IMO the Astana Peace process will go nowhere, will soon disintegrate and then the situation in western Syria will require further offensive action on the part of R+6 to insure Syrian Government control of Idlib Province.
Since the fall of eastern Aleppo City to government forces action has been in what are IMO mainly peripheral areas. Palmyra, pockets around Damascus, even SAA participation in the anti-IS fighting at al-Bab, and at Deir al-Zor are none of them critical to the government's fate. The SAR has been negotiating surrender arrangements all over western Syria with pockets of jihadis/unicorns. Part of the surrender agreement is always the voluntary removal of the super hard core cadres to Idlib Province. As a result, a steady build up of rebel forces there has been underway for some time. This is somewhat reduced by a steady stream of air attacks on them that now includes USAF attacks.
A question in my mind is whether or not Mattis and Flynn accept the idea that Idlib Province must be cleared of rebels for peace to have a chance in Syria. Thus far they seem to be obsessed with the notion that Iran and Hizbullah are the bad actors on the Syrian scene rather than the jihadis/unicorns. IMO the yes-men Flynn has bee hiring are unlikely to argue for other than group think. pl
Indeed it is surprising that they consider Iran and Iranian backed groups more toxic than the assorted quasi front-men for Al Qaida (unicorns et al). Anxiety and loathing of all things having to do with Iran seem to be the only common denominator between “most” past and present policy makers and NCS folk, regardless of party politics.
The other common denominator to which you yourself have pointed to in previous posts is the KSA , or rather their absence from any adverse mention .
A few places have even reported that Mr. Trump may be favoring an arrangement with Assad/Russia sans Iran and Hezbollah ( http://www.unz.com/article/trumps-syria-minus-iran-overture-to-putin-and-assad/ ). The rational again, would be to bring the KSA aboard if that is the path the administration takes.
So obsessed with keeping what they flag as the bad actor they are.
I wonder if the Committee has seen this interesting report from Federation of American Scientists on NS directives publication, including directive re ISIS and Syria:
” ‘The directives include a certain amount of sloganeering and chest thumping that is familiar in electoral campaign documents, but somewhat unusual in presidential directives. So, President Trump writes, in order to achieve “peace through strength,” US Armed Forces must be “rebuilt.” And “there can be no accommodation or negotiation” with the Islamic State.
But what is even more unusual is that the Trump White House released all of these directives and ordered publication of each of them in the Federal Register. It is, one might say, an act of unprecedented transparency.
It is technically true that “any presidential determination or directive can be published in the Federal Register, regardless of how it is styled,” as a 2000 opinion from the Justice of Department Office of Legal Counsel stated..’ ”
It doesn’t matter what the government thinks. Russian/Syrian strategy is to turn it into Bin Laden-stan after which the Western Governments will be forced to act in line with Russia/regime.
Yes, Syria must regain control of the territory within its borders if the chaos is ever to end.
Syria is dealing with a mini world war; Al-Qaeda and Turkish affiliated Islamists in Idlib Province, Islamic State in the Euphrates River Valley supplied by the Gulf Monarchies, groups to the South supported by Israel and the Kurd secession assisted by the USA. Syria’s government survival for five years is due to the support of Hezbollah, Iran and Russia. The USA has actively supported regime change in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. The question is what plan will come out of the 30-day DoD review of how to defeat the Islamic State. If Turkey sides with Russia or if America gives up on “moderate” rebels, then an offensive by Syria with its limited manpower could be successful in Idlib Province. The wild cards are the global oligarchs from Riyadh to Wall Street who are pushing for the destabilization of Russia by keeping it always at war. They want the Syrian and Ukraine conflicts to continue and the Shiite Crescent to remain cut. This is quite weird but it appears that peace depends on nationalist Donald Trump defeating the Islamic State, securing the borders and surviving the Globalists media driven Constitutional coups.
From what I hear, the Administration has no choice but to hire third or fourth choice yes men. There is a dearth of experienced people who will join the admin. Of course my source is hardly a fan of the administration. I think he was a Cruz man.
An excellent point.
This much seems to be clear: Those who Pursue & advocate this strategy are very well financed and backed. What is not clear is that such an obsessive pursuit is in the best interest of this country, or even a high priority even if it is vis a vis other avenues of action.
Ever since the Fall of the Shah and then especially America Held Hostage . . . American thinker-planners have been deeply hostile towards Iran. Their mood is such that any group higher up the food chain than politicians would find it very easy to keep the thinker-planners acting on their sense of unanswered insult and injustice.
