The Watchman On The Wall

The Watchman On The Wall
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Verse 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Middle East Report 18 Oct. 2015 WR15-327

Image result for Israel and Russian hotline
Violence in Israel continued as six people have been injured in a shooting and stabbing attack at Be'er Sheva's central bus station, one of them critically and at least two of them seriously. The two terrorists who who carried out the attack have both been shot by security forces. One was killed and the other has been seriously wounded. One of the terrorists was armed with an automatic rifle and the other with a knife. A large number of Magen David Adom paramedics and police are at the scene, and are delivering emergency first aid to victims, some of whom have already been evacuated to Soroka hospital.
Image result for stabbing attack at Be'er Sheva central bus station
On Sunday, Oct. 18, Russian and Israeli air force headquarters near Latakia in Syria and Tel Aviv began practicing procedures for using the hot line they established last week to coordinate their operations in Syrian skies. They were putting into effect the agreement reached between Putin and Netanyahu in Moscow on Sept. 22, which was worked out in detail on Oct. 6 by Russian Dept. Chief of Staff Gen. Nikolay Bogdanovsky and his Israeli counterpart Gen. Yair Golan.

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On Oct 15, the defense ministry in Moscow confirmed that “mutual information-sharing on the actions of aircraft has been established”  to avoid clashes in the skies of Syria “between the Russian aviation command center at the Hmeimim air base and a command post of the Israeli air force.” He added that the two sides were holding practice sessions on the new line.

Last week Turkish fighters downed a Russian Orlan 10 UAV that intruded 3 km into their space. The Turks complained they had shot down the drone after repeated warnings to the Russian pilots. Since the drone has no pilots, the complaint must have been relayed to the Russian airbase in Syria. But in the absence of coordination, there was no answer.

Neither did Ankara have the option of resorting to a Washington line to the Kremlin, since the Obama administration had spurned Moscow’s proposal to send a military delegation to Washington for setting up a military coordination mechanism for their aerial operations over Syria. The White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed the offer as “a sign of desperation for Mr. Putin’s air campaign.”

It just so happens that, this Sunday, the US and Israel launched their bi-annual Blue Flag air exercise from Israel’s southern air base at Ovda, their combat squadrons joined by Greek and Italian air units. They will spend two weeks “simulating a high-intensity confrontation against a political entity with a strong army,” according to the official statement. The question hanging over this exercise is this: How will this drill pan out in the absence of US-Russian coordination on their air movements over the Middle East and Syria?

Unlike the airspace of the world’s countries, Syria’s skies are in fact ungoverned by any fully-functioning sovereign government, and so the normal rules of air conduct and international safety procedures have gone by the board. 

Syrian air space is frequented by the fighters, heavy bombers, transports and UAVs of a dozen air forces: Syria, Russia the US, Israel, Turkey and Iran as well as the US-led coalition planes of Canada, France, Australia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The miracle is that no major air disasters have so far occurred in skies crowded by this swarm of uncontrolled, unmonitored air traffic – all bent on their separate missions.

Most may be identified by radio signals or external markings and emblems. Some carry transponders which broadcast their location, identity, speed and direction. But what about the few who don’t? One such case was the Russian drone that violated Turkish air space Friday with no identifying markings.

As soon as Russia embarked on its large-scale military buildup in Syria, Moscow and Jerusalem made haste to set up a hot line to avert disastrous collisions over Syria.

My sources say it is safe to assume that the Russian end of the hot line with Israel at the Al-Hmeineem air base near Latakia, will be manned by Arab-speaking flight controllers.
And at the Tel Aviv end, along with Israeli officers, there will also be a presence of air controllers from western allies, including the US Air Force, who will use the facility to coordinate their flights with the Russian command.

The US-Israeli Blue Flag exercise provides an excellent opportunity for testing the Israeli-Russian hot line in combat conditions. Far from being a fantastic scenario, it offers a dose of reality on the current military conditions prevailing in the region.

US Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, above,  chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met Sunday with his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot, and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon in Tel Aviv to discuss the tightening of cooperation between the two militaries.
Yaalon told Dunford that Iran is the main cause of instability in the Middle East due to its intention to achieve regional hegemony and spread the Islamic revolution. He added that Tehran is also funding terror in the West Bank. Dunford said there have been ups and downs in the “family relationship” between the two countries recently but the military ties remain strong and have never wavered. He said he intends to ensure that they remain strong during his tenure. The US general added that he came to Israel to listen to senior defense officials and IDF commanders "because I know that you have the perspective that is very important to us. It will help us ensure that we are acting in the most effective manner."
Dunford is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He arrived in Israel on Saturday for his first overseas trip since being appointed last month.
US President Obama instructed the US government on Sunday to prepare for the lifting of sanctions on Iran under the nuclear deal that Tehran signed with Western powers, although the timing of the sanctions relief depends on how soon Iran complies with the agreement. 
The head of Iran’s nuclear agency said Sunday that his country will apparently start dismantling part of its nuclear infrastructure this week under the agreement signed with Western powers. Ali Akbar Salehi said the removal of thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges from the nuclear facilities in Natanz and Fordo would begin as soon as President Hassan Rouhani gives the order to do so. Iran is also supposed to take steps to ensure that its reactor in Arak and other facilities cannot be used for military purposes. Selahi estimated that the “huge task” would take his country about two months.
A battalion of 300 Sudanese troops has arrived in the Yemeni port city of Aden to support the country’s government amid the ongoing war against Houthi rebels.
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that a leader of Al-Qaeda’s operations in Syria was killed in an airstrike by the US-led coalition four days ago. It said Saudi citizen Sanafi al-Nasr, who specialized in recruitment and fundraising, had been sent from Pakistan to Syria to plan terrorist attacks against Western countries. He was one of six men that the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on in 2014.

The families of Lebanese Hizbollah fighters are increasingly opposing the deployment of their family members to Syria, adding that the terrorist organization has increased its compensation to families of fallen fighters in an attempt to halt the trend. 

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