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13 October 2015


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"That moment of the battle might be crucial, as it could be the starting point to a massive artillery barrage (MRLs) and large RuAF airtstrikes, resulting in crippling casualties among rebel ranks."

Reading this, the image coming up in my mind is a rout similar to what the US inflicted on the Iraqis on the highway out of Kuwait during Desert Storm.


Just looking at the map, I am wondering if the Russian and Syrian primary objectives should be border crossings into Turkey from Kasab all the way to Azaz before they tackle Idlib and Aleppo. This would cut all contact for Al Nusra into and out of Turkey along the eastern border of Hatay salient and , north, also into and out of Turkey through Azaz border crossing. Of course this can not be done before objectives 1, 2 and 3 are cleared, and through the border campaign Aleppo and Idlib will be sealed off. Just a thought I putting out there for consideration, thanks all.

Patrick Bahzad

I think you're right and this is soon going to be an area of interest. The "battle of the border crossings" is going to be another vital prerequisite for a final onslaught onto Idlib and Aleppo.

However, it will be fought in a difficult terrain, with other troops, mostly infantry with close air support. Whether and when it will start is a question of manpower available (also combat aircraft available as the number of Russian and Syrian jets is limited). The current priority seems to be areas 1 to 3, but no doubt the next step should be a push along the M4 towards Jisr al-Shugur, combined with gradual take-over of border areas to Turkey.


I wonder what the Turks may do if the Russians and Syrians eventually push the ever so moderate opposition towards the border.

The Turks clearly don't approve of what they are doing, and pursuit would bring Russian aviation close to that unilaterally i.e. illegally extended 'Turkish' airspace.

I have an impression that the Russian were so clear as to discourage them from acting on their silly idea. That would be good.

Patrick Bahzad

I don't think they will do anything directly.

They may let the rebels use Turkish territory more freely, opening up alternative supply roads, on small mountain trails possibly. They would also be more aggressive in the defence of Turkish airspace, but they're not going to risk a major incident over it.

The only thing they could do of potential importance is accelerate manpad deliveries to rebels in the area. Possible targets would be Russian helos that can be seen over Ghab plain and North Hama right now. In the mountains of Hatay however, their use against rebels armed with manpads would be more risky and this in turn could slow down pace of "clear and hold" op.

William R. Cumming

Thanks Patrick for excellent map, summary, and analysis. What is clear is that open source NATO and the USA have not a clue as to why Russia is doing what it has done, is doing, and will or can do. Neither do the Turks even as the election run-up in Turkey is clearly about the survival of the Turkish Nation--nothing less. If Russia, Syria, and the Kurds end up controlling border crossings on the Syrian/Turkish borders the economic collapse of Turkey will accelerate. All IMO of course.

Not sure what Israel and Iran think is happening but believe they are also puzzled and fearful of Russian intentions. What I do know is that all apparatus of the Russian state intends to fiercely defend borders West of the Urals whereas I believe Russian long term vulnerability is East of the Urals.


"Thanks Patrick for excellent map, summary, and analysis"

I concur :)


There are two additional offenses missing above.

North-east of Latakia there is currently an attack on Salma with the aim to recapture all ground in Lataki governate up to the Turkish border. This to prevent an eventual (Turkish) attack on Latakia and the Russian assets there.

The attack on the Ghab plain from the west is indeed quite slow. It is to break into the plain and to then turn north along the plain.

Both of the above attacks have as intermediary campaign target Jisr al Shughur and the M4 highway next to it. From there it is probably on to Idleb but first more manpower will have to come in.

The attack north of Hama is to proceed northward along the M5 highway also in the direction of Idleb. There is currently a pocket of terrorists sitting on the M5 south of Khan Shaykun. These have lots of TOWs. An attempt is now underway to close the pocket by coming from west as well as from east towards Khan Shaykun. Yesterday Kafarnabodar on the west of Khan Shaykun was taken and there was also some success for the SAA on the east of Khan Shaykun. If closure of this pocket succeeds there will be a nice cauldron the artillery can then clean up.

