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15 May 2016

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b

One main reason why soldiers are missing is lack of money. The Syrian central bank is already printing money and inflation is much too high. The soldiers can simply not feed their families from what they make. The "rebels" pay better.

Another reason for the current lack of soldiers is the Russian ceasefire gamble. Iran and Hizbullah put new deployments on halt until the Russian make up their mind and stop believing the bullshit Kerry is feeding them. The ceasefire nonsense put several planned attacks on halt.

As for some regions not being attacked. There is internal fighting between rebel groups and al-Qaeda in east Ghouta with SOHR claiming that over 300 were killed. The Rastan area is relative quiet.

On the other hand IS and the U.S. organized al-Qaeda&Co groups continue surprise attacks all over the country often overwhelming local forces by concentrating masses and by using multiple suicide attacks in attacks.

Unless the Russians make up their mind and have their air force back in force the slaughter will continue. Iran could do mor right now and send a division of regulars but that would be difficult to sustain and the reaction from Turkey and others to that would probably make things worse.

One positive incident was the recent PKK MANPAD against a Turkish helicopter. The PKK threat in its back will hopefully keep the Turks out of Syria at least fro the time being.

Barish

"That inevitability is certainly the main objective of the neocons and R2P."

And basically translates into not much more than a zero-sum game as far as overall objective is concerned: "We can't have it - noone will!"

After all, one has to take note that the non-ISIL insurgents, even banking on Nusra and other jihadis to do the heavy lifting as they do, can't get ahead too much either. They keep losing men clawing themselves into what they still retain in north-east Latakia province and the two places they captured southwest of Aleppo-city, Tal Issa and Khan Tuman, latter of which I wouldn't be surprised to see back under SAA-control soon given the pounding the bunch is given there by Syria's and Russia's AFs. Elsewhere, they aren't capable of mounting wider ops and are even busy tearing each other apart, Daraa-countryside aside see East Ghouta. So why not let them indulge in that?
With the infighting going on in East Ghouta, SAA and Hizbollah did capitalize on that, as it happens. The pocket around Dair al-Asafir keeps shrinking further and further to Nusra and Co.'s detriment.

turcopolier

b & Barish

I buy all of that from you both but there "is a tide in the affairs of men." Time counts. pl

Swerv21

There are reports of the Syrian lira going for almost 700 to the dollar. This is up from 500 even just a few weeks ago. This is a major problem for the SAG. If this persists there will be institutional collapse across the entire government apparatus. Even in places like Deir el Zour, government workers are still collecting salaries. Those salaries are no longer sufficient to pay for basics.

Assad will need a bailout to survive. The economy is a bigger threat to his control than The jihadis right now.

Serge

IMO the Russian goals for intervention from the start were very limited. Manpower is only one dimension of Assad's very real problems, looking at the Iraqi government for example, which certainly does not lack in manpower yet experiences the same battlefield difficulties as Assad in both the micro/macro scale. There is no particular reason for the upper middle class alawite in Tartus or the conscript farmer from damas to want to die in the deserts of shaer. While I believe you are 100% correct about the fear of living in a jihadi state for the average Sunni civilian, the vast majority of the (non-alawite) Sunnis with this fear will prefer to pack up to Turkey or the surrounding countries than to be conscripted to fight for what is now barely a feudal state(an apt example of this assertion being that pocket around rastan that you've mentioned, the reason for the total lack of action is the feudally run status of virtually all government areas surrounding the pocket,the warlords governing the population centers there only giving nominal allegiance to Assad or the Syrian state)This war will end in partition, the Russians IMO looked at this with a cold eye and recognized this from the start and were never willing to do more than was absolutely necessary to prevent a jihadi thrust into Latakia and a general collapse of government morale in non-alawite areas. This diplomatic reality can only be averted in the event of a general jihadi collapse, which none of the current major players(US,Russia,Iran,GCC) seem willing or able to accomplish,the preponderance being on the latter, each having his reasons to deal with the problem in conflicting and uncooperative ways which in the end are counterproductive and strengthen the enemy.

Babak Makkinejad

Iranian leaders conceded to Russia on this ceasefire deal. They expected nothing positive to come out of it.

Nothing has changed in their estimation that the war will go on for another 5 years; 2021.

The Twisted Genius

Things look pretty dire in Deir Az-Zor today. If the R+6 plans on doing something, they better get to steppin.

VietnamVet

Colonel,

This is true. After four years of war, all that remains in Syria are the left behinds and those having a cause worth dying for. The Russians are allied with the minorities, Shiites, Christians and Alawites. A minority enclave has been carved out and maybe even a rump Kurdistan has been established but to take Raqqa, let alone Mosul requires a large national army willing to have thousands of soldiers die in the concrete rubble killing fanatics. If it is not NATO or the Russian Federation; only a few armies are left; Iran, Turkey or Egypt. As long as the American policy is to remove Assad and the USA refuses to form a world alliance with Russia and China to eliminate the Islamic State and quarantine Wahhabism, the Middle East proxy war will continue. The Sunni fanatics have no desire for peace.

