Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Syria

Salisbury CW Attack / Syria / Iran / Russia Ad Hoc Update (185)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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The Russian propaganda machine has been remarkably lethargic in the last few days, possibly pre-occupied with Ukraine and the US midterms. Russia provocations continue in the Baltics and the North Sea. There have been some very interesting reports emerging from inside Russia indicating discord along multiple internal fault lines. An interesting essay by Zakharkin and Gasymov on the intensive animosity toward the US being stimulated by the regime, as they argue, to maintain internal cohesion. Some fascinating observations by Pain on the shifting sense of regional / ethnic identity in Russia, now resembling that which precipitated the implosion of the Sovs in 1992. Portnikov’s commentary is even blunter: “For a journalist, to have the chance to describe the collapse of an empire is a rare opportunity, one similar to that of an oncologist who is able to keep track of a seriously ill patient and to consider whether there is any cure. But since 2014, Russia is not even a cancer ward; it is a gigantic hospice. The sick man has refused to be cured and there is nothing for anyone else to do. And for that matter, the keys to the collapse of the empire now are here in Kyiv.” 

Kirillova interviews Kanev on the meltdown of the GRU, while in Salisbury, Zizzis reopens.

A wealth of reports on Iran, related to sanctions, Tehran’s latest outbursts, and the public announcement by Tehran that their new Kowsar fighter (AKA repainted Northrop F-5F Tiger II) is entering production.

In Syria six Wagner mercs are reported KIA by an insurgent bomb, and reports emerge that the deployment of the Tor M2 / SA-15 GAUNTLET to Hmeimim was the result of the inability of the Pantsir S2 / SA-22B to engage Syrian insurgent made lawnmower engine powered RPVs.

Update on Saudis.


Window on Eurasia — New Series: Hatred of US has Swamped Hatred of Immigrants in Russia, Experts Say

Paul Goble Staunton, November 4 – For most of its 14-year-long history, Russians referred to the November 4th holiday not as the Day of Unity but as the Day of the Skinhead, URA journalists Stanislav Zakharkin and Nurlan Gasymov say, because on that date, anti-immigrant actions took place across the country. The two journalists point to the murder of a Tajik girl in St. Petersburg in 2004, the ethnic conflicts in Kondopoga in 2006, the unsanctioned nationalist meeting in the Manezh in 2010, and the pogrom in Moscow’s Biryulevo district in 2013 to reinforce their point (ura.news/articles/1036276671). But since the Crimean Anschluss in 2014, the situation has changed. The number of Rusisan marches and other skinhead actions has fallen dramatically both because the authorities have taken a harsher line against them, Zakharkin and Gasymov say, and because public attitudes have in fact shifted. On the one hand, the annexation of Crimea had the effect of splitting the Russian nationalists with some supporting the imperial action and others profoundly opposed and of causing Russians to focus their anger not on immigrant communities inside Russia but against the West in general and the US in particular in the name of the defense of “’the Russian world.’” Leonty Byzov, a sociologist at the Academy of Sciences, says that his surveys have shown that it is precisely among the supporters of “national conservative values” that the Kremlin now has the greatest support. The nationalists and the Kremlin have the same “image of the enemy.” If earlier, he says, they were divided, with the nationalists focusing on immigrants and the Kremlin on the outside world, now they are unified. “This variant is the most convenient for the powers that be,” Byzov says. “The US is far from Russia; it is a virtual enemy and figures only in the media.” Immigrants close by have “ceased to be ‘national enemies.’” Ekaterina Schulmann of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service agrees. Since 2014, she says, hate crimes have fallen because the object of the hatred of nationalists is in fact something they can’t attack directly. According to her research, representatives of national minorities are very much aware of this shift. “Indigenous residents of Russia have stopped viewing immigrants as an economic threat. “Today immigrants are considered as cheap labor. Unlike in the US and Europe, Russians do not consider that they are taking ‘our’ jobs.” The Russians have others to focus their hatred on, at least for the time being. This argument suggests that if there is any relaxation of tension between Moscow and the West, that will lead to a revival of xenophobic attitudes among Russians and new attacks on non-Russians, perhaps yet another reason why the Putin regime continues to ramp up tensions abroad even if it could benefit in other ways from a change in course.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Resurgence of Class Conflict in Russia Could Easily Lead to Violence, Solovey Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 2 – Up to now, Russian society has preferred to keep its protests peaceful, Valery Solovey says; but the re-emergence of conflicts between increasingly distinct social classes may change that and make violence more common and thus a greater problem for the powers that be. In a Facebook post, the MGIMO professor and commentator lists six reasons for his disturbing conclusion (blog.newsru.com/article/02nov2018/conflikt): First of all, he says, “the conflict is reviving in the crudest and most open form, as the antagonism of a privileged minority and the destruction of the rights of the increasingly impoverished majority.” Second, “national wealth via government mechanisms is being redistributed in favor of an extremely small minority,” with the majority largely left out as the minority openly pursues the destruction of the social state on which Russians have long relied. Third, Solovey continues, “the pension reform became for society a signal that the supreme power {i.e., Vladimir Putin] is no longer defending it” against the boyars. Fourth, the various mechanisms for dampening class conflict “have ceased to work. The situation of small and mid-sized business is becoming worse, and the still small middle class is contracting in size. Propaganda is no longer the anesthetic it was. Fifth, changes in political consciousness are leading to changes in political behavior, as the September regional elections showed. “Up to now society prefers conventional and peaceful means of protest.” But sixth, the psychological problems of individuals which led to the Kerch shooting and the attack on the FSB office in Arkhangelsk could easily grow into mass phenomena because in each case what drove these individuals to act is affecting far larger groups as well.

