A storm out of Idlib


"The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has sent large reinforcements to northern Hama. By this move, the SAA aims to stall the advance of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its allies which are now deployed in about 6 kilometers from the provincial capital.

According to sources embedded with the SAA, a large number of Tiger Forces members was deployed to the Hama front from the eastern countryside of Aleppo. The newly deployed units were mostly fire support groups equipped with Grad BM-21 multiple rocket launcher systems and 2S19 Msta-S 152 mm self-propelled howitzers.

Furthermore, 5th Storming Corps units deployed in Palmyra were relocated to boost government defenses around Hama.

The 5th Storming Corps is well-equipped due to a sponsorship from Russia and has shown itself as a capable military force during the operations near Palmyra."  southfront


Well, pilgrims, the old turcopolier and TTG told the world that AQ (in all its inglorious manifestations) should not have been allowed to rest, recover and consolidate its position in Idlib Province after their expulsion from Aleppo City.

This offensive directed to the south from Idlib is the fruit of that badly flawed decision on the part of R+6.

Great things are being done in the east in the fight for Raqqa, but if Hama Province falls to the jihadis/unicorns a lot of that will count for little.  pl  


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27 Responses to A storm out of Idlib

  1. Dmcna says:

    Does anyone know of the degree of Turkish support for this offensive? Or whether it has been bolstered by any new delivery of weapons? Without either they have not succeeded in the past. The offensive could bring the focus back from the war to the needs of peace and prime amongst these is the clearing of the road to Aleppo.

  2. Willybilly says:

    You’re right all along…. Idleb risks being another Iskadaroun province…. the eyes of Sultan Erdogan are upon it and it ain’t looking good

  3. turcopolier says:

    Dmcna & Willybilly
    The Turkish intelligence channel support for this is rather likely. the significance of the announced Russian future base at Afrin in Kurdish held territory on the north flank of Idlib is unclear to me. pl

  4. Willybilly says:

    As far as I can tell, Russians have denied any basing in Afreen….

  5. Red Cloud says:

    I suppose one could argue that instead of recapturing Palmyra the SAA should have focused on Idlib.
    The same argument cannot be made for the advance in East Aleppo though. The water supplies to Aleppo absolutely had to be secured – there was just no other option. You can’t keep moving everyone back to their homes and rebuild the city if there’s not enough water.
    I bet the Syrian Government was trying to get some gas flowing again to relieve some of the shortages. I’m just glad I don’t have to make these decisions.

  6. ToivoS says:

    I have difficulty second guessing the SAA when they agreed to let all of those al Qaida fighters go to Idleb after they had been surrounded in various locations around Aleppo and Damascus. Those Islamist fighters have proven over and over again that they will die to the last man defending their positions as defined by their Imans. Destroying them by force would mean sacrificing many SAA soldiers. Of course,letting them go meant that were available to fight another day. It seemed reasonable to me that concentrating them into Idleb might make it easier to take care of them with artillery and bombing. Also it might allow the individual soldiers to rethink their commitment to Jihad and decide they didn’t have to die. And maybe try to escape to Turkey and try to find another life.
    In any case those R+6 guys had to make a very difficult decision. I suspect that Russia and Iran were thinking that they might convince Turkey to stop supplying those jihad forces and thereby weakon those concentrated forces in Idleb.

  7. turcopolier says:

    “might make it easier to take care of them with artillery and bombing.” That does not work. It never works. Given the chance to recover in a territory under bombardment a population and armed force recover their equilibrium and resume operations. On a grand scale Germany in WW2was under tremendous bombardment from US/British strategic air and continued to produce military materiel and to resist effectively. In fact it was able to generate a very large force for the Ardennes Offensive and for an effective air defense to include fielding the first operational jet fighters. territory must be occupied and forces defeated for victory to be achieved. pl

  8. Lemur says:

    hats off to you Col., you saw this one coming for quite some time.
    I wonder if launching the campaign from Aleppo into Idlib, which has been in the works for some time, would take pressure off the Hama front, or should all spare resources be committed to reversing Jihadi gains there?

