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17 January 2016


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It looks like R+6 have great momentum in Latakia. In your opinion do you think they are stretched as there are so many battle fronts from Al Bab to Deir eszor, southern Aleppo and even further south in Daraa OR they have sufficient force to fight the decisive battles in Idlib and Aleppo?


Great insight here, as always. Kudos!


@Jack -

my 2c on this:

Some 8,000 fresh troops allegedly arrived in north-east Aleppo. These are probably not attack forces but forces that can hold the areas the seasoned troops capture.

There is also a change in tactics in two points that have been induced by the Russian
- Syrian troops now retreat in good manner, if possible, when overwhelming concentrations attack their positions. Better to give up a town or village than to lose a lot of manpower in defense. After the retreat the Russian airforce comes in, smashes the enemy concentration and the position can be retaken with few losses. Earlier the Syrians would defend too long and then retreat in confused manners. That has changed a bit though not everywhere yet.
- The Syrian artillery has been refreshed. There are new toys (TOS-1) and more ammunition is available. Preparation of the battlefield by artillery and air strikes significantly increase the enemy losses even before the ground battle begins.

Both of the above measures have decreased Syrian army losses and increased enemy casualties. Unfortunately there are still fresh enemy forces coming in from Turkey. But the general balance of troops in now more in favor of the Syrian army side than it as ever been before.


IMO it is aways worthwile to recall that the ISSG consists of the Arab League, China, Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States.

Who of relevance is missing? Well, the Syrian government. While they do have some allies inclined to present its views, it isn't a party to the talks.

That is in equal measure due to the Syrian opposition's insistence that they be excluded - encouraged by generous foreign backing - and because of the US who, last I looked, still refer to the Syrian government in derogatory terms like 'illegitimate' and as a 'regime'.

Instead you have amongst the members of the ISSG one finds a coterie of enemies of Syria who have invested heavily in the conflict. The Arab League, France, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States all - while professing to 'support' Syria - have at least temporarily supported (with arms, money, logistics, recruitment etc pp), or are still supporting, armed opposition groups, often Jihadis, with the explicit and overt intent to topple the Syrian government.

This underlines that the ISSG had its start as a vessel to give regime change in Syria the veneer mulitantional (or rather: NOT unilateral, take that Bush!) of respectability and legitimacy - it's not just us, EVERYBODY agrees that Assad must go!

I wish the R+6 good fortune in creating the foundations for a lasting peace that lays the basis for an end to foreign support for Jihadis in Syria.

Presumably, being whipped on the battlefiend, the opposition will be more inclined to compromise than it has been in the past. The recent ceasefires brokered by the R+6 underline that starkly. Defeat and weakness does induce in most a willingness for compromise, and if there are those, jihadis for instance, for whom that is not an option, well, they can be helped.

Turkish support and Saudi and Gulfie funding cannot make up for battlefield attrition in the short run, and this will be over quicker than the Saudis can recruit replacements. If the R+6 succeed in cutting off Jihadi supplies from Turkey the game is pretty much over.

As things go now, we'll see a very different Syria in June than we do today. Turkey, the Gulfies and the Saudis will be aghast. As a result watch out for spoilers and attempts at 'gamechanging'.

After all, you still do have lunatics like Ledeen out there, who, as recently as October, still expressed something like delight at the prospect that Jihadis can 'humble' Russia, Iran and Hezbollah (the new Axis of Evil) in Syria, after all, have they not done so in Afghanistan?

"I think Putin’s moves in Syria were driven by the failure of the New Axis of Evil to cope with the serious threat of the defeat of Assad. Iran hasn’t been able to dominate the battlefield, to put it mildly (significant # of Iranian/Hezbollahi commanders killed of late, along with cannon fodder in the raniks), and the Russians are trying to salvage the situation. Why? Because if Assad were defeated, Russia would be threatened with a) loss of bases in Syria, b) severe threat to Iran (where do you put Hezbollah and Quds in your own region, and the restive Iranian people might see the hated regime humiliated by Sunni terrorists).

