US unloads LIBERTY PRIDE Ro-Ro ship in Jordan

Southwest Syria could be the next confrontation zone in Syria’s multiple regional wars. The US-Russian cease-fire agreement is collapsing, except in the buffer zone on the Iraqi-Jordanian border. The Syrian regime and its allies are making their way through to the Nassib border crossing and the Golan Heights. These new dynamics are altering the calculations of Jordan and Israel, while further weakening the armed opposition on the southern front.

On March 12, the Syrian military launched airstrikes on Daraa province, the first violation of the cease-fire agreement. Civilians began to flee these areas, as the Russian military is using scare tactics. Spokesperson of the Khmeimim base, Alexander Ivanov, had warned a day before on March 11 that “after securing the perimeters of the capital [city] Damascus, [we seek] to eliminate terrorists present south of the country.”

The United States promptly called for restraint and held an urgent meeting for the armed opposition groups operating under the Amman-based Military Operations Center, which has been inactive since late last year. Pro-opposition news websites have speculated that Washington is planning a wide-ranging military campaign in southwestern Syria.

However, a Pentagon official told Al-Monitor that the United States is focused on defeating the Islamic State (IS) in southeastern Syria and is “not involved in monitoring de-escalation zones.” This comment from the Pentagon is noteworthy, considering the presumed existence of the Amman Center for cease-fire control in southwestern Syria, which includes Quneitra, Daraa and Suweida provinces.

More importantly, the two major players in southwestern Syria — neighbors Jordan and Israel — have been surprisingly silent as the Russian-backed Syrian regime expands territorial gains. There might be Russian assurances to both countries that their interests will be preserved.

Jordan seems ready to move on

Jordan has for a while now had fatigue from the Syrian civil war and has recently failed to convince the Syrian armed opposition to transfer the Nassib border crossing to the Syrian regime. Amman is prioritizing the need to reopen this crossing to reinvigorate its economy. Russia is not sanctioning any attack in the Jordanian buffer zone near the Iraqi border where the US-controlled al-Tanf base is located. The Syrian regime is advancing along the Damascus-Daraa highway and is about to reach the Nassib border crossing.

Meanwhile, armed opposition groups on the southern front have been publicly talking about uniting their efforts to push back the Syrian regime and its allies; however, they have long been dependent on foreign support to operate. The armed groups operating in Daraa remain divided with no coherent military structure. This past January, the Revolutionary Army and the Sunni Youth Forces clashed in eastern Daraa, and a disengagement force had to be deployed between them. Furthermore, radical groups are benefiting from the chaos. Khaled bin Walid, which pledges allegiance to IS, attempted this week to advance from the Yarmouk basin toward the Jordanian border.

Amman’s ability to act in this turmoil is disabled by US-Russian tensions; hence, Jordan will most likely not pick winners in the race to control Daraa. The challenge is what will happen after the Syrian regime reaches the Jordanian border. Will the armed opposition launch an attack on the Syrian regime deployed along the Damascus-Daraa highway? Will the regime use the same tactics of eastern Ghouta by dividing the territories of rival armed opposition groups and compel them to make separate concessions? The collapse of the US-Russian cease-fire in southwest Syria undermines Jordanian interests, and Amman will now have to limit the damage.

Quneitra and Israel’s defiance

Israel continues to target the Syrian regime and Iranian proxies with Russian consent — or at least without Russian objection. What is remarkable, though, is the deafening Israeli silence and inaction as the Syrian regime has now reached the 1974 cease-fire line near the Lebanese-Syrian border.

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http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/03/us-cedes-southwest-syria-jordan-israel-hedge-bets.html#ixzz5Ahj3XCz4

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US seems busy in the east of Al Mayadin, Deir ez-Zor countryside, it is also reported Coalition’s intention to develope an advanced military base around al-Omar oilfield (2x Black Hawk)

Soldiers from the United States are preventing Syrian government troops from moving to the northern part of the country, especially the eastern zone of Deir-Ezzor, Russian Ministry of Defense (MINDEF).

