IMO the “de-escalation zones” are a clever trick. Thank God.


IMO Putin and Lavrov are even more clever than I had thought.  The Astana process proposal for "de-escalation zones" in Syria has something for everyone:

1.  The SAG will receive yet more advice and assistance from Russia.  As evidence of this R+6 forces are assembling in the eastern Homs Province area for a massive drive to liberate Deir al-Zor.  The Tiger Forces and 5th Corps of the SAA seem to be poised to spearhead this drive.  This effort, evidently to be conducted with full Russian air and advisory support is not indicative of Russia having "thrown in the towel" and washed its hands of the fate of the present Syrian government.

2.  At the same time a glance at the placement of the proposed "de-escalation zones" shows that these are all jihadi dominated areas under the protection and support of foreign sponsors; Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, the smaller Gulfies and probably still the US.  The supposed creation of these jihadi Bantustans will please the sponsors but it should not.

3.  Why?  The very AQ descended or connected jihadi military forces in these areas are excluded from the terms and protection of "the deal."  This means that after the Deir al-Zor operation is ended the R+6 will be free to turn their attention to destroying terrorist jihadi forces in these enclaves.

4.  IMO Putin wants to improve relations with the US.  Trump will probably believe that this ploy is a genuine expression of good will rather than a clever maneuver.  Look to see a follow on set of proposals for something like a UN supervised referendum in the Crimea on annexation and a proposal for a US/Russian mixed military commission to determine the actual state of affairs in the Donbas and eastern Ukraine generally.  pl 

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84 Responses to IMO the “de-escalation zones” are a clever trick. Thank God.

  1. pmr9 says:

    From this report in the Guardian ( it appears that a “Whitehall source” expects “Assad” to launch another chemical attack after the UK general election on 8 June, when it is expected that an increased Conservative majority will ensure that the House of Commons will vote for war with Syria.
    Ambassador Yakovlenko understands the situation perfectly (
    It has to be borne in mind that the British Foreign Secretary recently hypothesized on joining another US action in Syria in response to another chemical incident, which means that an order for it has already been placed.

  2. J says:

    Here is a hypothetical ‘escalation’ between NATO and Russia over ‘errors/mistakes’ from NATO forces that starts the tumbling of the dominoes opening Pandora’s box.
    Nuclear Attack Emergency Broadcast – Live Breaking News from London (fiction)

  3. jld says:

    This is CRIMINALLY STUPID and the whole channel of Ben Marking is full of such “fiction” videos.
    Not only this may be confusing to many idiots but excerpts may be made wich would support even more damaging disinformation.
    I don’t buy at all the (supposed?) well meaning intent of warning about dangerous events.

  4. Annem says:

    It looks like this SAA advance on Deir ez Zor stands to complicate the effort of US-Saudi-Jordanian-backed Syrian forces to take Zor from the south. Will this mean a race to get there first?

  5. kooshy says:

    Colonel, Russia has declared that the designated safe zones will be no fly zones to US and her coalition, as well as Syrian air force, as a result one can believe this designation was pre arranged and agreed by US, otherwise the real mother of all wars could have started. What I can’t understand why Turkey agreed to this arrangement, this safe zones means Erdo’ air force no longer can bomb the Kurds, do you think that’s why US agreed, to prevent Turkey to attack Kurds? In mean time Israel can still attack Syrian troops and allies?

  6. kooshy says:

    Missed the related link
    “Syria’s Skies Will Be Mostly Off Limits to U.S. and Allied Planes, Russia Says”

  7. b says:

    The nice thing with this de-escalation ploy is that Turkey is now integrated on the side of Syria, Iran and Russia. Erdogan is really pissed at the U.S. support for the YPG/PKK. He again changed sides (but given it is Erdokhan he may change yet again later on.)
    Erdogan also stopped the U.S. NGO meddling in Idleb. One wonders how much he will restrict the weapon flow. He can hardly let it run openly while making nice again with Putin.
    The Russian told U.S. airplanes to stay out of the new “no-fly” de-escalation zones. They will have to take down a U.S. drone or two to make that point stick.
    The al-Qaeda rebels will now sit in those areas and cook in their own juice. They will fight each other. Many will leave to their home countries or Europe. Those who will attack SAA lines will get hammered by the Russian/Syrian airforce.
    The next dangerous moment may come when the SAA makes a run to Deir Ezzor and the Pentagon tries to cut that off by moving from Jordan north towards Raqqa. One hopes that the Russian MoD has some plans on how to react to such a provocation.

  8. Stumpy says:

    Response from State:

    The United States was represented at the Astana conference by Acting Assistant Secretary Stuart Jones. We were not a direct participant in the negotiations and are not, at this point, a party to the agreement.
    Sounds like a non-committal rollover with a poke at Iran, although the tone towards Russia somewhat conciliatory. Trump looking forward to good times with Putin ahead. I imagine that the Pentagon has plans, regardless.
    Somewhat related, Clausewitz’s term “friction”:

    Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, called the rate at which special operations forces are being deployed “unsustainable” and said the growing reliance of the U.S. military on its elite troops could produce a dangerous strain.

    The WH relies on Special Ops to do the dirty work off-screen while the brass works the fatigue issue to angle for increased conventional forces, my read.
    There must be a distinction between aid as force multipliers vs. free weapons and money. You have to have a force to multiply before that model works, methinks.

  9. Dmcna says:

    This is a gift for President Trump. Having consistently called for such safe zones he can easily agree and get back on a more sensible course than sending missiles and raising conflict with President Putin. The two seem to be co-operating quite well already on keeping Turkey out of parts of northern Syria. So all the rebels will be neatly contained by international monitors, freeing up SAA to deal with other problems until the question again becomes separating the jihadis. This time separating the jihadis in the deconfliction zones one at a time. What will the Saudis have to say to President Trump?

  10. Marko says:

    I hope this works but I don’t trust Erdogan one bit. He can happily sign on to the deal and then blow the whole thing up with another blockbuster sarin action film.
    I doubt that Putin and Lavrov trust him either , so at least they should be on high alert for foul play.

  11. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Russians offered a fig leaf to Erdogan too, helping him to climb down from his perch.

