The battle of Palmyra has officially started – TTG


Earlier today, [7 Mar 2016] Major General Suheil al-Hassan, commander-in-chief of the Tiger Forces, was officially deployed to the Palmyra frontline after carrying out two succesful offensives against ISIS at Kuweiris Airbase and along the Ithriya-Khanasser supply route to Aleppo city. According to intel delivered to al-Masdar exclusively, General Suheil Al-Hassan brought with him the ‘shock troops’ of the Tiger Forces and the Suqur al-Sahara Brigade (Desert Falcons). 

Both these units are specialized in offensive warfare and outflanking ambushes; thus, their redeployment hints at the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) intentions to recapture the strategic city of Palmyra. This desert city holds several historical monuments which are listed at UNESCO’s World Heritage; however, Palmyra (often referred to as Tadmur) was captured by ISIS in March of last year and has remained under the group’s control ever since. (Al Masdar News)


Liberating Palmyra, the beating heart of Syria, will be an important psychological victory for Assad and the Syrian people. It will also be an important step in lifting the siege of Deir ez Zor. This R+6 offensive demonstrates who has the initiative. IS will now have to concentrate their forces to address this new threat, thus relieving pressure on other fronts.

To the east of Deir ez Zor, YPG/SDF forces are consolidating their hold on the countryside around Shaddadi. They will undoubtedly soon resume their offensive towards Deir ez Zor. If these two offensives are able to meet at Deir ez Zor, IS will truly have their nuts in a vice.


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86 Responses to The battle of Palmyra has officially started – TTG

  1. D,
    I’m more inclined to take Peter Van Buren seriously because of his background, but the talk of a new regional agreement is premature. The R+6 has set things in motion and we must wait until those things come to fruition. I’m not willing to accept IS as a legitimate actor. They should be hunted and killed until they are impotent. Then the regional actors can sort out what the map will look like.

  2. Chris Chuba says:

    This is good news of course but now the Borg are clamoring for the U.S. to play spoiler in Syria despite the obvious impending collapse of ISIS in Syria …
    Frederic Hof was the former U.S. ambassador to Syria. Why do we assign people to positions where they obviously hate said govts?
    [btw I hope this doesn’t count as a political post, I assumed that the ban had to do with U.S. elections and/or partisan politics]
    In any case, it looks like there is reasonable collaboration between Assad’s forces and the Kurds. A concerted drive to Deir ez Zor both increases the effectiveness against ISIS and it will relieve the suffering of the citizens of that city; a noble cause.
    The tiger forces may end up being a storied unit in these modern times. They are certainly getting a lot of practical experience.

  3. Fred Hof chairs the Atlantic Council Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. That says a lot. One interesting point in his diatribe lays out what might be the Borg plan to save the head choppers in unicorns’ clothing.
    “Time is of the essence in routing ISIS from eastern Syria and enabling the Syrian opposition to move from Istanbul and Gaziantep to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor to help locals establish reliable and effective administration.”
    I think the R+6 is going to beat them to it. Forget plan B. They better start ginning up a plan C.

  4. different clue says:

    I read that article earlier from its link on Naked Capitalism. My feeling is that the ISIS is so nasty and dangerous that leaving it alive is like leaving a virulently metastatic cancer alive inside a human body. It is not like other ordinary geopolitical power players. As long as an IS is allowed to exist, it and its would-be sponsors will be searching for ways to re-support it for another breakout towards jihadi conquest. At the very least, shouldn’t we hope the R + 6 can wipe it out of existence within Syria and force it all the way back into Iraq? And then seal the Syria-Iraq border with something stronger than an earthen berm? Before international pressure to give ISIS a permanent state to play with becomes irresistable?

  5. different clue says:

    I am assuming that the Arabic word “suqur” means falcon and that somehow “suqur” entered various European languages and became “saker” for a certain kind of falcon. Does anyone here know which EuroLanguage first adopted “suqur” and changed it to “saker” and then applied it to the one particular kind of falcon that “saker” now names?

  6. FB Ali says:

    An interesting piece on the latest R+6 strategy:

  7. optimax says:

    Fred Hof is full Borg. In 2012 Obama appointed him Ambassador as Special Advisor for Transition in Syria. Ambassador is a misnomer since he sides with the rebels and not the sovereign government. He also worked in State under Hillary. He has worked closely with Israel and I can’t say for sure that he’s a hardcore Zionist, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
    Some more info on Hof:

  8. Brigadier Ali,
    That piece is illuminating. The R+6 (primarily Russian) strategy is frighteningly brilliant. The work with the local sheiks is pure Green Beret, but the difference is that this piece is fully integrated with every other aspect of the R+6 strategy. When this is all over, we better study the hell out of this and learn.
    The negotiations with the local sheiks reminds me of a scene in one of my favorite movies.

  9. turcopolier says:

    I know Hof well. IMO he a Hofist and nothing else. The Hariri Center is a thinly disguised center of Saudi influence. Rafik Hariri was a wholly owned property of Saudi Arabia and the center is the same. Therefore… With regard to “Plan B,” the idea of a US sponsored Sunni force intervening in Syria from a base in Lebanon is silly. Don’t you think Hizbullah would have something to say about that? pl

  10. Ulenspiegel says:

    According the German wikipedia Zucker (sugar) comes from the Sankrit sakara which became in Arabic sukkar and then sugar and its derivatives. No falcon.

