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25 January 2018


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Robert Fisk reports from frontline in Idlib:
The general is a thoughtful man who does not pause before he answers questions – always a give-away sign that he doesn’t particularly mind telling the truth. Did he think the war would go on this long – seven years – I ask him? “On the second day of the war,” he replies, “I called my wife and she asked if the troubles were going to continue and I said to her: ‘This is the first 10 years. After that will be the consequences’.” So, I conclude, Syria has at least another three years to go. The general laughs. “I am not an astrologist.”
. . .
It’s no great secret that the real Syrian army objective now is to reopen the highway between Homs, Hama and Aleppo, clear out the Islamist “dumping ground” of Idlib province (through which we were now driving in our car) and keep Isis in their own surrounded pocket of territory further east. But where will the Syrians drive them? North to Turkey where Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s army has rashly streamed into Afrin province? A lot of Islamists have been pushed over the Turkish border in the past, especially those who surrendered all but their personal weapons in Homs and asked to be bussed out.
. . .
For it does sound – and look in this sodden landscape – as if the general’s three years might be close to the truth. Outside the country, Syria is ignored these days. By me, too. Hasn’t Isis been beaten? Haven’t the Russians and the Syrians won? They are certainly winning. But visit these swamped battlefields, and you have a distinct feeling that the war goes on



The Turkish might have blocked the move from SW Aleppo to Foua and Kefraya by establishing a number of observation posts around Al-Eis in co-operation with HTS/Al Qaeda.



Not a surprise, all along the Aleppo Der Ez Zor campaign TF has made some operationnal pause and is known to protect its soldiers.



The force applied in what I am writing about is a lot larger than the TF. pl


blowback, If Turkey is really acting in concert on the battle field with
HTS this imo is unacceptable. I'm just a civilian but my first response is
the U.S. should get our tactical nukes & ordnance the hell out of Incirlik Base. Is this even possible without a massive escalation of conflict?
I thought the U.S. should have done that after the debacle when Erdo shut
off the electricity to the base last year. NATO is proving to be a disappointment bigley.


It sounds as if the German government is getting its talking points directly from the Turkish government, including all the BS that they think they can get away with:


[Government spokeswoman] Demmer pointed to "legitimate Turkish security interests at the border to Syria". A spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry said that Turkey was repeatedly the target of attacks by the terrorist militia "Islamic State" originating in northern Syria. Therefore, Ankara is justifying the attack with reference to its "right of self-defence". It could not be determined at present whether Turkey's mission would be a violation of international law.

Peter in Toronto

I still struggle to understand the genesis of population distribution in Syria, according to these sectarian divisions.

Historically, how did such a disseminated division of Sunni and Shia Muslim communities come about, where it is so distinct that it defines the front-lines of the battlefield, and how did these people come to form a state, when their divisions are so deep that they engage in sectarian genocide with a little provocation?


Peter in Toronto

Layer upon layer of population literally laid down through millennia. They were never A people. They were merely peoples who lived near each other, variously protected or victimized by rulers in their areas. These populations were largely endogamous and formed what Carlton Coon called the Middle East Mosaic. This pattern lasted until the victors in WW1 divided up this and other parts of the Ottoman Empire according to their fancy, including within the boundaries disparate groups. In the years since Versailles the pressure cooker of state education and control has gradually made headway against these different identities. The same thing was true in Iraq but with somewhat different groups. The Mosaic is typical of indigenous populations from Mauretania to South Asia. pl


Look i usually lurk but i've gotten reasonably annoyed with your posts.

why do you insist on always posting entire paragraphs and full quotes from article that you already link to without adding anything else of substance? what is the point in your supposed contribution?

You might as well be a bot. Just stop cluttering the conversation if you got nothing to say.

(forgive me Colonel, if I overstepped my bounds. I just had enough of outthere's comments.)

Account Deleted

Fisk is astonishing - a month younger than Trump and still visiting Syrian frontlines in the middle of winter. But where is the next generation of Fisks? Yes the West still has plenty of brave young men & women willing to risk it all to report on the Borg's never ending conflicts, but few with staying power once the adrenaline addiction wears off. And none, as far as I can see, with the conviction to question the authenticity of the latest band of freedom fighting regime-changers - and actually report the viewpoint of the regime changees.

Re Fisk's point on the duration of the fight in Idlib - let's see once the fighting season returns.


i link to articles i think important
i quote when writer says something better than i can say it
i comment when i have something more/different to add
if our host directs us not to quote, but to provide only original thoughts, i will abide by his rules
meanwhile, sorry you don't like my posts, is someone forcing you to read them?



I have several times told you that I do not like your use of SST as a bulletin board rather than a forum. pl


The Mosaic is typical for humans. Only some places with a very stricked "One Church" don't have it (aka Protestant and Catholic Europe) and even there you have areas with a (historic) mosaic.

PS. A very stricked One Church is nationalism. It kills mosaic very fast.


Looks like SAA is restarting the offensive at Abu Dhuhour.

Plus there are heavy airstrikes on Saraqib. Will that be the next push by the SAA after Abu Dhuhour? Could be, it is just 30 clicks NW of Abu Dhuhour, and it sits on the important three-way junction of routes M4, M5, and the Idlib City Hiway.

Or... perhaps Maarrat al-Numan 35 clicks to the SW of Abu Dhuhour? There are also heavy airstrikes going on there. By taking that they could create a pocket of all of southern Idlib province.



IMO they will probably go for Saraqib. There is a highway that runs there from the Abu duhur area through farmer's fields that should be easy going behind as much air as they have available. Saraqib is a major road junction. The danger is, of course, exactly the one I pointed to in this post. They may be well forward of the culminating point of their effort and a high level of risk will necessarily occur. pl

Account Deleted


Interesting development on Hader front, SW Aleppo. This series of Tweets refers to very large TSK convoy deploying at Al-Eis, very deep inside Idlib pocket. Seems to be same area Turkish observers were posted recently. There are also reports of RuAF strikes in the area today and Turkish F16's in same area. Even a report of TSK shelling SAA-held Hader from Al-Eis. Is this beginning of Turkey/SAA/Russ confrontation?



Al-Qaeda, or one of their newly named offshoots captured al-Eis back in Spring of 2016, and have been there ever since. Before that it changed hands: SAA to FSA - then to an offensive led by Qassem Soleimani - and then to al-Qaeda.

Nearby Jabal al-Eis is a key observation point that overlooks most of southern Aleppo, parts of eastern Idlib, and the M5 Hiway. The TSK sent a small recon group there six days ago. This new convoy, reportedly 50 plus vehicles, drove SW from Hatay province.

Al-Hader, held by Soleimani's troops is only four to five clicks from al-Eis. The Turkish claim will be they were going to al-Eis to set up a new de-escalation zone between the Iranians and the rebels. But el-Eis is in Aleppo province and a long way from the Idlib province line. And the only rebels in al-Eis are al-Qaeda or Nusra Front or HFS or whatever their new'nom du jour is.


SAA has moved NW from Abu Dhuhour. They are now just 16 kilometers from Saraquib and 32 from Idlib City and/or the Shia enclaves of al-Foua and Kafarya.

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