Some thoughts on Idlib Dawn – TTG

SAA-convoy-to-Idlib-3
The seesaw events of the last few days can be examined from the political dancing and posturing of the major players and from the combatants’ maneuvers on the battlefield. Obviously there is a lot of interplay between the two, but I think it is the soldiers who are driving this train rather than the politicians. I'm also way more comfortable at the grazing fire level than wallowing among the political class.

The SAA still is composed of a few well trained, well led and well equipped combined arms units capable of sustained heavy combat. They are constantly moved to where they are needed most. Most of the SAA positions are manned by lightly armed National Defense Forces (NDF) and local militias. These forces essentially man a picket line against the jihadis. They can defend against light probes, but cannot withstand a major jihadi assault especially when those jihadis are supported by Turkish artillery and armor. That is what happened at Saraqib when the 25th Division and Liwa al Quds were withdrawn to attack the al Zawhiya Mountains and the M4 from the south. It happened again when the 25th and Liwa Al Quds pulled out of that offensive to deal with Saraqib for the second time. Fortunately, the NDF and militias were able to withdraw rather than being overrun and destroyed.

In the face of the SAA success in Operation Idlib Dawn, Erdogan slowly ratcheted up the use of the Turkish Army to bolster his jihadi allies on the battlefield. The SAA adjusted. However, bombing of the convoy resulting in the death of thirty plus Turkish soldiers drove Erdogan to find a way to assuage his embarrassment. I think his retaliation with MLRS, artillery and drone strikes surprised the SAA and the Russians as well. Perhaps the Russians first thought the Turkish strikes were a face saving measure and would stop after the initial strikes. Erdogan thought this Russian pause was a sign of weakness and did not stop his attacks. Another blunder. The R+6 adjusted once again. SAA air defenses were moved to the battlefield. Russian air strikes increased. It appears Russian EW units are now in action against Turkish drones. The SAA is still not directly targeting the Turks, but if the Turks are hanging abound the jihadis, the SAA does not hesitate to strike. With all the Turkish equipment and uniforms supplied to the jihadis, it getting difficult to tell them apart. Russia has told Turkey they could not guarantee the safety of Turkish aircraft over Syria. I believe the Iranians have also warned Turkey that all those surrounded Turkish observation posts were under direct observation and could easily be under direct fire. Erdogan’s bluff has been called.

The jihadis are suffering from a lack of sufficient assault troops in spite of Turkish largesse. After retaking Saraqib with several days of relentless assaults and heavy casualties, they pulled many of their fighters off the battlefield to address the threat to the M4 to their west. They could not hold Saraqib and attack south of the M4 at the same time. Their chance to retake Saraqib is now gone. The Russians have moved their MPs into Saraqib as a signal to Erdogan that it is forever part of Syria.

The jihadi counteroffensive in southern Idlib was blunted in a unique way. The SAA in Kafr Nabl let the word that they have withdrawn from Kafr Nabl be spread on social media. In reality, the SAA remained in hidden positions in the town hoping to lure the jihadis into an ambush. It worked. The jihadis advanced and were annihilated. The SAA immediately counterattacked and retook two additional towns. I don’t know what SAA unit this was. It could very well have been an NDF outfit. They are learning. The jihadis are whining about Spetsnaz operating in the area. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. I actually hope there are Russian advisors working with those second tier NDF units, advising and calling in air strikes. This ambush is something I would have advised them to do. I love the ambush.

The Russians are rapidly replacing the SAA’s battlefield losses in equipment and are not withholding air support to the SAA. Neither Moscow nor Damascus are impressed by Erdogan’s latest histrionics. Trump and the DoD has said no dice to Erdogan’s request for help. It does appear that Pompeo is still trying to drum up some kind of support for “our staunch NATO ally.”

I predict the R+6 will secure both the M4 and M5 in the coming weeks, but will leave Idlib city for another day. They have to let the Turkish frog boil a little longer before he will accept the fact that Idlib is a Syrian city without throwing another hissy fit. He’ll also have to figure out what he’s going to do with all those jihadi friends of his. Libya isn’t going his way, either. 

