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16 February 2018

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turcopolier

Patrick Bahzad

Superb work. thanks. pl

Anna

Explanation of the reasons for the onging Middle Eastern wars: https://www.globalresearch.ca/will-lebanon-be-the-next-energy-war/5629332
"A new geopolitical confrontation is shaping up in the Middle East, and not only between Israel and Syria or Iran. Like most conflicts there, it involves a fight for hydrocarbon resources—oil and gas. The new focus is a dispute between Israel and Lebanon over the precise demarcation of the Exclusive Economic Zone between the two countries. ... The whole situation has the potential to lead to an ugly wider war..."

David Habakkuk

Patrick Bahzad,

Thanks for that. Very good to have you back posting. A lot of food for thought.

One comes back to the basic point that unless one gets the military technicalities right, one’s political analysis is liable to end up completely off the mark. And the reverse is obviously also true – that military analysis without grasp of the relevant politics is liable to come unstuck.

People should read Clausewitz more.

The inability of almost everyone in the West to grasp that the Russians were in a position to have a reasonable prospect of success in finessing objectives in tension – preventing the fall of Assad, while avoiding an Afghanistan-style quagmire – would seem to illustrate what happens when people lack the intellectual equipment to do the relevant political and military analysis, and integrate them.

A further paradoxical result of all this is that Putin, who has always been concerned to maintain good relations with Israel, ended up in a position where he had to do everything possible to make the ‘Syrian Arab Army’ capable of fighting modern warfare: which one would have thought is not exactly what the Israelis want.

How well the Russians can continue to finesse these objectives successfully, of course, is an interesting question.

Ishmael Zechariah

PB,
Thank you for this analysis. I have two questions:

1-re: "On the other hand, it is doubtful that they would be sufficient against Coalition supported YPG/SDF in Northern Syria."

If we assume that Coalition Air is balanced by the RuAF, how would you compare SAA w/ the YPG irregulars?

2-Which "coalition" countries, outside the USA, would commit regular troops to battle if push does come to shove?

Thanks
Ishmael Zechariah

james

thanks patrick... great overview..

SmoothieX12

Great stuff, thank you.

Jony Kanuck

Patrick,
Thank you for this comprehensive survey.

According to Magnier, last weekend when air combat got going, the SAA & Hezbollah went to full alert - ready to head to the Golan & tear into the IDF. However, after losing the F16, Israel seems to have lost interest in a ground invasion of Lebanon, for now. Again, according to Magnier, Hezbollah & the SAA do have an intention of taking the Golan Hts back, maybe next year.

Charles Michael

Indeed,
superb work

Many thanks Patrick bahzad,
and to this Outpost.

Pacifca Advocate

Wow. Amazing analysis, Mr. Azad. Thank you for it. I am grateful for your testimony, which obviously includes a great deal of personal investment in this conflict. Thank you, very much.

My question is: What political or military issues do you think might divide Hizb'Allah, Iran, and Syria in their currently unified opposition to Israel? At this point in time, what distance is there between "ideological", "existential," and "practical", for any of those three groups? The "Shia Crescent" exists not, IMO, because of some nefarious plot, but because of pressure from the outside--practical necessity, IOW. This seems, to me, to be the historical motif of this particular part of the planet: Persia is the more-Agrarian, the Levant is the more-maritime/mercantile, and both feel constant pressure from the nomadic-founded cultures that surround them: Turkey (pre-Byzantine), the Kurds (which make up a lot of pre-Turkey Byzantium), the Arabs, and how many different Turko-Mongolic tribes fighting down from way-Eastern Siberia, to maraud and conquer big parts of Afghanistan and Persia/Iran/India?

This is the historical context in which these three regions--the Levant, Greater Syria, and Iran--locate themselves: three largely sedentary, multi-confessional ("free-spirited") regions which are constantly beset by attacks from foreign invaders that often debilitates all three. It seems, to me, that the last 75 years of their experience re-inforces--rather than erodes--the idea that the Ba'ath was a pro-democracy, pro-secular, pro-...populist? Is it wrong to be fighting for one's people, in a colonialist country?

So...the Ba'Ath were populist Arabs. The Alawites took control of things after massacres..."happened."

Similar massacres "happened" later on, and again.