  11. TheUnready says:

    Suqur is the plural of saqr which means falcon.

  12. Seamus Padraig says:
    saker (ˈseɪkə) n
    (Animals) a large falcon, Falco cherrug, of E Europe and central Asia: used in falconry
    [C14 sagre, from Old French sacre, from Arabic saqr]

  13. LeaNder says:

    I am assuming this helps:
    It makes a lot of sense context in relation to Spanish and French history.

  14. LeaNder says:

    Ulenspiegel, what is your associative line of thought leading to this response? Is your intention somewhat ironic?

  15. Henshaw says:

    Clarification- the population center/modern town is Tadmur. The remains of Palmyra lie immediately south of Tadmur.
    While Palmyra is a significant archaeological site, it should be recognised that much of the architecture that tourists saw was actually the result of reconstruction work by the French in the early 1980s.

  16. LeaNder says:

    different clue, interesting. Thanks.
    Not for one second I wondered why you would ask this question in this context. … only about a silly answer.
    Send me back to a point where I thankfully stopped babbling, or responding. 😉 In hindsight.

  17. Barish says:

    French archaeologists independent of Versailles, or funded by the French govt.? Either way it goes to show the absolute lack of will to put political differences aside and work towards saving the site from iconoclasm, when ISIL was left largely unmolested by “Inherent Resolve” to pursue its offensive against the place last year.
    One thing that has to be noted about Tadmur, the actual inhabited town, is that it apparently wasn’t that large. The general census from 2004, cited by wiki, puts the number of inhabitants at some 50.000. Doubtful it significantly surpassed the 6-digit mark, especially after the war began.

  18. LeaNder says:

    thanks, Henshaw, interesting hint. Maybe even etymologically related to an off-topic question above. Vaguely. Although, I doubt I want to descend into whatever types of hypotheses. 😉
    I’ll look into that. Strictly reconstructions happened all over the place. …

  19. Ghost ship says:

    “And then seal the Syria-Iraq border with something stronger than an earthen berm? ”
    What makes you think one will be needed? Are the R+6 really going to stop at the Iraqi border? Bear in mind that Iraqi militias are heavily invested in the liquidation of jihadis in Syria. There must be a reason for this and initially it was because the Syrian government was so vulnerable. Now that it is secure, the militias are staying on to cut ISIS’s supply line from Turkey. Once that is done, ISIS’s only options for resupply will be by air or over the roads that run west into Jordon or Saudia Arabia assuming the Iraqi Kurds can’t be bought off. The Russians and the Iranians can deal with any attempts by air, while the SAA and militias with Russian support could probably create successful roadblocks on the routes into Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Without the possibility of resupply, ISIS;s days in Iraq will be numbered. The final cauldron of this war will be centred in north western Iraq. Well, at least, that’s my best guess.

  20. raksh wah says:

    how many people think ISIS is a state of mind as opposed to being only a military force? Is vnquishing them militarily (critical in my mind) be enough, medium term say two to three years?

  21. The goal of IS is a physical caliphate on the ground rather than just the philosophical/religious idea. Defeat IS and you end up with angry men sitting around the hookah. That would be far less dangerous than the organized, armed and funded Islamic State we now face. It will take more than two or three years for those angry men to try to establish the next caliphate.

  22. different clue says:

    Ghost ship,
    I think a permanent border sealoff ( and not just an earthen berm) would be necessary because because even if this ISIS is killed off inside Iraq as well, the continued anti-Sunni oppression and persecution within Iraq by the Shia-supremacist government in Baghdad will keep the Sunni Anbari tribes in such a permanent state of dissatisfaction that eventually some other kind of ISIS will arise again and may try another breakout into Eastern Syria. I would like to see such a future breakout rendered hopeless ahead of time.
    And in Iraq itself, something will have to be done about all the “former Baathists” and former Iraqi Army people and former Iraqi secret police who gave ISIS strategic and tactical direction.
    I don’t know what that “something” should be, but I know they will still be there, waiting for the Shia supremacist regime in Baghdad to drive the Sunni Arab tribes into rebellion yet again.
    If Iran has such control over the Shia government in Baghdad, perhaps Iran could get the Shia Baghdad government to show some basic fairness towards the Sunni Arabs and extend to them enough real power and dignity and respect that they will see no need for further rebellion.

  23. different clue says:

    FB Ali,
    The Russians will want to take the time needed to do this right and make it irreversible. How fast can the Russians “take their time”? Can the R + 6 make Syria entirely unsubvertible and impenetrable before the next American President takes office? Because if the next President is Clinton, she will try her hardest to fan the least remaining ember of rebellion into a resumption of civil war all over again in hopes of destroying the Syrian Arab Republic despite everything. Hopefully the R + 6 members all understand this.

  24. optimax says:

    Thank you for the inside information on Hof. I thought you would know him.

