“Hezbollah, Iraqi forces poised to help Syrian Army capture Baghdad-Damascus Highway” AMN


"Over the course of ten days, hundreds of Hezbollah and Iraqi paramilitary fighters have poured into the southeastern countryside of Damascus, taking up positions alongside the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and their allies.

The Iraqi paramilitaries, comprised of fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd Al-Sha’abi), greatly outnumber the Hezbollah forces in southern Syria and for good reason.

Similar to Hezbollah’s field operations along the Lebanese border from 2013-present, the Iraqi paramilitaries are poised to not only secure the Baghdad-Damascus Highway, but also, seal the border from any jihadist forces.

Elements of the Popular Mobilization Units have been inside of Syria for 15 months, with the initial forces deployed to Damascus (Sayyida Zaynab area), Aleppo, and Deir Ezzor.

The Popular Mobilization Units will now have much more responsibility inside Syria, as the government in Damascus hopes their participation will help eliminate the last remnants of the Islamic State (ISIL) inside the country.     AMN


The map above is labeled "eastern countryside of Suweida Governorate"  It shows the advance of combined R+6 forces to the east from Suweida Governorate and the Jebel Druze.  The map shows the distance from the advanced positions as 133 km.  This has probably changed since the map was drawn.

In the last days we have seen the movement of Iraqi Shia Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) to the Iraqi border with Syria in the al-tanf area even as the confrontation of Iraqi PMU continues in al-bukamal border area to the east of al-tanf.  The SAG government now states that it hopes to see the Iraqi PMU play a larger role in the war against the Sunni extremists.  If that is so, then what form will that assistance take?  Will the Iraqi PMU advance across the frontier to relieve the long besieged and hard fighting Syrian government of deir al-zor?  The distance from al-bukamal is not great and this would be a significant contribution to the defeat of IS in the struggle the R+6 coalition is waging to preserve multi-confessional government in Syria

Yesterday a group of 60 Norwegian soldiers, present in Iraq to conduct training were moved to the al-tanf border crossing from Syria into Jordan.  They are present WITHOUT the permission of the sovereign government of Syria.  Why are they there?  My conclusion is that they are there to strengthen the "trip-wire" provided by US and UK troops intended to dissuade the R+6 from overrunning al-tanf to restores SAG control of that piece of the border and block the US coalition's likely attempt to build a "redoubt" in SE Syria.

At the same time it is now known that the Turkish government has begun training yet more FSA fighters in the part of Syria that Turkey occupied in its recently completed offensive in northern Syria.  That offensive toward central Syria ended IMO only because its further progress was blocked by the SAA and SDF forces.  The Al-Qa'ida branch in Syria is now called Hayat Tahrir al0-Sham (HTS).  Even they have concluded that the most likely use to be made by the Turks for these new forces is in an invasion for Idlib Governorate.  If this occurs and a "resistance" redoubt is also created in SE Syria, the stage will be set for a final drama in Syria.  pl  


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52 Responses to “Hezbollah, Iraqi forces poised to help Syrian Army capture Baghdad-Damascus Highway” AMN

  1. This is a statement from the twitter feed of Wael Al Hussaini (@WaelHussaini), a half Lebanese half Syrian who now contributes to Russian Insider. “Sources: units of the “Russian 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade” are being deployed in #Syria to participate in #OpLavender” I’ve seen nothing else on this, but it will be one hell of a development if true.

  2. S.E. says:

    Norway has 60 soldiers in Iraq on a training mission, and 60 soldiers in Jordan in a mission surrounded by much secrecy, supposedly training and supporting rebels in Syria who “only fight IS”. The Iraqi-based soldiers is not to take part in fighting, but the Jordan-based group might. I hope for some more news on this in Norway, but so far the government has been very tight lipped.

