Friday, 20 April 2018

Britush 'Astute' subs unable to deliver

THE BRITISH LION IS LOSING ITS GRIP

БРИТАНСКИЙ ЛЕВ ТЕРЯЕТ ХВАТКУ

Nuclear submarine of the Astute class are unable to strike on Syria


19 April, 2018
The British nuclear submarine Astute class are unable to strike at Syria, 14 April 2018, because it prevented two Russian submarines. This information was reported by the newspaper the Times, citing its sources in the UK Ministry of defence. Supposedly Russian submarines followed by a British submarine and forced it to change its location.
As a result of these actions of the boat are unable to choose or to take a stand and strike with cruise missiles at targets in Syria.
The UK Navy has three submarines of the Astute class is the most modern model of the British submarines. It can carry up to 20 cruise missiles "Tomahawk". Boats in this class began to arrive in the UK Navy in 2010.
According to information from other Western media on the British boat put pressure two Russian frigates of project 11356 with the support of anti-submarine Il-38N aircraft and "Varshavyanka" diesel submarines of project 636. By their actions they gave the boat to take the designated square and start producing cruise missiles.
Some Russian experts explain the failure of the English submarine activity in the Eastern Mediterranean of the Main Directorate deep sea research (GOOGIE) of the Ministry of defense.
Although the failed launch from a submarine of the Astute class may be a more simple explanation – low combat capability of the Navy of great Britain, or any technical problems. And with the latest trends – are guilty of all still Russian.



Former British ambassador to Syria interviewed by Ron Paul

Former UK Ambassador Reveals Truth About Syria - With Special Guest Peter Ford





RonPaulLibertyReport



Former UK Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford joins today's Liberty Report to share his vast experience in the region. He has notably deviated from the government/media narrative about the alleged Assad gas attack. How likely is it that Assad used gas? Why are inspectors being prevented from visiting the site? How is the "official narrative" holding up to increasing scrutiny?

The connection between Salisbury and Eastern Ghouta

Smoke bombs from Salisbury found in Eastern Ghouta

В Восточной Гуте нашли дымовые шашки из Солсбери


19 April, 2018


Via Yandex Translate


MOSCOW, 19 Jul — RIA Novosti. Syrian government forces found in the Eastern Guta chlorine and smoke bombs produced in the West, said the official representative of the foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova.

"In the liberated territories of Eastern Guta Syrian government troops discovered the containers with chlorine is the worst chemical weapons from Germany, and smoke bombs production of the city — attention! — Salisbury," she said at a briefing in Moscow.

"This fact is even difficult in some way comment on, so it is intimidating and undermining faith in the humanity of individual States. Of course, we're not talking about entire States, and those politicians and leaders who give such orders and take such decisions", — said Zakharov.


The situation in Eastern Ghouta

The tenth of April, Washington accused the Damascus chemical attack on civilians in the city of Duma in Eastern ghouta. No Russian military experts or local residents is not confirmed.


The Russian General staff on March 13 reported on the forthcoming militants in Eastern ghouta provocation staged the use of chemical weapons.

The US, Britain and France on the morning of 14 April, launched missile strikes on Syrian government facilities that, in their opinion, are used to produce chemical weapons. 03:42 GMT-05:10 MSK they fired over a hundred rockets, 71 of which shot down a Syrian air defense. As a result of the attacks no one was killed, destruction on the earth was minimal. Russian forces were not involved, but kept track of all the triggers.


Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow has irrefutable evidence that the alleged chemical attack in the Duma was the staging. The goal of stuffing is to shield the terrorists and to justify possible military strikes from outside, said the Agency.

The incident in Salisbury

With chemical weapons is connected another resonant episode that led to the aggravation of confrontation between Russia and the West.


Fourth March, former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia was found unconscious near the pizzeria in the British Salisbury. They were poisoned by an unknown substance. The British government stated that it was developed in Russia. However, later the experts of chemical laboratory in Porton Down said they couldn't determine where it was made.

The political scientist explained why London does not answer the questions in the case Skripal

London has accused Moscow of the incident, without providing evidence in favor of this version. Also Britain rejected the Russian initiative on holding a joint investigation.

Russian diplomats are not allowed to get Kripalu and his daughter, who, according to British doctors, is already on the mend.