  25. TTG, Chris Chuba, optimax,
    A paragraph in Hof’s article which I found of particular interest:
    ‘Although the current pause in high-tempo aerial operations by Russia may be inspired in part by Putin’s realization that he was destroying the credibility of his Western apologists and instead delivering a declaration of a renewed Cold War, a decisive ground operation against ISIS could inspire him to renew his Chechnya-like campaign in western Syria.’
    I cannot assess how opinion is moving either in the United States or continental Europe, but in relation to Britain this has no connection whatsoever with reality.
    A curious ‘dual movement’, visible throughout the MSM here, has become particularly acute on the ‘MailOnline’ site. On the one hand, the ‘Borgist’ propaganda on Syria and Russia has steadily more hysterical – while the other, the contempt manifested by the commentators has become total.
    So a report on 6 March is headlined:
    ‘Revealed: MI6 are compiling a secret dossier of Putin’s ”war crimes” in Syria’, and opens:
    ‘MI6 and British police are investigating alleged attacks on civilians by Russian war planes in Syria – with a view to prosecuting President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Scotland Yard detectives have flown to Lebanon to monitor air strikes in neighbouring Syria – amid claims that Russian bombers have caused hundreds of casualties by targeting hospitals and schools.’
    (See .)
    The ‘Best rated’ comment, currently with 1338 approvals against 127 disapprovals, reads: ‘Stop these propaganda reports against the Russians, who are doing their best to crush ISIS!’ The next ‘Best rated’, with 1108 approvals as against 38 disapprovals, reads: ‘I take it they will be arresting Bush and Blair first! Mr Putin is a leader of his Country not a rep for the EU like our lot.’
    What makes this drama all the more bizarre is that the enormous success of the ‘Mail’ has derived largely from the way that the attitudes of those who run it ‘mesh’ with those of a very large segment of ‘Middle Britain’.
    Ironically, however, while those who run the paper are still prepared to be used as channel for the kind of ‘Borgist’ reading of the Russian air strikes which Hof propagates, their readers are having none of it.
    The notion that these have been in danger of ‘destroying the credibility’ of Putin’s ‘apologists’, and being taken as a ‘declaration of a new Cold War’ is close to demented.

  26. Dubhaltach says:

    In reply to The Twisted Genius 08 March 2016 at 08:46 PM
    It’s precisely because of his background that I give very little weight to his proposals. Starting with his eager participation in the illegal and failed invasion and occupation of Iraq he’s been an eager and enthusiastic proponent of outsiders imposing military solutions upon the region. I don’t know if you read his piece advocating a break-up to be enforced by US “peacekeeping trooops” ( ) but I did read it at the time with growing incredulity and that incredulity was reinforced reading it again today.
    I did most of my growing up in Lebanon and some in Southern Iraq I’ve being lucky in that I’ve retained my friends and contacts in both countries – you have no idea how hated and despised American troops are right across the spectrum from the Sadrists to the “ex”-Ba’athists. And quite frankly rightly so – they often behaved viciously and always treated the local populace with contempt. (And yes I am speaking from experience of seeing how they behaved). American troops on the ground would be a destabilising factor not a stabilising one.
    Then I read his current piece:
    It’s yet another variation on the theme of “we’ll divide this place up and force the locals to accept our solution”.
    It’s also profoundly intellectually dishonest full of alarmism such as:
    “The Kurds are expanding the land they control, out of Iraq, and into Turkish and Syrian territory.”
    I dispute this – I think they’re trying to consolidate their traditional heartland and to put in a thin buffer around them. This isn’t Kurdish expansionism.
    “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad still holds territory, but only alongside Islamic State.”
    Not going to be a problem if the coalition fighting alongside Assad, including the Russians wipe them out is it?
    “It will mean giving Islamic State a seat at the table, as the British were forced to do with the Irish Republican Army in the 1990s to resolve the “troubles” in Northern Ireland. One, by definition, must negotiate peace with one’s enemies. That is why, in part, the current ceasefire in Syria, which excluded Islamic State, has little chance of achieving any long-term progress.”
    This is breathtakingly dishonest. The 1990s IRA were not a pack of nihilistic genoicidal torturing barbarians determined to overthrow an entire civilisation.
    ” Assad will stay in power as a Russian proxy. Iran’s hold on Shi’ite Iraq will strengthen. ”
    Iran’s hold on Shi’i Iraq has been strenghtened as a direct result of American actions and those of its allies. Ditto Russian involvement. To clamber out of hole it’s necessary to first stop digging it deeper.
    “Out of the new negotiations will have to emerge a Kurdistan, with land from Turkey, Iraq, perhaps Iran, and Syria. ”
    I wonder if he’s ever met any Syrian or Iranian Kurds – because I for one would like to know how three very separate groups who speak mutually uninteligible languages are going to cobble together a state strong enough to hold off their neighbours.
    “A Sunni homeland, to include the political entity Islamic State will morph into, will need to be assured via a strict hands-off policy by Baghdad.”
    He’s proposing a Middle Eastern version of the Luxembourg solution except that instead of an “apple of discord at the heart of Europe” this buffoon wants an explosive pomegranate of discord in the heart of the Middle East. Brilliant!!! How come nobody else ever thought of it – unless of course they did and after shuddering in horror hastily put the thought aside.
    “A Sunni homeland, to include the political entity Islamic State will morph into, will need to be assured via a strict hands-off policy by Baghdad.”
    In other words he’ll prop up a vicious tyranny and to hell (literally) with the people who have to live under it.
    “The payoff of such a broad resolution will be a measure of stability, and a framework to enforce it. American efforts will shift from fanning the flames (American weapons are as ubiquitous as iPhones in the region) to putting out fires.”
    Dear Mr Van Burren,
    The fanning of the flames was successful. You took part in it. You now propose that those who acted as arsonists become firemen.
    I have two words for you:
    “Revenge culture”.
    Yours Sincerely
    “At risk for not acting: an empowered Islamic State, thriving on more chaos. ”
    Actually the Russians amongst others are busy dismantling it – your real objection is that you’re being excluded.
    “An explosive dissolution of Iraq.”
    That took place with the cackhanded and illegal invasion and occupation of the place an action in which Van Buren was an eager participant. And yes I’ve read his book (waste of money which I resent). He “got religion and repentance” only after being slapped down and ultimately fired.
    “A Russian-Turkish fight that could involve NATO. ”
    See: Ukraine, it’s not the Russians who’re spoiling for a fight.
    “The shift from a Saudi-Iranian proxy war to a straightforward conflict between the two countries. ”
    Ummm no, that’s because the Iranians aren’t suicidal and Saudi Barbaria doesn’t actually have an army capable of fighting.
    “A spark that forces Israel to act. ”
    What’re they going to do come rolling down off the Golan or strike out using the Shebaa farms as their bridge head. You can just hear the chants of “bring it on” from South Lebanon already.
    A mini-world war, in the world’s most flammable region, that will create its own unexpected and uncontrolled realignment of power, and leave behind a warehouse of the dead.
    See what I mean about hyperbole and fear-mongering?
    And finally:
    Yes I can look at a map and so can most people here. I wonder if Van Buren has. I shudder at the thought of a new and weak state without access to the sea at the headwaters of the region’s major rivers. How in the name of God would that lead to peace? It’s a recipe for more and worse strife.
    Words fail me.

