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12 January 2016


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News coming in:


Granted, al-Masdar News has its biases, but at this point I would not be surprised to see this news spread and be proven as fact.

Also noteworthy that, regarding the continued peace negotiations on January 25 the "opposition" is making noises how they couldn't possibly negotiate with the government due to Madaya and other places, besieged by the government's forces, which their footmen on the ground hold on to. They indeed appear to be completely out of options to fall back on this unconvincing agit-prop front.


It looks like a retreat to north of the M4 only to be delayed to manage to retreat. It looks like a change in attitude for Nusra: giving up a major position without resistance. The general running the campaigns in Aleppo and Latakia has done a great job of creating instability to upset the defensive advantage you write of. The SAA and NDF seem to be more mobile and delivering more surprises. Do you have any ideas as to who behind this? Will it be Russian generals now?



As PB reminds us, Clausewitz observed that although the defensive is the stronger form of war, the offensive is often the more decisive. pl

Patrick Bahzad

Your guess is as good as mine ! Usually, you adapt your strategy to tactical circumstances on the ground, that is if you can afford to.

In layman's terms, it means to every action there is a reaction. That is where tactics, experience, training, manpower weaponry and most of all motivation & determination come in.

William R. Cumming

In an interesting and far reaching speech the new CNO, Admiral Richardson, at the National Press Club, implied that the Russian presence in Western Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea was permanent.

I agree and wondering impact generally on MENA?



"only to be delayed to manage to retreat." This means "delayed only long enough to manage the retreat?" I would think that the main line of withdrawal would be NE up the M4. There do not seem to be a lot of roads going straight east from Salma? pl

Babak Makkinejad


Read that the village of Gergisiya (جرجیسه) has been captured by SAR.

Also that SAR has gained complete control of Salmi (سلمی) area.

Likewise, SAR is reported to have gained complete control of the village of Al Balaliyah (البلالیه) in the vicinity of Damascus.


PH: "Things might get settled at the negotiating table, as peace talks are supposed to resume at the end of this month, or the military option might be favoured, in which case we shall witness yet another round of fighting, whose outcome seems less and less likely to favour the opposition."

Actually, this is a must. Otherwise, Phase II will be "crippling sanctions" and "war crimes investigations" for eternity.

I suspect Putin and his allies want to win in Syria in such a way that Kerry can spin it as a NATO and Turkish victory.


I mean particularly that forces retreating from Salma would not pause at Alyu except for Al Kawm to be evacuated. To the east there is not much that would be attactive to defend. Elijah Magnier wrote that some were retreating to Rabia. I wonder, if Salma is not worth defending, what in Latakia is? My guess is: that which is close to the Turkish border.
Firing down on the M4 from the hills to the north may give Nusra back that defensive advantage but following such a retreat defence cannot be good for morale. I think this is a time in the war when the loose attachment of foreign fighters to the war in general, and of Syrian fighters to a particular faction, may be crucial. Not only does the war seem to be tipping but also the declared timetable for elections and diplomatic manoeuvring lead to this thought.

Margaret Steinfels

As a non-military, non-intelligence follower of the news here and elsewhere, particularly on this subject, I am always astonished (and appalled) by the conversations of my fellow NYC citizens who generally follow the news carefully and who seem generally critical of absolutely everything, except this.

When I have ventured a few times to suggest that Russia might actually bring this quagmire to some kind of (imperfect) resolution, there is general refusal to see the possibility. So it's not just the Borg, it's the U.S. media, and it's the general citizen view that whatever Russia does, it cannot be up to any good. I don't disagree in the case of Ukraine (where nobody is up to any good), but in this case maybe they will succeed.


According to Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily, the Istanbul suicide bomber who at least killed ten tourist today, was a Saudi born Arab named Nabil Fadli.
With that in mind, what we all should expect, a reasonable conclusion would be, to expect more US sanctions and visa restriction on Iranian Americans.

Patrick Bahzad

Guess it's a serious matter, but appreciate the irony.

Suspect this terrorist attack is IS' direct response to Turkish army providing fire support to Syrian-Turkmen rebels recently fighting ISIS in the Azaz corridor, North of Aleppo (vilages of Khirbet & Qarah Kubri in particular).

Like elsewhere (Egypt for example), ISIS hit out at Turkey's tourism industry. With Erdogan having recently lost the Russian tourism market and being under serious pressure because of the Russian sanctions, this one has got to hurt.

The message being don't interfere with the fighting in Syria, and especially don't get involved against IS, or "pay a price for it", I suppose ?



