Syria/Iraq Sitrep – 23 March 2016


""The Syrian army regained control of the historic town of Tadmur (Palmyra) with small weapons," a Syrian brigadier-general told Sputnik. Thus, he emphasized that the town was taken without air assistance."  Sputnik

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 As ISIS has itself pressured on several front in Syria, the Iraqi Army is preparing an offensive to finally recapture the 2nd largest city in Iraq, Mosul. Mosul is home to some 3 million residents and such, the city represents ISIS’ most important base in all of Iraq. The video below covers all you need to know about the last few days of battles across Syria and Iraq, including the Islamic State’s skirmishes with the Syrian Arab Army, the Iraqi Army and Kurdish militants. Our partners from have the story covered: | Al-Masdar News


The video embedded in the Al-Masdar piece is quite worthwhile.  It is a general briefing on present events across North Arabia.

IMO it is now clear that rather than concentrate forces for a concentric battle to clear Idlib Province and the remaining rebel held parts of Aleppo City, the R+6 allies are embarked on a far more adventurous and risky scheme.

With the continuing support of Russian and Syrian air the main effort at present seems to be to re-capture Palmyra and then to link up with the long embattled Syrian forces encircled at Deir az-Zor on the Euphrates.  If that can be accomplished then an advance on Raqqa seems likely.  Possible lines of advance would be NW from the Deir az-Zor area and from Palmyra going east and then turning north at Sukhna.   An additional axis of advance from the west on Tabqa might complete the effort.  IMO the possibilities in such an campaign are somewhat limited by the length of the LOCs across the desert and the fairly small number of ground combat units available.  The long lines of supply would have to be protected to keep supply moving and pushed well forward behind the spearheads.  With regard to the limited number of ground fighters, it should be noted that it was necessary to transfer the SAA Tiger Forces brigade to the Palmyra axis of advance and to bring to the same axis the Syrian Marine Regiment from northern Lattakia where it was well employed.  IMO these movements would not have been necessary if ground forces assets were not quite thin on the ground.

At the same time the Iraqi Army and its Shia militia allies are making sounds that declare a willingness to advance to Mosul.  Since the Iranians are involved at various levels with both the Syrian and Iraqi forces it seems likely that they may be coordinating these plans.  pl   

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116 Responses to Syria/Iraq Sitrep – 23 March 2016

  1. Henshaw says:

    Claims of SAA capturing Tadmor are probably premature. They would imply a total collapse of Da’esh resistance within the last 24 hours- desirable, but unlikely.
    What does appear to have been achieved is the capture of the Qatari Royal Villa, that was being used by Da’esh as a training centre.
    Latest maps eg show battle line as still to the west of the Palmyra archaelogical zone, much less in Tadmor itself.

  2. Barish says:

    I reckon one reason for prioritizing this theatre on the part of SAA and allies is that maintaining LOC has become equally as difficult, if not more so, for ISIL themselves. Parallel to Palmyra, Qaryatayn appears to get ever more pressure as well, going by al-Masdar and how is laying out things:
    Meanwhile, the insurgents in Idlib-province and elsewhere appear incapable to mount any successful offenses, even after Russian reduction of air assets. Which would contradict certain assumptions that there’s no spine left in Syrian troops themselves without the Russian “big brother”. Also, not engaging with the insurgents in Idlib as well as further down south avoids the agitprop-front lighting up – “indiscriminate bombing”, “siege soup” yada yada etc. – as that is a card ISIL can’t play themselves and noone is seriously willing to do for them.
    And as ISIL is getting hammered, the other insurgents are left paralyzed by a disheveled command and alliance structure and infighting amongst their own ranks, ISIL-joiners included:

  3. turcopolier says:

    You are a Syrian living in Canberra? Will you be pleased or displeased when the SAA completes its re-occupation of Tadmur City? pl

  4. turcopolier says:

    You are quite right I think in pointing to disintegration of IS supply lines as they are systematically deprived of populated centers. There is not much to eat out in the open desert. thanks. pl

  5. Eliot says:

    Col. Lang,
    What would explain the shift? Are they trying to beat the Coalition to Raqqa?
    – Eliot

  6. turcopolier says:

    It may be a race, like Patton racing Montgomery to Palermo or there may be coordination with the US s a more or less silent partner. pl

  7. aleksandar says:

    Time is important.
    Cleaning Aleppo and Idlib will take a lot of time and will be done anyway.
    Deir el Zor is daily under attack and the lost of it would be catastrophic.
    Militarly and even more politically.
    Palmyra is in the middle of the desert, no reinforcement allowed for ISIS.
    I would have recommanded as COA to encircle and bypass Palmyra and go east.
    Phase 1: Join the SAA forces in Deir el zor
    Phase 2: Set a firm line of defence along Euphrate river up to Tabqa and Assad lake.
    Phase 3: Clear Palmyra already cut from their LOC.
    It’s seems that 5 or 6000 SAA soldiers are already around Palmyra, a ground force sufficient to realize this operation.
    What we don’t know is “intel” but I’m quite sure that SAA and russian advisers got it. Transfer of ground force from Syria to Iraq has, maybe, already begun.
    The logistical problem is real but can be resolved using the 2 km airstrip and taxiway of Deir el Zor
    Imo SAA, except ammunitions, need far less logistical support than ours modern armies.

  8. Fred says:

    Perhaps the SAA has studied Gen. Jackson? “Once you get them running, you stay right on top of them, and that way a small force can defeat a large one every time.”

  9. Chris Chuba says:

    “Qaryatayn appears to get ever more pressure as well”
    Barish, yes indeed, I love as well, especially the terrain feature. After looking at Palmyra, I now appreciate what an important road nexus it is between east / west Syria, losing it would definitely isolate Qaryatayn. As you mentioned, I have noticed that the SAA has been applying steady pressure there as well.
    The other thing I noticed is that the SAA not only captured a mtn ridge west of Palmyra but they are capturing heights north of it as well. If the SAA succeeds in doing that then where are the liver eaters going to run? The area south and east looks like flat desert. I admit that I am a complete and total amateur but chasing a retreating force across an open desert looks like a dream come true; especially if you have an air force. I just hope that there are no sandstorms scheduled to pop up.
    As stretched as the SAA may be, I bet that they have better equipment to chase than ISIS has to run if it comes down to a chase.

  10. Prem says:

    I guess the SAA will want to wait until the Geneva talks break down before any big move in Aleppo or Idlib. They’ll be manoeuvring to try and put the blame on the rebels (probably futile, but still).
    I’m really surprised the ceasefire is holding this well – I remember the countless Lebanese ceasefires that usually lasted a day or two.

  11. Bill Herschel says:

    Does anyone know who Edward Bernays was? To those of you who say, Yes, I heap ashes on my head and admit a life of ignorance. To those of you who say, No, I say that he was probably the most influential “American” to have ever lived.
    And I don’t believe I am off-topic. I have read this post and the comments following it for a very simple reason. I don’t, anymore, expect to be told the truth by the New York Times. And I now find out that systematic deception and manipulation in the public discourse can be traced to some great extent to one man, Edward Bernays. Let’s say he is the patron saint of the Borg.
    I recommend the Wikipedia page describing him:
    Here’s a quote:
    “Bernays, working for the administration of Woodrow Wilson during World War I with the Committee on Public Information, was influential in promoting the idea that America’s war efforts were primarily aimed at “bringing democracy to all of Europe”. Following the war, he was invited by Woodrow Wilson to attend the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.
    Stunned by the degree to which the democracy slogan had swayed the public both at home and abroad, he wondered whether this propaganda model could be employed during peacetime. Due to negative implications surrounding the word propaganda because of its use by the Germans in World War I, he promoted the term public relations. According to the BBC interview with Bernays’ daughter Anne, Bernays believed that the public’s democratic judgment was “not to be relied upon” and feared that the American public “could very easily vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above.” Anne interpreted “guidance” to mean that her father believed in a sort of “enlightened despotism”.”

  12. Valissa says:

    His classic book “Propaganda” is a short and easy to read text on propaganda. Highly recommended! It is written as if this is the next greatest science of mass persuasion. Which it was. And it’s the basis of much advertising as well. The word propaganda later morphed into “public relations” which sounds much less sinister.
    Of course propaganda has been around as long as humans have tried to mold the opinions of other humans, even if it went by other terminology…
    The Story of Propaganda
    Bernays simply gave it a more modern and scientific veneer. Bernays also referred to it as the “engineering of consent”. Later folks have use the phrase “the manufacturing of consent.”

