By Patrick BAHZAD

Capture - CopyAs SST had forecast yesterday, the junction between SAA controlled Aleppo and the Shia enclaves of Nubl and Zahra, located some 7 miles North-West of the city's outskirts, was completed by armoured units of the R+6 in a matter of 24 hours. Despite the rebels throwing everything they got at the advancing SAA and NDF forces, the last village standing in the way of total junction was taken a couple of hours ago.

It had been four years since the enclave was cut off government controlled areas in Aleppo. Gaining access to it already represents a huge symbolic victory for the R+6, after the previous major siege they lifted around Kuweires airbase in November 2015. Additionally, and this is much more important in military terms, the R+6 will now make sure they can secure these territorial gains, withstand a probable rebel counter-attack, and then expand the area under their control, so as to make sure the rebels' Northern LOC with Azaz and Turkey is definitely interdicted.

With R+6 gaining more and more control over the border areas in the North and West of Syria, the rebels around Idlib are being confronted with the increasingly likely prospect of encirclement and destruction at the hands of SAA, NDF or Hezbollah forces, or a run for their safe havens and rear bases in Turkey, as long as some of the border posts remain open to them. For the time being, they still control Bab al-Hawa, in the West of Aleppo, but it is questionable whether they will be able to cling onto it for very much longer.

Another option some of the most radical groups will consider is to try and join ranks with ISIS in the Eastern desert or Euphrates valley. Some of the "independent" Jihadi outfits that have been wrongly dubbed as "moderates" might definitely fancy their chances with an Islamic State they have had good – although informal – relations with for months, and sometimes years. Such a development would certainly strengthen Russia's case, which has been arguing since the start of its involvement that it will fight in Syria "until all terrorist groups are destroyed".

The Western Coalition on the hand had argued that the Russians should be targeting ISIS only and not the "moderate" groups operating in North-Western Syria. Any rapprochement between some of these so-called "moderates" and ISIS would certainly undermine the Western stance on the Syrian rebels and make it more difficult to support them during the negotiations in Geneva.

For now however, it looks like the R+6 are tightening their grip on Idlib and heading for total annihilation of any group still in the area, once they launch their final assault onto it. Furthermore, it should be noted that government forces are also closing in on Rastan enclave (North of Homs), which had resisted previous R+6 attempts at clearing the area. Overall, whether in Northern and Western Syria (Latakia, Aleppo and Homs) or in the South (Daraa), the R+6 is definitely increasing its operational tempo. In some areas of strategic importance in particular, we might soon witness a total breakdown of any organized resistance and combat by various rebel groups.

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  1. Jack says:

    Mr. Bahzad
    In your opinion, how difficult is it going to be to close the Bab al-Hawa crossing? Looking at the map it seems a lot of territory to cover from current R+6 positions.
    The closing of the LOC from Azaz must be a huge psychological boost for SAA and Hezbollah forces who have been battling the jihadi invaders for a few years. The Russians sure did quickly change the equations.

  2. b says:

    It will likely take more than a month, maybe three, to reach the crossing with army units.
    My guess is that the Russians will put a more or less continuous air-patrol over Bab al-Hawa and the major roads leading there. They will not let any larger truck convoy get through.

  3. turcopolier says:

    IMO it will take a month at most because the rebel resistance is going to fold from logistical deprivation. I agree that in the interim the Russians will close the Bab al Hawaa (Door of the Wind) crossing with aerial firepower and artillery as well as any other crossings through these mountains from Turkey. IMO the Syrian government should work on eliminating the rebel held parts of Aleppo City proper without providing a propaganda opportunity on the model of Madaya. pl

  4. Jack,
    I agree with PL’s statement below: considering the strategic shift and the momentum reached by R+6 thus far, I don’t think they will wait another three months to close down both a major entry and exit point. This would go entirely against every strategic and tactical lesson there is in the book. For the time being, that is until they have reached Bab al-Hawa, they might certainly rely on air power and artillery to prevent resupply of rebel units in the Idlib pocket.
    But you have to consider the proximity of the Turkish border in that context: any artillery shell slightly off target and landing in Turkey, or any incursion by Russian or Syrian aircraft in Turkish territory might trigger another impulse reaction by RTE. When you have that much of an advantage on the ground such as R+6 right now, you don’t want to give your opponent or its sponsors any chance at getting back at you.
    Finally, don’t forget that there are ways to interdict Bab al-Hawa without actually reaching it, it is really not that much of a distance. interrupting the LOC to and from that place might be actually enough to squeeze the life out of the rebels groups left in the area.

