Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 13, 2016

The "Race To Raqqa" Is Quickly Intensifying

This is a look at the larger picture of forces developing around Syria. Several foreign armies are aggregating at the Syrian borders with the intent to invade Syria and to occupy its eastern part. But before we dive into that, a short look at the curious situation developing in the north-west.

Near Azaz the U.S. ally Turkey is currently shelling (video) the U.S. ally YPG which is fighting the CIA supported FSA.


map by AFP(?) - bigger

The Syrian-Kurdish YPG troops were heavily supported by the U.S. in their fight against the Islamic State in north-eastern Syria. Under U.S. tutelage they united with Arab anti-IS fighters under the label Syrian Democratic Forces.

In north-west Syria the SDF has used the recent success of the Syrian army against Jihadis in the area to take northern parts of the Azaz corridor which once connected Aleppo to Turkey. That corridor is held by a mixture of al-Qaeda Jihadist from Jabhat al-Nusra, "Turkmen" Islamists from various Turk speaking countries and local Islamist gangs supported by the CIA under the label Free Syrian Army. All three get money and weapons from Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The Syrian army is moving north and south from the red strip in the map. The SDF is moving east from the Kurdish enclave around Afrin. During the last days the SDF, supported by the Russian airforce, captured the Minnagh airbase which was held by al-Qaeda aligned forces. The SDF then proceeded north to take Azaz, the last major town the Turkish supported Islamist are holding in the area.

Turkey today used 155mm artillery to fire from Turkey against SDF positions on Minnagh airbase and around Azaz. There will be Turkish special forces observers in Syria to direct the fire.

The NATO member Turkey is shelling the YPG, which is backed by Russia and the U.S., and the SDF which is backed by the U.S. for attacking the FSA and Islamists who are backed by the U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

A nice little clusterfuck the smart (not) girls and boys around Obama created.

But as described here two days ago in The Race To Raqqa Is On, a much bigger clusterfuck is currently in the making in and all around Syria.

The Russian and Syrian airforce will likely respond to the Turkish attack with an intensified bombing of positions held by Turkish proxy forces in Syria. Those forces just received new artillery ammunition and new TOW anti-tank missiles.

There is yet unconfirmed news that this situation will escalate very fast:

The Int'l Spectator @intlspectator
BREAKING: Turkish official says there will be a 'massive escalation' in Syria over next 24 hours.

The Turkish Foreign Minister said today that the fight against ISIS must include (Turkish) ground operations.

The Syrian government and its Iranian and Russian allies are determined to liberate the whole country from the foreign supported terrorists and the Islamic State. The want to keep the country united.

The aim of outside forces, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, the U.S., Britain, France is to occupy east Syria to gain political concession from the Syrian government and its allies. They will demand the reconfiguration of the independent, secular Syrian state under President Assad into a dependent Sunni Islamist entity. Should that demand not be fulfilled they will form a new "Sunnistan" Islamist protectorate from the currently ISIS held carcasses of east Syria and west-Iraq.

Turkey today threatened further and wider attacks on Kurdish held areas in Syria. The Turkish 2nd Army is positioned to attack Syria from the north. It could come through the ISIS held corridor between Azaz in the west and Jarablus in the east and move south towards the Islamic State held Raqqa while other forces, see below, would reach Raqqa from the south and south east. Syria would be thus split into a government held western half and an ISIS and U.S. allies held eastern half.

Russian advisers have trained one Syrian brigade specifically for the purpose of holding off a Turkish invasion. But that brigade is probably not a big enough deterrence for the large Turkish forces and could soon be overwhelmed.

The Saudis today claimed again that Assad must be overthrown to defeat the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense but the Saudi family dictatorship has a personal grudge against Assad. The Syrian President once called the Saudis "only half men". (IMHO He was too generous.)

