Friday, August 31, 2018

Abbas To Reject Trump's Plan, Present Alternative Plan At UN Gen Assembly: There Can Be No Peace Without East Jerusalem And 1967 Borders

Abbas to present alternative to Trump’s “Deal of the Century” at UN next month; United States government officially cuts funding to UNRWA; PA minister: There can be no peace without East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders.

The Palestinians will present an alternative plan to the Trump Administration’s “Deal of the Century” at the UN General Assembly next month.
The announcement was made by the Palestinians’s Foreign Minister, Riyad Malki, who reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the UN and reiterate the Palestinians’ “categorical rejection” of the Trump Administration’s plan.
He reported that Abbas will “announce the Palestinians’ categorical rejection of American-Israeli plans aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause, through the so-called ‘Deal of the Century”. The Palestinians will provide alternatives to what this US administration is doing based on force and the policy of bullying led by the US president.”
On borders and Jerusalem, the minister stated “There can be no peace without East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, without resolving the refugees’ issue in all its aspects as per United Nations Resolution 194 and before recognizing that all Israeli colonial settlements are illegal.”
On Thursday, reports surfaced quoting an official from the White House confirming that the United States government will stop its funding of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians). The United States has been the main contributor in aid to the agency for over a decade, the Trump Administration announcing its cut of $200 million last week and $65 million in January of this year.
The State Department provided $60 million to the agency of the $350 million allocated.
On Monday, reports claimed the Trump Administration plans to officially reject the Palestinian’s “right of return”. The reports claim the United States will officially reject the UNRWA’s definition of Palestinian refugees, combatting the inflated number of Palestinian refugees claimed by the United Nations. Of the UN’s claim of over 5.3 million Palestinian refugees, only half a million would be recognized.

Thousands Of Palestinians Protest Near Gaza Border Fence

Palestinians clash with IDF on Gaza border; 180 said wounded

Some 5,000 Palestinians protested Friday along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, with some 180 wounded, according to Palestinian reports.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said some 180 demonstrators were wounded in clashes with IDF troops, including several who were hit by live fire. Among the wounded were a ten-year-old boy and a female paramedic, identified as Horouq Abu Masamah, the ministry said.
The IDF had no immediate comment.

The Ynet news site said that a hand-grenade was thrown at IDF troops and that Palestinians also managed to down an IDF drone used to disperse tear gas on the protesters. There were no IDF injuries, Ynet said.
One incendiary balloon sent over the border from the Strip caused a fire near Kibbutz Be’eri. Fire fighters extinguished it before it could spread.
The clashes came despite reports that Israel is in advanced indirect talks with Hamas, via UN and Egyptian mediation, for a long-term truce in the Strip.
Gaza has seen a surge of violence since the start of the “March of Return” protests along the border in March. The clashes, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers have orchestrated, have included rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.

The Palestinian March of Return protests took place on Friday with 7,500 Gaza residents reportedly demonstrating at various locations near the security fence. 

The March of Return protests have been going on for 23 weeks.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 120 Palestinian were wounded during the protests and 38 people required hospital care. 

A terror balloon caused a fire in the region of Kibbutz Be'eri. Israeli fire fighting teams put out the fire with the help of Jewish National Fund Keren Kayemet teams. Two terror kites were reported as well.  

Earlier in August, thousands of Israeli Gaza border communities residents protested in Tel Aviv against the ongoing tensions in the south of the country. Protesters carried signs claiming the right of a child near the Gaza border fence to safety is equal to that of a child in central Israel and called on the prime minister to "wake up" as the south is "on fire". 

One protester reportedly cried out: "We're being used as cannon fodder!" 

Sweden Democrats Rise On Anti-Imigration Sentiment, Could Emerge As 'Kingmakers'

As Election Looms, Sweden Is Burning Again Tonight

With the highly anticipated Swedish election looming next weekend, and the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party having surged in the polls (until the last few days), the timing of tonight's gang riots is only likely to enrage voters even more.

With public calls growing for tougher policies on crime and immigration, support has risen for the ironically named, Sweden Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi roots that wants to freeze immigration and to hold a referendum on Sweden’s membership of the European Union.
Their worried mainstream rivals have started moving to the right on crime and immigration to try to counter the Sweden Democrats’ threat in the Sept. 9 election. But so far, they are playing into the hands of the far-right.
“Right now they (mainstream parties) are competing over who can set out the most restrictive policies,” said Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin, whose Green Party is part of a minority government led by the Social Democratic Party.
“It clearly benefits the Sweden Democrats.”
Opinion polls put the Sweden Democrats on about 20 percent support, up from the 13 percent of votes they secured in the 2014 election and the 5.7 percent which saw them enter parliament for the first time in 2010.

