Operation “Borders of Hatay” – an SST war game.


Overview for  "hudud hatay,"   "Borders of Hatay"

SST will now conduct another in the series of war games that have marked our progress toward enlightenment over the years.  The goal in such games is to create conditions in which critical and creative thinking can occur with regard to possible or probable futures.  The game will be played in three or four turns (TBD).  The game will be played in Game Time, not real world time.  The Game Time dates and times will be clearly stated and should not be confused with real world times or dates.  At the beginning of each turn the control group (pl & TTG) will post a scenario situation for the following turn.  The game time Christmas Day situation for the first turn is posted below.   Based on that Situation and following Situations, comments are invited that provide the commenters' opinion as to how that Situation would develop over the period of Game Time stated for the turn.  The Control Group will judge the worthiness of comments and make decisions as to whether or not they are contributory and should be posted.  After a sufficient period of real world time has passed, a new turn scenario will be posted that to some degree reflects the quality of the comments that have been made. 

A few cautions for commenters:

1.  Do not fight the scenario of the game.  The game creates a universe deliberately isolated in time and space from reality.  It does that to focus deliberations on a fairly narrow set of possibilities.  If you do fight the scenario your comment will not be posted.

2.  Do not make comments that reflect real world time rather than game time.

3.  Do not make frivolous or obscene comments.  If you do, your comments will not be posted  and you may be banned from SST.

4.  This IS NOT a forecast.  It is a probability driven study of one particular scenario.  There could easily be others.

"Borders of Hatay" situation as of Christmas Day, 2016. 

The Syrian Government stated on Christmas Day that 2017 will be sennat al-nasr, the Year of Victory.   By Christmas Day R+6 has re-taken Palmyra with the US led air coalition having operated against IS north of the Palmyra road and R+6 air south of the road as well as in the CAS mode in the immediate area of Palmyra.  By Christmas the Tiger Force armor that led the counter-offensive is in the process of being withdrawn from Palmyra for re-fit and rest in the Damascus area.  MG Suhail, the Tiger Force commander was interviewed on Christmas Eve in Damascus by SANA and said his men deserved some rest.  By Christmas Day the evacuation of east Aleppo is largely complete, a total of around 30,000 having left for jihadiland, and another 100,000 former east Aleppo residents living in government shelters.  Relief supplies are beginning to arrive in large quantities. The besieged Shia villages of Kafraya and al-Fu'a  a few kilometers north of Idlib City were finally able to send their sick and wounded to Aleppo under the terms  of the Aleppo truce. Russia has begun air drops of supplies into these villages.   UN observers are in place at Aleppo but the French government, MSM  and Brits are still whining about massacres, etc.   Turkey continues to provide logistical support to the Nusra connected jihadis through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing into Idlib Province, Syria.  The Al-Bab confrontation among the Turks, FSA, the SAA and YPG remains stalemated as does the sadly inept effort of the Iraqi Security forces to re-capture Mosul.  The SDF/YPG are still well north of Raqqa and Tabqa, but still capturing villages.  Israel continues its more or less open support of IS on the Golan Front.  R+6 air continues to strike all over Idlib Province, around Deir al-Zor and in the Palmyra area.  There have been a number of assassinations and explosions throughout Idlib province. Speculation abounds as to whether this is the result of continued infighting triggered by the influx of Aleppo rebels in the area or suspected payback strikes by Russian Spetsnaz for the assassination of Ambassador Karlov.

First Turn Requirement.

 State your opinion as to what has happened by 2 January, 2017 (Game Time).  pl & TTG

This entry was posted in Iran, Middle East, Russia, SSTwar games, Syria, The Military Art. Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Operation “Borders of Hatay” – an SST war game.

  1. Tel says:

    Sounds like a mostly stable scenario to me. Assad recognises that his troops are stretched pretty thin by now and his Russian advisors recommend that he should be careful not to overextend himself.
    Neither Assad, nor Erdogan has the practical capability to exert their force into YPG territory, thus the Kurds have achieved some kind of de-facto independence. Assad is the first to make some vague public statements as steps towards formal recognition of Kurdish territory, this is mostly for the purpose of enraging Erdogan and ensuring that future Kurdistan remains a nominal province of Syria.
    To spice things up a bit, one of the Turkish F16’s gets hit by a surface to air missile and crashes inside SDF territory well inside Syria. The Turks claim they were bombing IS positions (which seems unlikely based on the location of the crash) and Turks blame Russia for the missile. Assad points out that Turks have no permission to enter Syrian airspace. Putin gives a statement saying that Russian forces were not directly involved and reiterates that Assad is the legitimate leader of Syria and that only Assad can offer permission to fly over Syrian territory. Western analysts insist that only a Russian team, using advanced Russian missiles would have been capable of hitting the F16.

  2. Laguerre says:

    I doubt that the Tiger Force will get the rest they need. As you’ve said, the Syrian army has very few offensively-capable units. I’d see rather a period of calm before a new offensive. This war has been more like ancient Islamic wars, where long periods of confrontation occurred before the final clash, more than like modern wars. I would go for an offensive against Idlib, as that will finish the rebellion. It will be slow, as the Syrians have to spare casualties, air support will be possible, but a major change in US policy would be needed to defend them. I don’t see the latter, even under Trump.