  13. James Vanasek says:

    Col. Lang,
    I hope that a professor or two up that the Army War College is taking notes on how the Russian general in charge is conducting the campaign suing a finite ground force. Simply brilliant.
    First, you take time to rebuild the SAA while using your air superiority to hammer ISIS and other rebel supply lines, particularly cutting them off from oil income. Then, divide and conquer. Focus your attack on the weakest of the rebel groups, pushing on a number of fronts in the NW until the enemy cracks and you exploit a weak spot. Next, complete the encirclement of the cauldron, declare a cease fire and watch the enemy factions fight each other, defect to your side, or continue to get weaker as they are cut off from reinforcement/supply while you win a PR victory in the media.
    This calming of the action on the Aleppo/NW front, also allows you to take advantage of interior lines to shift your main spearhead forces south and attack at Palmyra while ISIS is facing pressure from the Kurds in the north. Then while ISIS is worried about that, get the Iranian assisted Shia militia to attack Mosul (with tacit Kurdish & US support), and now ISIS is in a real pickle.
    I’m guessing that they don’t have the command and control capability to deal with so many simultaneous threats and if they were able to shift forces from one front to the other, that puts their men out in the open where they can be more easily bombed while in transit than if dug in on a static front.
    Now Col Lang, if you were the ISIS leader and saw this happening, what could you do to prevent it?
    If it were me, I’d try to get Turkey involved as quickly as possible to reopen my supply lines and use the threat of a greater conflict to freeze the situation. Or perhaps provoke the US into having a much heavier ground presence perhaps with a Brussels/Paris style attack in the US so as to turn the focus of the war against us infidel “occupiers”???
    I think all of us would be curious to hear your thoughts.

  14. turcopolier says:

    James Vanasek
    What is it that Owen Thursday asks in “Ft. Apache?” Ah, “what staff college did Cochise study at?” So far it is brilliant, just brilliant. I’ll think of an answer. pl

  15. Henshaw says:

    Of course! Henshaw is a traditional Syrian surname. I’m hoping that SAA can clear Tadmur of Da’esh ASAP, consistent with minimum military/civilian casualties. Same for the rest of Syria.
    I’ve seen some reports from inside Tadmur claiming that many of the defending Da’esh force are teenagers, rather than older, seasoned troops. If so, it could all be over sooner rather than later- Da’esh withdrawing their more valuable fighters?
    As of about 0730UTC, SAA is reported as closing on the Semiramis Hotel, approx 3.5km up the road from the Qatari Villa. This suggests rapid progress by SAA.
    From there, Google tells me that it is about a further 2km to the edge of the Palmyra archaeological zone, and a further 1km to Tadmur itself.

  16. Kutte says:

    Admittedly, I only heard about Edward Bernays about 6 months ago,
    and was stunned after googling him. He turned intuitive and
    instinctive cunning into a science. He believed in “enlightened
    despotism”?. Problem is, the enlightenment evaporates very quickly
    and the despotism stays. How about “distributed despotism”,
    or whatever?
    Whilst this is a militarily oriented blog, IMHO a slightly
    stronger emphasis on philosophal background wouldn’t hurt either.
    Thank you Bill Herschel.

  17. turcopolier says:

    The first term of your e-mail address indicates a Syrian connection. The Semiramis Hotel? An interesting thought. I suppose it was run by the Cairo hotel of the same name? The teenager thing is temptingly logical. The notion that the anti-Cochise has thought this through to a logical conclusion that IS is going to lose its foothold in Northern Arabia and has begun a large scale movement of seasoned assets (those not gone full shahiid yet?) to Libya, Yemen, the EU or Turkey is also quite tempting. I hope so but hope must be tested in the field. pl

  18. Peter Reichard says:

    In an earlier post I suspected this line of attack but wondered if the SAA had the logistic capability. Perhaps ISIS logistics are more to the point and the SAA senses ISIS is near collapse. As in financial panics and momentum in team sports the mass psychology of armies,especially when in retreat,is difficult to predict. Few have the discipline or grit of the French in 1914 or the Red Army in 1941. The rebels are a rabble with no central chain of command. There is no charismatic leader to hold them together like a Mao or George Washington. They lack mountains or forests to hide in and in the cities lack popular support. When the ammunition runs low they will begin fighting among themselves. When faced with martyrdom the great adventure of jihad may suddenly seem not so attractive to the foreign volunteers and as desertions mount so too will mass executions for desertion. The whole enterprise may fall apart with a suddenness that shocks the world. With the peace talks, terrorism in the West, the refugee crisis and US elections at hand they need to get this over with soon. In spite of the
    risks the time to strike a fatal blow to ISIS may be now.

  19. turcopolier says:

    Peter Reichard
    Yes, we may be a approaching the Culminating Point of this Campaign.
    This old article may be useful. pl

  20. jld says:

    How about “distributed despotism”,
    We are there already, go on Twitter and say something “not correct”…

  21. P.L.! and ALL: Hypothetically if the US could have its choice of Iraq or Syria for an effective outcome of its FP and military/security policy which geographic/political area is of more importance to the U.S.? I would choose Iraq mainly for oil/gas and strategic location but I understand it is dominated by Iran and Shia, not KSA or the Sunni.

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Likely, SAR will use the damage done to the archeological sites of Palmyra as a form of propaganda; telling the world, in effect: “Do you want this?”
    SAR would be right on this matter; without a doubt, many of the denizens of Molenbeek – given the chance – would destroy all paintings, sculptures and other works of art in Belgium – destroying musical instruments and banning singing by women as well.
    And as they go, so will the neo-Salafis and other Jihadist fellow-travelers.

  23. shepherd says:

    I believe I’ve quoted Bernays on this blog before. He was a nephew of Freud, and, along with Walter Lippmann, the first to bring a knowledge of mass psychology to the art of popular persuasion. He was responsible for things as diverse as children’s menus in restaurants (client Waldorf-Astoria), the fact that we think bacon and eggs is the all-American breakfast, and the propaganda film that led to the CIA overthrow of the Guatemalan government. He also provided the blueprint for Goebbels, who respected him immensely. He was personally quite odious, and his disdain for many cherished ideals (such as the notion of freedom of choice) led to him being intellectually shunned.
    ISIS are good students of Bernays, incidentally. In particular, they use a strategy in which you create a signature narrative event (usually an atrocity) and back it up with continuous engagement (social media outreach). The idea is that event gives their social media recruiters a continuous narrative that’s persuasive because it seems to be true. You’re making the news that supports your argument.
    In fact, during the war game a while back, I used an analysis of this technique to make my predictions. Not that you couldn’t have come to the conclusion in other ways, or that the events wouldn’t have happened anyway, but I predicted that when it faced reverses on the battlefield, IS would not be able to provide the narrative events it required from Syria and Iraq. In response, it would activate its affiliates in other places to commit atrocities, silence critics, and strike in Europe. In the timeframe we were discussing, the Paris attacks and the downing of the Russian airliner occurred. Critics were also assassinated in Turkey. Like I said, you didn’t need Bernays to predict that ISIS would eventually strike overseas, but the timing was interesting.

  24. Bill Herschel says:

    Russian helicopters don’t seem to fear ISIS manpads. Tempting to believe that they dealt with the same manpads and the same people during Chechnya II. In any case, I wouldn’t want to be an ISIS fighter around Palmyra right now. Far easier to blow up unarmed people in an airport check-in area.

  25. pj says:

    Unfortunately a fatal blow requires more than Syria and Iraq, but also at least Libya.

  26. LeaNder says:

    Bill, not that it matters, really. Why are you mentioning this here?
    First, full discovery: I (endured) training on public relations ending with something like a diploma in Public Relations.
    The course did include the history of public relations, it did not including the trade’s respective self given ethical framework. In politics e.g. elections, there is a more specialized branch.
    Public relations simply is a particle of marketing and/or to different percentages of information and involvement on the organizational level the publicly visible communicative arm of any enterprise.
    Do you realize what percentage of the news you read is ultimately one way or other triggered by people working in the trade? Never mind it may not be visible to you as reader.
    But since Bernay caught your attention. I would like to direct your attention to something related: “The Spiral of Silence”.
    I suppose, I wouldn’t have found this bit of academic work as interesting as I did, once it caught my attention, if I hadn’t experienced the phenomenon myself. And in a rather astonishing way. In any case, me a friend and a rather huge crowd of people was confronted with a comedian badly imitating a more famous one over here. At one point, she turned over to me and asked: what did I think of him? I answered with only one word, meant for private communication (really), which she then shouted out loud for everyone to hear. It was quite fascinating to watch what happened after. In any case, the poor guy wasn’t able to deal with it, and left the stage.

