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26 December 2016


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Can there be any doubt that Erdogan is now Russia's pet dog? RuAF is now flying CAS missions in support of the Turkish Army at al-Bab and Erdogan is busy denouncing the US for supporting "terrorism." I guess the Turkish AF is just not up to the job of flying into IS ground fire. What happened to the "Terrible Turks?" The important feature of this is that Russia has neutered Turkey in the situation and can ignore the possibility of a Turkish advance towards Aleppo. pl


Col Lang, TTG

The introduction of Russian ground combat
units sent a clear message to all players
[Turkey, US, UK, Gulf States, et al] that
that R+6 were going for a quick military
solution. Despite much posturing,the message
is understood.
Organized Jihadi military resistance collapses
more quickly than expected. Attempts at military
offense or defense are smothered in supporting
arms, without excessive concern for civilian
casualties. [The civilians are in large part the
families and supporters of hard corps "die with their boots on"
jihadi elements that have previously chosen relocation
to Idlib rather than reconciliation and amnesty. Their
deaths are not seen as a total loss to the rebuilding
of Syria.]
The big question is whether or not the war shifts back
a phase into low level insurgency/banditry.
At possible flash points with Turkish armed forces, Russian
troops are employed. The Turks wisely decline to provide
Mr Putin with the excuse he would like for a little
The pardon/amnesty program is increased/accelerated. This
time around though the R+6 hold all the cards and the
negotiations are not drawn out, the timelines are shorter
and the SAA follow up quickly with overwhelming force for
those having difficulty deciding.
Activity by Syrian security/police forces in liberated
areas Idlib is massive. There is more than a little
payback for terrorist atrocities recently discovered.
By the 18th of January the only significant unresolved issue
is the Turkish reaction to the flood of jihadis across
their borders.

USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96

mike allen

Colonel -

Some of it. But I am more attuned to General Mattis's recommended reading list. Although there is a lot of overlap. So many books, so little time! And I do interleave those readings with good fiction.

Re: "All the rooms do not need to be cleared at the same time." True. That was the argument I was trying to make.

Babak Makkinejad

R+6 have offered a ladder to Erdogan to climb down from his - now untenable - perch. And he is doing just that.

I still believe that Erdogan had been promised much by other members of the NATO alliance as well as the Gulfies but those promises turned out to be empty.

He, AKP, and Turkey have paid a very high price indeed for their attempts to contain Iran by trying to destroy SAR and by supporting ISIS.

What amazes me is that no one is getting fired in US or EU, for they also have paid a very heavy price as it will become clear in the coming years.

mike allen

Colonel -

PS - I like many of the titles on the Army Chief of Staff's Professional Reading List.


Totally off subject, the media reports Erdogan did remove many Turkish military after the summer's attempted coup. Reminding me of Stalin, when Germany advanced, Stalin had executed or removed from power much of the military. They had to relearn to fight.

You mention What happened to the terrible turks, is it possible Erdogan has neutered his military?


On Jan 12, as it enters Idlib City, the 5th Assault Corps will be met by a suicide battalion of international relief workers and development contractors shouting, "We're only trying to show how Jihadi Islamism can be made into model government," and waving the banners of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mercy Corps, People in Need, GOAL, and “Bil-Akhdar” (In Green) and “Tamkeen” (Empowerment) working under the sponsorship of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI), the United Kingdom Conflict Pool and the European Union.

The rather one-sided 13 minute battle will be reported by Sam Heller from his observation post across the border in Turkey with the help of Syrians in Idlib, and immortalized in his January 17 paper for The Century Foundation titled, 'The Great Martydom,' to be included in the TCF collection of papers titled “Arab Politics beyond the Uprisings: Experiments in an Era of Resurgent Authoritarianism,” a multi-year TCF project supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

On January 18, in response to Heller's account, a grim-faced President Obama refuses to answer reporters asking whether it's true that the United States had for years spent billions of dollars trying to help al Qaeda-linked organizations keep the lights on and the buses running in jihadi-held Idlib City. His only comment: 'I lost friends in that battle.'

