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08 December 2015

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Babak Makkinejad

Patrick Behzad:

In case you did not know -

http://www.fardanews.com/fa/news/471084/4-روستای-جنوب-حلب-که-امروز-آزاد-شدتصاویر

bell

the western msm lost all legitimacy - a long time ago.. anyone who uses it to follow events will lose sight of the story line very quickly... if you want a good dose of propaganda - follow it.. the fact ISIS downed the russian plane speaks clearly enough on how russia has been infinitely more effective at going after ISIS then the usa or the west at any point in this... what is especially interesting is seeing turkey's close association with ISIS as well, thanks their actions in all of this..

the ''moderate'' term was a con from the get go.. western gov'ts thanks the msm have used it to help further an agenda of regime change set in motion a long time ago.. their indirect support for ISIS is seen in the continued sale of oil and funding for 'moderates' who in turn pay heed to the top dog getting the green light to continue on with the agenda - ISIS.. the west looks very bad in all of this to any observer who hasn't been indoctrinated by the western msm..

Patrick Bahzad

BM,

Thx, had heard some news to that effect. Guess this is confirmation of what is coming ...

johnf

Thank you very much Patrick for a superb Sit Rep and for all the work you must have put into it. It has given me, and I'm sure all of us, a much clearer picture of what is actually happening - as opposed to what we are told is happening.

johnf

BostonB

Report: In 18 months, number of foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq doubled

http://theweek.com/speedreads/592906/report-18-months-number-foreign-fighters-syria-iraq-doubled

The Soufan Group, an international consultancy firm based in New York, used UN data, figures from official government estimates, and academic resources to come up with their findings. In June 2014, 12,000 foreign fighters in the region were identified, and now, there are 27,000 to 31,000 from 86 different countries.

Tunisia has the largest number of recruits, about 6,000, followed by Saudi Arabia with 2,500; Russia with 2,400; Turkey with 2,100; and Jordan with 2,000, Newsweek reports. About 120 fighters left the U.S. to fight in Syria and Iraq, the report says, and 40 have returned.

bth

Patrick thank you for the excellent analysis.
A couple of follow-on questions.
- Do you think Turkey will move troops into Syria like it has in northern Iraq?
- How would Putin and Obama react if Trump reached out to Putin on Syria? To me this would seem like a natural Trump-ism that would feed his ego and also point out the ridiculous contradictory policies of the Administration with regard to IS.
- Is/can the Euphrates in Syria near the Turkish border be a natural barrier if the bridges are blown from the air?
- What is the significance of March 2016?
- Does Iran actually have an Air Force capable of operating in Syria? Your post was first I had heard of it.
- I think there is a critical natural gas pipeline running out to Palmyra needed to supply electrical utilities in western Syria. This might explain the current effort by SAA.

Barish

One minor thing:

"Meanwhile Deir ez-Zor and Qamishli, two isolated government enclaves deep in ISIS territory also have fully functional airfields that could be used if security was provided for."

Qamishly is located right on the border with Turkey, deep behind YPG-held lines as far as I understand. Given its direct proximity to Turkey and Turkish mischief shown for all to see when they shot the SU-24, wouldn't that locale be at a somewhat high risk of further such actions by Turkey?

Other than that, may one enquire what the KSA-badge posted by BM is about?

J

Today Russia launched missile (NATO SS-N-27A'Sizzler') strikes from their Rostov-on-Don Kilo Class sub stationed in the Med.

Patrick Bahzad

True about Qamishli. I didn't want to over complicate the geographical data. It is still deep behind ISIS lines if you will. There is an attempt at opening up the corridor between Qamishli and Hasakah, which could serve as an LOC for ground troops landing at Qamishli and moving into ISIS territory further south. That may be the idea behind the reinforcing of Qamishli airport.
Regarding the Turkish reaction, to be honest I don't expect them to do or try anything stupid: if ther airport was used by R+6 aircraft, they wpuld get powerful AA capabilities that would deter any Turkish interfence.
Additionally, Qamishli has been used regularly to fly in militias loyal to Assad into other areas where fighting against rebels occurred.

