Administration. All remains the same.
Scenario Turn 2.
Christmas Day to 1 January.
R+6 elements have continued to eliminate pockets of jihadi/unicorn resistance in the Damascus region with many former opposition fighters accepting government pardons and amnesty. Those not willing to do so have been bussed north into Idlib Province. Most of the 5th Assault Corps of the SAA moved north into Hama Directorate after 25 December and attacked to eliminate the Rastan Pocket just north of Homs. By 1 January the pocket was largely gone and the 5th Corps had deployed most of its forces northward to the southern border of Idlib Province where they were positioned by New Year's Eve.
Evacuations from east Aleppo had largely ended by New Year's Eve with UN observer parties wandering about searching for mass graves in east Aleppo and getting drunk at New Year's Eve parties in the nightclubs of the western part of the city.
YPG/SDF forces captured the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River on the day after Christmas.
Deir al-Zor remained firmly in government hands having been reinforced with air delivered supplies and equipment.
The newly promoted Tiger Force Commander, Fareeq (LTG) Suheil al-Hassan was seen in the streets of Aleppo in the days immediately following Christmas leading many to conclude that the reports of his troops (Tiger Forces and Desert Hawks) having remained in the Damascus area were a ruse de guerre.
The day after Christmas jihadi forces attempted to take the two Shia villages of Kafraya and al-Fu'a just north of Idlib City by storm. They were repulsed after hours of fighting with losses on both sides. Russian airborne engineers were airlifted into the villages the next day as well as Hizbullah and IRGC troops to bolster the defenses of the two villages. The engineers have used farm vehicles and explosives to demolish a number of roadside buildings along the 4700 ft. stretch of straight road between the villages. This road is in use as of New Year's Eve as an improvised airstrip for STOL aircraft and helicopters.
SOHR in London has been reporting in late December that Russian Spetznaz and Hizbullah raiding and reconnaissance parties have been engaged in acts of assassination of local jihadi leaders all over Idlib Province and in several cases have left messages pinned to the bodies designed to implicate rival jihadi groups in the area. Among the places raided was the area between the old Taftanaz air base east of the two Shia villages and the national M5 highway a few miles east of the air base.
Near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing three Turkish border guards were abducted the day after Christmas. They were found hanging from telephone poles on the Syrian side of the line. On the chest of the senior man was pinned a note in Turkish, Arabic and Russian that read "Measure for Measure."
It was reported on SANA on New Year's Eve that it is the opinion of the R+6 allies that the jihadis/the unicorns and their foreign supporters are merely stalling for time with talk of nation wide cease fires and negotiations and that the stalling is just an attempt to gain time to consolidate jihadi power in Idlib Province. SANA stated that the Syrian Government and its friends would act in accordance with this belief.
New Year's Day.
Coordinated concentric attacks began at Beginning Morning Nautical Twilight (BMNT) all around the perimeter of Idlib Province:
1. East from Lattakia in the direction of Jisr al-Shugur. The Syrian Marines seem to be the lead element, but there are reports of Russian armor with them.
2. North by 5th Assault Corps in the general direction of Idlib City. Initial priority of supporting fires seems to be tasked to them.
3. All around the western and NW perimeters of the government positions at Aleppo City, attacks began en echelon from south to north in a series of rolling offensives apparently designed to draw jihadi attention and reserves toward the north. R+6 forces have had some success in all these attacks. Khan Touman on the M5 highway fell to the Republican Guard at 1000 AM. Souhail's mobile reserve remained unlocated and uncommitted by the end of the day.
Russian air activity remained heavy throughout the day.
Requirement. State your opinion as to the likely development of game action in the period beginning 2 January to 10 January. pl &TTG
Turkish Army supported Turkmen brigades in the “Euphrates Shield’ enclave push west towards Afrin. Southern Afrin Canton is now under attack from both the east and south, plus Turkish shelling from Hatay.
SDF initiates phase 3 of ‘Wrath of Euphrates’ offensive. This phase will attempt to isolate Raqqa from the northeast. In the west of Raqqa, Daesh flee from SDF who then take control of Al-Tabqa air base.