  3. turcopolier says:

    Operation Lavender is the relief of deir al-zor? pl

  4. Gene O. says:

    What am I missing re: al-bukamal? My understanding is that the Iraqis, whether PMU or Iraqi Army would have to retake anah, rawa, and al-qaim before crossing the frontier. That is a tough going before they can pressure the daeshis in al-bukamal. Or is there a PMU thrust coming SE from deir ez-zor? Or coming SW from Nineveh province in Iraq? I have not seen any open source reports on those options.

  5. Gene O. says:

    Supposedly named after General Ali Khuzam who was KIA there.

  6. Barbara Ann says:

    If accurate, this is the best news I’ve seen in some time & surely a game-changer. With the PMU operating in cooperation with Assad’s forces we must be approaching checkmate for the Coalition. Attacking the PMU in Syria would immediately alienate their compatriots across the border and the Baghdad government. Such action by the US could then jeopardize it’s occupation of Irag, as well as their Syrian project.
    A trip-wire of, of all people; Norwegians, smells of desperation to me on the part of the Coalition. I interpreted their deployment as a reaction to Daesh’s demolition of a couple of radio masts on the Iragi side of the al-Tanf crossing (link in my comment in TTG’s Incident at Al-Tanf post). Norwegians seem like an odd choice for a trip wire too. The Norgy govt. is likely to ask too many questions if casualties are taken on Syrian soil (see S.E.’s comment in the Jebel Druze post). Wouldn’t the French or more obedient Brits have been a better choice?

  7. ambrit says:

    Would a Russian “Air Assault Brigade” automatically have state of the art anti-air units attached? If so, this is a pivotal move on the Russians’ part. “Put up or shut up.”
    These air units being mentioned here; do we know the mix of piloted versus remote controlled craft? (Would the shooting down of a drone “matter” as much as the shooting down of a piloted craft?)
    This next week bears watching.

  8. DougDiggler says:

    I don’t think the Norwegian public would be terribly pleased if their soldiers were killed in Syria on a mission that was illegal under international law and cannot be easily explained. I am referencing how Italy, Japan and Spain all opted out of the US “coalition of the willing” after sustaining losses in Iraq. However, I also feel that the degree to which NATO member states seem to be mere hostages to the More Powerful Member of NATO compared to 10+ years ago might mean that Norwegian outrage or anger amounts to nothing and the wishes of the Norwegian public amount to a piss in the wind compared to the needs and requirements of the Hyperpower. Anybody have anything to add to my thoughts or correct me if I am mistaken?

  9. Fred says:

    It looks like Turkey and Germany aren’t on the best of terms, though I don’t how this might affect developments in Syria (if it has any at all).

  10. BraveNewWorld says:

    I don’t see how the R+6 advances much further on al-tanf with out air support. The US has shown that it is willing to use theirs and the Russians have shown they aren’t if the air is contested.
    That leaves 3 scenarios as far as I can see. The R+6 abandon the op. Stopping isn’t an option as it would leave to many fighters twiddling their thumbs in the desert. They could progress but avoid al-tanf possibly leaving it besieged. But in that scenario the US will just slowly pick them off from the air. Third the R+6 keeps moving and we are into WW III.
    Cutting a cheque for nearly half a trillion dollars to the US sure has had the desired effect for the Saudis. I would love to hear what gets said about this behind closed doors at the NATO meeting.

  11. pl,
    Yes it is. It was named after a Republican Guards general who died at Deir Az-Zor, Ali Khuzam. Some part of his name translates to lavender.

  12. walrus says:

    the norwegians are not just any tripwire, they are a NATO tripwire. al tanf needs to be taken lest it become a forming up place (assembly area) inside Syria for a coalition force with the objective of establishing an eastern syrian protectorate.
    this is a legal fig leaf tactic in my opinion – if the force assembles inside syrian territory then it can be argued in the UN that no invasion has occurred since the force did not cross the border.
    judging by trumps riyadh speech,it now seems that the deplorables faith in him eschewing further war was misplaced.