Patrick Bahzad

You're welcome !

Patrick Bahzad

My take on your questions:
- no
- don't think Trump would do that, but I'm not an expert in domestic US politics
- depends on the season and how much water is retained upstream
- March 2016 because of diplomatic timeline and scheduled elections in syria, additionally it's start of sand storms in eastern desert, making ground operations difficult in that period
- yes they have, of course, all depends what they are using it for. Against ISIS they can certainly do some serious damage
- true, energy might also play its part in this push.

Akira

Colonel Cassad on Syria:

https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=ru&u=http://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/2513343.html&usg=ALkJrhhQb-myNW2fQIsvoy1djxEewF4qGw">http://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/2513343.html&usg=ALkJrhhQb-myNW2fQIsvoy1djxEewF4qGw">https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=ru&u=http://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/2513343.html&usg=ALkJrhhQb-myNW2fQIsvoy1djxEewF4qGw

Pierre Sprey on the Turkish ambush:

http://harpers.org/blog/2015/12/mountain-ambush/

William R. Cumming

Thanks Patrick for you skilled and comprehensive review!

Mark Gaughan

Patrick, thanks.

cynic

When the 'green' terrorists in the west of Syria have been defeated, might Syria and Russia return the favour in Turkey by supporting more Kurdish insurgency in eastern Turkey?

pj

In regards to 'regime change set in motion long ago' -

http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/33180-wikileaks-reveals-how-the-us-aggressively-pursued-regime-change-in-syria-igniting-a-bloodbath

Babak Makkinejad

I am distressed to see Turks joining ISIS.

That is the last best hope of Sunni Muslims, if a significant population there become Jihadi then all of us would be in very serious trouble indeed.

I wonder how long the Tunisian Experiment with "Democracy" will last; there is quite a cause for concern if Jihadist - wrapping themselves in the Mantle of True Authentic Islam - succeed in destroying that experiment.

(Very likely in my opinion.)

bell

patrick - thanks for the analysis.. i got so caught up in the first few paragraphs of your post, that i neglected to mention i appreciate your sharing your viewpoint here. it's a good overview and i appreciate it.. if i would say one more thing is that the turkish downing in the 12 or 17 second window of time had to have the support of the usa.. turkey wouldn't have done this on it's own.. what was interesting to me was how quickly the usa/obama came out in support of turkey having a right to protect it's territory - which coincidentally is really noticeably absent with turkeys being called up on the carpet by iraq in the past day... where is the usa in pointing any of this? absent of course! the hypocrisy is a bit more glaring then usual here..

Jack

Mr. Bahzad

Thank you very much for your comprehensive and information packed report.

On the military front:

1. From where are the rebels/JAN being supplied? It seems that they are slowly being surrounded by Syrian government forces.

2. There seems to be a small pocket south of Homs completely surrounded. How long can they survive?

3. Why should the R+6 care about ISIS in the short term, when they can really focus on rebel/JAN held areas closer to their areas of strength?

4. Can R+6 militarily rout the rebel/JAN in the next 6 months?

On the political front:

1. Do you think Putin will sellout Assad if the US/EU/Saudi/Turkey insist no political deal unless Assad goes?

2. How do you think US/EU group will react to increasing military assets of R+6 in Syria?

Ishmael Zechariah

PB,
Thanks for the analysis. You say: "Erdogan and Co. may have thought they could soften Putin's stance on Turkmen Islamist militias in North-Western Syria, dragging NATO into a potentially direct confrontation with the Russians, but their miscalculation in this instance might cost them dearly in the end."
From your pen to God's ears.
Ishmael Zechariah
P.s: https://latuffcartoons.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/erdogan-rethoric-israel-gaza-kurdish-oil.gif/

different clue

Cynic, If Putin is indeed doing all this at least in part out of support of various principles of non-illegal intervention and respect for national-state government sovereignty, then Putin will not turn around and do a version in Turkey of what he has condemned the Axis of Jihad for doing in Syria.