Additional Hezbollah and Syrian Army reinforcements sent to T4 Airbase 35 miles west of Palmyra. Russian counterbattery unit also sent there to provide help against continued Daesh shelling.
Many in Douma neighborhood of Damascus accept amnesty under regime ‘Chieu Hoi’ program and surrender their weapons.
Trouble in the Sheik Mahqsoud neighborhood, the only part of East Aleppo not under control of the Syrian regime. YPG has not left and is under regime threat. Assad also demands to screen and vet the 10,000 refugees who fled there from other East Aleppo neighborhoods. Russia intervenes to keep dialogue open and aid flowing to
3 January, noon, Adana: A coordinated suicide attack by 4 minivans with powerful explosives seriously damage the Girne Boulevard bridge with enough force to send concrete shrapnel into the Great Mosque. A lone bomber ran into the mosque and detonated, killing a small number and wounding a dozen or so. No claim of responsibility. Adana in chaos then saturated with troops. Fingers point in all directions.
3 January: A Syrian detachment sent to secure the the Bab al-Hawa border area encounters no resistance. They question locals who say that an unusually large number of small transport vehicles have been heading into Turkey, mostly pre-dawn, since the hangings. The border is sealed and anyone found crossing is shot on sight.
5 January: Turkish police at a checkpoint near Konya confront two men heading north in a covered pickup truck who open fire with AKs. Within seconds, the two are killed. In the bed of the truck are two 81mm mortars and 3 cases of shells.
6 January: The landing strip at Kafraya and al-Fu’a receives personnel and supplies via helicopter almost ’round the clock. The villages continue to receive sporadic fire from different directions. The jihadis have created an extensive network of rat holes throughout the area. IRGC and Hizbullah teams go after these but take more casualties in a bloody cave-to-cave clearing op.
8 January: As the Syrian forces tighten their grip around Idlib, jihadi resistance intensifies and appears to be well dug in. Many skirmishes in villages. The Syrian Marines with light and heavy armor support form a north-south line in rougher terrain as far north as Azmarin and advance eastward towards Hafzarjah, with heavy air support clearing jihadi positions around the Hafsarhjah hillsides.
10 January: Reports of a modest Turkish massing of force along the border east of the Kirikhan-Antakya road, though no obvious direction of travel, some armor, some artillery, some APVs.
2-10 January: Morale at the Alleppo refugee camps drops as R+6 intelligence agents selectively pull several men a day for questioning while those who are not conscripted fear suspicion of collaboration. Some break out. Small arms fire is heard through the night. UN teams are aloof and don’t venture beyond their comfort zone.
3-10 January: The media are split ascribing the Adana bombing to either a Russo-Syrian plot or Isis being Isis. The players are closing off contact except for the R+6 who start chewing on Idlib, as if a repeat of the Allepian campaign. Erdogan grumbling about US not extraditing Gulen again.
Fareq LTG last seen in Aleppo uses cover to scout in Manbij or al-Raqqah.
Death of Turkish border guards leads to a swap deal whereby Iraq’s new $1.5 billion World Bank loan is used to hire from among the 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey for Iraqi reconstruction (lest they head to Europe and Russia as undocumented migrants), with a class of logistics managers hired from among the Brit-trained Jihadis who are given a soft landing exit option out of Idlib c/o subdued Hizbolleh/UNO escort.
Foreign backed jihadis are thus peeled off of Isil core leaving that remainder isolated. R+6 deliberate if they are capable of meaningful survival and seek monitored work-release to Iraqi reconstruction sites.
As the R + 6 governments see that jihadis beyond Idlib but within reach of it can be encourage to flee there, they leave “escape routes” open for jihadis under hopeless pressure elsewhere to escape into Idlib, which more and more jihadis do. Idlib becomes a barrel of jihadi fish.
The R + 6 governments begin to have “frank and open” discussions among themselves behind closed doors about how to handle the Idlib end game. The SARgov will want the jihadis “out of Syria” as fast as feasible and will argue for pushing hard on all sides of Idlib area except the Turkish crossing to let the thousands of jihadis and their families accept defeat within Syria and move into Turkey. The Erdogists would welcome them for use sometime in the future against the West which “let Erdogan down”. The RussFedgov will argue for trapping them all and capturing or exterminating them in place. Russia will want zero of them to survive in freedom to fight another day . . . possibly within Russia/Caucasus itself.
