Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 15, 2016

The "Race To Raqqa" - A Syrian Campaign Plan

There is today a lot of indignation in "western" media over the Russian air campaign in Syria. One, two, three, ... hospitals were bombed!. And schools! An the rebels lost more villages! Barrel bombs! Cluster bombs! One must ask how many of these "hospitals" were really hospitals and not just quarters for Jihadi "rebels". From the videos that were published I could identify only one destroyed building that might have been a real hospital. But ever there no medical equipment was visible in the debris. Could this probably arranged media assault be the preparation for some new false flag stunt or some other planned escalation?

Hardly any mentions was made today about continued Turkish shelling of Kurdish towns in Syria. As soon as the Syrian artillery will be near the border, in a week or so, such shelling will be answered and the situation will then escalate very fast.

The Russian promised that the The “Gates of hell” will be open in the coming months in Syria. The current massive Russian bombing is the beginning of that campaign. "Rebels" running away from a town due to bombing are not able to kill the Syrian soldiers that then enter that town. Houses and infrastructure can be rebuild but dead soldiers can not be resurrected. That is the simple rule that now guides the Syrian government campaigns. There are no hints yet of how exactly the liberation of Aleppo province, rebel held parts of Aleppo city and in Idleb will proceed. There is a bigger campaign plan behind it but it is not yet visible.

Visible though is the Syrian plan of the Race to Raqqa against the Islamic State.

map via The 'Nimr' Tiger - bigger

From the south west a brigade sized force of the Syrian army (red), soon to be reinforced by volunteer units, is pushing north-east towards Tabqa airbase which lies south of Route 4 and the city of Al Tawra. Both are held by the Islamic State (grey). The troops are now some 15 kilometers away from the base. Should the Syrian army take the base it would achieve firecontrol over Route 4 from Turkey via Al Bab to Raqqa and could stop most Islamic State traffic on that road. Should the army take Al Taqra city it could also capture the Taqwa dam of the Assad barrier lake. Then all Islamic State forces west of the Euphrates would be completely cut of from Raqqa and Iraq. They could be further split up by Syrian army forces coming from Aleppo going east and in the north by Kurdish forces (yellow) going west . The Islamic State would lose a lot of terrain in that move and, much more important, its sole open access route to Turkey. The difficult attack on Raqqa city itself, some 15 kilometers further east, would only come after the Tabqa base and Al Tawra are taken.

But few military plans survive the contact with the enemy and there are other forces that would like to get their hands on Raqqa before the Syrian army reaches it

Last week the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim visited the Turkish President Erdogan in Istanbul. Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar have declared that they would join the announced Saudi ground campaign against the Islamic State should the U.S. take the command and lead. Saudi fighter jets are said to have landed in Incirlik airbase (not verified). A Kuwaiti air transport plane landed in Hatay today, allegedly filled with weapons. The Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu is visiting Ukraine with a large delegation. Is there some coordination ongoing? A diversion in Ukraine to keep the Russians busy in Ukraine while an Turkish/Gulf Arab attack is launched on Syria? Or vice versa?

While the situation for the Syrian government and its allies looks much better now than six month ago, the war on Syria is far from over. It may well expand and escalate further before an end is in sight.

Posted by b on February 15, 2016 at 18:56 UTC | Permalink

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I had expressed my doubt in the post above.

The Russians now say The reports from Turkey on hospitals being hit were fakes.

Syrian hospital bombing plot is part of an information warfare

Posted by: b | Feb 16 2016 18:59 utc | 101

@b 100
the Azaz bombing was surely not fake, because journalists covering the war from Kilis were able to see the injured rushing in Kilis hospital. Another Erdogan trick? I have no doubt about it.

