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Once it became clear that Moscow and Tehran had jointly planned the incursion in Syria with Russia promising full air support and Iran pledging ground troops from Hezbollah, its various Shiite militias, and the IRGC, we immediately suggested that Iraq was next on the agenda after the Assad regime is restored.
For those unfamiliar with the situation on the ground, we encourage you to read “Who Really Controls Iraq? Inside Iran’s Powerful Proxy Armies,” in which we outline the extent to which Tehran effectively controls both the Iraqi military and the politicians in Baghdad.
The US allows this because i) there’s really not much Washington can do about it, and ii) even if there was, it would mean first trying to root out Iranian influence on the political process and second attempting to separate the Shiite militias from the Iraqi regulars, which would only serve to weaken the country’s ability to resist Sunni extremists like ISIS. The other important thing to understand about Iran’s proxy armies in Iraq is that they are the very same militias fighting alongside the Russians in Syria (we mean “very same” in the most literal sense possible as they were called over the border by Quds commander Qassem Soleimani himself). This means they are Washington’s allies in Iraq but as soon as they cross the border into Syria, they become the targets of US-supported and supplied rebels battling at Aleppo. Obviously, that makes absolutely no sense and is emblematic of just how schizophrenic Washington’s Mid-East strategy has become. It’s also worth noting that these are the same Shiite militias who, with Tehran’s blessing, attacked US troops in Iraq after George Bush destroyed the US-Iran post-9/11 alliance by putting the country in his infamous “Axis Of Evil” (see here for more).
Meanwhile, flying missions over Iraq is the logical next step for The Kremlin in Russia’s bid to supplant the US as Mid-East superpower puppet master. One would be hard pressed to come up with a more humiliating scenario for Washington than for the US to be effectively kicked out of the country it “liberated” over a decade ago by Vladimir Putin on the excuse that try as they may (or may “not”, depending on how prone you are to conspiracy theories), the Americans are apparently not very good at fighting terror.
Just like in Syria, Russian airstrikes would be supported by Iran-backed fighters on the ground, and thanks to the IRGC’s grip over Iraqi politics, Moscow would find Baghdad very receptive to Russia’s presence in the country.
The US knows all of this of course and in an effort to get out ahead of the situation, Washington sent Gen. Joseph Dunford (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) to Iraq this week to issue what can only be described as a petulant, childish ultimatum to PM Haider al-Abadi. “It’s either us, or the Russians,” Abadi was told, although not specifically in those terms. Here’s what Dunford actually said:
“I said it would make it very difficult for us to be able to provide the kind of support you need if the Russians were here conducting operations as well. We can’t conduct operations if the Russians were operating in Iraq right now.”
Although the PM purportedly pledged not to request Russian assistance, anyone who’s followed the story knows Dunford’s trip was far too little, far too late.
ISIS has been running amok in Iraq for more than a year and the US appears powerless to stop them. As we noted, there are several theories as to why Washington is so intent on keeping Moscow out. The common sense theory that requires no conspiratorial ruminations says that the US is desperate to avoid ceding Baghdad to Russia and the Pentagon knows that with Iran already effectively in control of the army and the government, Russia would find a very receptive military and political environment. For those inclined to think that in addition to any initial support (i.e. funding and training prior to the official formation of ISIS), the US is still supporting Islamic State, well then the worry for Washington is that Russia simply wipes them out.
Whatever the case, Iraq has apparently had just about enough of it and indeed, one of the reasons Dunford made the trip was that last week, Abadi said he would “welcome Russian airstrikes.” Throw in the brand new intelligence sharing center in Baghdad jointly staffed by Russia, Iran, and Syria and it’s pretty clear that despite what Abadi might have told Dunford to reassure the Pentagon, the “red” coats (if you will) are indeed coming.
Sure enough, according to Turkey’s state run Anadolu Agency, Russia has now received permission from Iraq to target ISIS convoys coming from Syria. Here’s more:
The Iraqi government authorized Russia to target Daesh convoys coming from Syria, a senior Iraqi official said.
The authorization for Russia to target Daesh inside Iraq comes amid security coordination between Iraq, Russia, Iran and Syria.
