“ISIS continues massive retreat as Syrian forces advance towards Tabaqa” – TTG

Yesterday Leith Fadel of Al Masdar News reported the SAA offensive to seize the Al Tabqah Airbase is proceeding nicely. Several correspondents of SST have already noted this and commented on its significance. The map above shows just how significant the seizure of Al Tabqah truly will be.


Moments ago in the Al-Raqqa countryside, the Syrian Arab Army’s 555th Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division – in close coordination with the National Defense Forces (NDF), Liwaa Suqour Al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade), Fouj Al-Joulan (Golani Regiment), and the pro-government Palestinian militia “Liwaa Al-Quds) – imposed full control over several hills surrounding the imperative village of Zakiyah along the Salamiyah-Raqqa Road. 

According to a military source in the Al-Salamiyah District, the Syrian Armed Forces established control over several small hilltops that surround the village of Zakiyah in southern Al-Raqqa after a fierce battle with the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham” (ISIS) this morning.

Recently, ISIS lost control of the Zakiyah crossroad that would allow them access to much of the Hama Governorate’s eastern countryside; this loss now leaves the terrorist group without a primary supply route to their stronghold at the town of ‘Aqayrib. (Al Masdar News)


Supporting the SAA 555th mechanized brigade is the Desert Hawks Brigade, a battalion sized force of SAA veterans and volunteers armed with light and medium arms. I am only guessing, but I would imagine the Desert Hawks make heavy use of "technicals" since it was often used to intercept rebel and ISIS columns in the deserts of central and eastern Syria. It is reportedly trained by the Iranians. Along with the other units, this SAA force reminds me of the Africa Korps, a small force operating in the desert away from the main effort that has the potential of producing a military success far surpassing its small size.



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104 Responses to “ISIS continues massive retreat as Syrian forces advance towards Tabaqa” – TTG

  1. JMH says:

    How embarrassing is it going to be for Josh Earnest when R-6 takes Raqqa?

  2. johnf says:

    On a technical point, wasn’t the Afrika Korps the name for the entire German expeditionary force in North Afica under Rommel?
    I think you might be thinking of the British Long Range Desert Force (which later developed into the SAS) which deployed in a similar way to the one you describe?

  3. Trey N says:

    Instead of the Afrika Korps, using technicals to operate in the desert and shoot up supply convoys more resembles the British Long Range Desert Group transporting David Stirling’s Special Air Service commandos on raids deep into the Axis rear areas. The best defense against such units is air power — which, fortunately, is an asset the ISIS/Daesh liver eaters do not possess….

  4. LeaNder says:

    Pat, I doubt I would have enjoyed the comments of Harald Kujat in a talkshow yesterday, hadn’t I read your blog for the last decade.
    Thanks Pat.

  5. LeaNder says:

    TTG, thanks.
    Preparing for a short absence, with all due respect for the sighs of relieve, it may not last, I should have added:
    Big thanks of course to the whole SST community for everything they helped me learn here. Not least to open my mind on military matters.

  6. alba etie says:

    This is very good update – thank you . Do we have an idea about how long it might be before relief convoys begin to help civilians in areas secured by the R +6 forces ? And is there any updates concerning Turkish military activity in Syria beyond the shelling of the last few days ?

  7. cynic says:

    Good luck to them!

  8. Bill Herschel says:

    What are “technicals”?
    OT The Jeffrey Sachs article linked to in previous comments is a must read. First, if one could design a Hilary Clinton supporter it would look like Sachs. He has all the qualifications. Which makes it all the more surprising that his article about her could convince Chelsea not to vote for her. Her shows exactly how dangerous, ignorant, and dishonest she is. Read it.

  9. turcopolier says:

    Bill Herschel
    A “technical” in the 3rd world warfare sense is typically a pick-up truck with some sort of crew served weapon mounted in the bed of the truck. pl

  10. john f,
    I was referring to the entire SAA force, including the 555th Brigade, as akin to the Africa Korps. This is not just a raiding force. It is seizing an important LOC with the final objective of the air base and dam at Tabaqa. Perhaps the Desert Hawks are being used as a LRDG-like raiding/recon force in this offensive, but that would be a guess on my part.

  11. turcopolier says:

    Do the Kurds have the north side of the Lake Assad parallel route secured against IS shipments? pl

  12. pl,
    The Kurds hold Tishrin Dam at the north end of Lake Assad. Unless IS has a reliable way of ferrying men and supplies the lake, which I doubt, Raqqa will be cut off from Turkey with the taking of Tabaqa.

  13. alba etie,
    I have seen photos/videos of supplies being distributed to civilians in R+6 held areas, most recently into the newly relieved towns north of Aleppo. The Russians have airdropped supplies into Dier az Zor which are distributed to civilians by the SAA. You won’t hear about this in the MSM.

  14. bth says:

    Hope all is well

  15. Rex says:

    Re: Technical
    Here is a visual. They may not like our religion, government or society, but they do like our trucks!
    Least they could do is translate the plumber logo to local language. My guess they are short on irony.

  16. LeaNder,
    Return soon. We’ll miss your questions and comments.
    Auf wiedersehn

  17. hemeantwell says:

    Wow, I agree, it’s one of the most relentless criticisms of HRC I’ve seen. 2 thumbs up for Sachs, forever repenting the mess he helped make of de-Sovietization.