Wrt Russia, Iran? ...nah. No need to 'splain.

W/r/t China? -- The nurtured Uighur rebellion, for one--but there is also that whole "We are the trading partners who aren't going to dictate to you what our terms are before we do trade--we are the traders. We have always been the traders. Look back in history."

And the problem is--they're right. The bad examples of trading are all heaped on the back of British, US, and French imperialism.

So sad, to be at such a point--

So back to my first point: what political or military issues do you think might possibly work to divide Hizb'Allah, the SAA, Iran/Iraq formal/informal forces, and Russia/China to split on what should be done to protect the area?

kao_hsien_chih

Patrick B.,

Thank you for the enlightening post.

Curious how "serious" the prospect of an "actual" fight, going beyond some skirmishes and the like, between SAA and the YPG is. The Kurds seem to be keeping their options open, especially in face of Turkish machinations, and Damascus does not seem eager to antagonize them unless things fall apart drastically. A limited clash in the south, where Hizbullah and SAA, along with their allies, get into a tangle (probably not a "serious" (as in all out) conflict) with Israel seems at least as plausible.

More generally, I'm curious of your thoughts about how realistic expansion of conflicts (involving factions not yet in full conflict with each other--for example, Turkey and its proxies and Israel vs. SAA/Hizbullah/Iranians in and around Syria might be and how much resource might these factions be able and willing to throw into the affair, should such arise. I am guessing that the constraints are imposed by politics, much more than material capabilities.

Richardstevenhack

I don't think US air power is balanced by the Russians, The US can dump more air assets into Syria than Russia can on short notice. And Russian and Syrian air defenses can be overwhelmed if it comes to that, although not without significant cost.

France probably wouldn't commit troops, but Macron has been making noises about air strikes on Syria if it's proven Syria is using chemical weapons (which they aren't.)

I doubt that the US will unilaterally escalate the situation to a direct confrontation in Syria alone. What I expect is that the US will join Israel in an attack on Hizballah in Lebanon and then try to extend that war into Syria, possibly by allowing Israel to take out Syria's air defenses, then joining Israel in attacking Hizballah units inside Syria and extending that to the SAA.

Richardstevenhack

"Israel seems to have lost interest in a ground invasion of Lebanon, for now"

I don't think so. Tillerson was just in Beirut attacking Hizballah as a "danger to Lebanon."

Tillerson says Hezbollah a danger to Lebanon
https://www.thenational.ae/world/tillerson-says-hezbollah-a-danger-to-lebanon-1.705030

I believe the goal now is for Israel to attack Hizballah in Lebanon, with US support, and then extend that war into Syria.

Today I've read reports that Trump has allegedly given up the "bloody nose" attack on North Korea as not feasible. And since we know from threads here that the US doesn't have enough troops to do a full-scale invasion, and that South Korea would bear the brunt of that - and clearly they're not that interested - it would seem likely Trump will now turn his attention back to the Middle East. Which means Lebanon, Syria and eventually Iran.

A war between Israel/US and Lebanon/Syria would be a nice distraction from Bibi's legal woes and Trump's continued domestic problems.

Yeah, Right

It is undeniable that the SAA is a much smaller force than the pre-war army.

I'm curious about what the SAA will become once the war is finally over and all those refugees (presumably) return to Syria.

Does Assad keep the SAA lean and mean? Or does he take advantage of that extra pool of manpower to grow the SAA back to its pre-war size, albeit now with a cadre of very experienced and battle-hardened officers and NCOs?

Would such an expansion be one way for Assad to redirect the energies of his commanders?

Henshaw

PB- Thank you for your insightful analysis; and thanks to PL for hosting it.

JPB

Thanks PB - Good insight.

I am curious as to your thoughts on the NDF. I have seen strength estimates of anywhere between 50K to 100K. I realize they are mostly just local militia protecting their village or district or tribe. But some appear to maneuver far from their homes right alongside SAA units. Would that be 5th Corps units or are they considered separately from the NDF?

And I assume Assad pays and equips most of them. But at least one appears to be financed independently by an ex-patriot Alawi millionaire.

Do you have a twitter account? If so I would like to follow it.

Enrico Malatesta

Many thanks for a great post, solid facts about the SAA leave me wishing for further postings about the status of other forces in Syria. I'm most curious about the supply lines, as SAA advances have made logistics more difficult for many of their adversaries.