The Sweden Democrats’ rise on the back of anti-immigration sentiment mirrors gains for right-wing, populist and anti-establishment parties in other European countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria.
The Sweden Democrats still trail the Social Democratic Party but has overtaken the main opposition Moderates in many polls. All mainstream parties have ruled out working with them.
But they could emerge from the election as kingmakers, and a strong election showing could force the next government to take their views into consideration when shaping policy.
Their policies include a total freeze on asylum seekers and accepting refugees only from Sweden’s neighbors in the future. They also want tougher penalties for crime and more powers for police, and say tax cuts and higher spending on welfare could be funded by cutting the immigration budget.
Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democratic party, has described the situation as “pretty fantastic”.
“We are dominating the debate even though no one will talk to us,” he told party members.
The Sweden Democrats have succeeded in linking the two in the minds of many voters, even though official statistics show no correlation between overall levels of crime and immigration. However, while the government denies it has lost control but Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has not ruled out sending the military into problem areas.
“Sweden is going down a more right-wing path,” said Nick Aylott, a political scientist at Sodertorn University said. “It is almost impossible to avoid according some sort of influence to a party with around 20 percent of the vote.”

Russia-Iran-Syria Coalition Plans Counter-Measures To U.S. In Middle East

Iran launches anti-US-Israel front - from W. Iraq, with Tel Aviv in missile range, builds base facing Golan

Russia, Iran, Syria and Hamas have launched six steps to counter the US-Israeli plan to hit Iranian military targets in Syria, which National Security Adviser John Bolton finalized in Jerusalem two weeks ago. 

That plan is to strike Iran’s Al Qods Brigades and allied Shiite militia forces in Syrian and western Iraq, as DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources were first to reveal. The US and Israel agreed to provide each other with reciprocal air and military cover for their operations in Syria. This accord was first implemented on Aug. 23, when unidentified warplanes bombed a pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite Khataib Hezballah convoy on the Syrian-Iraqi highway.

The Russian-backed Iranian-Syrian-Hamas alliance subsequently put together six counter-measures:

  1. Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami arrived in Damascus with a large military delegation to sign expanded military cooperation pacts with Syrian ruler Bashar Assad. Israeli and American officials who initially made light of this event were forced to take a second look.
  2. Iran was empowered by these accords to deepen its military grip on Syria, backed by the promise of Russian military and air cover modeled on the US-Israeli mutual commitment.
  3. Tehran and Damascus agreed to retaliate for every US or Israel attack on Iran’s Al-Qods or Shiite militia forces in Syria in the same coin, i.e. by targeting US military forces posted east of the Euphrates Rive along the Syrian-Iraqi border, or IDF forces inside the Golan enclave. Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani was put in charge of these operations.
  4. Our exclusive sources also reveal that the new military pacts signed by Iran and Syria provide explicitly for three large Iranian bases to go up in Syria as hubs for the various Iranian command posts dispersed across the country; one outside Aleppo; a second between Damascus and the Israeli Golan border and a third at a still undetermined location.
  5. In the wake of these pacts, the United States, Russia, Iran and Israel are all engaged in military buildups in the Middle East and around Syria of intervention forces for a potential escalation.
    The Americans have prepared major naval and air strength in the region capable of rapid responses, mainly with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
    The Russians are massing a sea armada opposite the Syrian coast. Fresh arrivals on Friday, Aug. 31, raised the number of warships to 24.
    Syrian air defense networks are on the highest war alert since early this week. The IDF’s presence in northern Israel has been beefed up and the troops placed on high alert.
  6. On Friday, Iran said it had supplied allied Iraqi Shiite militias with ground-to-ground missiles with ranges of between 200km and 700km. From Western Iraq, meaning Anbar, where Soleimani has concentrated a large force, these mssiles can reach Tel Aviv; and from southern Iraq, the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The senior US allies in the region are therefore under fresh Iranian missile threat from Iraq.
    DEBKAfile’s military sources note that these missiles have long been in the hands of the Iraqi Shiite militias under Tehran’s thumb, but Iran’s leaders decided it could do no harm to release the information to its enemies at this time.In former articles, our sources have pointed out that a US-Israeli showdown with Iran in Syria  would inevitably spill over into Iraq. Hamas joined the emerging fray on Thursday, when its leader noted that the Palestinian organization also had rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv. He was pointing up the collaboration between Gaza’s Palestinian rulers and Tehran.

