Is R+6 collapsing?


"The operation of the Syrian government forces in the Aleppo city is facing a real challenge. A critical moment in the activity of the loyalists was the fall of the town of Khan Touman that has been seized by Al Nusra and the group’s allies. Iranians took major casualties in the clashes there. Meanwhile, Palestinian militias failed to cut the militants’ supply lines in the area of Handarat. The source of this situation isn’t a secret. It’s a low level of the staff planning exercise and tactics of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC). For example, to rely only on irregular military formations in the atempt to cut off the supply lines of the militants near Aleppo is a major mistake.

Describing this operation, Western experts argue some difficulties between Moscow and Teheran. According to them, Iran is pushing a military solution of the Syrian crisis, while Russia is supporting the international diplomatic efforts as the only successful way. Iranian forces are also dissatisfied by the low level of the Russian air support at Khan Touman, ignoring bad weather conditions at that time. SouthFront doesn’t support the radical views of the Western experts because the ongoing diplomatic efforts don’t exclude the ability to conduct military operations against the sides, excluded from the ceasefire. However, the recent developments have shown clearly that the IRGC isn’t able to independent offensive or defensive operations without the Russian air support and let’s be clear without Russian military strategists."  South Front


South Front is well connected in Russian military circles.  In this military Sitrep for the 23rd of May the publication makes several interesting and probably well informed assertions:

  • That Moscow and Teheran are now pursuing different objectives with regard to Syria
  • That Russia has decided that a political settlement is necessary.
  • That Iran continues to seek a military solution to the war. 
  • that Syrian and Iranian staff planning is inadequate to the complexity and scope of operations in this war.

Well, pilgrims, unity of command and purpose are necessary to success in war.  if Russia has given up the fight for a united Syria then Syria will eventually be a geographical expression, something like Italy before the mid-nineteenth century.  An Alawi/minorities enclave on the coast would be possible and one or more salafi emirates would e IMO likely.

Iff all this is true, Kerry HAS succeeded in winning through diplomacy what could not be achieved on the battlefield.  pl

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109 Responses to Is R+6 collapsing?

  1. Barish says:

    Russian MoD did set a dead-line for tomorrow, May 25, a few days back for resumption of air ops against the unicorns’ supply lines into Turkey, as per this AP-piece:
    “Shoigu warned that Moscow reserves the right to unilaterally strike militants refusing to respect the cease-fire, as well as weapons and militants crossing into Syria from Turkey, starting from May 25.
    Russia long has accused Turkey of serving as a conduit for weapons and supplies flowing to the Islamic State and the Nusra Front — claims which Ankara has denied.”
    And if we look at the insurgent side of things, Russia playing ball on the negotiatery side of things for a couple months couldn’t net them too much of any capital out of that.
    How much – rather, little – of a “success” Kerry earned here can also be garnered from this here piece issued by the US Embassy to Syria “to Armed Syrian Factions”:
    Also issued in Arabic, as it happens:

  2. Javier G. says:

    Russian Helicopters Reportedly Destroyed In Attack On Syrian Base

  3. Peter says:

    It sickens me to see that the US, Turkey and their gulf allies are so close to successfully tearing apart such a culturally rich and beautiful country. They are literally carving out terrorist safe havens.
    What do people on this forum consider to be the actual goal of establishing salafist entities permanently in Syria? Excuse for military presence in the future? Neutering yet another enemy of Israel?
    It’s clear what they are doing, but why?

  4. Bandolero says:

    That, especially the term “strategic error” used by USEmbassySyria fits neatly into this piece of Fars News, quote:
    Military Sources: Russia to Give Crushing Response to Terrorists’ Ceasefire Violation
    TEHRAN (FNA)- Russia is preparing to give a highly crushing response to the opposition and terrorist groups’ warning that they would break the UN-brokered truce in Syria.
    … Now military officials say that the terrorist groups’ threats which means non-commitment to the ceasefire will give Russia a pretext to intensify its attacks against the militants’ positions.
    “Russia is now preparing for a crushing response,” they add.
    Whatever happens when the “rebels” abondon the CoH, they cannot complain that they haven’t been warned.

  5. b says:

    Khan Touman was a tactically minor show where a green Iranian unit bunched up and got surprised by a well targeted artillery barrage from Nusra. Some three square kilometer of minor importance changed hand. The Iranians made a lot of noise about it for a moment but in the end will learn to behave better on the battlefield. It was a good and well needed lesson to them.
    There was some grumbling between the allies when the Russians decided to go with the ceasefire scam. I believe that has mostly cleared up. See here:
    The Russians succeeded in making the “moderate rebels”-alQaeda “intermingling” public. The State Department spokesperson had to acknowledge that several times. What will the propaganda do now when Russia targets Nusra now? Blame the State Department?
    Also the U.S. promised to “deliver” its allies to the ceasefire. That has obviously not happened. The Saudis and Turks continue to stoke the fire. Lavrov will be able to use that with Kerry.
    I believe that the full Russian airpower and other assets will be back in Syria quite soon.

  6. Javier G. says:

    Tying to understand the rationale behind this is like the frog trying to understand the scorpion’s reasons. On the micro level it is consanguineous low-IQed jihadists. On the macro level it is neoconservatism, Salafism, Islamism, et al. On the eternal/spiritual level it is the demonic.

  7. turcopolier says:

    I sure do hope you are right. I suppose we will see soon of Russia will re-enter the war in a big way. pl

  8. SmoothieX12 says:

    This has been debunked today by Russian MOD. As per STRATFOR–how to put it politely, this is not a reliable source of information, to put it mildly. This is what Konashenkov said:
    “авторство слухов об уничтожении подразделения российских боевых вертолетов и двух десятков грузовиков принадлежит пропагандистам ИГИЛ (прежнее название запрещенной в РФ группировки “Исламское государство”), которые безуспешно пытались “продать” эту якобы “новость” около десяти дней назад”.
    “Что касается фотоснимков сирийской авиабазы, то сожженная авиа- и автомобильная техника, а также многочисленные воронки от разрыва реактивных снарядов присутствуют там уже не первый месяц. Это результат упорных боев за данный аэродром сирийских правительственных войск и боевиков террористических формирований”
    Google translate will be sufficient to convey the gist. In simpler words, STRATFOR peddles IS misinformation. But it is expected of them, especially by those who observed their “analysis” for some time.

  9. SmoothieX12 says:

    “That Moscow and Teheran are now pursuing different objectives with regard to Syria”
    Moscow and Tehran had different objectives from the get go and at some point, with growing (inevitably) Russian political clout in Syria the emergence of frictions with Tehran was inevitable. I posted on MOA next post recently, I think it is very relevant:
    First. General things which are taught in any military academy of any militarily competent nation in the introductory course of military history (usually first year): Victory in a war is defined by attaining political objectives of that war. For those who suddenly lost their memory I may remind that main reason for Russia’s involvement in Syria was a series of major military setbacks of Assad’s troops and its allies, such as….and anyone may fill in who those allies were and are. In layman’s parlance–Russia intervened when it became clear that Assad was nearing the edge. Main political objective of Russia was to prevent Assad government’s collapse and everything this collapse would entail.
    Second. Based on widely known knowledge (knowledge is NOT an information, two are, actually, not the same) of motives for Russia’s involvement, which, as it is clear was a desperate state of Syria and her government, it seems quite funny to discuss dissatisfaction of Hizbullah’s or of Iranian forces in Syria by the fact that Russia’s negotiations with the US “held” their offensives which were “making a difference” when the reason those offensives were “making a difference” is precisely Russia’s involvement which made a huge difference for those “offensives” in the first place. Those “offensives”, evidently, WERE NOT making a difference prior to Russia’s involvement, because Syria and her forces were, in fact, in a desperate state.
    Third. Whatever local commentators write here about Hizbullah, Iran etc. One constant which lacks in their analysis is the factor of scale and force multipliers. It was, and still is, Russia’s Air-Space Forces and an operational tempo of its assets, which, accidentally, stunned Pentagon (Google, Google, dive, dive) which made all this difference by completely changing the dynamics of the conflict and ensuring the survival of Assad’s government as a foundation for future developments. See “First”, for Russia’s main political objective of the war. Military scale–is one thing, but then comes the Big Power Politics which is, as any power politics, cynical and sees a diplomacy, to paraphrase Clausewitz, as continuation of the war by other means. Russia is paying for the music, so Russia is dancing, so to speak, a girl. Whether local “specialists” (all of them, I assume with really close ties to Main Operational Directorate (GOU) and GRU of Russian General Staff, or Vladimir Putin himself) in operations like it or not, Russia has a much larger game to play, in which Syria, while very important, is just a small piece of the colossal global puzzle, where even Iran is not even the first tier player politically, let alone militarily.
    Fourth. Russian Armed Forces, Intelligence Services, all other assets which are currently making a decisive strategic difference have loyalty first and foremost to peoples, majority of them ethnic Russians, of Russia. They, those people, their welfare and security are their foremost responsibility. Syria, being Soviet and Russia’s ally for many decades is one of those cases where Russian people and their state, that is Russian Federation, are ready to bear the costs of defending it. How it was and will be done was already shown to a devastating effect but, as I already stated, Russian military professionals need Syrian Armed Forces battle of order to be configured to Russia’s extremely high standards, not to somebody else’.
    Fifth. Per problems with Arab militaries with combined arms warfare–it is a separate and a very large issue. With Russia’s military involvement comes the enormous political clout in Syria. This IS bound and is already creating frictions within, as Colonel Lang puts it R+6. Guess what R stands for and why it is a separate letter. What Russia’s vision for the future of Syria? Who knows. I can only speculate, but what do I know.

