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A)A Chinese aircraft carrier docks at Tartus to support Russian-Iranian military buildup
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Date : 04/10/2015                      Reader : 171

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Debka          3-10-2015

A)A Chinese aircraft carrier docks at Tartus to support Russian-Iranian military buildup

B)Russian submarine with 20 ICBMs and 200 nuclear warheads is sailing to Syria

C)Putin’s offer to shield & develop Israel’s gas fields predated Russia’s military buildup in Syria

D)Russian marines join Hizballah in first Syrian battle – a danger signal for US, Israel

E)First Iranian marines land in Syria, link up with newly-arrived Russian troops

F)Russian troops already engaged in battle against ISIS around Homs

G)Russia eludes US ban on NATO airspace by roundabout route to Syria via Iraq and Iran

 

 

As US President Barack Obama welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping to the White House on Friday, Sept. 25, and spoke of the friendship between the two countries, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning-CV-16 docked at the Syrian port of Tartus, accompanied by a guided missile cruiser. This is revealed exclusively by DEBKAfile.
Beijing is not finding it hard to dance at two weddings, wooing the US for better relations, while at the same time backing Russia in its military intervention in Syria. Coupled with the warm smiles and handshakes exchanged at the lavish reception on the White House lawn, Beijing was clearly bent on showing muscle – not just in the South China Sea, but by allying itself with the Russian-Iranian political and military buildup in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime.   
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Chinese aircraft carrier passed through the Suez Canal on Sept. 22, one day after the summit in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
When they talked, Putin made no mention of the Chinese warship entering the eastern Mediterranean or its destination. Its arrival has upended the entire strategic situation surrounding the Syrian conflict, adding a new global dimension to Moscow and Tehran’s military support for Assad.
This was grasped at length by US Secretary of State John Kerry. On Sept. 25, he sent Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who also led the US negotiating team for the nuclear talks with Iran, to announce that the Obama administration is ready for dialogue with Iran about the situation in Syria, and this topic would be raised when Kerry’s met Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Jawad Zarif in New York on Sept. 26.
But if the top US diplomat hoped to bypass the Russian initiative in Syria by going straight to Tehran, he was too late. Iran is already moving forward fast to augment its military presence in the war-torn country, buttressed by the ground, air and sea support of two world powers, Russia and China.
This turn of evens has a highly detrimental effect on Israel’s strategic and military position. It also strengthens Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his determination to turn the nuclear deal concluded in July into a tool for isolating the US politically, militarily and economically in the Middle East, rather than a milestone on the road to a breakthrough in ties with Iran, as the Obama administration had hoped.
Our military sources find evidence that the Chinese forces are digging in for a prolonged stay in Syria. The carrier put into Tartus minus its aircraft contingent. The warplanes and helicopters should be in place on its decks by mid-November - flying in directly from China via Iran or transported by giant Russian transports from China through Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
This explains the urgency of establishing a Russian-Syria-Iranian “military coordination cell” in Baghdad in the last couple of days. This mechanism, plus the Russian officers sighted in Baghdad, indicates that the Russian military presence is not limited to Syria but is beginning to spill over into Iraq as well.
The coordination cell - or war room - was presented as necessary to begin working with Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting the Islamic State in both places. But more immediately, it is urgently needed to control the heavy traffic of Russian, Iranian and Chinese military flights transiting Iraqi air space.
Our sources report that the Chinese will be sending out to Syria a squadron of J-15 Flying Shark fighters, some for takeoff positions on the carrier’s decks, the rest to be stationed at the Russian airbase near Latakia. The Chinese will also deploy Z-18F anti-submarine helicopters and Z-18J airborne early warning helicopters. In addition, Beijing will consign at least 1,000 marines to fight alongside their counterparts from Russia and Iran against terrorist groups, including ISIS.
DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources point out that just as Russian marines will be instructed to single out rebel militias with recruits from Chechnya and the Caucasus, the Chinese marines will seek out and destroy Uighur fighters from the northern predominantly Muslim Chinese province of Xinjiang.
In the same way that Putin has no wish to see the Chechen fighters back in Russia, so too Chinese President Xi wants to prevent the Uighurs from returning home from the Syrian battlefields.
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B)Russian submarine with 20 ICBMs and 200 nuclear warheads is sailing to Syria