  27. turcopolier says:

    James Vanasek
    IMO it would be prudent to avoid writing anything that might be interpreted as a draft strategic plan for IS. pl

  28. JJackson says:

    All Re. The lack of SAA numbers.
    Are these numbers being supplemented from previous hostile groups who have laid down arms post cessation? or at least has not having to fight them freed up A significant number of SAA force for redeployment.
    I had assumed when areas came back under government control suitably vetted individuals would be entrusted with local area supervision which would free up combat troops.
    Has this happened, or is it happening, and if so is it significant – in terms of numbers released for other duties.

  29. Barish says:

    You can argue that the ISIL-brand will be a thing for as long as their shahada-prestige carries weight with jihadi-groups, rather than their status as having lasting “futuhat” on the resumée of their self-declared “amir al-mu’minin”, “caliph” al-Baghdadi. After all, the pushback against the kilafah’s heartland in Mesopotamia clearly demolishes their status as being an invincible “proto-state”.
    Once even the martyrdom-status starts waning, the various jihad-outfits in Africa and elsewhere, Libya included, likely won’t have too much trouble to just roll up the ISIL-flag and just carry on being independent groupings or such that pledge allegiance to “the base”, al-Qaida, as they did before the declaration of the “Islamic State”.

  30. Bob says:

    COL Lang:
    WRT Iraq I think that it is still likely that retaking Mosul remains “Wishful Thinking”, and the conditions are far from being set for the Iraqis to do anything soon; much less a successful operation:
    -Political: This current Islamic Dawa Party government is still trying to consolidate power and is currently being challenged politically. Other than the initial gestures in 2014 it has done little to show it is interested in sectarian reconciliation, which will be a requirement to be able to take and hold Mosul. The Kurds will not/cannot do it for them. Sunnis continue to show that they prefer ISIL occupation to that of the sectarian Shia governments that have existed since 2005. Only the Kurds are willing to ask for a US presence. The Abadi Dawa government is just like its predecessors, and under Iranian influence and in competition with the other Shia parties and militia organizations.
    -Military: When GEN Talib al-Kinani was recently in Tampa he carefully answered the question about retaking Mosul to say that the “Prime Minister has announced” that Mosul will be retaken in 2016. I believe that the current Commander of Ninewa Operations Command is still MG Najim Abdullah al-Jaburi. If that is the case, it makes retaking Mosul even more unlikely. He is the former Police Chief and Mayor of Tel Afar who has been living in the US, and was put in charge of the NOC at US insistence. He is a Sunni with strange close Dawa ties. He is also a former Air Defense officer whose emigration to the US, close US ties and insistence upon promotion and upon wearing of “Staff College” insignia when he wasn’t eligible for either have garnered him little support in the Iraqi military. To the best of my knowledge the Iraqi Army and Federal Police have yet to fight any significant engagements over the last two years. While the US has transferred some more equipment and provided some more “initial entry” training, they have not been able to change any of the calculus on why those in the ISF are unwilling to fight. The CTS/SOF forces have shown that they are willing to fight and win, but there are not enough of them to retake Mosul or to hold simultaneously in other key locations, like Baghdad. They are also not under direct MOD control which makes them problematic in sectarian Shia Iraq. The PMC/PMF (Iranian controlled Shia militia groups) have shown that they will fight, but they will also slaughter civilians and will be unable to hold in Sunni areas without bad consequences. Their priority, as well as that of the militias not under notional PMF control seems to be arming themselves with US-provided equipment in preparation for future intra-Shia conflicts for power. Only IRGC control seems to be stopping Shia militia groups from turning on the US, who they believe is aligned with and aiding ISIL.
    The US political and military leadership remains in denial (unfortunately since 2003) that the Iraqi Shia political parties are not interested in reconciliation and are focused on increasing their own power. However, the risks are greater now for the small military and diplomatic presence, and an additional small conventional force with the mission of training the ISF or conducting limited ground ops would be extremely vulnerable and have limited impact. Unfortunately, there is nothing the US can do right now to help the ISF, and any promises of the Abadi government to protect the US presence are meaningless. We can continue to strike high value ISIL targets, help the Iraqi Kurds, and work through them and other Arab allies to train and assist the Sunni tribes.

  31. LeaNder says:

    “the first to bring a knowledge of mass psychology”
    did he? It seems Freud, no matter how much he needed abstraction, we all do more or less, but wasn’t Jung more involved with how psychological matters could be related to the masses?
    But well yes, sounds familar:
    “He also provided the blueprint for Goebbels, who respected him immensely. He was personally quite odious, and his disdain for many cherished ideals (such as the notion of freedom of choice) led to him being intellectually shunned.”
    Are you sure, Goebbels needed Bernay?

  32. All,
    The ‘spiral of silence’ theory is new to me, but looks interesting. There is however something I do not understand. It seems to me clear that its author, Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, was reflecting Germany’s – and her own – experience in the Nazi period.
    In relation to Britain, however, this kind of conformism among élites is vastly more powerful now than it was a generation ago – the sheer intellectual intolerance of the British ‘Borg’ is, I think, new. How one should explain this lamentable collapse in the intellectual and moral quality of our rulers is an interesting question.
    It seems to me clear however that part of the explanation has to do with the propensity of propagandists to believe their own propaganda.
    And – although having not read his study I cannot be sure – I suspect that this may point to a fundamental problem with the approach taken by Bernays. What he appears to take for granted is that an élite can lie like troopers to the ‘hoi polloi’, while retaining, in its internal deliberations, an accurate view of reality.
    Clear-eyed Machiavellianism of this kind may sometimes exist. But it certainly is not the general pattern in modern ‘democracies’. A fundamental, and inadequately appreciated, characteristic of the ‘Borg’ is its lack of candid cynicism.
    Incidentally, I see that the Bernays ‘Propaganda’ study is available as a free download, at .

  33. Valissa says:

    “What he appears to take for granted is that an élite can lie like troopers to the ‘hoi polloi’, while retaining, in its internal deliberations, an accurate view of reality.”
    I think elites have always felt this way*, it’s part of what defines their societal status. Plato’s Noble Lie and all that jazz
    [*of course there are always exceptions to this & it’s not meant to imply all elites are ‘bad’]

  34. Amir says:

    Curtis made an intriguing documentary about Bernays, called “A century of Self”:
    Curtis’ discussion of the evolution of society in the second half of the 20th century, probably can be extrapolated to explain the current state. It deals with more than just “propaganda”. It makes me shudder that the “Century of Self” are the first steps towards a society, that is a mirror image of “Brave New World” morphed with/into “1984”, on a global scale.

  35. Matthew says:

    The Borg never sleeps. Trying to win at the negotiating table what is being lost on the battlefield. See
    For background on Ms. Kodmani, see
    And she attends the “right” conferences. See
    I’m surprised she wasn’t invited to speak at AIPAC 2016.

  36. James Vanasek says:

    Col Lang,
    Very understandable.

  37. turcopolier says:

    OK. what do you suppose the mission is for the USMC artillery fire base near Makhmour? I have assumed that it was there to provide fire support within its range fan for an advance on mosul. pl

  38. SmoothieX12 says:

    “It seems to me clear however that part of the explanation has to do with the propensity of propagandists to believe their own propaganda.”
    This is a major, if not defining, factor. This, plus sheer incompetence in most fundamental issues of human activity among which war and industry (and all immediately associated with them fields) are of paramount import. Lawyers (nothing personal against them) make very good bullsh.., I mean politicians, they seldom make great military strategists or leaders and are hardly good at producing something of true value. Organization of aircraft or MRI machines’ production, as an example, requires way more than it takes to pass the bar exam and so does the (good) command of motor-rifle Brigade or Division, let alone writing good realistic National Security or Military doctrine.

  39. Bob says:

    I think you’re right, and I think that’s a good mission for us as the KRG deserves our (limited) support. We can generally depend on both KDP and PUK Kurds for perimeter security within the KRG footprint. We can’t depend on any Shia militias, which unfortunately mean the entire ISF… It appears we are developing relationships with the PYD/YPG guys in Syria, but their relationship with the PKK is problematic. It will be interesting to see how the KRG responds to Iranian and Turkish pressures.
    If this is the end of the campaign we would need the Iranians to want to take Mosul, but I don’t think we’ve seen any indicators of that yet, do you?