UAWire – Russian Tu-142 flies over NATO ships in the Norwegian Sea

A Russian Tu-142 reconnaissance and antisubmarine aircraft flew over the command ship USS Mount Whitney at an unusually low altitude. The photos of this moment were published on Saturday, November 3, by AFP correspondent Pierre-Henry Deshayes on Twitter. “And suddenly a Tupolev above the NATO flagship. Russia invites itself into the great maneuvers,” the journalist wrote. “Soldiers and journalists on board the American ship screamed in surprise when the plane, a Cold War relic, flew over the ship at low altitude,” said one of the correspondents, describing the situation. According to other journalists, the plane flew over the ship when a photo session was being held on the deck, which helped to capture it. The USS Mount Whitney is a Blue Ridge-class command ship designed for management and coordination of the military forces. It is the flag ship of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet which conducts operations in the Eastern Atlantic. The incident took place during the Trident Juncture 2018 NATO military exercises near the Norwegian coast. Nearly all members of the military alliance take part in Trident Juncture, which started on October 25. This is one of the largest coordinated exercises of its kind. The US sent its USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier to take part in the exercises. The USS Harry Truman, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier crossed the Arctic Circle on October 19 and entered the Norwegian Sea.

Russian recon aircraft makes low pass over NATO command ship | UNIAN

A Russian reconnaissance plane flew right over NATO’s command ship, the Mount Whitney during a NATO exercise off Norway coast, in international waters, on Friday. Captain Robert Aguilar rejected the fact that the increased Russian activity in the area had had an impact on the actual exercise or that it had been in the way of command ship operations. “Bear Foxtrot! Height – about 300 feet!” one of the crewmen was heard shouting as a VG correspondent toured the ship. In the sky right above the ship, a Russian Tupolev TU-142 swooped – a reconnaissance and anti-submarine plane, which in NATO has been named “Bear F/J”. Shortly afterwards, an American helicopter followed. On deck, the Russian bomber raised awareness. It flew low and slow, and was clearly visible from the deck. “We know it’s been around, but this is the first time we’ve seen it properly,” said one of the crewmen.

UAWire – Latvia detects Russian warship near its shores

The Latvian National Armed Forces reported that on Saturday, November 3, a Russian warship was spotted in the exclusive economic zone of Latvia. …

UAWire – Russia plans to create ‘cyber squads’

Russia considers creating “cyber squads” that should help law enforcement officials to search for extremist materials on the Internet, reported the website Roskomsvoboda. The authors of the relevant draft law are deputies of the Russian State Duma from the party United Russia. According to their idea, “cyber squads” should be volunteer social organizations which would be created by Russians and would be staffed with only Russian citizens who have reached the age of 18. The project’s goal is “to engage the society”, said United Russia party member Oleg Bykov in an interview with RIA Novosti. “It is an amendment to the legal status-quo,” he added. The document obliges public authorities, local government, and the Prosecutor’s Office to cooperate with the cyber squads. The draft law will be considered at United Russia’s coordination council. If supported, it will be sent for approval by the Russian State Duma after the feedback of relevant agencies.

U.S. Sanctions against Russia: What You Need to Know | Center for Strategic and International Studies

With a new bill that expands sanctions on Russia circulating within Congress, it is clear that the United States will continue to rely on sanctions as a primary tool for confronting Russia. It is less clear, however, what the many sanctions imposed since 2012 have done to change Russian behavior. Not all sanctions are created equal, and if poorly designed and implemented, sanctions can bring problems as well as benefits for the United States.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Could United Russia Soon Become the CPSU?

