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01 May 2017

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Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

The Diocletian states are with US on this one.

So are the Gulfies.

US is not alone in this endeavor.

Jack

Sir

Do you think the Russians are advising the SAA to fight on many fronts when it is clear they just don't have the manpower for it? I'm really amazed at the resilience of the jihadis. They seem to have a way to replenish their forces with more men.

Degringolade

Agreed:

I think that anyone who has been in the military and has not read and thoroughly understood Clauswitz is, at best, an amateur.

I am a huge fan of Boyd. But Boyd is a tactician who people keep trying to make into a strategist. This re-framing will never work.

Over and over and over again the teaching of the master are ignored.

His only weakness, and this is a personal opinion, worthy of any scorn you wish to offer, is that his precepts are very hard to apply to civil war.

DianaLC

You are right. I will not read the essay. It's not because I don't want to, and it's not that I doubt my ability to understand it.

But it is that I know that, like Emily Dickinson, I am nobody. I would not have any ability to influence anyone else with my new understanding from reading the essay.

But if I did understand your post correctly, I am in agreement with you. I have never understood why the neocons, along with Obama and HRC were so hell bent on getting rid of Assad--or doing any of the crazy stuff they were doing with their "Arab Spring." For some reason, I am always suspicious that the Saudis are somewhere pulling the American's strings. But maybe that is just my own personal paranoia.

If I were a different person--a young, strong, brave man and not an older woman going blind because of myopic retinal degeneration (thus, my major reason for not reading the essay)--I might want to take you up on the idea of volunteering for the sake of Syria's secular government, if for no other reason than that the Coptic Christians had been protected there by Assad.

Something is very wrong with our entire world lately. I'm glad I am old so I might not be witness to its implosion, but I am greatly saddened for my children and grandchildren.

I can hope and believe that God is in control and will work things out, however, for them.

Ishmael Zechariah

Colonel,
Would you care to speculate what the Russians are advising Assad? Their strategists must know all of Clausewitz and more. Given the facts on the ground, is there any possibility that Assad and his cadres are setting an independent strategy? (both non rhetorical questions)
Many thanks
Ishmael Zechariah

Aussie

Is there perhaps an analogy with Eisenhower's choice in 1944 to pursue a "broad front" strategy in W Europe, overruling the objections of Monty and Patton for operational concentration of force? He had the objective of maintaining political and public support in an often fractious coalition, so maybe political goals can trump operational logic, as von C also said. Of course, I guess overwhelming industrial superiority gave him options on the battlefield.

Serge

I posted here during the first days of Russian intervention in 2015 that if a quick, decisive victory in internationally-supported jihadi heartland was not achieved, then the unlimited pool of cash and determination available to the local architects of Syria's destruction would,in the medium term, outweigh Russia's capability for power projection. Insofar as to the length Russia is willing to go in Syria is concerned, at least, which I believe by now precludes the possibility of significant Russian reinforcements alluded to here and previously by the colonel. Iran is still a wildcard however, I believe that she has sunk far too much capital into this war, and will be very reluctant to let the GCC and others gain the upper hand. I believe that Iran would rather engage in an all out regional war in that case rather than suffer a protracted collapse in the theater, which is what is currently in the cards.

Has anyone followed the Palmyra front, for example? Now that's a poisoned chalice if I ever saw one. ISIS releases media featuring dozens of KIA SAA on a regular almost daily basis, ATGM strikes on armor, etc. One of many examples all across the country of the SAA being stretched to breaking point by the maintenance of too many fronts for political purposes(Palmyra was a political point of vanity for the Russians- any economic benefit from controlling the surrounding fields is moot from ISIS destruction of such in the past 12 months). Forces that could be well used elsewhere to strike decisively

Emad

Also, whatever their shortcomings, Russians can't be accused of not understanding concentration and economy of force. So from Tehran's vantage point, political pressure by Assad doesn't explain their acquiesence to R+6 being everywhere and nowhere. What explains this dispersion of forces is Russia's apparent belief that making a deal with the Donald is still possible, which given the push by the U.S. to carve a Sunnistan out of Syria means that Russians are preparing their Iranian and Syrian allies for a series of battlefield setbacks that will in turn convince them that a unitary Syria is infeasible and perhaps even undesirable.

b

I agree with Clausewitz and you. But you are a bit unfair to the SAA.