If SARgov wins the argument, pressure and fighting will become harder faster on all sides exCEPT the Turkish border. If Russiagov wins the argument, the R + 6 forces will fight on all non-Turkish border sides just enough to keep maximum number of jihadis fighting on all those sides. Meanwhile R + 6 forces will put some forces and preparations at the two “edges” of the Syria-Turkish border strip and prepare for a pinching-off and border-sealing operation to catch all the jihadis inside a cut-off and sealed-off Idlib. They, especially Russia, will put and use enough forces there to beat back and kill every effort Erdogan makes to cross that border and re-inforce or rescue his (and the Global Axis of Jihad’s)precious beloved jihadis and their families.
However it is that forces are visibly positioned and prepared to be used on Jan. 10th will reveal whether Syria or Russia has won that argument. (Whoever is considered to have won the argument by Jan. 10th go-time will receive the full co-operation of the other members of R + 6. The R + 6 forces won’t delaminate into go-their-own-way factions just because one side accepts it has lost this what’s-the-end-game/how-to-fight argument.)
The battle for Idlib quickly becomes focused on Khan Touman and the uplands north of Jebel Katf. The threat to the M5/60 routes is unacceptable to the Jihadists, as is the prospect of losing the terrain controlling the southern approach to Jisr al-Shugur. R+6 is sparing in its commitment of additional forces to the Idlib campaign in the face of continued threat of attacks from ISIS in eastern Homs and Deir Ezzor, limiting the pace of operations.
R+6 has absorbed the lessons of their previous experience with Khan Touman and fortifies their positions against anticipated heavy counterattacks. The Jihadists counterattack from the north, with heavy losses. R+6 establishes fire security for west Aleppo city with advances towards Mansoura and Khreitan. The pace of attacks at Khan Touman slows as the threat of aerial interdiction limits the rate at which the Jihadists can bring in reinforcements and a possible threat to the Jihadist position at al-Rashidin is seen in the advance to Mansoura.
The campaign west of Jisr al-Shigur develops slowly in the face of dug-in positions in good defensive terrain, poor roads, and winter weather. Once Jihadist fire control over the M4 road is neutralized, R+6 takes Bidama and al-Najeya, and begins to clear remaining Jihadist positions east of the M4 road.
The 5th Corps puts on the pressure northwestward, looking to isolate resistance west of the M5 road in preparation for a prospective attack at Jisr al-Shugour.
Erdogan, in light of the SOHR reports, is suspicious that he may have been false-flagged by the Russians over his border guards, but can’t do much about it other than raise the alert level of the border forces. Covering the other possibility, he tightens border crossings against the prospect of jihadists angry over Turkey’s role in the Aleppo deals coming into Turkey for their revenge.
Main SAA direct thrust towards Idlib makes good progress but attack in the west towards Jisr Al-Shugur is less successful. Major storm on 6-7 January grounds all aircraft, rebels mount impromptu counterattack driving back 5 corps and breaching perimeter defenses at Kafraya leading to a desperate fight. Weather clears and rebels are pushed back but house to house fighting continues in Kafraya. First reports of internecine warfare among rebels come in.
[Was having internet trouble. Not sure if last entry went through]
I’m earlier this time! Very good!
January 2: Having completed installing the defenses of Kafraya and al-Fu’a (north of Idlib), Russian airborne engineers withdraw, leaving Hizbullah as a liaison force. Surprise bombardment of Kalibr missiles from Udaloy-class destroyer off the coast of Syria, the Severosorsk, turns the tide of the battle for Idlib province, favouring the Syrian Marine offensive. “Rebels” split forces, some attempting to retreat into Idlib, while others head further north. A major rebel contingent appears to be caught on the road between Aleppo and Idlib. Despite protests from the United States, aerial bombardment by Russia decimates them. The “rebels” heading north run into heavy fire outside Kafraya and dig in. Idlib remains a battleground for opposing forces.