TTG 

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-retakes-the-large-city-of-saraqib-after-fierce-battle/

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/russia-deploys-military-to-saraqib-in-clear-message-to-turkey/

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-army-turns-the-table-in-southern-idlib-retakes-ground-in-jabal-al-zawiya/

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25 Responses to Some thoughts on Idlib Dawn – TTG

  1. Avatar FkDahl says:

    I noted on Twitter that several Turkish Army sniper teams were (allegedly) killed, 10-20 men in total. In that particular action I suspect the Russian SOF.

  2. Avatar anon says:

    interesting that both jihadist and Turks have same uniforms.easy to rotate out and send to mykonos for a souvlaki.ru European countries should block all attempts for this next wave of refugees.This is the main objective of turkey and Syria,to flood Europe with ex jihadist.everything else is smoke.as usual Israel will have to keep an eye on movements.imho

  3. Avatar LondonBob says:

    Is it not generally the case that elite units do most of the fighting, especially offensive work, and that the bulk of any army is used for little more than holding ground?

  4. Avatar Antoinetta III says:

    “He’ll also have to figure out what he’s going to do with all those jihadi friends of his.”
    I think this is a good part of the reason Erdogan is so anxious to hang on to a substantial portion of Idlib.
    Most of the Orcs are not Syrian, they come from all over the Middle East and beyond, including from China (Uigurs), Georgia (Chechens), Afghanistan, and various European countries, as well as from Turkey itself.
    You may recall that several years ago the Orcs blew up a popular restaurant in a high-end tourist district in Paris with several dozen casualties. A similar incident happened in Ankara around the same time. These states have made it clear that the Orcs from their countries are NOT welcome back. Even the Turks don’t want their HTS Orcs back, which I am sure is why some thousands of these have been packed off to Libya. Indeed, one of the conditions the Turks placed on those going to fight in Libya is that they do not return to Syria.
    These remaining Orcs are all the die-hards, and it seems clear that it is impossible to re-integrate them into any sane society. Wherever they end up, they will blow stuff up. Therefore, indeed, “what to do with them” is the real question. It seems like a hard-core “Kill ’em all” approach is the only means left. Or, in Erdogan’s mind, if he can hang onto a chunk of Idlib, he can leave the Orcs more or less bottled up on Syrian territory. As Assad takes over more and more of Idlib, the Orcs’ only option is to flee into Turkey, and as I noted before, Erdogan doesn’t want them around any more than anyone else.
    How many Orcs are there in Idlib anyway? Those that were there originally at the time the war started in 2011, add in those who came there to fight alongside HTS or Al-Qaeda, most of these via Turkey, then add in those green-bussed there from all over Syria as the Syrian government recovered various regions. Then subtract the number of Orcs killed in their own internal HTS vs Al-Qaeda vs ISIS groups fighting each other for two or three years. I’ve heard figures of those Orcs presently in Idlib from 10,000 to 60,000 but have no idea what the real numbers are.
    Antoinetta III

  5. Avatar confusedponderer says:

    FkDahl,
    if turkish sniper teams were killed they’d be more difficult to replace than an average head chopper islamist type. It takes time to train a sniper team (or luck and talent, something no sane army or leader should and would rely on). They are harder to replace.
    If it was turkish army clad jihadi shooter and a turkish army advisor – good riddance.
    Syria or Russia can hardly be asked to stop time or freeze them and check carefully whether they are jihadis, turkish soldiers or turkish soldier jihadis or multi-polar folks who are Cummings or Bannon weird, drugged, drunk, inane, insane, communist and capitalist as well at the same time – or just had something bad for breakfast.
    Impractical. I’d say armies do not provide therapies but limit themselves to deal with the symptoms. “Likely wants to kill us” suffices to be targeted. As for the why exactly and how exactly – who cares?
    In essence, Syria and Russia have called Erdogan’s bluff in north Syria and he had poor cards and lost. And complained that these nasty evildoers Assad and Putin had their troops defend, shoot back or shoot first.
    Yesterday Erdogan was letting loose a few thousands refugees on Greece and Bulgaria, with turks leading them to the border and Erdoganists threatening that many, many, many more (millions!) would be coming.
    All that because he accused the EU paying turkey less than promised (or desired). Nonsense of course since some 3,5 or so billions have been paid as promised by the EU … BUT: Not to Turkey and Erdogan but to independent aid organisations (since Erdogan with his blackmailing game and his extended family selling jihadi stolen Syrian oil cannot be really trusted?).

