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28 October 2015


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The Frontline program was interesting in that they got footage of areas not usually seen on US TV and amusing for the ham-fisted attempts at IO they encountered from the Syrian government, but the editorializing was ignorant and annoying.

The Frontline people acted like claims of foreign support for the rebels are laughable. They acted like the claim that most rebel groups share aims and tactics with ISIS is also laughable. They strongly implied that the unicorn army is real.



It seems that you do not understand that it was a miracle that the producers and this journalist managed to have as much non-Borg material in the film. pl


I don't think Russia's campaign in Syria will fail, but I think we need to be realistic about what they can achieve with their current level of commitment as well as their ability to expand and sustain their forces.

The main problem for the Syrian government has long been a lack of manpower and their difficulty in recruiting additional forces is not likely to improve given the flow of refugees out of the country. Many of those refugees who make it to Europe tell stories of the extraordinary efforts the Syrian government is making to "draft" people into the army. That is not a problem the Russians can solve - over half the Syrian population is displaced and the number is growing every day.

The Russians provide a lot of advantages and I think those advantages will allow the Syrian government to consolidate control of some key areas, but taking Aleppo, much less of the rest of Syria, is a tall order. Russian air, rotary wing and artillery forces will not be as effective in a major city as they've been on the al-Ghaib plain and the areas around Homs and Hamah.

It also remains to be seen what Saudi Arabia and the other regional countries opposed to Assad will do to oppose the Russian intervention and IMO there is a significant danger should they choose to double-down.


The unicorn army IS real. I talk with them every day.

(My psychiatrist tells me he's going to up my meds.)

J Villain

If ISIS captures a US military person and does what they did with the Jordanian pilot what happens then? Iraq III or does the public freak out an demand the US completely leave. I don't see much middle ground if it happens. Worse I don't see any intelligent though being part of the process of deciding what to do at that point.

J Villain

>"Seven Russian naval landing ships are presently in transit between Russian ports in the Black Sea and the Syrian coast."

Russia has had joint "war games" scheduled with Syria for months and has long since sent out warnings that people should keep away from certain areas for a fixed time. Seems like a weird time for "war games" since the SAA doesn't have a lot of man power sitting around getting bored. I just wanted to point out it was scheduled so no one thought it was a sudden panic move.



"Question - what will happen when Turkey kills some US soldiers?"

It seems to me that's the point why Obama put in US forces there.

Erdogan threatened to bomb the YPG if they go west from Kobane over Jarabulus to Aleppo. Erdogan would also likely happy to bomb the Syrian army when they help the YPG doing this. And, Erdogan may even gamble to take on the Russians when they help the Kurds doing this. But with US forces possibly being among the Kurds doing this, Erdogan now has a huge problem: will Erdogan bomb the US?

The Twisted Genius

Martin Smith did a terrific job on this Frontline documentary. I, too, am surprised he was able to get this much non-Borg material in the piece. I am sure the Borg Collective is quite displeased and will attempt to smear him and deep six this documentary.

It does look like we screwed the pooch on this whole Syria and Iraq thing, especially with the moderate rebel training fiasco. Can't wait to see the AAR on that. Although I still think we may be able to work with the YPG to help close the Turkish border, our best bet is follow the lead of the R+5.


A comment from the Frontline journalist who went to Syria. He does not come across as someone purely pro- or anti-Assad.


Trey N

This report is very encouraging regarding R+5 progress against the liver-eaters:


Two questions: does anyone here know anything about the writer; is he a qualified and trustworthy expert on this subject? If so, is this particular report fully credible?

It would certainly be good news if the current campaign against the head-choppers is really progressing as well as described!


People say I imagine things but at least my unicorn doesn't judge me.

I'm getting annoyed with my new psychiatrist. I'm sure he's only treating my paranoia for the money.

And my boss needs to stop having secret meetings about my paranoia.


from the article you linked:

"A small Russian air wing, but a highly competent one, has turned the whole Syrian terror war upside down, with a combined operations display with the Syrian army that no one saw coming. And the most bitter pill of all, they have done this completely within the United Nations charter and international law ..."

... much unlike the conduct of the US and her allies, who are trampling Syrian sovereignty while asserting that Assad is undeserving of it (the phrase used is 'illegetimate').

The delicious irony here is that one hears American politicos, officials and reporters essentially complaining that Russia, by acting completely within the United Nations charter and international law, is somehow cheating.


Trey N

"Russia...is somehow cheating."

That brings to mind the priceless joke from the Old West:

"Hey, Three-toed Pete is cheating! He ain't playing the hand I dealt him!"


TTG: The ultimate moment of schadenfreude will occur when Lavrov utters Condy's words: Russian operations will stop when we achieve a "durable" ceasefire in Syria.


Four letters. I R A N. See Iraq for guidance


"Many of those refugees who make it to Europe tell stories of the extraordinary efforts the Syrian government is making to "draft" people into the army."

I may have once stumbled across one of your comments allowing me place you in space. I haven't stumbled across any stories about refugees trying to avoid the draft over here in Germany.

But: I would assume it can be a motive. In the "Inside Assad's Syria" PBS doc, there was this old woman, talking about a "family martyr", but then telling us that the vast majority of the other family members had left to go to Europe.

