Is Russia About To Resume Its Campaign Against Al Nusra In Syria? by Willy B



            There are indications being reported that Russia is on the verge of launching a new offensive against Al Nusra in the Aleppo area. For the first time, Al Monitor  reported on Friday, "converging signs indicate a relaunching of part of the Russian military operation — with renewed coordination with the Syrian army — ever since Moscow unilaterally decided to halt the Aleppo operation and impose a truce, even on Damascus, which reluctantly agreed to it." The problem, Al Monitor says, is that the truce "has allowed armed factions, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to reorganize and rearm their ranks and rebuild most of the infrastructure destroyed by the joint Russo-Syrian operations." Though they don’t say it, this would suggest a double cross on the part of the US and its allies against Russia stemming from the regime change mentality that the US and certainly the Turks and the Saudis never abandoned.  The intervention this time around, Al Monitor says, will be directed at isolating Al Nusra from other armed groups. "It should be noted that isolating Jabhat al-Nusra from other armed factions, which is a difficult and complicated objective, would strike a painful blow to those factions since Jabhat al-Nusra’s military and ideological might form the backbone around which those factions unite."

            The Al Monitor report goes on to indicate that over the past weeks, there has been a policy disagreement among Putin‛s top advisors. The military favors a re-engagement in Syria, while the Foreign Ministry believes that work towards a political settlement must continue. The problem for the diplomats, however, has been the continued US refusal to cooperate with Russia in the military sphere against ISIS either in Raqqa or northern Syria. "Moreover, neither during Russia’s military operation nor after the truce went into effect did the Americans stop re-arming militant factions," Al Monitor goes on. "It should be noted that this has been a clear Obama policy objective aimed to prevent embarking on any political solution as part of the United States' desire to isolate Russia." This, it seems to me, is the height of stupidity.

            This brings us back to the signs of preparation of a new operation. The Russians this week disembarked ground forces and paratroopers in the port of Tartus to support more than 3,000 Russian volunteers dispatched to the region in the past few weeks, in a bid to revive coordination with the Syrian army.  Furthermore, Syrian sources stated that the Russian joint command staff, which coordinated aerial support operations last fall, had returned to the Hmeimim military base in Latakia province to begin preparations for new operations.

            Coherent with this report is one in Al Jazeera, which reports that the Russians have sent three messages over the past few days: First, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front is to be blamed for violating and jeopardising the truce; Second, the US is to be blamed for failing to separate the "moderate opposition units they control from terrorists; and,  third, the Turkey border is still being used to smuggle weapons to "terrorists" in Syria. "These statements are being made for a reason. Moscow may be justifying and paving the way for a large-scale offensive against al-Nusra," says AJ. They say until now the Syrian government, Iran and Russia did not share the same goals in Syria because the Russians wanted to tip the balance towards compromises at the negotiating table, but that didn‛t work. "Now, the Russian air force has clearly stepped up its engagement. Heavy air strikes in the northern province of Aleppo, particularly on and near the only road in and out of the rebel-controlled east of the city, has practically laid siege to the enclave."

            The Russian offensive might even have begun already. Al Masdar reports, this morning, that "The Russian Air Force has illuminated the night-sky over the northern Aleppo countryside tonight with their relentless airstrikes over the jihadist controlled ‘Anadan Plains." An Al masdar correspondent in the area reported 15 air strikes over night.

            The most that the Russians have said on this so far seems to be the remarks that Anatoly Antonov, the deputy defense minister, made in at the Shangri La Dialogue conference in Singapore. He said that the situation in Syria remains complicated and that "There is still much to be done to support the Syrian army…" The Russian reconciliation center at Russia's airbase in Latakia reported, yesterday, ten cease fire violations, most in Aleppo and attributed, as they have been over the past several days, to Jaish al Islam. Perhaps Al Nusra won‛t be the only target of a renewed Russian offensive. Al Nusra, they say, "has regrouped its forces, replenished armament and ammunitions storages, and launched active warfare having exploited opportunities of the ceasefire regime and locations of “moderate opposition” formations, which had been located in the same regions." "In the south-west from Aleppo, armed formations (more than 1,000 men) launched offensive on positions of the Syrian Armed Forces near Buraij and military training town located in al-Nasr sector. The attack has been performed from Ansari, which had been controlled by forces of 'moderate opposition.‛" The Russians report that more than 270 civilians were killed and hundreds more wounded by militant shelling.

