“BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:15 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has officially halted their field operations in the southeastern countryside of the Al-Raqqa Governorate after more than 7 weeks of being on the offensive against the Islamic State (ISIL).
According to a military source, the Syrian Arab Army’s Tiger Forces have been ordered to halt their advance on Deir Ezzor until the Islamic State’s pocket in central Syria is fully cleared.
The Tiger Forces will now concentrate on the Hama Governorate, where many of their units are currently awaiting orders to storm the strategic town of ‘Uqayrbat.
‘Uqayrbat is considered the most important town under the Islamic State’s control because it is located along several roadways that flow through the Al-Raqqa and Homs governorates.” (Al Masdar News)
Cauldron, kessel, pocket, motti or encirclement, call them what you will, but the major jihadi salient in central Syria is about to become two major jihadi cauldrons. That appears to have been the foremost military objective of R+6 forces for several weeks. Yesterday’s announcement makes it official.
The Tiger Forces drive to the Euphrates from Aleppo, started so long ago, was a critical and necessary move to reduce the IS salient along the Homs-Hama governorate border. It created the conditions for the imminent creation of two cauldrons where a salient once existed. Another move that was critical was the constant R+6 pressure all along this front. Note on the above map that every blue circle represents a sustained offensive action by the R+6, even at Deir Ezzor. These widespread offensive actions prevented the IS forces from concentrating at a place of their choosing to seize the initiative.
As I write this, the SAA has managed to either close the gap or come within five kilometers of closing the gap between the Ithriya and Al Sha’er advances, thus creating the first of the cauldrons. This has already been called the Uqayribat pocket. The Tiger Forces are continuing to press southwards from Al Kawm. It is this advance that I find most interesting and most telling about the future of the SAA.
In the early morning hours of 12 August, Brigadier General Suheil al-Hassan was preparing a company-sized assault force of the Special Airborne Force for a night airmobile assault some twenty kilometers behind IS lines. This Special Airborne force is not part of Hassan’s Tiger Forces. Before the recent unpleasantness in Syria began, they were primarily used for defense of airports but had a great deal of training in urban warfare and counter insurgency. Suheil served as a paratrooper and commander in this unit before forming the Tigers.
Suheil al-Hassan personally led this assault force on this mission. He was seen exhorting his troops on the tarmac wearing a load bearing equipment vest, a helmet with night vision goggles and an AK with night sight under his arm. His troops were also lightly armed with a basic load of ammunition for their small arms, many carried what appear to a LAW-type launcher slung across their backs. The lightness of their loads were apparent as they ran and jumped up into the Mi-8 helicopter transports. I also note the rear doors of the Hips were removed remnicent of those Hueys in the 25th Infantry Division. I didn’t know they had doors until I got back to Benning.
The operation began with a “fire attack” of multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) followed by an aerial assault by Ka-52 Alligators. The Alligators also adjusted MLRS fire. Then four Hips brought in Suheil’s men landing near the settlements of Khirbet Mikman and Al Kadir. They moved along a dry river bed to take a commanding hill and assaulted the village of Al Kadir. Suheil’s men took an IS headquarters and several depots. Suheil and his men held these positions until Tiger Forces advanced to relieve them later in the morning of 12 August. The IS lost over thirty of its fighters, three tanks, seventeen armed tacticals and seven VBIEDs to destruction by the raiding force and a further two VBIEDs and several artillery pieces captured by Suheil’s men. There were no SAA casualties from this entire operation.
The Tiger Forces did not stop there. By nightfall on 14 August, they advanced another twenty kilometers seizing the entire Al Kawm area. The IS retreated to Taybah, the last town between the Tiger Forces and their SAA brethren at Al Sukhnah. The Tiger Forces have since taken Mount Minshar, the high ground overlooking Taybah. I do not know whether the SAA prefers to close this cauldron as soon as possible or leave a small gap to entice IS to attempt a withdrawal. This narrow gauntlet covered by R+6 fire attacks with artillery and MLRS and round the clock predations by Syrian and Russian air attacks could be a very effective meat grinder.