  40. shepherd says:

    I never said Bernays was using Freud. Mass psychology was a field at the time pursued by a wide range of people.
    Goebbels was a student of his trade and widely read the available literature of his time. Most introductions to Bernays’ books contain a contemporary anecdote that has Goebbels highly praising a volume of Crystallizing Public Opinion. Bernays has had a massive fall in name recognition over the years, but that does not make him a lesser intellect. It also does not diminish Goebbels to point out that he used techniques first articulated by others. In that trade, the execution matters as much as the method.

  41. turcopolier says:

    “their relationship with the PKK is problematic” That is true if you think Turkey is really an ally. I could imagine a joint KRG/Iran advance on Mosul but I have not seen any sign of it as yet. It will be interesting to see how far Operation Fatah will go. Did you take the job? pl

  42. Bill Herschel says:

    Absolutely not. I disagree concerning “believe their own propaganda”. When Andrew Higgins writes a puff-piece/whitewash of the most odious criminal murderer thug in Ukraine in the Times, he knows the truth and that he is attempting to deceive and control the public.
    They know what they’re doing. Ignorance would not be a defense if there were ignorance, but there is no ignorance.

  43. Joe100 says:

    The first interview with Colonel General Alexander Dvornikov, the Russian commander in Syria is at
    English translation will be needed by Yandex (good quality) or Google.
    Pretty candid and interesting.

  44. Laguerre says:

    The point seems to me to be that that the ISIS economy is in decline. They are are no longer able to pay their soldiers, and so they don’t fight so hard.
    This must be in relation to the oil exports. With the Russian bombardments funnily enough everything has stopped, although they they didn’t under US attacks.
    Antiquities was nothing, and local taxes of farmers were next to nothing, as long as ISIS was putting fear into the peasants, they won’t sow.

  45. Henshaw says:

    Archaeological connection, but not current.
    Report on Syria Direct March 21 that Da’esh force in Tadmur was mostly
    ‘ young people from the town, teenagers who IS enticed and conscripted after taking control. Their ages range from 17-20 years old. There are also some other Arab fighters. I haven’t seen foreign fighters in four months, the last ones I saw were a French fighter and another from Indonesia.’
    As of 0130UTC, SAA is reported to have taken Cham Palace hotel (Hotel Dedeman) and to be advancing across the ‘archaeological zone’, and into the ‘orchards’ area (date plantations and the like). Also advancing across the north of Tadmur, possibly to limit Da’esh options for retreat, or prepare for another front of attack on the town itself. Solid progress.

  46. Harry says:

    A nephew of Sigmund Freud. A very accomplished family

  47. SmoothieX12 says:

    OT: I waited for English version. Today Russian Spetsnaz officer died calling in the fire on his position around Palmyra. For a week he directed strikes against IS, then got detected and surrounded. He drew friendly fire.
    RIP. Anyone who dies defeating this scourge is a hero in my book.
    Meanwhile, those EU cretins place Why (Purqua)signs in Brussels.
    P.S. I remember this Texan kid in his funny trunks running out at one of FOBs to shoot…”freedom fighters” some years ago. How “unsophisticated”….

  48. Bob says:

    Daesh is on the border of Israel and refuses to fire a shot in that direction. They were showing pictures of Daesh fighters fighting along side the Saudi coalition in Yemen. They kill normal Muslims like DDT kills bugs. So I can’t really imagine the brand having much more room to fall.

  49. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    re ” What he appears to take for granted is that an élite can lie like troopers to the ‘hoi polloi’, while retaining, in its internal deliberations, an accurate view of reality.”
    The discussion of this sentence so far has focused on the first part, the “lie . . to the ‘hoi polloi.’ The last clause, however, is also important, and it is here where the “sprial of silence” notion comes into play. I haven’t read the full wikipedia entry on the “Spiral of Silence” yet but from the first few paragraphs it’s focused on its effects on the general public – the hoi poloi. However it’s also operative within the inner circle, i.e. the self-defined elites, where it is what drives groupthink. And an inner circle of policy makers that has fallen victim to groupthink is in danger of losing touch with ‘an accurate view of reality.” This is where the “West,” led by the United States, is now.

  50. turcopolier says:

    “Officer?” Rank? pl

  51. Kutte says:

    “accomplished” in what regard?

  52. Tigermoth says:

    If not already mentioned, the Sputnik article is nonsense; there is a major battle going on right now. Approximately 6000 SAA and others troops are involved. The SAA is making good progress and several fronts coming from the west in 2 parallel bands across the north. One north of the castle and one south of it.
    I follow this site:
    They use twitter feeds from the front so it can be a little inconsistent over all of the fronts but is doing well with Palmyra at the moment.
    Also this site has pretty up to date information:
    Col Lang. I heartily agree with you on this being a lesson in how to conduct a military action. During the run up to this land battle, the Russian’s started hitting all ISIS communications facilities from Raqqa on down to the front, They have being targeting the logistical support lines to Palmyra for weeks now and are continuing. When I compare this to the US coalition activities of hitting a few targets here and there, it is either gross incompetence, if this approach is actually expected to yield positive results, or if intentional, a sad reflection of either military or US foreign policy.

  53. LeaNder says:

    Bill, I regret I added anything here and may have helped to trigger an expansion of the diversion from Pat’s topic. But here goes:
    “the most odious criminal murderer thug in Ukraine”
    Which name should I add to a google search?

  54. SmoothieX12 says:

    I don’t know. Most likely officer or NCO (Praporshik).

  55. turcopolier says:

    Have I been pleased with the “diversion?” No. pl

  56. SmoothieX12 says:

    “They know what they’re doing”
    It is my academic and empirical (and a vast one) contention that they don’t. Latest example? Obama’s (not some mid-level State Dept. apparatchik) statements on “shredding” Russia’s economy. Most, with some notable few exceptions, what is written on Soviet/Russian armed forces is trash. Vast number of the assumptions about the outside world are absolutely ridiculous. The list is huge. Look at the results, they are obvious.

  57. bth says:

    I think we are missing what is unfolding in Iraq. Iraqis announced Mosul campaign was in first phase warning citizens to avoid IS HQ locations, bridges and military bases which are being targeted. Also artillery fire support from US marines at Makhmur allowed Iraqi forces to build pontoon bridge and cross to west side of Tigris. Also Shia militias were turned back by Kurds west of Taza so the work is essentially Iraqi regulars, Kurds and Arab Sunni militias going over the bridge. Note that to the west of where the bridgehead must be is the airfield Qayyarah Airfield West aka FOB Endurance which might be a possible objective – just speculating and wasn’t it former base for 101st?. Iraqi news is reporting new arrivals of drones and tanks.
    Question what is the effective fire radius of marine artillery and does that define the operating radius of ground operations?

  58. bth says:

    Info on M777. Note Excalibur round.

  59. Nuff Sed says:

    Other than Tigermoth’s comment, the comments on this thread have been completely irrelevant to the highly significant battle for Palmyra which is taking place. Disappointing. Nuff Sed.

  60. Al Masdar News reports the arrival of an important SAA field commander along with 100 man “special operations unit” at Deir Az-Zor on Thursday night. The purpose of the move is to clear the Deir Az-Zor – Palmyra road as well as the Deir Az-Zor – Al Mayadin road. That’s some pretty lofty goals. My guess is that the R+6 is well aware of something that is is not yet clear to us. Perhaps they are in the process of hollowing out the guts of the IS beast before moving on to its head.

  61. Kutte says:

    They don’t believe their own Propaganda, of course, but they believe their own myth, to be more precise. They believe they can fool all the people all the time. They believe their own legend, they are unbeatable and only have to snap their fingers and the crowd is at their feet. After all, hasn’t it worked so many times before?

  62. turcopolier says:

    Nuff Sed
    You seem to be in Iran. Perhaps you could give us your views on the high significance of the battle for Palmyra? pl

  63. LeaNder says:

    Not really. Strictly not, I agree. But I somewhat would like to stay out of the “earlier” versus “present” elites debates and ad-hoc attempts to grasp matters. No doubt the world around us is rapidly changing once again.
    I have to admit, I am a fan of Katie Miranda. This is a wonderful attempt at “what if” in visualization:

  64. SmoothieX12 says:

    Very important news:
    “The U.S.-led military coalition against Islamic State said it had also struck targets in and around Palmyra, a rare example of the U.S.-led force attacking an area also under attack by Russian-backed government forces.”
    It is very significant development and it also supports (to a certain degree) my point I made number of weeks ago that Putin is trying to give Obama a face-saving way out. It may, indeed, work.