            Kurdish units on Aleppo province are also under attack. "Kurdish militia units left the defended positions in the neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsood in Aleppo and retreated as a result of intense artillery fire and non-stop attacks by the militants from Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham terrorist groups on the positions of Kurdish militia and volunteers from local residents," a spokesman for the Russian center told Sputnik.

            To the southeast, the Syrian army is pressing ahead with its offensive towards Raqqa. The Syrian army has reportedly liberated a new hilltop along the Salamiyah-Raqqa Highway this morning and is closing in on Arak, on the highway to Deir Ezzor.

            The US backed SDF is also still on the offensive. SDF units are now reported to be 5-6 km from Manbij. "We made big progress and we are trying to ensure the safety of civilians before we begin our assault on the town," said Sharfan Darweesh, a spokesman for the Military Council for Manbij.


            Meanwhile, in Iraq, the signs are that, in contrats to the Russian work with the Syrian army, the Iraqi army isn’t up that’s expected of it from the US.  In a lengthy report posted, on June 3, Reuters announced that the US effort to train a combat capable Iraqi army has failed. They attribute the failure, in part, to Iraqi reliance on Shiite militias and the continuance of the sectarian divide. While there have been some military successes " the presence of 4,000 American troops has failed to change the underlying Iraqi political dynamics that fuel the rise and growing power of sectarian militias." About the only success has been the Iraqi special forces—also known as the Counter Terroris Service–but they're in danger of wearing out after two years of continuous combat. The Iraqis, of course, deny that there's any problem, and they say that the Shiite militias are firmly under control, that is, that they're not under the sway of Tehran and the IRGC.

            The New York Times followed the Reuters report with one of their own, reporting that “An exhausted and ill-equipped Iraqi Army faces daunting obstacles on the battlefield that will most likely delay for months a long-planned major offensive on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, American and allied officials say.” The Times goes on to say that "The delay is expected despite American efforts to keep Iraq’s creaky war machine on track." The US military is increasingly running the support functions of the Iraqi army, particularly logistics, the movement of supplies, fuel, water, food, ammunition, from depots in Baghdad to Iraqi army units in the field, because, for whatever reasons, the Iraqi army is simply unable to make those functions work. US advisors are pushing the Iraqis to improve their equipment maintenance and are the lead in preparing detailed schedules for moving troops, training them, and delivering ammunition and equipment to the battlefield. “Extending the reach of the Iraqi security forces also requires logistics planning,” General MacFarland, the US military commander in Iraq, said. “We are doing a great deal of that for the Iraqis because we recognize that Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

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67 Responses to Is Russia About To Resume Its Campaign Against Al Nusra In Syria? by Willy B

  1. VietnamVet says:

    Willy B,
    It is clear from the posts here that Russia stood down with the expectation (and likely with promises from the West) that a world alliance would be forged to destroy the Islamic State and Turkey and Saudi Arabia would be brought to heel. That is not to be.
    My belief the reason why the regime change campaigns against Damascus and the Kremlin are still on is due to ideology and greed. The semi-sane in Washington DC do not have complete control. The Syrian Civil War and the Balkan unrest will escalate again.
    The irony is that the whole neo-con/neo-liberal edifice is dependent on Hillary Clinton not being indicted for her obviously malicious intent to avoid Record Keeping requirements, FOIA requests and Congressional subpoenas of her e-mail. Complete corruption of the law is the only way she will serve as the next war President. Her election is the only way the Plan for New American Century can continue.

  2. bth says:

    The Russian meme is that US is not coordinating airstrikes with Russia. But if that is the case, how is it that US planes are flying from the Mediterranean off the USS Harry Truman into Syria and Iraq? Clearly there is some coordination going on otherwise the heralded Russian air defenses would be shooting down US planes.
    Additionally why aren’t people asking why the US isn’t just flying planes directly from Turkey to go after JAN? Certainly someone as smart as Lavrov knows. It isn’t politically possible for the US to bomb JAN in northwest Syria without pissing off the Turks. Fine. Let the Russians get on with it if they can.
    It is not going to be possible to negotiate a lasting political solution in Syria with extremists like JAN in the equation. The so called ceasefire demonstrated JAN’s unwillingness to compromise via political process that might be acceptable in a polytheistic state. JAN will have to go and Russia will need to take them out since the Syrian army and in particular the Iranians and their Hezbollah friends have proven unable on their own. Can the Russians accomplish that?
    The Russians and the Americans have men on the ground – more than are being reported- but I don’t think they have enough to finish the job of defeating Sunni extremists and causing an acceptable political settlement with the regime. Barring some out of theater IS attack on the US, I don’t think the political will exists to put enough western troops on the ground to fundamentally shift the equation. Russia probably the same.
    Finally Assad isn’t going to leave willingly even if a deal can be made with the regime for some political settlement brokered by Russia-US.
    If nothing else the last couple of months have identified the parties that won’t be at the table for any sort of political settlement in the end – JAN, Assad and IS. Two of the three will have to be defeated in the field. Assad will likely smother in the bear’s embrace for the greater good of his regime. This will take years even if Russia made the political decision in August or sooner to intervene on the ground in Syria on a large scale.