  3. Larry M says:

    As the SAA will have to rest and reequip its elite units after retaking East Aleppo and Palmyra, and the anti-Assad forces will work to prepare a counter-offensive, the Idlib front will become less active, with the exception of Russian and Syrian air.
    Presidents Obama and Hollande and Prime Minister May will accelerate their diplomatic efforts to save the anti-Assad forces before they hand over power, lose power and exit the EU, respectively. These efforts will probably focus on averting or hampering a future R+6 offensive against Al Qaida and its allies in Idlib province.
    In eastern Syria, the YPG/SDF push on Raqqa will continue, but not reach that city. Further east, IS will try hard to overrun the besieged city of Deir-ez-Zor on the Eufrates. A major motive will be that an IS conquest of Deir-ez-Zor could bolster IS hopes or even chances of holding out in Mosul where the Iraqi Army now has problems. The Syrian city closest to Mosul is Hasaka well to the north of Deir-ez-Zor, but Hasaka is deeply inside the YPG-controlled “Rojava” zone supported by the US.

  4. Prem says:

    The SAA will accelerate the liquidation of pockets like East Ghouta and Yarmouk. That will free up manpower.

  5. Laguerre says:

    “Neither Assad, nor Erdogan has the practical capability to exert their force into YPG territory, thus the Kurds have achieved some kind of de-facto independence.”
    This is a poor understanding of the Rojavan Kurdish situation. Excluding the Americans, who’ve been trying to impose unrealistic ideas, the Rojavans have always understood that they inhabit a poor land and that they will have to make a deal with Asad. Like in Iraq, there’s been a movement to devolve central government expenditures to the provinces, for the Druze as much as for the Kurds.
    The US, though, thinks that it can offer independence to the Rojavan Kurds. Not so. There were conflicts when the US tried to get the Kurds to attack the remaining Syrian posts in Qamishli, which had been tolerated for years.

  6. BraveNewWorld says:

    With the Tigers taking some down time and the Russians probably wanting to give their guys some down time for Xmas, and the short time span of this turn I don’t expect any big things happening. The focus will be on things the SAA can either handle on it’s own or with groups that don’t recognize Xmas. The pockets seem prime for this and would be a good place to test out some of the newer members.
    In the mean time prep will continue for the big push across Idlib as well as providing support for Aleppo. The Hawks could make a run for Al-Bab but I give that a pretty low probability unless there is a deal in place with Turkey and that isn’t mentioned in this turn.

  7. I’m sure this will not be posted since I’m fighting the scenario of the game. I see Palmyra a much more difficult prognosis by January 2, 2017. The combined assault by 4,000 hardcore fighters will be more difficult to counter than anticipated. The Tiger Force is spread to thin and with major combat operations just completed will focus their force toward Idlib City because of the besieged Shia villages. The Al-nusra forces will attack the Shia villages in force breaking another structured deal they made with Iran since their humiliating defeat in Aleppo and the Western press will be silent. The Russians will commit their Air Force to 2 areas. 1. a sustained bombardment of the Palmyra area stalling the western advance of ISIS and their Baath officers and a massive bombing north of Idlib City around the 2 Shia villages to prevent a massacre. The week of December 26th to January 2nd, 2017 is all about those 2 villages. If Al-nusra is effective in destroying them I believe this war enters another stage of brutality that is hard to imagine. Russia with special ops already committed on ground would consider deploying the 5,000 paratroopers they recently trained in Egypt if they can get reassurance from the incoming Trump administration that the joint task force previously agreed upon between the two nations will become fact with the USA and Russia destroying ISIS in short order.

  8. Bandolero says:

    My oppinion from Dec 25, 2016, up to Jan 2, 2017:
    Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan state agreement to a general truce for Syria, over the holidays, in the hope of indefinite prologing and accompanied by Turkish-Russian sponsored talks on a political solution in Kazakhstan. The Syrian government welcomes the truce, as does the “Istanbul opposition” after heavy Turkish pressure. The US and EU are showing a bit unhappyness that they were and are left out of consultations, but reluctantly also welcome the truce while Saudi Arabia and Qatar remain silent on the truce. The Syrian army and their partners send many soldiers and fighters home for holidays with their family.
    However, on Dec 27, jihadi rebels of the Idlib paocket lauch a large surprise attack on the town Al Hadher 30 km south of Aleppo going East from Al Eis. They dub the attack “unifying the Umma” and state their goal is to establish a land bridge with the Islamic State south of Aleppo thereby cutting off Aleppo from the south. They accuse Erdogan of having abandoned and betraying their once common fight against the Iranian occupation of Syria, spreading fitna by fighting the Islamic state northeast of Aleppo and laud the Islamic state for being steadfast fighters against Persians and infidels. At the same time as the rebel attack on Al Hadher starts ISIS attacks the supply line to Aleppo with another attack on the town Khanasser south east of Aleppo.
    Critics say that Idlib rebels started this offensive just to put the newly arraved fighters from Aleppo to the front so that they do not upset the ruling jihadi coalitions in Idlib. There are days of tough fighting and after heavy losses on both sides the rebels conquer Al Hadher while ISIS conquers once again Khanasser. On Jan 1, 2017 a land bridge from Idlib to Raqqa via Al Hadher and Khanasser is established and Aleppo is once again cut off from any land connection to the rest of Syria. Rebels in Idlib and ISIS in Raqqa celebrate the common victory, the Idlib rebels gain praise for their wise leadership decision to team up with ISIS and their critics among rebels are silenced.
    While international powers are shocked and the Syrian Army and their partners meanwhile struggles to quickly collect forces for a counter attack.

