What’s going on in Idlib? – TTG


“BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:30 P.M.) – The jihadist rebels of Jund Al-Aqsa (Al-Qaeda franchise) and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham clashed again in the Idlib Governorate, marking the end of this brief period of peace. According to local rebel activists, Jund Al-Aqsa carried out a surprise attack in the Jabal Al-Zawiyah area of rural Idlib on Friday, targeting a Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham prison that was holding 13 of their members.

Jund Al-Aqsa's surprise attack on this prison paid off, as they managed to free 13 of their members while also seizing a large cache of weapons from Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham in the village of Qaminas. These two rebel factions are no strangers to infighting, as they both have engaged in their share of attacks against one another in both Idlib and Hama.” (Reported in Al Masdar News on 20 Jan)


Release No: NR-019-17 

Jan. 20, 2017

U.S. manned and unmanned aircraft conducted a precision air strike Jan. 19 against an al-Qaida training camp in Idlib Province, Syria. More than 100 al-Qaida fighters were killed in the strike. 

The Shaykh Sulayman Training Camp was operational since at least 2013. The removal of this training camp disrupts training operations and discourages hardline Islamist and Syrian opposition groups from joining or cooperating with al-Qaida on the battlefield.

U.S. strikes have killed more than 150 al-Qaida terrorists since Jan. 1. These strikes include the removal of Mohammad Habib Boussadoun al-Tunisi, an external operations leader, on Jan. 17; Abd al-Jalil al-Muslimi, a facilitator associated with a network plotting terror attacks in the west, on Jan. 12; and Abu Hasan al-Taftanaz, an al-Qaida senior leader, on Jan. 6. These strikes, conducted in quick succession, degrade al-Qaida's capabilities, weaken their resolve, and cause confusion in their ranks. (official DOD press release)


Seems the growing pool of jihadis around Idlib are suffering from the dual effects of “multi-culti” overcrowding of different groups in too small an area and the loss of their sugar daddies. That’s enough to make anybody testy. Good. Let the bastards soften themselves up with all this infighting before the R+6 must inevitably deal with them.

 What’s happening in Idlib now brought to mind one of the scenarios Colonel Land and I bandied about when we were developing the last war game. 


“On the heels of the liberation of Aleppo, the Russian 45th Detached Reconnaissance Brigade received orders to prepare for deployment to Syria. A few days before Christmas and augmented with Hizbullah commando units its teams were inserted by ground infiltration, airdrop and helicopter insertion to conduct reconnaissance of the area north of Idlib to include the Kafriya/al-Fou'ah pocket and the Taftanaz Military Airfield.

Within days of their arrival on target, these Spetznaz and Hibzullah teams began targeting jihadi leadership in surrounding towns along with ATGM launchers and ammo stores. These attacks simulated a pattern of inter-group fighting among the jihadis through targeted killings, raids and ambushes. The locations of AA launchers and missiles were provided through GRU cooperation/penetration of Turkish suppliers. After the murder of Ambassador Karlov, Erdogan has quietly slowed the resupply of the Idlib rebels/jihadis and has deftly hampered the efforts of NATO and the Gulfies to effectively reorganize the rebels. It seems the Russians can be quite persuasive and know the value of discreet diplomacy. They are also masters of maskirovka. Russian and Syrian media outlets play up the apparent disunity and in-fighting among the Idlib rebels and attribute the increasing assassinations and attacks to that in-fighting.”  (from an email between TTG and Turcopolier)



Developing this stuff was fun. It was so much fun, I went down to the cellar and dug my web gear out of my old rucksack. I fondled it and, just for a moment, wished to be a young man again. In this scenario, the boyos from the 45th were the invisible hand behind the growing jihadi distress and infighting among the Idlib jihadis. That’s probably not happening in Idlib today, but who knows. A man can dream, can’t he? I’m sure most of you heard about the nine IS jihadis who were rendered unconscious and killed by unknown assailants in the village of Hatleh outside Deir az-Zor on 19 Jan. In the nearby towns of al-Mayadeen and al-Ashareh,the locals stormed several IS centers and set them on fire. Whether this is a sign of popular uprisings against the jihadis or the result of some invisible hand gently nudging from behind, this is a damned good turn of events. DOL


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71 Responses to What’s going on in Idlib? – TTG

  1. mike says:

    TTG –
    Any American that puts on their old web gear, should consider going with the YPG and SDF against Daesh in Raqqa or DEZ. There is an international brigade fighting with them, probably more like company size than brigade size. But they will need all the help they can get.
    Idlib? Forget it. The Salafis in Idlib province got a second life from the SAA and the Russians after the deal with Erdogan. But no worry, whoever CentCOM doesn’t take out in Idlib will be fighting against other Salafis. The thieves are falling out and killing each other. No way the SAA or their allies are going to liberate Idlib until other areas are cleared. In the meantime Assad is hoping that al-Qaeda and other Turkish allies will overrun or weaken the Kurds in Afrin Canton.

  2. mike says:

    TTG –
    PS – YPG and the SDF has advanced to the boundaries of Tabqah Dam. But they are going to need a lot more firepower than the maybe six or so T-55s, the few dozen armored HUMVEEs, and the oddball captured mortars to take Raqqa. Maybe Trump will do the right thing and give them better arms.

  3. Jack says:

    Would you know why the R+6 have let Deir Ezor be surrounded with only air support? There’s a hundred thousand civilians there. I find it amazing that a small garrison stationed there have been able to keep the juhadi wolves at bay for so long. How long can they last in their defensive position?

  4. Peter AU says:

    Isis forces attacking Deir Ezzor will most likely collapse shortly which will carry through to Palmyra. Soon after Trump was sworn in, Russia sent its strategic bombers to Deir Ezzor.
    The headchoppers in Idlib are busy shooting each other, a deal has been done with Turkey over al-Bab, two new fronts have been opened against ISIS by Syrian forces.
    So what’s the chance of Syria/Russia leaving the Idlib headchoppers to their own wars and attempting a sweep through to the Euphrates when ISIS collapses at Deir Ezzor?
    All the country west of the Euphrates from Deir Ezzor up to al-Bab or as far toward that goal as possible?