  10. different clue says:

    I have to wonder what the RussiaGov thinks a political settlement will settle. Any such settlement will establish permanent jihadi emirates, including ISIStan, in large parts of Syria; including along the Euphrates River able to cut off some of the water flow to Shia Iraq. These Jihadistans will of course train Muslims from Russian Federation and China to go back to those countries for violent activities. Wahhabi Arabia will of course use these places to plan terror attacks all over the world (if they feel confident they can keep their fingerprints off it better than they have kept their fingerprints off 9/11, apparently).
    Does the RussiaGov think the DC FedRegime, the Borg and the Global Axis of Jihad will be content to see a smaller Syrian Arab Republic survive in Western Coastal Syria? If Clinton gets elected President, she will resume the push for massive aid to the Jihadistans for a final conquest of remaining Syria. Does the RussiaGov not expect that would happen?

  11. matt b says:

    Sorry for posting on a tangential matter, but I think most people here would be interested in reading this new academic article in International Security on NATO expansion and US broken promises to Gorbachev.
    The article draws on the James Baker (and other) archives to show that US leaders offered multiple assurances on NATO expansion to the Soviets, and that US officials simultaneously were planning for a US power-projection in Europe via NATO. As a result, the author says that the Russian interpretation of the Cold War settlement is largely correct, and that recent Russian foreign policy actions have to be reinterpreted along defensive realist lines.
    Academics often (rightly) get a hard rap on this site, but this article is an example of real, critical scholarship that goes against the grain of BORGIST thinking.

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree with the following:
    Russia cannot win without infantry supplied by Iran and her allies.
    I read an unattributed commentary online in Persian in which the writer was adamantly reminding the reader of the criticality of the infantry troops by Iran and her allies to the survival of SAR.
    I also read commentary in Persian complaining about the US-Russia ceasefire deals.
    I think Iranians are unhappy and they are reminding Russia and SAR that they (Russia & SAR) cannot fly with a single wing.
    I think in practice that means that Iran will continue the war in Syria with or without Russia.

  13. turcopolier says:

    I never use STRATFOR as a source. p

  14. Among other things, they want to build pipelines up from KSA and Qatar through Syria and into Turkey. They are looking to ween Europe off of Russian oil/natgas, so they need more from the middle east.

  15. JJackson says:

    Russia’s surprise reduction in force, at a moment when all seemed to be collapsing before the R+6 onslaught, is beginning to look hasty. Did they think they had broken the back of the problem and, wrongly, assessed that the +6 could finish the job with minimal additional support? As b suggest should we now expect a more hands-on approach with a return to close to their previous level of commitment at least until the train is securely back on the tracks? I found the force reduction’s timing strange as I had not expected any draw-down until a lot more of the ‘pockets’ had been cleared and main IS supply lines in the N & W broken or at least made very dangerous.

  16. SmoothieX12 says:

    “A recent Reuters report reveals how Russia allowed—and even encouraged—militants and radicals from the North Caucasus to go and fight in Syria in 2013, in an effort to divert them away from potential domestic terrorist attacks ahead of the February 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics”
    I pretty much stopped reading after that. Reuters and Brookings in the same sentence should be a red flag. As per infantry: it is Syrian’s Army fight, first and foremost. There are factions in it, with some in military and intelligence brass gravitating towards Iran. And while Iran’s and Hizballah’s role in Syria is significant this role is entirely dependent on how Russia and Syrian Armed Forces go about business. Again, I need to underscore the self-evident fact: Russia’s involvement happened because of a desperate state of Syria, which already had Iran and Hizballah fighting there. For some–it is chicken and egg problem, for others a clear strategic and operational reality. Iran cannot air drop in Syria Pskov and Ivanovo Divisions, Russia can and it is not going to be “another Afghanistan” or whatever beaten to death cliche many “analysts” will use. Will Russia do it? We’ll see but it is a definite possibility.

  17. SmoothieX12 says:

    “I never use STRATFOR as a source. p”
    Colonel, it is STRATFOR which should be begging people of your caliber to go and work for them and use you as a source. But then again, integrity and competence is not their motto, I guess. So, no real professionals for them. We all are happy that you are doing what you are doing on your own.

  18. annamaria says:

    some statistics:
    “Russia killed 28,000 militants in Syria, third of all ISIS forces – Russian deputy security chief”

  19. fasteddiez says:

    My guess is that since the Izzies have said they want failed states on their borders, the NCA is glad to help. I read the “failed states” comment on the web, which attributed the statement to an Israeli military source. The Gulfies would be overjoyed to have such an outcome, since their armies are worthless, and Uncle Sugar dances to their tune.

  20. Fred says:

    So Kerry’s diplomacy gives “one or more salafi emirates …” Whose side is he on?

  21. The Beaver says:

    Dr Brenner wrote a good one on STRATFOR back in 2012:

  22. Thomas says:

    “Did they think they had broken the back of the problem and, wrongly, assessed that the +6 could finish the job with minimal additional support?”
    Maybe it was a move by a prominent player at the Global Gametable to enforce an attitude adjustment on its allies about the real ways of the world (see Smoothie’s remarks on who can and can’t airdrop a couple of combat divisions onto the field).
    Also, tomorrow is the day to allow them to get back into the action, the State Dept told the unicorns it recommends it pull its cranium from its colon, while this weekend starts the summer holiday season here in the US when most of the Borganism will be on the beach.
    Interesting times ahead?

  23. bth says:

    Living in a world of Plan B’s. There are a few areas the US and Russia find common interest now and in private before the end of the Obama administration and the uncertainty that entails.
    First, a willingness to negotiate a political solution in Syria that prevents a massacre of minorities, protects coastal areas important to Russia in exchange for Kurdish semi-autonomy and a general reduction of foreign extremists in the east of Syria/West of Iraq with minimum ground troop presence but coordinated air attacks. Assad may not be a part of that equation, but a political equation it will be short of decisive military victory by any party.
    Second coordinated negotiated solutions before Obama’s term is up and perhaps before Russian elections that would resolve Ukraine in some manner, ease sanctions on Russia and solidify the eastern boundaries of NATO/Russia.
    Third that there might be some benefit in a coordinated/synchronized action – in time, not space- against IS in Fallujah by Iraq army, by US/Kurds/Tribes against Raqqa, and Syrian government in Aleppo on the theory that IS can’t be in all places at once.
    Fourth the geographic containment of Sunni extremism below Russia’s southern border, cooperation in Afghanistan, containment in Libya and eastern Syria.
    Six the general agreement to fight blatant terrorist attacks against the US, Europe or Russian spheres by IS or al Qaeda wherever it is located.
    These are achievable, shared Plan B objectives for Russia and the US in a period of conflict by attrition whereby Plan A’s went out the window.
    Food for thought.

  24. Matthew says:

    BM: Iran is a huge country. I’m surprised they can’t field 30,000 troops to defeat ISIS, even if the Iranians serve as “volunteers” for the SAA.

  25. Matthew says:

    JJackson: Didn’t the Turks start getting really aggressive right before Putin announced the pullback?

  26. mbrenner says:

    I have an embarrassing admission to make: George Friedman – founder of STRATFOR – was in a graduate seminar that I taught at Cornell where I had my first academic position. His field, though, was Political Theory which he taught for many years at Dickinson College. Why and how he reinvented himself is something I don’t know I never maintained contact with him.
    I have had a couple of undergraduates who either interned or previously worked at STRATFOR. Their testimony strongly suggests that the outfit are completely unreliable. It’s a sort of Ponzi scam. You go to ‘A’ with a spiel but with the real intent of learning something that you can sell to ‘B’ in exchange for ‘x’ which in turn you sell to ‘C.’ They really don’t have independent sources. They use kids to dig up open source material which they then artfully package as coming from MERLIN. No idea why people fall for this racket. But, then again, what is Washington these days other than a hustler’s paradise.

