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Thread: Syria in 2015

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Syria in 2015

    Time for a new thread as 2015 arrives and Syrians face a gloomy future as their civil war drags on - with even more non-Syrians actors joining in.

    The title is adapted from my last post on the previous thread, which I now repeat.

    Professor Joshua Landis, a US academic and IIRC sometimes criticised here, has a broad end of 2014 review:http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/yea...ecember-2014/?

    He opens with:
    Syria will become increasingly fragmented in 2015. The Somalia-ization of the country is inevitable so long as the international community degrades all centers of power in Syria and the opposition fails to unite.
    There are a number of threads on Syria, with the caveat that recent events in Iraq have reduced the relevance of national borders. Seven of these old threads have been closed, exceptions have been made for the Turkish territory inside Syria and those relating to the Kurds.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-31-2014 at 11:30 PM.
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    January 2014



    January 2015

    The images are from a Dutch analyst via Twitter. Or for the latest map:http://pietervanostaeyen.wordpress.c...ember-16-2014/
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-02-2015 at 04:00 PM.
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    Fierce clashes near Fleita are still happening now as we speak between #Hezbollah and #JAN right now following #JAN advancements #Syria #FSA

    #Urgent: Huge advancements in Qalamoun mountains as Jabhat Al Nusra take control of Al Masroob near Fleita. Huge #Hezbollah losses reported.

    NEW MAP: Situation in [ #SheikhMaskin - #Izzra' ] axis | #Daraa Province. January 2, 2015.
    pic.twitter.com/djJuxDDQSz

    #JN| Mujahideen took control over Al Masrub point, belonging to the Iranian Hizbollat #Qalamoon
    pic.twitter.com/fjtMCE5xsT"
    Last edited by OUTLAW 09; 01-03-2015 at 04:16 PM.

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    Default Syrian nukes: a simple or complex issue?

    A Der Spiegel story that could make the Syrian civil war even more fraught. Has the regime got nukes? Nukes guarded by Hizbollah close to the Lebanese border too. ISIS offered the IAEA an inspection visit to Kibar, the site the IDF hit in 2007 near Deir al-Zor.

    For years, it was thought that Israel had destroyed Syria's nuclear weapons capability with its 2007 raid on the Kibar complex. Not so. New intelligence suggests that Bashar al-Assad is still trying to built the bomb. And he may be getting help from North Korea and Iran.
    Link:http://www.spiegel.de/international/...a-1012209.html
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    Default Syrian nukes: cold water shower

    A riposte that ends with:
    Perhaps, the most compelling evidence that casts doubt on Spiegel's claim is the fact the site continues to exist and has not met the same fate as its alleged predecessor in an Israeli air strike seven years ago in north east Syria.
    Link:http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middl...clear-facility
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    Now a Syrian journalist adds his commentary, aided by some photos of the Kibar facility - with underground water storage tanks intact:http://tahrirsouri.net/2015/01/12/an...new-mysteries/
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    Default The Syrian Arab Air Force, beware of its wings

    The Orynx blog has a long update on the Syrian Arab Air Force, in particular how it manges - with a lot of Russian support - to fly:http://spioenkop.blogspot.co.uk/2015...re-of-its.html

    I like maps, although I thought Deir ez Zor had fallen recently to ISIS.
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    That lump of conjecture and speculation is about as valid as the info on the mobile BW labs fed to the US by Chalabi.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    That lump of conjecture and speculation is about as valid as the info on the mobile BW labs fed to the US by Chalabi.
    Usually the German press tends to vet their articles far better than most of the western media and have been connected into that region far longer than most of the western media which has pulled out many of their better reporters.

    BTW the labs were actually discredited by initially some in the media as they were being released but no one if I remember correctly wanted to directly challenge the US government as that would not have been a career enhancer at that time and space in the US.

    BTW just as the US press does not currently challenge the WH on a distinct lack of a Syrian strategy if anyone noticed lately or have they forgotten the red line on the use of chemical weapons against civilians which is still going on and is not being reported much these days by our press.

