A Map Of The Syrian War: Who Is Who (And Where)

On Thursday, just 24 hours before Trump ordered airstrikes on Syria for the second time in just over a year, we said that “with war likely set to break out in Syria at any moment, a question many Americans are asking is… where is Syria?

We then added that “geographical challenges aside, it is safe to say that the situation in Syria is extremely fluid, and changing on an almost daily basis” which is why we showed several strategic and tactical snapshot maps of Syria as of this moment.”

Fast forward to Friday night, when at exactly 9pm ET on Friday 13, Trump announce that war airstrikes on Syria have once broken out, as expected, and for those who may have missed the various tactical and strategic maps of the Syrian theater, here they are again.

The first and most useful one, courtesy of Turkey’s Omran Dirasat think tank, shows updated areas of control and influence in Syria by international military forces with reference to the most prominent international military sites in Syria.

The second map, from Dirasat employee Nawar Sh. Oliver lays out the control and influence zone in Syria as of April 2018, revealing the relative % of gains and losses in the last 24 days.

Finally, from the regional political journal, Suriye Gündemi English, here is a map showing the latest military situation as well as location of key military bases in Syria ahead of the expected US strikes.

Russia Responds: “We Are Being Threatened. A Predesigned Scenario Is Being Implemented”

After the a joint force of US, French and UK fighter jets and ship launched an attack which as Mattis said, “used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year”, and amid unconfirmed reports that the Syrian air force managed to shoot down one or more Tomahawk missiles, the question everyone was asking is whether Russia has responded, and if so, how.

The answer, for now at least, is that Russia has not activated a response, although that may soon change.  Here is the statement from Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anataloy Antonov, posted on Facebook:

The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard.

A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.

All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.

Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.

The U.S. – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries.

Despite repeated warnings from Russia, President Trump ordered American forces, along with their British and French allies, to strike military targets in Syria on Friday night; as noted previously, during a press conference late on Friday, General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Russian military operating in Syria was not notified about the American targets in advance told reporters following the attacks.

The US “specifically identified” targets to “mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved,” Dunford said. “We used the normal deconfliction channel to deconflict airspace. We did not coordinate targets.”

While Trump said that the purpose of the US actions is to “establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons,” Antonov reminded that “the US – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries.”

The combined decision by the US and its allies to strike Syria comes after Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Major-General Igor Konashenkov presented evidence claiming that last Saturday’s alleged chemical attack in Douma was orchestrated.

The attack also comes just hours before experts from the UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were scheduled to visit Douma on Saturday to determine whether chemical weapons had indeed been used there. That particular trip is now moot.

Visualizing The U.S. States Most Vulnerable To A Trade War

Last year, nearly $4 trillion of U.S. economic productivity was the result of international trade.

However, as Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins notes, with talk of a trade war heating up once again (Russia and China), , there is a real possibility that the global trade landscape could shift dramatically over the coming months and years.

Any such shifts wouldn’t likely impact the country in a uniform and evenly distributed fashion – instead, any impending trade war would pose the largest direct risk to states that are dependent on buying and selling goods on international markets.

THE STATES MOST AT RISK

Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it shows every U.S. state and district organized by GDP size, as well as percentage of GDP resulting from international trade.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Here are the 10 states most reliant on international trade:

On a percentage basis, Michigan tops the list with 38.9% of the state’s GDP reliant on international trade.

THE LOWEST RISK STATES

On the flipside, here are the states or districts with less to lose in the event of a trade war.

Washington, D.C. tops the list, with only 1.5% of its regional GDP tied to trade.

This makes sense since The District’s economy is mostly linked to the government, service, and tourism sectors. Nearby Virginia also has surprisingly little international trade, at just 8.9% of its economy.

Want to see more on international trade? See the numbers behind the world’s closest trade relationship in this infographic.

Army Major Exposes America’s Circle Of Absurdity: Killing The Extremists We Create

Authored by Major Danny Sjursen via TruthDig.com,

The U.S. military remains mired in countless wars in the Greater Middle East. Ironically – and tragically – it tends to combat Islamists that Washington either armed or birthed.

