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13 October 2015


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Ash Carter: Russia's moves are short sighted.

Syrian rebels: Whatever, we're beginning to bug out of Aleppo. See http://syriadirect.org/news/jabha-shamiya-commander-blames-%E2%80%98complete-lack-of-coordination%E2%80%99for-aleppo-losses/

Question: Are these numbers accurate—or is someone interviewing for Baghdad Bob's old job? See http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/10/12/islamic-state-pentagon/73840116/



Thanks for the facts on the ground and the map. It is invaluable to American citizens and everyone across the world who comes here.

I wonder what Russia’s goals are? Propping up the Syrian government so it doesn’t fall? That would limit the combat to straighten out defensive lines and eliminating pockets. If Russia is in Syria to take out the Sunni rebel forces and the Islamic State it has to close the gap on the Turkish border that includes the Sunni rebels in green and the Islamic State in gray resupply lines. After securing the border the campaign could surround Aleppo and then go on to Raqqa. Closing the gap will make Turkey apoplectic. The USA has just dropped 50 tons of supplies to YPG. The Kurd’s goal is to unite its people and also close the gap. Clearly the USA’s intention is to draw Russia into a quagmire. The alternative is that it is insanely incompetent. Turkish armed forces will be drawn into the regional war to defend its borders from incursion at best or at worse to defend Turkmen and Sunnis from Russian and Iranian attack. Reports are that 15,000 Iranian troops are supporting the Syrian government. Calling Obama a 'Weakling,' New Jersey’s moderate governor Chris Christie who is running for President Says He Would Shoot down Russian Planes over Syria. The Sunni Shiite Middle East holy war is well on its way to a World War III.


This is worth looking at.


Some excerpts.

"The source explained, “The first wave of attack, which began a week ago, is, in the military term, a forced reconnaissance to test the readiness, reaction and defense strategy and effectives of the enemy”."

"The two airports used by the Russian Air Force , Hameemeem and Latakia, , are unable to provide services for more than 60 sorties. The ongoing military operation needs at least 100 to 200 and more sorties daily to achieve the desired goals. The theater of the military operation of the countryside Latakia to Jisr al-Shughur and reef Aleppo is a vast area of ​​about 20,000 square kilometers. Therefore, there is a need to use a third airport which we are preparing and organising in the coming month."

"On the reason for the attack from the countryside of Latakia, the source said: “This front is one of the most sensitivity and dangerous one. There is a possibility that Turkey and its allies in the region support al-Qaeda and their allies on the ground by attacking the area and push to Latakia, presenting a direct danger to the Russian airports there. Therefore, it was decided to clear the area”."

- Eliot

Yeah, Right

The comment from the Kurdish spokesman is interesting for two reasons:
a) The (obvious) military implications
b) The politics are fascinating, because it suggests either that the Kurds have stopped talking to the Americans, or the Americans are playing dumb to hide that they are preparing to shaft Turkey.

Or both. Nothing would surprise me, since it may well be that there isn't a single voice coming out of Washington.

Yeah, Right

Excellent map, Patrick. Very concise.



You do not seem to have included helicopter sorties. They do not require a runway. Something like an apron in front of a hangar will do. pl


I'm not so sure the neocons and fellow travelers are trying to cow the Kremlin as much as "buck up" their own supporters.


Col Cassad has published an analysis of the Syrian operation:


No good english translation yet, but the Yandex translator is readable:


Christopher Fay

Christie is moderately criminal, but considering our low state of governance he is a moderate.


U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren calls Russian air strikes "reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible".

Yeah, Right

The YPG has already poured cold water on the idea of a push towards Raqqa.

b has the quote up on his web site - the Kurdish spokesman is quite dismissive of the idea.


Thanks for the analysis all. Its very hard to find reliable sources on what is going on over there.


I don't know the veracity or the implications of the losses of senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders in the Syrian conflict.


How did Lebanon look at the end of their civil war both socially and physically? Is Syria past that stage now? With millions displaced it would seem that their society has already been destroyed.


Also, the Su25 is designed to be very frugal in its requirements and can operate from a grass strips if need be. It only needs strips of about 550m length or so. Older models could even even run their R-95Sh jet engines on diesel fuel.