So I will guess that Putin's actions against Erdogan and the AKPists will be designed to destabilize and degrade them enough to either embolden what Kemalists remain to try taking back power from Erdogan . . . or to cause all inhabitants of Turkey such unbearable economic pain so obviously layable at Erdogan's door that the Turkish populations will turn against Erdogan to get Russia to make the pain stop.

Aka

sir,
Thank. BTW what is your opinion of the Turkish intentions in Iraq?

Charles Michael


Superbe synthèse, Bravo !

and many thanks

Tyler

Patrick,

Trump has been very open to the Russians taking the fight to IS and the rebels in Syria.

glupi

initial thoughts of mine after reading this analysis magnifique

Mr Bahzad,

Could you please explain what the standing of Hezbollah is on the Muslim street. Among ordinary Shia. In the Sunni communities.

++++

Looking at the lovely map, from a strictly military point of view, surely it is madness for Syria + Russia forces to go at the Islamic State while the 'rebel' groups jeopardise their rear & flanks?
Our 'rebels' seem truly a human shield for the bad guys

***

With France unemployment decimating the ranks and the evil Gulfies its major income partner, the Marine Le Pen success may drive the current rulers even further under Gulfie control?

by the way, it was curious to see a French Jewish organisation calling against Le Pen's National Front, while a German Jewish organisation came out strongly in favor of Pegida, Germany's Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident

+++

China's need of diversified oil&gas sources is a curse

---

Great to know that Russia's meeting with Sunni king Abdullah bore fruit.
(how come?)

***

Iraq's 'Shia' plutocracy must be dealt with

+++

Saudi Arabia is hostng a meeting aimed at uniting 100 'anti-IS' groups

---

Lawrence of Arabia would advise against a decisive battle as incompatible with the temperament of the locals

***

Thank you!

glupi

how many Brits? French? Belgian?

a home cleansing could be a good thing.
as long as we do not let these lost souls be further abused as martyrs

glupi

Russia uses NATO missiles?

glupi

i want to cry bloody tears when i see those armed children

Herodotus

Patrick,

Amy thoughts on the number and flags of the surface warfare ships on the Syrian Coast?

b

The Soufan Group is in the "scary big number" game.

They use up-rounded reported numbers from various states. If those reports say "up to 45 from Finland have moved to the Islamic state" than Soufan will say "50 fighters". That some of those are non-fighting migrants is not revealed.

The numbers are then added up as total from the beginning of the conflict. Soufan does not subtract returnees nor killed fighters.

So when they say 30,000 one can safely assume that the real cumulative number is lower, that 10,000 of those are likely dead and some 5-10,000 have returned to their home country and that some of the rest are not fighters.

johnf

"Syria crisis: Rebels 'leave Homs' under truce"

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-35048404

Amir

Who knows ... I as an amateur would say but overall, people want to build instead of destroy their immediate environment, from the R+6 point of view. They just have too many enemies to keep themselves busy with vengefulness but obviously all depends on (lack of) constructiveness of Erdoganites.

Patrick Bahzad

who knows ...

Patrick Bahzad

Tunisia is high on the priority list of the Jihadis ... They want to make sure this experiment in growing a democracy in an Arabic Muslim country fails.

Civil society in Tunisia is strong however, the strongest in any MENA country in my view. There is definitely hope, but it won't be easy.

Patrick Bahzad

I honestly think this was a Turkish decision alone, no coordination with anybody, and I'm not even sure who actually gave the green light within the Turkish government.

Obama had to make the kind of statement he made, his and NATO's credibility on the line, but I'm sure, behind closed doors things were said that did not exactly amount to absolve the Turks of any responsibility of their own.