The Rastan pocket is now a classic cauldron clean up. Split in half, shell halves, split each half into halves again, shell halves ...

Additionally to the above campaigns there is an attempt to clear the way to the currently surrounded Kweires airport. I haven't seen any recent news of how well or not this proceeds.

These are all only predatory measures for the real campaign.

Russia is setting up an additional airport to be able to deliver many more sorties. The SAA is waiting for more troops to come and join. Only when both are ready will the real hammer come down.

The U.S. dropped weapons and ammo to the Syrian Kurds yesterday and wants them to go for Raqqa. But the spokesperson says they don't want to go for Raqqa but close the Turkish border and connect to the western Kurdish parts in Afrin.

- “Our prime and most important goal is to liberate Jarablus and to connect Kobani with Afrin,” Can told McClatchy. Capturing Raqqa, a mostly Arab city, is “not really” a PYD objective, he said. “Not for now,” he said. -

Told you so ...

Erdogan is of cause vivid about this.

- Turkey has warned the United States and Russia it will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains by Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in north-western Syria, two senior officials said.

"This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it," one official said of the possibility of Syrian Kurdish militia crossing the Euphrates to extend control along Turkish borders from Iraq's Kurdistan region towards the Mediterranean coast.
"With support from Russia, the PYD is trying to capture land between Jarablus and Azaz, going west of the Euphrates. We will never accept this," the official said. -

In today's NYT it is finally admitted that the not-really-moderate "CIA-rebels" who get all those TOWs are under the field command of al-Qaeda. Judging from the comments the U.S. people ain't happy about this ...


It now seems conclusive there was not a Turkish shoot down of a Russian fighter plane last week. http://theaviationist.com/2015/10/12/no-russian-aircraft-shot-down-over-syria/

Patrick Bahzad

First of all, this is not a map analysing every skirmish, engagement and ambush currently going on. Therefore there is nothing missing here as there is no major offensive on Salma, like there is in the other three areas. The manpower and activity involved in Salma is much lower than in the other three operations. Just because there are tweets about SAA action in NE Latakia, doesn't mean something major is going on there.

I don't know if you have ever been in Salma, but I have. It has little strategic value as such, but it used to be a nice mountain resort for the regime elites. Therefore it has currently more of symbolic rather than actual military value. It is however also a hotspot of rebel activity. But there are many others along that front-line.

The attacks on Salma and other rebel positions in Latakia province serve a purpose: it's about spreading rebel forces thin all along that front-line, in order to make a potential breakthrough easier, and to confuse the rebels about the actual point(s) of attack, given that the Russians/Syrians do have the initiative and can chose where exactly they're going to try and break through.

Regarding your battle plan, why not, but could be totally different developments also. You seem to think that the COA is all set, which is a mistake. To every action, there is a reaction. You can have a master plan (strategic goal), but you have to prepare for contingencies (which call for tactical and operational thinking and planning). Let's not get ahead of ourselves.



I concur, thanks for an excellent analysis. The map is perhaps deceptive in that the rebel groups are highly fractured, and "green" is likely much more patchwork (and susceptible to cauldrons. Do you envision the rebel groups (other than JaN and IS) being able to develop coherent defensive strategies?

My guess is no, and that with Syrian Intelligence, isolating pockets should go easier (outside of larger urban areas where the battle lines have ossified and perhaps understandings among rebel groups have developed) and we might see that in the Ghab Plain campaign.

Patrick Bahzad

Sure, there are various rebel groups, but more colours would have made the map useless. furthermore, the rebels are operating "joint operations rooms" in which JaN, AaS and others are represented. Therefore, I only chose to isolate JaN strongholds from other groups.

But one could certainly try and map the location of every major rebel faction. Would need almost daily updates though and wouldn't help much, as the important thing is who is calling the shots. In this case it is undoubtedly JaN (and its "tier 1" allies), as well as AaS.

