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05 June 2016

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VietnamVet

Willy B,

It is clear from the posts here that Russia stood down with the expectation (and likely with promises from the West) that a world alliance would be forged to destroy the Islamic State and Turkey and Saudi Arabia would be brought to heel. That is not to be.

My belief the reason why the regime change campaigns against Damascus and the Kremlin are still on is due to ideology and greed. The semi-sane in Washington DC do not have complete control. The Syrian Civil War and the Balkan unrest will escalate again.

The irony is that the whole neo-con/neo-liberal edifice is dependent on Hillary Clinton not being indicted for her obviously malicious intent to avoid Record Keeping requirements, FOIA requests and Congressional subpoenas of her e-mail. Complete corruption of the law is the only way she will serve as the next war President. Her election is the only way the Plan for New American Century can continue.

bth

The Russian meme is that US is not coordinating airstrikes with Russia. But if that is the case, how is it that US planes are flying from the Mediterranean off the USS Harry Truman into Syria and Iraq? Clearly there is some coordination going on otherwise the heralded Russian air defenses would be shooting down US planes.

Additionally why aren't people asking why the US isn't just flying planes directly from Turkey to go after JAN? Certainly someone as smart as Lavrov knows. It isn't politically possible for the US to bomb JAN in northwest Syria without pissing off the Turks. Fine. Let the Russians get on with it if they can.

It is not going to be possible to negotiate a lasting political solution in Syria with extremists like JAN in the equation. The so called ceasefire demonstrated JAN's unwillingness to compromise via political process that might be acceptable in a polytheistic state. JAN will have to go and Russia will need to take them out since the Syrian army and in particular the Iranians and their Hezbollah friends have proven unable on their own. Can the Russians accomplish that?

The Russians and the Americans have men on the ground - more than are being reported- but I don't think they have enough to finish the job of defeating Sunni extremists and causing an acceptable political settlement with the regime. Barring some out of theater IS attack on the US, I don't think the political will exists to put enough western troops on the ground to fundamentally shift the equation. Russia probably the same.

Finally Assad isn't going to leave willingly even if a deal can be made with the regime for some political settlement brokered by Russia-US.

If nothing else the last couple of months have identified the parties that won't be at the table for any sort of political settlement in the end - JAN, Assad and IS. Two of the three will have to be defeated in the field. Assad will likely smother in the bear's embrace for the greater good of his regime. This will take years even if Russia made the political decision in August or sooner to intervene on the ground in Syria on a large scale.

Poul

Nusra Front has gone all in with the lastest declaration from Sami Oreidi approving genocide on Alawites. The Russians could not get a better justification.

https://twitter.com/aronlund/status/739147509851926528

robt willmann

Here is a short article from the BBC about the Syrian troops going into Raqqa province--

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36452094

Oddlots

Why on earth should "Assad" - that is, the functioning Syrian State - be, first, listed with JAN and ISIS and, second, not be at the table?

Forgive me but they ARE the table.

As evidenced by the fact that they are the only non-sectarian force (check mark # 1) that is also supremely motivated and capable of destroying JAN and ISIS etc.

What standing should any group inside Syria that has accepted foreign funding, foreign arms and foreign propaganda support.

None.

Chris Chuba

"The Russian meme is that US is not coordinating airstrikes with Russia."
Are you referring to the deconfliction protocol meant to avoid accidental combat between Russia and the U.S. or Russia's request to have joint strikes against Al Nusra?
The deconfliction protocol is still in place. I think that it is likely that the U.S. has given the Russians our IFF codes so that their S400's can differentiate between U.S. vs. Turkish aircraft. I recall the Freebeacon yacking about how they thought it was an act of aggression that U.S. planes were being painted by Russian radar but that is part of the identification protocol.

"Finally Assad isn't going to leave willingly even if a deal can be made with the regime for some political settlement brokered by Russia-US."
The Russians have always stated that this is to be decided by the Syrian people and the only deal that they would broker is one which respects their sovereignty. It is only the U.S. which is mandating 'Assad must go' on behalf of the Saudis/Turks. Assad himself has even stated that he would serve only as long as the people of Syria want him too. On the surface, any deal that allows for an election where he or his party can participate would likely be acceptable.

bth

All factions in Syria accept foreign support.

I'm making a distinction between Assad and the regime. The departure of Assad, perhaps to a resort on the Black Sea, if he is lucky, seems to be a precondition with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the US. A deal probably could be worked out in the future with the regime under some sort of federal structure.