  3. Poul says:

    Nusra Front has gone all in with the lastest declaration from Sami Oreidi approving genocide on Alawites. The Russians could not get a better justification.

  4. robt willmann says:

    Here is a short article from the BBC about the Syrian troops going into Raqqa province–

  5. Oddlots says:

    Why on earth should “Assad” – that is, the functioning Syrian State – be, first, listed with JAN and ISIS and, second, not be at the table?
    Forgive me but they ARE the table.
    As evidenced by the fact that they are the only non-sectarian force (check mark # 1) that is also supremely motivated and capable of destroying JAN and ISIS etc.
    What standing should any group inside Syria that has accepted foreign funding, foreign arms and foreign propaganda support.

  6. Chris Chuba says:

    “The Russian meme is that US is not coordinating airstrikes with Russia.”
    Are you referring to the deconfliction protocol meant to avoid accidental combat between Russia and the U.S. or Russia’s request to have joint strikes against Al Nusra?
    The deconfliction protocol is still in place. I think that it is likely that the U.S. has given the Russians our IFF codes so that their S400’s can differentiate between U.S. vs. Turkish aircraft. I recall the Freebeacon yacking about how they thought it was an act of aggression that U.S. planes were being painted by Russian radar but that is part of the identification protocol.
    “Finally Assad isn’t going to leave willingly even if a deal can be made with the regime for some political settlement brokered by Russia-US.”
    The Russians have always stated that this is to be decided by the Syrian people and the only deal that they would broker is one which respects their sovereignty. It is only the U.S. which is mandating ‘Assad must go’ on behalf of the Saudis/Turks. Assad himself has even stated that he would serve only as long as the people of Syria want him too. On the surface, any deal that allows for an election where he or his party can participate would likely be acceptable.

  7. bth says:

    All factions in Syria accept foreign support.
    I’m making a distinction between Assad and the regime. The departure of Assad, perhaps to a resort on the Black Sea, if he is lucky, seems to be a precondition with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the US. A deal probably could be worked out in the future with the regime under some sort of federal structure.
    JAN and IS will have to be defeated in the field. That objective is a long way from happening. The regime is simply unable to accomplish it at this time.

  8. bth says:

    Russia started a progressive media campaign to stoke the nationalist coals a few weeks ago. It is probably reaching a peak. Russia is in a real budget bind. But at the same time Russian prestige in Syria is on the line and I think Putin will maintain that prestige as economically as possible. Also the Syrian government is broke as witnessed by the currency collapse in May and it doesn’t have enough men. And as bad as things are, the rebels aren’t going to expose their families to the regime’s retaliation without some negotiated assurances. Iran and Hezbollah do great social media shots but really can’t get out of their sectarian neighborhoods and remain diehard Assad supporters.
    I want to make fine point, that from the Iranian perspective Assad is critical but from the Russian perspective not so much. Security of the western enclaves, its ports, ethnical minorities as defenders of the faith and prestige (not to show weakness) appears more important to Russia than the body of Assad himself. Because of this and the position of the Saudis and Turks that have a veto on peace, Assad must go in the end.

  9. bth says:

    If JAN isn’t isolated and reduced quickly on the battlefield by the regime with Russian support, there may will be a second emirate in Syria, one al-Qaeda oriented in the NW and the other IS in the east. It seems the US and the Russian foreign ministry recognize this distinction, based on recent meetings and press statements, but the Assad regime sees them all as existential enemies. Hence the dilemma.

  10. bth says:

    The open source articles on the Syrian troops with Russian support marching to Raqqa news burst over the last couple of days seems more hype that reality. There is a drone photo of two tanks and a half dozen pickups firing into the desert from behind a berm and that’s about it along with a few vague aspirational map references. Also there is the statement that the Russians and the Syrian regime want an equal seat at the table if and when the US/Kurds/SDF coalition are able to actually take Raqqa (and probably the farm land and O&G fields). Fair enough, a negotiated peace will require that perhaps under a federal structure currently unacceptable to the regime.