  65. oofda says:

    ISIS has been having money problems- as has been noted here previously- due to oil shipments to Turkey being cut off. Their money problems just got worse.

  66. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not believe that Mosul can be captured or held without the participation of the Popular Mobilization Forces which were formed in response to Ayatollah Sistani’s fatwa to save Iraq.
    (The RKG militia demonstrated in 2014 that it was a hollow force; Iranians saved RKG from ISIS.)

  67. LeaNder says:

    shepherd, interesting name though. Could I be rated as one of your sheep/sheeple?
    Goebbels, also was a dutiful servant to his master. Maybe the most obvious one. Not all servants follow their masters into suicide with their whole family. Do they?
    Ever read his diary, or parts of it? Witnessed, as left in letters his occasional despair once the reality did not quite provide him the fodder to give his beloved leader what he expected from his servant in feeding the masses? Reality in any easy to shape form for the task at hand, that is.
    He no doubt would have eagerly sucked up whatever might have been helpful in his task for his service. Don’t you think?
    I could of course look into how relent Bernay’s influence was, based on this source. There may be a wider source context I am not aware of, no doubt.
    Don’t be misled by the term propaganda, something the trade has given up for the obvious reason, as something that can be easily related to Goebbels.

  68. robt willmann says:

    I think that what I was guessing at recently is going on. R+6 is running a gambit in which they think that the opposition in the west of Syria is contained for now because of the “cessation of hostilities”, and they are charging eastward to try to take back all of eastern Syria from ISIS before the end of this year because there will be a new U.S. president in January 2017. Russia, Syria, Iran, et. al. are concerned about the presidential election, as they should be. Senator Rand Paul was the only sane candidate among them, but he tried to be everything to everybody and so got nowhere fast. The Libertarian and Green Party candidates are much better on that foreign policy, but they are marginalized.
    There is also Syrian oil infrastructure around Tadmur (Palmyra) and going up through As Sukhnah and Dayr az Zawr, and southeast from there. When R+6 gets control of that, they should be able to put the squeeze on the northeast.

  69. Kooshy says:

    FYI, I just saw this news, do not know if its true or how credible it is.
    “Iran deploys Army Special Forces to Syria and Iraq”

  70. Joe Bob says:

    Like seriously WTF is wrong with your government. The answer to the question is YES. Unconditional YES. No other answer is acceptable.

  71. BostonB says:

    Russian special forces soldier calls airstrike on himself when surrounded by Jihadi forces in Palmyra.

  72. Kooshy says:

    One recent Iranian news that might be relevant to Iran’s presence in Iraq and Syria President Rohani yesterday in a speech to some martyrs event said and I am paraphrasing “for us (Iran) the sanctity and security of the holy (Shia) sites is the red line, we will stand and will not allow this to happen and be disrespected, this is not about Iran, Iraq or Syria, who can stand and tolerate shrines of our Imams hessian and Ali or Saeedeh Zainb be intruded and disrespected.

  73. Nuff Sed says:

    Greetings from the heart of the free* world. IRIB News is reporting that Daesh’s #2 man was taken out by air strikes in Tadmur. I am not qualified to comment on the military aspects or significance of these ops. I come to your excellent site for enlightenment in these matters. I am conversant and in certain areas even fluent in Shi’a theology, prophetology and Imamology; but that is a conversation we would probably have to take off-line. Nuff Sed.
    * Freedom is a function of worldview (cosmology, theology, anthropology).

  74. alba etie says:

    First and most important condolences for the NCO Spetsnaz soldiers death yesterday at Palmyra – “he gave his last full measure of devotion ” defending all of us . Next do you have any thoughts about what Secretary Of State Kerry may bring back to President Obama from the long meeting that was held yesterday with FM Lavrov , then President Putin ? Contrary to many here at SST I have come to believe that ever since President Putin gave President Obama the means to get the CW out of Syria – our administration has been trying to course correct away from the neocon agenda writ large . I truly hope you are right that President Putin is trying to give our President away out from the neocon dead end ..

  75. Bill Herschel says:

    That is definitely true. It’s a crowd thing. They’re part of a clique that has been almost uniformly successful att dishonest control of the electorate.
    This is the Andrew Higgins article:
    Now read his Wikipedia page:
    Today, we have a front page article in the Times that would make Bernays proud:
    The article’s message is: Assad tricked Putin. What is the reason for the article? The U.S. realizes that there will be no regime change in Syria. The victories of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine will not be crowned with victory in Syria. So the defeat must be spun. And the spin is that Putin lost. Assad has tricked him.
    This article, at this moment, is planned, written and published for a specific purpose. It does not, repeat not, arise out of Anne Bernard’s journalist soul, laboring in isolation at the Times. In fact, that the article is presented as “news” not opinion on the front page of the Times written by a “correspondent” is just part of the deception.
    They know what they are doing. Or I am hopelessly paranoid and senile.

  76. ISL says:

    Since its hypothetical, Obviously Syria because it would take the pesky Russkies down a notch after the Ukraine failure. And of course, in the pursuit of that optimal solution, WW3 would be a win for our side because we have more megatons. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
    Alternatively, how about a sane FP, with the answer neither, because current US FP is a conflicting mishmash that was largely created in Israel/ by pro-Israel neocons. The US does not need there oil and gas, and I fail to see how the US national interest is served by further smashing societies to bits for one reason or another (or why it is in Israel’s long term interest either).

  77. Nuff Sed says:

    Status update from a well informed commenter on SyrIan Perspective.
    Canthama says:
    March 25th, 2016 at 1:19 PM [Level 10 – Cesar]
    I am reposting this in the new Ziad’s thread.
    Complete collapse of ISIS in Palmyra, all over, the end is within hours.
    1) Huge advance northeast of Palmyra.
    2) Fight in the Palmyra-Der ez Zor, meaning ISIS inside Palmyra are completely cut off, no way out for the ones inside.
    3) Fights inside the city for the first time, from 3 different directions, SW, SE and NW.
    4) Fight inside the airport.
    Palmyra is falling all together and the allied forces are building a protection area northeast of it. There are rumors that the strategy is to advance to Der ez Zor (as expected) but also to move quickly toward the Iraqi border (Al Bukamal), this is new.
    Palmyra is a major loss for ISIS, it will impact their strategy for Syria/Iraq, we may see a major retreat from desert areas towards cities such as Raqqa or Mosul, but most likely ISIS will strengthen their position in east Aleppo, the only connection to friendly Turkey they still have, Syria should expect action there soon.

  78. Tigermoth says:

    It would appear that ISIS in Palmyra has collapsed. The SAA has entered the city proper and secured all of the Orchards west, and south of the city. It would appear that the SAA landed forces on the main highway M20 northeast of the airport which allowed them to storm it from an unexpected direction. It has now been taken.
    (in Russian)
    “Exemption ancient Palmyra progressing in stages. On the eve of 24 March, the Syrian Infantry Division landed on the highway M-20. This action threw terrorists LIH * in shock, but today everything was explained.”
    The only area of the city still under ISIS control is in the north side. So it would seem like this battle is nearly completed.
    I’m interested to see which direction the SAA moves from here. As Twisted G points out something is up around Deir Az-Zor. The SAA left a few unfinished tasks, like finishing off Latakia and the drive north toward the Tabka Airbase. With all the talk of a “Federalised” Syria on the political front, I’m thinking that the SAA maybe looking at securing the Syria / Iraq border in order to consolidate the country’s territory first then head towards Raqqa. From Palmyra the SAA could chose many directions for the next campaign and this will be an indication of the government’s strategy as to Syria’s future.

  79. As of Friday evening, Pepe Escobar is reporting that Palmyra has been liberated. Any corroboration from other sources yet?

  80. Former 11B says:
    I found this video to be quite instructive. It goes into the history and I now think anyone who employs “focus groups” should be executed immediately.