  13. VietnamVet says:

    Options are narrowing. The coming Arctic War with Russia propaganda is coming from Northern Norway. Bordering Russia does something to the neighboring military. What is needed now is sanity. But the spreading millennial war between Sunnis and Shiites is drawing in Christians and Jews creating a mini World War. The Shiite militia drive to encircle remnants of the Islamic State and open a Damarcus Baghdad land supply line is violently opposed by Israel and the Gulf Monarchs. Somebody has to stand down or the NATO-Russian war will start in al-Tanf.

  14. turcopolier says:

    USMC has had contingency missions in northern Norway under existing approved plans for many decades. pl

  15. different clue says:

    I listened to that speech. At first it was a stylistic pleasure to listen to compared with the “flooded toilet gargling” from Obama.
    But the content became disturbing and disappointing when he referred to Iran as the source of all malign support for all malign terror in the region. He then referred to parts of the R + 6 as terrorist militias which Iran must stop supporting. He also declared total support for Saudi efforts to widen and deepen the mass-atrocity war against Yemen. (Though he saw it as yet more opposing the Evil Iranians’ evil Houthi Militia.)
    Can the R + 6 wipe out the rebellion before President Trump can tip the balance decisively in favor of the Global Axis of Jihad?
    He will pitch the big new arms deals as keeping his promise to job-doer America. In his own mind he will believe it. And in the narrowest sense it will be somewhat true for a few.
    I wonder how much of this is due to the legacy hatred for Iran held by National Security Director McMaster and others after all these years.

  16. Fred says:

    So NATO troops in a foreign nation without permission would trigger article five if attacked? Turkey then gets the go-a-head for an “on to Damascus” operation and calls in Germany to help. That’s rather humorous.

  17. ambrit,
    Russian combat brigades of all types have plenty of organic air defense and indirect fire units, far more than US combat brigades.

  18. Kooshy says:

    US is not worried or gives a F* what UN thinks or if his actions are legal according to international law, are you mixing yourself, did Iraq invasion was approved by UN or was it a ording to international law? What makes you think US has changed? Is having troops in Syria bombing Syrian army base on law or UN approval ?

  19. BraveNewWorld,
    Two Russian Su-30s flew cover for the advancing forces yesterday. I’m pretty sure Russian and Syrian air defense resources are also in overwatch.

  20. Barbara Ann says:

    Even with air support the trip-wire would be used to justify the Coalition going to war proper with SAA & it’s allies. A no-fly zone over SE Syria would follow and the US gets to carve up Syria. Well that’s the theory, I guess.
    The delicacy of this situation doubtless isn’t lost on the Russians. Perhaps they’ll accept the de facto deconfliction zone at al-Tanf & deal with it at a more favorable time.
    Al-Tanf is not critical to linking up with Deir Ezzor. The push from Palmyra can still cut off the MaT before it gets to the Euphrates. If they hit back with the TOW’s they claim to have I’d expect them to be introduced to the SyAF and RuAF. This seems to be the ROE – your proxies can attack your opponent’s proxies with impunity, but the principals’ forces are off limits.

  21. Phil Cattar says:

    Walrus,Ive talked to a lot of deplorables.They are not against all wars .If a war is fast,decisive and we win most deplorables will stand up and cheer.Or better yet, volunteer to fight if need be…Deplorables are against getting into a war where our hands are tied behind us , while the other side does whatever they want to…………….Most deplorables I know, know organically that war is hell like General Sherman said and cannot be fought being “politically correct”.

  22. robt willmann says:

    Donald Trump, the salesman, travelled to Saudi Arabia to close a sale claimed to be $400 billion or so. The surreal event of this morning (21 May), in the form of prepared speeches by “king” Shah Salman and Trump, sounded like an exhibit to George Orwell’s book, “1984”. One can only hope that on Trump’s part, it was simply the practice of saying anything to make the sale go through.
    Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, expressed the irony of it all–
    If the inflammatory accusations of this morning are any indication, they are likely unfortunately to continue when Trump goes to Israel, but who knows? The context is indeed different. Saudi Arabia sends money to the U.S. The opposite occurs with the U.S. and Israeli governments.
    Meanwhile, in Syria, the fog of disinformation appears to be lifting a little, as overt action on the ground is exposing the positions of the players a little bit.
    I need to find detailed maps of Syria; the one I have used does not have much in the way of roads and smaller towns and villages.

