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18 December 2016

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Tel

Sounds like a mostly stable scenario to me. Assad recognises that his troops are stretched pretty thin by now and his Russian advisors recommend that he should be careful not to overextend himself.

Neither Assad, nor Erdogan has the practical capability to exert their force into YPG territory, thus the Kurds have achieved some kind of de-facto independence. Assad is the first to make some vague public statements as steps towards formal recognition of Kurdish territory, this is mostly for the purpose of enraging Erdogan and ensuring that future Kurdistan remains a nominal province of Syria.

To spice things up a bit, one of the Turkish F16's gets hit by a surface to air missile and crashes inside SDF territory well inside Syria. The Turks claim they were bombing IS positions (which seems unlikely based on the location of the crash) and Turks blame Russia for the missile. Assad points out that Turks have no permission to enter Syrian airspace. Putin gives a statement saying that Russian forces were not directly involved and reiterates that Assad is the legitimate leader of Syria and that only Assad can offer permission to fly over Syrian territory. Western analysts insist that only a Russian team, using advanced Russian missiles would have been capable of hitting the F16.

Laguerre

I doubt that the Tiger Force will get the rest they need. As you've said, the Syrian army has very few offensively-capable units. I'd see rather a period of calm before a new offensive. This war has been more like ancient Islamic wars, where long periods of confrontation occurred before the final clash, more than like modern wars. I would go for an offensive against Idlib, as that will finish the rebellion. It will be slow, as the Syrians have to spare casualties, air support will be possible, but a major change in US policy would be needed to defend them. I don't see the latter, even under Trump.

Larry M

As the SAA will have to rest and reequip its elite units after retaking East Aleppo and Palmyra, and the anti-Assad forces will work to prepare a counter-offensive, the Idlib front will become less active, with the exception of Russian and Syrian air.

Presidents Obama and Hollande and Prime Minister May will accelerate their diplomatic efforts to save the anti-Assad forces before they hand over power, lose power and exit the EU, respectively. These efforts will probably focus on averting or hampering a future R+6 offensive against Al Qaida and its allies in Idlib province.

In eastern Syria, the YPG/SDF push on Raqqa will continue, but not reach that city. Further east, IS will try hard to overrun the besieged city of Deir-ez-Zor on the Eufrates. A major motive will be that an IS conquest of Deir-ez-Zor could bolster IS hopes or even chances of holding out in Mosul where the Iraqi Army now has problems. The Syrian city closest to Mosul is Hasaka well to the north of Deir-ez-Zor, but Hasaka is deeply inside the YPG-controlled "Rojava" zone supported by the US.

Prem

The SAA will accelerate the liquidation of pockets like East Ghouta and Yarmouk. That will free up manpower.

Laguerre

"Neither Assad, nor Erdogan has the practical capability to exert their force into YPG territory, thus the Kurds have achieved some kind of de-facto independence."

This is a poor understanding of the Rojavan Kurdish situation. Excluding the Americans, who've been trying to impose unrealistic ideas, the Rojavans have always understood that they inhabit a poor land and that they will have to make a deal with Asad. Like in Iraq, there's been a movement to devolve central government expenditures to the provinces, for the Druze as much as for the Kurds.

The US, though, thinks that it can offer independence to the Rojavan Kurds. Not so. There were conflicts when the US tried to get the Kurds to attack the remaining Syrian posts in Qamishli, which had been tolerated for years.

BraveNewWorld

With the Tigers taking some down time and the Russians probably wanting to give their guys some down time for Xmas, and the short time span of this turn I don't expect any big things happening. The focus will be on things the SAA can either handle on it's own or with groups that don't recognize Xmas. The pockets seem prime for this and would be a good place to test out some of the newer members.

In the mean time prep will continue for the big push across Idlib as well as providing support for Aleppo. The Hawks could make a run for Al-Bab but I give that a pretty low probability unless there is a deal in place with Turkey and that isn't mentioned in this turn.

Harlan Easley

I'm sure this will not be posted since I'm fighting the scenario of the game. I see Palmyra a much more difficult prognosis by January 2, 2017. The combined assault by 4,000 hardcore fighters will be more difficult to counter than anticipated. The Tiger Force is spread to thin and with major combat operations just completed will focus their force toward Idlib City because of the besieged Shia villages. The Al-nusra forces will attack the Shia villages in force breaking another structured deal they made with Iran since their humiliating defeat in Aleppo and the Western press will be silent. The Russians will commit their Air Force to 2 areas. 1. a sustained bombardment of the Palmyra area stalling the western advance of ISIS and their Baath officers and a massive bombing north of Idlib City around the 2 Shia villages to prevent a massacre. The week of December 26th to January 2nd, 2017 is all about those 2 villages. If Al-nusra is effective in destroying them I believe this war enters another stage of brutality that is hard to imagine. Russia with special ops already committed on ground would consider deploying the 5,000 paratroopers they recently trained in Egypt if they can get reassurance from the incoming Trump administration that the joint task force previously agreed upon between the two nations will become fact with the USA and Russia destroying ISIS in short order.