  5. mike,
    Don’t worry. I’m smart enough to realize that the last thing the YPG/SDF needs is a broke down 63 year old trying to act like a 25 year old. Besides, SWMBO would kill me herself before I kill myself in Rojava.

  6. Jack,
    Deir ez-Zor was surrounded years ago before the Russians got involved. Neither the Russians or the SAA have ever had overwhelming force to lift the siege. Several of us have been saying the Russians should bring more force into the theater, but we’re not calling the shots. How long can they last? They will last until they win or are all dead.

  7. elaine says:

    mike, I can’t claim any inside channels or even pretend to know what’s really in the mind of retired Lt. General Mike Flynn but I have noticed there’s a plethora of opinions on the net that appear to insinuate Flynn is cozy with Erdogan; ergo as Flynn is national security adviser to Pres. Trump
    it may be unlikely Trump is going to arm the Kurds.

  8. Peter AU,
    I also sense the fighting is approaching a culminating point in this area. I am also reminded of one of my favorite stories as told by Jerry Clower. The final line comes close to describing the situation.
    “Well just shoot up in here amongst us. One of us got to have some relief.”

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Gen. Flynn has publicly stated that Islam is not “even a religion”. It is doubtful that he could be cozy with any Muslim – after all he has insulted every single one of them.
    “A Heavenly Crown is Politeness,
    Wear it and go wherever you desire.”

  10. mike says:

    TTG – My SWMBO would do the same, but why she cares about my 73-year-old bones is beyond me.
    Elaine – I have heard that about Flynn also, and seen reports (unconfirmed) that Flynn’s son has some sweetheart deals in Turkey. I hope that is fake news. And hope that the favorable comments that Trump has made about the Kurds turn into action. The least he could do is what Obama did and support them with air and Special Forces, and arm their allies the SDF which is reportedly Syriac, Arab, Armenian and others.
    Peter AU – Russia started sending strategic bombers to Deir ez-Zor since at least November 2015. There are also news reports that they sent them again in July and August 2016. Seems to me it has nothing to do with Trump.

  11. Peter AU says:

    A couple of interesting articles at almasdanews
    “Taking off from Qamishli Military Airport in northeastern Syria, the Russian Air Force began the onslaught by launching several airstrikes over the Sheikh Yassine, Al-Rusafa, Al-Jubeileh, Al-Rashidiyah, and Al-Hussiniyah districts of Deir Ezzor.”
    “US-led air strikes wipe out 90 boats carrying ISIS members in Mosul”
    Trump working in the interests of his country, Putin working in the interests of his country, and both working together to crush the wahabbi offshoots? Now wouldn’t that be something.

  12. Peter AU says:

    mike, you obviously haven’t been following the recent ISIS full scale attack on Deir Ezzor.
    Re the Kurds. The only natural ally the Syrian Kurds have is the Syrian government. Both have the same enemies. US lost the Kurds when US tried to jump on Erdo’s bandwagon at the start of Euphrates Shield.

  13. Peter AU says:

    mike, I should have expanded a little on the strategic bombers. Not long ago US/NATO forces moved into position around Kaliningrad. The positioning of the forces in Poland along with the polish forces apparently made up an attacking force. US NATO deployments to Lithuania/Latvia made a blocking force.
    Although Russia would have judged the chances of attack on Kaliningrad to be low, they would be obliged to keep sufficient forces on hand to mitigate the possible threat.
    With the swearing in of Trump, it seems Russia judged the threat as negligible or non existent.

  14. aleksandar says:

    “Assad is hoping that al-Qaeda and other Turkish allies will overrun or weaken the Kurds in Afrin Canton.”
    False. Nobody so far knows what Assad “hope” and what sort of deal, Assad and Putin have made.
    Worse, that is the usual Wapo or NYT anti-Assad propaganda.
    Please don’t mix NATO with Syrian war, Nato as an organisation has nothing to do with it.

  15. mike says:

    Peter AU –
    The US-led airstrikes that wiped out Daesh boats in Mosul were reported on Saturday. But those strikes took place early in the morning of Friday the 20th, long before Trump was sworn in.
    So it was Obama working to crush the wahabbi offshoots, not Trump. Sorry to bust your bubble.

  16. mike says:

    Reportedly there was another CentCOM strike in Idlib province just an hour or so ago. This one on an ammunition depot belonging to Jund al-Aqsa near Srmin in rural Idlib close to the Turkish border.
    In the aftermath, the ratlines to Turkey became clogged with Salafis heading home to Papa Erdogan.

  17. Annem says:

    FLASH! Rojava is no longer Rojava. Forced by its partners in the SDF and their civilian components, the Kurds have allowed the adoption of a new name “Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria” That name is to be more inclusive of the rest of the area’s population of Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmen, Circassians, et al.
    Being associated with the United States may prove their greatest liability as the various forces in Syria position themselves for the best possible balance between desires and realistic goals in the end game haggling. Their closest neighbors, the KRG and Turkey, are eager to destroy them and it is not clear that the Assad Regime would not let them get away with it.

  18. Chris Chuba says:

    It looks like Assad and his allies are leaving Idlib intact to function as a leper colony for Jihadists. Whenever they put an isolated pocket of rebels in a hopeless situation, they offer them a green bus to Idlib and pardon the more secular ones. They are currently hammering out deal like this at Wadi Barada
    Every time they succeed, they free up troops that were tied and concentrate their problems in Idlib like a boil that they will eventually pop. It seems like a decent idea since they have limited resources.

  19. mike says:

    I realize full well that the coalition has been bombing Daesh controlled oil infrastructure near Deir ez-Zor. I brought that fact up a few days ago on another thread of this blog. Should we leave those oilwells, pumps, transport and backyard stills alone to let Daesh profit from it? Or to convert it to fuel for use in their kamikaze truck bombs?
    No way I say. Better it stays in the ground for now. Because Assad is nowhere near taking back Deir ez-Zor province.

