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Thread: Syria under Bashir Assad (closed end 2014)

  1. #801
    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Back to topic: the following is in relation to regime's claims about the SyAAF bombing all possible ISIS targets in NE Syria, recently...

    Assad Strikes Hard Against Moderate Rebels, Doesn’t Touch ISIL
    ... Insurgents of all stripes, except for the Islamic State group, say the Syrian government appears to be stepping up its attacks on them ahead of the threatened American air campaign. Pro-government and antigovernment analysts say Mr. Assad has an interest in eliminating the more moderate rebels, to make sure his forces are the only ones left to benefit on the ground from any weakening of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

    Mr. Assad has maintained from the start of the conflict that he and his allies are the only force in Syria capable of battling the extremists effectively. But Islamic State activists in Homs said on Wednesday that there had been no recent government airstrikes against the group, adding to opposition suspicions that Mr. Assad prefers to focus on attacking his other opponents while letting the Islamic State’s unchecked brutality argue the case to Syria and the world that his rule is the best alternative.

    The Faith in God Brigade in Talbiseh is probably one of the most moderate forces left on the battlefield. Many others have been radicalized by years of inconclusive violence and the influence of foreign fighters and deep-pocketed Islamist donors. For several months recently, parts of the brigade operated under Harakat al-Hazm, an insurgent umbrella group that has received American-made TOW missiles and other aid that the United States has tried to keep out of the hands of more extreme groups.
    ...
    If connected to reports about the IRGC training up to 150,000 Shi'a combatants in Iraq... well, that might prove enough for everything: fighting the ISIS, present a force inside Iraq that cannot be removed by the US and allies - and then going to Syria to finish the insurgency (weakened by continued regime attacks) too...

    Thus, can't avoid but asking again: what's Obama's exit strategy for the war on Daesh?

    (For those who wonder what's 'Daesh', see here.)

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    That's also the common refrain from the autocrats in power.
    That doesn't mean concern doesn't exist in other places as well. You don't have to be an autocrat to notice that transitions out of autocracy, especially those initiated by external meddling, are a very difficult and very dangerous time for many countries, and are often followed by violent competition for power and/or a slide back into even worse autocracy.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    There's also the question of the assumption that every element desires to "hold the country together" or that it's beneficial or necessary for democratic reformation... The same arguments made in favor of Iraq's partition (which I disagree with actually) could be made about Saudi Arabia. I don't necessarily think partitioning Saudi Arabia is ideal but it's territorial integrity is less important than its political reformation so perhaps it's something that should be considered.
    Considered by who? Nobody who isn't a Saudi has a right to an opinion on the value of Saudi territorial integrity, any more than anyone who isn't Iraqi has a right to an opinion on whether or not Iraq should remain as a single state. These are matters for the people of the countries involved to resolve.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    Which Saudis are you referring to specifically?
    The ones I know are typically in business, not on the top tier and with no connection to the royals, but reasonably well off. They've traveled and in many cases studied abroad. Many are open to Western ways and admire democracy, but are very worried about how a transition would be managed and about the rather grim possibilities of a transition that's mismanaged.

    I spent some time in the Kingdom in the 90s, and things actually seem more stable to me now... the oil glut was not a happy time there. As long as money is flowing, there's a lot of hesitation about rocking the boat. A fair number of people have a stake in the system and are reasonably comfortable, but are also not secure enough in their comforts to take them for granted and want to risk them. There's certainly discontent, but whether that discontent is anywhere near the level needed to initiate change remains to be seen.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    What's your view?
    Islamic fundamentalism and its violent offshoots are less a reaction to autocracy in the Muslim world than to a widespread perception that Muslims in general and Arabs in particular have been repressed, abused, manipulated, and maltreated by the West... the syndrome Bernard Lewis calls "aggressive self-pity". Emasculating and humiliating military defeats at the hands of Israelis, Americans, and practically anybody else have left a lot of people itching for payback. Have you ever wondered why Osama's calls for fighters to rise up against infidel invaders from the Soviet Union and the US got such a response, but his efforts to rouse jihad against the Saudi royals fell so flat? The "expel the infidel from the land of the faithful" narrative has a lot more traction than the "rise up against your effete rulers" narrative.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    The U.S. cannot and should not attempt to do it directly. It can however prompt reforms through diplomatic and social pressure either at the government or grass-roots level.
    "Diplomatic and social pressure" accomplish nothing beyond getting people annoyed at foreign meddling.

    One thing we need to recognize, but often don't, is that in many autocratic countries even people who hate their governments do not want the US meddling in their internal affairs... US criticism of a government is often the fastest way to get people rallying behind the government. In much of the world, particularly the oil producing world and most especially the Arab world, accepting money or support from the US instantly discredits a political group: they are seen as sellouts to manipulative Western imperialists. Somehow people have got it into their heads that we typically act to advance our own interests, not theirs. Can't imagine how.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    It is "our business" because (1) the U.S. has a moral obligation as the patron of the international system and the self-proclaimed defender of democratic governance and human rights;
    Ok, we declare ourselves patron of the system and defender of the faith, and that gives us a moral obligation... to whom? Whether or not we think it's "our business" is not the question: do the people of the country involved think it's or business?

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    (2) pluralist governance will go a long ways in marginalizing extremism and terrorism, and the U.S. has a primary security interest in this regard; and (3) the U.S. has the political and economic means to compel change in other states.
    I have yet to hear any credible suggestion of how American political and economic means can effectively be used to compel change in other countries.

    An internally initiated transition to pluralism has a real chance to achieve stability and marginalize extremism, though this is by no means assured, as we see in Libya. When a transition is internally initiated, the people behind it typically have at least a chance of mustering the support and the means to actually govern. They are typically at least to some extent organized and capable before they get to take power, because if they weren't organized and capable they won't have the chance to take power (sometimes less the case in the "color revolution" model).