  27. Dubhaltach says:

    I tried to post a reply to TTG but don’t know if I succeeded. Based on what happened on another Typepad site I think that what I may have done is in fact posted the same thing repeatedly. Exiting the browser and clearing its cache seems to have fixed the problem.
    My sincere apologies if my browser problems gave you extra work.

  28. Dubhaltach,
    Your comment went into the spam folder. This happens to others, including myself, from time to time for reasons I cannot fathom.

  29. Dubhaltach,
    A thorough and thoughtful dismantling of Van Buren’s piece. Well done.

  30. LeaNder says:

    “derived largely from the way that the attitudes of those who run it ‘mesh’ with those of a very large segment of ‘Middle Britain’.”
    “Middle Britain”?
    “The notion that these …” who? the readers, the Borgists?
    Notice: I couldn’t force myself to read Hof’s rant to the end. If I had, I maybe only had one question. 😉

  31. Dubhaltach,
    As an ignoramus about the Middle East, I cannot really pretend to judge. But everything you write rings true: it feels like a real world, where so much of what we are fed is obviously la-la-land. And, in a grim way, it is also very funny: ‘an explosive pomegranate of discord in the heart of the Middle East’ is brilliant.

  32. LeaNder,
    By ‘these’ I meant the Russian air strikes. I should have been clearer.
    As to ‘Middle Britain’.
    The relations between newspapers and their readers is a matter in which I have a certain professional interest, in that when young I spent happy hours writing leaders for the evening paper in Liverpool in the early morning, and ‘subbing’ features for the rest of the day.
    At the risk of oversimplifying a very complex subject: if there had been newspapers in the ‘Lord of the Rings’, Sam Gamgee would have read the ‘Mail’.
    Commonly, its readers regard themselves as the ‘middling sort’ – the real country, as it were. They would include a lot of the people who, again oversimplifying, I would call the ‘NCO classes’.
    They would look down on people who read the Murdoch ‘Sun’.
    Historically, a key part of the stability of British society has derived from the fact that, in general, the ‘NCO classes’ have had a reasonable degree of confidence in the ‘officer classes’.
    This is not a matter of fawning deference or unqualified admiration. Such people may very well be inclined to think that the ‘officer classes’ are not really practical people, and do not know what life is like at the sharp end.
    However, there has been a reasonable confidence that 1. the ‘officers’ are on their side, and 2. that when it comes to war, they lead from the front.
    In my view, we have been seeing a fundamental collapse of confidence, among the ‘NCO classes’, in the ‘officer classes’. Where this will end, I do not know. I do not like it.

  33. Chris Chuba says:

    “we better study the hell out of this and learn.”
    Absolutely, but you know we won’t.
    Yes, the Russian strategy is fully integrated, unlike us, I think that they actually learned from their past mistakes, especially in Afghanistan, regarding having a total strategy, and in Chechnya (regarding military operations).
    I would call this the Putin doctrine, hidden in plain sight. Starting in his op-ed NYT piece he declared that the destruction of govt institutions leads to chaos. So Putin is declaring an aversion to upsetting the apple cart. Even in Ukraine he has not made a move against Kiev because he doesn’t want to conquer a territory of disaffected people.
    Putin also stresses local sovereignty but balances it using influence to achieve long term reconciliation. So Putin not a Ron Paul.
    Both in his 60 minutes interview and in his support of the Geneva plan, he stresses the need to reach out to healthy parts of the opposition. I think that Assad is amenable to this anyway, however, it would be interesting to see how Putin would handle it if he was dealing with a less reasonable partner.
    Will we learn from Putin’s example? Sadly no. Even now Congressman like Chris Smith want to create a tribunal to hold Assad accountable for war crimes and investigate the Russians for possible war crimes. I live in NJ so I wrote him a nice letter. It won’t do any good but I did it anyway.
    Haven’t any of these great moralists in Washington ever read that pride comes before a fall?

