"The Syrian Arab Army’s 525th Regiment of the 18th Tank Division was under heavy attack near the T-4 Airport; this prompted a direct military intervention from their Russian advisers. In just two days, the Russian Marines helped the Syrian Armed Forces recapture the initiative in east Homs, while also recovering several points near the Al-Sha’ar Gas Fields and T-4 Military Airport. Now, with the Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces” pushing south towards the Al-Sha’ar Gas Fields, the Russian Marines can go back to their original role, which includes advising the Syrian Armed Forces." AMN
I have understood that Russian marines were in Syria to secure their air base complex and naval facilities at Latakia and Tartus as well as to do some line troop re-training. Now we see them committed to actual front line combat.
IMO this backs up my contention that the R+6 alliance in Syria lacks enough quality ground combat units to accomplish their many obvious objectives in population and geographical control of Syria's territory and resources.
It is easy to list the SAG's primary and current operational and strategic needs:
- The portion of Aleppo City still under insurgent control must be re-occupied. The political effect of this success would greatly improve the over-all position of the SAG especially at Geneva. The world has awaited a serious effort to make this happen. Perhaps it will occur, but not yet.
- Idlib Province needs to be re-occupied. If that occurred communications and trade would be freed between Aleppo City and both Latakia Province and Damascus to the south. A lack of progress in doing this and the reverses and lack of progress suffered by R+6 at places like Tel Issa and Khan Touman are indicative of an insufficiency of strength on the ground.
- The continued existence of the large insurgent pocket around Rastan between Homs and Hama astride the main north-south highway is a major embarrassment for the integrity of the Syrian state. It does not seem that much is being done about this.
- LOCs all over the eastern parts of Syria on the roads to Aleppo and Palmyra are continuously threatened by insurgent forces operating in what are really open, treeless, barren deserts. This indicates a continuing SAG inability to field enough forces to conduct patrol and local quick reaction forces to push the insurgents back from the roads. Please don't tell me that TE Lawrence did the same thing along the line of the Hijaz Railroad. Yes, he did and he was able to do that because the Turks were not strong enough in troops in the Hijaz to outpost and patrol the railroad line adequately.
- In East Ghouta just beyond the eastern boundaries of Damascus, the SAA and other R+6 forces seem unable to muster sufficient force to clear what amounts to a surrounded and nearly isolated inferior force.
- The need to advance from Palmyra to Deir Az-Zour and then to Raqqa is clear but there is not a lot of progress in doing that.
- From Damascus south to the Jordanian border the real action seems to be the struggle for control between IS on the one hand and non IS insurgent forces on the other with the SAA largely in a spectator status.
All of that indicates to me that there just are not enough ground troops in R+6 to sustain the stated goal of the SAG to re-conquer the country. Why is that? Syria is a substantial country and many, many of its citizens loath and fear the prospect of living and dying under jihadi rule. Nevertheless, millions have fled to: Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Europe and Canada. Among these migrants are hundreds of thousands of men of military age (of all confessions) who have chosen to abandon their country to its fate.
The bi-polar policy of the US with regard to Syria contributes to this flight in that it both encourages resistance to the Syrian Government and also encourages the belief that the collapse of IS is inevitable and therefore personal self sacrifice would be foolish.
Russia, Hizbullah and Iran must be considering the inevitability of a negotiated peace that will destroy the Syrian state if the present correlation of forces continues. That inevitability is certainly the main objective of the neocons and R2P. pl