  27. mbrenner says:

    How can we estimate whether Kerry will achieve a measure of success when we’re in the dark as to what American objectives are? There are grounds for concluding that our main objective at this point is the stymie the Russians, deny them any success, distract the Kremlin from Ukraine, weaken Putin personally and ultimately bring down the current regime. A secondary objective is to inflict a political defeat on Iran. What about ISIL & al-Qaeda?
    That’s yesterday’s “narrative.”

  28. Kooshy says:

    Today all Iranian news sites were posting pictures of general Sulimani with other Iraqi military personalities in Faloja war room, apparently preparing and planing for entering and recapturing, to free the city.

  29. Tyler says:

    What’s the chance this is just maskirovka to see who takes the bait and over extends themselves?

  30. Croesus says:

    Moshe Ya’alon was in Washington in March 2016 to negotiate with Ash Carter for a new MOU.
    While in town he spoke at the Wilson Center. He repeated & repeated condemnations of Iran and the determination that Iran’s regime should be changed, Iran should be sanctioned, Iran was the troublemaker in the region while Israel was an “island of stability in the region. Imagine what would be happening if Israel were not a stabilizing influence.”
    He stated quite clearly that Syria should be broken up — “Assad controls only 30% of his own country; there’s effectively already a Kurdish Syrian state.” “It is wishful thinking that Syria will ever be unified.”
    He said that Israel and Russia had understandings about Russia’s activities in Syria so as not to endanger Israelis, and also so Israelis would not unnecessarily harm Russians.
    Looks like things are going Israel’s way.
    I do wonder if Ya’alon accomplished his mission regarding the MOU before he resigned from Netanyahu’s Likud government.

  31. I’m in general agreement with b and SmootheX12. The R+6 is not coming apart, just experiencing some friction. Lavrov can now look at Kerry and say, “We tried it your way and it turned to shit. Now we do it our way.” The jihadists took advantage of the lull to resupply from Turkey, the U.S. and probably Israel. I hope the first thing the Russians do is interdict those supply lines with a vengeance. As far as the negotiated settlement is concerned, I bet the Russians are mostly referring to a federated Rojava as part of a larger Syria.
    Aleppo is going to be a tough fight… tougher than it would have been before all this ceasefire nonsense. But it must be done. The SAA is still advancing towards Deir ez-Zor despite the recent setbacks. Some more Russian air power would do wonders on that front. The YPG/SDF offensive toward Raqqa has started. They may not take the city, but they will pressure it. That should draw off some IS forces from other parts of Syria. The Iraqi 7th Division assisted by the Popular Mobilization Forces just took the border crossing with Jordan. My guess is they will drive towards the Syrian border crossing at Qa’im. That would pretty much split the Caliphate in two. I doubt the IS would give that crossing up without a stiff fight, but it’s a battle worth fighting.

  32. Mark Pyruz says:

    There is bound to be differences between the Iranians and Russians.
    A big difference is the fact that Iran is currently involved in operations f a war with two theaters, Syria and Iraq. The Russians are only involved in Syria.
    In Syria, he Iranians have boots on the ground and an array of allied Arab and Afghan popular mobilization forces, deployed and active in operations. The Russians mostly provide CAS.
    The Iranians regard the Russians as an extrar-regional ally.
    These are just the most obvious differences.
    Below, evidence posted 24MAY16 depicting Iranian logistical support for current Iraqi operation to retake Fallujah: FVI Safir (“Ambassador”) 4×4 multipurpose military vehicle as equipped by Iran with M40 recoilless rifle (designated 106 mm). Operators appear to be Iran-supported Badr military force supporting Iraqi Federal Police motorized unit securing area NE of Fallujah.

  33. bth says:

    I suspect some of the Hezbollah grumbling may be due to miserly actions of the Iranian government in approving amendments to its budget in recent days.

  34. BraveNewWorld says:

    The English version is here.
    If you want to see the pics SNAFU has them here.
    My take is think tanks may have had value at one time but these days it is more like you give them some money and they will produce a report saying what ever you want. Most of them used to be on the US governments payroll. These days they are mostly funded by foreign countries with their own agendas.
    As for the pictures the Russians don’t half ass things when they set up a base and T4 isn’t exactly in downtown Damascus or the Arden. I am not a military person so the next part is probably all the ramblings of a confused mind. But any thing big enough to hit those targets with precision from a distance is going to be spotted by the Russians long before it start shooting. If it was an active base aircraft would be launching and landing on a fairly regular basis.
    A small team with mortars might be able to get in close enough but hitting all those targets with out missing seems like a stretch. Getting off all those rounds with out the Russians returning fire in a big way seems like even more of a stretch. Say that did happen. Then the Russian just picked up their toys and went home? To me none of it makes sense but there are people here that can read those pictures in their sleep and can point out things I would never catch.

  35. alba etie says:

    Stratfor is based in Austin Texas and is actually staffed by many neocon minions from the Bushcheney days yes misinformation is there stock in trade . Plus a few years back they got hacked and a whole bunch of customers lost credit card information .

  36. Bill Herschel says:

    They did this in Ukraine. It is a “strategy” described and explained here.
    The burning question is: What are Russia’s objectives in Syria?
    In Ukraine, I believe their objective is the protection and development of Crimea. And I believe that what has driven the Imperialists insane was the “loss” of Crimea. Nobody in the “West” gives a flying ____ about Ukraine, but the Imperialists care deeply about Crimea.

  37. BraveNewWorld says:

    NATO has picked sides in the Sunni/Shia divide and decide the the only way there will peace under American rule in the Middle East is if one side wins and that is going to be Israel/KSA. No one is going to risk the kind of man power that it will take to attack Iran but luckily there is a group of fanatical fighters are that are willing to step up and do the dirty work.
    Once they have broken the back of Iran, Iraq and Syria they will be weakened and if you stop giving them arms it will be like shooting fish in a barrel.
    Or so the wishful thinking goes. In reality they have been pushing Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon closer together and may have woken the dragon. You think after every thing Hezbolah has done for Syria that Israel is gonna march into Lebanon again with out Syria getting involved? The best laid plans of mice and men.

  38. sillybill says:

    A couple weeks ago, in response to Toivos ragging on Global Research, you stated – “You are perhaps unfamiliar with Lang’s dictum that sources and information must be considered separately. pl “. aleksandr then wrote about grading source and info separately, then adding them together and using the resultant number as a guide to help figure out what to do with the info.
    Obviously there must come a point at which the history of a particular source becomes so overwhelmingly bad that one can safely discard anything coming from them – “I never use STRATFOR as a source. p”
    Are there standard guides for determing the cutoff point, redlines, etc., or is it more an intuitive, experiential sort of thing?

  39. Ghost ship says:

    Informative report on published today:
    As for whether the RuAF will return in a big way:
    “the Russian military is “busy conducting an assessment of the situation.”
    In the real world of international diplomacy, the one the Russians operate in, that reads like a threat to me.

  40. bth says:

    Here are two very interesting articles about trucking routes, check point payments and diesel for food trades in Syria. Note IS has 80% of the oil fields in Syria. Also Kurds seem to be blocking some shipments if article is correct.

  41. Brunswick says:

    The Borg said “give peace a chance”, so Russia did, almost nobody showed up.
    The Borg said there were 75,000 Democratic Liberal Pro LBGTQ Moderates in the FSA, so Russia agreed that they could “stand up and be counted” via the cessation of Hostilities, I think the count’s now up to 5 or so. Individuals, not groups.
    The Borg said Russia was only ever bombing the FSA Flying Rainbow Unicorn Moderates, Hospitals and Civillians, so Russia created a “window”, a “decent interval” in which the FSA Flying Rainbow Moderates could climb out of bed with ISIS and Al Quida, put on their skirts and stand aside.
    All of the Borgist myth’s have been exposed and Russia can go back to war.

  42. Act of Defiance says:

    Yes a bit of doublethink required here. We went a salafi state in Syria but wasted soldiers lives on preventing one in Afghanistan. Or was that the war to make schooling available for girls?