Patrick Bahzad

I suspect the loss of deterrence by the IDf in its 2006 'hybrid' war against Hezbollah is a factor that encouraged thoughts about regime change in Syria and probably contributed to setting plans in motion that were hidden in someboy's desk before.

Patrick Bahzad

Tyler,

Sure, I'm just saying a presidential candidate is probably not in a position to reach out to a foreign leader, thus cutting of the official policy of the US government.

I remember about the Reagan 'boys' negotiating about the Tehran hostages, but don't think Trump would go down that road.

But again, not an expert.

BabelFish

If you are not being funny, it stands for the NATO designation or short name for a Russian/Soviet weapon system. For example: the MIG-29 NATO code name is Fulcrum.

J

No, that is the NATO 'designation' for that particular Russian armament. The Russian designation for that missile is their 3M-14 Бирюза. The Russian Kilo class sub is its primary launch platform.

Patrick Bahzad

1. From Turkey, or rather through Turkey. donors and financiers mostly in the Gulf countries though, foreign fighters from all over the place ...

2. you probably mean South of Hama (but North of Homs): so called 'Rastan enclave' was subjected to serious airstrikes and marginal territorial gains were achieved by R+6, whith rebels also taking back a couple of 'villages (basically empty shells, bombed out and in ruins). My guess is that this area in now contained and not worth the resources, which R+6 direly needs in the Idlib-Aleppo area. That is where this battle is going to be won or lost, by either side. If the R+6 prevail there, they will no doubt clear up remaining rebel pockets, including Rastan.

3. for political and diplomatic reasons. The Russian narrative is that they fight all Jihadi groups, including ISIS. they need to show that on the battlefield, up to a certain degree. Fighting ISIS is also a way for them to bridge gaps with Iraq, with the Syrian Kurds as well as with France for example, all of which could weaken the cohesion of the US coalition. So it's a win-win for Putin. Beyond that, there is the connection between the whole Syria-Ukraine case

4. Yes and I think they will, in NW Syria. But again, it's not gonna be the end of the war, it would only provide the R+6 with an overwhelming temporary success on which they will want to cash in at the negotiating table, instead of waiting for the next round of fighting.

political issues:

1. No - at least he won't sell out the Syrian State. Assad will have to go at some point, but Putin has made it clear this can only be an end-result of a political process, not a prerequisite. France has already signalled approval with this view, so the lines are moving towards the Russian stance, not the American.

2. The West in general will try and secure its local alliances with Iraqi and Syrian kurds (more difficult in the latter case), they will show more initiative on the ground and in the air, but as long as they don't have a genuine ground force fighting with them, they will be in a tough spot. The R+6 has lots of 'boots on the ground' on the other hand.

Patrick Bahzad

Looks like the waters on the Syrian coast are quite busy with traffic, but that the Russians got it under control.

Maybe you're referring to something more specific ?

There are also ships with no flags in the waters, not on the surface of the waters ...

Chris Chuba

1. Good news in Hom's http://bigstory.ap.org/article/f9be561d275748a2adf12c5ee817eca8/deal-reached-syrian-city-homs-fighters-leave
This relates more to media coverage, this group of 3,200 rebel fighters has been isolated into a tiny enclave in Homs with 60,000 civilians since 2013. If Assad was such a heartless, barrel bombing, butcher then surely he could have reduced this pocket to rubble killing all of them including most of the civilians. Instead, Assad allowed food shipments and is now allowing them to relocate. I'd love to plaster this notification up John McCain's nose.

2. Here is another point regarding the accusation that the Russians are not helping Assad fight ISIS http://iswresearch.blogspot.ca/2015/10/isis-contests-regime-supply-line-to.html
When Assad's forces raised the siege of Kuweires (not reported in the U.S.) ISIS launched counter-attacks from Aleppo down to Homs, obviously ISIS perceives Russian intervention as a threat otherwise they would sit back and enjoy the show.

