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03 February 2016


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Mr. Bahzad

In your opinion, how difficult is it going to be to close the Bab al-Hawa crossing? Looking at the map it seems a lot of territory to cover from current R+6 positions.

The closing of the LOC from Azaz must be a huge psychological boost for SAA and Hezbollah forces who have been battling the jihadi invaders for a few years. The Russians sure did quickly change the equations.



It will likely take more than a month, maybe three, to reach the crossing with army units.

My guess is that the Russians will put a more or less continuous air-patrol over Bab al-Hawa and the major roads leading there. They will not let any larger truck convoy get through.



IMO it will take a month at most because the rebel resistance is going to fold from logistical deprivation. I agree that in the interim the Russians will close the Bab al Hawaa (Door of the Wind) crossing with aerial firepower and artillery as well as any other crossings through these mountains from Turkey. IMO the Syrian government should work on eliminating the rebel held parts of Aleppo City proper without providing a propaganda opportunity on the model of Madaya. pl

Patrick Bahzad


I agree with PL's statement below: considering the strategic shift and the momentum reached by R+6 thus far, I don't think they will wait another three months to close down both a major entry and exit point. This would go entirely against every strategic and tactical lesson there is in the book. For the time being, that is until they have reached Bab al-Hawa, they might certainly rely on air power and artillery to prevent resupply of rebel units in the Idlib pocket.

But you have to consider the proximity of the Turkish border in that context: any artillery shell slightly off target and landing in Turkey, or any incursion by Russian or Syrian aircraft in Turkish territory might trigger another impulse reaction by RTE. When you have that much of an advantage on the ground such as R+6 right now, you don't want to give your opponent or its sponsors any chance at getting back at you.

Finally, don't forget that there are ways to interdict Bab al-Hawa without actually reaching it, it is really not that much of a distance. interrupting the LOC to and from that place might be actually enough to squeeze the life out of the rebels groups left in the area.

Patrick Bahzad


Agree with you, the longer R+6 lets this drag on and the more their opponents in Geneva and elsewhere will try to stage PR campaigns undermining military efforts on the ground.

Get it over with on open ground ASAP and work out deals, cease fires and safe passage with some groups in urban areas like central Aleppo and Idlib.

That should be the R+6 MO for the weeks to come.


It looks as if the government forces have advanced in anti-clockwise spirals. Might they continue through the south of the Kurdish area to join up with the base of their salient south of Aleppo?

Are the green terrorists still strongly resisting on both sides of the juncture, or are they already retreating towards Turkey and Idlib?

How much of the northern enclave can be covered by Turkish artillery?

Babak Makkinejad



The dashed blue line indicates the path to the previously sieged city of Nubl.


The problem is that Nusra is now back in Aleppo city in force while the "moderate" rebels have mostly left.


The Jihadis may want to make a last stand to go down in glory. To dig them out of the shelled ruins would be very costly in terms of casualties for the Syrian army. I'd rather take a bit of propaganda beating than to lose hundreds or thousands of soldiers.


These victories seem neatly timed to send a message to those engaged in the 'Peace Talks'. The guns are speaking louder.


It seems militarily obvious that Al Qaeda et al. must put all forces they can spare, and probably some they can't, into defending the approaches to the border. My big question is how much they would be willing to weaken their extended positions throughout Idlib and Latakia to do so. Logically this should be a retreat-and-defend-the-bridgehead situation, but that's ignoring political and ideological issues.

Patrick Bahzad


Drawing conclusions based on a piece of news and a couple of indirect witness testimonies is risky. What Nusra may or may not want to do in Aleppo is up for debate. I seriously doubt they'll want to take a last stand there, they may want to blend into the civilians and survive better that way. There is not going to be any Stalingrad type battle in Aleppo. We've alerady been through this and I'll stand by that.
Besides aleppo is a huge city and it will take more than a few hundred Nusra fighters to make a last stand there. Finally let us not forget that their presence is also cause for friction and potentially conflict with other groups in the city which might be willing to negotiatie terms with R+6.
Overall, more a sign of weakness and tactical retreat by Nusra then the show of force they had intended.


A question. Are there reasons to believe that Turkey will close the border on their as well?
I can imagine they welcome (back) Turkmen, but what happens when all the other jihadists run for (Turkish) cover?
And what would trigger this change of hearts at Turkish side?



