Missile Strikes on 2 Syrian Military Base’s Kills Dozens

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

 

Missile Strikes on Syrian Military Base Kills Dozens

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 27 people were killed in Hama, the majority of whom were Iranian

A Syrian fighter in Tadef in Aleppo province on Friday.
A Syrian fighter in Tadef in Aleppo province on Friday. PHOTO: SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

BEIRUT—Missile strikes on Syrian government bases overnight killed dozens of pro-regime forces, including Iranians, according to a monitoring group, in what could mark an escalation of hostilities between foreign powers fighting for influence.

“Enemy missiles” targeted military bases in Aleppo and Hama, Syrian state news agency SANA reported Monday. Footage circulated on social media showed a large ball of fire, purportedly from an explosion at a military base in Hama believed to house Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces.

There were conflicting reports about the death toll. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 27 people were killed in Hama, the majority of whom were Iranian, without providing further details. There were no immediate details about casualties in Aleppo.

Some Iranian media outlets, citing local sources, reported that 18 Iranians were killed in the strikes, but the reports later omitted the Iranian death toll. The semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency, which carried the original report, later quoted an intelligence source saying that no Iranian forces were killed in the attack outside Hama.

It wasn’t immediately clear who carried out the attack. Israel has conducted dozens of strikes against Syrian government positions, some of them targeting Iranian personnel. Israeli military declined to comment. It has a policy of neither confirming nor denying strikes in Syria.

Addressing allegations that Israel was behind the strikes, the country’s Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio: “The policy is clear: Iran won’t be allowed to establish a northern front [on Syria’s border with Israel].”

The explosions occurred hours after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. On Saturday, Mr. Netanyahu also spoke with President Donald Trump by phone.

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The attack comes on the heels of U.S.-led airstrikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, in retaliation for an alleged attack with chlorine and nerve gas in a Damascus suburb earlier in April.

In the wake of the attacks, Syrian regime forces have continued to bomb areas outside of their control, in a push to continue gaining ground and end the seven-year war.

Iran has been a vital ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the war, sending thousands of elite Revolutionary Guard forces into Syria and training and arming foreign militias.

The semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency reported that none of Iran’s Afghan Shiite troops were killed in the strikes on Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the target in Aleppo was the Nayrab military airport.

“The base of this division near Aleppo is safe and none of the forces of this group have been martyred in the media-claimed strikes,” an unnamed commander of the troops was quoted as saying.

As Mr. Assad has gained ground—in part due to Russia’s intervention in 2015—Iran has extended its presence in Syria, causing concern in Israel, which views Tehran as its main regional adversary.

Israel for years largely stayed neutral in the Syrian war, launching airstrikes only against weapons convoys bound from Iran to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia supported by Iran, which helps prop up Mr. Assad. But fearing that Tehran would establish weapons factories and military sites in Syria, threatening Israeli territory, Mr. Netanyahu’s stance has shifted, ordering the Israeli air force to repeatedly hit sites in Syria, raising the prospects of a wider regional war.

On April 9, in a strike that Russia blamed on Israel, missiles struck another Syrian base, killing at least 14 pro-regime forces, including seven Iranians.

Referring to the most recent attack, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told The Wall Street Journal that, “The magnitude and accuracy of the attack in Northern Syria is the capability of a state and not the Syrian opposition.”

“From the Iranian perspective, there is an open account with Israel. If they blame Israel for this attack, there is a higher risk of retaliation,” Mr. Yadlin said.

After the latest attack, an Israeli open source intelligence site posted purported satellite imagery on Twitter, saying that the target of the attack was an Iranian base recently erected north of Hama airport.

The site claimed that an Iranian plane had recently arrived from Tehran, likely carrying weapons, and showed images of an alleged Iranian drone at the base.

Write to Sune Engel Rasmussen at [email protected]

Xi sees “new starting point” for China: Evidently Means A Total End Of Any Freedom For The People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE)

 

Xi sees “new starting point” for China—but where does it end?

Aug 02, 2017

Shanghai changes faster than any place I know. Each time I return, I’m flabbergasted by the pace of development. Pudong’s financial district sprouts new skyscrapers. The Bund sports pricier restaurants. Huaihai Lu, once the Avenue Joffre in the old French Concession, is recolonized by a few more European luxury boutiques. Buildings, city blocks, entire neighborhoods seem to vanish and reemerge as something else. If I am away for more than six months, it feels like coming back to an entirely new metropolis: bigger, richer, sleeker, chic-er.

I have been thinking about the breakneck pace of growth in Shanghai while trying to parse the implications of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s declaration last Thursday that China’s development has reached a “new historical starting point.” Xi’s pronouncement was part of a major policy address he delivered in Beijing to provincial and ministerial officials ahead of this year’s 19th Party Congress. At that gathering, likely to be held in the next few months, Xi is expected to install a new generation of leaders and consolidate his position as the party’s “core” leader. The speech seems to signal Xi’s determination to double down in his second term on the authoritarian policies that have been the hallmark of his first five years in power: a zealous campaign against graft, expanded support for state-owned enterprises, and new measures to strengthen the party’s grip on China’s economy and society.

You can get a flavor of Xi’s remarks from these reports in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. Alas, both those outlets are blocked in China. And so, no matter how stylish and seemingly cosmopolitan the lobby of my hotel, to access the global business press from it, I am obliged to rely on a “virtual private network” or VPN. In recent months, Xi’s push to bolster the party has included a sweeping crackdown on the use of VPNs and tightened party control over nearly all permutations of Internet use. In fact, TechCrunch reports today that Beijing has ordered Apple to purge all major VPN apps from the App Store in China. The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China—and, as it happens, the service I’m using to write this. The company says it received a notice from Apple that its app was scrapped because it “includes content that is illegal in China.”

This essay was originally published in our CEO Daily Newsletter. Subscribe.

Xi is also putting the squeeze on privately owned Chinese companies the government deems too aggressive in expanding outside China. In recent weeks, China’s state media has been filled with reports deploring the dangers posed by what pundits here are calling “gray rhinos“—large Chinese companies with murky ownership structures, high-debt ratios and extensive holdings overseas. It’s almost as if Beijing’s vaunted “Go Global” investment policy has been rebranded as “Go Home.”

Concerns about the risks over-leveraged firms pose to China’s financial system are well-founded. And yet, of the four gray rhinos China’s bank regulators have singled out for greater regulatory scrutiny in recent weeks, at least one, Dalian Wanda, was an established business with a coherent global strategy.

Shai Oster, a China tech correspondent for The Information, worries in a thoughtful essay published today that all the “euphoria” over the dazzling innovations in China’s tech sector in recent years masks the heavy-handedness with which Xi has dealt with private firms. If Xi himself can order the takedown of China’s most high-profile and politically connected property developer, no one is safe. “Even someone as famous as Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma could face increased political risks in the current climate.” Executives many of foreign firms operating in China say they feel equally vulnerable.

The optimistic view is that the many recent measures to tighten political control in China are temporary and that Xi will loosen up after the Party Congress once he has his ducks in line. It’s a comforting thought. If only there were more evidence to support it.