Information operations · Information Warfare · Iran · Qatar · Russia · Syria

Salisbury CW Attack / Syria / Iran / Russia Ad Hoc Update (133)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

A lot of emphasis and propaganda about Idlib.  Bellingcat is predicting a Russian CW attack on a village close to Idlib and the Russians are practically reinforcing that contention with their statements. There is almost a perfect storm of potential coincidences lining up in the Mediterranean.  US warships are on hand to launch cruise missiles in response to a CW attack on or around Idlib, which has already been predicted as a false flag effort. Russian warships are on hand to send a message to the US, “don’t launch a punitive strike against Syria”.  This is all straight-forward posturing. The only wild card seems to be the air defenses protecting Syria.  If once again, Russian systems are told to stand down and not fire any missiles, this would be the third time and, I believe, would be perceived as yet another failure to act. This would not play out well for Russian citizens, so I believe that Putin will be forced to defend Syria. On the flip side of that coin is the vaunted S-400 air defense system, in place in Syria. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been fired in a combat situation. If it fires (often) and misses (often) badly, the negative propaganda would wipeout potential future sales.  For Russia, this is almost a lose-lose situation. This appears to be the reason so many Russian warships have entered the Mediterranean and are closing in on Syria, to send a message. 

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The most notable and visible media items today revolve around the Russian naval flotilla in the Med, and Lavrov’s threats to the US over any intervention during the impending Syrian offensive against the holdout Idlib enclave. The big beneficiary of any civilian bloodbath in Northern Syria is Russia, as a million or more Syrian refugees would flood into Turkey, and then Europe, providing endless political fodder for Putin’s proxies in European politics, all of whom embrace the  “anti-immigrant” cause. The shrill tone if not desperation of the Russian propaganda effort around this offensive tells us the Muscovy regime sees this as immensely strategically important, which in terms of the overall strategic context of the Syrian civil war, Idlib is certainly not. The only payoff of real substance is political mayhem in Turkey and Europe, which would provide opportunities for Putin’s proxies to gain political ground across Europe, at the expense of moderate and US friendly European politicians. The Vozhd hinted as much during recent talks with Chancellor Merkel. Of course, the benefit of embarrassing POTUS over “red lines” is political icing on a delectable cake of political chaos and conflict inside Turkey and Europe.

The appropriate strategic counter-play is to render Assad’s forces quite impotent, and especially deal with his Iranian proxy force. The Russian contingent in Syria is not large enough to carry the effort required to control the regime’s gains – the Iranian proxy force, especially Hezbollah, is required to do the heavy lifting.

Most interesting other report from inside Russia is the death of Iosif Kobzon, a Duma MP, best known as the “Soviet Sinatra”, and an implacable foe of all things Ukrainian, who actively participated in the Krymnash and Novorossiya propaganda campaigns. Former Pres Walesa of Poland nominates Ukrainian hostage Sentsov for a Nobel.

Updates on Syria, Iran, Yemen and Qatar.

Lavrov Warns West Not To Interfere In Syria’s Idlib

Russia’s foreign minister called on the West not to interfere in efforts to wipe out what he called “terrorists” in Syria’s Idlib Province.

Russian official sends stern warning to US about striking Syria

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:15 A.M.) – The Russian Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, issued stern warning to the U.S. in regards to striking Syria.

Russia Warns U.S. Against Striking Syria Over Possible Chemical Attacks

The Russian Embassy in Washington says it has warned top U.S. officials not to engage in any “unjustified and illegal act of aggression,” in response to recent U.S. warnings that it will retaliate …

bellingcat – Russia Ramps Up Chemical Weapon Disinformation Leading-Up to Idlib Offensive – bellingcat

As a potential offensive into the remaining Syrian rebel strongholds in Idlib from the Assad government becomes more likely, Russian propaganda outlets like RT (formerly known as Russia Today), their various embassies, and their network of friendly media outlets have started pushing stories of potential chemical attacks in Idlib and Hama.  Various stories spread by Russia, particularly its Ministry of Defense, claim that phone calls were made to the Russian Reconciliation Center supposedly warning a number of nefarious activities. These claims from Russian government bodies and outlets connected to Russia’s media network have accused a range of groups, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets), of readying false flag operations to blame Russia or Syria. However, while there is no evidence of any actual preparations for “false flag attacks”, on the 26th of August, RT’s Ruptly video service uploaded footage of a government Volcano missile launcher being deployed to Idlib. This comes five years after chemical weapons variants of this launcher were used in the 2013 Ghouta attack. Sputnik, another Russian state-funded media outlet, has also pushed a story by the Russian Ministry of Defense claiming that specialist groups trained by the British Olive group were preparing to conduct a possible attack. The Olive group ceased to exist in 2015 following a merger with Constellis group.

Russia Warned US About ‘Groundless and Illegal Aggression Against Syria’ – Envoy – Sputnik International

Russia’s envoy to the US says he has told Washington that Moscow is concerned about the US preparing new strikes on Syria.