The OPCW conducted its own investigation of the incident and confirmed "the findings of the United Kingdom".


At the same time, the Swiss laboratory in Spiez found in the samples in this case the poison BZ, which was in service with NATO countries

Wildfires amid hot and dry conditions in US Southwest


Anyone recall Guy McPherson referring to the SE as the “dust bowl that never end”?
Southwest fire threat called 'extreme to historic' amid brutally hot and dry conditions



MSN,
19 April, 2018


The air is dry and the winds are strong over a large portion of the Central and Southern U.S., on Tuesday. The vegetation is bone dry and the U.S. Drought Monitor says the region is in “exceptional” drought. All of this combined is stoking wildfires that ignited late last week and increasing the chances of new fires on Tuesday.

A particularly dangerous situation is expected to develop with extreme fire weather and very dry fuels [trees, shrubs and grass] across western Oklahoma and parts of northern Oklahoma on April 17,” the National Weather Service wrote on Tuesday.

The Weather Service issued an “extremely critical” fire weather outlook for a giant swath of the South that covers parts of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. “Extremely critical,” is as bad as it gets, and it’s the second time the Weather Service has had to use it in the past week.

If new fires ignite on Tuesday, the Weather Service expects them to “exhibit erratic behavior and rapid spread rates,” do to strong winds. On top of that, a wind shift is expected this evening as a cold front passes through, which will make it even more difficult for firefighters to control the blazes.

Two major wildfires are burning in Oklahoma this week, the 34 Complex and the Rhea megafire. “Megafire” is a term the National Interagency Fire Center defines as a wildfire that has consumed more than 100,000 acres.

The 34 Complex is burning in Woodward County and has crossed into southwest Kansas, but was nearly-half contained as of Monday. The extreme conditions on Tuesday could put that containment to the test. As of Tuesday morning the 34 Complex had burned nearly 68,000 acres.

The Rhea Fire, which started April 12, has burned nearly 250,000 acres as of Tuesday. According to the Oklahoma Forestry Service, the fire was only 3 percent contained and its cause is unknown.

The Rhea Fire is Oklahoma’s third megafire in three years. Last year in March, the Northwest Oklahoma Fire Complex consumed more than 800,000 acres. In March 2016, it was the Anderson Creek Fire, which raced across the Oklahoma/Kansas border and torched a total of nearly 400,000 acres. (Even though only part of the fire was in Kansas, it still qualified as that state’s largest on record.)

March 2017 brought the even-more-massive Northwest Oklahoma fire complex, which devoured more than 830,000 acres. In 2016, the Anderson Creek Fire started in Oklahoma and spread to Kansas, where it became the largest wildfire on record. The Anderson Creek Fire burned more than 400,000 acres.

In an excellent post on the fires, Weather Underground’s Bob Henson tried to make sense of why fire danger in Oklahoma is becoming more extreme. He boils it down to two major players: climate change and a change in land use:

Echoing a global trend that’s associated with human-produced climate change, Oklahoma has seen signs of a ramp-up in hydrologic extremes over the past few years.

May 2015 was the state’s wettest single month on record, and 2015 was its wettest year. “The November-December 2015 period was the wettest on record as well, and the sixth warmest. So the growing season extended into winter to some extent that year,” said [Oklahoma state climatologist Gary McManus]. The result was an unusually lush landscape going into the first part of 2016 that dried out quickly in the weeks leading up to the Anderson Creek fire.

The same thing happened in 2017, which was dry up until August — right when the state’s normal wildfire activity would cut back on the vegetation.

On top of that, the landscape is changing in Oklahoma with the addition of vast swaths of redcedar trees, which used to only grow in rocky terrain that was less prone to wildfires.



Trends in land ownership and management, especially in recent years, have allowed eastern cedar to spread more widely across the landscape. A state brochure noted that infestations of at least 50 redcedars per acre grew fourfold in the second half of the 20th century. It added: “The effects that the exploding populations of redcedar is having on the state might be compared to the soil erosion that occurred during the ‘Dust Bowl’ era of the 1930s-40s. It is becoming a problem in almost all coun­ties, and will take years and millions of dollars to bring the spread of cedars under control.”


To make matters worse, the juniper trees are sappy — it’s what gives them such a lovely smell, but it also lights up like a kerosine torch.


