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14 August 2019

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JP Billen

Yes, I finally saw that the Syrian AF has confirmed they lost radar contact with it. There are conflicting reports though from the jihadis about how it was shot down, one said MANPAD, another said HMG.

The SU-22 is a 50+ year old design still flying. And since 2011 the Syrian AF has been flying more sorties with the SU-22 than these aircraft were designed to handle. Many "failed and crashed or simply wore out and had to be grounded."

So I wonder if the one lost just now in Idlib is one of the ten Iranian SU-22s that were gifted to the Syrian AF in early 2015? Those ten were some of the same aircraft that the Iraqi Air Force flew to Iran during the 1991 war for safekeeping. Iran confiscated them as war reparations. And five years ago the IRGC restored ten to operational condition by raiding spares from hangar queens and gave them to the Syrian AF along with spares and maintenance support.

The Twisted Genius

Jane, HTS is taking the brunt of the beating in southern Idlib/northern Hama. Turkey is now moving NLF jihadis down from Afrin to reinforce the Khan Sheikhoun front. The NLF is a coalition of jihadis closely aligned with Turkey. The HTS has its roots in Syrian al Qaeda/al Nusra. NLF and HTS jihadis fight each other when they're not fighting the SAA.

Jane

A plague on all their houses.

Jane

When last heard from, they were in Idlib except for those who fight with ISIS. In Idlib, the Chechen jihadis heard that the Russian MP unit which was tasked with interaction with the civilian populations in areas retaken by the SARG [as they did in Aleppo] was in fact made up of [obviously loyalist] Chechens [and other Muslims from the RF], they went on the attack and the SAA and Russians had to go in and save them.

Neither the Uighurs nor the Central Asians have anywhere to retreat to, which is also the case for the Chechens. I would assume that they would be more inclined to fight alongside the AQ types rather than the "Syrian" groups, but I do not know. From what I recall earlier, these were each separate ethnic units that fought with but not necessarily under the central jihadi organizations.

In the former ISIS-land, the dead RF jihadis left behind many orphans. The RF sent in native speakers of all the Caucasian languages to determine their origin. With the help of DNA, they were able to get many back into their families back home. Where there are living mothers, I don't know if the RF has a systematic policy of what to do with these widows.

Philippe Truze

The Colonel is mentioning the "FUKUS" alliance in northern Syria, but I am not sure that there is still a willingness to fight the Syrians and the Russians among the French component of this "force". Macron knows that the French public opinion is fed up with this war and does not believe anymore the French mainstream medias reports. Many Frenchs are in favor of getting some sort of agreement with the Russians (if not with Assad) to get rid of the jihadists, especially the 1 to 2 thousands French warriors amongst them. Nobody - not even Macron - want them to be rapatriated in France for trial, preferring the issue to be delt with local (syrian, irakis) authorities, whatever severe would be the punishments. Only the "islamo-gauchistes" (islamo-leftits) are defending this "solution". Sometimes I have the feeling that the French are siding the US in northern Syria only by fidelity to an old ally, rather than to defend some French interests - a part the long time alliance between the the French socialists et the Muslim Brothers, against the secular regimes of Libya, Egypt, and Syria, since the Suez Operation en 1956. Macron and Putin will meet on august 19th, in southern France. We will see if there is an official inflexion of the French policy in this region.

JP Billen

In fairness, it was TTG and Ishmael Zechariah that mentioned FUKUS, and not the Colonel.

There is no "willingness to fight the Syrians and the Russians" in the US and the UK as well as in France. In the past we unfortunately did have that willingness. But only through ill-chosen proxies who have now been either incorporated into the ranks of HTS, or who have fled the country to become refugees, or are dead.

Philippe Truze

You are right, JP B, but, one day or another, because of the "logic of the situation", US/UK or French troops (actually special forces, concerning France) could lead to a face-à-face between western troops and SAA/Russian elements. In France no political force is wishing this situation. Concerning US, I don't even know who is in charge of the politico-strategic aspects of their presence in Syria. If you add the Turkish army and the PPK Kurds in the equation, then everything becomes possible, if not wished...

JP Billen

It is a disaster in the US that we have idiots like John Bolton and the many NeoCons that are thirsting for more war in the Middle East. Ditto, or perhaps more airheaded, is our R2P believers, whose brains have been steamed and creamed, and want regime change.

But I know of no US citizens that want war with Russia. Other than perhaps a few teenage imbéciles who have zero influence and zero credibility.