January 3: A bomb blows up at a Syrian government mission in East Aleppo delivering food to the residents. Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch immediately accuses the al-Assad government of bombing their own citizens. This is backed by CNN and the other Western mainstream press. Russia appoints a new ambassador to Turkey, Sergey Kislyak, previously Russian ambassador to the United States (2008 to 2016) and Permanent Representative of Russia to NATO (1998 to 2003). Replacing him in Washington is Yuri Ushakov, who was the Russian ambassador to the United States from 1999 to 2008. The New York Times sees both these appointments as provocative moves.
January 4: CNN publishes a report that the bomb attack in East Aleppo was the work of “others”, in an effort to kill Fareeq Suheil al-Hassan, Tiger Force Commander, but still attempts to blame the Syrian government for creating the circumstances that led to the attack. UN observer parties report sporadic atrocities from the al-Assad government within the Aleppo region but it’s clear their hearts aren’t in it.
January 5: Vladimir Putin declares that having fought bravely and admirably, the Russian forces will be standing down on Orthodox Christmas in order to celebrate that most holy day. There are rumours that Sergey Shoygu will be making a visit to the Russian troops in order to boost morale, in possession of a personal letter from Putin. The Syrian government is formally asked for battalions to take over the duties of Russian soldiers over the January 7/8 weekend and al-Assad agrees.
January 6: Three Israeli jets are confirmed to have been flying over Al-Qaryatayn, north-east of Damascus. One is shot down, the other two escape back into Israeli territory. SOHR in London report that gangs of Shia are roaming Aleppo, killing Sunnis and Christians.
January 7: Reports start appearing that a major offensive is taking place at Palmyra. By daybreak, it becomes clear that the Russian air force, backed by Syrian Tiger Force, has launched a surprise attack, determined to retake the city. It is rumoured that Russian airborne engineers have successfully taken the airport and are setting up a fortified position there. Expecting an attack from the north, rebel forces are surprised by a Tiger Force offensive from the south-west cutting off two of the three major roads into Palmyra. Chinese troops now in the Al Mayadin region along the Euphrates (from my last move) move swiftly to block rebel retreat by advancing down the M20, the only other major route out of Palmyra, but emphasise that they are merely taking defensive rather than offensive postures toward the rebels.
January 8: Fierce fighting continues in and around Palmyra. While the world’s attention is focused on this, Turkish forces resupply ISIS fighters stationed in Ar Raqqah. They clash with YPG forces at Tabqa dam. The Chinese remain conspicious by their non-interference.
January 9: Fighting is moving street-to-street in Palmyra. One-fifth of the city is back in government hands. France calls for a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire for Palmyra at the United Nations. It is vetoed by Russia and China. President-elect Donald Trump says he will rescind Obama’s recent (Dec 9) waiver of arms restrictions to Syrian rebels after his inauguration. Huffington Post hints that it has “new” explosive information that will prove Trump is ineligible for the presidency.
January 10: Russia flies more troops into Syria, to fortify its positions in the north of the country. Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu flies to Europe to meet with Francois Hollande and Theresa May to discuss “the worsening situation in Syria”, but nothing definitive comes out of it. Frauke Petry, chairwoman of the Alternative for Germany party, says that, if she’s elected as Chancellor in the August elections, she will move to withdraw NATO support for the Syrian rebels. Everyone goes ballistic.
Am enjoying this very much! Merry Christmas to all! 🙂
“Borders of Hatay” Turn 2
SAA – Continue to rest, resupply and reconstitute main offensive units in assembly areas near Aleppo. Militia and police take over inside Aleppo. SAA starts repositioning supply stock piles and support units and artillery to Idib province along main highways . SAA replacements arrive at depleted units and start individual to Platoon training. SAA units in Idib launch artillery and air strikes against towns and cities. SAA ground units in Idib conduct constant raids and recon patrols along the FEBA. Both are intended to force the rebels out of shelter to make them fight in the winter weather and wear them down. Repositioning of SAA forces and militia around Damascus indicate a near future intention to eliminate the remaining Rebel pockets.
Rebels – In Idib rebels try to integrate the rebels from Aleppo with mixed results. Inter-factional fights erupt. Increasing terrorist attacks on soft targets in government controlled Syria. Negotiations are started to allow the transfer of Rebels from around Damascus and move them to Idib.