The future of IS in Syria is becoming clear. They are sure to put up a spirited resistance along the Euphrates, but they will never take Deir Ezzor. They will dissolve into a stateless, but still dangerous, underground resistance. The R+6 will keep the pressure on, probably quite brutally, until IS is no more than angry men in a few mosques.
The SAA, with Russian assistance, will become a motivated, well trained and equipped force capable of daring and imaginative combined arms operations. It will be regularly train with Iranian and Hezbollah units and will be a great source of ulcers among the Israeli Defense Force. When the Syrian Air Force eventually reaches maturity, those Israeli ulcers will bleed without stop. The political geography of the Mideast is about to change.
TTG- slight change of subject
Can you give us an update on what really happening at Mosul. Is the offensive there over?
TTG, thank you once again for this clear and descriptive report on what is going on in Syria. It is impossible to get any such view from the MSM.
The time you spend on unravelling what is happening is greatly appreciated.
Thanks to TTG for the great work https://southfront.org/military-situation-in-syria-on-august-18-2017-map-update/ As you can see the situation has continued to develop with link-up of the Ithriya south and north of Palmyra jaws. IS will attempt to break out to the east. pl
I’m not going to dig deep on Mosul, but it does appear to be largely over. I’ve seen several stories about Russian and other “near abroad” children being found in and around Mosul. They will be repatriated back home. The Iraqi forces, including PMU units are preparing to take on Tal Afar now.
I wonder how the MSM will respond when the SAA liquidates ISIS west of the Euphrates. So far there has been little or nothing about the SAAs substantial advances there, so for their readers, convinced that Russia, Syria and Iran are not really fighting ISIS, when they are presented with the facts, how will they cope?
All of this success against ISIS is sure to provoke another “chemical weapons attack”, or has the Borgist cabal given up on that narrative?
Much appreciated as usual. I have sent it off to many friends and posted it on Facebook.
Thanks for the excellent insights.
“It will be regularly train … and will be a great source of ulcers among the Israeli Defense Force. ”
Perhaps the Israeli government should start talking with its enemies (real and imagined) so as to avoid having to have an actual war?
Same way they always do – by ignoring inconvenient news.
That would require entirely new Israeli leadership.
Agree. Though there is a minor hindrance: “Syria Found Evidence U.S., U.K. Supplied Toxic Agents to Terrorists.” http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=16962&SEO=syria-found-evidence-u.s.-u.k.-supplied-toxic-agents-to-terrorists “The chemical ammunition were produced by the US-based company Federal Laboratories, and toxic agents were produced by Cherming Defence (UK) and NonLethal Technologies (US).” – Not a peep from the MSM.
“The future of IS in Syria is becoming clear. They are sure to put up a spirited resistance along the Euphrates, but they will never take Deir Ezzor. They will dissolve into a stateless, but still dangerous, underground resistance.”
Wonder what country is going to encourage and support the underground resistance. My bet is that Israel will continue its subversive activities in Syria and elsewhere in the ME.
I have my doubts for what it’s worth. It’ll be a while yet before the SAA lift the siege of Deir Ez-zor so that meat grinder will keep going a while longer reducing the number of ISIS fighters.
Then once ISIS goes underground, foreign ISIS are going to stick out like sore thumbs so they’ll be gone or dead. Domestic ISIS have probably so poisoned the fish that they have no sea to swim in. And this is where the policy of not using Russian soldiers pays off – the now capable security forces will all be Syrian Arabs, and many Sunnis, which only the most rabid gulfie would describe as occupiers. So, one way or another all the domestic ISIS who remain will be reconciled with or by the government unless the SAA really screw up.
The official video from Russian Ministry of Defense on Al Kadir assault:
In its official statement, MD RF mentioned that the operation was prepared and coordinated by Russian military advisers. Needless to say, those Ka-52s were Russian, which not only blew the jihadis to the high heaven, but also acted as fire-coordination support for SAA’s MLRS fire.
Oh, and Eastern Hama cauldron is already a reality:
The post refers to the future of the Islamic State (IS). This depends to a considerable degree on the composition of IS. (I don’t really have a good sense of that).
