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20 February 2016


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It sounds like you're wearing Iraq/Afghan war glasses in regards to this. Take them off. IS is not a liked group, or in many cases even a native group to the region. In other words these fish have no sea to swim in. They'll be easy targets for liquidation.

Mark Pyruz

The most detailed open-source maps are from "Archicivilians" and "Peto Lucem." The former, in particular, matches open-source imagery with points on a HD map.


AIPAC issues bullet points briefly sketching out Hezbollah's threats to the only democracy in the ME and the organization's utility on the Syrian battlefields:

"Hezbollah is challenging Israel’s air superiority and threatening it from underground. Hezbollah can threaten Israeli military and civilian aircraft deep within Israel. It reportedly possesses advanced surface-to-air missile systems, including Russian designed shoulder-mounted SA-7s and SA-17 mobile platforms. The SA-17 system can engage up to 24 targets simultaneously at high altitudes at a distance of up to 30 miles—far into northern Israel. Hezbollah also uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to collect intelligence; these drones can be weaponized to launch rockets or serve as directed bombs. It is also believed that Hezbollah is constructing offensive infiltration tunnels into Israel, similar to Hamas’ tunnels in Gaza."


Hezbollah fights for the Assad regime in Syria.

"Hezbollah has gained significant battlefield experience and expertise from fighting alongside the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s army against the Syrian rebels and ISIS. Now entering its fourth year of heavy fighting, Hezbollah’s 6,000-8,000 troops deployed in Syria have become so crucial to Assad’s war effort that it often spearheads and organizes joint military attacks, and many Syrian units reportedly will not fight without Hezbollah forces in the lead."

(Considering the source(s), some skepticism re veracity is useful)

Margaret Steinfels

OT: How about Biden elbowed Obama out of going? And why should he have gone? Most of us didn't!

Margaret Steinfels

He played basketball and came from nice middle-class family.

Margaret Steinfels

Great map....thanks!

Ken Roberts

VV ... re: "Security, education, peace and prosperity are the only antidotes..."

Amid all the chaos in Syria, I took some encouragement for the future from this news release:


"Damascus, SANA [18-Jan-2016]- President Bashar al-Assad issued Monday Decree number 4 for the year 2016 which stipulates for granting University enrollment for high school winning-members of Syria Science Olympiad."

This merit-based university admissions for the brightest, is part of the rebuilding process. I was impressed that, despite all the pressures upon it, the Syrian government is doing "everyday work" with a social payback on a decade-scale.

Mark Logan

Tyler, mbrenner;

He converted the tennis court to hoops and has NBA players come and hang out. His best friend was his brother in law, Love, who was a high level NCAA player. He's a baller. Why deny it? There is a lot of hoops in his game, always has been.

My point is his habit of laying in the weeds and then busting moves only at the point when it's too late for the other guy to adjust, ie, during the HC debate, near the vote, 18 months in, in suddenly showing up to debate the Republican opposition, gathered en mass.

Something similar seems to have happened on the verge of the Borg's dream of bombing Syria, and somehow we seem to have dodged their efforts to have a war with Iran. Bibi has enormous influence in the Collective, so what happened?

Chris Chuba

Thirdeye, can you explain what you mean by that? Perhaps I haven't noticed because I don't know any of the Arab cities so I am learning it for the first time anyway. The notifications match the names so I can follow what's happening well enough. I did select English but perhaps I am getting some Cyrillicized version of the Arab name in English and that's what you are referring to?

I'll give a list of names that I see.
Al Bab - common name.
Tel Sherbiya - is this okay?
Kveyris - Okay I can see that this should be Kuweires or maybe something else.
Giro airbase near lake Assad, is this okay?
Aleppo - common name.

Still I love the format. It does give all of the little hamlets that I generally don't see on regular google maps. I also like the frequent updates and links to the stories justifying the updates as well as the optional terrain map which was very useful in the Latakia / Idlib area.

Chris Chuba

Someone posted a link to an interview to a Russian officer who is now a war correspondent. He said that the Syrians were making use of local civilians being temporarily armed like deputies in the old west (he didn't say old west, that's the analogy I took out of it).

He mentioned that even the former FSA members who defected back were actually good at this role because they weren't really suitable to try to recycle into front line units but were okay for law and order. The bottom line is that if the civilians don't want foreign Jihadists, there are ways to make it hard for them to stay. The locals don't like trouble makers.

I just knew I should have book marked that url. I did try the SST search facility but didn't get a hit.

James Loughton

The Haaretz articles are behind a paywall nowadays, so those of us who are not subscribers are not able to read them. To get around this, the convention is for the original poster with a subscription to choose the print option on the Haaretz site. This will generate a separate printable page that can be linked to and read by all. Here is an example from another site.



James Loughton

Here is an article in which the Saudi Foreign Minister suggests that manpads should be supplied to Syrian jihadists.


This strike me as a very dangerous escalation that might well result in manpads being supplied covertly to Taliban forces fighting the US in Afghanistan. My understanding is that our troops there are highly dependent on helicopters.