The West – More empty diplomatic talks, while a policy based entirely on “hope” continues to fail.
Russia – Russia’s attempt to get political concessions out of the west has failed. They decide to once again use military means to prod the west into action. Russian layered high capacity air defense missle systems are repositioned to cover the SAA build up in Idib. Air defense coverage extends well into Turkey. Russians brings strategic reconnaissance AC back into Syria and start running recon sorties in Idib and along the Turkish border. Russian engineers improve the MSRs leading to Idib provice. Russian aircraft continue to strike Idib.
Iran – Mobilizes more Iraqi Shiite militia units and sends them to Syria.
Kurds – Do much of nothing by capturing low handing fruit around Raqqa. They are unsure of future American support and do not want to waste resources against Raqqa when they may need them latter for a fight for survival against Turkish forces.
Turkey – Turkish backed Syrian Rebels are as worthless as American backed Rebels. Al-Bab still remains in ISIS hands. Turkey now doubles down and sends in even more Commando/SOF units which causes Turkish losses to increase further. This is increasing the concerns of the Turkish officer corps about the wisdom of fighting in Syria.
Such a major offensive into Idlib implies that substantial reinforcements have become available to the Syrian government. They could only have come from Iran and Russia, so we must conclude that Putin has made a firm and calculated decision to escalate; Once started this process will not stop easily. For whatever reason Russia has decided to get this over with, quite possibly intending to restart peace talks under Trump next year from a much better position.
Putin has substantial leverage over Iran because Putin is their best diplomatic connection to serve as shelter from President Trump. That means Iran reluctantly commits themselves to this escalation. Again, the rule for them would be once in, all in.
The FSA and Al-Nusra find themselves losing heavily to this onslaught. Both civilian and military casualties would be mounting, the UN starts hand wringing harder than usual (don’t worry, no one can tell the difference) and even the Pope chimes in to say this is the most un-Christian thing he has ever seen. It is clear to all players now that if things continue, Assad will fairly soon have an unbeatable position and the FSA will be history.
Here is a quick summary of the reactions of various actors:
* Erdogan wants to also escalate but has no remotely plausible excuse to push Turkish military into Idlib Province… he is quite willing to make do with an implausible excuse instead.
* Obama would prefer to play golf, and doesn’t want to get involved.
* Valerie Jarrett cautions Obama to avoid Western escalation at all costs; maybe she’s happy to let the Iranians win?
* The Saudis are not happy to see Assad looking so good, they are trying to coordinate with Turkey behind the scenes while gathering support in the UN to demand intervention. None of this seems to be working, and their response is too slow given the speed that the Syrian government is gaining territory on the ground.
* The CIA are furious and willing to take big risks.
* Trump doesn’t show any signs of paying attention at this stage.
PL writes. I have deleted the last part of your comment since it refers to time past this game turn. pl
Pat: Borders of Hatay – Turn 2
I won’t fight the scenario. So be it:
The R+6 forces in Idlib plain get hammered by insurgent artillery placed in the mountains north of Atarib. After serious losses the commanders of the R+6 forces understand the value of high ground. As of Jan 10, 2017, they scramble together a force to get control over the Mount Simeon hills north of the Idlib plain, however as of Jan 10, 2017 these forces didn’t get control over nothing, yet.
Merry Christmas! You all gave me a lot I have to thank for. Whether that was a major factor in making the Parteibuch blog one of the major opposition blogs in Germany, well I don’t know. However, let me thank you all anyway.
Not all the roads run through the St. Simeon Mountains (hills really) and the R+6 has a lot of air. pl
R+6 Continues assault NW of Aleppo. Additional Russian forces seen arriving in Aleppo to serve as police and rear-echolon protection. Reinforced RuAF units increase tempo of air attacks against ISIS elements in Idlib.
Turkey – scattered anti-Erdogan demonstrations in major cities. Turkish army confirms FSA elements disintegrate on contact with R+6 forces, officials calling the FSA “useless”.
Iraq – no progress by government forces in Mosul. Continued and increased air coordination between US and R+6 elements East of Palmyra.