We, Americans, truly are a strange lot. Our government in Washington – ostensibly representative of “We the People” – speaks of peace, but wages endless war, prattles on about “freedom,” but backs absolute monarchs and authoritarian strongmen the world over. A bipartisan array of politicians warns of the evils of radical Islamic (though Islamist is more accurate) terrorism; and yet, truthfully, the US once supported and/or funded those same extremists not too long ago. In some cases, and certain circumstances, it backs them still; until, that is, all those guns are turned on the US military, or those fighters threaten Washington’s (ever shifting) “interests.”

Perhaps, one imagines, there are lessons here: be careful who you arm; be careful where you meddle; today’s “friends” are, all too often, tomorrow’s enemies; and, in the turbulent Middle East, sometimes less is more.

Washington would do well to remember that before its next – and there will be a next – intervention.

Russia, it seems, is once again center stage in the Middle East. Congressmen and Senators – usually neocons or hawkish liberal interventionists – warn that Russia is “running wild,” or will “win” Syria. In fact, they argue, the US military must stay put in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, indefinitely one presumes, to block potential Russian gains. US troops must also back assorted proxies, even some nefarious characters, in order to deter Russian efforts in the region.

The whole presumption, of course, is flawed and simplistic. We are led to believe geopolitics is a simple zero-sum game, whereby any “gain” for Russia (or Iran) is somehow a “loss” for the United States. Much evil, and plenty of mistakes, stem from such warped assumptions.

The thing is, the historian in me has seen this movie before, and knows it ends badly. A generation raised on post-9/11 alarmism regarding terrorism and the (admittedly real) dangers of political Islam, might be surprised to know the US once backed many of these very same Islamist zealots in the name of countering the then Soviet Union. It was fear of the looming Russian bear – and the competition for oil – that first brought the US military into the region in a serious way.

US Central Command (CENTCOM), which controls all US servicemen in the Greater Mideast, was only formed in the early 1980s, largely in response to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (1979) and the ostensible threat of a broader Soviet armored assault straight south to the Persian Gulf. Of course, no such danger ever really existed; nor was it very plausible. Nonetheless, Washington took action, which heralded just the most extreme version of the sad, recurring, tales of US support for Islamists. Fighters, who, more often than not, would later turn their guns, bombs, (and box cutters on 9/11!) on America.

The US supported, funded, and armed (including with surface to air missiles) the Afghan mujahedeen – many of whom were Islamist zealots – throughout the 1980s. It also backed its long time frenemy, Saudi Arabia, which acted as patron for the Arab extremists who flocked to the Afghan jihad. The various mujahedeen, many of whom were rather extreme, morphed into warlord militias after the defeat of the Soviets. The excesses of these venal warlords in the 1990s, and the refugee crisis that landed millions of unemployed youths in various squalid camps, led directly to rise of the Taliban. Many of the Taliban’s senior leaders had previously fought the Soviets, often with US weapons or support.

We all know the next part of the sordid tale: Arab volunteers who had fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, returned to the Mideast radicalized, confident, and – after US troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 – increasing anti-American. A popular leader of these “Afghan Arabs,” as they were called, was one young Saudi named Osama bin Laden.

You’d think contemporary policymakers would learn from and heed this warning. By and large, though, they have not.

US support for the Saudis continues, and, in fact, stretched way back to the 1940s – in a devil’s bargain of oil for arms and influence that remains in effect. Even in conflicts that preceded the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979-1988), the U.S.-backed Saudis tended to support the forces of Islam (often of the Saudis’ own extreme Wahhabi variety) against secular Arab nationalist and/or socialist regimes from North Africa to South Asia.

The US, frankly, was then more concerned with “radical,” secular, Arab nationalists such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. In Yemen’s Civil War in the 1960s, American-backed Saudis supported religious, royalist forces against the secular nationalists backed by Nasser. Furthermore, throughout that era – and even today – our Saudi “allies” invested billions in mosque construction and the propagation of their own intolerant brand of Wahhabi Islam across the Greater Middle East.