3. Palmyra - even if Assad's forces took it you know that the MSM will just say that it is window dressing but my response would be to ask any of them to name ONE city that the FSA / Al Nusra alliance has taken from ISIS. All of their offensive operations have been against Assad and they have only fought ISIS in defensive actions.

Patrick Bahzad (were/are you a commissioned officer in the military?) regarding Rastan enclave north of Homs, how does a force in that location get resupplied with weapons/ammunition? They are surrounded by govt forces, is it an issue of it being a small force with a huge stockpile or are they trading hostages or something. It seems like this enclave has been in existence for quite a while. I can understand the govt making it a low priority target but I don't get how they can manage their supplies for any reasonable length of time.

William R. Cumming

Patrick! Question? Is the problem for ISLAM now the wars between its sects or its place in the world as a RELIGION?

And while perhaps wrong note that the word RELIGION undefined in the US Constitution and that I define the Capitalist and Communists systems including their driving economic theories as religious systems meaning they purport to be comprehensive belief systems by their followers.

I define RELIGION as only those belief systems that follow the tenet of DO UNTO OTHERS WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO YOU? And NO violence against innocents.

Ghost ship

Qamishli - so it's perfect bait then, except the Syrian-Turkish border is four miles from the end of the runway which could cramp operations a bit.
As for Deir ez-Zor, it could probably do with some air defences:
"Syria calls US-led coalition air strike on Assad regime forces an 'act of aggression'"
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-led-coalition-air-strike-targets-syrian-soldiers-in-first-fatal-bombing-on-assad-regime-a6762956.html
Was this sme GCC aircraft freelancng?
The FARS press agency (Iranian site) is reportng claims in a Lebanese paper that the US is renovating an old airport in Rojava for use by US fighters:
US Building Military Airbase in Northeastern Syria
TEHRAN (FNA)- US experts are reconstructing and equipping a desolate airport special to carrying agricultural products in the region controlled by the Kurdish forces in Hasaka region, Northeastern Syria, to turn it into a military base.
Looking on Google Earth I can see no sign of an airfield and as this is close up against the Syrian-Iraqi border it would seem to make more sense to use an airfield in Iraq and truck material across the border. There is als a Kurdish site which suggests it would be a good idea to develop another airport in the region because Qamişlo airport (Qamishli?) is occupied by the regime.

turcopolier

Chri Chuba

"Patrick Bahzad (were/are you a commissioned officer in the military?)" He is under no obligation to tell you anything about himself. pl

Patrick Bahzad

Merci, ravi que cela se lise convenablement ;-)

David Habakkuk

Chris Chuba,

A lot of us here, I suspect, wondered for some time who 'Patrick Bahzad' was. He was clearly a military Arabist from a European country, of very wide military experience, but I for one could not for the life of me work out which – in particular, why the 'Bahzad'?

And then, last July, he told part of his story, in a post here.

(See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/07/strictly-personal-a-dead-man-walking.html .)

It is a fascinating read, and makes clear some of the reasons why he can write with such authority about matters such as the war in Syria.

Patrick Bahzad

DH,

I took that post down. Will publish it again in due time.

Patrick Bahzad

Chris,

Regarding Rastan, maps can be deceiving. It looks like a totally isolated and contained area. The truth is though, that there are ways in and out, especially through the East Syrian desert.

Also, as you mentioned, it's been a rebel stronghold for some time, so they had stockpiles of weapons and gear already in the place.

Additionally, as often in that kind of war, you also use what you take from the enemy, who can be an important provider or weapons and ammunition.

Finally, as to why the regime let this enclave be, simply because it would have been too costly (in manpower and resources) to take it back.

Once degraded to a level where it did not present any potent offensive threat any more, they chose to contain it and get on with it elsewhere.

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, I liked the Tunisian students that I had met; seemed to be able to get along fine with Iranians.