  9. turcopolier says:

    I generally favor the indirect approach, so I would think that is where thre main attack should come from with secondary attacks from the west and south as TTG and I envisioned in the “Borders of Hatay” war game. pl

  10. b says:

    Agree with Red Cloud – water for Aleppo and gas from Palmyra surroundings were critical to the overall effort of the Syrian state. They had absolute priority.
    The Hama offensive, coordinated with an attack in east-Ghouta/Damascus and Deraa is a “Hail-Mary” by Turkey and the Gulf. They need something to have a role in the negotiations. Pictures were published of trucks delivering new missiles to the Jihadis. These must have come from Turkey. Anyway these offensives are now contained. They will be rolled back in few days or weeks.
    I for one had expected a bigger run by al-Qaeda and their “vetted moderate rebels” consorts. This is still a relatively small attack in brigade+ size – not the all out last stand of their whole force. Though one wonders how much that force has been decimated by the constant air attacks of the Syrian/Russian air forces as well as defections towards a presumably better land.

  11. turcopolier says:

    “Anyway these offensives are now contained.” Are they? We will now see. pl

  12. Larry M. says:

    Col. Lang,
    You have been proven right that failure to follow up the recapture of East Aleppo with an offensive into Idlib was a mistake by R+6, but I also agree with some of the commenters here that the decisions R+6 have to make are very difficult. As someone said on an earlier thread, the SAA is basically playing whack-a-mole, darting from Aleppo to Palmyra to Hama, because it is so desperately short of men.
    Tens of thousands of Syrians who could have filled the ranks of the SAA are now in Germany and other E.U. countries, applying for asylum or already settling in, thanks to Frau Merkel’s “Wir können es schaffen” which they correctly understood as meaning “Welcome”. Others are in refugee camps in Turkey, but for the military situation in Syria, the result is the same: the war drags on because the SAA is too weak to finish off Al Qaeda, ISIS and the other jihadis.

  13. turcopolier says:

    I am good at war, not always right but good at it. It is a shame to be good at something so cruel and destructive. BTW I do not believe in the reality of bloodless wars won by cleverness and maneuver. pl

  14. Thirdeye says:

    Quite fortunate that ISIS gave up Deir Hafir, giving more options on deployment of the Tiger Force. My guess is that they traveled light to get out of Dodge quickly and abandoned a lot of supplies. The Jirah airbase and the remainder of the Al Jar canal might be meaningful objectives, but the value of seizing Maskanah in the immediate future doesn’t seem to warrant much priority, especially with the developments in Hama.

  15. turcopolier says:

    b et al
    IMO it is s basic error in contriving and executing a military strategy to abandon during the war the objective to which one’s efforts were originally directed. This is quite different than the planning or execution of a campaign or a battle. In these efforts a maximum of flexibility is desirable. Not so in the overall conduct of the war which as has been said, the war is a continuation of national policy. As an example Hitler lost track of the basic idea that in Barbarossa the national purpose that he had in mind was the destruction of the USSR and Soviet communism, not the seizure of Ukrainian agricultural lands, not the Donbas industrial basin, not he petroleum of the north slop of the Caucasus. Because he lost track of the basic objective of the war he allowed the Red Army time and space in which to re-build itself and eventually crush the inherently smaller forces of Germany, especially since Germany had to divert military resources to such other diversions as France, Italy, etc. In the case of Syria the national objective has to be to complete the was in control of as much of the population in essential (i.e., western) Syria as possible. BTW don’t kid yourself about any sort of negotiation as a means of achieving an outcome to the war. The Syria government knows that if they are negotiated out of power they are dead men, one way or another. The rebels want noting but to achieve that end. All the Syrians know that and are just telling the foreigners what they must to appease them. In that light, no amount of water for Aleppo City, or petroleum that can eventually be exploited again make up for an advantage that was achieved by victory at Aleppo City that has been given up to Turkish adventurism across an open border at Hatay and resurgent jihadi/uicorn efforts in Hama and the east Damascus suburbs. Also BTW I have no “convictions” about any of this. The word connotes some sort of emotional involvement in analysis. pl

