Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 03, 2016

Syria: 'Negotiations' Over Insurgency's Northern Supply Route Concluded

Good news from Syria. The battlefield 'negotiations' over the insurgency's supply route to the north were successfully concluded.

After nearly four years the siege on Nubl and Zahraa has been lifted. The northern supply route from insurgency held areas in Aleppo province and Aleppo city to Turkey has been severed.

Update (12:45 am): A Syrian author in Aleppo just tweeted:

Edward Dark @edwardedark
This is the beginning of the end of jihadi presence in Aleppo. After 4 years of war & terror, people can finally see the end in sight #Syria


Map by SAA Reporter - bigger, HD version - different map showing a larger area

While fire control over the supply route was achieved yesterday there were still Jabhat al-Nusra forces holding the village Muarrasat al Khan. Those forces were destroyed today with a two pronged attack by the Syrian army coming from east and Hizbullah fighters coming from the besieged Nubl and Zahraa area in the west. Those fighters had earlier arrived by helicopter. At least four higher commander of Nusra and other groups where killed during the fighting. They Syrian army will now continue the offensive to widen and secure the new corridor.

There is now only one supply line left between the insurgents in Idleb and Aleppo province and Turkey. It leads north-west from Idleb city along the M45 motorway and crosses at Bab al Hawa to the Turkish city of Reyhanli (map.) It is some 40 kilometers west of Aleppo city and Russian air superiority make the road dangerous to use. The Russian air force will take care that no major traffic is able to use the crossing. Over the next months the current offensive should also have reached that border zone and seal all other potential crossing venues.

Russia made clear that there will be no end to the war until the border is under full Syrian government control:

"The key point for the ceasefire to work is a task of blocking illegal trafficking across the Turkish-Syrian border, which supports the militants," [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov] said. "Without closing the border it is difficult to expect the ceasefire to take place."

The Russian air strikes will continue until the terrorist organizations are defeated.

Additional progress was made by the Syrian army today in Latakia. East of Aleppo the army took the village  As Sin and has nearly surrounded a contingent of Islamic State fighters at the Aleppo power plant. In Homs province the already surrounded large insurgency held area of Rastan will soon be split in two. In the south new attacks were launched to widen the supply corridor to Daraa.

Morale of the Syrian army has remarkably increased and victory begets victory. I expect the campaign to continue at the current pace. The insurgency in north, south and west Syria is faltering on all fronts and their lack of new supplies will soon lead to more decisive defeats. After the insurgency is mostly destroyed it will be time to take serious care of the Islamic State in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in east Syria. In preparation of that move the Syrian YPG Kurds, with Russian support, are planning to take the rest of the northern border with Turkey from the Islamic State.

Posted by b on February 3, 2016 at 10:51 AM | Permalink


It is great news to start the day with. Even Al Jazeera's reporting could not down play the significance of these recent victories.

As always Mike Whitney paints a clear picture of how the U.S. is trying to use the Saudi-oil leverage (blackmail) as a way of snatching victory at the fake negotiations, out of the jaws of the battlefield defeats of its alphabet soup head-chopping terrorist gangs in Syria.

Posted by: thirsty | Feb 3, 2016 11:20:36 AM | 1

The BBC's headline is a lot less positive...

"A Syrian government offensive on rebel-held areas around Aleppo is threatening to derail UN efforts to persuade the warring parties to start peace talks."

Posted by: dh | Feb 3, 2016 11:33:38 AM | 2

Thirsty: now that depressed oil prices are seriously hurting western stock markets and destroying the shale industry would not be surprised if western elites now want somewhat higher oil prices.

Posted by: Vollin | Feb 3, 2016 11:36:33 AM | 3

The BBC are the british govt mouthpiece. Philip Hammond the foreign minister was sounding off about this and Russia and Putin in the guardian. The response from readers was to tell him to shut up and let the Russians and the SAA do the job.
People are not making a distinction between moderates and ISIL they see them as all the same so the govt complaints are confusing. The ordinary person outside of politics can see the lies and double dealing.

Posted by: James lake | Feb 3, 2016 11:45:53 AM | 4

@4 Right, but they just keep on doing it. They seem oblivious to public opinion. I wonder if Hammond even saw those comments in the Guardian.

Posted by: dh | Feb 3, 2016 11:52:11 AM | 5

@4 and @5: Agree on both counts. The BBC continues to become more and more a pure propaganda bullhorn (to take a phrase from John Kerry and co.) but I have a feeling their leadership is so insulated from reality that the disdain thinking people feel for their "news" goes completely unnoticed by them. Inside the echo chamber, all seems like it's going swimmingly.

But still, great news out of Syria today. If the supply lines can be cut, the military effectiveness of the Wahhabi terrorists will diminish. They will still have the ability to cause great harm through pure terrorism but they will not be able to hold territory like they used to. And if new foreign fighters cannot enter Syria their numbers will shrink. There is still so much suffering the Syrian people will have to endure, though. Even if the war can be won, the country is destroyed and needs $300 billion (estimated) to be rebuilt.

Posted by: WorldBLee | Feb 3, 2016 12:00:44 PM | 6

@ dh | 5

IMO, they are not so much "oblivious to public opinion" as determined, or tasked, to manipulate and manage public opinion, in accordance with Chomsky et al's concept of "manufacturing consent".

Thus, when mass-media infoganda outlets encounter skepticism, rational criticism, and resistance from refractory members of the audience/target demographic, they're inclined to eradicate rather than accommodate it.

This also explains why they keep doing it: the Big Lie(s) strategy is accomplished, in part, by constant "mindless" repetition.

So, even when TV talking-heads discussion panels and print/Internet articles appear to critically examine, or take issue with, government policies and actions, subliminal mantras like "Putin = aggressive dictator", "Russia = threat", and even "Assad must go" are constantly recycled and recirculated to reinforce the state newspeak, doublethink, false history, etc.

Posted by: Ort | Feb 3, 2016 12:04:24 PM | 7

Good news. On the other hand, the Empire can't allow Syrians to succeed, so I'd bet someone's gonna try to push some dupes into a major war somewhere. The bets are on Turkey and/or arab theocracies, targets either Syria or Iran.

Posted by: anon coward | Feb 3, 2016 12:08:27 PM | 8

Good riddance!
Top IS commanders 'taking refuge' in Libya

Mr Shukri said senior IS commanders were taking refuge in Libya, under pressure from international airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

"Some of their members, especially those with long-term importance to IS, are taking refuge here. They view Libya as a safe haven."

Posted by: virgile | Feb 3, 2016 12:22:03 PM | 9

@anon coward

Libya may become the needed diversion from the defeat of the West in Syria.

Posted by: virgile | Feb 3, 2016 12:23:26 PM | 10

thanks b.. i really appreciate your commentary and this forum... there is the fake news dh and others point out in contrast to your valuable sharing of the ongoing dynamics. the contrast is sometimes really crazy..