The air base limitations probably are more relevant for the more advanced and more demanding Su 24 and Su 34.


Blogger Anatoly Karlin (tech guy from the S.F. Bay Area) has an interesting post on the breakdown of the Syrian population according to consanguinity (inbreeding), IQ, and support for Islamism v. Assad. There is striking correlation. Areas with high levels of consanguinity, especially the FBD type (father's brother's daughter which is common in the Arab world), have lower IQs and higher levels of anti-Assad Islamist support. And the inverse is true, so in places like Damascus you will have lower consanguinity and higher IQs and support for Assad.
See: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/banging-cousins-to-islamic-state/

Also, I think a lot of these consanguineous, lower-IQ Islamist-sympathizing types have fled Syria for Western Europe on the invitation from Merkel and Cameron. This will certainly benefit Syria (while being very problematic for Western Europe).

There is one other change that has occurred during this Syrian conflict that is problematic. It is the Turkizarion of northwest Syria. Turkey has being working to repopulate this area with Salafist-sympathizing types, especially Chinese Uyghurs. See: http://atimes.com/2015/10/a-buffer-zone-for-erdogans-turkic-settlements-in-syria/

Tom Cooper

I would like to ask a question about extensive use of terminus 'SAA' in this article.

Namely, all the photos and videos we have got to see from this operation so far, and all the media reporting, show only
- NDF (even T-72s, T-62s, and T-55s driven by NDF, especially by its Christian units),
- Hezbollah/Lebanon (including T-72s of the former Republican Guards Division are driven by Hezbollah),
- Hezbollah/Syria (i.e. IRGC-QF-recruited quasi-NDF formations, like Imam al-Bakr Brigade)
- SSNP Militia (particularly in Salma area)
- Ba'ath Party Militia, or
- IRGC-QF formations (like Liwa Fatimioun, Liwa al-Qods al-Filistini, Liwa al-Haydareyen Brigade, then this 'Brigade of Friends of Syrian Martyrs' etc.).

So, would somebody mind explaining, where exactly is this 'SAA'? Is there at least one regular _Army_ unit involved - or still around?

Or is it so that, as some like to joke, 'SAA' stands for something like 'Soleimani's Afghan/Alawite Army'...?

Thanks a lot in advance.


As Russia bombs ISIS, the US bombs power stations and civilian infrastructure to make life miserable for non-jihadists.

Two F16 aircrafts belonging to the so-called US-led coalition violated the Syrian airspace on Saturday, targeting the infrastructure and destroying two power plants in al-Rudwaniya area to the east of Aleppo city, a military source said.


Akira: Thanks. The computer translation is good enough, showing northward SAA progress - suggesting a cauldron forming around the Hama area. It will be interesting to see if adding Russian air support can close it - its been static for at least half a year (as far as I went in quick research.

PB: So would you assess, that rather than isolating certain rebel groups (per ground intelligence), pockets will be developed based more on geography (and happenstance)?

My interest is whether the Cauldron approach in Ukraine - which strongly leads opposition forces to take a stand once closed and get pounded, applies in the more fluid (porous) Syria situation, leading to greater long-term stability than the US approach - could we call it blitzkrieg? - which pushes all opposition forces underground almost immediately (not to mention making them by disbanding the armed forces of Iraq).

Patrick Bahzad


First of all, this is a short summary of what's been going on lately, not some academic "think tank" junk. If that is what you're looking for, you're in the wrong place.

That being said, SAA is used as a generic term for Syrian government forces. Breaking every operation down into sub-units or groups involved is not the topic of this post. Besides the NDF are part of the SAA, just in case you didn't know.

Regarding Hezbollah/IRGC-QF, I haven't seen heavy involvement in the current fighting, contrary to what you seem to believe. I'm not saying they aren't there, I'm saying they are not involved YET. More exactly, I think they are stationed further North of current areas of fighting and will spearhead the main offensive, which is likely to start in the days/weeks to come. When I'll see Hezb/IRGC/QF involved, I will say so !

As for Baath party militia and SSNP, I take it you were joking. The average age of SSNP militant is somewhere around 50+ and there aren't that many of them left. But you're right, technically they are involved in the fighting in Hama province, only their numbers are small compared to SAA/NDF.