Paul Goble Staunton, November 4 – Vladimir Putin’s proposal to restore GRU as the name of Russia’s military intelligence service has opened the floodgates for those who would like to go even further in bringing back Soviet-era names. Two such proposals have surfaced in the last 48 hours and more are likely to follow. On November 2, Putin proposed restoring the Soviet-era name of Russia’s military intelligence arm and call it once again the GRU given what he described as its glorious history (ria.ru/defense_safety/20181102/1532049969.html). As always, other Russians were listening and waiting to take their cue from the Kremlin leader’s remarks. The very next day, the National Committee +60 called on Putin to restore the name KGB to what is now called the FSB. That is especially timely, it said, now that the GRU is back and that Russia is pushing to expand the union state with Belarus where the authorities still use the Soviet nomenclature (znak.com/2018-11-03/putinu_predlozhili_vernut_nazvanie_kgb). The group said that bringing back the KGB, the GRU and the militia (in place of the police) would “receive the full approval of Russians and neutralize the provocations of the opposition which lives on the generous handouts of the West!” And the very next day, poet and commentator Stanislav Kunyayev argued that it was time to combine the Day of National Unity on November 4 with the celebration of the 1917 October revolution on November 7 becaue they have “much more in common than many are inclined to think” (business-gazeta.ru/article/401406 nov 7). Such proposals may not gain much traction, but they are an indication of public attitudes in the age of Putin and of the ways in which his often incautious remarks lead people to go further and faster than even he would like in restoring the Soviet past, something Putin at least recognizes could be a danger to his regime even if some of his most passionate supporters don’t.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Not Seeing a Future for Himself, Putin Keeping Russia from Doing So, Telegram Channel Malyuta Skuratov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 3 – One of the primary tasks of any leader is to present a vision of the future for others to follow, but when the leader lacks any vision of the future for himself, he typically cannot offer any vision of the future for others. That is the situation Vladimir Putin and Russia find themselves in today, according to the Telegram Channel Malyuta Skuratov. Whenever a young Russian commits a horrific crime as in Kerch or Arkhangelsk, the Telegram author says, the Kremlin and its entourage rush about trying to find a way to take control of the youth of Russia. That is happening now, but the authorities’ strategy is addressing only the symptoms and not the problem itself (t.me/mskuratov/703). The Putin regime copies the Soviet approach, intensifies educational work and supervision and tries to restore control. It seeks to increase the number of people who will report on others either online or in the real world. But none of this addresses the key question: why are young people acting this way? The answer is not far to seek, the Telegram Channel says. “For a long time, it has been obvious that the entire country has lost any goals or guides to the future.” There is no way to appeal to young people “when the single model of the future which our powers that be has is somewhere between the novels of Voinovich and the textbooks of the history of the USSR.” In fact, the Channel continues, “Putin’s promise of paradise after death and his appeals to the past is a symptom of the lack of an image of the future.” The Kremlin leader doesn’t see any such future for himself and so he is not in a position to offer a genuine one to the rest of the population. And young people who will be living in that future in particular sense that lack. What Putin puts out is simply a all too obvious “synthesis of ‘the soviet style’ and Orthodoxy;” but that can’t attract the young because they don’t accept either as a vision of the future but rather as the dead hand of the past. Few were alive in Soviet times, and polls show that almost none of them are genuinely religious. “Putin’s speech writers inserted in his remarks yesterday a citation from Nikolay Danilevsky to the effect that not one civilization can take pride that it represents the highest point of development,” Malyuta Skuratov says. But they did not include the beginning of the passage which undercuts anything Putin might have wanted to suggest. “Progress,” Danilevsky observed, “consists not in having everyone go in one direction but in allowing a diverse approach so that people can go in all directions” and find the best one. Because Putin doesn’t include that in his understanding, he is keeping Russia in a vicious circle in which the future will be the past because he offers no other future – indeed, no future at all.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Ethnic Situation in Russia Ever More Like That in the USSR before It Fell Apart, Emil Pain Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 4 – Emil Pain, perhaps Russia’s most distinguished specialist on ethnic conflict, says that the ethnic situation in that country today is increasingly similar to that which existed on the eve of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and that it will lead to the same outcome with any weakening of the central powers that be. It was the weakening of the central powers that led to the demise of the Soviet empire, the ethno-sociologist says. “In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the language issue arose not when it was banned or when there was mass russification connected let us say with the arrival of the ethnic Russian population” (republic.ru/posts/92396). That issue arose, Pain observes, “in periods of the weakening of the imperial diktat. And today, as soon as there will be a certain weakening of this very vertical system, all