Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 14, 2016

"Race To Raqqa" Discussion Thread

To provide additional comment space for further discussion of the "Race to Raqqa" in Syria.

The earliest mention of this race came from Andrew Korybko in October 2015:

At that time the U.S. formed the Syrian Democratic Forces out of the Syrian-Kurdish YPG in eastern Syria and an assortment of Arab groups. The idea was to send that force against the Islamic State in Raqqa but the Kurds declined. We see a similar  scenario as discussed then but now with Turkish and Saudi troops aiming for Raqqa.

Our pieces on the race:

Today Elijah J Magnier provided additional information about the race from his sources within the Syrian-Russian-Iranian-Hizb command in Damascus:

Please at least skim through the above pieces before jumping into the discussion.

Posted by b on February 14, 2016 at 09:42 AM | Permalink

Comments
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I take it that the participation of the US 101st Airborne leading Saudi/UAE troops into Raqqa and Dier Ezzor is now being ruled out? Just curious if that was speculation or if there was a source involved?

Posted by: Perimetr | Feb 14, 2016 9:51:10 AM | 1

Turkey’s bluff

http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist/omer-taspinar/turkeys-bluff_412298.html

Turkey is spreading the news of the prospect of a military intervention to gain US attention and convince the US government to reduce its
support of the PYD. At the current moment, the prospect of intervention is very useful for the Turkish government. Actual intervention, however,
with all of the attendant risks of a confrontation with Russia, is much less appealing. In other words, Turkey is bluffing.

Posted by: virgile | Feb 14, 2016 10:29:39 AM | 2

Thanks b, for all your work on this proxy war in Syria. Makes it much less confusing. Bottom line for me, just another attempt at global resource hegemony by the U$A, and it's minions. I find myself on the side of the Russian/ Iran/Syrian alliance. A multipolar world is what's needed, and autonomy for the regional players a necessity for that to happen.

Posted by: ben | Feb 14, 2016 10:33:08 AM | 3

The US and Russia have already agreed that all of Syria will be a united and secular state. That being the case Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are working in opposition to that reality.
And therefore not only in breach of International Law and the UN Charter but the stated aims of the International Community. It is my firmly held opinion that neither Syria,Russia or Iran will accept, nor should they, foreign boots on the ground. Remember Putin talked about Syria being his red line, and that any aggressor would meet his 'Stalingrad'. The stakes are too high for Russia Syria and Iran not to win decisively, not only do they have International law on their side, their potential military advantage is great. Iran has a military alliance with Syria [and could send hundreds of thousands of troops at short notice].Iran will not renege on it. Bottom line the 'Arc of Resistance' will [must] prevail over aggression or the law of the jungle will descend over the whole of the middle east.

Posted by: harry law | Feb 14, 2016 10:50:01 AM | 4

@4
Don't forget that UNSC resolution:
'calls upon all Member States that have the capacity to do so take all the necessary measures ... on the territory under the control of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL'.

SAR and Turkye are member states.

Posted by: From The Hague | Feb 14, 2016 11:04:50 AM | 5

Last night, a German newspaper had this:

The US government has asked the NATO country Turkey with harsh words immediate halt to attacks on northern Syria. It is inadmissible that Turkey try to annex new territories. It is unclear whether Washington is really still master of the situation in the Middle East.

This sounded important, but I've seen nothing else about it.

Posted by: Mudduck | Feb 14, 2016 11:11:29 AM | 6

Adding b's comment about Magnier post:

b wrote:

His sources confirm in part my take but they distinguish between three scenarios (Turkey attacks, Saudis attacks, more rebel power) where I would ask why can not all three scenarios play out at the same time?

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

I think b is right here. Magnier's source sees a months-long preparation prior to an incursion from the south (Jordan). But this seems predicated on ISIS resistance which many (including PavewayIV and myself) don't think would be significant.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 14, 2016 11:13:05 AM | 7

ad 5
I mean: KSA and Turkye are member states.

Posted by: From The Hague | Feb 14, 2016 11:15:51 AM | 8

@7 Any invasion will be coordinated but it still all depends on US participation. That's the only way it can be legitimized.

Posted by: dh | Feb 14, 2016 11:22:47 AM | 9

Any scenario is linked to the will of the United States to be engaged in a war in Syria...

2)US forces have been/are on the ground in Syria since at least 2012

3)US drones have been/are buzzing Syria regularly

3)US fighter jets have been/are bombing Syria too

...satellites, awacs, myriad radar installations...

this no direct involvement meme is kinda droll, no?

Posted by: john | Feb 14, 2016 11:23:12 AM | 10

From The Hague @5 It seems the legal consensus is that the Syrian Government must agree, so that this section of the Resolution is paramount. 5. Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, IN COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL LAW, IN PARTICULAR WITH THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER, as well as international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, [My bold]

Posted by: harry law | Feb 14, 2016 11:26:42 AM | 11

Sputinik says that the Syrian Armed Forces are 35 km away from the Tabqua military airport at Raqqa. http://m.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/02/11/saudi-led-coalition-in-support-turkey-military-intervention-in-syria.html

It appears that if there is a "race" to Raqqa, then the SAF is about to win it. The 3-4 month scenario mentioned in the last Feb 14 "Gates to Hell" article posting doesn't make sense in this context. Brings me back to my posted question as to whether the US 101st Airborne is going to be involved in the fighting, as suggested in the first Feb 11th post:

"The Saudis would fight under the control of the one brigade of the 101st airborne that was not announced to go for Mosul. The Saudis would deploy from Saudi Arabia via a U.S. controlled airstrip in west Iraq or through east Jordan towards Syria while the brigade from the 101st would probably deploy from the Kurdish area in north Iraq through the Kurdish areas in north-east Syria towards Raqqa. Raqqa would thereby be attacked from a north-eastern and a south-eastern. The airport of Rumeilan/Abu Hajar would be one of the major supply bases."

Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar were already dispatched to Saudi Arabia recently to participate in the joint military exercise "Thunder from the North". In other words, the "coalition forces" are gathered together. Was this exercise designed to provide a force that could be sent into Syria? The Saudis are adamant that they will not go unless they are led by the US, which again brings me back to the question about the possible role of the US 101st Airborne.

However, direct US involvement would represent a major escalation, completely at odds with what is currently coming out of Washington (not that this means much). The MSM news reports now that the US has asked Turkey to stop its shelling of Syrian positions. This also seems at odds with an imminent US-led Saudi/UAE invasion.

Posted by: Perimetr | Feb 14, 2016 11:27:37 AM | 12

@11 harry law

Did Syria agree with the missions/bombings of the UK, France (etc)?

Posted by: From The Hague | Feb 14, 2016 11:47:24 AM | 13

The hypocrite;
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/14/vladimir-putin-could-end-syrian-war-one-phone-call-philip-hammond

Well the UK is helping KSA in Yemen but that does not faze him. Too much money coming from the sale of weapons.

Posted by: Yul | Feb 14, 2016 11:49:00 AM | 14

harry law

US and Russia have already agreed that all of Syria will be a united and secular state. That being the case Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are working in opposition to that reality.