Hakem al-Zamli, chief of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that the measure contributed to weakening Daesh by cutting off its supply routes.
That will be just the beginning. We assume the whole “convoys from Syria” language is an effort on Baghdad’s part to make it sound like this isn’t a green light for Russia to take over the skies above Iraq but one certainly wonders how Washington intends to respond given that Abadi just told Dunford Iraq wouldn’t allow this to happen.
And that’s not all.
Russia has now created yet another intelligence sharing cell in the Mid-East, this time in Jordan as Moscow and Amman are set to work together to rout ISIS. Here’s RT:
Russia and Jordan agreed to create a coordination center in Amman, which will be used by the two countries to share information on the counter-terrorism operations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
Russia is already in touch with Iran, Iraq and Syria through a Baghdad-based center used for the same purpose.
Lavrov said Jordan would play a positive part in finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict through negotiations between Damascus and opposition forces, an outcome that Russia itself is pursuing.
“Under an agreement between His Majesty King Abdullah II and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the militaries of the two countries have agreed to coordinate their actions, including military aircraft missions over the Syrian territory,”Lavrov said. His Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh said the center would serve as an efficient communication tool for the militaries of the two nations.
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S.Nasrallah to Israel, US, Takfiris & Al Saud: We’re People of Jihad, Resistance
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah appeared in person at the end of Ashura procession in Beirut’s Dahiyeh on Saturday vowing to win the battle against Israel, the US, Takfiris and Al Saud, reminding them that ‘we are the supporters of Imam Hussein, we are the people of Jihad and resistance.’
Sayyed Nasrallah“We will never be humiliated; we are the people of Jihad and resistance. We won’t be moved by Israeli or Takfiri threats. We’ll work day and night for the dignity of all our people,” Sayyed Nasrallah said on Ashoura Day, paying condolences to all people on the martyrdom of Imam Hussein saying: We’ll keep on crying blood for Imam Hussein instead of tears.
Sayyed Nasrallah saluted all martyrs’ families, wounded fighters and all supporters who never let the resistance down. He also saluted the steadfastness, loyalty, bravery.. of the resistance fighters who are sacrificing their selves for this path.
The Secretary-General vowed the continuation of Jihad against the US-led war, adding that neither [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu nor his ancestors would prevent the resistance from getting weapons to counter any crap out of ‘Israel .‘
“We will continue our jihad in the face of the Takfiri project and we will defeat them as we defeated Israel,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.
Concerning the Iraqi issue, Sayyed Nasrallah called on Iraqis not to bet on the Americans or any other deceiver in this world, saying, “We look forward to the victory of the Iraqi people against ISIL. We urge them not to bet on the US or the West. You have the enough courage to win against them all in the name of Imam Hussein (AS).”
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On Friday, Sputnik News, RT International, the Jordan Times and Reuters said Russian and Jordanian officials agreed to establish a “special working mechanism” to share information on counterterrorism operations in Syria.
“Under an agreement between His Majesty King Abdullah II and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the militaries of the two countries have agreed to coordinate their actions, including military aircraft missions over the Syrian territory,” Sergey Lavrov explained. He urged other nations to join their coalition against a common enemy.
Jordan’s communications minister Mohammad Momani said “military cooperation…between (both countries) concerns southern Syria and aims to ensure security of the Kingdom’s northern frontier.”
“Jordan remains an active member of the international coalition fighting the Da’esh terror group.” Coordination between both countries isn’t new, he added. It’s been developing for some time at all levels.
Reuters said “Moscow’s deal with Jordan could mark a shift in the alliances engaged in the Syria conflict.” Jordan’s ambassador to Moscow Aiad al-Majali said establishing a “special working mechanism” to share information on Syrian operations increases military cooperation between both countries to an unprecedented level.
“It will not be just in a format of informations exchange,” he explained. “(W)e see a necessity ‘to be on the ground’ as Jordan has a border with Syria.”
“(W)hen it comes to combating terrorism, we have to” increase Amman/Moscow cooperation. Discussions have been ongoing for some time. How this affects US regional operations remains to be seen.
