By Patrick BAHZAD

Capture - CopyIt is basically happening as you are reading this post. The SAA has launched further operations in Northern Aleppo which could prove decisive in cutting off what is left of the rebel forces of NW Syria from their LOCs and bases in Turkey. This new offensive had been building up for the past few days. The only thing uncertain was which main direction it would take …

Well, it looks like the SAA and its allies decided and try and open the way to the Zubl and Zaara enclave, a small Shia area North-West of Aleppo that has been encircled for quite some time. The move into Zubl, which is actually a two pronged offensive, as the troops inside the enclave are also pushing towards SAA lines, will cut off the rebels' main LOC towards Azaz, the border-post to Turkey, thus preventing any resupply in manpower, weapons and ammunition getting into Aleppo, or Idlib, from that direction.

In combination with another ongoing operation aimed at retaking the power plant East of Aleppo, currently in the hands of ISIS, it is clear that the R+6 is going for a decisive move in that area. The nature of the terrain, which favours combined arms by large armoured troops much more than in mountainous Latakia, should give the R+6 a large advantage, considering in particular the rebels' depleted ATGM stock and the increasing use of electronic countermeasures and devices by SAA armour (as announced already in November on SST).

As the R+6 are moving forward in Latakia province as well, closing in on the border to Turkey, the new offensive in Northern Aleppo constitutes pretty much the Eastern component of a large pincer move that will aim at isolating Aleppo and closing in on Idlib, with the overall objective being to crush whatever is left of the rebel forces in a modern version of a "Kesselschlacht". Should the junction be made with Nubl and Zaara, no doubt the next thrust will be towards Bab al-Hawa, the main border-post West of Aleppo. And if this happens, the noose around the rebels neck will be so tight, that only face-saving negotiations and compromise in Geneva will possibly save them from military destruction.

That would leave the question of ISIS and the Kurdish involvement in the war wide open. Currently, YPG militias control much of the border to Turkey, in particular the area of Afrin. They have been involved in major battles against ISIS as well as sporadic fighting against Turkmen and other rebel groups East of Afrin. If these groups are cut off from Aleppo and Idlib, they will probably have to move back into Turkey and hope for Turkish military support in order to survive. The rebels' lifeline in Northern Syria would be lost though, either to R+6 or Kurdish YPG.

What would happen next is open to conjecture, but other than the predictable "Kesselschlacht" around Idlib, it is likely that R+6 military efforts would also focus even more on ISIS. The Jihadi throat-cutters are probably not looking forward to developments over the days to come, as they risk being next in line for a decisive military action. Anything West of the Euphrates might be up for grabs if the R+6 and YPG decide to go for it, and ISIS might lose its grip on these territories.

Interesting days ahead, stay put …

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  1. annamaria says:

    Pepe Escobar:
    “Ankara’s game is three-pronged; prop up their heavily battered Turkmen proxies; keep very much alive the corridor to Aleppo – a corridor that crucially includes the Jihadi Highway between Turkey and Syria; and most of all prevent by all means necessary that YPG Kurds bridge the gap from Afrin to Kobani and unite all three Syrian Kurd cantons near the Turkish border. None of this has anything to do with fighting ISISL/ISIL/Daesh. And the nuttiest part is that Washington is actually assisting the Syrian Kurds with air support. Either the Pentagon supports the Syrian Kurds or Erdogan’s invasion of northern Syria; schizophrenia does not apply here.”

  2. D says:

    “‘We sent new fighters this morning, we sent heavier equipment there. It seems it will be a decisive battle in the north God willing,’ said Ahmed al Seoud, head of a Free Syrian Army group known as Division 13. ‘We sent TOW missile platforms. We sent everything there,’ he told Reuters.”
    Grinding . . . grinding . . . grinding . . .

  3. turcopolier says:

    One can only hope that the fractured rebel commands will push more materiel forward into the “kettle” even while much of the detritus of the rebel forces is trying to withdraw into Turkey covered by Turkish Army artillery while doing so. IMO Turkey will be careful to keep its air force out of this rather than face combat with the Russian aerospace forces involved. A link-up of YPG forces and R+6 in eastern Aleppo seems inevitable. That will contribute to logistical and oil export isolation of IS everywhere east of Aleppo City. One wonders what LTG McFarland thinks of all this and how tight the restrictions are for his ability to cooperate with R+6. Lastly, as Clausewitz wrote in his short chapter on “The Military Character of an Army,” the habit of victory breeds victory. pl

  4. D says:

    Syrian civil war: Could Turkey be gambling on an invasion?
    Kurdish forces, close to sealing the border, must beware – President Erdogan is unpredictable
    “Turkey could respond to this by accepting a fait accompli, conceding that it would be difficult for it to send its army into northern Syria in the face of strong objections from the US and Russia. But, if the alternative is failure and humiliation, then it may do just that. Gerard Chaliand, the French expert on irregular warfare and the politics of the Middle East, speaking in Erbil last week, said that ‘without Erdogan as leader, I would say the Turks would not intervene militarily [in northern Syria], but, since he is, I think they will do so’.”