  34. cynic says:

    Could this be the latest Borg plan?
    The supposed rebels against ISIS is Raqqa might simply be the ‘bad’ terrorists becoming ‘good’ terrorists by donning new uniforms and waving a different flag. Then they can claim that they should not be attacked and should be allowed to hold territory and participate in politics. It’s off with the old and on with the new!

  35. cynic,
    It’s a slick trick, but I doubt the R+6 will fall for it.

  36. turcopolier says:

    Do you really think a transparent ruse like that will work? If so, on what planet? pl

  37. Kooshy says:

    The western idea of a Kurdish state is same as the idea of a jewish state, which the translation is divide and conquer/ control, IMO I am pretty sure that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

  38. Castellio says:

    “It’s a recipe for more and worse strife.”
    Exactly so. Perhaps the point.
    The degradation and division of the area is the goal. The degradation has been achieved: why not try to make official the division, especially if it leads to on-going further degradation?

  39. FkDahl says:

    SAA + allies attack a hilltop in Northeastern Aleppo.
    The use of AT missiles for anti infantry work is quite novel from this war – Hezbollah used Saggers in 2006 – but hey why not?

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I understand that Ron, Harry Potter’s mate, reads the Mail.

  41. Bob says:

    Seems Votel thinks that what Syria needs is a no fly zone, to arm the terrorists and more American boots on the ground. What a well thought out, carefully reasoned and incredibly insane idea.

  42. different clue says:

    The Twisted Genius,
    Hopefully the SARgov and Russia between them will have enough secret police and other intelligence resources to look at each suspicious new-wearer of the FSA uniform to see who is what.

  43. FkDahl,
    Those may not be AT missiles. The Kornet has a thermobaric missile round that is ideal for this kind of work. The newest models have a 10K range. I wouldn’t want to face these babies.

  44. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    A ruse like this could “work”, if the R+6 see it, decide that a clever counter ruse is possible so they allow the first ruse to work for a while.
    The various Syrian state services are completely capable of playing pretend moderate rebels as well (and why would they not?), I kind of doubt that they can pull this off under ISIS noses in Raqqa however.
    Assad does keep paying salaries and pensions in the ISIS areas, and this does give him some levels of sway and influence among the remaining non ISIS people in these areas.

  45. ToivoS says:

    Great summary Dubhaltach. This statement caught my attention:I wonder if he’s ever met any Syrian or Iranian Kurds – because I for one would like to know how three very separate groups who speak mutually uninteligible languages are going to cobble together a state strong enough to hold off their neighbours.
    I have no direct knowledge about the “Kurdish question”. From the history I read years ago it seemed that the Kurds were not given their own homeland when the French and British drew up the borders after the first world war. The reason seemed to be because the various Kurdish tribes ,those living today in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, were warring among themselves. The French and British diplomats were unable to define a coherent Kurdish nation that would not then descend into immediate civil war.
    I would be interested in reading more about this but my efforts to find good sources using google searches have not been that productive. Does anyone have a reference that might help me with my confusion?

  46. Chris Chuba says:

    Another difference between the Russians and us is that it feels like they planned their operation for about 100yrs while we go with the plan of the day. Before the Russians went in, Putin talked to Assad and the commander of the Quds force and really took time to understand the situation on the ground and budget accordingly.
    In Iraq and Libya, who did we talk to? We talked with these bogus govt in exile types who were fluent in Neocon and knew how to play us. The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes. Lead the world? I’m not certain that we should be using sharp knives to eat our own food until we get a clue.

  47. Poul says:

    Perhaps the main focus will be on Damascus?
    The Syrian Army has split the East Ghouta pocket.

  48. cynic says:

    It might have some success on the planet of Political Accommodation, which could be why it might be tried.
    We are told that the names and insignia of most of these groups are just flags of convenience, which they change as conditions dictate. The Syrians and Russians have been notably accommodating towards their opponents, seeking to reduce the number of immediate enemies and to show the rest that they can save both lives and face by, in effect, surrendering on easy terms. While the pro-government forces are in the ascendant, and terrorist morale is weakening, that could be attractive to the wilier and less committed terrorists.
    Assuredly, the Syrian government will not believe in the sincerity of most of these deathbed conversions, but it could suit them to pretend to do so, particularly if it means there will be fewer active enemies for a while. Also, the Syrian forces may not be as strong as they would like to appear, and they will still have plenty of fighting ahead of them.
    The Borgists might be attracted to this idea as it leaves them with a counter on the board when it comes to political and diplomatic maneuvering at a later stage. The Russians have plenty of other targets in the more important western portion of Syria, and might be willing to accept some Borgist proxies in the east when it is time to wrap up the conflict, especially if this prevents the Borgists from intervening more strongly in the rest of Syria and encourages them to keep the Turks on a leash.

  49. LeaNder says:

    He is not alluding to Rowling but to Tolkien.
    I didn’t read Rowling. And it is ages ago (early 70s) I read Tolkien’s Trilogy and its precursor, but I loved the example too, Babak.