Posted by: james | Feb 3, 2016 12:24:54 PM | 11

@10 virgile - it does look like libya is the new iraq version 2 with the usa/west telling themselves what a great job they have done in getting rid off or creating the present nightmare they are fully responsible for... we will undoubtedly will get the usual circle jerk in the msm that defines the moral depravity of the western leadership so well..

Posted by: james | Feb 3, 2016 12:28:18 PM | 12

The BBC (Biased Broadcasting Corporation) are becoming a laughing stock amongst the thinking classes that can use the internet. The BBC has an agenda to suppress news (like the murder of the Shia in Nigeria, the Cologne refugee riot - took 7 days to mention) and spew propaganda. For about a week they have been character assassinating Putin. The start being the Litvinenco stitch-up inquiry that completely ignored the evidence from David West the Abracadabra club that clearly showed litvinenco was contaminated and weakened 2 days before the teapot incident. I take the piss out of the BBC 'news' these days. Rather sad, since they were once honest. If you read the and RAND Corporation think tank reports you soon realise the US are engaged in wishful thinking and ignoring the reality on the ground (also economic). Since the UK are their glove puppet our propaganda has to be the same as the US (it's sad to realise that they think we are so daft). Anyway, GOOD NEWS - Well done Russia and the Syrian forces (and I don't underestimate their danger and effort).

Posted by: eric bloodaxe | Feb 3, 2016 12:37:01 PM | 13


Europe is pressing the USA to do something in Libya before it is too late.
I think Russia will use Libya and its veto power at the UNSC as a new bargaining card to force the West into renouncing once for all to support Syrian rebels.

Posted by: virgile | Feb 3, 2016 1:07:59 PM | 14

James Lake @4 and dh@5 Agree with you about Joe Public's opinion on Hammond's Guardian piece. Also have you noticed the obsequiousness of our Foreign Secretary when he is around Kerry. He looks like he wants to give him a blow job.

Posted by: harry law | Feb 3, 2016 1:21:44 PM | 15

Here's the view from the other side. Bill Weinberg's screed in his WW4 Report.
As a fan of MoA I'd like to see a rebuttal somewhere.

These developments come as Russia continues its horrific aerial carnage in Syria. Hours after Lavrov spoke in defense of the Kurds, Russian warplanes struck a British-funded bakery in Hazano, Idlib governorate—on the same day the facility was due to start providing food for 18,000 people in the rebel-held town. The UK's Department for International Development acknowledged the bakery was severely damaged and would not be able to open. Hundreds of civilians have been killed by Russian air-strikes since the Kremlin launched its Syrian intervention in September. The targets of Russian bombs have included mosques, schools—and field hospitals. (The Telegraph, Jan. 27)

Physicians for Human Rights recorded 23 attacks on medical facilities in Syria in October and November last year—all but one by Syrian government or Russian forces. The UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs also reports that 20 health facilities were struck or damaged by bombs dropped by the Assad regime or its Russian allies in October and November, and that many aid organizations have had to scale back or suspend operations as a result of increasing attacks. In December, Amnesty International said Russian air strikes had killed hundreds of civilians—and hit medical facilities. (The Independent, Jan. 24)

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports the death of 471 civilians—including 127 children and 56 women—in Russian air-strikes just since the beginning of the year. The Observatory reports a further 211 civilians—including 30 children and 20 women—killed in Assad regime air-strikes in the same period. (SOHR, Jan. 27)

And the US is essentially acquiescing in this carnage, with an increasingly blatant tilt to Assad. Once again we have reports from Syrian rebels that the US is pressuring them not to fight the regime. Lebanese daily Al Akhbar reported Jan. 20 that the Jordan-based Military Operations Center (MOC), established by the US and Arab governments to coordinate aid to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), has ordered the FSA's Southern Front to stop attacking regime forces and instead focus their efforts against the Nusra Front, Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate. The orders apparently came at a Jan. 8 meeting with Southern Front commanders in Amman. (Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis, Jan. 26; Now, Lebanon, Jan. 20)

Posted by: Ronald | Feb 3, 2016 1:46:34 PM | 16

@ Virgil, 14. I'm afraid the west can operate without a unsc resolution in Libya. They can just get invited by whatever government is there. But that can easily turn into a quagmire as there are 90 million Egyptians next door and many of them are either sympathetic to jihadists, or would just want a crack at Western troops.

@ Thirsty, #1 Thanks for the link a very interesting read. I hope the Russians can hold firm on oil prices. Assuming it is within the capability of the anti-terrorist coalition to retake all of Syria, they should do it and present the Saudis and their western masters with a fait acompli. What will the Saudis do then? Keep oil cheap forever and ever?

If retaking all of Syria is not possible then it does not matter if they negotiate away a card they don't really have.

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 3, 2016 1:50:39 PM | 17

No wonder the Crusaders are gnashing their gums. Their ter'rists are being thrashed, the Geneva Piece Talks are notable for the absence of anything resembling dialogue, and CCTV has been (unkindly) pointing out that with ISIS, J-al-N and the Kurds excluded, the talks, if they ever begin, will barely qualify as farce.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 3, 2016 1:54:29 PM | 18

@ Ronald 16,

Of course it is ridiculous to think that a large aerial campaign would not kill civilians. Killing civilians is terrible no matter who is doing it. However, I do not take sohr statistics seriously in the slightest for reasons explained repeatedly here at m of a and elsewhere. And even their numbers admit a ratio of 2/3 militant vs 1/3 civilian. That is way better than Israel vs Hizbullah and way better than the depleted uranium the US used all over Iraq. What we are seeing here is the media campaign of the loosing side. Unable to win on the battlefield, they try to at least win the media war. However, the US is in no position to condemn attacks on civilians. Hence, even the media war is an uphill battle. Also, Arabs and Muslims have been so demonized in past years that it is hard to get even the American public to care much over civilian casualties in Syria.

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 3, 2016 2:07:48 PM | 19

Jihadis in Aleppo and surrounding towns appeal to all their friends, saying, if the border with Turkey is closed they will be in grave danger.

Posted by: harry law | Feb 3, 2016 2:11:25 PM | 20

Good news for Syria, and some good news out of Ukraine today as well as the western installed junta seems to be tottering over "insufficient reforms".

Posted by: Guest77 | Feb 3, 2016 2:17:11 PM | 21

The opposition in Geneva demanded that the Syrian Government begin to lift the sieges against civilians, and the Syrian Government duly obliged in Nubl and Zahraa..

Today is a good day, but it feels precarious. A few days of bad weather will ground the Russian Air force, and leave pro-Government forces in limbo. It's important to move on from this and widen the bridge quickly.