  23. Tel says:

    “Following Wednesday’s approval, Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide told local news agency NTB that because the anti-IS forces had exceeded expectations, it was “more important that coalition forces must also be able to train, advise and provide operational support to local groups on Syrian territory.”
    Can someone translate this for me? This is manager speak.

  24. Lemur says:

    No, that was mostly the the alt-right element among the deplorables. The civic nationalist/Breitbart crowd, who are the most prolific Trump faction, are extremely interested in fighting what they perceive to be necessary wars. For them, Libya was unnecessary. Tightly containing Russia was not considered a priority. These commitments got in the way of fighting Zionist Jew wars, ‘threats’ to Jews being the criterion of necessity.
    Never forget (and I say this as someone who deeply sympathizes with ‘fly-over country’ and its political disposition) a substantial compliment of the Republican base pine for confrontation with the Shia state. Hostility to Israel or Saudi Arabia, regardless of their machinations, is considered synonymous with an attack on the US itself.
    Conservative Tree House, which is a stout defender of ‘President Trump’ (they ALWAYS include the honorific) frequented by what I would characterize as the grassroots supporters, is singing the praises of Trump’s demarche in Arabia. They’re tickled pink about the pomp and pageantry laid on by the obsequious bevvy of royalty. They feel the previous incumbent failed to elicit such ‘respect’ owing to America.
    Unlike the diffident Obama, they see Trump taking firm, concrete steps to roll back yet another freedum hating ‘Evil Empire’ in the form of Iran. CTH believes Trump is creating a ‘Peace and Freedom’ coalition in the ME, contra the traitorous Obama who ‘sold out’ to the Mullahs in Tehran. Had Hillary Clinton won she would have immediately given the nuclear codes to Iran, don’t you know! The Democratic Party is Iran’s stooge in Washington! Fortunately President Trump put a stop to that little game! Those of us who critique Trump from the Right sometimes call this thinking ‘error push’. It’s where a position is adopted simply because a hostile ‘tribe’ are perceived to hold the opposite view.
    Iran’s actions are never assessed in the light of Saudi and Israeli behavours, which are considered apriori correct. Such is the the logic of the mind inculcated with Zionist premises.

  25. MSimon says:

    I think the Israeli gas pipeline to Europe will be a game changer. Russia seems to think so too.

  26. Stumpy says:

    Can’t vouch for accuracy, but probably a representative summary of composition.
    Brigade units:
    2 Air Assault Battalions
    Airborne Battalion
    Artillery Battalion
    Military Transport Aviation Squadron
    Support units
    Source: http://military.wikia.com/wiki/31st_Guards_Air_Assault_Brigade
    I would guess that the actual composition may vary depending on mission. I don’t see a specific anti-air artillery listed but would imagine it’s available in theatre.
    I’d imagine fellow correspondents may have better sources for information regarding this unit.

  27. Peter in Toronto says:

    Pipeline conspiracy theories never pass the smell test.

  28. S.E. says:

    I agree. So far no politicians here have commented on the news about Norwegian soldiers inside Syria, but the comments from readers of the news are negative. The government has given as little information as possible on the deployment of 60 soldiers to Jordan (and Syria) since it was decided last year. I suppose the last news is uncomfortable and that the government response will be more “management talk” (cf remark from Tel further down).
    This government has been extremely receptive to US wishes. It was love in the air when Ash Carter visited Norway september last year. The new long term plan for the Norwegian defence is said to be “to the highest degree” adapted to US interest, and more so than former plans (Carter even remarked that he hoped it would be good for Norway, too, or something like that (don´t have the exact citation). Politicians and the press has bought the “Russian danger”-meme in toto, and I guess much follows from that.

