Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Salisbury CW Attack / Syria / Iran / Russia Ad Hoc Update (110)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Russia launches a propaganda campaign to support Iran against the US, while DEFMIN Shoigu threatens Finland and Sweden and boasts about the force structure buildup in Western Russia. Some very apt observations on Russia’s internal instability by Mendras, while Gazprom raids pension funds to pay off foreign debt. OCCRP exposes Russian involvement in the now famous “Macedonian Fake News Industry”.

Salisbury/Amesbury searches continue while public warned of the risk of additional CW agent delivery devices – the working hypothesis is of a  ‘drop team’ pre-positioning the agent before the attack on the Skripals. Rowley’s interview generates a lot of media coverage.

Iran makes more threats, boasting that “we’re a nation of martyrdom and we await you” and that the Iranian people are “lovers of death”, while NATSEC Advisor Bolton calls a major conference on Iran planning, and SECDEF Mattis warns Iran again. Much criticism of POTUS tweet on Iran within the US. Iran’s economy appears to now be in freefall. Some curious commentaries on Iran’s ability to close down the Persian Gulf made by parties who evidently have little or no understanding of the real military calculus – a mere two Russian supplied batteries of S-300PMU2 will not stop US led Coalition air forces if the balloon goes up in the region. Red Sea attacks on tanker vessels may be Iranian attempt at messaging. Reports from Israeli media on the TBM intercepts claiming they were not successful.

Wait, What: ‘Novichok’ Is A Hot Brand in Russia | Advertising Specialty Institute

T-Shirts, craft beer, vodka, a cocktail, coffee and sunflower oil are increasingly popular products in Russia that bear the name of the deadly nerve agent. By Christopher Ruvo In a Nutshell *Novichok as a branding phenomenon appears to speak to a proud sense of Russian nationalism and defiance to perceived Western demonization of their country that some Russians find appealing. *The products raise interesting questions on ethics and morality for marketers and brands. It’s fair to say that Novichok deserves a place on the list of “Really Terrible Things Humans Have Created in Their Evil & Stupidity.” It is, of course, a nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union in the late 20th Century. When inhaled or ingested, Novichok rapidly attacks the body, preventing nerves from communicating with muscles and inducing vomiting, among other heinous effects that can culminate in death. Death, indeed, is exactly what Novichok brought to a British woman earlier this year. It was also the poison used to attack a former Russian spy in England. The U.K. government says the Kremlin is behind the attacks, though Moscow denies Russian involvement.

Iran Unlikely to ‘Roll Over’ in the Face of Trump’s Threats – Analyst – Sputnik International

President Trump suggested that he may be open to striking a fresh nuclear deal with Iran, just two days after exchanging hostile rhetoric with President Hassan Rouhani. Sputnik caught up with Dr Steven Hurst, a specialist in international politics at Manchester Metropolitan University, to find out what Trump’s ‘real deal’ may look like.

‘War will destroy everything you own,’ head of Iran’s elite troops warns Trump — RT World News

US President Donald Trump will lose everything he has if he dares to wage war against Iran, the commander of the nation’s elite Quds Force warned. He also cautioned that the Red Sea is no longer safe with a US presence.

US politicians & media talk of Iran regime change as if it’s their divine right — RT Op-ed

US President Donald Trump’s dire warning to Iran has renewed debate within American news media about whether his administration is seeking regime change in Tehran or merely using threats as a psychological weapon.

Maria Butina: ties emerge between NRA, alleged spy and Russian billionaire | US news | The Guardian

Senior NRA figures met with the wife of Konstantin Nikolaev, who allegedly gave financial support to Butina

Samantha Bee Blasts NRA’s Dana Loesch for Going ‘Silent’ on Russian Spy Maria Butina

‘You’re caught associating yourself with one Russian agent and you just disappear?’ the ‘Full Frontal’ host asked. ‘What gives?’

Russia’s Shifting Defense Establishment | The National Interest

A reshuffle in Russia’s defense industry is likely to have consequences.