  6. Avatar ambrit says:

    Sir;
    What about the L-39 ground attack jet shot down, allegedly by a Turkish F-16? I can see the Turks shooting at the SAA aircraft from out of Turkish airspace, like the Israelis do. Does counter fire in this case include Russian or SAA anti-aircraft fire from inside Syria at Turkish aircraft in Turkish airspace? What a puzzle.

  7. Avatar Peter AU1 says:

    There were a couple of ambushes before Kafr Nabl. At the time of the first two, there was nothing on SAA losing ground but wasn’t hard to work out what was going on. It was good to see them laying ambushes rather than just heading back to the next place they would try and defend.

  8. Avatar turcopolier says:

    All
    “they pulled many of their fighters off the battlefield to address the threat to the M4 to their west. They could not hold Saraqib and attack south of the M4 at the same time. Their chance to retake Saraqib is now gone. The Russians have moved their MPs into Saraqib as a signal to Erdogan that it is forever part of Syria.” TTG is correct. The combination of a front line to hold in Saraqib and an impending interdiction of the M-4 MSR in the west placed the Turcojihadis in a position where their choice was to “s–t or go blind.” (a favorite saying of my Old Army father). BTW “R+6” is my term for the alliance of Russians, SAA, Palestinian troops, Hizbullah troops, Iranians, and various militias.

  9. Avatar confusedponderer says:

    Quite an absurdum here is the ‘let the US support Erdogan with Patriot missiles’ from the neocon and Pomepoists troupe.
    IIRC it was so that Turkey went to Russia to get their decent air defence system because they were sort of excluded from joining projects like MEADS, Patriot and Aster (and the F-35) for, say, impulsiveness and unreliability (wouldn’t that make Erdogan a keen friend of Trump as … NoKo Kim?).
    To have the Pompeos suggest that the US now protect Turkey with the Patriot missiles the US didn’t weant to sell them is really something.
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-usa/turkey-says-it-will-look-elsewhere-if-u-s-wont-sell-patriots-f-35s-idUSKCN1RM0D2
    Iirc once a State Department official said that the US offer to sell the Patriot missile defense system to Turkey is “off the table,” having expired following Ankara’s decision to accept Russian S-400. That’s someone screaming and tweeting “More Rent! MOre REnt!! MORE RENT!!!” and all that.
    Erdogan is Erdogan but Erdogan probably hasn’t forgotten that. I am almost disappointed tha this arms peddle duress was not made by ‘the man who only says what the Whitehouse says’ Grenell. People in DC who have forgotten that are IMO so daft they likely cannot find the toilet without GPS.

  10. Avatar Fred says:

    “To have the Pompeos suggest that the US now protect Turkey with the Patriot missiles the US didn’t weant to sell them is really something.”
    That says quite a bit about Pompeo’s strategic vision.

  11. Avatar nightsticker says:

    TTG,
    Excellent analysis, as usual.
    I wonder if the Corona Virus will
    play a part in the Battle for Idlib.
    Either naturally spread or deliberately
    introduced.
    Nightsticker

  12. Avatar Stephanie says:

    The world is confronted with a Napoleon III problem. He was the Napoleon who whipped the French into a frenzy of militarism and hatred of the Prussians and attacked(!) Prussia only to be catastrophically defeated on the battlefield and taken prisoner by the Germans. Needless to say, he landed on his feet, exiled in luxury in England, and continuing to meddle in French politics. The only thing he lacked was Twitter.
    How many Napoleon III’s are there out there today? Donald, Erdogan, Kim, Pompeo, Johnson, Xi…. These are all completely irresponsible war-mongers who will land on their feet no matter how much their people suffer. People who when they make an error it is a catastrophe, but who always blame it on someone else and seek adulation above all things.
    That is the political world above the grazing fire level.

