Not enough troops …


If you watch the embedded SITREP in this South Front report you will learn that the authors at South Front (I assume we are in one way or another talking about Russians) agree with me that the R+6 coalition is attempting to do too much with insufficient forces.  This is a recipe for failure.  South Front attributes to the SAA an intention to attack east from Palmyra, West at Aleppo City to close the gap and completing the closure of the Aleppo City pocket.  IMO they lack the force to simultaneously run both these operations successfully.  The SAA had to move the Tiger forces back to the Aleppo area to make such operations possible.  As I wrote before this is an indicator of insufficient force available.  At the same time the SAA has not moved forward NW of Jisr ash-Shugur to close the border crossing points through which Turkey is sending jihadi reinforcements from Hatay Province into Idlib Provnce and to Aleppo City.  the evident inability to do that is yet another indicator of insufficiency of forces.

At the same time the Syrian Kurds are at least making a gesture of advance toward Raqqa, Syria.  Whether these Kurds will really want to  capture the largely Arab City remains to be seen. 

The Iraqis are advancing towards the Syrian border along the Euphrates River.  What happens when Iraqi forces reach the border.  The disinclination of the US to cooperate with Russian supported forces on the other side of the border mkes thi a big question.

Lastly, what do the Russians think they are doing?  What?  pl

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63 Responses to Not enough troops …

  1. hemeantwell says:

    I’m not competent to comment on their military strategy. I would like to ask other site participants to consider to what extent, if any, the Russians are taking into account the election in the US. There are a range of possibilities, but foremost for me is that they might feel that a stronger offensive effort would, all other things be equal, benefit HRC and her warmongering advisors. That assumes they see Trump as less belligerent, which I’d like to think is realistic but am unsure. I also assume they see Sanders as having lost in his bid. ?

  2. JJackson says:

    IS also seem to have opened a front towards Azaz, although I am not very clear on exactly whom they are fighting.

  3. AEL says:

    What is it that prevents the SAA from getting and training more recruits? It has been clear that they lack sufficient force for a long time. Yet, they seem chronically undermanned and dependent on their external allies to keep them in the game.
    And yet, if you look at the distribution of the population, the existing Syrian government ought to be able to obtain and train sufficient recruits to re-establish power. What is holding them back?
    If Syria is going to be run by a secular government, they are going to have to crack that problem.

  4. David Lentini says:

    FWIW, I’ve been wondering at what point the total pressure from the US and its stooges allies would end up with some sort of deal being struck with Putin. Perhaps some lessening of the economic sanctions or pressure in some other part of the globe in return for reduced pressure in Syria and allowing the US to step up its role?

  5. johnf says:

    Calls are coming from within Russia to step up Russia’s military forces:
    Duma States the Need to Expand the Military Operation of Russia in Syria
    ” The State Duma spoke about the need to expand the military operation of Russia in Syria: The airforce needs in the near future to make unilateral airstrikes on militants from “al-Nusra (terrorist group forbidden in Russia). This was stated by the head of the Duma Committee on Defense, former Black Sea fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov.
    According to Komoyedov, while Russia was waiting for US’ response to the joint action plan, Jabhat al-Nusra managed to regroup forces. “During this period, “al-Nusra” has increased, regained strength, and is mostly active… we should not just run, and it’s time to end this,” he said in an interview to”Interfax”.
    According to the head of the Duma Committee on Defense, if active operations against Jabhat al-Nusra” in Syria do not begin, “it is possible to lose something positive that has been achieved””
    Perhaps Putin, ever cautious, is waiting for “popular pressure” to drive him into re-engaging.

  6. Bill Herschel says:

    Also from SouthFront:
    “On Fridan, the Russian General Staff reported that Russian had intensified air strikes against oil sites controlled by an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Al Nusra Front.
    Sergei Rudskoy, head of the General Staff’s main operations command said Al Nusra was taking advantage of a previously announced cessation of hostilities in many locations, and of the fact that its units are often deployed in the same areas as the armed groups involved in the political process.
    “Unfortunately, our American partners are not taking any decisive steps apart from persistent requests not to strike the groups of the Nusra Front, because ‘moderate opposition’ units may be located nearby,” Rudskoy noted.
    According to the general, Russian warplanes intensified strikes against Al Nusra’s oil production sites and smuggling routes to Turkey. But the key question remains unsolved, he said.
    “Further delays by our American partners in resolving the issue of differentiating the opposition units it controls from terrorists … leads to the disruption of the peace process and resumption of military actions in Syria.””
    I am not giving up hope that Russia can act decisively against the Jihadists in Syria. In terms of the U.S. election, it is foreordained that the “establishment” will continue a 110% attack at all times against Russia. Trump is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma. He clearly perceives his campaign as a business deal, one in which he does not want to lose money but rather make money. He may, at present, be terrified that if he loses the general election, he will fatally damage his brand. That would explain his thrashing around trying to stimulate the Republican base. He is fortunate in being pitted against someone with, politely, sky-high negatives, well-deserved negatives.