  11. turcopolier says:

    Sounds like you accept a future in which Syria is partitioned. pl

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    “Assad must go in the end.”
    This might be a correct assessment but I think the crucial thing is what is meant by “end”.
    That is, how is “end” defined? After Nusra has been destroyed and the local Syrians who support it have either been killed or made refugees in Turkey?
    Or is the “end” defined as well ISIS in Eastern Syria is destroyed in the like manner of Al Nusra and its supporters have fled across the border into Iraq?
    Or is the “end” still a few more years into the future after the new Syrian Constitution has been promulgated, Assad has stood for re-election and has lost?

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is no natural barrier – such an Emirate is still a threat to any and all Middle Eastern countries barring Iran and Israel.

  14. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Russia started a progressive media campaign to stoke the nationalist coals a few weeks ago”
    And how do you know that? Sources?

  15. BraveNewWorld says:

    This is telling.
    “Moscow hopes that the US is not trying to do anything behind Russia’s back,” Lavrov said.
    “We expect our partners to cooperate with us honestly and not try to use our regular contacts to secretly go with a Plan B, C or D behind our back.”

  16. Ghost ship says:

    Probably not.
    Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia will provide “the most active” air support for Syrian ground troops in and around the city of Aleppo to prevent terrorists from seizing it.
    “We will decide on how our air forces should act, depending on the situation,” Lavrov said in a media conference following talks with his Finnish counterpart. “This will not be a surprise for the Americans.”
    “We believe there was plenty of time for the ‘normal’ opposition to leave Nusra Front territories since February. Those who didn’t part ways with the terrorists have only themselves to blame,” Lavrov added.
    I think the gloves just came off.

  17. LeaNder says:

    “to avoid Record Keeping requirements …”
    Look, I have not the least idea why she did it to start with. …
    But apparently her argument or that of her lawyers is: no problem concerning above requirements. After all State’s staff’s mails and her responses are fulfilling requirements.
    Which leaves personal emails–from my rather limited grasp on matters–how could some of the censored content originate, to the extend I understand, NOT from her own staff, but from the outside. In other words, what’s some type of business as usual?

  18. bth says:

    Let’s look at scenarios.
    For Syrian to exist as a unified state it will have to:
    1. Militarily Defeat JAN, and
    2. Militarily Defeat IS, and
    3. Negotiate to unify with the Kurds (plus negotiate with or suppress the Sunni Arabs in the defeated areas).
    And there is a near-term event – Will the Russians throw in whole hog in 2016 into Syria or not with air, ground and cash sufficient to push the regime to victory over all? Let’s give it a two year window for discussion.
    RUSSIANS ALL IN: If the Russians go all in then I would speculate the odds of success in two years of defeating JAN goes to 0.6, defeating IS 0.7 (because Americans and Kurds will keep at it) and negotiating with the Kurds 0.7 (because the Russians are likely to want the Kurds to be happy with a settlement if for no other reason than to piss off the Turks). Thus the odds of a unified Syria in two years under this scenario of heavy Russian intervention (including ground forces) are 0.29 for unification after bloody war (0.6×0.7×0.7) and a breakup into 4 pieces in total ruin at 0.04 (0.4×0.3×0.3).
    RUSSIANS NOT ALL IN IN 2016. If the Russians don’t throw all in which would include substantial ground forces then I would speculate the odds over two years of the regime defeating JAN drops to 0.2 and defeating IS 0.5 (because the Americans and Kurds are likely to do it anyway) and negotiating governance over the Kurds at 0.4. Thus the odds of the regime ruling Syria as we geographically know it in two years without two fisted Russian support drop to 0.04 (0.8×0.5×0.6). If the Russians don’t jump in then the odds of Syria fracturing into 4 pieces would be 0.24 (0.8×0.5×0.6).
    So I’d submit based on current knowledge, if the Russians throw all in then the outcome of Syria in 2 years as a unified state is 29% probable and 4% that it becomes 4 separate regions. But if the Russians don’t throw all in then the odds of a unified state as we know it drop to 4% and a fractured 4-statelet scenario rise to 24%. Two and three state scenarios fill in the probabilities to equal 100% in each case.
    Your mileage may vary. For example the Turks could intervene if JAN is pushed hard and also IS could just squirt across the Iraqi border if not defeated there too. In any event the odds of a unified Syria are low.

  19. bth says:

    I watch carefully how and when news vignettes are released. There is a rhythm to it. Each country has a different style.