Posted by: jeanv | Feb 16 2016 19:19 utc | 102

Pat Bateman @97 says:

Syria was a sideshow to turn the screw on the Iranians and force a deal. It worked. Now Obama wants out... [USA and Russia] have also taken the decision to shaft mad dog Erdogan, recognising the legitimacy of Kurdish aspirations and their credibility as an anti-IS force.

virgile @98 says:

It is clearer by the day that the USA is fed up with Erdogan's dangerous megalomania and his Islamist proselytism.

As early as 6 months ago, Turkey+Saudi+USA were expecting a victory in Syria (see
Russian Diplomat Drops a Bombshell: US Expected ISIS to Seize Damascus by October) so Syria was not just "a sideshow to turn the screw on the Iranians".

And USA's less-than-serious anti-ISIS campaign (weak bombing campaign, non-interdiction of ISIS financing, etc.) indicates that USA was supportive of Saudi-Turkish-Qatar proxies.

Is Obama really "fed up" with Erdogan or with Putin's success? (I believe it is the latter.)

That Meyssan has provided some accurate info is not surprising. Disinfo often includes some truth. Meyssan is not credible because he starts from mistaken assumptions and builds a narrative around that.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 16 2016 19:22 utc | 103

harry law @89

Except when you look at the article, Dannatt's text is interspersed with pics of
Syrian destruction, all of which include the words "Russian airstrikes"
Its a blatant example cognitive dissonance, and a measure of just
how monumentally dishonest the English press has become.

Worth a look just to see how bad its gotten over in "Blighty"

Posted by: DavidKNZ | Feb 16 2016 19:55 utc | 104

The regulars here are likely already plugged into this valuable minute-by-minute liveuamap map-app of the Syrian war (and lots more, like Palestine). Newbies may not be.

I can't find a clear bias one way or the other, or any filtering, of the events that are mapped, but it's gotta' be funded by someone. I like the timeline linked to the map.

- - -
@ harry law | Feb 16, 2016 8:32:34 AM | 81

Agreed. The real race started when Putin laced up his Nikes back in Oct, but I'd say the real race is not Raqqa, but to be the first to be in a position to holler "No Fly Zone, everybody out'a the pool!!"

We still don't know if Putin was able to rip that tactic completely out of the neocon play-book or whether he just delayed an attempted implementation.

At this point if anyone other than Assad is first to declare a NFZ, it would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Russia. How will the Su-35 and the S400's will hold up against the F-15 and F-22? Hope Hillary gets good advice before doing something stupid.

- - -
@ james | Feb 16, 2016 12:20:26 PM | 90

Rogoway, at Foxtrot Alpha, who strikes me as a bloody neocon w/ a military aviation background, has a look at those "cluster bomb" drops and sorta' concludes maybe they ain't Ruski CBs. Durn, wonder who else's they could be . . .

Rogoway was one of the idiots who was re-tweeting a Daily Fail "news report" that Turkey shot down a Ru jet -- IN OCTOBER!!

Jeezus . . .

Posted by: Denis | Feb 16 2016 20:03 utc | 105

virgile: The SDF is proving itself to be a potent force under the umbrella of Russian airpower around Azaz - that same SDF being trained and armed by the US north of Raqqa.

That is not clear for two reasons. Afrin lacks the ground connection to the other Rojava cantons, so these are not the same people. The second reason is that few month ago there was a strife between SDF of Afrin and the rebels if Azaz-Mare corridor, and the results were mixed, initially SDF lost some ground, but then they got it back. Right now, it is not clear why is it so different this time. Part of the reason could be that with Russian air support and direct supplies of weapons SDF knew that "now is the time", but part is that the morale and supplies in the pocket were seriously depleted. Finally, SDF has many former rebels, and thus good personal contacts to cut deals with various groups.

In the meantime, the progress of "SAA and friends" is somewhat slow in the Aleppo area. Part of it could be logistics, Aleppo is at the end of a long and twisty supply chain, and a lot of materiel was used up in recent offensive, and of the remainder, a lot went to Afrin, I presume. And Russian Air Force does not have resources to actively press in so many places: North Latakia, "race for Raqqa", three directions from Aleppo, and fronts in the south.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 16 2016 20:51 utc | 106

@103 denis.. the propaganda is so thick one needs a (paid for by turkey/sa/qatar) ISIS headchopping sword to be able to cut thru it...