  12. turcopolier says:

    You have agreed with me twice now. feeling all right? pl

  13. Barbara Ann says:

    Looks like Kurds are outside all 4 zones, so Turkey would not be constrained by them. Has anyone found a better map than this btw?

  14. mauisurfer says:

    Just how advanced are Russian air defenses? Did most of the USA tomahawk missiles fired at Syria end up in the Med? Is that what the USA attack was really about, testing the Russian defenses? This Greek writer/politician seems to think so.
    The Pentagon insists that all the Tomahawk missiles found their target. However, this is refuted not only by the images that the Pentagon itself released, but also by the announcements of the Russian Ministry of Defence that only twenty three Tomahawks found their target. What happened to the rest? They certainly did not hit other targets: neither the Pentagon claims such a thing, and nor have the Syrian authorities shown any craters created by Tomahawks, apart from those at the airport.

  15. Barbara Ann says:

    Relief of Deir Ezzor after 2+ year siege would be Hollywood gold – if only they were on ‘our’ side. Guess I’ll have to watch the movie dubbed from Arabic or Russian when it does come out.

  16. FkDahl says:

    Is S400 the prize for the Turkish cooperation? Trust but verify most definitely applies to Turkish border control visavi jihadists

  17. Kooshy says:

    Now, this might be the leash Putin put around Erdo’ neck, I suppose he still can bark as much as he wants, but with the income from gas pipe, it would be hard to wander too far of the front yard. Like the old Persian saying ” Putin cuts off heads with cotton balls”.
    Gazprom to begin Turkish Stream construction in next few days

  18. Tel says:

    I think I mentioned before, they just don’t have the resources for an all out attack on Idlib. Thus, if you cannot win outright the only other choice is to stabilize and negotiate a border.
    It makes sense… they have been shipping Sunnis into Idlib and shipping everyone else out at the same time. They will draw a line in the sand I think.
    Better to put those limited resources into cleaning up pockets of insurgency all over the place, reduce the number of active fronts to be fighting.

  19. eakens says:

    Yes, the second he thinks Assad might fold, he’ll switch teams again. He’s done it twice now.

  20. Chris Chuba says:

    I wonder what will come of this enormous reservoir of bad will that our Pentagon is building up in the eyes of the public regarding the Russians/Iran/Assad. If we really believed our own B.S. then how can we even suggest that we would ever work with these baby killing, terrorist, genocidal maniacs.
    Six months ago, the Russians were mischievous imps, content with undermining our Democracy and targeting moderate rebels instead of ISIS. But now, according to our military, they are complicit in a chemical weapons attack on children, are protecting the lunatic who did it, and are arming the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers. This amounts to aiding Al Qaeda (actually phrased like that in Congressional testimony). Remember, I don’t believe this but this is what our Generals are saying.
    So yes, it’s great that the Russians/Iranians are taking care of the facts on the ground but I wish the Russians would be more aggressive about countering this insane narrative. It is a waste of energy to counter all of the falsehoods but the WMD incident at Khan Shaykhun is something that they must pay attention too.
    Does it matter that the U.S. public has been thoroughly propagandized? I think so, we just launched a bombing attack and the only question the MSM asked is why didn’t we try to kill the Russians who were at the base along with the Syrians.

  21. Valissa says:

    Interestingly, retired diplomat MK Bhadrakumar has this to say about Stuart Jones being at the conference…
    Trump warms to taking Putin’s help in Syria
    The US formally joined talks in Astana this week on the Syrian ceasefire. Its participation was substantive, at the ambassadorial level, with the talks attended by Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary of state heading the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. He is a career diplomat and “Arabist” whose  previous assignments have been in Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey as well as a stint in the State Department’s Eurasian Bureau (dealing with Russia.)
    What lends enchantment to this scenario is that in Astana, Jones was  sitting across the negotiating table from Iranian diplomats. Evidently, Trump is wading into the Syrian whirlpool. This is one thing.
    Second, Trump intends to take a hands-on role. He and Putin tasked their foreign ministers to brief them “promptly” on “any progress achieved” on Syria. Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet as early as next week on the sidelines of the Arctic Council’s ministerial meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 10 and 11.
    Most important, Trump and Putin are hopeful of a “personal meeting” during the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7-8.
    Clearly, all this marks a defining moment. Trump is revisiting his campaign pledge to forge a special relationship with Russia – and Putin in particular – to defeat the terrorist groups in the Middle East and bring peace to Syria.
    … [OTOH] There isn’t much hope left in Moscow of reaching a grand bargain with Trump, given the pervasive Russophobia in the US as well as the signs that the Trump administration is going “mainstream”. Within Trump’s team, the military brass is visibly in the driver’s seat on foreign-policy issues and the Pentagon harbors an enduring hostility toward Russia and is quite comfortable with an adversarial relationship with Moscow.
    Here’s a related MKB post… Trump’s ‘America First’ reappears centre stage
    Quietly but insistently, Tillerson also put on the table Trump’s determination to stabilise and improve the US’ relations with Russia. No doubt, it is a problematic relationship but Tillerson flagged that a comprehensive US-Russia engagement on the range of issues, including intractable issues, will be commencing shortly. Of course, Tillerson spoke cautiously – as if Senator John McCain might have been eavesdropping — but he has re-introduced Trump’s new thinking over the US-Russia relationship, the lurking danger notwithstanding that the very thought of normalization with Russia might raise dust in the Beltway all over again. Simply put, Trump seems to be estimating that the high tide of Russophobia is behind him.
    Right at the outset of his remarks, Tillerson underlined that the US policies will not be driven by “exceptionalism”. Nor will they be ideology-driven. He expounded that values matter – democracy, human rights, etc. – but they are not to be mixed up with foreign policy. “I think it’s really important that all of us understand the difference between policy and values.” Plainly put, there is no regime-change agenda, no interest in humanitarian interventions, no intentions to be a global policeman.
    If MKB is correct in his interpretations, then it looks like Trump has not yet been fully assimilated and is still trying to accomplish some of the foreign policy goals he campaigned on.