the offenses that have built up, real and imaginary, will become important. And today there is a mass of signs that this same kind of built up is happening again.” This conclusion flows from Pain’s discussion of broader issues, including the relationship of empires and nations to the state. Russia, he says, is “already not an empire but it is still not a nation.” There are two basic points of view about its nature, he says, and both are inadequate to the current situation. One view, the official and dominant one, is that “there is a nation in Russia,” and in its most extreme form, that offered by Academician Valery Tishkov, there has always been a nation there “even when Russia was officially called the Russian Empire” because “all the population of the country is a nation.” The other is that Russia “is not a nation but an empire,” something some welcome and others are appalled by. But to assess these views, it is important to remember what a nation is and what an empire is. “A nation is interested in integration, but an empire for centuries lives according to a directly opposite principle – divide and rule.” “Setting some ethnic communities against others is a means of survival for empires,” Pain says. “Today, this principle, divide and rule, in all its forms, including extremely concrete ones, exists and acts in Russia.” So what then is Russia? Pain asks rhetorically. In the 1990s, it was on its way to becoming a nation with the population having a decisive voice in public policy. “But ‘what the tsar gave, the tsar took away.’ And in the 2000s,” things have gone in exactly the opposite direction. According to the Levada Center, Pain says, “the share of people who consider that they influence the state has fallen since 1995 by three and a half times.” “The most serious degree of alienation of society from the authorities” over this period “have appeared in the republics of Russia. This is a paradox: the republics, the leader of the parade of sovereignty and the most recalcitrant subjects of the Russian Federation” have become “the most loyal” to the central powers that be. “But,” the ethno-sociologist says, “the demographic situation is changing. The Russian empire expanded and existed under conditions when the ethnic Russian population in the national borderlands grew. But today, it is rapidly declining: In Chechnya, by ten times, in Ingushetia by seven, and in the majority of republics, the Russian population is falling.” What follows from this are an array of psychological problems: Russians don’t like to study non-Russian languages, but languages are especially important for non-Russians. And Russians identify primarily in statist terms while non-Russians identify as members of an ethnic community. In Soviet times, Yury Arutyunyan conducted the first investigation of “The Russians” and showed that Russians to a remarkable degree are distinguished from the main part of the population by their de-ethnicization.” They identify with the state rather than with their own nation, while non-Russians are just the reverse. The very same thing is on view today, the scholar continues. While ethnic Russians identify with the state and thus with the population of the country, non-Russians identify first with their nations, then with their republics and only in the third case as citizens of the Russian Federation. The best Russian can hope for is a return to the values that were being realized in the 1990s. That is possible if far from inevitable, because it will require a fundamental change in the way Russians in the first instance view their society, the other nations in the country, and the country as such. “In 1995, 72 percent of Russians considered Stalin’s repressions tob e crimes and half supported the idea of popular sovereignty. In 2013, more than half called the party of power ‘the party of thieves and crooks.’ All these ideas have existed in our society,” Emil Pain concludes. This is not what might have been but what was. “And if it was, then under specific conditions, it could be repeated.” If that scenario isn’t, then other scenarios, including disintegration become more likely.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Sanctioning Journalists Shows Russia Now in Its Death Throes, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 1 – Vitaly Portnikov, one of the journalists Moscow has imposed sanctions on in its new Ukrainian list, says that the Russian government’s moves against journalists is intended as a threat and act of intimidation but instead shows that Russia is in its death throes. In a comment to Kyiv’s Espreso TV, the commentator points out that he has no assets in Russia and hasn’t visited the country since 2013 since he considers it “amoral” to visit one that has invaded his country. Consequently, sanctions against him in the first instance appear “comic” (ru.espreso.tv/article/2018/11/01/vytalyy_portnykov_sankcyy_protyv_menya_sygnal_ubyyc). But Portnikov continues, he understands perfectly “the logic of people who have included [him] in the sanctions list: These people fear the truth. They understand that sooner or later truth will destroy their regime.” To put someone on the sanctions list, he says, is “a signal” and “a warning,” the kind of “warning” murderers give to those they intend as victims. The Ukrainian commentator says that he won’t conceal the fact that he would be interested in visiting Russia. “For a journalist, to have the chance to have the chance to describe the collapse of an empire is a rare opportunity, one similar to that of an oncologist who is able to keep track of a seriously ill patient and to consider whether there is any cure.” “But since 2014,” Portnikov says, “Russia is not even a cancer ward; it is a gigantic hospice. The sick man has refused to be cured and there is nothing for anyone else to do. And for that matter, the keys to the collapse of the empire now are here in Kyiv.” That is where the real action is; not in a place which increasingly consists of officials waiting for the end. Consequently, the Ukrainian commentator says, he will treat his inclusion in the sanctions list as a kind of honor and a stimulation to continue to work, exactly the opposite conclusions that the Moscow authors of this list hope for – but exactly the ones they deserve.