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23 October 2017

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blowback

Sorry but that is FSA Dolchstoßlegende-style rubbish - if you look at the Syrian government casualty figures from the SOHR about 90% of the casualties are SAA, 9% are Iranian-backed militia from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, 1% are Hezbollah and Iranian Army and IRGC casualties are insignificant. So the vast majority of the fighting is done by the SAA. The FSA is blaming it on the Iranians in the hope that the USA will force the Iranians to leave but even if that happened the SAA with Russian air support will continue to wipe out the FSA, Al Qaeda and ISIS.
The problem a few years back was that Turkish and Gulfie special forces intervened in the fighting and their superior skill and training caused problems for the SAA with the entirely predictable result that the Gulfie intervention pissed off the Russians enough for them to send in the RuAF.
It's the RuAF and SAA that are butchering the FSA, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, although I wouldn't deny that the Iranian-backed militias and Hezbollah are helping. After 9/11, you'd think that Americans would support anybody killing Al Qaeda but it seems certain elements in Washington don't and are happy to support Al Qaeda's supporters, financiers and armourers.

Babak Makkinejad

The "Yellow Peril" is always on their minds, it is not, however, on their agenda.

mike

Red Cloud -

Yes, as I mentioned above, the SAA was across the river and less than eight kilometers from Omar, probably even closer to the Saban oilfields. And much, much closer than the SDF was. They never made a move towards those oilfields. That is why I believe a deal is in place.

And what you say about R+6 not needing help against Daesh may be true. But it is also true R+6 still needs to defeat enemies in Idlib and pockets in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Rif Damashq, Quneitra, Daraa, and parts of Damascus itself. And then they have to think about kicking the Turkish Army and their proxies out of Syrian land also. So I would guess they are happy for all the help they can get.

As I said above the SDF is comprised of Syrians. The great majority of the SDF are not rebelling against the Syrian government. They are taking back their homes from the Daesh. You cannot leave Daesh in a sanctuary just because it is in the oilfields. The Omar Oilfields, or part of them, are in fact now under control of Syrians.

Please tell me how you suspect the eeevil Americans are going to help the SDF smuggle crude oil out of Omar.

Ingolf Eide


David,

Yes, speculating, in various ways, is really all we can do.

In suggesting Russia is aware of the dangers of too close an embrace with China, I didn't mean to imply anything negative. The relationship seems immensely productive and is IMO likely to continue flourishing. At Valdai, this is how Putin responded to a question about how he saw Xi Jinping and the relationship with China more generally:

"As you may know, during our meetings we publicly call each other friends. This speaks to the level of the relationship that has evolved between us on a human level.

However, in addition to that, we uphold the interests of our states. As diplomats say, they are often very close or identical. An amazing situation has evolved and, God willing, it will continue for as long as possible: we always reach consensus on every issue, even seemingly controversial ones; we always come to terms, look for compromise solutions and find them."

So yes, I agree with you re China.

On the broader question of Russia's relationship with the West, it seems to me Putin's deeper attitude became very clear in a comment he made recently at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students at Sochi.

"What I am talking about is that the world is going through dramatic, global change. I am not saying this is good or bad, just that global changes are going on.

You have said Russia is a vast territory and it is indeed so – from its western to eastern borders, it is a Eurasian space. But as regards culture, even language, language group and history, this all is undoubtedly a European space as it is inhabited by people of this culture.

I am saying this because we have to preserve all this to remain a significant centre in the world – and I do not mean it in the military sense or anything else.

We should not divide everything based on ethnicity and should not look back thinking, say, of the war between France and Russia in 1812–14, but rather look to the future for ways to build a common future and follow this common path.

This is how we can preserve this vast space and these people as a global centre that is significant for relations with Asian countries and the American continent.

If it does not happen this would mean division into minor quasi-national associations of states that would eventually lose their significance in the global sense as independent centres."

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/55842

As it happens, there may be some halting steps in the right direction when it comes to relations with Germany. Here's Steinmeier during the press conference following his meeting with Putin:

"Russia and Germany are linked by a history that goes back more than a millennium, and this history is too diverse to be viewed in black and white. This is why it is so important for me to resist the alienation of the past few years and to keep saying that we live in Europe together. It is our duty to our nations to always continue looking for what we have in common despite all the disagreements and conflicts."