But is Idlib's liberation around the corner? I'm not convinced. If Idlib was of any strategic importance, the Russians would have entered sooner. Iran too would not have negotiated the withdrawal of fighters in Zabadani, and the Syrian Government negotiated the withdrawal of fighters from around Damascus, to be bussed to Idlib if it were a strategic prize.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Feb 3, 2016 2:22:08 PM | 22

@Lysander 19
Thanks, helpful.

Posted by: Ronald | Feb 3, 2016 2:25:21 PM | 23

Posted by: Ronald | Feb 3, 2016 1:46:34 PM | 16

Take your bullshit someplace else.

Posted by: Bruno Marz | Feb 3, 2016 2:39:33 PM | 24

U.N. halts Syria talks as government closes in on Aleppo

A United Nations envoy halted his attempts to launch Syrian peace talks on Wednesday after the army, backed by Russian air strikes, made a major advance against rebel forces north of Aleppo, choking opposition supply lines from Turkey to the city.

In what rebels called a punishing assault, the government forces ended a three and a half year siege of the Shi’ite towns of Nubul and al-Zahraa, a key step in a wider campaign to recapture all of Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city before the war.

Posted by: okie farmer | Feb 3, 2016 2:51:56 PM | 25

on Libya - the "western" plan was to install a new UN selected government that would then "invite" foreign troops into the country. They selected some folks but the two(!) parliaments in Libya (east and west) vetoed that government. As at least one of the parliaments is internationally recognized there is now a need for some new trick to hush up the illegal intervention.

Meanwhile all kinds of "western" special forces are already creeping all over the country.

Posted by: b | Feb 3, 2016 2:57:07 PM | 26

I wrote yesterday about the geopolitical implications of the battles in and around Aleppo and published it on Fort Russ:

The Scramble for Arabia: Gazprom Rulez!

On the evening of February 2nd the Syrian Arab Army is within a few kilometers from victory on all three Aleppo fronts:

1) Under 2 km to connect with Al-Zahra and Nubbol in the west. This would cut the rebel supply lines to Turkey.
2) Under 2 km to connect with the Kurds in North Aleppo. This would encircle the rebel-held east Aleppo.
3) Some 7 km between the forces attacking from the west from the Kuweires airbase to the Sheikh Najjar industrial area. This would create a large ISIS pocket south of the Aleppo-Euphrates Canal.

Further to the west the forces attacking from the Kuweires airbase could reach Lake Assad on the Euphrates River or connect with Kurds west of the Tishreen Dam. This would cut off the Islamic State from Turkey.

There is a far greater geopolitical aspect to all this. Just like in the Scramble for Africa, this is a battle of corridors. In Africa the Cape Town to Cairo Red Line of British imperialism won over rival French ambitions of conquering Africa from East to West.

If Russia wins in Syria, it will gain a Mediterranean port. Not just an isolated base that can be reached by ship through the Turkish Straits, but a port connected by land and rail over friendly SCO territory. The other side of the game is that this victory would be a massive defeat for U.S. and its allies. The Persian Gulf and Arab oil and gas would be isolated from the European markets.

The real reason for the Syrian “revolution” was never democracy. The “civil war” – or in fact a proxy invasion – was launched by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. after Syria rejected Qatari plans to build a gas pipeline through Syria to Turkey. The Euromaidan revolution in the Ukraine was never about democracy either. The real Western motive for destabilizing Ukraine was to disrupt the Russian gas transit through Ukraine and thus reduce the feared “European dependency on Russian energy.” To break Europe away from Russia, the U.S. would need to provide an alternate source of energy. Liquid natural gas will never be cost effective and can never fulfill European needs. A pipeline the Qatari or Iranian gas fields in the Persian Gulf would be needed.

Whoever wins in Aleppo may gain control of Europe's energy future. At the moment Russia and Gazprom may have the upper hand.

(See the article for linked references.)

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Feb 3, 2016 3:04:08 PM | 27

It is better news... Just hope it lasts... By chance saw Russian analyst Starikov in person couple of ds ago, and he made a very apt analogy about the Syria war..."it is like the Russian (doll) matryoshka..." Perfect... Unfortunately, he also thought it'd go on for a long time.

Posted by: GoraDiva | Feb 3, 2016 3:30:18 PM | 28

"Russian air strikes will not cease until we truly defeat the terrorist organisations ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra," Lavrov said during a visit to Oman. "And I don't see why these air strikes should stop."

My views - there must not be any cease-fires till total eliminations of all terrorists. It must continue base on precedent set by the endless peace talk going on between PLA and Israel. I'm not sure if the peace talks still going since I cannot remember when the endless talks started after the 1967 6-days war. Uncle Tug providing billions and billions for weapons and building new homes in settlement, the West Banks and Israel. The West Bank now look like a piece of cheese.

The endless peace talk in Geneva must continue. While Russian planes, Syrian forces, Hezbollah and Irian fighters continue fighting till the last terrorists remove from Syria. Which I doubt it will happen so the Geneva endless talk continue...

Pause, change direction will our (Duopoly) Democratic twin, Bernie and Hillary steps in and demand every external parties (No double standard here) including Uncle Tug, Russia, Turkey, Saudi, Qatar, Hezbollah, Iranians and more... piss off, leave the Syrians to resolve the problems themselves?

Posted by: Jack Smith | Feb 3, 2016 3:41:17 PM | 29

Its all rather confusing for the Guardian,

[Russia] claims [their campaign] is targeting Isis, but in fact has consistently struck at mainstream rebel groups – backed by the west and Arab countries – that are fighting Assad. “Russian strikes will not cease until we really defeat terrorist organizations like [the al-Qaida-linked] Jabhat al-Nusra" [Said Lavrov]

Their own quote of Lavrov contradicts their assertion made in the same paragraph that Russia claim to be targeting ISIS.

Posted by: Bob | Feb 3, 2016 3:45:36 PM | 30


"They can just get invited by whatever government is there."

That's the point, there are two governments in Libya and none has serious international recognition. There are plenty of Al Qaeda operative infiltrated in both governments. As there is no army as such to support aerial attacks, they will bog down just like the USA aerial attacks in Syria. In addition there will be strong opposition from public opinion worldwide to another costly unilateral war on Libya when the first one ended in a disaster.
The catastrophic situation in Libya and in Yemen is paralyzing the USA and its Gulf allies. They are anxious but impotent in front of the growth of ISIS in Libya.
Russia as well as Iran are using that as bargaining cards in the game about Syria. Putin and Rouhani are excellent chess players..