  5. PL,
    Agree with you, the longer R+6 lets this drag on and the more their opponents in Geneva and elsewhere will try to stage PR campaigns undermining military efforts on the ground.
    Get it over with on open ground ASAP and work out deals, cease fires and safe passage with some groups in urban areas like central Aleppo and Idlib.
    That should be the R+6 MO for the weeks to come.

  6. cynic says:

    It looks as if the government forces have advanced in anti-clockwise spirals. Might they continue through the south of the Kurdish area to join up with the base of their salient south of Aleppo?
    Are the green terrorists still strongly resisting on both sides of the juncture, or are they already retreating towards Turkey and Idlib?
    How much of the northern enclave can be covered by Turkish artillery?

  7. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The dashed blue line indicates the path to the previously sieged city of Nubl.

  8. b says:

    The problem is that Nusra is now back in Aleppo city in force while the “moderate” rebels have mostly left.
    The Jihadis may want to make a last stand to go down in glory. To dig them out of the shelled ruins would be very costly in terms of casualties for the Syrian army. I’d rather take a bit of propaganda beating than to lose hundreds or thousands of soldiers.

  9. cynic says:

    These victories seem neatly timed to send a message to those engaged in the ‘Peace Talks’. The guns are speaking louder.

  10. Thirdeye says:

    It seems militarily obvious that Al Qaeda et al. must put all forces they can spare, and probably some they can’t, into defending the approaches to the border. My big question is how much they would be willing to weaken their extended positions throughout Idlib and Latakia to do so. Logically this should be a retreat-and-defend-the-bridgehead situation, but that’s ignoring political and ideological issues.

  11. b,
    Drawing conclusions based on a piece of news and a couple of indirect witness testimonies is risky. What Nusra may or may not want to do in Aleppo is up for debate. I seriously doubt they’ll want to take a last stand there, they may want to blend into the civilians and survive better that way. There is not going to be any Stalingrad type battle in Aleppo. We’ve alerady been through this and I’ll stand by that.
    Besides aleppo is a huge city and it will take more than a few hundred Nusra fighters to make a last stand there. Finally let us not forget that their presence is also cause for friction and potentially conflict with other groups in the city which might be willing to negotiatie terms with R+6.
    Overall, more a sign of weakness and tactical retreat by Nusra then the show of force they had intended.

  12. Jeff says:

    A question. Are there reasons to believe that Turkey will close the border on their as well?
    I can imagine they welcome (back) Turkmen, but what happens when all the other jihadists run for (Turkish) cover?
    And what would trigger this change of hearts at Turkish side?

  13. turcopolier says:

    IMO you will see R+6 and Kurds of the NW move SW to some extent and NE to some extent to close off many exits to Turkey but many of these exits can be sealed off with air/artillery especially if Spetznaz are inserted to adjust fires and interdiction. Nevertheless the main battle will be fought in Idlib and western Aleppo on the flat country where the R+6 have all the advantages. This will be the decisive battle in NW Syria, the “kettle” battle that I keep boring you with. pl

  14. Kooshy says:

    IMO, At the end of the day in reality this is a coalition of 4+4 meaning 4 UN recognized states ( Russia, Syria, Iran,Iraq) and four militias (Kurds, Iraqi Shia, Hizbollah, Syrian NDF) which except for Kurds the other three are formed, controlled and paid by Iran.
    As far as I know all Shia militias under Iranian command, have to have a grand ayatollah’ Fatva to to fight another Muslim. We shouldn’t forget a mile of credits is due to these Shia militias who have boots on ground and are killed in action supporting the Syrian army against these terrorist.
    Iran just announced four more “holly shrines martyrs” around Aleppo in last 24 hour.

  15. turcopolier says:

    Thanks for your opinion. pl

  16. plantman says:

    I remember two months ago when this blog predicted that the jihadist front lines would crumble fast after months of “grinding”.
    That seems to be exactly what has happened.
    But, what now?
    Does the R+6 engage in urban warfare, wait for the jihadists to try to break out, or simply bide their time?
    BTW, it looks like Henry Kissinger is visiting Putin today in Moscow. Are the Borgists looking for a way to climb down from the disaster in Syria and Ukraine?