Think on that for just a second. The US spent most of the Cold War backing religious kingdoms and organizations against the very, albeit authoritarian, secular movements we now purport to favor. Furthermore, the Saudis – second only to Israel among America’s regional allies – were busy spreading the toxic Islamism we’ve spent the last 17 years combating.

Worse still, since 9/11 (and remember 15/19 of those hijackers were Saudis) the US track record is just as dismal, with America’s military all too often battling Islamists we once armed or helped create. In 2001, there existed only one truly transnational terror threat group with the aspiration and capability to attack the US homeland: Al Qaeda. More than a decade and a half later, such Islamist groups have only proliferated in response to US military interventions

Most of the groups the US military now fights – and I’ve spent a career combating – are an outgrowth of, or reaction against, American actions in the region. Talk about counterproductive. It borders on the absurd!

Consider just a few examples:

  • In Iraq, today, the US combats the remnants of ISIS. ISIS didn’t even exist on 9/11. There were no Iraqis on those planes, and Saddam had no serious relationship with Al Qaeda. The local AQ franchise only grew and gathered recruits in response to the wide perception of US neo-imperialism. Then, years later, ISIS, the most radical offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was birthed in that ultimate incubator of Islamist extremism: US military prisons. The rest, so they say, is history.

  • In Yemen, the US is complicit in the Saudi terror bombing and blockade. In addition to killing civilians, instigating a famine, and contributing to the spread of cholera, this war has only empowered the main AQ affiliate in the area: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). While US planes are refueling Saudi jets which bomb local Houthi “rebels,” the campaign all but ignores AQAP. If anything, they’re bombing the wrong people! This group, mind you, has been labeled the Al Qaeda affiliate most dangerous to the homeland.

  • In 2011, President Obama authorized what he’d later label a “shit show:” bombing and regime change in Libya. Muammar “Mad Dog” Gaddafi was certainly an unsavory character, but toppling him without a plan for the day after only further empowered regional Islamism. The country split into rival statelets, tribal fighters migrated south with a veritable arsenal of weapons, and too often joined or backed West African Islamist militias. And, well, you guessed it, US troops are now fighting, and dying, combating those very groups in Mali, Cameroon, and Niger.

  • In Syria, the US is mopping up ISIS and trapped between several hostile actors: Turkey, Russia, Iran, Assad’s regime, and various non-ISIS Islamist groups. The crazy thing is, our Saudi frenemies sent boatloads of cash and weapons to many of these Islamist fighters. In fact, even US arms – intended for so-called moderate rebels – ended up in the hands of the local Al Qaeda franchise, the Nusra Front.

The disturbing truth is, that I, and most professional soldiers in the post-9/11 military, have almost never fought the enemy who’d attacked the US in the first place: Al Qaeda, that is. For the most part, US troops spent the last two decades combating Afghan farm boys, African tribal militias, local Arab Islamists, and various franchises of ISIS – the true Frankenstein’s monster of the global war on terror.

I recount this dismal record for a specific purpose: to warn. To warn against shortsighted interventions or carelessly working through regional proxies.

Today’s convenient friend is too often tomorrow’s sworn enemy.

We reap what we sow, and, in the stormy Middle East, more often than not, the US sows chaos.

Russia Has “Irrefutable Evidence” UK Staged Syrian Chemical Attack

As the blame game over the alleged chemical attack in Syria escalates ahead of what is expected to be an imminent, if contained, air strike campaign by the US, UK and/or France against Syria, on Friday morning, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow had “irrefutable evidence” that the attack – which allegedly killed more than 40 people in an April 7 chemical weapons strike on the former rebel outpost of Douma  -was staged with the help of a foreign secret service.

“We have irrefutable evidence that this was another staged event, and that the secret services of a certain state that is now at the forefront of a Russophobic campaign was involved in this staged event,” he said during a press conference according to AFP.

Speculation that said “certain state” was the UK was confirmed shortly after, when Russia’s defense ministry alleged that Britain was involved in the suspected chemical attack. According to defense ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Kremlin has evidence that Britain was behind the attack.

Quoted by Reuters, he said: “We have… evidence that proves Britain was directly involved in organising this provocation.”

As RT further adds, the Russian Defense Ministry presented what it says is “proof that the reported chemical weapons attack in Syria was staged.”