They want a state that is ruled by Sunnis. They believe that the Sunni majority will vote in Sunni leadership. That was "Plan A". But, in their view, Russia and Iran just want to prop up the Alawite regime led by Assad.

It is my firmly held opinion that neither Syria,Russia or Iran will accept, nor should they, foreign boots on the ground.... [description of Russian and Iranian military commitment to Syria]

Any attacking force will be at a great disadvantage. That is why it is a 'race'.

The stakes are too high for Russia Syria and Iran not to win decisively...

The stakes are just as high for the Assad must go! Coalition. But they don't need to win decisively, just hold onto most of the gains made by their proxies.

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

I realize that you don't believe that UNSC 2249 allows for non-Syrian approved intervention, but the ambiguity in that resolution will be exploited if it is in the interests of the Assad must go! Coalition.

The October "Race to Raqqa" article that b links to in his post foresaw an intervention prior to adoption of UNSC 2249, as well as the accompaning "infor war":

... the genuine liberating force in the war (the Soviet Army and SAA) is made to look like the bad guys, while the real bad guys (Nazis and Wahhabis) are presented as ‘victims’ of the liberators and garner Western sympathy for that exact reason.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 14, 2016 11:54:14 AM | 15

From The Hague@13. This note was published by Royal Institute on International Affairs and entitled “Assessing the Legal Basis for UK Military Action in Syria” is quite clear on this very particular point of Resolution 2249 adopted last November 20 in New York by an urged Security Council:

“In order to provide legal authority for the use of force against ISIS under international law, a Security Council resolution would need to constitute a decision, taken under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, that states could use all necessary measures in their action against ISIS. Although resolution 2249 determines that ISIS is a ‘global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and refers to ‘all necessary measures’, the language used in the operative part of the resolution is merely hortatory (‘calls upon’) and does not refer to Chapter VII. For those who are looking for specific UN authorization for the use of force, this is not it”.

Recently, two distinguished international lawyers entitled their analysis of Resolution 2249 (see article): “The Constructive Ambiguity of the Security Council’s ISIS Resolution“. For the authors of this article, the legal basis on which military actions can be taken in Syria is totally absent of the text:

“Resolution 2249, on the other hand, is constructed in such a way that it can be used to provide political support for military action, without actually endorsing any particular legal theory on which such action can be based or providing legal authority from the Council itself. The creative ambiguity in this resolution lies not only in the fact that it does not legally endorse military action, while appearing to give Council support to action being taken, but also that it allows for continuing disagreement as to the legality of those actions”.http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-uk-parliaments-decision-to-bomb-syria-is-illegal/5493200
The US being a veto wielding member of the UNSC can of course engage in aggression any time it likes, as can Russia without so much as a rap on the wrist. If other members tried to censure their actions, they would simply veto it and consign it to the memory hole. Wonderful UN system this, when you are one of the privileged 5 who are above International law for all time.

Posted by: harry law | Feb 14, 2016 12:06:39 PM | 16

thanks b... when is any significant figure going to come out and call bullshit on the headchopping wahabbi ideology? it seems to be a good part of the basis for isis and those freaks in saudi arabia who don't fool anyone.. they have been spreading this poison around the globe via the madrasas supporting a sunni-insanity with no significant politician or person saying so for fear of being another end product of it's suicidal ideology..

meanwhile the manipulator-idiots in the usa thought that isis was a useful tool for regime change in iraq until recently and now in syria.. these foreign policy maniacs never seem to question overthrowing saddam or gadaffi and the messed up world they have created... they seem hell bent on hell..

Posted by: james | Feb 14, 2016 12:11:33 PM | 17

The fourth paragraph of the February 14 article, 'The Gates of Hell ...' stated:
"Moreover, no jet is allowed to enter the Syrian space without prior coordination with Russia, otherwise it will be considered as a potential target."

This comment suggests a 'no fly zone' which President Assad must emphatically declare to all parties currently engaged in air combat operations against ISIS or planning to do so in the near future. This puts the Saudi's on notice they will not be allowed air corridor penetration into Syria without approval from the Syrian Military Command.

Posted by: PokeTheTruth | Feb 14, 2016 12:12:53 PM | 18

For a comprehensive view of the veto power at the UNSC this article by one of the best researchers in the UK is excellenthttp://www.david-morrison.org.uk/iraq/ags-legal-advice.pdf "Academic lawyers in their thousands may protest that taking military action against Iraq was illegal because it lacked proper authorisation by the Security Council, but it is of no consequence in the real world when there is no possibility of the UK, or its political leadership, being convicted for taking such action. It is meaningless to describe an action as illegal if there is no expectation that the perpetrator of the action will be convicted by a competent judicial body. In the real world, an action is legal unless a competent judicial body rules that it is illegal".

Posted by: harry law | Feb 14, 2016 12:13:10 PM | 19

harry law

UNSC 2249 is ambiguous. The reference to compliance with the International law and the UN Charter can be interpreted in the narrowist sense as:

1) no authorization to overthrow the recognized government of Syria;

2) no authorization to annex Syrian territory.

UNSC is the ultimate authority as it was set up by UN Charter to address threats to international security.

Unfortunately, in the UNSC Russia chose to accept the ruse that ISIS/IS is a terr0rist group and not a proxy army. So the UNSC "call" for nations to act against ISIS gets interpreted as maxim lee-way for the 'community of nations' to address this threat.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 14, 2016 12:18:49 PM | 20

I think we need to begin thinking of Syria and Iraq as one operational theatre instead of two distinctly different areas of combat since Daesh is present in both and it makes great sense for Iraq and Syria to join forces in driving Daesh and its imperial sponsor from the region once and for all. After Aleppo and Raqqa are cleared of Daesh and the borders secured, the main goal would be the liberation of Mosul. Allying with Syria would make the ejection of the Outlaw US Empire and reassertion of sovereignty over the Iraqi Kurdish region much easier. Then with Daesh eliminated and full sovereignty restored to Syria and Iraq with the ousting of the Outlaw US Empire, the governments of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia, plus representatives of the Kurds must sit down and arrive at a solution providing for an autonomous or independent Kurdish area and a formalized security and economic arrangement beneficial to all, thus eliminating any further reason for enmity and strife offering an opening to any further destabilization. Once that problem gets solved, then the region's #1 problem can be attacked from a better position: Justice for Palestine and disciplining of the Zionist Entity, thus destroying any chance of Vision 2020 becoming reality.

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 14, 2016 12:23:11 PM | 21

@20 Yes but the Saudis will want more than an army of lawyers. They want a clear signal from the US.....either air support or boots.

Posted by: dh | Feb 14, 2016 12:26:31 PM | 22

harry law

Chapter VII is invoked when UNSC makes a "call" upon Member states that is obligatory.

The "call" in UNSC 2249 is not obligatory.

UNSC specifically acknowledges that Syria and Iraq have lost control of ISIS-held territories. States that respond to this "call" are not taking Syrian territory but countering a global threat.

One could argue that Syria has no right to threaten, oppose, or hamper the nations that respond to the UNSC call to address the ISIS threat.