So you’ve got Iranian ground forces supported by Russian bombers and some special forces. What’s next? Bombs in Moscow and Tehran? What if the Axis loses, in other words? AQ and ISIS fight well and are smart … don’t assume Putin has a free hand just because America is absent. Islamists beat the USSR after all, and the foreign assistance they are getting nowadays may be on a par with what they got back then.

Life is full of surprises."


Indeed it is. And it must be even more surprising for someone like Ledeen, a fly forever conserved in the amber of the Cold War and the GWAT.


Why should there be any Conference once the main terrorist groups have been broken?



IMO the sponsors of the Syrian government will want to see some changes in the structure of politics in Syria. pl


"Why should there be any Conference once the main terrorist groups have been broken?"

If one was practically inclined, one could see it as an opportunity for their sponsors to surrender and make peace with or over Syria without having to say so openly.

Arms will need to be twisted. But the hostility towards Asyria isn't just from Turkey and the Gulfies. The US would have to get over its maximalist position that Assad departs as a precondition for an end of the conflict.

An end result would be the universal recognition by the US, the Turks and the Gulfies that the Syrian Arab Republic under Assad has a right to exist.

That is quite a frog to swallow for Turkey (Sykes-Picot! Apostates rule Syria! The darn Kurds!), the Gulfies (Apostates rule Syria! The Shia crescend!), Israel (unbroken LOC and LOS between Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah! The Shia crescend!) and the US (An autocrat! Our Izrul! But the civlising mission! But the responsibility to protect?!).

All those so motivated will fight a settlement tooth and nail. The respective players have enough overlapping interests to collude and collaborate against such a horrible outcome - peace.

As Jeanne Kirkpatrick summed up so well: “We have war when at least one of the parties to a conflict wants something more than it wants peace.”


That the Russians might insist on broadening the structure of politics in Syria is an interesting thought. It might make Syria more stable, and it would make the Russians look good to 'democratic' eyes.

However, why should the Syrians and Russians allow their enemies to gain at the table what they lost in the field? The Americans/Israelis/Saudis/Turks have no legitimate expectations to influence Syrian politics; but they will demand to be included in a Conference, which they will use in an attempt to reverse their military defeat and claim that really they won!

Furthermore, none of those powers could be trusted to honestly abide by any agreement they made. It would just be the starting point for the next round of lies, subversion and aggression.

An internal Syrian conference, mediated by Russia, would be more useful. That could formalize recognition of the new balance of power between the various interest groups. Most would prudently accept Assad as the Big Man, the rest would kiss his hand and wait for a new chance to stab him in the back.



I would expect a conference that would essentially be internal but with symbolic external representation; Lebanese, maybe the Vatican given the large number of Christians in Syria, UN, something like that. I would expect a new constitution. Constitutions don't mean much "east of Suez" but it would be a nice gesture. pl

Charles Michael

IMO all talks will be just jaw-boning as long the war has not shown a definitive turn.
As I can't see Turkish forces actually entering in Syria, nor the R+6 relenting, soon or later Bachar Al Assad will obtain a military success.
A purely Russian brokered Peace Conference is both not acceptable by the US and allies and if a kind of peace settlement has any chances to last all involved party (including some rebels) must be officially present.
Something I am pretty sure Russia fully understand . In this case we will see a lot of Lavrov imaginative diplomacy. Process will probably take years.

And some more fantastic narrative in the MSM to save face.


Charles Michael

In the aftermath of an R+6 victory US approval will be unimportant. pl


Now that the nuclear deal is done and Iranian embargoed funds come back on line, the Russians will press the Iranians for arms purchases (treating the embargoed funds as an escrow account) and I suspect will promise to provide more equipment and ammunition to Syria in return. I had thought this would happen about Christmastime but was wrong.

