A few hours ago I wrote an article for The Duran which, drawing on reporting by The New York Times, pointed out that the actual effect of the US missile strike on Syria has been to reduce US air operations in Syria as a result of the Russian decision to suspend the hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria.
I also pointed out that the reason for this is the presence of powerful Russian air defence missiles in Syria, and the uncertainty the US now has about Russian intentions following the suspension by the Russians of the hotline.
The Pentagon has now confirmed that US air operations in Syria have indeed been sharply cut back. This is what Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Pentagon press corps on Wednesday 12th April 2017
We have made adjustments to our operations to account for the potential tensions that resulted from the strikes that were conducted because of the Syrian regime’s chemical attack. But make no mistake, we do plan on continuing our operations and we do continue to look for ways to accelerate them. It’s just appropriate to make sure that you’re taking appropriate measures to account for that. We don’t want to be reckless and we don’t want to have some type of incident that would cause a miscalculation, or some type of unintended incident. The intent is to get back as quickly as possible to our normal operations and as fast a pace as we can manage.
This comes alongside Pentagon confirmation that over the past week the US led anti-ISIS coalition has carried out only 123 air strikes around Raqqa, ISIS’s “capital” in eastern Syria, as opposed to the more than 7,800 strikes which were conducted over the course of March.
One of US Secretary of State Tillerson’s primary objectives in Moscow was to get the hotline reopened. That this is so was confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov during his joint news conference with Tillerson following Tillerson’s meeting with Russian President Putin. Lavrov confirmed that Tillerson sought Putin’s agreement to re-instate the hotline. Contrary to some media reports, it is clear from Lavrov’s comments that the hotline remains suspended, and that Putin imposed conditions on its reinstatement
We also very thoroughly discussed the situation with regard to our air forces with the U.S.-led coalition and the Russian forces, and we talked about the de-confliction memorandum during the operations in Syria. You know that this was halted, but President Putin confirmed our determination to put it on track again, confirming that the main aim, of course, is between these forces of the coalition and the Russian forces is to combat Jabhat al-Nusrah and other terrorist organizations and ISIL, of course.
(bold italics added)
In other words Putin told Tillerson that Russia would reinstate the hotline only after it received categorical assurances from the US that US forces would henceforth concentrate their fire on the Jihadi terrorists – Jabhat Al-Nusra (ie. Al-Qaeda) and ISIS – and not on the Syrian military. Until that happens the hotline remains closed and US air operations in Syria remain hobbled. What this means in turn is that it is the Russians who have leverage over the US, and not the other way round, a fact which partly explains why all the talk of US ultimatums to Russia has amounted to precisely nothing.
The sharp reduction in US air operations in Syria as a result of the Russian decision to suspend the hotline is a matter of indisputable fact confirmed by the public record, including the Pentagon’s own statements and the reporting of The New York Times. It has also been confirmed by the Belgian authorities, who have suspended operations by the Belgian air force supporting the US in Syria entirely.
It is a deeply regrettable fact that this is not being widely reported – a fact which is fostering an incomplete and distorted view of the crisis – but to pretend that it has not happened or that it is not happening is delusional and an exercise in denial.
Whether the US anticipated the Russians would respond in this way before it launched its missile strike is another matter, but it is the situation it is having to deal with now.
Meanwhile, that it is the Russians who hold the advantage is confirmed by the fact that though the US has been forced to scale down sharply its air operations in Syria since the missile strike, air operations by the Russian and Syrian air forces in Syria continue unabated.
Before leaving this subject I will touch briefly on claims that the reason most of the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles the US launched against Sharyat air base missed their target was because the Russians jammed their guidance systems.