Posted by: virgile | Feb 3, 2016 4:17:37 PM | 31

@thirsty #1

$30/bbl oil is a cold bath for all producers and KSA is starting to feel the chill just like the rest of them. The most exposed producers are the high cost American ones facing bankruptcy. The next most exposed are the gulf states because virtually their entire economy depends on it. KSA is raising taxes and cutting benefits, which undermines the social contract that makes their rule tolerable to the vast majority of their subjects. They have no idea how to end their costly engagement in Yemen (they're starting to lose on the ground) and they're committed to being the sugar daddies of Jihadis abroad to keep the peace at home. The dependence of the Russian economy on oil may be overestimated. Russia's lack of diversification was imposed on them as a condition for joining the WTO, and they are adapting to a post-sanctions trade environment. Nobody in the west saw their high tech defense industry coming until the products were out in the wild doing their thing. They're an attractive market for Chinese capital. The upshot is that Russia may be the least exposed of the major producers. I have my doubts that a reversible measure such as raising the world price of oil would carry the same weight with them as Syria's strategic position with them. The oil bomb can't be used against Russia any more without unacceptable collateral damage to the west and its allies.

Posted by: Thirdeye | Feb 3, 2016 4:17:40 PM | 32

Just when you think things can't get any worse, the bbc airs a documentary about a "hypothetical" (yes, it's all hypothetical for now) war with Russia - involving nukes and all. All this because of some percieved threat to some baltic states(Latvia???) etc etc. God save Europe, I say!!!

On the other hand, the rats in Syria must seriously start dusting off their Turkish passes and gently toss themselves over the border. Things aren't going to be pretty in the next few days for them. Don't want to judge too early but it's fair to say Sultan-Caliph Erdogan won't be praying at the Umayad mosque in Damascus or have Allepo as his next Ottoman province. Instead, he may be contending with sharing Turkey with the Kurds, whom I hear will be having a dimplomatic mission in Moscow soon. Interesting time.

A big thanks to b for keeping us updated on the madness happening around us.

Posted by: Zico | Feb 3, 2016 4:20:38 PM | 33

Just when you think things can't get any worse, the bbc airs a documentary about a "hypothetical" (yes, it's all hypothetical for now) war with Russia - involving nukes and all. All this because of some percieved threat to some baltic states(Latvia???) etc etc. God save Europe, I say!!!

On the other hand, the rats in Syria must seriously start dusting off their Turkish passes and gently toss themselves over the border. Things aren't going to be pretty in the next few days for them. Don't want to judge too early but it's fair to say Sultan-Caliph Erdogan won't be praying at the Umayad mosque in Damascus or have Allepo as his next Ottoman province. Instead, he may be contending with sharing Turkey with the Kurds, whom I hear will be having a dimplomatic mission in Moscow soon. Interesting time.

A big thanks to b for keeping us updated on the madness happening around us.

Posted by: Zico | Feb 3, 2016 4:21:25 PM | 34

Sorry for the doubple post.. My browser was playing up.. Appologies where it's due..

Posted by: Zico | Feb 3, 2016 4:26:15 PM | 35

In case you haven't seen it I dunno if the link has been put up Here is a good piss-take on ISIS/Daesh/snackbars.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 3, 2016 5:26:19 PM | 38

At b 26 and Virgil 31, thanks for the clarification. I was unaware.

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 3, 2016 5:38:20 PM | 39

Great news of the victories of the Syrian people over their jihadi enemies that are supported by the US and its Anglosphere and EU vassals.

Syria with its Russian and other allies must keep up the pace and ignore the hot air of the Syrian peace talks. If the jihadis will not surrender then they must be decimated, the sooner the better.

Posted by: AriusArmenian | Feb 3, 2016 5:39:53 PM | 40

Ronald @16,

Auditions for the propaganda machine aren't worth rebuttal unless one is trying out for the captive opposition.

Besides, you've got your own blog. You have no excuse not to do your own busy work.

Posted by: Jonathan | Feb 3, 2016 5:45:03 PM | 41

But is Idlib's liberation around the corner? I'm not convinced. If Idlib was of any strategic importance, the Russians would have entered sooner. Iran too would not have negotiated the withdrawal of fighters in Zabadani, and the Syrian Government negotiated the withdrawal of fighters from around Damascus, to be bussed to Idlib if it were a strategic prize. Posted by: Pat Bateman | Feb 3, 2016 2:22:08 PM | 22

This is was on hundred fronts, and figuring "strategic importance" is tricky. Idlib province is the largest holding of the rebels with good supply lines from Turkey, the largest threat for the government. Offensives from that area are the largest threat. The government has no resources to quickly impose the control over that province. And it was manifest that right after Russia started with the direct air support, even smaller, less important targets were still beyond the government capabilities. However, over time, government capabilities were growing, rebel capabilities were static, and the tide of war is now shifting.

It seems that northern Latakia was priority number 1, as the rebel could threaten key air bases from there, and in general, "Assad heartland". But for months the advances there were slow, halting and frequently reversed. But in recent weeks the pace of government offensive increased a lot. Similarly, the campaign to connect to Kuiweres has a lot of twists and turns and it took months. But now, the "north-ward march" and "west-ward march" from Kuiweres proceed in a quite sustained manner.

So far, rebel-hold part of Aleppo province and Idlib province were contiguous, so not exactly separate strategic targets. Aleppo end is also the largest population center in Syria, commercial and industrial hub etc. That makes it strategic. And there are also a lot of well armed rebels in that area. But eventually, the war will be over, down to the stage of annoying (and bloody) terror attacks, when all areas are liberated, and the order of operations has to take into accounts immediate threats, potential threats, decrease (or not) of rebel capabilities that results from the operations and so on.

From military-political perspective, connecting to PYD cantons is crucial, because this gives to opportunity of military supplies, and gaining political influence, with PYD, which is one of the "four main forces" in this war. If Afrin canton would start to cooperate with the government, the closure of the main supply route to Idlib and all northern rebels will be quite feasible (few miles to the south of Afrin canton). It could even give a lever on Turkey to stop supplying rebels altogether.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 3, 2016 5:48:30 PM | 42

@Zico - sounds more like a commercial for maintaining the ludicrously wasteful Trident capability, if anything.

I, for one, have no desire for my country to wage a nuclear war wether be it over Latvia, the three Baltics altogether, or even the whole of Eastern Europe for that matter.

If Poland or some other shitty little country wants a nuclear war, I suggest they get themselves their own nuclear weapons.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 3, 2016 5:49:59 PM | 43

@Bob #30

Or it could be an admission that The Guardian considers Jabhat al Nusra a mainstream rebel group.

Posted by: Thirdeye | Feb 3, 2016 5:56:35 PM | 44

NYT has this piece today:

Op-Ed Contributor
To End Syria’s War, Help Assad’s Officers Defect

.... But there’s an efficient way for Washington to put pressure on Damascus: Offer money and asylum to officers and officials who defect from the criminal regime of President Bashar al-Assad. ....

Mohammed Alaa Ghanem is the director of government relations and a senior political adviser at the Syrian American Council.


