Iskandar Missile—720 Kilos of High Explosive At Mach 3

Bunker reduced to smoking hole from 200km: Russia shows Iskander missile launch


© Russian Defense Ministry
The Russian Defense Ministry has released a video of the Iskander-M tactical missile launcher test-firing a cruise rocket.

The footage was shot during an exercise at the Kapustin Yar rocket test range in the Astrakhan region on Friday last week, the ministry said in a statement.

“The site of a simulated underground enemy command point, located some 200km from the launch position, was turned into a smoking hole,” the ministry said, describing the result of the strike shown on the video.

The exercise of an artillery brigade based in the Orenburg region in central Russia involved 400 troops and 70 pieces of military hardware, the statement said.

Iskander-M is a variant of the Russian tactical missile system designated SS-26 Stone by NATO. It can fire two types of missiles, the quasi-ballistic 9M723 and the cruise 9M728. Both types can maneuver quickly on their flight path to make interception by enemy anti-missile weapons more challenging.

Earlier, an Iskander-M launcher was shown in footage from the Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria. The Defense Ministry didn’t comment on the apparent deployment.

Another Afghan High Peace Committee Member Brutally Murdered

Peace committee member shot dead along with son, guard


Mohammad Ishaq

GARDEZ (Pajhwok): Unidentified gunmen shot dead a member of the peace committee, his son and a bodyguard in southeastern Paktika province on Wednesday, an official said.

Police chief Brig. Gen. Qader Gul Zadran told Pajhwok Afghan News that Mohammad Ishaq, his son and bodyguard were gunned down at around 10:00am.

He said police had launched an investigation into the incident and a manhunt for the gunmen had been mounted. But no one had been arrested as yet, the police chief added.

Mohammad Umar, an eyewitness, said: “An individual clad in military uniform shot at Ishaq’s bodyguard first and then at his son before entering the room and spraying Ishaq with bullets.”

A renowned tribal elder, Ishaq was also head of the Shia community council in Paktia. He campaigned for Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah during the presidential election.

What the Hell Are We Still Doing In Afghanistan?


Tell me again, once we deprived al Qaeda of the use of Afghanistan as a base, and once we shot its founding genius through the eye in the dead of night, why is this country still tangled up in Afghanistan, where too many people have wanted to kill too many people for far, far too long?

Tuesday’s bombing happened during the morning rush hour in Pul-e-Mahmud, a busy neighbourhood where homes, mosques, schools and businesses nestle close to the Ministry of Defence, other ministries and military compounds. Soldiers and security officers are reported to be among the casualties, but the majority are civilians, says the BBC Afghan Service’s Waheed Massoud. The blast shattered windows up to 1.6 km (one mile) away. The Associated Press quoted a police officer as saying it was one of the most powerful explosions he had ever heard, and he could not see or hear anything for 20 minutes after. It appears the initial blast cleared the way for Taliban fighters to enter the area—a commonly used tactic.

(Interesting. The Taliban succeeds with a sort of tactic that failed for Ambrose Burnside and the Army of the Potomac.)

There is no solution to the problem of Afghanistan except a conscious decision made by the people of that country to stop killing each other. This is a solution impervious to outside influence. Going back to Alexander the Great, the great powers have decided that, for their own purposes, they can get the people of Afghanistan to stop killing each other. All that accomplished was giving them an enemy that they could agree temporarily to start killing. Once the outside forces limped back through the Hindu Kush, the people of Afghanistan went right back to killing each other again.

I’m fully aware of the bloody legacy of the various imperialisms that have afflicted this battered place for almost as long as the world has been aware of Afghanistan. I’m fully aware that its impoverished people have been used as pawns by blundering Western opportunists from the Viscount Melbourne to Charlie Wilson. I’m fully aware that its impoverished people have been ground up as empire fodder by everyone from Queen Victoria to Mikhail Gorbachev. All of these things add up to a long, bloody, and tragic history that should have been a caution to American policymakers. All of these things do not add up to a reason for the people of Afghanistan to keep slaughtering each other in the marketplace.

We are trying to create and sustain a country among people who are not sure they really want one, and who are extremely sure that they don’t want one that relies on outside support to survive. We’ve exchanged the British East India Company for Unocal, and the hatred of the oligarchical meddling by Western business interests has been constant and unchanging. We make the same mistakes, over and over again, because we can’t get our own vision of Afghanistan out of the way long enough to see the real people who live there.

Unconfirmed claims suggest they managed to breach the defences of the National Directorate of Security, the main spy agency which protects high-ranking government officials. The presidential palace—only a few hundred metres from the blast—condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms.” “Such cowardly terrorist attacks will not weaken the will and determination of Afghan security forces to fight against terrorism.”