Babak Makkinejad

"Reagan 'boys' negotiating about the Tehran hostages"; that was rumor and innuendo. No evidence has been produced to substantiate its veracity.

Babak Makkinejad

"Bahzad" - from Persian - "Bah" + "Zad" - meaning Well-born

Patrick Bahzad

BM,

I somehow suspected this would not go unnoticed by you :-)

Patrick Bahzad

Isn't that the whole purpose of 'plausible deniability' ?

Babak Makkinejad

There were two famous painters who carried that surname:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hossein_Behzad

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kam%C4%81l_ud-D%C4%ABn_Behz%C4%81d

pj

Thanks for your lucid postings.

Fred

Babak,

Yes, those "students" didn't have any connection to the Iranian government either.

charly

That would be idiotic. Terrorists are only used when the color revolution fails and pumping money into Kurdistan to be used for demonstrations & strikes are much more effective in destabilizing and weakening the Turkish Яegime

What could be done is creating a conflict situation between Turkey and some "moderate" international Jihadi group after which the Jihadi group will hit Turkey by killing its tourist industry.

J

Colonel, TTG,

Watched some of CNN's broadcast of the Congressional Hearing of the Senate Armed Service Committee regarding ISIS. There is a definite disconnect over the whole thing both on the side of the Committee and the OSD. Nobody wants to admit that this is a screw-up of major proportion that falls directly at the doorsteps of the DNI, DCI, and State. The OSD is asking for more funds to train so-called moderate Jihadis (if I'm reading it right). We have already seen that fall flat on its face by Langley. It seems that the idea that Russia has in that a Jihadi is a Jihadi, and there is no 'moderates' or those one can 'use' them for objectives which is what Langley has tried and failed miserably at, and what Senator McCain keeps wanting to do. Russia understands (correctly IMO) that the only good Jihadi is a dead one - period. Something that Senators like Senator McCain, OSD Carter, DNI Clapper, DCI Brennan, which seems to go right over their heads.

So we have at least a $2 Billion plus and climbing boondoggle courtesy Langley and crew, and now OSD Carter is asking for more training/equipping funds for 'moderate' Jihadis?

What am I missing in all this?

Patrick Bahzad

Tunisians are a friendly people with a long history ... There is nothing like standing in the remains of Carthago's military harbour, looking at the ruins of what was once the most impressive military harbour in the ancient world and dwelling about how small human enterprises actually are. And then walk to populous "La Goulette" suburb and enjoy a "labalabi", always being greeted and welcomed politely and respectfully.
Unfortunately, Tunis is not representative of all of Tunisia ... Go to Bizerte, Kairouan or Ben Gardane or even certain areas of Tunis, and you'll see a different facette to the country.
Reminds me of a anecdote when I was in Tunis and visited an old Salafi mosque near the Souk. My friends and wife spoke Tunisan, but I was talking French and didn't look like a local, so the 'doorman' let the others in but wanted me to pay a 'djizia' to be allowed in. When I replied to him in my best classic Arabic, he was almost speechless and didn't stop apologizing. I thought to myself, even the Salafis are friendlier in Tunisia (well maybe not those who do their 'hijra' in the Islamic State).

Patrick Bahzad

IZ,

We shall wait and see.

Patrick Bahzad

I know Hossein but not Kamal, thx for the links !

William Fitzgerald

PB,

I recall reading that Turkey has something of an AWACS capability using Boeing 737s as platforms. That, along with the aerial refueling capacity you mentioned, would give the Turkish Air Force all the support required for the operation. American participation wasn't needed and I doubt we would want even the vaguest of fingerprints on it.

WPFIII

Babak Makkinejad

They truly did not as there was no government at that time.

There was a Provisional Government that rendered its resignation when Ayatollah Khomeini declined its request to evict the Iranian students from US Embassy.

The new constitutional government, including the Parliament, was not seated until 1980.