There is no hurry to go after Idlib. It greatly simplifies sorting out the rest of Syria. Everywhere else, you give people the choice: make a deal with the regime or take your rifle (but no heavy weapons) and go to Idlib.
The true locals will cut a deal and stay, and the die hards will go to a place which is supplied by essentially a single highway from Turkey (plus whatever you can hump in across the mountains on some twisty goat tracks).
I agree that Idlib should be retaken soon. But my reasons ‘why’ are different than yours.
Unfortunately Assad does not listen to either of us. He is leaving the opposition in Idlib to destroy itself. JFS (formerly named al Nusra and al Qaeda) is attacking all of those groups that signed up for the peace conference in Astana. Ahrar al-Sham, another Salafist organization funded by Turkey and Kuwait, who used to ally itself with JFS is now fighting against them and smaller groups influenced by JFS.
The Syrian strategy seems to be clean up the many small pockets and keep sending more jihadis to Idlib. In addition to the groups from east Aleppo that were sent to Idlib, the rebels in the al-Waer neighborhood of Homs city were just evacuated to Idlib two days ago. Another pocket of opposition Assad would like to send to Idlib is in Damascus itself. The Syrian Army also wants to clear out opposition pockets in the countryside of western Aleppo province.
I do not believe SecDef Mattis is obsessed with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria. It is true he has no love for Hezbollah and the IRGC – that is true of any Marine who remembers 23 October 1983. But Mattis is a professional and is not going to do anything to start a war with them. He is not a neocon. In Syria, his focus will be on Daesh, but he will continue the Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter targeting of al-Qaeda in Idlib or elsewhere when valid targets can be pinpointed.
IMO if Idlib is not cleaned up soon the geo-political situation will change and the SAR will be screwed. pl
Correction on my last: JFS is now Tahrir al-Sham as of two days ago. They took up the new name when they merged with al-Zenki and some other groups. That is four different names in four years. Guess they are trying to spin their funding sources?
BTW, I also think Charly’s comment above is a good analysis on the Syrian/Russian thinking for Idlib.
I agree with Pat, and the obsession with Daesh is self defeating….because the other Jihadi Takfiri outfits that run into the dozens and which keep changing names on a weekly basis are just like Daesh or much much worse…. So saying Daesh all the time is the target is utterly misleading and in my opinion deliberate in order to skew the game. Nothing can be taken for granted , it’s still all rhetoric on the Potomac, and no real direction yet…
Shia Crescent leaders are conforming to the diplomatic plan of the Russian Federation which is testing the possibility of a reset with the United States at least over Syria with the new President.
Once its failure becomes apparent, in a few weeks more, the war will resume in earnest.
As Petrous has observed above: the aims of the Western Fortress and the Gulfies have not changed; and I agree with Col. Lang below as well.
We are likely facing another 3 years of war.
As I said above, I think it should be cleaned up soon also.
You are right that if not done soon the situation will change. But I think it hurts the Americans and the Kurds war on Daesh more than it hurts the SAR. The Kurdish YPG may well give up the push on Raqqa and turn west to Afrin if the situation there gets worse because of what is happening in Idlib. And that may start a major Turkish/Kurdish war – in Syria.
Of course that would hurt the SAR also.
Each elimination of pockets around Damascus and elsewhere frees up lots of Syrian army soldiers. The ongoing Wadi Barada evacuation of Jihadis alone just freed up 5,000 – a full brigade. That’s a lot of personal that will be needed to go to Idleb.
The current situation in Idleb is exactly what Russia had tried to make happen for over an year and what the U.S. sabotaged all along (Kerry’s “mingling” of moderates and Takfiris): The separation of “moderates” from Takfiris is currently taking place. Ahrar split and large parts joined al-Qaeda. Smaller groups consolidate either to al-Qaeda or the “moderate” part of Ahrar. Turkey now has to decide which group to support and which to block. It will go for the moderates more dear to its heart and al-Qaeda will have difficulties getting supplies.
Should international support for al-Qaeda continue it will now be out in the open and Turkey will have an interest to stop it.
These were preparations for a larger, successful attack on Idleb. Just give it a month or two to happen.
Deir Ezzor is a problem for Syria and its government. It needs help. Now.
Seems to me that we are singing the same tune.pl
Apologies for asking this question to which I am 99.9% sure the answer is “no.” But I can’t sleep that well without knowing the answer. The internet and popular press is alight with rumours that Assad has either been assassinated or suffered a heart attack, and he is either seriously hospitalized or dead.
