The Russian engineering corps has started building a new base in southeastern Syria at a small village called Khirbet Ras Al-Wa’r in the Bir al-Qasab district. Until now, Moscow adhered to a policy of restricting its military presence to the western part of the country along the Mediterranean coast; no Russian troops were based further east than Palmyra.
The new facility is the first to be established since Moscow’s initial military intervention in the Syrian war in September, 2015...military sources say it will provide Russia with a lever of control over the volatile Syrian southeast and its borders, where US-backed and Iranian-backed forces are fighting for dominance.
Russian forces will also stand closer than ever before to the Israeli border - 85 kilometers from central Golan and 110 kilometers from southern Golan, not far from IDF military positions.
The new Russian foothold will be located strategically 96 kilometers from northern Jordan and 185 kilometers from the American and Jordanian special forces garrison at the al-Tanf crossing inside the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi border triangle.
Placing the new base just 50 kilometers from Damascus serves another primary function, that of securing the strategic crossroads leading from eastern and southern Syria to the capital - in other words, propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russians put on the table a three-part plan for de-conflicting the incendiary situation in southeast Syria. We can reveal its main points:
1. American forces will continue to hold the al-Tanf crossing. In return, they will agree to Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah forces capturing from ISIS - and holding - the border town of Abu Kamal, further to the north.
2. Moscow will guarantee the withdrawal of Iranian troops, pro-Iranian militias and Hizballah forces from southeastern Syria region at some point in the process.
3. A joint US-Russian administration will be established to conduct the day-to-day affairs of southeastern Syria, including the areas along the Israeli and Jordanian borders.
Washington has so far turned Moscow down on this plan for two reasons: First, the Syrian army’s conquest of Abu Kamal would strengthen Iran’s grip on the Syria-Iraq border area, the prevention of which is a primary US objective. And second, the Americans want Iranian and Hizballah forces out of the region before any other steps are taken - instead of later, as per the Russian guarantee. This, the Russian negotiators were not prepared to concede.
Satellite imagery acquired by Defense News indicates unmanned aircraft and China’s newest Y-8X maritime patrol aircraft – equipped with a seven-meter long Magnetic Anamoly Detector to detect magnetic signatures of submarine hulls – have been deployed to Hainan Island, on the fringes of the South China Sea.
Photos snapped by commercial firm DigitalGlobe on May 10 and May 20 show four sub-hunters, three Harbin BZK-005 recon unmanned aerial vehicles and two KJ-500 early warning jets parked at Lingshui Air Base on Hainan Island. The Y-8X aircraft were put into service in 2015 but haven’t been documented at Lingshui until now. DigitalGlobe has active partnerships with Facebook, Uber, Esri and Mapbox, according to the company’s website.
The sub-hunter is the first combat-ready maritime patrol plane to be commissioned by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N), Defense News notes. The Y-98Q may also have the ability to carry anti-surface ship munitions, but the news outlet cannot independently verify this.
By now most of you have heard the latest bad news of out Syria: on June 18 a US F/A-18E Super Hornet (1999) used a AIM-120 AMRAAM (1991) to shoot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 (1970). Two days later, June 20, a US F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian IRGC Shahed 129 drone. The excuse used each time was that there was a threat to US and US supported forces. The reality is, of course, that the US are simply trying to stop the advance of the Syrian army.
There is a pattern here, however, and that pattern is that all US actions so far have been solely for show: the basically failed bombing of the Syria military airbase, the bombing of the Syrian army column, the shooting down of the Syrian fighter-bomber and of the Iranian drone – all these actions have no real military value. They do, however, have a provocative value as each time all the eyes turn to Russia to see if the Russians will respond or not.
Russia did respond this time again, but in a very ambiguous and misunderstood manner. The Russians announced, amongst other measure that from now on “any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the [US-led] international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets” which I reported as “Russian MoD declares it will shoot down any aircraft flying west of the Euphrates river”. While I gave the exact Russian quote, I did not explain why I paraphrased the Russian words the way I did. Now is a good time to explain this.
Turkey’s interest in Jerusalem could have the potential to spark a diplomatic explosion with the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, former Foreign Ministry director general Alon Liel told Tazpit Press Service Wednesday on the heels of a report published by the Israel Hayomfree sheet outlining 63 Turkish-funded projects in the city’s Arab sector, including funding for Palestinians who are paid to harass Jews on the Temple Mount (known in Arabic as Murabitoun).
The report said that a government subsidiary, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), has given millions of dollars to Islamic projects in the capital. TIKA president is headed by Dr. Serdar Cam, a close ally of Erdoğan and his former bureau chief in the Turkish Parliament. Last month, Erdoğan leveled a furious attack at Israel for retaining control of Jerusalem, that the prime minister called a “humilation to the Muslim world.”
The paper said that TIKA’s projects include restoring the archive of Muslim Ottoman documents on the Temple Mount, purchasing a large water tank for worshippers on the Mount, financing a salvage excavation on Sharsheret (chain) Street in the Old City, rebuilding the Muslim cemetery at the foot of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount and in several religious and community projects throughout East Jerusalem.
In addition, Turkey also replaced the crescent atop the Dome of the Rock several years ago.
“Turkey has always been interested in Jerusalem and involved in one way or another in what’s going on there. That’s been true for decades, not just in Erdoğan’s time,” Liel, a former chargé d’affaires to Ankara, said. “Even when Turkey was a largely secular society, the Jerusalem issue was enormous. Add into the mix the Islamization of recent years, and the fact that Turkey is in a much better economic place than it was 15 years ago when Erdoğan came to power, and the issue suddenly looks very explosive,” Liel said.