Posted by: james | Feb 16 2016 20:57 utc | 107

patrick bahzad's latest at ssr..

Posted by: james | Feb 16 2016 21:01 utc | 108

Just thought I'd thank Emil Pulsifier @49 for injecting some common sense. Yes, Doctors Without Borders is not an American shill. The accusation is ludicrous.

Posted by: falcone | Feb 16 2016 21:35 utc | 109

Apologies if this has been already posted

Fascinating, interesting, uplifting, persuasive video on Chechen secret service:

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 16 2016 21:44 utc | 110

@107 what about Empire without borders?

Posted by: aaaaaa | Feb 16 2016 21:46 utc | 111

Obama just said that, "Russia is a major military power."

He's taking questions that many thought would mainly address the squabble of replacing the dead judge but it didn't take long to get to international matters, he's talking now about Libya.

That's a big change from "regional power". I think it's significant.

Posted by: peter | Feb 16 2016 22:24 utc | 113


The regulars here are likely already plugged into this valuable minute-by-minute liveuamap map-app of the Syrian war (and lots more, like Palestine). Newbies may not be.

I can't find a clear bias one way or the other, or any filtering, of the events that are mapped, but it's gotta' be funded by someone. I like the timeline linked to the map.

The map is great for sure. But when I clicked on some of the nice little dots (about 15 of them) and then on the sources, I always ended up on pro-rebels' Twitter accounts. For me it's a bias.

Posted by: jeanv | Feb 16 2016 22:33 utc | 114

@98 virgile, mutatis mutandis

It is clearer by the day that the USA is fed up with Salman's dangerous megalomania and his Islamist proselytism. Like Israel and the EU, the USA would like to have Salman - and the Saudi dynasty - out. Yet, as Saudi Arabia has long been a partner of the US and now of USrael, the USA cannot directly confront him.

Therefore it has been setting up several traps and taking advantage of Salman's blindness to throw Saudi Arabia into increasingly complex dilemmas that are weakening the kingdom both internally and internationally.

The USrael and EU hope that in view of the slowdown of the economy (less investment, more oil export at ever lower prices, and chaos at the Meccan pilgrimage) there would be more civil unrest and that the wars against Yemen and the ethnic Shia could degenerate into a civil war.

That would be a perfect climate for an USraeli/EU coup.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 16 2016 22:34 utc | 115


... the USA is fed up with Erdogan's dangerous megalomania and his Islamist proselytism.

The US acted more covertly than the others via its "lead from behind" strategy which sorta kept their hands clean. That 'plausible deniability' now allows them to work both sides - guiding the peace talks while supporting their allies. This doesn't mean that they want to dump Erdogan.

He won support because he was willing to do things that others might not, and now that he is isolated, he might be even easier to control.

Really, after years of working with Erdogan, is Obama & Co. more upset by Erdogan's bluster or Putin's success?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 16 2016 22:51 utc | 116

Pat Bateman:

Meyssan is credible... Syria was a sideshow to turn the screw on the Iranians and force a deal. It worked. Now Obama wants out...

No, the Assad must go! Coalition was very serious about toppling Assad and that goal was independent of the Iran talks.

Until only a few months ago, USA was expecting ISIS to prevail (see Saker post: Russian Diplomat Drops a Bombshell - US Expected ISIS to Seize Damascus by October) and with good reason: they had quietly helped the proxy forces of their allies (Turkey, KSA, Israel, etc.) via meager anti-ISIS actions (a $500 million training program that trained less than a hundred anti-ISIS fighters; limited bombing; no interdiction of financial and other support, etc.) so it is an outlandish mis-characterization to say that "Syria was a sideshow to turn the screw on the Iranians".