Cooler temperatures are coming behind a cold front that’s slated to arrive in Oklahoma on Tuesday night, but the region is not going to get much rain. Drought conditions



Extreme weather report - 18 April, 2018

Climate & Extreme Weather News #111 (April 16th-18th 2018)



00:11 Where we are, where we're going. 
06:39 Tanzania: Floods 
08:52 Kenya: Floods 
13:01 India: Kolkata storm 
15:57 Martinique: Flash flood 
21:30 Colombia: Cali flash flood 
27:45 Brazil: Vitoria flash flood 
31:32 Europe inc. Austria storms 
35:00 The USA: East coast storm & Oklahoma wildfires 
42:05 Global temp anomalies & forecasts

White Helmets tried to enlist Pink Floyd's Roger Waters

Emails reveal White Helmets tried to lobby ex-Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters


RT,
19 April, 2018

Emails have emerged revealing how the controversial Syrian activist group the White Helmets tried to lobby Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters with Saudi money. The revelations have been published on Max Blumenthal’s project.

In an email from October 2016, Roger Waters is invited to a fundraiser organized by Saudi billionaire Hani Farsi to honor the work of the White helmets. In it, he is also encouraged to watch a documentary about the group.

And it didn't stop there - just days before his recent concert in Barcelona, Waters was contacted by a French journalist working for the White Helmets. The reporter asked Waters for a few moments on stage to deliver a message to the children of Syria.

Rogers did not respond to either email, according to journalist Max Blumenthal, who obtained the messages. Instead of giving the stage to the White Helmets during his Barcelona concert, Waters denounced the organization.

The White Helmets is a fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists. That’s my belief. We have opposing beliefs,” he said. “If we were to listen to the propaganda of the White Helmets and others, we would be encouraged to encourage our governments to start dropping bombs on people in Syria. This would be a mistake of monumental proportions for us as human beings,” he added.

Blumenthal told RT that the White Helmets “are operating on the ground alongside Al-Qaeda and their allies, and these are just documented facts. For the first time, a mainstream figure on an international stage on the eve of war has validated what we’ve been reporting and he did so in Barcelona to loud cheers from the audience that was opposed to a war waged against international law, without the approval of the parliaments of the governments that launched the war.

And the White Helmets were the only source that these governments were relying on to justify their attacks. This was an enormously rousing speech by Roger Waters that has legitimized the journalism that we’ve been so mercilessly attacked for publishing and it’s forced those who attacked us and accused of being conspiracists to actually look at what we’ve reported. And they really have nothing to say back to us, they can’t simply dismiss it as a Kremlin conspiracy anymore, when Roger Waters is saying this.”

Speaking to Blumenthal’s Grayzone Project, Waters urged celebrities who had already endorsed the White Helmets to reconsider their support for the group. “I don’t blame them for having bought in to it. On the face of it, it felt plausible that the White Helmets were just good people doing good things. But now we know they’re trying to encourage the West to drops bombs and missiles illegally in Syria.”

Waters told Blumenthal that he had concluded that the Syria Campaign was “a malign organization funded by people who hope to gain from the ouster of Bashar Assad – because once he’s gone, it will be open season for the stealing of the assets of a failed state.”

The White Helmets was the first group to report on the alleged chemical attack in Douma. Although it's been widely praised in the West for its rescue work, its members have repeatedly been accused of having links to extremist groups.

Blumenthal said the emails vindicated journalists such as himself, who have questioned the White Helmets’ image as a humanitarian ‘civil defense’ organization. “For years, journalists including myself have been reporting on the danger of the White Helmets, how this Western-funded organization, funded by Western and Gulf governments, has basically been an instrument of encouraging regime change,” Blumenthal told RT. “It’s not just a group of average volunteer rescue workers, it’s an international influence organization whose representatives show up in Congress to lobby for no-fly zones and sanctions on Syria, as well as parliaments across Europe.”

Is Russia delivering S-330's to Syria?

Is a thick gaseous cloud hiding Russia’s first S-300 delivery to Syria?


19 April, 2018

As Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary, a Russian ship unloaded a suspect military cargo from a freighter at the Syrian port of Tartous. Was Moscow answering Israel’s celebration by delivering advanced S-300 air defense missiles as a show of support for Bashar Assad?