  18. Bill Herschel says:


  19. sillybill says:

    Radar, a few dozen modern patrol boats, and some naval commandos from the Russian Black Sea fleet ought to be able to solve that problem. Just not sure how the patrol boats would get there. Sikorsky sky crane or Rus equivalent was my first thought but they are slow and have limited range. I guess that goes in the ‘logistic challenges’ category.
    Tabqah dam might be trouble, I read a Defense One story recapping WSJ story (behind paywall) about IS bigwigs and high value captives inside the dam on the theory that no-one would bomb it because of flood danger.
    I imagine a dam would be hard to bust into but what do I know? The Russians did help with construction tho, so presumably they have the plans, and know where the front/back door is.

  20. Rex says:

    I would think any boats on the water would receive quick attention from Russian Aerospace Services, day or night. Big boats, and docks, likely to attract cruise missile attention. ISIS submarines from Turkey?

  21. sillybill,
    So IS is using the dam as a Führerbunker. That’s a damned smart move. It will be a tough nut to crack. It also presents a unique opportunity if SAA and Hezbollah commandos, perhaps augmented by spetznaz, can seal the entrances before IS can evacuate the dam.

  22. sillybill says:

    Maybe they don’t evacuate the dam – wire explosives and a dead man switch up to the turbines and floodgates, then open negotiations for safe passage out of the war zone for all their comrades.
    I probably watched to many movies when I was a kid.

  23. Bill Herschel says:

    It is also clear from Sachs’ article that Syria was apparently Hillary’s project from the beginning. She was Syria’s Victoria Nuland. Who was she serving when she pulled this stunt? The American people? That is a stretch.
    Making her President would be a disaster.

  24. bth says:

    So that would leave ISIL with supply routes running into Iraq and then north. SoD Carter has been saying that elements of 101st would be going to Iraq but when and where are unspecified. Also in an interview on the 11th he says that the objective seems to be to support local forces that will stay in the area (by that I assume Sunni tribes) and to crush IS by targeting Mosul and Raqqa. So I am assuming that supply lines between Raqqa and Mosul will be cut on the Iraqi side of the border if they aren’t all ready and that the Shia militias will continue to push out from Ramadi and perhaps retake Fallujah and so on from that more southerly quarter. So in essence it would sound like the Russians/Syrias will now come at IS (after meandering north instead of west as the US had planned) from the west, the Iraqi government from the southeast and the US, Kurds and Sunni tribes from the Iraqi north. As to timing, Iraqi government was saying June for Mosul and Russians are talking about a March ceasefire and attempted negotiation probably referring to western Syria and not IS. Here is a link to an interview Ashton Carter gave a couple of days ago that was interesting. What I said here is leaping to some conclusions using open source material so take it for what its worth.

  25. Old Microbiologist says:

    Easy, just use sarin in there and gas them out. They already have used it themselves so it is easy to just call it an accident.

  26. Swami Bhut Jolokia says:

    “…this SAA force reminds me of the Africa Korps…”
    Fear not, the Saudi Rommel, Prince Mohammad Bin Salman will overcome the SAA. Because Yemen.

  27. robt willmann says:

    TTG, sillybill,
    The Tabqa dam story from the Wall Street Journal is mentioned in this article–
    A person quoted in the article, Aaron Wolf, is at Oregon State University studying water resources, and his website has a link to an informative paper about the Tigris and Euphrates river basin. Written for a master’s thesis in Ireland by Patrick MacQuarrie (a good Irish name), it discusses the Tabqa dam and history regarding it and Syria, Iraq, and Turkey, including the PKK–
    According to the paper, the Tabqa dam created Lake Assad in Syria. It also relates a quote by Henry Kissinger that Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, was “the type of man who would go into a poker game with a pair of twos and threes and come out scooping the pot”.

  28. cynic says:

    Replay the Dambusters, perhaps? Then bill the Saudis for a new dam!

  29. charly says:

    Ekranoplans as patrol boats. Both Russia and Iran have them so just fly them in.
    Somewhat more serious the way to get patrol boats there is just truck them in because for the weight of a tank you get a seriously big boat

  30. Barish says:

    Another development that drew my attention is this:
    “A very strange reversal of the situation: after a short Rebel intermezzo, Govt. allows SDF intervention, Feb. 15” note at Kafr Naya.
    I read this as a cover-up to hush up that the govt. troops up and left the place for SDF’s use. After all, there is no telling what outrage in MSM there would be should it be overtly known that US-sponsored SDF directly cooperate with Damascus.
    SDF progress is coming along nicely as far as reaching the town Mare’ – sometimes also called Marea – is concerned, which Mr Warren in the recent presser in Baghdad announced to be the first step on the way to Jarablus. One place which just so happens to be not far from Marea on that line to Jarablus is Dabiq, namesake of ISIL’s propaganda-leaflet. The SDF manage to take that out of ISIL’s hands without Allah’s wrath coming down upon creation, they score a big moral win against the lot.
    It’s also encouraging to read that not just US-officials, but French and EU ones too called on Turkey to cease firing on SDF in the Azaz-strip. Hope his Excellency, Mr Obama, finally steps up and calls on Padişah Erdoğan to cease and desist hindering the actual fight against ISIL getting started.
    Interesting times ahead, at any rate.

