Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Russians continue with propaganda stunts around Salisbury, while trying to blame the US for Syria. Iran digs its heels in over Syria, telling the Russians they have no intention of leaving, while Assad appears to be rejecting Russian proposals for political reforms, and supporting Iran. Assad will be challenged to survive long term even if Iranian troops and Iranian funded Hezbollah troops remain in Syria due to his exhausted minority Shia demographic. Without the Iranian funded and supplied manpower his challenges dealing with a long term insurgency will be that much greater. Russia will now strate experiencing the realities of this quagmire that they were warned about repeatedly. Numerous bizarre reports from Russia, while US media elaborate on the 2 minute flight of the nuclear powered Wunderwaffe ALCM. Interesting observations by Golts and Lazarenko. A multimedia example of the madness Tsipko described last week.
In the UK, Salisbury decontamination continues, while SECSTATE Johnson suggests emulating US sanctions.
SECSTATE Pompeo’s Heritage address on Iran continues to reverberate in the media, with complaints by EU players who will lose lucrative cashflow, and personal insults if not threats from Iran. Interesting analyses in Israeli and Arab media. Iranian site at Najah destroyed on Friday, much speculation but credit claimed by rebel insurgents. Israeli AF patrolling border between Syria and Lebanon. Israeli AF states it has flown two combat sorties into Syria using its developmental F-35 jets – this is not a particularly challenging air defence system as it has low density, and importantly, very few modern SAM systems, most of the systems are 1970s and 1980s vintage Soviet equipment – we can expect foolish people on both sides of the argument trying to leverage this to prove imaginary points.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said “No one can force Iran to do anything” and it would stay in Syria as long as it was welcome.
After Putin says foreign troops should depart when war ends, and Kremlin clarifies that includes Iran and Hezbollah, Islamic Republic says ‘no one can force Iran to do anything’
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:30 A.M.) – The Spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Bahram Ghassemi, responded to Vladimir Putin’s statement regarding the withdrawal of all foreign nations from Syria. “We will stay inside Syria as long as there is a terrorist threat and as long as the Syrian government wants us there,”
Iran is a staunch supporter of the Assad regime – Anadolu Agency
What Iran said Iranian officials have responded to statements from Russian officials saying that now is the time to begin moves towards a phased withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Syrian Arab Republic. It remains Russia’s goal to shift from a military conflict which from Russia’s perspective is winding down and has already been effectively won by the anti-terror alliance centred around the legal Syrian government, to a political peace process. Iran has generally joined Damascus in rejecting this view, preferring instead to fight the war to its logical conclusion which for Syria and Iran is thought to mean liberating “every inch” of legal Syrian territory, including those areas illegally occupied by the United States and “Israel”. Today, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the following statement on the matter, “No one can force Iran to do this. As long as there is terrorism and the government of Syria wants it, Iran will have a presence [in Syria]. Those who entered the country without the permission of the Syrian authorities must leave”.
Syria won’t accept a Russian plan for a new constitution that would dilute the powers of President Bashar al-Assad, in a setback for Kremlin efforts to negotiate an end to the seven-year civil war.
For Putin, the path to consolidating his Syrian achievements may lie in an agreement with Israel that further solidifies Russia’s status. Russian president Vladimir Putin further cemented his position atop the Syrian power pyramid as a result of Israel’s massive air campaign that targeted Iran’s positions
The Russian military says it has downed an unidentified drone approaching its Hmeimim air base in Syria.
Russia’s military said on Monday it had shot down an unidentified drone that came close to its Syrian air base at Hmeimim, RIA news agency said, citing the Russian Defence Ministry.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Iran for “perpetuating” the 7-year Syrian war, causing a refugee crisis and provoking terrorist attacks in Europe, by supporting the “murderous Assad regime.” Is he correct?
The construction of tourist resorts for Russian citizens has begun in Syria, said Syria's Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad, RIA Novosti reports. …
Human Rights Watch has called on world leaders to boycott next month’s opening ceremony of the World Cup soccer competition in Russia unless Russian President Vladimir Putin takes steps to protect …
The press secretary of jailed opposition politician and anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny and the host of Navalny’s YouTube channel have been detained in Moscow, according to independent me…
Police in Moscow have detained Sergey Boyko, the coordinator of Alexey Navalny’s headquarters in Novosibirsk, on charges of repeatedly violating Russia’s laws on public demonstrations.
The lower chamber of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, has approved in its third and final reading a bill that provides for countermeasures against the United States and other countries that …
The U.S. assessed that the longest test flight lasted just more than two minutes, with the missile flying 22 miles before losing control and crashing, sources tell CNBC.
A Russian cruise missile that the country touted as having “practically unlimited” range appears to be falling short. The cruise missile’s longest test flight only lasted two minutes and 22 miles before losing control, according to a CNBC report. Russia’s cruise missile capabilities may have missed the mark, but sources said it succeeded in other ways that the US may be incapable of defending.