IMO you will see R+6 and Kurds of the NW move SW to some extent and NE to some extent to close off many exits to Turkey but many of these exits can be sealed off with air/artillery especially if Spetznaz are inserted to adjust fires and interdiction. Nevertheless the main battle will be fought in Idlib and western Aleppo on the flat country where the R+6 have all the advantages. This will be the decisive battle in NW Syria, the "kettle" battle that I keep boring you with. pl


IMO, At the end of the day in reality this is a coalition of 4+4 meaning 4 UN recognized states ( Russia, Syria, Iran,Iraq) and four militias (Kurds, Iraqi Shia, Hizbollah, Syrian NDF) which except for Kurds the other three are formed, controlled and paid by Iran.
As far as I know all Shia militias under Iranian command, have to have a grand ayatollah' Fatva to to fight another Muslim. We shouldn't forget a mile of credits is due to these Shia militias who have boots on ground and are killed in action supporting the Syrian army against these terrorist.
Iran just announced four more "holly shrines martyrs" around Aleppo in last 24 hour.



Thanks for your opinion. pl


I remember two months ago when this blog predicted that the jihadist front lines would crumble fast after months of "grinding".

That seems to be exactly what has happened.

But, what now?

Does the R+6 engage in urban warfare, wait for the jihadists to try to break out, or simply bide their time?

BTW, it looks like Henry Kissinger is visiting Putin today in Moscow. Are the Borgists looking for a way to climb down from the disaster in Syria and Ukraine?



SST does not pretend to actually know R+6's plans but the hope seems to exist among us that the main emphasis will be on defeating and eliminating through combat losses and surrenders the main jihadi/unicorn field forces and in the process liberating a great deal of terrain and many towns from rebel control. People could then start rapidly returning from places like Jordan and Lebanon. Reduction (a term of art) of the rebel held parts of Aleppo City will proceed (we hope) on the basis of continued pressure on the perimeter of the rebel held parts of the city leading to negotiated surrenders of the more reasonable and removal to Turkey or IS held areas of the more lunatic. pl


FYI, Kissinger and Putin have a long history. I think they are friends of a sort. IIRC Putin has used Kissinger as an advisor/consultant (which is Kissinger's current business) over the years.

Found this in my archives, from June 2014... http://rt.com/op-edge/165932-lincoln-confederates-terrorists-ukraine/
One anecdotal example Cohen cited is Obama’s refusal to talk to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “I have heard – whether it’s true or not I don’t know – that President Obama has declined to meet privately with Henry Kissinger, who sees Putin twice a year. Kissinger probably knows Putin better than any American statesmen alive today and who has been consulted by so many presidents. Think what we might about Kissinger’s past, but he has already declared his criticism of American policy towards Russia. And Obama wouldn’t want to spend an hour with him, asking ‘Are we doing something wrong? Are we misperceiving the situation?’”

It's possible that this Kissinger visit brings messages from the Borg, despite the Borg not having been pleased with Kissinger's advice on Russia in the past... we'll see.



I understand that you think front shortening and organized retreat a la Model may not be in the cards for the Jihadis at this point. So they can either run to safe havens in Turkey; fight to annihilation, or surrender.

There might be a fourth option: Reorganize into small units and attack SAA supply lines. SAA cannot draw from a deep manpower pool, so the more its logistics is attacked, the more it has to shuffle reserve units to defend them instead of using these units to sustain momentum. With this kind of harassment, Jihadis may cede cities at the end, but they can hold onto the countryside.




Front shortening? What does that mean? No. if they attempt to play the guerrilla interdiction game against a force with greatly superior mobile firepower, they will be defeated in detail all over the land they formerly held. Contrary to the mythology of the subject guerrillas are just a nuisance. The Vietnamese communists were truly formidable because of their regular forces, not the guerrillas. We beat them. The French, as I have written here before, defeated the Algerian FLN. So long as Russia stands by the Syrian government the "opposition" are f----d. pl

Balint Somkuti

Emad. In order to have the slightest chance as a guerilla you need to have a populace which is completely supportive towards ur case. I cant see it the areas we discuss.

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

I should think that in an urban environment, the jihadis are not necessarily going to be able to go to ground and hide. The local population would want to hide them. Events going the way they are, looking for favor from the official government by ratting out jihadis - especially foreigners - would seem to offer a better deal to the average citizen?

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

Just after I read through this, I discovered: http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/islamist-rebels-reopen-southern-aleppo-supply-line-seizing-al-khalidiyah/

So combat is ongoing. The jIhadis may be throwing all they've got into holding the windpipe open- otherwise Aleppo is lost and they won't be getting it back.


Here's an article in Vineyard of the Saker, by a Russian who has hunted Chechen guerrillas.

It illustrates Hobbes' view of life in the state of nature as being solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.



There was much blathering on NPR yesterday about , my words here, eternal Jihadi resistance in Syria. Josh Landis did a good job of pushing back. However, the mythology as you put it, is embedded in the minds of many otherwise educated and thoughtful people. JMH

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