UAWire – Kremlin to allow Russian Defense Ministry to confiscate civilian vehicles for military use

All of Russian citizens’ light vehicles are to be put on the military register, Russian news outlet Izvestia reports. The Defense Ministry has …

UAWire – Russia creates 70 new army units on western border

Since 2016, Russia has created more than 70 new military units in its Western Military District, including two divisions and three brigades, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said at a Defense Ministry board session. The “situation unfolding in the western strategic direction” requires Russia to constantly improve the troops and their base systems, the defense minister explained. According to Shoygu, new infrastructure is being created to accommodate the new units. More than 350 facilities are scheduled to be put into operation by the end of the year. Furthermore, the district’s forces have been sent roughly 5000 units of new and modernized weapons and equipment, which will “increase the rate of equipment with modern weapons from 39% to 54%”. On July 11, the news outlet Defense One reported based on satellite photographs that Russia is rapidly upgrading its military infrastructure in the Kaliningrad province, which borders on Poland. According to an analyst from 3Gimbals, a company specializing in machine analysis, the images are evidence of possible reinforcement of the structures in the region. The process is similar to the construction of “reinforced bunkers for explosive substances using earthen walls for safety”. Signs of the construction of a new railway line can also be seen in the satellite images, the expert claims. Defense One points out that similar activity was documented in Abkhazia before the 2008 conflict. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has also drawn attention to Russia’s activity in the Kaliningrad province. He told RBC news agency in an interview that over the last few years Alliance representatives have noted that “Russia is militarizing the Kaliningrad province”, deploying modern weaponry there.

UAWire – Russian Minister of Defense promises retaliatory measures in connection with Finland and Sweden’s cooperation with NATO

Russia will be forced to take retaliatory measures due to Finland and Sweden’s cooperation with NATO, the head of the Russian Ministry of Defense Sergey Shoygu announced at the board of the Ministry on Tuesday. According to him, the behavior of their Western colleagues will lead to the destruction of the existing global security system in the world and will generate even greater mistrust. The involvement of Finland and Sweden in NATO structures is of particular concern. As reported by Interfax, Shoygu recalled spring’s agreement with NATO on the full participation of Finland and Sweden in the training of the alliance and the possibility of using its systems for controlling the troops. In exchange, NATO received access to the airspace and territorial waters of Finland and Sweden. In exchange, NATO received access to the airspace and territorial waters of Finland and Sweden. Shoygu said that the NATO contingents continue to build up in the countries of Eastern Europe. Since 2014, the size of NATO troops in this region has increased to 15 thousand people (from 2 thousand). Since the beginning of this year, NATO conducted training for more than a hundred times, and up to 80,000 servicemen were involved. The size of personnel annually attracted to NATO exercises increased for ten times in five years, and the amount of combat aircraft increased from 11 units to 101, according to the statistics presented by Shoygu. In addition, five centers of cyber operations were deployed (in Finland, Estonia, Poland, Germany, and France) in Europe with the support of the USA.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a creaking ship. Don’t fall for the propaganda | Marie Mendras | Opinion | The Guardian

The united front seen during the World Cup is an illusion. Putin fears the convergence of grassroots and an elite opposition, says Professor Marie Mendras

UAWire – Russia’s Gazprom borrows pension money to pay off debt

Gazprom, which has been cut off from international capital markets as a result of a gas dispute with Ukraine, has turned to Russians’ pension savings in order to make large foreign debt repayments. On Tuesday, for the second time since the start of the year, the Russian gas company has entered the Russian debt market and borrowed 40 billion rubles. Investors were offered three bond placements – a 15-year bond of 10 billion rubles, and two tranches of 15 billion rubles 30-year securities. Major western investors effectively ignored the placement, according to Eduard Dzhabarov, the director of Sberbank CIB’s Russian debt market who organized the placement. Subsidiaries of European banks bought 3-4% of the securities (investing no more than 1 billion rubles). Gazprom borrowed virtually the entire amount – roughly 32 billion rubles – from Russian citizens’ pension savings. According to Dzhabarov, 80% of the bonds were bought by the management companies of non-state pension funds. The Russian gas monopoly was counting on these fund sources at the outset. “We focused on the pension funds which ended up in private non-state pension funds after the April transfer,” Dzhabarov explained. “The market was closed for virtually the entirety of April and May, and in June, mostly banks were placed. That’s why the pension funds which were invested in Federal Loan Bonds and in deposits migrated to these Gazprom issuances,” he added. The gas giant needed the funds in order to make major foreign debt repayments, Bloomberg notes.

Russian lawmakers move ahead with controversial ‘freedom to choose’ language legislation — Meduza

The State Duma has adopted the third and final reading of legislation that will shore up families’ freedom to choose their children’s language of instruction and studied native language. The head of the Duma’s Education Committee admitted that implementation of this right could be limited by the available resources at specific schools in particular regions.

The Secret Players Behind Macedonia’s Fake News Sites – To Inform is to Influence

by Saska Cvetkovska, Aubrey Belford, Craig Silverman, and J. Lester Feder 18 July 2018 A joint investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and partners has uncovered new information that rewrites the story of the fake news boom in the Macedonian town of Veles. A week before Election Day in 2016, BuzzFeed News…

Novichok: Did ‘drop team’ leave nerve agent in multiple places? – CNN

The investigation into the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is looking into whether the nerve agent used to target them may have been left in multiple receptacles in and around the Salisbury area, sources say.