  9. Peter AU says:

    Much depends on the political situation. If Russia thinks Trump will be more amendable, attack on Idlib will be held off until Trump is inaugurated and a deal has been done. In the meantime forces will be positioned for various scenarios of the taking of Idlib Province. Ongoing low level destruction of ammo dumps, SF taking out leaders ect. General softening up.
    Palmyra. For the period until the game date. Most likely similar. Low level offensive against ammunition and leaders and so forth, retaking of Palmyra dependent on when ISIS is weakened enough to avoid or keep Syrian losses low.
    Kurds, Turkey, al-Bab. Kurds are perhaps more aligned with Syrian government (their natural ally) since US tried to jump on Erdogans boat after he moved into Syria.
    Erdogan is Putins bitch, and al-bab is a bone. He will chew on that for awhile, perhaps break a few teeth.
    By 2 January very little visible change, but much work in the background for various scenarios dependent on the Russian take of the soon to be inaugurated next emperor.
    Apologies for a novices lack of technical terms.

  10. Peter Reichard says:

    Tiger and other elite forces given much needed rest. In Palmyra focus is on building defenses so this battle need not be fought yet again. Recon in force probe to the east meets with little resistance but SAA reluctant to follow up. SAA avoids confrontation with Turks (one enemy at a time) and concentrates operations on clearing the main Damascus-Aleppo highway. Air operations shift to Idlib province in preparation for coming battle.

  11. ToivoS says:

    The White Helmets show up in the city of Idlib and set up satellite communications with the world. The SAA put together a shock group that opens a corridor connecting Aleppo through the eastern part of Idlib province to the city of Idlib. Western media go into a massive hysteria as the SAA approaches. Samantha Power gives an impassioned speech at the Security Council denouncing the Russians and SAA for the humanitarian atrocity. The rest of the Western world joins in the protest. The SAA and their allies ignore the protest and continue their advance into the city.

  12. PVP says:

    Given the SAA seem to now be listening to the Russians, I’d expect Eastern Ghouta to be the focus for the next push. Simplify the playing field so no longer have to play whack a mole.

  13. johnf says:

    The SAA’s decision to rest some of their best troops seem to have been fortuitous (or wise):
    Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai 1h1 hour ago
    Syrian pro-Jihadists/rebels Journo saying “Aleppo is Assad Victory: those celebrating r Sunni more than Alawite”… “In #Idlib, a surface bigger than #Qatar, we have money, men and weapons but chaos dominates”…..
    As the SAA celebrate Christmas the jihadis will slaughter each other.

  14. Ghostship says:

    Late on December 24th, a couple of Russian Ro-Ro ferries were sighted docking at Tartous and unloaded an unknown number of T-80UD, BMP-2, 2S3 Akatsiya, and BM-21. Keen to get home for the Christmas party his wife had arranged, the CIA analyst filed the reports under “interesting” as the armoured vehicles and artillery were most likely replacement for the SAAs recent losses.On returning to work on the 27th, a report on his desk mentioned that the armour and artillery had arrived at Aleppo International Airport (AIA) and were parked on trailers on a road that ran inside the southern boundary of the airport. On December 31st, the armour and artillery were still there when the analyst went home to go out with his wife to celebrate the New Year. In a hurry to get out of his house later that evening, he left his mobile behind, so he missed the texts reporting that 6 Il-76 had flown from Russia over Iran and Iraq and landed at AIA and had disgorged an unknown cargo, before returning to Russia. On returning to the office on January 2nd he checked the latest satellite imagery of AIA only to observe that the armour and artillery still appeared to be there and read a report that the Russians had been active on the “electronic battlefield” but nobdy knew why. Twenty minutes later all hell broke loose at Langley when it was discovered that elements of the 4th Guards Tank Division had captured the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and had fortified it. The Russians had already destroyed the ten SVBIEDs that al Nusrah and others had sent against it and a substantial number of jihadists attackers had been killed.
    Checking the latest satellite imagery of IAI, the analyst noted that some of the armour and artillery looked deflated and when he checked back a few hour later the armour and artillery had disappeared.
    A few hours later a video appeared on Youtube with Sheikh Nabil Naiim making it clear that the Russians weren’t occupying Syria, merely protecting Syrian Muslims from the United States and their terrorist allies and there was no need for Muslims to commit to jihad in Syria
    A few days later a re-supply convoy was observed crossing the Turkish border and delivering supplies to the Russian forces in Bab al-Hawa.

  15. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    The Jihadis, feeling betrayed by their allies, switch to terror mode. Major suicide bombings occur in several European countries and Turkey.

  16. Vic says:

    X-mas to 2 Jan:
    SSA – rest, resupply and reconstitute. Finish/modify plans for next campaign (which was done during the Aleppo fight). Mopping up operations. Turn over of Aleppo to security forces.
    Rebels – inter organizational conflicts for remaining resources and control; attempts by Turks and Gulf State Front organizations to impose discipline and reassert authority over rebels. Increasing terrorist attacks on soft targets in government controlled Syria.
    The West – Continue to posture for domestic political advantage through meaningless diplomatic activity.
    Russia and Iran – Critical decision point, increase support to Syria or take advantage of excellent military situation to get concessions out of the west. I’d expect to see discussions and perhaps visits of leaders with each other.
    Turkey – Still “boxed in”. They will consider new possible courses of action like establishing a so called “safe zone” inside Syria near Idib.

