power in 2001, and conducting regular suicide bombings in Afghan cities and towns, it is hard to see how this Kabul regime and its army prevail in a civil war when we are gone, when they could not while we were there.

In this new century, leaders of both parties have plunged our country into at least five wars in the Middle and Near East.

In 2001, after ousting the Taliban and driving al-Qaeda out, we decided to use our power and ideas to build a new democratic Afghanistan. In 2003, we invaded and occupied Iraq to create a pro-Western bastion in the heart of the Middle East.

In 2011, Barack Obama ordered U.S. planes to attack Colonel Gaddafi’s forces in Libya. We brought him down. Obama then backed Syrian rebels to overthrow the dictator Bashar al-Assad. In 2015, U.S. forces supported a Saudi war to roll back the Houthi rebels’ victory in Yemen’s civil war.

None of these conflicts has produced a victory or success for us.

But taken together, they did produce a multitrillion-dollar strategic and human rights disaster. Meanwhile, China gained much from having its great rival, the world’s last superpower, thrashing about ineffectually in the forever wars of the Middle East.

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” said Trump.

Yes, they do. As the British, French, Germans, Japanese, and Russians have shown during the last century, that is how they cease to be great nations.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at http://www.creators.com.

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