Russian air defenses were beaten badly by Israeli forces in Syria on video — here are its excuses

Moscow’s red face after the abject failure of the much-vaunted Russian air defenses in Syria.

From Business Insider:

Moscow offered two explanations on Monday as to why its Russian-made Pantsir S-1 missile defense system embarrassingly took a direct hit during an Israeli airstrike last week.

“One is that it had already used up its ammunition reserve,” Aytech Bizhev, the former deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, said, according to RT. “The other is that it was simply turned off; it wasn’t battle ready.” […]

But questions remain.

For example, why was the system turned off and not strategically placed or camouflaged given that there had been back-and-forth strikes in the previous two days?

Also, did the Pantsir S-1 run out of ammunition before the strike or during it? The latter doesn’t seem to jive with Russia’s excuses, given that it wasn’t camouflaged and turned off. The former also appears strange considering that the operators would want a loaded system since Israel and Iranian forces had been trading strikes.

Whatever the reason as to how the Pantsir S-1 took a direct hit, it wasn’t good advertising for the Russian system at a time when Moscow heavily depends on foreign military sales to boost its flagging economy.

Read the whole thing …

Putin sits back as US, allies strike Syria

Just as well Putin is not as impulsively reactive as Trump, no doubt, would have been had the situation been reversed.

From AP News:

Facing a stark choice between engaging the United States, Britain and France in combat or passively watching them strike his ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin has opted for the peaceful route.

That cautious response may dent the Russian leader’s tough-man image but it won’t undermine his gains in Syria or erode his authority at home.

The Kremlin had warned Washington that Russia would fend off any strike that jeopardized its servicemen in Syria. The West respected that red line by giving advance notice of Saturday’s attack, just as it did a year ago when it struck a Syrian air base. Russia had sat idle back then, but this time, it had threatened to retaliate.

Such a clash could have quickly spun out of control—an extremely dangerous scenario that was widely compared to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the world narrowly escaped a nuclear conflict. […]

The Kremlin’s tight control over the media will help Putin avoid any significant damage to his carefully nurtured image of a strong leader.

In fact, his cautious stance could boost his popularity further amid fears of war that swept Russia. In recent days, state media have been offering tips on how to behave in a nuclear conflict and what supplies to take to bomb shelters.

Most Russians will now heave a sigh of relief and feel grateful to Putin for pulling back from the brink. State TV channels compared what they described as U.S. President Donald Trump’s reckless action with the responsible, statesmanlike stance taken by Putin.

Read the whole thing …

Trump at odds with Mattis on Syria military response

Thank goodness there was someone with a sense of proportion to reduce the risk of the situation spinning completely out of control.

From The National:

The Syria debate continued to heat up in Washington as different branches of US Government said they now have proof that the Assad regime carried out chemical weapons use attack.

Reports have also indicated that Donald Trump clashed with Secretary of Defense James Mattis over the scope and targeting mission of a potential US response.

Late on Friday, the White House held its fourth meeting this week to discuss Syria, attended this time by deputy Secretaries and advisers, according to spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Mr Trump called his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron earlier in the day. The two leaders have been coordinating very closely joint responses and actions on Syria and Mr Macron called the Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of speaking to Mr Trump.

But in Washington, the debate on US options intensified amidst reports that Mr Trump is at odds with his defence chief over the military options in Syria.

The US President “is prodding his military advisers to agree to a more sweeping retaliatory strike in Syria than they consider prudent, and is unhappy with the more limited options they have presented to him so far,” reported the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Unlike Mr Mattis who is concerned of retaliatory measures against the US and has been advocating a limited strike, Mr Trump “has been pushing for an attack that not only would punish the Syrian regime but also exact a price from two of its international patrons, Russia and Iran,” US officials told the paper.

Read the whole thing …

Trump supporters slam decision to launch strikes against Syria

Pushing Putin too far over Syria is the last thing America needs.