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kyiv Must Support Idel-Ural Peoples by Focusing Attention on Orenburg Corridor, Podobed Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 4 – There are few subjects more taboo in the Russian media under Vladimir Putin than evidence that the non-Russian regions of the country are interested in pursuing their own independent course, Ukrainian commentator Pavlo Podobed says. And nowhere is the ban on coverage more severe than with regard to the peoples of the Middle Volga In an essay for Tyzhden, he notes that “thanks to the successful manipulations of Moscow,” people in the West ignore what is coming out of the North Caucasus because they have been conditioned to view any independent mindedness there as associated with terrorism (tyzhden.ua/Politics/220313 in Ukrainian; afterempire.info/2018/11/01/orinbor/ in Russian). But most people know little or nothing about another and even more important region of Russia “which Russians call the Middle Volga and the indigenous population Idel-Ural” and which presents Moscow with a threat that the regime is constantly thinking about but cannot completely suppress, the Orenburg corridor. (For some rare exceptions to that pattern of neglect, see this author’s articles at jamestown.org/program/the-orenburg-corridor-and-the-future-of-the-middle-volga/windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/03/moscow-analyst-denounces-kazakh.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/11/window-on-eurasia-separatism-both.html). The Middle Volga region consisted of six republics: Erzyan-Mokshania (Mordvinia), Mari El, Udmurtia, Tatarstan, Udmurtia and Bashkortostan, the first three of which are Finno-Ugric and the second three Turkic and Muslim. Moscow recognizes their distinctiveness but does everything it can to suppress its meaning. It has gutted the institutions these republics have and it has driven nationalist dissidents to their deaths, imprisonment or exile. The governments have fallen in line, but even they were not willing to swallow Moscow’s attack on their national languages which they see as central to their survival as peoples, Podobed writes. Ever more often, he continues, members of these peoples recall earlier attempts to make Idel-Ural an independent state, most significantly in the first years of Soviet power, the centenaries of which are now being marked in ways that Moscow would rather not have them remembered. But the peoples of Idel-Ural do remember even if others do not what Moscow did to make the achievement of their goal of independence impossible. Stalin’s 1936 constituiton specified that union republics have the right in principle to freely leave the USSR while autonomous republics do not. To make that right plausible, Podobed notes, the constitution specified that union republics had to have a border with a foreign state while autonomous republics didn’t need one. And in the case of the Middle Volga peoples, Moscow arranged things so that they didn’t have a common border with even a non-Russian union republic. That arrangement has come to be known as the Orenburg corridor, a sliver of predominantly ethnic Russian territory between the peoples of Idel-Ural and Kazakhstan which since 1991 has been an independent country. In 1989-1991, with the growth of nationalism, many in Idel-Ural talked about liquidating this obstacle but weren’t able to do it. Indeed, such attempts seemed completely “fantastic,” the Ukrainian commentator says. The share of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan was roughly equal to the share of ethnic Kazakhs there, and the share of ethnic Russians opposite the Orenburg corridor was higher still. But things have changed: now, there are far fewer Russians and ever more Kazakhs are anti-Russian. Earlier this year, Podobed notes, the Kazinform news agency put out a map of Kazakhstan which included the part of Orenburg oblast known as the Orenburg corridor. It was quickly taken down and even condemned but the deed was done (youtube.com/watch?v=E7WxaVvEmDY&fbclid=IwAR1JyT3ddHZaPwArOzMPMBvrE-njsUNL8ypLo1u9oNDpGtfzKk3nb6y6xtI). It then came out that the leader of the Kazinform agency at the time, Askar Umarov, was a passionate supporter of the return of “Orinbor” to Kazakhstan, something that would eliminate the corridor and open the way to the independence of Idel-ural or at least its more intense pursuit (youtube.com/watch?v=UyTfh7MgSSc&fbclid=IwAR13jcfeAzSs-q_H7nrz0YhJvoGLzZ7S5KSSXg5QAwrgaE-apXSS1Xsr1rM). “It is obvious,” the Ukrainian commentator stresses, “that Idel-Ural is the Achilles’ heel of the Russian Federation.” If it collapses, then the process of the exit of six republics will begin. “Today Moscow controls this lever,” but if it doesn’t, then, “Moscow will be separated from Siberia” with all the consequences thereto. The Middle Volga is changing,” Podobed says. The number of Russians there is declining and the involvement of Turkey in the region is increasing. “If Ukraine is interested in a victory over Russia, we need to reflect about non-military means of having an impact on the enemy.” One of them is to support the aspirations of the peoples of Idel-Ural. The Ukrainian commentator proposes three concrete steps: the creation in Ukraine of an analytic center about the Middle Volga, preventing any extradition of Middle Volga leaders who seek asylum in Ukraine, and support for existing Idel-Ural movements like the Free Idel-Ural one, whose representatives work in Ukraine and in EU countries. The Orenburg corridor is the key to the future not only for the peoples of Idel-Ural but for Ukrainians as well, he concludes.