All the operation areas you name but one (east-Palmyra) are defensive in nature:
- Daraa, Sueida are under attack from the U.S. coalition controlled through the operations center in Jordan. They need to take Daraa for their planned southern jihadi enclave "no-fly zone". The SAA holds Daraa and tries to prevent that.
- There is little fighting at the Syrian/Lebanese mountains. That is solely Hizbullah's (Lebanon) realm and there are attempts to achieve some exchange of territory through negotiations.
- northern Hama is a counterattack to the Al-Qaeda operation against Hama and to protect that city. The counterattack was successful but is barely back at its original position. It may go a few miles further (Khan Sheikhun) than the original lines to have better secured defensives.
- Deir Ezzor is solely defensive in nature. Any stopping there and the city and the garrison will be overrun by ISIS.
- The eastern Aleppo operation has stopped. It was necessary to prevent further Turkish incursion and a Turkish attack on Aleppo city.
- There were some probing local attacks west of Aleppo city. This was reconnaissance by force aimed against an announced AQ attack that did not materialize (thanks to the bombing campaign in Idleb governate). That wasn't a big operation but local brigade level stuff.

The problem is of course that enemies of Syria, mainly the U.S., AQ and ISIS, coordinate their operations to keep the SAA busy everywhere. As soon as a big SAA move to X is prepared a diversion attack by its enemies on Y will happen and reserves will be needed to stop it.

Russia is trying to convince Erdogan to stop supporting AQ in Idleb. Erdogan will be in Moscow in mid May. Should this succeed the summer will see a big attack on Idleb governate. (The Russian/Syrian bombing preparations are already in full swing. These must cause enormous, though yet hidden, damages on AQ and all other forces in the area.) The alternative is a big operation towards Deir Ezzor to prevent the U.S. from creating its east-Syrian Sunnistan proxy. This would be difficult and dangerous for the SAA and require a lot of resources.

Whatever. There are clearly preparations for a big push in summer. But where and with how many forces is unknown to me.

shanks

I dont know what the strategy is but there is one outcome that is guaranteed, there will be no christian presence in the middle east in the next few years,save Israel. And this will happen irrespective of Assad's win or lose gambit. And that's for minorities.

As for Shias, well, I suppose they could convert to Sunni everywhere except Iran.

Green Zone Café

Dissent on Sisi. I was in Cairo for months after the coup, including Sisi's "election."

The teachers in the Arabic school I was in were split. I provoked a debate on lunch breaks by asking "what was bad about Morsi?" and "Is Sisi the new Mubarak?" This was after Rabaa. A lot of the objection to Morsi had to do with things that were out of Morsi's control, like increased power and other service cuts that were possibly staged by deep state (according to the NYT) and were miraculously reduced after the coup. The other stuff had to do with street harassers feeling empowered, not state action.

For all of the supposed Islamism, Morsi didn't do much in that regard. The bars stayed open, Stella brewery kept making beer, Al Ahram distilleries kept making vodka, gin and whiskey. The threats against secular critics like Bassem Yousef were mild compared to what Sisi does. Yousef, the "Jon Stewart of Egypt" was shut and had to flee Egypt under Sisi. There was ten times more freedom of speech and political action under Morsi than now.

Morsi took a harder line against Israel, might have given Hamas more freedom across the Gaza border, but that wasn't an issue for internal governance.

Morsi was an incompetent politician in many ways, he alternated between saying provocative things and trying to appease the security apparatus. He appointed Sisi! But he was in a tough situation, opposed by all the holdover hacks in the government and the judiciary from the Mubarak days. For example, the judiciary annulled the parliamentary election on dubious grounds, putting Morsi in a tough spot so he had to rule by decree rather than parliamentary consensus.