It is clear that IS consists entirely of Sunnis. And, it has foreigners (non-Syrians and non-Iraqis) serving in it. Many of these are diehard fanatical Jihadis, the hallmark of IS. However, the large areas in Iraq and Syria that IS conquered, and is now defending, need a great deal more manpower than the fanatical core of IS.
These areas which IS captured seem to have been inhabited mainly by Sunni tribesmen, and it appears these tribes supported IS in the takeover. It is not clear how much of IS ‘governance’ was imposed on these areas; I wouldn’t be surprised if most of it was left to the locals to manage. If so, it would be significant where this occurred and to what extent, since it can be assumed that these tribes would much more easily switch allegiance if attacked by a superior force.
If this estimation is correct, then one can expect that most of the real resistance that the Syrian and Iraqi forces will face will be from ‘core’ IS. These would occupy built up areas to enable their comparatively small numbers to be used to maximum effect (as shown in Mosul). This will mean that the anti-IS campaigns in both Syria and Iraq will be different from what one would expect if two ‘regular’ armies were involved.
What happens to the remnants of IS after it is defeated would also depend on its composition.
I look forward to reading other views and comments on this topic.
Thank you for the analysis. Perhaps Zahreddine and Al Hassan could pose for a handshake by January 2018. I have a question: if Syria keeps winning this way, at this pace, what happens to the aspirations of the Borg and their local tools who are now stuck at Raqqa? Do you envision the Borg trying to force Trump out before the game is irretrievably lost?
The future of IS after they are defeated in Syria depends on their funding in my opinion. If IS cannot receive substantial financial support from their “benefactors”, they will indeed be reduced to a “few old angry men in Mosques”. Apart from killing as many IS as possible in Syria, we need to work out how to strangle their finances,, IT infrastructure, etc.
I just saw a report that Turkey and Iran just struck some kind of defense agreement. I mostly attribute this to vigorous and persistent jawboning by the Russian foreign ministry with the Turkish government. I think they are succeeding in changing Erdogan’s behavior to something more conducive to peace in the region. Jordan is about to reopen diplomatic relations with Syria. The Borg has tied its wagon to the Kurds. If Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria agree on any one thing is the Kurds. If the Rojava Kurds are smart, they will drop their support for the US-led coalition and seek integration with Damascus. That is also their best protection against any Turkish incursions. I also get the feeling that the Borg is beginning to get equally tired of involvement and impotent in the area. They are losing their heart which is a damned fine thing.
Once the IS is defeated on the battlefield, I think the R+6 will continue a concerted, cold and dirty shadow war on IS resistance including their finance and IT infrastructures.
That seems like an excellent example of combined forces action. The fact that none of the SAA were casualties is even more remarkable.
Lots of tweets out there claiming the Uqayribat pocket was closed yesterday.
Of concern to those forces were mortar attacks by HTS (Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham) on SAA checkpoints along the Salamiyah/Ithriya road NE of as-Saan. Not a Daesh (ISIS) attack but by the al-Quaeda affiliated group HTS. Attacks came from the north. The question is does that foretell an alliance between the Daeshis and al-Quaeda? Or was it a one-off. Or even potentially was it a bogus or mistaken report?
Thanks TTG. Excellent analysis as always. The good men in this fight have done well.
That area straddling the common border is inhabitated by very similar people; they speak the same vernacular version of Arabic and are related to one another. They likely provided many men to ISIS.
Thanks TTG for another piece of insightful analysis.
One wonders how long the US/Kurdish dalliance can continue. Will the USA decide the game’s not worth the candle and withdraw support, or will the Kurds decide that they have had enough of being fed into the Raqqa meat-grinder as the quid pro quo for maintaining US support?
I suspect Damascus has already let it be known that it is ready to talk when the Kurds are.
I totally agree with your recommendations in regards of Kurds of Syria as well as Iraq, IMO, considering immediate geography and demography they can’t have any rosy future tying themselves to US or Israel.
“When the Syrian Air Force eventually reaches maturity, those Israeli ulcers will bleed without stop. The political geography of the Mideast is about to change.”