One of the main directions in the work of Syrian authorities is the return to Deir-Ezzor, which is controlled by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, which are protected by the United States, the MINDEF said.

However, the U.S. troops deployed in that region prevent the resumption of work by Syrian state entities, the Russian Ministry noted.

It is impossible for the Syrians to return to the eastern region of the Euphrates River, due to the absence of bridges or other roads to reach the other shore, after they were destroyed by the U.S.-led coalition.

The MINDEF also accused the United States of preventing the passing of humanitarian convoys to the city of Raqqa, a former bastion of the Islamic State (IS) and attacked by the western coalition under the pretext of anhilitating that extremist group.

However, the Russian Ministry said that hundreds of bodies, of civilians mostly, remain under the rubble in Raqqa. The United Nations Human Rights Council had to recognize the worrying humanitarian situation in that city and the responsibility of the West in that case.

In addition, in the aforementioned city is affected by contagious diseases that may become an epidemic with the onset of the summer season, the MINDEF pointed out.

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“Straight outta Hasakah” US reportedly deploys fresh troops from north-east Syria towards Deir ez-Zor countryside (3x US UH-60 Black Hawk)

US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley has warned that the US will take action in Syria on its own if the UN Security Council fails to do so. The official cited last year’s attack on a Syrian airbase as an example of possible US action.
“It is not the path we prefer, but it is a path we have demonstrated we will take, and we are prepared to take again,” Haley told the UN Security Council meeting on Monday. “When the international community consistently fails to act, there are times when states are compelled to take their own action.”

When the Security Council “failed to act” after the Khan Sheikhoun chemical incident last year, the US “successfully struck the airbase from which Assad had launched his chemical attack,” Haley stated. It should be noted that the US attacked the base only three days after the incident, without any investigation into it, while the blame was promptly pinned on Damascus.

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Several T-72 tanks, BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers and Msta-S self-propelled howitzer spotted around Ufa, Russia heading west

Russia and NATO are escalating a war of words that could quickly devolve into an international arms race.

A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a bellicose speech boasting that his country has weapons that would render international missile defense systems “completely useless,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials shot back, calling the speech “unacceptable and counterproductive.”

“We do not want a new Cold War or a new arms race,” NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in a statement. “All allies support arms control agreements which build trust and confidence, for everyone’s benefit.”

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https://www.yahoo.com/news/russia-nato-launching-cold-war-173323725.html

 

 

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Iraqi government has recently sent (and keeps sending) hundreds of its troops, backed by Humvees, BMPs and Abrams tanks “to restore security and law” in Basra Province near Kuwait/Iran borders, where Saudi Arabia will re-open its consulate after 28 years

The Iraqi government announced that the Saudi Arabian consulate will open in the city of Basra within two weeks.

Under the direction of Saudi leadership, the consulate will be in a temporary location with its staff set to arrive to begin working soon.

The head of the Saudi delegation, Abdulrahman al-Shehri, who visited the Iraqi city on Sunday said that the consulate will open soon in order to provide needed services and facilitate pilgrimage and travel of investors between both countries.

An official from Basra’s Administrative Affairs office said in a press release that the city will facilitate all procedures in order to re-open the consulate as soon as possible.

The Saudi consulate in Basra had closed in 1990 during the second Gulf war. Basra is considered the second largest city in Iraq and hosts five other consulates which include the US consulate, Russia and Iran.

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http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/02/12/Saudi-consulate-to-re-open-in-Basra-Iraq.html

The Iraqi government yesterday sent hundreds of its troops, backed by armoured vehicles and tank, to the country’s southern province of Basra to restore security and law following an increase in tribal conflicts in the region.

The Basra Operations Command, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Khalaf, said that the troops included personnel from the federal police units.

Basra, near Iraq’s southern border with Kuwait, has long been the scene of inter-tribal battles over business disputes, questions of honour or even football matches.

With security forces deployed to the country’s north to battle Daesh, Basra residents caught in the crossfire say they feel abandoned. Residents of the province say security forces are powerless to halt the clashes.

