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21 February 2016


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Excellent opinion piece in today's Boston Globe by Stephen Kinzer on the Borg Media's total misrepresentation of what's really happening on the ground in Syria.
Completely in sync with what Colonel Lang, The Twisted Genius, Patrick Bahzad, Dr. Brenner and others have been arguing here for the past month or so:



As FB Ali, the Colonel and some others pointed out many months ago, it is imperative to give prominent attention to the psychological dimension of the ISIS phenomenon. That is correct in regard to its leadership, its appeal/message in the region and in Europe, and how that momentum might be broken. Washington, of course, has been utterly clueless about this - its moronic attempts at counter-messaging being one bit of evidence. From the outset, the focus should have been on what combination of military, diplomatic and political actions held the most potential for cutting the ground from under ISIS. The Russians, I suspect, have always had this aspect of the battle in mind as an adjunct to their military strategy.

The same probably applies to al-Nusra & Assoc. - although they are a less febrile organization. Nor should we ignore the psychological dimension in Ankara and Riyadh. In both places, Obama et al bear a heavy share of the responsibility for emboldening unhinged leaders rather than shattering illusions by a forceful, direct calling to account.


I see it like Pat Lang. As I wrote on Twitter yesterday:

Today's attacks are signs IS is reverting back from standing army to attacks by secret cells (Mao guerrilla state 3 down to 1)

IS has a big money problem. It was generously paying its fighters, especially the foreign ones, and had a system of social welfare.

That ended after Putin shamed Obama into attacking the IS oil business. (Putin showed sat pictures of the thousands of waiting oil trucks in Syria to his G20 colleagues. A day later the U.S. airforce started to attack them :-)

The external money sources for IS have dried up. The million $ payments for IS hostages by Qatar (a hidden IS subsidy) have ended. The marketing/advertising model of shameless brutality lost attractiveness. The media no longer play it up as "news".

IS has halved its payments to everyone. At the same time prices in IS held areas went up sharply. Social services have been cut. Unless people are 100% ideologues (not many are) they will be miffed about these trends. Family members will pressure them. The foreigners will try to leave. Locals (tribes) in Mosul and Fallujah have rebelled.

IS urgently needs money or it will fall apart. That is the reason, I believe, why it is going to Libya. There is a good chance it could capture Libyan oil wells and use those to finance itself for a while. Relentless attacking its revenue streams and blockading its territory everywhere to increase prices and diminish supplies will reduce its attractiveness and abilities. IS will be reduced to a run by the mill underground Jihadi movement.

Nusra/al-Qaeda, on the other side, is much less diminished, more dangerous as it is better in integrating with the population and a bigger long term danger.

Unfortunately the U.S. decided to partner with it, or at least to protect Nusra for now. A huge mistake that will demand a price.



What do you think are the chances that:

1) Western anti-ISIS Coalition occupies Anbar?
UNSC2249 called on nations to eliminate the safe haven that ISIS/extremists have established in Syria AND Iraq.

2) Head-choppers manage to obtain MANPADs?
They (and their compatriots and sympathizers) have proven to be very resourceful at times (e.g. mysterious capture of Mosul). Turkey can't secure the most sensitive parts of Ankara(!), and some weapons might be 'lost' during the multi-nation 'Northern Blunder' exercises.

With the peace process in disarray and the "Race to Raqqa" stymied by Russian threats, the anti-Assad Coalition must surely be considering other options for securing 'Sunni' gains and denying R+6 a complete victory.

Christopher Fay

I think we are looking to repudiate the entire neo-con theory of aggressive war. Let's hope that reality starts to spread regarding the Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine adventures.


Saw it just now on i24-newsticker - the Israeli broadcast channel - and picked this here up from militarymaps.info:


The militants attacked and captured the settlement Ras El Nafalem, thereby cutting off the only way to supply the government troops in Aleppo.

2016-02-22 12:46:19"

Now that Qawat al-Nimr is free to redeploy, I take it they'll kindly show the ISIL-bunch gathered there the door to their sandy kilafah realm to the east? We had a similar situation back in October last year, when, according to various reports, Nusra and ISIL teamed up to disrupt this selfsame route. Disruption lasted a mere, couple days back then.

Looking at the map, might the Duhur air base be a feasible target for Syrian troops to try and preclude this type of harassment from happening in the future, as well as seriously putting pressure on the Idlib emirate?


It seems that ISIS and rebels have coordinated together in order to cutoff the Syrian government’s only supply line to the Aleppo Governorate.






IMO that will be cleared up shortly. That is very open country along that LOC out in the desert. If the jihadis want to hold the road closed at fixed points I would think that R+6 aviation would welcome that. pl



IMO IS is so weakened by defeat, encirclement, anti-IS air and financial starvation that even the Iraqi forces my be able to occupy much of Anbar along the Euphrates up to the Syrian border. IMO you will never see significant Gulfie troop presence in the field in Iraq unless IS completely collapses first. If IS gets to be weak enough, you may even see Jordanian troops cross their border in a small way. pl


According to a report on the PetoLucem twitter feed, the road has now been cleared by the SAA.