  16. Bandolero says:

    I disagree with your opinion that this “offensive directed to the south from Idlib is the fruit of that badly flawed decision on the part of R+6.”
    My opinion is that this jihadi offensive north of Hama is good for the R+6. The jihadis are proud they have already “liberated” 120 km2 with this offensive. But what I see is that many terrorists have left their human shield cover in the Idlib pocket. With this offensive a large chunk of terrorists claiming to be part of this jihadi offensive moved into freshly conquered territory void of any other human being. While in villages and towns of Idlib province it is difficult for the R+6 to hit terrorists hard while completely avoiding to harm civilians in the areas newly conquered by the terrorists north oh Hama it is easy. In these areas there are only terrorists, the population ran completely away when the terrorists conquered the villages.
    The terrorists claim about 6500 men are taking part in this offensive. These terrorists all want absolutely no peace, but die in combat. The Syrian army and their partners now have a great opportinity to fulfill many of them their wish without any civilians being caught in the middle – and the R+6 can use any heavy weapon in the arsenal as much as they want to accomplish that.
    After many of these 6500 hardcore terrorist elements met their creator the pacification of the Idlib province will likely become a lot easier.

  17. Peter AU says:

    The sultan and his dreams… I notice he is quite interested in the S-400 Putin has dangling like a carrot on a stick. Also he may be wondering if NATO will back him up if he gets plastered in Syria.

  18. FkDahl says:

    In Donbass the Ukrainian mechanized thrusts were ground down after being cut off and then decimated with artillery, but it was always the Ukrainians attacking. I would hope SAA and friends have this scenario in mind and sufficient force to seal off the jihadist attack (this I doubt) and heavy firepower to annihilate the pocket. That heavy Russian rocket artillery is awe inspiring.

  19. Thirdeye says:

    The BM30 Smerch (Tornado) MLRS is in Syria and is used on special occasions. It was used to help drive ISIS out of Palmyra.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Equivalent of trade goods and glass beads of yore. US did the same thing with nuclear technology & India…quite successfully….and she did not have to deliver the beads in any case…
    Once a Third Worlder, Always a Thrid Worlders…

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Here is a report in Persian:
    Syrian soldiers fled rather than fight on the first day. The second day, their performance was reported to have been less than stellar but at least the front has been stabilized.

  22. Ante says:

    By the looks of the fighters, with full molle gear, kneepads, matching uniforms, and artillery, this combined with the attacks near Damascus feel like a Turkish/CIA plan B. Rebels are claiming victory in Hama, gov sources say the lines have mostly held with nusra taking some lightly defended villages.
    Idlib is a cancer. The desire of the Syrians to retain their state by taking Deir e Zor and Raqqa is understandable, but as Pat has repeated, Idlib is a serious problem. The SAA could have at least put some pressure on them, Russia could have tried disrupting their lines from Turkey with bombing. We were all in general agreement.
    Letting a harried and defeated enemy regroup and rearm for months is not a decision I understand.

  23. turcopolier says:

    “feel like a Turkish/CIA plan B. Rebels are claiming victory in Hama, gov sources say the lines have mostly held with nusra taking some lightly defended villages.” Unless I learn otherwise I doubt that CIA continues to provide support for the AQ and unicorn groups. I would think that Trump has called them off. Pompaio ought to be able to do that. pl

  24. Red Cloud says:

    I would just like to point out that if the R+6 can reverse these gains in Hama without the head-choppers reaching the city they have accomplished what no one believed they could.
    They will have secured water supplies to Aleppo, cut off Erdogan’s forces in northern Aleppo, taken Deir Hafer and Palmyra and held them, repelled a massive assault in Qaboun/Ghouta, held Deir Ezzor, and contained the Idlib head-choppers all at the same time.
    ^ Did anyone here actually think all of that was possible?