This not confirmed. However, DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Russians undoubtedly took advantage of Israel’s preoccupation with its Independence Day revelries to deliver advanced weapons systems for the Syrian army. The Russian ship docked in Tartous on Wednesday afternoon, April 18. Before unloading it, they positioned in the Russian section of the port giant compressors which spewed thick gaseous clouds over the operation to hide it from oversight by Israel’s surveillance planes, drones and satellites. This tactic intensified Israel’s suspicion that the cargo included S-300 weapons systems.

On Tuesday, April 17, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow had refused Syria’s demand for the advanced S-300 missiles, but since the “appalling act of aggression” committed by the US, France and Britain, “Moscow was ready to consider any means to help the Syrian army curb further aggression.”


According to our military sources, the Russian vessel was sighted crossing through the Bosporus near Istanbul on Monday, i.e., just two days after the Western strike on Syria’s chemical sites. No attempt was made to conceal the presence on its decks of military equipment, which looked like the command vehicles of missile batteries and radar apparatus. The ship was loaded at the Russian military port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea

New Zealand's soil erosion problem

NZ: Billion-dollar soils washing into rivers
We’re losing soil at an alarming rate, but there are some gaping holes in our knowledge about why and where from, reports Eloise Gibson


20 April, 2018


You can't grow a lot of food without soil, certainly not in a dairy-, wine- and vege-hungry nation like New Zealand.

Yet dirt – the foundation of our food supply – is being washed down our rivers and into the ocean at a worrying rate.

The latest report from the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ, Our Land 2018, says New Zealand is losing about 192 million tonnes of soil a year.

At that rate, we’re contributing about 1.7 percent of all the sediment lost globally, despite having just 0.2 percent of the world’s land area.

Much of that is coming from underneath grassy farm paddocks, which are shedding 44 percent or 84 million tons of the lost soil into rivers.

That hurts river quality and farm productivity – but it's not as simple as saying that farming always causes erosion.

As the Ministry for the Environment explained to Newsroom, New Zealand has naturally high rates of erosion, due to a combination of steep terrain, rock and soil types, high rainfall and storms.

What farming is doing is worsening an already-bad situation in our hill country, where a naturally-high erosion rate is worsened by removing trees and shrubs to plant pasture for animals to eat.

Having large amounts of pasture in areas at high risk of erosion is a problem because soils are more vulnerable once people remove woody vegetation such as trees and shrubs.

It’s likely the 44 percent of soil lost from under pastures is coming from a much smaller proportion of farms – the hilly, vulnerable ones.

That's reflected in the astonishing figures for Gisborne, where the region's soils are shedding 4844 tonnes per square kilometer a year, mostly from under pasture, compared to the national average of 720 tonnes.

The report points to worsening future problems as heavy rain and drought – enemies of soil quality and quantity – increase with climate change.

However there are several yawning gaps, as the report itself acknowledges. For example, the Ministries can’t compare soil losses from pastoral farming with how much soil is being lost from conservation land, which makes up a whopping 44 percent of the South Island.

Nor can it say how much precious dirt is being washed or blown away from cropping land or plantation pine forests.

There’s no good information on soil and erosion trends over time, because there is no national monitoring programme.

Many trends, it confirms, are ones that people who are interested in land probably know about: New Zealand’s rates of soil loss are being worsened by land-hungry cities, which are eating into productive land, as well as an undiminished appetite for lifestyle blocks on our city fringes.

Added to that are major earthquakes causing landslips, such as the Kaikoura earthquake.

Risks to quality, and quantity

The report is the first from the two ministries to specifically explore New Zealand’s land use. It contains interesting tidbits about how people have shaped the land over the past two decades. For example, the food we produce from soil is shifting from vegetables and other horticulture to berries and fruit (including wine grapes) and from meat to dairying, changing both the exports we sell and the nutrients we add and subtract from the land.

The report reiterates that soil is economically valuable, as well as being crucial to human life: there were $35.4 billion in exports from what we produced on the land in 2016, while tourists keen on our natural beauty spent $14.7 billion in New Zealand. All up that’s 70 percent of New Zealand’s total export earnings.

The same year, land-based primary production’s share of gross domestic product was 3.7 percent, while tourism’s share was 5.7 percent of GDP.

It's clear that we don't always treat soil like the taonga it is.