  31. robt willmann says:

    The paper I cited above — Water Security in the Middle East, Growing Conflict Over Development in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin — confirms that the Tabqa dam was designed by Russia, at that time the former Soviet Union. Somewhere in the archives from 45-50 years ago would be the plans for it and construction details, and some engineers, young at that time, might still be alive.

  32. Joe100 says:

    TTG –
    Any intelligence on the SF process supporting the Kurds? This appears from a distance to be the only effective US play against ISIS and other jihadis in Iraq & Syria.
    Also the Kurdish initiatives appear to be effectively coordinated (at least strategically) with R+6, but maybe this just reflects the obvious opportunities.

  33. Joe100,
    I’ve seen nothing about the SF in Rojava and that’s exactly as it should be. It might be 10th Group teams in there since they have a history with Kurds, but that’s just a guess on my part. The 10th has always been masters of the art of STFU. During one deployment from Fort Devens, the Post Commander had no idea the Group was gone until it returned.

  34. All,
    I think we are all getting ahead of ourselves with our thoughts on the taking of the Tabaqa Dam. The airbase and the town of Tabaqa stand in the way. Looking at the area in Google Maps, I see it could be a tough fight. The objective of cutting the Turkey-Raqqa LOC can also be accomplished by reaching the shore of Lake Assad just to the west of Tabaqa.

  35. aleksandar says:

    There’s no need to ” crack the nut dam ” just surround it and starve them out.
    “Not worth the bones of a single Pomerania guard”.
    To be franck, the dam is not a military objective and due to the SAA lack of manpower, (a dead soldier is always useless ) roads and crossroads a more important.
    And airbase.
    That’s why Al Tabqah Airbase may be a HVT. Not only for airplaine but also for MI24 so far as logistical problems are solved.

  36. JJackson says:

    I thought blowing up dams was a war crime – assuming anybody cares about international laws anymore.

  37. Rex says:

    Looking at Google earth, the Tabqah airbase would also be good site for artillery, Highway 4 in heavy mortar range (< 5km) and Tabqah in artillery range. Rocket systems as well as aircraft (fixed wing and rotor) could easily reach Raqqa. Terrain surrounding airbase is flat, so defense may be easy. Airstrip is near 3km long, google image shows plane revetments and Mig 21s on base as of Sept. 2014. Don't know Russian cargo plane runway needs. But then I am not trained in any of these martial arts, so a WAG.

  38. Matthew says:

    TTG: The operational tempo must be increasing because the whining tempo has gone full soprano. See https://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/699235947938877440
    And Merkel was squawking about a “no fly zone” today? The Russian “quagmire” suddenly has developed the viscosity of water.

  39. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Bill Herschel and all,
    A reader over at Naked Capitalism pointed to this link found referred to within Sachs’ Huffington Post article that lays out a brief history of the dodgy financial dealings between the CIA and Saudi Arabia:
    Worthy of a read for the parallax that it supplies when assessing their undertakings in Syria. With this stratagem, dependence on a “black budget” for funding is overcome. Who needs oversight? There’s work to be done, and they don’t need meddlesome elected officials to get in the way, eh? If something goes south, or there is blowback, well, bucko, this is what{{im}}plausible deniability is for, after all.
    How republics die…

  40. Peter in Toronto says:

    Lots of progress today by R+6.
    Aleppo power plant taken after literally vaporizing the few ISIS stragglers left to defend it.
    Kurds are moving to close the pocket between Turkey and ISIS in the northern Aleppo plains, but hindered by punitive Turkish artillery hurled against them in Afrin and Tal Rifat. Azaz is being pincer’d.
    Mop-up operations in Latakia.

  41. Kooshy says:

    Thank you for your reply on the other tread, since it’s related to Syrian war, if PL wouldn’t mind, I would like to reply on this current tread.
    Firstly I didn’t try to downgrade or disrespect any of the fighting forces including Russian and Iranian IRGC volunteers. I said the only ranked military ground forces fighting are SAA.
    That is true since Russia supposedly/ officially has no military ground force in combat in Syrian theater. Same is true for IRGC they are officially there as military advisers, the Iranian martyrs god bless them are supposedly volunteers who are defending the holly (Shia) shrines, mostly fighting with NDF or the Iraqi/ Afghani volunteer militia under Iranian/ Iraqi Shia commanders. IMO this formulation should and will make sense, since declared Iranian Shia force deployment with their own bases in Syria would have alienate and tilt a lot more benign sunnies toward KSA/IS/ALQ/ Turkey position and would have been declared as an occupation of an Arab land.
    A few weeks back I wrote here that IMO in Syrian theater there are 4 states and 4 militias fighting. Out of these 4 supporting sates only one state rightfully and IMO by design, has it’s armed forces on the ground, which is SAA, they belong there and they are defending their homeland. Officially the other three, Russia is supporting by air, Iran has advisory position on ground, and Iraq is only supporting by allowing air passage through it’s territory to Russians and Iranians. There are 4 militias that are not any state ranked military which are Hizbollah, Kurds, Syrian NDF, and various Iraq/afghani / Iranian Shia volunteers fighting to save the holly shrine of prophet’ granddaughter.
    On second point this war in Western Asia, Eastern Europe, is all about trade roads and access control to Mediterranean Sea, which is the easiest, most neutral ( no passage tariff) and least expensive way to Europe and Africa, IMO it always was, even during the crusades.
    FYI, today for the first time, the first chines container rail train with 40 long containers arrived in Tehran, in old days that road from China to Ray continued to Halab and then to Venice. I don’t see how Chines, Iranians and Russian can accept this ancient access road passing through their territories can be at the behests of someone in DC. I thank you again for your informative contributions here on this forum.