The world’s largest submarine, the Dmitri Donskoy (TK-208), Nato-coded Typhoon, has set sail for the Mediterranean and is destined for the Syrian coast, DEBKAfile reports exclusively from its military and intelligence sources. Aboard the sub are 20 Bulava (NATO-code SS-N-30) intercontinental ballistic missiles with an estimated up to 200 nuclear warheads. Each missile, with a reported range of 10,000km, carries 6-10 MIRV nuclear warheads.
The Russian sub set sail from its northern base on Sept. 4, escorted by two anti-sub warfare ships. Their arrival at destination in 10 days time will top up the new Russian military deployment in Syria.
President Vladimir Putin’s introduction of a nuclear force opposite Syrian shores builds up what first looked like an operation to fortify Assad’s regime in Damascus into a military expedition capable of an air and sea confrontation with US forces in the Middle East.
US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested as much Saturday, Sept. 5, when he expressed concern over reports of Russia’s “increasing military build-up in Syria” in a phone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The State Department reported: “The Secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL coalition operation in Syria.”
Kerry was referring to potential Russian interference with US-led coalition air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria.
DEBKAfile’s sources in Washington and Moscow report that the dispatch of a nuclear sub to Syrian waters is taken as a strong message that the Kremlin will not let the US impede its military intervention in the Syrian conflict and will go to extreme lengths to keep the way open for the flow of Russian troops to the war-torn country.
This situation has gone a long way beyond Obama administration intentions when US-Russian talks were initially held for US forces posted in Turkey and Iraq, together with the Russian troops arriving in Syria, to launch a combined effort against the Islamic State. Those talks came to naught.
In its coming issue out Friday, Sept. 11, DEBKA Weekly 678 will reveal for the first time how Putin intends to array the Russian forces he is consigning to Syria, their operational planning, their military coordination with Iran and, above all, how the new Russian intervention in Syria may impact US Middle East policy and Israel.
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C)Putin’s offer to shield & develop Israel’s gas fields predated Russia’s military buildup in Syria

 