An endless Middle East war between Muslim sects is the basic intent of Israel and its supporters. If Russia is stuck in it, all the better for Russophobes.

turcopolier

VV

What you continue to omit in your Syria narrative is that most Syrian Sunnis support the government and are the majority in R+6 and the SAA. pl

robt willmann

That is unfortunate news. Even though I am ignorant of any detail about what has been happening on the ground, I have expressed the opinion that right after R+6 got Palmyra, it was time to angle up to Deir ez Zor. That is always easier said than done, but when eyeballing a map, that appeared to be potentially a very effective move, and was a fast path to the Iraq border. Getting to the Iraq border by that route would also cut down the size of the playing field quite a bit.

Babak Makkinejad

No, it is a war between Seljuk Muslims and non-Seljuk Muslims - for the most part.

The irony is that the major Seljuk inheritor state - Turkey - is on the same side as the non-Seljuks and the Jihadists.

The Turks are quiescent since they like what AKP has achieved internally.

VietnamVet

Colonel,

Yes. True. But, the Sunni tribes and secular Sunnis backing Syrian government did not have sufficient force of arms and elan to prevent the continued Islamists uprising supported by outsiders. The Syrian Arab Army with Christian and Shiite Muslim allies plus the Kurds are primarily fighting the Sunni fanatics. There are not enough government troops to retake Raqqa unless the USA reverses its policy of forcing a Syrian regime change.

Peter in Toronto

I have my own theory that the 2015 refugee "crisis" was an engineered event devised by Turkey with the approval of several other actors (and possibly Germany herself) formulated to deprive Assad of the cosmopolitan, military-aged males who his army relies on for manpower. These city-dwelling young men faced either conscription into a bloody conflict of survival against formidable odds (militants backed by foreign actors) or a $3000 dollar journey into Western Europe can't be blamed. The choice for most is intuitive.

I believe Turkey conspired to shut down many of the make-shift camps using their security forces in 2015 and begin to move this mass of humanity north and west towards the Eu.

bth

Syria is out of foreign cash reserves. Its currency is in dead stick freefall. There also is about a tenfold decrease in tax revenue and little to export. The need for hard cash is region-wide. Cash needs may explain the importance of natural gas fields which feed the Syrian electrical grid.

If a Syrian militiaman can't get enough pay to feed a family and can't take supplemental loot because territorial gains have bogged down then its hard to keep manpower in the field.

Will the Iranians cough up cash for Assad? Will Putin? A couple of billion now might make all the difference.

Kerry has made it clear that Assad must go. That isn't the same as saying the regime itself must end. One source of cash may be some sort of international humanitarian and reconstruction fund. But this would probably be after Assad's retirement to Russia and replacement as head of the regime.

Is there such a thing as an economic culmination point?

http://syriadirect.org/news/economist-new-syrian-central-bank-policy-sign-of-%E2%80%98massively-depleted%E2%80%99-foreign-reserves/
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/369f583a-177a-11e6-b8d5-4c1fcdbe169f.html#axzz48leLk52q

MRW

"Those salaries are no longer sufficient to pay for basics."

Why? Are the basics priced in currency other than the Syrian lira?

MRW

OT, Chas Freeman’s speech on May 12, 2016 at a book talk at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Great talk.

America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East
http://chasfreeman.net/americas-continuing-misadventures-in-the-middle-east/

Chris Chuba

Yes, from reading almasdarnews, it looks like R+6 lost all their momentum after Palmyra/Qaryatayn was liberated.

Here is an interesting article from Southfront who claims that Russian ground troops played a large role in that campaign and that without Russian ground troops that R+6 cannot sustain an offensive. I don't believe this narrative but I post it because in general, it looks like Southfront does some worthwhile military analysis so it might be worth a look.
https://southfront.org/where-have-the-liberators-of-palmyra-disappeared/

The SAA can either beat ISIS or the non-IS rebels but they can't do both at the same time. With both groups attacking at the same time it just looks like they are spread too thin. I think that the main problem is that the Turkey spigot of foreign fighters is wide open sending in new troops to the non-IS rebels. They don't have to be that good, they just have to be good enough to engage the SAA along with all of the other forces to keep them occupied to prevent them from achieving a decisive victory. I don't know if the SAA has any kind of stream of new recruits, if being able to raise new recruits was part of the Russian refurbishing plan.

Putin tried to reach out to the U.S. to control Turkey/Saudi Arabia to quiesce the non-IS rebels but it didn't work. They are getting new weapons and fighters. R+6 should take Aleppo so that Assad's people do not get demoralized. After all, it's about people, right? I mean, is it fair to subject them to mortar attacks just to pacify the U.S. with our new 'red line' for a peace process that is going nowhere.

This is all my opinion based on my readings from southfront, here, and almasdarnews, of course. I don't clock much time with the London Observatory anymore but get their view from our press.

different clue

Serge,

I clearly had self-inflated views of what Russia wanted to achieve within the R + 6. I thought Russia along with the others wanted to exterminate all traces of jihad within the borders of Syria. I thought Russia was committing whatever it took to help the " + 6 " achieve that goal.

