Syria Notes – 18 May 2018


1.  The SAA is preparing for action in SW Syria against rebels east of the Damascus-Deraa highway and west of Suweida.  My SWAG is that the rebels there will fold up rather quickly and that this action will make the international border crossing into Jordan a lot more secure.  The area has been leafleted  demanding surrender and transportation.

2.  The South Damascus City action around the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp will end this week.  The Republican Guard of the SAA as well as the PLA and Liwa al-Quds Palestinian units are carrying the load in that fighting.  The jihadis in that pocket are rapidly running out of supplies and ammunition.  It will be interesting to see if these hard core fanatics will be willing to surrender.

3. The rebels have been making a lot of trouble just to the west and north of Aleppo City with small raids against government positions and attacks by fire with mortars.  The SAA Tiger Forces have been shipped north from their successful intervention in elimination of the Rastan Pocket.  They will lead the action around Aleppo.  The Tiger Forces do not seem to be referred to as part of the SAA in communiques.  It may be that they are an air force ground element.  Suheil Hassan (rank indeterminate) is a Syrian Air Force officer having served in the Syrian paratroops (part of the air force) and Syrian air force intelligence (bad news folks).  So I don't know.  Perhaps only an OOB addict like me would care.  Such oddities are not unknown in military history.

4.  The Turkish Army's actions continue to reflect what seems to me to be an ambition to inflict a creeping annexation on the Afrin District of Aleppo Province and eastward through a band of territory that they would like to see extend all the way to Iraqi Kurdistan.  The US/French reinforcement of Manbij is a barrier to that ambition but Erdo indicates that he thinks he can talk the US into getting out of the way.  Perhaps he can.  Neither Macron nor DJT are impressive for me in such situations.

5.  In Idlib Province Erdo believes that he has stared down the R+6 with the emplacement of "entrenched observation posts" around the perimeter of the province and that these posts are an effective impediment to SAG re-occupation of the province.  I am as yet unconvinced of that.  The mostly jihadi rebel groups in the province are busy fighting each other for control. HTS has stated that it will not make common cause the other jihadi groups and whatever semi-secular FSA there are in the province.  This makes the whole province a softer objective for the R+6.  IMO when they start to move to re-occupy they should follow the armor principle of "hauling ass, bypassing hard points and letting the infantry mop up" behind them.  They should just ignore the Turkish Army OPs.  To do otherwise would be to encourage more neo-Ottoman dreams.

6.  Assad traveled to Sochi yesterday to confer with Putin.  There does not seem to have been any problem between them  and Russia continues to deliver materiel, air support, training and advice to the SAG.  I am mulling over a datum I saw that indicated that Russia's defense budget for 2018 is $26 billion US.  Can that be?  What am I missing in that story?   pl

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