  22. plantman says:

    So many questions….
    It appears that someone on this site was right in saying that the SAA was spread too thin (I think it was the Colonel?) This gives loyalist forces the chance tp consolidate and scramble for deir Ezzor. But why Deir Ezzor before Idlib? Does Putin suspect that Mattis and McMaster will thrust ntwrd with Jordanian troops on the border??
    And who is advising Trump on the details of the safe zones?
    If so, then the US might look for a way to put the kibosh on the deal mainly because McMaster might already have plans for E Syria. (Occupation?) Or is that too far fetched?
    In any event, this is riveting to follow in real time.
    Game on!

  23. johnf says:

    Perhaps the celebrations are too early:
    b US Dismisses Ban on Aircraft Over Syrian Safe Zones
    The link to the story which bases this article on does not work, however.

  24. J says:

    It’s not any different than some of the doomsday scenarios portrayed by several Hollywood movies. Theatrics, yes, fiction, yes, but anything is probable especially with soft-headed politicians. Each person can watch and reach their own conclusions without the need of an information gatekeeper.
    IMO what is really Criminally Stupid is the British PM thinking that nuclear first strike is a viable option. Such errant thinking on the PM’s part can unduly influence other soft-headed politicians who have never been in war and had to kill somebody, that nuclear first strikes are an ok thing.
    IMO what is really Criminally Stupid is the continuation of NATO after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and NATO’s use today by armchair politicians who think they are generals to prod and poke unnecessarily at the Russian Bear, bringing the world closer to the brink of nuclear war than in all of mankind’s history.
    IMO what is really Criminally Stupid is that D.C. at the urging of soft-headed European politicians, continues to feed the hog-trough known as NATO and bring the globe closer to the brink of insanity. Which is not in U.S. interests.
    IMO what is really Criminally Stupid is the lack of a formal alliance between the U.S. and Russia, as the security of the U.S. goes through Russia, and Russia’s security goes through the U.S.. Such an alliance is in the interests of both nations.
    We need more discourse regarding the insanity of nuclear confrontation, and the less information gatekeeping. The more discourse, the more common sense and outrage at the lunacy that is nuclear war which will split our planet in half.
    If one doesn’t like or agree with their videos, they don’t have to watch them. I just thought it was some good food for thought.

  25. LondonBob says:

    Not really, the investigation into overspending on certain close seats in the last election are coming to conclusion in a matter of weeks. The various police forces are going to find against the Conservative Party resulting in by elections having to be held, wiping out the small Conservative majority. Given they hold a substantial lead in the polls they have decided to call a general election. Now this will result in a bigger majority giving the government a stronger hand in Brexit negotiations, and way down the list conceivably Syria.
    Of course the Arab and Israeli lobbies remain as strong as ever, and unlike the people our politicians continue to desire to grandstand on the world’s stage, however the reality is we have limited military and diplomatic resources to do anything. Bojo embarrassing himself a few weeks ago when demanding new sanctions on Russia, and the fact we have only managed to launched a handful of airstrikes on ISIS illustrates the reality our politicians and media won’t acknowledge.

  26. ancient archer says:

    This development comes back to the point about concentration of forces that the good Colonel published a few days back.
    The rabid jihadis will be all penned in nicely with a firm line of fire drawn around them. R+6 will take them out one by one after dealing with the urgent issue of reestablishing control over Eastern Syria, with the start being with Deir Ez Zor as pointed out by the Colonel. Things are going swimmingly from all accounts.
    I am not sure that the American govt is not in on this strategy. While outwardly Trump is making noises against the Syrian govt, nothing much has happened after the ‘huuuuge’ missile strike.
    A lot of fighting is still to be done but things are moving in the right direction. The only fly in the ointment is a potential ‘chemical attack’ organised by the neocon controlled govts in Europe, that of UK, France and Germany.

  27. LeaNder says:

    Still bad with maps.
    What is the specific story about the minor spot of blue?

  28. “James” – you link to a Daily Mail article that states Assad has been using chemical weapons and that the UK might attack him as a consequence.
    But then there’s the first page of comments. If they’re genuine they show universal scepticism that it’s Assad who’s been using such weapons and no support for further UK action against Assad.
    There’s also this, taken from that first page of comments:-
    “I believe, London, United Kingdom, 2 days ago
    “The Tories have destroyed our Armed Forces manning now stands at a 200 year low. The pension has been robbed (No longer able to collect after 22 years service), historic barracks sold off to property developers, catering privatised (Now sub standard and more exspensive), housing for the Forces in dire conditions. Why risk another war. I have seen too many mates lose their lives or legs and arms. Perhaps you MP’s should send your sons and daughters to fight rather than sending off all the working class lads. That way you would think long and hard about it.”
    That comment may or may not be genuine – the wording resembles that of the BNP publicity people a while back though that may be just coincidence – but it does point up the undeniable fact that UK forces have spent a long time deployed in such areas. I know little about it but I sometimes read those who know more and it does seem that our soldiers are under-equipped and over-stretched at present.
    Unfortunately, or rather it’s unfortunate in these specific circumstances, our and the French Air Force seem up to the mark provided, one assumes, that the US nursemaids them on supply again. But it would surely look bare-faced, us backing the Jihadis against Assad so openly.
    Perhaps Mrs May just has a copy-cat PR missile attack in mind. It worked for Trump, they say.
    My default protest vote used to be Green but after a brief flutter on UKIP I had intended to vote for Mrs May this time round, in the hope that if lots of us did it would stiffen her spine for Brexit. Can’t now. Damn. I’ve often wondered what it would be like, voting Conservative. Probably no big deal. Like voting Labour but just a touch more oligarch thrown in, I’d imagine. Maybe, in return for my forced loyalty, the Greens will come up with a half-way decent set of policies one day.

  29. Eric Newhill says:

    Ancient Archer,
    I like entertaining the thought of the jihadis being penned up with a solid line of fire all around them. Icing on the cake if Trump knows this and is in on it.
    However, do you not think the jihadis can see what is being done to them? Do they not have a choice? Why do they go along with it?