  20. mike says:

    Elaine –
    Reportedly President Trump’s nominee for State, Rex Tillerson or T-Rex as some call him, has stated in testimony to the Senate that the Kurds in Syria and Iraq are our greatest allies in the fight against Daesh. So that gives me hope that Flynn will not be allowed to backstab the Kurds.
    Plus both McCain and Graham today said they have changed their mind would not block a vote on T-Rex. Perhaps because of T-Rex’s favorable comments re the Kurds?

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Any continued support, political or military, for the Kurds in Syria and Iraq will be viewed with very deep suspicion by the governments of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.
    At worst, it would be viewed as mercenary army that is controlled by a foreign agenda and is a threat; at best, as a serious irritant to the unity of those countries.
    The United States is not the legitimate authority in any way, shape of form it that part of the world. Support for Kurds by US, in my opinion, only prolongs the regional agonies and causes more young people to die.
    I think it will be a good idea to try to put forward a positive programme rather than this.

  22. trinlae says:

    Thanks for the informative correspondence, Colonel (& TTG),
    I wonder how many noticed the import of the not so discreet World news report on WSJ Saturday’s front page side bar announcing US special forces going after Al Qaeda in Syria.
    This day one debut seems to have gotten lost in the crowd counting math hysteria, so i am feeling reassured that SST had a UCONN women’s huskies approach to “dropping the ball.”
    Happy new year!

  23. mike says:

    trinlae –
    I can’t afford the WSJ paywall. But I suspect they are late in reporting, as is usual with their journalism. We have been going after al Qaeda in Syria for two to three years now.

  24. trinlae says:

    Even Chinese style hearts and minds economic development will probably be suspect for years to come, if coming out of usaid and usual vectors of confounded aid+politiking. But the indigenous networking and accountability structures could be supported, and not only via junkets abroad for conferences but simple things like office furniture and board room outfitters and notebooks and ipads would probably be a helping hand that might not attract an amputation.

  25. trinlae says:

    Unfortunately i saw this in a paper while traveling and cant confirm now but wonder if i saw it said Syria verbatim so that fact should be double checked, but my sense of it was east Syria / Iraq border area.

  26. mike says:

    Babak Makkinejad –
    Don’t blame me, I did not vote for Trump. Convince your fellow Trump voters that he should back off, not me. However I am willing to listen to the positive proposal that you mentioned that might be better. Could you let us know what that might be?
    If your positive proposal is workable, great! If not, and if Trump keeps providing support to the Kurds in Syria I might change my mind about the man. You and I have discussed this previously. But I have seen no reason to change my mind that the Kurds in Syria should not have federalism. If that makes the IRGC nervous, so be it.
    Trump & T-Rex will get in much deeper trouble in the Middle East if they move the American Embassy to Jerusalem as promised during the campaign. That would be a much more serious irritant than support for the Kurds.

  27. trinlae says:

    It was a restaurant lobby paper i saw in travels and can’t check eithe but indeed wonder if I am recalling to correctly. But my recollection of seeing it was perhaps in western Iraq as was mentioned above (Mosul?), although I still feel like name Syria was mentioned in the same quip.
    Still, it looks like a transitional move courtesy of outgoing Obama team that is more complementary to ground realities and s shift from contentious rhetoric of last October, and profound illustration of general illiteracy of US foreign affairs by an otherwise passionate public.

  28. elaine says:

    trinlae, I did read something about a couple of U.S. bombing raids against
    AQ in Sirte, Libya & another one closer to the Tunisian border. It was around January 19th.

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for your comments.
    I think it will be a good idea for US to cut and run; it is best for US and best for the people of Iraq and Syria.
    In regards to the “Federalism”; you cannot give Federalism to Kurds or anyone else; it is not a thing to be had. They are incapable of running a Federal Structure – who do you think they are, Anglo-Saxons?
    You are just going to cause more death and mayhem.
    In regards to the possible move of US Embassy to Jerusalem; it will cause discomfort and embarrassment to all the Muslim governments that are friends of US – but not much else; a storm in a teacup at best.

  30. wtofd says:

    Babak, in your estimation, is the importance of Jerusalem as first qibla/third shrine overstated? In another framing, would total Israeli sovereignty over the Al-Aqsa complex rally the Muslim world in any coherent way against Israel?
    I see the Muslim governments as disjointed. Are you sure it would be a tempest in a teapot?

  31. robt willmann says:

    mike, elaine,
    After many years of maneuvering around with city councils, zoning commissions, and so forth, in order to get approval for business projects, Trump immediately got ahead of the curve and appointed Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, to be the Secretary of Transportation. This guaranteed that Trump’s cabinet appointments would be confirmed by the Senate. The senate majority leader for the most part decides what bills the senate will consider and the scheduling for them. The Republican party’s senate conference group has a part in deciding which Republican senators get on which (desirable and plum) committees, and Senator McConnell has a lot of stroke in that conference group.
    Therefore, it was no surprise when Senator John McCain and his partner Sen. Lindsey Graham (yesterday), and Sen. Marco Rubio (today), said that they would vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
    Sure, McCain and Graham would bloviate some, and Rubio would read the loaded questions prepared for him to ask the well-mannered Tillerson (who you could tell was attentive and listening), but they will not dare to irritate McConnell about the cabinet appointees. I think that Mike Pompeo will be confirmed to be the CIA director, although in my opinion he is not a good choice.
    James Mattis was confirmed and sworn in as Secretary of Defense after the inauguration on Friday the 20th. We will now see what happens in Syria.