Twenty Saudi F-15 jets arrived today in Incirlik airbase in Turkey to, allegedly, join the U.S. coalition force against the Islamic State. The Saudis also promised to send ground forces if those would fight under some allied command "against ISIS". The United Arab Emirates promised to send special forces for the same purpose. Some Saudi ground forces have already been observed making their way through Jordan.

At least 1,600 British troops with heavy weapons and equipment are currently arriving in Jordan. The Brits claim that this is just for some normal training maneuver but we can expect the British government to paid off enough by the Gulf Arabs to take part in the fight. The British units would likely lead a Saudi/UAE/(maybe also Egyptian?) combined force from east Jordan up through the Syrian desert towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. These forces are currently explained as "trainers" who will enter Syria to instigate Syrian Arab tribes to fight ISIS. If there were enough forces in such tribes at all, these could be trained in Jordan. There is currently no Syrian or Russian force in the desert that could prevent such a move.

An additional brigade from the U.S. 101st Airborne is deploying to Iraq without much public announcement. Its task is an invasion of Syria from the south-east along the Euphrates to first capture Deir Ezzor and to then move on to Raqqa.

The Syrian army is on its way to ISIS held Raqqa to prevent any foreign force reaching there first. It will have to hurry up. The race to Raqqa is intensifying.

The Russians have alarmed several airborne brigades and air transport units of their Southern command to be ready for a fast intervention should such troops be needed in Syria. The Russians could airdrop an airborne brigade into the government held, ISIS besieged parts of Deir Ezzor (vid) to prevent that city from being attacked or taken over by Saudi and/or U.S. forces. Two additional Russian missile ships are on their way to the Syrian coast. They carry long distance Kalibr cruise missiles which can be used against other ships as well as against land targets.

Iran is ready to send as many men from its Revolutionary Guard and Quds brigades to Syria as are needed to sustain the governments fight. These folks salivate over the prospect of having some regular Saudi forces for breakfast.

There are active attempts to draw all NATO nations into the phony "fight against ISIS". When the war over Syria gets hotter NATO will likely try to create diversions elsewhere to keep Russia distracted from reacting properly in Syria. The U.S. will tell its Ukrainian puppet government to reengage in massive attacks on Russian supported Ukrainian rebels in east Ukraine.

The war against Syria, waged by the U.S., Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, was so far carried out by proxy forces and foreign mercenaries within Syria's borders. When the Syrian government was on the verge of losing the successful Russian intervention turned the war around. German intelligence no asserts (in German) that the Syrian government is winning the war against the foreign supported forces.

As the war by proxy against Syria has now failed, the anti-Syrian powers have decided to join the action on the ground with their own forces. The "fight against ISIS" (which the Syrians and Russian are fighting more than anybody else) is now the pretext to capture eastern Syria, to split the country in half and to destroy the Syrian government and state.

The "civil war" in Syria is now developing into an large international conflagration over the future of Syria and the whole Middle East.

Meanwhile the Islamic State, confused by this U.S. created clusterfuck in Iraq and Syria, decides to relocate its headquarters from Iraq and Syria to Libya, the other failed state and Charly Foxtrot the U.S. (F, UK) recently created. There it will find rich oil fields, lots of new weapons and no capable enemies.

Posted by b on February 13, 2016 at 19:30 UTC | Permalink

Comments
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: likklemore | Feb 13, 2016 9:41:21 PM | 70

Theres a lot of utter shite gets posted on this website about s400s and kalibers, by people that clearly havent got a clue about the capabilities or limitations of either.

Even a blind fool should by now be able to see that the Empire wants Russia involved in a war. By no means does that signify they are actually planning to be the ones Russia goes to war with

Again this really should even need

Posted by: Told Ya | Feb 14 2016 10:51 utc | 101

Add
Should NOT even need explaining

Maybe if people like you spent a bit more time thinking before posting your ridiculous phallic rocketry fantasies there'd be a lot less utter shite posted on the subject of s400s and kalibers

I think the last thing anyone needs right now is being yet again subjected to obviously clueless armchair generals posting even more puerile phallic fantasies concerning S400s and Kalibers. These are just words you read on a screen somewhere and you seem to have no clue what they actually mean.