Iran Continues To Build Missile Facilities In Syria - New Satellite Images Confirm

New images show Iranian surface-to-surface missile facility in Syria

New satellite images of an area in northwestern Syria show the establishment a new Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory which may house weapons capable of striking Israel.

The images taken by ImageSat International (ISI) purport to show evidence suggesting that Iran is continuing to build various facilities related to the development and production of surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) in the area of Wadi Jahannam near Baniyas.

According to ImageSat, some of the structures at the site which is involved in the manufacturing and assembly facility of different SSM types have similar visual characteristics as structures built at SSM facilities in Parchin and Khojir in Iran. 

“Therefore, it is probable that the same elements are responsible for their planning and construction,” ImageSat wrote in their analysis, adding that the facility is in its final stages of construction and will likely be completed by early 2019.

While ImageSat assessed that Iran is assisting Syria’s SSM capabilities for the Syrian civil war, “since those conflicts are currently smaller and less widespread than before, it is possible that the Iranian efforts are for future use by Hezbollah or Iran itself against Israel as well,” they wrote.

Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red-lines for the Jewish State.

Jerusalem has admitted to having carried out hundred of strikes in Syria and is accused of striking hundreds of others, including the Al-Tala’i Research Center  in nearby Masyaf in September 2017 which was also related to Iranian SSM activity.

According to ImageSat, both the facility in Masyaf and the one in Wadi Jahannam are located within the operational range of a Russian S-400 deployment, showing that Iran is “utilizing or exploiting the defense abilities of Russia.”

Jerusalem has repeatedly said it would not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria and Israeli officials have met with their Russian counterparts numerous times to stress its importance.

Last month Israel refused a Russian offer to keep Iranian troops in Syria 100 kilometers from Israel’s border, with officials stating that Israel wants Iranian troops to fully withdraw from Syria, something that Russia has warned would be unrealistic.

On Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that it would continue to act against the enemies of the Jewish State and that it has the means to destroy them.

In the past year, the IDF noticed that Iranian efforts in Syria have been increasing, with Soleimani sending from Iran advanced air defense systems with a range of up to 110 kilometers that could threaten Israel’s freedom of action in Syria. 

New images show Iranian surface-to-surface missile facility in Syria

Tensions Increasing In Middle East As Major Military Exercises To Begin

The latest claim by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday, Aug. 30, was that “it will take the US and its allies just 24 hours to ready its missile-strike group for an attack on Syria.” This charge followed Moscow’s announcement of a major Russian naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea starting as soon as Saturday Sept. 1 with 25 warships and submarines and 30 planes, including fighter jets and strategic bombers, taking part.

In Washington, the Russian ambassador warned the US against engaging in “unjustified and illegal act of aggression in Syria.” And in Moscow, The Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters that the coalition strike group has around 70 delivery vehicles deployed in the Middle East and was ready to attack Syria in just 24 hours. She said its arsenal includes nearly 380 cruise missiles and the US Navy destroyers Karni and Ross, each carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles.  

According to Zakharova, the strike group of the United States, France and the UK currently consists of planes, strategic and tactical aircraft at bases in Jordan, Kuwait, Crete.” The Russian official omitted to mention Israel.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the US of planning a false flag chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Idlib province to frame Damascus and use as a pretext for a new strike. In a classical pot calling the kettle black tactic, Lavrov accused the US of planning a “provocation” in Syria to thwart the coming Russian-Iranian-Syrian offensive against the rebels in Idlib, in order to save the Syrian “terrorists” – just as America did in Libya and Iraq.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Russia Shows U.S. Evidence Of 'Planned Chemical Provocation' False Flag Attack By Al-Qaeda

In Rare Meeting, Russia Delivers Intel To US Officials Showing "Planned Chemical Provocation" In Syria

Russia says that its diplomats in Washington formally reached out to US officials and have briefed them on an impending plan by al-Qaeda insurgents in Idlib to stage a false flag chemical attack in order to provoke a Western military strike on Damascus. 

This week Moscow has claimed to be in possession of firm intelligence that it says shows armed groups in Idlib are transporting chemicals to area sites, in preparation for the coming major Syrian Army and Russian offensive on the contested province in northwest Syria. 