    When a transition is externally initiated, that is not the case, one reason why externally initiated transitions typically fail so miserably. You cannot lump internally and externally initiated initiatives together. Pluralistic government has to evolve, and its evolution is a process that we cannot dictate or control. If we try to skip or accelerate that process to suit our own objectives, we end up with a government that can't endure and a mess that can and does endure.

    There may be times and places where the US can assist internally initiated transitions, but it requires subtlety, restraint, and deep awareness of local conditions, none of which are American strong points.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    It is in the long-term interests of the U.S. to actively promote and agitate for pluralist governance around the world.
    It is in the interests of America's many creditors around the world to actively promote and agitate for fiscal prudence and stability in the US. Do we let them dictate policy to us? Do you really think anyone in the world really wants Americans meddling in their internal politics?

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    You make the inference that I am arguing the U.S. should put the Iraq War on repeat in a global campaign for democracy.
    No, I make the inference that you're suggesting that the US meddle in the internal affairs of other countries. I think that's something we should avoid to the greatest possible extent... not because of any moral principle, but because we generally make such a mess of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    And that's where the U.S. should start: strengthening political institutions. War is not effective in that regard.
    Strengthening political institutions in other countries? You redefine the term "hubris".

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    And that's where the U.S. should start: This is why I also floated the idea of a transitional 'strong-man' government... A reform-minded autocratic government is really a 'useful idiot' who can maintain sufficient stability and legitimacy to reform institutions until they are removed from power (preferably through an electoral process).
    And if your "useful idiot" decides there will be no electoral process, or that he will manipulate the electoral process? During the Cold War we thought we were using "useful idiot" strongmen to fight Communism, only to find that in reality we were their useful idiots, supporting and sustaining them while they ravaged their countries and in many cases lent legitimacy to the Communists. Do you really think we can control a strongman once he's in the chair?

    This is not something the US should even be considering, IMO. Whether another country needs or does not need a strongman ruler is not for us to decide.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    Pluralist sentiment exists in Saudi Arabia. There are reform-minded members of the royal family, though not many and none in key positions of power (yet). The challenges to democratization in Saudi Arabia is not some mythological Arab aversion to pluralism, but the autocratic nature of the state... a we can help shape the conditions to make this possible through a variety of political, social, and economic levers.
    What specific levers do you propose to use, and how?

    Of course pluralist sentiment exists. So do lots of other sentiments. There are some who would fight to separate, and others who would fight to keep them from separating. There are any number of foreign powers just waiting for a chance to jump in and advance their own interests. There's Islamist sentiment in there too, in a number of varieties. There's an army and a security apparatus with the capacity to use force and interests of their own to protect.

    If we can't predict or control what's going to happen when we start rocking the boat - and we certainly can't - it might be better not to start. It's not our damned boat to begin with.
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 09-19-2014 at 04:36 AM.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Citing Dayuhan:
    If we can't predict or control what's going to happen when we start rocking the boat - and we certainly can't - it might be better not to start. It's not our damned boat to begin with.
    Yes exactly. This is a multipolar world. At least consulting with Russian and Syrian authorities would be deft in this situation for Obama adm. prior to broadening scope of US involvement over there.

    Someone in another post (JWING?) calculated 5K plus ISF already killed in the last 8.5 months. And today's debate in Congress with defense leaders was similar to the one prior to the surge in Afg., with a tilt towards going allin this conflict-including argument for boots on the ground.

    Every time they have been pushed out a certain area looks like ISIL just leaves and regroups elsewhere. I dont know if they can be seriously decapitated strictly by airpower without our SOF guys.... hmmm.

    This madness has to stop!
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-21-2014 at 02:23 PM. Reason: fix quote

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    Quote Originally Posted by empress View Post
    ... At least consulting with Russian and Syrian authorities would be deft in this situation for Obama adm. prior to broadening scope of US involvement over there.
    What was first, egg or hen?

    Did Russia consult the West when it provoked a 'civil war' (i.e. de-facto invaded) Ukraine, or when it began supporting the regime in Damascus and thus de-facto supported the provocation of the civil war in Syria? And what shall one discuss with Assadist regime, which not only provoked this war in Syria or made itself responsible of ...atrocities outstrip Islamic State in Syria, but is not in control of the airspace over all of northern and north-eastern Syria (i.e. areas held by the Daesh) either, and remains insistent on destroying 'moderates' and not attacking the Daesh as much as dependable on monetary support from Tehran...?

    Someone in another post (JWING?) calculated 5K plus ISF already killed in the last 8.5 months. And today's debate in Congress with defense leaders was similar to the one prior to the surge in Afg., with a tilt towards going allin this conflict-including argument for boots on the ground.
    The ISF proved corrupt, inept, inert, running away whenever facing strong opposition and thus unable to fight effectively. Whichever way one turns it, considering who's in charge in Baghdad and what Iranians are doing in the country (i.e. the parts of it still under Baghdad's control), it's next to certain the ISF will be largely replaced by IRGC-created 'Basiji-style' force currently undergoing training, armed with Russian and Iranian weapons bought by Baghdad with help of money provided by China.

    Frankly, none of parties listed here cares what the USA and the West want. I.e. they do, but are already neck-deep in developing their own countermeasures, most of which are clearly designed to prevent any sort of Western influence for decades to come. With other words: the force in the process of being created by the IRGC is likely to become capable of tackling the Daesh on its own, and then moving against insurgents in Syria too, thus leaving a clique in Tehran in de-facto control over something like one third of remaining oil reserves, and most of Iraq and Syria.

    No doubt, it's probably going to take a few years until this plan is realized: indeed, this is most likely going to last beyond the term of current US administration. Should this mean this issue should not be of our concern?