Regarding images and vids, mostly posted on social media, you can analyse as long as you want, but what are they gonna tell you that we don't already know ?

Finally, if your worry is the attrition and depletion rate among regular SAA units, feel free to comment. There's plenty to say about it. Just avoid being a smart-ass.


Boston Bob

Colonel Warren's job is to be a "talking dog" for administration policy and his master SECDEF Carter. pl


"Also, I think a lot of these consanguineous, lower-IQ Islamist-sympathizing types have fled Syria for Western Europe on the invitation from Merkel and Cameron."

BostenB, you do not have to speculate, but only to use the available numbers published by the German government. BTW you are very liekly wrong.

Tom Cooper

I've got no issues with anybody, and surely do not intend to play any kind of 'smartass'.

But, if somebody posts a 'paper' of this kind online, and offers space for discussion about it, then this somebody is de-facto 'inviting' commentary. If commentary is unwanted because it contains questions about the background for certain conclusions expressed in the 'paper', then I think it would be good to let us all know in advance.

Namely, my commentary comes in form of something I wonder about - and then very much at that, which is: backgrounds for use of certain expressions.

I wonder even more because there are lots of such 'write-ups' - whether in professional circles, or around the blogosphere and other social media - and they all have only one thing in common: all are all the time talking about 'SAA'.

But, whenever somebody like me starts asking questions like I did above, then not one of authors writing such 'papers' can say what is 'SAA', nor where is it, or at least how much of it is still there.

Seems, the situation here is no exception from that rule.

This is making me even more curious. Namely: I'm getting exactly the same explanation/excuse from whoever I ask such questions, anywhere in the DC, in Brussels, whether people working for fancy think-tanks, military or intel professionals, journalists (including those specialized in military issues, or those 'embedded' in specific places) or 'just enthusiasts'.

Bottom line is always the same: either it's so that this 'SAA' is such a super-secret military body that it's de-facto 'stealth', no matter its size; or all of this 'SAA' is on vacation somewhere far, very far away - and that since two years.

Or there is actually no 'SAA'.

Since the first two solutions appear rather unlikely to me (but everybody is free to correct me, of course), the use of terminus 'SAA' as 'generic description for Syrian government forces' would be correct ONLY if that Syrian government would control its own forces.

However, alone a casual look at the list of commanders KIA the last few days while commanding these (supposedly) 'government forces' shows there are no Syrians between them.

IRGC-QF (IRGC's Qods Force), yes.

Hezbollah, ditto.

But: no Syrians.

And the best of all is: neither Damascus, nor Tehran, or Hezbollah make any kind of secret over the nature of these commanders. I.e. they say, 'Maj Gen Hamedani, C-in-C IRGC-QF in Syria', or 'commander Hassan al-Haj, Deputy Overall Commander Hezbollah', or several others... They do not say, 'SAA'.

Now, while I perfectly understand good intentions behind writing pieces of this kind; while I can understand that some might consider this 'hair-splitting'; and anybody feeling irritated by my questions has my heart-felt and most sincere sympathies...

...all of this leads to one conclusion that is as obvious as unavoidable.

Namely, if Syrians are not in command of that 'SAA', then that 'SAA' is not under control of the Syrian government. And then it's neither 'Syrian' nor 'Arab', and therefore no 'SAA'.

(That is: except somebody here wants to make the same mistake made so often - and declare Iranians for 'Arabs'...?)


Regarding other topics mentioned above:

- Hezbollah involvement: if during the evening after insurgent counterattack on Kfar Naboudah of 12 October, Hezbollah media in Lebanon reported that bodies of 37 'martyrs' were delivered back for funerals (photos of Hezbollah bodies not recovered from the battlefield can be found around the internet too), and - in addition to these 37 - then also announced the death of three of its 'commanders' (including one known to have been something like its '2nd overall top commander')... don't you think that their involvement there is slightly larger than usually known?

Indeed: if photos of Hezbollah combatants driving sand-painted T-72s of the (former) Republican Guards Division have appeared on the internet as early as in January 2014... and insurgents in Kfar Naboudah have captured at least one such tank too... could it be that all is a sort of 'trail in the right direction'...?