According to RT News, it appears that the State Department previously confirmed that the rare meeting did take place:
Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador in Washington, confirmed to the media on Wednesday that he had met with the US special representative to Syria, James Jeffrey, and David M. Satterfield, acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.
The attendees of the rare meeting and the fact that it had taken place earlier this week was revealed by US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert during a daily briefing.

The meeting was reportedly held this past Monday, according to Russian Ambassador Antonov, who told RT it was "constructive and professional". 
We noted previously that Pentagon and US officials have continued pushing the gambit on Syria, with multiple statements last week and this week which appear to be setting the stage to play the "Assad is gassing his own people" card should so much as an inkling of an allegation emerge.
With the dominant al-Qaeda group in control of Idlib, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), facing imminent defeat in what is likely to be a lengthy, grinding final showdown, they have every incentive to claim Syrian government forces are using sarin or another internationally banned substance. 
Considering allegations have been hurled at Assad and the Syrian Army before the Idlib assault has even begun, the past week's war of words signals an unprecedented level of telegraphing intentions for leverage on the battlefield
Starting last week with John Bolton's promise that the US "will respond very strongly," American officials' threats have gotten progressively more specific, with the State Department spokesperson this week saying "we will respond to any verified chemical weapons use in Idlib or elsewhere in Syria ... in a swift and appropriate manner" while also vowing to "hold Assad responsible".
But it appears Monday's meeting constitutes a back-channel attempt to calm the fast intensifying situation.

RT News continues:
At the meeting, Russia officially conveyed its concerns over reports that Washington together with France and the UK is gearing up for another set of airstrikes in Syria under the pretext of a chemical attack, that would immediately be blamed on the Syrian government. Moscow has asked Washington to "provide the facts without delay" to substantiate the new allegations that Damascus uses chemical weapons against its own people.
Russia's ambassador to the US also reportedly identified the White Helmets as among the actors on the ground assisting in organizing such a potential provocation. 
Concerning the specifics of what was shared with the State Department officials at the meeting, RT reports:
Intelligence that Russia has gathered has been shared with the US, and the diplomats were told "in detail" about the provocation against civilians being prepared by Al-Nusra Front (now known as Tahrir al-Sham) in the northwestern province of Idlib.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported earlier that Tahrir al-Sham was plotting a chemical attack that would then be misrepresented as another "atrocity" by the "Syrian regime." Eight canisters of chlorine have been delivered to a village near Jisr al-Shughur city, and a specially trained group of militants, prepped by the British security company Olive, also arrived in the area to imitate a rescue operation to save the civilian "victims." Militants plan to use child hostages in the staged incident, according to Antonov.

Rumors Of War: Fresh Israel-Lebanon War Warnings

UN warns of fresh Israel-Lebanon war as peacekeeping mandate renewed

The UN Security Council warned Thursday that violations of the ceasefire agreement between Lebanon and Israel could lead to a new conflict and urged international support for Lebanon’s armed forces and their stepped up deployment in the south and at sea.
The council’s warning against “a new conflict that none of the parties or the region can afford” came in a resolution adopted unanimously extending the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon known as UNIFIL until August 31, 2019.
Council members urged “all parties” to exercise “maximum calm and restraint and refrain from any action or rhetoric that could jeopardize the cessation of hostilities or destabilize the region.”

UNIFIL was originally created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah so that peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border, to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades.
The French-drafted resolution again urged all countries to enforce a 2006 arms embargo and prevent the sale or supply of weapons to any individual or entity in Lebanon not authorized by the government or UN force known as UNIFIL — an implicit criticism of the suppliers of weapons to Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terror group.
Rodney Hunter, the US Mission’s political coordinator, told the council that Hezbollah, with Iran’s help, “has grown its arsenal in Lebanon in direct threat to peace” along the boundary with Israel “and the stability of all of Lebanon.”

Hunter said 12 years after the council imposed an arms embargo, “it is unacceptable that Hezbollah continues to flout this embargo, Lebanon’s sovereignty, and the will of the majority of Lebanese people.”

Israel Concerned By New Iranian Missile Factory Spotted In Syria

Satellite photos said to show new Iranian missile factory in Syria

Satellite photos published Thursday purported to show the establishment of an Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria, raising fresh concerns over the extent of the two countries’ military cooperation on Israel’s northern border.
The photos, which were taken by ImageSat International and published by Channel 10 news, were said to show a facility outside Wadi Jahannam in northwest Syria resembling Iran’s Parchin facility, which has been linked to the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
Beyond noting an apparent surge in construction work at the site and the building’s seeming similarity to Parchin, Channel 10 did not say how it was identified as a missile factory.

