03 September 2015


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William R. Cumming

Before we worry over Russian intentions in Syria what are US intentions and Israeli intentions and SA intentions given the brilliant depictions of tribes, cultures, and groups in Syria now depicted in an earlier SST post?


For sure, a lot of money, greased the fatwa declaring Alawites to be Shia. Not sure if the Persians fully recognize the fatwa. I"m amazed that with all the turmoil in Libya, no new facts have emerged about the disappearance of Musa as-Sadr

from the wiki:
"In 1971 al-Assad declared himself president of Syria, a position the constitution at the time permitted only for Sunni Muslims. In 1973 a new constitution was adopted, replacing Islam as the state religion with a mandate that the president's religion be Islam, and protests erupted.[53] In 1974, to satisfy this constitutional requirement, Musa as-Sadr (a leader of the Twelvers of Lebanon and founder of the Amal Movement, who had unsuccessfully sought to unite Lebanese Alawites and Shiites under the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council)[54] issued a fatwa that Alawites were a community of Twelver Shiite Muslims.[55] Under the authoritarian, secular Assad government, religious minorities were tolerated more than before but political dissidents were not. In 1982, when the Muslim Brotherhood mounted an anti-government Islamist insurgency, Hafez Assad staged a military offensive against them known as the Hama massacre."



"It is increasingly clear that the mere presence of NATO manned Patriot air defense missiles in Hatay Province in Turkey was a significant factor in enabling the Nusra (AQ) jihadi capture of Idlib Province in Syria "

The U.S. and Germany pulled back their Patriots form Turkey. The U.S. one in Jordan is supposed to leave too.

Could this have been to enable more Syrian air support?

I doubt that Russia will send its own planes and official Russian pilots. Its routes of communication to Syria are very weak and easily interdicted by the U.S., Turkey and/or other actors. The risk of getting sucked by the U.S. into another Afghanistan situation is too height and no Russian general wants to get into that situation again.

Putin will deliver the supply Assad needs and may be some new planes and some pilots will come. But those pilots will have Syrian passports. He will also increase pressure on Tehran and Baghdad to provide more footsoldiers (another infantry division at least is needed) to help the Syrian government.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

A few comments on your excellent and timely post:

The fall of the Assad government will cause Russia to lose its only toehold in the ME. This is presumably of increased importance to them now, with the rise of jihadi power in the region, backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The insertion of Russian forces, especially air power, should enable the faction in Israel opposed to supporting the jihadis to prevail.

Iran seems to have given up on Assad and Syria, and is now mainly concerned with preserving Shia power in Lebanon.

Russian military involvement will have the added effect of boosting the morale and fighting spirit of the Syrian forces fighting against the jihadis and rebels.


"Russia believes that Iran in its efforts in Syria is not sufficiently focused on the absolute need for governmental survival with or without Bashar Assad. "

Wait. Does it mean that both Russia and Iran are OK to throw Assad under the bus (or more likely *in* said bus, destination Moscow) ?



It means that the survival of the Syrian state is more important than Assad's survival. pl



"Its routes of communication to Syria are very weak and easily interdicted by the U.S., Turkey and/or other actors." This would only be true if the US and/or others would be willing to go to war against Russia over a naval blockade of sea traffic in and out of the Syrian ports. They are not willing to risk that. As to the risk of another Afghanistan, generals do not decide national policy and the stakes are high enough in Syria for Russia for the Russian government to "risk it." "He will also increase pressure on Tehran and Baghdad to provide more foot soldiers (another infantry division at least is needed) to help the Syrian government." The Iranian Quds force does not have infantry divisions and idea of the Iraqi government sending its incompetent forces to fight in Syria is actually amusing. pl



Politically motivated fatwas from Mousa Sadr and Khomeini not withstanding, no serious Islamic scholar can really believe that Alawis with their strange Trinitarian beliefs are Muslims. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Russia's attitude towards the Civil War in Syria was one similar to the NAZI Germany; prolonging it for all its worth.

