Syria Notes – 8 february 2018


On February 7, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, repelled a Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) attack on its positions in the southeastern Idlib countryside, according to Syrian pro-government sources. The SAA reportedly killed and injured several fighters of HTS and its allies during the clashes.

Additionally, Russian warplanes destroyed several headquarters and ammo depots of the so-called Free Idlib Army in the city of Maarrat al-Nu’man in the southern Idlib countryside, according to Syrian activists.

Syrian opposition sources revealed that thirteen Free Idlib Army fighters, including their general commander “Mohammad Abu Najib”, were killed in the Russian airstrikes on Maarrat al-Nu’man. Russian warplanes also destroyed more than four vehicles armed with anti-aircraft guns belonging to the group.  SF


 The SAA is rapidly eliminating jihadist forces in the East Hama pocket.  Bereft of a source of re-supply through encirclement the jihadis are being rapidly overrun and destroyed.  By the time of this writing that pocket may be altogether eliminated.  This will free up the forces involved to return to the attritional grinding process underway NW of Abu Duhur around the town of Tel Sultan.   The SAA made a decision to eliminate the East Hama pocket before continuing to the west into Idlib Province.  At their positions around Tel Sultan they had clearly gone past the culminating point of their drive to Abu Duhur and although they could have continued immediately, the risk of a sudden reversal brought on by exactly the kind of jihadi counter-attack now underway would have been great.   Wisely they decided to improve the odds in their favor and have reduced the East Hama pocket to their operational rear and are bringing up more logistical support before continuing into Idlib.  The wealth of air support available to them has been a great help in this.  When they re-commence forward movement I hope they share my view that a right hook to Al-Eis to roll up the jihadi flank south of the Aleppo City is the best course of action. pl



"A local militia was conducting reconnaissance actions in the area to detect and eliminate the ISIS cell when it was surprisingly shelled by mortars, rocket launched and then the US-led coalition’s attack helicopters. 25 militiamen were injured as a result of the attack."  SF


It appears to me thus far that the "troops" attacked were NDF militia from the area.  They are likely to be Arab tribesmen, heavily trained and advised by IRGC Quds force people and supported by SAA artillery and and armor.  These Arab tribesman are undoubtedly very hostile to the presence of the Kurdish SDF this far south of traditional Kurdish haunts.   The US is pursuing an enduring role in Syria and had previously warned the Russians and through them the SAG that intrusions east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor Province would be met by force.  This does not bode well for future US/SAG relations.  US and Iranian hegemonic ambitions are nose to nose in Eastern Syria.  pl


 "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the recent statement by the head of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, regarding a potential meeting between Ankara and Damascus.

“What would we talk about with a murderer who has killed a million of his citizens,” Erdogan said in his address to mukhtars— heads of Turkish villages and neighbourhoods—at the presidential complex in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, as quoted by TRT World."  AMN


The sultan is pretending to be motivated by concern for the Syrian peoples.  Nonsense.  He sees the opportunity to weaken Syria in pursuit of some future de facto annexations in northern Syria.    Unfortunately for him the TSK is not doing well in establishing "facts on the ground" to support such ambitions.  At the same time, the Turks are positioning small bodies of troops at Al-Eis, Idlib City and Saraqib supposedly to implement the Russian/Iranian/Turkish de-escalation agreement on Idlib Province but IMO their real purpose is to obstruct SAG recovery of the province.  pl

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33 Responses to Syria Notes – 8 february 2018

  1. Steve McIntyre says:

    during Feb 8, it looks like most of the ISIS pocket was extinguished. Very rapid work.

  2. Walker says:

    There has been a crescendo of propaganda against Syria lately. Poorly supported claims from Nikki Haley about poison gas. (Haley has the gall to say “we cannot and should not forget the Syrian people”, as though that was an American priority). Loud appeals about East Ghouta “drowning in blood”. An announcement that the killing of an estimated 200 “pro-regime” troops on the Euphrates was “was taken in self-defense”.
    I’m writing my Congressmen and the President today. The US should not be in Syria.