  29. Ante says:

    “They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse”

  30. ambrit says:

    Thank you. This will be interesting. It looks like Damascus is coming to accommodations with the Kurds in the north, and now the Druse in the south. We will see how a “multi-confessional” coalition does against a “monolithic”(?) sectarian cabal.

  31. ambrit says:

    The Germans were involved in Syria and Palestine on the side of the Turks back in the 1914-1918 War. That didn’t turn out so well.

  32. Dmcna says:

    Norway has invaded Syria with a small force. Will this not give the world pause for thought over how far into madness and delusion it has got over Syria?

  33. Poul says:

    Israel’s gas reserves are tiny. Only 1/168 of Iran’s. So no game changer.
    Israel would not be able to supply Europe with more than one year worth of gas and then their fields would be depleted.
    Only Iran and Azerbaijan have the potential to compete with Russia on the European gas market. Iraq could also be a competitor but that would require peace and stability which is doubtful in the foreseeable future.

  34. Ghostship says:

    But the US claims that the New Syrian Army(NSA) is there to fight ISIS so why would the Russians and Syrians assist ISIS by attacking the New Syrian Army? Provided the NSA fights ISIS, the Russians and Syrians have no need to get involved.
    The only justification that the US has for being in Syria is fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda. Once the ISIS Caliphate is eradicated, the US needs to either start fighting Al Qaeda and its associates or pack up and go home. If the US wants to claim that HTS is not Al Qaeda, as the State Department seems to be doing, then they have no legal justification for remaining in Syria. This might not be important to Washington as it does what it wants to do, but most of the rest of NATO can’t as they believe in the “rule of law” thing. Turkey might remain but they would be an aggressor and if Russia attacked Turkish forces in Syria I doubt the European NATO members would respond at all.

  35. Ghostship says:

    Trump is at heart a grifter – so what he says and what he does can be very different. This was just scamming the Saudis into buying lots of very expensive American weapons. If he’s any good he can keep the Saudis on the hook buying yet more very expensive American weapons until at least 2020.
    If he is not to upset his base then he needs to stick to the non-intervention stuff, so until we know who the members of METO are going to be and if the U.S. is to be one of them, then it’s probably not worth worrying. Looking back at Gulf War 1, it took the US and its allies quite some time (almost six months) to get there forces in place while the Iraqis did nothing much. Once METO starts forming up if they ever do without U.S. involvement, do you think the Iranians will do nothing. If the U.S. can go to war for preventative reasons why can’t the Iranians do so for preemptive reasons. There are going to be no UNSC resolutions supporting it so most of NATO will stay well away and let’s face it the Conservatives have so hollowed out the British military I doubt even they would want to get involved.

  36. Babak Makkinejad says:

    So, Trump had a few choice words for Iran, appeasing the Arabs, and, sold a few hundred billion worth of military and non-military goodies to them.
    Politically and commercially it was a successful trip.
    On the other hand, like George Bush who made the enemies of Israel also the enemies of US, Trump declared the Party of Ali to be an enemy of the Western Fortress – I think we can all enjoy this clarity.

  37. Barbara Ann,
    Do you think that the concept at Central Command, or whomever is running the show, is de-confliction zone, leading to a “tripwire” incident, then a no-fly zone and a bastion inside Syria? If so, how do you suppose they intend to maintain it. The Baghdad highway would seem to be the only line of communication and it appears that it is going to be controlled by Iraqi government forces who aren’t sympathetic to the FSA. Dien Bien Phu isn’t an exact analogy but does come to mind. I’m puzzled by the planning.

  38. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You cannot expect them to come out and say:
    “The Republican Emperor has told us that the Party of Ali is our enemy and we have saluted the flag, licked our heels and proceeded to do what we are told.”
    Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die

  39. Kooshy says:

    Not Azerbaijan alone is not enough, but Iran or Qatar can be major suppliers

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Why would Iran compete against the Russian Federation to supply Europe which is an enemy of the Party of Ali?
    Not going to happen.