From The Hill:

Prominent supporters of President Trump are expressing skepticism over his decision to launch airstrikes against Syria, slamming the move as overly aggressive and unnecessary.

Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham both questioned Trump’s decision Friday to launch strikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack last weekend that the U.S. has attributed to the Syrian government.

Carlson noted the move was inconsistent with the president’s message during his 2016 campaign, and Ingraham said she found that intervention in other countries could be risky, as shown in the Iraq War, according to the Daily Beast.

Read the whole thing …

Trump supporters rip decision to strike Syria

Just last month, during a speech in Ohio, President Trump announced “that the U.S. military would be ‘coming out of Syria, like, very soon,’ according to a senior administration official and a U.S. official familiar with the matter.”

But then he went ahead anyway, and ordered the strike against Syria.

Now it appears Trump has seriously pissed off a number of his most loyal supporters for turning his back on the noninterventionist platform he campaigned on.

From Politico:

Some of President Donald Trump’s staunchest backers tore into his decision to attack Syria late Friday night, arguing it was unnecessary, reactionary and even Clinton-esque.

In tweet storms and video responses, they compared Trump’s decision to attack Syrian targets to actions taken by President George W. Bush or a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton.

“We lost. War machine bombs syria. No evidence Assad did it. Sad warmongers hijacking our nation,” tweeted conservative author and radio host Michael Savage. Savage also posted a video discussing the missile strikes, tearing into Trump’s decision.

There was a clear sense of disappointment among a certain strand of Trump supporter as the president announced a “precision strike” against the regime of Bashar Assad on Friday in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack last week.

The anguish came from supporters who latched on to Trump’s “America first” promise during the campaign. They argued that Trump’s decision undermined his promise to disentangle the U.S. from global conflicts, saying it reeked of the same old, same old.

Read the whole thing …

President Trump announces airstrikes on Syria


Donald Trump said on Friday evening he had ordered ‘precision strikes’ on Syria in retaliation for the ‘evil and despicable’ poison gas attack that killed at least 60 people on April 7.

‘A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,’ Trump said in a televised address from the White House.

‘These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,’ Trump said referring to Assad and his role in the chemical weapons attacks.’

Syrian TV reports that Syrian air defenses have responded to the US-British-French attack.

‘The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons,’ Trump said.

Trump said a combined operation with France and Britain was under way and that they were prepared to sustain the response until Syria stopped its use of chemical weapons.

But he said America does not seek ‘an indefinite presence’ in Syria and will look to pull out its troops once the Islamic State is totally defeated.

Trump said the three nations – the US, Britain and France – have ‘marshaled their righteous power.’

The Syrian capital was rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as Trump announced the retaliation.

Associated Press reporters in Damascus saw smoke rising from east Damascus early Saturday morning local time. Syrian state TV says the attack has begun on the capital, though it wasn’t immediately clear what was targeted.

Read the whole thing …

Trump chooses impulse over strategy as crises mount

From The Washington Post via msn:

In a White House known for chaos, the process of developing the U.S. response to the Syrian government’s alleged latest gas attack was proceeding with uncharacteristic deliberation, including several national security briefings for President Trump.

But then Wednesday morning, Trump upended it all with a tweet — warning Russia, the Syrian government’s backer, to “get ready” because American missiles “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ ”

White House advisers were surprised by the missive and found it “alarming” and “distracting,” in the words of one senior official. They quickly regrouped and, together with Pentagon brass, continued readying Syria options for Trump as if nothing had happened.

On Thursday, Trump left further questions. In a tweet, he added doubt to suggestions that military action in Syria was on a fast track.

“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” he wrote in a tweet that also noted U.S.-led battlefield successes against the Islamic State.

The Twitter disruptions were emblematic of a president operating on a tornado of impulses — and with no clear strategy — as he faces some of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, including Syria, trade policy and the Russian interference probe that threatens to overwhelm his administration.