    Just a thought.
    Last edited by OUTLAW 09; 01-16-2015 at 01:36 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    That lump of conjecture and speculation is about as valid as the info on the mobile BW labs fed to the US by Chalabi.
    x10

    Quote Originally Posted by OUTLAW 09 View Post
    Usually the German press tends to vet their articles far better than most of the western media and have been connected into that region far longer than most of the western media which has pulled out many of their better reporters.
    ... if 'vetting' means that Der Spiegel _always_ had a very clear agenda _pro specific party_ in the Middle East, then I'm in agreement, and that 1000%.

    Otherwise, they're 'just a little bit less sensationalist' than most of the other media - and this comes from somebody who attempted to work with them (and gave up when finding out a) how sensationalist they actually are, and b) how much of what they do is 'vetted' in interests of that _specific party_).

    BTW the labs were actually discredited by initially some in the media as they were being released but no one if I remember correctly wanted to directly challenge the US government as that would not have been a career enhancer at that time and space in the US.
    Well, actually: 'German government' (see Joschka Fischer) did 'directly challenge' Rumsfeld & Co KG GesmbH, because the BND meanwhile realized that Curveball was providing bollocks. But, I do not recall that Der Spiegel did so.

    On the contrary, and especially, all of Der Spiegel's publications related to Qibar were 'strictly along the party line'.

    BTW just as the US press does not currently challenge the WH on a distinct lack of a Syrian strategy if anyone noticed lately or have they forgotten the red line on the use of chemical weapons against civilians which is still going on and is not being reported much these days by our press.
    The latest load of Assadist CWs was unloaded upon the Daesh at Dayr az-Zawr, causing hundreds of casualties (indeed, de-facto destroying them in that area). Majority of 'Daesh' in question were actually Syrians forced into submission through incredible terror of the beasts.

    Why should anybody care about that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I like maps, although I thought Deir ez Zor had fallen recently to ISIS.
    Although it was a 'close call', as reported in thread here - see my Post No 823 - it didn't.

    Thanks to extensive use of chemical weapons by the Assadists.

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    Default Necessity is the mother of adaptation

    Once again, a fascinating article on the Orynx blog this time on the Soviet-era APC, the BMP-1 and BMP-2. The emphasis being on the local DIY upgrading of the armour and weaponry:http://spioenkop.blogspot.co.uk/2015...rias-bmps.html
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    Default Bombs plus dropped on Iraq & Syria

    A moving timeline chart for Allied air activity via a Danish website:http://www.information.dk/databloggen/515038

    The United States Central Command, CENTCOM, updates the course of the war against the islamics in Iraq and Syria daily. In their press releases the actions of US and the partner nations is specified. However, from the 20th October the individual details of the partner nations are removed. From this date and so forth it is not possible to distinguish the actions of the specific partner nations.
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    Default From Russia with Love, Syria’s AK-74Ms

    A simple report, with numerous photos:https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena...yrias-ak-74ms/
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    ^^From the article linked above:
    ...
    Syia acquired its first batch of AK-74Ms in the late 90s, albeit in very small numbers. This very first batch was believed to have been part of a deal struck with Russia in 1996, which would renew the military and technological cooperation with Russia after this had dwindled due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    The deal envisaged the delivery of a wide selection of small arms, anti-tank missiles, night vision equipment and ammunition for weaponry already in use by Syria. Included in the package were large numbers of AKS-74Us, smaller numbers of AK-74Ms, RPG-29s, PG-7VR warheads for the RPG-7 but also 9M113M Konkurs anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and even 9M117M Bastion gun-launched anti-tank guided missiles for use by Syria’s at that point recently upgraded T-55MVs.

    Disagreements over Syria’s insistence on lower prices and extended payment schemes for future purchases and its debt to Russia led to the failure of a deepened relationship between the two countries. Nonetheless, much of the ordered weaponry did ultimately reach Syria.
    ...
    Actually, that deal (with Russia) fell through.

    Syrians acquired their first AK-74s (plus the package mentioned in the second paragraph) from Belarus, two years later.

    Those were the times when Syrians were actually re-selling most of that stuff all over Africa.

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    Here an update on SITREP in Syria.

    In essence, not much changed since mid-December before, in mid-February, the regime - that is: the IRGC-QF officers in charge of Syrian regime forces - attempted to launch two, near-simultaneous offensives.

