Administration. Remains the Same.
Scenario Turn 3
January 2 to 10 January 12
The Syrian government has now made it clear through broadcasts on SANA that it intends to clear Idlib Province and other west Syria pockets of jihadi control before the US presidential inauguration and then turn its attention to elimination of IS in eastern Syria hopefully with some degree of coordination with the US led coalition.
Large scale leaflet drops began on 1 January on known areas of jihadi control in Idlib Province exhorting jihadis and in fact all those now under arms in the rebellion to surrender under a government offer of amnesty with UN supervision and to return to their homes if not known to be foreign fighters or jihadi group cadres. The same offer is being made on radio and television 24/7.
Government forces continue offensive action along a number of axes in Idlib Province:
1. Against Jisr al-Shugur. The Syrian Marines continue to be the lead element on this axis. Progress is slow but pressure is continuous. Earlier reports of the presence of Russian armor following the marines have proven to be inaccurate. The vehicles involved are a 12 gun battalion of Russian self propelled 152 mm. howitzers who are engaged in firing into the Jisr al-Shugur defenses in support of the marines and NDF militia in this column.
2. Around the western and northwestern perimeters of government held Aleppo forward pressure continues at what might be called a measured pace.
3. LTG Suheil's Tiger Forces/Desert Hawks division attacked SW along Axis M5 on 2 January followed by the Republican Guard brigade that had taken Khan Touman on 1 January. A column of Heavy Equipment Transporters (HET) accompanied the force.
4. Russian 106th Guards Airborne Division was moved to the Lattakia and Tartous base areas from Tula in Russia in a well coordinated and covert sea and air transfer and was inserted on 3 January into an airhead on and around the former Syrian AF Taftanaz air base five miles east of Al-Fuah' village. Elements of the 45th Guards Airborne Brigade, which were reconnoitering the area since Christmas, seized strongpoints and marked the DZ. A Russian airborne battalion then parachuted onto the airfield to secure it. This was followed by helicopter insertions of the rest of that infantry regiment's men as well as sling loads of much of the division's artillery and mortars. Air landing operations began on the 3,000 foot runway within a few hours bringing in many of the division's armored vehicles. The division's artillery ranged to the Route 60 and M5 approaches from the north as well as in defense of the two Shia villages five miles west of the airhead. Revetments for artillery and aircraft are under construction. 106th airborne division minus the regiment at Taftanaz remains in reserve around Tartous.
5. Spetsnaz teams are adjusting fires for airborne artillery as well as the Russian 152. mm. SP artillery supporting the Syrian Marines and NDF west of Jisr al-Shugur.
6. On 3 January 5th Assault Corps makes steady progress across Idlib Province toward Idlib City against resistance that seems much weakened by the need to send reinforcements to the jihadis defending against threats to Jisr al-Shugur, Taftanaz and the oncoming menace of Suheil Hassan's task force.
7. Russian and Syrian tactical air continues to strike throughout Idlib Province on 2 and 3 January with a focus on road interdiction. Russian strategic air (Blinders) flying from Russian and Iranian bases struck repeatedly on 3 January along the M5 highway targeting jihadi reinforcements going north to engage the Tiger Force coming south to meet them. There were several Russian AF TU-95 Bear heavy bomber attacks on the St. Simeon Mountains west of the M5 crossing of those heights.
On 4 and 5 January there are repeated assaults against both the Taftanaz airhead and the villages of Takfaya and Al-Fu'a. these are repulsed with heavy losses to the lightly armed and somewhat disorganized jihadis. These assaults appear to have been executed to cover the movement north of a large group of insurgents past the flank threats of the Taftanaz airhead and the Shia villages.
On 6 January Suheil Hassan's task force fought a large and sustained meeting engagement astride the M5 highway NE of the Taftanaz airhead and within supporting range of the airhead's artillery and armed helicopters. After several hours of grinding the insurgent lines fell apart and they began to flee south on the M5 engaged along the way by ambushes set up by Spetsnaz, Russian airborne infantry and Hizbullah commandos brought into the area by helicopters. Jihadi casualties were very heavy and many attempted to surrender.
From 7 January onward 5th Assault Corps moved steadily northward toward Idlib City against diminishing resistance that demonstrated a weakness at least partly brought on by the heavy losses experienced in the Aleppo battle and the defeat suffered on 6 January NE of Taftanaz.
As 5th Assault Corps approaches the Jisr-al-Shugur to Idlib City road from the south on 10 January, jihadi forces withdrew from Jisr al-Shugur to avoid being by-passed and cut off.
On 11 January jihadi forces evacuated Idlib City and withdrew to the north through ambushes and interdicting airstrikes.
On 12 January 5th Assault Corps entered Idlib City.
Requirement: Give your opinion as to what further actions R+6 will take before the game ends on 18 January in game time and what the political situation will be on 18 January. pl & TTG
Curious as to the eventual disposition of the Egyptians. Will they be Occupation/Rebuilding troops to free up more experienced combat troops? Will they arrive in time to be of any help?