  42. Chris Chuba says:

    I have been reading of regular shelling of Kurdish held territory and occasionally SAA forces by Turkish artillery from http://militarymaps.info/ including civilian casualties. I am past the point of wondering why this is not being covered by the MSM or talked about by our politicians as they basically ignored Turkish air strikes in Syria and Iraq on the Kurds.
    Is there a way for the Syrians, with Russian help to accurately target the source of Turkish artillery fire?
    I recall reading that during the Iraq war that we could plot the source of Iraqi artillery using radar to track its ballistic missile trajectory but I might be misstating what I read because this was over a decade ago.

  43. turcopolier says:

    Chris Chuba
    counter battery radar has been around a long, long time. pl

  44. Chris, Pat,
    Using counter battery artillery against Turkish artillery would probably give Turkey the excuse it needs to invade. Russia and Syria are probably being patient and trying not to give Turkey the excuse it wants.

  45. Rocketrepreneur,
    You are absolutely right. Russia will not take these taunts.

  46. Mac says:

    I must say I am so happy that R+6 have the battlefield initiative.
    Am I alone in believing the saudis/turks are the principal antagonists in this equation, and that their Syria campaign, after 5 long years, is failing?
    Or, are we about to enter an even more insane phase of the saudi/turk folly in Syria, drawing in NATO?
    What does the JCS think of all this madness?
    A penny for your thoughts Sir…

  47. Will says:

    The Syrian Army would have to be the actor using counter-battery fire. If Russia was involved, then them firing into Turkey would be cause to close the straits. Were Turkey to close the Straits, then the escalation ladder would eventually trigger nukes.

  48. Hood Canal Gardner says:

    FWIW: In State/DOD it still goes something like this: Amerika ne griješe.

  49. Will,
    I’d bet the Russians are advising the Syrians to be patient and stick to the plan.

  50. kooshy says:

    Yes i agree, in this war everybody has political limitations except the SAA which is defending home.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your comments.
    I understand the reasoning behind Iranians’ hiding their active participation in the Syrian War on behalf of SAR.
    I suppose that is a matter of judgment by Iran’s political leaders.
    Personally, I do not think it matters what Iran does or does not do; Iranians cannot appease – at any price except their own extinction – their enemies among Sunni Arab states.

  52. turcopolier says:

    IMO it is not a question of an “excuse” for Turkey. It is a question of whether or not they want to go to war with Russia in Syria. pl

  53. Fred says:

    One more reason to publish the redacted pages of the 9-11 commission report.

  54. Dubhaltach says:

    TTG, All,
    Michael Ignatieff, a failed Canadian politician who has taken up a new career as an academic warmonger with a perch at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government has a piece in the Financial Times headlined “A Syria policy that dare not speak its name” (Paywall http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/97b863fe-d3ec-11e5-829b-8564e7528e54.html#axzz40Id4Wlm1 )
    Ignatieff blames the current US administration for letting the Syrian government use chemical weapons against its population and says that this failure to enforce its “red lines” is the root of current American impotence.
    “This is where risk avoidance has led a conscientious, prudent American president — to a diabolical transaction in which he and his allies regretfully sacrifice the lives of innocent civilians in the name of the mistaken belief that the west’s only overriding strategic interest in Syria is the defeat of Isis.
    If this is the actual policy of the US the consequences should be spelt out. Russia and Iran will consolidate control of a rump state in the Middle East but the millions of Syrians who have fled the fighting will never return home and the region will never know peace.
    Once the US abandons the rebels to their fate, those who survive will surely align with their Sunni brothers in Isis. Instead of reducing the number of America’s enemies, this betrayal is likely only to swell their number. ”
    He goes on to say that this will increase the number of America’s enemies and that Europe too will suffer:
    “If the war ends on Mr Putin and Mr Assad’s terms, with the dictatorship over Syria restored, the exodus will increase and even Germany may have to join other European countries in closing borders. This will not stop the desperate from trying and they will have to be turned back with razor wire, water cannon and brute force. ”
    In fact the end of the war in Syria will decrease and probably at least partially reverse the flow of refugees but since when did reality to say nothing of genuine humanitarian concerns ever stop a R2P warmonger from spewing their hypocritical nonsense?
    This particular warmonger suggests that the USA and NATO should present Russia and Syria with what he describes as a “credible threat” which would include “further economic sanctions on Moscow”, “rapid supply of anti-aircraft and anti-missile equipment to trusted rebel forces” and yup you guessed it a no-fly zone which would ensure that “the city is not cut off from its supply lines and protecting civilians seeking to flee the violence”.
    Really these people are shameless. And delusional. And reckless. But the recklessness is justified because:
    “the stakes are nothing less than the credibility of the Nato alliance, the survival of Europe as a union and the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people”
    Doesn’t that make you feel better?