It also accused the British government of pressuring the perpetrators to speed up the “provocation.” During a briefing on Friday, the ministry showed interviews with two people, who, it said, are medical professionals working in the only hospital operating in Douma, a town near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

During a briefing on Friday, the ministry showed interviews with two people, who, it said, are medical professionals working in the only hospital operating in Douma, a town near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

In the interviews released to the media, the two men reported how footage was shot of people dousing each other with water and treating children, which was claimed to show the aftermath of the April 7 chemical weapons attack. The patients shown in the video suffered from smoke poisoning and the water was poured on them by their relatives after a false claim that chemical weapons were used, the ministry said.

“Please, notice. These people do not hide their names. These are not some faceless claims on the social media by anonymous activists. They took part in taking that footage,” said Konashenkov.

“The Russian Defense Ministry also has evidence that Britain had a direct involvement in arranging this provocation in Eastern Ghouta,” the general added, referring to the neighborhood of which Douma is part. “We know for certain that between April 3 and April 6 the so-called White Helmets were seriously pressured from London to speed up the provocation that they were preparing.”

According to Konashenkov, the group, which was a primary source of photos and footage of the purported chemical attack, was informed of a large-scale artillery attack on Damascus planned by the Islamist group Army of Islam, which controlled Douma at the time. The White Helmets were ordered to arrange the provocation after retaliatory strikes by the Syrian government forces, which the shelling was certain to lead to, he said.

The UK rejected the accusations, with British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce calling them “grotesque,” “a blatant lie” and “the worst piece of fake news we’ve yet seen from the Russian propaganda machine.”

One of the interviews published by the ministry showed a man who said his name was Halil Ajij, and who said he was a medical student working at Douma’s only operational hospital. This is how he described the origin of the footage:

“On April 8, a bomb hit a building. The upper floors were damaged and a fire broke at the lower floors. Victims of that bombing were brought to us. People from the upper floors had smoke poisoning. We treated them, based on their suffocation.”

Ajij said that a man unknown to him came and said there was a chemical attack and panic ensued. “Relatives of the victims started dousing each other with water. Other people, who didn’t seem to have medical training, started administering anti-asthma medicine to children. We didn’t see any patient with symptoms of a chemical weapons poisoning,” he said.

The first photos claiming to show the aftermath of the alleged chemical attack on April 7 were published online on the same day, and featured the bodies of many people, including children, some with foam around their mouths and noses. Footage from the hospital was released on Sunday, with the sources behind it claiming that it had been shot on Saturday.

Konashenkov said Russia hoped that international monitors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is due to investigate the circumstances of the incident, will help establish the truth. He added Eastern Ghouta is currently trying to return to peaceful life after being liberated from militant groups by Syrian government forces. He called on other nations and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid, which is badly needed in the area. Russia is already supplying food, medicine, building materials and other essential supplies to the neighborhood, he said.

Residents of the neighborhood, who previously fled violence, are returning to their homes now that the area is relatively safe, the Russian official said. The latest reports from the ground say about 63,000 people have returned, which is over half of the displaced residents, he added.

The reported chemical weapons attack escalated tensions over Syria, just as Damascus was about to seize full control of Eastern Ghouta. The US and allies such as the UK and France threatened military action in response to what they claim is an atrocity committed by the Syrian government. Russia insists the incident was staged and said it reserves the right to counter any attack on Syria.

RT also spoke about the Russian claims with Lord Alan West, a retired officer of the British Royal Navy. He said he had strong reservations about taking allegations against Damascus at face value, because it didn’t make much military sense.

“It seems to be utterly ludicrous for the military that is in the process of taking over an area to go and do something with chemical weapons, which will draw the wrath of the larger enemy down upon them,” he said. “If I was advising the opponents of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, I would be delighted to kill a few people there. Let’s face it, [the insurgents] don’t care if they kill women and children.”

“I am not willing to accept tweets. We need to see incontrovertible truth about what has happened there and make a decision on that basis,” he added.

