Russia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, sign intel-sharing agreement against Islamic State

Tartus SyriaThe governments of Russia, Syria and Iran have entered a formal intelligence-sharing agreement with Iraq, in an effort to defeat the Islamic State, it has been announced. Intelligence-sharing has been practiced for a while between Russia, Syria and Iran; but this is the first time that Iraq, an American ally, has entered the alliance. According to the Baghdad-based Iraqi Joint Forces Command, the agreement entails the establishment of a new intelligence-sharing center in the Iraqi capital. It will be staffed with intelligence analysts from all four participating countries, who will be passing on shared information to their respective countries’ militaries.

Iraqi officials said on Sunday that the intelligence-sharing agreement had been forged by Moscow, which was “increasingly concerned about the presence of thousands of terrorists from Russia undertaking criminal acts” as members of the Islamic State. The announcement of the agreement comes as Russia has been reinforcing its military presence in Syria, by deploying troops in Latakia. Security observers have interpreted the move as a strong message by the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin that it is prepared to safeguard the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The latter also enjoys strong support from Iran, which has poured billions of dollars in aid to support the regime in Damascus, and has deployed hundreds of Hezbollah advisers and militia members in defense of Assad.

Speaking from Baghdad, Colonel Steve Warren, the American spokesman for the Western-led military campaign against the Islamic State, said that Washington was respectful of Iraq’s need to enter into security agreements with other regional governments. But he added that the US objected to the Syrian government’s role in the intelligence-sharing agreement, because it was “brutalizing its own citizens”. The US government has also protested against the Russian government’s expansion of its base in Tartus and its increased military presence in Latakia. But, according to Foreign Policy, US officials have privately expressed support for the move, saying that “it could, in the short term, help rein in the Islamic state”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 September 2015 | Permalink

Spy equipment discovered near Russian military base in Syria

One of the fake rocks on Al-Nami islandBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Sophisticated intelligence-collection devices hidden inside faux boulders have been discovered on an island situated across from a Russian naval base in Syria. The devices were found on Al-Naml, an uninhabited islet of only 150 square meters, which overlooks the Syrian port of Tartus, site of a major Russian naval military facility. According to Al-Manar, a satellite television station affiliated with the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, the fake boulders were carefully placed on Al-Naml by Israeli commandos during a nighttime operation. Television images showed a system of satellite dishes and cameras, which appear to be connected to custom-made batteries via a series of cables. The imitation boulders, which conceal the electronic surveillance devices, seem to have been carefully designed in order to blend in with the surrounding rocks and brushes on Al-Nami. Al-Manar said on its website that at least three such devices were “discovered by local fishermen”. It added that the camouflaged contraptions appear to be aimed at tracking the movements of Russian vessels sailing to and from Tartus. Moreover, the devices appear to be capable of transmitting pictures of vessels to Israel in real time, via satellite. The naval base at Tartus was first leased to the Soviet Navy by the Syrian government in 1971. In response, the Kremlin forgave a multi-billion dollar debt owed by Damascus. Today, Tartus constitutes Russia’s sole military facility situated outside the regions of the former Soviet Union. It is also Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean, and many strategic analysts consider it as the primary geopolitical justification behind Moscow’s support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Read more of this post

Breaking News: Russian troops land in Syria

Russian naval base in Tartus, SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The Russian service of the BBC has confirmed that a contingent of Russian “antiterrorist special forces” have landed in Syria. The news first appeared on Monday on the websites of several Russian news agencies, including Interfax and RIA Novosti. The latter claimed that the Russian troops, who were said to be Marines, arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus onboard the tanker Iman, which is part of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. According to the report, the tanker is strictly tasked with performing “logistical tasks [including] the replenishment of fuel and food [and] providing maritime anti-piracy security in the Gulf of Aden”. According to a statement from the Russian Black Sea Command, the special forces had landed in Syria in order to “demonstrate the Russian presence in the turbulent region and possibly evacuate Russian citizens”. Shortly after the initial reports of the troops’ landing in Tartus, ABC News spoke to an anonymous source at the United Nations Security Council, who described the news as “a bomb” that was “certain to have serious repercussions” on the situation in Syria. Soon afterwards, however, an unnamed source in the Syrian Ministry of National Defense told the SANA news agency in Damascus that the reports of Russian troops landing in Syria were “completely devoid of truth” and said the presence of the Russian tanker was connected with an anti-piracy mission. The Russian Ministry of Defense also told reporters that the Iman is not a warship and that its crew is composed entirely of civilian personnel. But a separate report on the Russian-language service of the BBC claims that, although the vessel is indeed hydrographic —designed to collect undersea topographic data— it contains sophisticated dual-use hardware that can easily be used for intelligence collection. The BBC report repeats earlier claims by the Interfax news agency that the Russian ship arrived in Tartus with a large contingent of marine brigade and airborne assault battalion members. It also quotes sources from the Syrian opposition, which allege that Russian troops were indeed seen disembarking in Taurus. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #424 (suspicious deaths edition II)

Russian naval bases in the Mediterranean “a matter of time”

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Last October, when Libyan head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi visited Moscow, observers speculated that the possibility of a Russian naval base in Libya would be high among the subjects for discussion. Now the ITAR-TASS news agency has quoted an “unidentified” Russian military official as saying that the establishment of Russian naval bases in Libya, Syria, and possibly Yemen, is a matter of time. The official suggested that “[t]he political decision [to lease the bases] has been taken” and “this will be done without question”. Responding to a request for comment by The Moscow Times, Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, simply confirmed that Moscow is conducting negotiations “with foreign governments”. Read more of this post