  55. turcopolier says:

    Yes, Russian staff advice has proven to be good so far and I would bet that they advise adherence to “the plan” which is clearly multi-phased. The SAA and friends today re-took the thermal electric plant in the pocket today. This is the pocket west of the Kuweiris air base. I presume that the grid power lines run west to the city through ground still held by IS. I imagine that the Syrians will want to get the lights back on in the parts of Aleppo that they hold. The political effect of having the power on would be considerable. How will they manage that? pl

  56. Fred says:

    I suspect that the RFAF will hit the Turks where it hurts Erdogan’s allies the most – in the wallet. I haven’t heard of any oil tanker convoys being shot up lately so another such strike is overdue, as are some collective embargos on Turkish products and Russian’s choose a different vacation destination. (Greece might be a good inexpensive and rather galling choice for the tourists).

  57. turcopolier says:

    In light of the Reuters story sourced to OPCW that IS has used mustard gas against the Kurds, maybe people should think about the likelihood that Turkey’s other jihadi allies may have had mustard and Sarin for a long time. It is easy to make. pl

  58. pl,
    The Kurds have already managed to bring electric power to Kobane from Tishrin Dam. I bet Aleppo will have electricity this Spring.

  59. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to turcopolier 15 February 2016 at 11:32 PM
    Is that this Reuters report?
    when I read things like that I’m reminded sharply that IS has a significant number of Baathists in its ranks. It is these men many of whom cut their teeth evading sanctions for Saddam’s government who oil the wheels for IS’ own oil-running operations. It’s a sort of collateral confirmation to IS having chemical weapons and the will to use them.
    If they’ve got the Ba’ath oil runners working for them I think it highly likely that they’ve also got Ba’athist’s who developed an expertise in the use of chemical weapons both while working for Saddam and while fighting against subsequent Iraqi governments.
    But I wonder how likely is it that Daesh would share that expertise with other allied factions.
    They strike me as the sort of people who’d like to keep their edge, an ace in the hole so to speak. I need to think this through, but does a scenario in which Daesh share the knowledge of how to make such weapons with allied factions (or even supply them with them) but keep to themselves how to use them to best effect seem likely to you?

  60. Amir says:

    In your opinion, how can/should Syria deal with or retaliate against a country (Turkey) that attacks, when the latter is shielded behind NATO?
    Do you think arming the Kurds to attack the artillery positions inside Turkey is a militarily feasible and diplomatically realistic option?

  61. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Why yes, now that you mention it, so it is.
    Cui bono? Whose agenda was served, and by which means? A question asked by those ancient Romans, past masters of misdirection and subterfuge, andl one still worthy of being posed today.

  62. aleksandar says:

    Maybe I’am too optimist but seems to me that the shelling is just an
    admission of helplessness.
    Military effect on the ground is zero.That can delay retaking north syria but no more.
    About Tabqah military airport,distance from Deir Ez Zur is only 150 km, it can be used by MI24 to counter attack on this enclave.

  63. Ulenspiegel says:

    “Greece might be a good inexpensive and rather galling choice for the tourists”
    Already too many refugees on the beaches.

  64. Martin Oline says:

    This is a report concerning Saudi Arabia’s second front in Yemen. Perhaps a bit off-topic but of interest, Please see :
    (Pat: If you are going to do a separate thread on this please don’t post this comment)

  65. kooshy says:

    Question to folks in Germany, what’s up with Merkel? Is she willing to let in all Erdo’ demands and blackmails, just to put the lead on her refugee mistakes? I don’t understand this lady?
    From RT- “In the current situation it would be helpful, if there could be such an area, where none of the parties are allowed to launch aerial attacks, that is to say, a kind of no-fly zone,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday told the daily Stuttgarter Zeitung, when asked by the publication about opening up areas to host refugees.

  66. What is the evidence Turkey has ever deployed boots on the ground in Syria outside of Kurdish areas?

  67. Will Smith says:

    SAA hunt for terrorists in the vicinity of the Kinsabba northeastern Latakia.
    With Konkurs-M. ATGM obviously it’s possible to use ATGM like hunting rifle.

  68. Barish says:

    Stuttgarter Zeitung is more of a regional paper. Papers with greater reach and prestige are Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel, among others.
    Her uttering this is, on the one hand, a sign of her increasing desperation as regards her own policy mistakes.
    On the other hand, the woman’s an opportunist, no idealist. When the last Big Nuclear Disaster in Japan hit in 2011, she made a 180° turn on her committing to nuclear energy as part of Germany’s electric power infrastructure – this was done to de-fang one of the key policies of the opposition Bündnis 90/Die Grüne – “the Greens” -, which could capitalize on this disaster in the local Baden-Württemberg elections at the time. Of course, one thing both Merkel and voters for the Greens in Ba-Wü ignored is that Germany, unlike Japan, isn’t earthquake- nor tsunami-country, so obviously nuclear power stations are nowhere near as potentially exposed to natural disasters as that country, half a world away, is.
    Even so, perceptions and making political capital trumped reality and facts in this regard, and hence, her majesty Merkel neatly stole one of the Greens’ policies, to their detriment.
    Merkel’s “invitation” to refugees likewise was an opportunist move, and never a charitable act. Otherwise, there would have been charter-flights, bus-lines and ferries to make it easier for refugees to reach their destinations. Pointedly enough, none of that was done, in all likelihood to weed out those “able” to make the trip to Germany and those who were not.
    The woman likely is under the illusion that by backing Padişah’s demands, she can make the whole refugee-issue, which is blowing up in her face even within her own CDU/CSU-coalition, go away. Yet, to gauge public reaction, rather than make an official announcement to this effect she lets a trial balloon loose in a 2nd-to-3rd tier newspaper to see how this grandiose idea of yet another “humanitarian intervention” is received.
    I would hope that, as far as the public is concerned, phone hotlines as well as inboxes fill up with citizens pointing out what a reckless, foolish enterprise this backing of Padişah is, and that those among her advisors that still court reality point it out to the woman as well.