  43. Jackrabbit says:

    I think your jingoism clouds your view.
    1) Stressing how impressive Russia’s armed forces are just highlights how weak Russia is/has been. If they were so strong, why didn’t they move to help their ally sooner? Clearly, they have the weaker hand vs. the Western allies AND they needed to act in conjunction with SAA/Iranian/Hez ground forces because introducing large numbers of Russian combat troops would bring a severe reaction from the West.
    2) Russia and Iran likely recognize where their interests diverge/converge. To say that their ‘objectives’ differ now or “from the get go” is simplistic.
    3) In our discussion at MoA you wrote that a) Russian has no allies, and b) only Europeans are natural allies of Russia. Here at SST you recognize that Syria is an ally but claim (essentially) that Russia’s decisive contribution means that she will decide Syria’s fate.
    But wouldn’t it be antithetical to Russia’s interests to dictate an outcome? Russia needs allies to survive this long, hybrid war. And Russia offers to uphold a multi-lateral world order based on sovereign states. Bullying allies would undermine Russia’s attempt to pry European and other states from the Western orbit.
    In fact, Russia has stressed that they were invited into Syria by the Sovereign government, that that government is necessary to fight the extremist threat, and that Syrians should decide their own fate.

  44. Chris Chuba says:

    JJackson, based on what the Russians have said and done, I really think that they believed that they were giving elements of the FSA a chance to separate from Al Nusra / Army of Islam and that this would serve the long term stability of Syria. The Russians wanted to have some legitimate face of the opposition at the negotiating table in order to have elections in Syria and watch Assad win with a slightly reformed govt acceptable to the majority of Syrians. That they wanted to isolate Nusra and Army of Islam and cut off their support with help from the U.S. (cue maniacal laughter from Turkey/Saudis and the Borg).
    In any case, I hope that the Russians will go back in big and announce that they are exercising their discretion seeing that the terms of the cease fire have largely been ignored by outside entities (Turkey). This might also shut some people up who claim that Russia left because they ran out of money and are on the verge of collapse, there are still a few of those guys around.
    SmoothieX12, you quoted the Brookings meme claiming that Russia intentionally unleashed Chechen Islamists into Syria. I have heard this claim a lot by Borgists. You know a lot about Russia. Do you know what the real story is regarding this matter? Sometimes legends are connected to an actual event. I am skeptical of course, because so much that is reported about Russia is simply wrong. Did they give them unlimited travel visas or something. Also, what about the non-Russian Islamic Republics like Georgia, I would think that they have a few Islamists in Syria, there is no reasonable way to blame that on Russia.

  45. Ghost ship says:

    “where did IS got the precise coordinates of the helos”
    Probably from the same satellite imagery that Stratfor used. Looking on Digital Globe, there are three images of the T4/Tiyas airbase available publicly in the past month or so, dated May 10, May 14, and May 17. If you use Digital Globe, you can pay extra to have the fact that images of a certain location were acquired kept confidential so the original customer(most likely not Stratfor) here might have requested additional imagery but paid extra to keep that hidden.
    The first image is centered on the T4 airbase, while the others are more subtle with the T4 airbase being well off-center. How did somebody know to take the before images? Because they passed the information to ISIS and left the imagery publicly available for Stratfor to pick up on.

  46. F5F5F5 says:

    Being mildly cynical, I think that the Russians are just using their bargaining chips both ways.
    For example, announcing troops withdrawal would appease Kerry while it would worry Assad and Iran and remind them that Russia’s support should not be taken for granted.
    I like to think that Russia has strategic goals in Syria and has not invested so much just to agree on a balkanized/bastardized status quo. Especially knowing that the EU/US are still being aggressive in the Ukraine, and financial sanctions are still in place against them. Also, war is a much cheaper business for the Russians than it is for any Western nation, so they can afford to keep in going.

  47. Gabriel says:

    In case this was missed by other readers, a piece from the 18th by Elijah Magnier, —I’ve always found worth reading– about how Hezbollah is reportedly redeploying its troops in Syria.

    Hezbollah has begun its re-deployment in Syria, withdrawing a large number of its elite troops from rural Aleppo, and indeed from all areas no longer considered strategic or necessary to fight over. Terrain was re-conquered in Homs, Hama, Quseyr, Talkalakh, Qalamoun, Zabadani, Aleppo and around Damascus.
    Hezbollah’s move is a historical step in the chronology of the war in Syria. The intervention of its militants in Syria created turmoil around the Middle East, and it was accused of being behind the prevention of the fall of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2013, when rebel forces were, at that time, in the heart of Damascus.
    According to a high level commanding officer in Syria, Hezbollah has decided to re-deploy, to regroup its forces and to return to the main cities of Homs, Hama, Damascus, Daraa and also to the Syrian-Lebanese border.
    “Hezbollah didn’t come to Syria to be part of a peace plan, it came to stop the Takfiri (al-Qaeda, Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, Jaish al-Muhajereen wal Ansar, and ISIS). If peace negotiations carry on and are approved by Damascus, Tehran and Moscow, we have no job to do here: we won’t take part in any future battle that has its objective the improvement of the conditions at the negotiating table in Geneva. Hezbollah won’t pull out of Syria but will reduce the engagement and size of its forces. If Moscow and Washington are willing to fight ISIS and Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah has no more work to do in Syria and will be observing, waiting to see if the situation unfolds as planned and agreed between Moscow and Washington”.

    This seems significant for area around Aleppo. Independently of the political side of all this (Russian veto to further advance, etc.), from a purely OOB point of view the Hezbollah contingent there was the infantry unit with the longest and most effective experience working as a combined-arms team with the 4th Mechanized Division brigades, the main first-line SAA force in the area. They were critical in the advance to the edge of the M-5 highway. Later advances north of the city (that ultimately linked up with SDF forces) were done in cooperation with the Tiger Forces, which seem now wholly engaged in Palmyra area.
    So–a long-winded footnote to Col. Lang’s point last week “IMO, there are not enough troops”

  48. turcopolier says:

    Well, as I said, you have to consider and evaluate both source and information because although a source may seem not very good it may have given you a true thought in a particular case. But in that process of evaluating a source over time and in different cases you eventually come to have an opinion of the source that influences your view of particular information it presents. pl

  49. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    As far as the “Russia intentionally unleashed Islamists in Syria” meme goes:
    These Islamists werent “unleashed” they were running away from Russian + loyalist Chechen forces to greener pastures. Some local actors in the North Caucasus probably followed version of the “build a fleeing enemy a golden bridge” strategy.
    It has an upside though. As far as I understand Clan rules in the North Caucasus, if your uncle is a Jihadist and abandons his clan to fight for some Arab in Syria, and then gets killed, you dont have to avenge him.
    If he gets killed fighting without having first abandoned his clan, you need to do some vendetta or other clans think you are weak.
    In a way, North Caucasian terrorists in Syria can be killed without starting a bunch of blood vengeance vendettas.

  50. Gabriel says:

    As a PS on oob in Aleppo area and lack of SAA offensive-capable infantry forces, this published today (5/25):

    Several battalions from the Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces” have returned to the Aleppo Governorate after a short deployment to the east Homs front in order to push back the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) terrorists from the Al-Sha’ar Gas Fields. While this aforementioned battle is still ongoing, the Tiger Forces have sent their reserve units to the Aleppo Governorate, along with their top commander, Colonel Suheil Al-Hassan. The timing of arrival Colonel Suheil Al-Hassan’s arrival in Aleppo is rather interesting, given the fact that the Russian Air Force has put off their aerial campaign indefinitely. No reasoning was given for the recent deployment of the Tiger Forces to Aleppo; however, it is very likely that they will continue their offensive in the Al-Safira Plains and Al-Bab Plateau.

  51. turcopolier says:

    Yes, the spectacle of the SAA having to shuttle its best units back and forth between hot spots is a certain indicator of an insufficiency of ground force. If Hizbullah has in fact made a decision to refuse participation in a negotiated surrender to the jihadis and dissolution of Syria as a unitary state, then the troop shortage will become much worse. pl