Posted by: Told Ya | Feb 14 2016 10:58 utc | 102

hey, speaking of puerile phallic fantasies, i wonder whatever became of this dude's?

Posted by: john | Feb 14 2016 11:27 utc | 103

ToivoS@97. Why should the US have Raqqa as a consolation prize? The US started this regime change fiasco years ago. Why should the US be rewarded with its plan B fall back position i.e, a partitioned Syria with the loss of its oil fields? Ex US-Intelligence chief General Flynn spilt the beans recently when he said the rise of ISIS was a willful Washington decision and that this partition was what US clients wanted,Obama acquiesced.https://www.rt.com/usa/312050-dia-flynn-islamic-state/ No one should profit from breaching International law and the UN Charter with acts of aggression.

Posted by: harry law | Feb 14 2016 11:40 utc | 104

harry at 102 No one should profit from breaching International law and the UN Charter with acts of aggression

I agree that no one should. Except the US has been profiting doing so since the UN began. It is called the super power's prerogative or the biggest bully on the block get their way. The US has shown over and over again its willingness to go to war to get its way. In the long term that is not going to work for the US. A number of countries ,China and Russia in particular, have the power to deter the US from attacking their homelands but none can really take on the US away from their shores. Do notice that China certainly has no appetite to confront the US in the ME. I think Russia is out on a limb in Syria.

Posted by: ToivoS | Feb 14 2016 12:17 utc | 105

It seems that the Sunni Arab countries feeling betrayed and dumped by the USA have decided to attempt to take their security and their ambitions in their hands. They believe they can turn al qaeda and ISIS presence to their geopolitical advantage using their wealth. It is also their chance to rehabilitate their regimes.
Turkey has become the driver of this coalition with a Sunni Islamist in full power of his country.
The shia block, Iran,Iraq,Syria has been weakened either by war or by political agreement that paralyzes their military capabilities.
Russia has brought an impetus but is been ostracized by the west and squeezed with sanctions.
The response to the Sunni initiative in Syria will be an escalation in Yemen and the triggering of internal unrest and terrorist acts in Turkey and the Gulf countries. If the Sunnis are seriously confronting ISIS then they can expect retaliation.
The reaction of Iran is also s big question mark.

Posted by: Virgile | Feb 14 2016 12:38 utc | 106

Dont you just feel the urge to punch this raggling warmongering miserable man in the face?

News: Saudi Foreign Minister says Assad will be 'removed from Syria by force' if peace talks fail

Posted by: Trombol | Feb 14 2016 13:20 utc | 107

Virgile,

The shia block, Iran,Iraq,Syria has been weakened either by war or by political agreement that paralyzes their military capabilities.

Indeed, now we clearly see who benefit from the nuclear agreement..

Also where is Hezbollah? Very silent too. Resistance is dead?

Posted by: Trombol | Feb 14 2016 13:21 utc | 108

Russia wont get involved directly regardless who invades, Turkey, Saudis or NATO. Price would be too high and logistics for full-scale military involvement would be nightmare so far away from Russia, its not Donbass we are talking about.

Iran is closer and even more motivated than Russia, but it wont send its full army either due to fragile grounds of nuke agreement and sanctions.

What they will do, is to help SAA to inflict such pain on invaders, that it wont be pretty.

Essentially response would be multi-layered:

* Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD).
* New military hardware, advisers, special forces, etc.
* Economic (including gas/oil supplies), political, informational.
* Stoking fire in attackers back-yard. Either Kurds in Turkey or Shias in Saudi, etc.

I very much doubt Turkey will dare to use its air-force (S-400 and Russian jet interceptors), and while against ground forces we wont see RuAF bombing Turkey's army, but how do you distinguish SU-24 of Russia and Syria? :) SAF will take the credit, but who knows who will be flying them. Plausible deniability.