  17. turcopolier says:

    SST does not pretend to actually know R+6’s plans but the hope seems to exist among us that the main emphasis will be on defeating and eliminating through combat losses and surrenders the main jihadi/unicorn field forces and in the process liberating a great deal of terrain and many towns from rebel control. People could then start rapidly returning from places like Jordan and Lebanon. Reduction (a term of art) of the rebel held parts of Aleppo City will proceed (we hope) on the basis of continued pressure on the perimeter of the rebel held parts of the city leading to negotiated surrenders of the more reasonable and removal to Turkey or IS held areas of the more lunatic. pl

  18. Valissa says:

    FYI, Kissinger and Putin have a long history. I think they are friends of a sort. IIRC Putin has used Kissinger as an advisor/consultant (which is Kissinger’s current business) over the years.
    Found this in my archives, from June 2014…
    One anecdotal example Cohen cited is Obama’s refusal to talk to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “I have heard – whether it’s true or not I don’t know – that President Obama has declined to meet privately with Henry Kissinger, who sees Putin twice a year. Kissinger probably knows Putin better than any American statesmen alive today and who has been consulted by so many presidents. Think what we might about Kissinger’s past, but he has already declared his criticism of American policy towards Russia. And Obama wouldn’t want to spend an hour with him, asking ‘Are we doing something wrong? Are we misperceiving the situation?’”
    It’s possible that this Kissinger visit brings messages from the Borg, despite the Borg not having been pleased with Kissinger’s advice on Russia in the past… we’ll see.

  19. Emad says:

    I understand that you think front shortening and organized retreat a la Model may not be in the cards for the Jihadis at this point. So they can either run to safe havens in Turkey; fight to annihilation, or surrender.
    There might be a fourth option: Reorganize into small units and attack SAA supply lines. SAA cannot draw from a deep manpower pool, so the more its logistics is attacked, the more it has to shuffle reserve units to defend them instead of using these units to sustain momentum. With this kind of harassment, Jihadis may cede cities at the end, but they can hold onto the countryside.

  20. turcopolier says:

    Front shortening? What does that mean? No. if they attempt to play the guerrilla interdiction game against a force with greatly superior mobile firepower, they will be defeated in detail all over the land they formerly held. Contrary to the mythology of the subject guerrillas are just a nuisance. The Vietnamese communists were truly formidable because of their regular forces, not the guerrillas. We beat them. The French, as I have written here before, defeated the Algerian FLN. So long as Russia stands by the Syrian government the “opposition” are f—-d. pl

  21. Balint Somkuti says:

    Emad. In order to have the slightest chance as a guerilla you need to have a populace which is completely supportive towards ur case. I cant see it the areas we discuss.

  22. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg says:

    I should think that in an urban environment, the jihadis are not necessarily going to be able to go to ground and hide. The local population would want to hide them. Events going the way they are, looking for favor from the official government by ratting out jihadis – especially foreigners – would seem to offer a better deal to the average citizen?

  23. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg says:

    Just after I read through this, I discovered:
    So combat is ongoing. The jIhadis may be throwing all they’ve got into holding the windpipe open- otherwise Aleppo is lost and they won’t be getting it back.

  24. cynic says:

    Here’s an article in Vineyard of the Saker, by a Russian who has hunted Chechen guerrillas.
    It illustrates Hobbes’ view of life in the state of nature as being solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

  25. JMH says:

    There was much blathering on NPR yesterday about , my words here, eternal Jihadi resistance in Syria. Josh Landis did a good job of pushing back. However, the mythology as you put it, is embedded in the minds of many otherwise educated and thoughtful people. JMH

  26. jld says:

    Are the Russians really suspecting a Turkish invasion or is it just PSYOP?
    (hoping the Yandex autotranslate works properly)
    If not, original is

  27. Tyler says:

    “The people are the sea in which the guerilla swims” and all that. The people, for the most part, hate the liver eaters.
    Most people who go on about the invincibility of the jihadi guerilla based off Iraq and Afghanistan have no comprehension of underlying factors there.

  28. b says:

    Russian military briefing (with English subtitles)
    “Signs of Turkish preparation of an invasion of Syria …”

  29. @PB & PL
    The Russians are claiming that Turkey is actively preparing an invasion of Northern Syria, which would make sense as a forseeable attempt to prevent the defeat of the rebels.
    Do you think the Turks will go through with it? If they do what happens next?

  30. Thirdeye says:

    That’s an Idlib-Aleppo supply line, not the one they just lost.