It isn't just soil quantity that's suffering, but quality – although the report provides only a snapshot of quality issues, not the trends.

The main issues identified were too much potentially water-polluting phosphorous and compaction of ground from intense farming activities aboveground.

The authors used soil monitoring data from 11 of New Zealand’s regions (out of 17) between 2014 and 2017.

The other five councils either don’t monitor soil or didn’t supply their results for the report, inevitably skewing the national figures.

The monitoring showed 83 percent of tested sites were within the Ministry’s guidelines for five of the seven soil health indicators (incuding pH, carbon and nitrogen).

But the remaining two health indicators were concerning: high and low phosphorus content (an indicator of soil fertility) and low macroporosity (a measure of how many pore spaces there are in the soil, an indicator of physical robustness).

More than 48 percent of the sites councils tested were outside the target range for one of those measures. A third of sites had high soil phosphorus levels, meaning excess phosphorus might travel into waterways through erosion and run-off and trigger growth of unwanted plants and reduce water quality.

At 44 percent of sites the soil was too compact, making it less productive, less biodiverse and restricting plant growth. Squished-down soil also doesn’t drain as well, which can raise the greenhouse gas emissions from cow urine. That’s because the potent greenhouse warmer nitrous oxide tends to spike when soil is wet.

Soil under dairy, cropping, horticulture, and meat farms was more frequently outside the healthy range than other soil: for example
 51 percent of dairy sites had too much phosphorus and 65 percent were too compacted.

And while soil was obviously being degraded by some (though definitely not all) farming practices, soil that was being converted from farming to housing was perhaps a bigger worry. The report highlights how urban expansion is eating some of our most versatile productive land. Studies based on changes in land cover showed that between 1990 and 2008, 29 percent of new urban areas were on soil that could be valuable for food-growing. In 2013, lifestyle blocks occupied 10 percent of New Zealand’s most versatile land, fragmenting it and making to harder to use for large-scale farming.

Among the major gaps in the data are what is happening in the five out of 16 regional councils that did not provide any soil monitoring data for the study, and answers to broader soil productivity questions, such as how much food lifestyle blocks are growing when they replace farms.


Extreme heat for Britain forecast

Britain set to bake at 28C today with people warned to stay indoors as "toxic plume" arrives from France
Toxic pollution means many should stay indoors, say experts as Britain braces for what could be the hottest April day in decades


19 April, 2018


Britain looks set to bake in the warmest April day in nearly 70 years, forecasters predict - but toxic pollution has prompted a warning that people should stay indoors.

The mercury could hit a whopping 28°C - far surpassing the average maximum temperature for this time of year, which stands at 11.4°C.


The South East will enjoy the best of the weather, while most of England and Wales should see the temperature rise into at least the low 20s, the Met Office said.

But it's not all good news, with experts warning Brits to be wary of enjoying the hot temperatures, with a toxic plume of pollution likely to cause problems for people with heart and lung problems.

The toxic air will happen because air from the Atlantic is mixing with polluted air in Spain and France.


Advice from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says: "Thursday and Friday have the chance of localised high pollution levels near east coasts of England, with isolated pockets also possible in busy urban areas in southern and eastern England.
"Areas of moderate air pollution are expected across southern parts of the UK, with more isolated moderate levels in the North, mainly close to coasts."
Conditions will be mild across the UK, with Northern Ireland likely to push 19°C in some parts and a peak of 20°C possible in Aberdeenshire in Scotland, the forecaster said.
The summery spell comes as a result of warm air from the Azores, off the coast of Portugal, being dragged up towards the UK by the combined efforts of an area of low pressure over the Atlantic and high pressure over western Europe.
A high of 28°C would beat the 2001 April high of 27.8°C, the Met Office said.
The warmest April day on record was 29.4°C in 1949.

Meteorologist Alex Burkill said: "There's a fairly good chance of 28°C, there's about a 60% chance.

"Quite widely we are going to see low 20s, and for many it will be a little warmer than Wednesday."


A high of 25.3°C was recorded in St James' Park in London on Wednesday, making it the hottest day of the year so far.

Thursday is expected to be the hottest day of the warm spell, with weekend temperatures dipping slightly before showery outbreaks on Sunday.

Competitors in the London Marathon can expect hot and humid conditions with a forecast of between 21°C and 23°C, Mr Burkill said.