Bandolero

My oppinion from Dec 25, 2016, up to Jan 2, 2017:

Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan state agreement to a general truce for Syria, over the holidays, in the hope of indefinite prologing and accompanied by Turkish-Russian sponsored talks on a political solution in Kazakhstan. The Syrian government welcomes the truce, as does the "Istanbul opposition" after heavy Turkish pressure. The US and EU are showing a bit unhappyness that they were and are left out of consultations, but reluctantly also welcome the truce while Saudi Arabia and Qatar remain silent on the truce. The Syrian army and their partners send many soldiers and fighters home for holidays with their family.

However, on Dec 27, jihadi rebels of the Idlib paocket lauch a large surprise attack on the town Al Hadher 30 km south of Aleppo going East from Al Eis. They dub the attack "unifying the Umma" and state their goal is to establish a land bridge with the Islamic State south of Aleppo thereby cutting off Aleppo from the south. They accuse Erdogan of having abandoned and betraying their once common fight against the Iranian occupation of Syria, spreading fitna by fighting the Islamic state northeast of Aleppo and laud the Islamic state for being steadfast fighters against Persians and infidels. At the same time as the rebel attack on Al Hadher starts ISIS attacks the supply line to Aleppo with another attack on the town Khanasser south east of Aleppo.

Critics say that Idlib rebels started this offensive just to put the newly arraved fighters from Aleppo to the front so that they do not upset the ruling jihadi coalitions in Idlib. There are days of tough fighting and after heavy losses on both sides the rebels conquer Al Hadher while ISIS conquers once again Khanasser. On Jan 1, 2017 a land bridge from Idlib to Raqqa via Al Hadher and Khanasser is established and Aleppo is once again cut off from any land connection to the rest of Syria. Rebels in Idlib and ISIS in Raqqa celebrate the common victory, the Idlib rebels gain praise for their wise leadership decision to team up with ISIS and their critics among rebels are silenced.

While international powers are shocked and the Syrian Army and their partners meanwhile struggles to quickly collect forces for a counter attack.

Peter AU

Much depends on the political situation. If Russia thinks Trump will be more amendable, attack on Idlib will be held off until Trump is inaugurated and a deal has been done. In the meantime forces will be positioned for various scenarios of the taking of Idlib Province. Ongoing low level destruction of ammo dumps, SF taking out leaders ect. General softening up.

Palmyra. For the period until the game date. Most likely similar. Low level offensive against ammunition and leaders and so forth, retaking of Palmyra dependent on when ISIS is weakened enough to avoid or keep Syrian losses low.

Kurds, Turkey, al-Bab. Kurds are perhaps more aligned with Syrian government (their natural ally) since US tried to jump on Erdogans boat after he moved into Syria.
Erdogan is Putins bitch, and al-bab is a bone. He will chew on that for awhile, perhaps break a few teeth.

By 2 January very little visible change, but much work in the background for various scenarios dependent on the Russian take of the soon to be inaugurated next emperor.

Apologies for a novices lack of technical terms.

Peter Reichard

Tiger and other elite forces given much needed rest. In Palmyra focus is on building defenses so this battle need not be fought yet again. Recon in force probe to the east meets with little resistance but SAA reluctant to follow up. SAA avoids confrontation with Turks (one enemy at a time) and concentrates operations on clearing the main Damascus-Aleppo highway. Air operations shift to Idlib province in preparation for coming battle.

ToivoS

The White Helmets show up in the city of Idlib and set up satellite communications with the world. The SAA put together a shock group that opens a corridor connecting Aleppo through the eastern part of Idlib province to the city of Idlib. Western media go into a massive hysteria as the SAA approaches. Samantha Power gives an impassioned speech at the Security Council denouncing the Russians and SAA for the humanitarian atrocity. The rest of the Western world joins in the protest. The SAA and their allies ignore the protest and continue their advance into the city.