  31. Medicine Man says:

    Tyler: What’s more, a closer look at the US experiences in Iraq only serves to augment what you’re saying. Even in an environment where the locals (former Baathist Sunni Arab) had strong incentives not to cooperate with US troops, they nevertheless found the Jihadi presence so odious that they made deals with Army and Marine officers specifically to deal with them. They remained a non-factor in Iraq until the Anbar chiefs jumped back in bed with them.
    Russia and her allies enjoy a much more supportive environment in Syria so… if things keep developing the way SST predicts, the Jihadis there are going to be fuuuuuuuuuucked. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch, really.

  32. Medicine Man says:

    I guess that raises the question: Just how stupid is the Tayyip?

  33. Medicine Man says:

    Not to belabor the point, but I think the recent French experiences in Mali also demonstrated that jihadi guerillas are far from invulnerable, especially if the locals are against them. Maybe Patrick knows more about that.

  34. annamaria says:

    Whatever their masters in the US tell them to do. Israel wants the Golan Heights, by any means.

  35. I’m not sure they have that many options left, considering how depleted their resources are.

  36. some are trying to reach the border, others link up with other groups.
    Turkish artillery can’t reach very far into the Northern enclave and even if it could, they would be very well advised to target only YPG positions (meaning they would need spotters on the ground there, tricky …).
    If they shell some Russian or SAA position, they should not be surprised to receive of volley of MLRS in return. Good luck with that …
    I don’t think they dancy a border war, with PKK waiting in the wings to launch an armed uprising in South-Eastern Turkey.
    So this is not going to happen. Even the news about some planned Turkish invasion of Northern Syria is to be taken as a warning by R+6 against such a move, not as a probable outcome.

  37. They’re closing the border already. Means building a fence, manning the border area and controlling who gets in and who goes out … that’s what a border is all about.

  38. Jack says:

    Now that the Russians know what RTE is planning, what can they do to counter? Bring in more aircraft and heavy artillery?
    RTE must believe that escalation will help his failed Syrian gambit. I doubt that Obama and the Europeans will get involved overtly anyway, although they may get hysterical in their propaganda.

  39. Fully subscribe to PL’s view. R+6 strategy is not based on yet another variation of COIN but on Russian style “combined arms” against a rebel coalition that thought they could take on R+6 in conventional warfare. Whoever was advising them, was deeply misguided.
    The strategic stalemate has now been broken and things are in motion again. Military logic would dictate R+6 to follow through and destroy or force surrender of as many enemy combatants as possible.
    What happens after this phase is dependent on many contingencies, including the diplomatic agenda and the different actors’ priorities. We shall see in time.
    Most likely, if R+6 succeeds in achieving decisive victory, they will have to deal with some insurgency/terrorist attacks in some parts (they can deal with that) and they will focus their attention on defeating ISIS West of the Euphrates, including Deir ez Zor and Raqqa.
    They might also start to compete with US Coalition for local alliances with YPG and SDF, thereby strengthening their grip on North-Eastern Syria. Qamishli airport plays a decisive role in that regard.
    But all of this conjecture, for now.

  40. Not viable considering the nature of the current campaign. It’s not like the R+6 is overrunning rebel lines and leaving them roam freely in their ‘hinterland’. There is a systemic “clear and hold” plan at work here.
    JaN has already considered going underground, splitting up in small units or cells and come back later as a terrorist/insurgent force. However, that would put them in the exact same situations many insurgencies have been in the past. And they have all been defeated militarily. This would apply even more so in Syria, where the allegiances of the civilian population are very split (depending on the area).

  41. Mali has been a kinetic campaign, not based on COIN doctrine. It was basically a fast moving and manoeuvering force with lots of fire power fixing and destroying whatever they had in front of them.
    This is a good recipe for short term military success. When the enemy has sanctuaries it can retreat to, there is a chance he might come back. That is what is happening in Mali and Sahel region now.

  42. Only once thing to reply to the spin-doctors “reality is a bitch” and they’re about to find out. Lots of very worried and slightly alarmed articles, OP-EDs and other pieces in today’s MSM.

  43. they’ll be counter-attacks and counter-counter-attacks for some time still. This war will not be over tomorrow. We’re just saying that things are shaping up the way we anticipated.
    AS for ISIS, this is another story, let’s not get things mixed up.

  44. I think RTE isn’t that stupid, or is he ?

  45. don’t believe for a second they will go through

  46. If the US were truly Turkey’s and RTE’s masters, we would not be in this mess in the first place !

  47. Matthew says:

    MM: Call me cynical, but “invasion plans” probably equals “defend Turkey from all the armed Jihadis fleeing the SAA.” Which one is true? Don’t know. Both fit.
    Can’t imagine that Erdogen will tell the Turkish people that he’s now got to move an army to the border to defend Turkey from the all the head-choppers and liver eaters that he’s allowed to transit through Turkey since 2011.