This suggestion was discussed at length by The Saker in this article, in which he says the following
Explanation B: The Russians could not legally shoot down the US missiles. Furthermore, it is incorrect to assume that these cruise missiles flew a direct course from the Mediterranean to their target (thereby almost overflying the Russian radar positions). Tomahawk were specifically built to be able to fly tangential courses around some radar types and they also have a very low RCS (radar visibility), especially in the frontal sector. Some of these missiles were probably flying low enough not to be seen by Russian radars, unless the Russians had an AWACS in the air (I don’t know if they did). However, since the Russians were warned about the attack they had plenty of time to prepare their electronic warfare stations to “fry” and otherwise disable at least part of the cruise missiles. I do believe that this is the correct explanation. I do not know whether the Russian were technically unable to destroy and confuse the 23 missiles which reached the base or whether a political decision was taken to let less than half of the cruise missiles through in order to disguise the Russian role in the destruction of 36 missiles. What I am sure of is that 36 advanced cruise missile do not “just disappear”. There are two reasons why the Russians would have decided to use their EW systems and not their missiles: first, it provides them “plausible deninability” (at least for the general public, there is no doubt that US signal intelligence units did detect the Russian electronic interference (unless it happened at very low power and very high frequency and far away inland), and because by using EW systems it allowed them to keep their air defense missiles for the protection of their own forces. Can the Russian really do this?
Take a look at this image, taken from a Russian website, which appears to have been made by the company Kret which produces some of the key Russian electronic warfare systems. Do you notice that on the left hand side, right under the AWACs aircraft you can clearly see a Tomahawk type missile turning around and eventually exploding at sea?
How this is done is open to conjecture. All that we are told is that the missile is given a “false target” but for our purposes this really does not matter. What matters is that the Russians have basically leaked the information that they are capable of turning cruise missiles around. There are other possibilities such as an directed energy beams which basically fries or, at least, confuses the terrain following and or inertial navigation systems. Some have suggested a “kill switch” which would shut down the entire missile. Maybe. Again, this really doesn’t matter for our purposes. What matters is that the Russian have the means to spoof, redirect or destroy US cruise missiles. It sure appears to be that for the first time these systems were used in anger.
This may indeed be what happened, and I would not personally be at all surprised if it was. It is for example well-established that the Russians have deployed the Krasukha-4 jamming system to Syria, and it may be that the failure of so many of the Tomahawk cruise missiles was the work of this system.
However there is no official confirmation of any of this from the Russians, and in the absence of such confirmation this story is not a fact but is rather extremely well-informed speculation, which as is clear from his article is all the Saker claims it is.
In the meantime, until some confirmation for this theory comes from the Russians, I cannot accept this story as confirmed, and I cannot treat reports drawing on anonymous Syrian sources supposedly confirming it as authoritative and necessarily true.
The USA, according to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, he who ordered the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah, Iraq, is about to take a major step towards direct intervention in support of the Saudi Arabia war on the Yemeni people.
According to Jeffrey St. Clair, Editor of Counterpunch, this war has already seen 90,000 Saudi airstrikes on Yemen, or one every 12 minutes, 123 a day for two years now. With direct US military involvement it will only get worse for the USA has been limiting its involvement to fueling, arming and target selection for the Saudi military.
The UN and the international media claim only 10,000 or so deaths in Yemen but this just doesn’t add up. If there have been 90,000 airstrikes that means that only one Yemeni is killed for every 9 strikes? They must take us for idiots, or more likely, just to ignorant and brainwashed to know better.
One airstrike is a big deal, for it involves the use of several thousand kilograms of high explosives, enough to incinerate an entire village. And then there are the cluster bombs in their thousands, and the hundreds of markets bombed…so if only 2 Yemenis have been killed per air strike then we are talking upwards of 180,000 dead Yemenis and counting.
Doesn’t this match the toll for the first two years of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and isn’t just going to get worse with US involvement? There is a huge crime being committed in Yemen and the UN and its cronies in the so called “human rights movement” are helping cover it up with their ridiculous death statistics.
Never mind the tens of thousands of Yemeni children already dead and buried from the US backed Saudi enforced starvation blockade of food and medicine to the Houthi homeland.