Tabloids like the Express and Mail and even Reuters have reported it, but none of the more upmarket outlets like The Guardian, Telegraph or Beeb have even mentioned it.
Please reassure me the answer is “NO”. And does anyone know from where these rumours originate?
Incidentally, in the last couple of days I have noticed that the BBC’s domestic news reporting is treating Trump with considerably more respect. They even allow Trump representatives on their programmes. I imagine this is because Theresa May is desperate to preserve her relationship with him, and these days politicians can lean on the Beeb to give them the coverage they demand.
BTW, I also think Charly’s comment above is a good analysis on the Syrian/Russian thinking for Idlib.
Maybe Charly or you help me to read it correctly? Ideally including some type of outline how else Syria/Russia et al should deal with the hardcore takfiris/ideologues intended to fight it out to the bitter end.
For what it’s worth, Al-Masdar has a link to a video showing Assad.
Seems that the rumor originated in the Al-Mustaqbal newspaper in Lebanon. It’s owned by the Hariri family. They have very close ties with the Saudis.
I have seen those reports also. It first surfaced in twitter accounts from various oppo groups saying Bashar had suffered a stroke. It was then picked up by Saudi and Turkish media. One account said he was being cared for in the American Hospital in Beirut.
I tend to doubt the story. But who knows?
The Syrian government has denied it and they say he is in excellent health.
Babak Makkinejad –
Three years more war may well turn out to be true. Let us hope not.
I still think Charly’s comment above about Russian/Syrian strategy to turn Idlib into a Bin Laden-stan is correct. It was the diplomatic plan of the R+6 to send the opposition groups to Idlib province. It was not an American plan. And not a plan of what you term the Western Fortress (whoever they are?). Neither was it a plan of the Saudis & Gulfies.
Why would Assad now turn against that strategy?
Daesh appears to be taking a bad beating in Deir ez-Zor:
Sorry about an outline, I never claimed to be a strategist. But I believe that Colonel Lang is correct that the Syrian Army should go after the taqfiris soon.
Off topic, nice nom-de-plume you use. Are you a strong swimmer like your namesake?
Thanks Akratique and mike, I was almost certain it was fake news too.
I cannot believe anyone seriously thinking that R+6 can force the Western Fortress to do anything beneficial to R+6 in Idlib, or indeed anywhere else in Syria.
The leaders of Western Fortress are committed, in my opinion, to opposing R+6 to the last Jihadi. The war is not being fought on their territory, their Gulfie friends (Their Preferred Muslims) are funding that war, and the casualties of R+6 are just an added bonus.
In my opinion, the prolongation of the war in Syria – in spite of the refugee headache – remains in the interest of the Western Fortress.
Yup, spend 30 days studying how to wage war and defeat Islamic State while publicly stating that the citizens of Iraq and Syria are threats to the security of the United States – all the while maintaining a wall between SAR and USG.
I think the Marx Brothers did that once; or was it Mel Brooks?
nothing to do with Greek mythology, if that’s on your mind. But if so. No.
I have been reading about the U.S. wanting a safe zone in Syria. I can’t imagine Syria accepting that peacefully. And the above article states that the U.S. is in contact / resupplying ISIS. That would imply a continuation of Obama’s policy?
Babak Makkinejad –
I never implied that the R+6 could force the west to do anything. I do agree with Charly that the Russian/Syrian strategy is to turn Idlib province into a Taqfiri haven. That would give them time to clean up the rest of the opposition pockets in the country. I myself do not think it a good strategy, but I am no Clausewitz, not even close.
What is this Western Fortress to which you keep referring? And why would the prolongation of the war benefit them?
Apparently the Kurdish YPG and their Arab/Syriac/Armenian/Circassian allies in the SDF are going to try to cut the route between Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa. If successful that will be a serious problem for Daesh trying to take Deir ez-Zor from the Syrian Army.
Unfortunately the new ‘armored’ vehicles recently provided to the SDF for this op are only up-armored SUV’s. And not many have been provided so far. Erdogan is bound to be steaming mad though that the SDF is getting hardware and ammo from the US. He will probably retaliate by flattening another Kurdish city with tanks and artillery in SE Turkey.
I agree that Idlb should be strongly attacked and one of those reasons is to save the Astana peace process. The non-Al Qaeda rebels need to see Nusra Front 3.0 crushed (I’m calling them Al Qaeda, I’m not buying into their name changes). They are too stubborn to abandon Idlib, so they will die in place which is good and the other rebels will feel more pressure to abandon them. If the SAA leaves them be then Nusra 3.0 will continue to whip them back into line. Cut off the head.