“It’s just like everybody wakes up every morning and does whatever is right in front of them,” said one West Wing aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion. “Oh, my God, Trump Tower is on fire. Oh, my God, they raided Michael Cohen’s office. Oh, my God, we’re going to bomb Syria. Whatever is there is what people respond to, and there is no proactive strategic thinking.”

Read the whole thing …

Trump threatens Syria before allies are on board

“The president’s taunts took America’s closest allies by surprise Wednesday morning. The United States hasn’t even asked the United Kingdom for assistance in an attack.”

From The Daily Beast:

Donald Trump’s tweeted bluster that Russia should “get ready” for American missiles to hit Syria has outpaced a crucial U.S. ally’s current decisionmaking on military action against Damascus, The Daily Beast has learned.

Ever since Bashar Assad’s latest alleged chemical attack in Syria on Saturday, the U.S., France and Britain have scrambled to cobble together a concerted response. Russia, Assad’s patron, is taking a harsher stance against their anticipated strikes — substantially raising the prospect of a much larger conflagration between nuclear powers — which apparently prompted Trump to tap out a bellicose tweet telegraphing an imminent attack.

But that response in now ahead of where Trump’s allies are. A British diplomat familiar with the ongoing discussions on Syria told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that London had yet to decide on military action. That decision would come in response to a request from the U.K.’s allies. As of midday Wednesday, no such request had been made. The United States has not officially asked the United Kingdom for assistance in a Syria attack.

Trump’s Wednesday morning outburst on Twitter, a bit before 7:00 AM, came after reports that a senior Russian diplomat told a Hezbollah-run Lebanese TV station that Russia would blunt any U.S. strike on Syria. “The missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired,” said Alexander Zasypkin, Moscow’s ambassador to Lebanon, implying that Russia would attack U.S. Navy ships in the eastern Mediterranean, the likely source of cruise missile launches.

Zasypkin’s comments raised the stakes for a U.S. military strike of dubious legality to avenge the apparent chemical attack on the Douma suburb of Damascus. They came after Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution to investigate the Douma incident that left more than 70 people dead and 500 seemingly exposed to toxic chemicals.

And it was a signaled departure from the Russian response to the American military’s 2017 strikes on its ally in Damascus. Back then, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the cruise-missile attacks “a significant blow to Russian-American relations, which were already in a sorry state,” but took no further action.

Yet Trump appeared to take the threatened missile interception as a dare. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” he tweeted.

Read the whole thing …

U.S. strikes killed scores of Russia fighters in Syria, sources say

From Bloomberg:

U.S. forces killed scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria last week in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War, according to one U.S. official and three Russians familiar with the matter.

More than 200 contract soldiers, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base held by U.S. and mainly Kurdish forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region, two of the Russians said. The U.S. official put the death toll at about 100, with 200 to 300 injured.

The Russian assault may have been a rogue operation, underscoring the complexity of a conflict that started as a domestic crackdown only to morph into a proxy war involving Islamic extremists, stateless Kurds and regional powers Iran, Turkey and now Israel. Russia’s military said it had nothing to do with the attack and the U.S. accepted the claim. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the whole thing “perplexing,” but provided no further details.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on reports of Russian casualties, saying the Kremlin only tracks data on the country’s armed forces. Putin talked with U.S. President Donald Trump by phone Monday, but the military action in Syria wasn’t discussed, he said.

“This is a big scandal and a reason for an acute international crisis,” said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat and lawmaker who’s now an independent political analyst. “But Russia will pretend nothing happened.”

Russia Tells U.S. Military to Get Out of Syria

“Russia ramped up its calls for the U.S. military to depart from Syria on Thursday, contending it has no substantial reasons to be in the country and its presence there ‘must end.'”

The pentagon, however, has revealed its intention to keep troops in Syria even after the defeat of ISIS.

“We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon told Agence France-Presse earlier this month. “To ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS, the coalition must ensure it cannot regenerate, reclaim lost ground or plot external attacks,” he added.