Clearly, the idea has many difficulties. Number one, high rank defectors were paid already, so the novel element would presumably be asylum. Payments can be offered by KSA and GCC countries after all, and Dubai has its share of exiles from different places. Number two, rebels are not sufficiently cohesive to prove to Western sponsors that they would avoid "post-war chaos", i.e. a continuation of the civil war after the fall of the government, that happened in Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya. If rebels were such a trustworthy bunch, NATO would join the fray after the famous red line was "crossed". Number three, defector can be double agents or worse, making this idea official in USA would not make it popular. Comments were quite divided: is the author a total idiot, or congenitally retarded, or ...

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 3, 2016 6:35:54 PM | 45

@32 Thirdeye
Nice comment. Very informed. I totally agree.

Posted by: Kraken | Feb 3, 2016 6:51:19 PM | 46

@45 I bet Mohammed knows just the right guy to put in charge of the fund.

Posted by: dh | Feb 3, 2016 7:33:13 PM | 47

Dh @ 47: I hear one Aivaras Abromavicius is looking for a new job and one Arseny Yatsenyuk might also be looking for a new job. So Mohammed Alaa Ghanem can pick and choose which to head the fund-raising operations.

Posted by: Jen | Feb 3, 2016 7:41:50 PM | 48

@48 I'm sure they would be happy to help. But Mohammed probably knows the best people on the ground. Nobody wants the money getting into the wrong hands.

Posted by: dh | Feb 3, 2016 7:58:17 PM | 49

@47 I was so happy and you have delivered sad news. Detractors at Russian Spring have a field day, "Aivarats are leaving the boat" (Aivakrysy in Russian), and champions of the cause of reforms in Ukraine have an equally sinking feelings as the fans of moderate rebels in Syria.

Back to the issue, this is a real hard problem. Plato was a brilliant political theorist, but he offered few advises on that crucial topic: how to deliver bribes with honesty and accurate, transparent accounting while maintaining the proper level of secrecy. One of the commenters raised the issue of the famous six billion USD in cash (that would require two 16-wheeler tractor-trailer combos filled to the roof with 100 dollar notes)that were delivered to Iraq with the further fate unknown. Before Bush Jr. I read about such stuff only once, in an article about Nigeria: it was reported that in good old days, the accounting of the national government there had lines like "[purpose] for the road from Iboko to Kabuto, [amount] 50 million naira, [effects] none". Theft of government money is less effective when you waste part of the money for some Patemkin efforts that create an illusion of something being done, and Nigeria served as a paragon and beacon of ultimate effectiveness. But US government could not stay behind forever.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 3, 2016 9:38:09 PM | 50

@32 3rdi

I agree with your analysis, although I don't know the depth of the damage to the Russian economy done by the collapse of oil prices I do think that it's hurting the Mideast more ... and has not only rolled up the tertiary recovery oil projects in the US but may yet trigger another financial collpase there, as it was all borrowed money behind that production. Time is on Russia's side, not on the side of the KSA/GCC/Turks ...

An interesting thought occurred to me as I read US president thanks Muslims for efforts at a 'time of fear’ in the premiere Iranian online news outlet ... is the US openly trying to cozy up to Iran and walking away from KSA? Obama talks against the ISIL/Daesh terrorism (this from the Terrorist in Chief himself, backer of Daesh and Al CIAduh) and about the Muslim 'good guy' majority ... Iran is not Daesh and is in fact fighting Daesh, for all the Americans who haven't noticed.

The 'Wise men' in the deep state are focused, as ever, on Russia and China in their all or nothing global dominance game, and only instumentally on the Mideast. A gas pipeline from Iran across Iraq and Syria through as little of Turkey as possible (picking up gas offshore Syria) would counter the Russian South Stream as effectively as one from Qatar, and would ameliorate the effects of Iran's holding down its corner of the 'Golden Triangle' (Iran Completes Eurasian Golden Triangle) that's being talked up these days.

I admit it's a move that makes real sense from the presumed pov of the hard imperial core ... but they might be trying it anyway.

And if dumping KSA works ... Israel is next.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 3, 2016 9:58:14 PM | 51

If Poland or some other shitty little country wants a nuclear war, I suggest they get themselves their own nuclear weapons.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 3, 2016 5:49:59 PM | 43

It is antiquated thinking. It is like saying that if you want to spend winter break skiing, you should buy skis and perhaps a mountain cabin to boot. That is but one way to do it, you can also rent the skis and get a motel room. Similarly, US government has a program that you can rent nukes, which led to some discussions in Poland, "We should seriously consider it" "Are you nuts? Drunk" "But shouldn't we at least consider it before dismissing the idea?" etc. That was in the old government, the new has other worries, like how to drawn Constitutional Court in Vistula so it cannot be overly bothered with foreign policy. They hate Russia, they hate EU, so Cameron will soon come to visit.

Concerning the possibility of a new war of Triple Alliance, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ganging upon Russia after stocking all those rented nukes, I would not flee the Albion for the more secure Emerald Island just yet.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 3, 2016 10:15:21 PM | 52

Sorry, b ... I missed your update, and map showing the green - bifurcated, disconnected - in the northeast of Syria. If it's actually happened already, Hurray! Even a know nothing like myself saw it coming. There are a couple of other areas, like the lessor 'caldron', (lessor Kesselschlacht, right?) east of the Kuweirres airport that will surely follow in short order (Southfront had this one of the area earlier). Negotiations are going well on the ground in Syria indeed. I imagine they'll sputter along in Geneva until they've been decided on the ground in Syria, and then Assad and the Russians will send someone over to deliver the news, and to describe the future of Syria.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 3, 2016 10:20:18 PM | 53

Jfl post @51

The U.S. will never dump KSA or Israel. The relationships go back so many decades and are entrenched in their foreign policy no matter who is in power. To put it simply, Iran will always be cast as the enemy, because of there aversion to Israel. Acceptance of this cannot be overcome by majority of US politicians. that is why they want regime change. KSA is Israelis allie and that relationship suits the US in that region they have more to gain internally and externally from this. Iran does not fit into any of this. The US remove sanctions then puts them on again just as they do with Russia. There is no chance of building good relations.

Posted by: James lake | Feb 3, 2016 10:25:50 PM | 54

off topic but in the Democratic Presidential Debates hosted by CNN in New Hampshire on Feb. 3, Hillary Clinton replied to an audience members question asking (paraphrasing): if she becomes President, could she commit to NOT ENGAGE in military interventions around the globe and not take the U.S. into foreign wars, she replied - I Can Not Do That.

It is an amazingly frank statement and the fact that the 'democratic' audience clapped like their hands were on fire is a sad testament to the warmongering nature of the public - liberals included.

The war ON Syria needs to be wrapped up before warmongers like Hillary climb into the drivers seat in the U.S. with Bush-era neoconservatives coming out of the wood work.