  32. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There are 2 mosques on that site: one built on the spot where the Prophet, according to Islamic Tradition, ascended to Heaven during his Night Journey and the other, on the site that during the same Night Journey the Prophet had led the prayer of all the previous prophets – who had been assembled there by an Act of God.
    In my opinion, Muslims will never accept political control of those sites by non-Muslims. However, I do not expect Muslim governments to rally collectively against such a US move; Muslim countries are too weak, too divided, too incoherent to be able to exert collective action at this juncture – in my opinion.
    Presently, Israelis currently have total control but they are not considered to be having legitimate authority, not even by the United States. US could confer her own recognition of the legitimacy of their authority – by moving her embassy there. That would be, in my opinion, an unproductive act of provocation against Muslims on behalf of Israelis and Jews.
    In effect, a nominally secular government of a largely Christian country would be adjudicating among religious claims of Jews and Muslims by taking side with Jews.
    It makes no sense to me, but evidently it does to many in US – both Christian and Jew.

  33. mike says:

    Trinlae –
    I believe the Special Forces raid you are referring to was against Daesh in eastern Syria. It was reportedly a joint op with YPG/SDF allies. They hit a Daesh convoy traveling from Raqqa in eastern Syria towards Deir ez-Zor.
    But there have been many American airstrikes against al Qaeda in western Syria. The Jund al-Aqsa strike I mentioned above is a case in point as they are part of al Qaeda, although they try to disguise their association by frequent name changes.
    And there have been many other US attacks against al Qaeda and their allies in Syria despite Russian/Assad propaganda saying the opposite.

  34. mike says:

    Babak Makkinejad –
    Thank you for your answer. I do not believe in your ‘cut and run’ proposal and I hope that Trump, T-Rex, and Mattis do not either. If we did that then who would take out Daesh? The R+6 has been helpless against them. They are only capable of agitprop and making backroom deals with Daesh funder and supporter Erdogan. He will disappoint them. The only way to defeat Daesh that I see is with American and Coalition support to the YPG and their many Arab/Assyrian/Armenian/Circassian allies in eastern Syria.
    You have kept repeating for many months now that Kurds are not anglo-saxons. So what, neither am I, and neither are the vast majority of Americans. The fact that Kurds are not anglo-saxons is a good thing as far as I am concerned. Kurds are human. They deserve to be able to speak their own language without fear of being attacked for it. They deserve to be able to elect their own local leaders instead of having some political crony or hatchetman from Damascus appointed over them. Again, they are not asking for independence from Syria. They are not asking for total autonomy. They only want a voice in their own affairs. Why is that too much to ask?
    Regarding Jerusalem: I and millions of other Americans do NOT believe that our embassy should be located there. I am hoping that circumstances prevent that. When you said it would be a “storm-in-a-teacup” you admitted that it would be the reaction of “the Muslim governments that are friends of US”. But there are many Muslim governments or even militant groups and political parties that are not friends of the US and would take it as an act of war.

  35. mike says:

    Robt Willman –
    Yes I saw that Rubio backed down on his opposition.
    I agree with you that Pompeo is a bad choice for CIA.
    Mattis was a great choice. But I assume Trump made that choice for the wrong reason when he fell in love with Mattis’s nickname. General Mattis was never a mad dog, but just the opposite. He got that handle or nickname for the same reason my high school buddy Jimmy Maddox did, or the old Mad Max movies, or the many Mad Mikes – we like alliteration. I would opine that Mattis is more well read than many university deans and professors and certainly more than any other of Trump’s cabinet picks.
    I have heard good things about Lighthizer, who will be the US Trade Rep.
    But IMHO all the rest of Trump’s picks would be better off out of government.

  36. Pundita says:

    Russia Receives Daesh Coordinates in Al Bab From US
    19:50 – 23.01.2017 (updated 20:03 23.01.2017)
    Russia has received coordinates of Daesh targets in Al Bab, Aleppo Province, from the US for the first time, the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday.
    The United States has provided coordinates of the terrorists’ targets in the city of Al Bab in Aleppo province for Russia-coalition airstrikes. After the reconnaissance check, Russia and Turkey conducted joint airstrike on the Daesh targets in the region. [See second report, below]
    “On January 22, the Russian command center at the Hmeymim airbase has received coordinates of the Daesh targets in Al Bab, Aleppo province, via ‘direct line’ from the US-led coalition headquarters. After further data verification with unmanned aircraft assistance and space reconnaissance, the Russian air forces and two jets of the international coalition have conducted airstrikes on the terrorists’ targets,” the statement said.
    Russian, Turkish Warplanes Conduct Joint Op Against Daesh in Syria’s Al-Bab
    19:52 – 23.01.2017 (updated 20:09 – 23.01.2017)
    Russian and Turkish warplanes conducted a joint operation against Daesh in Al-Bab in Syria’s Aleppo province on January 21, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday.
    “On January 21, the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Turkish Air Force conducted a new joint operation striking Daesh group near Al-Bab in the province of Aleppo,” the ministry said.
    Three Russian attack aircraft: two Su-24Ms and a Su-34 bomber, as well as two Turkey’s F-16 and two F-4 participated in the aerial campaign.
    A total of 22 Daesh targets have been struck. A day later, Russia received Daesh’s coordinates in the area from the United States and struck them jointly with the US-led coalition aircraft, the ministry said.
    This was the second joint operation by Russian and Turkish aviation in Syria. On Wednesday, the first joint airstrikes have been launched against Daesh in Al-Bab.
    The news comes amid a nationwide ceasefire in Syria backed by Russia and Turkey which came into effect on December 30 and was later supported by a UN Security Council resolution.
    Turkey is currently conducting an operation in Syria dubbed Euphrates Shield. On August 24, Turkish forces, supported by Free Syrian Army rebels and US-led coalition aircraft, began a military operation dubbed the Euphrates Shield to clear the Syrian border town of Jarabulus and the surrounding area from Daesh terrorist group. As Jarabulus was retaken, the joint forces of Ankara, the coalition and Syrian rebels continued the operation to gain control over Al-Bab in the Aleppo province.
    Al-Bab is one of Daesh’s last remaining strongholds near the Turkish border. Capturing the city is of strategic importance to Turkey in order to prevent the Syrian Kurds taking it and unifying their own territories.