Then we have Russian TOS-1 thermobaric MLRS, etc., which can be supplied to SAA in numbers, and greet invaders like this: https://youtu.be/gv4GkXfuyj8?t=36s

Bottom line, whoever invades, will pay a very, very high price for it. No rational leader would do that, but its not like megalomaniacs in Turkey or Saudi are rational.

Posted by: Harry | Feb 14 2016 13:42 utc | 109

The shia block, Iran,Iraq,Syria has been weakened either by war or by political agreement that paralyzes their military capabilities.

*

To the contrary. The $100+ billion that has been released as a result of the lifting of sanctions can pay for a lot of army personnel salaries and missiles and bullets. Consider: annual budget for Revolutionare Guards = $2.5 billion and Armed forces = $2 billion. Nuff Sed.

Posted by: Nuff Sed | Feb 14 2016 13:52 utc | 110

Nuff sed,

We have Turkey intervening, maybe Nato, likely Saudi, Iran has hardly voiced any opposition at all, they arent doing anything.

Posted by: Trombol | Feb 14 2016 14:02 utc | 111

Elijah Magnier The “Gates of hell” will be open in the coming months in Syria

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?

The source said: “Any scenario is linked to the will of the United States to be engaged in a war in Syria. [...] Never the less, we build our military reaction based on the strong possibility that the Arab ground troops are most likely to invade Syria. These forces, under the title of defeating ISIS, won’t reach Raqqa overnight. Logistic support and troops movement from Jordan into Syria require between 3 to 4 months to be completed. These forces, in this case, are expected to advance from Jordan, into al-Badiyah and continue up north toward Raqqa, the northern Syrian city, as a possible scenario. Any potential contact with the Syrian forces could lead to a larger war”.

Posted by: b | Feb 14 2016 14:22 utc | 112

Iran and Russia are not about to sit back and allow external forces to topple Dr. Asad's government and install one whose interests are allied with the takfiris or Zionists.

Posted by: Nuff Sed | Feb 14 2016 15:36 utc | 113

Trombole,

Iranian TV is reporting that Br. Gen. Ismaili, a senior Iranian commander stated today that Iran is ready to defend Syrian airspace at Damascus' request. Nuff Sed.

Posted by: Nuff Sed | Feb 14 2016 16:02 utc | 114

Quote:

"Near Azaz the U.S. ally Turkey is currently shelling (video) the U.S. ally YPG which is fighting the CIA supported FSA."

What a ClusterF*ck ! No, wonder Obama is very hesitant to get engaged in Syria & Iraq. Too many parties with too many conflicting interests.

Posted by: Willy2 | Feb 14 2016 16:20 utc | 115

Syria conflict: France urges end to Turkish assault on Kurds

2 hours ago, BBC, From the section Middle East
Image caption The Menagh air base was captured by Kurdish fighters last week
Syria's war

France's foreign ministry has urged Turkey to end its assault on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

============

I wonder if Kerry will deign to say something? I am sure he had very handsome furrows on his fore head right now. What are the American goals? NYT explains them thus:

Middle East | Q. and A.
Syrian War Could Turn on the Battle for Aleppo

By KAREN ZRAICK and ANNE BARNARDFEB. 12, 2016

What Is the U.S. Doing on Syria?

There is a lot of confusion over the United States’ aims in Syria. American policy has been to give insurgents enough support to keep them going — not enough to help them actually win.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 14 2016 19:02 utc | 116

Nuff Sed: it is highly probable that the actual cost of Iranian armed forces is under-reported. But since Iran and Russia rely on their own weapons, and have much lower labor costs than USA and KSA, rial and rubble have to be evaluated according to PPP for war purposes and not according to the official exchange rate.

If the Russian and Iranian weapons will performed well on the battlefield, they will be able to recoup the money spend on the war from arms export, particularly Russia. Turkey produces a large share of their arms, but if they cross the border and get clobbered, export markets will not be more inviting than now.

