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14 October 2015

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Matthew

How effective are the RuAF strikes? See https://twitter.com/Tmgneff/status/654317539636453376

Another interpretation: ISIS is running to Aleppo to blend in with the civilian population. Putin must be hitting them really hard.

ex-PFC Chuck

Thank you, Patrick, for these greatly informative posts.
I have several questions of a clarifying nature regarding the map.
1. Most colors are shown in two shades. Do I assume correctly that lighter shade denotes an area in which its control by the group in question is not as strong?
2. What is the differentiation between areas denoted as "Rebel Groups" and "Islamic State?"
Thanks.

toto

Meanwhile, in the New York Times... http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/13/opinion/a-road-to-damascus-via-moscow.html?_r=0

"A joint Russian-American effort may fail to solve the Syrian problem. It’s not a perfect remedy, but the partial overlap in American and Russian interests is the most promising route toward a solution. American officials must end their table-thumping about Russian intrusion, recognize that we are past the Cold War, and get down to the business of statecraft."

Tigershark

Patrick: Thanks for your updates and map work. Very helpful. Lac Assad?

b

Patrick ,

as you tend to handle my comments for whatever reason "rougher" than others I, for once, would like to point out what I wrote yesterday in a comment here:
http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/10/map-only-state-of-play-of-the-current-saa-ground-offensive-in-nw-syria.html#comment-6a00d8341c72e153ef01b8d166e497970c

"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."

To which you replied in a somewhat indignant rough tone:

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/10/map-only-state-of-play-of-the-current-saa-ground-offensive-in-nw-syria.html#comment-6a00d8341c72e153ef01b8d166e772970c

"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."

And now, a day later, you write above:
"Based on this model, it also appears that one area has been consistently hit by the RuAF over the past few days, without triggering any major ground operation (yet). This area is located NE of Latakia.

Therefore, considering the methodological limits of this exercise, it would look probable that the next "big" government push into rebel territory is going to happen in this area - as forecast previously on SST - in the triangle of Kibilli, Al Haffah and Slinfah."

So please, before you rebuff me the next time, please consider that once a while my models, predictions and/or opinions just might be right.
---

A short Russian TV piece on the current fighting in Salma with a few but interesting words from a Syrian colonel.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vefcUq5UflU

Patrick Bahzad

b,

Don't take it that way. I'm not being rough and I'm sure you can handle it, judging by what I know about you. You're clever and you have experience enough to know which way the wind is blowing. Your analysis made perfect sense to me, there is no doubt about that.

Regarding Salma, there still isn't any level of activity similar to the other areas we are talking about and that is the whole point. I'm not sure you realize that. Of course there has been some fighting, as there has in other places in Latakia province and Jabal Akrad, but it's very small areas.

What I meant to say is that good Intel is the result of a variety of sources, information and analysis. Yours perfectly fits into that frame, but it only covers one aspect. If you're familiar enough with the topic, you'll know that giving operational and tactical reasons for a Probable COA will immediately trigger a question from whoever is in front of you and that question is simple: if what you're telling me is true, why can't I see it happening on the ground ? If you have no answer to that, you better not mention anything or, that's the trick, you refer whoever to the statistical or comparative data that you have in order to make your point.

This post, in its modest way, is complementary data to what you and I, PL and others have been thinking. That being said, I appreciate your input and I value your opinion. So I hope that clears the air, don't want you to feel mistreated.

Patrick Bahzad

Hard to say without eyes on the ground ...

Patrick Bahzad

That's what they call it in french :-)

Patrick Bahzad

1. Correct
2. One colour for ISIS, one for JaN, one for "other rebels" ... Any more colouring and the map would be useless.

William R. Cumming

I have long wondered what first rate mobile armored forces might accomplish in MENA! Clearly ISIS/ISIL DAESH forces have not yet faced a determined enemy with armor and field artillery! Am I wrong?

ISL

All:

I am re-posting from yesterday. This was in reply to a post by Akira of a colonel cassad entry: 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.

Update: Completely closed per Colonel Cassad and PB Map above.

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).

Cased now shows a new cauldron forming around Katrzita, along the M4 by IS against Nusra (If I Interpret correctly) .

http://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/2429846.html (Computer translation)

PB: In this light, a move against Latakia soon (If new Cauldrons form - I presume sealed ones can be pounded by SAA without direct russian involvement - if it took pressure off the cauldrons would be premature.

Patrick Bahzad

Sorry I didn't reply to your message yesterday.

I don't think the situation is identical to Ukraine. You had conventional forces operating there on the Ukrainian side. This is not the case here. There are no large conventional forces in this battle.
Doesn't mean that artillery won't have a decisive impact, but if you're looking for some historical comparison, I would look more for something like kuwait's highway of death, on a smaller scale.

Regarding your question, I think you meant Aleppo not Latakia ?

Matthew

PB: BTW, who knew that "chutzpah" describes Turkey to a tee. See https://twitter.com/bazmaniandevil/status/654315984791171072

bell

thanks for these informative posts and to the posters who also contribute mightily..