UAWire – Journalist who wrote about Russian private military companies arrested in Moscow

A court in Moscow arrested Russian military expert Vladimir Neyelov on suspicion of high treason, reports TASS. The expert wrote several articles on the activities of Russian private military companies. Neyelov, who is held in the Lefortovo detention facility, worked with the “Center of Strategic Conjunctures” and specialized in the activities of private military companies. Russian media have repeatedly reported about the “the private military company the Wagner group”, which, according to various sources, employs up to four thousand people. The Wagner mercenaries allegedly fought in the ranks of the separatists in eastern Ukraine, as well as supported Bashar Assad’s troops in Syria. Kremlin denies sending private military contractors to Syria. Mercenarism in Russia is prohibited by law and is punishable as a criminal offense by imprisonment for several years.

UAWire – France: situation in Central African Republic should not be seen as competition with Russia

The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) should not be seen as a competition between Russia and France, but rather in the context of …

Franklin C. Miller | Nukes in Europe: Facts, Not Hysteria

US President Donald J. Trump’s October 20 announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as a result of Russian cheating set off a wide variety of anxious messages from allies as well as some gratuitous threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The European Union (EU) said in response: “The United States and the Russian Federation need to remain engaged in constructive dialogue to preserve the INF Treaty and ensure its full and verifiable implementation which is crucial for Europe’s and global security. … While we expect the Russian Federation to address serious concerns regarding its compliance with the INF Treaty in a substantial and transparent way, we also expect the United States to consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF on its own security, on the security of its allies and of the whole world. … The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability.” Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, calling the US decision “regrettable,” stated that the INF Treaty was “an important pillar of our European security architecture” and that the US move to withdraw “raises difficult questions for us and Europe.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: The West’s Belarusian Problem: ‘Better Lukashenka in Minsk than Russian Tanks in Brest’

Paul Goble Staunton, November 4 – Poland and its Western allies face serious problems in dealing with Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s repressive regime, but none is more difficult than addressing the conundrum reflected in the observation of some that “better Lukashenka in Minsk than Russian tanks in Brest.” That conclusion is suggested by Serhii Pelesa, the host of a program on the Belsat news agency directed at Belarus but based in Poland; and it means that the West can only push Lukashenka so far on human rights lest it risk a Russian intervention that would lead to an even worse situation (belsat.eu/ru/news/luchshe-lukashenko-v-minske-chem-russkie-tanki-v-breste/). That leaves many in the West and perhaps even more in Belarus unhappy given the changes they would like to see in Belarus, but the possibility this notion captures underscores that there is something worse for Belarus and the West than the current situation – and that there are those in Moscow who would like to see it happen. But Pelesa and the Polish experts he has spoken with agree on something else: this situation is also unsatisfactory for Lukashenka who would like to get more from the West than it is prepared to give but who can’t afford to take the kind of actions that would allow that to happen. Any significant liberalization, however welcome in Belarus and the West, would be viewed with alarm in Moscow and might lead Vladimir Putin to invade and attempt to absorb Belarus much as he seized Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, an action the West has not yet shown any willingness to put the kind of obstacles in his path that might forestall that from happening. And so the game is likely to go on in much the same way as it has in recent months, with Lukashenka remaining repressive at home and navigating between supporting Moscow on some things and the West on others, hoping that there will be a breakthrough that will his loss of power and prevent Putin’s tanks from moving westward.

Belarus leader vows joint response with Russia to setting up of U.S. military base in Poland | UNIAN

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that the creation of a new U.S. military base in the neighboring Poland would entail a joint response from Belarus and the Russian Federation. At the same time, Lukashenko says his country is not going to fight with the West.

Michael Kofman | Revise and Resubmit: An Unconvincing Proposal for Permanent U.S. Troops in Poland

As I discussed in my last article on the topic, earlier this year it came to light that the Polish Ministry of National Defence had submitted a proposal

Kseniya Kirillova | Russian Spec Ops failures result of GRU’s total degradation – journalist who helped pin down Skripal killers | Euromaidan Press |

Editor’s Note: Professional spies and doctors act as cold-blooded killers, journalists find evidence about undercover colonels in regular public domain databases, and Russian officials continue to deny the obvious. Sergey Kanev, journalist of the Center “Dossier” and co-author of the recent investigations of GRU agents conducted by The Insider and Bellingcat, told us about the conclusions that can be drawn from the Salisbury investigation, why officers of clandestine services “terminate” special operations of their colleagues, and just how strong Putin’s vertical is.

Salisbury Zizzi to reopen after Novichok attack as restaurant reveals staff received counselling

A restaurant at the centre of the Salisbury spy poisoning will reopen on Tuesday after a complete refurbishment as it emerged staff received counselling in the wake of the attack.

Zizzi Salisbury branch made famous by Skripal attack to reopen tomorrow | City A.M.

The Salisbury Zizzi branch that found itself at the heart of a suspected Russian plot to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March will

Salisbury’s Zizzi to reopen after novichok poisoning

The Italian restaurant was one of a number of locations in Salisbury to be closed off after the nerve agent use was discovered.

Europe opens door to sanctions on Iran after terror plots in Denmark, Paris | Fox News

European leaders are opening the door to possible sanctions on Iran in the wake of terror plots across the continent — even as they criticize the Trump administration for re-imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s oil exports and financial dealings.

As Trump restores sanctions, Iranians rally to mark anniversary of U.S. Embassy takeover

Thousands of Iranians rallied in Tehran on Sunday to mark the 39th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover, as Washington restored all sanctions lifted under the nuclear deal.

‘Don’t threaten us,’ Iranians tell US as sanctions return | News | Al Jazeera

Thousands take part in annual anti-US demonstration, in show of defiance before latest bout of US-imposed sanctions.

Iran president warns of economic ‘war situation’ as sanctions resume | Fox News

Iran remained defiant Monday as the re-imposition of sanctions took hold in the Islamic Republic.