* * *

On Wednesday, Russia made the first allegation that the chemical attack was staged by Western powers, in this case by the infamoous “white helmets,” a US-funded NGO lauded by mainstream media for their humanitarian work, while long-suspected of performing less-than humanitarian deeds behind the curtain

Speaking with EuroNews, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizov, said “Russian military specialists have visited this region, walked on those streets, entered those houses, talked to local doctors and visited the only functioning hospital in Douma, including its basement where reportedly the mountains of corpses pile up. There was not a single corpse and even not a single person who came in for treatment after the attack.”

“But we’ve seen them on the video!” responds EuroNews correspondent Andrei Beketov. “There was no chemical attack in Douma, pure and simple,” responds Chizov. “We’ve seen another staged event. There are personnel, specifically trained – and you can guess by whom – amongst the so-called White Helmets, who were already caught in the act with staged videos.”

Russia said previously that it sent experts in radiological, chemical and biological warfare – along with medics, in order to inspect the Eastern Ghouta city of Douma where the attack is said to have taken place. 

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the experts “found no traces of the use of chemical agents,” following a search of the sites, adding “All these facts show… that no chemical weapons were used in the town of Douma, as it was claimed by the White Helmets.” 

“All the accusations brought by the White Helmets, as well as their photos… allegedly showing the victims of the chemical attack, are nothing more than a yet another piece of fake news and an attempt to disrupt the ceasefire,” said the Russian Reconciliation Center. 

* * *

In any case, if Russia indeed has “irrefutable evidence”, it is probably just a matter of time before it is made public in an attempt to sway public opinion, ideally before the Syrian airstrikes begin afresh. If confirmed, it would be a major slap in the face of neo-con forces across “western democracies”, if hardly a shock: after all the US using a fabricated pretext to wage war or simply to effect a much needed distraction from domestic affairs, in the middle east is a painfully familiar narrative.

Meanwhile, as we wait for Trump to announce what happens next, late on Thursday we reported that US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Defense Secretary James Mattis are reportedly feuding over the strategy in Syria, with Mattis favoring a more cautious approach, even as France and Britain are crafting broad strike plans and are willing to pursue any military strategy, even though as noted, a readout of a Thursday phone conversation President Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May suggests that military action may be days away, instead of hours.

The Rise Of Japan’s Android Population: “When Abnormal Becomes Normal”

Authored by MN Gordon via The Economic Prism blog,

One of the unspoken delights in life is the rich satisfaction that comes with bearing witness to the spectacular failure of offensive and unjust system.  This week served up a lavish plate of delicious appetizers with both a style and refinement that’s ordinarily reserved for a competitive speed eating contest.  What a remarkable time to be alive.

Many thrilling stories of doom and gloom were published across the tops of the finest digital news sites.  The main object of our satisfaction, however, was buried further down the pages, well below the latest Trump tweets and relentless reports on the global war buildup.  Nonetheless, our focus is not without merit.

Today’s foil is played by Bank of Japan (BoJ) Governor, Haruhiko Kuroda.  If you’re ignorant of Mr. Kuroda, we apologize.  What follows shall forever end your bliss.

You see, Kuroda and his cohorts at the BoJ have been surfing the razor’s edge, executing policies of mass money debasement, for several decades.  In fact, their forward thinking ways – and good intentions – have become a source of national pride.  There’s not a deranged monetary policy idea the Japanese brain trust hasn’t pioneered in the name of saving the nation from itself.

Negative interest rates.  Direct purchases of Japanese stocks via exchange traded funds (ETFs).  Government sponsored shopping sprees.  They’ve tried it all.  And they’ve tried a lot of it.  All to suspend the deflationary effects that followed the bursting of a cheap credit induced asset bubble that popped nearly 30 years ago.

Brutal Trifecta

Kuroda, and those who came before him, have gone about their business with steady hands, blind eyes, and a zealous belief that they could increase wealth by increasing the supply of money.  Indeed, our hats are off to them; their track record’s unblemished.  They’ve achieved a 100 percent success rate of failure.