  30. LeaNder says:

    Sounds like a non-committal rollover with a poke at Iran
    Not sure, Stumpy. Judged from fast scan, they may only blame Iran only based on its involvement in matters post Arab Spring. Weren’t the Iranians the first supporting Assad against the Arab Spring Syrian variance? …
    and Iran’s unquestioning support for the Assad regime has perpetuated the misery of ordinary Syrians.
    The opposition must also live up to its commitments, with Turkey as the guarantor, to separate from designated terrorist groups, including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which continue to hijack the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a representative and accountable government.
    left pretty undefined is of course “the regime” versus the “aspirations of the Syrian people”.

  31. J says:

    Breedlove’s successor General Scaparrotti addressed the Senate Appropriations saying that he needs more troops to goad even further the Russian Bear. He uses the canard of Russian ‘agression’ just like Breedlove did, when all is said is done ignoring the fact that the Russians have been taking ‘defensive’ not aggressive moves on the Europeans. It was the Ukraine Nazis (Stephen Badera Nazis) who by their persecution of Russian enclaves in the Ukraine provoked Russia into protecting its own. The Ukraine Nazis haven’t been helping their own in the Ukraine, instead they’ve been acting in destructive behaviors.
    How many American military personnel must die to satiate Scaparrotti’s psyche? Scaparrotti’s bio says that he has never had first hand combat experience, but academic and behind-the-lines positions.
    I’m tired of seeing our kids die and be put in harms way all because of some perfume prince’s ego.

  32. J says:

    I really miss Hack and his levelheadedness. He had a way about him effectively slicing and dicing the perfume princes and their inflated egos.

  33. Thomas says:

    “If MKB is correct in his interpretations, then it looks like Trump has not yet been fully assimilated and is still trying to accomplish some of the foreign policy goals he campaigned on.”
    Which raises the inner courtier question, who is playing whom?

  34. jld says:

    I am not disagreeing with any of the Criminally Stupid postures you cite, I do STRONGLY disagree with the method of using videos which could be confused with real events and/or subverted for nefarious purposes.
    OTOH it is very unfortunate that realistic but unambiguous nuclear war movies like Threads have been “scrubbed” from Youtube while a few years ago there were several copies of the full movie.
    It is even more worrying to realize that this is not a random happenstance but more likely a deliberate censoring!

  35. b says:

    Nothing wrong with me. But you were calling for an Idleb campaign even though Turkey hadn’t shut down the weapon and jihadi flow. I disagreed with that.
    Now you write that Idleb probably can be held like this for a while and a run to Deir Ezzor may be a good idea.
    I agree with that.
    Hope you are feeling all right.

  36. different clue says:

    Eric Newhill,
    Perhaps they trust that their supporters/backers in the GAJ ( Global Axis of Jihad) are handling it and will rescue them and send them back to all their own countries to await further opportunities.

  37. turcopolier says:

    It would have been much better to wipe out the Idlib pocket and cloese the border to Turkish re-supoply and sanctuary. Under this “agreement” the AQ insurgents in Idlib will become stronger and atronger and the inevitable effort against them will ne much harder. pl 🙂

  38. Valissa says:

    Excellent question Thomas!
    The answer to which remains to be seen. Though I’m not sure how objectively that question can ever be answered… as even when the eventual books are written by some of these inner courtiers, those will be biased by the writer’s own opinion of their experiences and observations, which in turn will be effected by their tribal affiliation(s).

  39. Jackrabbit says:

    pl: “The Astana process proposal for “de-escalation zones” in Syria has something for everyone”
    You can add restoration of US-Russian de-confliction:

  40. Jackrabbit says:

    It’s questionable whether “De-escalation Zones” (DZs) are really workable. The opposition didn’t sign the “agreement” and Russia-Syria-Iran reserved the right to attack ISIS & al Queda.
    b calls it a “ploy” but lauds Turkish involvement (see above). Yet failure of the DZs ploy will play into the hands of ‘Assad must go!’/head-choppers. For example, USA could use DZs failure to push harder for their own plan for Safe Zones or another round of bombing. What can we really read into Turkish support for a dead-on-arrival plan that may ultimately advance the ‘Assad must go!’ camp?
    IMO, the ‘De-confliction Zones’ are an attempt to make lemons out of lemonade. R+6 has to reduce operations in some areas if they are going to focus on Deir al-Zor. A clever ploy? Yes, but with potential to backfire.

  41. Barbara Ann says:

    LeaNder – re “minor spot of blue” if you mean the smallest of the zones marked, this is the East Ghouta suburb of East Damascus. The even smaller Qabun pocket next to it appears to be excluded – given the action there today.

  42. mauisurfer says:

    Not everyone is in accord on the meaning of this agreement.
    “We’re further forward than we have been for a long time,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former chemical weapons expert for the British army and founder of Doctors Under Fire.
    “The key thing is grounding Assad’s air force, that is fundamental, as it’s the air force that is attacking hospitals and schools,” he added.

  43. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Jimmy Dore interviews Eva Bartlett, the Canadian journalist who actually has reported from Aleppo.

  44. Mark Logan says:

    Eric Newhill,
    The press is reporting many of the rebels are leery of these save zones, which may translate in Russian as “roach motels”. Somebody who knows Russian can straighten me out that.
    Puts the neocons in a bit of a pickle, hard to turn down something you’ve been demanding for years.

  45. FkDahl says:

    I do not see how the Russian deescalation zone proposal will stop supply into the jihadist pus bilge in Idlib. Like you say, it will fester. The jihadists will probably attack out of there at a point of maximum complication for SAA.
    I sort of wish our friends from Pskov would drop in on the border. It would form a nice kesselslacht!

  46. b says:

    I agree that it would have been better to take Idleb first.
    But the resources for that were not and are not available. A campaign would bog down as long as AQ in Idelb is able to resupply without troubles.
    AQs campaign against Hama used an unprecedented amount of TOWs. There is no way to make huge combined armor moves, with limited resources, against such a front.