  37. Frank says:

    There is nothing to even suggest that Assad want’s the Afrin Kurds to be overrun. He has cooperated with them to take higher ground for better security that the Kurds benefit from as well.
    Your baseless assertions always seem to say something negative about Assad or Syria in general – it’s telling.

  38. mike says:

    Trinlae –
    Or perhaps the US Special Rorces raid you spotted in the WSJ was the raid on Abu Khashab west of Mosul northeast of Baaj just a day or so ago. Iraqi rumors have been circulating that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other top members are located in the Baaj area, which might have led to the operation.

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In my opinion, the United States has no dog in that fight over al Quds, none in the war against ISIS, and none in regards to the disposition of Kurds in the Near East.
    Nor does the United States have the power to materially affect any of that.
    US participation opens her up for manipulation by all these foreign people with whom she has neither civilization affinity nor religious one.

  40. mike says:

    Frank & Aleksandar –
    I hope you are both right in your assessment of Assad.
    But Frank, if what you say is true about Assad benefiting Kurds – then why does Assad not stop constant Turkish shelling and bombing of the Kurds in Afrin? Why does Assad not stop infiltration of Turkmen jihadis into Afrin? Why has he allied his country with Erdogan who has been the major funder and enabler of Daesh and of al Qaeda in Syria? Why has he allowed Turkey to conduct direct military intervention into Syria and establish an Islamist enclave? Why does he allow that Turkish enclave to be re-populated with Turkmen proxies of Erdogan led by Turkish Gray Wolves? Why has he allowed Turkey to establish Hisbah police in that enclave?

  41. mike says:

    I agree with your point on al Quds.
    As far as the war against Daesh – George W Bush was responsible for Daesh taking over in Iraq. So we do do have some responsibility there.
    As for the Kurds, we Americans do have an affinity with them. I do not believe we should abandon them to Erdogan’s murderous intentions. I hope we help them negotiate the same degree of federalism that Texas and Rhode Island have.

  42. mike,
    There’s a fairly simple answer to your questions. Assad and the entire R+6 lack the strength to take on every adverse situation that arises. They have to pick their fights. Eventually they will have to deal with Turks on Syrian territory, but that will have to wait for another day.

  43. Frank says:

    Assad doesn’t have control over a lot of those things for obvious reasons. I’m sure he would have dealt much more forcefully with Turkey if that were possible but it isn’t. Assad has done a remarkable job of recognizing the dangerous position he’s in and carefully trying to maneuver his way out.

  44. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Behind Texas and Rhode Island stand generations of men and women steeped in traditions of states West of the Diocletian Line.
    There is nothing you or anyone else could do to live Kurdish history for them and transform them into that which they are not – and may not wish to be.
    I am spending more time with you in this because there are so many do-gooders in Western Diocletia that wish to confer on the rest of mankind the benefits of their own societies.
    That wish is a nightmare when put into practice; I am endeavoring to rebut that forlorn hope.
    Look no further than Algeria and the abject failure of France to alter the Arabs and Berbers there in over a hundred years.
    The only way you can materailly help Kurds is to try to end the wars in Syria, in Iraq, and in Turkey by working with the governments of those countries.
    Everything else is just another dance with the Widow Maker.

  45. robt willmann says:

    The worst selections by Trump for major governmental posts are Steve Mnuchin for Secretary of the Treasury, and Jay Clayton for chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
    Mnuchin worked at Goldman Sachs for around 17 years and became a partner there, worked for George Soros, and led investors who bought IndyMac, which they renamed OneWest, that was a lousy and huckstering mortgage company—
    Jay Clayton, nominated to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, is a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, the law firm which has represented Goldman Sachs for a long time.
    A few courageous Republicans, joining with Democrats, could block the appointment of Mnuchin to be treasury secretary, except that the Democrats stupidly made Senator Charles Schumer of New York the minority leader of the senate, and he does what the banksters and financial companies tell him to do.

  46. mike says:

    TTG –
    That is true. But Putin seems very happy with the current situation. He has Erdogan on a string and very close to leaving NATO. Perhaps getting Erdo to demand the Coalition to leave Incirlik. The question is whether or not Putin will allow Assad to deal with the Turks later.

  47. Pundita says:

    Here we go…..
    US military is ‘not coordinating airstrikes with Russia in Syria’, Pentagon says
    By Spencer Ackerman
    Monday 23 January 2017 14.19 EST
    Last modified on Monday 23 January 2017 14.40 EST
    The Guardian
    The Pentagon has flatly denied a Russian government claim that both nations’ warplanes conducted a joint combat mission in Syria.
    On Monday, the Russian defense ministry claimed to have received coordinates of Islamic State positions via a US-Russian communications channel, and that two jets from the US-led coalition participated in a strike alongside Russian aircraft.
    But the Pentagon, now helmed by Trump’s appointee James Mattis, issued a round denial of the Russian account.
    “The Department of Defense is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria,” said spokesman Eric Pahon, who added that he was not aware of any coalition member aiding Russia in this instance.
    The White House, however, signaled it was open in principle to joint military strikes with Russia in Syria.
    The press secretary, Sean Spicer, said Trump would “work with any country that shares our interest in defeating Isis”, saying the inclination applied to “Russia or anyone else”.
    Sputnik has carried, without comment, a report on the Pentagon denial.
    My crystal ball is in the repair shop again so I have idea who’s telling the truth.