More than a fortnight ago, Russian President Vladimir put a proposition to Israel for Moscow to undertake responsibility for guarding Israel’s Mediterranean gas fields, along with the offer of a Russian investment of $7-10 billion for developing Leviathan, the largest well, and building a pipeline to Turkey for exporting the gas to Europe, DEBKAfile reports. The offer was made to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in confidential phone conversations and through quiet envoys.
At the time, Putin did not share with Netanyahu his plans for an imminent buildup of marines, air force units, warships and missiles in Syria, although the plan had been worked out in detail with Tehran in late July. The Russian ruler put it this way: Leviathan abuts on the fringes of Lebanon’s economic water zone and is therefore vulnerable to potential sabotage by Iran, Syria or Hizballah, whether by commando or rocket attack.
A multibillion Russian investment in the field would make it a Russian project which neither Syria nor Hizballah would dare attack, even though it belongs to Israel.
But now the situation has assumed a different face. Russian forces are streaming to Latakia, and Moscow has declared the area from Tartous, Syria up to Cyprus closed to shipping and air traffic from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7 in view of a “military exercise including test firings of guided missiles” from Russian warships.
When he offered a shield for Israeli gas fields in late August, The Russian ruler knew that implementation would rest with Russian military forces on the spot, rather than Iranian and Syrian reluctance to harm Russian interests.
Then, on Aug. 30, Netanyahu discussed the new Russian proposition with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi when they met in Florence, in the context of the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s involvement in Middle Eastern and European energy business and his close ties with Putin.
Berlusconi and Netanyahu are also good friends.
The Israeli prime minister never explicitly confirmed to Putin that he would consider the Russian transaction.
He hesitated because he sensed that a deal with Moscow for gas projects would be unacceptable to Washington and Noble Energy of Texas, which holds a 39.66 percent share in the consortium controlling Leviathan, as well as stakes in the smaller Tanin and Tamar gas wells.
Meanwhile, two Israeli ministers, Moshe Kahlon, finance, and Arye Deri, economy, consistently obstructed the final government go-ahead for gas production, tactics which also held Netanyahu back from his reply to Putin.
But when the fresh influx of Russian troops and hardware to Syria became known (first revealed by DEBKAfile on Sept.1), Netanyahu began to appreciate that, not only had Israel’s military and strategic situation with regard to Syria and the eastern Mediterranean been stood on its head, so too had foreign investment prospects for development projects in Israeli gas.
Israel’s strategic landscape had in fact changed radically in four respects:
1.  Its government can no longer accept as a working hypothesis (which never, incidentally, held up) the short term expectancy of the Assad regime. The injection of Russian military might, combined with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces, have given Assad a substantial lease of life.
The Israel Defense Forces must therefore revamp its posture on the Syrian front, and reassess its sponsorship of the select rebel groups which are holding the line in southern Syria against hostile Iranian or Hizballah cross-border attacks on northern Israel.
The changing attitude was suggested in views heard in the last couple of days from top Israeli security officials, who now say that leaving Assad in office might be the better option, after all.
2.  The new Russian ground, air and sea buildup taking shape in Syria provides a shield not just for the Assad regime but also Hizballah. This too calls for changes in Israel’s military posture.
3.  The Russian military presence in Syria seriously inhibits Israel’s flexibility for launching military action against Iranian or Hizballah targets when needed.
4. Three aspects of the new situation stand out prominently:
a)  The Russian air force and navy are the strongest foreign military force in the eastern Mediterranean. The US deplloys nothing comparable.
b)  Israel’s military strength is substantial but no one is looking for a military clash with the Russians, although this did occur four decades ago, when Israel was fighting for its life against Russian-backed Arab invasions.
c)  In view of the prevalence of the Russian military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, it is hard to see any foreign investor coming forward to sink billions of dollars in Israeli gas.
d)  Although Russia called Saturday, Sept. 12, for “military-to-military cooperation with the United States” to avert "unintended incidents" amid its naval "exercises" off the coast of Syria, the tone of the call was cynical. It is more than likely that Moscow may revert to the original Putin offer of a Russian defense shield for Israeli gas fields. But with such strong Russian cards in place in Syria, he may well stiffen his terms for this deal.

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D)Russian marines join Hizballah in first Syrian battle – a danger signal for US, Israel

Before dawn on Thursday, Sept. 24, Russian marines went into battle for the first time since their deployment to Syria, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal. Russian Marine Brigade 810 fought with Syrian army and Hizballah special forces in an attack on ISIS forces at the Kweiris airbase, east of Aleppo.
This operation runs contrary to the assurances of President Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sept. 21 – just three days ago - that Russian forces in Syria were only there to defend Russian interests and would not engaged in combat with the Syrian army, Hizballah or Iranian troops.
The ISIS force defending the air base is dominated by Chechen fighters under the command of Abu Omar al-Shishani, who is considered one of the terrorist organization’s leading commanders in the last two years. The 27-year-old al-Shishani hails from the Chechen enclave of Pankisi in Georgia, like many others who joined ISIS from 2012.  
However, targeting Chechen fighters was not the only reason for the order given by Russian command in Syria to attack the air base.  In DEBKA Weekly 678 of September 11, we predicted that the first Russian mission in Syria would be to break the Syrian rebel siege on Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city.
As their first step, the Russians would have to prevent the cutoff of highway 5, running from Aleppo to Damascus, and keep it open for Syrian army reinforcements and military equipment to the city.
The offensive to regain Kweiris airbase that fell to ISIS in mid-June is the first step in the implementation of Russia’s operational plan for the Aleppo area.
Meanwhile, little substance was to be found in the reports appearing, mainly in the United States, suggesting that Putin, disappointed by the Obama administration’s unwillingness to send the US Air Force to collaborate with Russia in the fight against ISIS, would try to talk Obama round if and when they meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 28.
According to DEBKAfile’s sources, these reports were spread to cover up the serious crisis in the US war against ISIS.
While Russia poured troops and advanced hardware into Syria, establishing bases and launching offensive action, the US anti-Islamic State effort suffered a heavy blow with the decision of Obama’s ISIS war czar, Gen. John Allen, to step down in early November.
Sources close to the general were quoted as referring to his frustration “with the White House micromanagement of the war and its failure to provide adequate resources.”'
The fact that the Russian forces launched their attack on ISIS shortly after the announcement of Allen’s upcoming resignation shows that Putin is not waiting for US cooperation in the war on the Islamist terrorists.    That said, DEBKAfile’s military sources point out that the most ominous aspect for the US and Israel of the Russian attack on the Syrian airbase is that Russian marines were combined with Syrian and Hizballah special forces.
For the first time in 41 years, since the 1974 war of attrition against the IDF on the Golan, Russian troops are fighting alongside Syrian forces. It is also the first time that a world power like Russia is willing to go into battle with an acknowledged terrorist group, such as Hizballah.
Our sources point out that the joint attack was completely counter to the tone and the content of the comments exchanged by Putin and Netanyahu at their summit.
A full report on Russian military activity and strategic objectives in Syria, and a rundown of the content of the Putin-Netanyahu talks in Moscow appear in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out Friday, September 25.