  81. To answer my own question above, PressTV and SANA are both now reporting that Palmyra has been liberated:

  82. Bob says:

    I think you are right that we are seeing some indicators that the Iraqis are finally moving some elements towards Mosul, but it will be months before they will have isolated Mosul, and possibly months after that before they assault Mosul. Clearing and holding Mosul will also be more challenging this time than it was in 2005 after Mosul fell in Nov 2004, while we were focused on Fallujah. Avoiding significant civilian casualties will be difficult if ISIL chooses to defend, and the PMF are the primary Iraqi troops involved in clearing Mosul (with Iranian artillery in support?). I’m not sure that the US wants to be involved in that operation, unless it involves going after an HVT.
    The small USMC force at Makhmur will be useful in providing some precision fires in that effort, as well as defending against ISIL attacks toward the KRG. It would be a mistake to move them out of KRG territory, and depend on any non KRG element for their force protection.

  83. LeaNder,
    As I largely agreed that this discussion was ‘off topic’, I had not intended to get further involved.
    However, your observations on the relationship – or lack of it – of Goebbels to Bernays raise an interesting issue.
    In a previous thread, I brought up the recollections of discussions among intellectuals in Munich in the ‘Twenties by Thomas Mann, in his 1947 novel ‘Doktor Faustus’.
    In these discussions, Mann recalled, Tocqueville’s anticipation that ‘democratic’ – in the sense of ‘egalitarian’ – politics could take either liberal or ‘absolutist’ (one might say, ‘Caesarist’), forms, had played a central role. And in being sceptical about the ‘absolutist’ route, Mann told us, he had been close to being on his own.
    Another point of reference which Mann recalled was a very different French writer – Georges Sorel, whose 1906 study ‘Reflections on Violence’ is indeed a classic modern text.
    From Mann’s portrayal of these discussions:
    ‘This was in fact the crass and inflaming prophecy of the book: that popular myths or rather those proper for the masses would become the vehicle of political action; fables, insane visions, chimaeras, which needed to have nothing to do with truth or reason or science in order to be creative, to determine the course of life and history, and thus to prove themselves dynamic realities.’
    So it may be that Bernays should be seen as domesticating for an American audience currents of thinking strongly influential in the Europe from which he came. If that is a plausible interpretation, it would be natural enough for Goebbels to read him with interest and appreciation – but the notion that his influence on Nazism was particularly significant would appear implausible.
    A question which would present itself with renewed force, however, was that of whether, for Bernays, the ‘Wilsonian’ enthusiasm for ‘democracy’ was anything more than a Georges Sorel-style myth.
    And at that point, it may become natural to rewrite the ‘Gettysburg Address’ – and suggest that what ‘democracy’ has ended up meaning is government ‘of the people’, by the ‘PR’ operatives – for whatever causes are important to the latter.

  84. Serge says:

    It is instructive to note the similarities/differences in the circumstances and tactics used by ISIS in the 3 cases thus far of them losing significant population centers since the start of intervention in ’14: Tikrit, Ramadi, and Palmyra. In all 3 cases ISIS seems to employ the strategy of initially defending the cities with 500 troops at most and then withdrawing what is left of this force shortly before the total collapse of defenses in the face of overwhelming numerical and air superiority, the latter being the decisive factor in the engagements thus far, leaving a special force of 50-100 to fight to the death. Stepping back to look at the big picture of what the loss of Palmyra foretells for the loss of the cities of Mosul, Raqqa, etc; one must note that in all 3 cases none of the territory seized from IS was captured by the group before the June ’14(and in the case of Palmyra/Ramadi, May 2015) offensive in Iraq which first put the group back on the world stage. In all of these cases what remained of the civilian population was evacuated weeks before the respective Iraqi/Syrian offensives to swell the IS heartlands of Mosul, Fallujah, Raqqa, and the environs of Aleppo bordering Turkey. Liberated Tikrit and Ramadi, 80-90% destroyed, has yet to witness a return of even a fraction of its population and I am sure that the same will be the case with Palmyra and environs given the area’s susceptibility to infiltration and the fact that it has been totally bombed out in the past months of bombardment. In a long winded way, what I am saying is that not much can be predicted on when or how the battles for the ISIS heartland will play out based on this, as conquering and occupying population centers of 500K, 700K, and 1 million is a totally different beast than what we have seen thus far, and I cannot imagine an existing force in the conflict today that is up for this monumental task even given the “folding up” of the ISIS accordion that we are seeing before our eyes. Although as we have seen in the dramatic tipping of balance in Syria’s favor since Russian intervention, things change quickly in war.

  85. Henshaw says:

    It is a high priority for Damascus to remove the option of partition and ‘federalism’ from any future negotiations by re-establishing Government control in the east of the country. The first stage of this has been achieved with the liberation of Palmyra. The process would be completed by advancing to the main population center of Deir Ezzor, and then to the Syria-Iraq border.
    We can’t be sure that the rapidity of the Da’esh collapse in Palmyra is symptomatic of a terminal decline, but we’ll find out soon enough as we watch the rate of progress by the SAA towards Deir Ezzor.
    Nevertheless, it’s a fair bet that the SAA media team are already planning their coverage of the dusty soldiers from Palmyra meeting in the middle of the desert with the SAA defenders of Deir Ezzor.

  86. turcopolier says:

    I can’t wait to see that photo. BTW are you not the man who told us that it would be quite a while before Tadmur was freed? No matter. Anothre BTW is that I like the way these Syrian soldiers look in the field. Dusty, unshaven men at arms, up to their asses in alligators but still smiling at the camera with their arms around each other, my kind of people. pl

  87. Thirdeye says:

    SAA Reporter and Leith Abu Fadel report that ISIS retains Al-Amariyah (north Palmyra) and the airport for now.

  88. Laguerre says:

    I’m more and more convinced that ISIS has a serious economic problem, and that it is that which is weakening them. Good pay encouraged the jihadis. If it stops, they will be less enthusiastic. In spite of all the religious stuff.
    ISIS has a good reputation for its organisation, but it depends on its revenues. At the beginning ISIS had a lot from private subscriptions from the Gulf. I am not quite sure where we are now on that, but I suspect that it has declined, now that ISIS is depicted as unacceptable.
    Then ISIS took Mosul in 2014 and got several million dollars from the banks. They will have spent that by now.
    Then they have exported oil from the wells on the Khabur. Unfortunately the Russians bombed the queues of trucks waiting to transfer the oil to Turkey, and the US followed up. So that source of revenue has declined. Even omitting the fact that oil illegally exported has to be sold at a reduced price.
    Then we are told that ISIS finances itself from local taxes and selling antiquities. Frankly they are not going to get much from local taxes, when the farmers are afraid to sow. Antiquities, that’s an illusion. There’s not that much on the Western market. The experts refuse to quantify, only cherry-pick individual cases. More likely we’re talking about local peasants trying to survive by illicit diggings.
    Lastly there is the question of the decline in the oil price, for the remaining exports. Both the Kurds in Erbil, and the Iraqis in Baghdad, have suffered severely from this problem. The KRG has not paid the Peshmerga for six months, and schoolteachers for even longer. I heard last week that in Baghdad, pensions are not being paid in full, even for people in privileged situations. If in Erbil and Baghdad, why not in Raqqa?
    Big problem for ISIS if there’s no more money. Could lead to a major disappearance of jihadis from the field.

  89. SmoothieX12 says:

    The situation was fluid recently (several hours ago).

  90. Henshaw says:

    No, I’m the man who said that (at time of writing) claims of SAA capturing Tadmur were probably premature, as that would imply a collapse of Da’esh within the last (ie previous) 24 hours. To be unambiguous, I should probably have written ‘having captured’. Given the likely composition of Da’esh forces in Tadmur (my post of 9.24pm), a rapid collapse could have been expected, and that appears to be what has happened.
    I generally found a very strong sense of community in Syria, and I think that is what you are seeing in the SAA images. There’s a serious job to be done, and they’re doing it.
    It is also worth remembering that the bulk of the army is Sunni, reflecting the religious demographics of Syria (although officer corps is different). The convenient equivalence that the media and various propagandists draw between ‘Sunni’ and ‘rebel’ or ‘moderate rebel’ is misleading. There’s a whole bunch of Syrian Sunnis who have no problems with the separation of church and state.

  91. Henshaw says:

    I should have added that they have a few things to smile about. Even though many of them are conscripts, and the term of conscription has been extended to the end of hostilities (whenever that is), if I was receiving new equipment, enjoying the benefits of extensive air support, and working with a good bunch of guys to drive our enemies before us, I’d probably smile too.