  48. Thomas says:

    “Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch, really.”
    But these are the BFFs of the Borg. Maybe they will have a fundraising dinner in DC for them, main course Liver and Onions.

  49. Thomas says:

    I could see him going for broke on his lifelong work for a Neo-Ottoman empire, especially if he has NATO insiders encouraging him with the belief that help will be on the way when it all hits the fan.

  50. ToivoS says:

    I have been long puzzled by this claim that the French defeated the Algerian FLN. To be sure the FLN lost the battle of Algiers. As far as anyone can see they lost every battle they fought against the French in the country side. But in 1961 the FLN was still mounting military attacks against the French. So they might not have been winning the war, their forces were still in the field.
    Then suddenly de Gaulle decided to withdraw from Algeria. One of the factors in de Gaulle’s decision was that the French business community were arguing that the Algerian war was so distorting national expenditures that it made it difficult to grow businesses in France. Somehow, it seems to me, that if one side in a war quits because it can no longer afford the fight then the other side, who has shown a willingness to pay the price, has won.

  51. Fred says:

    in the eternal spirit of “piling on” I would rework another old meme:
    “If they come (home) they (refugees) will build it (homes, schools, you know – Syria that was blown up).” They can rest assured that unlike Greece, Spain and other debt ridden EU nations they will get zero IMF and World Bank loans. The neocons will see to that; That will ensure that Western companies get zero contracts. Thus all the redevelopment funding is R+6+China and all the jobs – which won’t include the IMF/WB consulting crowd – will basically be for Syrians and R+6 allies. I’m sure there’s a good Western spin on that somehow.

  52. Thirdeye says:

    Another aspect of the lost supply line. No food to Daesh, no fuel to Idlib. Al Qaeda et al. will shortly be frozen in place.
    The loss of fuel is no doubt a very serious issue for all within Idlib. I’m anticipating a huge shriek from the MSM over that issue, so put on your OSHA-approved ear protection. But nobody’s going to suggest the obvious solution.

  53. Jackrabbit says:

    Kissinger is very deceptive. He presents himself as ‘realist’ who is only concerned with “global order” – which most naively assume means peaceful stability.
    Kissinger’s famous and well-publicized call for calm and diplomacy (each side should accept the “least worst” outcome) after the Ukrainian coup was a position that was greatly advantageous to the West. It essentially warned-off Russia: don’t allow the loss of Ukraine to damage relations with the West. It was made in early-mid April 2014 while the new Ukrainian govt was consolidating its power and looking forward to a vote (May 26) that would legitimize its rule. Had Russia fully heeded Kissinger’s call, Crimea and Dunbas might still be under Ukrainian control.
    Immediately after the Ukrainian military had been soundly defeated, Kissinger surfaced with an Op-Ed (WSJ, August 29) which is essentially a rebuttal to Putin’s conception of world order that is based on nation-state sovereignty. And Kissinger ends by asserting that: “the affirmation of America’s exceptional nature must be sustained” via a “comprehensive geopolitical strategy”.
    Whether one agrees with Kissinger or Putin, I would argue that the “New Cold War” began with that Op-Ed.

  54. turcopolier says:

    You are confused. What I meant was that the French military and police had defeated the attempts of the FLN to take over the country. Their guerrilla attacks in the “rif” in 1961 were more of a nuisance than anything else. The FLN did not “win” the war in the field. The French made a strategic decision to leave that I think was a wise one. They could have continued indefinitely if they had wished. pl

  55. Jackrabbit says:

    It was March 5th (Washington Post), not early-mid April 2014.

  56. turcopolier says:

    I watched the Russian MOD briefing for today that b pointed us to. The MG giving the briefing indicated their suspicion of Turkish activities north of the border. He mentioned positioning of a lot of transport and a self propelled artillery battery. He had overhead shots of these. He was correct in saying that this activity could indicate preparation for an offensive into Syria but it also could be compatible with emplacing artillery to cover the withdrawal of at least some of the Turks’ little friends into Turkey and the trucks with which to haul them away. Since Turkish artillery has been firing into Syria to help the unicorn/jihadis, I vote for the latter possibility. pl

  57. Militarily, the insurrection in Algeria had lost the war in 1961, there is no doubt about that and PL is absolutely right. I Think there is some confusion between staging minor ambushes and attacks that are nothing more than a nuisance and being able to control large areas or populations.
    Things were that bad for the FLN that the groups doing the fighting inside Algeria were willing to compromise with the french in 1961. The leaders of Wilaya 4, the main armed group, even met secretly with de Gaulle for a possible ceasefire. That being said, insurgencies win at the negotiation table, not on the battlefield.