  7. SmoothieX12 says:

    Both HRC and The Donald, despite Donald having massive support among Russians (not that it matters for Donald), are considered serious risks there. In case of HRC it is, indeed, the risk of a major war. With Donald–it is his flamboyance which may, unintentionally, lead to a…major war. Unlike Donald, however, HRC is deplored in Russia.

  8. Earthrise says:

    I agree it seems like the SAA are trying to do everything and accomplishing nothing. I always found it strange to hear about looming offensives in the media; I assume surprise is still a tactical advantage. At least this time they are saying they are assaulting on every front (I just read about a new attack on Daara).
    I am not naive enough to put my trust anywhere, but either the Russians know what they are doing or it is over anyway. America doesn’t win on the battlefield, they win in the propaganda/disinfo space. I believe this is the battle the Russians are fighting atm; good luck comrades, the powerless are holding our breath

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Al Nusra does not contain any “moderates” since the population of that part of Syria is not moderate and it is that population that to a certain extent – if reports are to be believed – supports Al Nusra.
    Perhaps NATO states & Gulfies are thinking of leaving Al Nusra Front alone so that it time it may grow to be a mini-state to be used as leverage against SAR, Iraq, Iran etc.

  10. turcopolier says:

    If you have the preponderance of force, tactical surprise is much over-rated as a necessity. pl

  11. Imagine says:

    Apologies for OT:
    213 Israeli intelligence agents/retired generals, from Maj.Gen.(Ret.) Amnon Reshef’s “Commanders for Israel Security”, have issued a policy statement criticizing Israel’s calcification and calling for peace with Palestine through actual bargaining in good faith.
    English version of statement:
    List of 209 generals etc. comprising initiative:
    Hebrew page:

  12. Earthrise says:

    Agreed, but telegraphing your punches is not a winning strategy, unless it is disinfo. And the balance of force locally always seems fairly even (minus airpower). I believe Russia is countering US propaganda discourses, and once the world is begging for Russian intervention, this will be over fairly quickly.

  13. Emad says:

    Not being pedantic, but it’s The Donald, not Donald. Without the “The”, he’s a NYC millionaire of little to no consequence; with the “The”, he’s a statesman in a tight race.
    Give the man his due.

  14. Barish says:

    Motley bunch of “moderate” jihadis, among them Faylaq al-Sham, Sultan al-Murad, Jaish al-Mujahideen and a smattering of personnel from groups of the Fatah Halap (“Conquest Aleppo”) Operations Room (no. 1-2-3-“FSA” outfits e.g.) as well as some Nusra-operatives, all transferred via the Idlib-border through Turkey to Azaz.
    Even considering SAA’s manpower-problems, one does need to establish just how much of an issue this is for both ISIL as well as the unicorn outfits. Judging by this video here by an outfit called Liwa al-Mutasim from a month ago, the personnel the unicorns are throwing at ISIL in the Azaz-strip are either their omega tier-ranks, or they simply have not got any better troops left:
    Either way, currently the unicorn-forces assembled in the Azaz-strip are in what can rightly be called a rout:
    With the SDF/YPG in Afrin left to pick up the pieces, the way things look like.

  15. BraveNewWorld says:

    There are a few things working against the SAA curently. The first is that when they clear an area they need to leave people behind to protect those areas. That drives up the man power needed.
    More importantly though is that so much of the population is tied up in survival mode. Many have left for Europe as going back to your home town means going back to rubble and unemployment where as going to Europe means going to a modern country with far better prospects. Syrians are fairly well educated compared to many in the region and so have better prospects in Europe and other countries.
    The males have to go to the camps to protect their families as it can be pretty rough in refugee camps. That means they aren’t available to enlist. A good chunk of the population is tied up trying to produce things locally and inefficiently as there is an embargo against Syria and large parts of the infrastructure are destroyed.
    But one of the biggest problems is the enemy. In a normal military vs military fight at some point one side eventually realizes that it is going to lose and surrenders. That isn’t the case here. If you are with the SAA and you lose a battle you are, if you are lucky, dead instantly. Other wise you are looking at a pretty grim death. Not exactly some thing you can put on a recruiting poster. Modern well educated populations don’t want to fight they want to get on with their lives. Some thing the US learned with Vietnam but has apparently forgotten as it tries to start two wars with near peers in Russia and China at the same time.
    No matter how you slice it Syria is going to be a powerless broken waste land not fit to live in for another half century so in that regard the the big three of NATO have already won.

  16. Doug Colwell says:

    But sir, that is the problem isn’t it? The SAA doesn’t seem to have the preponderance of force, so surprise could be more important. Or have I missed something.

  17. turcopolier says:

    Doug Colwell
    Tactical surprise is often unattainable but it is necessary to go on. pl

  18. bth says:

    Well the US election brings a certainty to the time clock for Obama and Kerry – perhaps not loved by the Russians but known commodities – to get anything done. Beyond that I suspect the US election represents an unwelcome uncertainty for both the Russians and the US electorate at large.