Jordan is a longtime US ally, an Israeli one since their October 1994 peace treaty, both countries at the time pledging neither would let its territory be used as a staging ground for military attacks by a third country, a promise broken practically before the ink was dry………….sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Western think tanks have been working relentlessly to try and counter Russia’s geopolitical masterstroke in Syria, which has clearly taken most strategists in the West by complete surprise. Reading through the analysis by these think tanks on Russia’s role in Syria, one is starkly reminded of how immoral Western foreign policy actually is, when you remember that these organisations are freaking out because Russia is bombing terrorists! Obviously, the reason why they are so distraught is because Russia is bombing the West’s terrorists, which they have been using as proxy armies to try and force regime change in Damascus (a strategy that has completely failed).
Potential countermeasures are the subject of a recent article for the Brookings Institution written by Pavel K. Baev, a nonresident senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings, titled: Russia’s Syrian entanglement: Can the West sit back and watch? Baev suggests that “the decision to withdraw the batteries of Patriot surface-to-air missiles [from Turkey] must be cancelled”,before arguing that the US and its allies could bomb “Hezbollah bands around Damascus”:
Finally, the United States and its allies could deliver a series of airstrikes on the Hezbollah bands around Damascus. That would be less confrontational vis-à-vis Russia than hitting Assad’s forces. Hezbollah has already suffered losses in the Syrian war and is not particularly motivated to stand with Assad to the bitter end, away from [its] own home-ground in Lebanon. (Israel would appreciate such punishment, too.)
Striking Hezbollah may not have the desired effect Baev seems to envisage however, as this belligerent action is as likely to galvanize the group and ensure it will fight “to the bitter end” with the Syrian army, than encourage it to scale back its involvement in Syria. Airstrikes on Hezbollah could also potentially provoke a response against the perpetrators of the violence, further escalating a conflict that already involves a plethora of regional and international powers. Furthermore, many people would consider an attack on Hezbollah to be essentially an attack on Iran, as the Lebanese based group is funded by Tehran and closely aligned with the country.
The Syrian army intensified countrywide attacks on terrorist groups and won back several strategic regions in Aleppo, Hama, Sweida, Lattakia, Homs and Idlib provinces over past 24 hours.
The army units backed by Hezbollah fighters and the Russian air force repelled the militant groups on multiple fronts.
Local officials said that tens of militants were killed or wounded in heavy clashes with the Syrian Army troops near the Air Force Academy on the outskirts of the city of Aleppo.
The sources said that the militant groups suffered heavy casualties in the abovementioned clashes, and their ammunition depot, military equipment and vehicles were destroyed by the army heavy fire on their positions.
The Syrian Army and popular forces on Friday repelled massive attacks of the al-Nusra Front to seize control over the government forces’ supply route to the Northern city of Aleppo.
The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front launched massive assaults against the positions of government forces to take control over the Khanasser Highway, but they failed due to the strong reaction of the Syrian army troops positioned in the area.
The attack began when al-Nusra conducted an assault on the Syrian army’s defense lines to the East of Al-Si’in to cutoff the road from the strategic town of Ithriya to the Khanasser Highway; if al-Nusra was successful in this military endeavor, they would have successfully positioned themselves to obstruct this important roadway.
Meantime, the Syrian Army and popular forces, in a series of joint operations, pushed back militants from al-Jabboul village in Eastern Aleppo on Saturday, bringing the number of the villages liberated in the Northern Province in last three days to 17.
The terrorist groups pulled back forces from the al-Jabboul village and its nearby areas after their positions came under heavy attacks of the Syrian army and popular forces.
The militants also suffered heavy casualties in the army troops’ attacks.
Jeish al-Fath militant group’s strongholds in Kafr Zeta in Hama province came under heavy air raids by the Syrian air force on Saturday, local sources said, adding that the massive aerial bombing has inflicted large casualties on the terrorists.
Kafr Zeta was the scene of massive airstrikes of the Syrian warplanes, which bombed the militant gathering centers, resulting in destruction of the terrorists’ hideouts and military equipment, the sources said.