Ayatollah Khomeini was the one who decided to support the takeover of US Embassy in Tehran after the fact because it proved to be very popular.

William R. Cumming

Is there still a draft in Turkey?

bell

true enough, but you can't stop curiousity..

Amir

Yes.

21-41 years of age for male compulsory military service; 18 years of age for voluntary service; 12 months conscript obligation for non-university graduates, 6-12 months for university graduates (graduates of higher education may perform 6 months of military service as short-term privates, or 12 months as reserve officers); conscripts are called to register at age 20, for service at 21; women serve in the Turkish Armed Forces only as officers; reserve obligation to age 41; Turkish citizens with a residence or work permit who have worked abroad for at least 3 years (1095 days) can be exempt from military service in exchange for 6,000 EUR or its equivalent in foreign currencies; a law passed in December 2014 introduced a one-time payment scheme which exempted Turkish citizens 27 and older from conscription in exchange for a payment of $8,150 (2013)

Source: CIA Factbook

Tony Papert

Yes,-- thank you, Patrick!

Patrick Bahzad

H,

You're very welcome ;-)

William R. Cumming

Thanks Amir!

Herodotus

I ask because it looks like we have a great deal of warship tonnage off the coast. I am sure its just as busy below the surface as it is on the surface. I was wondering what your thoughts on how the navel strategy has developed?
I was wondering what your thoughts were on how the Russian navel strategy is developing and how far the Turks are willing to go?


Chris Chuba

"Interdicting this LOC could happen in several places, most likely along the M4 South of Aleppo, but also possibly North of the city, where SAA troops might try to join with the Shia enclave of Zahra"

This is interesting possibility for R+6, going north of the city successfully would surround it assuming a pincer from Latakia succeeded but the rebels south of Idlib would be able to retreat into it and turn it into a fortress. The other route, moving west, using M4 highway south of Idlib, is in more open country and might cut off rebel forces before they could retreat into Idlib. I looked at google maps, the road network and terrain around Zahra looked more difficult. From everything that I have read the key to making the right choice is in knowing the location and strength of enemy forces and being able to obscure your own forces. In WW2 the Red Army pulled a Zahra type of move in 1944, in challenging terrain and also using a small bridgehead on the Dneiper to encircle Kiev from the north.

Now before I make the military professionals completely gag on my amateurish statements here is my actual question, would the U.S. reveal R+6 movements to the Jihadis with SATELLITE INFO??? If we did that then this would not be stupid, it would be criminally stupid. Sure, we can mess with the Russians today by spoiling their plans but they have satellites too and tomorrow they could spoil one of our plans possibly involving our actual troops. Please tell me that we would not be this stupid. I know these are Cold War tactics but even in the previous Cold War we had some boundaries. Would the Borg want to give satellite info to the Jihadis, would the military push back?

BabelFish

Here is a report on the operational tempo of Russian naval and air forces and the strain that it puts on their ability to maintain their current operational levels over the long term.

http://news.usni.org/2015/12/09/latest-russian-navy-operational-surge-could-be-unsustainable?utm_source=USNI+News&utm_campaign=0d29ac5674-USNI_NEWS_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0dd4a1450b-0d29ac5674-230407953&mc_cid=0d29ac5674&mc_eid=92be829f50

Barish

Patrick Bahzad,

You mentioned the unlikelihood of Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham gaining common ground in the freak-show Riyadh held up until today. This bit of news is just coming in:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/12/syrian-ahrar-al-sham-pulls-riyadh-conference-151210151441852.html

Is this al-Saud's way of saying "have at them", together with Qatar's al-Nusra investment?

Patrick Bahzad

Barish,

Thx for the link. Yes, I was aware that "Ahrar al-Sham" (AaS) had pulled out of Ryadh conference. I guess our forecasts here at SST (free of charge unlike Stratfor and other "intelligence" brokers) aren't that bad, are they ?