Iranians determined that both Iraq and Syria are traps to degrade them through a war of attrition.

So, they are evidently concentrating on defending Western Syria; the most populous and the most productive part of Syria as well as Lebanon.

As far as I can tell, Iran has not given up on Syria or Assad.

Iranian likely determined that the so-called NATO states + Coalition-of-Willing Arabs war against ISIS was only a show - another phony war.

I would not be surprised if Iran and her allies make a Hudna with ISIS - for whatever duration.

In regards to Russian intervention actively against ISIS and other jihadists; I seriously doubt that that would happen in an y serious manner.

Likely, this is a pose by the Russian Federation to get NATO states to do something.

ISIS cannot be destroyed except by razing Raqqa and Mosul to rubble; in my opinion. Those who want to do it - say Iran and Syria and Iraq - do not have the power, and those who can do it - say US, France, Russia, Turkey - will not do it.

I think this is all posturing for the another potential round of meaningless "Syrian Peace Plan".

ISIS is here to stay.


Col, there is no verifiable open source information to support the contention that the Russians are about to make a large troop or air force commitment to Syria. Narrative is not evidence. Most is timely gossip that would support a major expenditure in the US defense budget for an air defense system for Israel now that the Russians are supposedly just over the hill and Iran is stepping up its missile program. That is much more likely justification for the story that has since grown legs. And on the ground, 4 BTRs in a rusting amphibious ship is not indicative of more than a weapons sale from Russia to Syria which is likely to expand as Iran gets funds released and the Russians get some cash. BBC quotes Bosphorus News which has some good pictures and equipment schematics on the ship's deck but if you look further down the Turkish navy's website (www.turkishnavy.net) that tracks ship traffic I see no indication to date of anything that looks like a Russian surge by sea. I would contrast this situation with the Crimea invasion where there were hundreds of original open source references and photos of little green men, trucks with license plates (or lack thereof). Also not mentioned in these threads is that the Patriot missile systems are being removed from Turkey. This is inconsistent with the overall theme unless to indicate that Israel might be increasingly exposed to missile attack which is probably true. Unless hard evidence presents itself of a major Russian surge that would involve hundreds of vehicles and thousands of men in motion by air or sea, I am skeptical based on available evidence that the Russians have thrown their hat into the ring.


I doubt that Iran has given up on Syria or Assad. That Hizbullah is currently foremost near the Lebanese border is just a question of logistics and current priorities. Smaller Hizbullah units are in several other places in Syria.

Iran submits peace plan to Syria's Assad: official

Iran submitted last month a peace plan to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to try and end his country's four-year war, a senior Iranian official said on Thursday.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian however told a news conference in Damascus that any initiative to end the conflict would have to recognize "the pivotal role of Assad."


Russians I talked to pointed to an "Afghanistan repeat" discussion in Moscow that is currently underway. The U.S. tricked the USSR into Afghanistan (according to Brzezinski) and the Russians fear the same trick applied with regard to Syria.

The foot soldiers would be Iranian and Iraqi volunteers trained by the Revolutionary Guard especially for fighting in city quarters. They would have to clean up east-Aleppo.



I am interested in doing analysis that deals with the future. Why are you so intent on insisting that the intervention has not yet occurred? A good analyst will tell you what is likely to occur. We will see. pl



the Russian government has the same capacity for covert action as the United States. You can do a lot with "sheep dipped" "volunteers" who are really Russian soldiers and their units in disguise. This has been done often in history most recently by the Russians in Crimea and perhaps in eastern Ukraine. It is much harder to create effective units of "volunteers" starting from scratch as the Iranians would be doing with Iraqi and Iranians volunteers. Sakr is said to have written that there is a legal barrier to Russian intervention. Was there such a barrier in the intervention in the Crimea? This is just silly. Sakr also writes that Russia lacks our base structure around the world. This is irrelevant. We are not talking about intervention on the other side of the world. Syria is in Russia's near abroad and they are building themselves more logistics infrastructure on the Syrian coast. Russia would need US "permission" to intervene in Syria? Why? The US will not fight Russia to enforce a naval blockade of Syria and Turkey is obliged by international law not to close the exit from the Black Sea. pl