Unlike other Iranian facilities in Syria that have been targeted in Israeli airstrikes, the report said the site was likely spared due to its close proximity to a Russian S-400 ant-aircraft battery, which is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world.

In July, Israeli jets reportedly targeted a missile production facility in nearby Masyaf, where a leading Syrian chemical weapons and missile scientist was killed earlier this month in a car bombing attributed to Israel.
According to a New York Times report, Israel believed that Dr. Aziz Asbar was leading a classified weapons development program called Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, and was busy rebuilding an underground weapons factory to replace the one said destroyed by Israel.
Israel did not comment on its alleged involvement in the July airstrike on the facility, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement following the raid that Israel “will not stop taking action in Syria against Iran’s attempts to establish a military presence there.”
Netanyahu this week reiterated that Israel will continue to take action against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria, and issued an emphatic warning against those who call for Israel’s annihilation, such as the Islamic Republic.
“Whoever threatens us with destruction puts himself in similar danger, and in any case will not achieve his goal,” Netanyahu said during a ceremony at the nuclear research facility in Dimona.

Moscow Warns The U.S. About "Another Provocation" In Syria

Syrian FM: White Helmets Kidnapped 44 Children to Stage Chemical Attack in Idlib

Syrian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Walid Muallem have met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a visit to Moscow.
The visit is being held within the framework of the Syrian-Russian intergovernmental commissions.
"Russia is ready to increase its contribution to these tasks (the restoration of Syria and the solution of the issue with the return of refugees)," the minister said at a press conference following the talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem.

On Situation Around Idlib
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called the use of the de-escalation zone in Idlib by Al-Nusra* terrorists to attack Syrian and Russian forces "unacceptable."
"It is unacceptable that the terrorists who are entrenched there, primarily from the Nusra Front [a terrorist group banned in Russia], are trying to use this de-escalation zone to prepare attacks on the positions of the Syrian army and even for attempts to attack the Russian military base in Hmeimim using aerial drones," Lavrov said at a news conference following talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Moscow.

Moscow has warned the West that they should not play with fire by trying to create provocations in the Idlib area, Lavrov noted.
"Another provocation by the West is being prepared in order to try to obstruct the anti-terrorist operation in Idlib," Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Moscow.

Lavrov also stressed that the US attempts to establish "authorities" on the left bank of the Euphrates, as it may lead to Syria's split.

"The US presence in Syria has not only a military aspect… Simultaneously, our American colleagues are actively developing the eastern bank of the Euphrates, restoring infrastructure there, social and economic networks and even creating quasi-state local government bodies," he said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has warned of possible US-UK-French aggression and of disastrous consequences of Western attempts to destabilize the country.
Regardless of whether the US-UK-French attack happens or not, Damascus will accomplish its fight against terrorism, the minister noted
"We will do our best to avoid possible civilian casualties and generally avoid bloodshed," he said, noting that Al-Nusra front is trying to prevent such plans.
The US has lost to Syria in the military sphere, despite all its efforts, the Syrian foreign minister added.
On Possible Chemical Weapon Provocation
The White Helmets have kidnapped 44 children in Idlib to use in a staged chemical attack, according to the Syrian foreign minister.

"Behind the creation of the pseudo-organization the White Helmets, are the British special services: they sponsor them, they lead them. They were behind the organization of those fabricated scenarios for the use of chemical weapons and now they are preparing such a development of the situation with the use of chemical weapons in Idlib," Muallem stated.

He also stated that there is no need for the Syrian army to use chemical weapons, emphasizing that it doesn't possess such weapons.

Muallem noted that Damascus intends to expand its relations with Tehran.

Earlier this week, Russia's Defense Ministry warned that the leader of the Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group, which is affiliated with the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Nusra terror organization (banned in Russia), was planning a chemical attack against civilians in Idlib in order to provoke western nations into retaliating against Damascus.

Tensions Rising In Syria As Russia Holds Military Drills Including 25 Ships

Russia to hold Mediterranean drills as Syria tensions rise

Russia has announced major military drills in the Mediterranean Sea amid growing tensions over a rebel-held enclave in Syria.
The Defense Ministry told Russian news agencies on Thursday that Russia will deploy 25 ships, including a missile cruiser, and 30 jets for the maneuvers in the first week of September. The military says the drills will focus on anti-air and anti-submarine defense.
It says Moscow has notified international organizations of the drills, which may make it dangerous for aircraft and ships to operate in the area.