(For details about the battalion I've filched from Heller's November 29 report for TCF,
"Keeping the Lights On in Rebel Idlib: Local Governance, Services, and the Competition for Legitimacy among Islamist Armed Groups")


For a piercing overview of the revelations in the report, see Ulson Gunnar's December 18 "Welcome to Idlib: America’s Model Syrian City" for Near Eastern Outlook.


Gunnar highlights a point that is only implicit in Heller's report: the appearance of a viable opposition in Syria has been an illusion created and sustained by "a myriad of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) funded and directed by the US, Europe, Turkey and the Gulf states."

However, Gunnar completely ignores these important observations in Heller's report:

Even before Syria’s uprising, Idlib province was marginalized, rural, and poor. The mountainous northwestern province, which shares a long border with Turkey’s Hatay, depended primarily on agriculture, including olive crops. Idlib’s people were largely conservative Sunnis, with small Druze, Shia and Christian minorities. Yet the province was denied the political attention and investment given to other peripheral Sunni-majority provinces. That, coupled with lingering resentment over the Syrian government’s 1980s crackdown on Islamists (many of them Idlibis), helped ensure the province became a hotbed for opposition.


Council elections or nominations, in whatever interpolation is deemed locally workable, represent a first-of-its-kind experience in participatory government for Syrians accustomed to life under an authoritarian security state.

“Before the revolution, people would be named [to municipal positions] by the security services, or there would be show elections in which the votes weren’t counted,” said Muhammad al-Mustafa, director of the opposition-leaning research organization Toran Center. “We used to hear about someone winning before the elections—[we’d say] ‘Congrats, you won.’

It is inexcusable that Western organizations working in Idlib foster the impression that the freedom that goes with particpatory government is something that can be created by technocrats. On the other side of the coin, by ignoring an entire province, the Ba'athist government opened the door wide to a foreign-created insurgency in Syria.

different clue

Babak Makkinejad,

Who would fire them? They are the people they work for. Only a multi-year, perhaps multi-decade effort by new and different political movements with new and different political parties as weapons in their hands can slowly reconquer and restaff and repurpose the DC FedRegime and the EU and their respective Borgocracies.


Following the Jihadist defeat Highway M5, Hizbullah-led forces launch an assault with air support from al-Hadher towards al-Eis. Once the position at Al-Eis is defeated, the force encounters increasingly disorganized and disheartened resistance as it advances to establish itself on the M5 at Qammari. The Hizbullah force links up with the Hassan force near Zerba, isolating a pocket east of M5. Concentric attacks on the pocket encounter light resistance. The two forces make a mutually-supporting advance to Highway 60. Once Highway 60 is in their control, the Hassan force takes the junction with the Bab-al-Hawa road and advances on Kafr Nakha from the west. Forces advancing from Mansour are in a position to attack Kafr Nakha from the northeast to form a pocket that contains much of the jihadist force from Aleppo. As news of mass graves, torture, and other atrocities from Aleppo reach the troops they become "highly motivated," aka mean and nasty.

"Bana Alabed" tweets start coming out of Kafr Nakha. Nobody in the MSM thinks to question why her parents didn't get her to safer ground while they had the chance.

The Fifth Assault Corp advances up Highway 60 to link up with the Hizbullah force, forming a maga-kessel.

The Syrian Marines/NDF establish a new base of operations in Jisr al-Shugur and prepare for operations in the direction of Qunaya to seal another section of the Turkish border.

The new situation results in factional chaos among the Idlib jihadists. Alternating attacks and surrender offers increase distrust between Jihadist factions; it becomes unclear whether forces headed to the fronts are intent on battle or surrender. There will be predictable howling from the MSM over the unfolding "humanitarian disaster" in Idlib and renewed calls for "safe zones."

mike allen

Russian embassy in Damascus received mortar fire today.


Hard to advance much beyond what is already said, and it has been a good read.

Finding itself marginalized by events on the ground, the US sees little value in pursuing further diplomacy and initiates a supply ops initiative from Iraq, seeking to bolster its come-from-behind alliance with YPG forces aiming for Raqqah, providing materiel, intel, and AS/EW with a wary eye towards Russian AO boundaries. One imagines the Russians studying US EW and gaining some valuable insight.

