"DAMASCUS, SYRIA (8:20 P.M.) – Late on Friday afternoon, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Hezbollah and allied Iraqi paramilitary contingents dashed through southeastern Homs and reached an Iraqi border point, thus slicing adrift the frontline between rebel forces based in the Al-Tanf region and ISIS militants in the neighboring Deir Ezzor governorate.
Unopposed by the US Air Force and its vetted Syrian proxies, the SAA and its allies drove through over 40 kilometers of abandoned desert territory and managed to link up with an Iraqi garrison across the border.
The advance was confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense and an Hezbollah-linked outlet moments ago.
Effectively, the SAA is now able to reopen trade between Damascus and Baghdad. Government forces have not controlled any parts of the largely ISIS-controlled border with Iraq since 2014.
In addition, Hezbollah is now able to be supplied with weapons from Tehran via an all-important land route. Previously, the Lebanese group relied on complicated airlifts for new armaments.” (Al Masdar News)
I thought this might be the next move and here it is. Leith Fadel also reports there was some kind of agreement between Washington and Moscow to let this happen. I don’t think we (the US) had much of a choice in this. The R+6 called our bluff and we blinked. I think it is significant that the SAA and Hezbollah column that made the 40 km dash to the border linked up with the Iraqi PMU. I would now consider the R+6 as the R+7.
What’s next? This map shown during a Russian MOD briefing says it all. The R+6 intends to continue the drive east to secure the Iraqi-Syrian border and capture Al Bukamal.
In other news, that big Druze SOB and his boys are still holding on in Deir Ezzor despite the best efforts of the IS jihadis. Relief is on the way.
Good to see articles continue….
What of the Shahed-129 drone shot down by and F-15? It reportedly tried to bomb coalition trainer/advisors.
I apologize for the sophomoric nature, but this is what came to mind when I read this post a la “Sh#t or go blind”. Pretty much where we’ve put ourselves: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KEpQY2ncMLA
” Government forces have not controlled any parts of the largely ISIS-controlled border with Iraq since 2014.
In addition, Hezbollah is now able to be supplied with weapons from Tehran via an all-important land route.”
So we may soon see a version, or at least stories, of an Iranian version of the Red Ball Express in operation?
Very impressive, and great news. Thanks for this. Can’t wait to see who takes the credit once they are wiped out.
Not just good. Made my day.
Related coverage at the NewYorker:
A bit surprised to see it in such a publication, but they do publish Seymour Hersh. The Shiite crescent is presented as a
fait accompli. So the recent terror attacks inside Iran and blockade of Qatar could be easily mistaken for act I in a US – Israeli – Saudi proxy war
versus Iran. Those three will be looking to therein redeploy ISIS, one might presume. Might ISIS agree to fold at this point ? Certainly they have no love for Iran, but is doing the USA’s bidding not prohibitively unpalatable for their fighters ?
How vulnerable are these R+6 lines? Not knowing military tactics, are there normally large logistics trains to supply these frontline troops?
This force is probably smaller than you would think, maybe a score of pickup trucks and a few armored vehicles. It will be reinforced in time, but the logistical trains probably consist of a few Mercedes or Ural trucks. In this kind of fighting supply lines are help by scattered checkpoints and roving patrols. It would be quite fluid.
Re: related coverage in New Yorker.
First, the New Yorker hasn’t published anything by Seymour Hersh in a while. All of his recent articles have appeared in the London Review of Books.
The article itself is a mishmash of dubious claims, Zionist dog-whistles, and a barely disguised plea for US intervention.
ISIS is just so irresistibly useful towards the Zionist foreign policy objectives that the United States has been tasked with completing. No wonder this alleged war against ISIS, being prosecuted with the full resources of CENTCOM, has already lasted as long as the Pacific campaign against the Japanese imperialists..
With todays events can any one think of a good reason (from the American point of view) to stay in al Tanf? Sure they already have a base there but it isn’t much of a base.
Are the roads good enough for heavy trucks?
One thing is to send off road vehicles across desert roads another trucks with tons of cargo. The highway is still controlled by the US proxies.
But perhaps it can force the US to abandon it’s policy.
Barish provided a link to a video of the advance to the border earlier today. Looks like a hard pack dirt track over an excruciatingly flat desert. I’ve seen loaded 18 wheelers negotiate worse than that. I’m sure all manner of vehicles could roll over that track to the Iraqi border, but it’s not a replacement for the Damascus-Baghdad highway.
Word was that the “agreement between Washington and Moscow” in this case consisted of some harsh and direct words from the Russian military to CentCom to stay away or get smoked.