JAN and IS will have to be defeated in the field. That objective is a long way from happening. The regime is simply unable to accomplish it at this time.

bth

Russia started a progressive media campaign to stoke the nationalist coals a few weeks ago. It is probably reaching a peak. Russia is in a real budget bind. But at the same time Russian prestige in Syria is on the line and I think Putin will maintain that prestige as economically as possible. Also the Syrian government is broke as witnessed by the currency collapse in May and it doesn't have enough men. And as bad as things are, the rebels aren't going to expose their families to the regime's retaliation without some negotiated assurances. Iran and Hezbollah do great social media shots but really can't get out of their sectarian neighborhoods and remain diehard Assad supporters.

I want to make fine point, that from the Iranian perspective Assad is critical but from the Russian perspective not so much. Security of the western enclaves, its ports, ethnical minorities as defenders of the faith and prestige (not to show weakness) appears more important to Russia than the body of Assad himself. Because of this and the position of the Saudis and Turks that have a veto on peace, Assad must go in the end.

bth

If JAN isn't isolated and reduced quickly on the battlefield by the regime with Russian support, there may will be a second emirate in Syria, one al-Qaeda oriented in the NW and the other IS in the east. It seems the US and the Russian foreign ministry recognize this distinction, based on recent meetings and press statements, but the Assad regime sees them all as existential enemies. Hence the dilemma.

bth

The open source articles on the Syrian troops with Russian support marching to Raqqa news burst over the last couple of days seems more hype that reality. There is a drone photo of two tanks and a half dozen pickups firing into the desert from behind a berm and that's about it along with a few vague aspirational map references. Also there is the statement that the Russians and the Syrian regime want an equal seat at the table if and when the US/Kurds/SDF coalition are able to actually take Raqqa (and probably the farm land and O&G fields). Fair enough, a negotiated peace will require that perhaps under a federal structure currently unacceptable to the regime.

turcopolier

bth

Sounds like you accept a future in which Syria is partitioned. pl

Babak Makkinejad

"Assad must go in the end."

This might be a correct assessment but I think the crucial thing is what is meant by "end".

That is, how is "end" defined? After Nusra has been destroyed and the local Syrians who support it have either been killed or made refugees in Turkey?

Or is the "end" defined as well ISIS in Eastern Syria is destroyed in the like manner of Al Nusra and its supporters have fled across the border into Iraq?

Or is the "end" still a few more years into the future after the new Syrian Constitution has been promulgated, Assad has stood for re-election and has lost?

Babak Makkinejad

There is no natural barrier - such an Emirate is still a threat to any and all Middle Eastern countries barring Iran and Israel.

SmoothieX12

"Russia started a progressive media campaign to stoke the nationalist coals a few weeks ago"

And how do you know that? Sources?

BraveNewWorld

This is telling.

"Moscow hopes that the US is not trying to do anything behind Russia’s back," Lavrov said.

“We expect our partners to cooperate with us honestly and not try to use our regular contacts to secretly go with a Plan B, C or D behind our back.”

https://www.rt.com/news/345552-lavrov-syria-aleppo-support/#.V1V3EclXHx0.twitter

Ghost ship

Probably not.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia will provide "the most active" air support for Syrian ground troops in and around the city of Aleppo to prevent terrorists from seizing it.
“We will decide on how our air forces should act, depending on the situation,” Lavrov said in a media conference following talks with his Finnish counterpart. “This will not be a surprise for the Americans.”
.....
“We believe there was plenty of time for the ‘normal’ opposition to leave Nusra Front territories since February. Those who didn’t part ways with the terrorists have only themselves to blame,” Lavrov added.
I think the gloves just came off.
https://www.rt.com/news/345552-lavrov-syria-aleppo-support/

LeaNder

"to avoid Record Keeping requirements ..."

Look, I have not the least idea why she did it to start with. ...

But apparently her argument or that of her lawyers is: no problem concerning above requirements. After all State's staff's mails and her responses are fulfilling requirements.

Which leaves personal emails--from my rather limited grasp on matters--how could some of the censored content originate, to the extend I understand, NOT from her own staff, but from the outside. In other words, what's some type of business as usual?

bth

Let's look at scenarios.

For Syrian to exist as a unified state it will have to:
1. Militarily Defeat JAN, and
2. Militarily Defeat IS, and
3. Negotiate to unify with the Kurds (plus negotiate with or suppress the Sunni Arabs in the defeated areas).

And there is a near-term event - Will the Russians throw in whole hog in 2016 into Syria or not with air, ground and cash sufficient to push the regime to victory over all? Let's give it a two year window for discussion.

RUSSIANS ALL IN: If the Russians go all in then I would speculate the odds of success in two years of defeating JAN goes to 0.6, defeating IS 0.7 (because Americans and Kurds will keep at it) and negotiating with the Kurds 0.7 (because the Russians are likely to want the Kurds to be happy with a settlement if for no other reason than to piss off the Turks). Thus the odds of a unified Syria in two years under this scenario of heavy Russian intervention (including ground forces) are 0.29 for unification after bloody war (0.6x0.7x0.7) and a breakup into 4 pieces in total ruin at 0.04 (0.4x0.3x0.3).

