Syraq SITREP 47: British Media Denies UK Special Operators May Have Been Captured by Syrian Arab Army, OPCW Headed to Douma as US/UK/French Strikes on Syria Delayed, If Not Denied

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Did Moscow and Tehran Use Captured British Special Forces as Leverage to Back the British Drive for War Against Syria Off?

Moscow has reportedly been engaged in back channel diplomacy with the Americans to allow the British to save face and quietly repatriate these POWs from an undeclared and illegal war. However, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the Kremlin threatened to expose the captured British operatives and their botched covert mission to the world, using them as leverage to get London if not Washington to back off -- for now -- from planned air strikes. The Daily Mail's reporting on the topic includes the British Ministry of Defense's denial that any UK servicemen have been captured in Syria and predictable propagandistic embellishment from Iran's Fars News Agency of the James Bond-esque tasks put to the British operatives before they were caught.

Leaks Possibly Authorized by Trump or his Close Loyalists to Push Back Against the Neocons Reveal Infighting in the Trump Administration, Bolton Opposed by Mattis/Dunford

As the Russian Analyst stated in our previous Syraq SITREP 46, there is clearly some sort of infighting going on behind the scenes in the Trump White House and more broadly, some push back perhaps against 'the deep state' across the (post)Western world. U.S. allies in Asia, led by Japan and South Korea, are noticeably silent or supporting the OPCW investigation playing out. Canada and Germany, while predictably condemning Assad as guilty of gassing civilians, ruled out participating in any Anglo-American-French air campaign against Syria. While leaks intended to push Trump in a more belligerent direction or imply he's weak on Russia have been the norm since the President took office, for the first time in a while, we're seeing those opposed to rash confrontation with Russia or the casualties that will inevitably be incurred in a rumble with Iran doing the leaking.

Not only did pro-Trump blogger Jack Posobiec claim that the tweet calling Assad an animal was written by someone other than the President, but there are now reports that Secretary of Defense Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford are opposing National Security Adviser John Bolton's push for a wider war. Based on his track record, the rabidly anti-Iranian Bolton wants the U.S. to do Israel's dirty work for it and target IRGC affiliated Shi'a militias in addition to supposed chemical weapons sites and (now mostly evacuated) Syrian air force bases. Secretary of Defense Mattis publically guarded comments neither committing to imminent action nor ruling it out, appear to be attuned to the shifting moods of his Commander in Chief -- keeping the White House's options open.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunford, for his part, has a history of bluntly telling the U.S. Senate that if they wish to destroy Assad's capacity to bomb rebels, that would necessitate direct clashes with Russian forces in Syria. Dunford has also been on the hotline with his counterpart Russian Chief of Staff Valeriy Gerasimov for weeks, and conveyed the Russian commander's warnings of retaliation to the top. It therefore seems very likely that Dunford would advocate for a face-saving but highly limited Tomahawk strike on an empty air base in the desert, along the lines of last April's Shayrat air base strike.

Mattis and Dunford, unlike Bolton, appear to be concerned that if the U.S. kills more Syrians and especially Russians and Iranians with missiles, then some GIs will be coming back from (the illegally set up) American bases east of the Euphrates in body bags. Could it be that the 'white hats' are winning, and that the generals Trump has so highly praised are containing the crazed neocon and worst (al)CIA(eda) factions in Washington, as the QAnons have suggested?

Trump, the French-British Push for War, and the Weak 'Evidence' from the Douma Chemical False Flag Attack -- Can He Stand Up to London?

This question brings us back to the mind of the mercurial Commander in Chief, playing '4D chess' against himself. While Trump has a colossal ego, he is not, contrary to his detractors claims, a stupid man. Even with many hidden backers among the Establishment, no dummy would have defeated perhaps the most lavishly funded and allegedly inevitable candidate of all time in Hillary Clinton. Even with the considerable efforts of advisers like John Kelly to establish an informational cocoon around him, Trump knows what he tweeted about staying out of Syria in 2012-13 and how many of his MAGA base of supporters are reminding him of it now. He is doubtless aware that the pressure from Robert Mueller and a corrupted FBI's raids on his personal attorney Michael Cohen is designed to push him towards a big war.

When asked by reporters if he'd ordered a strike following his apparent backtracking on the now notorious 'get ready for smart missiles Russia' tweet sent Thursday morning, Trump said 'we'll see what happens folks'. Even if you don't trust a word Trump says but can only look to his actions for predictors of future behavior at this point, you can watch the body language analysis of a 'defeated' looking President resigned to acting against his gut instincts.