How far South towards Taftnaz would the Kurds around Afrin feel comfortable going? Are the Kurds strong enough to interdict the jihadis movements towards the Turkish border? On the map, the gap between the Kurds and Aleppo doesn’t look too far. On the ground though… Trapping the jihadis in northern Hattay in a real kessel, and unleashing the SAA and Russian air forces on them prior to a ground move could produce much.
The jihadi forces have no viable answer to an attack with this strength and determination. The foreign mercenaries cannot surrender to Assad, but they know they cannot win either. You can pay a man enough to kill for you, but you cannot pay him enough to die for you.
Attacks against government forces take the form of booby traps, roadside bombs, the occasional rooftop sniper. These things chip away at the government forces, but only serve to increase their resolve to get this thing finished. Russians seem less concerned with civilian casualties and destruction of property, many buildings are reduced to rubble on the way through. A stream of refugees (mostly Sunni civilian and escaping foreign fighters) flows into Turkey and also into the Turkish-held region near Azaz.
The Turks start building forces along the border, and along the area of Northern Syria that is nominally FSA but actually Turkish occupied. Since this is rapidly turning into a land grab, the Turks don’t want to miss out on keeping the strategically sensitive city of Azaz for themselves. At this stage, the Syrian government forces are in no position to contest them anywhere North of Aleppo and the Russians don’t want direct confrontation with Turkish forces. R+6 continues to press West from Idlib City, but they don’t make it to the Turkish border in one week.
Politically there’s a fresh cycle of “Fake News” especially regarding the refugees and emphasizing the brutality of the Russian demolition of rebel held cities. Samantha Powers gives yet another speech demanding intervention. A massive media campaign puts pressure on Trump to renounce any cooperation with R+6 while at the same time calling Trump a “poodle” of Putin.
Somehow the media finds an old “open mic” video of Trump talking privately about how useless Turkey is as a NATO ally and “Why don’t we just kick em out?” The Trump video is released and goes viral, it becomes a major distraction for Trump’s transition efforts.
Turkish Front: Turkish responses in support of jihadist forces completely disjointed due to blow-back from the assassination of Ambassador Karlov. Border crossings increasingly difficult for large groups of jihadists.
R+6: Increased deployment of Russian combat forces add mass to clear the majority of Idlib area as more rebels accept government offers of amnesty. Retaliatory actions by hard core jihadis add to the shoring of the unicorns.
Israel: Desperation by the Netanyahu government over sense of betrayal by Obama administration in its failure to destroy the Syrian government and Israel’s loss of influence in the new administration.
Iraq: Still bogged down. US air elements attack targets of opportunity in and around Raqqa.
Terror front: Terror attacks attempted in Minneapolis on MLK’s birthday.
US: Pending inauguration of President Trump and subsequent loss of influence by the Borg shown in ineffectual public pronouncements by the usual suspects of America’s neocon establishment.
France, Britain, Germany and the United States table a resolution in the UN Security Council condemning Russia’s intervention as “international aggression” taking place under the color of an invitation by the illegitimate Assad regime. The resolution calls for immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and fails 12-1 due to Russia’s veto, with China and another country abstaining. Dangerous and uninformed talk arises as to initiatives to kinetically oppose Russia, but events on the ground outstrip any such fantasies. Serious public discussion in Western capitals develops around the idea of removing Russia from permanent membership on the Security Council, limiting Russia’s veto power or more generally reforming the SC veto mechanism.
“Borders of Hatay” Turn 3: Jan 2 through 12 Jan
[Comment: I believe that the base scenario is running “too hot”. Units often take much longer than expected to complete necessary preparations.]
SAA – Units that took part in Aleppo continue to rest, resupply and reconstitute. Towards the end of this period most SAA units redeploy from individual unit assembly area to a single major assemble area on the north west side of Aleppo. They conduct company and battalion level training The remaining SAA force starts preparing a defense in depth along the routes from al-Bab to Aleppo. Militia form the main defensive ring around Aleppo. Police now handle the security inside Aleppo.
SAA units in Idib increase artillery and air strikes against towns and cities (especially at night). SAA ground units in Idib increase 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.
SAA forces and militia around Damascus start offensive actions to eliminate the remaining Rebel pockets. Artillery and air strikes are intensive to keep ground forces losses down.
Rebels – Inter-factional fighting continues. Rebels from around Damascus increasingly redeploy to Idib.
The West – Grid lock with the change of administrations. Unable to respond to new Turkish and Russian actions. Diplomatic posturing by America has no material change on the situation in Syria.
Russia – Russia’s failure to turn military success in Syria into political advantage has failed. They double down, and deploy some Russian ground forces into Syria. SOF, engineers, artillery, navel infantry, more air defense etc. These units start building base camps. Russian aircraft continue to strike Idib ans also provide fires against Rebel pockets around Damascus.
Iran – Continues to mobilizes more Iraqi Shiite militia units as US led operations in Iraq stagnate into a yard by yard blood bath.
Kurds – After Turkey attacks YPD units, they overtly reach out for Syrian/Russian support after the US does not respond to their calls for help.
Turkey – Turkey doubles down again. They reinforce the al-Bab attack with regular Turkish ground forces (Bde +). Their combat losses increase. Looking for a quick victory to shore up military support, they also attack the PYD (unsuccessfully) and moving an Armored Division towards Raqqa and the Kurds.