  50. LeaNder says:

    Thanks, David. Which indirectly leads us back to another thread of your ‘meditations’, in a nutshell: the individual versus the collective. Somewhat at least it feels.
    You will realize that your allusion was a bit hard to swallow for me, at least where it first caught my attention in one of your comments. Not least since in our own post NSU (national socialist underground) universe–due to the refugee crisis–the extreme right both the non-parliamentarian terrorist activists and their parliamentarian friends are on the rise. They no doubt consider themselves the right type of collectivists.

  51. PeterReichard says:

    I expected an attack on Palmyra but not before the SAA reached Lake Assad at Tabqa cutting ISIS in two and severing their last road link to Turkey followed by a loud propaganda feint about attacking Raqqa to draw ISIS forces away from the southern offensive.Have either of these two things occurred? After the liberation of Palmyra does the SAA have the logistic capability to launch a dash across 150 miles of flat and mostly empty desert to relieve Deir e Zor? This could set up a blocking force to keep ISIS troops from escaping to Iraq, the Russian goal being not to drive them out of Syria but to trap and kill as many as possible especially the foreign islamocrusaders before they can return to Russia or its near abroad.

  52. Barish says:

    Is it possible that making public Qawwat al-Nimr’s – Tiger Force’s – presence at Palmyra is done thus to draw ISIL’s attention here?
    In connection to this, how well and how quickly can SAA redeploy forces using airborne means, say helicopters, an edge they have over their insurgent enemies? Perhaps SAA-command is banking on ISIL mobilizing their crack battalions to Palmyra, wide-open country, under the assumption that they would go toe-to-toe with the force that humbled their brothers at the Kuweires-pocket and the short-lived second attempt at an Aleppo-road blockade. Is there one historic example comes to mind where the banner of a famous combat unit was raised in one place to lure the enemies’ cream of the crop to a certain location while the actual elite unit itself could strike elsewhere, thus securing victory by such subterfuge?
    Even in times where banners are a thing for parades rather than organizing one’s battle-lines, ideas behind such ruses don’t necessarily change.

  53. turcopolier says:

    That could be any kind of weapon. Troops are always good at developing their own multi-purpose use of weapons. Ant-tank weapons have often been used tis way. Think recoilless guns and anti-aircraft weapons like the Shilka. The ultimate of course was the German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. pl

  54. gemini33 says:

    Thank you. Thank you. This is perhaps the best analysis of the partitioning proposal that I’ve ever seen. I have seen several partitioning proposals, including one from Michael Flynn in his Spiegel article, which really threw me off, to be honest.
    I’m not sure if this New Sykes-Picot proposal by Van Buren is part of a campaign from one faction or another but it seems likely. However, Van Buren claims this is his own analysis, not part of any group. (I asked him this question).
    I wonder, Dubhaltach and Col Lang, if I can get your permission to use some of this text in a blog post I’m working on. I would, of course, credit you and link it here.

  55. gemini33 says:

    I have read that Syrian Kurds do not really want a separate country but are more interested in an autonomous region in a federated Syria with a weaker central government but still a unified Syria.

  56. gemini33 says:

    Anyone watching the Future of War conference hosted by New America? I have it on in the background here. Some of it is good and some of it is terrifying, especially the future battlefield which the Marine commandant said would be populated remotely by robots and semi-autonomous weapons.
    It goes on til 6pm.
    Livestream near the bottom of screen here:

  57. pj says:

    A dynamic map of the Syrian conflict –

  58. Seamus says:

    Pat & TTG,
    The proper term for radical forms of this practice (at which Hezbollah seems to excel) should be “exaptation”: A feature having a function for which it was not originally adapted or selected – a word borrowed from evolutionary biology.

  59. Fred says:

    From today’s NYT:
    “WASHINGTON — President Obama believes that Saudi Arabia, one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East, …”
    “The Saudis, Mr. Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s national correspondent, “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.”
    Why is the President saying Saudi Arabia is an ally?

  60. charly says:

    Kurds and Arabs would be considered Untermenschen back then by the French And British. The plan was to rule it and give them independence only in the far, far future (next millennium or so). I seriously doubt the Western powers didn’t do it out of fear of civil war because Syria and Iraq were during their whole colonial time in constant, predictable, rebellion.

  61. charly says:

    According to Tiger force was moved to Hama when the Kuweires airfield was relieved. How Tiger Force then created the Kuweires-pocket is something i don’t completely get (maybe it is a example of what you mean 😉

  62. Larry M. says:

    “.. an explosive pomegranate of discord in the heart of the Middle East…”
    Thanks for your devastating analysis of an exquisitely bad idea, but the above comparison is even more apt than it looks. The word “pomegranate”, “ruman” in Arabic, is “rimon” in Hebrew where it also can mean “hand grenade”.

  63. turcopolier says:

    IMO you left out a few steps
    First – the taking of Kuweires air base
    second – the clearing of the pocket between Kuweires air base and the main government positions to the west.
    Third – the fighting to restore the LOC to Aleppo
    Fourth – The present offensive to the east. pl

  64. Fred says:

    Yes, a judgement from the court in a jurisdiction where the DA can indict a ham sandwich but can’t figure out how to indict any of the criminal bankers who collapsed the global economy in 2008.