    One of these took place north of Aleppo, and can be seen as a continuation of operations from December 2014. Around 16 February, the IRGC-QF CO in Syria, Maj Gen Hossein Hamadani (assigned the post of C-in-C IRGC-Quds Force in Syria in October that year, in place of Soleimani who went to sort out things in Iraq), brought in another of his units to Aleppo, and launched an attack from Sayfat in direction of az-Zahra.

    Together with Nubol, the latter is one of two centres of a Shi'a enclave north of Aleppo, de-facto cut-off from regime since two years.

    This attack seems to have ended in a near-desaster, while only some 30 of involved thughs breaking through: that is, survivors de-facto fled the battlefield to find refugee in az-Zahra. as can be read here: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content...offensive]here:

    Rebel counter-attack, storms halt Syria offensive in Aleppo.
    A rebel counter-attack and stormy weather are preventing Syrian government forces from pressing their offensive in the northern province of Aleppo on Thursday, a monitor said.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the assault was stalling on its third day and that the clashes have killed 170 people, including 90 government troops and allied fighters.

    The offensive has so far failed to break a rebel siege of the regime-held Shiite villages of Nubol and Zahraa, but government forces had effectively cut the insurgents' main supply route from Turkey into the east of Aleppo city.

    However, regime forces backed by fighters from the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, as well as Iran and Afghanistan, were losing ground to the rebels.

    Earlier in the day, the rebels recaptured most of Hardtaneen village, a day after losing it in fierce fighting, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

    "A group of regime forces are still besieged inside the village and clashes are still ongoing," he told AFP.
    On another front, rebel fighters were battling government forces around the regime-held village of Bashkoy, also in the Aleppo countryside.

    "Most probably the offensive will fail because of the regime's inability to get reinforcements and because of the bad weather," he said in reference to winter storms that have lashed the region.

    The Observatory said 90 regime combatants, including allied militiamen, had been killed in the offensive since Tuesday, as well as more than 80 rebels, among whom were 25 foreign jihadists.
    Regime forces had captured 40 rebel fighters, while 32 government troops and allied militiamen were seized by the insurgents.

    On Tuesday the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said the Damascus government was ready to suspend aerial bombardment of Aleppo for six weeks to allow humanitarian aid into the northern city.
    Once Syria's economic hub, Aleppo has been divided between regime control in the west and rebel control in the east since shortly after fighting began there in mid-2012.

    In the surrounding countryside the situation is largely the reverse, with rebels controlling much of the area west of the city and regime forces much of the east.
    Even the most conservative pro-insurgent sources estimate at least 130 NDF, IRGC-QF and Hezbollah as KIA (including at least 43 Syrians from Aleppo, 9 from Homs, 8 from Damascus and 16 from Lattakia and Tartous). Additionally, 48 were captured (including 7 Hezbollah, unclear whether Lebanese or Syrian) - by the IF alone (no clue if the JAN captured any too).

    In turn, the IF and the JAN lost about 50-60 KIA.

    The regime not only failed to capture it objectives, but lost some of places north of the city, including Malah and Rityan. Here a video from Malah, which is now under the control of the IF:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUWkWtneWQw

    And here '17 Hezbollah' (not sure if they are indeed Hezbollah) captured in Rityan:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2aWmEgMzB4

    Now, a JAN counterattack (that is: Jabhat Ansar ad-Deen, ex Jaish al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar) from Malah was subsequently stopped, but IF's attack (supported by ex-RGD's T-72s captured from the IRGC) on Hardantain was successful:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywLsciItjkA

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

    ...to be continued...
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-22-2015 at 12:07 PM. Reason: fix link

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    The other offensive was launched in the north of Dera'a province, and here a very interesting report about new IRGC-QF tactics in this part of Syria (note: I've repeatedly reported about that tactics being applied in Damascus area since early the last year):

    Hezbollah, Iran advance and incur losses in Daraa

    We’re not used to facing regime and Hezbollah forces at night… The night was ours, they used to prefer working in the day,” says Abu Osama al-Jolani, deputy commander of the First Army, a coalition of three Free Syrian Army (FSA) units.

    “Yes, on the first day our forces were shocked: the enemy’s forces were advancing in the night, scouting then removing mines. Preparatory shelling began on positions in Al-Maymana and Al-Maysara, and night forces advanced without covering fire in the center. We lost 10 fighters on the first day, and the attacking forces also sustained a high number of losses.”
    ...