  17. mike allen says:

    Anadan pocket northwest of Aleppo which is already surrounded on three sides by Assad’s forces will be his next target. Then the Douma suburb northeast of Damascus.
    Erdogan’s Turkmen allies in Idlib attack north towards Jinderes in the Kurdish Canton of Efrin. Erdo assists with artillery support from Hatay.
    In the east Daesh attempts to distract the YPG/SDF advance on Raqqa by staging spoiling attacks on Shaddadeh from bases in as-Suwar and Muweeleh. Deir ez-zor remains stalemated for now.
    Terrorist activity in Jordan increases.

  18. Kassandra says:

    On New Years’ eve, the German MS Braunschweig active on a SigInt mission monitoring the SAA offensive on Idlib, gets hit by a KH-15 and sinks just outside the Syrian 12-mile zone well within the 35-mile zone claimed by Syria. The German government and US blame the Syrian airforce and urge for an immediate emergency session of the Security Council announcing to ask for a legitimation according Art 51. Since Chinese and Russian representatives announce veto, the Russians presenting radar data excluding a Syrian or Russian attack, Germany invokes Art. 5 of the NATO treaty while two British Typhoon scramble from RAF Akrotiri and get shot down in Idlib airspace by a Russian S-30V when approaching a forward c3 active in the ongoing SAA offensive on Idlib.
    In the morning of the 2nd, British artillery in Estonia is shelling border positions of the Russian military after allegedly receiving a mortar attack from the Russian side. Romanian military is entering Moldavia heading to Transnistria, while Azov units are shelling Donezk and Armjansk with Grads.
    Trump is rushing in the morning of the 2nd to Washington aborting his brief New Year holiday in Mar-a-Lago. On its approach to Washington National, his plane collides with a unspecified private jet heading to Dulles while air control radar coverage is blinded for some minutes due to a software crash. In these hours, Israel is invading the Golan buffer zone and Beeka valley area as SAA forces fortified border positions after crushing Jabhat al-Nusra and Diwan in the Golan. Hizbollah is shelling Israeli territories in response, resulting in closing Ben Gurion airport during the visit of Mike Pence in Jerusalem. Leaving president Obama declares state of emergency and orders DEFCON3.

  19. Frank says:

    While the Tiger Forces are on R&R in Damascus the Syrian Government holds off on any major offensives, choosing instead to focus particular attention on the consolidation and defense of the gains around Palmyra in order to avoid making the same mistake yet again.
    Eastern Ghouta: The Syrian Army continues with reducing this pocket from the eastern portion, closing in on Duma. The Govt begins plans to squeeze this pocket to force negotiations for exit to possibly Daraa.
    Deir Ezzor: The intent behind the suspicious US Coalition strikes against Daesh around Palmyra is revealed when there is yet another “accidental” airstrike against Syrian Army positions near Deir Ezzor. The plausible deniability argument is used again by the US, using the earlier strikes as evidence they were trying to help. This time a strategic position just north of the airport his hammered, and after taking it Daesh now has a clear shot at the airport. Deir Ezzor becomes the top priority for the R+6 coalition.
    Aleppo: The evacuations are finally finished, but the western propaganda narrative continues. Images of the destroyed city are spun to show “how ruthless Assad was” in taking back the city.

  20. Nightsticker says:

    Col Lang, TTG
    No significant military activity takes place
    Christmas Day through Jan 2.
    For R+6 military a week of R+R, relocation of forces,
    re-supply, re-equip, reorganize [probably
    introduction of recent officer/NCO graduates
    into combat units].
    Internal R+6 critique determines next military
    phase will
    1. continue to exploit air,artillery, armor advantage
    whenever possible to limit infantry casualties
    2. just as German infantryman used Panzerfaust to
    reduce threat of T-34, Syrian infantry will require
    weapon at low level to reduce VBIED threat
    3.amnesty/pardon program is perhaps most potent weapon
    in arsenal. Use of this weapon supports strategic
    goal of re-unifying Syria, and is cost effective and
    4. information operations are critical in this conflict.
    R+6 must seize control of the “Narrative”
    5. rebuilding the war ravaged areas must not wait until
    the end of the conflict. it supports the strategic goal
    and helps with the narrative.
    USMC 65-72
    FBI 72-96

  21. turcopolier says:

    Harlan Easley
    Yes. you are fighting the scenario in not accepting the recovery of Palmyra. This is a fairly minor instance of your crime and we will allow it once since the rest of your comment is worthwhile. Don’t do it again. pl

  22. turcopolier says:

    I caution everyone to remain within the parameters of the game and in its scenario. Those who do not wish to do that should not try to comment. pl

  23. mike allen says:

    Nightsticker has a darned good point regarding an Assad attempt to offer a Christmas ‘Chieu Hoi’ program for some rebels. But it would only be for Syrians, not for foreign fighters, and hopefully not for al-Nusra and not for Daesh.

