How worrying is Russia’s growing presence in the Middle East?


Hassan Rouhani and Vladimir Putin

The Admiral Kuznetsov was deployed by Moscow to the Syrian coast on October 15, leading a naval task force that included the Pyotr Veliky battlecruiser along with the Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov anti-submarine warfare destroyers.

The Kuznetsov, touted by Russia as a symbol of power, has 15 aircraft on board, including Su-33 air defense fighters, Su-25UTG ground attack aircraft, MiG-29KUB two-seater multi-role fighters as well as Ka-52K attack helicopters.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that “the goal of the campaign is to ensure a naval presence in operationally important areas of the oceans.”

Netanyahu says Russia has “variegated interests” to cooperate with Israel

(Netanyahu says Russia has “variegated interests” to cooperate with Israel)

The growing Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean sea, with an aircraft carrier capable of detecting many, if not all, Israeli military activities, coupled with the advanced S-300 and S-400 air-defense batteries it has already deployed to Syria, is a cause of concern to many.

A US Defense Official quoted by the Washington Post said Washington was “very concerned” about the deployment of the S-300s, adding that “we’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300.” And that is a concern shared by Jerusalem, as Russia has not only deployed the S-300 to Syria, but also to it’s foe, Iran.

As an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Moscow finds itself part of an alliance between Damascus and Tehran.

Ofer Fridman, visiting research fellow, at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London told The Jerusalem Post that “there are two different games on two different levels that the Kremlin plays in the region. The cooperation with Iran in support of Assad is strategic, while the military coordination with Israel is of a tactical nature.”

Former Israeli Air Force commander, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu told the Post that despite this alliance, Moscow would “do anything to stop a conflict with Israel” but warned, “we must keep in mind that conflict with Russia could happen,” and if it does, Israel would have no other choice but to destroy the S-300s.

Fridman agreed, saying that “Russian military presence in the Middle East is definitely a reason for concern, but not for panic” as “both sides are not interested in mistakes and therefore there is true coordination and cooperation that is based on mutual respect out of interest.”

With both Russia and Israel carrying out military operations in war-torn Syria, the two nations have implemented a system to coordinate their actions there in order to avoid accidental clashes.

Up until the Russian intervention in Syria, Israel enjoyed air superiority in the Middle East. But the mobile S-300 and S-400 batteries are capable of engaging multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 380 km. away, putting significant parts of Israel in its crosshairs.

No jet can be launched without Russian radar locking on and tracking their flight routes, except for those taking off from IAF bases in the southern Negev, .

With the S-300 and S-400, Moscow has restricted Israel’s strongest deterrence, its Air Force.

Despite the restrictions, Israel allegedly struck targets in Syria after Russia deployed the S-400 to Khmeimim Air Base in the southeastern Syrian city of Latakia.

And while relations remain friendly, Israeli concerns were raised during a recent phone call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as during a meeting of senior Israeli and Russian officials at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on October 27.

According to Russia’s Izvestia newspaper, Israel also requested the Russian Defense Ministry to develop new coordination procedures following the deployment of the S-300s to Syria’s Tartus to avoid accidentally shooting down Israeli aircraft.

And as Fridman told the Post, “It is only a matter of time before a coordination mistake will happen.”

The deployment of the S-300 has been discussed for the past several years, giving Israel time to develop new methods to blind radar and anti-aircraft units, electronic warfare that Israel is well-known for.

According to foreign reports, Israel has already quietly tested ways to defeat the S-300, activating one of the anti-aircraft systems stationed on the island of Crete during joint drills between the Greek and Israeli air forces in May of last year. That exercise allowed Israeli warplanes to gather data on how the advanced system may be blinded or fooled.

The Russians are said to have breached Israeli airspace on several recent occasions, and even while Israel immediately shoots down any aircraft that penetrates its airspace, Israel has not shot down any Russian aircraft.

JPost

Islamic State threatens to attack Damascus, impose Sharia law


10/24/2016

 

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Damascus – The Islamic State (ISIS) on Sunday threatened to invade Damascus, Syria’s capital city. ISIS said that their invasion was imminent and vowed to strike at Syrian security forces and the armed opposition.

“Fighters of the Caliphate are preparing to enter the heart of al-Sham [Damascus],” the extremist group said in a statement. In the same statement, ISIS promised to apply the Islamic State’s puritanical interpretation of Sharia law throughout the capital.

ISIS has been in control of a residential block in southern Damascus, since it drove out al-Qaeda-splinter group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and allied rebel factions in April 2015. Jahbat Fateh al-Sham was previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra.

Al-Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood is believed to be the Islamic State’s primary staging area. Their militants also control the nearby Yarmouk and Tadamun districts.

ISIS has accused the rebel groups in Damascus of working on behalf of Assad’ government and being apostates. “The time has come for the Caliphate’s fighters to take al-Sham [Damascus] from the infidels and their mercenaries,” the extremist group said.

Syrian journalist Mustafa Abde told ARA News that ISIS would likely try to open new fronts in southern Syria to direct attention from northern Iraq, where the group is hemorrhaging.

Abde argued that: “This announcement comes after the group started to lose ground in Iraq amid deteriorating morale among its militants. ISIS is seeking new so-called victories to regain its reputation as a strong organisation.”

Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi | Source: ARA News

aranews

Assad: Total Defiance


Rhonda Ballance News Editor. E-mail: Rhonda.Ballance@Scofieldinstitute.org

Rhonda Ballance News Editor. E-mail: Rhonda.Ballance@Scofieldinstitute.org

 

APRIL 4, 2016

 

 

Without minimizing for a moment those things dividing Washington and Moscow over Syria, there is at least agreement in principle on three fundamental points: all-Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva should focus on United Nations-mandated political transition leading to democracy and pluralism; that a “cessation of hostilities” in western Syria should boost these negotiations by suppressing violence; and that reduced mayhem should allow the rapid delivery of humanitarian aid to desperately needy Syrians as demanded by multiple Security Council resolutions. Yet none of this matters in the least to Bashar al-Assad. He rejects it all.

Assad rejects the very basis of peace negotiations: political transition guided by a transitional governing body negotiated by mutual consent and exercising full executive power. The fundamental terms of reference for the Geneva talks are found in the June 30, 2012 Final Communiqué of the Action Group on Syria (which featured the permanent five members of the UN Security Council). The most fundamental of those terms is political transition from the current state of affairs to a democratic and pluralistic Syria. Yet Bashar al-Assad—a person presiding over a family-based clique clinging to power through collective punishment and terror—cites the Syrian Constitution as taking priority over the expressed will of the international community. This murderous regime taking refuge in a rule of law argument featuring a constitution honored exclusively in its breach gives new meaning to obscenity.

As for the “cessation of hostilities,” Assad correctly sees it as a threat to his family, his entourage, and a system that treats Syria as private property. The reason he has spent five years concentrating lethal force on civilians is because that which he fears more than anything is the growth of civil society and self-government in Syria. To stop the air and artillery attacks against schools, hospitals, bakeries, apartment blocks, and the like is to run the risk of empowered local governance taking root. Therefore he uses the recess in Geneva talks to resume mass casualty atrocities in the Damascus suburbs. He does so with impunity, knowing that the West has protected not one single Syrian man, woman, or child from his attacks and believing that neither Moscow nor Tehran has any standing (if intention) to protest against mass murder.

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