    And, once Tehran secures its hegemony over Iraq and Syria, what do you think is going to happen next? Tehran is going to disarm this 'Iraqi Shi'a' military, it's going to let Kurds have their own state in northern Iraq, it's not going to move against Israel, against Saudi Arabia and GCC states etc. - or, better yet: it's going to take care to uphold Western interests in the Middle East...?

    Every time they have been pushed out a certain area looks like ISIL just leaves and regroups elsewhere. I dont know if they can be seriously decapitated strictly by airpower without our SOF guys.... hmmm.

    This madness has to stop!
    ...I'm actually in agreement with you here. But, with this 'demand' we're back at the start of the 'off topic' part of discussion here: that's not going to happen as long as the US (and the West) continues insisting on upholding reactionary police states that are its 'allies' there.

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    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Despite the usual bunching of insurgents with extremists and insistence that 'moderates' are not fighting, that whatever one sends to insurgents is reinforcing extremists, that one cannot trust them etc., etc., etc. (like in the video below)...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DveDwEk122Y

    (BTW, typical in this style of argumentation is Rand Paul's explanation about 'JAN, ISIS, al-Qaida' being 'stronger' - in sense of more numerous - than the FSyA. This is nothing but nonsense. Firstly, and as usually, he completely ignored the IF, which is the most numerous insurgent group. Secondly, even if all combined, these groups do not count even 50% of either, the 'FSyA block' or the IF. Thirdly, while about 50% of the JAN is Syrian, the rest of extremists are simply not, and thus it's dishonest to mark them as such and explain 'we don't know who they are'.)

    U.S. Congress approves arming Syrian rebels, funding government
    ...The U.S. Senate approved President Barack Obama's plan for training and arming moderate Syrian rebels to battle Islamic State militants on Thursday, a major part of his military campaign to "degrade and destroy" the radical group.The Senate voted 78-22, in a rare bipartisan show of support for one of Obama's high-profile initiatives.
    ...
    Last edited by CrowBat; 09-19-2014 at 09:15 AM.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    Despite the usual bunching of insurgents with extremists and insistence that 'moderates' are not fighting, that whatever one sends to insurgents is reinforcing extremists, that one cannot trust them etc., etc., etc. (like in the video below)...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DveDwEk122Y

    ]
    Paul is well out on the fringe on any subject and well beyond the fringe on foreign policy; his views would hardly be thought "usual". A more mainstream view, a better illustration of the arguments for non-intervention that actually carry some weight in DC, would be those of Mark Lynch, for example:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/...islamic-state/

    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    But, with this 'demand' we're back at the start of the 'off topic' part of discussion here: that's not going to happen as long as the US (and the West) continues insisting on upholding reactionary police states that are its 'allies' there.
    Are the US and "the West" really "upholding these regimes? Are they really that dependent on either, and is there really as much influence there as you think? I suspect not: the mantra of "dependent on the west" has simply been repeated until it's accepted without question or thought.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Sigh...what you've posted is the same line - including all the same, lame excuses and speculation. Indeed, the kind of speculation you're complaining about?!?

    You've got this all explained, long ago: you prefer to ignore all I wrote in reply and thus it makes absolutely no sense in discussing anything with you (even if, I would be repeating myself for '1.977th time' ).

    *************

    Meanwhile, in the real world, French making it official they're flying combat sorties in Iraq: Irak Premieres Frappes Francaises (in French),

    ...and Saudis 'making it official' they've got DF-21s:

    Saudi Arabia has Acquired the DF-21 Missiles says Saudi General (in Arabic).

    Now let's see if intermediate range (1.700km) ballistic missiles might ever help them at least move their small finger to fight the Daesh....

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    That doesn't mean concern doesn't exist in other places as well. You don't have to be an autocrat to notice that transitions out of autocracy, especially those initiated by external meddling, are a very difficult and very dangerous time for many countries, and are often followed by violent competition for power and/or a slide back into even worse autocracy.
    I'm not sure about your qualifier of "often". Violent transitions do in fact occur - American Revolution, for example. However, there are also many peaceful transitions. A Freedom House report analzyed 67 democratic transitions and found that 32 of them were won by non-violent means. You could also say that non-violent transitions occur almost as often as violent ones. So let's try to be careful in defining the problem here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    Considered by who? Nobody who isn't a Saudi has a right to an opinion on the value of Saudi territorial integrity, any more than anyone who isn't Iraqi has a right to an opinion on whether or not Iraq should remain as a single state. These are matters for the people of the countries involved to resolve.
    That's increasingly becoming an 'old world' view. The emerging structure of international law is producing a new paradigm where human rights (among which include participation in a pluralist governmental process) are more important than states' rights. This is the ethical and legal basis of the responsibility to protect which while now focused on the most egregious violent crimes, it also sets the conditions for encompassing all recognized human rights. This is the ideological reason why Republicans in the U.S. Congress not too recently rejected the U.N. treaty on disability rights.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    The ones I know are typically in business, not on the top tier and with no connection to the royals, but reasonably well off. They've traveled and in many cases studied abroad. Many are open to Western ways and admire democracy, but are very worried about how a transition would be managed and about the rather grim possibilities of a transition that's mismanaged.
    Those are legitimate concerns but are they sufficient justifications to persist in injustice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    As long as money is flowing, there's a lot of hesitation about rocking the boat. A fair number of people have a stake in the system and are reasonably comfortable, but are also not secure enough in their comforts to take them for granted and want to risk them. There's certainly discontent, but whether that discontent is anywhere near the level needed to initiate change remains to be seen.
    And that's the fundamental problem in a centralized, autocratic, patronage state like Saudi Arabia. Compliance with the political system is not an endorsement or acceptance of it, and the royal family is acutely aware of the simmering discontent beneath the surface of political niceties. Where is the tipping point in KSA? I don't know - short of some kind of internal upheaval or catastrophic external conflict, the next major event will be succession of the next monarch.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    Islamic fundamentalism and its violent offshoots are less a reaction to autocracy in the Muslim world than to a widespread perception that Muslims in general and Arabs in particular have been repressed, abused, manipulated, and maltreated by the West... the syndrome Bernard Lewis calls "aggressive self-pity". Emasculating and humiliating military defeats at the hands of Israelis, Americans, and practically anybody else have left a lot of people itching for payback..Have you ever wondered why Osama's calls for fighters to rise up against infidel invaders from the Soviet Union and the US got such a response, but his efforts to rouse jihad against the Saudi royals fell so flat? The "expel the infidel from the land of the faithful" narrative has a lot more traction than the "rise up against your effete rulers" narrative.
    This is not entirely true. Many people answered the call to arms against the KSA - but the Saudis also have a fairly effective internal security service. And many of the sponsors of Islamic fundamentalism are the Saudis in power in the first place. Who writes the school text books, organizes training camps, and so on? So when 9/11 occurred and the chickens came home to roost, the KSA had already distanced itself from bin Laden - and the rest of the patronage state followed the al-Saud lead for the reasons you described in your previous comments (you don't sh*t where you eat).