Barbara Ann

Looks like M5 is now closed to southbound traffic. Erdogan has a big problem now.

https://www.msb.gov.tr/en-US/Slide/1982019-46366

The Twisted Genius

Rather than assaulting Khan Sheikhoun directly from the west, the Tiger Force turned north then east to seize the towns and high ground overlooking the M5. They now have fire control of M5. They appear to be putting the jihadis in Khan Sheikhoun into the same cauldron as well as the remaining jihadis in north Hama and the Turkish observation post at Morek. Turkey tried to send a column into Khan Sheikhoun to establish another observation post in order to forestall the fall of the town. It didn't work. The Tiger Force was too quick and the Syrians conducted a "warning" airstrike on the Turkish column and managed to kill a jihadi leader in the process. Naturally, the Turks are crying like rats eating onions.

I fail to see the Turkish reasoning in thinking the existing deescalation zone agreements would allow them to set up another OP at Khan Sheikhoun. With that kind of reasoning, the Russians could establish OPs at Jisr al Shighur and Idlib.

JP Billen

Looks like MG al Hassan outfoxed the Turks and their jihadi buddies by jinking NE. While at the same time he is at the gates of KS, maybe inside by now.

Is that 5th Corps in the east on that NW Sukayk/al-Tamaniyah axis? They appear to be bogged down. But there are reports that they beat off a large counterattack by HTS.

Fred

"... the military operations by the regime forces continue in Idlib region in violation of the existing memorandums and agreements with the Russian Federation..."

Perhaps someone should tell the Turks that Syria is a sovereign state and isn't run by Russia?

The Twisted Genius

JP, yes the 5th Corps is at Sukayk. They have been taking the bulk of the counterattacks and killing jihadis in the process. Hitting them from both the east and west has been a brilliant move. All those counterattacks at Sukayk meant less jihadis in front of the Tiger Force.

turcopolier

TTG

the idea should be to get them to flee to the north through the jaws presented by Tiger Forces and 5th corps and just tear the shit out of them. Send them HOME.

The Twisted Genius

I'm all for tearing up the jihadis as they try to run the gauntlet between 5th Corps and the Tiger Force. I see the Turkish backed FSA is sending massive reinforcements south to try to relieve their jihadi brethren. What great targets for Russian and Syrian pilots and artillerymen. Just don't allow any more truces.

turcopolier

TTG

Yes, and then the pursuit should be driven to the death site of the last jihadist. there should be several bulldozers with every column in the pursuit.

The Twisted Genius

It doesn't appear to be any danger of having a cease fire imposed on the SAA by Russia. Lavrov has told Turkey that the jihadists will be crushed. To reinforce that message, Russian Su-35s have chased off a couple of Turkish F-16s attempting to intervene at Khan Sheikhoun.

JP Billen

Turkısh FM Cavusoglu is saying Turkey will not withdraw from Idlib observation points. Especially Morek, which is the one in the kettle.

Tunde

TTG,
A fascinating explanation of operational maneuverings being conducted by the SAA and allied forces. I came across a piece by Aymen al-Tamimi and wondered if you thought the sentiments expressed by the interviewee were accurate, in the main ; http://www.aymennjawad.org/2019/08/some-guy-in-the-special-force-interview
What struck me was the belief that the Russians were not to be trusted.......
"A: The situation generally: if you follow the statements of the Russians in the past two days, they have affirmed that the raids they have carried out do not conform with the advance on the ground and the cost has become exorbitant. And it has been necessary for the Syrian government to pay the costs. And two days ago they struck the Iranian positions and said it was by mistake. And I see [/think] that the Iranians will not leave Syria in this state with the Russians, and they will assume responsibility for the entire Idlib operation with weapons, equipment and ammunition, and even the soldiers on the ground. And in this state of affairs the Hezb [Hezbollah] will come down to the Idlib battle."
Also, if I may be so presumptuous to ask you to cast your considerable expertise on the burgeoning security crisis in the Azawad region which is increasingly destabilizing Mali, Niger and Northern Nigeria. There has been a lot of talk of jihadis migrating from the Syrian front to this conflict zone and the FUKUS alliance has been strengthening personnel numbers in the region. Keep up the good work !

Barbara Ann

Cavusoglu is in denial and/or geographically challenged. I'm looking forward to RT's footage of Russian MP's escorting TAF personnel out of Morek OP in due course. Turkey is apparently starting to build a new OP 10km or so further up the M5 at Hish. I'd advise them to fit this one with wheels and a tow bar, that way the occupants can observe the SAA all the way back to Hatay.