  24. sillybill says:

    On Christmas Eve, SVR assets in Ankara police department send a detailed report back to Moscow center proving that the Turks are lying about the gunman who killed Ambassador Karlov. Putin orders a cyber attack on the Ankara power grid, which takes place at the stroke of midnight on New Years. Although technicians get it turned back on by morning, chaos ensues with hundreds dead and parts of the city still on fire.
    When the 4 – 8 shift shows up at the Turkish side of the Bab al Hawa border crossing they find all the guards dead, and no clues to the perpetrators except a hand painted sign stating “Happy New Year!” in Turkish, English, and Arabic.
    On Jan 2, Assad announces the campaign to retake Idlib province will be led by General Suheil, who was promoted to 4-star the day before.
    Trump surrogates start slagging the Turks on Fox News and social media – Trump tweets – “I’m sure some of them are nice people, but…”

  25. ToivoS says:

    Somehow I do not see the significance of offering Muslims a Christmas truce since they use a different calendar than the West does. Their holidays fall at different times of the year than ours do given they follow some kind of lunar calendar that is 11 days out of sync with ours.

  26. Babak Makkinejad says:

    And now this:
    I think they had a rally for Aleppo on the 13-th.

  27. Sylvia Demarest says:

    On January 2, 2017 the Tiger Force Armor and other divisions remain on rest, resupply and re-Fit.
    Major combat objectives since Christmas have remained; protecting gains in Aleppo, closing pockets of opposition around Damascus, and reinforcing Palyma and Dier-al-Zor. Clean up and rebuilding efforts have begun in Aleppo. Many people in Aleppo do not have adequate housing at present.
    Battle plans are under development for Idlib Province; major objectives being 1) protecting the Latika, Hamah , and Aleppo Provinces from infiltration and attack; 2) designing a pincer movement to cut off arms and resupply to Idlib and encircle and destroy pockets of Jihadists as forces advance on the city of Idlib.
    The timing of any new offensive revolves around whether a change in policy can be anticipated after January 20, 2017. Lines of communication have been established between the R-6 and the Trump transition but policy after the 20th is still unknown and the Obama Administration remains hostile.
    Similarly, discussions continue with Turkey in an effort to close off resupply through the Bab-al-Hawa border crossing. These talks appear more productive given the large number of terror attacks Turkey has experienced since the murder of the Russian Ambassador on 12/19.
    Discussions re changes in European policy also appear to be more productive given the increase in terror attacks in Europe along with increased fears of more attacks from returning Jihadists.
    A scandal has developed over the reporting of “fake news” in the major US and European press concealing the atrocities committed by the Jihadists against the people of East Aleppo. There is also criticism of over reliance on the reports from “activists”, the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, the White Helmets, and other social media sources which are now being derided as “fake”. It is unknown whether US/British/EU intelligence will attempt to recreate the same kind of social media networks in Idlib Provence they created in Aleppo that are now being accused of misleading the public. The US public is slowly turning against any further involvement with opposition forces in Syria.
    Before the Idlib offensive can begin the following must be achieved: 1) reinforcement of defenses in Palmya and Dier-al-Zor to protect the northern flank, and 2) completing the clean up of pockets in East Ghouta and Yarmouk.
    An offensive begun by Hezbollah and Lebanese forces to remove the Takfari forces from the Lebanese border has also begun and must succeed if gains are to be protected from infiltration from Jordon. Jordon has also experienced terror attacks and seems to be losing it’s appetite for continuing to be the locus of US Special Forces training of Jihadists for the Syrian proxy war.
    The al Nusra forces near the Golan will be allowed to remain for now, rather than provide Israel with an excuse to attack the SAS. These forces will be dealt with once the reconquest of Idlib has been achieved.
    Meanwhile, Jihadists continue to receive weapons from the CIA via Turkey. It is unknown whether this will cease after January 20th.

  28. frijoles_jr says:

    IS will mount attacks on Aleppo residents living in government shelters, to reinforce the idea that the government lacks the ability to provide safety and security.
    Also, expect a serious effort to overrun Tiyas AFB, keep R+6 thinking about Homs area

  29. Annem says:

    This is also a war of narratives, between the Western MSM and the R+6. This was of ideas and information is as critical as the military engagements, as it influences what governments on either side of the conflict are able to do on the global stage. As the SAA work to clean out Yarmouk and East Ghouta, the regime will make use of a huge media blitz aimed at reminding those remaining in such pockets of resistance that there are easy of the mechanisms available for a safe surrender. These are the steps they have used with previous area surrenders. They include transfer to Idlib of fighters who wish to continue with the jihad along with their families. For locals who took up arms to defend their neighborhoods and any others who wish to call it quits, the regime would employ the “interview and release” methods for them to be reabsorbed into the community according to the terms set by the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria agreements. This would also apply to the civilian authorities in these areas who “governed” during the conflict. Assad would also begin a highly publicized initiative to follow through on his televised promise to absorb such basically patriotic Syrian fighters into the armed forces if they wish to do so. Syrian media will show the newly “opened” areas receiving emergency supplies and people freely circulating in and out and meeting with relatives from the government-controlled areas. All of this will be carried out “as promised,” without any incidents of “revenge.” This will encourage jihadis elsewhere to put down their weapons or at least go to Idlib.
    As for eastern Aleppo, the UN monitors and any Western journalists who wish to visit should be free to go anywhere that has been declared safe by the explosives experts and talk to anyone they wish. Most importantly, they must be encouraged to investigate the claims that there was a massacre/genocide of civilians during and following the fighting. This would involve seeking the remains of the mass of people who were reportedly killed by R+6 forces. Whatever is found must be examined openly, especially the scale of the killings. Regular press briefings for the foreign and local media should be carried out by R+6 military and civilian figures, including those in the medical field. The recent reporting from Aleppo by seasoned journalist Rober Fisk, a Middle East specialist, is a good example of what can be accomplished with free media access.
    Idlib and the North: The Turks should NOT be allowed to supply rebel-held areas with anything but food and other emergency humanitarian goods, no matter who screams or threatens military confrontation. The R+6 must refocus international media attention on just who the different jihadi groups are that have been evacuated to Idlib. What are the beliefs and goals of each of the groups and what incidents are they responsible for in different parts of the country, including in Idlib province where they forced the people of Druze villages to convert to [their version of] Sunni Islam. Their sacred places were destroyed and mosques built. This is particularly true in the case of the nameless “moderate” forces evoked in the MSM.