The sources further added that the militant groups sustained heavy death toll in the air attacks.
Also on Saturday, the sources said that the ISIL Takfiri terrorists’ hideouts in Tal Mahsar village near al-Hamra town were targeted by the Syrian jets, in which the militants’ ammunition depots were destroyed.
In the meantime, the Syrian warplanes carried out airstrikes on ISIL hideouts in the villages of Rasm al-Tineh, Dabaret al-Dibeh, East of al-Sheikh Hilal, South of Ethria and Uqairibat in the Eastern countryside of the Hama province, leaving many terrorists killed or wounded and a long convoy of their military vehicles destroyed.
Syrian Air Force fighter bombers carried out several sorties over the militants’ positions in the Northeastern parts of Sweida province, and targeted their razed their positions and facilities to the ground.
The militant hideouts in Tal Sa’ad and Khirbet Sa’ad in the Southern province of Sweida were targeted by the Syrian fighter jets, in which the terrorists’ ammunition depots, military equipment and logistic vehicles were destroyed.
The Syrian Army announced on Saturday that its forces have advanced against the militant groups in parts of the coastal province of Lattakia and recapture the strategic Hills of Katef al-Ghader after heavy clashes with the terrorists.
Militant strongholds in the Hills of Katef al-Ghader in Lattakia Mountains were stormed by the Syrian army troops, who killed and wounded the militants positioned across the hills and retook full control over the fighting area.
Spokesman for the Syrian Army General Ali Maikhoub said on Friday that at least 300 militants have been killed by the country’s soldiers in various battlefronts of the coastal province of Lattakia.
“More than 300 terrorists were killed in Lattakia province,” Maikhoub said, added, “Our troops have control over Jub al-Ahmar and the Salma village.”
Syrian fighter jets’ continued bombing of the militant groups’ positions in the Central Province of Homs left scores of the terrorists dead or wounded and their military equipment destroyed, the Syrian army said on Saturday.
The sources said that the Takfiri terrorists’ hideouts and a rocket launching pad were destroyed as a result of the Syrian air force’s airstrikes on their positions in al-Rastan North of Homs city.
The sources further added that the militant centers also came under the Syrian warplanes’ attacks in al-Ghanto and Talbiseh, resulting in heavy casualties of the terrorist groups.
Also in Saturday, the Nusra strongholds in the surroundings of Tirmaala and Jawalik towns were massively bombed by the Syrian warplanes, which resulted in destructions of the militant sits’ infrastructures and ammunition depot.
Three senior commanders of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front were killed in a bomb attack on the group’s meeting in the Northwestern province of Idlib.
The local activists identified the warlords as Abu Zubayr Al-Sham, Abu Dujana Al-Ansari and Abu Al-Nasir Al-Jazrawi.
Al-Jazrawi was a Saudi national and the highest ranking commander in this group of killed al-Qaeda emirs.
No one has thus far claimed responsibility for the bombing; however, al-Nusra and their affiliated-faction “Jund Al-Aqsa” have recently been the target of criticism from their allies in “Jeish Al-Fateh” (Army of Conquest) due to their unwillingness to combat the ISIL.
The Syrian Army announced on Saturday that its troops stormed the positions of the militant groups in the Southwestern province of Quneitra, and retook Dahret al-Kassar and al-Seria al-Rabe’a areas after heavy clashes with the terrorists.
The army said that its soldiers alongside popular defense forces seized back Dahret al-Kassar in the countryside of the Quneitra province.
The army added that the militant centers in al-Seria al-Rabe’a came under heavy offensives of the Syrian forces, which resulted in the killing and wounding of dozens of the militants and recapture of the area.
Also, at sunrise on Saturday morning, the Syrian Army’s 90th Brigade of the 9th Armored Division, in coordination with Fouj Al-Joulani (Golan Regiment) and Liwaa Suqour Al-Quneitra (Al-Quneitra Hawks Brigade) of the National Defense Forces (NDF), launched a counter-assault at the 4th Battalion Base outside of the town of Taranjah, resulting in a series of intense firefights with the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front Brigades.
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