  52. SmoothieX12 says:

    You mixed a lot of things here and as a result produced a very eclectic mix which is very difficult to answer. I’ll try, though, per your points:
    1. Who is “stressing” an axiom? Since when pointing to the obvious fact is “stressing”. Last time I checked we are talking here about actual operations on the ground in a fairly large scale war. Well, if you do not like “stressing”, let me not “stress” it for you. In Syrian war Russia is the only military party capable of full spectrum massive combined arms operations. Other parties such as Iran, Hizballah etc. are not even in the same universe here–it is a hard cold fact. With military capability comes political clout. It is a self-evident truth. Russia’s problem is not a “weaker hand” (person who writes such things does need an introductory course to military science) but an appropriate choice of military instruments to achieve political result. Per “severe” reaction. Russia had no problem of introducing “large numbers” of troops in South Ossetia, where she wiped the floor with the troops of darling of NATO. Russia also had no problems in returning Crimea by introducing additional 9,000 troops to reach 25,000 allowed by treaty. In all cases this was done without any serious regard to Western “allies”.
    2. You statement is simplistic, especially when one looks at Russo-Iranian relations in past several centuries. Iran and Russia were never allies–some cooperation on several key economic and military issues doesn’t make one an ally. Neighbors? Yes. Allies? No.
    3. You, evidently, forgot a history of Russian-Syrian relations, I will remind you: USSR supported Syria militarily in 1973. Many Syrian top military brass are graduates of Soviet military academies, including many navy people who graduated naval academy of yours truly. Russia had PMTO in Syria for her 5th Operational Squadron (5th OPESK). All that was because of Syria being viewed as one of the outposts of Arab “version” of socialism and it was both geopolitically and ideologically expedient. Inevitably some close professional and human ties developed in the process. In terms of “allies” you allude to in my MOA post–the talk was about much more profound things which is culture. Russia is essentially European nation, whose cultural root is in Europe. Culturally, Arabs and Russians have virtually nothing in common. But that is a topic for a very large and separate discussion and I am not going to go deep here, as an example, in my experiences in Caucasus, Middle Asia and North Africa. But, yes, Russia is deciding the fate of Syria now. If you have any doubts about it–conduct a simplest forensic mental experiment: imagine Russia completely withdrawing from Syria now. Now, how Russia is “bullying allies”, frankly, I cannot wrap my mind around it. What is bullying? Pointing out an obvious weakness, if not altogether incompetence in operational planning, trying to unify different factions operationally–so it is called bullying now. Well, thank you for teaching me the new meaning of “bullying”. The term “to survive”–I really don’t know what it has anything to do with Russia? I thought it was Syria which had to survive. Now, re: “hybrid war”–there is no such thing and it never existed. This whole incompetent meme is a creation of Western “journos” who lost a nerve while reading the so called Gerasimov’s Doctrine. If you really interested in this issue you may want to read this:
    In conclusion: it is really difficult to answer short, abrupt and very assertive (and often very wrong) statements in the same manner. World, and especially military-political world, is not black and white there are other colors. That requires a very serious elaborations. Especially when obvious presumably national passions are present.

  53. turcopolier says:

    “think tanks may have had value at one time” Perhaps. Perhaps. But today even federally funded research “think tanks” are places that indulge themselves in cost free speculative musing that is then inflicted on the line agencies of government as directive in nature. The NSC staff in the last decades has become the ultimate expression of that phenomenon in that this collection of post graduates of all ages believes that they can generate reality as the result of seminar discussions. The result is evident in that policies are adopted that are the result of adolescent yearnings for justification of theoretical resolve. An example of that is the lunatic regime change policy in re Syria and a willingness to support jihadi militants to achieve that. This evidently extends to receiving them for meetings in Washington. pl

  54. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think I failed to be clear; Russia needs Iran and Iran and her allies need Russia.
    And I think Ms. Dunn, in the piece I linked, articulates a plausible view of the motivations of the Russian leaders with which I generally agree.
    I will walk through a scenario in which Russia, in a tiff or because of some concession given to her in Ukraine (that dead country) and which NATO will be taking away later in any case, withdraws from the Syrian campaign.
    A Jihadi state emerges in Eastern Syria and the defeat of ISIS in Mosul becomes impossible.
    Iranians and their allies – specially the Alawites, Christians, Druze – will be having their back against the wall, and in a manner analogous to Shia in Lebanon, carve out an Eastern Mediterranean territory for the much diminished SAR. Which they can proceed to keep indefinitely.
    The Jihadists in Eastern Syria and Northwestern Iraq, in due time, will be agitating in Crimea, in Caucasus, inside the Slavic area of Russia, and in Central Asia. In this they will be aided by Turkey.
    In the meantime, NATO states, having tricked (more like – having Russia wanting to be tricked) proceed to take back their concessions to Russia in Eastern Europe – they will be on the march again.
    Russia, having in effect sold Iran and her allies for dubious and ephemeral and illusory gains in Eastern Europe, will be forced to contend with internal Muslim terrorism, with crumbling state order in Central Asia and with no allies in Muslim World that could be used to fight and to otherwise de-legitimize Sunni Jihadists. She will be left alone to fight.
    In effect, Russia will be left with no bridges to the core state of Islamdom – a situation that NATO states find themselves today and she will be at odds with theother wing of Seljuk Civilizatiuon – Turkey.
    Well, I think that if someone like me who is not a specialist can see all of these negative possibilities for Russia, so can the Russian leaders.
    That is why I think that Russia needs Iran as much as Iran needs Russia.
    And I think you are mistaken in thinking that EU states are natural allies of Russia.
    Russia has adopted the Platonic Academy from Western Diocletian states but threats to her existence also came from the very same Western Diocletian states.
    Persia – Iran – was never an existential threat to Russia – not over the last 400 years and is not today. Nor, in my view, was the Ottoman Empire – Turkey.
    Russians and Russia may loath both countries and love Germany – but the Seljuk states have not been Russia’s existential enemies.

  55. sillybill says:

    OK, thanks.

  56. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Russia cannot dictate an outcome in Syria that Iranian leaders do not approve of; in my opinion.

  57. LondonBob says:

    I am of the impression the Russian withdrawal was really just the Russians pulling their SU-25s which were vulnerable to the newly introduced MANPADS. They were replaced by helicopter gunships that had the tech (jamming system?) to counteract MANPADS. I would put the withdrawal announcement as more a statement of support for the negotiations, and perhaps other propaganda purposes.

  58. SmoothieX12 says:

    Babak, several points I need to make:
    1. Russia does factor US “presence”, in whatever form, in Syria and around. Moreover, much more complex dynamics is involved here–Turkey, for once. She is run by the impulsive imbecile with megalomaniac complex. Consider this, what would happen if Russia and Turkey clash? I can tell you with a 100% certainty–nothing good.
    2. Russia did not sell anyone. I also reiterate, Russia and Iran are not and never were allies.
    3. Turkey IS a serious danger to Russia and always was. Just to remind you–recall what was the battle of Sinop, which precipitated Crimean War? Turkish special services activities in Russia, as well as support to Chechen terrorists, as well as support to IS and the list goes on, and on, and on–is a danger.
    4. The issue of boots on the ground is a real issue and it has to be resolved. How, I don’t know, yet.
    5. The rest I will try to answer later.

  59. Babak Makkinejad says:

    It is not at this moment expedient or politically possible.
    However, if Ayatollah Khamenei gives a fatwa, there would be tens of thousands of volunteers; in my opinion.

  60. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your comments.
    I was trying to justify my views by sketching a hypothetical situation and its adverse effects on Russia.
    I stand by my assessment of the Ottomans – their presence in Eastern Black Sea region was not direct and immediate – they were exercising their power through the local Khanate.
    Neither had the power to dream about the extinction of the Prince of Moscowy.

  61. SmoothieX12 says:

    “I think your jingoism clouds your view.”
    United States produces better automobiles than Russia. So, am I being pro-American or pro-Russian jingoist by stating this obvious truth? Does stating the cold hard fact “clouds” my mind? No party, other than Russia, involved in Syria possess even remotely comparable combat capabilities. This is a cold hard fact. Am I being jingoistic? Russia can drop 20 000 troops with advanced equipment, including very advanced C4ISR complex withing 48 hours in Syria–will she do it is a completely different matter, I doubt she will–this is a cold hard fact. In fact, this very capability is a serious strategic and operational factor which many in Syria and around consider. Is it jingoism talking in me and “clouding” my judgement or is it stating a cold hard fact? You decide. Are there people both among Iranians and Syrians who deplore these capabilities? Absolutely. So, before accusing anyone in jingoism, it is a good practice to deal with hard cold facts and, maybe, once in a while look in the mirror.

  62. elkern says:

    I strongly agree that the destruction of Syria is primarily rooted in [the right-wingers in] Israel’s perceived strategic interests, and I’ve said that here several times.
    But, FastEddieZ, what the heck is “the NCA”??? The Goog says:
    – National Communications Assoc
    – National Confectioners Assoc (Candy!?)
    – National Cheerleaders Assoc (more Candy!)
    – National Coffee Assoc

  63. turcopolier says:

    IMO he means the US National Command Authority. pl

  64. oofda says:

    U.S. intel debunked this- the damage to the trucks and helos was caused by an accidental fuel tank explosion that caused secondary blasts. Fueling operations can be dangerous and have to be carried out safely. The USN and USMC practice hot-fueling- fueling while the aircraft engines are turning- and there have been a number of accidents in that, notwithstanding safety precautions.

  65. jld says:

    May be the jingoism isn’t about the “cold hard facts”, i.e. the potential to do things but about talking of these possibilities as a plausible occurrence, while you deny yourself that it is very much plausible: “–will she do it is a completely different matter, I doubt she will–“.