  92. Kutte says:

    After reading the Times article I would say this is the “Sprachregelung”(=”language Regime”, a term which seems to have made into the English language) for the members of the “spiral of silence”, so that they have something to parrot in order to justify their spinelessnes, and to save them thinking for themselves. Even before I heard of the “spiral of silence” it had occurred to me, that the talk shows and news were just opportunities to hand out blueprints of arguments for the obliging. Seems there are hard times ahead for the political impostors, thanks to the Internet.

  93. Tigermoth says:

    “… things change quickly in war”. Yes; I woke up this morning to find things in Palmyra were quite different from where they were the evening before. First, it would appear that the report of a troop drop northeast of the airport was suspect and probably didn’t occur based on the current battle status maps.
    Second, the town north of Palmyra, AL-Amariyah, wasn’t actually controlled by the SAA, although they have now taken it this morning, which exposes exposes a flank of ISIS inside the city. The SAA seemed to have withdrawn from the city during the night. but control western, and southern areas right up the the airport perimeter, although ISIS controls the airport.
    There was a live feed from an Arabic channel located near the Castle and judging from the explosions the fighting inside the city seems wide spread. The SAA and friends still have some work to do.

  94. Henshaw says:

    Da’esh would be lucky to earn even a pittance from antiquities. It allows locals to dig over sites on the basis that they disclose what they find, and that any revenue is shared with Da’esh.
    With the breakdown of civil order in Syria, there was such an upsurge in unauthorised excavation at sites such as Ebla, that it is visible in Google. You can’t blame the locals- with their farming activities curtailed, families still needed income.
    Most of what is found will have little or no commercial value. After passing through many hands, a painted pot or item of statuary in good condition could be worth at most a few thousand dollars when finally sold in the West, but Da’esh would only receive a small part of this.
    The most important loss is the damage caused to archaeological sites. Artefacts removed from their context can only tell you a fraction of what they could if found and documented in situ, and important information is destroyed as desperate locals tear open a site in pursuit of ‘treasure’.

  95. BB says:

    It is all mere degrees of separation from plain old sales (business middlemen), for which the Bernayses, the writers at the NYT, and the Borg, et al., are disposed. But this disposition also blinds them to the reality that all of these tools of advancement and control are ONLY effective in a high-trust, high-order society. And the inclination to minimize the competition through subjugation has lead to promoting things which destroy this high-trust, high-order society (most notably multicultural and large scale immigration). Contrary to popular belief, it was not Ted Kennedy who was the main force behind the Immigration Act of 1965, but Senators Abe Ribicoff and Jacob Javits.
    Here’s a good piece that sums it up pretty well. The wisdom comes from Linh Dinh, a middle-aged Vietnamese immigrant who apparently got his wisdom from spending a lot of time in bars in middle America.

  96. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    This soldier fought and died like a man. He would be a hero for any soldier.
    My respects to his unit and his nation.
    Kipling was saying the same thing a century ago:
    “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.”
    Ishmael Zechariah

  97. SmoothieX12,
    It seems that the readers of the ‘Daily Mail’ agree with you. Comments on their site are commonly a good indicator of what much of ‘Middle Britain’ thinks.
    (See .)

  98. LeaNder says:

    “it would be natural enough for Goebbels to read him with interest and appreciation – but the notion that his influence on Nazism was particularly significant would appear implausible.”
    David, from my limited perspective it feels pretty safe to assume that he and others did ‘of course’ read Jewish authors, in spite of the fact they were Jewish. Not least to study their otherness. In Bernay’s case would they have realized at all? … Propaganda just like Hasbara no doubt works both ways to a certain extend.
    I stumbled across the myth they couldn’t possibly have–never, ever would they touch the book of a Jewish author–in academia on a topic I studied in the fictive field of Nazi propaganda. Apparently the high profile prof took it for granted, as others too in my fields: the Nazis possibly couldn’t have done this. … In this special case it was an odd assumption.
    Concerning Bernay’s specific influence on Goebbels or his overall influence, it may no doubt deserve closer attention.
    On the other hand, what do we have on our hands to not face disappointment in such an endeavor? That’s always the grand question. What do matters look like if put in historical context? To what extend can other sources be definitively ruled out? Will there be a solid proof waiting for us at the end, that every other source or influence could be ruled out? How many sources that may help us have gone? Did Goebbels libraries both in his office and at his private locations survive?
    From the top of my head.

  99. All,
    It is worth looking at the video of the State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner responding to questions about the prospect of the Syrian Army taking Palmyra two days ago.
    He was asked: ‘Do you want to see the regime retake Palmyra or would you prefer that it stays in Daesh hands?’
    After Toner had initially equivocated, Further prodding finally elicited this response:
    ‘No, I mean, look, I mean, broadly speaking, it’s not a great choice, an either/or, but – which is worse, Daesh or the regime – but we think Daesh is probably the greater evil in this case’.
    (See .)
    One needs to watch the clip to get the full effect.
    And this came in the immediate aftermath of Brussels.

  100. bth says:

    Here is an old 2003 map of grain silos in Iraq.
    I think there may be around 9 in Nineveh and a notable one that was recently fought over in Makhmur. Timarat, Hawija and Manbij also came up in prior years discussion of IS control of the silos.
    I simply put it out there for discussion. If you are going to control populations and revenues, then control of the grain silos is important and there are fixed number and known locations.

  101. bth says:

    Would anyone know who controls the grain silos at Timarat between Tal Afar and Mosul?

  102. SmoothieX12 says:

    @Alba etie
    I can only give my opinion, which, in the end, could be wrong. But my sense of the situation is that Obama can not fail to understand what legacy he leaves behind–it is an unmitigated disaster in foreign policy–and he must be in search of some kind of saving grace and the major one could be some kind of credit for dismantling (or at least checking) IS. At this stage this can only be done in cooperation with Russia and, what is most important and bothersome for Obama, Assad. My thoughts on Kerry’s visit, which was limited to two days instead of four asked by the American side, is that indeed, some kind of grand bargain is in the making, this bargain by definition requires course correction. The fact that US Air Force conducts operations in and around Palmyra, while having in the theater a significant operational Russian Air-Space component, especially helicopters, tells me only one thing–some NEW channels of communications have been opened between US and Russian military and that, in itself, speaks volumes. It means that decision was made on the political level. This also allows US to grab some factually deserved credit for liberation of Palmyra and strategic benefits such an event will provide for further liberation of Syria. So, in my very humble and not necessarily well-informed opinion, some (not all) key points which are in the works right now between US and Russia, especially against the background of noticeably reduced hostile rhetoric (which is also an indicator) on US part, are:
    1. Issue of partition of Syria. Russia is against partition and is not very happy with Kurds jumping the gun on this issue;
    2. Assad and his fate–while Russia does not necessarily supports all what Assad did or does, she is absolutely against him leaving the post in the foreseeable future. We all know “Assad must go” meme on the American side. Well, here US will have to find a way to accommodate. This point was on discussion table for sure. What kind of arrangements will be made to allow US to save the face–I don’t know but there are many ways to do it.
    3. Ukraine. This issue was in the works even before Kerry’s latest visit.
    As per Putin or Russia in general–it is not in their natures to seek US “humiliation”. Russia approach to relations with the US is very pragmatic and could be expressed in a single phrase “leave us alone”. What this means is another matter altogether but Russia (and Putin) also know really well some general rules which apply to relations between superpowers and one of the key rules in that–do not openly and blatantly humiliate even not-friendly superpower. This rule, sadly, was forgotten in the US.
    So, this is my very short, bare bones, summary which I hope answers some of your questions.

  103. Chris Chuba says:

    Serge, it’s an interesting thought that a fight for a very large city might go down very differently, especially if ISIS determines to make a last stand. Does Palmyra fit the pattern that you described? In Ramadi we had something like 2,000 Iraqi security forces calling in air strikes and yeah, it went down exactly the way you described. However, in Palmyra, the fighting has been much more intense and we know that the Syrians and Hezbollah actually fight and don’t hide behind air strikes. I would think that this implies that there is a more serious force located in Palmyra but what do I know?
    On a separate point related to what TTG and someone else said, I find the notion of a main drive to Deir Ezzor and then driving to Raqqa interesting for a couple of reasons. 1. It is the exact opposite of what I expected. I expected them to link with the Kurds in the north/west to cut their supplies and then drive to Raqqa from that direction. 2. Driving ISIS from Deir Ezzor to Raqqa into the North/west corridor would be real interesting. It would push the liver eaters into Turkey/Al Nusra/FSA territory and I suppose keep them too busy to think about re-starting battles with the SAA again. I’m just glad professionals are in charge of this operation.