Bandolero

Patrick

Thank you for the map and the idea. I agree that if a big push would come, it would likely be against Jisr Shoughur, also freeing the M4 highway from Latakia to Jisr and at the same time securing the border of Latakia province with Turkey. I think it would likely come from via Jabal Al Akrad from south west and from Ghab plain at the same time, just as you put it in your map. That would seem to me a reasonable and achievable objective.

However, I doubt that there will be a big one at all.

What I think is that the evidence so far looks more like the Syrian army & allies are making lot's of fronts hot at the same time while at each front only making relatively small pushs forward on rebel held territory. My best guess is that's the plan. Put here and there a couple of hundred soldiers attacking a small rebel held village on various points of the front. To cope with these local numerical advantages of the Syrian army the rebels will have to send enforcements. And for these rebel enforcements the Russian airforce waits in the sky. When the rebels move on open roads they are most vulnerable and fewest collateral damage happens. When some rebel enforcement arrived the Syrian army goes into an economic defense mode at that front point, and takes some of the soldiers to make a small push elsewhere and the game begins from a new. The rebels need to send enforcements to that poiont and the Russian airforce waits for them being on the move. And so on and so on.

A main advantage of the Syrian army is that it can move on it's main supply lines without danger, while the rebels cannot. So the strategy would be to use that advatage and tire and bleed the rebels. The resulting picture of such proceeding would be that the advances of the Syrian army seem to be small, but to be on multiple points of the front at the same time, while the rebels seriously bleed in man and material, until the time comes when they are seriously overstretched and have to free territory therefore themselves. I think it would be a clever strategy for the Syrian army.

I noticed you wrote a half-sentence "if it is going to take place at all" so I think you have some doubts about a big one at all, too. So I would be interested in your opinion what do you think would be the Syrian army's strategy if they are not going to make a big push at one specific point at all?

Patrick Bahzad

What you're describing is a form of attritional warfare. This can only work if the side that choses this strategy has larger resources than its opponent. This is not the case here. Therefore attrition alone won't cut it.
What would be the end goal of such a strategy in your view ?
I said "if at all" because nothing can ever be taken for granted, whatever your plans. I agree however about the current battle which is attritional in nature, but it would have to be followed up by an offensive into the depth of adversary's territory in orde to achieve a decisive victory in battle. Military victory in this case will only mean better cards at the negotiation table. There is no military solution here.
Currently though, I think we're only seeing the first phase in a larger plan. Attrition is one part of it, probing and testing defenses is another. Adjustment is always part of any large scale military operation.

ISL

PB: Agreed only a something analogy - in Kuwait Iraqi forces couldnot ditch their weapons and uniforms like guerrillas. My thought was the more you can constrain them with their weapons and bunkers, keep them trying to hold ground, the less whack a mole the situation.

Things seem to have moved fast north of Hama in the Ghab plain.

IMO the center of gravity is cutting off supplies to the rebels threatening the SAA. The SAA likely (is continuing) a policy of wherever possible, letting ISIL degrade the rebels in the west. THis would argue for a northward push sooner rather than later. Airdropping TOWS by the US may already signify that Russia air is strongly impacting the southward flow south of weapons.

turcopolier

ISL

Most of these rebels in Syria are not fighting on their own ground. They are not from the places in which they are fighting and there are a lot of non-Syrians. They will have a tough time trying to do the Maoist fish in the sea thingy. pl

bth

Patrick thank you for the excellent work. A couple of questions.

Do I understand correctly that IS is attacking JaN on the flank and not SAA forces outside Aleppo?

Second, if we plotted known Syrian Army tank repair depots plus likely concentration points of arriving Quds and Hezbollah forces, we might gain some clue as to where enough men and tanks could be organized at one point for a major push. I doubt the Syrians would really have time to build fresh facilities so it is likely an older base(s) near a major road system with a reliable supply line for fuel. With time they could disperse, but most of this activity is only 3 weeks old.

Third, the Iraqi militias don't seem to be doing much to draw off IS forces and yet they would be the obvious source for tens of thousands of men to engage IS on a new front. I wonder if they are holding out for more money from Iran much like Hezbollah did a few years ago. In passing I note Iran approved the nuke deal and will now probably push for full release of embargoed funds.

BostonB

Did anyone have knowledge of this?? Kind of "Red Dawn"-ish. Wild.
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/10/14/cuban-military-forces-deployed-to-syria-to-operate-russian-tanks-say-sources/?intcmp=hpbt1
Cuban military operatives reportedly have been spotted in Syria, where sources believe they are advising President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers and may be preparing to man Russian-made tanks to aid Damascus in fighting rebel forces backed by the U.S.

Will Smith

http://bit.ly/1VSUY7V
This is almost same video as in your post but it include more fighting in the outskirts Salma. BTW look at 1:33s road sign 1km to Salma.

totally off topic!