  66. thepanzer says:

    The irony being these failed states will turn into havens and staging grounds for the Jihadi crazies who WILL eventually turn their sights and ambitions on Israel.
    Whatever short term security and geopolitical gains the Israeli’s gain are likely to be nullified in the long term by having these jackals on their doorstep.
    They used a bear to get rid of the wolves, now they have to deal with a hungry bear that’s infinitely more dangerous than the original problem.
    Also, has anyone ever asked an Israeli military or intel person what their plan is for when the US empire can’t or won’t support them anymore? I get the impression that doesn’t even factor into their calculations and they assume US top dog status and carte blanch support for their policies into infinity. Nothing lasts forever, and if I had to guess whether the US empire has many more or only a few more generations left I’d opt for the later.

  67. Jackrabbit says:

    ‘Hybrid’ war is a short hand for propaganda war + financial war + proxy war. It includes color revolutions. Some have also termed the war a ‘long’ war because ‘hybrid’ war is a war of attrition that can take many years.
    In this war Russia needs allies, if only because any country that is not strong enough will be picked off leaving whatever country stands last to face the entire world in the end. This is why Russia has joined SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and Iran is due to join SCO soon.
    In the mental exercise that you propose, Russia’s departure results in greater participation by Iran. And China might also be stirred in due to the possibility of a domino effect: first goes Syria, then Iran, etc.
    Bullying. Maybe our difference is mostly semantics. I recognize that Russia’s important contribution brings a great deal of influence in Syria but I don’t see that as translating into making demands. What I object to is the impression that a) only Russia could save Syria and that means that b) Russia will unilaterally impose a solution. (a) is uncertain and (b) is doubtful because it is against Russian interests. Even the prospect of “bullying” behavior that you allude to raises ‘Russian Empire’ issues that the West loves to fan into fears of Russian aggression.
    A good example of the interaction among R+6 would be the attempt by Assad to get Russia to agree to defend Syria’s territorial integrity. This was _Assad_ trying to manipulate the outcome!! Such a commitment might lead to Russian-Israeli conflict over the Golan Heights. Russia rejected this. Russia doesn’t really WANT to be drawn into a middle-east quagmire. It is SMART to rely on SAA+Iranian ground forces while Russia its forces and helps to expand and deepen the SCO alliance.
    I appreciate your wealth of knowledge. There are things that we agree on (like your skepticism of the Brookings report of Russia sending extremists to fight in Syria) but I see Russia’s interaction with its allies differently. You rely on historical facts and ethnic preferences but to me that _feels like_ ‘fighting the last war’. Russia’s relationship with China, Iran, Syria and other countries is necessarily different that it was 45 years ago when, as you described, Russia viewed Syria as the “Arab ‘version’ of socialism” and “geopolitically and ideologically expedient”.
    <> <> <> <> <>
    This is the way I see it. I certainly enjoy to hear other points of view.

  68. Jackrabbit says:

    Why would Iranians or Syrians “deplore these capabilities” when they BENEFIT from them?
    This is how your jingoism warps your view. You can’t seem to wrap your head around the advantages of allies to each other. In your eyes Russia must always have a superior place and the upper hand. This leads directly to ‘Russian Empire’ concerns that play into the hands of the West.
    Statements by Putin and Lavrov do not comport with your understanding of the relationship between Russia and its allies.

  69. K says:

    The US is clearly terrified of the rise of an independent New Persia –

  70. SmoothieX12 says:

    Yes, in military language there is a thing called contingency planning–it is built entirely on the set of potentials (and some suppositions), which, among many, include serious considerations of military capability. Jingoism is–from dictionary–extreme chauvinism or nationalism marked especially by a belligerent foreign policy. How I fit this definition, I, frankly, don’t know.

  71. turcopolier says:

    “Terrified” is a bit much. pl

  72. bth says:

    FYI malicious link was detected by virus scan when I went to that article.

  73. SmoothieX12 says:

    “In your eyes Russia must always have a superior place and the upper hand. This leads directly to ‘Russian Empire’ concerns that play into the hands of the West.”
    “It is legitimate to judge an event by its outcome, for it is the soundest criterion”.(c) Clausewitz, Vom Kriege.
    1. NO Russia’s direct involvement, direct involvement of everyone else–ISIS advancing, Assad’s government in dire situation on the verge of collapse, Russian patriotic media start campaign for giving Assad a political asylum in Russia;
    2. Russia gets involved directly, three months later–no doubts about survival and legitimacy of Assad’s government, massive blows to ISIS, growing morale among Syrian troops, massive global consequences.
    In related news: 2 x 2=4.
    The question is why so?
    In my “jingoistic” eyes, the answer is military capability (what goes in it is a very long story–from human factor, numbers and to technology) which matters. Military capability is knowable thing. I guess me stating this simple fact is jingoism now. Well, so be it. For some reason, however, I had very little doubt about the fate of Saddam’s army. Maybe because I am jingoistic and think that “USA must always have a superior place and the upper hand.”(c) Or maybe because I realistically (more or less, I am not holding myself to the highest standards) assess military capabilities?

  74. bth says:

    Reading what is available open source in the last few days my conclusion is that Hezbollah is pissed that they didn’t get reasonable financial backing from Iran in its new budget considering the expenditure that Hezbollah has had to undertake in Syria. Also they are pissed that the Russians had shifted their air cover to the PR stunt over in Palmyra for the concert while Hezbollah took casualties without air cover around Aleppo earlier this month.

  75. elkern says:

    darn. I was hoping it was the cheerleaders.

  76. fasteddiez says:

    Elkern, I don’t know about the Comms Association, but the confectioners (not candy…dates) if you walk around Saudi under date trees the ripe ones fall off, and it looks like there are thousands of squished cockroaches on the ground, (the Kingdom’s dates are the juiciest though). You see America needs to buy Saudi dates, not Syrian ones.
    As to the cheerleaders association (Gulf Chapters) so easy to figure out, I shan’t bother. The coffee association (Gulf) is concerned that Americans will consume Juan Valdez’ swill instead of their exotic elixir ….. while watching the Neocon news like the addled sheep that they are ….. don’t bother switching channels.
    Actually, I can come up with something based on the Gulf Comms Assoc. but others can offer Bon Mots on this lashup.
    PS NCA, what the Colonel says.

  77. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Not when you consider that Iranians are 10 feet tall….and they are supported by all that Mordor could muster.

  78. fasteddiez says:

    They are unconcerned, methinks, for two reasons): (1) one of their generals (Yalon ?) said that Isis wishes to deal with the Arab states first, Leaving the Israelis for desert. This gives them time for preparations. they (Israelis)are also cooperating with Salafists in the Golan area, so as to facilitate ISIS ops in southern Syria.
    (2): If the Isis Technical armies show up on their borders the Izzies will destroy them with conventional warfare (no witless American COIN theatrics or limp wristed ROEs). If ISIS wants to invade Israel through Southern Lebanon, they will have to deal with Hezbollah first, while the IDF watches, as they eat Kosher Popcorn and the ISIS corpses ingest Halal maggots.

  79. fasteddiez says:

    Colonel, I think on reason for the reduced air activities during this slowdown was due to needed repairs. The large numbers of sorties by the Russian bombers, fighters and Helos necessitated their transfer back to Russia for complete overhauls (probably to include engines). Perhaps an Air Force contributor here can expand on the likelihood of this turn of events.

  80. SmoothieX12 says:

    The only way any jihadis from Caucasus could have exited Russia to go and fight elsewhere is under a single condition of corruption of the local MVD (Police) ethnic elements and, much less likely, of same ethnic elements in local FSB. Or, or, under the guise of going to study in some places such as Al Azhar University, go to Egypt and then to Syria or elsewhere. In the end, in Dagestan, as an example, a half or more of many villages are relatives who may not be inclined to cooperate with local authorities, who, in their turn, could be related to jihadis themselves. It is different today in Chechnya, largely because of Kadyrov’s clout there. Ramzan prefers jihadis dead, not exported. A lot of Chechen jihadis, however, had bases in Pankissi in Georgia. It is easy to enter and exit Georgia. What’s deal with it today I don’t know. Saakashvili certainly didn’t mind having anti-Russian jihadis in Georgia. I am sure some elements of his regime or sympathizers are still present in Georgia’s power ministries.

  81. bth says:

    It may be worth noting that Russia and Ukraine swapped military prisoners today.