TASS: Russian Politics & Diplomacy – Western aggression against Syria will seriously harm peace process, diplomat warns

The West’s looming aggression against Syria will inevitably have costs and severely harm both the peace process and global stability, says the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman

Russian Envoy to US: Militants to Create Provocation in Idlib Aided by UK Forces – Sputnik International

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Russia is hopeful that the US government will take efforts to prevent terrorists from using chemical weapons in Syria, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said in a statement on Wednesday.

TASS: Russian Politics & Diplomacy – US may build up forces over 24 hours for Syria strike, Russian diplomat says

Currently, the strike grouping of the United States, France and Great Britain comprises strategic and tactical aircraft at airbases in Jordan, Kuwait and Crete, Maria Zakharova said

Breaking: US can have missiles ready to strike Syria in 24 hours – Russian FM

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:30 A.M.) – It will take the US and its allies just 24 hours to ready its missile-strike group for an attack against Syria, the Russian

Lavrov Warns West Not To Interfere In Syria’s Idlib – To Inform is to Influence

August 29, 2018 17:06 GMT RFE/RL Russia’s foreign minister called on the West not to interfere in efforts to wipe out what he called “terrorists” in Syria’s Idlib Province. Sergei Lavrov’s comments to reporters in Moscow on August 29 came amid reports that Syrian government forces are gearing up for a massive offensive in Idlib,…

Russia military boosts naval presence in Mediterranean as US and Vladimir Putin trade warnings over Syria offensive – CBS News

Moscow blames U.S. for forcing its &quot;powerful&quot; military build-up in the Med as West and Moscow trade warnings over looming Syria offensive

Russia news: Vladimir Putin deploys 25 warships to Med amid US Syria attack fear | Daily Star

RUSSIA has announced 25 warships are to be deployed to the Mediterranean amid fears the US could be about to stage an attack on Syria.

Tensions ESCALATE as US exchanges FIERY words with Russia after warships sent to Syria | World | News |

A HEATED exchange between the US State Department, Moscow and Damascus has escalated Middle East tensions after the Trump administration warned of a “swift and appropriate” response should Syrian President Bashar al-Assad use chemical weapons.

Russia announces 25 WARSHIPS deployed to MEDITERRANEAN amid fears of US attack on Syria | World | News |

RUSSIA is set to hold naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea – a huge show of force from Vladimir Putin with relations with European states already at a low.

Russia To Launch Major Naval Drills In Mediterranean As Syria Tensions Rise

Russia says it will launch major naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea later this week, amid growing tensions between Moscow and the West over Syria.

Russia to hold Mediterranean naval drills as Syria tensions rise | Reuters

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said on Thursday it would hold a major naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea from Sept. 1 to Sept. 8, the TASS news agency reported, a move that coincides with rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over Syria.

More Russian ships head to Syria amid fears of US attack

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:20 P.M.) – The Russian military has upped the ante in Syria after sending another batch of warships to the Port of Tartous. According

Pentagon Says It Can’t Guarantee A Waiver For India From Russian Military Sanctions

The United States cannot guarantee that it will provide India with a waiver from sanctions if it purchases major weapons from Russia like the S-400 missile system, a top Pentagon official has said.

Putin Softens Russia Pension Changes, in Rare Bow to Public Pressure – The New York Times

Plans to lift the retirement age in Russia prompted widespread anger, denting Mr. Putin’s popularity, so he tried to mollify critics with some tweaks.

Russia’s Putin softens pension reforms after outcry – BBC News

The Russian leader says the retirement age for women will go up by five years instead of by eight.

Not Impressed: Russians Respond To Putin’s Pension Changes

Most people we spoke to on the streets of Yekaterinburg were not impressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s concessions on pension reform plans. Putin suggested raising the state pension age by five years to 60 years for women, instead of the earlier proposed eight-year hike.

Ladies’ Man: Putin Cites ‘Caring Attitude’ In Pension-Reform Concession

The most notable part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposed dilution of controversial pension-reform legislation was an offer to reduce a planned increase in the retirement age for women, …

Famed Russian Singer And Lawmaker Iosif Kobzon Dies Aged 80

Renowned Russian crooner Iosif Kobzon, a Soviet-era icon and a Kremlin-loyal lawmaker sanctioned in the West over Moscow’s interference in Ukraine, has died at the age of 80, Russia’s news agen…

Walesa Nominates Sentsov For Nobel Peace Prize

Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and Nobel laureate, said he has nominated Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is imprisoned in Russia, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Government grants extra £2.5 million for Novichok costs | UK Police News – Police Oracle

Nerve agent attacks placed unprecedented pressure on one of the UK’s smallest forces.

U.N. fears chemical weapons in Syria battle with ‘10,000 terrorists’ | Reuters

The United Nations called on Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday to forestall a battle in Syria’s Idlib province which would affect millions of civilians and could see both sides using chlorine as a chemical weapon.