Apologies for being a foreigner, but two questions, tangentially linked.
The first is, if the present level of political pandemonium – even possible civil war – continues in the US, does this make the rest of the world a more or less safe place? We can live with occasional irruptions of the US bombing deserted Syrian airbases or shout offs with North Korea or even a shout off with Iran, but what if the present political stand off requires a fullscale war to “reunite” the nation? It would almost certainly be with Iran.
The second question, linked, is the future of Israel referred to by TTG above. It does not seem very secure with Hezbollah and a reinvigorated SAA right on its borders. Russia controls them. Is the only solution to Israel’s sudden strategic weakness a deal between the Russia and the US, both guaranteeing the security of their respective clients?
This, if seriously undertaken, would certainly introduce an element of security in a notoriously unstable region. But it could also have other positive effects.
Much of the neo-con/Identity politics drive in the US was originally used to serve Israel’s desire for instability within the Middle East and suzeraignity over it. That dream now lies in ruins. Much of the present neo-con and Identity Politics pandemonium within the US (and Britain and France) is driven by Israel’s present insecurity. A Russia/US deal could end that insecurity. Positive results could include, with Russia being part of the stability pact, an end to Russia-gate lies, Russia the “big enemy” lies, and the fanning of race/gender wars within the States.
Two more minor questions:
1/ I read reports last week of top level intelligence and military talks between Israel and the US – anyone know their result?
2/. Anyone know what Israel’s real relations are with ISIS in Sinai? Is it like her relations with al Qaeda in The Golan?
I recently looked back at the Second Chechen War and was surprised at how long it lasted. It took about 6 months for the Russians to dislodge jihadists from the cities and towns in 2001 and force the rebels into guerrilla tactics. Russian troops continued to carry the brunt of the fighting after that for another 5 years before turning the fighting over to the Chechen loyalists. The top Chechen rebel leader didn’t admit total defeat until 2013.
It looks like the R+6 may be close to dislodging the jihadists from their fixed positions. But how long is it going to take to crush the guerrilla forces?
It’s good to see the SAA and the Syrian AF putting the kibosh to the ISL and restoring Syria proper, however this bodes ill for the Mideast in the long term, as the crazy and I do reiterate crazy Israeli mindset will be moved closer to their Samson option.
We the U.S. need to go in and confiscate all nukes and nuke capabilities from the Israelis before their crazy Samson option becomes real. Sadly this option on our U.S. part has eroded where we can no longer do it.
IMO Israel will eventually nuke Damascus.
The military situation in the ME is about to change and it appears the U.S. intends to be in middle of it.
Many rumors about the number of permanent military basis the U.S. is building in Northern Syria.
So just one more politician doing a head fake. From “getting out of Afghanistan and Syria” in the campaign to more basis, more money and more troops 7 months after the election.
Trump is the same as the old boss (es).
“a concerted, cold and dirty shadow war on IS resistance”
What would be a clean way of waging a war with ISIS?
mike, TTG et al
An IS-HTS alliance across the Salamiyah road-Ithriya corridor seems very unlikely to me. These jihadi groups consider each other to be more dangerous and anathema than mere apostates and heathen. No, the only way out for the IS fighters is east which means to run the gauntlet of R+6 forces on either side of the two pockets. Hopefully, R-6 will leave corridors for them to try to escape through. Good Hunting! pl
North Korea Crisis Paved by Clinton-Era Pols, GOP Naysayers
1994 nuke agreement never had a chance.
By Lawrence Wilkerson • August 18, 2017
I suspect you are correct. I have seen no more mention of the attacks or of any others in that area. Here is a link to the original:
However I recall about 18 months ago there was a joint attack on Khanasir by IS and Jund al-Aqsa. It was defeated but I understand splinter groups of Jund al-Aqsa became part of either al-Nusra or HTS after und al-Aqsa disintegrated in late 2016/early 2017.
US State Department has denied that the US will stay in Syria after Daesh is defeated. This was at a presser yesterday in response to a reporter’s question regarding statement by SDF Talal Silo reported in Reuters and RT saying we would be there for decades.