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Again, the fundamental flaw is the acceptance of ISIS/IS as a terrorist group instead of a proxy army.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 14, 2016 12:34:26 PM | 23

karlofi

One operational theatre makes some sense but the federated Iraqi government is tied up in knots. That's why the Iraqi government can't stop the Kurds from selling oil and can't switch alliance from USA to Russia.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 14, 2016 12:44:56 PM | 24

6
that fits the narrative we're sold in Le Monde (put the blame on the Turks); indeed they try to bargain with KSA that against their support for attacking Daesh, they want the band of land along the border to relocate the Syrian refugees, and of course to prevent the Kurds from seizing it.

Posted by: Mina | Feb 14, 2016 12:46:24 PM | 25

Ultimately because the US is the leader of the anti Assad coalition any unilateral action by Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Qatar must either be approved or condemned by it. The Syrian government has written to the UNSC protesting the shelling of Syrian villages by the Turkish army, saying this is a flagrant breach of International law. Will the US condemn this breach or will they say 'Turkey has a right to defend itself'?

Posted by: harry law | Feb 14, 2016 12:58:36 PM | 26

@24

Agreed that Iraqi government isn't whole thanks to its current PM, but I don't think he'll remain PM much longer.

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 14, 2016 1:15:47 PM | 27

i have an idea... why don't saudi arabia, turkey and any other sunni majority country - go deal with ISIS in libya? russia is doing a great job on all fronts in syria..

it is not and never has been about dealing with ISIS.. it is about regime change with assad... these folks never look in the mirror..

Posted by: james | Feb 14, 2016 1:20:33 PM | 28

Remember Senator Joe Biden on his Iraq Plan in 2007?

He called for a federalized Iraq according to sectarian boundaries. Bush already screwed up Iraq, so Obama gave him Libya, Syria and Ukraine for his R2P experiment with no US boots on the ground. Even Saban's Brookings Institute found it a thoughtful plan and called it: "The Case for Soft Partition in Iraq ".

Joe Biden Promised to Bring Stability Across Syraq

Posted by: Oui | Feb 14, 2016 1:22:47 PM | 29

MoA - Fantastic coverage of a very complex series of events that appear to be coming to a political conclusion. Thanks

PS - Isn't that Saudi Arabia under that bus?

Posted by: Alberto | Feb 14, 2016 1:30:37 PM | 31

turkey reportedly shelling syria again today - same area and according to sohr via daily sabah..

Posted by: james | Feb 14, 2016 1:31:10 PM | 32

The evil US Empire won't stop at dividing Sunni and Shia in Syria and Iraq, if it has its way. Why would they stop at breakup. their despicable plans has never been about containment, but domination, and to say otherwise is to ignore or mitigate the US despicable history and plans for domination.
To say that they will stop at the division or break up of Syria alright and let some level of resistance survive ? Well that's just ludicrous. The division plan will be a short to midterm plan for the longer goal of control or domination.

Say this out loud to yourselves, "the US empire is happy with low level containment" Hahahaha.

Posted by: tom | Feb 14, 2016 1:36:38 PM | 33

james @28

That's a good idea. R+6 should make that point.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 14, 2016 1:38:30 PM | 34

I'm not sure the US is on board with what Turkey is doing. The US (and her master Israel) planned to create an or several independent Kurdish states in Syria and Iraq that would be allied with the US. Turkey has just pushed the Kurds into a strong alliance with Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria because they, rightly, see Erdogan as America's attack dog.

Yes the US is asking for Turkey to stop attacking northern Syria but that could easily be a good cop bad routine if circumstances (no desire for a US friendly kurdish state) were different.

Russia, Syria, and Iran need to arm the PKK to the teeth.

Posted by: alaric | Feb 14, 2016 1:39:32 PM | 35

@28 - It's not that they don't look in the mirror james, its just that they lack a reflection. It's a trait of all blood-sucking vampires.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 14, 2016 1:43:31 PM | 36

Unless I'm misunderstanding, this talk of the 101st Airborne fighting in Syria? I'm not sure the American people will agree with this (though certainly we couldn't stop it). But it would cause a huge amount of consternation among the average American, I think.

Though how it was received on the campaign trail would tell us a lot about our money-picked choices for President. And a ground war in Syria, executed by our Nobel Peace Prize winning President - elected in large part on promises to extricate our country from Middle Eastern adventures - would put the cherry on top of the whole pile of sweet broken promises known as the Obama Presidency.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 14, 2016 1:49:32 PM | 37

james @28

Potential problem: there is no UNSC resolution related to Libya and ISIS.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 14, 2016 1:50:06 PM | 38

alaric @35

" The US (and her master Israel) planned to create an or several independent Kurdish states in Syria and Iraq"

Does Turkey fear having to cede portions of Turkish territory to an ethnic Kurdish State?

Posted by: Alberto | Feb 14, 2016 1:54:40 PM | 39

I know I'm just restating the obvious, but this is nothing more than an attempt by the US and her allies to swap out one proxy army for another. Another brand make-over for the Syrian regime change effort.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all that, should some "Sunni" force capture Raqqa, we would watch thousands of low-level foot soldiers currently fighting for ISIS become the backbone of this new force, without the US so much as batting an eyelash.

I'm not so concerned with Turkey's efforts. They seem like the flaccid flailing about of Erdogan, a man who knows he is about to lose everything he staked his presidency on - and possibly more, depending on what the Kurds can make of the next years. Its an attempt to salve his wounded ego with the blood of innocent Syrians, same useless but deadly criminal act he achieved by shooting down the Russian war plane for no reason.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 14, 2016 1:59:15 PM | 40

James @ 17:

Russian Orthodox head Patriarch Kirill meets with Fidel Castro in Cuba

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, met with former Cuban President Fidel Castro in the Cuban capital of Havana, according to Patriarch Kirill’s press secretary. The meeting, which took place in Castro’s house, went on for over an hour. . . A day earlier, Patriarch Kirill met with Pope Francis in Havana, marking their first historic meeting. The two Church heads signed a joint declaration calling on world leaders to prevent Christians in the Middle East from “being completely exterminated.” [news item from rt.com]

Posted by: juliania | Feb 14, 2016 2:01:34 PM | 41

@41

That would make a nice little R2P project for Samantha Powers. Perhaps she could even get a UNSC resolution.

Posted by: dh | Feb 14, 2016 2:09:19 PM | 42

"Hammond said there are roughly 150,000 forces which he described as ‘moderate opposition’ in Syria, adding that they are now suffering from Russian airstrikes there. "

http://217.218.67.231/Detail/2016/02/14/450330/Putin-can-end-Syria-war/

Last time I heard numbers like these it was the 70,000 strong magical mystery brigade trumped up in UK Parliament... Is this doubling of force numbers for real or champion piss take...?

Posted by: MadMax2 | Feb 14, 2016 2:25:30 PM | 44

I'll tell you Who can shut the shit down quick smart....and that is China.

If China's relationship with Russia is not mostly about resource exchange and friendly relations, but more about mutual security and long-term strategic cooperative planning then China should get involved ASAP.