Iran in economic war with ‘bully’ US, says Rouhani as sanctions kick in | World | The Times

The United States has indicated that it will increase pressure on Iran gradually rather than forcing an immediate crisis as President Trump’s renewed oil and financial sanctions take effect today. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said the aim was to force Iran to “abandon its destructive act

Iran news: Tehran warns Trump – ‘Islamic Republic has defeated US for 40 YEARS!’ | World | News | Express.co.uk

IRAN has launched a scathing attack against Donald Trump – 48 hours before he imposes crippling financial sanctions on it – warning: “America has been defeated by the Islamic Republic for 40 years.’

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: Trump has disgraced US prestige | USA News | Al Jazeera

Khamenei says Iran has defeated the US in what he called its 40-year challenge against the Islamic republic.

UAWire – Russia accuses the US of disrupting the nuclear deal with Iran

In a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, the Kremlin said that the new anti-Iranian sanctions imposed by Washington are aimed at disrupting the nuclear treaty with Tehran. According to the Ministry, Russia is frustrated with the stance taken by the US aimed at disrupting the general tools aimed at controlling and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. “The US once again deals a mighty blow to the Deal on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, which they hypocritically say is necessary, almost totally trampling it” the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry reads. The Kremlin that Russia rejects unilateral sanctions the US imposed on Iran, subverting the decision made by the UN Security Council. The Russian Foreign Ministry also promised to preserve the economic and financial cooperation with Tehran despite American sanctions.

Russia says US sanctions ‘illegal’, will help Iran trade oil | Iran News | Al Jazeera

Russian energy minister tells FT that Moscow will ‘continue developing’ its trade of Iranian oil after Monday deadline.

Russia says US sanctions ‘illegal’, will help Iran trade oil | Al Jazeera English – YouTube

Al Jazeera English Published on Nov 3, 2018 The Trump administration has reiterated it will reimpose sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. The United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany and the European Union have condemned the move. Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane has the latest from Washington, DC.

Russia-Iran Economic Deal: Sanction Relief or Political Game?

In May, the US government announced it would unilaterally withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and re-impose the sanctions previously lifted or waived. While the re-imposition of sanctions is certainly not welcomed by Iran, it is also nothing new. Iran has long struggled with various economic sanctions and the Iranian economy has suffered under international sanctions for decades. As a result, Iran has looked east for economic cooperation. Over time, the country has also formed multiple mechanisms to bypass sanctions, including oil payments in gold and Asian currencies. As a result, Russia and China have become the two most important allies of the Islamic Republic. China’s growing energy demand and aggressive export strategies strengthened Sino-Iranian economic partnerships. China has been actively involved in various construction projects and has been Iran’s main trading partner in terms of both oil exports and consumer goods imports. Over the past few years, various high level bilateral negotiations have been held to explore possible grounds for economic collaboration between Iran and China. Unlike China’s economic activities in Iran, which are motivated by profit maximizing strategies, Russia’s economic collaboration with Iran is driven by pure political considerations. These considerations include countering China’s influence, signalling from Russia that they view Iran as falling within its sphere of influence, and a strategic interest in maintaining this particular relationship. However, while broader economic relations between Russia and Iran may be more limited than Iran’s relationship with China, energy has been a source of shared interest dating back to cooperation over the Bushehr nuclear plant. One of the most fruitful economic negotiations between Iran and Russia concluded in a 2014 energy cooperation memorandum, whereby Russia agreed to a $1.5 billion per month oil-for-goods swap that would boost Iran’s oil exports.

Reuters: Oil prices fall as U.S. grants Iran sanction waivers to major importers | UNIAN

Oil prices fell on Monday as the start to U.S. sanctions against Iran’s fuel exports was softened by waivers that will allow major buyers to still import Iranian crude, at least temporarily. Oil markets have been preparing for the sanctions for months.

Can Iran survive sanctions? – BBC News

The US is set to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors.

If Trump was going to cave on sanctions, what was the point of pulling out of Iran deal?

When President Trump made the right decision to pull out of former President Barack Obama’s disastrous Iran deal in May, he declared, “Today’s action sends a critical message: The United States no longer makes empty threats.” Unfortunately, by announcing that the administration now plans to grant meaningful, though unspecified, waivers from reimposed sanctions, he’s sending the exact opposite message — that the U.S. will initially act with plenty of swagger and bombast in declaring policies, but then go wobbly when it comes to following through on details.

Trump’s Iran Oil Sanctions Aren’t Living Up to the Hype – Bloomberg

Exports are likely to go up just as the U.S. restrictions take effect.

Iran starts producing local fighter jet for its air force | Reuters

Iran has started production of the locally-designed Kowsar fighter plane for use in its air force, state television reported, as tensions mount with the United States after the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Tehran.

Iran starts mass-producing locally designed Kowsar fighter jet | News | Al Jazeera

Kowsar jet features ‘advanced avionics’, multipurpose radar, and for the first time is ‘100-percent indigenously made’.