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https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180209-iraq-sends-military-troops-to-basra-to-restore-security/

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Israeli military equipment, including Iron Dome missile defense systems, heading North towards Golan Heights

Israel’s cross-border clash with Iranian and Syrian forces on Saturday was a sharp escalation of long-brewing hostilities along its northern frontier — and a bracing alert to those who have focused on other areas of the Syrian civil war, on other aspects of Iran’s strategic assertiveness, or who believed that Israel’s air superiority left it invincible in its own skies.

In the space of several hours, Israel downed what it said was an Iranian drone that had penetrated its airspace, then struck back at what it called the command-and-control center in Syria from which Iran launched the drone. An Israeli F-16, returning from the attack, crashed in northern Israel after coming under heavy Syrian antiaircraft fire — the first Israeli jet downed under enemy fire in decades.

Israel responded with strikes against eight Syrian and four Iranian targets in Syrian territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the day’s events as proof of Israel’s resolve. “Yesterday we dealt severe blows to the Iranian and Syrian forces,” he said Sunday. “We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit. We will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us.”

But strategists and military analysts in Israel did not see things quite so simply. As both sides sift through the debris, here are some important points:

This isn’t over. It’s just beginning.

As the Syrian civil war winds down, a new conflict is emerging among Iran, which appears to want a lasting Syrian base to threaten Israel; Israel, which is determined to prevent this; and the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which showed renewed confidence in firing on Israel’s warplanes.

“We are seeing a renegotiation of the rules of the game with regard to the kind of military activity that each side tolerates in the other,” said Ofer Zalzberg, an analyst at International Crisis Group. “We will see more and more friction between the parties, given that we are seeing more and more this sense that Assad has the upper hand” against Syrian rebels.

Neither side can be expected to back down.

Israel believes it is vital to stop Iran, Hezbollah or other Shiite militias from threatening it with precision rockets from faraway corners of Syria, or with artillery and troops just beyond the disputed Golan Heights.

And Iran does not want its investment in rescuing Mr. Assad to have been for naught, and to have to bring its forces home, said Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council. “If Iran would move back to its bases, then Assad will have gotten what he wanted, the Russians will have gotten what they wanted — but what about them?”

Israel alone can’t stop Iran in Syria.

Israel has stopped neighboring countries from building nuclear facilities, but it has never tried to stop one from building up a conventional force, Mr. Eiland said. And it is unlikely, on its own, to succeed, even if it manages to slow down Iran’s efforts.

What Israel can do, Mr. Eiland said, is punish the Assad government for Iran’s buildup.

“We destroyed some Syrian targets, and that might create some tension between Bashar Assad and the Iranians,” Mr. Eiland said. “Assad is not interested in the Iranian presence; he just cannot say no to it. But if he and his regime are paying more of a price, maybe he can ask Iran to stop, or lean on the Russians to help.”

With the Trump administration looking to reopen the nuclear deal with Iran, Mr. Eiland said, Israel could try to bring its own security concerns into the mix of a new negotiation.

“The Americans and Europeans want to prevent Iranian long-range missiles from reaching Europe,” he said. “But from the Israeli point of view, Iran already has missiles that can cover Israel, so that’s much less important than Iran’s presence in Syria.”

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Ukrainian sources report an increase in military activity (T-64, T-72, BMP, MT-LB, 2S3 Akatsiya) around Kyiv both day and night

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have taken control over the village of Novo-oleksandrivka in Luhansk region, the settlement located in the so-called “grey zone”.

The advance saw no violations of the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian military say. “[The retaking of Novo-oleksandrivka] took place a few days ago.

Unfortunately, I cannot reveal details of the operation,” press secretary of the ATO Headquarters, Vasyl Labai, told UNIAN. “We are strengthening or re-building our defensive positions, while separate units can improve tactical positions in certain areas, but it is not about violating the Minsk agreements,” Labai said.

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https://www.unian.info/war/2376188-no-breaches-of-minsk-deal-as-ukraine-regains-more-ground-in-donbas-grey-zone-report.html