This is brave talk, but it dodges the question of whether or not the “Afghan security forces” represent the people of Afghanistan or simply “the government.” If this is a fight between “terrorism” and “the government,” in neither of which is the great mass of the population particularly engaged, then what is this except a battle between forces whose credibility rests on the gun? And what the hell precisely is the dog that the United States of America has in that fight?

The “war on terror?”

What is that anymore?

We sacrificed most of whatever credibility we had as an honest broker in that place when we bailed after the Russians bailed. We sacrificed the rest of it when we briefly made the landscape bounce after 9/11 until the Avignon Presidency got down to its real business of grabbing Iraq oil. I’m not entirely sure what we’re propping up there, but it will come to no good end. Please stop killing each other.

Obama Blocking Setting Precedent of Anti-Saudi 911 Lawsuit To Avoid His Own Prosecution For War Crimes

Obama: ‘If we let Americans sue Saudis for 9/11, foreigners will begin suing US non-stop’



US President Barack Obama © Kevin Lamarque
President Barack Obama has said the classified pages of the 9/11 Commission report that do not “compromise major national security interests” may “hopefully” be soon released, but argued against any potential legal action against Saudi citizens.

Obama, who flew to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, discussed in an interview with Charlie Rose his relationship with the Saudi regime and the controversially-classified 28 pages of the report, which some believe contain links between 9/11 terrorists or Al-Qaeda and Saudi officials.

The full conversation aired Tuesday night on PBS after initially airing highlights on CBS News.

Former US Senator Bob Graham, who has seen the pages as intelligence committee chair, had already told the CBS program “60 Minutes” that he believes the Saudi government helped the 9/11 hijackers.

READ MORE: ‘Saudi Arabia could expose those complicit in 9/11 if Obama releases secret Congressional report’

When asked by Rose if he had read the pages, Obama said he “had a sense of what’s in there.”

While admitting it has been a long time since the US intelligence started evaluating the data contained in the classified pages, Obama said that “a whole bunch of stuff” needs to be “verified.”

He hinted that “hopefully this process will come to a head very soon.”

“But this has been a process which we generally deal through the intelligence community, and Jim Clapper, our director of intelligence, has been going through to make sure that whatever it is that is released, is not going to compromise some major national security interests of the United States, and my understanding is that he’s about to complete that process,” said Obama.

Rose also asked about legislation that would allow the relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudis, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, but has yet to be voted on by the full body.

Obama has said that he doesn’t support the bill, due to the possibility of foreign citizens – presumably victims of US wars and drone strikes – suing the government.

“If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” the commander-in-chief said.

The Saudis have reportedly threatened to sell its $750 billion in US assets if Congress passes the law.

Obama also discussed his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Rose interviewed for two hours last September in advance of his speech at the United Nations.

The US president commented on the phone conversation he had with Putin about Syria shortly before he recorded Monday’s interview.

“My call today to him was to indicate that we’re starting to see it fray more rapidly. And if the United States and Russia are not in sync about maintaining it and getting a political track and transition moving, then we could be back in a situation we were three, four weeks ago,” Obama told Rose.

Obama said Russia is “very much committed to maintaining the structure of the Syrian state, which in theory, we don’t object to either.”

“Where we have continually butted heads, and this has been true for six years now is [Putin’s] insistence that he cannot back unilaterally the removal of [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], that that’s a decision that Assad and the Syrians have to make,” the president added.

During Rose’s marathon interview with Putin in Moscow, he asked the Russian leader if he thought Obama listened to him and whether he thought Obama considered Russia and Putin an equal.

“Well, you ask him, he’s your president,” Putin said after laughing.

Zionist Press Builds Pressure On Putin and Obama Over Return of Golan


The IDF launched an unannounced military-air exercise in northen Israel Monday April 18. It will also be held in the Jordan valley, strategically located south of the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. Despite the official explanation that the drills are part of the IDF’s training schedule for 2016, it is difficult not to see it as a follow-up to the Cabinet meeting on the Golan the previous day, including Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s declaration that “Israel will never withdraw from the Golan.”
Just as the Cabinet meeting was an “emergency” one, the exercise is not part of standard training, as an IDF statement claimed, but rather part of the overall picture of the war in Syria on the other side of the northeastern border.
The drill is mainly intended to prevent a possible attack by ISIS, Syrian, Iranian or Hizballah forces aimed at torpedoing Netanyahu’s discussions in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, April 21.
debkafile’s military sources report that the IDF exercise shows only half of the military picture in the area.
On the other side of the border, in the triangular pocket where the Israeli, Syrian and Jordanian borders meet, heavy fighting has been underway for several days between Syrian rebels and forces of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades and the al-Muthanna organization, which have both sworn allegiance to ISIS. The battles are taking place across from Israel’s Hamat Gader, south of the Sea of Galilee, which is the reason why the exercise is also being held in the Jordan Valley.
On Sunday, the leader and commander of Al-Muthanna was killed during the fighting. The goal of the rebel attack is to capture the Syrian villages in the territory held by ISIS, which threatens the Galilee and the Golan communities of Tel Katzir, Shaar Hagolan and Masada. Sources in Kuwait reported last week that Jordanian special forces and Israeli drones marked in the colors of the Jordanian air force are participating in the battles. The developments on the ground indicate that the goal of the attacking forces is to uproot ISIS from the Israeli and Jordanian border areas.
debkafile’s sources provided the following exclusive details on April 17:   