The Tamarod movement which rose up to protest Morsi, leading to the coup, was funded by the Gulfies: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/11445060/Egypts-military-rise-to-power-partly-bankrolled-by-Emirates-audio-recording-suggests.html

If the elected government had hobbled along to another free and fair election and eventually to a peaceful change of power, it could have changed the Arab world and Islam.

Presumably, the Gulfies saw an elected Sunni MB government as a bad example and a threat to their absolute monarchical power.
Undoubtedly the Israelis were not happy by the shift on policy, either.

You say it was the Borg that "supported" Morsi. I say it's the Borg who pretty much cut him (the elected president) off, and quickly normalized relations with Sisi, a guy whose political skills consist of bullshitting, imprisoning, killing, and torture. Borg media's muted response and amnesia regarding the Rabaa massacre is your cue on that issue.

Once in power Sisi doubled down on imprisoning and torturing the kind of secular activists who rose up against both Mubarak and Morsi. He could have made them allies if he operated in good faith.

Morsi didn't bomb Mexican tourists, torture an Italian and many Egyptians to death, kill tourism by various means, sell off islands to the Saudis, or tank the Egyptian pound. It's amazing how incompetent the Sisi regime is.

Here's a high Borg propaganda platform saying how great the Tamarod uprising was, though:
https://pjmedia.com/blog/why-tamarod-is-the-most-important-story-of-2013/

TryPeace

A short post, but among your most thoughtful and predicated on an intimate knowledge of warfare.

I think Israel's position is beyond a mere fake "neutrality". There is a deep underlying logic, and it goes right back to the GCC.

The Syria quagmire might simply represent the planning of the Washington establishment since the days when Anthony Cordsman extrapolated ME population dynamics in the late 90s into the early 21st century.

Syria is bleeding all of Israel's enemies dry, although in my humble opinion, Israel is making a terrible miscalculation betting on the Sunnis at this stage. It assumes it can crush the GCC the day the Shia are bled dry. This presumes that the present political configuration remains in its favor.

Who is to say it will?

Account Deleted

I have been wondering the same thing. Since the Russians took charge I had expected to see a much more concentrated use of force, but as you say it appears to be highly distributed and therefore to defy military logic. Nevertheless the R+6 do appear to be gaining - and holding - significant ground, especially most recently in Idlib.

I'd be interested in others' opinions on a rationale for what we are seeing. Is it perhaps simply a sign of confidence? Unconstrained by the conventions of minimizing casualties among no-combatants, the RuAF seemingly has the resources to support the limited ground troops adequately on all fronts. The SAA itself may be hollowed out, but Hezbollah manpower does not to seem to be in short supply. On the other side, I have also seen it argued that Turkish support for it's pet Jihadis has melted away, thanks to an agreement with Russia (may explain some recent infighting). Perhaps the Syrian allied forces simply feel confident of winning on all fronts simultaneously.

It must nevertheless be tempting for all those with an interest in R+6 failing to keep the burn rate in their blood & treasure high for as long as possible. Another 'certified' regime CW attack could still change everything.

DanW

Is there a way for American volunteers to fight for the Syrian govt against the takfiris? It breaks my heart reading about the destruction of Syria, and the borg's support for the Al Qaeda factions and the "moderate" salafists. I'm a pizza delivery driver in the midwest tired of sitting here watching the ziocons "humanitarian" regime-change wars unfold, as my brainwashed friends consume the cable news propaganda pablum.