    "Diplomatic and social pressure" accomplish nothing beyond getting people annoyed at foreign meddling.
    That's an oversimplication.

    One thing we need to recognize, but often don't, is that in many autocratic countries even people who hate their governments do not want the US meddling in their internal affairs... US criticism of a government is often the fastest way to get people rallying behind the government.
    That's also an oversimplication.


    In much of the world, particularly the oil producing world and most especially the Arab world, accepting money or support from the US instantly discredits a political group: they are seen as sellouts to manipulative Western imperialists. Somehow people have got it into their heads that we typically act to advance our own interests, not theirs.
    True. And we've consisently made the mistake that backing 'stable' autocratic regimes is in our own interests - but I don't think history bears that out. It could be on a case-by-case or limited basis but not as a matter of policy, and certainly not with the aim of preserving that status quo for any significant amount of time. Why did Eastern Europe welcome the U.S. and E.U. with open arms after the fall of communism but the Arab Spring did not offer the same warm welcome? It's a consequence of U.S. policies in those regions, not any cultural or social disposition towards autocracy.

    Ok, we declare ourselves patron of the system and defender of the faith, and that gives us a moral obligation... to whom? Whether or not we think it's "our business" is not the question: do the people of the country involved think it's or business?
    These questions operate on multiple levels. First, on a principled basis, those with the power to act of an obligation to do so. Whether or not the exemption carved out for political decisions is legitimate is open for debate. Second, from a political theory point of view, the U.S. has an obligation to itself to fulfill the obligations it claims to have in order to maintain its own credibility.

    I have yet to hear any credible suggestion of how American political and economic means can effectively be used to compel change in other countries.
    That this discourse is not mainstream does not mean no 'credible suggestion' exists. And 'compel' is the wrong word. The discourse has moved to a paradigm of 'multi-track' diplomacy that includes upwards of nine lines of effort (depending on the model used). The U.S. has frequently but selectively shaped conditions through political and economic means (i.e. Ukraine) to promote democratization.


    When a transition is externally initiated, that is not the case, one reason why externally initiated transitions typically fail so miserably. You cannot lump internally and externally initiated initiatives together.
    You can't?

    Pluralistic government has to evolve, and its evolution is a process that we cannot dictate or control. If we try to skip or accelerate that process to suit our own objectives, we end up with a government that can't endure and a mess that can and does endure.
    Yes - those are problems, evidenced by Iraq most recently. But those problems are not inherent in the process of pluralist reform, even if externally sponsored. Political conditions in the U.S. may prompt these mistakes but that's a consequence of governmental politics and not the actual process of pluralist reform.

    There may be times and places where the US can assist internally initiated transitions, but it requires subtlety, restraint, and deep awareness of local conditions, none of which are American strong points.
    I agree - but that's not a reason for the U.S. to ignore the problem of autocratic regimes entirely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    No, I make the inference that you're suggesting that the US meddle in the internal affairs of other countries. I think that's something we should avoid to the greatest possible extent... not because of any moral principle, but because we generally make such a mess of it.
    The U.S. does this on a regular basis. That's the job of diplomats. It's only a question of degree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    Strengthening political institutions in other countries? You redefine the term "hubris".
    That's often a stated goal for many international organizations so how is that 'hubris' for the U.S. to recognize it can play a major part in that process?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    If we can't predict or control what's going to happen when we start rocking the boat - and we certainly can't - it might be better not to start.
    And it's that risk-aversion that often leads to loss in long-term relative security. Attempting to preserve the status quo out of fear of 'rocking the boat' is a losing strategy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    It's not our damned boat to begin with.
    That depends on how you define 'the boat'.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Default Iraq, Syria, and the Islamic State: The “Boots on the Ground”

    Iraq, Syria, and the Islamic State: The “Boots on the Ground”

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    Default The one thing that could stop Isis

    Patrick Cockburn, of The Independent, is known to have a different viewpoint on what is happening and his article starts with:
    If the United States and its allies want to combat the Islamic State jihadists (IS, formerly known as Isis) successfully, they should arrange a ceasefire between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the non-IS Syrian opposition. Neither the Syrian army nor the “moderate” Syrian rebels are strong enough to stop IS if they are fighting on two fronts at the same time, going by the outcome of recent battles.



    A truce between the two main enemies of IS in Syria would be just that, and would not be part of a broader political solution to the Syrian crisis which is not feasible at this stage because mutual hatred is too great.
    Link:http://i100.independent.co.uk/articl...is--l19FZ6G1Hg
    davidbfpo

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    Default Obama Taps Star General To Build Syrian Rebel Army to Fight ISIS

    Obama Taps Star General To Build Syrian Rebel Army to Fight ISIS

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    Yeah, it's 'obvious' that the idea of making friends with a regime that's responsible for provoking a multi-enthnic and inter-religious civil war, wholesale slaughter of 400.000 Syrians, deployment of chemical weapons against civilians and destruction of most of major Syrian cities, making 10 million of - supposedly - its own population into refugees...