The biggest short term risk for Turkey is that now they wage a war with Kurds is now on both sides of their border, but YPG has access to some decent modern weapons, and those will trickle north.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 14 2016 19:16 utc | 117

Then we have Russian TOS-1 thermobaric MLRS, etc., which can be supplied to SAA in numbers, and greet invaders like this: https://youtu.be/gv4GkXfuyj8?t=36s

The principle of thermobaric weapons is simple: pour a ton of gasoline on the ground and lit it. There is some science involve, because you want to create a good fuel-air mixture with the initial impact and only then set it alight.

However, there are also good old Tochkas http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=8c5_1441384963

Put 1000 lb of TNT in the precise place where you wish it to be from 40 miles away, after proper prayers, of course, and read news about the results. Because they make the news.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 14 2016 19:27 utc | 118


Today Turkey, while invading Syria is on the same time threatening Greece, an other NATO member, by claiming 16 greek islands.
Of course NATO is blind and deaf, as it is always to the turkish crimes.
This treatment cannot be bared any longer.
In Syria is taking place a crime of foreign invasion under the cover of civil war. There is no such a thing there are paid proxies perpetrating horrendous crimes against the Syrian people. There is no opposition which would reduce its own country into ruins with the pretext that president isn't good. The western governments talking about democracy in Syria are trying to impose it (can democracy being imposed???? imposition and democracy are opposite notions) with allies the obscurantist wahaby of saudies and the authoritarian circus Sultan of Turkey. Are we serious? They are lying blatantly and they commite crimes against humanity. Turkey's support to ISIS is proven and Obama still keeps calling this country an "ally against ISIS". He is fooling us. Turkey is violating the greek airspace every single day. Has anybody heard the NATO or US governments saying the Greeks have the right to defend themselves? Never. But they have. And if NATO keeps behaving to them like this they will soon be gone.

Posted by: EL | Feb 14 2016 19:58 utc | 119

Speaking of backflips and shifting terrain, I'm amazed that no one has noticed (or at least commented on) the fact that the map at the top of this post is BACK-TO-FRONT ... still that could be an ingenious solution to the whole issue. For one thing, Israel would now be located in the middle of the desert, right next to the Iraqi tribal zone.

Posted by: Chris B | Feb 15 2016 5:14 utc | 120

Re 80:

"This should answer your laconic question: http://thesaker.is/week-eighteen-of-the-russian-intervention-in-syria-a-dramatic-escalation-appears-imminent/ "

Re 71: "Russia has made full military preparations for war with Turkey, if necessary."

Ok, I read the blog link. Here is what I found:

The Russians have "declared a verification of the combat readiness of the Central and Southern Districts". The flick of a bureaucrat's pen.

"Russian AWACS are now flying regularly over Syria." Weren't they before?

"At the same time, the Russians have also launched a peace initiative." Bloodthirsty devils!

"The projection of an airborne force so far from the Russian border to protect a small contingent like the one in Khmeimim is not something the Airborne Forces are designed for." Sounds devastating!

"The Russian task force in Syria is small and isolated and it cannot protect Syria from NATO or even Turkey."

So, these are the preparations for total war with Turkey?

I still think that if Putin's official spokesman, as of February 4, was reassuring reporters that Russian military men are not involved in ground fighting in Syria, this says something about Russia's commitment to an expansion of ground fighting by the Turks (and possibly others).

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 15 2016 5:48 utc | 121

Re 80 (Re 71: "Russia has made full military preparations for war with Turkey, if necessary.")

Ok, I read the blog link. Here is what I found:

The Russians have "declared a verification of the combat readiness of the Central and Southern Districts". The flick of a bureaucrat's pen.

"Russian AWACS are now flying regularly over Syria." Weren't they before?

"At the same time, the Russians have also launched a peace initiative." Bloodthirsty devils!

"The projection of an airborne force so far from the Russian border to protect a small contingent like the one in Khmeimim is not something the Airborne Forces are designed for." Sounds devastating!