  47. Heros von Borcke says:

    You have Turkish AQ puppets in Idlib, Israeli AQ puppets in the south and along the Jordanian border, and Saudi AQ puppets in the east.
    If Assad tries to clean out Idlib then Erdogan will get uppity and likely bomb and rocket eventually forcing a retaliation. Russia has Tartus and Lakatia right there and is not likely to let the Idlib pocket to get out of control anyway.
    Israel will get Trump to send in another 66 cruise missles if Syria really goes after the Israeli sponsored terrorists or shoots down another F16, so for the time being attacking south is very risky.
    Of the 3 invading terrorist armies, the Saudi AQ puppets have the longest lines of communication and are supported by the weakest of Syria’s enemies. The US is ostensibly attacking these same enemies. The biggest issue would be US airpower and their propensity to mistake Syrian army positions for AQ, but apparently Russia is going to clear these skies for Assad’s invasion.
    It seems to me that push to Del Ezzor and the Euphrates first while damping the flames in the de-escalation zones makes the most sense.

  48. confusedponderer says:

    re … “nothing much has happened after the ‘huuuuge’ missile strike.”
    First, actually IMO a salvo of 59 missiles IMO isn’t ‘huge’. ‘Huge’ is a thousand and some missiles, a barrage like what Iraq once got.
    The ‘huge’ Syria salvo wass iirc fired by … one destroyer … the USS Barry (DDG-52).
    Secondly, then there is report that the ‘huge attack’ was actually not all that successful as claimed by the US, or as suggested by the general enthusiasm over the ‘great hugeness’.
    That’s interesting and worth looking at closer.
    “The cruise missile attack was chosen by U.S. commanders and approved by President Trump because it “carried least risk for Americans,” Martin said.”
    Ah yes.
    More interesting is the russian take on the ‘huge’ US missile strike.
    “A Russian defence ministry statement, read on state television, said the US attack had been “ineffective” and claimed Syrian authorities were looking for 36 Tomahawk missiles that fell outside the base and missed the target. The statement also confirmed Russia would stop cooperation and communication with US forces in Syria.”
    36 Tomahawks missed? Really? That’s quite interesting, if the Russians are correct.
    * Usually, the Tomahawk is said to be rather acurate and rather reliable.
    * Is the Tomahawk getting old by now and becoming less reliable?
    * Are the US getting dumb in properly targeting them? Have they gotten used to always hit when shooting at ‘second class’ countries like Syria?
    * The Russians didn’t sleep during the Iraq wars when the US liked to use the Tomahawk a lot.
    * Perhaps the Russians have in the time come up with a solution to US cruise missile happiness? Assuming the report is correct on this, only 36 of 59 missiles hit the airbase? They are looking for the rest?
    So 36 cruise misiles didn’t hit? That’s, what, 61% OF US MISSILES MISSED the airbase? ONLY 39% HIT?
    * That would be an embarassing failure for a US preference ‘invincible’ weapon. So, why only so few hits? What happened to the 23 other missiles?
    * Where did they fly to? Have they been shot down or did they just crash? Were there other targets than the airbase that the US or the Syrians preferred not to mention? Did they hit there or did they crash or miss?
    * Perhaps the apparently small number of hits of an ‘invincible’ cruise missile of that ‘huge’ strike at the airbase was the effect of effective Russian air anti-cruise missile defences?
    * If it was the effect of a counter cruise missile defence it likely originally came from Russia and not from Syria. If so, it was in any way an effective air defence.
    * After all, the Tomahawk went to service 1983. The US were so happy about it that they even want to fire them from trucks, not just ships.
    * With the Tomahawk the Russians had mere 34 years time to think about it as a threat. These 34 years are a time to come up with solutions.
    * The Russians are good at air defence. Their S-300, S-400, S-500 are iirc excellent, probably better than Patriot. The old russian SA-8 TELAR was so good that the greeks (cheaply) took them over from the communist german german army arsenal after the DDR was united with the west.
    * The rusians have considerable electronic experience, they have developed effective intelligence and countermeasue capabilities.
    * That’s to say that if you are getting too happy on a single weapon, there eventually will be a reaction to that ‘user happiness’ that … ‘carries least risk for Americans’.
    * The Russians had a lot of interest to think about and to work on such things – if only to survive accidental, foolish or merely habitual, casual and unthought cruise missile attacks.
    * If there by now is a Russian counter Tomahawk tactic or weapon, the US made them develop it by using it happily a long time.
    * Assuming the reported low percentage of hits was the result of an effective countermeasure: For the US any effective defence against that ‘huge’, ‘invincible’ cruise missile strike would have been quite embarassing.
    * It would have been even more embarassing if they had used manned aircraft. That with 61% or larger ‘misses’? Oh dear.
    * Well, even silver or golden bullets are no longer new if they are used with happiness in large numbers for a long time, ‘because it carries least risk for Americans’, with the usual US enthusiastic rhetoric about it.
    * Probably goldening the Tomahawk missile will not help to solve the issue, maybe someone ought to tell that Trump.
    And what about not using them? That is beyond the fact that the US attack against Syria likely violated international law and US law. Not using them, because you have them, or just thinking before just using them ‘because it carries least risk for Americans’, all that’s likely worth the effort.