  69. BabelFish says:

    Slight tangent and not that anyone on SST needs convincing of how serious the Russians are but this link from Janes provides evidence that they are flying their newest anti-ship missile from SU-34 Fullbacks. This is a serious Area Denial/Anti-Access weapon and continuous to up the game for anyone thinking they can invest part of the Syrian coastline to reinforce the Unicorns.

  70. Matthew says:

    TTG: What is the actual relationship between the SDF and the SAA? The hashtag “#sdf” is all self-congratulatory today about SDF successes north of Aleppo. Is this the group cobbled together by our government to be the democratic (fighting) alternative to Assad?

  71. kooshy says:

    Thank you for your explanation, for life of me, I cannot see why would it be in Germany’s interest to further muddy her relation with Russia, Iran, Syria and Kurds on cunt of Erdo. By taking such a radical positions that not even US fallows any longer.

  72. Fred says:

    Greece can thank Turkey and Germany for that situation. Maybe they should have their navy start dragging boats back to Turkish beaches.

  73. kooshy says:

    Here is clip of Iranian FM forcefully explaining the Berlin agreement of last week.

  74. kooshy says:

    Amir IMO artillery shelling alone will not achieve much, like TTG said the important point is they don’t have the guts (without NATO Backing) to cross the border. Turks are embarrassing themselves and specially their NATO allies. You can see a lot of rolling eyes in Europe, except for Merkel. Erdogan’s stupid regional polices has put the prosperous Turkey in hole and he keeps digging.

  75. Matthew,
    The SDF is comprised primarily of the YPG/YPJ Kurds with the Arabic, Turkman militias being the junior partners. The SDF grew out of the earlier Euphrates Volcano coalition. The non-Kurdish member of the SDF are an effective front for negotiating with the militias of the FSA north of Aleppo to lay down their arms or join them in the fight against IS. Being primarily YPG Kurds, the SDF is the enemy of Turkey and was not part of the disastrous US effort to arm the unicorns. There is clearly a relationship with the small, quiet effort of working with the Green Berets that began about the same time as the formation of the SDF.
    The relationship between the SDF and the SAA is complicated. They are not allies, but they manage to coexist in their mutual fight against IS, al Nusra and the rest of the rebels supported by the Turks and Saudis. They coordinated with the SAA last year in the joint fight against the IS attempt to take Hasakah. There have also been occasional clashed between the two. The coordination between the SDF and the SAA in the battles north of Aleppo are, in my opinion, being encouraged and guided by the Russians. There will be time enough for negotiations between the YPG/SDF and the government in Damascus once the liver eaters and unicorns are eliminated.

  76. annamaria says:

    here is a claim by Russia’s ambassador to Britain that the US expected ISIS to seize Damascus by October:

  77. Joe100 says:

    TTG or PB –
    Can one of you explain what is going on in the battle for “urban” Aleppo itself? Checking Al Masdar this morning it looks like the kurds are quite active and fighting has moved into portions of the urban area held by the Jihadis. There seem to be a great number of “players” moving on the Jihadi’s So what is the kurdish role here? And are these Kurds possibly backed by US SF? And is ISIS/jihadi control of portions of urban Aleppo at serious near-term risk??

  78. Joe100,
    The YPG Kurds have always held that small enclave in northern urban Aleppo. With the opportunity afforded by the R+6 Aleppo offensive and the YPG/SDF success in expanding out of Afrin, the Aleppo enclave of YPG are joining the party. They are fighting for Rojava, not Damascus. I seriously doubt Green Berets are with anyone in Aleppo.

  79. Babak Makkinejad says:

    My sense of it, reading Internet sources, is that there is widespread anger across Europe against the European government – specially the German government in regards to Muslim refugees and migrants.
    There seems to be a shared revulsion against Islam & Muslims – from Lithuania to Portugal – at the popular level. If that be the case, I think the current EU posture regarding refugees will harden to the point that none would be admitted in the near future.
    On one Lithuanian site, I read: “I have to fall on my knees and ask Putin to take us back.”

  80. Babak Makkinejad says:

    This is definitely were they are going – please see my comments to Barish below.

  81. Bill Herschel says:

    This is not in the least tangential. In fact, it is dead center. The Russians do not want conflict with anyone. They know what war is. Putin is probably as anti-war as any state leader. Everything they have done in Syria has been to minimize and eliminate conflict wherever possible.
    Sometimes that is done with a demonstration of strength that dissuades potential adversaries. Sometimes with battlefield effectiveness that persuades combatants to change sides. Sometimes it is done with diplomacy.
    The people who the Russians believe they cannot dissuade from conflict, the jihadists, who are essentially the same people they have faced in Chechnya, they will destroy, in this case in collaboration with several other countries. Of note, the jihadists draw an indeterminate portion of their strength from support from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, etc. When that support is unavailable or inadequate they don’t seem to be as willing to die as they are to kill.