  19. turcopolier says:

    Oh, nonsense, the country will be re-built and those who do not have the balls to participate in that deserve nothing. pl

  20. turcopolier says:

    No, the Russians would prefer Trump. pl

  21. bth says:

    What is it that Azaz offers IS? Access to Turkey? A trucking route to sell oil for food? Could someone clarify? IS is pressed on numerous fronts. One has to conclude that they are focusing their efforts in areas that have strategic importance to them.

  22. turcopolier says:

    I buy that but if I were an Israeli I would want to explore how real the Palestinian willingness to accept two states really is. pl

  23. Barish says:

    One of the goals for ISIL here may be loot, in the form of war materiel, ripe for the picking given the prowess (or lack thereof) of the “moderates” assembled there:
    That aside, with the Azaz-strip wiped, they got one less party to the war, the northern Syrian bloc of unicorns that is, to contend with in this theatre up north. Turkey makes it a point to keep Kurdish Afrin isolated on its side of the border, so while the (SDF/)YPG-troops there may have better morale, they don’t have little in the way of lines of supply, and hence may be considered a manageable threat by ISIL – or even the next target come the fall of Azaz.
    The “moderates” in the Azaz-strip also advertised their taking in ISIL deserters into their ranks, which points to their compatible ideology. It is possible that some of the various crews assembled there may, as of this campaign in Azaz, “see the light” and join ISIL. It did occur in the past that other jihadi outfits in Syria joined them.

  24. Laguerre says:

    If R+6 lack troops, then what is the reason? The argument I gave you that it is now only Alawites who are fighting could well be the case. Not my idea; I’m only reporting what my Alawite student told me.

  25. Earthrise says:

    It seems to me the SAA should be putting all their available offensive power in a drive to Deir ez-Zor. As much as we would love to see Aleppo liberated, she’s a tough nut which also risks bringing in Turkey. In the South the enemy has strategic depth through the Jordanian and Israeli borders. It seems with the Iraqis pushing from the East, and the American’s *cough* SDF from the North, the race to Raqqa makes the most sense. Regain the oilfields, break siege of Deir ez-Zor and prevent the US from carving out an Eastern anti-Syria. The fact this is not happening tells me we don’t know something, an agreement between America and Russia? Time will tell, but not too much please; Syria is bleeding.

  26. mbrenner says:

    Re. Jackson, Barish, bth: Given the singular complexity of the Syrian civil war(s), and the number as well as variety of players (internal and external), the question arises as to whether there is anyone in the US government who has a comprehensive, fine-grained picture of the whole. I am not speaking of the USG in aggregate, or any constituent part of it, but rather of persons in high positions of responsibility – Obama, Rice, Kerry, Carter, Brennan, Stewart, Dunfort…To be precise, I do not mean somewhere in MY DOCUMENTS, on a piece of paper, or on an aide’s computer – but in their head.
    The companion question of what policy to follow and how may not necessarily depend on the aforementioned. But the addition of ignorance to stupidity surely is fatal.

  27. Ghost ship says:

    The situation in Syria has been stabilised so it’s very unlikely that the Syrian Government with Assad as its leader will be overthrown. All the R+6 now have to do is persuade Washington that that situation is sustainable for the foreseeable future and slowly political support for regime change in Syria will fall away. Washington only thinks in the short term and will only support winning propositions. So the Russian calculation is that at some point Washington will start applying pressure to Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc. to cut off funding and supplies to ISIS and Al Qaeda and its associates and I don’t think that point is too far off as most of the moderates (largely local defence forces) are being signed up( aka made offers they can’t refuse) by the Russians, making it obvious that the opposition is really nothing but Al Qaeda and ISIL. Unless Washington changes its policies, the Syrian civil and proxy wars will outlast the next president even if he is re-elected. Oh, and NATO will be dead.
    As for Hillary Clinton if elected ordering an invasion Syria, I would like to see her try. I think the outcome would be a considerable shock. Is she really prepared to see a hundred or more million American dead and the annihilation of Europe in exchange for regime change in Syria? And what about China?

  28. Tel says:

    The Russians appear to be at the limit of the resources they have available. Syria has been bled a lot already, both by direct casualties and by young men fleeing as refugees in preference to fighting for Assad. The Kurds are facing the slow but inevitable declaration of war from the Turkish side as Erdogan consolidates power.
    I find it very unlikely that Raqqa will be re-conquered any time soon.