"The Russian task force in Syria is small and isolated and it cannot protect Syria from NATO or even Turkey."

So, these are the preparations for total war with Turkey?

I still think that if Putin's official spokesman, as of February 4, was reassuring reporters that Russian military men are not involved in ground fighting in Syria, this says something about Russia's commitment to an expansion of ground fighting by the Turks (and possibly others).

Posted by: Emil Pulsifer | Feb 15 2016 6:41 utc | 122

This is a better analysis then I've seen over the last few days by some people who should know better. There seems to be a huge "cognitive dissance" fever going on when even anti-war analysts are refusing to believe that Obama would be behind Turkey and Saudi Arabia's move to invade Syria. Tons of people STILL are drinking the Obama Kool-Aid by saying things like "the US won't support Turkey because it's against US real interests" - as if being "against US real interests" has EVER stopped the US elites from making things worse.

It appears difficult for people - despite the massive evidence in favor - to believe that Obama can say one thing in public and do the exact opposite secretly. He has repeatedly demonstrated this on just about every front. But people still just don't get it. They don't understand that this guy is just an empty suit - or as Pepe Escobar likes to say, a "paperboy" - who merely does what he's told by the rich military-industrial complex and Israel First Jews in Chicago who financed his entire career.

Yes, the US IS supporting the Turkey invasion. Yes, the US will use this event as an opportunity to initiate its own US/NATO air campaign against Syria - although they will try to avoid Russian forces.

The real question: How far is Russia willing to go to engage Turkish forces and perhaps NATO itself, if not the US directly? A lot of people think Putin will go all the way. I'm not so sure. It would be foolish of Putin to go right up to WWIII over Syria. His primary responsibility is the direct protection of Russia. He can't afford to start WWIII. He may be prepared to start a war with Turkey and Saudi Arabia - but not the US.

The problem is escalation. Putin can't know how far the military-industrial complex and neocon maniacs in Washington are prepared to go. So he is going to have to proceed cautiously, which may cost him problems on the ground in Syria. Turkey can field a large, powerful army in Syria which the available Russian forces in Syria can not effectively defeat without significant and immediate reinforcements from Russia. The more Putin escalates against Turkey, the more Turkey can escalate against Russian forces in Syria. The mismatch is considerable. It's identical to the problem NATO faces in Ukraine - Russia can always pour more resources into Eastern Ukraine than Western Ukraine or NATO can match. So can Turkey vs Russia in Syria.

And if NATO countries decide to support Turkey - under US pressure, regardless of what the NATO countries would prefer - the situation could escalate out of anyone's control.

This is the most dangerous moment in history since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Feb 15 2016 21:02 utc | 123

@123 RSH

What you say makes sense, but we are all stuck making assumptions about what happens if/when ... We'll know what happened soon.

I think that the Turkish/Saudi invasion is going to fade away. I think the US is hot-air and bullshit at this stage.

The tell will be when the Syrian artillery starts answering the Turkish artillery over the border.

We'll see what happens. As regards the other track, wherein Turkey goes for it ... I think Turkey has zero friends, is operating on its own account, everyone is rooting for whoever is opposing Erdogan/Turkey. I think if they do come over the border the Russians will hit them like WW II. Long range bombers. The works. No one will help them. I add the last because I'm not looking forward to any of this, need a hook wherein it gets over with the 'bad' guy(s) taking the brunt of it.

But what do I know? We'll see what happens soon enough. No one but ourselves cares what we think. No one asks our advice on matters we have essentially uninformed opinions on, and that's as it should be. I knew nothing about Syria or Turkey a couple of years ago. Know little more now.

Yeah. Looks dangerous to me, too.

Posted by: jfl | Feb 17 2016 13:45 utc | 124

RSH @123

Thanks for that.

I am also amazed at the persistence of the Obama myth. Recently in the form of Obama as a peace-seeker to burnish his "legacy".

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 17 2016 16:44 utc | 125

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