Islamic World Tour d’Horizon – 28 February 2016

Hieronymus Bosch1

" … that state of affairs does not satisfy the SAA which ordered the Republican Guard’s 102nd Brigade and 416th Regiment to fully liberate Eastern Guta from the Islamists. SAA is supported by National Defense Force (NDF) militias and Palestinian Liberation Army units.

It appears that the attack will be focused on the Tel Ferzat heights and the agricultural college campus. These are the militants’ last strongholds in eastern Damascus.

Latakia Province

Commandos of the 103rd Republican Guard Brigade are performing beyond reproach in Latakia’s north-east, where they are operating with naval infantry and volunteer formation support. Nearly whole region is now clear of the militants.

Syrian commandos forced Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham off two key heights and approached the border with Turkey which is now only 2km distant. A few more heights remain to be cleared of the Islamists.

Aleppo Province

Earlier reports that the main supply road to Aleppo was cleared proved premature. Tiger Forces did indeed clear most of the towns along the “road of life”, however it still remains under militant fire.

Tiger Forces with Hezbollah support finally threw ISIS out of Al-Hamam. The commandos entered the village last evening and then forced the militants to abandon it. Militant counter-attack had failed, with the loss of 30 of their comrades. Additional 40 were wounded.

Stubborn fighting against ISIS is ongoing along the Sheikh Hilal–Ithriyah road, which is a secondary supply route into Aleppo. SAA forces received significant air support which struck militant reinforcement columns coming from Hama. It is expected the opening of both routes is only a matter of hours, and then the path to Aleppo will be once again clear."  South Front


I am beginning to appreciate this "cease-fire."  In essence the R+6 war against jihadis will continue as will the US coalition struggle with IS.  At the same time TTG's favorite Kurds (with the help of our GB brothers) will press forward with efforts as fine as the recent victory at Shaddadi.  Politically, the Russian coordination center at Lattakia has hung out the welcome banner for more or less non-jihadi resistance groups.  this is splitting off those groups from the jihadis whom, we should remember, are still legitimate targets and objectives for air and ground action.  At the same time, a somewhat reduced operational tempo provides an opportunity to rest and refit troops/militias committed too long to continuous combat.   pl


"Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iraqi army and police posts on the western outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 12 security forces and seizing positions in a grain silo and a cemetery, officials said.

The largest assault near the capital in months was still raging, said security officials who blamed Islamic State. A news agency that supports Islamic State said the group had launched a "wide attack" in Abu Ghraib.

Suicide bombers in vehicles and on foot attacked government positions 25 km (15 miles) from the centre of Baghdad and next to the international airport, government officials said.

Dozens of militants driving Humvees and pickup trucks fixed with machine guns attacked from the nearby Islamic State-controlled areas of Garma and Falluja, army and police sources added."  Reuters


Well, so much for Iraqi government domination of the western approaches to Baghdad.  The notion is laughable.  IS in Northern Arabia may collapse from defeat in Syria and at the hands of the YPG Kurds.  In that event the Iraqi "army" may re-occupy Mosul but that would be problematic in itself since IMO the Shia government in Baghdad will continue to oppress any and all Sunnis available for oppression.  Like a leopard they cannot change their essential spots.  pl


" … the Saudis may be applying pressure to secure the release of a member of the royal family held in Lebanon since October on drug charges. Abdul-Mohsen al-Waleed Al Saud was detained in Beirut after authorities seized two tons of amphetamine Captagon pills before they were loaded onto his private plane.

On Wednesday, a Lebanese prosecutor indicted Al Saud of dealing and using drugs. Other analysts suggest Saudi Arabia may be seeking to compensate for its declining hold over Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia’s influence has been dwindling in Lebanon since early 2011 when Sa’ad Hariri was ousted. For the past two years, the Saudi-backed March 14 coalition has failed to see one of their leaders elected president. Now they are nominating legislator Suleiman Franjieh, a close ally of Hezbollah, for the country’s top job.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah is boosted by recent victories in Syria. The resistance movement is fighting alongside the Syrian army against Takfiri militants supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies. “Saudi Arabia is feeling for a good reason that its influence in Lebanon is on the decline,” said Ayham Kamel, a Middle East expert with the political risk and consulting firm, Eurasia Group. “The Saudi message is don’t think you can translate victories in Syria and control the system in Lebanon. We have plenty of leverage through our economic muscles,” Kamel told the Associated Press."  South Front


The Saudis should stick to their usual practice of the widespread distribution of money in Lebanon for the purpose of buying influence.  This is their customary form of action and Lebanese of all confessions and classes are more than willing to participate.   At the same time, most Christians, Sunni Muslims, Hizbullah and all the other associated Shia forces in Lebanon are determined to remain free of Saudi political control.  This determination will not, of course, prevent the acceptance of Saudi money delivered through various "laundries."  pl 

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26 Responses to Islamic World Tour d’Horizon – 28 February 2016

  1. Medicine Man says:

    Col.: Could the splitting of jihadi and rebel resistance have been the goal of Lavrov and Kerry from the outset? It certainly speeds the conflict towards its resolution, as it strips foreign jihadis of their local allies, and if you aren’t paying too close attention to the shifting definition of “moderate” it gives the US administration cover to say they’ve accomplished their goal of brokering a peace with the moderates in Syria.