The drills were announced after NATO reported a Russian naval buildup in the Mediterranean.
Russia has provided crucial military support for Syrian government forces, which are expected to mount an offensive in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.

Idlib Assault 'Hours Away' - Russian FM Warns U.S. Not To Obstruct

Russian FM Lavrov Warns West "Don't Obstruct Anti-terror Ops" As Idlib Assault "Hours Away"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Lavrov has warned the West not to interfere in Syrian and Russian forces engaged in antiterror actions in the northwest province of Idlib: "I hope our Western partners will not give in to [rebel] provocations and will not obstruct an antiterror operation," he said.
This as Reuters reports that a planned "phased offensive" is imminent and as massive Syrian Army reinforcements and military convoys have been filmed this week heading toward the last major anti-Assad holdout. 
The offensive would initially target southern and western parts of the insurgent territory, but not yet Idlib city, said the source, an official in the regional alliance backing Assad.
“The final touches for the first stage will be completed in the coming hours,” the official added, without saying when it would start.

Lavrov called Idlib a "festering abscess" that needed to be “liquidated” of terrorists and jihadists, according to reports. 
"I hope our Western partners will not give in to [rebel] provocations and will not obstruct an antiterror operation," he said in comments made Wednesday.
Mention of "provocations" is a reference to Russian assertions this week that the al-Qaeda group that controls Idlib, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, is planning to stage a "chemical attack" incident in order to blame Syrian and Russian forces, in the hopes that the West will intervene militarily against Damascus

Russia now says it has staged its largest naval build-up in the Mediterranean since its entry into the war at the invitation of Damascus in 2015. 

Lavrov further mentioned Turkey in his Wednesday statements, saying Moscow was in contact with Turkey and the U.S. on the situation in Idlib, noting there is a "full political understanding" between Moscow and Ankara, though the Russian FM didn't provide details. 
Meanwhile, NATO has confirmed the large Russian battleship and naval presence off Syria's coast, and has called on all external powers to exercise "restraint"; and a United Nations spokesman has warned that "up to 800,000 people could be displaced and that the number of people who are in need of humanitarian assistance."
In statements made on Tuesday the US State Department reiterated to reporters the United States "will respond to any verified chemical weapons use in Idlib or elsewhere in Syria ... in a swift and appropriate manner."
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said further that senior U.S. officials have engaged with their Russian counterparts "to make this point very clear to Damascus" — that chemical weapons "will not be tolerated" — and could meet with massive military response. She also repeated that Assad would be held responsible.

Russian state sources on Wednesday cited the Russian Defense Ministry to say it has detailed intelligence confirming militants in Idlib are planning a chemical "provocation". Per RT News:
The Russian military has received information from several sources in Idlib Province that “a large supply of poisonous agents has been brought to the city of Saraqib on two trucks from the village of Afs,” Major-General Aleksey Tsygankov, head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria, said in a statement.
The chemicals were delivered to an arms depot, used by the militant group Ahrar al-Sham, “accompanied by the eight members of the White Helmets organization,” Tsygankov said, adding that the cargo was met by two high-ranked Ahrar al-Sham commanders.
Russia says that as Idlib's al-Qaeda groups face imminent defeat, they plan to stage an event to gain the attention of the West, which has already promised it will hit back at Syrian government positions
Analysts have predicted the Idlib campaign will be the bloodiest and longest grinding final battle of the war. 
But what should by now be obvious to all is this: Assad, on the verge of total victory, has absolutely no incentive whatsoever to commit the one act that would ensure his own demise after emerging victorious after seven years of war.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Iran Not Leaving Syria

Iran and Syria sign defense and reconstruction deal

Under deal, Iran will remain in Syria and assist in reconstruction, as well as defense cooperation with Syrian army; Report claims US offered to leave Syria if Iran withdraws from southern Syria- Assad rejects offer.