  29. BraveNewWorld says:

    I’ll bite on that one. Israeli Jews have the most effective BS system known to man. And one of the endless lines they push is that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a state. Except that is a world class lie that the American MSM buys hook line and sinker.
    The Palestinians have recognized the State of Israel repeatedly starting with the Oslo agreements in 1993 where they agreed to surrender 78% of their country to Israel in exchange for being able to keep the last 22% a deal Israel has reneged on. Again in 2012 Palestine recognized Israel in UNGA resolution 67/19. In 2014 when Abbas was trying to form a unity government with Hamas it was again stated that the unity Palestinian government would recognize Israel.
    Hamas it’s self has stated many, many times that if the Palestinian people vote for a 2SS Hamas will recognize the will of the people. The number of times leaders within Hamas have stated they would agree to to Palestine within the 67 borders is to long to list but start here.
    You might also be interested in this.
    “How Many Times Must the Palestinians Recognize Israel?”
    It is the Israelis that refuse to recognize a Palestinian state.
    The Palestinian people have to be some of the most polled people on the planet. What the polling shows is that when ever the latest war ends support for a 2SS increases and support for violent resistance drops. Once Israel starts a new war support for the 2SS drops and support for violent resistance increases.
    Now Gaza was always a bit of an outlier in that support for violent resistance was always stronger there and support for a 2SS weaker. But that changed after the last war when huge swaths of Gaza were left homeless. Support for violent resistance has dropped and stayed low there.
    On the other hand as Israel has ramped up settlement building, increased land seizures from Palestinians and further curtailed rights for the Palestinians in the West Bank. The belief that there can ever be a viable Palestinian state has crumbled. Support for violent resistance has increased among the young who see no future at all but not the older members who have experience with it.
    Most importantly though any 2SS agreement would have to be voted on as there is no longer a legitimate government in Palestine. Netanyahu has promised a vote to the Israeli people.
    But lets go further. Sissi of Egypt has offered to go clear Hamas out of Gaza if Israel will step up to a 2SS. Abbas has agreed that a Palestinian state would be unarmed. He also made the brave move of saying that the right of return could be negotiated even though it was never his or even the PLOs right to trade way. That right belongs to the people who were displaced.
    Obama had the top brass of the US military design a protection scheme for Israel in the event that Israel was to withdrawal from the Palestinian territories. Further several NATO members have made commitments to put NATO troops into the Palestinian territories for up to a decade if Israel withdrew to watch over the transition. That is on top of the fact that the Shinbet gives huge praise to the PA forces for protecting Israelis already. ( If any one hasn’t seen “The Gate Keepers”, I can’t recommend it enough)
    The Arab peace initiative has been on the plate for some thing like 12 years in which the Arab countries would commence normal diplomatic relations with Israel if it stepped up to a 2SS and ALL of the Muslim countries of the world including Iran would recognize the State of Israel if they came to an agreement with the Palestinians.
    The bottom line is that every single aspect of a 2SS has been worked out already to the finest detail. The Israelis won’t step up because they know if they do nothing the US will eventually deliver them all of the land between the river and the sea and they won’t have to budge an inch to get it.

  30. annamaria says:

    Israel and ISIS – the Understanding:
    “In 2012 at the start of the conflict, Sullivan said that there was “a positive side to the civil war in Syria.” This so called ‘positive side’ to a war that has cost some 400,000 lives was that “if the Assad regime topples, Iran would lose its only ally in the Middle East and would be isolated.” This would please Israel which under the Netanyahu government has fixated on the perceived Iranian threat. A war which destabilizes Iran’s ally, Assad, would benefit Israeli interests. This Machiavellian belief could explain why ISIS is not focused on.”
    Never again, indeed. Explains quite well the “puzzling” behavior of Mr. Kerry & Co towards ISIS in Syria.

  31. Imagine says:

    They are talking reparations, ejecting the settlers and awarding the homes to the Palestinians, a return to 1967 borders–trading justice for peace & security. If real, it is the most sane thing I’ve heard coming out of Israel in decades.
    How many retired generals does Israel have–is 200 a substantial political force, or a drop in the bucket?
    As to whether the Palestinians will accept two states or not, of course it would have to be worth their while–but I suppose an honest referendum could easily determine this. As to whether real deals or honest referendums can exist in Israel, I guess only if a majority of retired generals step in and make it happen. A far-right-wing military theocracy tends to respect the military’s policy more. In this way Israel seems similar to Pakistan. The generals/intelligence folks can do the math and project what’s going to happen much better than the politicians, and thus ensure the survival of the nation.
    I believe they are correct in approaching this through security. Paranoia destroys countries; if Israelis can accept that they have won the local arms race, then they can stand down and be ready for peace. The road back from paranoia is long and difficult, but it requires reality checks on security, and chilling out, to start. You get what you look for. The generals and the intelligence agents are wise to gently push this forward. Change comes from within. I sincerely wish them the best.

  32. Daniel Nicolas says:

    Agreed — Trump is willing to make a deal, wants to become friends with Russia. He mentions it routinely in his rally speeches.

  33. turcopolier says:

    My apologies to Sir Max Hastings. I had confused him with another historian with a similar name. pl

  34. jld says:

    The Russians appear to be at the limit of the resources they have available.


  35. Bill Herschel says:

    The U.S. has had essentially no luck “taking off the training wheels” in its various military adventures. Iraq and Afghanistan (the longest “war” in American history come to mind. Russia on the other hand successfully took off the training wheels in Chechnya and are close to being able to in Ukraine.
    Currently, they are seeing what it is like if the training wheels are removed in Syria. Obviously, the answer is annihilation of the SAA and the Syrian government. They have gathered all the intelligence they need, in particular about their enemies (“partners”), and will proceed to help the SAA.
    All that is one interpretation. What recommends it is the underlying idea that nothing that is happening is a surprise to the Russians. I strongly believe that. I don’t think the lights are burning late at night in the Kremlin with Lavrov and Putin slapping their foreheads saying, “OMG, the SAA can’t handle this on their own!”