  2. Charles Michael says:

    You are a brillant analyst, one more time
    Hat off.
    nothing to add on Lebanese SA deconfiture: just maybe to signal the bankrupsy of the Hariri camp (pro Saoudis) and the total loss of France influence due to their non sensisical MO policy.

  3. Chris Chuba says:

    The splitting of the FSA from the Jihadists has been a consistent goal of the Russians from day 1, this was stated in Putin’s 60 minutes interview with Charlie Rose, “There is no other way to settle the Syrian conflict other than by strengthening the existing legitimate government agencies, support them in their fight against terrorism and, of course, at the same time encourage them to start a positive dialogue with the “healthy” part of the opposition and launch political transformations.”
    The U.S. has always been behind the curve. IMO when the Russians started this campaign, everyone would be a lot better off now had we acknowledged that the FSA was intermingled with Al Nusra and its spinoffs and encouraged them to separate themselves from those groups. We could have worked on a separate truce for them much like the one that Assad and the Kurds obviously have. Instead, we convulsed between anger and denial (the Russians are going to lose, they are only bombing moderates and not ISIS).
    In November, the Russians endorsed the Geneva plan which called for multi-party elections and only asked that Assad be included in those elections. The plan acknowledged the existence of valid non-Jihadist opposition groups.
    I just don’t get how we can keep getting this wrong, ‘Assad must go’, ‘Army of Islam is a moderate group’, ‘no fly zone’, ‘Turkey is a valuable ally against ISIS (cough)’. It’s crazy. Are the powers that be in this country stupid or is everyone on the Saudi payroll? I have no idea.

  4. Liza says:

    Col. Lang:
    Fascinating analysis, as always. The Turks still have 1,500 troops in Iraqi Kurdistan. Russian deputy prime minister Dmitri Rogozin visited Baghdad recently, and called for Turkish forces to withdraw. They’re staying put. Do you think Erdogan’s objective is to seize the oil fields around Mosul ? If so, could the US permit this ?

  5. Barish says:

    I speculated that this process of disengaging “moderate” insurgent forces from jihadi crews, as even laid out by State Dept briefings recently serves as a tacit form of weeding out such insurgents that may still be presented as “moderate” forces on the ground, while the rest that has become useless, the majority jihadi ones are thrown to the Syrian, Kurdish and Russian wolves. Or wolves in league with the Russian “bear”, if you insist on that metaphor.
    Meanwhile, Padişah Erdoğan’s Gri Kurtlar are left to wail their own litany of sorrow as their precious designs that tried to utilize said jihadis for their ends crumble to dust.
    PS: I abstain from including the squeaking of the likes of al-Jubeir and other GCC-minions in this picture.

  6. Mishkilji says:

    It is surprising that more ink is not spilled over the Saudi Crown Prince’s thrashing around the region and its impact on Saudi internal dynamics. After setbacks in Yemen and Syria, Riyadh is now losing ground in Lebanon–Justice Minister resigns, no money for the Future Movement, a list of Presidential candidates that Hizbollah could have written, and a severed aid package for the LAF.
    How long before there is a palace coup?

  7. Prem says:

    The amphetamine captagon is doled out to jihadi cannon fodder to get them hopped-up for battle:

  8. Bill Herschel says:

    Correct. With luck it makes them easier targets and easier to exterminate.

  9. Bill Herschel says:

    Slightly, very slightly off-topic.
    “Something cataclysmic is going to have to happen — and soon, such as on Tuesday — to keep Trump from exceeding or being very close to the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the Republican Party’s nominee when the primaries end June 7.”
    Something cataclysmic…
    We’re in Crazy Joey Gallo territory now. When Crazy Joey was gunned down, on his birthday, in Umberto’s Clam Bar, a mob guy was interviewed by The Daily News. His quote, “It had to happen.” That will be the chorus when something cataclysmic happens.

  10. Trey says:

    ” Are the powers that be in this country stupid or is everyone on the Saudi payroll?”
    The answer is “Yes.”

  11. Chris Chuba says:

    Here is a graphic of the cease fire zone …
    The small areas pictured in blue, as safe zones for the FSA, certainly give the SAA plenty of room to control the border with Turkey which is what they really wanted to accomplish in any case. It will allow them to take Aleppo and Al Shigur in Northern Syria and even areas in the south if they choose to do so.

  12. Bob says:

    Of course the #SaudiCables have put a real dent if the effectiveness of Saudi bribe money in Lebanon.

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Nah, that would require too much cohesion from Saudis.
    This cargo was likely for the domestic consumption of Saudi Arabian nationals.

  14. Jose says:

    most Christians, Sunni Muslims, Hizbullah and all the other associated Shia forces in Lebanon are determined to remain free of Saudi political control. – pl
    Forgive me for going of topic, what the hell is happening in Yemen?
    How long can the Saudis last?