Kurds – consolidate holdings near Al Tabaqa Dam repulsing repeated though weak attacks by ISIS elements with aid of US air.
US- Obama returns from holiday in Hawaii. No comments on rumors that three carriers are deploying to the Eastern Med with arrival near the 21st of January. No comments from the Trump transition team.
UN – Ambassador Power denounces human tragedy in Aleppo. UN observers still unable to evidence of mass graves.
Media – first videos emerge of normal life returning to Aleppo seen in US media.
Erdogan has finally received the message that the crossing at Bab Al-Hawa will not be a major souce of income for his family as the ISIS oil shipments will be halted for quite some time. Leaving him in the position of having eliminated many military and journalists with no long term gain. And a crashing economy.
As arms and money stop moving toward the rebel forces, many local forces melt back into their communities. Leaving the weapons cached to fight again another day.
As Fars reported before Christmas, there are many forces armed and capable of defending against the rebels who have fled to other parts of Syria.
The government troops are apparently well armed and capable of fighting in Deir ez-Zur and at Al Tabqah at the same time there is a large encircling operation in Idlib. This will trap the northern rebels between the wall and a lot of guns, and limited supplies.
It is apparent that the telephone conversation between Putin and Trump the day after the U.S. election was the go ahead to clean up Syria asap and before the inauguration would be perfect.
Merkle’s hair caught fire after receiving the report also in Fars New Service that spoke of the truck overturned in the operation near Homes as being filled with pills and heroine. As it finally dawns on the NATO powers how easy it would be for foreign agents to enter any western nation with a small bag of Afgan Heroine that can be cut any times and a few thousand pills. They could provide for themselves bartering in the underground for a long period of time.
The northern rebels were swept into the box between the M4 and the wall. Some would pledge allegiance to the government of Syria. Russia is not so squeamish about the others.
R+6 forces concentrate fighting on Idlib Governate in the New Year. The combined Syrian Army, Hezbollah, Iranian and Iraqi forces and Russian advisers and air assets constitute a “New Arab Army” which has evolved since September 2015 into a highly competent fighting force. Given limitations on resources, Idlib is a focal point for best R+6 combat forces in the first part of 2017. Retaking of Idlib Governate from various rebel forces is resource and time consuming process, but is the most effective deployment of forces for defeating the overall insurgency/terrorism force. ISIS and Nusra are being systematically defeated in a war of attrition, enhanced by the growing combat effectiveness of R+6. Increasingly ISIS and Nusra resort to suicide bombings and other targeted terror actions, reflecting loss of territorial bases, diminishing recruitment and other operational limitations. Sporadic such incidents in Damascus, Palmyra, Homs, but unable to strike at militarily significant targets, including Russian bases and Damascus command structures.
Finding Captagon is not news in Syria. Finding Syrian Captagon in Sweden would be but i don’t know if making it in Syria instead of Europe makes sense. Heroin is a) already imported by terrorist organizations from Turkey and b) would be a detour to go through Syria
It is leaked that the Hungarian minister of trade will visit “Kurdish” Aleppo mid January. Day later first plane lands in Aleppo filled with medicine exported to “Kurdish” part of Aleppo. EU embargo is broken
Artillery positions on high ground are very exposed to precision bombing. Su-34 can hit a truck or tank from 5 km up (totally safe from hand-held SAMs), and they have some hard hitting bombs at their disposal.
It’s difficult for any heavy equipment at ground level to keep moving fast enough not to paint themselves as targets (difficult not impossible, I grant you the jihadi ground forces have become adept at the shoot and scoot tactics).
I did a quick search and the distance from Mount Simeon (Jabal Sam’an) to Idlib City is approx 50,000 yards while estimates of artillery range tend to be from 5,000 to 10,000 yards (less accurate at longer range). Bigger artillery has better range of course, but also slower and more vulnerable, I would guess that the rebels are mostly using small devices like mortars, etc. Looking at the map I suggest your scenario is unlikely.
ARe you thinking the report is false, I know it was FARS News. Or were these drugs heading someplace else?
Captagon is popular in the Middle East so that is the market i expect it is heading to. Could also just be Syria