It followed a day after Lavrov officially and publicly called out the activities at al-Tanf as completely illegal and rejected the ludicrous U.S. claim of some agreed upon “deconflicting zone” there.
It may well be that the U.S. has now given up on the project of capturing south-east Syria. The Russians called their bluff after the U.S. operation to divert the R6 from the east by launching a campaign to take Deraa had failed.
The U.S. soldiers on the ground never believed in it anyway.
At the end of May Jack Murphy had a Sofrep piece on the area.
“Nobody believes in it. You’re like, ‘Fuck this,’” a former Green Beret says of America’s covert and clandestine programs to train and arm Syrian militias. “Everyone on the ground knows they are jihadis. No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort, and they know they are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘Fuck it, who cares?’”
“I don’t want to be responsible for Nusra guys saying they were trained by Americans,” the Green Beret added. A second Special Forces soldier commented that one Syrian militia they had trained recently crossed the border from Jordan on what had been pitched as a large-scale shaping operation that would change the course of the war. Watching the battle on a monitor while a drone flew overhead, “We literally watched them, with 30 guys in their force, run away from three or four ISIS guys.”
Toward the end of 2014, the CIA had less than 20 targeting officers and analysts dedicated to fighting ISIS. As of early 2016, the situation had improved little. According to several sources, the CIA simply does not care about ISIS. Using an excuse that ISIS is an army rather than a terrorist organization, they have punted the job to Army special operations—the men of Special Forces and Delta Force.
In Syria, the overwhelming priority for the CIA is what some CTC officers call Director John Brennan’s baby: the removal of the Assad regime.
More at Sofrep …
only if their fighters know about it
On Russian news sites are stories with photos of US Army helicopters evacuating ISIS leadership from Raqqa. Interesting if true but backs up the US attacking SAA forces repeatedly in defense of both ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Many thanks for the update TTG, I trust the Colonel is enjoying well-deserved R&R.
Magnier has suggested that this move, combined with US retention of al-Tanf is designed to force SAA + allies to continue to al-Bukamal. My reading of this is that it is a tactical move towards the strategic goal of a stringing out Assad’s forces as much as possible – before a future attack. Retaining al-Tanf is the fig leaf so US/NATO does not need to ‘invade’ Syria when this happens. The window will close once the PMU close the border from the Iraqi side, but that may be a while.
SAA has just met SDF front lines near Tabqah and there is now an unconfirmed report of SyAAF strike against SDF there. Perhaps this is the plan: US now cites Assad’s aggression against it’s forces in the battle for Raqqa as pretext to come down hard on him. Alternatively, perhaps the Kurds have a done a deal with Assad/Putin & will let SAA move on to Raqqa & down the Euphrates.
I’d like to believe that this is encouraging news, but the anti-Assad/Iran/Russia forces are powerful. Israel seems to have the most to lose from a contiguous land corridor from Iran to Lebanon & you can bet it’ll bend every sinew to stop it. I can’t help thinking the point of maximum danger for the R+6/7 is yet to come.
Thank you for that report. That map showing the dog leg down to the Iraqi border must surely be one of the most dramatic images to come out of the Syrian war. Might I ask – 1. Does this turn the Jordanian based proxy bridgehead into a sealed enclave and does it therefore prevent a North-South proxy barrier? & 2. You mention that it might have happened with tacit consent or at least foreknowledge. Is this just another twist in the military conflict, or does it indicate that the Western coalition might still be showing willing to keep the Saudis and Israelis happy, but is in fact giving up on the goal of toppling the Assad government or of splitting up the country?
I understand that it might be too early to say and if it is please ignore my query, but to a non-military the question of what the various parties have as their ultimate goal, and how likely they are to achieve that goal, is the central one. Thank you again for your report.
Video of pro-Assad forces setting up positions at the border:
I have four-wheeled all over that part of Jordan/Syria and Iraq. The stony desert ground will support any sort of traffic. pl
While I do think we desperately hope for the fall of Deir Ezzor, I seriously doubt we want Assad’s forces to militarily control Syrian territory along the Iraqi border. That just blows our apparent plan to establish safe areas all to hell. Retaining Al-Tanf will become moot.
The SAA has been in contact with the YPG/SDF for months now in the Aleppo area from A-Bab to the Euphrates. There have been a few minor skirmishes, but they have been getting along fine for the most part. I don’t foresee any major conflict between the two.
I definitely agree with you about all this being bad news for Israel. My guess is that is one of the reasons the R+6 moved that Russian air assault brigade into that area.