  49. Pundita says:

    From studying a score of news reports I venture the de-escalation plan is actually a battle plan.
    The plan I discern is for the armed ‘rebel’ groups in certain zones to take on the lion’s share of fighting Al Qaeda groups in those zones. The obstacle to this has been the air raids, especially in Idlib, where the U.S. has been heavily bombing Al Qaeda. But the more they’ve bombed, the more that Al Qaeda has taken control of Idilb. That’s because the bombing raids have forced the rebels into retreat, and have often inadvertently hit them instead of AQ.
    So, suspend all the air raids — except ones that rebel leaders can call in on AQ positions.
    (Of course if this really is the agreement, it hasn’t been spelled out on paper as yet or at least not announced in public.)
    In short the ‘deconfliction’ could actually be aimed at the rebel groups. There have always been enough local fighters in Syria to rout the foreign-based groups. It’s just that the local groups have been fragmented, disorganized, and always spinning their wheels in fighting each other on one day and government forces on the next.
    Meanwhile, AQ is walking off with the store. All the rebels surely know this by now.
    If I’m in the ballpark about the plan, then the rebels can expect to see weapons and ammo squirreled among the food and medical supplies being trucked to them in the ‘deconfliction’ zones.
    If all that sounds something like the Anbar Awakening battle plan, it does to my ears. The question is whether the U.S. would go along with such a plan. I think the answer depends on how much the White House wants to take at least some of the credit for bringing peace to Syria. The battle plan as I see it would be the best shot they’ve got.
    As to the plan’s acceptance by the locals: of course the rebel groups that are fronts for Qaeda are refusing to go along with the de-escalation agreement. But several groups have already signed the agreement. One leader said that this time he believes the Syrian government is on the level. I think the six-month timeframe the government has given for the plan clues the rebels that SAA is going to make serious efforts to support them if they focus on fighting AQ.
    And there would be nothing like truckloads of ammo to help seal the deals.
    As to whether the Syrian government would really be behind giving the rebel groups that much power — does it have a choice? Patrick Cockburn is reporting on the criminalization of society in Syria (and Iraq) that has taken hold during the years of war.
    Things can’t go on like this before “Syria” disappears. What can unite the people now is the Syrian government getting solidly behind everybody banding together to throw out the dastardly foreigners.
    Then — well, Centcom can show the Syrian government how to take a page from the Pashtuns’ Loya Jirga. Once the foreigners have been routed, set up a convocation in which all the rebel leaders and pro-government ones can spend weeks hashing out a government everyone can live with before they head to the voting booths.
    And the convocation could also serve as a victory celebration for the Syrian people. It could become an annual national holiday during which bards tell the (somewhat edited) story of how the Syrian people together drove a terrible darkness from their land.
    Where was I? Anyhow, that’s my reading of the de-escalation agreement.

  50. turcopolier says:

    The difference in our position is that I would have rolled the iron dice of war and gambled on speed and boldness to make up for the obvious shortage of troops just after the fall of Aleppo City. “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace.” pl

  51. confusedponderer says:

    Correction: It was not as I wrote that just one destroyer USS Barry shot cruise missiles at Syria. In fact it was two other ships of the Arleigh Burke class: USS Porter and USS Ross.
    Still, ignoring the illegality and all that, looking at the quote of hits of the 59 misiles of the salvo, it was not exactly a ‘huge strike’.
    That said, with giving a shit on legality or on trivialities like proof when attacking Syria Trump (so I predict based on my gut) …
    (a) isn’t only not to learn from this apparent failure but
    (b) probably will be more aggressive ‘the next time’.
    An interesting article on Russian Anti-Access/Area Denial systema A2/AD.
    The Russian A2/AD system
    But how is it possible to send more military forces, ignoring the Russians, the Iranians and most importantly the Anti-Access/Area Denial system A2/AD that the Russians have installed in Syria? The system A2/AD is a weapon used in order to prevent an opponent from capturing or passing through a ground, sea or air region.
    This specific method that is used is not necessary to be absolutely effective on preventing the passage of enemy forces. It is sufficient to delay drastically, retard or put in danger the enemy. The fear of great losses is keeping the enemy away from the ground, sea and air that is protected by A2/AD
    The Russians have the most advanced A2/AD systems in the world. They are so advanced, that the USA and NATO do not have a satisfactory countermeasure, at least for the present.
    Russia developed these systems in response to the supreme ability of NATO to operate air strikes on a massive scale. Therefore, Russia has created large Anti-Access/Area Denial zones or ‘bubbles’ around the countries of the Baltic, the Black sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Arctic. These ‘bubbles’ allow Moscow to deny the use of airspace, ground and sea in these regions and to limit drastically the transit of airplanes, ships and ground forces in case of a crisis.
    At the official announcement after the Warsaw Summit at 8-9 July 2016, NATO expressed its concern at these developments, declaring that it will not accept limitations on the free transit of alliance forces from Anti-Access/Area Denial zones. And the reason is simple. This way NATO loses its advantage of massive surprise air strikes from big distance as a preparation for ground operations.
    Tomahawks have tried the system A2/AD
    This was therefore the basic USA military target: to test the capabilities of the A2/AD system that has been installed in Syria; and to check what will be the percentage of losses and to evaluate operationally how they can penetrate the system’s net, without prohibitive losses
    This way Trump did what Obama did not dare to do in 2013, using as a pretext a similar attack with chemical weapons at the eastern Ghouta region in August of the same year.”

  52. Harper says:

    Col. Lang pondered this “deconfliction zone” idea for days before this very informative posting. Clearly, Russian President Putin is thinking in “grand strategy” terms, where the Syria situation is one of a number of critical elements of an evolving new US-Russia relationship (it is way too premature to call it anything like a partnership). If the US-Russia relationship can be genuinely reset in a more constructive direction, then it will impact many fronts: Col. Lang mentioned the possibility of a durable approach to ending the simmering war in Ukraine as one example of consequences of an effective US-Russian approach to ending the Syria war and defeating ISIS and Al Qaeda (and their states sponsors). Notably, Tillerson and Lavrov spoke this week and Dunford and Gerasimov did as well. Syria and North Korea were clearly two topics on their agendas. Russia may prove to be a more important factor in the North Korea situation than most realize.
    Today’s news coverage suggests, by the way, that the deconfliction zones idea came out of the original Tillerson-Lavrov-Putin talks in Moscow over a month ago. And the US had, for the first time, a high-level observer at the Astana talks this past week.
    The political and military dimensions of these “hot spot” crises have global consequences, and Putin is clearly taking them all into account. And maybe some of the people advising Trump are taking a similar bigger picture view. Tillerson’s speech before the State Department personnel last week is an eye opener, for example.

  53. LondonBob says:

    It is true that the Conservative have been using another Syria vote as a political tactic against the Labour leader Corbyn, who is perceived as weak on defence. I think they, as ever, overestimate the people’s enthusiasm for more pointless self defeating wars abroad, but Corbyn could learn from Trump how to present his isolationism better. I have however enjoyed the spectacle of the very left wing Corbyn often finding himself in agreement with a Republican President on foreign affairs.