I am also curious about China, given that they would seem to have the same motivation as Russia for the Assad and the SAA to prevail.

Nightsticker

PB,

Very thoughtful. Do it often.

v/r
Nightsticker
USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96

John_Frank

Thank you for this post.

In other news concerning Syria:

Turkish army hit village in Syria's Afrin with suspected gas: Kurdish YPG, Observatory http://reut.rs/2o7cIjh pic.twitter.com/1DU1QAUkRi

There is local reporting and video:

Suspected Turkish use of internationally prohibited chemical weapons against civilians in Erende, Shiye, Afrin.
https://t.co/rCUbU3gT9b

A doctor at Afrin's Avrin Hospital says that the clothes of the victims will be tested to determine which weapons were used, after the victims are treated.
https://t.co/LOan7UKbcL

In addition this video in which The director of Afrin Hospital Dr. Khalil Sabri confirmed the arrival of six casualties suffering suffocation due to the use of poisonous gases by the Turkish army, but the type of the gases has not been determined as of now. According to the doctor, the injured are suffering a serious itching on their skin, shedding tears in eyes, and throwing up and struggling with breathing
https://youtu.be/nrV4F0SmqWw

How will the State Department and Ambassador Haley respond to this alleged chemical weapons attack?

Will the OPCW investigate?

John_Frank

In other news concerning Syria, SOHR has posted a report (in Arabic) suggesting that the Chinese may be prepared to contribute troops as part of an agreement to help resolve the situation in eastern Ghouta https://t.co/fHwIyFqcw2

(Personally I find it hard to believe that the Chinese Government would want to station troops in Syria, but with reports of Russian mercenaries fighting in eastern Syria and the North Koreans having supplied men and equipment to help the Syrian Arab Army, who knows.)

John_Frank

According to reports:

#SAA's Tiger Forces are moving towards Eastern Ghouta: a 4 Km long military convoy is on the way. https://twitter.com/MrKyruer/status/964805446962991104

@IvanSidorenko1, who has close ties with the Syrian Arab Army is confirming that the SAA Tiger Forces are moving towards Eastern Ghouta, posting numerous pictures on his time line. Links to a number of his posts follows for the reader's benefit:

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964808660131155973

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964805933632229376

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964802828429676544

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964801967137705984

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964800526691991553

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964799431081168896

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964798515414257669

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964798015402840069

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964796743408869377

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964795792136589312

https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/964794879615361024

(Yes, I am aware of the composition of the forces in Eastern Ghouta, and the claimed ties to various Islamist factions.)

There are reported 270,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta. It is supposed to be a de-escalation zone, although the Syrian Arab Republic reserved the right to go after forces they deemed to be terrorists. Hence the ongoing fighting. There is an existing humanitarian crisis with reports of many people suffering from severe malnutrition.

With even more air attacks, along with heavy artillery, followed by a ground offensive, we will see even more civilian casualties.

How will the UN and the international community respond to this new offensive?

In that regard, follows is the press release from the latest UN SC meeting on Syria held on February 14:

Civilians in Syria Killed on ‘Horrific Scale’, Conflict Spilling across Borders, Threatening Regional Stability, Special Envoy Warns Security Council
http://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sc13208.doc.htm

Follows is a link to the full meeting record:
http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.8181

Will we see claims of chemical weapons attacks? How will the US and France, who has also threatened to strike, respond?

Patrick Bahzad

Don’t think oil and have much to do with it.

Patrick Bahzad

US/Coalition airpower is superior in the ME, but Russian air defenses could change the equation to some extent.

Patrick Bahzad

Golan won’t be on the table for a long time IMHO.

Patrick Bahzad

Not sure about how to divide them, but there’s certainly room for situations in which one of these players might want to be less involved than others. Russians didn’t seem to mind Israeli air strikes that much for example.

Patrick Bahzad

The SAA/SAG don’t want a confrontation with YPG, IMO. They want to drive a wedge between YPG and the US so as to break up that alliance a d force the Kurds to look for the regime’s protection against Turkish incursions. The Iranians have interests of their own, most important to them is to get US forces out of Northern Syria. The rest of the chaos, they probably think they can deal with.

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