  48. ToivoS says:

    ttg: The possibility that special forces and/or Syrian agents inside the jihadists forces are responsible for the fighting that is breaking out between the “moderate” and jihadists rebels seems very plausible.
    I had a similar thought when those jihadists killed the four Americans including the US ambassador in Benghazi in 2012. It seems clear that Ambassador Jeffries was in Benghazi that day to coordinate the rat line supply channel between Libya and Syria. The Benghazi jihadists were certainly fanatics but they couldn’t be that stupid. It turned the US against them. What if Syrian agents had infiltrated those forces in Libya and influenced the decision to attack the US? It seems well known that many of those fighters received their training fighting US forces in Iraq in the 2004-2007 and returned to Libya. In addition, it seemed obvious that they traveled to and from Iraq via Syria. After the Homs rebellion in the 1980s it would seem only obvious that the Syrian government must have planted agents in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. As we all should recall the Syrian Brotherhood seems to have disappeared after the Arab Spring but their cadre ended up somewhere. Twenty years later these guys would be in position of serious influence.
    What ever the case is, the 2012 attack in Benghazi caused serious doubt in the Obama administration on the wisdom of providing aid to the Islamist. This has resulted in the seemingly incoherent policy that Obama and Kerry have displayed over last four years in Syria. This has without much doubt opened the door for Russian intervention that looks like is going to finally defeat those Islamist forces.

  49. mike says:

    Robt Willman –
    Blame it on Soros and Schumer all you want. The fact remains that Mnuchin and Clayton were nominated by Trump. If Mrs Clinton had won the election and nominated Goldman Sachs folks to her cabinet then a few hundred million Republican heads would be exploding with rage. Where is the rage now? Or is it OK if you are a Republican?

  50. mike says:

    Babak –
    Thanks for spending your time on this with me. I do appreciate many of your insights despite our disagreement on this issue.
    From Pundita’s comment and reference below regarding the US providing intel tips to the Russians in Syria, perhaps we are now working (indirectly) with the government in Syria. Plus long before Trump took over here, we were fighting against Assad’s enemies Daesh and al Qaeda in Syria.
    I believe we are working with the government in Iraq to end the war there. And in Turkey, we have long declared the PKK to be a terrorist organization and have passed intel to the Turks regarding PKK locations.
    As for the Kurds, by calling us do-gooders, I think you misunderstand our political system. The Kurdish diaspora mostly went to Europe, but there is a small community of Kurdish-Americans. Not too many, perhaps 20,000 or less. But they, like most other immigrants in America tend to settle into their own neighborhoods. At least half of those 20,000 went and settled down in or near Nashville Tennessee. They are a powerful voting bloc there. They will be supported by both Tennessee Senators and by the two Congressmen (one D and one R) who represent both urban and suburban Nashville. Those are powerful friends who have seats on Defense Committees, Appropiations Committees, and one (Bob Corker) is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I do not believe they will go against the wishes of their constituents.
    I realize that the Kurdish identity is anathema to Turkey and Iran. They would much prefer the “melting pot”. Erdogan and Rouhani should stop denying Kurdish heritage in their countries and stop forcing them into becoming “mountain-Turks” or “carbon-copy-Persians”. Iraq does not have that same attitude. I am not sure about Syria? But using one of Colonel Lang’s favorite memes about Syria, that country has been “multi-culti” in the past. Hopefully that will continue in regard to the Kurds and the many other ethnic and religious groups there. Peace will follow.

  51. mike says:

    James –
    I am not following? Are you saying that the Assad forces in Deir ez-Zor should be buying oil and fuel from Daesh? That just funds terrorism and allows them to buy more weapons, more recruits, and more time.

  52. Barish says:

    “After the Homs rebellion in the 1980s it would seem only obvious that the Syrian government must have planted agents in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. As we all should recall the Syrian Brotherhood seems to have disappeared after the Arab Spring but their cadre ended up somewhere. Twenty years later these guys would be in position of serious influence.”
    I take it that is supposed to read as “the Syrian Brotherhood seems to have disappeared after the_1980s uprising_”, right?
    At any rate, one does wonder how much overlap in terms of personnel there is between the ikwhan of those times and the insurgents that torment the country today. Do recall that those fellows were already all about wiping out Alawites – the Artillery School massacre at Aleppo in ’79 comes to mind -, so a good number of those cadres migrating to the various AQ-outfits doesn’t seem far-fetched.
    “What ever the case is, the 2012 attack in Benghazi caused serious doubt in the Obama administration on the wisdom of providing aid to the Islamist. This has resulted in the seemingly incoherent policy that Obama and Kerry have displayed over last four years in Syria. This has without much doubt opened the door for Russian intervention that looks like is going to finally defeat those Islamist forces.”
    In that case one would have expected them to clearly renounce the “opposition” in Syria in ’13 at the latest. Incoherence may have been more a product of various parts of the apparatus steering the wheel towards where each one thought it in their best interest for it to go, not helped by Obama abstaining from taking clear charge here as well. Mr Bahzad in the comments-section of this post here by the Colonel:
    phrases the type of attitude at the core of this half-pregnant policy the now former PotUS pursued as regards the MENA-area rather nicely: “Actually, more a mixture of self-delusion combined with unwarranted arrogance and intellectual autism.”

  53. turcopolier says:

    “Memes?” You think I am a propagandist? pl

  54. aleksandar says:

    ” And there have been many other US attacks against al Qaeda and their allies in Syria ”
    Let me complete our sentence: ” in the last 3 months “.
    This war has begun in 2011.

  55. FB Ali says:

    You don’t need a crystal ball. Just read today’s post on Moon of Alabama!

  56. mike says:

    James –
    The US led coalition started hitting al Quaeda in Syria and their allies back in September/October 2014. You have not been paying attention.
    Regarding diesel, I am sorry for the people of Dei ez-Zor if true. But that is no reason to allow Daesh to profit and grow from selling oil that belongs to the Syrian people.