  58. That remains to be seen. I know social and other media have been advertising about the oil for food exchange between ISIS and other groups will shortly be stopped. However, ISIS are no newcomers to this business and they have taken precautions in case their usual channels are cut.
    They have negotiated with iraqi Kurds for the use of their pipelines to convey oil into Turkey. Whether or not this will materialize remains to be seen.

  59. PL,
    There is another possibility still which is that Turkey wants to provide cover and support to Turkmen areas just South East of the Jarabulus border post. They might also want to stop any incursion by YPG West of the Euphrates, i.e.taking over Jarabulus, or prevent similar Kurdish take over of Turkmen territories coming from the Afrin area further West.
    Now of course, such cover might also encompass making sure that Turkish proxies can move safely back into turkey.

  60. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree, he talks from both sides of his mouth.

  61. Amir says:

    Would one be able to compare that nuisance to the IRA’s burden for Great Britain and an indefinite continuation of resistance?

  62. Amir says:

    To play the cynic: depends on who is the Master of the Universe in the US of A. Or to paraphrase Col PL, hopefully accurately, whether the Borg is running the show here.

  63. turcopolier says:

    what I said was that it is possible to defeat guerrillas not that they are always defeated. pl

  64. Charles Michael says:

    The French did subdue the FLN in a relative way.
    The Plan Challe (a general) of fencing the border with Tunisia was efficient, the Harkis auxiliary forces in the Dje bels also.
    But, this war was basically both obsolete in historical terms and unwinable if the aim was full return to security.
    The drafted French soldiers and the professionnal losses amounted to some 30.000 DIA. French publics were largely dispirited and not supportive.
    De Gaule, a strong nationalist but realistic, had to accept those facts. The idea that “economics” played a role in his decision is ridiculous.
    I had friends and cousins participating, I was seventeen when the war ended.

  65. Thirdeye says:

    There is a flood of recriminations between Islamist factions in the Twittersphere following defeats at Atman (Daara) and Rityan (Aleppo).

  66. LeaNder says:

    Patrick, can I move back to one of your comments above here?
    “This would apply even more so in Syria, where the allegiances of the civilian population are very split (depending on the area).”
    Does that mean, to paraphrase Tyler, there is not the appropriate “sea to swim in”? It would remain a purely “local” nuisance?
    How far would that be off?

  67. LeaNder says:

    annamaria, here I agree with Patrick.
    Someone, forget who, once told me: the present is less easy to read then the past.
    I mostly try to ignore the Obama admin, for quite some time now. … But I don’t think I would as easily connect Turkish with Israeli interests via the US as enforcer as you do here.

  68. LeaNder says:

    Don’t let aspects carry you away, Amir.
    Oh, another Saker fan, I see. 😉

  69. MartinJ says:

    There is also the force of 12,000 Afghan and Pakistanis fighting under Iran.

  70. Amir says:

    Regarding the Borg:
    I presume that you would agree that the last few years the Borg was running the show. I am not saying that their victory is final and the future hopeless. I don’t want to put words in the mouth of CPL but I am under the impression that he thinks that the Borg has an outsized influence on US foreign policy.
    The Saker does have a nice blog.

  71. Bandolero says:

    Thirdeye, Patrick
    I can’t believe that ISIS buys food for oil from Idlib rebels.
    Much more logical it seems to me ISIS bought weapons for oil from Idlib rebels. That ISIS buys lot’s of weapons from rebels is long known:
    It seems logical to me that ISIS pays with oil.
    So what the recent events mean, is that ISIS will have to reroute the weapons for oil trade via Barzani and/or Erdogan. However, each of Barzani and Erdogan is taking the risk of a huge scandal when engaging massively in oil for weapons deal with ISIS. The conduit via rebels gave Erdogan good plausible deniability, but doing it himself could spell trouble for Erdogan when the light of publicity falls onto it. And for Barzani the same is valid: he could get a problem when people in the KRG understand Barzani supplies weapons for oil to ISIS, while his Peshmergas die fighting against ISIS. And, of course, the KRG has itself lot’s of oil, while the Idlib rebels don’t have oil.
    So, I won’t say cutting the ISIS-rebels weapons for oil trade roue north of Aleppo will have no effect.

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