  20. bth says:

    Well my guess is that Assad will be retired to Russia or UAE if he is lucky and perhaps as a condition of a negotiated peace.
    Let me ask you a question as you have a good sense of time in context. The Syrian Civil War started in 2011 so its been going for about 5 years with no end in sight. Lebanese Civil War was 15 years give or take from 1975 to 1990. Iraq war/civil war might be clocked from 2003 to 2016+ or over 13 years. Will a Syrian Civil War last a decade or more? I would think the odds are yes barring major outside military intervention.

  21. LeaNder says:

    I may be misreading Will B, but this statement caught my attention:
    ” … would strike a painful blow to those factions since Jabhat al-Nusra’s military and ideological might form the backbone around which those factions unite.”
    I admittedly take ideology as referring to a larger regional sentiment. Surely it won’t go away easily.
    Assad should be deported? Should Russia offer a place for aligned regime people? Allawites and whatever might be considered regime servants, once Assad is deported? Deal with matters as in Iraq? Seriously? Would the US take them in? How many are they, what type of Syria would be left behind? Kurds too?

  22. turcopolier says:

    IMO this civil war could easily last another ten years. Assad can’t go to the UAE. This collection of city states is altogether Sunni and filled with his enemies. pl

  23. SmoothieX12 says:

    >”RUSSIANS ALL IN: If the Russians go all in then”
    Sir, what is “RUSSIANS ALL IN”? What the parameters of this “ALL IN” are? How they correlate with the force (naryad sil) required for:
    a) what are the military (strategic and operational) objectives of this “ALL IN”?
    b) What is the structure of this required force (again, for what purpose, in what time frame, etc.)
    c) Operational tempo (see also pp. a))
    d) So, in circles, without any clear definition of what this “ALL IN” means, as Russians have a proverb–it is all a spherical horse in vacuum. That is discussing something unidentifiable in terms nobody knows?
    Do you imply “ALL IN” being Russia deploying her paratroopers (who are called fast reaction forces for a reason) in Syria? It is, definitely, possible. How probable it is? I don’t know. The only thing I can guarantee you–the deployment, a very hypothetical at this point, of, say, Pskov and Ivianovo divisions in Syria will effectively finish active combat fairly fast there. Mopping up will be left for Syrian Army and volunteers. This will also change dynamics completely and it will leave Russia simply dictating the terms.
    As per your absolutely abstract numbers of probabilities, let me reiterate a military truism which is very popular, and justly so, on this site–force decides the outcome. The rest is derivative.

  24. bth says:

    Did you mean ‘national’ or ‘natural’ barrier?

  25. SmoothieX12 says:

    1. You didn’t answer my question.
    2. Are you a Russian speaker? Are you able to read and comprehend Russia’s media across whole political and ideological spectrum, the same goes to Russia’s open analytical sources on specifically military and geopolitical issues?
    3. Having opinion and passing a judgement are not the same, neither is information and knowledge. Do you understand these distinction?
    4. I specifically asked you about your sources on Russia. Not because Russia is “bad” or “good”–she has a lot of both–but because most of what passes in the West as coverage of Russia is nothing more than outright propaganda and, frankly, open lies. Guess why alternative media a re gaining in popularity–many people are simply tired of BS.
    5. How does “stoking nationalist coals” manifest itself?
    6. Do you allow Russian people any agency or free will in what they do or do you still drink Cold War kool aid?
    7. Last, but not least–how well do you know Russian culture and Russia’s real (emphasis on real) history?

  26. bth says:

    Yes though there was a rumor that he had sent business partners and financial assets there last year has a hedge. I think Russia much more likely.

  27. turcopolier says:

    the Emiris ae a mercantile and scurvy lot. They would eventually sell him and his. pl

  28. bth says:

    True and points well made. I don’t know the answer to your question, but we have some general parameters to think about. There would need to be sufficient intervention to specifically defeat JAN and IS both in separate theaters on the ground. Not necessarily the others less extreme players, but certainly these two utterly. And we can say that that would not only involve a crushing air assault that is sustained, but also boots on the grounds as we now know the Syrian army and Iran plus Hezbollah don’t have sufficient men on the ground to gain and hold swaths of land in either NW Syria or eastern Syria. So we are certainly talking about special force types, some armor and artillery that could concentrate in specific areas in two separate theaters and an entire supply chain run through that crappy little port. Oh and bring lots of cash because the regime is broke and the Iranians failed to finance. So we can say it is going to be a pretty darned big step up in Russian forces if it were to occur. It is unlikely that air alone can occupy a population as determined as JAN or IS.