Here is the video of the press conference:
Meanwhile I note that there is agitprop coming out of Turkey and Syria that Barcelona was staged by the US. Sadsack stuff, but unfortunately some will believe it.
“The first is, if the present level of political pandemonium – even possible civil war – continues in the US, does this make the rest of the world a more or less safe place? We can live with occasional irruptions of the US bombing deserted Syrian airbases or shout offs with North Korea or even a shout off with Iran, but what if the present political stand off requires a fullscale war to “reunite” the nation?”
A country in a state of civil war won’t have the time or ability to conduct an outside war. Plus the Neo-Con promoters in these United States for destroying Iran will be the target of the “other” side in said civil war and starting another losing war to reunite the country they divided would be a triggering mechanism.
I believe we are passing the darkest phase and a full blown implosion will not occur (though it sure damn seems that it will).
Yesterday, CGTN reported that the UN Envoy to Syria sees real negotiations to end the war as starting in October. What matters in state to state relations are the private conversations with regards to the facts on the ground.
As for the state of Israel, they should use their democracy to have a civilian change of command because their current leader and his ideas are stale.
Much of the present neo-con and Identity Politics pandemonium within the US (and Britain and France) is driven by Israel’s present insecurity
would be grateful if you could elaborate how Israel’s interest is served by the instability in the US and France-UK. Thanks.
a little OT.
I recently visited Southern Iraq and had many conversations with people about what the future holds for the country. I visited Karbala and Najaf so I spoke only to Shia men, many who have served themselves or have family serving in the fight against IS. There was unanimous disdain for all politicians particularly muqtada, nouri al maliki and haider abadi. The explanation for the rise of IS is:
1. small bands of jihadists invading a town and displaying such brutality that no body dare resist
2. the locals who join them are criminals who are in it for money, women or blood
3. the fertile ground for IS in Sunni areas is not because of discrimination by the Shia rulers (everyone suffers equally) but due to the abrupt ouster of Sunnis from power by viceroy Bremer and the installation of a Shia ruling class. (from the time Maula Ali (as) was assassinated in 661 AD, practically no shia has ruled Iraq. If somehow Sunnis return to power, all the terrorism would stop).
The people I spoke to felt that most local IS fighters had escaped with the civilians and they would continue to be a threat as long as Gulf support existed.
Apart from the repeated body searches while approaching the holy sites and the funerals of Hashd martyrs, you wouldn’t know you were in a country at war. It was safe for me- a middle aged Indian woman – to walk alone all over town late into the night. There were thousands of pilgrims both local and from Iran, turkey, gulf and south Asia, shops doing brisk business, construction of multi lane highways, flyovers, hotels, malls. Quite a different picture from the image we see of Mosul, Ramadi etc
The neo-conservatives and Israel-firsters within the Borg in the US have vehemently opposed Trump’s stance of non-intervention in foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, and his wish for an understanding with Russia. It looks as though they have succeeded.
In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn’s pro-peace stance and his belief in an even-handed approach to Israel/Palestine is likewise vehemently opposed by neo-conservatives and Israeli supporters. He and his supporters are frequently denounced as anti-semitic.
Both Trump and Corbyn have been subjected to intense media campaigns of vilification for their foreign policies in the MSM. In France, it is more difficult to say. Macron got elected promising, among other things, a non-interventionist foreign policy. The whole En Marche project now appears to have disappeared into a miasma of incoherence.
Populism in the West, whether of Left or Right, seems firmly agreed on a non-interventionist foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. Such a policy would be directly contrary to the interests of Israel, which, understandably, would prefer to be surrounded by countries weakened and fragmented by Western intervention rather than by coherent and militarily competent states.
Is this the “Black Day” for ISIS?
Over in the west of Syria. ISIS in Qalamoun are beginning to surrender in larger numbers (50 out of how many?) according to the SAA, and one elderly man has explained why he surrendered to the government:
It doesn’t look like he or any of his comrades in the clip will want to return to the fight any time soon, and that state of mind has taken the R+6 time and brutality to achieve, but he probably feels he’s done everything he can against a Syrian army that is not much better than the one he fought with and yet his side is losing too much, so there is no point in continuing to fight. A few quick battles with overwhelming force can give what looks like victory but until you change the state of mind of the opposition, there’ll be no peace.
