Sweden distributes ‘be prepared for war’ leaflet to all 4.8m homes

The Guardian reports:

The Swedish government has begun sending all 4.8m of the country’s households a public information leaflet telling the population, for the first time in more than half a century, what to do in the event of a war.

Om krisen eller kriget kommer (If crisis or war comes) explains how people can secure basic needs such as food, water and heat, what warning signals mean, where to find bomb shelters and how to contribute to Sweden’s “total defence”.

The 20-page pamphlet, illustrated with pictures of sirens, warplanes and families fleeing their homes, also prepares the population for dangers such as cyber and terror attacks and climate change, and includes a page on identifying fake news.

“Although Sweden is safer than many other countries, there are still threats to our security and independence,” the brochure says. “If you are prepared, you are contributing to improving the ability of the country to cope with a major strain.”

Similar leaflets were first distributed in neutral Sweden in 1943, at the height of the second world war. Updates were issued regularly to the general public until 1961, and then to local and national government officials until 1991.

“Society is vulnerable, so we need to prepare ourselves as individuals,” said Dan Eliasson of the Swedish civil contingencies agency, which is in charge of the project. “There’s also an information deficit in terms of concrete advice, which we aim to provide.”

The publication comes as the debate on security – and the possibility of joining Nato – has intensified in Sweden in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and recent incursions into Swedish airspace and territorial waters by Russian planes and submarines. [Continue reading…]

Putin may have given Israeli PM Netanyahu the green light to wipe out Iran in Syria in a massive air war

Business Insider reports:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s Victory Day parade on Wednesday. Hours later, a massive air war broke out in which, Israel says, it destroyed dozens of Iranian sites in Syria.

Statements from Netanyahu suggest that Putin may have given the green light before the attack.

Netanyahu left Russia saying that “there is a need to ensure the continuation of military coordination between the Russian military and the Israel Defence Forces.” On Wednesday night, the IDF coordinated a massive series of strikes on Iranian targets across Syria, Russia’s ally, Israel said.

Israel says it has hit targets in Syria more than 100 times since 2012 and maintains that it will continue to strike wherever it sees Iranian forces and assets that pose a threat to its security.

Russia has typically not acknowledged the Israeli incursions, but the fighting escalated massively on Wednesday night.

The IDF told Israel’s Channel 10 News that more than 50 targets were hit in the strike, making it the largest attack carried out by Israel in Syria since the two signed an agreement following the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports:

There were no immediate statements from the Iranian government after the Israeli strikes. On Wednesday, however, Iran’s defense minister, Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, pledged that Iran would continue to develop its missile capabilities. Hatami, speaking to officials in Tehran, made no direct mention of Israel or other nations, but cited pressures from “enemies of Iran,” according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Tehran’s strong support for Assad has allowed it to deepen its foothold across Syria, but Iranian media downplayed Tehran’s role in the violence, depicting the clashes instead as between Israel and Syria.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the strikes targeted “almost all of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria.”

An army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Menalis, said Israel could inflict much more damage if it deems further strikes necessary.

“What we did tonight is only the tip of the iceberg of the Israeli army’s capability,” he said Thursday morning on Israel Army Radio.

Among the targets that were hit were a logistics headquarters belonging to the Quds Force, a military logistics compound in Kiswah, an Iranian military compound north of Damascus, munition storage warehouses of the Quds Force at the Damascus International Airport, intelligence systems and posts associated with the Quds Force, observation and military posts and munitions in the buffer zone, the Israeli army said. [Continue reading…]

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Coming of Age in the Syrian War: Memoir by journalist Marwan Hisham & illustrator Molly Crabapple


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Iranian forces fire missiles towards Israeli military outposts in the Golan Heights, says Israeli army

Haaretz reports:

A barrage of 20 rockets was fired Wednesday night from Syria towards Israeli military outposts in the Golan Heights. No injuries were reported. Several rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The Israeli army is attributing the attack to members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The rocket fire struck near the border with Syria.

The military said intelligence assessments earlier in the week anticipated that after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear accord, Israel was likely to be targeted by rocket fire and Iran would try to retaliate.