Margaret Steinfels

Most of us are not president of the US. pl


One little-acknowledged feature of this conflict is the way that the Damascus government has maintained services where possible, even in rebel-held areas. Continued to pay teachers, water supply employees etc, even when rebels had closed/destroyed facilities.

Government also entered into agreements with rebels, including IS, to maintain essential supplies, eg an agreement to share electricity from Aleppo power station (when it was held by IS) between Government and rebel held areas of Aleppo.


Further proof (if any was needed) that the Saudis are, as Kinky Freidman would say, 'out where the buses don't run'.

Apart from the issue of which groups the Saudis consider to be moderate, the potential for leakage for such valuable items would be very high.

The Saudis might consider the risk of these weapons re-appearing near a busy west European airport to be low, but Western governments may not share this assessment.

Of course, if the Saudis were serious about this suggestion, they no doubt have manpads that they could supply to the rebels themselves. The fact that they haven't, but keep suggesting that others do so, suggests that as usual, they would want someone else to take responsibility.


I do agree Putin saved his butt. And the public was pretty negative about sending troops into Syria but bombing was strongly supported by the established DC elites. Red line and all that. Putin removed the rationale that it was to eliminate WMDs. There was a great deal of support across the political spectrum at the time for bombing and pressure to do so rather than accept Putin's deal. Obama went against most of his R2P advisors. Maybe he read the broader political tea leaves but bombing was queued up and ready to go in spite of Putin/Assad's offer. Canceled at the last minute. Zero change Obama would have been impeached for bombing. He would have been celebrated by McCain et al, and the democrats were not about to impeach.



How many American middle class families in the 60's were mixed race couples who lived in Indonesia, sent their young children to public school and later sent their children to private prep schools in Hawaii (when they were ten years old)? That doesn't strike me as the typical middle class American story.

Margaret Steinfels

Couldn't say how many. But I'm betting that Hawaii had a greater "mixed"-race population than the mainland, that his grandparents mostly raised him, and if I recall his autobio correctly that prep school was a scholarship school.

He didn't grow up in an upper class family and he didn't grow up in a poor family, do I'm going with middle class.


"... IS is not a liked group"

Sure, so why is that so very different to Iraq? Saddam Hussein was not exactly a well liked leader either... and he didn't rule Iraq single-handedly, he had deputies, and abduction squads, and secret police, and a whole quasi-military bureaucracy mostly made of Sunnis and keeping the Shiite majority under the thumb.

All of this ruling and repression social infrastructure just disbanded when the Americans turned up, and dissolved underground. Yet they were able to pop up and cause trouble for a long time afterwards.

Very likely Iran was also in there trying to assert their influence covertly (probably that helped turn the tide in favour of the Shiites) but you can easily imagine why Sunnis who lived a slightly elite lifestyle under Saddam probably felt pretty darn sore about losing all that.

I mean, if Assad had been an all round great guy, why did so many people start banding together against him?



I spent a lot of time in both Iraq and Syria and your description of these countries doesn't sound like the places I lived and worked in. Actually, your views are cartoon like. there is a vast amount of material here on SST under the categories "Iraq" and "Syria." Read it. pl


There's a difference between those "banding together" to participate in protests on the streets and those that worked towards violent overthrow and actively helped turning a protest movement into an armed uprising first and a civil war funded and supported by lavish foreign investments in money and arms second.

It's a question of whether what is needed here is terror-without-end with the glimpse at the end of that tunnel being the promise that once Dr Assad's head is put on a spike everything will be fine. Or whether it shall be an end-with-"terror" - said "terror" meaning the realization that the unhinged uprising - which long since devolved into ethnic and sectarian talking-points that deliberately recall and manifest age-old animosities for which the only valid answer is ethnic cleansing and holy war - that this uprising simply has no future anymore. Both on the battlefield as well as the hearts and minds.

Restating a status-quo-ante is something that was often invoked to settle military conflicts in the past. In the case of Syria and the enormous hardships the people endured and continue to endure as a result of the incited war, there is no question that we shall look upon a very different country that will pursue change once the war is done. Change through reconciliation and rebuilding, of course - but also change as far as institutions are concerned, "with Assad" or "without". The talking-point still maintained by the exile opposition that "Assad must go" isn't a fix towards a solution, it's the continued rehearsal of a dogma that, as most people realize now, has been a lie. For the simple reason that said exile opposition which made pretty faces for the cameras never_was_able to present personnel and leadership that could entice the population and lay out demands that went beyond calls for "more weapons" for insurgents they got zero control over.





Barish has made an a fortiori argument.


Yes but the main political objective can be also to prevent the Kurdish from creating a vast territory along the turkish fontiere...so...Al Bab and north of Al Bab.


I agree and from my experience in Lebanon, I believe that syrian people will find the path to live together.
Somebody has said " Some iron has entered in syrian soul "
Remenber that Assad tried to change Syria political landscape and was prevented to do so by the Baath Party oligarchs.
He was only at this time " son of"
Things have changed.



Why is the south different? Does your grandmother live there? pl

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