More seriously, I think there are several factors that made any understanding between AaS and other groups quite unlikely. First of all, AaS is sponsored in part by Turkey, not just KSA. So this is also a way for Erdogan to say, he won't let the Saudis marginalise him in their control of the armed opposition.

Another issue is the deflated egos in Jaish al-Islam. They're a bit of a feather weight compared to AaS and JaN.

Also AaS is already a conglomerate of various groups, some of which left previously (like 'jund al-aqsa') because of concerns about the political agenda (not Islamic enough).

Guess it is a slap in the face for the Saudis, and testimony to the fact AaS doesn't want to be anybody's proxy in this war: they are a front office for Al Qaeda, just like JaN is ! That is the real story behind it all.

Herodotus

I was wondering how Turkey was handling the Montreux Convention with Russia?

Jack

Mr. Bahzad

Is it conceivable that IS provides through their Turkish border interface a pass-through of men and materiel for the AQ unicorns?

glupi

with tourism murdered, it won't be long now

***

what drove that ArabSpring harbinger to set himself on fire was apparently the gender of his police abuser. So much for a 'strong civil society'

glupi

Thank you very much, BabelFish, J

(i'll triple my efforts to clearly designate when i am being funny)

glupi

Ishmael Zechariah,

Thank you!

Latuff looks just like the missing link in my holy cartoon trinity, right there by El Roto and Zapiro

glupi

Babak Makkinejad,

Thank you!

the stylistic reminds one of Japan (?)

Barish

Ahrar's lacking cohesiveness would then explain this odd u-turn:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/12/syria-rebels-agree-regime-talks-assad-151210170707902.html

"Ahrar al-Sham quits... and returns

One key Syrian opposition group, Ahrar al-Sham, quit the meeting on Thursday but is reported to have returned and signed the statement.

The armed rebel group had earlier said it withdrew because the meeting "had given top key roles to the National Coordination Committee and other figures who are considered supporters of the regime".

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia says Assad must resign or be forced from power

"Ahrar al-Sham, a faction which Russia does not want to negotiate with, said in a statement that the conference "did not consider some of the key issues they, and other groups, wished to include in the discussions and that [the organisers] refused to emphasise the Muslim identity of our Muslim [Syrian] people".

Ahrar al-Sham, which has a controversial record in terms of alleged human rights abuses and links to al-Qaeda, has been described as a "radical" and "sometimes even a terrorism" group by Russian and Iranian officials."

Got to love the "allegation"-angle AJ is throwing there when cooperation with al-Nusra, going as far as inclusion in "Jaish al-Fatah" makes it rather apparent what Ahrar is...with the SAA and allies, allegations and mere rumour near enough always are claimed as fact, on the other hand.

Also cute to read the basically unchanged stance KSA instills in its SNC- and militant proxies regarding the current Syrian government:

"Syrian opposition groups say they are ready for UN-sponsored negotiations with representatives from the government, but insist that President Bashar al-Assad has to step down.

"The aim of the political settlement is to create a state based on the principle of citizenship without Bashar al-Assad or figures of his regime having a place in it or any future political arrangements," the group of rebel factions said in a statement issued at the end of two-day talks held in Saudi Arabia's capital city, Riyadh."


...guess further facts on the ground will take those down quite a few pegs, no?

Chris Chuba

"In WW2 the Red Army pulled a Zahra type of move in 1944, in challenging terrain and also using a small bridgehead on the Dneiper to encircle Kiev from the north."

The second battle of Kiev was in late 1943. I was going to skip correcting this error since it is burdensome to the moderator but it was irritating me too much. I should not post incorrect dates and numbers.

I have an interest in the Eastern Front on WW2 and would be interested in book recommendations or other military histories. I am here to learn. David Glantz's book 'When Titans Clashed', I thought was an excellent overview based on recent scholarship and at 270 pages is quite accessible.

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