  3. Lincolnite says:

    Erdogan has made an interesting speech duly reported in Hurreyet.
    I took particular note of the following;
    “He also claimed that Turkey has “wasted the last two centuries with sacrifices” and has “lost around 5 million square kilometers” of land once ruled by the Ottoman Empire, suggesting that the “same powers” today consider the current size of the Republic of Turkey to be “too much for Turks.”
    “They have forced us so much that in the end they have awakened a sleeping giant. They should know this. The Turkish people are advancing to a new era. No state or international organization can question the power of Turkey any more,” Erdoğan said.“

  4. Today a number of events appear to be escalating the probability of conflict in and around Syria.
    1) US ‘Defensively’ Bombs Syrian Army, Kills 100 of Its Soldiers
    Also reported here:
    BREAKING: US bombs Syrian military east of Euphrates river
    According to one report, the “attack” was merely some artillery shells falling within 500 meters of the SDF headquarters which the US then used as an excuse to attack the Syrian military. Possibly one SDF soldier was wounded. The claimed 100 SAA personnel killed has been modified to maybe 25. It’s also unclear whether they were actually SAA or proxies.
    Alexander Mercouris piece suggests the actual motivation was to continue to try to prevent the SAA from establishing a “land bridge” from Iran to Syria (although as the Colonel has previously pointed out, this has already been mostly accomplished.)
    I am hopeless at Syrian maps, so perhaps someone could explain where and in what strategic context the attack location was.
    2) It is reported from various sources – but not as far as I can tell confirmed by Russia – that Russia is seeking a comprehensive military agreement with Lebanon.
    Russia’s new preemptive move in Lebanon
    Russian fleets control ports of Lebanon
    Apparently the draft of the agreement states that Russia wants naval access to Lebanese ports, plus military aircraft access to Lebanese airfields, and to allow Russian experts to train the Lebanese military as well as allowing Lebanese military personnel to access Russian military exercises.
    While this is in no sense a mutual defense treaty, I can’t help but feel that this is an attempt by Russia to warn off Israel from starting a new war with Lebanon, while at the same time attempting to not be seen as supporting Hizballah, which is regarded in some quarters as a “terrorist” organization.
    Recently Israel’s Lieberman warned Lebanon not to encroach on disputed maritime areas where gas deposits are located, threatening military action against any such. This provoked Hizballah to state that in the event of Israeli military action against Lebanese development efforts in these areas it would result in Hizballah targeting Israeli development efforts.
    Another analysis in the Israeli press suggested that Russia would stand aside from involvement in the next Israeli-Hizballah war and allow “Israel and Iran to bleed each other.” In my view this is somewhat wishful thinking on the analyst’s part. I think that Russia understands the purpose of Israeli aggression against Lebanon – i.e., an eventual war with Iran – and would prefer it not happen.
    The question remains how far Russia will go to mediate or involve itself in a future Israeli-Hizballah war, considering that such a war might be used as a vehicle for initiating a war between the US/NATO and Syria.

  5. turcopolier says:

    You can’t read maps? why can’t you? Is it some sort of genetic disability or have you not taken the trouble? IMO there were few SAA soldiers or IRGC killed in this infamous attack on SAG linked tribesmen. pl

  6. Maybe I’m just looking at the wrong maps but I can never tell where anything else in relation to the whole country. The maps I see always seem to show just a section of the area concerned in the report, but never in a strategic context. Or they show a map of the whole country, with the tiny area in question marked, but no other markers to indicate how this is related strategically to the positions of all the players.
    So I’ve basically given up as I have other things to do with my time than map interpretation.
    Thanks for clearing up that it looks like the personnel killed weren’t actual SAA.

  7. turcopolier says:

    “I have other things to do with my time than map interpretation” Ah, I see, you are too good to do what I do for you … You sound like Bill Clinton. pl

  8. Peter in Toronto says:

    Good point about the Turks punching well below their political weight class, and not being able to translate the bellicose noise generated by the Sultan at the top into actual military success. The Kurds continue to upload video after video of stationary Turkish armored vehicles being picked off with stand-off anti-tank missiles. The concept of a mechanized, maneuvering war seems to be beyond the organizational capabilities of the Turks.
    At this point, they seem hardly more effective than the Arab and Kurdish militias opposing them, with the exception of access to F-16s.

  9. different clue says:

    Peter in Toronto,
    ( reply to comment 9)
    Perhaps the anti-Kemalist purges against the Turkish Armed Forces went so broad and deep as to purge out whole sections of planning and organizational capability.