When would additional ammunition, spare parts for aircraft and vehicles be needed to press a seasonal offensive? March/April?

It would be helpful to see some current pictures of Syrian vehicles to see if they have restored their reactive armor for example which had nearly disappeared from pictures this summer. Also are Syrians dropping barrel bombs or regular bombs now?

Charles Michael

Colonel, agreed of course; no US approval needed that is the strength of facts on the ground.
In the limit of the time frame from now to R+6 victory; what if Aleppo turns into a Stalingrad and situation is not settled before next November US elections ?
I thing we can rely on Putin to avoid excess of triumphalism.


Charles Michael

If a complete encirclement of the city is achieved the "rattenkrieg" may be limited. pl

Patrick Bahzad


Looks like things are shaping up for the end-game we on SST have been anticipating for a while. Still holding back a bit for a comprehensive SITREP, but got most pieces ready, for when it starts.

Despite all the sceptics shaking their heads at GENUINE military analysis that's been done here, more than on most of those well funded think tanks in DC and elsewhere, they are going to find out that for all their poli-social science education and degrees, they know shit about military matters and their house of cards is going to crash down in a big bang.

We were right 3 months ago and no blabbering by any of the 'usual suspects' is gonna change reality on the ground now.

Patrick Bahzad

Russians and Syrians realize the risks of turning Aleppo or even Idlib into a besieged city. The narrative that has been spun recentyly about Madaya was also a way to prepare public opinion for such a siege.

Most likely, they gonna cut off LOCs and try and negotiate cease-fires in some areas, while cordoning off the die-hards and breaking up their groups through targeted killings. Some fighting possible, but I seriously doubt we'll see anything even remotely resembling Stalingrad. Most likely, Aleppo is gonna crumble like the rest of the rebel lines once they lose their defensive posture. Besides, they don't want to be trapped in that city. some will go to Idlib where there is larger support and troops from the more radicals insurgents.



A formalized power sharing with the Kurds (it was informal) is a good idea, and there are representatives of opposition communities (not jihadis), who if a better power sharing can be brokered, would lower the likelihood of future sparks reigniting.

These are communities from whom fighters were recruited by the KSA, Turkey, etc., to overthrow the SAG, and those entities will of course attempt to continue to support "pressure groups" aka terrorists - think MEK in Iran. Any efforts to deligitimize them as representing interests of their community is in the SAG interest - i.e., long term stability, which is in Russia's interest.

Re:Foreign fighters, I expect Erdogan will allow them to pass through and head to Europe.



Thanks for the information on R+6 force size and tactics. It would seem that R+6 has changed tactics to conserve manpower as they not only need to dislodge the jihadists they have to hold ground after. Note the tactics used by IS in Deir Ezzor counter-attack with many waves of suicide bombers coming on two flanks to break through defensive lines.

What are the estimates of the dug in jihadi force in Aleppo and Idlib? With large civilian population in both cities flattening it may not be feasible.


Patrick Bahzad

Yes, I doubt that the R+6 will destroy Aleppo. As you say a series of negotiated surrenders is more likely and I DO think Erdogan will ship the jihadi types to Europe. The incapacity for military analysis of the true civilians in the think tanks is understandable but the asinine statements of people like Marks and Keane can only be understood in the context of Money or ideological commitment. We will describe their failures when the time comes. pl

Charles Michael

Colonel, Patrick Bahzad ,
Thanks for all your precisions, yes I was afraid of a Madaya repeat.

Patrick Bahzad

Amen to that !

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, a Federal Republic of Syria.

Medicine Man


Would any of you gents be willing to speculate about the probable timeline for the closure of the Turkey-Syria border by the SAG+allies? Is early March still the most likely target time for the Idlib cauldron to materialize?



Looks to me as though meteorology holds the answer for timing. pl


Col Lang
Do you think that the EU is prepared for the inflows of jihadis that Erdogan will be sending there way - once Syria is settled ?

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