  57. aleksandar says:

    It’s interesting to note how you are able to read Putin or Assad minds. Or general Flynn who according to you ” want to stab kurds in the back”.
    A crystal ball, maybe ?
    Sound more propaganda than facts.
    Putin want Turks to leave NATO ?
    Surely not, It’s a lot better to have the Turks in NATO and work with them
    Demanding the coalition to leave Incilrik ? Should be stupid, better know where is your ennemy to monitor him.
    Will Putin allow Assad to deal with the Turks ?
    Typically a” empire syndrom ” question.
    Suggest that Putin will behave like an American President and says what someone has to do or not.
    And so and so…………

  58. Mark Logan says:

    FB, TTG,
    I have seen cases where the press has been deliberately distracted, but am unconvinced this administration is in complete control of this weapon.
    TTG, Forgive me for putting this here, but the post I am replying to is now 300 posts long and I feared this will be missed. I think it might be helpful in Trump analysis:
    His raising of the FHA interest rates on day one:
    I know something of development. The banks, even on my tiny level, are acutely aware they are not lebders, they are partners. They ride herd on their investments. I strongly suspect Trump’s partners are unhappy, even fuming. They know contingencies crop up but now there will be hell to pay in fronting any new money to Trump Inc. His buildings around the world are now targets. There is highly likely to be a loss of tenants and it is likely those buildings will have a difficult time getting insurance as well. I suspect that is behind his odd decision to make throwing them a sop a Day One item.

  59. Chris Chuba says:

    I have stated that our politicians are in a state of cognitive dissonance. I have no doubt that they believe that if we oppose Iran, Russia, ‘tyrants’ like Assad, assist rebels who are strongly allied with Al Qaeda, and simultaneously hit some Al Qaeda targets that it will all somehow all work out in the end.
    However, if you put all of this mess on a scale, our intervention in Syria has materially helped Al Qaeda more than it has hurt them. This is not propaganda by Assad and I don’t blame him for having a bee in his bonnet. We are supporting rebel groups in his country, rebels who are supporting Al Qaeda and Salafists.
    Al Qaeda in Iraq moved into Syria and split into two groups, Al Nusra and ISIS. Of the two groups, the Al Qaeda coalition is (or was) at least as the strong as ISIS because they had the most foreign backing and the most allies. Regarding ISIS I can find a nice presentation from the U.S. claiming that over 30,000 ISIL targets have been destroyed https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0814_Inherent-Resolve where they call out that over 6,300 airstrikes have been made in Syria.
    Now my question to you is this Mike, what is the total number of Al Qaeda targets the U.S. has attacked in Syria?
    I’ll give anyone who can find this number $50, I’ll send it a paypal account. We document how many ISIS targets we hit in Syria, but why do we only hear about a few random attacks against Al Qaeda and only in the past 6 mo’s or so?
    The point is that the U.S. has, in general, avoided attacking Al Qaeda in Syria because they didn’t want to hurt the rebel coalition that was attacking Assad. I don’t blame our military, I blame our politicians who live in their own reality and our incompetent MSM for not pressing them on this issue. I am hopeful that this will change but we need to acknowledge this as well.

  60. Ghostship says:

    It’s warming up in Idlib and Aleppo. If this goes on for much longer then there will only be JFS and al-Din al-Zenki which will make deciding who to bomb far easier.
    Jabhat Fateh al-Sham launches a general offensive against rebel groups in Aleppo, Idlib CS
    Tensions within the Jihadist-rebel alliance throughout northwestern Syria (Idlib and Aleppo provinces) have reach a boiling point with Jihadist militants of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) terrorist group launching a campaign of conquest against rebels of the Ahrar al-Sham (Muslim Brotherhood Franchise) Islamist group and the Jaish al-Mujahadeen wing of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) armed opposition faction. There are rumors that the Harakat Noor al-Din al-Zenki jihadist group is siding with JFS in this operation.
    So far the JFS offensive has seen the Jihadist group conquer the towns of Anadan, Hayyan and Kafr Hamra from the latter mentioned Islamist-opposition groups, who were forced to retreat from these population centres. In addition to this, JFS has laid siege to the rebel held town of al-Dana in Idlib province.


  61. Henshaw says:

    As a nation state, Turkey is susceptible to a range of pressures that can’t be applied to jihadi groups, eg the sanctions that Russia put on Turkey after turkey downed a RuAF aircraft. There is usually scope for negotiation with a nation state- not so much for extreme jihadis for whom martyrdom is something positive.
    The only practical way to clear out jihadis is to defeat them militarily, and given R+6 limited resources, that will take time. Once that is done, attention can be turned to Turkey.

  62. Pundita says:

    Brigadier Ali, thank you for letting me know. I see b has done a fine bit of reasoning, but it does leave a few threads hanging. I found this remark at the Daily Beast’s analysis of the muddle:
    American commanders can urge their Russian counterparts to avoid certain areas while U.S. planes are overhead. Russian commanders can make the same request of the Americans. But in “banning” certain coordinates, the Americans aren’t actively contributing to a Russian air strike—to say nothing of sending U.S. or coalition jets to join the Russian attack.
    Of course, that depends on your definition of “[international] coalition.” Turkey has allowed the U.S.-led coalition to use its Incirlik air base, but Turkish air strikes in northern Syria do not fall under the coalition’s command structure. They are Turkish missions with Turkish objectives.
    Turkish warplanes have bombed rebels and militants in Syria alongside Russian planes several times since Moscow and Ankara boosted their cooperation in mid-January.
    The first joint air raid on targets in Al Bab on Jan. 18 reportedly involved nine Russian planes and eight Turkish ones. On Jan. 21, three Russian fighters and four Turkish ones reportedly struck Al Bab again.
    The air strike the following day—the one where U.S. officials “banned” certain coordinates—was carried out by two Russian jets and two jets from the “international coalition,” according to RIA Novosti. In context, it’s clear that the jets in question are Turkish.
    I don’t think that would exclude the conjecture that the US intended the Russians to read the ‘banned’ coordinates as discreetly pointing out exactly where to bomb IS in the Al Bab locale. And if this was the first time the ‘banning’ had been issued for the specific locale, then the Russian MoD would, in a world without prickly people, be justified in announcing that “Russia has received coordinates of Daesh targets in Al Bab, Aleppo Province, from the US for the first time.”
    But as General Mattis was just settling into his office, I venture the better part of wisdom for the MoD was to have waited for the Pentagon’s starting pistol. Although I could see why they wouldn’t want to wait. Much is riding for the Russians and Syrian Army on the Astana talks, which launched yesterday — on the same day Sputnik breathlessly announced to the world that the US had given the MoD coordinates for IS targets. That would certainly give Alloush pause, in particular if his Saudi paymasters had already told him the party was over and that he’d better try to work out something at the Astana talks.