  104. bth says:

    There is this interesting article about Iranian land purchases and development in Syria. This seems like a sound strategy especially if it is allowing Iran to migrate Afghan refugees from Iran to Syria in the construction trade.

  105. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not credit this at all. The only place that Iranians – of all stripes – had bought property in recent years has been Kuala Lumpur.
    Why would any sane Iranian go live in Damascus among the “despised & stupid” Arabs? Not even the very religious would do that.
    This reminds me of the story about the fellow who bought the Roman Empire; I suppose the Iranians are buying Syria and are going to own it.

  106. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There was a bombing in Iraq during a football match yesterday – 35 Shia Muslims killed by ISIS or its fellow-travelers.
    It does not matter – “Shia are Unredeemably Evil” but “ISIS just plain old vanilla Bad”.
    I wonder, it is because the Shia oppose the Cult of Shoah?

  107. alba etie says:

    Thank you – I come here at SST for opinions that are based in experience and facts, I greatly appreciate your assessments here . I would agree that President Obama is looking at his Foreign Policy legacy and trying to have some wins in the last year of his second term . And would that President Clinton not have bombed Belgrade and left Russia alone we would all be better off . IMO that started this modern day neocon American slide into the chaos we find now .. Meanwhile it is heartening to see the Russian and USA military back channel each other in the effective effort to exterminate the Liver Eaters ..

  108. bth says:

    You are wrong about this. I’ll follow up in another post but there is good indication of Iranian land appropriations using surrogates roughly from Damascus and Homs to the coastal corridor. Particular attention to land corridors into Hezbollah controlled areas of Lebanon. I believe we will find a strong overlap between Iranian and Hezbollah troop positions and real estate acquisitions. More to follow.

  109. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Russian and USA military back channel each other in the effective effort to exterminate the Liver Eaters”
    It is my long-standing position that professionals who actually have real concrete common work to do, especially combat one, will have little trouble communicating with each-other. There are surely many true professionals on both Russian and US sides. Sadly, US power “elite” packed with triumphalist BSers, neocons and political generals seems to be unable to recognize who their real enemy is. The rise of American triumphalism started way before aggression against Yugoslavia but it was bombing of Serbia and Russia’s pathetic cowardly behavior, which resulted in selling Serbia out that finalized the myth of US being a military hyper power. The consequences of that are truly massive and tragic. But if not for Yugoslavia, coming of Putin and his team after abdication of buffoon and alcoholic Yeltsin could have been a very long process. For Russians 1999 war against Serbs clearly exposed all those “cooperation” talks as utter BS.

  110. FB Ali says:

    Pretty pathetic!

  111. LeaNder,
    These are matters to which we can perhaps revert at a more opportune time.
    But they are of some interest to me – among other things, because a colleague and I interviewed Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman back in 1988, when I was working for the BBC.
    There are however also other issues involved here. Although the phenomena overlap, one has to distinguish between situations where people keep silent because they are conscious of being in a minority, and situations where they do so because they are participants in some kind of ‘collective fiction’.
    And here, I go back to Georges Sorel. Incidentally, he also features in the discussion introduced by Élie Halévy on the ‘era of tyrannies’ at the Société Française de Philosophie in November 1936. The anthology of his writing published under this title, which also contains his lectures on ‘The World Crisis of 1914-18’, can be picked up for next to nothing on the web. One can read both pieces in an hour or so.
    There is a great deal of overlap between Mann’s interpretation of modern tyranny and that of Halévy and the anthropologist/ sociologist Marcel Mauss; both moreover have a lot of common ground with the ideas of the British philosopher/historian R.G. Collingwood.
    Before harking back to the views of Aristotle on the way ‘in which tyranny is normally linked to war and to democracy itself’, Mauss referred to Sorel’s doctrine of ‘active minorities’.
    In his discussion of Sorel, Mann referred to ‘community-forming’ beliefs.
    In these terms, we can say that much of inter-war politics was characterised by a polarisation between ‘active minorities’ propagating a set of ‘community-forming’ beliefs linked to the notion of class, and competing beliefs linked to the notion of nation.
    Central to Mann’s account of discussions among Munich intellectuals in the ‘Twenties was quite precisely the claim that these quite consciously argued that sustaining such ‘community-forming’ beliefs required the sacrifice of concern for objective truth. It was his counter-argument that doing so would necessarily end up destroying any basis for genuine community.
    It is a long time since I looked seriously at this history. But what I think is the case is that in relation to the ‘active minority’ which propelled Hitler to power – and particularly the SS – the vision of a Jewish ‘world conspiracy’, and in particular a struggle to the death against the ‘Jewish Bolshevik sub-humans’, was a critical ‘community-forming’ belief.
    And this does seem to be a bizarre – not least because anti-Christian – transformation of certain Christian millenarian currents – as is evident in the notion of the ‘Thousand Year Reich’.
    That millenarian anticipations can veil an underlying nihilism has frequently been argued, in different contexts. It is the basis of a long tradition of interpretation of National Socialism – a notable statement is Hermann Rauschning’s 1938 study ‘The Revolution of Nihilism’. And here, indeed, one might see an analogy with ISIS.
    Against this background, it would not be in the least surprising that Goebbels should study closely a Jewish author like Bernays. This is not simply because it is natural to study an enemy – but also it is implicit in the theory of a Jewish ‘world conspiracy’ that the demonic Jews could be expected to be experts in propaganda.
    However, in relation to the German ‘Volksgemeinschaft’ as a whole, the ‘community-forming’ belief was not faith in the Nazi Party, or indeed anti-Semitism. It was quite precisely what Halévy, again drawing an analogy with classical history, called ‘anthropolatry’ – the worship of the human as divine. Certainly, many recent historians have argued that the ‘Hitler cult’ was the central integrative force in National Socialist Germany.
    Some particularly interesting evidence on this comes from the transcripts of the bugging of German POWs in the operations conducted by British intelligence and American intelligence, which form the basis of the 2011 study ‘Soldaten’ by Söhnke Neitzel and Harald Welzer.
    One of the points that Halévy made at the time was that there was an ideological convergence between class- and nation-based politics. And Hitler’s ‘national socialism’ did succeed in integrating very large elements of the working class – and indeed in opening up social mobility.
    But what the POWs’ conversations show is how, ironically, when the objective evidence that Hitler was leading to Germany to disaster mounted, there were also ‘objective’ reasons why the cult of Hitler became even harder to question. The section on ‘Faith in Victory’ in the study by Neitzel and Welzer ends:
    ‘And since faith in the Führer was simultaneously a faith of Germans in themselves, every threat to positive images of Hitler was also a threat to the project in which people had invested so much energy and emotion. The fear was that this project would turn out to be utterly worthless.’
    Implicit in this is the notion that silence is not produced simply by fear of what others may think – but also by what I am calling a ‘collective fiction’. By this, I mean a belief which most people involved are coming to recognise is in conflict with the facts which are becoming evident – but in a situation where recognition of those facts involves dangers which are actually very real.
    Perhaps ironically, I think that the discussion by Neitzel and Welzer, although in some ways very acute, also disregards what should be a glaringly obvious fact. What they suggest was that questioning the cult of the Führer would have involved facing to an essentially nihilistic vision.
    Ironically, however, by involving Germany first in a quite unnecessary wars, first against the Western powers, and then the Soviet Union, Hitler had created a situation in which to question his cult involved a risk of social collapse, at precisely the point where such collapse would be likely to lead to catastrophic defeat.
    This comment is already quite long enough. However, it may make plain why, in relation to what we here call ‘the Borg’, although I think the notion of the ‘spiral of silence’ has its uses, it needs to be supplemented by a conception of ‘collective fiction’.
    The situation of ‘the Borg’ now is quite precisely that of people whose beliefs are coming into conflict with facts which are glaringly obvious, but cannot afford to surrender those beliefs, for reasons which are not simply to do with power and money.

  112. SmoothieX12 says:

    As it turned out, my speculations have some basis in reality. CIA Director Brennan visited (secretly) Moscow early March and communicated with his counterparts in FSB. Kremlin says Brennan didn’t contact them. I guess discussion was mostly about technical issues. (In Russian)

  113. alba etie says:

    Thank you again for your views they have given me more to mull over.
    Would that the professional NCO ‘s of the world make the final decisions on War & Peace.

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