Were there world and time enough we could run this game another time using the much more cautious approach that you seem to favor. we will discuss this in the “hotwash” at the end. pl
Color me cautious also. Rest and resupply are critical especially at this time of year. It will soon be freezing in much of northern Syria, if not already.
Syrian/Russian Air ops continue though against rebels in Idlib. The two Shia villages in Idlib province are reinforced and resupplied.
Turkish special forces finally make incursions into al-Bab, face fierce counterattacks by Daesh VBIEDs.
Raqqa is now isolated north of the Euphrates, surrounded on the east, north and west by the SDF.
In the south, Douma neighborhood of Damascus is completely under regime control. Daesh attacks on T4 Airbase and surrounding areas have stooped. Syrian Army efforts there are now focused on retaking Palmyra.
mike allen and Vic
“Do not take counsel of your fears.” Bad weather? Good! Good! Have you never operated in snow and freezing rain? “L’audace! L’audace! Toujours l’audace!” pl
In looking at what the R + 6 will do, it may be worth at least taking note of old arguments among Russian strategists. In the ‘Twenties, the former Tsarist ‘genshtabist’ Aleksandr Svechin tried to explain to his new revolutionary colleagues that Clausewitz is two-sided: that the emphasis on the importance of the offense coexists with that on the advantages of the defence.
However, as a 2012 article by David R. Stone, a professor of military history at Kansas State University, emphasised, this did not mean that Svechin in some sense preferred the defence. The point was to be able to judge what was appropriate in a given situation – and, critically, when to shift from one to the other.
So Stone discusses a fascinating ‘post-mortem’ held in 1920, on the Brusilov offensive of 1916. The whole point of Svechin’s critique of Brusilov was that he had failed to move from ‘attrition’ to ‘destruction’, at a moment when doing so might have collapsed the enemy’s position.
Given that the revival of interest in Svechin’s ideas in Russia from the late Soviet period on, it is just possible that these arguments may be in the minds of contemporary Russian military men. And given that he is a thinker often misunderstood, it seems worth quoting Stone’s conclusion:
‘The point here is not the justice of Svechin’s criticism of Brusilov, but its nature. Brusilov had managed precisely the sort of attritional success typically and incorrectly regarded as what Svechin aimed for – limited and local victories which would, with time and effort, wear down and defeat an enemy. What Svechin in fact saw in 1916 was the fateful failure to seize an opportunity for strategic success by a bold stroke aimed at operational or even strategic annihilation: bold exploitation of the breakthrough at Lutsk to push further, to Kovel or L’viv, cutting off retreating Austrian forces and perhaps driving Austria from the war altogether. Svechin said “the offensive was stopped not by the enemy, but . . . by the orders of the Commander of the South-Western Front.” This was going too far, since there was blame to be shared by Stavka and by Kaledin, not just Brusilov. But Svechin’s assessment of what had been lost still stands, and it was precisely the chance for annihilation of the enemy: “Before us we had space to maneuver, and instead we looked for defense and sought a quick return to positional warfare.” Svechin’s insistence on the power of circumstance – that no approach to warfare could be endorsed without clear understanding of the particular time and place that made it appropriate, was eminently clear in 1920. Brusilov’s failure, in Svechin’s mind, was exactly what Svechin has too often been dismissed as doing: settling for attrition and rejecting destruction.
(See http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/14980/Misreading%20Svechin%20-%20publisher%27s%20PDF.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y .)
Doesn’t it rain and snow on the other guys too?
It generally does. pl
Yes, and the other guys will be a lot less prepared for it.
Colonel – “Have you never operated in snow and freezing rain?”
For myself, and I suspect for some others here, the answer is yes but only in training exercises.
For the Syrian Army? I do not have a clue. What is their history in cold weather ops? The Russians know it well of course. I do not think that either fears the weather. But my suspicion is that in the first few weeks of January they are savouring their victory in E. Aleppo, and waiting for a new administration in Washington.
IMO to wait and see is suicidal for Syria. They will lose the initiative and would risk losing it all as the international political balance changes and the jihadis recover their morale and receive re-supply. IMO they should break the back of resistance in Idlib Province BEFORE Trump is inaugurated. If that happens he will IMO shrug in relief and turn to other business. Do you not know that a beaten enemy must be pursued until he is destroyed? pl
Both Colonel Lang and David Habakkuk said it well. There is a time when you must stay on the offensive. Let me put it my way. When you burst into a cellar and kill/maim one or two of the enemy and the survivors retreat to another room, you don’t give them time to collect their wits and devise a plan. You leap into that room right on their heels, screaming like a blood crazed demon, and finish the sons of bitches off. The principle is the same whether the battlefield is a dark cellar or an entire country.