    ...but especially for importing Daesh and helping it grow so it can present itself as 'fighting extremist Islamists and thus a preferred friend of the West'...

    ...is simply 'brilliant'.

    The next on that menu would be making friends with Khamenei's clique in Tehran: then provide air support for their- and Assadist hordes so these can clean up the entire mess in Iraq, Jordan, Israel, then Saudi Arabia and whatever else might find itself in the way... Ah, ups: Israel is 'friends', sorry.

    Whatever: call it a 'speculation' if you like, but it's obvious that such an enterprise would be much easier to organize but finding out what insurgents are 'good ones' in Syria, then training and arming them, and guiding them through a war and politics. Not to talk about finding out what party in Iraq might be acceptable to cooperate with.... Doh, that's all too complex. Instead, make friends with two regimes that are excelling at squashing peaceful protesters that demand such nonsense like human rights, dignity and pluralism: who to hell cares about the latter factors? Nobody. On the contrary, organizing such an alliance would remove all the problems caused by corrupt and bigot regimes in the GCC, and foremost it could be completed within as little as one year (which in turn would remove the need for something as absurd as demands for GCC regimes to stop being as oppressive as those in Damascus and Tehran, but also finally cut off the financing they're providing for extremists all around the world). Simply fantastic.

    And then the Middle East will be pacified - 'once and forever'.
    Last edited by CrowBat; 09-22-2014 at 02:41 PM.

  13. #813
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    While the fans of the Assadist regime can't stop bragging about all possible air strikes on the Daesh, there is simply no evidence of these.

    Instead, all one gets to hear are reports about strikes on civilians - and, if at all, then moderate insurgents in the Talbiseh-Rastan pocket.

    Here one of related reports:
    Nearly 50 dead in Syrian airstrikes on Homs province.

    Anybody curious to make friends with such characters? Perhaps some want to check who is actually fighting the Daesh in Syria, before coming to such ideas:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwSnyQYy5SE

  14. #814
    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Here is something like a summary of US air strikes on targets in Syria, flown the last night - as reported from the locals, and sorted out per province:

    * Raqqa
    - 7 strikes in total on targets inside the city were recorded during the night
    - three locations in Tel Abyad area, north of this city, were hit
    - the governor palace in Raqqa was completely destroyed during the night; this area was hit again early this morning, causing a huge fire
    - Tabqa AB was hit five times
    - Base 93 was hit three times - by Tomahawks

    * Idlib
    - JAN HQ in Idlib (no specific place mentioned)
    - JAN HQ at Khirbet Ghazala (where the CO Mohammed Brigade, Abdu Ismail Mohammed was KIA)
    - Activists are reporting that the strikes in this Province have hit the Ahrar ash-Sham HQ too, but 'only killed civilians'.

    * Dayr az-Zawr
    - no specific targets mentioned yet, but given 'several air strikes' were reportedly flown there, and all by night, it's clear these were undertaken by the US: SyAAF is not known to have flown a single nocturnal air strike in three years of war.

    I purposedly write 'US air strikes' here, because it seems the US are alone in striking targets inside Syria: UK has promised to join, but didn't do so yet. Except for fighter-bombers, Rear Adm John Kirby has mentioned involvement of 'bombers and Tomahawk missiles'. Jordan is the only Arab nation to officially acknowledge involvement of its air force so far, but what the official website of the General Command of the Armed Forces of Jordan (in Arabic) says, seems to indicate RJAF flying strikes against targets inside Iraq.

    Furthermore, locals are reporting rather weak presence of the Daesh in most of targeted areas: seems that majority of extremists went slaughtering Kurds in the Kobane pocket...
    Last edited by CrowBat; 09-23-2014 at 08:12 AM.

  15. #815
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    More news on US strikes on the Daesh in Syria: majority of these seem to have targeted a large convoy of extremists moving in direction of Kobane and Tel Abyad. Supposedly, most of this was obliterated. The YPG then launched a counterattack and mopped up.

    Another Kurdish force - which seems to have entered Syria from Iraq - is moving from Ras al-Ayn on Mabroukah, and should have captured the latter town. YPG is claiming that this offensive is to go westwards, in direction of Tel Abyad.

    With other words: except for targeting the Daesh and Ahrar ash-Sham, the US is presently supporting a pincer-attack by the YPG which should help ease the pressure upon Kobane pocket.

    *************

    Separately from this, the Israelis have shot down a SyAAF Su-24MK2 this morning.

    According to the IDF, the Sukhoi penetrated the airspace over Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at around 08.57hrs local time, and crossed into the Israeli-controlled airspace by about 800 metres at an altitude 'between 10,000 and 14,000ft'. 'From the moment that the decision was made until impact, 1 minute and 20 seconds passed'.

    The photo below should be showing the crew that ejected. Video below was taken at Khan Shih, which is half-way between Damascus and Qunaitra: while insurgents claim they've shot down the plane in question, I would say this is the Su-24MK2 shot down by the Israelis:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7YM8hwwwco

    The IDF confirmed that the crew ejected successfully.

    This is a loss that will be felt by the SyAAF: although originally in posession of only 21 aircraft, No. 819 Squadron (their only Su-24-unit) flew up to 30% of all strikes recorded over Syria since July 2012.
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  16. #816
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    It seems inevitable that intractable problems will generate utterly unrealistic "solutions" from onlookers, but this conflict seems to be doing more than its share. This has to be right up there near the top:

    If the United States and its allies want to combat the Islamic State jihadists (IS, formerly known as Isis) successfully, they should arrange a ceasefire between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the non-IS Syrian opposition.
    If we're going to presume omnipotence, why not just "arrange for" the ISIS guys to shoot themselves and/or each other, and have done with it?