Posted by: thirsty | Feb 3, 2016 10:29:40 PM | 55

NATO better overthrow another leader. ISIS needs more safe havens.

Posted by: rosco | Feb 3, 2016 11:04:55 PM | 56

The U.S. will never dump KSA or Israel ... Posted by: James lake | Feb 3, 2016 10:25:50 PM | 54

This may be a bit hasty prediction. Just because U.S. never dumped KSA or Israel does not prove that it will never happen, as certain things happen for the first time. For example, ties with France go back to the first days of the rebellion of Americans against the British, and yet, we could witness U.S. Congress renaming "French Fries" as "Freedom Fries". IMHO, it is most likely under Sanders presidency. Israeli can get really irate when an American Jew does not show the proper deference to his/her betters, the Elevated Ones and more generally, engage in "Galut thinking". Just few days ago American Ambassador to Israel was named "a little Jewish boy". Moreover, unlike Obama, Sanders have shown some hints of temper, and members of Israeli Cabinet view the freedom to insult every possible American official as their birth right.

KSA is a bit different story. They actually pay to get what they want.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 3, 2016 11:10:48 PM | 57

@57 PB

They pay because they have the oil. They might lose the oil. This line of thought seems unlikely to me. Was prompted by Obama at the mosque covered by Iran.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 3, 2016 11:26:20 PM | 58

Interesting take on the implications of the North Aleppo food/fuel supply route cut to Idlib from SYRIA:direct:

Idlib 'on the verge of a catastrophe' as regime severs vital supply route, and with it, cuts off fuel access

Map/Graphic: North Aleppo Trade Route Severed

...Journalists living in rebel-held Idlib and Aleppo provinces say that electricity, bread ovens, transportation, and other essential services that rely on fuel from Islamic State territory will grind to a halt without fuel.

Idlib province, controlled almost entirely by a coalition of Islamist rebels led by Jabhat a-Nusra, is dependent on fuel-driven generators. A fuel crisis would cause a humanitarian and military “catastrophe” in the northwestern province, opposition journalists tell Syria Direct...

...“The cutting off of fuel will obviously have a dire impact on rebel militias [in Idlib] who need to operate a large number of military vehicles,” said Muhammad Najm a-Din, a correspondent with pro-opposition Smart News currently in the northern Aleppo countryside.

Already, oil prices in Idlib have spiked as merchants have begun hoarding fuel stockpiles, a correspondent with pro-opposition Idlib News Network told Syria Direct Wednesday...

Posted by: PavewayIV | Feb 3, 2016 11:32:49 PM | 59

Geneva has been canceled until February 28, 2016
bbc: Syria conflict: Sides trade blame over talks' suspension.

ABC.NET: Syrian war: Peace talks suspended until February 25, UN announces.

"I have concluded frankly that after the first week of preparatory talks there is more work to be done, not only by us but the stakeholders," he told reporters in Geneva.

breaking: Guardian: Julian Assange says he will 'accept arrest' on Friday if UN rules against him //WikiLeaks founder says he will leave Ecuadorian embassy in London at noon GMT Friday if United Nations investigation says he is not illegally detained.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Feb 3, 2016 11:34:57 PM | 60

ugh -- Vienna ... goodnight

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Feb 3, 2016 11:37:43 PM | 61

@49 Piotr Berman

Dear Mr Madam Or Sir in the DC Area, My name is Bashar Druz Al-Alawi and I am a field-marshall in the Officer Corps of the Syrian Arabic Armed Forces. I Write to you today because I am willing to defect with my Troops near Aleppo if you can deposit 3 milliards American Dollars in my bank Account. For security reasons I cannot revelate my name before I am assured of your Good Intentions by an initial transfer of 1 milliards...

Posted by: Claud | Feb 3, 2016 11:54:45 PM | 62

"The U.S. will never dump KSA or Israel.:

The USA dumped the Shah of Iran, the US best friend in the region....

Posted by: virgile | Feb 3, 2016 11:57:38 PM | 63

Petri Krohn@27 Nice article. Always wanted to thank you for all your excellent work on the (your?) A closer Look On Syria wiki. I came in on the tail end of the Ghouta CW discussions on WhoGhouta and didn't have much to contribute by that time to ACLOS, but it has always been a great reference.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Feb 4, 2016 12:06:41 AM | 64

re 62

milliard in French translates as billion in English. Some readers may be puzzled.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 4, 2016 12:57:07 AM | 65

hardly puzzled if they're used to nigerian scams :D

Posted by: xmasucks | Feb 4, 2016 1:27:13 AM | 66

Thanks b. You're the go-to source of reality-based news on Syria. Randomly surveying the big mainstream news sites -- bbc, guardian, cnn, nytimes -- I see nothing on this major victory against terrorism. What a post-reality world we live in.

Posted by: fairleft | Feb 4, 2016 2:57:52 AM | 67

"The moral of the Syrian army has remarkably increased and victory begets victory."

I am passing a message from the World Headquarters of Grammar Nazis, Anglo-Saxon Division: "moral" is usually an adjective, but sometimes is used like a noun with meanings like "moral of the story", "he has no morals". Military groups have "morale", basically "martial spirit and discipline", an army may have very good or "high" morale, but it can be quite short of morality, say, valiantly persevere under fire and torture villagers. Since morale includes discipline, the latter is OK if permitted by the command. This sentence makes sense: "Morale of Attilla's troops was high until the Battle of Battle of the Catalaunian Plains" even from the point of view of Roman historians.

The operation to lift the siege of Nubol and Zahraa indeed gives high mark for the morale of the troops that spearheaded it. The maneouver of accellerated attack from both sides was daring and led to many losses, and it left many of the victors in a precarious position that they will have to hold until another wave of logistic supply will come in. The chosen target was dear to the sentiments of Shia volunteers and Iranian Republican Guard, to lift the siege of their brothers, as oppose of putting opponents under siege -- two other targets in Aleppo area that were left for later.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 4, 2016 7:23:17 AM | 68

@Piotr Berman | Feb 4, 2016 7:23:17 AM | 68
"The operation to lift the siege of Nubol and Zahraa indeed gives high mark for the morale of the troops that spearheaded it."

I am passing a message from the World Headquarters of Grammar Nazis, Pedant Police: WTF does ". . . indeed gives high mark" mean?

Posted by: Denis | Feb 4, 2016 8:09:39 AM | 69

Yes, I agree, percipient comment at 32 by Thirdeye.

Anyone know who is behind charity "Mercycore" (a worm at the core?)
BBC interview (monologue, replete with umpteen references to "barrelbombs" a la Ort 's mindless repetition (@5 above)) sounded as if it was scripted in Washington or Ankara.

Posted by: Petra | Feb 4, 2016 8:36:41 AM | 70

RT Arabic is announcing that Turkey prepares for ground invasion of Syria. I hope they're not reliable!