"As far as I can tell, Iran has not given up on Syria or Assad." I didn't say that. what I said is that Iran's emphasis is on the protection and maintenance of the Shia population of Lebanon. pl

Norbert M. Salamon

The only reason IMHO that Russia would increase her activities [sans overt boots on the ground] is that she does not wish to have ISIS be able to spread to the Caucasus. Having reference to the modern weaponry of ISIS mostly courtesy of US manufacturers via devious means, Russia has to increase the armament capability of Syria if they really worry about ISIS. Possibility of another reason is the Russian belief of importance of history, and ISIS with its actions is a prime destroyer of historically important buildings.

Babak Makkinejad

No doubt about that.



Tangentially related is a report that there is an outbreak of MERS in Riyadh. A friend's son who lives there puts the death toll at 500 (apparently well reported in the local press though the public reports say there are under two dozen cases). Doesn't this pose a big risk with the massive migration out of the Middle East and the pending start of the hajj?




" Having reference to the modern weaponry of ISIS mostly courtesy of US manufacturers via devious means,..."

Did you forget just how ISIS got those weapons? ISIS defeating the armed forces of the Iraqi government was devious? No; that was mostly incompetence and cowardice on the part of the current Iraqi forces.


I agree.

Russia has the UN Sec Council Presidency currently and the ME and NA set to be the priority. A minimal intervention intended to influence politics as much as anything. My knowledgeable source says it is a sizable commitment that will act as a force multiplier which could tip the balance back to Assad, he isn't sure what the purpose is though. Presumably be a French style intervention quick in to tip the scales and then back out again. Discouraging Assad's opponents and restricting outside intervention on behalf of the rebels could be worth more than anything else.

Comments from source below:

"Some very interesting Russian metal and a surprising number of men in Breton style t-shirts are turning up in Syria.

Curiously the US is reportedly standing down Patriot anti aircraft & anti missile batteries based in Jordan and pointing at Syria. Wouldn't want to hit anything by accident I suppose.

The problem with the Breton is its become a bit of a wholesale wear; Spetsnatz, Airborne, marine infantry and or maybe just some blokes who are on the ground advisors. Question is, why now from the Russians. Whilst they have shipped kit to Assad before we are talking a handful of high performance aircraft and choppers, real force multiplier kit. What I'm not sure of is who is flying it."

"Its the sudden appearance of what also appear to be reasonable numbers of actual shirts thats even more curious. Is it a trip wire function to deter other 3rd parties going too deep into Syria by air or ground, is it simply a bolster to Assads' own forces and its just a larger than expected number of technicians and brains to help out or do the Russians intend to use their own bodies in fighting.

These chappies do not appear to be PMCs."

FB Ali

"....she does not wish to have ISIS be able to spread to the Caucasus"

I would suggest that is just one of the reasons. Another major reason is that its 'alliance' with the Syrian government gives it its only physical presence in the ME, and a naval base on the Mediterranean. This is indispensable to being a real 'player' in the region.

Of course, it also enables it to act against IS and other jihadis, who are a bigger danger to it than they are to the US.



You seem to have forgotten about all those Saudi/GCC/CIA/Turkish armed and trained "Syrian" "moderates" who stopped being moderate the day after they crossed the Syrian border.

Norbert M. Salamon

Thank you for your addition FB Ali - my point re Caucasus was with reference of all the Chechens fighting Assad. I do not think that Russia want to fight the Third Chechen War.
Again thanks for the additional note.



no, I haven't forgotten that at all. I just didn't equate the idea that the manufacturer of a weapon could control the end user once it was out of his hands.

Outrage Beyond

If there is truly Russian intervention, one wonders how long it will take before a Russian S-300 shoots down an Israeli fighter jet. There was a story on a few fringe sites a week or two back, claiming that Syria had shot down an F-16. So it seems inevitable that if the Russians are there it will happen for real and be undeniable.

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