  10. Heh, now that’s a real insult, comparing me to Bill Clinton. LOL At least you didn’t compare me to Hillary. 🙂

  11. has a longer article on the fight between Assad forces and the SDF.
    US Scrambles Firepower to Defend SDF Against Pro-Assad Forces
    Still talking about how they “there to fight ISIS”, as if they mattered…
    “We’re trying to de-escalate, “Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, told on June 26. sat down with the commander at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, as part of a reporting trip to observe air operations against the Islamic State.
    During an interview in his office, Corcoran underscored, “We’re here to fight ISIS,” but he also pointed to a map of Syria and Iraq to outline areas as “red,” or controlled by the Islamic State.
    “It’s pretty clear that at some point the ‘red’ is going to go away,” he said, “and we’re going to have state-on-state” forces fighting. “ISIS is a sideshow … but what happens when the [other] two meet? Strategically, when ISIS goes away, that’s the real issue.”
    End Quote
    No kidding that’s the real issue, dude. And he has a funny way of “de-escalating”…

  12. kooshy says:

    FYI, with regard to this latest US attack in DZ Tasnim ( has a reporter in field) News of Iran, is reporting 3 Hezbollah fighters, a few Russian contracting advisers and a number of Syrian Tribesman have been killed in this attack. So far they are not reporting any Iranian was killed.

  13. Walker says:

    Ah, I see, you are too good to do what I do for you … You sound like Bill Clinton.

  14. Pvp says:

    Try this site:
    It shows recent events on a map which zooms in and out so you can easily see how it relates to the whole country. Amazing.

  15. John_Frank says:

    In other news, according to multiple reports, about midnight local time, the Turkish air force began launching air strikes on various positions in and around Afrin city.

  16. Peter AU says:

    A number of differing reports as to the number and who were the victims of the US attack. A number of reports saying ISIS hunters were included in the victims.
    Who are the ISIS hunters? As far as I know, they are a Russian trained unit of the SAA. Volunteers that Russia trained up. From what I read just recently, they are from the Deir Ezzor region?

  17. Peter AU says:

    One from the ISIS Hunters unit killed in the US attack named here.

  18. blowback says:

    Somehow I think it unlikely the SAA will be heading north behind the HTS forces facing Aleppo. The R+6 have opened an corridor from the North Hama Pocket into the Idlib pocket and the SAA is now herding ISIS along the corridor towards Idlib with ISIS already fighting HTS in the Idlib pocket. I guess while ISIS is fixing HTS in place the SAA will consolidate their forward defences, take a couple of weeks R&R, and re-arm/re-equip before launching another encirclement of the ISIS pocket and all the HTS forces facing ISIS. A few more iterations and the Idlib Pocket will be liquidated.

  19. LeaNder says:

    dc, I don’t have the slightest idea how both Kemalists and AKP members/supporters look at Middle Eastern matters from a long time perspective? … In any case, seems they weren’t that fond of Iraq war propaganda either? Who else besides, France, Russia and Germany?
    US elites may have ignored Turkish interests for much longer. …
    I never looked too closely into Sibel Edmond’s experience/story but she surely comes to mind in the larger context.
    On a private note. We have Carnival over here. Was shopping yesterday loads of “Narren”/jesters around. Costumed people. A costume gives you a chance to encounters outside your usual (multiple?) everyday roles. Came to mind: The FBI costume gives you freedom to check people out. Meaning approach them in more humorous ways.
    From the little I saw FBI costumes both male and female and male bears seemed to dominate the scene. 😉

  20. turcopolier says:

    you have had a good time twisting my words to fit your pre-conceptions. What I advocate after a period of re-fitting and re-supply is to roll up the flank of the jihadis south of Aleppo, not to maneuver into their rear. pl

  21. Cube says:
    That’s a link to a post by an activist that lives outside of Latakia somewhere, showing how one of her neighbors was killed in the US ‘defensive’ attack. Her numbers are a bit off, but I think that’s understandable for someone in that position.
    The man was in the Syrian Army, not part of a tribe east of the Euphrates.
    Other Syrian pro-government activists are claiming there were other soldiers from Latakia killed in this attack.