The link to Aleppo looks incredibly tenuous on a map, though. In some ways the Syrian war seems to resemble the war in the Pacific, with cities instead of island chains and sand instead of brine.

If only the SAA could obtain a lot of heavy lift helicopters.


So, the thrust will now be for political solutions: a federated Iraq and toppling Assad via Syrian elections??? Terr0r attacks will probably continue until those goals are achieved.

PS It's difficult NOT to see the extremists as an extension of the 'Sunni Alliance' (for lack of a better word). Thus, any "attack" on ISIS from Gulfie's would be essentially exchanging an irregular force with a formal military. IMO, this was essentially the basis for the expectation of a "Race to Raqqa".

Sy Hersh wrote of the planned use of extremists as a weapon of state back in 2007 in "The Redirection": http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection



As far as i understood it is weather related so no coordination necessary. I think Syria had a sandstorm. That means less aviation so that is why Aleppo LOC is cut and the SDF soldiers in the North East were captured. What did surprise me was no action in Deir Ezzor.


Interesting article in _Foreign Policy_ about the "day after" problem in liberated Iraqi towns:


I've been following news out of Mosul closely over the last 2 weeks and there are multiple reports of IS desertions to Turkey and Yemen. Forced conscription of young men has caused them to avoid tribal meetings for fear of being dragged off.

Also pay reduced to $50/Mo. for IS fighters which is I think about half required for monthly food in the area. Besides oil flow constrictions(though probably not through Kurdish areas which will still trade with whomever shows up with a tanker for a piece of the action) the loss of government stipends in Iraq to IS areas has played a part. It isn't as glamorous as a Russian defense presentation but it is highly effective nonetheless as IS was taking a cut. Food prices doubled in Mosul recently. Transit out of the city is now problematic. IS has resorted to morality fines, extortion and holding prisoners and hostages that are Sunni.

I've been trying to find information on the state of agricultural planting which I think may be down hard in both Syria and Iraq. Some reports are saying planting is down about 40% but I don't think any of the information is particularly reliable (except food pricing which would indicate a big problem looming).

Also there is great concern in Iraq amongst Sunnis around Mosul about the return of the Shia militias and the retaliations to follow. It occurs to me that one way of keeping the militias out would be to step up the schedule in attacking Mosul before the Iraqi government and its Shia militias are ready. Could this be possible? Would 101st airborne partial deployment discussed by Carter as targeting Mosul or Raqqa with helicopter support, $1 billion USD to the Kurds as they have demanded for their assistance and a Sunni tribal uprising likely paid for in cash be enough to flip the scales in Mosul? I put the thought out there for consideration by the committee.


What territory does the FSA hold? Since the proposed ceasefire excludes Daesh and Al-Nusra, what areas will now be covered? And if the FSA is still sending its TOW-commandos to Al-Nusra, can't they be attacked?

See http://sputniknews.com/middleeast/20160222/1035176230/us-russia-syria-ceasefire.html

The Twisted Genius

YPG/SDF launched an offensive to take Al Shaddadi south of Hassakah one the weekend supported by US coalition air support. The Kurds and their Arab allies took the town and blocked another road from Raqqa and Deir ez Zor to Mosul. IS launched an unsuccessful counterattack yesterday. A good map of the area is available as a pinned tweet at the @vitalyvoronenko twitter page. The map shows a double envelopment which is pretty sweet if that's how it went down.

I'm glad IS is counterattacking rather than melting into the desert. The same with the IS attacks on the SAA supply line south of Aleppo. This gives the R+6 and the US coalition the opportunity to kill more of the bastards. The same is happening at Deir ez Zor. IS keeps attacking and General Issam Zahreddine's boys keep picking them off.


The economic argument for the weakening of Da'ish sounds the most convincing. They've run through most of their own resources. If the Gulf is not paying any more, as embarrassing on an international level, then they've had it.



"sounds the most convincing." Yes, if you do not understand war, that would be what you would prefer to believe. pl


One way I could see the head-choppers obtaining MANPADS
is if the KSA decides to arm the unicorns with them & then
worse case scenario it becomes like taking candy from a baby.


What can SigInt tell about who coordinated the attacks by FSA+Nusra+unicorns from the west and ISIS from the east -I'd be curious to know!



Don't overestimate the effectiveness of MANPADS. pl


Especially as the meme the Saudis put forward through their Minister of War, al-Jubeir, is that they would be a game-changer "just like in Afghanistan". We went through why this is a bogus statement when you take very basic things like geography, topography and various other disciplines into account. Which, as house al-Saud and its minions such as al-Jubeir appear to think they can simply ignore.

PS: Was Saudi diplomacy always this horrendously inept as show-cased by al-Jubeir?



I would like to know that as well. pl

Babak Makkinejad

No Saudis used to be very cautious and act very deliberately. I would say their behavior is indicative of the depths of their fears.

Babak Makkinejad

For the life of me I do not understand why anyone - incluing US - ought to pay any money to Kurds for fighting for their own territory and lives.

KRG has more than a million people on the payroll - entire villages are emptied and gone to Irbil and Suleymaniyah to live off oil.

But, please, if US government is giving a hand out, where can I sign up for mine?

Babak Kurdi

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