  65. Lord Curzon says:

    Not the first time – in the Falklands War, the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment used Milans to take out Argentinian trenches, so breaking the interlocking fields of fire before assaulting forward.

  66. elaine says:

    I don’t understand how this is possible. I clicked the button “read more”
    however nothing proceeded. What proof did the court have to show Iran
    was responsible?

  67. turcopolier says:

    As I understand this, Iran did not respond to a lawsuit against them and for that reason the judge ruled as he did. pl

  68. charly says:

    It is an old article written a few days after Kuweires was relieved so now a couple of months old.

  69. FkDahl says:

    Given their obvious usefulness, why haven’t western forces slapped (in a manner of speaking) a HE warhead on older AT missiles? For long range sniping work they are certainly very useful; a group with FO, a sniper, an AT gunner and some grunts carrying missiles could dish out a lot of pain.
    During my time AT missiles were for tanks, command vehicles and engineering vehicles only…
    Some kind of laser guided rocket would also work…
    Found use by Marines in Fallujah…
    All in all not as original as I thought…

  70. FkDahl,
    As Colonel Lang already mentioned, using AT missiles against targets other than armored vehicles is not new. I used 106mm recoiless rifle HEAT rounds against enemy infantry positions in 1983. I like the Russian kornet missile system. It’s much lighter than our TOW. Although primarily an AT system, it has that thermobaric round. Looking at that youtube video again, it doesn’t look like they were using anything other than AT missiles. It would be sweet if Russia sent a few container loads of those thermobaric missiles to the SAA.

  71. Ulenspiegel says:

    My assumption was that words with similar phonetics can have completely different roots and timelines of developement.

  72. LeaNder,
    I am afraid you have tempted me into some meanderings on the ‘individual’, and the ‘collective’.
    In the kind of British Cold War liberalism in which I was reared, a fundamental influence was the interpretation of the disasters of twentieth-century history by the Austrian Jewish emigré philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper.
    One central thread of these had to do with the polemic against ‘historicism’ – in the use he gave to the term, the notion that one could identify patterns in history enabling one to make generalisations about the future with strong predictive power. With this part of Popper’s reading of the lessons of twentieth century history I have stuck.
    Obviously, a corollary of this is that Francis Fukuyama and his acolytes took precisely the wrong lessons from the collapse of Soviet communism. For a consistent Popperian, what unites him and Leon Trotsky is actually as or more significant than what divides them. The ‘end of history’ nonsense is as dangerous as ‘permanent revolution’ was.
    Another central part of Popper’s polemic was the contrast between the ‘open society’, and ‘tribalism’. By contrast to the polemic against ‘historicism’, I came over the years to think that the implicit view of National Socialism as a simple reversion to a past we ought to be able totally to transcend was both false, and potentially dangerous in its implications.
    This argument is made in what is, to my mind, a very brilliant short book published in 1995 by the eminent American historian William H. McNeill, under the title ‘Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History.’ It opens with a recollection of the – psychologically transformative – effects of close-order drill as draftee in September 1941.
    Put simply, McNeill’s central point is that human beings are, by their nature, not simply ‘individuals’ but members of groups, based on forms of emotional bonding created and maintained not simply by what people think but by what they do: by drill, dance, and ritual. As he noted, memories of National Socialism had served to discredit – make people wary of – such forms of emotional bonding.
    But, as McNeill put it in his conclusion, ‘Hitler’s brutal, suicidal path is not the only way to go’. The appropriate response to National Socialism is not to attempt to escape from fundamental elements of our nature into an illusory utopia of pure individualism and total rationalism.
    If instead we start by attempting to grasp the kind of creatures we are, we may understand that the need for group identity, and for drill, dance and ritual to establish and sustain it, can be manifested, and satisfied, in benign as well as catastrophic ways.
    Having got so far, we can then start to think about how to try to ensure that they are manifested and satisfied in benign rather than catastrophic ways.
    And here, perhaps ironically, a problem is that Fukuyama and Popper alike are treating the ‘totalitarian’ nightmares of the last century as essentially atavistic – relics of a past from which we ought ought to be able to set ourselves free.
    In so doing, bizarrely, their interpretations lead a ludicrous overestimate of the possibilities of some kind of direct recurrence of the past. This is manifested alike in the determination of Zionists to treat the Holocaust as the result of some ineradicable and inexplicable aspiration on the part of the ‘goyim’ to kill Jews, which could reappear at any moment, and also the determination of all and sundry to see Putin as being, as it were, the ‘Second Coming of Karla’.
    At the same time, a large body of reflection – much more reflected in conventional historical writing than it used to be, but key parts of which are to be found either in less conventional historical writing, such as work on millenarianism, and also anthropology and critically fiction – does not influence political discussion.
    Characteristic of much of this is an awareness of how sharp distinctions between the ‘individual’ and the ‘collective’ break down. Also, what is lost in the past, what may recur, becomes problematic in complex ways.
    An example I quoted in a comment on a recent thread is Thomas Mann’s 1947 novel ‘Doktor Faustus’. Having read that as a student, and been puzzled at the way one could not relate its account of National Socialism to anything I was hearing in history lecture classes, I later came to suspect that this was a problem with the history classes.
    In part, Mann takes one into a world which seems completely dead. So the apparently bizarre choice of a composer – whose innovations are in substantial measure modelled on those of Arnold Schoenberg – to make a point about the way that a radical emphasis on the ‘individual’ can collapse back into a correspondingly radical emphasis on the ‘collective’ may seem anachronistic.
    But then, perhaps, it is but it isn’t. So on the one hand the ‘Borg’ is characterised by a further radicalisation of the claims of the ‘individual’, in particular against traditional constraints linked to gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. In so doing, its members see themselves as having transcended the wickednesses of the ‘collectives’ of the past: and here, the ‘secular cult of the Shoah’ – to use Babak’s phrase – is important, for its meaning for the ‘goyim’ quite as much as its meaning for Jews.
    On the other – and partly because of this – a central feature of the ‘Borg’ is its conviction of its own rightness. Accordingly, its members come to form an ideological ‘collective’. It is not easy attempting to engage them in debate – commonly, they simply take for granted that any substantive disagreement with them can have no value whatsoever. (I speak from experience on this.)
    The only relevant question is how disagreement is to be explained away – as the product of filthy Kremlin lucre, of an innately evil disposition, or of stupidity, or of an ineffable vulgarity which any sophisticated person can only treat with contempt.
    As a result, members of the ‘Borg’ are increasingly finding themselves trapped by the emergence of dissents and resentments they simply cannot understand.
    In particular, the Jewish members treat apocalyptic anti-Semitism as a clear and present danger – and actually are contributing to a revival in (non-apocalyptic) anti-Semitism. A lot of people, who have real problems in their own lives, are frankly fed up with the culture of ’empowered victimhood’ as practised by figures like Jeffrey Goldberg, Simon Schama, Ari Shavit, etc etc. (Soon, people will start saying out loud: ‘when are you going to stop whining?)
    And while denouncing figures like Trump in terms which come straight out of their self-images as having transcended the nightmares of the past, members of the ‘Borg’ are pushing a lot of people with perfectly natural concerns and interpretations towards right-wing populist leaders.