Russia is preparing to welcome leaders and executives from the world of business and economics but this year’s St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) comes at a time when its international relations are more unstable than ever.
Paul Goble Staunton, May 21 – The “new” Medvedev cabinet Vladimir Putin has approved both by its large number of holdovers and by a smaller number of new people represents a significant move toward the establishment of an obscurantist autocracy with few chances of any technological breakthrough, according to Aleksandr Golts. The first “signal” the formation of the government provides is that all talk about Russia making some technological breakthrough is just talk, the Moscow commentator argues in today’s Yezhednevny zhurnal. Neither the old nor the new people are capable of that, and Aleksey Kudrin who could has been isolated in the Audit Chamber (ej.ru/?a=note&id=32490). The second “signal,” Golts says, is that the obscurantism that has characterized the Russian government is only going to get worse. Not only have Vladimir Medinsky and Olga Vasilyeva retained their positions where they will continue their unfortunate work; and they have been joined by Vitaly Mutko, notorious for his role in the Russian doping scandal. And the third “and main signal” is that “the regime not only by content but also by form is being transformed into an autocratic monarchy.” The appointments of FSB chief Nikolay Patrushev’s son as agriculture minister and of Yevgeny Zinichev, Putin’s chief guard, as emergency services minister show the formation of an ever narrower charmed circle of cronies rather than competent managers. If Russia has a real parliament or a genuinely free press, such things would not be allowed to happen without withering criticism. “However, neither the parliament nor the media control the Kremlin at all.” And there is no reason to make any reference to the judiciary which is anything but independent. According to Golts, “Russia in fact already today is an autocratic monarchy with an unchanged boss whose decisions are not in any case subject to doubt. The only distinction is the absence of the Putin elite of the right to hand over to their heirs not only capital but also titles and positions.” There also isn’t a system of monarchical succession at the top, the commentator says; but the signs point to a future in which people may look back to the developments of the last week as “the first signs” of returning Russia to an autocracy with all its attributes, “including Cossacks with whips on Moscow streets.”
Paul Goble Staunton, May 21 – Ilya Lazarenko, one of the organizers of the Zalesskaya Rus regionalist movement, says that he and his fellow supporters of central Russian regionalism view “the Great Russian Nation” as the antithesis of the Kremlin’s “Russian World” in that they consider both Ukraine and Belarus separate countries. Indeed, he says, when the Zalesskaya Rus regionalists first organized in 2008, many of them wanted to name their group Velikorossiya because they see that term better corresponding to the regional interests of the people of central Russia or more precisely of the city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast (afterempire.info/2018/05/19/lazarenko/). Their hopes for developing a serious regionalist movement, however, “stalled” because “the theme of regionalism in ‘central’ Russia does not work especially well, precisely because of the total centralization” of the country. It can only “be formed by the process of exclusion” with the emergence of serious regionalist movements in Siberia, the Urals, and the Volga region. Asked why the central Russian regionalists could not play a role in the demise of the Russian Federation much like that of the RSFSR in the coming apart of the USSR, Lazarenko says that “the analogy is not completely correct because the RSFSR all the same was institutionalized as one of the sovereign republics of the USSR.” “Zalessiya,” he says, “doesn’t have anything similar. Karelia and Tatarstan do but ‘central’ Russia doesn’t.” Moscow City and Moscow Oblast do exist, however, and “therefore in the existing situation, [he] considers much more realistic the project of a Moscow Republic via the unification of the city and the oblast.” Lazarenko argues that “Zalessiya remains more a cultural political project, but Great Russia [Velikorossiya] could become a political one.” Velikorossiya, he says, is not part of the three in one national project of the 19th century that embraced Russia, Little Russia and White Russia, one those who support the Russian world still embrace. Instead, Velikorossiya “stresses the Great Russian ethnic element and this means that we elate to Ukraine and Belarus as different and completely independent states.” But at the same time, the central Russian regionalists have no interest in including within their future state non-Russian areas like Karelia or Tatarstan. Instead, for its supporters, “the borders of Velikorossiya are intended to be approximately those of Zalessiya,” an area not significantly larger than the Central Federal District. Other regions within the current Russian Federation where ethnic Russians predominate, Lazarenko continues, will be outside its borders as well, because in them “will arise other identities, Volga, Ural, Siberian,” and so on. Velikorossiya will arise in the area between the Oka and the Volga, the historical Zalessiya” with its own “contemporary identity.” Its identity will include many aspects of the Great Russian ethnos, the central regionalist continues. “This factor must not be ignored – otherwise, once again will win out ‘a multi-national empire.” Instead, it will be Russian great not by size but by purpose. “We’ll do away with the empire but ‘the greatness’ will remain.”
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Sergei Skripal’s mother Yelena, 89, went on Russian state TV to claims she has been prevented from speaking to her son, who was discharged from hospital last week.