The big difference here is that the US empire has a lot of large state countries combining to looking to overwhelm Russia. Russia does not have that large state support, except for one behemeth in China.

Posted by: tom | Feb 14, 2016 2:35:05 PM | 45

Hmmm, also notice as I post that presstv are using a straight up IP address... Was this due to the west attempting to swing the information war back in their favour via web censorship of the series of words 'presstv'...? Probably not, just...iirc, links from that site did not appear as IP addresses.

Posted by: MadMax2 | Feb 14, 2016 2:37:39 PM | 46

@44 Come on Philip don't be shy. Make it 300,000. Nobody will question it.

Posted by: dh | Feb 14, 2016 2:37:42 PM | 47

" China should get involved ASAP."

I concur Tom.

Posted by: alaric | Feb 14, 2016 2:41:24 PM | 48

What if there is no plan whatsoever of an invasion into Syria beyond minor Turkish intrusions in Kurdish territory. What if the goal is to remove SAA and other troops from the fronts where the rebels are getting crushed to Syria's borders to fend off a possible, but not planned, invasion from Jordan or Turkey.

Turkey and her Sunni Arab benefactors are probably praying that someone replies to them military so that Turkey can play the victim card and run to NATO. That is precisely what "bad ass," err coward Erdogan did with the SU-24.

But the wise Russian ceasefire has just made Turkey look Erdogan a mad aggressor and if Turkish troops are killed in Syria, well that hardly constitutes aggression against Turkey so NATO ain't going to protect Turkey beyond words.

Erdogan must be toppled. Fund the PKK massively and force a multi front war onto Erdogan.

Posted by: alaric | Feb 14, 2016 2:47:24 PM | 49


Dont look good at all, Saudi with backing of western world keep coming with bolstering threats 24/7 now and heinous erdogan have started his invasion. Meanwhile Iran, Russia, Iraq, Hezbollah are all silent!

Also

Hillary Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-sachs/hillary-clinton-and-the-s_b_9231190.html?utm_hp_ref=yahoo&ir=Yahoo

Posted by: Trombol | Feb 14, 2016 2:54:41 PM | 50

MadMax2@44 Prime Minister Cameron had to backtrack last month on his 70,000 figure..David Cameron has admitted that a claim of 70,000 non-extremist fighters in Syria included “hardline Islamists”. He also conceded that America warned that the figure was at the “upper end” of estimates. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4663897.ece
All that Hammond can do is lie and propagandize.

Posted by: harry law | Feb 14, 2016 2:59:57 PM | 51

The empire of chaos is going all in.. Heck, their rented mercenaries couldn't hold out any longer so they have to go in themselves to "finish the job".

It would be funny if it wasn't so serious with. All the clowns involved, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar - I mean, all these military power houses want to spread democracy in Syria.

The joke must surely be on us. What's really happening is the US giving their minions in the region the green light to move with promises of support WHEN the sh*t hits the fan. The Suadi/UAE armies are getting their collective asses handed to them by sandal wearing Yemenis. We're to believe these guys are going to liberate Syria. Like I said, the joke is on us.

Posted by: Zico | Feb 14, 2016 3:06:25 PM | 52

Erdogan's move seriously undermines the US and Israeli effort to carve out US/Israeli friendly Kurdish states out of Syria and Iraq. That was one of the main goals of this campaign for the US and Israel.

Posted by: Alaric | Feb 14, 2016 3:11:54 PM | 54

Bhadhrakumar just posted his view

Posted by: Mina | Feb 14, 2016 3:24:43 PM | 55

@49 Is that a good idea? I mean, Ukraine got couped and it was an absolute disaster for Ukrainians.
I think containing Erdogan will be enough for the Turks to eventually get their country back, but what do I know... Turkey may well be too far gone stability-wise to avoid serious uphevil

Posted by: aaaaaa | Feb 14, 2016 3:29:21 PM | 56

just tossing ideas around here.. thanks for the feedback everyone..

@41 julianna. thanks for the that.. looks like they are looking at the same thing.. i wonder what they say in the press releases? i doubt they confront or mention the suicidal headchopper cult directly...

@54 alaric.. that has been discussed quite a lot over the past year, and much further back - sykes-picot and etc.. i like what pl at ssr has to say about erdogan and i agree with his latest post here.

here is a link to M K Bhadrakumar's latest which someone mentioned above - Turkey flexes muscle in Syria..

movement towards a bigger clash seems to be clearly in the works at this point..

Posted by: james | Feb 14, 2016 4:02:17 PM | 57

>> Erdogan's move ... undermines ... effort to carve out ... Kurdish states...

One potential counterargument would suggest "No, that move need not be permanent but need only prevent SAA from recapturing that area -- and perhaps was the only option remaining to salvage that objective."

Posted by: dumbass | Feb 14, 2016 4:04:06 PM | 58

HRC: Compulsive Misrepresentation – Unfit to Lead

As I have written in the years of the Syrian bloodbath, HRC empowered the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, Egypt, Gaza strip and key ally Turkey's PM [and now president] Erdogan. Qatar's wealth and propaganda through the emir's Al Jazeera station and by funding the Clinton Foundation ... all in the name of "charity." Even Cherie Blair joined in the wealth feast of Qatar's emir to open communication to HRC at State.

As FLOTUS, HRC's experience from Tuzla visit in Bosnia ...

Posted by: Oui | Feb 14, 2016 4:04:26 PM | 59

in response to bhadrakumars last comment - erdogan isn't interested in finding his way out of any swamp... he gravitates towards them and this is a prime example of it... i wonder when the turkish people find a way to put a stop to his insanity?

Posted by: james | Feb 14, 2016 4:05:28 PM | 60

>> France calls on Turkey to stop bombing Kurdish
>> Risking rift with US, Turkey confronts Syrian

Paging Ambassador Glaspie. Please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Posted by: dumbass | Feb 14, 2016 4:06:38 PM | 61

Turkey is not just losing a zone of influence in Syria, same applies for Iraq. There is a race for Mosul, too.

This here is the Iraqi prime minister:

HAA: I hope they do, but don't forget Daesh, ISIS, have a relationship, some of their leaders, with the Turkish establishment in the past. We have some proof and they know it. I think smuggling of Daesh, was only done through Turkey . I think that ought to be stopped. The Turks are telling us otherwise, they're eager to fight Daesh, but I'm telling them frankly, I'm not seeing evidence of that. I hope to see more evidence of that.

Well, maybe not so much of a race - Reuters

Frustrated with the pace and depth of the U.S.-led military campaign against the militants, Iraqi officials have said they would lean heavily on Russia in the struggle to defeat the Sunni Muslim jihadists. The command center has shared intelligence for air strikes in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 14, 2016 4:22:47 PM | 62

But a Kremlin statement made clear Russia was committed to its campaign against Islamic State and "other terrorist organisations", an indication that it would also target groups in western Syria where jihadists such as al Qaeda are fighting Assad in close proximity to rebels deemed moderate by the West.

Certainly sounds reasonable to me. Fight with al Qaeda, die with al Qaeda.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 14, 2016 4:23:36 PM | 63

Magnier's "scoops" range from stating the obvious to vague speculation. I am consistently underwhelmed by him.

