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22 October 2015


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There is first news, unconfirmed yet, that the government attack in Latakia north towards the Turkish border has now started after earlier reconnaissance probes. TOS-1 "flamethrower" thermobaric missiles were used to suppress enemy defenses.

Patrick Bahzad

Just to confirm b's message above, pending confirmation though.

Seems a susbtantial operation has started focusing on the Jabal al-Akrad (NW of Latakia), especially the area between Salma and "Katf al-Ghader" hilltop.

Too early to call, but could be starting point to yet another "front" opened by the R+5. IMO, this bears the strategic signature of the Russian Command, not QS and the IRGC.


Who is Qatar really speaking for? See http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-10-22/proxy-war-no-more-qatar-threatens-military-intervention-syria-alongside-saudi-turkis

Like the Bill Kristol Contrary Indicator, this Qatari and Saudi chest puffing sounds like real panic.


I wonder, if the Gulfies get that stupid, is there a point at which the US tells these heavily armed clowns that they're on their own?


Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Is Moscow looking to make Syria’s opposition a deal? http://rbth.com/international/2015/10/20/is_moscow_looking_to_make_syrias_opposition_a_deal_50233.html
Moscow’s efforts to involve moderate Syrian opposition figures in the peace process have been going on for a long time, according to Andrei Fedorchenko, head of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies under the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. … All that is happening now is an attempt to create a broad anti-terrorist coalition involving regional players and various Syrian forces – though how realistic this is remains an open question, according to Vyacheslav Igrunov.

“The thing is that the Syrian opposition will not run counter to its main sponsor, Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia is so far not ready for a compromise with the Assad regime. Without Saudi Arabia, Russia will not succeed. So there are some tough negotiations ahead,” he said.

Saudis Increasingly Warming Towards Moscow http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/saudis-increasingly-warming-towards-moscow/ri10648

It will be interesting to see if Russia can wrangle a deal, or even a proto-deal between the various players.

Ishmael Zechariah

True, the clowns have excellent weapons. But, the mercenaries who operate these systems are not suicidal. Attacking Russia is not bombing Yemen. PB and the Colonel might comment on how seriously to take such statements.
Ishmael Zechariah



I don’t think (IMO) due to Iran’s own political reasons Iranian or Iranian controlled forces want to or are allowed to operate or get too close to Turkish borders including the Kurdish controlled regions, but I don’t think that is the case in Iraqi Kurdistan.


Good news about the TOS-1 use. How could this not be the weapon of choice when encountering rebels/jihadis resistance?? You can have your AC-130s with 105mm howitzers and your pinpoint strikes, I'll take the thermobaric weapons any day of the week.


Could be a Saddam-in-Kuwait moment. If the Qataris/KSA believe they've got the green light from Washington, things could spiral. Would Q/KSA or Wash be that dumb?


Russia’s Winning the Electronic War
In Ukraine and Syria, Russian forces are using high-tech equipment to jam drones and block battlefield communications -- and forcing the U.S. to scramble to catch up.



J Villain

I wouldn't believe a word of it.

They are doing so well in Yemen that they had to start hiring mercs out of Nigeria to tackle mighty Yemen. Now hiring more Africans or Pakistanis and sending them to Syria might happen. But air attacks? Come on get real. The US, UK and France would be drooling at the chance to launch attacks out of Turkey but the rest of the alliance would be having none of it.

Mean while trying to run an air campaign from Saudi Arabia would be completely in effective. Sorty rates of what 2 a day, tanking all the way? Not that they could get any where near Syria because Russia would be having none of it. But that isn't even their biggest problem or the US and allies problem. What happens to stability in KSA or the world price of oil if Saudi/Qatari tankers start exploding? Hey accidents happen, some times more than one.

J Villain

Russia has been close several times over the years to ending this. It has always ended up on the rocks becuase the US keeps demanding that it must pick the new dictator in Syria not Syrians.


Map doesn't show Kurds who are an important factor in Aleppo. For instance Nubl and Zahraa look on the map to be surrounded but in reality they are not.

J Villain

TOS-1 is a pretty indiscriminate weapon. If you are lucky and there are no civilians around then yes I agree. If you look at the way the new offensives have been happening you can see that they can take days to clear a hamlet of 100 people. Artillery would do it in no time but they aren't doing that so it looks like the plan is to fight a more consrtained war. Unlike ISIS Assad/Putin need to win some "hearts and minds" (tm) along the way.


J Vilain

IMO the R+5 effort will not be interested in hearts and minds until they have won the military struggle. This is not COIN and IMO there will be a decisive military outcome. pl


I get your point, but I don't think it's that simple. It's not just the US that's been blocking the Russians on this, it's also Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Israel. They've all wanted Assad out for their own reasons, so have worked together, sort of, towards that goal.

Now Russia is attempting to tempt all those parties in their preferred direction with carefully targeted combinations of carrots and sticks. Will they succeed? Who knows? But they have recently changed the game in Syria in a major way, so we'll how that effects the motives and strategies of the various players.