This is the kind of analysis that discredits T.M. Oh, it may seem plausible - if you haven't been paying attention - but it's a false narrative, drawn around biased assumptions, that lulls the reader into false hope.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 16 2016 23:07 utc | 117

@ 49, "I really don't understand the reflexive reaction here." Whose?

Thankfully, this isn't the Thirties when the only news was the black & white clips from the Hearst Corp at the Talkies once a week.

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 17 2016 0:19 utc | 118

peter@113-did you watch the rest of the asean presser? I think you're overestimating the signifigance of this 'admission' that Russia is a major military power.

Posted by: Nana2007 | Feb 17 2016 1:33 utc | 119

@Denis - #105

Origin of liveuamap is possibly Kyiv, Ukraine

Citizen Journalists Are Live-Mapping the Crisis in Ukraine

Created by a team of software engineers based in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, the site mainly uses Twitter to aggregate and chart the locations of deaths, bombings, fires, arrests, and even chilling photographs taken by civilians—like the one of Donetsk Airport below.

The site describes itself as a “nonprofit, volunteer-run project of civic journalism.” Rodion Rozhkovsky, one of its creators, described by email the motivation for devising the map ...

For syria.liveuamap dot com are using same software and most likely using local citizen journalists.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 17 2016 1:45 utc | 120

The Obama administration, frustrated by Syria's ongoing violence, has a message for Russia: "Put up or shut up" on a ceasefire

Russia has been propping up Assad this entire time," Obama said. He described Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops and aircraft to Syria as "a testament to the weakness of Assad's position."

"A country has been shattered because Assad was willing to shatter it," Obama added. Russia, he said, "has been party to that entire process."

Despite all the recent talk of ceasefire, the conflict is threatening to escalate. Turkey said Tuesday it is pressing for ground operations in Syria amid fears that U.S.-backed Kurdish militants are making gains at the opposition's expense. Washington sees the Kurds as an effective fighting force against the Islamic State.

Little headway appears to have been made on securing humanitarian access to besieged areas throughout the country.

Of course the spymaster in chief may be dissembling the gratitude he feels towards Russia for putting the brakes on the IS juggernaut.

Posted by: Nana2007 | Feb 17 2016 1:51 utc | 121

@ falcone: so called "doctors without borders is a well known front for spies. They even got caught in the several times, with french and british agents pising as medics. Google it.

Posted by: Anon coward | Feb 17 2016 8:47 utc | 122

@@ 121

If it excretes duck sh*t, its likely a duck, no dissembling helps.

Posted by: Formerly T-Bear | Feb 17 2016 9:03 utc | 123

Mesopotamia in Place of ISIS

Today the Levant is a place where not only the future of Iraq and Syria is being moulded, but that of the world as a whole. Three historically leading forces in the region, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, are ready to decide on their political preferences. It was the opening of a representative office of Western Kurdistan in Moscow on February 10 [1] that triggered such a motion.

[T]oday Kurdistan, the steadfast tin soldier of the Middle East, was finally recognized and supported by Russia. This event did not go unnoticed, not only in the West but also in the Muslim world. Kurdish forces have long been providing support to the Syrian authorities in the fight against ISIS, and on February 14 several Iraqi Shiite divisions, formerly supported by the US, joined forces with the Syrian government troops. [2] This is not the first time that Shiites demonstrate support of Bashar al Assad: Iran firmly stands the ground with regard to supporting the legitimate regime in Syria.
[1] the opening of a representative office of Western Kurdistan in Moscow on February 10
[2] ?

Any help with number 2?

Posted by: jfl | Feb 18 2016 7:28 utc | 124

Weird. That SAA guy's map doesn't show the YPG territory in the same color as the government. Everything I read here and at Pat Lang's site is that YPG is just another friend of Assad. Guess somebody needs to tell the old Nimr Tiger!

Posted by: falcone | Feb 25 2016 5:47 utc | 125

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