Q&A: Ex-Mossad Chiefs Discuss the Iranian Threat

IranSource interviewed several ex-heads of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, to ask their thoughts on Iran. Three of the six living directors agreed to speak.* They painted varying pictures of Iran as a nation and threat in addition to mixed views on the US decision to quit the nuclear agreement in May.

Six Russian mercenaries reportedly killed in Syria explosion — Meduza

An explosion at a former highway police building between Damascus and Deir ez-Zor reportedly killed 11 people on November 5. According to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, six of the victims were mercenaries working for the Russian private military company “Wagner.” Novaya Gazeta’s source claims the former police station was housing Syrian government troops and Russian “military advisers.” Journalists have asked the Russian Defense Ministry to comment on the reported deaths of Russian citizens in the blast. Russian state officials have not acknowledged the presence of “Wagner” mercenaries in Syria, though journalists have reported extensively on the group’s operations. The company is believed to have ties to catering magnate and close Putin ally Evgeny Prigozhin.

UAWire – Media: Russian military headquarters blown up in Syria

At least seven Russian military personnel died as a result of the explosion at the headquarters of the Russian troops near Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria, reported EBAA news outlet. “Seven Russian military, as well as representatives of the Syrian regime, were killed on Friday after an explosive device was detonated at the headquarters of the Russian troops in the Criminal Court building north of the Panorama junction on the Deir ez-Zor-Damascus road,” EBAA writes. It is noted that the Russians were members of the so-called “ISIS hunters” of the 5th Corps of Assad Army. It is not yet known who is behind the explosion of the headquarters of the Russian troops in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria. Russian official media sources have not reported on the incident.

Expert was forced to remove post about failure Russian Pantsir-S1 in Syria – Defence Blog

Well-known Russian military expert and editor-in-chief of ‘Arsenal of Fatherland’ magazine Viktor Murakhovsky posted on his Facebook page the post which mentions the failure of the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft missile systems protecting the Russian Hmeimim Air Base in Syria. According to Viktor Murakhovsky post, in Syria, it came to light that these Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft missile systems practically “do not track” low-speed and small-sized targets, which include drones, but at the same time regularly spotted big birds flying around the base, which is confusing for operators. Early, the Russian military faced with a drone attack launched by terrorist groups against its permanent Hmeimim Air Base in Syria’s western coastal province of Latakia, from where Russian fighter jets carry out airstrikes against militants. During the attack, the Russian Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft missile systems showed not the best result, which drew sharp criticism from military expert. But 24 hours later, Murakhovsky was forced to remove the criticism post, according to Lenta.ru citing another Russian military expert Alexey Khlopotov. ”It appears that our weapons to journalists and experts can only be praises. Although not always (this is already from his personal practice), ” the Alexey Khlopotov said. Alexey Khlopotov hints about pressure from the Russian military. In Russia, the facts of censorship or persecution for criticism of the armed forces or country’s leadership are often noted. At the moment, it is known that the main role in protecting the Russian military base in Syria was assumed by other air defense systems. Russia army deployed to Syria its Tor-M2U short-range air defense missile system for protection of an air base in the country. The Tor-M2U missile system can destroy a variety of aerial targets such as cruise missiles, guided missiles, helicopters, aircraft, guided bombs, unmanned aerial systems, and high-precision weapons flying at low and medium-altitudes.

UAWire – Kremlin: Russia to conduct exercises in the Mediterranean on permanent basis

Large-scale navy and air forces exercises “Ocean Shield” will be held on a permanent basis, said the Russian Defense Minister and General of the Army Sergey Shoygu during the conference call on Friday. In 2018, the joint exercises “Ocean Shield” were held in the Mediterranean for the first time in the modern history of Russia. “Such exercises will be conducted on a permanent basis,” said Shoygu. He stressed that “a large inter-fleet naval group that was created in the Mediterranean is capable of autonomously solving a wide range of tasks, taking into account the changing situation.” “The main navy control center in St. Petersburg and an auxiliary command post in the Syrian port of Tartus supervised these exercises,” added Shoygu.

🇺🇸🇸🇦 Khashoggi murder will not change US-Saudi relations says Pompeo | Breaking News – YouTube

 

Report: Saudi Team Tried to Remove Khashoggi Evidence | Time

A newspaper close to Turkey’s government claims a Saudi Arabian team worked to remove evidence of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s slaying

Saudis Call for Amazon Boycott Over Anger at Washington Post – Bloomberg

Saudis who are angry at The Washington Post’s coverage of the kingdom in the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder are calling for a boycott of Amazon.com Inc. because of its shared ownership by U.S. billionaire Jeff Bezos.

Trump says Saudi Arabia ‘didn’t know how to use’ US-made bombs in Yemen | Fox News

President Trump said in an interview broadcast Sunday that members of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war “didn’t know how to use” an American-made bomb when they blew up a school bus this past August, killing dozens of children.

Trump says Yemen bus attack was due to bombers not using weapon properly | World news | The Guardian

President says he will raise the matter with Saudis, whose coalition forces killed 51 people in August using a US bomb

 

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