  82. Jackrabbit says:

    > Russian involvement is not the only factor. Absent their involvement, it seems likely that Iran would have been more involved or that other countries might have stepped up (like China).
    Russia’s involvement is in Russia’s interest as much as it is in the interest of her allies.
    > SCO/BRICS/Shiites vs. US/NATO/Sunnis makes this a worldwide conflict. Russia NEEDS their allies in this conflict as much as their allies need them.
    > To ignore/denigrate the contribution of allies and assert Russian predominance in an allied structure, and then declare that Russia alone will (unspoken: rightfully) determine the outcome strikes me as jingoism.
    I think this reflects your view of Russia NOT Russia’s view of its allies. Do you think Russia is seeking/should seek to build a new Empire as claimed by Western chickenhawks?
    > You ignored my point about Assad’s attempt to manipulate the outcome. Assad would not be playing such a game if Russia was dominating Syria and deciding the outcome.

  83. VietnamVet says:

    I appreciate the discussions among members of SST who really know something. I am trying to make sense of what is happening, but falling short, mainly because of a concerted propaganda campaign to hide the truth. Being an outsider, my perception is that a new technocrat superstructure is replacing the existing western democratic sovereign states. It is to the advantage of the powerful few if existing states are broken up into ethnic enclaves. To avoid a breakup, Russia and China have to combat the financial and proxy military attacks aimed at them. The 2016 election also can be depicted as the natural outcome of the wedge attacks aimed at neutering American democracy. The recent Russia pull back in Syria may well be to preserve their forces for later use, if not for the other reasons given above.
    The one common thread of the American, Turkish, Israeli governments plus the Gulf Monarchies is the lack of their ability to see beyond the tip of their noses to recognize the consequences of their support of Sunni Islamists. This may not be an anomaly but a symptom of the New World Order.

  84. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your comments.
    I find your statements rather puzzling; everyone knows that Russia is an industrialized state and can build good weapons. Specifically, I am not sure were references to “bullying” and “stressing” come from in your reply to myself.
    My point, however, was that such weapons cannot by and themselves win a war. Yes, by all means, thermobaric weapons are not to be trifled with, but you need infantry – Russia will not introduce infantry into Syria. That is where the Shia Arabs, the Shia Iranians, the Shia Iraqis, the Shia Afghans, and the Shia Paksitanis come into this war.
    It is not essential for Iran and Russia to be allies – they are not. Nor were USSR, UK, and US but they fought a common enemy. That should suffice for the present time.
    USSR does not exist and Putin is not representing it; he is in the mold of Stolypin, in my view. Yes, Russia is a European country but so is Romania – Russia, however, is not a Western Diocletian state and will never be. Expecting Russia to someday be like Italy or France or England is a misguided hope – and I do not care how much Russian leaders have tried to realize that. For example, Russians are emotional to a degree that no one is in Western Europe (West of the Diocletian Line).
    Israel is another country, with emotional people, which claims to be European (really wishing to be Western Europeans). However, in my opinion, the descendants of Romanians, the Jews of Islamdom, and now the Jews of Rus are not going to make her a Western Diocletian State.
    Again, let us say that Russia walk away from Syria.
    My understanding is that Iranians are prepared to wage that war without Russian aide.
    I think you do not understand that the Seljuk Civilization is qualitatively different than the rest of Islamdom, just as the Western Diocletian Civilization is different than the civilization of Eastern Europe.

  85. Babak Makkinejad says:

    US is trying to reassure the Gulfies, work with Iranians, assuage Turks, protect Israelis, and a few other things that I am probably not even aware of.
    But then, UK was doing analogous contradictory things in the Middle East at the end of WWII and failed.
    Why would one expect this time to be any different, especially since UK only had to content with European Jews in Palestine, with Arabs, and with Turks.

  86. SmoothieX12 says:

    Agree completely with what you said. Today Friedman positions himself as a military “gamer” and, supposedly, the specialist in Operations Research. I doubt very much that he has a clue after I read his opus on possible conventional clash between US and Russian forces in Ukraine. After STRATFOR site was hacked several years ago and their e-mails were made public it became painfully clear that it is indeed, as you stated, a Ponzi scam. As I may add, sadly, most US think tankdom and mainstream media in re: Russia are exactly that. It is, frankly, terrifying in its crudeness and incompetence.

  87. Joe100 says:

    The Col Cassad website has a link to an analysis suggesting that the STAFOR images were photoshopped. Perhaps a Russian reader here could check this link out:
    as understanding the Yandex translate was a bit challenging.

  88. SmoothieX12 says:

    >”Russia’s involvement is in Russia’s interest as much as it is in the interest of her allies.”
    That is a good starting point.
    >”To ignore/denigrate the contribution of allies and assert Russian predominance in an allied structure”
    I don’t recall any instance on which I ignored or denigrated contributions of anyone. All my statements revolve around capability. Russia’s involvement in Syria has global geopolitical implications. It is, again, cold hard fact.
    >”I think this reflects your view of Russia NOT Russia’s view of its allies. Do you think Russia is seeking/should seek to build a new Empire as claimed by Western chickenhawks?
    Russia is absolutely not seeking any Empire. Most importantly, overwhelming majority of Russians do not see themselves living in the same state with Tadjiks, Uzbeks or Kirgiz–it is as simple as that. In this sense, Putin’s famous “those who do not grieve for the Soviet Union–have no heart, those who dream about restoring USSR–have no head” is a great observation. The meaning of Russkii Mir (Russian World, with emphasis on Russkii as opposed to Rossiiskii) could develop into a very interesting concept. Yet, Russians and Ukrainians and Belorussians–that is a completely different paradigm.

  89. Kooshy says:

    One wonders why state is not requesting an independent commission investigating this matter during her campaign? IMO this report is miled and trying to kick the can down or off the road, or, and to subvert and influence subsequent FBI report.
    “(CNN)A State Department Inspector General report said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to follow the rules or inform key department staff regarding her use of a private email server, according to a copy of the report obtained by CNN on Wednesday.
    The report, which was provided to lawmakers, states, “At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”

  90. bth says:

    This is an interesting editorial about how to deal with Iranian involvement in Syria by increasing the cost and also an opinion that ousting Assad himself will not bring about peace.

  91. Gabriel says:

    The Beaver,
    Fascinating–thanks for linking to Dr Brenner’s post.
    From it, I wonder if this

    The most stunning feature of the operation is that they induce many large organizations to pay them hefty fees for ‘customized’ analyses which, at times, pass as the product of an intelligence investigation. Coca Cola, for example, lined their pockets for providing answers to a set questions about the aims, intentions and means of PETA which they feared might disrupt the winter Olympics in Vancouver where the company had an advertising stake. The information requested could have been uncovered by a five minute web search. Evidently, Coca Cola’s tens of thousands of employees do not include anyone capable of conducting such a search. Management, of course, derives greater reassurance when the product is received from a super secret unit with cachet.

    might not be simultaneously the initial strength and long-term weakness of these private intelligence outfits. I’m thinking of a recent piece on Palantir, , which seems to indicate (a lot of numerators thrown around, not so many denominators) that it’s now experiencing difficulties because a great deal of its valuation was predicated on selling these “bespoke” (to call them something) intelligence products to large corporations that are increasingly not finding them worth the cost.

  92. Kooshy says:

    IMO, Iranians and their allies are trying to put some pressure on Russians and SAR, through reducing/ relocating / re-engaging Hizbollah in the Syrian theater. Is just like a warning sign over the negotiation bow, like hey you need to fully share with us what you really are negotiating with the American behind closed doors. If you are trying to appease and bargain with the Americans and their allies, and thinking you can leave us in dark, when you had the upper hand, you need to think again, once you realize your bargaining chips can quickly wash away. In Iranian news sites, I feel there is less of mentioning Russian engagement in Syrian theater.

  93. Kooshy says:

    Babak I agree, from what I gather IMO, ayatollah Khamenie’ religious scholarship might not be that of ayatollah Sistani’ but I think his political leadership is as important and fallowed throughout ME Shia comuities, Specially in Lebonan and Iran and Iraq.os

  94. WILL says:

    “And I looked at the right picture. And he pointed out that the transition from black to white noise on the top photo, where the whole technique.
    Well, not burned out photoshop helicopters (ie they were), but on the contrary – the whole. How so? And the time arrived, the Defense Ministry comment Summary: Burned technique was. Only a Russian aircraft it had nothing to do. Apparently when burnt igilovtsy previously captured base (remember the news with captions like: “Syrian rebels seized another air base …”) or when the Syrians fought off her back. That’s the way how this looks in Google airbase helicopter very very small …. Give a specialist for 5 minutes and it will reset the photo on which to place the White house is the mausoleum of Lenina and marching past the Yeti in combined swimsuit. There would be loss – it would be necessary to admit. War without loss all the same does not happen. But in this case the news from Stratfor – good fake cobbled together.”