RUSSIANS NOT ALL IN IN 2016. If the Russians don't throw all in which would include substantial ground forces then I would speculate the odds over two years of the regime defeating JAN drops to 0.2 and defeating IS 0.5 (because the Americans and Kurds are likely to do it anyway) and negotiating governance over the Kurds at 0.4. Thus the odds of the regime ruling Syria as we geographically know it in two years without two fisted Russian support drop to 0.04 (0.8x0.5x0.6). If the Russians don't jump in then the odds of Syria fracturing into 4 pieces would be 0.24 (0.8x0.5x0.6).

So I'd submit based on current knowledge, if the Russians throw all in then the outcome of Syria in 2 years as a unified state is 29% probable and 4% that it becomes 4 separate regions. But if the Russians don't throw all in then the odds of a unified state as we know it drop to 4% and a fractured 4-statelet scenario rise to 24%. Two and three state scenarios fill in the probabilities to equal 100% in each case.

Your mileage may vary. For example the Turks could intervene if JAN is pushed hard and also IS could just squirt across the Iraqi border if not defeated there too. In any event the odds of a unified Syria are low.

bth

I watch carefully how and when news vignettes are released. There is a rhythm to it. Each country has a different style.

bth

Well my guess is that Assad will be retired to Russia or UAE if he is lucky and perhaps as a condition of a negotiated peace.

Let me ask you a question as you have a good sense of time in context. The Syrian Civil War started in 2011 so its been going for about 5 years with no end in sight. Lebanese Civil War was 15 years give or take from 1975 to 1990. Iraq war/civil war might be clocked from 2003 to 2016+ or over 13 years. Will a Syrian Civil War last a decade or more? I would think the odds are yes barring major outside military intervention.

LeaNder

I may be misreading Will B, but this statement caught my attention:
" ... would strike a painful blow to those factions since Jabhat al-Nusra’s military and ideological might form the backbone around which those factions unite."

I admittedly take ideology as referring to a larger regional sentiment. Surely it won't go away easily.

Assad should be deported? Should Russia offer a place for aligned regime people? Allawites and whatever might be considered regime servants, once Assad is deported? Deal with matters as in Iraq? Seriously? Would the US take them in? How many are they, what type of Syria would be left behind? Kurds too?

turcopolier

bth

IMO this civil war could easily last another ten years. Assad can't go to the UAE. This collection of city states is altogether Sunni and filled with his enemies. pl

SmoothieX12

>"RUSSIANS ALL IN: If the Russians go all in then"

Sir, what is "RUSSIANS ALL IN"? What the parameters of this "ALL IN" are? How they correlate with the force (naryad sil) required for:

a) what are the military (strategic and operational) objectives of this "ALL IN"?
b) What is the structure of this required force (again, for what purpose, in what time frame, etc.)
c) Operational tempo (see also pp. a))
d) So, in circles, without any clear definition of what this "ALL IN" means, as Russians have a proverb--it is all a spherical horse in vacuum. That is discussing something unidentifiable in terms nobody knows?

Do you imply "ALL IN" being Russia deploying her paratroopers (who are called fast reaction forces for a reason) in Syria? It is, definitely, possible. How probable it is? I don't know. The only thing I can guarantee you--the deployment, a very hypothetical at this point, of, say, Pskov and Ivianovo divisions in Syria will effectively finish active combat fairly fast there. Mopping up will be left for Syrian Army and volunteers. This will also change dynamics completely and it will leave Russia simply dictating the terms.

As per your absolutely abstract numbers of probabilities, let me reiterate a military truism which is very popular, and justly so, on this site--force decides the outcome. The rest is derivative.

bth

Did you mean 'national' or 'natural' barrier?

SmoothieX12

@bth

1. You didn't answer my question.
2. Are you a Russian speaker? Are you able to read and comprehend Russia's media across whole political and ideological spectrum, the same goes to Russia's open analytical sources on specifically military and geopolitical issues?
3. Having opinion and passing a judgement are not the same, neither is information and knowledge. Do you understand these distinction?
4. I specifically asked you about your sources on Russia. Not because Russia is "bad" or "good"--she has a lot of both--but because most of what passes in the West as coverage of Russia is nothing more than outright propaganda and, frankly, open lies. Guess why alternative media a re gaining in popularity--many people are simply tired of BS.
5. How does "stoking nationalist coals" manifest itself?
6. Do you allow Russian people any agency or free will in what they do or do you still drink Cold War kool aid?
7. Last, but not least--how well do you know Russian culture and Russia's real (emphasis on real) history?

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