According to this the Tal Kataf Al-Ghaddar hilltop overlooking Salma was captured by government forces today.



Most towns the Jihadis hold have few civilians left in them. The UN says 11 million Syrian have fled from their home. Some 3.5 million to foreign countries. The others fled to Syrian government held areas. Latakia city and Damascus have nearly doubled their population.

There isn't much concern left about using TOS or otherwise "hitting civilians". Especially not after all the damage and death the "rebels" have caused.

Here is an excellent drone view of Jobar, a Damascus suburb held by the "rebels". I can not see much care about damage there.



The Israelis would just airdrop leaflets advising the population to flee before sundown or they would be considered combatants. Then they would carpet bomb the place. Obamer-Clinton-Cruz Bush et al would say, they are just exercising the right of self defense against terrorists.


Yeah, a 'hearts and minds' strategy is useful in political campaigns along with lots of cash. Winning war not so much. I say you take the "Don't-stand-too-close-to-Vinny-whose-got-a-mob-hit-out-on-him approach" to quickly isolate the rebels/jihadis. When people see it's not in their best interest to be around targeted jihadis they (non-combatants) will separate themselves. Those who don't will be overwhelmingly sympathizers and support the campaign in non-combat roles. Just start hitting the rebels/jihadis like this and the population will learn quickly.


Re: TOS-1 being oh-so indiscriminate - that's bullshit, IMO.

The thing is devastating. One launcer salvo saturates an area of 200 × 400m. The rocket weighs in at 217kg and every launcher holds 24 of them to create the aforementioned effect.

Precision or discrimination in combat is very relative thing. The US are on record to have killed a lot of bystanders, despite good efforts to avoid that, with precision guided munitions.

Are you seriously telling me that a TOS-1 load (even when being thermobaric) is more indiscriminate whithin its blast radius than a load of run of the mill 1000, 2000 lb bombs dropped from an aircraft?

Think for a minute: A thermobaric warhead is, what, 4x more powerful than the conventional explosive load? That's makes a TOS-1 Rocket, assuming that it is 25% of the weight is approx the charge, a 200-something kg explosive equivalent. The 1000 lb Mk.83 holds 200 kg explosives. That is a US standard ordinance.

Or take some of the really nasty if precision guided DIME crap that causes untreatable wounds? Or perhsps the TOS-1 is more indiscriminate than a salvo of MLRS missiles, which the Iraqis, for some odd reason, called 'steel rain'?

I won't tell you a secret when I say it isn't.

TOS-1 is big-bore a shore ranged battlefield weapon. If you use it to saturate an enemy trench position, occupied by enemy tropps - pity the miserable wretches in its way - but there is nothing indiscriminate about the thing. The localised devastation it causes is the very point. An artillery barrage does the same thing, only may need a couple more shells.

Whether it is indiscriminate or not depends on WHERE it is being used, not WHETHER it is being used. The same goes for 'barrel bombs' by the way.

Babak Makkinejad

In my views, the time for a deal was over when Russia went to war.

I think the diplomats will be talking of a "Deal" in order to prevent to prevent a more widespread war which could lead to World War III.


Indeed, winning the battle comes first, winning hearts and minds comes later. These are very distinct stages, and winning hearts and minds is something you do after achieving a battlefield victory.

In Russian thinking, as far as I know, the goal is to show once capacity to coerce the population, without actually coercing them, while also denying the ability to coerce the population to the insurgent. Once the insurgents are routed from an area, Russia actually does do things like rebuilding schools etc.

Where Russia does have imho a huge advantadge over the US is that they are completely willing to mend fences with enemies. Ramzan Kadyrov killed his first Russian when he was still a teenager, now he is Russias local vasall. There is an "job offer" for a "Syrian Kadyrov" position, and that job offer is perhaps quite attractive.

I do wonder if Russias GRU/SVR are occassionally on the ground in de facto diplomatic missions. As far as I understand, truces in Syria are very "tricky" issues. The Assad regime isnt overly trustworthy, and the various rebel groupings are too fragmented to actually honor any truce promise they made. Having a Russian as a "diplomatic faciliator" or as a "guaranteeing power" could make some things easier and reduce bloodshed, but could also massively backfire.


J Villain: It reminds me of the hapless Ukrainian army. You could determine how badly they were performing by how anxiously Germany pushed for a ceasefire.

Similarly, the Qataris' and Saudis' "threats" imply panic. The "moderate" rebels must be burning up the phone lines to their paymasters.



If the Qatari's send their 'forces' into action outside Qatar who is going to keep the subjects in line and the Emir in power? Perhaps they'll have better luck hiring the Pakistani army - the one that already said no to Saudi money? I doubt they'll do more than rattle the saber for the MSM as they'll be needing someone loyal to fend off the remnants of ISIS when they come running from Syria after getting beaten by the R+5 alliance.

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