  41. Barbara Ann says:

    I think the original concept was to hold al-Tanf and the road and expand from it with the FSA. That was before the Astana DEZs plan was implemented. As I commented at the bottom the Incident at Al-Tanf post, I think the the Coalition attack on Assad’s forces could simply have been a delaying tactic before withdrawal from al-Tanf. I am also not convinced by the Norgy tripwire thing actually and commented to that effect in the Jebel Druze post.
    The original strategy to partition Syria from the Jordanian/Iraqi border seems to be unattainable now. The really worrying thing is that whoever is directing tactics at al-Tanf doesn’t seem to appreciate that. b’s piece on the disconnect between what the top brass say and the reality on the ground is an excellent read:

  42. BraveNewWorld says:

    Even more important what is the US domestic law that justifies the attack on Syrian aligned forces this time? The US has another president that is off book launching attacks willy nilly that could drag the US into a much larger conflict while Congress averts it’s eyes.
    The disregard for both domestic and international law by all western governments is extremely dangerous both for the domestic populations and for the world.

  43. Thomas says:

    “Will this not give the world pause for thought over how far into madness and delusion it has got over Syria?”
    No, but if Bibi’s Blintzkreig to Beirut comes to pass and the Hizbullah boys counterattack leading to a stalemate in the valley, then there will be an awakening as the nightly news gives updates, analysis, and other expert opinions about the battle for the artillery observation outpost on Har Meggido.

  44. sid_finster says:

    It is, if NATO wants a pretext for war.
    Haven’t you ever run across a barroom bully looking for an excuse to start a fight?

  45. sid_finster says:

    This has been my experience. It’s like talking to cultists.

  46. different clue says:

    The DC FedBorg line is that Assad’s continued presence makes the Syrians so unhappy that they reluctantly join the various alphabet jihadi groups just long enough to overthrow the “Assad Regime”. Once Assad has “gone”, they will become the Democrats they have always wanted to be. So the long range justification the DC FedBorg Regime gives for being in Syria is to eventually in the long run get Assad overthrown and change the Regime to a Democracy.
    Liberal academic middle-east-expert professors like Juan Cole advance this line. For Prof. Cole, it is a true belief. If President Trump’s mind operated at a level sophisticated enough to sustain something like a “belief”, I would say that Trump believes a version of it too.

  47. Poul says:

    It can get Albanian and Serbian nationalist gangs who killed each other during the Kosovo War to work together to smuggled amphetamine and other designer drugs into the EU.
    Where else will Iran find customers for large gas deliveries? Pakistan has an unstable border region in Balochistan and then there are the problems between India & Pakistan to potentially affect a gas line to India (a la Ukraine). A route to China also has it’s share of threats towards a gas line.

  48. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Iraq and Turkey and lately Kuwait and Oman will be consumers of Iranian gas.
    At the moment, I do not think Iran is producing sufficient volume of gas for European consumption.
    And then there is the little matter of religious war: why would the linchpin of the Party of Ali supply gas to the enemies of Party of Ali?

  49. charly says:

    I personally doubt that in the Gulf. Overbuilding solar is cheaper than gas and will be pushed by the US instead of sending money to Iran

  50. Poul says:

    Again money is the key.
    Iraq have their own gas reserves why buy anything? Also we are talking petty cash with Kuwait and Oman. If you want billions of Euros in revenue, EU is the only game in town. The world’s biggest importer of gas.
    If Iran can invite European companies to Iran why not sell gas to the EU? The religious war thing apparently doesn’t matter with regards to Iranian gas sales to Turkey, so why should it be a big thing with the EU.
    The Party of Ali needs to develop their nation’s economy. Or do you think a weak economy is a source of strength? It will also make it harder for the US to introduce sanctions again.
    The EU will have to invest in the pipelines from the south to the Turkish gas pipelines but that will also bind the EU’s policy options.

  51. charly says:

    Turkish pipeline is not exactly big so would also need to be upgraded besides a pipeline through Iraq & Syria is cheaper than the Eastern Turkey and its earthquakes and mountains

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