The Twisted Genius

Tunde, the sentiments expressed by the soldier interviewee are perfectly reasonable. Russia is in Syria for the good of Russia. All Russia does in the region is for the good of Russia. This is why they balance Turkey and Syria as they do. It is a prudent policy and they are clear in this. Iran and Hezbollah have a deeper tie to Syria and this is also perfectly understandable.

I have thought about Azawad and the situation in Mali from time to time. I have a special interest in that region due to my work with the Malian DGSE. I also found Timkuktu to be a magical place. I will look a little closer at the current situation and write something up in the near future. I don't know if France will continue to play such a prominent role there as time goes by. They were key to stopping the jihadis a few years back.

JP Billen

Why stop at Hatay? Idlib is not the only Turkish occupied land in Syria. Retake Afrin and the Euphrates Shield Zone as well as Idlib, and kick them back to Kilis and Gazientep.

But right now there are reports that Turkey is reportedly working on two scenarios regarding the Morek OP, despite Cavusoglu's earlier statement. One would be to move the observation point just to the south of the Maaraat Numan district as you mentioned. The other would be a meeting with the Syrian regime with Russian mediation to keep the observation point where it is. I'd like to be a fly on the wall during that meeting. IF it happens that is, as far as I know the Syrians have not agreed to meet with them.

JP Billen

There is a thoroughly detailed article on Wikipedia concerning the Idlib Dawn Offensive. It references more than 600 citations from a wide variety of sources.

Interestingly they quote a Syrian military source regarding the Turkish OP at Morek: 'They're free to stay or leave as they please. They can go through KhanSheikoun if route is secure enough for them. If not, we'll escort them to Al-Bab thru Aleppo countryside'. Fat chance that Erdo or MoD Hulusi Akar would ever agree to being escorted by the SAA.

They also note reports that many rebel groups fled north. Except for HTS, which withdrew from Khan Sheikhoun to go south towards Kafr Zita, Lataminah, and Morek. IF true, there will be much mopping up to do in the pocket. But IMO it might be better to contain them there and just use air to wipe them out while the SAA takes another bite out of Idlib.

Barbara Ann

Re "Why stop at Hatay?"

Former British Ambassador Ford has the following to say on possible future Kurdish cooperation with the SAA to liberate the Turkish-occupied ES and OB areas.

"One scenario Western planners would be wise to anticipate, however, is that after retaking Idlib, now looking nailed on, Syrian government forces start to tackle the pro-Turkish militias operating close to the Turkish border in areas including Afrin, previously Kurdish-controlled. At that point, assuming a ‘safe zone’ had been set up as per US-Turkish plans, who would bet on Kurdish forces not joining up with Assad against the common enemy, and if that happens how long before the Kurdish rug is pulled out from under the feet of the Americans and British in the Coalition-occupied areas of Hasakeh and Deir Ez Zor?"

https://thewallwillfall.org/2019/08/22/syria-update-by-peter-ford-former-uk-ambassador/

JP Billen

Makes sense to me, Barbara. Some say it is already happening, albeit in very small numbers. An article in the Guardian last September by Martin Chulov and Mohammed Rasool claimed "Aggrieved Kurdish fighters quietly join Syrian regime side in battle for Idlib". Undoubtedly it is being done on the Q.T. so as not to aggravate Americans. Or the Turks! There are, or used to be, many ethnic Kurdish villages or mixed Kurdish/Arab villages in Idlib province. There are 20 or 30 in the NW of the province up by Salqin and Kafr Takharim, plus four or five more down SW around Jisr al-Shugur. Probably most have been ‘cleansed’ or destroyed, or the residents Arabized themselves and are paying jihadi taxes.

http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/nl/map/ethnic-kurdish-villages-of-idlib-governorate-syria_75921#10/35.9847/36.5419

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/07/kurds-renew-their-claim-for-idlib-as-final-battle-draws-near

It is not a precedent for the Kurds to fight alongside Syrian Government forces. The YPG in Aleppo City’s Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood teamed up with the SAA to fight against jihadis during the liberation of that city. Source for that is a post by Colonel Lang three years ago.

https://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/07/httpssouthfrontorghundreds-of-islamist-rebels-leave-latakia-frontline-for-new-aleppo-offensive.html

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