  15. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    OT but likely of interest to SST folks. Tulsi Gabbard, the Congress memeber from Hawaii and a reserve Army officer, has resigned as a member and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.
    “I think it’s most important for us, as we look at our choices as to who our next commander in chief will be, is to recognize the necessity to have a commander in chief who has foresight, who exercises good judgment,” Gabbard, a U.S. representative for Hawaii, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

  16. alba etie says:

    exPFC Chuck
    Austin Texas is an essential “LOC ” for the Clintonista cohort for fund raising and other support . It is remarkable to hear the buzz about the infighting happening within the Democratic Party . The neocon wing of the party VS the Sen Sanders realist view of where the Democrats need to be on non interventionist foreign policy . IMO Congresswoman Gabbard’s resignation from the DNCC is just one more clear example of the growing loathing & discontent within the Democratic Party for Mrs. ‘ We came , we saw , he died ” Clinton ‘s neocon agenda. There are now credible murmurs here that Congresswoman Duckworth will be the next defection from Big Grandma’s cohort . We shall see.

  17. alba etie says:

    Its being reported that many ISIS fighters are fleeing Syria for northern Iraq – I wonder if the Turkish forces are in Iraq to protect not only the oil fields but Daesh as well . If so what then ?

  18. Valissa says:

    Not sure which new site you meant to link to… some of the many articles on the topic focussed more on DNC politics, but this article has the most complete quote from Gabbard regarding the need to stop all the interventionist wars.

  19. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Couldn’t agree more about loathing & discontent within the Dem party. There’s a generational aspect to it, however. The wife of one of my oldest and best friends is a 60s/70s feminist and vehemently for Hilary. She’s very much of the “women should support woman candidates” school, but she’s not amused when I ask her where Hilary was when law professor Zephyr Teachout ran in the primary against the dodgy incumbent Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. As I read them her two 30 something daughters support Sanders but don’t talk about it except indirectly.
    I see I pasted the wrong link in the comment above about Tulsi Gabbard. Here’s the Reuters link I thought I was offering:

  20. Thomas says:

    “PS: I abstain from including the squeaking of the likes of al-Jubeir and other GCC-minions in this picture.”
    You shouldn’t. It was Peninsular Prince Bandit who gave birth to the Daesh Beast by providing bullion to the embryo of Al Qadea’s Iraqi Jihadi Gangster Group allowing them to grow into competent military force. Like poor old Dr Frankenstein’s creation, maybe the motley monster will finally return to its maker.

  21. Thomas says:

    An interesting point:
    “Intriguingly, since the start of the war in 2011, a far higher percentage of Syrian police and political security personnel have gone across to Bashar al-Assad’s enemies than have soldiers in the regular army. There have been 5,000 security personnel defections out of a total force of 28,000 police.”
    The cruel and brutal always looking after number one.

  22. different clue says:

    Are they coming back? They are the people one would want to bring back. I wonder how much of ISIS’s success so far has been due to all the old Baathist and old Iraqi Army thinking-brain dogs who give ISIS advice and guidance and planning/execution leadership. They were “driven away” by the Bremer Occupation and given no chance to “come back” by the Shia regime in Baghdad. One suspects the Assad group is smart enough to learn from that and not do the same thing . . . with Russian advice if necessary.

  23. Matthew says:

    CC; The ISW also has this graphic. See
    The Cessation of Hostilities allows the Russians and Assad to hit Nusra and ISIS everywhere that matters and “cauldron” the “moderate rebels.”

  24. Thomas says:

    different clue,
    The whole paragraph reads:
    “In an army that has lost well over 60,000 dead in almost five years of hard fighting, Syria’s officers have suddenly discovered that the new Russian technology has coincided with a rapid lowering of their casualties. This may be one reason for the steady trickle of old “Free Syrian Army” deserters back to the ranks of the government forces, depleting even further David Cameron’s 70,000-strong army of “moderate” ghost soldiers. Intriguingly, since the start of the war in 2011, a far higher percentage of Syrian police and political security personnel have gone across to Bashar al-Assad’s enemies than have soldiers in the regular army. There have been 5,000 security personnel defections out of a total force of 28,000 police.”
    As you can see Army personnel are returning. My point was the “secret police” types who were quick to sell out, almost 1 in 5 taking a hike in order to be on the perceived winning side, to score Saudi cash, or to save their skin.
    As for the Assad Group, I would disagree that they would be smart enough to implement lessons learned. They should thank God that the Iranians (they politely removed political and incompetent military leaders) and Russians are capable and decisive in statecraft. Both will provide the new social construct of the Syrian State with the proper advisement necessary.
    Meanwhile, the rest of us have to deal with the Borganism that believes it is clever and wise supporting the Liver Lovers Legions, and still wants to double down on the Syrian Civil War.

  25. Matthew says:

    The neo-cons just will never stop. See
    When our government says there is not “military solution in Syria” they actually mean “we will make sure that the civil war never ends until we get what we want.”

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