Russian media reports of US coalition-supplied weaponry as well as evidence of torture and mass execution of civilians by jihadis in east Aleppo are well-suppressed by western media, but enough leaks out to reduce the moral leverage the State Dept. or UN Ambassador might have in accusing Syria and Russia of atrocities. The abstention in the Israeli settlement condemnation vote has drawn the attention away from Aleppo an towards Israel as the vote appears to have diminished US-Israeli standing within diplo circles, significant because it increases the hysteresis of pro-Israel (read anti-Iranian) activities as Trump assumes power.

Hard to say what the pace should be but in accordance with the scenario, Idlib counts the days as the overrun by R+ forces converges with the Trump inaugural. Cease-fire or not, adding Idlib to the growing Syrian controlled zone around Aleppo signals an end to the hot war against non-Isis jihadis, as resistance is increasingly reduced to sabotage. Whatever rebel forces are prepared to re-emerge after evacuation from Aleppo or escape from Idlib show no signs of imminent deployment. The geopolitical implications are similar to the post-Balkan conflict period, wherein the chaos provide cover for a number of disaffected and well-equipped combatants to apply their skills to criminal or mercenary ventures that radiate throughout Europe and eastern Asia.

Isis, of course, is not going away. Their fluidity and determination show no signs of letting up as they keep pressure on the outer edges of Palmyra although it amounts to harassment as Syrian forces freed from the northwest set out to clear Palmyra for once and for all. Russian air support is generous and effective.

YPG forces evicted from the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood head for Afrin and join the fight against Isis in the northern provinces.

Turkey's obsession with hijacking the anti-terror movement to target the Kurds creates too much friction within the Russo-Iranian-Turk troika and Erdogan is all but marginalized. The Kurds are reasonable enough to negotiate with anyone who recognizes them as a trading partner which at this point -- a factor that might prove challenging to the US balance of power and might test the Trumpian bluster/naiveté in the hands of his military advisors.

Whatever happens at the UN, NATO or the EC does little to affect the diplomatic stasis of the west as R+ has the initiative. The US coalition remains bogged in Iraq.


I think Clinton has been fired. The same happened in France. And people are waiting for installation of Trump to get the knives out. Expectation is that Trump will have done most of the work by March so only a genadeschuss will be necessary


One big unknown here is what Trump will do. I suppose the Russians are talking to him, but the information in the pubic domain is:

1/ Trump says he doesn't want regime change in Syria.
2/ He says he wants to get along with Putin and his pick for Secretary of State reflects that.
3/ Some of his other nominees are very anti-Iran and very Likudnik.

It's a messy picture and Iran decides it must create facts on the ground fast.

With the agreement of the Iraqi government, a 100,000 strong expeditionary force is deployed to Syria allowing Deir ez-Zor to be relieved from the east and IS to be driven north leaving the M20 highway under full loyalist control. With Iran now engaging IS and advancing on Raqqah, Syrian forces in places like Eastern Homs, Kuweires etc can be thinned and redeployed to Idlib.

In any final settlement, a simultaneous withdrawal of Turkish and Iranian regular forces can be negotiated.

Pray the crash of the Russian plane carrying a "Christmas" celebration is an accident and not an attempt to start WWIII before Trump's inauguration.

From some (not necessarily misinformed) rumors, e.g. The Saker and Twitter, it could be that it was such an attempt, possibly via the Ukrainians, and the usual "va-t-en guerre" are furious that the Russians are covering up the deed and avoid taking the bait.


My theory about the Turks is that they haven't changed sides at all, merely changed strategy. Their objectives are: [1] neutralize the Kurds; [2] capture as much of Syria as they think they can get away with, or at very least prevent Assad from controlling it; and [3] play off the USA, the EU and Russia against each other.

Their previous strategy was to supply weapons and money to proxy troops which included both the FSA and IS, but at the same time kind of pretend to be fighting IS, and actually bomb the Kurds.

Their new strategy is to use Turkish troops to occupy Northern Syria, while more openly supporting the FSA (but also having Turkish troops on hand to ensure the FSA are kept in line) and making a slightly more elaborate show of attacking IS, but keep right on bombing those Kurds. Trading IS oil is simply no longer viable, because IS don't have much oil, because everyone is watching extremely closely, and because they have run out of sufficiently stupid people to drive the trucks.