“Most decisive victories do not result from the initial action, but from quickly and aggressively exploiting the opportunities created by that action. We may find any number of ways to exploit tactical opportunity, but they all have the same object—to increase leverage until we have the final opportunity to decide the issue once and for all in our favor. A goal in Marine Corps tactics is not merely to gain advantage but to boldly and ruthlessly exploit that advantage to achieve final victory.” MCDP 1-3 pl
Assad begins plan to establish a semi-autonomous Kurdish region predicated upon Kurdish aid in closing the Turkish border from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. Part and parcel of this plan will be the establishment of the Kurds as de facto junkyard dogs on the Turkish border. (Assad reads SST.)
Russia will use the carrot of economic perks such as pipeline deals, economic help from the BRICS, and full SCO membership to try and convince Turkey to cooperate with containment of Jihadis.
For symbolic reasons, Raqqa is chosen as the next target.
Israel goes to bed with a migraine.
Colonel & TTG –
I never claimed to be a strategist. I agree with your points. But I am not advocating for a defensive posture. R+6 should remain on the offensive.
As far as Idlib goes, I am only trying to put myself in Assad’s shoes and those of his allies and advisors. Besides the weather and waiting for Trump, there are additional reasons why Assad may decide to continue offensive ops elsewhere and hold off in Idlib until later:
#a] There are several other resistance pockets in the provinces of Hama, Homs, Rif Dimashq, Daraa, and Deir ez-Zor that need to be destroyed. Why wait on those? They are smaller pockets and can be rolled back quickly. Theoretically anyway.
#b] The international propaganda value of retaking Palmyra from Daesh is by itself worth much more to Assad than retaking the entire province of Idlib.
#c] There are additional Iraqi Shia militias on the border awaiting mission orders and entry into Syria. They are a long way from Idlib. A better use for them would be to fight against Daesh in the east along with regime forces. Hmmm, Deir ez-Zor maybe? It has twice as much population as Idlib, lots of oil in the surrounding countryside, and thousands of fertile farms along the Euphrates valley.
#d] In Idlib province, there are many reports of dissension and infighting among the many different jihadi groups. So why not let them kill themselves before going in to destroy the winners?
#e] Russian/Turkish/Iranian conference in Moscow seems to have chastened Turkish ambitions in Syria. FM Lavrov and his Iranian & Turkish counterparts Zarif and Cavosoglu were as chummy as the three musketeers. Did Putin make an offer that Erdogan couldn’t refuse and therefore he (Erdo) had to close down the Hatay border with Idlib and stop supplying arms there, or at least make a pretense? Admittedly this last one is speculation. It needs careful observation for a doublecross.
Strategy? OK. 1. First you destroy the enemy’s forces and subdue the “territoire,” and then you can collect the loot, in this case, the oil and gas deposits in the east of Syria. they aren’t going anywhere and will be there waiting for you when you get around to that. 2. If a jihadi/rebel redoubt is allowed to continue to exist in Idlib Province it will grow stronger and stronger under foreign sponsorship until it eats you alive. 3. the US led coalition will help you with IS if it is presented with a fait accompli in the pacification of western Syria. BTW, the campaign in Idlib Province described in the game is a matter of Grand Tactics, not Strategy. pl
A Truce will be declared acorss all of Syria by Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey – excluding Al Nusra and ISIS.
As a consequence, moderate rebels start negotiation with SAR for demobilization.
War in Idlib continues; R+6 continue creating corridors with the aim to eventually separate enemy fighters into disjointed enclaves.
US and EU will continue propaganda war against R+6.
Gulfies are hysterical.
I am neither a tactician nor a strategist. I am only calling this as I see it. If the intent of the exercise is to only focus on Idlib province then I must withdraw.
Idlib IMHO is not the critical point. What foreign sponsorship can support the jihadis in Idlib besides Turkey? And Putin now has Erdogan on a leash. If Erdogan tries to cheat it will be obvious. The foreign support will come perhaps thru Israel or Jordan. Some claim that so-called secular or moderate resistance groups are in the Southern Front, but they have or will be soon taken over by Salafis. There in the south is the danger point, which Assad must not allow to continue to exist lest it festers and expands. The only other place from which foreign support can now enter is al-Anbar and Nineveh. Those will soon be closed by the Hashd al-Shaabi.
R+6 actions 12-18 January: SAA clears M-5 highway south from Aleppo, relieves Taftanaz airhead, drives west and breaks siege of Al-Fu’a. Rebel stay behind force in Idlib city delays 5 corps march northward. SAA enters Jisr Al-Shugar then moves rapidly north encountering light resistance until ambushed just south of Salqin. Rebel desertions increase, some surrender to government forces, some executed, many more flee to Turkey. Major clashes break out among rebel groups over tactics and unity of command.
Political situation: US sidelined due to transition of power. Trump such an unknown everyone takes a wait and see attitude except Iran which fears him mightily. Russia, Turkey and Iran move closer. Russia offers Turkey a grand bargain; accept Assad, cut off aid and border to rebels and in return you have free rein to deal with the Kurds as you see fit.
Has Erdogan switched sides. Earlier he was providing a transit for and trading ISIS oil. WE have not heard of tankers lately, and with this effort by Turkish troops to seal the border, a change has occurred. Also allowing YPG forces to secure the hydo damn at Tabaqah and coordinate with U.S. forces air power (Pentagon?) in a move toward Ar Raqqah. (reported on SF) Kurds deep in Syria, and the border sealed, is Erdogan still in control of the Turkish army?