  82. Joe100 says:

    TTG –
    Thanks! I had noticed the small Kurdish enclave on recent maps of the Aleppo area. How is this enclave being supported with arms, ammunition, etc.? It would appear possible to do so now from Kurdish sources through R+6 territory, but it is not clear to me has this was possible until recently. If so, has R+6 probably been providing support for this enclave?

  83. Bill Herschel says:

    Better version of Edward G. Robinson clip:

  84. Ulenspiegel says:

    Sorry Fred,
    the issue is much older than Merkel’s statement, that is the interesting point which usually got lost. But Germany gives a better villian, I understand. 🙂
    Athen has received for almost 5 years reminders from Brussel that the border control is lacking effectiveness and only when an expulsion from Schengen area was on the table asked for assistence.
    I do not like the Dublin construct, however, to agree an then do nothing is not the way to go.

  85. Ulenspiegel says:

    “On the other hand, the woman’s an opportunist, no idealist. When the last Big Nuclear Disaster in Japan hit in 2011, she made a 180° turn on her committing to nuclear energy as part of Germany’s electric power infrastructure – this was done to de-fang one of the key policies of the opposition Bündnis 90/Die Grüne – “the Greens” -, which could capitalize on this disaster in the local Baden-Württemberg elections at the time.”
    Half wrong. Merkel wanted to undo some of the politics of 2003, here the new junior partner FDP was the culprit. When in a very untimlly fashion the Fukujima desaster caught Merkel pants down she made an Turn from the U-turn and implemented basically the 2003 policy again.
    “Merkel’s “invitation” to refugees likewise was an opportunist move, and never a charitable act. Otherwise, there would have been charter-flights, bus-lines and ferries to make it easier for refugees to reach their destinations.”
    Nonsense. There were already 1.3 million refugees in Europe, that was the issue most people simply ignore. She only acknowledged the fact and made it then worse. To calim that Merkel is responsible for these 1.3 million is stupid.

  86. Fred says:

    “…reading Internet sources…” Those sources are hard to find in the US and often in Europe because the great believers in Democracy like the owners of Facebook, Twitter etc are actively working to block viewpoints on their social media sites that do not agree with party in power. The “revulsion” as you term it is do to the conduct of an active minority of Muslim immigrants whose interpretation of Islam supports that conduct. The foreign intervention in the ME by the neocon driven Western governments is due to political ideology and not the Christian religion or any interpretation of it.

  87. Ulenspiegel says:

    you miss the important point that the issue is NOT a result of Merkel’s recent actions, but you are in good company. And in addition Germany makes a better villian than incompetent Greeks. 🙂
    Athen has received for almost 5 yeras reminders from Brussel, that the border controls are insufficient. Only when Athen faced expulsion from the Schnegen area they asked for help.
    Interestingly, alraedy last May the magazine of the Austrian Railway brought an interesting article on the situation.
    I do not like the Dublin construct, however, it can not be that Greece agreed to it and then did nothing, not even asked for help.

  88. Haralambos says:

    Of perhaps regional interest from Greece today: PM Tsipras was on his way to Iran yesterday and the Greek plane was denied landing rights on the Greek island of Rhodes after Turkish objections to the flight:
    “Turkey did not allow the aircraft carrying Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Iran to land in Rhodes for refueling claiming that the island is in a demilitarized zone.
    “It was revealed on Monday that the Greek prime minister’s trip to Iran on February 6 was not as smooth as it should be. The flight plan of the plane that was carrying Tsipras and Greek cabinet members included a landing on the island of Rhodes to refuel.
    “However, Turkish authorities prevented the landing on the grounds that the plane is an Embraer military aircraft with Greek Air Force pilots and crew. Since Turkey considers Rhodes and the other Dodecanese islands a demilitarized area, Turkish authorities suggested that Greece should submit a new flight plan and refuel in Ankara, Alexandroupolis or any other area. If the Greek mission would agree to refuel in Turkey, then it would be given authority to fly over Turkish air space.”
    – See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/02/16/turkey-prevents-greek-pms-aircraft-from-landing-in-rhodes/#sthash.pXMjH58K.dpuf
    This is also up today from here as Turkey continues its military probes in the Aegean. Among the other issues between Greece and Turkey are disputes over the continental shelf surrounding islands in the Eastern Aegean due to mineral rights:
    “Turkish jet fighters entered Greek airspace several times on Monday, as NATO was preparing to deploy ships to the Aegean Sea to tackle migrant smugglers.
    “Specifically, six Turkish fighter jets and a CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft entered successively in the Athens FIR on Monday without submitting a flight plan, violating the Greek airspace 22 times in different regions of the Aegean.
    “The Athens FIR also recorded two more violations of air traffic rules. Nineteen out of 22 violations were committed by the CN-235 which passed between islands of the eastern and central Aegean.”
    – See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/02/16/turkish-warplanes-violate-greek-airspace-ahead-of-nato-sea-operations/#sthash.EGL87j4M.dpuf

  89. Thomas says:

    “… maybe people should think about the likelihood that Turkey’s other jihadi allies may have had mustard and Sarin for a long time.”
    And they showed their operational prowess in Eastern Ghouta, unfortunately for the Sultan, US gullible goobers didn’t give in to his call to fulfill the red line demands.
    When I saw the news of the attacks (MSM were emphasizing missile attacks) on the MSF facilities in Azaz, I figured it was a Turkish drone for a false flag op. In the related Info OP offensive, the BBC correspondent was carefully deliberating whether it was a Russian or Syrian plane, Al Jazerra’s Wahabbi World News was whining for humanitarian intervention and showing the Sultan’s Smirking Sidekick next to Vickie’s Boy Yatz in Kiev crying for action against Russia. The optics of the latter implies a Neo-Con seal of approval for such a deed.
    OT, with Leander above taking a cyber-timeout to care for her elderly parents, it made me notice Confused Ponderer has posted in quite awhile, is he all right?