"As for Trump, his tweets have devalued Boeing and Lockheed Martin in an instant"

Yeah, and he improved the financial position of American taxpayers by an equal amount. Military spending comes out of real people, so treat it with the utmost respect.


This move will be easily defeated not only by the Russian veto. Some Council Members and Member States have in the past invoked Article 51 of the Charter to intervene in Syria anyhow. Resolution 2253 also calls for all Member States to undertake necessary measures against ISIL. In terms of majorities in the SC, as of Jan. 2017 there will be not only abstention from China. Also Kazakhstan, Bolivia (if Mr. Morales' reprsentative is allowed in), Ethiopia and Egypt can be expected to side against any such or similar motion. France and Germany will no longer be part of that a drafting group - too many ISIL terrorist attacks in the recent past as well as serious thinking of how to reconstruct Syria comes in the way.


Turkey moves some forces (companies) a few km into those Syrian Turkmen areas on the border, e.g. NW of Jisr al-Shughur, SE of Yayladagi. This is in agreement with R+6 in order to provide some oversight over those rebel forces in these areas and save some of the Syrian Turkmens and expatriate Turks (mostly members of the grey Wolves, but also some naturalized Uyghurs), who had thrown in their lot with Nusrah and assorted Islamists. The deal will allow for the withdrawal of these elements to the areas close to Turkey from Jisr al-Shughur.
R+6 conclude 'protocols' with a series of rebel factions in Idlib countryside, those who can't leave easily and want to hang around their land. This turns the countryside into a patchwork of loyalties. Promises will be made to local cooperative communities over the irrigated land S of Jisr al-Shughur.


Operation skipping stone is headed for the coast.


Slightly cynical suggestion, Pundita, but why not?

Interesting discoveries. On what think-thanks will the emperor on the Cherry Blossom throne rely?

I would like to see one of the "foreign fighter groups" surface more prominently. Why not either the Chechens, Libyans or Turkmen?


As news of mass graves, torture, and other atrocities from Aleppo reach the troops they become "highly motivated," aka mean and nasty.

I love this part, although, I may love Shakespeare since I am as bad in geography as he was at his time. ;) ...


Tel, actually, one of the matters that interest me are the results of war-game suggestions concerning Turkey.

he improved the financial position of American taxpayers by an equal amount. Military spending comes out of real people, so treat it with the utmost respect.

What'ya mean? - OK. I understand.



Gnadenschuss? We'll see who gets 'killed' out of mercy. I seriously doubt it will be the ones that already do relatively well. But as I told Tyler, lets see.

For whatever reason your grace/mercy reminded me of grenade/Granate in German.


Well, whatever I suggested to Tyler, lets see.

Supposing you mean Gnadenschuss / coup de grâce?


Didn't quite make it into English.

Babak Makkinejad

Turks do not wish to have any organized Kurdish presence near their borders or within their borders. That is the sum total of their minimal goals. I do not believe that they wish to annex parts of Syria - they do not want to have more non-Turks in their country; Arab or Kurd.

Turks acted on behalf of NATO; went in there to undo what US had done; increasing the power of Iran.

The War-in-Syria-to-Wound-Iran and the contemporaneous Fortress West Economic Siege Warfare could have been avoided back in 2006 if someone, anyone in position of power or influence in the so-called West, had acted on the sage advice of the late General William Odom.

I suppose due to the strategic asymmetry between the Fortress West and Iran; its leaders had every expectation of quick victory.

When that did not materialize, the prolongation of War in Syria became the objective of Fortress West and the Gulfies; I suppose with the rather transparent hope and purpose of bleeding Iran, SAR, Hezbollah.

What the prologation of war has accomplished, however, has been the creation of the Shia Crescent, the mutation of the war into one that pit Sunnis against Shia, Christian, Yazidi, Alevi, and Druze across the Near East, while , simultaneously making the war another arena of contest between the Russian Federation and the Western Diocletian States.

In my opinion, further prolongation of war will further harm the Fortress West since it inflames religious passions in fragile states such as India - that are nominally FoW (Friend of West) as well as negatively impacting their own domestic tranquility.

I hope that the Syrian War, when it ends, would not become, like the Spanish Civil War with which it shares many characteristics, the harbinger of another World War.

Babak Makkinejad


As I predicted:


I knew we was bad but not this bad...

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