UAWire – Turkish media: US plans to create no-fly zones in Syria

The US has built three advanced radar systems in northern regions of Syria, as well as deployed mobile and stationary radar facilities, writes the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak citing former commander of the Military Assembly of Deir ez-Zor Fayez Esmer. According to him, in the future, the US plans to create an “air defense shield” in the region. The publication also says, without specifying a source for the information, that the US “has already started creating a no-fly zone in northern Syria” and deploying radar systems in the region controlled by the Kurdish party Democratic Union Party (PYD). According to another publication, Hurriyet, the United States deployed an air defense system in the area of the city of Kobani in Syrian Kurdistan, which is controlled by Kurdish forces. Also, parts of the air defense system are housed in a US base in the city of Ash Shaddadi in northeast Syria. The newspaper also writes that the US is “preparing to establish a no-fly zone in the north of Syria.” Washington has previously expressed interest in creating such no-fly zones in Syria. In early July 2017, before US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met, Rex Tillerson, who at the time was the Secretary of State, said at the G20 summit in Hamburg that the US is ready to discuss with Russia the establishment of no-fly zones in Syria. However, no specific agreements made by the presidents were reported.

US concerned as Syrian regime moves helicopters close to rebel stronghold – CNNPolitics

The Syrian regime has moved armed helicopters closer to the rebel stronghold of Idlib in the last few weeks, according to two defense officials. The US is concerned they could eventually be used to launch another chemical attack using chlorine filled barrel bombs, though they are readily available for a conventional assault.

UAWire – Kremlin: Russia uses anti-drone systems in Syria

The Russian Silok-01 and Zhitel anti-drone systems which were used in soccer stadiums during the FIFA World Cup 2018 have been put to use in …

Piercing Through Assad’s Reconstruction Mirage in Syria | The National Interest

Bashar al-Assad’s refugee repatriation plan is a scam.

No Matter Who Wins the Syrian Civil War, Israel Loses – Defense One

Assad is Iran’s most important Arab ally; his would-be successors are Sunni militias and jihadists. Netanyahu’s overtures to Putin can’t change that.

At Dimona reactor, Netanyahu warns Israel’s foes they risk ruin | Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a visit to a secretive Israeli atomic reactor on Wednesday to warn the country’s enemies that it has the means to destroy them, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to its assumed nuclear arsenal.

How China Is Trying to Dominate the Middle East | The National Interest

But will it work?

US Navy seizes cache of small arms in Gulf of Aden, official says | Fox News

The U.S. Navy recently intercepted a large cache of small arms, including hundreds of AK-47s, that were on a ship in the Gulf of Aden earlier this week, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News Wednesday.

US Navy seizes weapons from boat in Gulf of Aden – CNNPolitics

The US Navy seized hundreds of small arms including AK-47s from a boat in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday, according to a defense official.

The New Lobbying: Qatar Targeted 250 Trump ‘Influencers’ to Change U.S. Policy – WSJ

Blockaded by Mideast neighbors, the emirate deployed an unconventional lobbying campaign to win over an unconventional U.S. president, using a list of friends, associates and well-placed admirers.

Qatar attempted to lobby Huckabee, Dershowitz to influence Trump: report | TheHill

Qatar has sought to lobby some 250 people who might be able to influence President Trump on policy, including former Arkansas Gov.

Will Iran Leave Syria? | The National Interest

Chasing mirages does not add up to a successful foreign policy.

Will Russia force Iran out of Syria? | Iran | Al Jazeera

The US shouldn’t count on Russia to force Iran out of Syria any time soon.

Iran defies US with new Syria deal | World | The Times

Iran has sent a clear message rejecting American calls for it to pull its troops out of Syria, signing a new defence co-operation pact with the Assad regime.The deal was signed by the Iranian defence minister, Amir Hatami, while on a visit to Damascus. The details were not revealed but they were

Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran ready to abandon nuclear deal | Iran News | Al Jazeera

Ayatollah Khamenei tells Iran’s president and cabinet they cannot count on European support for landmark agreement.

Iran’s supreme leader says government should ‘give up hope’ on Europe to save nuclear deal | Fox News

The supreme leader of Iran casted doubt on saving the international nuclear deal after the U.S. withdrawal earlier this year, saying Wednesday that the government should stop pinning its hopes on Europe if it doesn’t serve its interests.

Iranians’ Choice? ‘No, Mr. Foreign Minister, We Didn’t Choose This Path’

Already under fire from conservatives, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif invites criticism from the left by saying Iranians got themselves into their current mess.

For Foreigners Imprisoned by Iran, an Uncertain Plight – The New York Times

There was a flicker of hope when Iran briefly released Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a Briton, from a prison. Now she and other foreigners held there can only wait.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has panic attacks in Iran jail – BBC News

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is taken to prison doctors in Iran after “blacking out”.