As the British cabinet predictably urged Theresa May to take action, UK Transport Minister Jo Johnson stressed: "There has been no decision to take military action at this point." Not surprisingly given how much our friends from LaRouchePAC have documented that this war drive is coming out of London, it was left to anonymous British military sources to complain that Trump's tweets had spoiled the chance to destroy more Syrian jets and helicopters on the ground (although there is evidence Syrian Air Force planes have been dispersing since the Israeli strike on Tiyas air base last Sunday, and indeed, avoiding easily targeted by standoff missiles concrete aircraft shelters before then).

The Trump Administration was said to be 'consulting allies', while French President Emanuel Macron insisted Paris had proof chlorine if not other chemical weapons were used at Douma. OPCW investigators were said to be headed to the scene on Saturday, creating another potential reason for Trump to delay military action. Syria's envoy to the UN Bashar Jaafari said, "We will facilitate the arrival of the team to anywhere they want, in Douma, to check whether or not there was use of chemical substances".

On Fox News, which President Trump is known to watch to keep in touch with his electoral base, host Tucker Carlson pointed out that even Secretary of Defense James Mattis was admitting that the evidence the U.S. has gathered thus far is inconclusive, and heavily reliant, as after the sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun last April, on (G)NGOs and 'fighters' aka jihadists and their White Helmets buddies on the ground. Mattis remarks Thursday to the House Armed Services Committee reiterated what he told reporters Wednesday, which is that the U.S. is still evaluating intelligence. Mattis also mentioned that non-persistent chemical agents could degrade at the site of the alleged attack in Douma in the context of discussing how soon OPCW investigators could reach the area. The Russian Analyst hopes the Commander in Chief watched the full debate between Carlson and Commentary magazine neocon regime change advocate Noah Rothman:

As British anti-war conservative Peter Hitchens writes above, Jaish al Islam, the Saudi backed sharia imposing jihadists that controlled Douma before the alleged chemical attack, have a history of using toxic agents against enemies -- principally the Kurds. Amnesty International even documented their use in 2016 of indiscriminate 'hell cannons' and gas against Kurdish forces in Aleppo's Sheikh Maqsuod neighborhood, where an estimated 30,000 civilians lived at the time.

While social media has been exploited by NATO/USAID/Google funded hacks like Bellingcat to gather 'evidence' of Syrian and Russian dastardliness since the August 2013 East Ghouta false flag, Twitter users are also pointing out serious problems with the 'evidence' surrounding the Douma attack. Notwithstanding the French claim to have solid proof chlorine gas was used, and the non-persistence of a cheap and easy for jihadists to cook up from legitimate water filtration or pool cleaning chemical agent that was first used in the trenches of World War One -- where are the bodies? Moscow says its soldiers who were with the first Syrian units to enter Douma after the Jaish al Islam terrorists fled found none, and no freshly dug or shallow graves either.

As the Russian Defense and Foreign Ministry spokesmen and women asked this week, where are the hospitalized victims of chemical exposure who would've been evacuated by the Red Crescent to Damascus? It's true that Islamic customs require a rapid burial, and bodies smelling of chlorine would be washed and wrapped quickly for interment. But if there were scores of victims killed with poison gas, why haven't we seen any footage or photos of their funerals? Or of the hospitalized patients from which the blood samples NBC (deep state mouthpiece) News would have us believe the CIA/MI6 already have were drawn?

Another sign of faking and staging scenes -- a member of the White Helmets stands in a room supposedly hit by a poison gas canister dropped from Assad's infamous 'barrel bombing' helicopters. Despite a hole in the roof, the bed is un-smashed by the canister that has evidently been placed on it with hands rather than settled on the mattress after a fall of several hundred to a few thousand feet. Despite the rage of the Establishment against 'conspiracy theorists', the bad people that Bellingcat 'who needs protective equipment besides an apron and gloves to handle sarin' shill Dan Kaszeta wishes would die of bone cancer, the cabal has a big PR headache.

Thanks to 21st Century Wire and others in the new media, the MI6-funded White Helmets history of cooperation with Al-Qaeda in disposing of murdered Syrian soldiers bodies, shoddy fakes and child exploitation to have kids act out foaming at the mouth or convulsions from poison gas has finally caught up with them. That has left advocates of 'punishing Assad' clearly flailing and flustered.

It's true that sarin -- obtained from either Assad government stockpiles captured in the earlier part of the war or manufactured with precursors supplied by Saudi Arabia et al -- and other toxic agents have definitely been used to massacre civilians in Syria. But as Tucker Carlson correctly informed millions of Fox News viewers this week, there is no doubt the anti-Assad jihadists have obtained and used chemical weapons. The only questions are whether the jihadis captured them from Assad's prewar stocks or cooked up their own, and who helped the false flaggers make them.