Iran's IRGC missile base in the mountain 500 meters underground.
1st link pictures
2nd link three part video
https://twitter.com/abasinfo/status/654236536473526272
https://instagram.com/abasaslani/
can you see Qassem Soleimani? or I'm just paranoid.

bth

This is a very good article on IS oil production. Of note, the other Syrian rebels are absolutely dependent on IS for diesel. Also there are 6 kilometer lines of trucks waiting to be filled. How could coalition planes not notice this many trucks? As the article says, diesel is IS' winning card. http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/how-isis-uses-oil-to-fuel-its-jihad-1.2392006

Bandolero

Patrick

I do think that the Syrian army and it'S allies have the "larger resources" than their opponents in this war theater in north-west Syria, and it will be continue to be so. They got lot's of heavy weapons and enough people to man them, and I don't think anyone will seriously challenge Russian air supremacy in north-western Syria.

So, to your question, what I think the end game will be?

On the international level it's to brand the adversary of the Syrian army in north-western Syria as Al Qaeda and allies of Al Qaeda. I think that goal is already almost achieved. The attritional warfare of Syria, Russia and allies against the insurgents enforces the alliance of their opponents with Al Qaeda's Nusra Front. This will make it hard for western governments to support this adversary. Philip Hammond makes the argument Russia should stop the air attacks because the US/UK-backed "moderate rebels" will then all join ISIS. So what? It's easy for Russia to counter this argument. How moderate are these moderates if they all join Al Qaeda when under attack? And, when they, after the attack, all joined Al Qaeda, then what? Will the US/UK than openly call for support of Al Qaeda like David Petraeus and Michael Oren did? I don't believe that will come. I don't believe one can win elections in the west with the proposal to support Al Qaeda. Even in Turkey Erdogan finds that's harder and harder.

So I believe the north-western insurgents and their SNC representatives will not have any place at the table for a political solution in Syria. The armed insurgents will be internationally dealt with as terrorists aligned with Al Qaeda, and their SNC representatives will be dealt with as irrelevant. Instead the political solution will be done between the Syrian government and the YPG, or, what's now branded as, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

On the local level the solution will be to frustrate the part of the local population still fighting against the Syrian army. It works, but slowly. Every week a couple of locals defect (or surrender) to the Syrian government. From these people and the internal Syrian refugees the local pro-government forces to hold slowly-won ground in north-western Syria will be made. It will take quite a while, but I think that's the Syrian endgame. Al Qaeda and allies in North-Western Syria will be defeated slowly, a village a day or three villages in a week, but it can't be faster because for faster action the psychological frustration process to produce local manpower to hold the ground cannot be accomplished in time.

confusedponderer

bth,
re your third point on Iran's funds being released - I think it is a very spurious argument that is being made when people allege that releasing Iranian funds will make them invest these new assets into more evil deeds.

It is IMO part of the scaremongering to suggest that the Iran deal is a bad deal - because Iran is a bad actor and cannot be trusted.

For one, even though it may appear a minor point, the money is THEIRS to begin with. Then, the Iranians have an economy to fix as a major problem, and the question is how much they can afford to divert from that effort. The real problem for the folks who make that argument is that this may lead to economic improvement, which would result in stronger supprt for the Iranian government, which in turn makes regime change even less likely.

For arming and supplying Allies in Lebanon and Syria the Syrians won't need these funds any more than in the past when they didn't have them. The allegation that it is Iranian aid that causes Iranian allies or sympathisers to be so much of a problem is probably quite overblown, at times entirely out of proportion.

Exhibit A, Yemen. I am seriously in doubt as to whether the Yemenis really need all that much Iranian help to kick Gulfie butt. Saudi Arabia's problems and lack of progress in Yemen stem not from Iran's support of the Houthis but from the Saudis taking on more fight than they could handle to begin with.

I saw a picture today of 'captured Iranian arms', and what stood in the front of the pictures looked a lot like a TOW launcher - you know the stuff the Saudis give to 'moderate Syrian rebels'. That the TOW is used by the armed forces of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran alike makes this only more amusing.

http://tinyurl.com/q37be39

http://tinyurl.com/porzn7d

http://tinyurl.com/nb8hhgd

Then, as far as arms supplies are concerned, the stuff that sits on the shelf in their warehouses may well do for all intents and purposes. The shiny new, unused tanks spotted in service with the SAA looked to me a lot like venerable T55s which are out of production for a couple decades. Of course, they are worth something, but old arms, however effective still, tend to have been paid for already. Realeasing Iranian funds is not going to affect arms the Iranians bought or built years ago.

I.e. I think it is unlikely that the releasing of Iran's funds has any effect on that part of the equation whatsoever.

Bandolero

Patrick Bahzad, Pat Lang and all

What do you think of these news?

Reuters:

Turkey warns U.S., Russia against backing Kurdish militia in Syria

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/13/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-idUSKCN0S71BF20151013

RT:

Russian, American envoys in Turkey warned against helping Syria’s Kurds

https://www.rt.com/news/318662-turkey-russia-us-kurds/

To me it looks like the mighty Sultan Erdogan of the Ottoman empire tries to punch a bit above his weight when he tries to take on the US and Russia at the same time. What you think?

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