Nonetheless, the army has predicted that such an attack would not lead to a full-fledged war. Tehran has issued several threats over the past month, saying that it would hurt Israel in response to a slew of attacks that were ascribed to the Israeli air force. The latest attack, carried out on May 9, claimed the lives of seven Iranians in the Syrian air force base T4. [Continue reading…]

Israel seems to be preparing for war with Iran and seeking U.S. support, officials say

NBC News reports:

An Israeli airstrike on the western Syrian city of Hama on Sunday killed two dozen Iranian soldiers and targeted arms recently delivered from Iran, said three U.S. officials, and is the latest sign that Israel and Iran are moving closer to open warfare.

“On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top of the list right now,” said one senior U.S. official.

Three U.S. officials say Israeli F-15s hit Hama after Iran delivered weapons to a base that houses Iran’s 47th Brigade, including surface-to-air missiles. In addition to killing two dozen troops, including officers, the strike wounded three dozen others.

Israel is increasingly wary of Iran’s influence in neighboring Syria, the three U.S. officials say. While Russia runs the air war for the Assad regime in Syria, Iran is now running the ground war, the officials said, with Iranian military present at every major Russian and Syrian regime base in the country.

In the past two weeks Iran has increased military cargo flights to Syria, stocked with additional weapons and supplies like small arms, ammunition and surface-to-air missiles that two U.S. officials believe are meant both to shore up Iranian ground forces and to strike at Israel. For years the U.S. has tracked arms shipments from Iran to Hezbollah fighters in Syria supporting the Assad regime, but recently Iran has been supplying Hezbollah with more material and logistical support.

The three U.S. officials said Israel now seems to be preparing for military action and is seeking U.S. help and support. [Continue reading…]

Suspected Israeli strikes hit Iran-linked targets in Syria, escalating regional tensions

The Washington Post reports:

Missile strikes at two Iran-linked bases in Syria caused huge explosions and killed dozens of pro-government fighters, a monitoring group said Monday, in an attack seen as Israel’s latest blow in a shadow war to contain Iranian influence.

Syrian state media reported major blasts in parts of Hama and Aleppo provinces about 10:30 p.m. Sunday. It did not identify the targets, but other pro-government media outlets said they were weapons depots for the Syrian regime and Iranian forces.

While the state-owned daily Tishreen said the missiles were launched from U.S. and British military bases, analysts said the most likely source was Israel, which has previously acknowledged carrying out more than 100 strikes in Syria during the civil war.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel carried out the attacks. The monitoring group identified the main target as an arms depot for surface-to-surface missiles at a base in northern Syria known as Brigade 47. It said the Neirab military air base, southeast of Aleppo city, also was hit.

At least 26 people were killed, four of them Syrians, the Syrian Observatory said. Representatives of a regional alliance that includes Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah paramilitary group said that Iranians were among the dead, and some cited a much higher toll. [Continue reading…]

Kim says he’ll give up nuclear weapons if U.S. promises not to invade

The New York Times reports:

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, told President Moon Jae-in of South Korea when they met that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States would agree to formally end the Korean War and promise that it would not invade his country, a South Korean government spokesman said Sunday.

In a faith-building gesture ahead of a summit meeting with President Trump, Mr. Kim also said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown next month of his country’s only known underground nuclear test site.

The comments by Mr. Kim were made on Friday when the leaders of the two Koreas met at Panmunjom, a village on their shared border, the spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, said on Sunday, providing additional details of the meeting.

“I know the Americans are inherently disposed against us, but when they talk with us, they will see that I am not the kind of person who would shoot nuclear weapons to the south, over the Pacific or at the United States,” Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon, according to Mr. Yoon’s account of the meeting.

It was another dramatically conciliatory statement by Mr. Kim, whose country threatened to do exactly those things during the height of nuclear tensions last year. [Continue reading…]

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Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ‘concessions’ were a show of strength by North Korea

Ankit Panda writes:

With less than a week to go before he sits down with his South Korean counterpart, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an impressive set of declarations. Following a meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee this week, Kim declared, among other things, that North Korea would shut down its nuclear testing site—known as Punggye-ri—and stop testing its intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

If there’s one thing the North Koreans are good at, it’s messaging and propaganda. Kim’s announcement was published in the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s state-run news media. Importantly, KCNA is intended for consumption by the world outside of North Korea’s borders.

With momentum in full-swing toward the summit with Moon Jae-in next week and an eventual, still unscheduled, historic summit planned with American President Donald Trump—the first-ever sit-down between two sitting leaders of North Korea and the United States—Kim has all the incentives in the world to make sure that these meetings come together as planned.