Posted by: Mina | Feb 4, 2016 9:24:13 AM | 71

RT in English too:

Posted by: danx | Feb 4, 2016 9:36:42 AM | 72

A Syrian army source said the city of Aleppo would soon be encircled by government forces as rebels pounded by Russian air strikes expressed hope that the failure of Geneva peace talks would encourage their foreign backers to send better weapons.

Turkey, a major sponsor of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, said there was no point to peace talks while Russia carried out attacks in Syria. Moscow confirmed a Russian military trainer was killed in Syria this week, but denied that Russian servicemen were fighting on the ground.

The United Nations on Wednesday suspended the first peace talks in two years, halting an effort that seemed doomed from the start as the war raged unabated on the ground and government forces severed a major rebel supply route into strategically-important Aleppo, Syria's biggest city before the war began.

Posted by: okie farmer | Feb 4, 2016 9:59:53 AM | 73

@70 P

I suppose you've tried 'Mercycorps'? Quite a few hits of personnel related to ...

Posted by: jfl | Feb 4, 2016 10:14:49 AM | 74

Found a quality quote from John Kerry at the UN Website

If you follow that link you'll see that he said that any ceasefire should exclude Al Nusra.

Now the current hoo-ha is about 'evil Russian/SAA forces' kicking the 'opposition' (aka Al Nusra) out of Aleppo, and that this is undermining the peace talks.

Well they have the backing of John Kerry and he can be quoted to that effect. Smooth moves John.

Posted by: Bill | Feb 4, 2016 10:28:54 AM | 75

more hilarity from the BBC: Outraged Syrian opposition spokeswoman -- the Russians must have been planning this since before the peace talks commencement date -- how dare they!!! -- and the Americans must have known -- how dare they!!! -- apparently she (who ever she is) believes that the Russians and SAA were supposed to stand-down and the Americans were duty bound to make them ... but when asked -- sputtering, no, it's not America's fault!!! but they should have stopped the Russians ... or something.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Feb 4, 2016 11:19:00 AM | 76

It seems that the concerned about precarious position of the "bridge" between northern Aleppo and the Shia enclave is taken care of. YPD of Afrin explicitly or tacitly cooperates in taking over villages to the north of that "bride", the loyalist and YPD took two of them (for the total of four). Government TV claimed that rebels from the north of those positions are ready to switch sides. That is actually possible on the basis of recent history there. Al-Nusra was dominant in this corridor, but it refused to fight with ISIS and arranged for a swap with moderates who are now facing opponents from three sides. It would be ironic if they would latch onto the idea just published in NYT (although in the opposite direction).

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 4, 2016 12:31:57 PM | 77

Will Erdogan risk his job?

Kurdish and government offensives in northern Syria likely to force Turkey into proxy-war defeat or high-risk intervention

The advance of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against Islamic State forces and towards the Kurdish canton of Afrin raises Turkish fears of the prospect of the de facto establishment of a contiguous Kurdish territorial entity bordering Turkey inside Syria.
A Kurdish entity would provide a haven for Kurdish militants waging an ongoing insurgency inside Turkey, a development that Russia and Iran would be likely to exploit as a means of diverting Turkish attention away from Syria proper.
To pre-empt this outcome, Turkey is likely to orchestrate a cross-border insurgent attack on Islamic State-controlled Jarabulus. If, as is likely, this assault were to fail, Turkey would be faced with either accepting defeat in the proxy regional war in Syria and Iraq or taking the high-risk option of intervention within Syria by Turkish ground forces.

Posted by: virgile | Feb 4, 2016 12:34:29 PM | 78
Senior Saudi Interior Ministry Official - Major General Mansour al-Turki

Posted by: okie farmer | Feb 4, 2016 12:57:54 PM | 79

...Turkey would be faced with either accepting defeat in the proxy regional war in Syria and Iraq or taking the high-risk option of intervention within Syria by Turkish ground forces.
Posted by: virgile | Feb 4, 2016 12:34:29 PM | 78

According to CCTV English News Desk, Midnight, Feb 5, (20 minutes ago) Russia is anticipating that Turkey will invade Syrian territory.

[Lots of good OT stuff in the first 15 mins of that bulletin. DPRK impending satellite launch & Jap & SK over-reactions; UK to defy UN on Assange; China pledges aid to Syria; China's Korean Peninsula Ministry Head returns from (unspecified) talks with NK; NZ signs TPP etc etc.]

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 4, 2016 1:59:26 PM | 80

Al-Mayadeen television have reported that militants in Aleppo city are allegedly ready to fight alongside the Syrian Arab Army and “switch sides.” “The armed formations of militants operating to the north of Syria’s largest city of Aleppo have announced their readiness to fight on the side of government forces,” the television broadcaster said. The television station never said to which group the militants belonged to but it is believed that the very few moderate forces left in Syria have no chance in fighting back against the Islamist terrorists. | Al-Masdar News

Grain of salt is definitely needed, but it fits some fresh facts and recent history. First, the history. At the time when "vetted moderates" crossed south from Turkey to Azaz, they were promptly intercepted by al-Nusra that kept other groups under its thumb, so a few were killed and the rest fled on foot to Afrin canton. Subsequently, another "vetted moderate group" crossed, but after some negotiation, al-Nusra abandoned all positions in the Azaz-Aleppo corridor and was replaced by FSA. Another report was that "Army of Conquest" did not want to fight with ISIS, so the rebels in the Azaz corridor, on the front line with ISIS, were presumably the most moderate in the region.

Secondly, the project of fighting with ISIS from that direction was fitting with Erdogan's plan to create a liberated zone in Syrian under his tutelage, but the amount of aid coming from Turkey for that purpose was disappointing, if we judge on results. Only very lately Turkish military started to help them with artillery support, resulting in a cluster of "liberated villages" along Turkish border, but that roughly compensated the ground they lost earlier. Yet another report suggested that FSA paid several times less than groups favored by the Gulfies, I do not remember the amount, but less than the minimum wage in Turkey. So we are talking about a bunch of people with plenty of reasons to reassess their current position.

Currently, YPG of Afrin advances from the west, the elite of IRG and other forces advances from the south, ISIS looms on the east, and the supplies from the north are not secure at all. With no Army of Conquest breathing over their neck, and highly marketable position they have the opportunity to sell their positions to the government (Russia and Iran would pitch in), and get some steadier and less risky employment.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 4, 2016 2:04:25 PM | 81

That Hardtalk interview was excruciating ... if the interviewer had said the sky was blue, the Saudi Interior Minister would have contradicted him ... apparently contradiction is all that is necessary in his mind, and if not, "blaming others" is backup ..

Piotr -- amazing developments... and, if true and/or sustained, so very fast ... also throwing a lot of sunlight on how shallow many of these "allegiances" are and apparently have been.