The neocons then better act fast. The Trump presidency and the disengagement of the US from Syria (relative to the Obama era) is an important factor in my opinion in the recent rapid gains by R+6. Within a few weeks the territorial integrity of Syria (except for the north) is likely to be largely restored. All their efforts seem to have been in vain.
وَمَكَرُواْ وَمَكَرَ اللّهُ وَاللّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ
Iraqi PM Haidar Abadi tweeted at three AM Baghdad time that operations to retake Tal Afar have started.
Abadi stated: Sons of our great nation, you will witness another promise being achieved. The city of Tal Afar will be liberated and will join all other liberated cities. My message to Daesh: You have no option, you either surrender or die.”
Iraqi forces involved are said to be elements of the 9th, 15th and 16th Divisions of the Iraqi Army plus the CTS, ERD, Federal Police, and Hashd al Shaabi PMU. There are coalition advisors with most of those, except the PMU. Some pickups were seen headed west from the city. However there are PMU blocking forces surrounding the city, so I am wondering if any are able to get through.
Am also wondering what the response will be from Erdogan’s enclave in Iraq. Erdogan and Abadi have had some harsh words for each other in the past. There are reportedly 2000 Turkish soldiers still in Iraq But perhaps Turkey’s recent softening approach with Iran will calm the situation.
Last week there was a massacre of Shia muslims in Northern Afghanistan – near a place called Sar-e Pol; “Bridge Head”.
There are reports insinuiating that the murdered had been air-lifted there by helicopters.
What is one to make of those repoerts?
Meant “the murderes”.
Babak Makkinejad –
The massacre was done by a joint Daesh/Taliban operation that overran a large area of Sar-e Pol province. 50 killed many by decapitation. 150 women and children taken captive, like the Daesh did to the Yezidis in Iraq three years ago but on a smaller scale. But Afghanistan expects more massacres and kidnappings in the future if this is not contained.
As for the insinuations of airlifted Daeshis, that is pure agitprop, or to be charitable perhaps it is just paranoia. Similar stories have been spread in Syria in the past. Helos rescuing Daesh leaders, etc.
a friend who’d been kidnapped by a criminal gang in Afghanistan told me that her abductors were getting minute by minute instructions from Pakistan. The kidnapping business feeds the militant operations, and it is usually the same guys who carry out both types of work. It is most likely that these killings of the hazaras is the result of support from Pakistan’s ISI.
The next little pocket is about to be created.
There is nothing “little” about these pockets. IMO the jihadis trapped within them should be sent “home” They should not be taken prisoner. They sare irreconcilable enemies who want nothing more than to return to the fight and have behaved like animals toward PWs and civilians alike. pl
The Crimean blogger “Colonel Cassad” is reporting that the SAA have closed the gap north of Sukhnah. Not obvious what his source is – Leith Fadel/Al-Masdar are being more cautious. But Cassad was a pretty reliable during the Donbas war.
Definitely possible as the gap was only four to five kilometers this AM.
“To forgive terrorists is up to God, to send them to him is up to me.”
There will be no green buses.
Why close it? Keep it open as the rats flee and kill them as they leave. It’s open desert and so considerably more favourable to killing than the Sittang Bend was for the British.
BTW, Ziad Fadel is suggesting that the religiosity of ISIS may now be working against them. If God was on their side they’d be seeing a few miracles but they’re not so God has deserted them. Maybe that is another reason that the R+6 are being slow, methodical and risk averse to avoid the odd “miracle”, in addition to keeping on killing ISIS.
see this in answer to your second question
Grave concern’ in Israel in light of US positions on Syria
Analysis: Israeli defense officials are concerned after a high ranked delegation sent to Washington failed to secure a promise from the Americans that any agreement to end the war in Syria includes the evacuation of Iran and Hezbollah forces from the country. Now, Israel turns its hopes to the Kremlin.