Russian television showed an interview on Monday with a woman purporting to be the mother of poisoned Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, demanding British authorities let her to speak to her son. Skripal is a former military intelligence officer who passed information on Russia’s agents in Europe
Russian television showed an interview on Monday with a woman purporting to be the mother of poisoned Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, demanding British authorities let her to speak to her son.
A shopping centre in the English city where a former Russian spy was found collapsed with his daughter after a nerve agent attack more than two months ago has been successfully decontaminated, Britain’s environment department said on Monday.
Boris Johnson has hinted that the UK could seek to take tougher action against Russian oligarchs in the wake of the poisoning of the former spy Sergei Skripal, saying he is looking closely at the approach taken by the Trump administration. The foreign secretary says he has noted that harder U.S. sanctions have had a marked effect.
Foreign secretary says he has noted that harder US sanctions have had marked effect
Mike Pompeo deserves a “punch to the mouth” over his vow to impose “the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran, according to a senior Iranian commander.
The U.S. secretary of state vowed “unprecedented financial pressure in the form of the strongest sanctions in history.”
The US will aim to “crush” Iran with economic and military pressure unless it changes its behavior in the Middle East, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday in a speech that many analysts saw as a policy of regime change in everything but name.
Plan A was the nuclear deal. That’s over. Now key Gulf states want the U.S. to flex more muscle.
"Pompeo's speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA has made or will make the region safer"
French President Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Russia this week once threatened to split France from its European allies. Now it’s part of a wider European effort to tie President Vladimir Putin to the Iran nuclear accord.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani dismissed threats made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, saying the rest of the world no longer accepts Washington making decisions on their behalf.
The US leadership vacuum was exploited by Russia, are these times over?
The modern Middle East has been plagued by ruinous wars centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but never have they seemed so interconnected with Iran and Saudi Arabia vying for regional control
US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal has once again brought to the surface the intense animosity between Iran and Israel. This time the rivalry has reached a very dangerous point, since it has been manifested with direct military clashes between Israel and Iran on Syrian territory.
Pro-Assad forces deny any Iranians or Hezbollah members killed in Friday explosions
Sky News Arabic reported from Abu Dhabi Monday morning citing activists in Syria who said that powerful explosions rocked an Iranian operations center at the headquarters of the Department of Electronic War, south of the capital Damascus. According to the testimony of local residents, explosions were heard in the Damascus countryside near Damascus International Airport. The Sky News sources said the explosions were believed to have been caused by explosions in electronic warfare barracks and the State Security School in Najah, which is home to Iranian militias south of Damascus. A few hours earlier, the Bosphorous Observer reported that a large Syrian cargo plane left Tehran for Damascus. The plane, an Ilyushin IL-76T, is owned by the Syrian Arab Airlines, and is mostly used to transport military cargo from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Syria. Speculation is that the cargo was destroyed only a few hours after the plane had taken off back to Iran. And as usual, the question remains: why don’t they take down the plane, too?
This is the second report of an alleged attack in Syria in as many days
At least 28 pro-government fighters have been killed in a string of blasts at a regime airbase in central Syria earlier this week, a monitor said Sunday giving a new toll. The deadly explosions tore through weapons and fuel depots on Friday at a military airport in Syria’s Hama province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “The toll has gone up to at least 28 regime forces and loyalist fighters, all Syrian,” said the Britain-based monitor, after initially reporting 11 killed. It said the death toll could rise as “dozens” are wounded “some in of them in critical condition,” it said. Syrian state media reported the blasts at the time but did not provide any details, while the Observatory had said they were likely due to a technical malfunction. The huge explosions initially sparked suspicions of another Israeli air strike, but such raids are rare during the day time and there were no reports of air activity or the sound of missiles. Russian and US officials said Israel was behind a strike on the same base in late April.
THE ISRAELI air force has been actively patrolling the border between Syria and Lebanon bringing two of the region’s major powers, Israel and Iran, closer to the brink of direct confrontation.
BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:40 A.M.) – Israeli warplanes once again stalked the Syrian-Lebanese border this weekend amid increased reports of a Syrian military offensive in southern Syria. Reports from Damascus on Saturday night indicated that the Israeli warplanes flew through the southern Lebanese province of Nabatiyeh to
Information on the Israeli air force’s activity along the border between Lebanon and Syria is yet to be confirmed by the country’s authorities.
The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.
Researchers are working to more effectively detect the use of chemical and other non-conventional weapons.
Israeli Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin said Israel is the first country to have used the F-35 fighter plane.
Israel confirms the US-made F-35, from the world’s costliest military programme, was used recently.
Israel is the first country to have used the U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter in combat, the Israeli air force chief said on Tuesday in remarks carried by the military’s official Twitter account.
Israel’s air force chief says F-35As were used in recent strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, the first “operational attack” for the newly fielded stealth jet.
Major General Amikam Norkin said Israeli F-35s have carried out two strikes in recent combat operations.
Showing picture of the aircraft over Beirut, air force chief reveals the stealth fighter was used in at least two operations, but not in May 10 attacks in Syria