    Obviously Assad has no interest in a truce with "the non-ISIS opposition". His interest lies in annihilating the non-ISIS opposition, so he can pitch himself as the only alternative to ISIS. Why would Assad go ahead with a truce and focus on ISIS when he knows perfectly well that as soon as ISIS is out of the picture he'll be the next target? Makes no sense. Assad seems perfectly happy to have ISIS in the picture, as well he might be: as long as they're around, he's no longer the least attractive alternative.

    The proposal is every bit as unrealistic on the other side. "The non-ISIS opposition” is anything but cohesive and unitary: you're talking about hundreds of divergent and deeply conflicted factions, from relative moderates to full blown Islamist loonies like al-Nusra, which is among the most obvious demonstrations that "non-ISIS" does not necessarily mean "moderate". Even the thought of trying to get all or even most of them to agree to or observe a truce is far beyond the bounds of absurdity.

    So we propose to “arrange a truce” between those who haven’t the capacity to agree on a truce (or anything else) and those who have no reason whatsoever to want a truce, and we expect this to happen… why? Because we decided that it should be? Again, if we were omnipotent we’d have easier ways of solving the problem.

    Another prevailing utterly unrealistic proposal goes back to the old “find the good guys and make them win” mantra, also known as “arm and fund the moderates, and guide them through war and politics”. The obvious questions about whether a proxy war is really an advisable strategy, whether a suitable proxy exists, and (most of all) what we propose to do when our proxy doesn’t win are generally not answered, or even acknowledged: it’s just assumed that there have to be good guys, that they will surely win if we support them, that they will of course willingly submit to our “guidance”, and that of course they would never ever dream of applying our money and resources to any purpose not approved by us.

    Given the number of times we’ve been burned in that particular fire you’d think we’d know better than to stick our faces back into it… but I guess we’re slow learners.

    And then of course there’s the old reliable proposal that America should “demand” that the GCC regimes stop being oppressive and do as we say, as if they give a rat’s ass about our demands, and as if they need to.

    All of these “proposals” have one thing in common: they assume capacities that do not in fact exist. That makes them quite useless for any practical purpose, though they do provide us with a way to make an unrealistic suggestion and then accuse others of incompetence for not following it. Why anyone would want to do that is something I’ve not quite figured out. Different strokes, I guess…
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  17. #817
    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Sigh, more of usual speculation and guessing...

    In all of your regurgitation, there is only thing that's making me curious, Dayuhan: you're all the time emphasising how disunited the insurgents are.

    Provided you are able to at least once answer a question: who has ever told you that 'Assadists' are 'unified'?

    Assad is meanwhile an Iranian puppet, upheld for the purpose of representing Iranian interests in Damascus and holding together a bunch consisting of different militias.

    On the battlefield - and that's all that matters in Syria presently - his regime is supposedly represented through the 'Syrian Arab Army'. Where is this Syrian Arab Army, please? Can you mention me but a single brigade, not to talk about any division of the former Syrian Arab Army that is still existing?

    Yes, there is a Ministry of Defence and the usual chain of command, but officers of these have representative roles only: their main duty is to listen to IRGC-QF officers and follow their orders. Technically, the 'Syrian military' (including intelligence services) is under the control of IRGC-QF officers: much of it is actually run by various families that are siding with Assad in interest of their own survival. Result is a mafia-like organization, not a 'military': even somebody with Soleimani's authority has experienced all sorts of problems in attempting to exercise battlefield control of all the diverse forces. His staff has launched seven different offensives through 2013 and in early 2014, and couldn't complete even one of these because of 'disruption' by various of cliques - which often withdrew their forces from the battlefield in disagreement with him. And since Soleimani was sent back to Iraq, the cooperation between different cliques only worsened - which is why we haven't seen any of glorious large-scale offensives being undertaken since months.

    The air force is receiving orders from the Ba'ath Party HQ, not from the MOD or down the usual chain of command: the Ba'ath Party is primarily consisting of Sunnis and maintaining its own militia which, at least according to Iranians, has proven more combat effective than any other elements of regime's military. Should it then be surprising the SyAAF proved most-effective in providing CAS when doing so in support of BPM units - which include several former Special Forces regiments? None of BPM-members I managed to contact so far would say he's fighting 'for Assad': 'for Syria', 'defence of my family' etc., but not for Assad. And, they dislike Iranian presence and influence too. So, they're one 'clique' there.

    Air Defence Force was disbanded already before the war, and integrated into the SyAAF: majority of its former units were disbanded and their personnel integrated into the NDF.

    Theoretically, the core of what is left of the Army would be the Republican Guards Division. This is meanwhile down to only two 'special' brigades, plus air defence assets (most of those operating 'high-tech' systems, like SA-17s and SA-21s) and few artillery regiments equipped with MLRS' and SSMs. One of 'special' brigades has a sole duty of keeping Alawites under control: during the fall of Tabqa, the regime flew out all of its favourites, but left behind hundreds of soldiers to get slaughtered by the Daesh. This caused renewed unrest and some public protest even within supposed 'core support base', which were squashed only through mass-arresting of anybody who expressed critique. And that's the next point of conflict here: loyal Alawites vs. disloyal Alawites (and where one should keep in mind that Alawites are traditionally disunited, and held 'together' only by sheer violence and brutality of the Assadist regime).

    Out of RGD's former three mechanized brigades only one remains existent: the 104th (that is: its remnants after three years of war) was sent to save Dayr az-Zawr. The equipment of the other two is now manned by Hezbollah and Iraqis, under command of IRGC-QF officers, of course.