  54. Jackrabbit says:

    Oops… lemonade out of lemons

  55. Valissa says:

    Dianne Feinstein: ‘no evidence’ of collusion between Russia and Trump during 2016 campaign
    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that she has seen no evidence thus far showing collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and the Russian government during the presidential campaign.
    … Feinstein and her committee colleagues were briefed at CIA headquarters about Russia’s meddling in the presidential campaign. Earlier on Wednesday, Feinstein attended a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where FBI Director James Comey was pressed about the investigation.
    Journalist and co-founder of The Intercept Glenn Greenwald described Feinstein’s answer as significant for several reasons, including “(a) who is saying it, (b) how decisive her answer is, and (c) that she just got back from a CIA briefing on it.”
    Interestingly, after doing a number of google searches I could not find this Diane Feinstein statement on any of the major MSM rags (only lesser known and rightish sites)… despite the fact that she said it in CNN in an interview with Wolf Blitzer (video clip included in link above). Looks like the owners/editors of those MSM rags aren’t willing to admit they were wrong or to publish anything that might point to them as propaganda tools for the Dem establishment.
    Though I can’t find the link again, I read an article last week where David Axelrod was interviewed and he commented that it was time for the Dems to drop the Russia issue, because it wasn’t benefiting them.
    Trump now has some breathing room to make deals with Russia.

  56. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In countries that people expect hand-outs from their governments, or expect governments to solve all of their problems, there is no alternative to “Politics of Theater” – as you said.
    Outside of East Asia (including Thailand, Vietnam and others), where no one expects anything from their respective governments except, perhaps & ideally, the facilitation rather than hindrance, no government can level with its respective electorate. Not government in the Americas, or in Europe, or in the Middle East admit to not having all the answers, foster a dispassionate airing of issues and difficulties facing the country, and propose to solicit solutions and ideas.
    When large numbers of environmental, economic, social and foreign policy issues and difficulties cannot be resolved or their resolution faces severe domestic opposition by misguided or the ignoramus, what can a political leader do but to resort to smoke and mirrors?
    That is also the reason that Names cannot be Rectified for then Truth will shine and the Lies that governments and electorates tell one another will be displayed in their full awful naked splendor.

  57. plantman says:

    Just a drill??
    This was posted on Sunday at al Arabiya:
    Jordan and the United States kicked off annual military exercises Sunday known as “Eager Lion”, with about 7,400 troops from more than 20 nations taking part, officials said.
    US and Jordanian officials said the maneuvers would include border security, cyber defense, and “command and control” exercises, to bolster coordination in response to threats including terrorism.
    “Joint efforts and coordination and the exchange of expertise… are needed at the time when the region is facing the threat of terrorism,” Jordanian Brigadier General Khalid al-Shara, who will head the exercises, told reporters.
    US Major General Bill Hickman, deputy commanding general for the American army in the region, said this year’s “Eager Lion” exercises — the seventh so far — are “the largest and most complex to date”.
    The highlight of this year’s exercise, he said, will be that “for the first time ever a global strike mission” will be conducted by “two US Air Force B-1B bomber aircraft” — a long-range multi-mission bomber.
    A statement by the Jordanian army said troops from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Arab Gulf region are taking part in the exercises which run to May 18, including from Britain, Japan, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.
    About 6,000 troops from Jordan and the US took part in last year’s exercises — a joint operation first launched in 2011.
    Jordan is a key recipient of US financial aid and a partner in the US-led coalition battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
    US forces have trained a small group of vetted Syrian rebels in Jordan, and American instructors have trained Iraqi and Palestinian security forces in Jordan as well over the past few years.
    Two years ago, the United States announced its intention to increase overall US assistance to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion annually for the 2015-2017 period.
    Let’s assume for a minute that Putin noticed developments on the Jordan-Syria border and thought…”Hmmmm? Maybe this US-backed force is going to invade Syria and take deir ezzor” Then maybe he would concoct an idea to defend the east before McMaster sent in the troops.
    Naturally, he would want a bigger army, that could only be managed if the fighting was ended elsewhere. Hence, safe zones.
    So, now the SAA has more troops to send eastward.
    Sound probable??

  58. Sam Peralta says:

    Coming from Dianne Feinstein who epitomizes the neocon/neoliberal Democrats it says a lot!
    Was there a co-ordinated “plot” to co-opt Trump by pushing the Putin’s stooge meme hard?

  59. Tigermoth says:

    Russian Ministry of Defence video briefing on the descalazation zones:
    From the Saker:
    “Briefing of the Ministry of Defense on the principles of the creation of de-escalation zones on the territory of Syria (Important, Subtitled in English)”
    More background is given here and it seems the US was favorable to this move (what a change).

  60. mauisurfer says:

    “What’s really happening in Syria” counters the monopoly media narrative of peaceful, unarmed protests against the Assad government. 33 pages of analysis from USA attorney.

  61. Tigermoth says:

    TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli satellite imagery confirms redeployment of at least one Russian A-50 Aerial Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) in Syria.
    Imagery captured May 3 by the ImageSat International (ISI) Eros B satellite, published here for the first time, shows the Russian special mission aircraft deployed at the Latakia Air Base in Syria.
    The deployment, less than a month after a US Tomahawk cruise missile strike on a key regime air base, significantly augments Russia’s ability to defend the entire airspace over Syria against aircraft or missile attack.

  62. anon says:

    agree b,hence the no fly zones.wonder if it includes missiles.The Admiral Grigorovich should have arrived in tartus by obviously a buildup is taking place for summer.the ji had its are waiting for there pay day from mr deep pockets.

  63. charly says:

    Trump said it was huge which in normal speak means a slightly bigger than microscopic attack. With him everything is huge, best ever, biggest, worst, etc.

  64. John_Frank says:

    A clever trick, or consummation of tacit understandings reached early on between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin?
    Lavrov: decisions on Syria de-escalation zones related to US initiatives

    Decisions on the de-escalation zones in Syria adopted at the talks in Astana are related to Washington’s initiatives on putting an end to violence in Syria put forward at the beginning of this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the MIR TV network on Saturday.
    “The United States proposed at the beginning of this year, with a view to creating conditions to ensure safety of civilian population, to stop violence in those regions where fierce fighting was underway between government and armed opposition forces,” Russia’s top diplomat said.
    “It is not by chance that the United States welcomed the results of the meeting in Astana, specifically, an agreement on setting up de-escalation zones,” he noted.