  73. elaine says:

    Col, So if a plaintiff brings a case that has no merit & the defense
    fails to respond the plaintiff prevails. Hopefully there is some type
    of appeal process or this could get ugly fast. I’m familiar with this type of ruling in lower courts but had no idea the same rules applied in international court.
    I’m curious as to why Iran didn’t respond. Hopefully this story will have
    legs & my curiosity will be satisfied.

  74. LeaNder says:

    Thanks David, but from now on, I will try more seriously not to deflect that much from whatever is debated.
    “members of the ‘Borg’ are pushing a lot of people with perfectly natural concerns and interpretations towards right-wing populist leaders.”
    Never mind “the Borg”, but isn’t that all the populist leaders need to know?
    Both the individual and the collective are abstractions in a multitude of ways we embody both. Since you mentioned Babak, were would you located Antigone on the axis with the two poles: Individualist and/or Collectivist.

  75. turcopolier says:

    I am not a lawyer but that appears to be so. There have been various judgments against Iran in civil cases in over the years. These have been in federal courts in law suits brought by Jewish interests for Iranian government complicity in terrorism. I was an expert witness in one of them testifying for the plaintiffs on the history of the events in the case. Damages have been awarded in many instances against Iran in the hope of collecting them from Iranian funds impounded for a long time by the US Government. That never happened because the US government hanging on to the money in anticipation of a return of the funds. That has now occurred. pl

  76. LeaNder says:

    Babak, why did Iran not respond to this case? You have details?
    Seems the case was initiated in February 2002. Why didn’t Iran respond?
    I realize that you may refer to a long-term US prejudice against Iran, which resulted in the assumption that there wasn’t a chance anyway. But in a case like this, was that the best of all decisions in February 2002?

  77. Thomas says:

    “Why didn’t Iran respond? ”
    Because they lit candles on the Eleventh of September, unlike their neighbors across the Gulf celebrating the moment by slaughtering of lambs.

  78. Bob says:

    AMN is reporting that the assault on Palmyra Castle has begun.
    Looking at the picture of where it is situated and given that they can’t just stand off and remove it with artillery this doesn’t look like an easy job at all. I would have just put a siege in place and starved them out if I didn’t want to hurt the castle but it looks like that isn’t what they are going to do. Looks like they are starting with thermometric weapons for obvious reasons. Does any one have any thoughts on how they should tackle the rest of taking the castle?

  79. Bob,
    The article mentions the use of thermobaric TOW rounds. It’s not TOW, but the Russian Kornet which has thermobaric rounds. This gives the SAA a precise way of placing a devastating explosive attack against an enemy position. These weapons could force the enemy out of their positions, suppressing their ability to target the assaulting infantry forces. Once inside the castle, it’s close quarters combat and hand to hand. There will be a lot of tinnitus cases among the assaulting SAA infantry.

  80. The article also mentions that the Tiger Forces are engaged in the assault. Looks like they’re serious about Palmyra.

  81. Bob says:

    New map of the battle front up.

  82. aleksandar says:

    You can find the same opposition from the readers against the Borgist in french and italian MSM, comments are usually very harsh.

  83. aleksandar says:

    The main disinformation is sunni vs shia affirmation.
    It’s just plain propaganda

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