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E)First Iranian marines land in Syria, link up with newly-arrived Russian troops

Iran this week sent its first ground troops to Syria, around 1,000 marines and elite troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). They moved straight into Ghorin, a small military air facility just south of the port town of Latakia, and hooked up with the just-landed Russian marines at Jablah. Three weeks ago, DEBKA file began reporting on Russian-Iranian military intervention afoot for saving the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, followed on September 1 by the first disclosure of the Russian buildup in Syria.
Our military sources report now that Moscow is about to send a shipment of advanced S-300 air defense missile systems for deployment at Jablah, the base the Russians have built outside Latakia for the intake of the Russian troops. The S-300 systems will also shield the Iranian facility at Ghorin.
Jablah has been converted into a busy depot for the Russian troops still arriving in Syria, combatants from units of Marine Brigades 810 and 336.
Russian MiG-31 interceptor craft standing by at the Mezza airbase at Damascus airport offer the combined Russian-Iranian force air cover. To the west, the giant Dmitri Donskoy TK-20 nuclear submarine is on its way to Syrian waters. Latakia is therefore fast growing into a powerful Russian-Iranian military enclave, able to accommodate Assad and top regime officials if they are forced to leave Damascus.
According to our military sources, it is too soon to determine the exact function of this enclave, whether defensive or, after settling in, the Russian and/or the Iranian forces are planning to go after Syrian rebel and Islamic State forces making gains in northern Syria.
There is no evidence to bear out the curious briefing high-ranking defense sources gave Israeli military correspondents Thursday that the incoming Iranian troops have come to beef up the large-scale Syrian army-Hizballah units, who have been unsuccessfully battering away at the rebel fighters holding the key town of Zabadani for nearly two months. Our sources find the Iranian and Russian units fully occupied for now in expanding and outfitting their new quarters at Ghorin and Jablah.

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F)Russian troops already engaged in battle against ISIS around Homs