  5. Poul says:

    It looks like T-90’s are in use in the assault on Tell Jibbin.

  6. jld says:

    Other tanks seem fitted with anti ATGM counter measures:
    This channel appear to follow the offensive quite closely:

  7. b says:
    Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
    #Damascus said:”All communication and supply line between #Turkey and norther reef #Aleppo is cut now. #Syria.

  8. LeaNder says:

    I registered Pepe a long time ago, as worth reading …
    Almost forgot about him by now, except we have a Paul Escobar around here. Thus annamaria, thanks for the link.
    Does anyone else experience problems with Firefox around here, by the way?

  9. LeaNder says:

    Ok, had to shift again, “browserwise”:
    Empire of Chaos

  10. sd says:

    Supplementary map: ( Highly salted with propaganda, I know)
    From :
    A little video from same source:
    What a difference 10 months makes.
    “I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”
    –Donald Rumsfeld, November 14, 2002
    “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months”
    — Donald Rumsfeld, February 7, 2003
    “I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months.”
    — Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003
    “No one is talking about occupying Iraq for five to ten years.”
    — Richard Perle, March 9, 2003

  11. robt willmann says:

    Here is a presentation from yesterday, 1 February, by the Russian military about Syria. Clicking on the ‘cc’ button should display the English subtitles–

  12. alba etie says:

    When President Assad is done with the Liver Eaters I think he should ask BiBi for Syria’s illegally occupied Golan Heights back …

  13. Fred says:

    Perhaps he should just open a refugee center there to be the humanitarian at heart that the world doesn’t know.

  14. Jack says:

    How long could the jihadists last with no supplies and reinforcements? It would seem that some may decide it’s not yet time for the virgins and surrender. In the recent past the jihadists who left areas were bused to Idlib. That doesn’t look like the best destination for them any more.

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Had NATO states and the Russian Federation agreed on a step-by-step political program for settling the war in Palestine, at the pain of war with Russia, Israel could have been issued an ultimatum to leave the Golan Heights as the first step in ending that war.

  16. turcopolier says:

    Yes, it is reported that the jaws north of Aleppo have closed. The rebels will ty to break through that as well as continue their attempts to get out of the encirclement and into Turkey. The objective should be to prevent that and to inflict as many casualties as possible in the process. I expect that the east Lattakia Front will start to collapse when the reality of the encirclement sets in. pl

  17. Valissa says:

    Thanks for the link! FYI, since the URL blended into the word “to” at the end, you have to delete those two letters off the end of the URL for it to work (link should end as .html NOT .htmlto).
    Unfortunately it’s a common problem that either punctuation (esp. “.”) or extra letters or a ‘space’ get added into or on the the end of a URL making the link a deadend, though it’s easily fixable if you pay attention and edit out the offending characters.

  18. LeaNder says:

    from my own established nitwit assumptions: The Golan Heights seem a much more difficult terrain then the more visible “Occupied Territories”, although yes, in the larger getting-rid-of-Assad-association this may be an issue. Not least since nitwits like me__(?cold war remnants, Baath?)__ are familiar with Palestine versus Judea and Samaria, vaguely of the “Terra incognita” theory, but don’t usually connect it to the Golan Heights versus Jordanian’s more prominent part in post 1967 matters.
    Maybe I don’t notice, if I do not find the respective mirror? Sometimes even overdo in finding one. On the other hand, 2001 seems to have been the start of my obsession with mirrors, minus minor precursors, like double standards.
    My puzzle still is how Turkey got involved in Syria more recently.
    Any idea?

  19. Matthew says:

    Fred: Behind your comment is a very serious question: What does Syria do with all the rebels who tried to collapse the government? Would any country on either allow “refugees” to return who were engaged in an armed rebellion–at least in the short-term?

  20. bth says:

    Some of the youtube videos posted in the last 24 hours seem to show rebel pickups with their guns removed, but the vehicle largely intact. I am wondering if they may have run out of fuel and been abandoned.