If Russia is satisfied to attain the preservation of a coastal Alawistan and nothing more, does Russia think it will have no future problems from a great big Jihadistan allowed to live long and prosper in much of Syria as well as much of Iraq? A great big Jihadistan where the
Global Axis of Jihad can play and relax and train its people and bases for the planning and launching of future 9/11s all over the world? Including Russia?

The Twisted Genius

The dire situation in Deir Ez-Zor does not involve massive numbers of attacking Is fighter or SAA defenders. The hospital was attacked by a unit of up to 50. The SAA did retake it and appear to have stabilized the entire pocket. They said about 100 IS fighters died over the last 48 hours. Those are not massive casualties. If Russia put an airborne brigade in there for up to a month, the situation would be much improved.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-victorious-deir-ezzor-hospital-isis-spies-likely-present/

BraveNewWorld

Based on what I have been reading recently I have been thinking most of the things that people around here are saying. But there is a small voice screaming in the back of my head that every thing isn't as it seems.

The R+6 was solidly on the march right up until the capture of Palmyra and then all of a sudden the wheels fell off. The turn around seems just to fast. The introduction of more manpads and TOWs for the terrorists have changed the equation but not that significantly. So what has happened?

The R+6 have been getting gamed by the US on the cease fire front, especially in Aleppo. But I think Russia's patience is wearing thin on that. Some one had mentioned a while ago that we were coming up on either sand storm season or the part of the summer where it was going to be so hot that day time ops would slow to a crawl. Can any one speak to the weather this time of year and if it would be a factor?

Could it be that they are just resting up the hard worked troops before the next big push? The Tigers and Desert Hawks I have to believe are some damn tough people but they have been dropped into every hot spot in the country. I have to think they are kind of burned out and could use some down time.

It's just my gut but some thing is telling me every thing isn't as it seems.

I don't know if any one here is interested but this is what the Canadians have been up to next door. Under the former government Canada basically out sourced foreign policy to the US and the new government is still trying to formulate what the new policy is so this likely reflects what the US forces are getting up to as well.

http://www.macleans.ca/news/world/inside-the-secret-war-in-iraq/

johnf

How are the Western states and Turkey and KSA going to cover up this?


Al Qaeda Turns to Syria, With a Plan to Challenge ISIS

"WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda’s top leadership in Pakistan, badly weakened after a decade of C.I.A. drone strikes, has decided that the terror group’s future lies in Syria and has secretly dispatched more than a dozen of its most seasoned veterans there, according to senior American and European intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

The movement of the senior Qaeda jihadists reflects Syria’s growing importance to the terrorist organization and most likely foreshadows an escalation of the group’s bloody rivalry with the Islamic State, Western officials say.

The operatives have been told to start the process of creating an alternate headquarters in Syria and lay the groundwork for possibly establishing an emirate through Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, to compete with the Islamic State, from which Nusra broke in 2013."

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/16/world/middleeast
/al-qaeda-turns-to-syria-with-a-plan-to-challenge-isis.html

Tel

War is like a fire: either someone puts it out, or it burns itself out by consuming all available resources.

Syria has been stretched, and Russia too... but don't kid yourself Daesh are not in a good position either. Their oil revenue is blocked, it's more difficult for Turkey to send them supplies with everyone watching, and there's only so much you can tax the local population. Saudi Arabian income ain't what it used to be, same with all those other oil states. On the other hand Iranian income is looking better since that "deal" they put together.

When Daesh are putting their own men into industrial freezers as a warning to defectors, suddenly it's not such a great gig anymore.

Turkey are just looking for an excuse to get drawn into this. Their influence could be significant, but not sure if they will get away with such blatant aggression. Let your enemies grind each other down, then jump in at the last minute... it's a strategy that has worked in the past.

Barish

It does sound reminiscent of the bind that northern Iraq's regional government is - has been? - in as far as affording pay not just for their regional govt staff, but their military as well is concerned...Far as I recall, US jumped into the gap with a few hundred million there, so we can expect to see the same in Syria on part of the Iranians, irregardless of whether Kerry and other US officials would love to play the sanctions card against the Syrian Arab Republic to their desired end.

bth

I wonder what has changed that has caused this move by Al Qaeda. Is it something in Pakistan or something in Syria.

SmoothieX12

Russia's first and foremost objective was to secure Assad's survival. This has been achieved. The issue of Syrian Army (and its complex internal dynamics) is a completely different issue--Russia WILL NOT fight Syrian fight for them. Russia provides and will provide in the future a framework--Air Defense, Air Support, in general C4ISR, some involvement of SSO, the rest is a Syrian business. In the end, Russia can provide the Damocles Sword in form of a threat of dropping Ivanovo and Pskov divisions in Syria--this will sure as hell change the dynamics on the ground in very short order but why, again, should Russia fight somebody's fight? These are purely common sense considerations. And then there is a larger, much much larger geopolitical framework in which Russia has to deal with not always adequate US "elites". This is completely different game altogether.

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