The Israeli cabinet holds its weekly session Sunday April 17, on the Golan. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu will visit Moscow on Thursday, April 21 to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and to launch the most important battle of his political career, and one of Israel’s most decisive contests of the last 10 years: the battle over the future of the Golan Heights.
debkafile’s intelligence sources and its sources in Moscow report exclusively that Israel’s top political leaders and military commanders were stunned and shocked last weekend when they found out that US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to support the return of the Golan to Syria. The two presidents gave their top diplomats, Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the green light to include such a clause in a proposal being drafted at the Geneva conference on ending the Syrian civil war.

Israel captured the Golan from the Syrian army 49 years ago, during the Six-Day War in 1967 after the Syrian army invaded Israel.
In 1981, during the tenure of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israel passed a law defining the Golan as a territory under Israeli sovereignty. However, it did not state that the area belongs to Israel.
While Israel was preparing for a diplomatic battle over the future of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Obama and Putin decided to deal a diplomatic blow to Israel and Netanyahu’s government on an unexpected issue, the Golan.
It is part of an endeavor by the two powers to use their diplomatic and military cooperation regarding Syria to impose agreements on neighboring countries, such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
For example, Washington and Moscow are trying to impose an agreement regarding the granting of independence to Syrian Kurds, despite Ankara’s adamant opposition. The two presidents are also pressuring Riyadh and Amman to accept the continuation of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule, at least for the immediate future.
debkafile’s sources report that just like the other diplomatic or military steps initiated by Obama and Putin in Syria, such as those for Assad’s eventual removal from power, the two powers see a resolution of the Golan issue as a gradual process that may take a long time, perhaps even years. But as far as they are concerned, Israel will have to withdraw from the Golan at the end of that process.
It should be noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu is not traveling to Washington to discuss the Golan issue with Obama. The frequent trips by the prime minister, senior officials and top IDF brass to Moscow in recent months show where the winds are blowing in the Middle East.
However, Moscow is not Washington, and Israel has no lobby in the Russian capital defending its interests.
It should be made very clear that the frequent trips by senior Israeli officials to Moscow have not created an Israeli policy that can influence Putin or other senior members of the Russian leadership. Putin has made occasional concessions to Israel on matters of minimal strategic importance, but on diplomatic and military steps regarding Syria and Iran he has shown little consideration of Jerusalem’s stance.
It should also be noted that there has been no basis for the enthusiasm over the Russian intervention in Syria shown by Netanyahu, Israeli ministers and senior IDF officers.
All of the calls by a number of Russia experts, mainly those of debkafile, for extreme caution in ties with Putin have fallen on deaf ears among the political leadership in Jerusalem and the IDF command in Tel Aviv.
Amid these developments, three regional actors are very pleased by Washington and Moscow’s agreement to demand Israeli withdrawal from the Golan: Syrian President Assad, the Iranian leadership in Tehran and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Now, they do not need to risk a military confrontation with Israel over the Golan because Obama and Putin have essentially agreed to do the dirty work for them.

Deep Central Asian High-Pressure Gas and Oil Continues To Disappoint Developers

[High-Pressure, High-Sulfur Gas Stalling Eastern Caspian Development Dreams ; Israel’s High-Pressure Leviathan Gas 4 Miles Down and Too Costly To Develop]

Central Asian oil: destined to disappoint?


The stagnation pervading Central Asia’s oil industry could be alleviated by a couple of big announcements in the coming months, on the Kashagan and Tengiz fields.

But industry veterans are more heedful of the numerous obstacles presented by the region, from the geological to the bureaucratic, and an unpromising global context.

Home to some of the world’s largest oil and gas fields, ex-Soviet Central Asia and particularly Kazakhstan was once an exciting frontier for the industry. But of late Kazakh oil production has stagnated at around 1.7 million barrels per day, partly because of a decade of delay starting output from the giant Kashagan project.

A consortium led by Chevron has also delayed plans to increase output at Tengiz from around 600,000 b/d to nearly 900,000 b/d, a project that could cost tens of billions of dollars.