The excuses offered by the trolls and shills increasingly agitated on Twitter about these questions from skeptics have included that 'people were afraid of the regime' meaning Syrian government soldiers would punish them and that 'no (post-Western) reporters have been to Douma' since Saturday -- except apparently pro-Syrian government and Russian journalists and cameramen. The latter excuse however, is about to go away as journalists are seeking at this hour to accompany the OPCW teams into Douma tomorrow. That timing of course, along with the new moon, may motivate the British if not the French to try and launch a strike of their own to goad the Administration into action this weekend...before the Douma false flag is picked apart by contrary evidence.

This globalist gambit would be similar the logic of the Anglo-French entente allowing the Obama Administration to 'lead from behind' in the NATO/GCC air campaign to topple Gaddafi's government in Libya back in 2011. The same players, namely the Saudis and Qataris, are being invited to participate in the new air campaign against Assad, notwithstanding the failure of Saudi airpower to subdue the Houthis in Yemen and the Kingdom's costly losses in aircraft and equipment.

Given Moscow's naval build up in the eastern Mediterranean and the prominent display of anti-ship missiles on the pylons of Sukhois flying over Tartus and Latakia this week where the Syrian public could photograph them, it's doubtful either Macron or May would have the balls to confront the Russians alone. Not without Captain America's shield over their small fleets or the Royal Air Force bases on Cyprus, Akrotiri and Dhekelia. Both of which, thanks to the thousands of Russians (and plenty of pro-Russian Greeks) living on Cyprus, Russian military intelligence the GRU likely has very good sets of eyes on (a the recent historical precedent -- it was likely Greek or other ethnicity pro-Serbian elements watching Aviano Air Force Base in 1999 that helped Belgrade know when F117A Nighthawk stealth jets were taking off). Both bases, provided Moscow supplies Damascus with the rocketry, are easily within SAA launched Tochka or Yakhont missile range from the Latakia coastline -- if the Syrian government receives the green light from the Russians to strike the attackers' bases.

Even the typically Washington/Pentagon Establishment friendly Associated Press is reporting that Moscow has deployed supersonic Bastion anti-ship missiles to defend its installations along the Syrian coast. The Bastions were previously deployed in Crimea shorty after Moscow's forces secured the peninsula and the US Navy sent the USS Donald Cook to the Black Sea -- before the destroyer retreated after a particular disputed incident in April 2014. Whether land based Bastions, or air launched Kh101s, or sea-fired Kalibrs, any one of these weapons in the Russian arsenal could sink the French Aquitaine (D650) or HMS Duncan within minutes.

According to the latest naval SITREP posted Thursday night at the Saker blog by contributor 'Le Dahu', the amount of firepower the U.S. Navy and NATO navies currently have on station, or within Tomahawk range of, the eastern Med may have been overstated in recent days. With the USS Harry S. Truman battle group still several days to two weeks away having just set sail from its home base in Norfolk, Virginia, the timing appears days to weeks off for anything other than a demonstrative strike. Certainly this does not look like a combined NATO armada ready for a major effort to flood Syria's air defense systems and hit Damascus hard. Thus from Moscow's perspective the Americans and certainly their Anglo-French allies are engaged in an elaborate bluff. The British and French poodles martial ambitions would seem to vastly outstrip the resources available to them, which likely means waiting on the US carrier battle group before carrying out any major actions:

Most focus is on the group of US destroyers that are forward deployed from Rota, Spain. Besides the USS Donald Cook, the USS Carney (DDG 64), is still in port in Rota, the USS Ross is in Plymouth, UK and the USS Porter, having just called into Cherbourg, last seen in the Channel, heading eastwards. There isn’t much hurry to sail either down to the Med or the USS Carney eastwards either at the moment.

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) set sail yesterday, a routine regular deployment that has been planned months ago. It will certainly head for the Med, then later go to the Gulf, probably at the beginning of May.

USS Normandy (CG 60);

and DESRON 28 group of guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51),

Two other late participants: USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), and USS The Sullivans (DGG 68).

A German Navy is also part of the group for the first part: the Sachsen-class German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221). It is not known at this stage if Germany will respond similarly to the US.

Further afield (Red Sea and Gulf of Aden)

Most of the US Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), with the USS Iwo Jima (LHD7) with USMC Harriers onboard, left the Med to go down to Djibouti part of Exercise Alligator Dagger, (which had to be stopped due to several aircraft crashes by 3 April).

The US Navy operates in this region, as part of Task Force 53,

Among this group appears to be the USS Laboon, DDG. It is not known whether they have stayed in the area or sailed back up the Red Sea. There is a good chance that the USS Laboon has, probably along with another French FREMM frigate.