Now that Aleppo and Wadi Barada have been liberated, there is diminishing return in leaving Idlib as a safe haven for isolated pockets that want to surrender. Assad has already won the big prizes. I’m not a military guy but I have observed that the rebels abandon Nusra when they lose so it looks like it is important to show that Nusra is on the losing side.
Slightly OT but still very relevant to this conversation, I think.
In an article yesterday Gilbert Doctorow included translations of selected remarks from “Sunday Evening with Vladimir Soloviev”, according to him Russia’s premier political talk show. The guests, mostly leading Russian politicians and academics, discussed the meaning of the Trump/Putin phone call.
“The boys did their homework both in historical comparisons and in parsing texts of the press releases. They came to the show well prepared. Their comments are worth reading at length [. . .]
Another noteworthy aspect of the program and of the positive view presented on prospects for collaboration with Donald Trump’s America is that it unfolded under the direction of the great Trump-skeptic, Vladimir Soloviev himself.”
Syria is only an unimportant part of the World that the American Empire wants to control. If Idlib is controlled in obvious way by AQ than it cost the Empire way to much (*) in the Rest of the World if they support the AQ rebels in Idlib direct or even in a plausible deniable way so they wont do it. (Moscow will have a big celebration the case they do support AQ, Tehran a small won)
The hardcore fighters aren’t the problem. It is their resupply that is a problem. Cut that and they will loose fast.
If i was Putin i would wait for Idlib AQ to really come out of the closet which is likely to be in the next few months, then i would uhm, persuade Assad to make big overtures of a peace deal with Idlib AQ. Would bet that the deal the West than offers to continue the war will be very sweet for Russia/Regime and a closed border
Western Fortress: NATO States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea.
That’s pretty cryptic, charly.
Put another way, not easy to interpret. Starting maybe with the bracketed asterisk. Maybe? What does it refer to? Attempt at interpretation: The ‘American Empire’ controls the ‘Rest of the world’, or at least the part it is more or less aligned with? None of those would dare to support the rebels? Which leaves us with Russia as the main culprit and/or sponsors? Only states can be sponsors?
…(Moscow will have a big celebration the case they do support AQ, Tehran a small won)
If Russia and its allies manage to win the war returning Syria to some type of normalcy–End of the civil war/Rebuilding–I wouldn’t mind them to celebrate. Could even imagine to join them in their celebration.
Would bet that the deal the West than offers to continue the war will be very sweet for Russia/Regime and a closed border
Do I understand you correctly, you feel that Russia and Assad/Syria should align with AQ versus “the West”? They may even intend this down the road? What would AQ coming out of the closet in Idlib look like?
Per AlMasdar, the 105th Brigade has redeployed from Wadi Barada to Jobar (east Damascus City). If this increases the rate at which the East Ghouta pocket can be reduced, we might be seeing a cascade effect on the remaining pockets. The days of the northern Homs pocket seem numbered.
That is very true. The effects of nearly 450 days of negative light shed on that country by the network news (a near monopoly on national news at the time) has proved very hard to overcome, specially since no apology was ever forthcoming from the ‘revolutionary’ perpetrators either. In effect a whole generation of politicians were formed with these images bunt into their mind.
At times though the cost to our national interests of holding and acting on this understandable grudge might have been higher than they needed to be.
“The wild cards are the global oligarchs from Riyadh to Wall Street who are pushing for the destabilization of Russia by keeping it always at war.”
Given the holdings of Saud family in Citigroup, the road from Riyadh to Wall Street is a case of “arriving before departure.”
Syria is a side show for Russia. They would win big in the Rest of the World but it would be a negative in Syria so in the total picture they would celebrate.
You have to realize that only in a very cynical world would the US support Al Qaeda and in that very cynical world the US is an Empire, Putin a mobster etc. In a less cynical World the US would not do that pure for keeping face, see for example ISIS oil tankers
I don’t know the right word for (*) but it is that what you use/have so that people do what you want. Be that fear, respect, love, money, influence etc. or more likely a combination of those.
A peace deal is not an alignment, not even close and Julani being commander in chief of the rebel army of Idlib s very close to AQ out of the closet.
Elliott Abrahms has apparently been hired by Tillerson. Not a good sign. He could become Trump’s Vicky Nuland.