  29. bth,
    You give me no information I can crosscheck – no links for example.
    So your contribution appears to me, to be frank, absolutely valueless.

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:


  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Ali Larijani, the Speaker of Majlis, stated last year, after the Russian intervention, something to the effect that the war will go on for another 5 years. I imagine that he is very well informed and is expressing the assessment of Iran’s military & political leaders.
    Eastern Syria and Western Iraq is populated by similar Arabs, I read that even their dialect of Arabic is distinct. That gives ISIS popular roots from which it draws nourishment.
    Likewise, I have heard that the Al Nusra enjoys some level of succor and support from Syrians within its line of control.
    I imagine that the Will of these 2 populations to wage war has to be shattered for the war to end.
    The remnants will flee to Turkey and elsewhere or learn to remain quiescent – just like the defeated in the Spanish and Greek Civil Wars absorbed that lesson.

  32. bth says:

    Smoothie12 I don’t respond to trolling techniques.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is no ideology in the sense of post Enlightenment Europe. – it is just Islam or rather a particular island of the Muslim Archipelago of Practice.
    As I wrote to bth above, the supporters of Al Nusra and ISIS will be either dead, or in exile, or regurgitating bitterness in what is left of their cities and hamlets when the war ends with SAR victory.
    Assad, even if he loses the coming post war election, will likely live in a secure compound in Damascus; he is a hero for certain to all sorts of people, and not all of them Alawites.

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    This rumor, did you by chance come across it in the same place that you picked up how Iranians are buying up land in Syria?

  35. alba etie says:

    Ghost Ship
    Is JAN still fighting with ISIS? I have second hand reports from Syrian ex pats here in Austin that JAN & ISIS have made their peace with each other during the February cease fire. And yes Lavrov’s statement can only be read as ” kill ’em all and let God sort them out ” . God Speed to the R + 6 , ..

  36. bth says:

    Yes I had seen a couple of statements with such long time horizon out of Iran in the last year. Whatever else can be said about the Iran regime, it is willing to embrace the long view of this struggle.

  37. SmoothieX12 says:

    I never thought that asking pointed questions on some OSINT specific issues is a trolling technique, but if you say so. Judging by your numerous posts on Russia, it seems that you redefined situational awareness into something that it is not. I would suggest you start with studying Russia’s internal analytical scene which provides a superb insight into Russian view on Syria, which, I can assure you, has very little in common with Russian “nationalism”, unless one, of course, conflates it with Russia’s massive and acute first hand experience with Islamic terrorism.

  38. jld says:

    You don’t respond. Period.

  39. jld says:

    bth sounds like “damage control” from The Borg, and AS SUCH he is a very valuable contributor.

  40. different clue says:

    Under a Federalized structure, would one or more of the United States of Syria be permitted to be a jihadi emirate-state? An “Isisota” or a “Jihadikota”?

  41. Dubhaltach says:

    It’s that particular commenter’s SOP

  42. mbrenner says:

    Your use of probability distributions is enlightening (even if its provenance is the suspect Social Sciences). So, let’s try it to estimate the chances of the US achieving its objectives in Syria (+Iraq). Admittedly, the exercise is complicated by the Obama people’s failure to state what those objectives are.
    By inference, they are:
    1. Thwart Russia’s ambition to be a major player in determining the eventual outcome.
    2. Unseat the current regime
    3. Install a Western-friendly government.
    4. Crush ISIS
    5. Greatly reduce al-Nusra & Assoc
    6. Maintain good relations with Erdogan and the KSA
    7. Reduce Iranian influence in Iraq to where it was in 2010
    8. keep the Israelis happy
    9. Maintain political unity of Iraq
    10.Keep Syria more-or-less intact
    1. Construct military alliance adequate for purposes without engaging American combat forces on significant scale
    2. Marginalize the Shi’ite militias in Iraq
    3. Coerce Assad into stepping down and Ba’ath relinquishing dominant position
    4. Curbing Turkish support for al-Nusra & Assoc.
    5. Persuade Erdogan to seal border with ISIS controlled areas
    6. Prevent R +6 from gaining significantly more ground
    7. Strengthening considerably “moderate” opposition
    8. Persuade Kurds in both countries to take military lead in non-Kurdish zones
    9. Heal differences among factions in Baghdad government
    10. Lay the basis for reconciliation of Iraqi Sunnis with current set-up
    Odds On Requisites
    1. 0.8
    2. 0.3
    3. 0.5
    4. 0.3
    5. 0.6
    8. 0.2
    9. 0.8
    10. 0.3
    Multiplication: 0.0000078336 That is: one chance in 12,500 – if my arithmetic is correct
    Of course, that is a measure of the odds in achieving a FULL success. Things look better if the goal is just a partial success – less complete and not re. all objectives. Let’s say one in a couple of thousand.
    Finally, enough of a success that the outcome can be spun into an acceptable chapter in the Second volume of Obama’s memoirs? Sure – 100%!