Glad to see Lavrov call BS on our de-confliction zone story. It always sounded kind of flaky to me. That excellent Jack Murphy story came out last September, but the situation doesn’t appear to have changed. With the newly appointed chief of the CIA’s Iranian operations Group, I bet there will be more of the same.
Excellent find. I recommend all view this video to grasp the nature of the war in this part of Syria. As I thought, the SAA and allied force consists of armed pickups and a few armored vehicles. The importance of earth moving equipment can also be noted. That’s the first time I’ve seen an ATV (Polaris?) with the R+6. The jeep-mounted 106 recoiless rifle brings back memories. I wonder if Hezbollah brought that with them? I also noted what appeared to be a suitcase Sagger. If so, that’s some old stuff.
One got to love the attempt of Western diplomats to claim that an agreement exist.
“The United States and Russia are quietly holding talks on creating a “de-escalation zone” in southwestern Syria, Western diplomats and regional officials said, but could face fierce opposition from Iran.
The Russian and U.S. special envoys for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev and Michael Ratney, and other officials have met at least twice in the Jordanian capital Amman in the past two weeks and will talk again soon, the officials and diplomats said.
The talks are at an early stage of discussing the boundaries of the proposed de-escalation zone in Deraa province, on the border with Jordan, and Quneitra, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, they said. ”
“fierce opposition from Iran” = No deal will be Iran’s fault. Bad Iran, bad!
As if Iran can tell Russia to do anything that risk clashes with the US airforce.
“early stage of discussing the boundaries of the proposed de-escalation zone” = We’re trying to access if there is any basis for an agreement. No agreement exists presently. If no deal…. Bad Iran, bad!
Can you spare a link?
Snaps for the the hatband detail at 0.11. Wonder what the country of origin was. An aesthetically pleasing clip. Three men seem to be giving a V for victory sign, another irony. Or does that mean something different in the ME?
Unlike what the recent maps have shown I don’t think the land corridor passes through Kurdish north. IMO the safe land corridor starts from the souther port of Basra through Najaf and straight through Syrian desert. That is a much safer road through Shia southern Iraq. PMU is moving south from north connecting with Syrian and allies at a border point in South, the US and anti Assad forces can not confront them on ground they simply don’t have enough forces to do so, they can only bomb from air for how long and at what end? They can’t occupy and hold the boarder without boots on the ground.
Definitely not a replacement for a highway. It may support heavy trucks but surely there are occasional soft spots in Wadis that would bog down 40-ton 18-wheelers.
The best option in the short term IMHO would be to open the Palmyra/Bukamal road, which from your last graphic it appears the Russians are already planning. That may renew Russian/Coalition negotiations for the Americans and Brits to leave al-Tanf and allow traffic on the Baghdad/Damascus road. Is that possible do you think?
In the long term, after the Daesh defeat, will the Chinese rebuild the Mosul/Aleppo railroad? It is in sorry shape. But the Chinese are already at work in Iran, the first freight train from China to Tehran arrived in February last year. Plus Russian rail engineers restored rail traffic in Latakia in 2016. And I understand that Jibreen Station in East Aleppo has been in business since at least late January this year making trips to the main Baghdad Station in West Aleppo.
I agree with you on the 106 reckless. Those were fun!!! The 50 cal tracer sighting rounds were my favorite part.
I agree with you on the suitcase Sagger, but I have been out of the game for a while, I saw folks lugging around tubes for what appears to be a tripod mounted ATGM. It doesn’t look like the TOW I am used to, can you enlighten me?
I think that tripod mounted ATGM is a kornet. They have destroyed M-1 Abrams and Leopard-2 MBTs. That’s quite an eclectic collection of weaponry and vehicles. Very Mad Max.
Reuters (and the WSJ y-day) are late.
The talks were reported by Laura Rozen on June 1.
The U.S. looked for Russian agreement on ousting Assad and othe no-goes.
Basically nonsense positions that guarantees that no deal will be made.
I think that’s the Toophan (typhon) Iranian ATGM
I said above: “Word was that the “agreement between Washington and Moscow” in this case consisted of some harsh and direct words from the Russian military to CentCom to stay away or get smoked. ”
This seems to confirm that take:
“Russia says tells U.S. not to strike Syrian pro-government forces again”
Russia said on Saturday it had told the United States it was unacceptable for Washington to strike pro-government forces in Syria after the U.S. military carried out an air strike on pro-Assad militia last month.
The bluff was called and the U.S. pulled in its tail and left the scene to the Russians …
Not sure it adds anything really useful to the conversation, but yesterday Reuters was talking about diplomatic meetings between US and Russian diplomats in order to bilaterally establish new de-escalation zones in the south-west of Syria, including Deraa:
Is it possibile that the US has given up on al-Tanf and is trying to formally establish safe zones to the west?