  21. Matthew says:

    Rebels collapsing. Call in the lawyers! See

  22. Richard Armistead is reputed to have told the leader of Pakistan after 9/11/01 either you are with US or against US. My guess is it might be time to spell out our policy clearly in Syria now! It would start with informing Turkey that they will soon have the Russians permanently on several borders. Do they care? Do we care?

  23. Babak Makkinejad says:


  24. raksh wah says:


  25. raksh wah says:

    who also informed Musharraff’s envoy that US would take down Pakistan brick by brick

  26. D says:

    A (dumb?) question . . . when the SAA is successful at cutting off the rebel’s LOC to Turkey via A’zaz, couldn’t Turkey resupply them via Antakya? Down the D420 road?

  27. Just sayin . . . says:

    “It would start with informing Turkey that they will soon have the Russians permanently on several borders. Do they care? Do we care?”
    The Turks will care but I don’t. US aspirations for hegemony has been a vehicle for endless conflict around the globe. A multi-polar world would provide a better opportunity for peaceful coexistence.

  28. SmoothieX12 says:

    There should be no surprise for anyone who actually studies real (with emphasis on real) history of Russia (USSR). Surprising that there are still some, however very few, true Russia’s scholars in the “West” left.

  29. alba etie says:

    Babak Makkinejad
    Yes I would agree that in reality Israel only responds to force and or coercion,, and that having the R +6 military victory at his doorstep might be a good “crowbar ” to move BiBi back to meaningful peace talks with his Arab neighbors. I thought it was encouraging as well that France announced this week it would recognize Palestine to further the two state solution peace process.

  30. alba etie says:

    “Send lawyer , guns , and money the sh-t has it the fan ” Warren Zevon ..

  31. Walrus says:

    Brace yourselves for a new raft of MSM articles about the poor civilians in Idlib Province being barrel bombed and starved by the evil Assad regime.
    That will be followed by a wave of “responsibility to protect” op-eds. That well be the umbrella the Turks will use if they try to intervene.

  32. Fred says:

    Already saw the poor drowned Syria refugees, version 2, on Sunday night courtesy of CBS. The defender of the holy places of Islam, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, still accepts zero refugees. A point still not mentioned by the MSM.

  33. turcopolier says:

    I would think that the Russian air force and artillery would like them to do that. pl

  34. Akira says:

    Great interview with Patrick Cockburn on Syria and ISIS on radio war nerd:

  35. fjdixon says:

    I believe that D420 leads to Bab al Hawa crossing. That has been identified above as a very near term objective of SAA.

  36. Thirdeye says:

    Not quite yet. Things are still hot in Rityan and Bayanun. Doubt they can hold out much longer though.

  37. I’m sure Charles Lister is quite devastated. He used to be quite ironic about the Russian involvement and progress and syria. Guess being a pol-social science genius doesn’t make you a military expert !

  38. Pl,
    Yes I’m sure R+6 have identified possible areas for infiltration from turkey … They’ll be watching and waiting !

  39. Madaya was a kind of rehearsal in that regard. Possibly there will be UN and Red Cross help, once main fighting is over. Won’t help KSA’s cause very much though.

  40. Very unfortunate indeed, or maybe these scholars do exist, but they are not given a chance to voice their concerns and express a different opinion. Stephen Cohen for example comes to mind.

  41. LeaNder says:

    alba etie, what about the Shebaa farms?
    The core problem may well be that the Israeli extremist religious factions, not only but very visible e.g. in Hebron, Jerusalem, have a good a really good argument for the larger Israeli public. It goes something like this: if we give up our God-given land, it could start a process all the way back to 1947.

  42. LeaNder says:

    It’s mentioned over here, Fred, to the extend I watch news, arts, world, information TV formats. Admittedly I read print formats rather selectively, nowadays. But then the refugee crisis as I felt it may after the Cologne incident resulted in a bizarre type of politics.
    More recently the “Alternative for Germany” suggested that refugees should be shot at while attempting to cross the German frontier, never mind if man, woman, or child. After protests she corrected herself. Maybe not the child, but surely the woman was grown up enough to understand what she was doing.

  43. LeaNder says:

    thanks, for the links, D.

  44. Chris in Ch-Ch says:

    Opera 30 works perfectly as a matter of interest if Firefox is causing problems. As for the liver eaters in Aleppo . . .do what was done to the Ukrainian Army in Donbass at the Battle of Ilovaisk. . . . . cauldron the fuckers !!!

  45. SmoothieX12 says:

    Yes, Stephen Cohen and, of course, Ambassador Jack Matlock–a true connoisseur of Russia in addition to a superb command of Russian language.

  46. alba etie says:

    My layman’s thought was the two state proponents have to start somewhere – why not the Golan Heights ?

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