    The 4th AD was broken down into detachments that were put in command of countless detachments from various Army units already back in 2011 (in order to prevent defection). All of these were - together with all that's left of the Army - reorganized by the IRGC-QF into the NDF. The NDF is operated in form of about 100+ battalions, sometimes bunched together into makeshift brigades and even divisions for specific tasks, but majority of these are 'territorial' by nature: capable only of limited defensive operations within the area where their members are living. There are ex-intelligence, ex-Army, ex-Shabiha, ex-air defence, and then 'other' battalions, each of them run by their own clique and with its own level/degree of loyalty to the regime. Nobody knows to what side would which of them turn should Assad fall.

    Except for the BPM, the other two most effective 'military forces loyal to the regime' are the militia of the Syrian Nationalist Party's (SSNP, which has Nazi-like ideology) and the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA was established already back in the late 1960s, and is meanwhile largely recruited from the West Bank). In essence, the regime's military can barely survive without them (and the BPM): they're involved in every single 'successful' offensive operation of the regime since this spring. The SSNP and the PLA are fighting 'on regime's side', but not for Assad either.

    Now try to arrange a 'truce' between these forces and the insurgents: even when Iranians were arranging truces with specific of insurgent held pockets around Damascus and Homs earlier this year, they first had to remove specific regime units from the given area in order to negotiate. Whenever they didn't there were renewed atrocities, looting, raping and all of that sort. Just like on the insurgent side, there are 'commanders' that are disobeying any corresponding orders - if for no other reasons then because they know they have too much blood on their hands and are afraid of retaliation (whether by their own or the 'other' side). And that's 'just for the start'...

    And for those shedding crocodile tears over non-cooperation with the Assadist regime... Bashar and Iranians can only thank to Obama, but not complain about him. It's not only that this intervention comes much too late, that Obama has left them three years to save the regime from the collapse, and grow the Daesh for their own purposes. The Daesh's advance on Mosul came just about when the IRGC was about to go bankrupt because of US sanctions - by pure accident, I guess? Thanks to Daesh's advance, they're now free to finance themselves through Iraqi purchases of Iranian arms and ammo, Russian arms and ammo and wholesale raise of Shi'a militias in Iraq.

    But 'no', I guess you'll say: that's taking things into context. We're discussing Syria, so who cares about Iraq here.

    OK, then let's go back to Syria: this intervention in Syria is coming just about when the Daesh was preparing a major assault on Dayr az-Zawr. Thanks to this intervention, the extremists are never going to launch that attack - and thus Bashar is never going to find himself facing such fierce critique from within 'own' ranks, like after the fall of Tabqa.

    On the contrary: withdrawal of major FSyA, SF and SRF contingents for 're-training and re-equipment' in Jordan and KSA is opening major gaps in insurgent frontlines. US attacks on the JAN are likely to open additional gaps in these frontlines, which other insurgent groups can't close on their own: for this, they lack troops, armament and supplies - and they are already lacking troops, armament and supplies to fight both, the Daesh and the regime at the same time. And the US is doing nothing from curbing ever fiercer air strikes by the SyAAF against FSyA, SF, SRF and the IF.

    What do you think: attacks on the JAN and the Ahrar are improving position of the FSyA and the IF? On the contrary: given how disillusioned by the USA (and the West) majority of insurgents became after three years of waiting for them, it's no surprise they're all very sceptic about results of this intervention. Indeed, should it turn out the US air power is continuously killing civilians while missing various of Ahrar's and JAN's HQ, it is going to be not the least surprising if insurgents turn against the USA too: such actions are therefore an ill-advised va banque game.

    So, where is actually the problem? USA are already 'cooperating' with the regime in Damascus, though indirectly. Run the way it is, the US-led action in Syria is saving that regime. I have said it already, and I'll repeat it: sooner or later, Bashar is going to decorate Obama for his achievements in saving his regime. Khamenei, Vahid & Co are then going to stand in line right behind Bashar...

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    I think further disunifying Assads security forces should be a primary effort by the resistance and their supporters, and this can be done if the resistance is willing to compromise. As for a temporary alliance with Assad Sec Kerry said Assad was not fighting ISIL, so much for that realist approach.

    No doubt we can defeat Assad, but should we until there is some hope there won't be a worse blood bath when he falls and everyone is vying for power and seeking revenge? We will end up taking the blame and our foreign friends who insisted we help remove Assad will imply we the morning after problem also.

    We can't defeat ISIL unless the masses in the region turn on them and we turn a blind eye why they slaughter them. We can certainly weaken them, but just as much effort should be directed at psychological operations to facilitate decisive operations.

  19. #819
    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Bill,
    all this theory, guessing and speculation is not going to help anybody. One can't go demanding from some insurgents to do this or that like if they are a state: they are insurgents, not a state, otherwise they wouldn't be insurgents but the state. So, clean the table first (and the backyard too, then obviously the table is never going to get clean without the backyard getting cleaned), help the insurgents become a state and then demand things from them.

    Though the idea with destabilizing the 'Assadist coalition' is a sound one (definitely a much better solution that launching a military intervention at least two years late and then in entirely wrong fashion... sigh... why is that Churchill's statement 'you can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they've tried everything else' - not leaving my mind today...). In three years of war, absolutely nothing has been done in this regards: opponents of the regime within Assad's 'very own' ranks are simply left on their own device... On the contrary, internet is full of BSPR thrown up by Assad fans, and they threw up so much... 'dirt', that even serious politicians have lost direction....

    ************

    Whatever, now comes a wonderful illustration for how misguided this operation is. The US is bombing the Daesh now the third night in succession. Apparently, USAF B-1s, F-22s, F-15Es and F-16Cs, and USN's BGM-109s have manwhile been joined by RSAF F-15S' and UAEAF's F-16s. Surprise, surprise, the GCC decided to move their small finger, after all...

    Saudi prince flew jet in Syria ISIL attacks
    ...The son of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was among the pilots who carried out attacks against ISIL militants in northern Syria this week.

    Photographs released by the official Saudi Press Agency yesterday showed eight Saudi air force pilots at an undisclosed location after returning from the mission.