Thus, yes, avoiding the draft was there between the lines. Maybe not just in this incidence.

i would need to watch the movie again, but in a way it triggered the conversation of a neighbour of my parents. Apparently the exchange between different Arab refugee or immigrant communities has broken down since the late 80s. Or the times at which Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinans, Syrians et al merrily intermingled with some Iranians in the larger "alternative scene" down south. They seem to have grown more suspicious of the "Arab other".


I think one "game changers" in that documentary is the part which shows the nightlife in Damascus (under that supposedly terrible, terrible dictator). And young people (of both genders) in western clothing in streets and shops.

One person commented that he sees far more face-covered ladies in England compared to Damascus.

Chris Chuba

Good points but morale improvements in a campaign that is gaining traction and winning on the ground can improve recruitment.

Chris Chuba

I actually think that the Assad coalition is driving to north to close the border themselves to simply link up with the Kurds. This way the Kurds just have to hold their existing territory without expanding.


"Worse I don't see any intelligent though being part of the process of deciding what to do at that point."

What would mark an "intelligent though" at such a point?


How do you explain the fact that ISIS and al nusra have launched successful attacks on the main highways in the last few days disrupting gov supply-lines to Aleppo?

Doesn't this suggest that they have guys who have some formal background in military strategy? You might expect that kind of training at West Point or Langley, but certainly not in some Chechen backwater or Saudi Arabia.

Another thing about recent ISIS and al Nusra attacks is the fact that they must have been coordinated on behalf of allies in Aleppo which means these guys must have a fairy sophisticated communications system.

Could you comment on these two things? Are these guys working with Special Forces or something?


Some attempts by Kerry to get back on higher ground... and also admitting to having common ground with Russia... oh my...

On eve of Syria peace talks, Saudi Arabia questions Russian, Iranian intentions http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/10/us-welcome-iran-syria-peace-talks.html
“While finding a way forward on Syria will not be easy … or automatic, it is the most promising opportunity for a political opening,” Kerry said Oct. 28 in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The best opportunity we have is to try to come to the table and recognize a political solution.”

“Ultimately, to defeat Daesh [Islamic State, or IS], we have to end the war in Syria,” Kerry said. “And that is America’s goal.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will lead the Iranian delegation to Vienna, Austria — accompanied by Deputy Foreign Ministers Abbas Araghchi, Majid Ravanchi and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian — for the Syrian peace summit, said the Iranian Foreign Ministry, adding that Iran’s delegation may also hold bilateral talks with US counterparts in Vienna on the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

... In addition to the United States and Iran, also expected to attend this round of Syria talks are the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, as well as European Union High Representative Federica Mogherni and UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.

... Kerry, speaking at Carnegie before he departed Oct. 28 for Vienna, said in a meeting between him and the Russian, Saudi and Turkish foreign ministers in Vienna last week that he felt they had “broken some new ground.” He articulated a long list of goals* for Syria that he said the United States, Russia and the other nations coming to the talks agree on.

“Russia and the US share an amazing amount of common ground,” Kerry said.

He noted that both sides agree on the need for a political solution; that victory by IS has to be prevented; on the imperative to save the state of Syria and its institutions; to preserve a united and secular Syria; and to create conditions for the return of displaced persons and refugees. "We agree on the right of the Syrian people to choose their leadership through transparent, free, and fair elections with a new constitution and protections for all minorities in the country," Kerry added.

“We agree on all that,” he said. “Surely we can find a place where one man does not stand in the way of the possibility for peace.”

*"long list of goals:" Yup, I'm sure that attempting to decide Syria's future by committee and undoubtedly endless PowerPoint presentations regarding "goals" will totally solve the problems in Syria (/snark).



I assume you are not American because of your ignorance of American institutions. West Point is a publicly (federal) owned undergraduate college at which the students wear expensive uniforms, are paid and hold parades for the benefit of the tourists. They don't learn anything seriously military except in summer camp where they basically go through the same training that an enlistee would experience after joining the army as a private soldier. It is only after graduation after 4 years of this that a newly minted second lieutenant goes to his arm's service school somewhere else in the country to begin to learn his/her trade and how to organize an operation in the field. As for Langley (CIA) they know little of military anything and if necessary borrow someone from the military or hire annuitants to do the military stuff which they dislike (except for drones). If you took the trouble to learn something about the military art you would discover that actual experience in warfare is the best teacher so long as you survive the learning process. there are lots of these IS guys who have that and there may still be some ex Iraqi Army among them. I have written endlessly about that. I guess you were AWOL for those discussions. BTW it is IS and not Nusra involved on the attack on the Syrian LOC. OK. They hold some points on the LOC. Let us now see if they can hold them. Are you an ISW analyst? pl



As the narrator stated Damascus has always been a tolerant and culturally mixed place. I have been in that scene in the nightclub and it was quite pleasant so long as you were careful where your hands were. The Sheraton Hotel downtown had a particularly raucus supper club. great place. Beautiful women in western clothes dressed to the nines. pl


Silly, of course. What can you expect from the 'indispensable and exceptional' lunacy that are leading the world to catastrophe like another people that thought they were 'uber alles'.

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