  36. LondonBob says:

    Interested to see the Koch brothers sponsoring this conference. I had read they weren’t Trump friendly.
    No neocons invited and the event got duly smeared.
    Anyway Trump has given realists an opening so it is good to read people are looking to exploit it.

  37. SmoothieX12 says:

    “The Russians appear to be at the limit of the resources they have available.”
    Says who? My guess would be that Russia barely used even 20% of resources available for Syria, should the push come to shove. Russia is maneuvering with resources and prefers for now to keep in mind Ukraine and NATO. As I stated many times here and elsewhere, Russia views Syria’s war as the war which must be fought by Syrians. Russia provides crucial help. Many in Syria’s top military brass would like nothing better than have Russians fighting on the ground for them. Syria’s government and military are NOT monoliths–this is a very serious strategic factor too.

  38. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The war in Syria was always about hurting Iran; its instigators are hurting themselves and their collation-of-the-willing in this endeavor and things could and would go much further for them – without a doubt.

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There was no political content to the “Arab Peace Initiative” – it was just useless Arab propaganda.
    I think may be if Israelis withdraw to the last well-defined and internationally recognized borders in 1948, then Iranians and many other Muslims may very reluctantly agree to accept her existence in political terms – but not in the religious terms that some many Israelis seem to pine for; i.e. State of “the Jewish People”.
    But I do not believe that Israelis will or can withdraw to 1948 borders – the only legal borders under the so-called International Law – and, to, at the same time, evict at least Eastern Jerusalem. There are very many Jews, inside and outside of Israel, for whom control over a dis-united Jerusalem is an emotional article of faith.
    I cannot credit this last letter from so-called Israeli generals – likely it is another gimmick by them – just as Oslo was and the various incarnations of the “Peace Process” which was, in reality, a process of stealing more land from Palestinian Arabs – Christian or Muslim.
    I think the only realistic path forward is to agree to a long-term cease fire between Islam and Zionist Judaism (and its enablers among the Western Diocletian populations).
    Such a long-term cease-fire – say for 99 or 199 years – would help immediately improve the lives of Palestinian Arabs – they would not be wantonly murdered, humiliated, denigrated by Israelis and can go about their lives.
    For Western Diocletian states, such a cease-fire deal would ameliorate their persistent, insidious, pernicious, and damaging confrontation with the world of Islam on behalf of Zionist Judaism.
    Those who speak of Two-State Solution or “Acceptance of Israel” are only supporting more war and more bloodshed, in my opinion.

  40. Bandolero says:

    From what I saw in the past five years rebel PR videos showing the “rebels” as “revolutionary” force were – since the beginning of the war – often deliberately produced to display them as a rag tag people’s force.
    However, sometimes the rebels look completely different. Have a look for example at this image extracted from a video from well known “Jeish Fatah” propagandist Moaz Al Shami showing some of the allegedly Al Qaeda-led forces that conquered Al Eis just south of Aleppo six weeks ago:
    The video from which this screenshot was taken was soon after deleted, but to me as a layman these “Al Qaeda guys” look quite professional and well equipped, eg with radio helmets. Such professional-style loking types seem to be always there, but they seem to be very camera-shy.

  41. different clue says:

    Babak Makkinejad,
    I don’t believe Oslo was a gimmick to the Rabinists who co-negotiated it from the Israeli side. I don’t believe Rabin viewed it as a gimmick. Netanyahu and the Revisionists certainly believed that Rabin took it seriously. That is why Netanyahu and the Likudists worked so hard to engineer a political climate/ force field in which a “plausibly deniable” “lone gunman” could be “inspired” to murder Prime Minister Rabin. And there is strong reason to believe that Revisionist elements within the Shin Bet helped instigate and engineer that assassination. Here is a blog post about that.
    Of course it does little practical good to exhume these memories and this record now. The Likudists who viewed Oslo as a genuine threat to Greater Israel have long since buried that threat, along with the Rabin they helped to assassinate.
    Do the Lesser Israel Two-State Solutionists even have the power any more to take over government power in Israel and accept the Civil War which would come if they moved to round up at gunpoint and march back into Lesser Israel all the 500,000 illegal outlaw settlers in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights? Because that would have to be the first Confidence Building Measure that a Lesser Israel government would have to take unilaterally before any Palestinians would even think about a Two State Solution from their end. The second unilateral Confidence Building Measure that Lesser Israel government would have to take would be to repeal the Annexation Legislation against East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. And again, it would take victory in a Civil War for the Lesser Israeli forces to be able to force an Israeli government into repealing those annexation laws.

  42. different clue says:

    Ghost ship,
    That’s a question Trump should ask Hillary very loudly and clearly, over and over and over again, in the election campaign.

