Sunday, May 7, 2017

Russia's 4 Syrian Ceasefire Zones, More Deaths From Midwest Flooding, 3.3 Quake Near California-Nevada Border,

The widely reported Kremlin plan to set up four safe or “de-escalation” zones, that were supposed to have gone into effect in Syria Friday night, May 5, turns out to be nothing but a propaganda ploy. The spin factor leaps to the eye from the small print of the plan that was released by Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, head of Russian General Staffs Operations Division, Friday night.  He outlined four steps that may never take off:

1. Observation points will be set up to monitor the ceasefire (in the four designated de-escalation zones).

So when the putative safe zones were to have started operating Friday night, there were no observation points to monitor them.

2. The boundaries of the zones will be determined in accordance with the observation points.
This means that the zones don’t exist.

3. By June 4, a working team made up of officers of the three guarantors, Russia, Turkey and Iran, will be created to administer the observation points.
Who can tell what will happen in Syrian in a month’s time.

4. Only after the observation groups of the three sponsor-nations’ armies finish mapping the ceasefire zones can it be determined whether the plan is doable or not.
Still no zones.

The Russian propaganda machine worked overtime this weekend to convince the Western media that the ceasefire zones plan had won the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The truth is that US President Donald Trump did not commit himself one way or another when he talked on the phone with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, May 2, although most of their conversation was devoted to Syria, rather than the North Korean crisis. There was no agreement between them on any Syrian issue, except for a decision that American and Russian forces in the war-torn country would stay out of each other’s way.

In sum, Moscow’s ceasefire zones plan, though effectively propagandized, has changed nothing in Syria’s bloody predicament.

Turkey and Iran, the other two “sponsors” of the Astana framework, and putative “guarantors” of the safe zones, are strangely silent about the roles assigned them by the Kremlin. And no wonder. As rivals in the Syrian arena, their forces are ranged against each other in both Syria and Iraq. It is hard to see them working shoulder to shoulder alongside Russian officers to monitor safety zones which are still pie in the sky.

The situation at the moment is this: In Iraq, Turkish and Iranian troops – essentially pro-Iranian militias under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers - glare at each other across two warfronts, Tel Afar and Sinjar. In Syria, each of their armies is poised to grab Al-Bab in the Aleppo province.

The only real change in Syria’s military situation is a surreptitious one, which may present a fresh, wide-ranging peril: The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah has agreed to place the 8,000 members fighting in Syria for Bashar Assad under direct Iranian command. 

This is part of a radical reorganization of all the military outfits Iran has deployed in Syria, whereby all the Shiite militias including Hizballah fall henceforth directly under a single centralized Iranian command.

This fundamental shift in the military balance in Syria was initiated by Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Suleiman, commander of Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq. 

He convinced supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that there was no other way to safeguard Iran’s military supremacy in the Syrian war arena, guarantee a land bridge to Lebanon, or mobilize tactically for future confrontations with Israel.

The Syrian ruler also submitted to this step. 

Therefore, Hizballah and the Shiite militias will henceforth operate under the orders of the Iranian military mission which has its seat at Syrian High Command Headquarters in Damascus.

This “reorganization” opens the door for Hizballah officers to assume Iranian army uniforms and act as “ceasefire monitors” if Russia’s fictitious safe zones ever get off the ground.

And another open door for Iran and its proxies to establish a belligerent presence. A map released by the Russian foreign ministry Saturday of the four “safe zones” in Syria covers not only southern Syria but Quneitra and the Israeli Golan. The ceasefire in those zones is to be monitored by Russian, Iranian and Turkish army officers. They will also be no-fly zones, meanng that the Israeli air force will be barred from flying over its Golan enclave, should the Russian plan ever take off.

As rivers recede, more deaths from Midwest flooding

13 people die and 10 million more are under flood warning as rising Mississippi River ravages parts of the Midwest

At least 13 people have died due to flooding in the Midwest, authorities said Saturday as up to 10 million people living across six states remain under flood warning.
Weather experts said over the weekend that several areas along the Mississippi River were likely to see near-record crests, according to CNN.
The river's rise was likely to affect towns in places like Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. 
Residents of towns in southern Illinois and southeast Missouri girded for record high crests that surpassed 45 feet.
So far, six people in Missouri and seven people in Arkansas have died due to the flooding.
Heavy downpours that started last weekend have caused waterways to surge in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and other states. 
Many rivers are subsiding and some evacuated residents are being allowed to return home, though the Mississippi River is still rising in some areas.
The surging waters prompted the US Coast Guard to close a 77-mile stretch of the river in southern Illinois from Chester to Cairo late Thursday. 