    The operations took place on the front running through the towns of Deir al-Adas, Danaji, Tel Marahi, Tel Fatima and Tel Makir. In addition to nighttime attacks, combat reconnaissance operations were carried out: the attacking force sent in small groups that would try to break though FSA lines and blend in. Where they managed this they discovered defensive strengths and weaknesses. Then, they would be followed by a large armored force that would execute major attacks at the weakest points.

    This tactic has a high human cost, especially for the attacking force. Nevertheless, it is a highly-effective method for revealing weak points. Consequently, the weakest defenses were breached. This is one of the factors that contributed to the success of the attacking force. On the other hand, the tactic led to a great many injuries — some of the wounded were air lifted to Damascus in the first days of the offensive before being returned to their home countries.

    A third tactic used by the attacking force was to storm areas then quickly withdraw as soon as it came under heavy fire. This allowed it to reduce the strain on itself at the same time as wearing down FSA forces and depleting their ammunition. The attacking force was able to tire out the poorly-resourced FSA fighters through attack-and-retreat operations in which it set the timing, amount of force used and speed. The defending force believed it had been recapturing areas, but in reality it had only been expending energy, ammunition and fuel. Meanwhile, over the course of a month, the attacking force has been preparing itself for a drawn-out battle.
    So, what is 'new' here:

    1.) IRGC-QF adapting its tactics to suggestions provided by Abdullah Eskandari (IRGC-QF commander sniped to death in Damascus, in May 2014), some of which can be found in the article here, i.e. deploying _Iranian_ units (not Syrian, Iraqis, or any other recruited/sponsored by the IRGC) as 'shock troops' that are infiltrating enemy positions (primarily by night)

    2.) Use of quads, motorcycles and armed buggies (by the IRGC-QF and Hezbollah) to increase mobility of their infantry on problematic terrain (instead of usually pick-ups, MBTs and IFVs).

    Rebel spokesman: Iranian militias in Syria ‘saved the regime’
    Q: What is the Syrian army trying to do in Daraa?

    The Syrian army and its allied mercenaries are trying to gain control of a number of strategic regions that it lost in previous battles. This loss represented the destruction of the regime's lines of defense on Damascus, the capital.

    Therefore it gathered troops in northern Quneitra, and a-Sanamein [the city of a-Sanamein is located between Damascus and Daraa city, roughly 50 km from each] in order to return the security situation to what it was before Deir al-Adas fell into FSA hands. Also it aims to push back progress rebels towards the Damascus countryside.

    Q: Why did the regime begin this new battle in Daraa now?

    Because Daraa represents a large reserve [of fighters and military equipment] for the FSA. Also because of the recent gains on the southern front, which reached the thresholds of Damascus.

    There is also the number of military commanders in the province, who proved their worth in the last four years of the revolution.

    Q: There are reports that the regime is trying to separate Quneitra from the western Daraa countryside. What's behind this move?

    This is indeed the goal of the military campaign, i.e., to control a triangle of land separating the three provinces [Daraa, Rif Dimashq and Quneitra].

    Q: What is the regime's strategy on the southern front?

    The regime today has no decision-making capacity, sovereignty or strategy, because the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah have taken over the decision-making process.

    Their strategy revolves around attempting to exterminate the revolution from the south, and to extend their control to the Golan Heights, in order to become the true guardians of Israel's safety.

    Q: Will the regime's control over Deir al-Adas change the balance of power in the region?

    Yes, regime control over Deir al-Adas impacts the course of the FSA's operations in the area.
    It will slow things town, considering that Damascus is the FSA's goal today, and the Deir al-Adas axis is the closest [in Daraa province to Damascus].

    Q: How much of the southern region do the rebels control?

    We control about 70 percent of the land, the regime's control is limited to several centers in cities and towns.

    Q: To what extent does Jabhat a-Nusra cooperate with the FSA in the region?

    Jabhat a-Nusra is there on the ground, and acts independently of the FSA.

    Q: What is the importance of the Shiite and Iranian militias' participation in fighting in the South?

    The Iranian Shiite militias' participation is considered direct and barefaced intervention in the Syrian issue. It points to their illegitimate ambitions and intentions, old and new, to spread their control over the area.