By all accounts, the Japanese economy’s stagnated over the last quarter century.  At the same time, government debt has jumped up and off the chart.  The last we checked, Japan’s government debt had exceeded 250 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

This, no doubt, is an amazing achievement.  It more than doubles, on a percent basis, the U.S. government debt to GDP ratio of roughly 105 percent.  Moreover, it pushes the limits of honest comprehension into dishonest comprehension.  There’s no other way to understand it.

By this, consider that the way Japan’s government debt has eclipsed 250 percent of GDP is through massive central bank asset purchases.  Specifically, the BoJ owns 41 percent of the Japanese government bond market.  They buy government bonds with money they, in effect, create from thin air.

Yet Japan also has another preeminent distinction.  The country is pioneering precisely what happens to an economy that has an aging population, burdensome debt obligations, and stagnating growth.  Taken together, these factors compose a brutal trifecta.

Rise of the Japanese Androids

Japan’s aging demographic trend generally precedes the European Union by about 5 years and the United States by roughly 9 years.  Japan’s government debt trend precedes the European Union and the United States by about 10 years, give or take.  How will Japan pay its massive debt bills when its population is projected to fall by about one-third by 2065?

Obviously, something’s got to give.  Once it has become impossible for a government to service its debt one of two things can happen.  The government can humbly default on its debt.  Or the government can attempt to inflate it away.

Can you guess what the government of Japan, and most western economies including the U.S.A., will do?  If you guessed the latter, you get a gold star for your answer.

So it was with this context that we happened across several clarifications from Kuroda on how Japan would one day have to consider normalizing its ultra-stimulative monetary policy.  Here are several of Kuroda’s notable utterances, which were delivered in his inaugural news conference after being reappointed for another five-year term as head BoJ banker:

“We’ll do our utmost to hit our price target.  But we’ll also need to eventually consider kicking off a process towards policy normalization.

“I think the process of any shift (from easy policy) would be cautious and gradual, as with U.S. and European central banks.”

Question: When does the abnormal become normal?

Surely, after nearly 30 years of abnormal monetary policy, the abnormal is now the normal – right?

We suspect the BoJ will never, ever remove its finger prints from the country’s money and credit markets.  They’ll keep pushing and pushing until no market’s left at all.  By then the Japanese android population – which is well on the rise – will far outnumber the human population.

Without question, this is where an abnormal money system takes you.  It takes you straight to an abnormal world.

Trump Orders Military Strikes On Syria: 3 Waves Of Airstrikes Launched

Summary:

  • Around 9pm ET on Friday, April 13, the US, UK and France launched attack on Syrian regime targets
  • Strikes targeted regime bases and chemical weapon production facilities in Damascus and Homs
  • The Strikes consisted of 3 waves of attacks and are now complete
  • Russia was not pre-notified about tonight’s “kinetic activity”
  • Double the number of weapons was used compared to last year’s Syria strike, when 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched.
  • Regime and Russia condemn what they call a ‘flagrant violation’, but have not retaliated so far.
     

 

Update 7:  Russia responds. Here is the full statement posted by Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anataoly Antonov:

 

The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard.

A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.

All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.

Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.

The U.S. – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries.

Update 6: The White House has released the list of US demands from Assad regime  

  • Dismantle the chemical weapons program
  • Declare the weapons  
  • Destroy the stockpile
  • Allow OPCW fact-finding mission
  • Comply with the de-escalation zone

* * *

Update 5: Video showing the moment a tomahawk missile hits a research facility in Syria:

* * *

Update 4:  Joint Chiefs chairman Dunford said that while the strikes sought to minimize risk of Russian casualties, the US did not pre-notify Russia of the Syria strikes; separately Mattis said that double the number of weapons used compared to last year’s Syria strike – when 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched.

More from Dunford:

  • “We did have some surface-to-air missile activity from the Syrian regime.”
  • “The US did not pre-notify Russian forces in Syria about tonight’s kinetic activity.”
  • “Russia was alerted of Syria strikes through “deconfliction” line in Qatar”
  • “U.S. forces in Syria did make adjustments to force protection levels ahead of the combined air operations against the Syrian regime.”
  • “This wave of airstrikes is over. More information will follow in the morning.”
  • “Manned aircraft involved in Syria operation”
  • “Pentagon will brief tomorrow will more strike details”

And Mattis:

  • “We used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year…We were very precise and proportionate, but at the same time, it was a heavy strike.”
  • “I am confident the Syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on innocent people.”
  • “Right now we have no more attacks planned”

* * *

Update 3: at 10PM ET, Defense Secretary Mattis and Joseph Dunford, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff provided the Pentagon’s update, repeating that U.S., British and and French forces struck Syrias chemical weapons infrastructure tonight. Mattis said that “Clearly, the Assad regime did not get the message last year. This time, our allies and we have struck harder.”