- IRGC-QF involvement: if these openly talk about deploying entire _brigades_ to Syria, mention full titles of these, show their flags, interview their commanders etc.; if the Iranian State TV shows funerals for Afghan Hazara combatants of the IRGC KIA in Syria, organized in Qom... while all TV-documentaries, photos etc show 'SAA' troops wearing NDF, SSNP, or BMP insignia, and the best the regime 'media' can talk about are either 'NDF regiments' - or some 'SAA divisions' that do not exist since long ago - don't you think that the situation might be 'at least slightly different than usually assessed'?

- Regarding Ba'ath Party Militia and SSNP: if these are indeed all 'somewhere around 50+', then all the photos showing youthfull members of various BMP and SSNP militias - whether those involved in (failed) attempt to lift the siege of Kweres AB, those driving BTR-152s on Ghab Plain, or those involved in (failed) assault on Salma - must be showing some of best plastic surgery ever?

Ah yes: I forgot to mention the Arab Legion and the IRGC'S PFLP-GC brigade. But, I guess, that could indeed get misunderstood as 'hairsplitting'...

Anyway, perhaps I'm just some jerk, a wannabe, or indeed a smartass. Call me the way you prefer. But please, be so kind to ask yourself: perhaps it is so that some more intensive analysis of - whatever can be found in the social media (between others) - might provide something that certain people here _don't_ 'already know'?

... and then, perhaps it is so that we all should (just for example) stop ignoring obvious evidence and stop asking 'where is moderate Syrian opposition' - and instead start asking ourselves: and where to hell is that SAA, actually...?


There were times, the hawkishly neoconservative angle of Asia Times was absolutely hard to ignore. Some really peculiar memes started there. Let's get it into the circuit and watch how many pick it up. ;)

Should I read the article? You tell me.

Beyond that can you fathom the glee between the lines, apart from the very, very special ethnocentric/consanguinity selection?


Tom Cooper

Is it your position that the SAA no longer exists? pl (the proprietor of SST)

Patrick Bahzad

Fair enough, but what I read mostly in your comment is an opinion, based on some social media and TV excerpts, or just on your personal judgement, which is fine by me.

I'm not a member of any think tank and if you ask me for my opinion, I certainly won't dodge your question. But you haven't asked any practical question. You made unsubstantiated claims which should be considered the truth according to you.

The SAA - NDF and other militias included - suffered around 60 000 casualties in the last four years. This is a very substantial figure, but doesn't mean there isn't any Syrian government Army left, does it ? Or do you think pro-regime Syrians would not have noticed if troops around them were made up solely of lebanese, iranians and afghan Hazara ? Don't know about you, but I can recognize lebanese accent from a syrian accent.

If you want to make a point and say the current regime forces are not the same than at the beginning of the war, fine. I don't have any problem with that. Same goes for the rebels. If you want to say that the SAA was stretched so thin, they had to regroup and abandon certain areas, I agree. Furthermore, if you want to make a point and emphasize the role of the Syrian government's "foreign legion" of lebanese Shia, Iranian pasdarans, Iraqis from Basra, afghan Hazaras, fine as well, that's a fact I'm not disputing.

However, if you're saying the only reason Assad is still in power is because foreign troops have taken control and are fighting the rebels, I'm afraid we are not on the same page. I have very personal reasons to dislike the Syrian president, his father and his mukhabarat, so make no mistake who you are dealing with when you're adresssing me. However, I'm not going to let my personal grudge cloud my judgement about the current situation.

Besides, if so many SAA troops had been killed, that would mean that a much larger proportion among the 240 000 casualties of this war were actually pro-regime, which sort of contradicts your baseline of Assad being the butcher of his people and having no support among ordinary Syrians.

Final point, regarding your extensive use of social media and TV images to illustrate your point about casualties being mostly foreigners, do you really think the Syrian regime is going to advertise the death of its soldiers and officers the way the iranians are doing ? If so, you really got no clue really. Keep on reading the script they handed you.

If on the other hand, you're interested in confronting informed opinions and exchanging views, your input is welcome. I'm not going to blame you for being anti-Assad and believe me I probably have more reasons to dislike him than you do !

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