Pray the crash of the Russian plane carrying a “Christmas” celebration is an accident and not an attempt to start WWIII before Trump’s inauguration.
Not 100 years since Western Powers sat in a hall of mirrors and drew lines on maps of the middle east. Some for the Turks and some for the Arabs and a bit for the Hashemites. The West has been drawing lines on maps of Asia and leaving Brigades slaughtered for centuries. Asia is not impressed by Western planning.
As for Trump, his tweets have devalued Boeing and Lockheed Martin in an instant. One of his staff should duct tape his fingers together so he won’t tweet the demise of his own administration
Agreed. Your analogy is apt. There are many rooms in that cellar though. All must be cleared.
All the rooms do not need to be cleared at the same time. The Damascus area and south to the border is quite stable and the area of rebel control is shrinking steadily even though engaged with economy of force troops. a major move by the government towards the Golan Heights risks direct Israeli intervention on behalf of the jihadis whom they support. IMO this “room” can wait for more propitious time after the back of the insurgents is broken in Idlib Province. I think you know a lot. I just happen to not agree with a lot of your conclusions. I suppose you have read your way through The Commandant’s Reading List? pl
Can there be any doubt that Erdogan is now Russia’s pet dog? RuAF is now flying CAS missions in support of the Turkish Army at al-Bab and Erdogan is busy denouncing the US for supporting “terrorism.” I guess the Turkish AF is just not up to the job of flying into IS ground fire. What happened to the “Terrible Turks?” The important feature of this is that Russia has neutered Turkey in the situation and can ignore the possibility of a Turkish advance towards Aleppo. pl
Col Lang, TTG
The introduction of Russian ground combat
units sent a clear message to all players
[Turkey, US, UK, Gulf States, et al] that
that R+6 were going for a quick military
solution. Despite much posturing,the message
Organized Jihadi military resistance collapses
more quickly than expected. Attempts at military
offense or defense are smothered in supporting
arms, without excessive concern for civilian
casualties. [The civilians are in large part the
families and supporters of hard corps “die with their boots on”
jihadi elements that have previously chosen relocation
to Idlib rather than reconciliation and amnesty. Their
deaths are not seen as a total loss to the rebuilding
The big question is whether or not the war shifts back
a phase into low level insurgency/banditry.
At possible flash points with Turkish armed forces, Russian
troops are employed. The Turks wisely decline to provide
Mr Putin with the excuse he would like for a little
The pardon/amnesty program is increased/accelerated. This
time around though the R+6 hold all the cards and the
negotiations are not drawn out, the timelines are shorter
and the SAA follow up quickly with overwhelming force for
those having difficulty deciding.
Activity by Syrian security/police forces in liberated
areas Idlib is massive. There is more than a little
payback for terrorist atrocities recently discovered.
By the 18th of January the only significant unresolved issue
is the Turkish reaction to the flood of jihadis across
Some of it. But I am more attuned to General Mattis’s recommended reading list. Although there is a lot of overlap. So many books, so little time! And I do interleave those readings with good fiction.
Re: “All the rooms do not need to be cleared at the same time.” True. That was the argument I was trying to make.
R+6 have offered a ladder to Erdogan to climb down from his – now untenable – perch. And he is doing just that.
I still believe that Erdogan had been promised much by other members of the NATO alliance as well as the Gulfies but those promises turned out to be empty.
He, AKP, and Turkey have paid a very high price indeed for their attempts to contain Iran by trying to destroy SAR and by supporting ISIS.
What amazes me is that no one is getting fired in US or EU, for they also have paid a very heavy price as it will become clear in the coming years.
PS – I like many of the titles on the Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List.
Totally off subject, the media reports Erdogan did remove many Turkish military after the summer’s attempted coup. Reminding me of Stalin, when Germany advanced, Stalin had executed or removed from power much of the military. They had to relearn to fight.
You mention What happened to the terrible turks, is it possible Erdogan has neutered his military?
On Jan 12, as it enters Idlib City, the 5th Assault Corps will be met by a suicide battalion of international relief workers and development contractors shouting, “We’re only trying to show how Jihadi Islamism can be made into model government,” and waving the banners of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mercy Corps, People in Need, GOAL, and “Bil-Akhdar” (In Green) and “Tamkeen” (Empowerment) working under the sponsorship of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI), the United Kingdom Conflict Pool and the European Union.
The rather one-sided 13 minute battle will be reported by Sam Heller from his observation post across the border in Turkey with the help of Syrians in Idlib, and immortalized in his January 17 paper for The Century Foundation titled, ‘The Great Martydom,’ to be included in the TCF collection of papers titled “Arab Politics beyond the Uprisings: Experiments in an Era of Resurgent Authoritarianism,” a multi-year TCF project supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
On January 18, in response to Heller’s account, a grim-faced President Obama refuses to answer reporters asking whether it’s true that the United States had for years spent billions of dollars trying to help al Qaeda-linked organizations keep the lights on and the buses running in jihadi-held Idlib City. His only comment: ‘I lost friends in that battle.’