Mattis adds that “I want to emphasize these strikes are directed at the Syrian regime. In conducting these strikes, we have gone to great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties.”

Then, Dunford said that the first target was a Syrian research facility, and adds that the US selected targets that would minimize risk to innocent civilians. He adds that attacks on multiple sites of Syria chemical weapons infrastructure “inflicted maximum damage.”

In total, Targets were specially associated with the Syrian regime’s CW program. These included:

  • Scientific research center in the greater #Damascus area.
  • Chemical weapons storage facility west of #Homs.
  • Chemical weapons equipment storage facility and command post west of #Homs.

The third target, which was in the vicinity of the second target, contained both the chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post.”

Meanwhile, the White House said that the US is confident the Syrian regime was behind the chemical weapons attack, based on:

  • media sources
  • victims’ symptoms
  • videos
  • “reliable information indicating coordination between Syrian military officials before the attack.”

* * *

Update 2: Witnesses are reporting explosions heard in Damascus, including residential areas, although the first wave of US, UK and French attacks is allegedly targeting the following:

  • Republican Guard headquarters
  • Military airbases
  • Chemical weapon production sites

Meanwhile, Reuters adds that a total of three scientific research centers struck in the attack.

According to media reports in addition to American ships, Tomahawk missiles and aircraft – including B-1 bombers, leading the attacks, four British Tornado GR4s have targeted a military facility in Homs with Storm Shadow missiles.

While unconfirmed, Syria state TV claims that it shot down 13 missiles near Damascus.

 

More details:

Pentagon: There will be a press briefing at 10 p.m. EDT, tonight, April 13, in the Pentagon Briefing Room on operations in Syria.

*  *  *

Update 1: President Trump has now confirmed that in a combined operation with France and UK, a military strike is now under way against Syria

“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.”

“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.”

“These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.”

“The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power, military, economic, and diplomatic.”

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

“In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.”

 “Assad’s recent attack and today’s response are the direct result of Russia’s failure to keep that promise. Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace.”

“The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”

“Tonight, I ask all Americans to say a prayer for our noble warriors and our allies as they carry out their missions. We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria.”

Theresa May has commented:

  • *MAY: AUTHORISED FORCES TO CONDUCT TARGETED STRIKES IN SYRIA

  • *MAY: WE ARE ACTING TOGETHER WITH OUR AMERICAN & FRENCH ALLIES

  • *U.K.’S MAY SAYS STRIKE IS LIMITED, TARGETED

  • *MAY: SYRIA’S PERSISTENT PATTERN OF BEHAVIOUR MUST BE STOPPED

  • *MAY: ATTACKS `NOT ABOUT REGIME CHANGE’ IN SYRIA

  • *MAY: CAN’T ALLOW CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO BECOME NORMALISED

Mr. Trump has threatened military action against Syria for days as retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad on a Damascus suburb last week.

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With two Tomahawk-capable destroyers in The Mediterranean Sea, and following “highly confident” intel that Syria launched the chemical attack, NYTimes reports that President Trump is expected to make a statement about Syria on Friday evening at the White House, an administration official said.

Additionally,  Gateway Pundit’s Josh Caplan reports that Vice President Mike Pence was seen “‘rushing back” to his hotel in Peru amid speculation about possible U.S. military action in Syria.

FOX News reports that President Trump has approved military strikes on Syria and is set to announce them within 30 minutes.

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The Donald Cook and The Winston Churchill are capable of carrying up to 150 Tomahawk missiles between them (last April Trump fired 59 Tomahawks into Syria).

As a reminder, here is the largest missile diplomacy strikes from Washington…