  43. SmoothieX12 says:

    “All that is one interpretation. What recommends it is the underlying idea that nothing that is happening is a surprise to the Russians”
    Reputation of Arabs in USSR/Russia re: combined arms warfare is extremely low. I remember speaking in 1984 in Libya with one of the Soviet military advisers (he was there dealing with Air Defense), in Tripoli, in Soviet embassy’s restroom no less–we were drinking some whiskey (obviously a “contraband” in the land where it was forbidden). He was adamant in his view on the issue. Luckily for him he was preaching to a choir, since my naval academy taught for decades people from Arab nations (Syria included), some of my relatives taught them–not too good of impression. While there is no denial that there are very courageous and capable people, the overall picture with Arab militaries is always not very promising.

  44. Akira says:

    Are there even enough “alawites” left in Syria for this to be true?
    Is your student using the term to mean the whole branch of the Shia that identifies with the term “Alawite” or the Nusayri-alawites specifically?

  45. Akira says:

    @What the russians are doing:
    Within last 24 hours, truce agreements with representatives of 3 inhabited areas in the Aleppo province have been achieved.
    The total number of inhabited areas, the leaders of which had signed reconciliation agreements, has reached 125.
    Negotiations on joining ceasefire regime have been continued with field commanders of armed opposition detachments active in the Homs and Damascus provinces.
    The number of ceasefire application forms signed with leaders of armed groupings has remained 60.

  46. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your comments.
    I think the Peace Treaty with Egypt was another gimmick, they succeeded in separating Egypt from Syria; without Egypt there could be no war.
    They assiduously avoided the provisions of the Camp David Accords regarding Palestinian Autonomy – which was likely a sop for gullible Americans that peace was just around the corner – and prepared and executed the invasion of Lebanon; I supposed imagining themselves Little Julius Creasers in Gaul.
    Am I now to believe in the existence of another set of unicorns, known by the phrase: “Lesser Israel Two-State Solutionists”?
    I think not.
    May be if one is privy to conversations in shuls, one can determine the truth of the matter. I certainly can only see a bird that walks like duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck.

  47. The Beaver says:

    The Chihuahau choir boy Mohamed Alloush – leader of Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) has resigned as the Syrian opposition negotiator:

  48. Serge says:

    As a general update on what is happening on this front, ISIS seems to be consolidating the surprise gains it made over Friday. Sporadic minor probing attacks on both Marea and Azaz since then, the only two populated rebel pockets left now that the village to the immediate west of Marea was graciously put under the protection of the SDF, also on Friday. Minor attacks on both towns/cities have been carried out by ISIS sleeper cells, to great success, to the point of the Azaz pocket supposedly drafting a sharia court order forbidding the entry of refugees from Marea for fear of agents infiltrating into the city. IMO ISIS is spoiling for a fight with the weakest of the Kurdish cantons, and who is Erdogan to stop them in this case. I would be interested as to what the Turks would do with the 150K+ potential refugees currently packed into this small strip of territory in the event of their streaming over the (currently blockaded??-I am unaware of the specifics on freedom of movement) border

  49. Barish says:

    Not just that, RuAF’s gloves are off again as far as the “moderates” are concerned:
    With the PR-division of that lot shrieking as bad as when RuAF entered the scene back in October ’15.
    While that is going on, this was announced as well:
    Onward to Tabqa then? Or clean up this while all that force is gathered in Ithriyah?
    The maps there tend to be slightly on the very optimistic side of things as regards SAA-control of the wastes in the area, recent capture of the village Huvaysis to al-Shaar’s immediate south-west does point to ISIL slowly losing their grip here. That reestablishing control of al-Shaar was put on hold may also give credence to reports that ISIL demolished the infrastructure there rather than aim to maintain it intact.

  50. MartinJ says:

    My understanding is that the SAA – including the Tiger Forces – are being purposefully divided in two. One half of the “liwa” will be fighting in one place, and the other half will be either resting or about to be deployed to another front quite distant from the rest of their unit. The simple reason for this is to mitigate the chances of a coup.
    This is probably the reason why it appears that the Tiger Forces can be seen fighting on one front then “suddenly” appearing in another place soon after. It is the same larger force but not the same soldiers.
    And the soldiers themselves are mostly Sunni and their officers likewise Sunni. They are not from a small, limited pool of Allawites at all.

  51. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    After the 6 day war, there is a meeting an which the Czech (many Arabs prefered Czech or East German instruction/education over Soviet education, because they did not wish to give the USSR too much leverage and because both Prague and East Germany had better living conditions and more fun parties) general staff asked the Czech instructors for Arabs in how they could improve Arab performance the quickest. After much uhmming and ahiing, one mildly pissed of instructor (who was the guy who had to deal with arab officer incidents concerning the local population) stated “well, the quickest and cheapest way to improve them is to shoot them.”
    Reply from the top “While that would work, it is politically incorrect”.
    The thing is, the Arabs are pretty good at the individual level, they can be quite brave and determined, but everything starts to go down really hard at Batallion level and above.

  52. The Beaver says:

    According to AlArabiya, chihuahua Saudi FM wants to send troops to Syria !!!
    Wonder which one – the hired mercs or good saudi one.