I suspect that the situation is exactly the same in both Ukraine and Syria: Russia is backing many unsavory characters (by our standards, at any rate) for their own geostrategic reasons. The key difference is that we have more and better reasons to dislike the Islamist terrorists than the current Ukrainian government...and even than, many people find both Russia and Assad unsavory enough to disbelieve Russians doing "good" even against Islamist terrorists.

Whether "our standards" for savoriness or unsavoriness should have anything with anything so far from home....who knows?



Sorry for my ironic ending, couldn't help it. To think of it within your very sensible suggested motivations for today’s attacks in Istanbul and also Baghdad, then it may also act as a strong warning sign to those anti Assad complacent countries in gulf and around Syria, in the coming UN sponsored negotiations. As you suggested the message is if you dry up our finances under UN pressure, expect the same.


Is there any need to rush for a quick victory? The Syrians seem to be winning slowly but surely, which seems to suit their style,and may have the advantage of leaving fewer opponents with control of less territory by the time it's all wrapped up in some peace conference.

In particular, is it particularly desirable to rapidly squeeze the terrorists out of the mountains of Latakia? Are they much more of a threat there than they would be just over the Turkish border? Isn't it better to bleed them in Syria, in an apparently almost desolate region of no great value, rather than have them raiding and shelling from safe havens north of the border, defending which would still tie down troops?

Babak Makkinejad

It's like what Vince Lombardi said: "Winning is everything..."

rakesh wahi

where does Istanbul bombing fit in?

Patrick Bahzad

Basic lesson in military strategy: tactical developments should dictate the operational tempo, not the other way round. That being said, nobody here argued for a rush to victory. We're talking about weeks and months, not days !
Regarding the Latakia mountains, they are of strategic importance for two reasons:
1. they are the northern entry point to the Alawi populated coastal strip, stronghold of the regime;
2. the Lattakia and Tartus area is home to the Russian military bases in the area.
Giving your adversary the opportunity to fire into or infiltrate those areas would be irresponsable.
Finally, North-Western Syria is far from being a desolate region ! Desolate would be the Syrian desert, further East, but certainly not the Hama, Idlib, Aleppo triangle.
As for the risk of a cross-border war in case rebels operate incursions from their rear-bases in Turkey, that would be a very dangerous game for the Turks, as there would be retaliation in the form of Russian/Syrian arming and supporting PKK action in Turkey itself. This is why the Turks are so keen on maintaining the groups they support on Syrian soil. Once they lose that foothold, it's basically game-over, unless they want to play Russian roulette ;-)

Patrick Bahzad

already answered in reply to kooshy's comments.


I would appreciate it, if you could slightly elaborate on what is on your mind concerning:
a) "crippling sanction", or a new round, against whom? Syria? I admittedly may have missed the larger context. Or simply forget, the history. Sanctions against whom. Russia again?
b) "war crime investigation". Yes, seems to be hard to get the political component out of this theoretically legitimate institution.


Do you think Turkey will stand down? Heed ISIS's "warning"?
In hopes the alligator will eat them last? What's their end game?
Just keeping their powder mostly dry until Frau Merkle gives them EU membership?


Thank you for your prompt and helpful response.

The pictures of Syrians shelling and Russians bombing terrorists in the hills show scrub covered hills which don't seem densely cultivated or inhabited. To someone used to the lush greenery of western Europe, most of the 'Fertile Crescent' seems almost desolate!

I take the point that they are close to the Alawite heartland and the Russian base, and that the bad guys shelled Latakia a while ago, but how far back do they need to push them to keep them out of range? Would even the Turkish frontier be far enough? I take it that the area a bit further east is flatter and more worthwhile and more heavily populated, thus worth cutting off from the border area so the terrorists can be isolated and attacked.

I assume that the recent irresponsible behaviour of the Turkish government has already bought them a load of trouble, which the Russians will partly deliver via the Kurds, when it suits them and after they have developed the right contacts and arrangements.

Another aspect may be worthy of consideration. It seems that both sides are made up of more or less loosely affiliated groups, which are less amenable to central command than a national army. Even the Syrian forces seem to be largely local home guards stiffened by detachments of a small regular army. Hence their strategy of slowly advancing against the terrorists in all areas may be better than a concentrated attack, as it enables all the local groups to achieve some success and improves morale and support for the government. (Although its true that they now seem to have gathered a stronger force to contest the Aleppo - Idlib area.) Its also notable that the government, and now the Russians, are keen to minimise the number of enemies, by making it easy for them to change sides and not fight to the death in encirclements.


One of the more interesting demonstrations of that IMO is the completely different naval campaigns on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in the War of 1812.



a) Banning anyone using the US financial system from trading with Syria (a la the Iran sanctions) and

b) Sending the names of every Syrian official to Interpol and endless EU and USA-led proposals for war crimes investigations at the Hague.


thanks patrick b for your post and comments..

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