Contrary to the impression conveyed by Moscow that Russian troops in Syria are not engaged in combat and that none of the sophisticated arms deliveries were destined to the Syrian army, new developments belie both these claims.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that on Wednesday, September 16, Russian R-166-0.5 (ultra) high-frequency signals (HF/VHF) vehicles were spotted on Highway 4, which links Homs and Aleppo. These vehicles, called “mobile war rooms” by the IDF and Western armies, were accompanied by BTR-82 troop carriers transporting Russian marines. The R-166-0.5 enables communication with forces located on battlefields as far as 1,000 kilometers away using high frequency and ultra-high frequency signals.
The communication systems are resistant to electromagnetic jamming so Russian forces operating deep inside Syria can report to their commanders at the main Russian base in Latakia or receive orders, intelligence data and even video from drones or planes.   
Another feature is a cylinder on the side of the vehicle containing a folded antenna that can be raised to a height of 15 meters.
The R-166-0.5 is an integral part of Russia’s battlefield operations, so it would not be deployed unless long-distance troop movements were underway. The appearance of those vehicles in the Syrian theater provides a clear signal of Moscow’s intentions.
Our sources point out that during the past few days, fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) succeeded in cutting off part of the highway between Homs and Aleppo for several hours. It marked a very dangerous development for the Syrian army and regime, because a permanent cutoff of Highway 4 would tighten the siege on Aleppo and possibly pave the way for the conquest of the second-largest city in Syria.
The movements by the armored vehicles show that the Russian troops are preparing to head into battle in order to prevent such a scenario.
Moscow has denied supplying new, sophisticated weapons to the Syrian army. However, a Syrian military source revealed Thursday, Sept. 17, that the Syrian military has recently started using new types of air and ground weapons supplied by Russia, underlining growing Russian support to Damascus that is alarming the United States and Israel. "New weapons – and new types of weapons - are being delivered,” said the source which described them as “highly accurate and effective.”  The army had started using them in recent weeks having been trained in their use in Syria in recent months. "We can say they are all types of weapons - be it air or ground," he said.
DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal that the Russian shipments for the Syrian army include MI-28 MIL assault helicopters (NATO-coded Havoc), an all-weather aircraft, which can also serve as an anti-tank weapon against the mostly US-made tanks fielded by ISIS and Al Qaeda's Nusra Front Syrian arm.
Our military and intelligence sources point out that Moscow has given itself room to maneuver in terms of its declared goals, telling Washington and Jerusalem during the past few days that its troops will defend their own interests if there is a need to do so. Thus, Russia aims to use its forces in any way that it deems fit.
DEBKAfile’s sources in Washington report an ongoing debate within the Obama administration regarding whether to accept the proposal that was raised during the telephone conversations this week between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Moscow proposed military-to-military talks on ways to prevent a confrontation between its troops in Syria and those of the US-led coalition, saying that the talks would provide a complete and clear understanding of Moscow’s intentions.
Unlike Kerry, who is in favor of taking the Russians up on their proposal, some circles in the administration feel that such talks would ultimately give Russia the green light for its military involvement and that Moscow is in the process of grabbing control of running all military operations in Syria, including those by other countries and groups.
Last week, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s al-Quds brigades, visited Moscow for the second time since April.  DEBKAfile’s sources in Moscow point out that this time, unlike his previous visit, Soleimani met with Russia’s National Security Adviser Nikolai Patrushev and a number of generals directly connected to the buildup in Syria, but not with President Vladimir Putin.
The developments in Syria will also take center stage when Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu meets with Putin in Moscow on September 21.

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Moscow has opened a new roundabout route for its ongoing military airlift from Sevastopol in Crimea and other bases in southern Russia to the Syrian Mezze Airbase in Damascus, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources disclose.
This route runs over the Caspian Sea and northern Iran and Iraq and terminates with deliveries at Damascus and the new Russian air and ground base at Jablah, near the Syrian port of Latakia.
The Russians have in this way circumvented the strong US applications to Turkey, Greek, Bulgaria and Cyprus, to close their airspace to Russian shipments for its military buildup in Syria.
Washington’s actions had two results – one less and the other more desirable.
1. Tehran and Baghdad have both been pulled into directly supporting the Russian military interventkion in Syria, after Iraq was bullied by Iran to turn down the US request to close its northern skies to Russian shipments.
Washington refrained from addressing this request to Iran, in keeping with its policy of avoiding strains on relations until the nuclear deal was endorsed in Washington and Tehran.
As a result, heavy Russian transports are flying over parts of Iraq where US forces, including ground intelligence teams for guiding US air strikes against ISIS, are deployed. This makes accidental collisions in the sky a real danger. The Americans have therefore slowed down their aerial war on ISIS.
2.  The need for a roundabout air route to Syria has substantially raised the cost of the Russian military expedition. A direct flight over the Mediterranean spans 1,025 km, which the Russian AN-124 (Condor) can cover in two hours. The long way round is three times as long – more than 2,900 km – and takes six hours.
Washington’s challenge to Moscow over air routes to Syria is their first military confrontation over Syria and the new Russian military buildup.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest warned Tuesday night, Sept. 8: “The Russian military buildup would risk confrontation with the counter-ISIL coalition that included the United States.”
He was repeating a similar warning issued a few days ago by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Explicit American threats of a military showdown with Russia over the Middle East is the sort of language not heard for four decades since the 1973 Yom Kippur War which Israel fought against Egypt and Syria.

 

 


 
 
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