  30. Degringolade says:

    I had a pretty well planned out scenario this morning when I went off to work, but now with “tens of thousands” reservists being called up and a dead Russian ambassador across the border in Turkey, the game has changed.
    My guess now is that little happens during this first phase of the game. Next week is logistics, planning, and quite a bit of arm twisting by all side.
    I do predict an pretty serious uptick in civilian terror attacks away from Syria.
    TTG: I am not at all for certain the the “shit’s on”, but as my mentor MSG York always told me “never, ever underestimate the other guys”.

  31. alba etie,
    I didn’t recognize this as war game input until just now. I still don’t see what it has to do with the scenario, but it’s a very interesting thought. You ought to think about writing a novel.

  32. mike allen says:

    ToivoS –
    Hmmm, maybe you are right? But I understood that Alawites, or at least some of them, observe Christmas. Perhaps someone in this thread could correct me if I am wrong about that. Assad and his core supporters in Syria are Alawites, and many of his other Syrian supporters are Christian. So why not offer an Amnesty in December? He could soften it by also linking it to Mawlid, the Birth of the Prophet, which was just last week.
    And if the hardcore Salafis do not accept it, all the better for Assad. Just for making the offer Assad gets brownie points internationally and particularly from the West. The headchoppers who refuse it get censure from the same people praising Assad’s offer.

  33. ann says:

    After the assassination of its Ambassador, Russia decides to quit playing nice with Turkey and closes the boarder, thus shutting down the supply route for the rebels.
    The rebels try to move northeast to meet with its forces being driven west out of Mosul.
    The Russians, Syrians and Iranians move against the force from the west, south and north, forcing the rebels to the east into the swamp land around the Al Jaboul Lake

  34. turcopolier says:

    TTG and I have decided to add the following para to the first turn scenario.
    “There has been a number of assassinations and explosions throughout Idlib province. Speculation abounds as to whether this is the result of continued infighting triggered by the influx of Aleppo rebels in the area or suspected payback strikes by Russian Spetsnaz for the assassination of Ambassador Karlov.” pl

  35. 1. The Tiger Force move to Damascus for rest and refit was a ruse de guerre and, instead, moved back to Aleppo by Christmas. IS forces are distracted by the Palmyra operation and the Kurd, Turk, FSA operations around al Bab. Nusra and associated militias in Idlib are busy with the influx from Aleppo of fighters and non-combatants.
    2. On Christmas night the SAA led by Tiger Force attack westward on an axis Aleppo Bab al Hawa and SDF/YPG support by attacking south toward Danaa.
    3 On 02JAN the highway from Aleppo to Bab al Hawa is controlled by the SAA. A counterattack from the vicinity of Idlib was utterly defeated and the Idlib prvince appears ready to fall.

  36. turcopolier says:

    mike allen
    Muslims venerate Jesus and his birth which is mentioned in the Qur’an. Non jihadis often observe Christmas complete with Christmas trees and the works. I have been sent tape of Christmas trees in restaurants in Aleppo today. pl

  37. mike allen says:

    Thank you.

  38. Thirdeye says:

    I’ll play, although my success rate with prognostications is approximately zero.
    Factional politics associated with the new arrivals in west Aleppo province, along with perceived opportunity of having SAA attention diverted by the Palmyra front, will build pressure for some sort of face-saving action against west Aleppo city and/or the Fouaa – Kafraya enclave. IMO R+6 initiative will be mainly in the air to neutralize offensive threats in those areas while gathering strength for their next move. The biggest threat move R+6 could make would be an advance in the direction of Khan Tuman. Depending on available strength, that would put them in a position to move against the M5 and 60 highways, which would isolate the Jihadist stronghold of al-Rashidin, then move into the rear of forces in the vicinity of Fouaa – Kafrya or even move towards Bab-al-Zawa. So the scenario unfolds something like this: 1. Jihadists start bombarding west Aleppo and trying to advance out of al-Rashidin in the next few days; the response is heavy counterfire and aerial attack; result is intense clashes without much movement. 2. R+6 moves to neutralize remaining heavy firepower directed at west Aleppo and plays the attrition game east of al-Rashidin as long as the Jihadists are willing to oblige. 3. R+6 gathers forces for an assault towards Khan Tuman.