  53. SmoothieX12 says:

    Correct, battalion level, or any level requiring serious interaction with complex technology, even when of “monkey model” variety. Colonel Norwell Atkine wrote a sensible treatise called Why Arabs Lose Wars, albeit he made a very wrong connection between Soviet military school (he, obviously, operated with beaten to death cliches) and Arabs’ lack of ability with combined arms warfare. I remember my encounter with one of the Algerian cadets of my academy. He was “exiled” from Ecole Navale in Brest, where he studied, for pretty rowdy behavior, if my Alzheimer doesn’t fail me (it has been almost 35 years). He was from pretty rich family and was, actually, very sophisticated and well-read guy. Pretty self-deprecating sense of humor too–he openly stated that to teach Arab to fight modern war is a waste of time. He, actually, liked Baku very much and was impressed with the level of teaching in my academy. Obviously, they didn’t study what we were studying–good half of our auditoriums and whole class buildings was beyond their reach literally and figuratively. I only remember one occasion on which cadets from East Germany (GDR) were allowed a highly limited tour of facility where the complexes for strategic missile submarines were located. They were in awe after that. The rest of foreign contingent–verboten. But once in a while we had contacts and talked to each-other, Arabs and us. With Germans and Cubans it was totally different thing, especially with Germans–real buddies, awesome guys.

  54. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I think it’s a fundamental problem that goes beyond semantics.
    In case of the Israeli “occupation,” the disparity of forces is such that, even if all Israeli military troops in West Bank and around Gaza left today, they can all come back tomorrow–and in case of Gaza, they did do exactly that a few times already, after they pulled out. So whether Israelis are physically there or not, the “occupation” never ends. (and to be fair, I don’t think any Israeli government can completely abandon its security interests in West Bank or around Gaza.)
    Likewise, the Palestinian leaders can “recognize” Israel 10,000 times over. Yet, everyone knows that the average Palestinian on the street does not, at least not to Israel’s satisfaction, which means that they will cease militant resistance/hostility to Israel and its people. (and to be fair, I don’t think any Palestinian can honestly recognize Israel’s interests to the satisfaction of Israelis.)
    So a “final” compromise will require the kind of concessions that neither can make except on paper. As such, no final compromise can be reached. I think many people here have opined that a 50 year ceasefire is both a good idea and the only practical solution that is possible between Israel and Palestine, with the hope that enough trust and goodwill can spring up over that period. Of course, Israel and Egypt have enjoyed that kind of ceasefire for last 40 years and, while they are exactly friends, I don’t think they are ready to start fighting any time soon…and that has to be an improvement.

  55. kao_hsien_chih says:

    For Egypt, the peace treaty with Israel wasn’t exactly a gimmick either: they got a pretty good relationship with the US, coupled with a substantial military and economic aid tied to maintaining peaceful relationship with Israel, which was really what they wanted in the first place (that and the Sinai, which was included). What Egypt did not get was a “final” settlement with Israel…but does anybody ever get a “final” settlement on anything? You get deals you and the other guy can live with for now, and what you make of those deals are, well, up to you.
    When Oslo happened, my reaction was that Arafat has just become the new King Herod to Israeli Rome, a client king continuation of whose job depends on whether he can keep the natives quiescent. I thought it was completely obvious then, but to this day, I find people on all sides to whom this made (and still makes) no sense….

  56. bth says:

    Here is an interesting economic report on Russian federal budget. I think it explains what Putin is up against and some practical limits on tertiary activities like the Syria campaign. Note Russian economy especially manufacturing continues on downward drift as budget deficit will require a mid-year spending correction downward again. Automobile sales at 10 year low.,-but-the-government%E2%80%99s-in-no-hurry

  57. bth says:

    Here is an interesting regarding Iran’s dilapidated Air Force. Of note, they only budgeted $5 million or so for maintenance. Also, they will have to acquire via Russia or China but nuclear treaty has a clause that requires international approval for 5 years. So IRGC is getting the budget boost and hyping missiles as more important than aircraft. I would imagine that Russia wants, and may need, to sell aircraft to Iran and it may be royally pissed that Iran hasn’t made the buy.

  58. bth says:

    Here is a strange article about Syrian diesel fuel trucking routes which had been blocked a week or so ago, but not appear to be being funneled through the Syrian Defense Forces. Why would the Kurds force the channeling of IS diesel through SDF territory instead of taking a cut themselves? Perhaps someone on the thread can add some clarity.