  95. Gabriel says:

    SST readers,
    I apologize for linking to the same person twice, but Magnier has a piece out today (5/25) that confirms a good deal of Col. Lang’s analysis above,
    ‘The U.S. and Russia are trying to freeze the war in Syria to direct the military apparatus against the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda franchise in Syria. According to source within the decision makers in Syria, “Secretary of State John Kerry told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov the U.S. is aiming to end the war in Syria, that is to freeze the situation on all fronts until a matured political solution can be agreed upon by all actors involved in the war in Syria”.
    The US advised the Russians to avoid drowning in the Syrian quagmire as was the case for ground forces in Iraq following the 2003 invasion. The regional countries – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – are ready to continue supplying weapons and finance to rebels endlessly and we (the USA) won’t allow the rebels to be defeated, ensuring that the opposition withstands any assault by the Syrian regime and its allies for a long period. The cease-fire would force everyone to come to the negotiation table and would weaken ISIS and contain its militants within a defined geographic area.”
    According to the source “The aim is to create the kind of demarcation lines in Syria, similar to the ones in the Lebanese civil war during the 80s, to be endured for many years to come. Inevitably, there will be the normal sporadic fighting along these lines and the situation may even deteriorate for a while. Nevertheless, the beginning of the end of the war in Syria will be on track. The political solution will have no victors and no losers, but a solution that will neither satisfy nor provoke either side. The Americans will hold back the Syrian opposition regional backers and Russia will use its influence over its allies led by Damascus. Such an agreement is supposed to hold at least until the end of the Obama administration is in office”.

    (rest of the piece has some interesting details for those interested).
    Now, Lavrov himself has experience of how Kerry can say many things at bilateral meetings that are then entirely ignored by the White House (not to speak of the GCC) and thus by Kerry himself when he gets back home, but perhaps this time the latter is carrying some firmer guarantee from WH, at least something that induces Moscow to take this half-seriously.

  96. Lisa says:

    Well I predicted here ages ago there would be a ‘pause’ and I wondered about how the reaction would go. This was always going to be a long war.
    ‘Victory disease’ is the biggest killer of them all, more battles and wars have been lost to that than just about anything else. The SSA, Iran, etc got a dose of that and Russia is, correctly, winding them back.
    It is not enough to win a single battle you have to have the reserves and momentum to carry on to the next and prevent any counter attacks.
    Russia knows this and has reasoned that a pause to regroup is the smart thing to do.
    The ‘pause’ is at a logical place, Russia is also using it also to break the US/Turkey/SA/etc coalition (the Coalition of the Terminally Insane, CoTI, as I always call them). Russia has zero illusions about what the US will do and whether or not they will stick to an agreement of some kind (they won’t).
    But weakening the CoTI is a smart move. Especially weakening Turkey and its desire to invade Syria. Letting the self inflicted ‘oil war’ damage SA ever more is also to the good. Letting the US damage ISIS a bit, doing some of the work for them is also smart.
    All the while forces can be rebuilt, training done, equipment repaired and replaced, and intelligence gathered for the inevitable next push.
    Remember NATO is moving into a war posture on Russia’s doorstep as well so Russia has other fish to fry.

  97. LJ says:

    This opinion piece from the WAPO editorial board reads like a Borg Manifesto, and is quite alarming.

  98. johnf says:

    This too is in the WP and is hard to believe:
    “Russia calls off attacks against Syria’s al-Qaeda franchise”
    I find the logic of the article to be almost impossible to follow, but since it refers openly to al-Nusra as al Qaeda – quite a rare piece of honesty – it might contain a grain or two of truth.

  99. ISL says:

    I looked at the images and noted, how not a single explosive missed its mark, not even to hit the target off-center. Seems easier to do with photoshop than with actual munitions

  100. SmoothieX12 says:

    >”My point, however, was that such weapons cannot by and themselves win a war. Yes, by all means, thermobaric weapons are not to be trifled with, but you need infantry – Russia will not introduce infantry into Syria. That is where the Shia Arabs, the Shia Iranians, the Shia Iraqis, the Shia Afghans, and the Shia Paksitanis come into this war.”
    You are most likely right about Russia not getting serious boots on the ground. Having said that, let’s recall a famous British concept “Fleet In Being”–this is more than just a catch phrase. In essence it is both strategic and operational concept, BTW being used extensively by the US Navy. Russia most likely will not air drop Pskov, Ivanovo or any other divisions in Syria but the point here is that Russia CAN, that is totally capable, of doing so and this becomes a serious tactical, operational, strategic and political factor. That is your classic Fleet In Being or, rephrasing, Enough of Boots In Being which could be, should the necessity arise, be deployed in Syria and that will, pretty much, close the deal.
    As per weapons. Yes, I agree, weapons are just the tool, albeit a very important tool, in the end these are factors of command ability, foresight, courage and planning which are the tie breakers. Of many other things too, not least of combat cohesion and tactical abilities of the units on the ground. But weapons are still a huge part of the picture and they cannot be ignored. All this is known as C4ISR.
    >”Russians are emotional to a degree that no one is in Western Europe (West of the Diocletian Line).”
    When was the last time your dealt with Italians, as an example?
    >”Expecting Russia to someday be like Italy or France or England is a misguided hope”
    Hope by whom? Last time I checked, and will check again soon by flying back to Russia–overwhelming majority or Russians do not want to be British or Italians, or French. Nor do they want their country to look like those places. But here we are opening another can of worms which is somewhat OT but this was precisely the reason I opened my blog after final realization that West’s perception of Russia is, for the most part, a complete baloney, be it culturally, militarily, economically or any other field. Considering my background it was only natural that I started to write on the military-political issues. As per Western Civilization, I would suggest you use Roger Scrutons brilliant definition of it. Concise and accurate.
    >”My understanding is that Iranians are prepared to wage that war without Russian aide.”
    This, I don’t know and I usually do not write (speak) on the subjects I don’t know.

  101. Gabriel says:

    I didn’t get that message from opening the article (…*gulp*). In any case, what I copy-pasted above entirety of piece, so no loss.
    That said, my impression is that sometimes flurry of announced redeployments of elite units (in this case Tiger Forces and Suheil Al-Hassan) sometimes used as a kind of easy osint maskirovka (which is perfectly reasonable on SAA part), so personally I’ll wait until there’s a second piece on this before I read too much into it. Also, agree with “b” above that way too much was made out of rebels’ recapture of Khan Touman.

  102. Valissa says:

    Great comment! Although I’ve been too busy to comment recently, I want to let you know how much I appreciate your viewpoint. I’ve learned a lot from your comments. Thanks!

  103. Barish says:

    This seems to be misreading what is stated here:
    “Russia postpones airstrikes in Syria to allow armed groups to separate from al-Nusra
    Over the past several days, Russia’s reconciliation center in Syria has received around a dozen appeals from the leadership of armed groups asking not to deliver strikes until the separation is over
    MOSCOW, May 25. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry has postponed delivering strikes at the positions of gunmen in Syria until a number of armed groups have completed the separation of from the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group (outlawed in Russia), official spokesman for the ministry Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.
    Over the past several days, Russia’s center for reconciliation in Syria has received around a dozen of appeals from the leadership of armed groups in various provinces, first of all in Aleppo and Damascus, asking not to deliver strikes until the separation is over.
    “Taking this into consideration, a decision was made to extend the term of work with certain armed groups on their joining the ceasefire regime, separation from terrorists and defining exactly the areas controlled by them before beginning the strikes on the positions of gunmen,” he said.”
    In other words: strikes against groups that earnestly want out before RuAF gets back to business against the unicorns are given extra time to GTHO _in the locations they are actually in_. Meanwhile, reports are coming in that RuAF are cleaning house again, in north-east Latakia for one:
    RuAF activity around Aleppo-city is said to have picked up as well.
    On RT, a Russian chief diplomat was on air today stating in so many words that certain groups who have stated that they reject the CoH naturally are not covered by it.

  104. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Zarif stated in Geneva last week that there was nothing new on the table.
    I think this war will continue until ISIS is destroyed on the territory of SAR.
    I think there is no half-way diplomatic solution; some have to die for others to live.

  105. Thomas says:

    “(rest of the piece has some interesting details for those interested).”
    Yes, a very important detail on allowing your enemy to assist you in achieving a long term goal.
    “Therefore, the aim is to freeze the fight against Damascus long enough to have rebel factions killing each other. The population is armed and, inevitably, infighting is a natural reaction among the warlords to impose their control over weaker groups.”

  106. fasteddiez says:

    I guess Saakashvili’s reign as the Odessa Oblast’s Gauleiter did not live up to expectations

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