UK –Royal Navy

Other than HMS Duncan, the only other significant news is the possible deployment to eastern Med of an Astute-class nuclear submarine, as initially reported by the Daily Telegraph.

HMS Albion, which had been in the Med, was redeployed with orders to go to the South China Sea, Korea regions, to supplement two other RN warships already there.

Если Завтра Война...What if Combined Russian/Iranian Deterrence Fails? As Mainstream Media is Acknowledging, Moscow Is Still Signaling Its Ready for War...

What if the dirty deep state removes Trump from the equation, realizing that the soft coup via Robert Mueller's ridiculous prosecution isn't working? How about another, far more elaborate false flag compared to Douma, one that targets American bases or ships and blames the Russians and Iranians as aggressors? Again from the Associated Press, the leading global wire service and provider of world news to newspapers that millions of mostly older and voting Americans still read, telling the truth: that the Russian public appears to be far more informed and prepared for a superpower clash than the U.S. public. As my Swiss White Russian friend The Saker says, Russians fear war far more than Americans -- but Russians are far better prepared for it. As myself, London Paul and the Guerrilla have all been saying, Moscow is calling the dying petrodollar empire's bluff. Now it's up to QAnon's 'white hats' -- if they actually exist -- to impose sanity on the insane banksters and warmongers:

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a senior lawmaker in the Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament, said in televised remarks that the Russian military was getting its electronic countermeasures and air defense assets ready for action. He added on a combative note that the situation offers a “good chance to test them in conditions of real combat.”

An even more threatening situation may evolve if the U.S. and its allies use manned aircraft, and the Russian strike results in casualties.

Such a scenario could trigger a quick escalation, leaving Russia and the U.S. on the brink of a full-scale conflict — a situation unseen even during the darkest moments of the Cold War.

Retired Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Buzhinsky, the former chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s international department, warned that Russia has thousands of military advisers in Syria “practically in every battalion,” and a strike on any Syrian facility could jeopardize their lives. He warned that Russia and the U.S. will quickly find themselves in a major conflict if they allow a collision in Syria to happen.

“I have an impression that Americans’ survival instincts have grown numb, if not vanished completely,” Buzhinsky said. “They seem not to really believe that Russia will give a tough military response and expect some sort of a local brawl, exchanging some minor blows. It’s a miscalculation. Any clash between Russian and U.S. militaries will expand beyond a local conflict and an escalation will be inevitable.”

Andrei Klimov, the head of an upper house committee that investigates foreign meddling in Russian affairs, proudly said on the top talk show on Russian state TV that his relative, a Soviet pilot, won a medal for combat duty in Vietnam. Klimov pointed to heavy U.S. losses from Soviet missiles and jets in Vietnam, adding that Russia stands ready to counter any possible U.S. strike.

Unlike the Vietnam War, where Soviet advisers helping North Vietnam supposedly weren’t directly engaged in combat, the potential clash in Syria would pit Russia directly against the U.S.

Fears of war swept Russian newspaper headlines and TV news, with commentators discussing the darkest possible outcomes, including a nuclear war.

“What if the war starts tomorrow?” the front page of Moskovsky Komsomolets clamored on Wednesday. Russia’s best-selling newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda wondered: “Is macho Trump going to start World War III?”

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Weeks before a purported chemical attack by the Syrian government on April 7, the Russian military warned the West against what it described as false claims of chemical weapons use to strike Syrian facilities.

The head of the Russian military’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, warned last month that a U.S. strike would threaten Russian military personnel in Syria and draw a Russian counterstrike against both U.S. missiles and the ships and aircraft launching them.

The statement signaled Moscow’s readiness to protect its ally even if it entails a direct clash with the U.S.

With tensions running high, Russian warships sailed out of their base in the Syrian port of Tartus in what retired Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, the head of foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, described as a maneuver to avoid a possible U.S. blow.

Russia has several dozen warplanes at Hemeimeem air base in Syria, along with an array of state-of-the-art air defense missile systems and the Bastion missile systems protecting the coast. The missiles have a range of up to 450 kilometers (280 miles).

In case of escalation, Russia could use air bases of its ally Iran to deploy more aircraft closer to Syria.

Russia has used Syria as a testing ground for its new weapons, including some long-range missiles. These included the sea-launched Kalibr and air-launched Kh-101 cruise missiles; both can be fired from the Caspian Sea and other areas in western Russia.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the top priority is to avert war in Syria and doesn’t rule out the possibility of a U.S.-Russian conflict.

He told reporters after a closed emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that “the danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria,” adding: “We hope that there will be no point of no return — that the U.S. and their allies will refrain from military action against a sovereign state.”