  22. Fred says:

    Seeing those in Refugee costume allows one to practice the art of self-deception while signaling one’s superior virtue. Lots of things far worse than bears arrive on that most virtuous of paved road.

  23. turcopolier says:

    I didn’t write that there were NO SAA soldiers present or killed in this action. You are twisting my words. pl

  24. turcopolier says:

    It was a bedrock feature of Kemalism that there would be NO interventions outside the Turkish Republic. pl

  25. blowback says:

    I assumed you meant that the SAA would head almost due north from Tell Touqan through Banes then towards Al-Eis. The front line according to Wikimapia skirts the Matkh Swamp and then crosses the Qinnasrin Plain which appears to be a former lakebed, At this time of year that means mud and although the Russians have a very good understanding of mud in warfare, I assumed they’d try to avoid it if launching an offensive. The first minor road to the west of the front line is never more than about 3 km. from the front line marked on the map below and it crosses flat ground that appears drier but with a few more villages for HTS to fortify.

  26. Barbara Ann says:

    It appears that the SAA have indeed opened the bag & let ISIS ‘escape’ into the Idlib pocket. They appear to be getting a warm reception from the “Repel the Invaders” op. room – the latest amalgam of Jihadis there.

  27. LeaNder says:

    Colonel, thanks for the feedback.
    Obviously I have not the slightest idea of the larger Turkish/Syrian/Iraqi/Iranian context as concerns Kurds. As you know. Both Syria and Iraq no doubt surfaced in news over the centuries. I would be lying if I pretended I paid much attention to it before … 9/11? … Horseshoes?
    Fred, got your joke. I surely understand your concerns to a growing extend. Not sure to what precise extend we overlap otherwise? #metoo, a bit maybe? Of course it wouldn’t be easy nowadays to figure out how to dress up as refugee. If it ever was, beyond face colors. Apart from the occasional tan visible more recently on my own home ground, they seemed to look and dress act like me.
    Although, yes maybe not the “Turkish people generally”, as a coherent group? Maybe? Especially some of their wives. Looking back on a closer early invitation for meal encounter which made me aware of their pretty restricted roles. Invitation for a meal with a male friend, which as female make me feel strange 1971/2?. I found myself in the same role as the males. A women placed on a stool on the door seemingly waiting for even the tiniest signal from me to rush to the kitchen were the rest of the females were busy to get me whatever I needed.
    But yes, I may always have been bad at neatly differentiating between let’s say, white, beige or “olive”. I do get what yellow meant, once upon a time. And a little bit of history. E.g. in Russia.
    Concerned, yes. Were would refugees figure on a x y axis of concerns? Haven’t too deeply reflected on it, but in the higher section, by now.
    gone for a while.

  28. different clue says:

    ( reply to comment 20),
    People were wearing FBI costumes? The only “FBI” I know of is the FBI here in America. Do you mean there were people at the festival wearing very gray suits and ties, maybe holding notebooks or tape recorders, moving around in groups of two, asking people questions and writing down answers, etc.?

  29. Barbara Ann says:

    That article seem to be based on this announcement. My machine translation of it ends with

    The General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces affirms its determination and determination to continue its military operations in the face of terrorist organizations and to thwart the schemes of their sponsors and supporters, based on their national and constitutional duty to restore security and stability to all the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic

    That seems at odds with the impression given by AMN that “..all operations in the Idlib and Aleppo governorates have concluded..”. I’d be very surprised if a longtime ceasefire is on the way – that would amount to a surrender of Idlib.

  30. Peter AU says:

    Starting to become clearer who was hit in the US attack at Deir Ezzor.
    “…It has since become apparent that dozens of Syrian troops were killed in the air attack and whilst many of the fallen troops belonged to the National Defence Forces (Syrian national paramilitary), others also belonged to the elite ISIS Hunters detachment.
    Recently, a funeral was held at the town of Al-Suqaylabiyah for ten of the ISIS Hunters soldiers killed in the US airstrikes – many of them were Christians (which photo evidence below shows).”

  31. Poul says:

    The IS pocket in Hama is gone. IS succeed in breaking through army lines and enter Idlib but not without paying a price. So maybe it was according to plan seen from the Syrian Armys side.

  32. Poul says:

    It seems that the IS troops who broke out from the pocket have thrown themselves at the mercy of their fellow Jihadis.

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