    The pilots included Prince Khaled bin Salman, son of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

    Dressed in flight suits, the beaming pilots posed for a group photo in front of a fighter jet parked in an airplane hanger. Two of the pilots were also seen sitting in a two-man fighter jet, and there were additional shots of the pilots examining helmets and other equipment in a dressing room.

    The fighter jet was marked with the crossed swords ensign of the Royal Saudi Air Force.

    “My sons, the pilots, fulfilled their obligation toward their religion, their homeland and their king,” SPA quoted Crown Prince Salman as saying.
    ...

    UAE’s first female fighter pilot likely dropping bombs on ISIS militants in Syria
    ...Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, 35, joined the United Arab Emirates' air force once the military branch accepted women. She graduated the academy in 2008 and now pilots an F-16 Block 60 fighter jet, likely among those taking part in the air strikes against Islamic State terrorists in Syria.

    She’s raining bombs on terrorist thugs.

    The first female pilot in the United Arab Emirates' air force is reportedly taking part in the coalition air strikes against ISIS militants hiding in Syria.
    ...
    By all theoretical commonality of the deployed hardweare, it would be interesting to find out how did they sort out the control and the IFF: then this is anything but sorted out even between friendlies (i.e. USAF and the USN), and if somebody gets a nervous finger, or some SyAAF idiot runs in between all of them...

    And now comes the bitter part: except for one of two B-1B-strikes during the first night (these have hit one of Daesh columns converging on the Kobane pocket), all that all these planes are hitting - are empty buildings. All the videos released by the CENTCOM so far are showing no outside movement, few vehicles around, and some show that no sentries were posted nearby. Reports indicate that majority of objectives were vacant:

    Syria Rebels Say They Were Told of Airstrikes Against Islamic State
    ...Syrian opposition figures said the U.S. military informed them over the weekend that American airstrikes against Islamic State would begin this week, advising the Free Syrian Army to prepare its forces while a covert arming program run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency provided fresh weapons.

    The U.S. bombarded Islamic State-held towns and cities overnight Monday to provide support to the FSA and pave the way for the allied opposition to attempt to clear and hold territory held by the Islamist militants. So far, more than a dozen airstrikes have hit Islamic State military targets and administrative buildings in Aleppo and Raqqa provinces in the north as well as al Qaeda's official arm in the country, al Nusra Front in the northwestern city of Idlib, the opposition said.

    A statement from the U.S. Central Command, which is spearheading the operation, confirmed the airstrikes in Raqqa and Aleppo and added that it also targeted Deir Ezzour province in eastern Syria, where Islamic State has been siphoning off oil and selling it on the black market to finance its operations. The statement made no mention of airstrikes targeting Nusra in Idlib,

    But Islamic State had also been preparing for the airstrikes, moving its top leadership and most sophisticated weapons from Raqqa, residents said, after the U.S. announced earlier this month that it would target the extremist group in Syria.

    Residents of Raqqa said they didn't know where the weapons and leadership were relocated to, but Monday's night's airstrikes hit at least four Islamic State military bases and an administrative building in the province. Raqqa is the only province that is fully controlled by Islamic State and serves as operational headquarters for the group.
    ...
    So, more or less, this is all 'shock and awe' - all over again. Useless blasting of empty structures...

    (to be continued...)
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    Throughout this time, the Daesh is attacking the Kobane pocket and has - according to Kurdish sources - reached a point only 5km outside this town, during the afternoon. And this after overrunning the local YPG HQ, as shown on this video (warning: GRAFFIC in some places!):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRLPs1L22cE

    Coalition raids prompt ISIS advance on Syria Kurdish town
    ...ISIS has reinforced fighters who are battling Kurdish forces for control of a Syrian town at the border with Turkey, a redeployment triggered by U.S.-led air strikes on the group elsewhere, a Kurdish military official said.

    Ocalan Iso, deputy leader of the Kurdish forces defending the town of Kobani at the Turkish border, said more ISIS fighters and tanks had arrived since the U.S.-led coalition began air strikes on the group on Tuesday.

    "The number of their fighters has increased, the number of their tanks has increased since the bombardment of Raqqa," Iso told Reuters by telephone. He repeated calls for the U.S.-led coalition to expand its air strikes to ISIS positions near Kobani, which is also known as Ayn al-Arab.

    "Kobani is in danger," he said.
    ...
    So, the Kurds are crying for help, but all they've got so far is from the nearby pocket held by the FSyA (yes, there are two FSyA-held pockets north of Raqqa, no matter how much is this ignored by almost everybody), and from those Kurds that brought their families to the safety in Turkey, and then returned to fight the Daesh. Contrary to the extremists, though, neither the FSyA nor the YPG forces there have tanks and artillery: only RPGs and machine-guns.

    Meanwhile, Twitter reports from this evening are indicating new waves of air strikes - but not in support of YPG/FSyA forces at Kobane: instead, those that 'know better' are blasting empty 'HQs' and 'storage sites' around Abu Kamal, Mayadin, and Markdah near Dayr az-Zawr...

    This is making damn lots of sense. Especialy because the Daesh has withdrawn so many of its forces from this area, that its lines there are held by Arab tribes that used to fight for the FSyA already since 2011 (they nearly liberated all of Dayr az-Zawr in summer 2012), until they found themselves sandwiched between the regime and the Daesh (by the ISIS advance into their backs), then had all of their leaders killed by extremist suicide bombers - and were left without a choice but to submit themselves to the extremist command...

    Congratulations to whoever is writing that frikkin' targeting list: this is reminding me of similar air strikes on Bagram AB back in October 2001, when somebody was so eager to spend several dozens of GBUs (the cheapest went at something like US$500.000) to blast rusty hulks of long-since abandoned MiG-15UTIs, MiG-17s and Il-28s at the local junkyard... while a look into one of old issues of the World Air Power Journal could've provided clear and undisputable evidence that such target selection is simply stupid.

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