The idea that the SAA can take back Raqqa is quite ridiculous actually.

It's the race to the white house, not the race to Raqqa that will seal Syria's future.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Feb 14, 2016 4:28:58 PM | 64

">> Erdogan's move ... undermines ... effort to carve out ... Kurdish states..."

The Kurds will not trust the US now which means any potential Kurd state will align with russia and it suggests the Syrian Kurds will recognize the need to have protection from turkey. The US will not be trusted which leaves..,,,?

Posted by: Alaric | Feb 14, 2016 4:35:51 PM | 65

What we need now is a military coup in Turkey and the removal of Erdogan and his clique. That would solve most of the problems in the region.

Posted by: virgile | Feb 14, 2016 4:53:54 PM | 66


@harrylaw51

"David Cameron has admitted that a claim of 70,000 non-extremist fighters in Syria included “hardline Islamists”."

Thanks for that. Very funny material. Can just imagine the briefing Cameron got before facing that committee... 'now, David...please...remember to only concede to counting Hardline Extremist groups, not Terrorist groups... The press hasn't overused that combination of terms in the last 12 months, you'll be fine...!'

Posted by: MadMax2 | Feb 14, 2016 4:55:40 PM | 67

Hillary Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath, http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/02/14/hillary-clinton-and-syrian-bloodbath

Bonus article about why Kissinger isn't Bernie Sanders friend; excellent, if longish, http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/02/13/why-not-being-friends-war-criminal-henry-kissinger-matters

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 14, 2016 6:17:23 PM | 68

sauds and non interference in neighbors affairs?

Iran is our neighbor," he said. "But neighbors have to live with each other based on the principle of good neighborliness, And the principle of non-interference in the affairs of others."
http://edition.cnn.com/2016/02/13/middleeast/saudi-arabia-assad-force/

#YEMEN

Posted by: brian | Feb 14, 2016 6:20:51 PM | 69

@9 dh, 'Any invasion will be coordinated but it still all depends on US participation. That's the only way it can be legitimized.'

I had to smile when I read 'legitimized' ... all the US actions in the region over the past dozen years, since 2003 have been illegitimate.

I think the Saudis and Turks are looking for a US guarantee that they'll whack the Russians once they've invaded Syria. My guess is ... forget about it.

@21 karlof

Syriaq ... that's just what I've been thinking. Time for Iraq - drop the US for good and all! @27 - and Iran to stand together, put the lie to the Sunni-Shia dichotomy, and work openly together against the Turk-Saudi (wannabe) juggernaut.

And, yeah, the victory over the US/KSA/Turkey and liberation of Syriaq will segue nicely into Justice for Palestine.

@28 james, '... why don't saudi arabia, turkey and any other sunni majority country - go deal with ISIS in libya?'

Yeah! ... god forbid ... but an excellent rhetorical point. @36 guest ... another smile :)

@38 jr

It looks like Syria is heading for the UNSC over Turkey's shelling and infiltration @43 ... they can take James point with them.

@45 tom

China could, China should, China won't ...

@60 james @66 virgile

Erdogan and al-Abadi in Iraq ... the Turks and the Iraqis must have had enough of both by now.

@b

Thanks for the links : The Race For Raqqa And America’s Geopolitical Revenge In “Syraq” and The “Gates of hell” will be open in the coming months in Syria. I found the first one the most informative, even though it's four months old.

On the second ... the image of the Saudis leisurely motoring up from Jordan seems nuts to me. Given their command of Syrian airspace - and whatever enhancements I feel sure they're undertaking as we type - why won't the Syrians/Russians just destroy the entire KSA/UK 'expeditionary force' on its way to Raqqa?

Posted by: jfl | Feb 14, 2016 6:20:57 PM | 70

Syrian regime forces were close to the brink of defeat before Russian intervention, Kujat added.

"I would only have given them a few more weeks. Then Syria would have collapsed and Isis would have taken over the country."

According to Kujat, Isis could then have targeted attacks against Lebanon and even Israel, with "far-reaching consequences" for Germany and the West.

http://www.thelocal.de/20160212/top-german-general-praises-russias-syria-bombing

Posted by: brian | Feb 14, 2016 6:26:09 PM | 71

And thanks, b, for your great coverage, resources, insight, and site/discussion management. You the man.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 14, 2016 6:26:10 PM | 72

Legality has always boiled down to whatever you can get away with simply because in the end laws are enforced with organised systemic violence. That is as true for the rent striker booted out of his slumlord owned home by the local protect and serve policepersons or the rapacious empire determined to corner and control an essential resource.
Amerika and its bum buddies 'got away' with invading Iraq because no matter what the law said there was no supperior entity able & willing to enforce it.

The fucked up attempts to grab Pinochet and others for war crimes alerted the powerful to loopholes that needed closing and provided governments with the excuses and the means to shut down the late 20th century attempts to establish true legal egalitarianism right up to the level of big boss man.
We must acknowledge the truth of that prior to any analysis of what could or may occur in Syria.

The fly in the ointment and the only reason why I'm pleased to cheer on another bunch of corrupt assholes entering this fray is that once Russia jumped into Syria, that was the instant amerika & its asshole buddies lost their sole control 'what we say goes' swaggering rapine and theft act.

It seems that the pricks at foggy bottom and the AEI hadn't gamed that scenario heheh.
But that is just what it is - no more or less than that. It is important to rememberthat a mob of Russians wandering about the ME without restraint from the ugly amerikans and their circus act of assorted poodles n performing fleas wouldn't seem much different to the average inhabitant than an unrestrained mob of amerikans did.

But the 'race to raqqa' - the ugly amerikans will make some sort of comeback most likely one full of the mixture of deceit and sanctimony that has served those pricks so well - if it works why get rid of it? etc.

The thing is I don't see that happening in the short term. The seppos have become so indoctrinated with their own bullshit they began to believe the new amerikan century garbage used to gull the masses, themselves.

Even if there is someone with a viable response to the massively hand crafted clusterfuck that is the amerikan ME 'strategy' those in control of amerikan foreign policy simply aren't ready to listen to it much less act upon it yet.

DC is still in denial there are a few other stages of the grieving process to be gone through before the apparatchiks in washington have shed sufficient hubris to follow a strategy that acknowleges amerika aint king of the world.

So Russia, Iran, the Syrian Army and Hezbollah will undoubtedly win the race. Erdogan is gonna keep popping his howitzers off across the border but without the concrete support of an amerika that is too dazed and confused to decide whether to take a shit or jerk off, even Erdogan isn't crazy enough to go head to head with what is assembling across the border.

He will stage a few raids and likely do so in conjunction with Salman's gang of incompetent mercenaries. The incursions will be about causing so much trouble for Russia and the Syrian government that they attempt to put a lid on Kurdish political control in the area.

If Erdogan is successful at that he will create exactly the schism he can exploit.

It is at that stage Russia and Syria re likely to try and get the UN to restrain Turkey, but that will fail because amerika along with their french and english suckholes will veto any such thing no matter how wrong or 'illegal' they know Turkey's behaviour to be.