(For details about the battalion I’ve filched from Heller’s November 29 report for TCF,
“Keeping the Lights On in Rebel Idlib: Local Governance, Services, and the Competition for Legitimacy among Islamist Armed Groups”)
For a piercing overview of the revelations in the report, see Ulson Gunnar’s December 18 “Welcome to Idlib: America’s Model Syrian City” for Near Eastern Outlook.
Gunnar highlights a point that is only implicit in Heller’s report: the appearance of a viable opposition in Syria has been an illusion created and sustained by “a myriad of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) funded and directed by the US, Europe, Turkey and the Gulf states.”
However, Gunnar completely ignores these important observations in Heller’s report:
Even before Syria’s uprising, Idlib province was marginalized, rural, and poor. The mountainous northwestern province, which shares a long border with Turkey’s Hatay, depended primarily on agriculture, including olive crops. Idlib’s people were largely conservative Sunnis, with small Druze, Shia and Christian minorities. Yet the province was denied the political attention and investment given to other peripheral Sunni-majority provinces. That, coupled with lingering resentment over the Syrian government’s 1980s crackdown on Islamists (many of them Idlibis), helped ensure the province became a hotbed for opposition.
Council elections or nominations, in whatever interpolation is deemed locally workable, represent a first-of-its-kind experience in participatory government for Syrians accustomed to life under an authoritarian security state.
“Before the revolution, people would be named [to municipal positions] by the security services, or there would be show elections in which the votes weren’t counted,” said Muhammad al-Mustafa, director of the opposition-leaning research organization Toran Center. “We used to hear about someone winning before the elections—[we’d say] ‘Congrats, you won.’
It is inexcusable that Western organizations working in Idlib foster the impression that the freedom that goes with particpatory government is something that can be created by technocrats. On the other side of the coin, by ignoring an entire province, the Ba’athist government opened the door wide to a foreign-created insurgency in Syria.
Who would fire them? They are the people they work for. Only a multi-year, perhaps multi-decade effort by new and different political movements with new and different political parties as weapons in their hands can slowly reconquer and restaff and repurpose the DC FedRegime and the EU and their respective Borgocracies.
Following the Jihadist defeat Highway M5, Hizbullah-led forces launch an assault with air support from al-Hadher towards al-Eis. Once the position at Al-Eis is defeated, the force encounters increasingly disorganized and disheartened resistance as it advances to establish itself on the M5 at Qammari. The Hizbullah force links up with the Hassan force near Zerba, isolating a pocket east of M5. Concentric attacks on the pocket encounter light resistance. The two forces make a mutually-supporting advance to Highway 60. Once Highway 60 is in their control, the Hassan force takes the junction with the Bab-al-Hawa road and advances on Kafr Nakha from the west. Forces advancing from Mansour are in a position to attack Kafr Nakha from the northeast to form a pocket that contains much of the jihadist force from Aleppo. As news of mass graves, torture, and other atrocities from Aleppo reach the troops they become “highly motivated,” aka mean and nasty.
“Bana Alabed” tweets start coming out of Kafr Nakha. Nobody in the MSM thinks to question why her parents didn’t get her to safer ground while they had the chance.
The Fifth Assault Corp advances up Highway 60 to link up with the Hizbullah force, forming a maga-kessel.
The Syrian Marines/NDF establish a new base of operations in Jisr al-Shugur and prepare for operations in the direction of Qunaya to seal another section of the Turkish border.
The new situation results in factional chaos among the Idlib jihadists. Alternating attacks and surrender offers increase distrust between Jihadist factions; it becomes unclear whether forces headed to the fronts are intent on battle or surrender. There will be predictable howling from the MSM over the unfolding “humanitarian disaster” in Idlib and renewed calls for “safe zones.”
Russian embassy in Damascus received mortar fire today.
Hard to advance much beyond what is already said, and it has been a good read.
Finding itself marginalized by events on the ground, the US sees little value in pursuing further diplomacy and initiates a supply ops initiative from Iraq, seeking to bolster its come-from-behind alliance with YPG forces aiming for Raqqah, providing materiel, intel, and AS/EW with a wary eye towards Russian AO boundaries. One imagines the Russians studying US EW and gaining some valuable insight.
Russian media reports of US coalition-supplied weaponry as well as evidence of torture and mass execution of civilians by jihadis in east Aleppo are well-suppressed by western media, but enough leaks out to reduce the moral leverage the State Dept. or UN Ambassador might have in accusing Syria and Russia of atrocities. The abstention in the Israeli settlement condemnation vote has drawn the attention away from Aleppo an towards Israel as the vote appears to have diminished US-Israeli standing within diplo circles, significant because it increases the hysteresis of pro-Israel (read anti-Iranian) activities as Trump assumes power.
Hard to say what the pace should be but in accordance with the scenario, Idlib counts the days as the overrun by R+ forces converges with the Trump inaugural. Cease-fire or not, adding Idlib to the growing Syrian controlled zone around Aleppo signals an end to the hot war against non-Isis jihadis, as resistance is increasingly reduced to sabotage. Whatever rebel forces are prepared to re-emerge after evacuation from Aleppo or escape from Idlib show no signs of imminent deployment. The geopolitical implications are similar to the post-Balkan conflict period, wherein the chaos provide cover for a number of disaffected and well-equipped combatants to apply their skills to criminal or mercenary ventures that radiate throughout Europe and eastern Asia.