Also, today Al-Masdar was reporting massive Syrian Air Force bombardments against Deraa in preparation for a full scale offensive that is supposed to materialize in a few days.
Could it be that the Syrians are trying to take Deraa before an agreement between the US and Russia can be finalized?
Actually Seymour Hersh is no longer published in the Newyorker after they hired a neocon as senior editor. In fact no major magazine in the US will publish his work, as pointed out above his work appears in a British publication.
Nobody will publish me either. that is why I run the blog and so they are trying to drown me in trash and personal and deliberately offensive trolling. I obviously made a typing error. I get sbout 500 comments/day. pl
My observation as a newcomer to SST is that the platform it runs on is very much easier to troll/spam than many others. Have you considered switching?
SST currently requires no registration at all to post a comment, just a form-fill – which can easily be automated. This may be deliberate on your part, but I’d guess this setting can be changed in Typepad – i.e. force registration. Even then, those that do register need only provide an email address, which is not confirmed (a dummy or disposable one can be used – I used the latter in fact). This process can therefore also be automated, meaning determined trolls merely switch to a new account when banned.
Most social media platforms these days allow registration only after providing an email address and phone number, both of which are verified as real. This makes the automated creation of troll accounts much harder & thus trolls far easier to ban. Some blogs use Facebook commenting, for example. Such solutions do mean anonymous blog contributions are not possible – or are at least harder to achieve.
If offensive spam from trolls makes up the majority of the 500/day, perhaps another platform would help shield yourself & your guest authors from those with malign intent. WordPress is the biggest & has anti-spam capability, for example, but others here may have better suggestions.
OT but I wonder if the below link indicates that Israelis had been influenced by the Lang-Makkinejad Plan for Peace in Palestine:
Syrian Army (4th mech?) and allies (Hezbollah and Russian Naval Infantry) are in contact now in Arak on the M20 road between Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor. That would put them 30 to 40 km from As Suknah.
same content b/ not behind a paywall
Yes, Tassnim News (persian) reporter in Syria confirms they are 4 KM from Arak oil field and 40KM from Suknah https://goo.gl/VJ252b
If you can find the last Russian briefing about reaching the frontier, you will see behind Ruskoi a map with two arrows. These 2 arrows are directed to Al Bukamal.
T3, then T2 and Al Bukamal.
IMO SAA will bypass Al Suknah.
I saw that graphic. You could be right. They may only be taking Arak in order to guard their flank on the way to al-Bukamal. And there should be a lot less opposition on that road thru the pumping stations to al-Bukamal than forcing through As Suknah.
But then why give away future plans to the Daeshis? Maybe that graphic was dezinformatsiya. Or maybe not. I have no clue.
Washington trying to negotiate to establish “de-confliction zones” to protect it’s jihadists with Russia is just so pointless that if people weren’t continuing to die it would be laughable. Washington should be trying to negotiate its exit from Syria with Russia since it won’t talk to the Syrian government.
I think Russia’s position on Syria should be pretty clear to everyone – at the end of Russia’s involvement there will be a single united Syria with a Syrian-defined secular constitution and a president that the Syrians have elected themselves. The Kurds will have some degree of autonomy, most likely dependent on when they break with Washington.
There will be nothing for Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc. except an embassy and possibly bills for the damage caused. No foreign bases unless with the full agreement of the Syrian government and no foreign-funded NGOs (the NED/DNI/IRI/Freedom House/etc. can all forget about Syria).
The sooner Washington accepts this the better for everyone including Washington and probably Israel. So why won’t Washington accept this? Because they don’t understand that they’ve lost in Syria. Washington’s objective in Syria was and still is regime change and that is simply not going to happen unless Washington makes a very substantial military commitment that could result in millions of American dead. Are McMaster and Mattis prepared to see many million Americans dead for regime change in Syria? I very much doubt it.
As to why this is still happening, I think it’s because Washington doesn’t understand the relationship between diplomacy and war. When you have effectively lost a war, how ever strong you are diplomatically or else where doesn’t count. As Clausewitz said, “war is the mere continuation of politics with other means”***, so when Russia returns to diplomacy it’s doing so from a position of strength knowing that diplomacy results in less death and destruction for all, while Washington having the most powerful military in the world thinks that Russia does it from a position of weakness and is prepared to accept Washington’s terms. Putin is trying to provide Trump with a way out of the mess that Obama, Clinton, Kerry and others of their ilk created.
