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23 October 2017


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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 ?



from the same article:

"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:


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:

"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.


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.


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.


The latest from Tillerson:

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


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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