  39. b says:

    The short period until Januar 2 will be a build and refit time for the Syrian army. The Jihadis will mostly be busy with themselves while under constant Russian air interdiction. The CIA is busy to resupply and refit its al-Qaeda aligned troops in Idleb with surface air missiles but is soon stopped by Pentagon protests against the scheme.
    On Christmas eve Al Qaeda will lead a massive attack on Fua and Kafarya which will break the SAA defenses. Large massacres ensue with many of the inhabitants, women and children getting killed. Video and news of this will be suppressed in “western” media. A storyline promoted by the various Saudi paid “analysts” and launched on the front page of the NYT will claim that Shia Syrian paramilitary, Iranian and Hizbullah forces using Sarin gas are responsible for the large scale massacre.
    Having no ability to immediately prevent the killing the SAA and Russians will abstain from any response but massive aerial bombing.
    The Syrian army has called up reservists. At the start of the new year these will be outfitted and take of the guarding of all non-active areas under government control.
    The thereby relieved regular army forces will join the Tigers for a short rest and refitting period.
    The Syrian 5th corps, trained and outfitted by the Russians over the last 12 to 18 month is coming online. They will be the spear aimed at Idleb though they first will be used to clean up east-Ghouta and enclosed Takfiri areas to gain some combat experience.
    Rumors evolves about a combined Russian-Egyptian campaign to liberate Deir Ezzor to then move on to Raqqa. After the common maneuver in October and November the forces have become somewhat familiar with each other weapon systems and tactics.
    Large numbers of tanks and infantry carriers are observed in Egyptian ports as they are loaded on the two French-build Mistral class helicopter carriers/landing ships. Russian ships have joined the Egyptian fleet, probably to run cover for Mistral sorties from Egypt to Syria.
    A strong regiment of Russian paratroopers lands in Syria to join the Egyptian brigade that is soon to arrive. Their aim will be a wide ranging attack on Deir Ezzor to be launched at the same time as the SAA attack on Idleb governate.
    In Iraq the Golden Division is destroyed after futile attempts to recover more parts of Mosul. It will be impossible to rebuild it. Saudi money and arms is fueling a new Sunni insurgency in Anbar province that will attack the Iraqi army and PMG positions in the governate. The western exit for ISIS from Mosul to Syria is reopened. The Iraqi government accuse the U.S. of facilitating the Saudi/Sunni moves.

  40. ann says:

    Asians stock pile caches of supplies throughout their country. When the explosions begin Assad is not sure if this is due to inexperienced fighters moving old unstable ordnance or planned attacks. His greatest fear is that the rebels are moving a mass of explosive material towards the damn at Tabqah to destroy the damn on the Euphrates and drain Lake Assad. This would take out much of the food and water supply for Syria.

  41. trinlae says:

    R+6 will reposition to track and shape Isis/AN/AQ census by closely tracking Israeli, Saudi, Turk, and US/Brit/French actions and resource flow vectors, while simultaneously giving aid distribution tasks to Syrian army and police for hearts and minds Santa Claus PR w locals. SA will also enlist Kurds when possible, sharing good guy relief optics in reward for staving off/holding lines against support reaching AN on Iraqi, eastern & northeastern Syrian and Iranian fronts. Players like Jordan and Lebanon will backchannel with R6 to push and pull AQ/AN survivors into Saudi Kingdom domains where survivors are given option of surgical RFID tags and ankle bracelets as condition of domicile.

  42. rjh says:

    The unexpected success at Palmyra from the spoiling operation leads to rapid re-fortification as the offensive units are withdrawn for more R&R. Primary SAA goals are:
    1) R&R for major offensive units. There will be a number of smaller offensive pushes, but only one major offensesive.
    2) Tie-in with YPG. The continued success of YPG is joined by R+6 efforts reaching for al-Tabaqah. The seizure of al-Tabaqah provides eastern protection to the primary supply line to Aleppo, ensures the Turkey and ISIS cannot coordinate, and is part of an agreed subordinate alliance of R+6 with YPG.
    3) Other protective operations around Aleppo. The residential areas of Aleppo remain in range of jihadi artillery. The front line is pushed back in some locations, reducing the problems of artillery and infiltration bombers. This is done using the usual strategy of an initial larger front attack, then selective modest penetrations of about a km where weakness is revealed.
    4) Elimination of isolated jihadi pockets. R+6 have already closed down a couple hundred jihadi villages and pockets. These efforts continue at full force. The newly called up soldiers are used as garison/police force to release experienced forces.
    The YPG connection and other frustrations lead to low level conflicts with western powers. The jihadis and ISIS mount a campaign of terror attacks around Europe. These include efforts to break the relationship between Turkey and Russia. The goal is to restore Turkish support for ISIS and Jihadis, but it is too soon to see an effect.
    Within Syria the emptying isolated pockets are filling Idlib with jihadi refugees. R+6 continue an extensive campaign of air attacks and covert raids to keep them from getting organized. R+6 offensive units on R&R are located where they can respond rapidly to attacks out of Idlib.

  43. Degringolade says:

    TTG et al:
    I have been noodling around with Markov chains with reference to this latest scenario
    Not saying right or wrong but interesting and perhaps useful

  44. DH says:

    The Damascus respite being a ruse, and the SAA being recalled from Al-Bab and other places, along with Hezbollah and ‘good’ FSA, and with the aid of Russia and US (lame duck Obama), descend upon Idlib on Christmas Day in Operation Jingle Bells. Mission complete by 15 Jan.
    Mosul will stall through January while Idlib is mopped up, and R+6 work out their strategy.
    A special Chinese envoy will visit Israel and discuss how Israel could be advantaged by the New Silk Road and eventual membership in SCO.