Syria and Iran signed a defense cooperation and reconstruction deal on Monday.
Iranian Defense Minister, Amir Hatami, met with both President Bashar al-Assad and Syria’s Defense Minister, Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, as part of his two-day visit in Syria. Hatami was quoted stating to the press on Monday that Iran will continue its presence in Syria and assistance of the Syrian army, stating “No third party can affect the presence of Iranian advisers in Syria.”
On Syria’s civil war and Iran’s commitment to its reconstruction, Hatami stated “Syria is at a very, very important juncture. It is passing through the critical stage and it is entering the very important stage of reconstruction.”
Meanwhile, reports surfaced in Arab media that the United States offered Assad to remove US forces from Syria if Iranian forces were to withdraw from southern Syria. The report, first released by Hezhollah’s Al-Akhbar, claimed that Assad rejected the offer following a secret meeting between a US defense officials with Syrian counterparts.
The report claimed that the American delegation also requested intelligence information on terrorism plots on the West, as well as rights for energy companies in southern Syria.
Israel has been clear that Iran’s presence on its borders is a red line. After ISIS and rebel forces were forced out of southern Syria last month, the Syrian army took over region for the first time in seven years. Not only does Iran’s military “advisors” assist the Syrian army, it has several research and production sites for missiles and chemical weapons, many of which has been hit by IDF strikes in the past two years. It also has planned and attempted to carry out attacks on Israel under the guise of the Syrian army.
Be sure to watch Amir’s most recent Middle East Current Events Update developments in Syria, Iran and much more!

Iran Prepares For War Against Israel

ANALYSIS: As Bolton and Netanyahu Discuss Syria, Iran Prepares for War Against Israel

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton was in Jerusalem for a three-day-visit this week.
The discussions between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Bolton mainly focused on Syria and on Iran’s entrenchment in the war-torn country.

Bolton revealed that Russia’s president Vladimir Putin had told president Trump he would be content if Iranian regular and irregular forces would be withdrawn from Syria but that he was not able “to do it himself.”
Trump’s envoy suggested the U.S. would work together with the Russian military to achieve the goal of a complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria and said he would bring up the issue with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev during a meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.
“So the point was that perhaps joint US-Russian efforts might be sufficient. Now I don't know if that is right either, but it is certainly one of the subjects I will be talking about with my Russian counterpart in Geneva tomorrow,” said during a press conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Bolton made clear that after the defeat of ISIS in Syria eliminating Iran’s presence in Syria was now the cornerstone of Trump’s Middle East policy.
The US military has thousands of Special Forces in areas controlled by the Kurdish-led  Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria and in the al-Tanf area in the vicinity of the Iraqi border in the eastern Syrian desert.
Those territories make up 30 percent of Syria’s landmass and the fact that the Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition hasn’t tried to ‘liberate’ those areas up till now is due to the American presence there.
Maintaining control over the Kurdish canton’s in north and north east Syria as well as keeping a foothold in eastern Syria is vital for the new US strategy for Syria and important for Israel which is very concerned about the Iranian activities in Syria.
At the beginning of August Iran finalized the creation of a land bridge which stretches from the Iranian border in the Nineve province, Iraq, via Syria all the way up to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.

This happened after the pro-Assad coalition finished off the last pockets of mainly Islamist resistance along the Jordanian and Israeli border in southern Syria.

“Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shiite militias reportedly played a key role in re-capturing the region along the border despite Russian assurances they would be kept away from the Israeli border and denials by the Assad regime the Iranian trained and funded forces were taking part in the battle,” we reported at the time.

This was later confirmed by Orit Perlov of the Institute for National Security Studies who wrote in a recent research paper how the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has transformed the Syrian military and is calling the shots in every major battle against rebels.

“Iran, not Russia, is the dominant actor in Syria,” Perlov wrote, while adding that the Islamic Republic “controls the Syria- Iraq and Syria-Lebanon border crossings, and tailors the re-organization of areas and communities based on an ethnic element.”

After the return of Assad’s forces to the area along the Israeli border became a fact Israel appears to have changed its strategy in Syria and is now appparently targeting commanders who are working with Soleimani on preparations for a future war against the Jewish state.

Iran, meanwhile, threatened to attack Israel again whenever the Trump Administration decides to embark on a military campaign against the Islamic Republic and continues building up forces which have to consolidate its foothold in both Iraq and Syria.
The Iranian-found Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias in Iraq has now seized the west of the Anbar province in Iraq which borders on Syria and the main routes to Syria while purging the area of anti-Iranian elements.
The new Hash al-Shaabi operation in Iraq is overseen by Suleimani who last week vowed Iran would crush the United States and was responsible for the founding of a new Syrian force dubbed the “Golan Liberation Brigade”.