So the war may end but it is unlikely the average Syrian will be able to snuggle down in front of the TV without a care in the world, for some considerable time.

Doubtlessly some elements of the victorious coalition will do as armies have always done, that is behave extremely badly toward the population they have conquered liberated and we will get to read about every detail of these atrocities in our gloriously 'free' yet slavishly supine western media.

Maybe one day ordinary humans will wake up and see that the best solution for any population is to leave them the fuck alone and let them sort out their own shit, but I'm not holding my breath since that would require us to stop giving in to the greediest sociopath in the room, whenever boss selection time comes around.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 14, 2016 6:33:26 PM | 73

This is interesting: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/51300

The snap inspection of the Southern Military District troops, a number of units of the Airborne Forces and the Military Transport Aviation began on February 8. Taking part in the exercises are up to 8,500 people, 900 units of military equipment, 200 airplanes and helicopters, and 50 ships. The Central Military District forces and equipment are also involved in the manoeuvres.

Hopefully Obama will remain true to his word to Putin and not do anything sneaky and stupid, like leading a three pronged attack of head choppers to secure a permanent shit storm...

Posted by: Nana2007 | Feb 14, 2016 8:23:37 PM | 74

Let me say, first and foremost, that i hope the Assad government with its Russian help prevails.

I've been following this site for a good while and won't stop anytime soon. I feel it gives me more insight than I could get anywhere else.

I have my favorite posters and the ones who piss me off. to reiterate what I said in another post that I don't see anymore: As soon as I see "Amerikan". any variation of "Obummer" or the "empire of Chaos" my eyes glaze over. it totally guts the impact of the posters thrust.

First of all, we don't have a fucking clue whether any of these news reports are the real deal,or just more of the same shit designed to keep us confused, while powers, that we have no control over, operate without fear of consequences.

I get the vibe that the US is getting pissed off with the shenanigans of Erdogan. At the same time they have an agenda that they are loathe to walk away from, and Turkey, as a front-line state, plays an important part in this. The trick is to figure whether the ego and hubris involved is more important than pragmatism.

It's a fact that if the "Empire of Chaos" managed to subdue all comers and have a pipeline exactly where they wanted it, then Russia's stranglehold on Europe's gas market is old news. We all should now that LNG is not anything but a stopgap should Russia turn off the tap.

So, how important is it to the "Amerikans" that this happens? It's pretty much the deciding feature as far as I can see. Like anybody gives a fuck how many brown die getting this thing done. If they cared then people would spell their name right.


Posted by: peter | Feb 14, 2016 8:59:51 PM | 75

Syria has complained to the UNSC....

"Syria has condemned Turkish military action against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria described it as a violation of its sovereignty."

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35576153

Posted by: dh | Feb 14, 2016 10:23:53 PM | 76

China.
Posted by: tom | Feb 14, 2016 2:35:05 PM | 45

Don't fret. China knows how it is perceived by the Crusading Masters of The Universe and is ready to help them sober up - AFTER exhausting every diplomatic option.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 15, 2016 12:26:51 AM | 77

@66 virgile.. true.. i wonder if and how long before that happens...

@70 jfl.. thanks and ditto your comment @72..

@73 debs is dead... thanks for saying all that..

@75 peter.. interesting comments - confusing for me too... i liked your 5th stanza the best, although it is hard to know exactly what you are trying to communicate.. are you saying the usa is stuck with working with erdogan, even though the usa is unable to articulate it's agenda to erdogan? or something like that? it sounds like you are saying something like that.. there agenda remains running russia off the globe and remaining top dog in a world that appears more multi polar then uni polar... is that it? or is it the pipeline from qatar to the med?
bottom line - your post is confusing to me..

Posted by: james | Feb 15, 2016 12:28:17 AM | 78

Funny. I don't take anyone seriously who doesn't use phrases like Empire of Chaos.

Posted by: paul | Feb 15, 2016 1:13:37 AM | 79

Magnier's "scoops" range from stating the obvious to vague speculation. I am consistently underwhelmed by him.
...
Posted by: Pat Bateman | Feb 14, 2016 4:28:58 PM | 64

Magnier is claiming to have contacts inside the Syrian War Room.
His views only reflect current War Room perceptions - not outcomes.
b seems to know as much, if not more, about warfare as anyone else on the www and thinks Magnier knows what he's talking about (too).

If anyone knew what is going to happen then this thread would be full of lamenting/ rejoicing and not speculation/ best guesses.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 15, 2016 1:25:52 AM | 80

Test.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 15, 2016 1:28:22 AM | 81

I have an idea. Lets plan a clusterfuck to precipitate WWIII

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-02/15/c_135097659.htm

Operation Thunder of North with 20 countries participating. What could go wrong?

It certainly looks like the flailing of losers who are smart enough to not resort to nukes, hopefully. It will be interesting to see how Russia executes its plans of engagement over/around/through these crazies.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Feb 15, 2016 1:44:32 AM | 82

Re Russia's awesome plans for total war with Turkey, a new reply has been posted here (see comment 121):

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/02/the-race-to-raqqa-is-intensifying/comments/page/2/?cid=6a00d8341c640e53ef01b8d19fccd9970c#comment-form

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 15, 2016 1:48:05 AM | 83

Re 12: " Sputinik says that the Syrian Armed Forces are 35 km away from the Tabqua military airport at Raqqa. It appears that if there is a "race" to Raqqa, then the SAF is about to win it."

Tabqa airport is 25 miles from Raqqa. That puts them close to fifty miles away. And there is a world of difference between capturing Tabqa airport and capturing Raqqa. Furthermore, there is a difference between capturing Tabqa airport and keeping it. And it hasn't even been captured yet. Not to be a wet blanket, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 15, 2016 2:03:09 AM | 84

Senior Israeli Officials Urge Sectarian Partition of Syria
http://217.218.67.231/Detail/2016/02/15/450384/Israeli-official-Syria-sectarian-partition/

Ram Ben-Barak, the director-general of Israel's Intelligence Ministry, said the proposed breakup was 'the only possible solution' to the conflict in Syria. 'I think that ultimately Syria should be turned into regions under the control of whoever is there - the Alawitesw where they are, the Sunnis where they are,' Ben-Barak told Israel's Army Radio on Sunday.

Israel's Minister of Military Affairs Moshe Ya'alon, who was in Munich to meet with European counterparts and Jordan's King Abdullah also echoed Ben Barak's remarks.

Surprise, surprise...