  45. Sam Peralta says:

    R+6 will focus on consolidation and recovery of the Aleppo areas that they just won from the jihadists. The emphasis here will be on building better defensive lines around Aleppo and some reconstruction efforts to aid the civilian population.
    Offensive actions will be limited to a) pushing ISIS forces further back in the western desert, b) mopping up AQ areas around Damascus & Homs and c) air attacks whenever good intelligence is received and a general degrading of jihadist forces.
    The Russians will use this period to bring more ground forces and equipment to Syria.
    The Syrian Army will use this period to induct the newly recalled reserves and provide rest and refit to its active combat forces.
    Most of the activity will be behind the scenes diplomacy with an emphasis on getting Turkey to sign on to stopping infiltration of men and material into Syria to back the jihadi forces.

  46. kooshy says:

    I will borrow colonel’ estimation that there are not enough boots to waste on Palmyra. IMO the most important geographic prizes in the Syrian theater are Damascus since its the capital and seat of the government, the Mediterranean cost and the city of Aleppo. R+6 will regroup, re supply and nib at corners of Idlib till it finds a way to penetrate Idlib province from west, east and south. IMO the operation will be similar to Aleppo operation forceful mow and go from every directions including air except north. IMO jahadies will get slaughtered at the Turkish border of Bab al Hawa which means the gate of air may be the western supported jahadies can use some air.

  47. DH says:

    Oops, that should read Idlib Province.

  48. Lex Lutheran says:

    Aware that the Russian Orthodox “Christmas” falls on January 7, 2017, ahead of this Coalition forces are encouraging jihadist forces to retreat from Mosul. On December 29, Syrian reconnaissance has picked up jihadi movement near Abu Kamal on the Syrian/Iraqi border and fear that the rebels will be using the town as a base for future operations. Coalition forces appear to be dropping supplies. The Syrians are, as yet, unsure of the object of this staging, Ar-Raqqah? Palmyra? Russia has received intelligence that squads of Jordanian regular forces have been patrolling very close to the Syrian border, but is stretched too thin to do anything about this. The Syrians are also stretched.
    On New Year’s Eve, the United States declares that Russia is in contravention of international law and forwards a UN declaration condemning Russia and Syria for war crimes. A complicit Brussels takes up the call and “independently” decides to convene a special sitting of the International Court of Justice, against strident Russian criticism that this is out of the ICJ’s jurisdiction because it is backed by a state that is not a member of the ICJ. While this is happening, Saudi Arabia, current Chair of Human Rights at the UN also opens an independent enquiry on New Year’s Day and demands that UN observers be allowed to examine any Syrian/Russian placements for alleged war crimes. This is seconded by Britain and France. While Syria and Russia object that this will severely curtail their operations and may cause grave security challenges to their soldiers, China declares that it’s sending troops to help patrol the Euphrates region in Syria, They also earmark more money to bolster their military base in Somalia.

  49. Fred says:

    Syrian 5th corps forces move attacking ISIS forces in the East Ghouta pocket. Heavy Air attacks in Idlib area to support surrounded Shia villages. Called up reserves relieve units in rear areas and along the Jordanian border which move in to Aleppo area replacing front line units which have beaten Al-Nursa and FSA unicorns in the city. Additional Air units seen arriving in Latakia. Russian Airborne forces have holiday leaves cancelled though the location of their possible deployment is unknown.
    Kurds: YPG units attack towards Al -Safsafah in an effort to size the Al Tabaqa Dam.
    Iraq/US USAF in coordination with R+6 actively attacks ISIS targets of opportunity in Rakka. Iraqi efforts in Mosul bogged down with Iraqi forces suffering heavy losses which are not reported in MSM.
    ISIS : Al-nusra forces will attack the Shia villages in force breaking another structured deal they made with Iran since their humiliating defeat in Aleppo and the Western press will be silent.
    Terror front: Terror attacks in Berlin, Cologne and Reims. Attacks in Brussels and Rome thwarted by effective police actions. Gloomy New Year’s celebration in NYC as heavy police presence, rain and the realization of Trump’s victory sinks in.
    Turkey: Erdogan engages in further crackdown blaming unrest on Gulenist support. No overt attacks against Kurdish forces though no let up in the flow of supplies to ISIS forces via open border crossings.
    Israel – ceases cross-border support of unicorns in effort to gain favor with incoming Trump administration.
    Political News Front
    The ongoing I.O operations to de-legitimize Trump begins to slow down as polls reveal more than 75% of Americans do not think Russian hacking influenced the election. Due to recent terror attacks and assassination of Ambassador Karlov US public opinion shifts towards ending US involvement in Syria and a focus on destroying the terrorists. Rumors of pardons for aides to Hilary Clinton over the private email server spark outrage among the Republicans that make little new with the legislature being on holiday. Lack of MSM news reports show “All Quite on the Ukrainian Front. “
    Russian media shows extended Christmas Special broadcasts of Russian Aerospace forces in action in Syria and reports on retaliatory strikes against ISIS in response to the assassination of the Ambassador Karlov.

  50. Kunuri says:

    Erdogan secures Russian guarantee not to interfere with tightening of the siege of Al Bab, and its eventual capture by the Free Syrian Army backed by Turkish ground and air forces and long range artillery from across the border. Al Bab falls.
    Erdogan makes himself conqueror of Syria ahead of the constitutional change, and seals his presidency for life.
    In return, Erdogan leaves Russian and Assad forces alone for the anticipated drive to Idlib. Works on similar agreement with US and EU to take Manbij, therefore preventing Syrian Kurds from joining forces with Kurdish forces in the west. Concedes to Russians to really stop aiding and assisting sundry Al Kaida types from across the border.
    2017 marks the beginning of the unraveling of ISIS as a fighting force across Syria and Iraq.

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