"There could be a shower but it's not very likely. It's not great conditions for running. In fact if any showers do come they might be very welcome," he said.

Some hayfever sufferers could be affected by high pollen counts, he added.

Mr Burkill said: "For anyone who suffers from tree pollen they will probably be feeling the effects, but that's only about 20% of hayfever sufferers. Grass pollen season comes later in summer."



CO2 levels reach 413 ppm

Hourly average CO2 levels reach 413 ppm



Sam Carana, via Facvebook

Hourly average CO₂ was above 413 parts per million at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

April 19, 2018: In Africa, it's as hot as 48.2°C or 118.8°F (green circle).


Fires near the Amur River in East Siberia cause CO₂ levels as high as 959 ppm on April 18, 2018 and 973 ppm later that day, while the fires caused carbon monoxide levels as high as 43,240 ppb. The dark areas on the satellite image are burn scars from the fires as at April 19, 2018.



April 19, 2018: In Africa, it's as hot as 48.2°C or 118.8°F (green circle).

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10160173096090161



Fires near the Amur River in East Siberia cause CO₂ levels as high as 973 ppm on April 18, 2018, while the fires caused carbon monoxide levels as high as 43,240 ppb.


Fires near the Amur River in East Siberia cause CO₂ levels as high as 973 ppm on April 18, 2018.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10160173128145161


Fires near the Amur River in East Siberia cause CO₂ levels as high as 973 ppm on April 18, 2018, while the fires caused carbon monoxide levels as high as 43,240 ppb. The dark areas on the satellite image are burn scars from the fires as at April 19, 2018.

Israelis keeping their jets close to home

I think we ignore Israeli sources at our peril.

Why Israel is Keeping Its Warplanes Close to Home

20 April, 2018

Instead of participating in a high-profile U.S. military air combat exercise in Alaska that starts April 30, the Israeli Defense Forces ordered a squadron of its fighter jets — likely the 69th Squadron, equipped with F-15I Ra'am strike fighters — to remain in Israel, while other of its air force assets have been allowed to proceed. Given that the U.S. Red Flag exercises require substantial preparation and confer valuable experience, Israel would not have made the decision to keep its fighters home lightly. The withdrawal, announced April 17, indicates a heightened probability that a cycle of escalation and confrontation between Iran (and, by extension, Hezbollah) and Israel lies ahead.

Ever since Israel struck the Tiyas air base in central Syria on April 9, killing an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander and at least six others, Iran has been threatening unspecified retaliation. The Israelis, by keeping their premier strike fighter squadron at home and at full strength, are either better positioning themselves for an Iranian strike or are themselves gearing up to carry out attacks on Iranian and Hezbollah positions in Syria. F-15I fighters could play a central role in both scenarios

The Looming Iranian Presence

Iran's entrenchment in Syria has driven Israel's increasing defensive preparations. While supporting its Syrian government ally in its fight against rebel forces in the country's civil war, Iran has simultaneously expanded its network of bases and assets there. Israel has responded over the past few years with a series of strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, but Iran hasn't budged, prompting Israel to raise the alarm more publicly. In comments to the news media, for example, Israeli defense officials purposefully highlighted several potential Iranian targets, including its Syrian bases and the head of the IRGC air force.

The Feb. 9 incursion of an allegedly armed Iranian drone into Israeli airspace kicked this underlying tension into high gear, triggering a series of strikes and counterstrikes that damaged both sides. Syrian troops experienced several casualties and Israel lost an F-16I fighter, which was shot down by Syrian air defenses.

Adding to Israel's worries over Syria, the United States appears increasingly interested in looking for an exit from the conflict. Its absence could potentially allow Iran to further entrench its position, increasing its threat to Israel's northern frontier. Even the U.S.-led missile strike on Syrian chemical weapons sites on April 14 has done little to assuage the Israelis, since the operation's deliberately contained scope omitted Iranian or Hezbollah targets.

The Feb. 9 incursion of an allegedly armed Iranian drone into Israeli airspace kicked this underlying tension between the two countries into high gear, triggering a series of strikes and counterstrikes that damaged both sides.

Given that atmosphere, it is worth monitoring Israeli moves that could signal that the country is preparing to take further direct action against Iran in Syria. Canceling the Red Flag deployment is only one sign. Further developments, such as force movements, a significantly elevated alert status or even a reservist call-up, could also indicate that Israel is planning to strike first.