*** No, it’s not “war is the continuation of politics by other means” which is an incorrect translation of the original whatever Google Translate says.
aleksandar and Gene O,
My guess is that the R+6 will advance along both axes. Both objectives are important. The two advances will support each other’s flank. The forces needed for the border advance are minimal due to the lack of improved roads and the light concentration of IS forces in that area. By engaging on several fronts, the R+6 is not allowing IS to concentrate their forces. This is especially important at Deir Ezzor.
Pictures of General Soleimani with the Afghan Liwa Fatemiyoun fighters at the Iraqi Syrian border
My takeaway from the Reuters article and recent developments is that Iran has become America’s useful bogeyman in the ongoing campaign to bring down the Syrian government, perhaps nudging the President of Syria from that position. Thus, Iran, Iran backed militias or any connection with Iran will be used to justify whatever measures are to be taken in order to eliminate Syria as a sovereign state.
Is it likely that the Russian delegation is stringing out talks about zones in order to let “facts on the ground” dictate results? Russia must surely realize that de-escalation zones = “no fly” zones = occupation zones which would provide bases of operations for resuming the war. Continuing to discuss possible arrangements while operations in the Jordan and Iraq border areas go forward (as at D’araa) with the objective of securing the frontier make sense.
Brand new uniforms, web gear, etc. no holes or frayed edges on anything. trucks look fairly new, that hyundai front end loader is barely used/new tires. Nobody dragging ass, everyone looks enthusiastic and on top of things.
What’s the double barrelled gun (one of the few obviously well used pieces on display) thing on a vehicle they were digging in with the earth movers?
“According to local reports, ISIS managed to gather more than 1000 of its militants – mostly of Caucasian origin who were fighting the Syrian Army in east Aleppo countryside – for an upcoming full-scale offensive to capture Brigade 137 located to the northwest of the city’s airbase.”
IMO that puts the recent drive to Maskaneh in a not-so-great light. An alternative was to drive through eastern Hama towards Raqqa and isolate ISIS forces in a southeastern Aleppo pocket, preventing the concentration of their force in the more critical areas between Deir Ezzor and Palmyra.
That twin barreled gun is a ZU-23-2 23mm anti-aircraft auto-cannon. It was first introduced in the 50s. That ATGM mounted on the ATV appears to a konkurs rather than a kornet or Iranian toophan. It could also be the Iranian copy of the konkurs called the Tosan.
I must not have enough to do in my life to spend this much time identifying military equipment sitting out in the Syrian desert.
A scaling property: the larger the state, the more disproportionately powerful the state-within-the-state (a.k.a. deep state).
– Nassim Taleb
Col Lang, I and probably others are willing to contribute money for you to hire someone part time to help deal with the trolls.
What will happen to those Hazaras after the war in Syria is over? Many of them were born of immigrant parents from Afghanistan. Will their service for the IRGC in Syria give them citizenship?
Include me in.
Myself as well
As far as I can see the R+6 have achieved their goal of establishing the link by a limited occupation of the Southern border.
It would appear that their camp is only 20kms away from the SFA/US camp. The US has a lot of material in the Gulf and no doubt already in Jordan they also have their aircraft or naval missiles that could destroy this mini garrison in minutes.
What therefore is the plan as they appear to be tolerating it and the longer they do more assets can be moved in.
We saw the Iran General there too. Does this mean that the US will allow it to happen.
My understanding is that the Russians will dig their heels in and not give way. Is this why the US have sensibly turned a blind eye ?
Yes, the US-FSA outpost at Al-Tanf and the SAA outpost further along the border are both vulnerable to destruction. Consider what a salvo of kaliber cruise missiles would do to Al-Tanf. Happily both sides are prudent enough to avoid this and content themselves with maneuver over firepower.
HIMARS fired into Daesh base near al-Tanf in Syria. Fired from Jordan, but near the border.
Looking back, i see the mil times article linked is dated a year ago. But what caught my attention to this was an entry from three hours ago on the Syria War Map:
And al-Masdar news is claiming the HIMARS battery moved across the border into or near al-Tanf.
I have no idea what the deal is with them, one thing i am sure Iran will do is ti fully support the Shia in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but not to provoke the street Sunnis, as long as respect is mutual. For sure shia in ME will not recede to pre Iranian revolution. I am sure Iran will maintain security for shia and shia interests. IMO Babak is right to think iran will introduce and provide a modernity in Shia believes, along the way of muslim unification based on what they call “religious democracy” .
I thought you might find this interesting – ISIS Leader Baghdadi Reportedly Killed In Russian Airstrike