    The text of Memorandum on the creation of de-escalation areas in the Syrian Arab Republic (the Astana Memorandum) has been posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website
    The Astana Memorandum relies on UNSC resolution 2254 (2015)
    For a map of what the de-escalation zones may look like:
    Also, on Saturday Tass reported that:
    Russia, US confirm readiness to reinstate memorandum on air safety over Syria
    The top generals “confirmed readiness to re-assume in full the parties’ commitments under the Russian-US memorandum of understanding on air safety and prevention of incidents in Syria’s air space”
    For another take on how events may unfold:
    US and Russia compete in Syria on “reducing escalation” and “safe zones”

  65. VietnamVet says:

    There are too many plates spinning in the air. The first one to take down is the crazy scheme to destabilize Russia. The only way the West will survive is with an alliance the Russian Federation. NATO has a real logistics problem. The battlefield is inland. Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army control western access and Iraqi and Iranian Shiite militias control the East, more or less. Turkey to the North is unstable and is turning towards an Islamist one party rule. To the South, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordon is unlikely to survive as a staging area to continue the Syrian mini-World War forever. Air supply is risky. One shoot down could ignite a war with Russia.
    All in all, it is insane for the USA to be fighting there. Quarantine the region and let the local governments with Russian and Chinese aid overthrow the Caliphate.

  66. Marko says:

    Thanks for that. I’ve only just given it a glance , but I notice that his references comprise my go-to list on Syria nearly to a tee. One listed, Stephan Gowans , has a new book out called “Washington’s Long War on Syria” , summarized by Gowans in this half-hour video :
    It’s worth the watch , IMO.

  67. aleksandar says:

    This war in Syria has nothing to do with ” Sunnis”.

  68. aleksandar says:

    Ona purely military point of view, you’re right.
    But, is it possible to let all east Syria become a US Sunnistan protectorate ?
    IMO, no, it will be a huge political blow,too much.

  69. aleksandar says:

    An agreement is on his way in Qaboun.Terrorists wild be greenbused to Idleb.
    East Goutha pocket will see more and more terrorist infighting to control warehouses and by the way, income.
    This pocket will shrink slowly.

  70. Lurker says:

    The de-escalation zones pre-empt any future chemical attack provocations (false flags) foresaw by the British, French and/ or Turkish Saudi spooks. White Helmets will not be given any more opportunities to stage a b rated film production.

  71. turcopolier says:

    The civil war in Syria was specifically instigated and supported by SA, Qatar and the other Gulf States. This is a Wahhabi civil war against a multi confessional sate. Israel and the US chose to inrfere in this process but the revolt was always that of Wahhabt Sunnis. pl

  72. John_Frank says:

    fyi This morning, the Syrian FM held a press conference in Damascus to discuss the implementation of the Astana Memorandum. Follows are four reports:
    Syrian FM: No international force for Syria safe zones
    Syrian FM describes Kurdish role as ‘legitimate’
    Syria rejects ‘any UN role’ in Russian de-escalation plan
    Syria’s foreign minister says there should be no international role in ‘safe zones’, while also backing Kurdish fight against IS
    Syrian Foreign Minister Says No Foreign Troops on the Ground
    Does the stance of the Syrian Government on the role of the UN and the use of third party forces run afoul of the intent of the parties to the Astana Memorandum?
    Memorandum on the creation of de-escalation areas in the Syrian Arab Republic
    While the Russian Federation has submitted a draft UNSC resolution to ‘enshrine’ the Astana Memorandum, a number of other issues remain, including the concerns raised in the following:
    Report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence
    Read in particular paragraph 69 – 72 and the Syrian Arab Republic section of the Annex which identifies the parties in the Syrian conflict using sexual violence.
    On his way to Europe, Secretary of Defense Mattis spoke with reporters:
    U.S. reviews Syria safe zones but warns ‘devil’s in the details’
    Mattis: US reviewing Syria safe zones but has many questions

  73. Pundita says:

    If this May 8 article from Xinhua is any indication China’s government sees the de-escalation agreement as the first steps in a soft partition of Syria — not along sectarian lines but by foreign-power spheres of influence.
    The reporter is an employee of Xinhua, which is not only China’s most influential news agency, it’s also the most powerful; it’s a ministry-level agency.

  74. Barbara Ann says:

    In case you missed it, Al Monitor had an excellent analysis & description of possible end game for Idlib (2nd half of article).
    If indeed a grand bargain has been done, is it plausible that US could use Russian air defenses as an excuse to deny assistance to Afrin Kurds, let Tal Rifaat fall & thus not be seen to overtly sell out SDF? In exchange for Kurds being pushed back, Turkey provides intelligence/support against HTS in Idlib.

  75. Les says:

    It doesn’t help McMaster when the news says that he wants 150,000 ground troops in Syria.

  76. John_Frank says:

    The State Department announced this morning that Foreign Minister Lavarov is coming to Washington, D.C. to meet with Secretary Tillerson on May 10.
    Secretary Tillerson To Meet With Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, May 10, to discuss Ukraine, Syria, and bilateral issues. On Ukraine, the sides will discuss the need to stop the violence in eastern Ukraine and resolve the conflict through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
    On Syria, the Secretary intends to discuss efforts to de-escalate violence, provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict.

    According to press reports, FM Lavrov will be in the US from May 9 – 11.
    Also, follows is the transcript of the press avail that Secretary Mattis had early this morning en route to Copenhagen:
    Media Availability with Secretary Mattis en route to Copenhagen, Denmark

  77. turcopolier says:

    John Frank
    So, will Tillerson be “compromised” by talking to Lavrov? (humor) pl

  78. Vincent says:

    If you have any, any whatsoever, EVIDENCE OF ASSAD CHEMICAL ATTACK, pls, I dare you to publish it here! I dare you!

  79. John_Frank says:

    We now have confirmation of the AP report from a Defense Department spokesperson and the President’s Press Secretary:
    Trump Approves Arming Kurds in Syria Over Turkish Objections

  80. Marko says:

    New Postol report, “The HRW Evidence Disaffirms Its Own Conclusions in Its Report of May 1, 2017” :

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