A shallow magnitude 3.3 earthquake was reported Saturday morning 17 miles from Bridgeport, Calif., near the California-Nevada border, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 8:05 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 18.6 miles.
According to the USGS, the epicenter was 19 miles from Wichman, Nev., 21 miles from Smith, Nev., and 38 miles from Hawthorne, Nev.
In the past 10 days, there have been two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.
This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

One month ago, when discussing the latest "explosive" turn in Venezuela's political situation, we predicted that the worst case for president Nicolas Maduro who has so far managed to keep the army on his side even as Venezuela faces now daily violent and in some cases deadly protests, would be the start of the local army turning on the regime, and defecting to join the protesters. 

Overnight, according to Thor Halvorsen of the Human Rights Foundation, this "inflection point" appears to have arrived when he observed in a Tweet that "the military in parts of Venezuela has begun to defect. They are now marching *with* the protesters. Dozens of soldiers are under arrest."

The military in parts of  has begun to defect. They are now marching *with* the protesters. Dozens of soldiers are under arrest

Touching on this topic, overnight the NYT mused why have Venezuela's "powerful political and military elites stuck by President Nicolás Maduro", noting that "the country would seem to be a prime candidate for something scholars call an “elite fracture,” in which enough powerful officials break away to force a change in leadership."

All that may now be changing. In March, a video spread on social media showing three lieutenants who said they no longer recognized Mr. Maduro’s authority. The next month, they turned up in Colombia, where they requested asylum. The Venezuelan government has publicly demanded their return, which Mr. Levitsky called “pretty clear evidence that the government is worried about some sort of conspiracy” within the ranks.

“The fact that it hasn’t happened in the last two years is the biggest puzzle of all,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist. “If it happens next week, all of us will say, ‘Yeah, it was bound to happen.’”

The NYT further notes that the government has been preparing its defenses since 2002. That year, amid major protests, Hugo Chávez, Mr. Maduro’s predecessor, ordered the military to impose order.

 In March, a video spread on social media showing three lieutenants who said they no longer recognized Mr. Maduro’s authority. The next month, they turned up in Colombia, where they requested asylum. The Venezuelan government has publicly demanded their return, which Mr. Levitsky called “pretty clear evidence that the government is worried about some sort of conspiracy” within the ranks.
The latest open army defections threaten to further splinter what until recently was a united front among the "elites" supporting the crumbling Maduro regime. 
Meanwhile, as the death toll from the recent protests approaches 40, women banged on pans and some stripped off their shirts on Saturday protesting Venezuela's government in an event the opposition billed as a "women's march against repression."

For now, the protest movement, which has drawn masses of people into the street nearly every day since March, shows no sign of slowing. On Saturday, some of the women marchers approached soldiers in riot gear to offer them white roses and invite them to join the cause. "What will you tell your kids later on?" one woman asked.
“We are deeply concerned about the Maduro government’s violent crackdown on protestors in Venezuela. President Maduro’s disregard for the fundamental rights of his own people has heightened the political and economic crisis in the country,” said Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in a statement. “The Maduro regime must respect Venezuela’s constitution and the voice of its people. We are particularly concerned that the government is failing to provide basic food and medical needs to the Venezuelan people,” Haley said.
H.R. McMaster, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, met on Friday with Julio Borges, the president of Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly, about the civil unrest which has been near-daily for five weeks, the White House said on Saturday.
Finally, assuring that daily protests are only set to escalate further, on Saturday Borges, the leader of the left-wing party in Venezuela called for open rebellion as well as Maduro's resignation, while rejecting any "dialogue" with the administration.

Probably the most neglected Bible study is prophecy. The entire Bible is inspired by God and not meant to confuse, but to inform and guide. When Christmas comes around we know a few prophetic Scriptures from the Old Testament regarding the birth of Jesus, such as Micah 5:2 which says He would be born in Bethlehem, or Isaiah 7:14 that says a virgin will give birth to the Messiah. Other than that most Christians don’t dig deeper into what God wants us to know. The world headlines of today show that Biblical prophecy is being fulfilled, but if you aren’t informed you can’t see that God’s prophetic word is coming to pass just as He said. For instance, are you watching what’s happening in Syria, and more particularly in Damascus? 

Many people don’t understand that most of the Bible is centered around Israel. The Old Testament tells of the creation, the Flood, and then moves on to describe how God called Abraham out of the pagan culture in which he lived to become the father of the nation of Israel. God’s chosen people weren’t always obedient and moved in and out of favor with God. God spoke through the prophets and gave plenty of warning before judgment came. When the Southern Kingdom had been defeated, Daniel was a young man who was taken as a captive to Babylon. Because he studied the words of the prophet Jeremiah he was able to know when the captivity was about to end. “In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” Daniel 9:2. Even though he had been young when taken captive and had lived in that very pagan city for 70 years, Daniel honored God and respected prophecy. Jeremiah’s prophecy said: “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Jeremiah 25:11. Daniel was paying attention. He walked close to the Lord and knew a true prophet from a false one. Jeremiah was a true prophet of God. God wants His people to know what’s coming. Christians need to get our heads out of the sand and pay attention to prophecy in order to understand the times in which we live.

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