  59. SmoothieX12 says:

    If you consider Brookings and its Russian “experts”, such as Aleksashenko, who also revolves around the panopticon of imbeciles from Russian High School Of Economics (VShE) a viable source of knowledge, I have to ask the question what are you doing here, on the site which deals with facts mostly? Just to demonstrate to you how stupid Aleksashenko is, the phrase from his opus:
    “a steadily growing extractive industry and vigorously growing military-industrial complex (+15 percent in 2014 and +13 percent in 2015) keep the processing industry from bottoming out and ensure that industry shows better results than the economy as a whole.”(c)
    Most in Brookings (if not all), nor in US Russia “expert” community, including said Aleksashenko, can not possibly grasp what a significant observation that is. For people with financial degrees and with no experience with real economy, such as Aleksashenko, who is merely a crook bankster and shyster, it is normal to sell BS to a cabal of willing. Meanwhile, if you want to enlighten yourself on who Aleksashenko is:
    I will repeat, current state of Russia “expert” community in the West is beyond pathetic. It is, basically, a field occupied mostly by people who are:
    a) not real scholars;
    b) don’t know Russia’s history, especially of the 20th century;
    c) are mostly proponents of FIRE economy and never produced anything of value in their lives;
    d) are into it for all kinds of personal issues and grievances: from settling personal accounts through being simply socio and psychopaths.
    And this “community” for all intents and purposes is dead in any human or scientific senses.
    Now, the main question is, can you answer why the piece which I quoted from Aleksashenko’s pseudo-analysis blows the rest whatever he says out of the water? This will also answer the question why Brookings and its Russia’s “scholars” are a joke.

  60. bth says:

    So let’s see he was chairman of Russian central bank or Merrill Lynch Russia for about a decade and is an open advocate of judicial reform in Russia. The stats about multi-year pummeling of manufacturing sector in Russia (since Crimea) and 10 year low in automobile sales which is a pretty good indicator of the economic health of the average citizen. And the strong indication that Russia will have to revise budget downward again mid-year. Those aren’t facts in dispute. Putin is absolutely facing economic constraints that are likely impacting his range of options in Ukraine and Syria. Otherwise your comments were insulting and childish.

  61. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Otherwise your comments were insulting and childish.”
    Ah, so pointing out the fact that you use sources (and their so called “conclusions”) which are at best tendentious, for a variety of reasons, at worst–BS, as I openly pointed out, is now insult. Forgive me, kind Sir, but your “argument” such as “he was chairman of Russian central bank or Merrill Lynch Russia for about a decade”(c) precisely points out to a complete lack of understanding. Unlike you I have a very intimate knowledge of Russia of early 1990s and policies which were put in place precisely by people like Aleksashenko and, please, don’t tell me that genocidal economic policies of Gaidar and people around him were sensible policies. They were not. Mentioning Merrill Lynch or any other US shyster financial organization as a viable source of opinions on Russia is, frankly, preposterous. I, certainly, would have a blast “debating” any of their “representative” on fundamentals of Russia’s economy. Using Clausewitz’ dictum “It is legitimate to judge the event by its outcome for it is the soundest criterion”(c) not only irresistible but highly warranted. So, if economic catastrophe in Russia in 1990s, which was brought about by activity of such people like Aleksashenko, is any indicator then it seems only reasonable to, at least question, the competence of these people.
    Per “average” citizen, of whom you know again from the “sources” we discuss here, that is don’t know. Russia’s economic problems are precisely in following prescriptions of “liberal” economic block, represented by Medvedev’s cabinet of no clue monetarists who are not hanging by the neck on nearest lamp posts for one and only one reason–80% genuine Putin’s approval rating. So, you are trying to tell me that what Aleksashenko (and his ilk from VShE) stands for is not a problem, while in reality IT IS main, defining, problem with Russia’s economy. Great situational “awareness”. The “plummeting” of the manufacturing immediately after return of Crimea was largely precipitated by sanctions and clearing of the niches, which by now were filled (to a large extent) by domestic production. E.G. NPO Saturn developed the new set of power plant for Russia’s shipbuilding industry, the production of wide body passenger jets is resuming, PD-14 is finishing its trials ready to be put in series production and the list goes on and on, and on. Since operating with monetarist economic data is akin to reading Alice in Wonderland, and I am not here to lecture on Russia’s economy, the only viable indicator for people who operate with facts on the ground is the number of enclosed technological cycles which define the real strength of economy. I will omit my Russian sources and will use, in this case, western ones. Take a look at World Bank’s projections for Russia’s GDP:
    Then, try to ask yourself a question on what really matters in GDP: Monetarist (financial) “filling” or its structure? If you will not be able to answer it to yourself, try to answer the question I posted in my previous post–it has everything to do with our little discussion here. It also answers the question and addresses the problem of budget. I do not hope to read your answer to me. For decades, combined West failed time after time to identify what really makes Russia click, if you want to remain in the dark on this issue, be my guest, but please, do not post opinions of some mafioso “economist” as a viable knowledge and expect not to be countered. In conclusion, again, try to answer the question I posted in my previous post. I know if I would ask Aleksashenko to answer it–he will have aneurysm.

  62. The Beaver says:

    Two interesting items I have seen this week:
    First US asks Russia to not hit Nusra Front in Syria, Moscow says
    and according to AJ:
    In this web extra, Efraim Halevy tells Mehdi Hasan that he is not concerned that Israel had treated fighters in Syria from al-Nusra Front, which some say is al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch.
    “It’s always useful […] to deal with your enemies in a humane way,” Halevy says.
    So when will Congress ask for sanctions against Israel for helpinh AQ 🙁
    Playing with fire and now we just have to watch Yvet, the bouncer from Moldovia and Bibi’s defense minister

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