  43. Chris Chuba says:

    “Russia is in a real budget bind.”
    This is overstated. With oil close to $50 their deficit is only 3% of their budget (spending vs revenue + spending) as opposed to almost 25% for us (the U.S.). They have been able to increase their foreign currency holdings as well as gold.
    I am not saying that Russia is swimming in money but they are not at death’s door. Whatever they decide to do will be decided based on strategic decisions, good or bad, not because finances dictate it.
    “And as bad as things are, the rebels aren’t going to expose their families to the regime’s retaliation without some negotiated assurances.”
    Of course, it is always a bad idea to force people to fight to the death when there is an alternative. Back in the day, Arafat and the PLO were able to retreat from Beirut to Tunisia. ISIS will get cut down or pushed out of Syria but the others can be dealt with as appropriate. The whole Geneva plan and Putin’s words acknowledge the existence of a ‘healthy portion of opposition’. As to the Islamists like Al Nusra and Army of Islam, I’d like to see them forced to retreat into Turkey. I wonder if Turkey will suddenly discover that they can control their borders in that scenario?

  44. Akira says:

    Some interesting interviews with Senator Richard Black of Virginia, back from Syria:

  45. bth says:

    At least Obama got us out of Iraq in his first term…. Oh wait… But there were our victories in Afghanistan and Libya in his second term… Never mind.

  46. bth says:

    It is possible that the Kurds and the Syrian government might form a federal structure with US and Russian support. I do not think it is possible in NW or eastern Syria with IS or JAN. There it seems all or nothing for the regime.

  47. bth says:

    The Russian federal budget has been in double digit tailspin for several years and will have to be adjusted again downward midyear. Financials are definitely a constraint though one has to admire Putin’s willingness to adjust fiscal spending and devalue his currency as necessary.
    The difference between a US deficit and a Russian one is that the US can print money and the Russians cannot.
    We need to think about what a military of defeat of IS actually would look like. It would have to be comprehensive and in both Iraq and Syria simultaneously. Certainly that will take great cooperation between the US and Russia if it were to happen and probably require Iran and Turkey’s support as well. Hence my low assessment of probability.

  48. mbrenner says:

    Let’s take another tack by asking what the probabilities look like if we posit that Washington’s paramount objective is to thwart Russian ambitions. This is not unrealistic since a succession of high officials have declared Putin’s Russia in fact to be America’s No 1 security concern.
    The Requirements (strictly stated)
    1. Allow Erdogan, KSA, et al to continue material and political support for jihadists opposition groups
    2. Concentrate military effort on ISIS
    3. Undermine Geneva talks by not pressuring “moderates” to participate actively and fully
    4. Continue to insist that Assad must go
    5. Restrain Kurds in Northwest Syria from pressing attacks on al-Nusra & Assoc
    6. Keep Ukraine crisis at fever pitch as distraction
    Odds On Requisites
    1. 1.0
    2. 1.o
    3. 0.9
    4. 1.o
    5. 0.8
    6. 1.0
    Multiplication: 0.72 (72 % chance of success)
    I believe this helps understand what we’re doing. Of course, the odds change if the level of Russian military engagement rises to the point where the seeming stalemate on the battlefield is oversome.

  49. brian says:

    why should president Assad go anywhere? esp toa resort? your thinking of a Hollande or Cameron.
    what role have Turkeys Saudi and US to play on who rules syria? thats up to syrians. Turkey sauds and US are main backers of the terrorists groups

  50. brian says:

    Turks (aka erdogan) & sauds(aka the dictators) have no such veto role or anything to do with who rules syria.
    they CAN stop funding/arming their creatures

  51. brian says:

    all thats needed is to block the turkish border, and cut the fiow of oxygen to ISIS and alnusra etc

  52. brian says:

    its not a ‘civil war’ like the US civil war

  53. brian says:

    why are u so keen to see Assad go? its up to syrians to decide..not a wanna be dictator like u

  54. Willy B says:

    Hi, Smoothie, Do you have any hints for me as to how I might study Russia’s internal analytical scene? This would be very useful for me in the work that I’m doing, but I might be very limited by the fact that I don’t speak Russian, which I realize is a serious limitation on that sort of analysis.