Regarding consistent and coherent defense, there certainly seems to be a concerted effort at the moment, whether it will hold up once the situation gets more kinetic is difficult to say ... probably not though. And rebels would fall back on another defensive line. That is where pursuit and destruction of retreating rebel forces would come into play.

Bill Herschel

I come here to read informative articles. Thank you.

And now today there is this in the Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/13/opinion/a-road-to-damascus-via-moscow.html

Having read article after article in the Times by the likes of Andrew Higgins, writers who are CIA trolls or CIA troll wannabes, that this trial balloon from the Times is very, very welcome.

But, however that may be, thanks again, Mr. Bahzad.


PH; The propaganda war is also interesting. See https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/653923234946121728

ex-PFC Chuck

In Counterpunch Thomas Harrington, a professor at Trinity College in Hartford, argues that stability in the Middle East(excepting Israel) has never been a strategic objective of the US:
" . . the US strategic goal in Syria is not as your faithful mainstream media servants (led by that redoubtable channeler of Neo-Con smokescreens at the NYT Michael Gordon) might have you believe to save the Syrian people from the ravages of the long-standing Assad dictatorship, but rather to heighten the level of internecine conflict in that country to the point where it will not be able to serve as a bulwark against Israeli regional hegemony for at least another generation."


Great analysis and really love the image, but any chance for an Eastern offensive by the Iraqis and Iranian to really put pressure on ISIL?


That's been the goal and modus operandi for well over a decade. Pat Buchanan laid out this doctrine of the neocons in his article "Whose War?", published 3/24/2003:

"...[Jonah] Goldberg endorsed “the Ledeen Doctrine” of ex-Pentagon official Michael Ledeen, which Goldberg described thus: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.” (When the French ambassador in London, at a dinner party, asked why we should risk World War III over some “shitty little country”—meaning Israel—Goldberg’s magazine was not amused.)

Ledeen, however, is less frivolous. "In The War Against the Terror Masters", he identifies the exact regimes America must destroy:

First and foremost, we must bring down the terror regimes, beginning with the Big Three: Iran, Iraq, and Syria. And then we have to come to grips with Saudi Arabia. … Once the tyrants in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have been brought down, we will remain engaged. …We have to ensure the fulfillment of the democratic revolution. … Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.

Rejecting stability as “an unworthy American mission,” Ledeen goes on to define America’s authentic “historic mission”:

Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. … [W]e must destroy them to advance our historic mission."

Patrick Bahzad

Don't think a major offensive against ISIS in Iraq is in the cards. In that regard, I would like to point out that the operations taking place in NW Syria are not directed at ISIS, even though officials - both Russians and Syrians - will obviously state that the endgame is to defeat ISIS.

Currently, the only possible operation aimed directly at ISIS could be a push towards Raqqa, by the US sponsored "Syrian Arab Coalition" + YPG (called collectively the "Democratic Forces of Syria"). The likelihood of such an action seems quite remote at this stage though.



Since the jihadi makeup includes the desire for martyrdom what kind of psyops would be effective in getting more of them into the cauldron(s) before closing them so the SAA and allies have more "fish in the barrel" to shoot at?


PB: What's stunning is how Russia's enemies believe that they will cow the Kremlin with these type of threats. See https://twitter.com/APHClarkson/status/653969179838664704


AaS, that's Ahrar al-Sham? They would be part of the light green regions on your mape or the ones among them with the biggest influence other then JaN in those regions, which are marked in darker green?



I concur with your concurrence. Thanks so much, Patrick.

different clue

William R. Cumming,

Since Russian/SAR/etc. intentions have been clear and easy to see over recent time, the only reason anyone could be without-a-clue is if they are self-willfully clueproof.


The map was very helpful. Thanks for putting it together.



Now Lebanon cites Al Akhbar run by Ibrahim Elamine on a major Iranian deployment to Syria. War plans also discussed. Kurds will meet HA/SAA/IRGC along Turkish border. Elamine is a very legit source with links to HA.

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