Ghostship

Do the Syrians have the option to concentrate their forces as you suggest? They have forces in all those areas for a reason, which is mostly those are the areas where the terrorists are established and prepared to fight. If the Syrians don't keep up the pressure on terrorists with adequate forces in all those locations then the terrorists will reinforce, rearm and prepare for further aggression as happened in the past year in Palmyra. And if they see weakness on the part of the Syrian government all the terrorists and rebels with reconciliation agreements will re-enter the fight. So anywhere the terrorists attack the Syrian government, the Syrian gvernment has to respond.
The closest parallel I can see with this war is World War 1 and I wonder if the recent assault into North Hama by the terrorists has parallels with the German Spring Offensive of 1918, and we should all know where that put the Germans. When an army and I think the terrorists are an army if somewhat disunited, are put under enough pressure which I think the terrorists have, then the end can come unexpectedly quickly. In the late summer of 1918 most observers expected the war to go on for a year or more. When the German Army collapsed, those observers were so relieved that they fell for the Hindenburg/Lubendorff "Armistice" trap with even more dreadful consequences a few years latter.
The Russians understand that the Syrian government rather than the Russians and Iranians have to be seen as the winners and to do that the R+6 have to grind the terrorists into the dirt without substantial Russian or Iranian ground forces and that is what they're doing now with the application of air power instead of massed artillery.
If they're too aggressive now coherent terrorist groups will flee across the border into their safe haven in Turkey under the protection of NATO to reinforce, rearm and retrain before returning to Syria when the Russians go home. While the United States and much of NATO insist on protecting two of the largest state sponsors of terrorism, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Russians and Syrians have few other options. However, a few Kalibrs hitting Doha and Riyadh would concentrate minds wonderfully but the United States, more particularly the Borg, would never allow that.

turcopolier

Ghostship

"So anywhere the terrorists attack the Syrian government, the Syrian government has to respond." If it is the case that the Syrian government has permanently and inherently lost the initiative to the various rebel groups, then the government will inevitably be defeated. This is not a COIN war. It is a war in which there are actual concentrations of semi-conventional rebel forces that seek to hold territory, population and natural resources. This is not a case of the "fish" swimming in the sea of the people. Where the rebels rule, the government does not hold ground except in pockets like Deir al-Zor. The government must be willing to take risks in some areas in order to be able to mass for offensive action in key areas. Deir al-zor is not in my opinion a critical area. Neither is Suweida. Idlib Province is and the baleful effect of not re-capturing the province in evident in the IO sarin gas stunt conducted by the jihadis who have been allowed to remain in control in the province. you sound like many colleagues in my military career who always wanted to see forces parcelled out across a front rather than massed for decisive action. Eisenhower's approach actually represented an absence of any kind of creative thought. market-Garden was actually an excellent plan. the problem with it was that British 30th Corps did not perform well and did not reach Arnhem in the time required. pl

turcopolier

Emad

I agree that Putin is still hoping for a American agreement and that causes him to not seek decisive action in Syria. For that reason he does not seek to impose Russian guidance on Syrian deployments. IMO, this is a bad policy from the Russian point of view. pl

Leonardo

On top of that, just a few days ago Al Zawahiri was suggesting that Al-Sham should switch to guerrilla warfare in Syria. He seemed to advocate a hit and run approach for the next leg of the war.

So, maybe, after 6 years of conflicts the Syrian government enemies might be as spent as the SAA, or even more. And maybe the R+6 knows it and means to keep up the pressure in order to prevent his adversaries from catching their breath?

I find this post scary, because since I've begun reading this blog, Colonel Lang has almost always been proved right. I just hope the R+6 has more information than the Colonel on this issue. This war must be brought to an end as soon as possibile. It has already caused unbearable destruction and pain to too many human beings.

shepherd

DianaLC,

Clausewitz is available in a free audiobook:

https://www.amazon.com/On-War/dp/B00008K2YF


turcopolier

Diana LC

My eyes are pretty bad also and I am 77 years old the end of May. There are very few Coptic Christians in Syria. there are many Christians but few are Coptic. The Copts are basically east African sects of Christianity. It is true that the present secular government of Syria has attempted to protect the Christians, something that means nothing to the Borgists who run the US foreign policy. pl

LG

I think a thin line separates one islamist (sunni) group from another - MB to AQ to ISIS- as has been seen in Turkey.
Please read the relevant portions from this ex AQ guy about the Morsi govt.

http://www.syrianews.cc/isis-the-bombshell-interview-to-impeach-obama/


Nabeel Naiem: The legal case (former Egyptian president) Mohammad Morsi is being tried for, the case of communicating (with the enemy) and contacting Ayman Zawahri was an assignment of Issam Haddad by Obama in person on 28 December 2012, he was at the White House in a meeting with the CIA, he says in his confessions when interrogated by the public prosecution in the case..