  90. Matthew says:

    The SAA should save their men. If this is true, in many places Assad can just sit back and watch. See https://twitter.com/Charles_Lister/status/699580269058199552

  91. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to Fred 16 February 2016 at 12:15 PM
    It’s not even slightly difficult to find those sources – particularly in Europe once you leave Facebook, Twitter, and so on. You have noticed that both Facebook and Twitter are reporting sharp drops in usage?
    As to the revulsion against Muslim refugees and Muslims in general – the rise in both petty crime, and sexual crime whether it’s what went on in Helsinki or Cologne or the Iraqi refugee who felt that not having sex for four months constituted and raped a 10 years old boy to relieve himself ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/iraqi-refugee-raped-10-year-old-boy-at-austrian-swimming-pool-a6857721.html ) account for that.

  92. Have we learned anything of interest over the downing by Turkey of the Russian fighter bomber?

  93. Barish says:

    “Half wrong. Merkel wanted to undo some of the politics of 2003, here the new junior partner FDP was the culprit. When in a very untimlly fashion the Fukujima desaster caught Merkel pants down she made an Turn from the U-turn and implemented basically the 2003 policy again.”
    Noted. The opportunism belying that was hard to miss even then, however.
    “There were already 1.3 million refugees in Europe, that was the issue most people simply ignore. She only acknowledged the fact and made it then worse. To calim that Merkel is responsible for these 1.3 million is stupid.”
    Note that I did not claim that they only materialized in_Europe_after_ that PR-stunt by Mrs Merkel. What I do note is that no such effort as I described was made, which is to organize rides/shipping/flights for refugees so they safely get to destinations_of their choice_(I should have added that before). Said choice was all-but made by Merkel herself when she issued said invitation.
    Besides, that there was a refugee-situation in and around Syria as a result of the war there was by no means news last year. It’s been a thing for years. And what was done before to alleviate the situation? Rather than “alleviate” by providing ample financial and material supplies to countries coping with said refugees, international spending was increasingly cut.
    This wasn’t a sudden development where one can claim surprise. At best, what one can observe is sheer incompetence when it comes to the “refugee-crisis”.

  94. alba etie says:

    As it happens my One True Love just had a successful right knee replacement Feb 15- she is coming home tomorrow .Yesterday I discovered one of the night RN ‘s on my wife’s floor family is from Aleppo – this RN showed me InstaGram shots of her extended family eating ‘Russian rations ” cooked over an open fire in front of their bombed out building . I am definitely more inclined to believe the RN then the MSM .
    On other matters is the shelling of the Kurdish forces around Azaz by the Turks having any lasting effects on the YPG ‘s advanced ?

  95. alba etie says:

    Bill Hershel
    I just sent Sen Sanders another thirty dollars today …Feel the Bern !

  96. alba etie,
    Best of luck to Your One True Love. My wife had both her hips replaced and saw what those with knee replacements went through. Stick to the therapy religiously no matter how much it hurts. Never skip a session. Things will get MUCH better.
    The Turkish artillery fire appears to be no more than a serious nuisance so far. I don’t think the Turkish cannon cockers have their heart in it. YPG/SDF forces continue to advance.

  97. alba etie says:

    I will pass your well wishes on to my SWMBO. She is dedicated to being back to Jazzerzize by April – she is very disciplined . And yes the knee is very painful but she is already doing therapy . My main role & concern is to monitor her pain medication intake and make sure sweetpea does not get out ahead of her doses…which would present another set of problems.
    Is it possible that the RN did get those InstaGrams shots from inside Aleppo ?

  98. Fred says:

    Twitter is destroying its share price (and opening their executives up to some lawsuits for failure to do their fiduciary duty) as a result of their pursuit of political correctness. Facebook is going to do the same.

  99. alba tie,
    “Is it possible that the RN did get those InstaGrams shots from inside Aleppo ?”
    Absolutely. Modern communications are a miracle and remain ubiquitous even in hellish places. Couple these communications with a persevering and critical mind and we can find our way to the truth.

  100. Fred says:

    Yes. Putin and his fellow Russians are not to be baited into doing something stupid. Erdogan on the other hand….

  101. alba etie says:

    ‘And the truth shall set us free.”

  102. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You are right about Greece; the Electorate there opted for Serfdom instead of Liberty – dishonoring their own flag.
    They did not have the courage to default on their Euro debt, exit the Eurozone, and print drachmas and work their way out of that mess over a number of years.
    Now their superiors (betters) in EU are telling them what to do (or else) and they will have to do it; after all, they now belong to the Servant Class.

  103. pl,
    I think the Syrians are intent on spending pleasant Spring evenings sipping tea with friends in the outdoor cafes of Aleppo.

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