Isis, of course, is not going away. Their fluidity and determination show no signs of letting up as they keep pressure on the outer edges of Palmyra although it amounts to harassment as Syrian forces freed from the northwest set out to clear Palmyra for once and for all. Russian air support is generous and effective.
YPG forces evicted from the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood head for Afrin and join the fight against Isis in the northern provinces.
Turkey’s obsession with hijacking the anti-terror movement to target the Kurds creates too much friction within the Russo-Iranian-Turk troika and Erdogan is all but marginalized. The Kurds are reasonable enough to negotiate with anyone who recognizes them as a trading partner which at this point — a factor that might prove challenging to the US balance of power and might test the Trumpian bluster/naiveté in the hands of his military advisors.
Whatever happens at the UN, NATO or the EC does little to affect the diplomatic stasis of the west as R+ has the initiative. The US coalition remains bogged in Iraq.
I think Clinton has been fired. The same happened in France. And people are waiting for installation of Trump to get the knives out. Expectation is that Trump will have done most of the work by March so only a genadeschuss will be necessary
One big unknown here is what Trump will do. I suppose the Russians are talking to him, but the information in the pubic domain is:
1/ Trump says he doesn’t want regime change in Syria.
2/ He says he wants to get along with Putin and his pick for Secretary of State reflects that.
3/ Some of his other nominees are very anti-Iran and very Likudnik.
It’s a messy picture and Iran decides it must create facts on the ground fast.
With the agreement of the Iraqi government, a 100,000 strong expeditionary force is deployed to Syria allowing Deir ez-Zor to be relieved from the east and IS to be driven north leaving the M20 highway under full loyalist control. With Iran now engaging IS and advancing on Raqqah, Syrian forces in places like Eastern Homs, Kuweires etc can be thinned and redeployed to Idlib.
In any final settlement, a simultaneous withdrawal of Turkish and Iranian regular forces can be negotiated.
From some (not necessarily misinformed) rumors, e.g. The Saker and Twitter, it could be that it was such an attempt, possibly via the Ukrainians, and the usual “va-t-en guerre” are furious that the Russians are covering up the deed and avoid taking the bait.
My theory about the Turks is that they haven’t changed sides at all, merely changed strategy. Their objectives are:  neutralize the Kurds;  capture as much of Syria as they think they can get away with, or at very least prevent Assad from controlling it; and  play off the USA, the EU and Russia against each other.
Their previous strategy was to supply weapons and money to proxy troops which included both the FSA and IS, but at the same time kind of pretend to be fighting IS, and actually bomb the Kurds.
Their new strategy is to use Turkish troops to occupy Northern Syria, while more openly supporting the FSA (but also having Turkish troops on hand to ensure the FSA are kept in line) and making a slightly more elaborate show of attacking IS, but keep right on bombing those Kurds. Trading IS oil is simply no longer viable, because IS don’t have much oil, because everyone is watching extremely closely, and because they have run out of sufficiently stupid people to drive the trucks.
“As for Trump, his tweets have devalued Boeing and Lockheed Martin in an instant”
Yeah, and he improved the financial position of American taxpayers by an equal amount. Military spending comes out of real people, so treat it with the utmost respect.
This move will be easily defeated not only by the Russian veto. Some Council Members and Member States have in the past invoked Article 51 of the Charter to intervene in Syria anyhow. Resolution 2253 also calls for all Member States to undertake necessary measures against ISIL. In terms of majorities in the SC, as of Jan. 2017 there will be not only abstention from China. Also Kazakhstan, Bolivia (if Mr. Morales’ reprsentative is allowed in), Ethiopia and Egypt can be expected to side against any such or similar motion. France and Germany will no longer be part of that a drafting group – too many ISIL terrorist attacks in the recent past as well as serious thinking of how to reconstruct Syria comes in the way.
Turkey moves some forces (companies) a few km into those Syrian Turkmen areas on the border, e.g. NW of Jisr al-Shughur, SE of Yayladagi. This is in agreement with R+6 in order to provide some oversight over those rebel forces in these areas and save some of the Syrian Turkmens and expatriate Turks (mostly members of the grey Wolves, but also some naturalized Uyghurs), who had thrown in their lot with Nusrah and assorted Islamists. The deal will allow for the withdrawal of these elements to the areas close to Turkey from Jisr al-Shughur.
R+6 conclude ‘protocols’ with a series of rebel factions in Idlib countryside, those who can’t leave easily and want to hang around their land. This turns the countryside into a patchwork of loyalties. Promises will be made to local cooperative communities over the irrigated land S of Jisr al-Shughur.
Operation skipping stone is headed for the coast.
Slightly cynical suggestion, Pundita, but why not?
Interesting discoveries. On what think-thanks will the emperor on the Cherry Blossom throne rely?
I would like to see one of the “foreign fighter groups” surface more prominently. Why not either the Chechens, Libyans or Turkmen?