PVP

Given the SAA seem to now be listening to the Russians, I'd expect Eastern Ghouta to be the focus for the next push. Simplify the playing field so no longer have to play whack a mole.

johnf

The SAA's decision to rest some of their best troops seem to have been fortuitous (or wise):

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai 1h1 hour ago

Syrian pro-Jihadists/rebels Journo saying "Aleppo is Assad Victory: those celebrating r Sunni more than Alawite"... "In #Idlib, a surface bigger than #Qatar, we have money, men and weapons but chaos dominates".....

https://twitter.com/EjmAlrai

As the SAA celebrate Christmas the jihadis will slaughter each other.

Ghostship

Late on December 24th, a couple of Russian Ro-Ro ferries were sighted docking at Tartous and unloaded an unknown number of T-80UD, BMP-2, 2S3 Akatsiya, and BM-21. Keen to get home for the Christmas party his wife had arranged, the CIA analyst filed the reports under "interesting" as the armoured vehicles and artillery were most likely replacement for the SAAs recent losses.On returning to work on the 27th, a report on his desk mentioned that the armour and artillery had arrived at Aleppo International Airport (AIA) and were parked on trailers on a road that ran inside the southern boundary of the airport. On December 31st, the armour and artillery were still there when the analyst went home to go out with his wife to celebrate the New Year. In a hurry to get out of his house later that evening, he left his mobile behind, so he missed the texts reporting that 6 Il-76 had flown from Russia over Iran and Iraq and landed at AIA and had disgorged an unknown cargo, before returning to Russia. On returning to the office on January 2nd he checked the latest satellite imagery of AIA only to observe that the armour and artillery still appeared to be there and read a report that the Russians had been active on the "electronic battlefield" but nobdy knew why. Twenty minutes later all hell broke loose at Langley when it was discovered that elements of the 4th Guards Tank Division had captured the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and had fortified it. The Russians had already destroyed the ten SVBIEDs that al Nusrah and others had sent against it and a substantial number of jihadists attackers had been killed.
Checking the latest satellite imagery of IAI, the analyst noted that some of the armour and artillery looked deflated and when he checked back a few hour later the armour and artillery had disappeared.
A few hours later a video appeared on Youtube with Sheikh Nabil Naiim making it clear that the Russians weren't occupying Syria, merely protecting Syrian Muslims from the United States and their terrorist allies and there was no need for Muslims to commit to jihad in Syria
A few days later a re-supply convoy was observed crossing the Turkish border and delivering supplies to the Russian forces in Bab al-Hawa.

Ishmael Zechariah

The Jihadis, feeling betrayed by their allies, switch to terror mode. Major suicide bombings occur in several European countries and Turkey.

Vic

X-mas to 2 Jan:

SSA - rest, resupply and reconstitute. Finish/modify plans for next campaign (which was done during the Aleppo fight). Mopping up operations. Turn over of Aleppo to security forces.

Rebels - inter organizational conflicts for remaining resources and control; attempts by Turks and Gulf State Front organizations to impose discipline and reassert authority over rebels. Increasing terrorist attacks on soft targets in government controlled Syria.

The West - Continue to posture for domestic political advantage through meaningless diplomatic activity.

Russia and Iran - Critical decision point, increase support to Syria or take advantage of excellent military situation to get concessions out of the west. I'd expect to see discussions and perhaps visits of leaders with each other.

Turkey - Still "boxed in". They will consider new possible courses of action like establishing a so called "safe zone" inside Syria near Idib.

Vic

mike allen

Anadan pocket northwest of Aleppo which is already surrounded on three sides by Assad's forces will be his next target. Then the Douma suburb northeast of Damascus.

Erdogan's Turkmen allies in Idlib attack north towards Jinderes in the Kurdish Canton of Efrin. Erdo assists with artillery support from Hatay.

In the east Daesh attempts to distract the YPG/SDF advance on Raqqa by staging spoiling attacks on Shaddadeh from bases in as-Suwar and Muweeleh. Deir ez-zor remains stalemated for now.

Terrorist activity in Jordan increases.