In neighboring Turkmenistan, planned gas exports to Europe have made little headway due the cost of building a trans-Caspian pipeline, doubts about European demand, and difficult regional politics.

Turkmenistan’s gas exports have increased — the International Energy Agency expects it to have pipeline capacity for 80 billion cubic meters/year of exports to China by the early 2020s — and it has hopes of eventually building another pipeline across Afghanistan to South Asia.

But for now Turkmenistan is increasingly reliant on China as a sole client. More marginal projects, in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, are languishing.

Kazakhstan might have thought it need not worry, until oil prices collapsed. But its economy is at a standstill and state finances suffering.

State producer KazMunaiGaz has been at daggers drawn with its upstream subsidiary, a semi-independent entity listed in London.

A row over the parent company’s under-payment for crude appears to be resolved on April 4, but the subsidiary’s scrapping of dividends for 2015 disappointed investors.

Confidence could get a boost if Kashagan starts producing. Foreign executives and Kazakh officials involved in the project have said it will start toward the end of this year.

The project has been dubbed a “failure of the industry” by a top official from France’s Total, chief financial officer Patrick de la Chevardiere, after leaking pipes forced the Kashagan consortium to abort an attempted startup in 2013.

The World Bank has warned that low oil prices increase the chances of further delay.

Whether Kashagan will be trouble-free once it starts producing is also unclear. The field is still at the frontier of what the industry can handle, due to high sulfur levels, which led to the leaks, and intense pressures below the Permian salt layer.

Estimates of how much Kashagan will produce following startup vary. Theoretically it will have a capacity of 370,000 b/d, but Platts has been told the “real” level will be 300,000 b/d annually, reflecting the fact that staff will be barred from the main artificial island used for operations when well intervention work is under way, due to the risk of hydrogen sulfide poisoning.

Once the field starts up, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s leadership is likely to need additional projects to absorb Kazakh labor and materials. But Kazakhstan’s reputation as a place to invest has been tarnished by sluggish administration, the lack of an independent judiciary and use of strong-arm tactics.

In the latest dispute with investors, the state is demanding $1.6 billion from the consortium that runs the giant Karachaganak oil and gas field. Operated by Shell and Italy’s Eni, Karachaganak produced 390,000 b/d of oil equivalent last year, about 60% being liquids, and is also due for expansion.

The parties “are determined to find a consensual solution and to peacefully resolve the issue,” Kazakhstan’s energy ministry has said.

Above-ground difficulty

Paradoxically, some executives argue in private that the tightening of international anti-bribery regulations has made it more difficult to operate in Central Asia.

The story of the former Soviet Union’s oil sector has long been tainted by claims of corruption, ranging from the mundane giving of fax machines to, in the case of Kazakhstan, transfers of fur coats, speedboats and payments for Swiss boarding schools.

Some reasons for disillusion are less controversial. Geologically, the north Caspian and Kazakhstan’s coast have been thoroughly explored and where resources might still be abundant, corruption is not the only issue.

Tajikistan has hopes of uncovering subsalt resources near the Afghan border perhaps akin to the Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan, thought to be the world’s second largest.

But in impoverished Tajikistan even basic letter writing skills are lacking among younger officials, let alone industry or economic competence, a foreign oil executive told Platts, requesting anonymity.

The joint venture conducting a 2D seismic survey across a swathe of Tajikistan has found it hard going. The survey has involved drilling deep holes for the laying of explosives in order to get clear seismic images from beneath the salt layer, adding to costs “significantly,” Julian Hammond, the chief executive of Tethys Petroleum, said.

Tethys, which set up the joint exploration venture with Total and China’s CNPC in 2013, is now under pressure to withdraw due to its inability to meet its share of costs.

While a vibrant mix of large and small companies might revive Central Asia’s oil sector, in reality smaller companies, lacking connections, financial weight or expertise, have struggled.

Reports from London-listed Roxi Petroleum outline numerous difficulties involving the need to pump vast amounts of drilling fluid into its deep, high pressure wells in Kazakhstan to keep them under control, resulting in them becoming clogged, as well as various objects getting stuck thousands of meters below ground.

Others have been overwhelmed by a licensing system that stipulates long periods of “trial” production when oil must be sold domestically at controlled prices.

Getting permission to export typically involves building facilities for eliminating flaring, but this can be difficult when the state forbids the raising of additional funds on stock exchanges without its permission.

The pricing issue was a major reason why Australian independent Jupiter Energy shut down its production in February. It says it could be producing 2,500 b/d of oil from its existing wells, but would fetch just $3-6/b.

“The company continues to endure a frustrating operating environment,” Jupiter said last month.