Posted by: John Gilberts | Feb 15, 2016 2:21:13 AM | 85

http://nsnbc.me/2016/02/14/syrian-authorities-seized-israeli-weapons/

Just today Syria seized Israeli weapons being smuggled in, including anti-ank launchers.
--
I saw the report this morning about Turkey having started to invade, but it tracked back to an Israeli source-- so that's practically a guarantee it's false.
--
Mudduck @ 6,

I can't search right now; 1 search engine is messing up, but IIRC it was Biden who made a statement to Turkey in which he requested they stop attacking the Kurds, only (in Syria).
---
karlof1 @ 21,

Re yr excellent suggestion that Iraq/Syria cd be considered as one military theatre. I'm sure you're aware of the overthrow of al-Maliki by the US altho he was legally elected & his replacement by a puppet-like al-abedi.
Russia is obviously courting him, signed commercial agreements I think yesterday. To give you a flavor of how equivocal he's been, here's a few scraps from my file:

12/7/15 http://www.dw.com/en/iraq-asks-germany-for-help-in-fight-against-islamic-state/a-18899812 In a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi requested that Germany play a more active role in the fight against the so-called "Islamic State" (IS). The dpa news agency reported that the Iraqi premier had in particular asked the German government to provide help with troop training. German forces in Iraq are currently training Kurdish soldiers in the country's autonomous north. "The threat of terrorism is not only a threat to Iraq, but also to Europe," said al-Abadi, speaking with dpa.

11/4/15 http://www.4thmedia.org/2015/11/us-sponsored-smuggling-of-weapons-iraq-seizes-two-planes-of-the-us-led-coalition/
The Iraqi government has seized two planes of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition member states that were carrying weapons to the Kurdistan Region without prior coordination or information of Baghdad, Head of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Commission Hakem al-Zameli disclosed on Monday.
“The inspection committee in Baghdad International Airport has found a huge number of rifles equipped with silencers, as well as light and mid-sized weapons,” Zameli said.
He noted that a Swedish and a Canadian airplanes were going to fly to Iraq’s Kurdistan region, but they were seized after arms cargoes were discovered.
Also in February, a senior lawmaker disclosed that Iraq’s army has shot down two British planes as they were carrying weapons for the ISIL terrorists in Al-Anbar province.

9/30/15 http://www.marxist.com/why-is-russia-stepping-up-involvement-in-syria.htm In Iraq, the war on IS and the retaking of Iraqi towns has been painfully slow and cost thousands of lives. In the meantime IS has even managed to take new territories such as Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar governorate. This stems from the weakness of the Iraqi state, along with the inability of the US to directly coordinate operations with the troops who have played the most important roles in the offensives, namely Iranian-connected militias. At the same time the US’ partners from the Gulf states have been actively lobbying Iraqi Sunni tribes to withhold support for the anti-IS offensive as a bargaining chip with the central government.

Hakem al-Zameli, the head of Iraq’s National Security and Defense Committee: “Iraq needs to exchange experience and information intelligence with countries especially after it has become clear that the United State is not serious and has failed along with the International coalition to combat the Islamic State organization.”
[Obviously the Hakem al-Zameli is better than the head of govt]


Just how insane it is for Iraq to continue to rely on US is shown below:

5/16/15 A bill that could divide Iraq into three separate entities has passed the US House Armed Services Committee by a vote of 60 to 2. The controversial draft bill will now be debated in the US House of Representatives where it will be voted on sometime in late May. If approved, President Barack Obama will be free to sidestep Iraq’s central government in Baghdad and provide arms and assistance directly to Sunnis and the Kurds that are fighting ISIS. This, in turn, will lead to the de facto partitioning of the battered country into three parts; Kurdistan, Shiastan, and Sunnistan. http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2015/05/08/splitting-up-iraq.html

Posted by: Penelope | Feb 15, 2016 2:27:33 AM | 86

31 and 82

Unconfirmed photos of Kuwaiti tank transport convoy heading towards Syrian border, and this bit of psyop stating Turkey and Saudi are about to invade with a 350,000 troop pincer action to save Aleppo and lucrative N Syrian oil fields theft through Turkey to Israel:

http://themillenniumreport.com/2016/02/ww-iii-18-days-away-russia-prime-minister-warns-us-and-arab-countries-invading-syria-will-start-a-new-world-war/

Posted by: Chipnik | Feb 15, 2016 4:25:50 AM | 87

Re 87: That's not psyop, that's hysteria. Psyop attempts to be plausible and convincing. I also saw nothing about Turkey in the article, only Saudi Arabia, which doesn't have such troops.

As for Turkey:

" "It is not true ... There is no thought of Turkish soldiers entering Syria," (Turkish Defense Minister Ismet) Yilmaz told a Turkish parliamentary commission when asked about the allegation by the Syrian foreign ministry, made in a letter to the UN Security Council. "

http://mobile.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_turkey-denies-soldiers-entered-syria-says-has-no-such-plans_412328.html

Of course, it's possible that the Turkish Defense Minister is lying. One would scarcely expect the Turks to admit to such designs even if they had them. That said, instead of making a formal denial to their own parliament, they could have equivocated or simply have said nothing.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 15, 2016 5:12:32 AM | 88

Several comments in related thresds have raised the issue of a mutual military assistance pact between Iran and Syria. Several points are worth noting:

(1) "... according to many reports, Tehran and Damascus signed a mutual defence treaty in 2006. The Iranian student news agency (ISNA), however, recently quoted the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, as denying that any agreement of the sort existed."

http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2013/aug/30/iran-us-attack-syria-restraint

(2) If such a pact was signed, its terms have never been made public. Iran is therefore under no pressure to save face and can draw red lines as it sees fit.

(3) Hezbollah has lost more fighters in Syria than it did battling the Israelis in South Lebanon. "Shifting focus to “the coastal region and the anti-Lebanon mountain chain” says Itani is what Plan B would look like, while ceding territory in the north and the south to the rebels."

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/05/28/Hezbollah-in-Syria-Plan-B-or-a-quagmire-.html

(4) Balkanization of Syria may also be Iran's Plan B:

http://mebriefing.com/?p=1679


Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 15, 2016 5:47:24 AM | 89

From the Twitter and Wikimapia, the picture is like that:

SAA stopped any military actions north of former "Nubbol Zahraa pocket" and recently conquered "bridge", instead they attack in the southern direction, with very gradual progress, and there are attacks and counter-attacks to close "rebel Aleppo" pocket. Moreover, during the liberation of the "bridge" some terrain was lost to ISIS, but now the fresh actions took it back, so the offensive to close "Aleppo thermal plant pocket" is resumed. And there offensive toward Kinsibba in Latakia is resumed too.

"SAA and friends" is busy in an unusually high number of directions, but the events of the day are the offensive of Afrin against "Azaz-Mare-Rifaat pocket". I suspect that YPG has a special detachment that updates the boundaries of that pocket by the hour on Wikipedia. The road connecting Azaz with Tal Rifaat is taken over by "SDA" (YPG + their friendly Arab "FSA" militia, one of the checkpoints on that read was reported to switch sides to SDA) and there is a pitched street battle in Tal Rifaat. This offensive has "close air support" from the Russians, and Turks, as it was their policy for months, show their displeasure by lobbing shells from howitzers (6 inch caliber cannons with 15 mile range).

Students of the situation may recall that there was an offensive in December (January?) from the current "A-M-R pocket" onto Afrin Canton, which seemed weird given that "Idlib-stan" was also very busy resisting in Latakia and south Aleppo at that time, and yet they picked an additional fight. That could be Turkish influence, or an attempt of strategic intimidation, to prevent what happens now: YPG switching from neutrality to all-out coordination with the Russians. Russians have long practice, from Donbass, in handling the long range shelling: it may be diplomatically convenient to ignore it while advancing on the ground. And YPG does precisely that.