  13. Avatar confusedponderer says:

    Nightsticker,
    re I wonder if the Corona Virus will play a part in the Battle for Idlib. Either naturally spread or deliberately introduced.
    You forgot another possibility “naturally spread or deliberately introduced or utterly fictitious” – naturally valiantly reported by incredible Bellingcateers, Intelligence Integriteers or White Helmeteers, enduring with iron wills bitter realities (or the absence of it) … and that’s then where the valiant cavalier Giuliani will ride to help in that storm attack, screaming that reality isn’t reality anyway

  14. Avatar Fred says:

    Nightsticker,
    “Corona Virus …. Either naturally spread or deliberately introduced.”
    One more reason for Europe to close their borders.

  15. Avatar Keith Harbaugh says:

    In an incredibly detailed post (running for 35 pages when printed in my Chrome browser)
    sundance, and/or associates,
    details some of the political machinations behind
    America’s tragic involvement with various forces in the Muslim world,
    from Libya (Gaddafi) to Syria (Assad) to Afghanistan (the Taliban).
    Don’t be fooled by the title of the post, it’s really a review of all those interactions.
    “Despite DOJ Objections – Judicial Watch Wins Court Order
    Forcing Hillary Clinton and Cheryl Mills to Sit for Depositions…”

    by sundance (and probably others), 2020-03-02
    A sample:

    The uprising in Syria was only a few months behind the uprising in Libya.
    Arguably if the timing were reversed you could ponder that
    Assad would have met Gaddaffi’s fate,
    and Gaddaffi would be as alive today as President Assad.

  16. Avatar plantman says:

    Looks like you might be right about Spetsnaz.
    I dug up this video on youtube that shows operations in Idlib in 2019.
    I would imagine they are still in the area.
    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/russian-special-forces-appear-in-rare-footage-near-idlibs-front-lines/

  17. Avatar Serge says:

    Fred,
    Europe seems to be the one exporting the coronavirus to us and the third world(all cases in Africa thus far have a source in Italy/France), not the other way around.

  18. Avatar Barbara Ann says:

    Good stuff TTG. The loss of Saraqib and the aftermath was a mistake, but it seems to have been rectified and then some. The deployment of Russian MP’s there is an unmistakable rap on the knuckles for Turkey. Very good news.
    @Stephanie
    I like your Napoleon III analogy for Erdogan, though I think there is a good chance he could end up hanging from his feet, rather than landing on them, if he is not very careful.
    Speaking of this historic period, I see today is the anniversary of the Treaty of San Stefano which ended an earlier Russo-Turkish war in 1878. Turkey will lose this proxy war too and Russia’s main political job now will be to manage Erdogan though the 5 stages of grief until he come to terms with Syria as a sovereign state again. My guess is he is in phase 2 right now (anger) which means the potential for a dangerous escalation remains high. Talks on 5th will be crucial.

  19. Avatar Tyler Vincent says:

    I doubt the Turks want Idlib for anything more than a launch pad to continue terrorist activities with the Al-Qaeda buddies and Zionist masters

  20. Avatar Leith says:

    TTG –
    Liwa al Quds seem to now be one of the favorites of the Russians. I’ve read that they have become the infantry storm troopers or commandos for the SAA. And that they have received Russian Special Forces training, arms, uniforms, and embedded Russian officer/NCO advisors. Do they have their own organic heavy weapons and armored vehicles? Or do they depend on the Tiger Force and Russian airpower for fire support?

  21. Avatar J says:

    Word is that the U.S. will be supplying Turkey with ammo for their Syrian incursion.

  22. Avatar Stephanie says:

    This is a critically important article about the power of Turkey’s air force and drones. The machine translation in Chrome is excellent. Bottom line: Turkey has the advantage in the air right now. Please consider reading it. Because it is in the Russian press from an outlet that is not anti-Putin, I give it credence.
    https://vz.ru/question/2020/3/3/1026924.html

  23. Avatar Fred says:

    J,
    Turkey can’t even make their own ammo? That’s pretty sad after all those years with Edrogan in charge.

  24. Avatar Brian Weston says:

    Surely the Syrian Army numbers must be really depleted after 10 years of war. If Russia is stepping up more perhaps we will see more of Iran more overtly taking action.

  25. Avatar turcopolier says:

    Brian Weston
    Maybe the SAA is smaller but “what is left is choice.” Recruitment has continued steadily so it is difficult to say how much smaller.

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