  25. Bandolero says:

    I see no contradiction here. AFAIK the SAA calls this as elastic their defense concept. What worries me is that – if such reports are true – some Syrian civilians and military people were still surprised and avoidable victims of this terrorism happened.

  26. Ghostship says:

    FWIW I agree. Furthermore they have persuaded the U.S. to support Iraqi air attacks on ISIS in Syria and they seem to have got SDF/YPG and their American advisers moving on Raqqa with a bit more speed, it’s always good to get potential attackers preoccupied elsewhere.
    More generally, this is not WW2 and Al Nusrah are not the Wehrmacht/Waffen SS, although I don’t doubt there are hardened, skilled, dedicated fighters in its ranks.
    Letting the jihadists fight it out to decide who was top dog was a good idea, Al Nusrah (aka HTS) came out on top as expected so all jihadists in Idlb are now “associates” of Al Nusrah and so suitable targets, as Trump doesn’t seem to be interested in using them for regime change.
    Al Nusrah has very likely been heavily infiltrated by intelligence operatives, Syrian for domestic forces and GRU for foreign forces, so Syrian intelligence and the GRU know what is happening inside Al Nusrah with a high degree of confidence.
    The strategy of Al Nusrah seems to be set by its paymaster among the Gulfies and particularly with the private paymasters, the favoured tactic seems to be to produce the best videos to keep the funds coming. There’s one doing the rounds at the moment where the jihadists claimed to have destroyed two SAA tanks – it’s one tank sat on a lone transporter filmed from two directions.
    Russia’s problem is firstly the 2,000 odd Russian fighters with the jihadists in Syria. These need to be annihilated and their families persuaded to settle somewhere in the Gulfie states so it’s martyrdom for them. Additionally, the Russians need to kill as many western jihadists as possible so they, the Russians, don’t get blamed for any terrorist outrages in Europe or America even though it was the Europeans and Americans who supported the jihadists.
    I think we’re in the final stage of the war against Al Husrah in Syria. Traditional Russian doctrine suggests that the R+6 will create a cauldron in Idlib province. To do that the R+6 need to draw Al Nusrah forces away from the north of Idlib so that the they can put a lid on the cauldron along the Turkish border, to contain the jihadists and cut them off from re-supply. Before doing this, they needed to try to drag in as many jihadists as possible and if the suggestion of a transfer from Al Bab to Idlib is true, then they have succeeded. It might even be that Putin ordered Erdogan to make that transfer. Might be that the LoJacked ACV-15 were a sweetener from Erdogan who now the Syrian War has effectively been won needs to have all those jihadists cleaned up.
    Meanwhile, Russian soldiers have appeared in Afrin ostensibly to block any Turkish advances there but maybe it’s to acclimate Al Nusrah to the presence of Russian forces in Afrin in preparation for a very rapid build up prior to a move on the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing, closing what appears to be the only all-weather road into Idlib from Turkey.
    It seems that the SAA prepared for the Battle of Hama by building a defensive line just north of the city, that the SAA withdrew to when the Al Nusrah attack started which explains the initial rapid Al Nusrah advances. Now the killing begins in earnest with the area in front of the defensive line largely cleared of civilians.
    This all depends on the SAA holding the line north of Hama but it looks like Al Nusrah haven’t made any significant advances in the last 24 hours, but as usual Al Nusrah are trying to flog a dead horse back to life by sending more reinforcements south where the RuAF and SAAF are waiting for them.
    BTW, it looks like Sheikh Abdullah al-Muhaysini, the victor of East Aleppo, has returned to the battlefront. I’m always discouraged when such a fine military mind is on hand to give such valuable advice to Al Nusrah.

  27. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Iranian report states that the Syrian soldiers fled and that they were caught off guard and that reinforcements had to be rushed from the East to stabilize the front.

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