As news of mass graves, torture, and other atrocities from Aleppo reach the troops they become “highly motivated,” aka mean and nasty.
I love this part, although, I may love Shakespeare since I am as bad in geography as he was at his time. 😉 …
Tel, actually, one of the matters that interest me are the results of war-game suggestions concerning Turkey.
he improved the financial position of American taxpayers by an equal amount. Military spending comes out of real people, so treat it with the utmost respect.
What’ya mean? – OK. I understand.
Gnadenschuss? We’ll see who gets ‘killed’ out of mercy. I seriously doubt it will be the ones that already do relatively well. But as I told Tyler, lets see.
For whatever reason your grace/mercy reminded me of grenade/Granate in German.
Well, whatever I suggested to Tyler, lets see.
Supposing you mean Gnadenschuss / coup de grâce?
Didn’t quite make it into English.
Turks do not wish to have any organized Kurdish presence near their borders or within their borders. That is the sum total of their minimal goals. I do not believe that they wish to annex parts of Syria – they do not want to have more non-Turks in their country; Arab or Kurd.
Turks acted on behalf of NATO; went in there to undo what US had done; increasing the power of Iran.
The War-in-Syria-to-Wound-Iran and the contemporaneous Fortress West Economic Siege Warfare could have been avoided back in 2006 if someone, anyone in position of power or influence in the so-called West, had acted on the sage advice of the late General William Odom.
I suppose due to the strategic asymmetry between the Fortress West and Iran; its leaders had every expectation of quick victory.
When that did not materialize, the prolongation of War in Syria became the objective of Fortress West and the Gulfies; I suppose with the rather transparent hope and purpose of bleeding Iran, SAR, Hezbollah.
What the prologation of war has accomplished, however, has been the creation of the Shia Crescent, the mutation of the war into one that pit Sunnis against Shia, Christian, Yazidi, Alevi, and Druze across the Near East, while , simultaneously making the war another arena of contest between the Russian Federation and the Western Diocletian States.
In my opinion, further prolongation of war will further harm the Fortress West since it inflames religious passions in fragile states such as India – that are nominally FoW (Friend of West) as well as negatively impacting their own domestic tranquility.
I hope that the Syrian War, when it ends, would not become, like the Spanish Civil War with which it shares many characteristics, the harbinger of another World War.
As I predicted:
I knew we was bad but not this bad…
Genade is gnaden in Dutch
Expect Turkey to come with real proof about the US supporting ISIS (around 2013 they likely did, lateri think/hope not)
Well . . . if the legitimate SAR government ends up winning . . . or at least viably surviving in a powerful way . . . that would be one large difference from the Spanish Civil War right there.
The Francoist victory ENcouraged the Fascist and Nazi forces of that time. A jihadoterrorist defeat in Syria would DIScourage the WesterBorg, the Global Axis of Jihad and the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadis of today.
This is izzie propoganda being peddled as “fact”. It will find few takers. (mainly) Iranian rocket artillery, transported across Syria and deployed by Nasrallah & Co. is the main issue concerning izzies. It is reported to be a comprehensive arsenal. They have no way of neutralizing it w/out unacceptable pain. Thus, they would like to deploy US forces- an unlikely scenario, especially w/ Trump being the president-elect.
All; Russians do not permit Turkish air to operate in Syria. Exceptions are granted on a case by case basis. If that changes,and I do not expect it to change in the next few months- it will be a sign of interesting developments. FYI, TSK is not interested in bleeding for tayyip’s glory. Their current mission is dealing with Borg proxies across a broad spectrum and prevent the partitioning of Turkey along the Clean Break/PNAC lines.
The author, doubtlessly the cream of Spanish intellectuals – is a Catalan, affiliated with another radical party there.
I agree that he is an uninformed fool; did someone pay him to write this article?
Or is he just the usual Extreme Liberal Fantasist?
Hard to say.
He is careful not to say that he is against Shia Islam or Islam in general – but he is; like so many other people in Spain who know nothing about the World of Islam since the Reconquest.
I haven’t peeked at the Turn 3 ending Sit.
On 13JAN Tiger Forces/Desert Hawks Task Force disengages, loads tracked vehicles on transporters and moves back to Aleppo.
The Syrian Marine Force Task Group will on 13JAN attack along route 56 to secure the border crossing at Haram.
5th Assault Corps will attack on 13 JAN from the vicinity of Idlib along route 60 to secure road junctions at Sarmada and Tal Abarama, supported by artillery and helicopter gunships based at Taftanz.
On 15JAN 106th Guards Airborne Division minus elements at Taftanz will be airlifted to Aleppo Airport.
On 16JAN Tiger Forces Task Group attacks toward Al Bab and occupies the town on 18JAN.
On 18JAN Idlib Governate is declared liberated. Rebel remnants are surrendering or attempting to flee to Turkey. Al Bab is in SAA control and preparations are under way to attack through Manbij ot the Euphrates. Intensive negotiations with Turkey and Kurdish factions start with the aim of re-establishing SAG sovereignty in the area. The new American administration will, on 20JAN, be required to deal with these facts on the ground.