As you say, much damage has been done by the various absurdities of recent years. However, like you, I suspect the tide may be on the turn.

FB Ali

David Habakkuk,

Thank you for those two detailed comments above. They are very informative, and I learnt many things from them that I did not know.

I fully agree with you (and Ingolf) on Putin. I think he is a statesman in a class by himself today. It gives comfort to know that all our fates are (partly) in his hands.

As for China and their Belt and Road plan, I believe Xi (and the other Chinese leaders) are wise enough to ensure that Putin and Russia feel they are equal partners. This is what Putin said about Xi and China in the Valdai Club discussion:

"As you may know, during our meetings we publicly call each other friends. This speaks to the level of the relationship that has evolved between us on a human level.

However, in addition to that, we uphold the interests of our states. As diplomats say, they are often very close or identical. An amazing situation has evolved and, God willing, it will continue for as long as possible: we always reach consensus on every issue, even seemingly controversial ones; we always come to terms, look for compromise solutions and find them."

Philippe T.

Thanks for this analysis. But I am wondering, to which extent the "Perfidious Albion" is "largely extinct ?
PhT

ISL

Kooshy,

from the same article:
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/fsa-rebels-won-iran-171022110625326.html

"Despite the Iranian intervention, the regime and its allies could not win the war, but they were successful in protecting the capital, Damascus, by besieging and keeping the opposition on the periphery of the city," he added.

When Russia entered, the war was on a downward trend. Iran gave Syria time and breathing space, but the trend was towards a Syrian jihadistan. For a trip down memory lane see:

http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/60935

In those days, Iranian aid, training, and personnel slowed the retreat of the regime to urban areas, and then the loss of urban areas. Yes at one point, Iranian and Hezbollah helped the SAA retake territory from the rebels, but those gains were rapidly reversed by additional aid and coordination from Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the jihad groups,

Meanwhile, from:
http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/67651

"For Moscow, a strong allied armed force on the ground that is competent both in offense and defense provides numerous benefits to its military campaign. Russian military planners learned the value of this early in the intervention, when regime forces and their allies were unable to take back territory under the cover of Russian airstrikes until the Russians took the lead by dramatically escalating their own attacks. "

in reference to Hezbollah. The article goes on to show how Hezbollah and the regime learned to use the air cover to advance. Another review, "Iranian Strategy in Syria," by ISW suggests Iranian training was to support militia development (in conjunction with Iraq), sniping, and urban warfare, but also that Syria tended not to listen very well to Iranian advice. In contrast, Hezbollah contributed expertise with light infantry combat, which is better matched against lightly armed insurgents.

This VOA article indicates that Iran both improved by the training opportunity for new weapons and intelligence (I presume electronic).

“We have gained technical and tactical advancements, militarily and in terms of intelligence collection," Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the IRGC, said in a television interview late last year.

from:
https://www.voanews.com/a/iran-sends-military-students-to-syrian-front/3735710.html

I highly recommend this article, though, which took some searching to find, on the question I raised on another thread: Has Iran significantly improved its military capabilities based on experience in Syria? The answer is a resounding yes.

https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/how-iran-is-learning-from-russia-in-syria

Overall, this represents a significant shift in the balance of power in the middle east towards Iran, solidifying the gains when the US overthrew the Iraq-Iran balance by destroying the Hussein regime. It now is reported that Iran is developing its own close air support.

Delivery of the S-400 and other systems to Iran suggests Russia may be willing to tip the balance further to make a US attack on Iran too costly (economically and politically).

Note, in all these sources, thanks to 20:20 hindsight, the biases and blindspots are painfully evident.

blowback

The latest from Tillerson:

"‘Reign of the Assad family is coming to an end’ – US Secretary of State"

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/reign-assad-coming-end-us-secretary-state/

My prediction - Assad will still be president of Syria when Hillary Clinton is nominated as the Democratic candidate for president for the third time in 2024.

Ingolf Eide

David,

That talk by Lieven was just superb. I don't know enough to properly weigh his analysis of the events surrounding the Russian Revolution and WWI but found it truly fascinating.

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