Kremlin’s web of lies on Novichok exposed by government’s security comms team | PR Week

A Russian propaganda offensive in the aftermath of the Salisbury poisoning deployed more than 25 false narratives to attack claims that the Kremlin was responsible, according to UK government officials.

Police visit Boots store in Amesbury as search for novichok source goes on | News | The Times

Police investigating the novichok poisoning will collect security camera footage today from a Boots chemist which was visited by one of the victims. Charlie Rowley, 45, visited the shop in Amesbury in Wiltshire to pick up a prescription for a friend shortly before he and his girlfriend, Dawn Sturg

Police to visit Boots store as part of Novichok poisonings probe – ITV News

Read Police to visit Boots store as part of Novichok poisonings probe latest on ITV News. All the news

Wiltshire Police to enter Boots store in Amesbury in protective gear as part of Novichok investigation – Somerset Live

The force said the public should not be alarmed

Spire FM – News – CCTV from Amesbury store needed in nerve agent investigation

Officers will be picking up the security camera footage from the Stonehenge Walk Boots branch today (Thurs July 26th).

Spire FM – News – ‘Safe’ to buy perfumes in Salisbury and Amesbury after novichok incidents

Wiltshire Police has also reiterated their advice that ‘if you didn’t drop it, don’t pick it up’.

Novichok Was in a Perfume Bottle, U.K. Victim Says – The New York Times

The victim, Charlie Rowley, offered new clues about how he and his girlfriend came across the same Soviet-designed nerve agent that sickened a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Novichok survivor Charlie Rowley speaks out about how he was exposed to the nerve agent – The Washington Post

The attack came after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were hospitalized after exposure to Novichok in March.

Nerve agent victim describes ‘oily substance’ disguised as perfume that killed his girlfriend when he unwittingly gave it to her as a gift | Business Insider

The man who survived being poisoned by the nerve agent novichok has described the poison as an “oily substance,” which he found disguised in an expensive-looking perfume bottle.

‘I went into the bathroom and found her in the bath’: Novichok victim says the poison took 15 minutes to take effect – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Novichok poisoning victim Charlie Rowley says the deadly nerve agent took just 15 minutes to have an impact on his partner after she sprayed it on her wrists.

Novichok: Victim found poison bottle in branded box – BBC News

Dawn Sturgess became ill within 15 minutes of spraying the Novichok on her wrists, says Charlie Rowley.

Trump’s threats suggest he is ignorant of IRGC’s capabilities: IRGC chief – Tehran Times

TEHRAN – Responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-Iran rhetoric, chief of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) said on Wednesday that if Trump hears about the IRGC’s capabilities, he will never dare say the same things again.

We are closer to you than you think: Gen. Soleimani to Trump – Mehr News Agency

TEHRAN, Jul. 26 (MNA) – The IRGC’s Quds Force Commander Ghasem Soleimani in reaction to US President Donald Trump’s recent tweet against Iran said “we are closer to you than you think”, rebuking Trump for threatening Iran.

Iran special forces chief tells Trump Tehran will respond to any hostile action | Reuters

An Iranian military commander said on Thursday that Donald Trump should address any threats against Tehran directly to him, and mocked the U.S. president as using the language of “night clubs and gambling halls”.

Iran threat to Donald Trump: Military chief warns US President ‘we’re a nation of martyrdom and we await you’ – Mirror Online

Quds commander Qassem Soleimani told Trump the Iranian people are “the lovers of death” and they would win any war

After Trump threats, Iran general says his forces ‘ready to confront’ U.S.

Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who heads the elite Quds Force of Iran’s hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, called Trump a “gambler” and said: “You will start the war but we will end it.”

World War 3: Iran threatens to send TERRORISTS to USA as it warns ALL OUT WAR is imminent | World | News |

A SENIOR Iranian military commander has warned Iran is prepared launch a war and wage a campaign of terror against the United States as he hit back after incendiary tweets posted by US President Donald Trump earlier in the week.

Iran: We will not engage in one-sided talks with US under threat | USA News | Al Jazeera

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman says Islamic republic will never take part in one-sided talks following US threats.

Moscow and Beijing Have Tehran’s Back – Foreign Policy

Trump’s Iran policies have left the country with no choice but to turn to Russia and China.

After Trump’s Threat to Iran, White House Convenes a Policy Meeting – WSJ

Four days after President Trump’s stern warning to Iran’s president, national security adviser John Bolton is scheduled to hold a meeting of Pentagon and other top officials on the administration’s emerging strategy on Iran.