  63. Tom says:

    There is a difference between the Iranian and the Arab and Turkish relationship with the Kurds. The language of the Kurds (in fact they have four different mutually not intellible dialects) and the Persian is quite closely related. A Kurd will learn Iranian in no time as they belong to the same language group. Furthermore both celebrate Newroz. That festival (new year) is closely related to the founding myth of both peoples. Whereas Arab culture and language as well as Tourkish culture and language is much, much more removed. Case in point is that in Turkey the celebration of Newroz was forbidden for many years. Things only started to change under Erdogan but now he is heading back towards the bad old days.
    I know that cultural similarity doesn´t necessarily result in an easier relationship between different peoples but it certainly helps. Which it undoubtedly does in the case of Iran and the Kurds as the relationship between the Kurdish minority and the cantral government is not nearly as bad as in the neighbouring countries. Furthermore it would be a mistake to regard Iran as a “nation state” in the classical European fashion. (Turkey fits the bill much more. The identity of Syria and Iraq is more shaky) Iran is a multinational state with an ideology that transcends national identities. Therefore it is not surprising that Iran can tolerate Kurdish schools but not the Bahai religion which is an erhetical offspring of Shiism. Finally let me say it woudl be a bad mistake to underestimate the internal coherence of Iran. The only really restive minority are the Beluchs near the border to Pakistan. Not surprisingly they happen to be Sunnis.

  64. Tom Cafferty says:

    Meme could imply propaganda, doesn’t have to. Your comment to mike caused me to check the dictionary. That’s always good. Thanks!

  65. Wunduk says:

    The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood faction responsible for the cadets’ massacre ‘al-Tal’a al-Muqatila’ (the Fighting Vanguard) later merged directly into Al-Qaida. There’s a book arguing that this vanguard acted alone, and that the main stream of the Syrian ikhwan remained committed and peaceful democrats (Raphael Lefevre, Ashes of Hama, 2013). Lefevre is good on providing names and members, from where you can see a continuity to the ‘moderate opposition’ but he did not submit his interview partners of today to the same historical critique prevalent in the first half of his book (history from Ottoman period through mandate period until 1960s). Lefevre seems to shy away from being too hard on his interviewees in order to maintain his access. This in my mind confirmed implicitly Barish’s assumption when I read it back in 2013.
    But it’s probably less the transfer of actual people, more the transfer of ideas. Lefevre also recently wrote this up, where he points to the things I missed in his book:

  66. trinlae says:

    There appears to be all kinds of propaganda circulating in all directions, but the relational dynamics are probably more of interest to me than the minutae of ground operational details, other than my empathies and sympathies to victims of misadventures and my related exasperation over those that might be avoided. Awareness must be the first step to possibly preventing the latter so appreciate the committee correspondence in that light, thanks.

  67. Willybilly says:

    All hell is breaking loose in Idlib between Al-Nusra Takfiris, their cronies of ISIS and the other Jihadistes conglomerate who were present in Astana and have signed onto the process taking place there and later on in Geneva.
    It seems like the Al-Nusra thugs initiated the hostilities in a preemptive effort, knowing that Idlib is about to turn into a “Kill Zone” for Nusra&Co. soon after…
    Meantime, Deir El-Zour is taking a pounding by strategic bombers and advances are taking shape on the ground by SAA and Co.

  68. mike says:

    Aleksandar –
    Speculation and NOT a crystal ball.
    Your other points are well taken.

  69. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There are a few tens of thousands of Baluchis who are Shia Muslims. The rest are, as far as I know, Deobandis.
    Now, there are two types of Deobandis; Hard Deobandis and Soft Deobandis.
    The Hard Deobandis believe that Shia should be killed immediately. The Soft Deobandis, while agreeing that Shia are not real authentic Muslims, are not in a hurry to kill them.
    The population of Baluch in Iran is estimated to be around 1.5 to 2 million souls; let us say about 2% of the Iranian population.
    So you are sitting in a restaurant in Zahedan, wondering if the man who is serving you and your family wants to murder you, rape your wife, and sell your daughter into slavery or not – “How is his inner Jihadi feeling today?”.

  70. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Kurdish identity is not anathema to Iran; just look at the large number of books published in Kurdish, Kurdish music broadcasts etc.
    There many other Iranic people in Iran; Lors, Gilack etc. In what way are Kurds different than say, Lors? Or the Qashqai?
    The US-friendly Azerbaijan Republic, where they actively suppress Islam, oppress the ancient Iranian people called Taleshi, expel Armenians, and generally promote the lie of the Great Turkic People, does not rise your ire – I wonder why.

  71. mike says:

    Babak Makkinejad –
    Thank you for your answer. I am pleased to hear that Iran allows Kurdish language books and Kurdish music.
    I admit I do not know much of US/Azerbaijani relations. We did give diplomatic recognition to many of the former Soviet republics when they declared independence in the early 1990s, not just Azerbaijan. But I thought we had sided with the Armenians during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. As for me personally, my ire rises when any country or group oppress minorities, and that would go for Azerbaijan also.
    You say the Azerbaijanis suppress Islam. My understanding is that it is a Muslim majority country, mostly Shia. I do not possess your insight into that part of the world. But from what I have read they allow some religious proselytizing by Azeri citizens but not by foreigners. They have suppressed Salafis (that must be driving Erdogan crazy), Hare Krishna, and Seventh Day Adventists. So I suspect they are probably also suppressing attempts by Iran to espouse a political Islamic Republic. They are probably extremely nervous about being outnumbered three or four to one by Azeris in Iran.

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