Kassandra

On New Years' eve, the German MS Braunschweig active on a SigInt mission monitoring the SAA offensive on Idlib, gets hit by a KH-15 and sinks just outside the Syrian 12-mile zone well within the 35-mile zone claimed by Syria. The German government and US blame the Syrian airforce and urge for an immediate emergency session of the Security Council announcing to ask for a legitimation according Art 51. Since Chinese and Russian representatives announce veto, the Russians presenting radar data excluding a Syrian or Russian attack, Germany invokes Art. 5 of the NATO treaty while two British Typhoon scramble from RAF Akrotiri and get shot down in Idlib airspace by a Russian S-30V when approaching a forward c3 active in the ongoing SAA offensive on Idlib.
In the morning of the 2nd, British artillery in Estonia is shelling border positions of the Russian military after allegedly receiving a mortar attack from the Russian side. Romanian military is entering Moldavia heading to Transnistria, while Azov units are shelling Donezk and Armjansk with Grads.
Trump is rushing in the morning of the 2nd to Washington aborting his brief New Year holiday in Mar-a-Lago. On its approach to Washington National, his plane collides with a unspecified private jet heading to Dulles while air control radar coverage is blinded for some minutes due to a software crash. In these hours, Israel is invading the Golan buffer zone and Beeka valley area as SAA forces fortified border positions after crushing Jabhat al-Nusra and Diwan in the Golan. Hizbollah is shelling Israeli territories in response, resulting in closing Ben Gurion airport during the visit of Mike Pence in Jerusalem. Leaving president Obama declares state of emergency and orders DEFCON3.

Frank

While the Tiger Forces are on R&R in Damascus the Syrian Government holds off on any major offensives, choosing instead to focus particular attention on the consolidation and defense of the gains around Palmyra in order to avoid making the same mistake yet again.

Eastern Ghouta: The Syrian Army continues with reducing this pocket from the eastern portion, closing in on Duma. The Govt begins plans to squeeze this pocket to force negotiations for exit to possibly Daraa.

Deir Ezzor: The intent behind the suspicious US Coalition strikes against Daesh around Palmyra is revealed when there is yet another "accidental" airstrike against Syrian Army positions near Deir Ezzor. The plausible deniability argument is used again by the US, using the earlier strikes as evidence they were trying to help. This time a strategic position just north of the airport his hammered, and after taking it Daesh now has a clear shot at the airport. Deir Ezzor becomes the top priority for the R+6 coalition.

Aleppo: The evacuations are finally finished, but the western propaganda narrative continues. Images of the destroyed city are spun to show "how ruthless Assad was" in taking back the city.

Babak Makkinejad

You seem to have been correct:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-russia-diplomacy-idUSKBN1481RE

Nightsticker

Col Lang, TTG

No significant military activity takes place
Christmas Day through Jan 2.
For R+6 military a week of R+R, relocation of forces,
re-supply, re-equip, reorganize [probably
introduction of recent officer/NCO graduates
into combat units].
Internal R+6 critique determines next military
phase will
1. continue to exploit air,artillery, armor advantage
whenever possible to limit infantry casualties
2. just as German infantryman used Panzerfaust to
reduce threat of T-34, Syrian infantry will require
weapon at low level to reduce VBIED threat
3.amnesty/pardon program is perhaps most potent weapon
in arsenal. Use of this weapon supports strategic
goal of re-unifying Syria, and is cost effective and
efficient.
4. information operations are critical in this conflict.
R+6 must seize control of the "Narrative"
5. rebuilding the war ravaged areas must not wait until
the end of the conflict. it supports the strategic goal
and helps with the narrative.

Nightsticker
USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96

turcopolier

Harlan Easley

Yes. you are fighting the scenario in not accepting the recovery of Palmyra. This is a fairly minor instance of your crime and we will allow it once since the rest of your comment is worthwhile. Don't do it again. pl

turcopolier

All

I caution everyone to remain within the parameters of the game and in its scenario. Those who do not wish to do that should not try to comment. pl

mike allen

Nightsticker has a darned good point regarding an Assad attempt to offer a Christmas 'Chieu Hoi' program for some rebels. But it would only be for Syrians, not for foreign fighters, and hopefully not for al-Nusra and not for Daesh.

sillybill

On Christmas Eve, SVR assets in Ankara police department send a detailed report back to Moscow center proving that the Turks are lying about the gunman who killed Ambassador Karlov. Putin orders a cyber attack on the Ankara power grid, which takes place at the stroke of midnight on New Years. Although technicians get it turned back on by morning, chaos ensues with hundreds dead and parts of the city still on fire.

When the 4 - 8 shift shows up at the Turkish side of the Bab al Hawa border crossing they find all the guards dead, and no clues to the perpetrators except a hand painted sign stating "Happy New Year!" in Turkish, English, and Arabic.

On Jan 2, Assad announces the campaign to retake Idlib province will be led by General Suheil, who was promoted to 4-star the day before.

Trump surrogates start slagging the Turks on Fox News and social media - Trump tweets - "I'm sure some of them are nice people, but..."

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