If the odds of a Trump-Kim summit stood at 50-50 before Friday’s announcement, they’ve now increased considerably. In fact, Kim has increased the costs considerably for Trump of backing out of a summit.

Without equivocating, it’s fair to say that both the declarations on nuclear testing and on halting the tests of ICBMs are significant concessions. Specifically, Kim announced that North Korea will “discontinue nuclear testing” and that the Punggye-ri site will be “dismantled to transparently guarantee the discontinuance of the nuclear test [sic].” On ICBMs, Kim simply said that no “inter-continental ballistic rocket test-fire” would take place after April 21, 2018.

While significant, we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that these concessions are being made out of a position of weakness or as a necessary show of bona fide goodwill to South Korea and the United States before the upcoming summits. Kim’s rationale for doing away with the nuclear test site was to underline that North Korea had already successfully come up with the nuclear weapons designs it needed. [Continue reading…]

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Israel celebrates but is war with Iran looming?

Simon Tisdall writes:

There were fireworks, concerts, torch processions and parties throughout the country. In Jerusalem the night sky was illuminated by 300 drones that coalesced to form images of favourite Israeli symbols, such as the national flag and a dove with an olive branch in its mouth. The celebrations included a live, televised retelling of Jewish history dating to biblical times. In one scene children with yellow stars pinned to their clothes fled marching Nazi soldiers. Another showed pioneers building the fledgling Jewish state.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, helped lead the national extravaganza, despite objections that his presence contradicted the event’s traditional, non-political character. This moment – the 70th anniversary last Wednesday of Israel’s independence, according to the Hebrew calendar – marked the country’s emergence as a rising world power, he declared.

Israel offered the hand of friendship to all, Netanyahu said. But there should be no doubt, Israel was here to stay: “In another 70 years you’ll find here a country that is 70 times stronger, because what we’ve done until today is just the beginning!” Israel’s ability to protect itself was “the essence” of independence, he said.

If Netanyahu sounded defensive, he had reason. Israel has faced many crises since its birth in 1948, including wars in 1967 and 1973, conflicts in Lebanon, and endless confrontation with the Palestinians, for whom Israel’s independence is known as the Nakba (“the catastrophe” or “cataclysm”). It was the day 700,000 people lost what they considered their homeland. Palestinians were not partying last week.

Yet according to Israeli and regional experts, the storm now gathering around Israel’s borders potentially surpasses in severity anything the country has faced throughout its short and difficult history. Whichever way you look, in any direction, trouble looms. At its heart, connecting all the geopolitical Scrabble pieces, is one four-letter word: Iran. [Continue reading…]

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Missile strikes unlikely to stop Syria’s chemical attacks, Pentagon says

The New York Times reports:

A barrage of missiles against Syria by American, French and British forces most likely will not stop President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, a Pentagon assessment has concluded, despite President Trump’s “Mission Accomplished!” declaration hours after last weekend’s strikes.

The military intelligence report, put out less than three days after the attack, said the allied airstrikes likely set back Mr. Assad’s production of sarin gas.

But it found that the Syrian president is expected to continue researching and developing chemical weapons for potential future use, according to an American intelligence analyst who has seen the document and described it to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity.

The military intelligence report indicated that the Barzeh research and development center in Damascus was destroyed, according to the analyst. Most of the missiles were aimed at the Barzeh facility, where the Western allies believed the Assad government was rebuilding its chemical weapons program. It has been closely monitored since the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found precursors for nerve agents there in 2014.

The other two sites — the Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker and storage facility in Homs — were severely damaged. But the analyst said the report cited surveillance assets that watched a five-ton truck leave one of those sites, the day before it was struck, with a tarp-covered load that could have included equipment or chemical weapons. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports:

Russia’s foreign minister said Friday that the U.S. sought out and respected Moscow’s positions in Syria when it launched its air strikes last week.

Lavrov noted that despite the escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington, the U.S. made sure it didn’t harm any Russian personnel and positions during the strikes against the regime of President Bashar Assad following a suspected chemical attack on the town of Douma.

“We told them where our red lines were, including the geographical red lines,” Lavrov told Russian state television. “The results have shown that they haven’t crossed those lines.” [Continue reading…]

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