Erdogan tried (is still trying) to win some type of war of nerves with Russia, flying warplanes along the border and lobbying shells onto Kurds, plus real action, deliveries to the rebels. From his point of view, he can gain if either Russians will stop supporting YPG advances, or if they will strife Turkish howitzers, provoking NATO reaction. I guess Putin studied the issue of "sub-total war when total war is possible" for years. Turkish intimidation attempt is based on what they COULD DO in total war eventuality, committing a large proportion of their military which could "wipe out Asad government and Russian presence". But the West does not like it, so the response to various drastic countermeasures of Russia + Iran would be tepid and Turkey would rue the day. So while those responses are prepared, and while Turkish howitzers inflict a relatively minor fraction of YPG losses (this is a bloody offensive with street fighting, after all). the direct reaction remains diplomatic (and letting Turks watch their pets being clobbered). Turkey may ratchet up the intensity of the fire, but then, I guess, Russian would indeed take over the most busy batteries with missiles, while having Western support (a combination of tacit and explicit).

And the BIG strategic picture is that Turkey could declare its long dreamed off "safe zone" in the A-M-R pocket" long time ago, but that would have a minor impact. He wanted, at the very least, to "liberate Aleppo". That possibility is now being walled-off. The only directions where Turkey+KSA may advance is ISIS territory, and if THAT were easy it would be done years ago: ISIS is their former/current pet cobra, perfectly coiled to bite back.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 15, 2016 6:17:45 AM | 90

Arabic version of the "Rush to Raqqa" to destroy Daesh and avoid further Iranian interference in the Levant:

Saudi operation Northern Thunder [Arabic]

US will have to sign off on the start of the three pronged attack: via Jordan, Turkey and Anbar province in Iraq.

    «The Russians agreed to stop bombing during the campaign on condition of approaching the campaign of influence defined system areas and loyal to Saudi Arabia and America, including troops, and will divide Syria to subject the system area include portion that extends north of Aleppo to the shield and the remainder is subject to the influence of the pro-American factions graduated and Saudi Arabia».

    He pointed out that « forces are not supposed to enter Iraq, but the officers claim that there is a coordinated attack on the Iraqi Iranian comprehensive Daash in the same period in Iraq until the fight on two fronts».

    He said that «surface military accounts seem to plan a successful [operation] and will eliminate Daash in a short time, especially if coordination with the Iraqis and the Iranians to succeed in Mosul and Fallujah». [Google translation]

Undoubtedly, only Iran will be left standing to protest the military exercises in advance of the assault on IS in Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 15, 2016 7:09:27 AM | 91

Military maneuver planned in S Arabia | Iranian PressTV |

    Saudi media said some 350,000 forces from the Persian Gulf Arab states and a number of other countries will take part in the Saudi-led military maneuver in the area of Hafer al-Batin in northern Saudi Arabia.

    Some 2,540 warplanes, 20,000 tanks and 460 helicopters will also participate in the exercise, dubbed “North Thunder.”

    In 18 days of maneuvers, the airspace over northern Saudi Arabia will be closed.

    Media reports say the maneuver will be the largest throughout the history of the region.

    Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan and Persian Gulf Arab states are among the 25 countries that will take part in the military exercises.

    The maneuver comes at a sensitive time after Saudi Arabia announced readiness to participate in any ground incursion in Syria if the US-led coalition decides to start such an operation.

Iraqi Shiite Militia Groups Warn Saudi Arabia Against Drills Near Border

Posted by: Oui | Feb 15, 2016 8:19:05 AM | 92

And the coward China remains silent, pretending that nothing that happens in Syria regards to her.

Posted by: Sam Paku | Feb 15, 2016 9:33:50 AM | 93

1) Correction: I believe YPG captured Menagh Air Base not SDF.

2) Menagh Air Base is an important capture. See photos and links to video at this article http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/10/u-s-alliance-with-fsa-and-isil-in-six-photographs/

Posted by: ricksterling | Feb 15, 2016 10:01:30 AM | 94

james @ 28 said: "it is not and never has been about dealing with ISIS.. it is about regime change with assad... these folks never look in the mirror.."

Yep!, bottom line.

Debs @ 73:"Maybe one day ordinary humans will wake up and see that the best solution for any population is to leave them the fuck alone and let them sort out their own shit, but I'm not holding my breath since that would require us to stop giving in to the greediest sociopath in the room, whenever boss selection time comes around."

Great finish Debs. Another massive truth!

Posted by: ben | Feb 15, 2016 10:11:57 AM | 95

Sorry if duplicated, don't think I've seen this posted here yet:

Iran will defend Syria’s airspace if Damascus requests

Also, pretty nice summation of things by Piotr Berman #90, to my mind.

Posted by: Grieved | Feb 15, 2016 11:39:30 AM | 96

It is ON!

"Turkey warned Kurdish militia fighters in northern Syria on Monday they would face the "harshest reaction" if they tried to capture a town near the Turkish border, and accused Russia of a missile attack there that killed at least 14 civilians."

source - http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-idUSKCN0VO0H2

Posted by: Alberto | Feb 15, 2016 11:48:09 AM | 97

Syrian army advances into Raqqa province – captured strategically important Tal Masbah hilltop | RT |

Syrian government forces and Palestinian armed militia captured the strategically important Tal Masbah hilltop, the last entrenched Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) position.

The fortified position guarded approaches to the Salamiyah-Raqqa highway, leading to the terror group’s stronghold in the city of Raqqa, Al-Masdar news outlet reported, citing a military source.

Later that day, the Syrian government army launched a massive assault on the village of Zakiyah and seized an important crossroads near the village, cutting IS’s major supply route from Raqqa to nearby Hama province.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 15, 2016 12:06:10 PM | 98

Posted by: Alaric | Feb 14, 2016 4:35:51 PM | 65

Russia will not officially support nationalist movements, the principles of nationalism would explode their country. Putin knew what he was doing when he defined his empire as "Russian speaking"

Russia was very careful to support the official Kurdish opposition party in Turkey by letting them open an office in Moscow - and not the PKK - something France allowed. They also support the Iraqi government and not Barzani. Their supoort of YPG is tactical not strategic.

Same applies to China.

Russia and China insist on international rules, as they are served by them. It is only "the West" who suggests Sykes-Picot could be dead - and they do it to keep the fight on as they are served by conflict.

It is only Iraqi Kurds who sit on oil. And they are land locked. I guess Western interests would be served by the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan (and influence in Iranian Kurdistan), but nobody except Kurdish people care about Syrian or Turkish Kurds.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 15, 2016 12:10:29 PM | 99

I cannot believe our side, the U$$A, is having its proxies resort to 1914 military conflict tactics.

In my opinion, which really isn't worth much, Russia has two options;

1. Move brigades of troops and their associated equipment and support elements to Syria leaving the homeland defensively compromised.

or ...

2. Lob in a few tactical nukes and be done with it.

We were aiming for the Golan. Honest. We only missed by a little bit.

Posted by: Alberto | Feb 15, 2016 12:48:02 PM | 100

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