The US has to protect its national interests in controlling the Bab Al Mandab chokepoint between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean through which passes the trade of the two biggest international partners, Europe and Asia.
The US may have become a second tier trading partner but militarily “Mad Dog” Mattis is not going to sit by and lose control of the region. The US has a airbase in near by Djibouti and most likely planning permanent bases in Yemen to aid the incoming onslaught of US military might.
Already moves are underway to increase direct US military involvement in Somalia, the other key link in controlling the “Gate of Tears”. First comes Mad Dog Mattis calling for an increase in airstrikes, then on the ground coordinators, “training officers” and in the end, direct military intervention by the US, as Somalia itself continues to be rocked by insurgency and famine. What possible good can come from an aerial onslaught on the Somali people by the American Luftwaffe, who so called “smart bombs” seem to inevitably find targets containing Somali women and children.
Famine to the left of Bad Al Mandab, famine to the right of Bad Al Mandab, it seems a famine policy is being enacted by Pax Americana and its lackeys at the UN when it comes to the Horn of Africa.
So expect no mercy when it comes to the US military directly involving itself in Yemen. Drone strikes will continue, most likely based directly in Yemen, though does Pax Americana really want to give ISIS and Al Qaeda an available target by putting American boots on the ground in Yemen?
And always off shore lurks the the US Navy’s Indian Ocean Fleet and its base at Diego Garcia, striking without warning anywhere they choose in Yemen, never mind the dead women and children by now in the hundreds of thousands. Many tens of thousands of new airstrikes, so many that the munition makers in the US are putting on 24 shifts. The US airbase at Camp Lemonierre in Djibouti will be ramping up operations and the US will be taking out of mothballs their bases in Saudi Arabia. It is as if the War on Iraq is being fought all over again, except this time against the poorest, hungriest of the Arab peoples, the Yemenis.
Saudi Arabia is stuck in a quagmire in Yemen, easy to get into and very difficult to get out of, just as Egypt did in the 1960’s, what President Nasser was to call “Egypts Vietnam”. The US recognizes that fact that the Saudi war is going nowhere, with out a single major objective recaptured since the start of the war. Al Qaeda and ISIS are growing in strength, taking advantage of the vacuum of power existing in the Sunni communities in Southern Yemen who are actually fighting for independence. The so called “Government” of Yemen, if you can call a government based in a foreign country any such thing, is little more that a mouthpiece, with no effective fighting forces on the ground in southern Yemen thanks to the Saudis failing to provide the salaries of its fighters. No pay, no way, their families have to eat so its back to doing whatever it takes to buy food for their wives and kids and that was the end of “Governments” army.
So its South American mercenaries guarding the UAE facilities, Saudi troops and a handful of Sudanese troops caught between the battle hardened Houthi fighters and their allies in the Yemeni army loyal to former President Saleh and Al Qaeda and ISIS with all hell to pay.
What is the US going to do, sit back and watch their strategic partner in West Asia, or asset really, the Saudi’s, stuck in a swamp of their own making with no apparent way out?
The USA seems intent on going where history has proven only catastrophe awaits, into the tribal conflict in Yemen. As a result the world should expect half a million or more dead Yemenis in this war against the Houthi tribes and their supporters as well as untold starvation deaths of Yemeni children.
But no matter the unimaginable suffering the Yemen people suffer, their tribal differences must be put aside, as in reunification in 1990, and lift themselves out of the failed state they exist in today. There are those who do not want this to happen, for crisis management is the policy of the USA when it comes to the Horn of Africa, as in help create a crisis the better to manage control of such an international critical choke point, the Ban Al Mandab. The USA prefers chaos to a strong, independent Yemen able to interfere in Pax Americana’s control of the Gate of Tears.
*(Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks with representatives of key military and veteran support organizations at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 12, 2017. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/ flickr)