People forget that rebels weary of the fight can't go back home and live in their mother's basement ... Mom doesn't live there anymore and they may already be on government lists as "insurgents/traitors" and quickly on jihadi lists as traitors/defectors.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Feb 4, 2016 2:22:38 PM | 82

@Paveway IV #59, Piotr Berman #81

Thank you for the informative and insightful posts.

Posted by: Thirdeye | Feb 4, 2016 3:29:59 PM | 83

ditto 83 thirdeye comment... fascinating how those moderate rebels will flip sides quicker then a whore taking off her nightie..

Posted by: james | Feb 4, 2016 3:39:05 PM | 84

How many more stupidities will Erdogan have to commit before the Turkish military steps in?

Posted by: lysias | Feb 4, 2016 5:05:51 PM | 85

@32 3rdi

The actual producers, of course, are every bit as dependent - more so - than the countries which nominally 'produce' the Black god ...

Oil price fall brings significant losses for big producers

The downturn in oil prices is not only contributing to the lack of global demand—Apple pointed to the decline in demand from emerging markets as one reason for the expected first-ever decline in iPhone sales—it is working to create the conditions for a renewed financial crisis if oil-exporting countries default on their debts.

Venezuela could be the first in line. If oil prices continue at their January lows, Venezuela’s export revenues for this year will be $18 billion, compared to debt servicing charges of $10 billion. This leaves just $8 billion to finance imports, which came in at $37 billion last year. The economy contracted 10 percent last year, following a fall of 4 percent in 2014.

Other oil-exporting countries are being caught in the price vortex. World Bank and International Monetary Fund officials are holding talks with Azerbaijan over a $4 billion bailout and Nigeria is seeking a similar loan from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

Chevron suffered a loss of $588 million in the fourth quarter of last year, compared to a $3.5 billion profit for the same period in 2014.

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, recorded a smaller drop in profits than its rivals. Its profits came in at $2.78 billion, a fall of 58 percent compared to 2014. However, the company committed itself to a further 25 percent reduction in capital spending this year, following a 19 percent reduction in 2015.

Shell reported that it will sell off $10 billion worth of assets, following an 87 percent collapse in its annual profits to $1.9 billion.

The worst-placed of the oil majors appears to be BP. It recorded a loss of $5.2 billion for 2015, its worst-ever result, compared to an $8.1 billion profit for 2014. Following write-downs on the value of its North Sea fields, where many of its operations are unprofitable at current prices, it made a loss of $2.2 billion in the fourth quarter alone, compared to a loss of $969 million during the same period in 2014.

Apart from lowered credit ratings, the fall in the oil price is impacting on the financial system, especially via US banks, notably smaller regional banks, which have funded shale oil operations. Figures for January reveal that the main contributor to the 5 percent drop in Wall Street’s S&P 500 share index was the fall in bank stocks.

The impact of lower prices has yet to be fully felt because oil producers have been able to cover their position by taking out future selling contracts at higher than current market prices. As those contracts expire, however, some shale producers will become unprofitable unless there is a significant upturn in oil prices.

... I imagine all the money they owe is owed not to Russia, China, the BRICS or SCO countries but to the banks of North America and the EU. Thus will this financial WW III be assymetric warfare. When the gaskets begin to blow they will be blowing in the banks at the heart of darkness within the Western house of cards, not in Russia and China, etc.

If, then, commercial debtors in Russia - Russia has little state debt - and other countries/commercial debtors on the IMF's new 'others' list - those whose creditors may officially be stiffed by IMF 'friendly' countries - take the opportunity to pre-emptively default on their debts as well, since the first shot in this financial WW III has already been fired by the IMF in Ukraine - the US/EU may find that they have bitten off more interest-paying paper than they can chew, or even choke on. No interest ... and no principal either.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 5, 2016 8:37:12 AM | 86

It's only a suspicion, but my suspicion is that when China talks about negotiations to resolve the Syrian Crisis, they mean the variety of 'negotiations' preferred by b, Russia, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 6, 2016 12:02:34 AM | 87

Maybe I'm not giving our statesman enough credit, but I had the impression from the recently paused 'peace negotiations' that Kerry et al expected a repeat of the freeze frame in the Donbas/Minsk agreement- as if they can always call a time out, go back to the drawing board, and wait for the next acme delivery. Contrast that with the lesson in diplomacy that the Russians display in everything they do- which only infuriates our inbred aristocrats. And here comes the EU Parliament ass clowns offering to lift sanctions in return for the restoration of Crimea to the Ukraine. Hopeless.

Posted by: Nana2007 | Feb 6, 2016 2:05:15 AM | 88

Wikimapia shows the newest "mini-state", Azaz-Mare-Rifaat pocket. While the area is modest, it makes news and the foreign policy issues are most intricate. What I understood from Al-Masdar etc. is that (a) internal disputes are patched, (b) of four neighbors, ceasefire with ISIS, including commercial and military cooperation, getting attacks from Afrin Canton (YPG) and SAA and allies, while the fourth neighbor, Turkey, prevents the loss of civilian population and probably will renew military supplies (and civilian supplies too).

That comes as a relief to ISIS, they were able to send 1500 fighters to help beat back the advance of SAA and allies aiming at closing the kettle SE of Kuiweres (E of Aleppo). The pocket state similarly got fighters to stabilize its southern frontier, but Afrin Canton is taken over some border villages. It remains to be seen if AZRP will survive till the next round of the peace talks (at the end of this month), but I guess it will.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 7, 2016 8:08:03 AM | 89

Wonderfully detailed blog. I was led here by a HuffPo article whose author, on closer examination, seems to have derived substantial portions of his commentary from this blog:

"If government forces, moving north, can make friendly contact with the Kurds in the northeast , almost all Nusra and allied rebel forces would be nearly surrounded. The insurgents would be caught in a cauldron with their backs to a lightly populated and forested territory."

So in the government's best-case scenario, the rebels will have a long strip of "lightly populated, forested" border with Turkey, across which they can withdraw into Turkish territory, and through which new supply lines could be created? If the Vietnamese could resupply through jungles, why isn't this possible?

With respect to Aleppo, I again have to wonder how practical it is to cut the supply lines of highly mobile, small unit forces who can infiltrate loose lines of encirclement. Aside from that, the eastern portion of the city is controlled by Islamic State, which has supply lines reaching back into Iraq. Even assuming that the government manages to oust non-IS rebels from the western portion, doesn't that simply create opportunities for IS to move further west?

Finally, may I ask what percentage of territory lost to the rebels that the government has regained and retained control of; and what this might suggest for a future timetable?

I hope that skepticism is acceptable here. I confess to having a lot to learn, and this website promises to provide valuable opportunities for that.

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 10, 2016 3:38:48 AM | 90

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