– How did you get it?

Nabeel Naiem: These public prosecution confessions are published and are available.. Obama entered (the meeting room) and gave the CIA team a paper and left, they read it and told him: it’s required by the Muslim Brotherhood to contain the radical groups in the region starting with Hamas & Al-Qaeda, so he called Ayman Zawahri through Rifa’a Tahtawi, head of presidential court, who happens to be Ayman’s cousin from Rifa’a Tahtawi’s phone.

Ayman (Zawahri) talking to Mohammad Morsi and Morsi says to him: Peace be Upon You Emir (Prince) of Believers, we need your people here in Sinai, and I will provide them with expenses, food and water and prevent security from pursuing them..

This was recorded and sent to the public prosecutor and this is what Mohammad Morsi is being tried for.

If you ask how I got to know this? I was in Channel 2 of Egyptian TV, and with me was General Gamal, 1st secretary of Egyptian Intelligence, who recorded the call and written it down and based on it the memo was written and handed to the Public Prosecutor.

The TV presenter asked him: Is it allowed for the Intelligence Services to tap the telephone of the president of the republic?

He replied: I’m not tapping the president’s phone, I was tapping Ayman’s (Zawahri) phone and found the president talking to him, telling him Peace be Upon You Emir of Believers, so I wrote down the tape, wrote a report and submitted to the head of intelligence..

She asked him: Did you inform the president? He replied: It’s not my job, I do not deal with the president (directly), I deal with the head of intelligence and that’s my limits.

She asked him: What did you write in your investigations and your own report, what did you write after you wrote down the tape (contents)?

I swear to God he told her, & I was in the same studio,: I wrote that Mr. Mohammad Morsi Ayyat president of the republic is a danger for Egypt’s National Security.

So the ignorant should know why the army stood by the side of the people on 30 June, because the president is dealing with Al-Qaeda organization, and it’s recorded, and he’s being on trial for it now, and head of intelligence wrote that the president of the republic is a danger on Egypt’s National Security

turcopolier

Leonardo & IZ

IMO the SAA is not "spent" at all. It is a lot smaller than the pre-war Syrian Army and air force but those slave like Mamelukes were not very good at anything except head bashing involving civilians much like the Egyptian Army to this day. What has happened in the war is that the SAA has been seasoned (not hollowed out) and old units that were not worth much have become valuable (like the Republican Guard) while others like the Tiger Forces have emerged under aggressive skilled commanders like Suhail. the problem with the SAA is that there are not enough of them to spread them all over the country successfully against a non-guerrilla enemy. IMO if the jihadis want to stop holding ground and population the R+6 will wipe them out. pl

Lurker

Russian war doctrine seeks to attain the military objective without utterly humiliating the adversary with "overwhelming force" as Gen Colin Powell's doctrine articulates it. For example: in Georgia, RF stopped their advance before reaching Tbilisi. Likewise, Crimea was taken without firing ( a few) shots. Yes, Chechnya is another story but even then and there, RF has granted considerable latitude to Kadyrov and Chechnya is almost an independent republic in all but international embassies. Russia let Obama save face in Syria after the Ghouta false flag red line prevarication. Russia is allowing Turkey, Israel, USA and NATO to save face. Russia could have overreacted to the 59 Tomahawk missile barrage but chose not to. In the Russian psyche, restrain is a sign of strength not weakness. So, Russia provides essential Air Cover and guidance for Assad but wants this proxy war to be resolved politically not militarily. If Russia wanted this invasion resolved militarily, it would be over rather quickly. But this is not her doctrine.

turcopolier

Lurker

If that is their doctrine in this case they are sadly mistaken because the jihadis will wear the R+6 down and destroy their effort. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Le Monde Interview with Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iranian Supreme National Security Council

http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2017/04/21/en-syrie-les-etats-unis-ne-peuvent-pas-etre-a-la-fois-juge-et-partie_5114892_3218.html

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