    The militias' intervention certainly saved the regime after the latter had exhausted its material and human energy. As for the effect of these militias—it will only increase our resilience and the conviction in the justness of our cause.

    Q: When did the Shiite Iranian presence appear in the southern regions?

    The Iranian role was present from the beginning of the Syrian revolution. It it was limited to logistical support, but as events escalated their presence became clear in the most sensitive regions, in the southern regions and especially the mausoleum of a-Sayyeda Zeinab under the pretext of protecting their holy sites.

    Q: There are reports that say Qassem Suleimani is located in the southern regions, do you have any information?

    Yes, he is here on the ground, overseeing operations under orders from the leader of the Revolution [Ali Khamanei]. This proves the Iranians' doctrinal involvement directly.
    ...
    Meanwhile, the insurgents have stalled this offensive. Between others, they are either at least attacking, or have already re-captured Tel Mari (hill taken by the IRGC-QF right at the start of their attack):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NINIz_hBMjc

    Another video from the same area (this time from the Yarmouk Army):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbNvS565tW4

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

    In other news:

    B-1 pilots describe bombing campaign against ISIS in kobane
    On his first sortie over Kobani, Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Ed Sumangil, expected the mission to be uneventful. Instead the crew “went Winchester,” Air Force lingo for dropping all of the bombs in a payload. The B1-B planes carry 500-lb and 2,000-lb bombs.

    “We got up there thinking it would be quiet. and immediately we started getting targets against ISIL command and control elements,” he said.

    Reviewing the damage assessments in the next days and weeks, Lt. Col. Sumangil said, it was clear that the airstrikes, combined with a Kurdish offensive on the ground, “basically stopped their progress.”

    During as much as eight hours flying over Kobani, the 9th Bomb Squadron would get targets called in to the air operations center from air controllers working with the Kurds. The B-1 crew would get the target, drop a weapon and then get confirmation from the fighters on the ground.

    “It was almost like an orchestra,” said Maj. Brandon Miller, the squadron’s director of operations. “The information was flowing… almost like clockwork.”

    Each day the B-1 crews would be briefed on where the dividing line was in Kobani, what the Air Force would call the Forward Line of Troops, or FLOT.
    ...
    ...to be continued....
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-22-2015 at 12:10 PM. Reason: fix quote

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    To make things particularly interesting, and all of a sudden, two days ago Turkey has announced that its troops guarding the Shah Suleiman Tomb near Qarah Qawzaq have been held as hostages by the ISIS since June 2014.

    Ironically, local FSyA and YPG units are now attempting an advance in this direction. They should have reached the place yesterday: Syria Kurds, rebels advance into ISIS bastion
    Syrian Kurdish and rebel forces, backed by U.S.-led air strikes, advanced Thursday into Raqqa province, where ISIS has its de facto capital, an activist group said.

    "The YPG [Kurdish People's Protection Units] and rebel forces captured 19 villages in Raqqa province," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    "The U.S.-led international coalition played a key role in the advance, bombing the ISIS positions and forcing its fighters to withdraw," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
    ...
    To further increase the irony, YPG spokesman Polat Can (his Twitter account was meanwhile shut down) now claims Turkey officially requested the YPG to rescue its hostages.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-22-2015 at 12:18 PM. Reason: Copied to the Turkey & Syria thread

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    Default Turkish enclave (Tomb) is evacuated

    The NYT reports that Turkish forces entered Syria and evacuated the garrison at the tomb and the tomb's contents:
    The Turkish Army launched an operation into Syria to evacuate soldiers guarding the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which has been besieged by Islamic State militants, and move the tomb’s remains, an official and Turkish news media reported on Sunday.The military then destroyed what was left of the site to prevent the militants from using the enclave, and one soldier was killed by accident during the operation, CNN Turk said Sunday, citing military officials.
    The operation, called “Sah Firat,” began on Saturday and involved a large convoy of tanks and other heavy weaponry that entered Syria through Kobani....
    Link:http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/22/wo...orts-say.html?
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    According to source here, they deployed a total of 39 MBTs, 100 APCs, 57 MRAPs, and 572 troops during this op.

    ...and 2x F-16Cs....

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