A Possible Iranian Retaliation?
It's also important to watch for signs that Iran might retaliate for previous Israeli attacks in Syria; actions by either country could add to the tit-for-tat escalation.

For now, Lebanese militant group and Iranian ally Hezbollah has distanced itself from the idea that it will take part in an Iranian retaliation. Iran sees Hezbollah's ability to threaten Israel as a powerful deterrent against significant Israeli or American action against it. It would thus be reticent to trigger a conflict involving Hezbollah that could devastate the group's capabilities. And Hezbollah's current heavy involvement in the Syrian civil war means it could ill-afford to face a bruising conflict with Israel right now, especially since it undoubtedly would be the chief target of any future Israeli action in Lebanon. Furthermore, upcoming Lebanese elections, in which Hezbollah candidates are competing for votes, factor into its current status. A battle with Israel could damage its chances in the May 5 vote, especially if a major war upends Lebanon's already fragile economy.

Nevertheless, Iran does have options for retaliating against Israel in a more contained fashion. Tehran could lean heavily on various militias and allied proxy forces in the Gaza Strip to try to present a two-front threat to Israel. These efforts might include Hamas but more likely would tap the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is closer to Iran. These groups could carry out symbolic — but ultimately limited — strikes against Israeli positions or interests. And while a retaliatory attack could occur at any moment, the middle of May provides two symbolic opportunities. May 13 marks Jerusalem Day in Israel. In addition to commemorating Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, the date will come right before the United States plans to formalize its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital with the official move of its embassy on May 14; an attack then could undercut the celebrations. On May 15, Palestinians will take part in Nakba Day, culminating in a series of Hamas-led protests in the Gaza Strip that could give cover to operatives from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or another group to infiltrate or strike at Israel's border wall — efforts that already have been underway for the past few weeks.

The involvement of Hamas in such activities, however, may be limited by the economic crisis gripping the Gaza Strip. As the group wrestles with deteriorating conditions in the region and struggles to provide basic services, it may be unwilling to provoke Israel in a large-scale confrontation that causes a full economic collapse.

The most likely origin of an attack on Israel comes not from the south but from the IRGC in Syria to Israel's north. Iran and its local proxies are pushing closer to the Golan Heights, and Iran could take advantage of the battlefield chaos in southern Syria to stage its own limited retaliatory strike on Israel over the next few weeks. The greater risk for Iran, and to the region at large, is that with Israel on high alert and vowing to meet any strike with an overwhelming response, attacks from either side could quickly escalate beyond the proportional attack and response cycle.

The most likely origin of an attack on Israel comes not from the south but from the IRGC in Syria to Israel's north.

Even without a direct strike, there is a considerable risk of miscalculation. On April 17, Syrian air defenses opened fire in response to what turned out to be a misinterpreted signal, displaying the jittery nerves of the Syrian and Iranian air defenses. Their itchy trigger fingers pose a risk that a future misunderstanding could result in the accidental targeting of civilian or military aircraft. As the rhetoric between both sides heats up, such missteps become more likely.

The Role of the White House
Finally, it will be important to keep tabs on official rhetoric, leaks or reports about U.S. and Israeli dialogue. Within the White House, Israel is looking to embolden advisers like Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo and new National Security Adviser John Bolton, who advocate a more hawkish approach to Iran than the more nuanced approach favored by Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The course advocated by Pompeo and Bolton favors a more holistic Iranian containment strategy, including operations within the Syrian theater. Israel was disappointed that the April 14 missile strikes did not extend to targets beyond Syria's chemical weapons program, a choice influenced by Mattis, who opposed an expanded bombing mission. If the United States does consider expanding its push against Iran, then Israel will use its White House connections to minimize Mattis' voice in the final policy decisions.


At the same time, the White House's Syria strategy may soon face limits imposed by Congress. Draft legislation to refocus President Donald Trump's war powers is working its way through committee. This draft — an update of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force — would narrow the president's war-making ability to targeting transnational terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Taliban and other associated forces, leaving out the Syrian government, Iran and potentially Hezbollah. Should the legislative push survive long enough to make it to the president's desk, the bill could legally constrain the United States' ability to militarily cooperate with Israel against Iran.