James Mattis Backs Trump’s Iran Tweet: Iran Need to Shape Up

“We’ve seen their disruptive capabilities demonstrated from Bahrain to the kingdom.”

It’s time Iran shapes up, shows responsibility as nation, says James Mattis after Donald Trump’s warning to Tehran – Firstpost

James Mattis’ warning came after Donald Trump threatened Iran of risking consequences

Inciting regime change in Iran would be a terrible mistake

Is it a wise course of action to incite domestic rebellion in Iran? Given America’s dismal Mideast record, the answer is a resounding no.

Trump’s Iran tweet may trap US in another war (Opinion) – CNN

Trita Parsi writes that after his latest tweet against Iran, President Trump may find it difficult to pivot from threats to diplomacy.

OPINION: Trump Has Acted Foolishly On Iran. Let’s Hope He Avoids War : NPR

Right now, the best we can hope for is that the administration manages to muddle through and avoid a dangerous and unnecessary war, write former senior State Department officials.

‘We Need Bread and Butter’; Iranians Under Pressure in Flailing Economy – WSJ

Iranian leaders are pushing to contain a deepening economic crisis that is slashing the buying power of Iranians and pressuring Tehran’s ruling elite even before the bite of looming U.S. sanctions.

Trump talks tough on Iran, but war is a different story | Arab News

Something should be clarified for the people and governments of the Middle East living with the anxiety caused by a belligerent neighbor called Iran: the United States is not going to fight Iran for you. That does not mean that the US is not willing and able to fight Iran if necessary. It just means that such necessity must be predicated on the well-being of the United States.

America’s lunatic lust for regime change

Official site of The Week Magazine, offering commentary and analysis of the day’s breaking news and current events as well as arts, entertainment, people and gossip, and political cartoons.

Trump’s Iran Regime Change Fantasies | The American Conservative

His advisors apparently believe that reliable actors are waiting in the wings. Haven’t we heard that before?

Trump face-off with Iran creates huge oil supply risks | Financial Times

Crude price shrugs off a war of words, but a Strait of Hormuz blockade would be serious

The Most Important Waterway In The Oil World |

As the war of words between the United States and Iran reaches a boiling point, Iranian officials are once again threatening to close one of the world’s most important waterways, the Strait of Hormuz

Iran: Red Sea no longer secure with US presence – Israel National News

Iran is a nation of martyrs, Quds commander says.

Saudi Arabia suspends oil shipments through Red Sea strait after Houthi attack

Saudi Arabia said Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen’s civil war attacked two oil tankers in the Bab al-Mandeb shipping lane, one of the most important global routes.

Saudi Arabia WAR THREAT: Oil tankers BOMBED – Saudis BAN exports through Red Sea straits | World | News |

IRAN-BACKED Yemeni rebels aligned have launched an attack on two oil tankers passing through the strategically important Red Sea shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb – prompting Saudi Arabia to announce that was “temporarily halting” all oil shipments along the route.

UAWire – Russia protests against Israel’s downing of Syrian aircraft

Russia has voiced its protest after Israeli forces shot down a Syrian combat aircraft, according to a source from Maariv daily newspaper. The …

Trapped Syrian White Helmets live in fear, seek a way out | Fox News

White Helmets volunteers trapped in southern Syria after the government seized areas they operated in said Wednesday they live in fear of being caught in the dragnet of the government, which considers them one of its staunchest enemies, and are desperately seeking a way out.

UAWire – Media: Israeli air defense failed to intercept Soviet-made missiles

The Israeli missile defense system David’s sling could not intercept two missiles from Soviet tactical system Tochka fired from Syria on Monday, July 23, reports Ynet news outlet, without specifying a source of information. According to Ynet, this was the first use of David’s sling. The Ministry of Defense and the Israeli air force are investigating the incident. According to preliminary data, human error was not the cause of failure by the defense system in bringing the targets down. The Haaretz edition notes that both missiles launched from Syria were not shot down, but neither reached the Israeli border. The Israeli television and radio company Kan, referring to the Defense Forces of the country, said that David’s sling managed to hit only one of the targets. On the eve of July 23rd, Israel reported an attack of two missiles fired from Syrian territory. David’s sling was used to intercept short-range combat missiles. Shortly before the missile attack, the Syrian Sana agency, citing a source, stated that the Israeli Air Force attacked a military facility in the city of Masyaf in western Syria.

Erdogan shakes up courts after poll victory | World | The Times

More than 3,000 Turkish judges have been reassigned and the chief prosecutors of several cities replaced in a huge reshuffle of the Turkish justice system. The decision by the board of judges and prosecutors, the highest legal body in the country, is the biggest shake-up of the judiciary since Presi