  55. SmoothieX12 says:

    I can give you names of leading (and I may add–extraordinary competent) Russian analysts. Evgeniy Satanovsky is superb in anything dealing with ME and Middle Asia, so is Semyon Bagdasarov, Rostislav Ishenko is a world class geopolitical analyst. Number of people from Izborsky Club are of interest too. Evgeniy Kulikov from Zinoviev’s Club is an excellent realist. Military analysis–a whole range of people and publications. Economics wise–from Glazyev through Mikhail Delyagin, these are people who talk about real economy. Thankfully, today, not knowing a language could be mitigated somewhat through Google Translate which, at least, is capable of giving a gist. Anyhow, if you need anything just ask.
    P.S. Basically, anything originating from Russia’s “liberal” that is “pro-Western” NGO and other shady sources financed “sources” is crap. Apart from the fact that those are utterly incompetent, such as “sources” Bth uses. Those merely play to the “narrative”.

  56. Willy B says:

    Thank you, very much. Glazyev I know but the others are new to me.
    I also just discovered that you, too, have a blog, which I’ll be adding to my read list.

  57. LeaNder says:

    I accept your take on Assad’s hypothetical status post civil war. Seems to make a lot of sense in our larger context. Not least due to what we assume we know by now.
    Concerning Enlightenment, or its respective contemporary challengers, the Romantics (the non-political branch of them, mind you)I am not so sure. The representatives of Enlightenment obviously had their respective “enlightened blind spots” too. …
    Concerning the above: radical enlightenment may make sense. But do you assume it could ever be possible without “Romantic” challengers of all sorts?

  58. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Finally, enough of a success that the outcome can be spun into an acceptable chapter in the Second volume of Obama’s memoirs? Sure – 100%!”
    This is superb. From your permission I will steal this for my own use. I totally intent to mention the originator.

  59. SmoothieX12 says:

    No problem, my pleasure. Another guy I would strongly recommend on political and economic issues is Mikhail Remizov–a superbly erudite analyst and young, I may add. Per my blog, I tend to concentrate on more fundamental issues such as military power and doctrines (I do go a bit into the operational art and Operations Theory). I don’t have much time nor qualifications to make major operational predictions (I did at early stages of Donbass conflict–was pretty close, but stopped since–no time) on such issues as Syria and I gladly leave that to people of Colonel Lang’s scale, who do much better job than I ever would.

  60. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am not familiar with the Western European intellectual history sufficiently deeply to answer your last question.

  61. Babak Makkinejad says:

    “Iran regime”, as you put it, still is the best government that those people on that part of the Iranian plateau have experienced over the last 3000 years.
    You guys were in Iran from 1953 until 1978 and had a lot of leverage with the Shah of Iran, why did you not establish a Liberal Democracy there?

  62. bth says:

    The Turks and the Saudis and friends have a veto on the peace process in Syria because they can and likely will continue to fund rebel forces one way or another. Therefore when they say that Assad will have to go as a condition of a long-term peace settlement, then that effectively is a veto as used in this context. Sadly many have a veto on peace in Syria.

  63. Chris Chuba says:

    The Russian economy and budget which are closely related are not in a tailspin.
    The inflation rate has declined from 15% to 7.3% meaning that the devaluation of the ruble has not led to hyper-inflation, Latin America style.
    As I mentioned before, their foreign currency reserves have climbed to $385B.
    Even their stock market has increased almost 50% from the beginning of the year.
    I don’t know, maybe I am not reading the tea leaves correctly but even Bloomberg puts them within a hair of them having a balanced budget, they are already within 3% with oil hovering near $50.
    Also, it looks like the worst of their GDP declines are behind them …
    A lot of their aircraft, shipbuilding, and even some defense industry was tightly coupled with Ukraine which got derailed (for obvious reasons) and for the most part that has been redirected to the Russian Federation. This process will continue which should help with future GDP growth.

  64. different clue says:

    The only way for the R + 6 to overcome that Erdo-Saudi-Gulfie veto would be for the R + 6 to be able to increase their aid and fighting so much as to physically exterminate all traces of rebellion and rebels within every part of Syria. If they can achieve that, then the Erdo-SaudiGulfies will have no pet jihadis left to support. And then peace will be achieved.

  65. different clue says:

    Well I should hope so.

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